a useless evaporator
When you find hundreds and thousands of infant bones, first thing you do is you measure them.
Sometimes, each set of bones will be of different lengths and proportions. This means that the infants died at a variety of sizes and thus ages, from a day old to a month old to a year old. This suggests a boneyard where you can place a baby after it dies of illness or frailty. These sites are not uncommon.
Other times, the bones will be of very similar lengths and proportions. This means that the infants died at almost exactly the same age—almost always less than one week old. This suggests a boneyard where you can leave a baby after you kill it. These sites are not uncommon.
A Roman site in Hambleden, England is the site of 97 similarly proportioned sets of infant bones. Infanticide was “tolerated in the Roman world… if not completely acceptable.”
In Ashkelon, Israel, nearly a hundred full term infants rest in the sewer beneath the site of an ancient brothel.
Suffocation was a common method of infanticide, but the ancient Greeks found it barbaric. They preferred leaving the child outside to die. A preserved letter from a Greek man to his wife informs her of his business dealings, his quick return home, and in passing, instructs her “if you have the baby before I get home: keep it if it’s a boy, if it’s a girl, expose it.”
An alternate translation swaps “expose” for “discard.”
The goal of internal alchemy, in the Daoist tradition, is to concentrate the human essence within the body. A man’s essence is called ‘The White Tiger.’ A woman’s essence is “The Red Dragon.” A good alchemist, a good Daoist, won’t allow their body to discard these essences, if they can help it.
The prescribed practice for women involves meditation one day before her period begins. She should, at midnight, put on a robe, cross her legs, and put her hands firmly on the sides of her ribs (the relevant document does not specify whether the hands go akimbo, to the same-side rib, or whether each hand crosses to the opposite side), and feel the qi rise and fall in her body until she has caught the rhythm. At this point, she should tense her body and visualize two red channels of qi rising from her womb up to her head, and settling back in the center of her chest. She should keep this up until her body is noticeably warm, and then stop the meditation. Afterwards, she should put a white handkerchief in her vagina to measure how much blood is present. Within 3 months, the menses should have ceased, as her body will be absorbing the qi rather than expending it.
Mabiki is an archaic Japanese word, meaning “to uproot plants from an overcrowded garden.” This common practice gives the other plants the space and resources to thrive.
Mabiki was also a common euphemism for infanticide.
Some Chinese tribes in the Song dynasty did not view babies as humans until about 6 months after birth.
Many cultures have seen personhood as beginning only after a child has been named.
About 450 per year; this is the rate at which American parents confirmably kill their offspring. Mothers usually kill children under 8, while the fathers murder 8+. Parenting so often comes down to the division of labor.
There have been a number of cultures in which the two parents of a child are expected to live under the same roof at minimum until the child is grown, and most often for life. Sexual or romantic contact outside of this parenting pairing is sternly admonished.
An Aztec woman takes an arrow to the gut. Nine months later, she gives birth to the feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl. The symbolism here doesn’t really qualify as esoteric.
Water in the human body has a half-life of about one week, meaning if you drink a cup of water now, half of it will still be inside you next week, one quarter of it in two weeks, and so on. Within 3-4 months, almost all the water in your body has been replaced.
Accepting that water makes up about 2/3 of your body, this means that 60% of your body was not there a season ago. It was in the ground, in fruit, in dirt, in aquifers, in treatment plants, and so on. By the next season, it will be far away from you yet again.
The figure usually given for the replacement of the rest of the cells in your body is 7 years. It’s not a super accurate figure, but that doesn’t matter for this point.
It’s easy to watch a tornado, waterspout, or dust-devil and to accept that the cyclone is not the exact composition of the dirt, water, leaves, shingles, and trash that are passing through it at a given moment. Even the air in a tornado is, in short order, spit out into a wake of fresh disturbance, as new air displaces it in an energetic flow.
A cyclone is not the matter it contains at a given moment, but the energy that animates it, the process that arranges and moves that matter. This sits easily in the mind, this fact.
It’s difficult, however, to watch the human body and separate it from it’s exact, present-tense composition. The same sentence, when ‘cyclone’ is replaced by ‘human body,’ is no less factually accurate, but is infinitely more likely to get eye rolls: A human body is not the matter it contains, but the energy that animates it, the process that arranges and moves that matter.
To see oneself as anything other than solid blurs the line between self and environment, which is a big no-no if you want to be taken seriously in conversation, or get tenure, or be allowed on talk shows.
The human mind does not process slowness in accurate or meaningful ways.
It is technically possible to raise a child whose first language is Morse Code.
Salamanders, says St. Augustine, serve as very strong evidence of the existence of Hell. Salamanders burn but are not consumed by the fire; the same is true of unbelievers in The Bad Place. Salamanders prove that the concept is sound.
The Talmud says that if you cover yourself in salamander blood, you will be immune to harm from fire. The text provides no tips on a proper ratio of blood to surface area.
Four rivers run through the gardens of Jannah, the Islamic paradise. Tradition associates these rivers with the Nile, the Euphrates, the Amu Darya, and the Syr Darya; the last two, if you’re not familiar, flow through Central Asia, pouring into the Aral sea, via Uzbekistan and Kazakstan. The Aral Sea (actually a lake) was a critical hub along the Silk Road, a bustling economy of buying, hunting, selling, weaving, fishing, trading, etc.
In the 20th century, a Soviet climatologist deemed the Aral Sea a “useless evaporator,” a waste of two perfectly good rivers. Hating to see waste, a program was devised to fix this “mistake of nature” by re-directing Syr and Amu Darya, irrigating the desert to grow export-quality cotton.
Without the rivers, the useless evaporator evaporated. The main basin of the Aral Sea is now called the Aralkum Desert. Nearby industrial projects have contributed heavy pollution and strong contaminants that permeate the sands. Winds from Siberia pick up the polluted dust and carry is around the world; Aralkum pollutants have been found in soil samples from Russsia, Norway, and Greenland, as well as in the blood of antarctic penguins.
The Quran tells us that those at God’s right hand will be covered in deep shade. They will be blessed with more fruit than they can eat. Their bracelets will be blinding. The sound of running water will be ever near.