Friday, December 7, 2012

Problem-solving through uncommon channels...

The throngs heave & pound heavily upon thick steel doors that bar entrance to a vast fortress.  
But wait!  
Stepping back from the throng reveals a hole in the roof.  
A few tries for a limber rascal to reach the top.  
A pry and a spry slip and the rascal finds her way in.

I have found that to be competitive I have to look for unique ways of doing things.  People so rarely try to encompass all the possibilities in a given situation.

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Create Your Way Out Of A Paper Bag

So, google search results for my name are awful.  Please, do me a favor and don't look at them.

But it does force me to think about something interesting, something I believe in whole-heartedly.

That is: An unbiased record encourages honesty and truth.


Even when a huge bold headline proclaims I will do something naughty with people's relatives and lists my real phone number besides, I can't take it down from google's search results.  I can weep, I can laugh.  I cannot delete it.

Instead of destruction, I must bury the negative result with mounds of content that paints you in a good light.

When faced with this problem, one must create their way above an obstacle.  You have to build results you'd be proud of.  It's a pretty cool idea, motivating me to really think about who I am and what my image is online.  I will have to work to improve that.  It will be hard work.

It has taken me most of my life to get to a point where I felt I had something to say.  I finally feel like I can really contribute when I write, rather than use writing as a learning experience or some memetic catharsis.

(Granted, it's still those too).

And of course, I realize people suffering cyber-bullying and defamation don't deserve to have to maneuver  their way past embarrassing crap.  

And now that I'm older, I am a wee bit more cautious, although I do still largely believe people who are turned off by a little bit of silliness aren't the sorts of people I wish to associate with regularly anyhow.

But it's really nice, to have to put my money where my mouth is.  I have to let my life speak for itself.

There's no delete button in life.

-B

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Parking On Life's Parkways

I think a lot.  I have a lot of thoughts.

I have a hard time caring.

So, I think, I plan, I can be over-meticulous.

And I do not care deeply enough. I fail to connect with people.  I come across as callus.

If I think so much, why am I not more thoughtful?

If I care so little, why am I often too careful?

Here's to parking on parkways and driving on driveways.

Monday, November 26, 2012

In other news...

Serendipity, or why I never got my GED:

College, to me, was being Wednesday Addams at summer camp.  Academia is much the same sort of brainwashing as being sat in a room to watch Disney and Brady Bunch.  $20,000 for what is often no more than a more powerful magnet striking a lesser magnet repeatedly, aligning the lesser magnets to its field.

And surely, if I had such difficulty, those less privileged than I suffered all the more, continue to suffer, and all the more unjustly.  So there is a part of me that will not pick up those tools that when encountered, still set my heart in a vise.  I choose other tools, which I find fairer, and dedicate my life to sharing these tools with anyone and everyone: the tools of the toolmaker.  Learning how to learn for one's own purpose.

A GED is not this.  A GED is trying to force an already hurt person into passable conformity.

Let us learn for the sake of survival and sustenance, let us learn for the joy of learning and experience.  There need be no other reasons.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How A Living Legend Keeps Me Up At Night

It is a perfect picture.

From afar, it looks as if a brightly-festooned paraglider has just landed in the middle of Palisades Park during the most beautiful day of Autumn.

 I briefly wonder if Felix Baumgartner made a wrong turn.

Then I see the beautiful blond Labrador retriever sniffing about, and, further away, a ski pole stuck in the ground with a piece of surveying ribbon serving for a windsock.  It's definitely a paraglider.  I tell my father to park the car nearer to this person, and when we come to a stop I set off in search of an explanation...

The explanation I will eventually get is so compelling, it makes me just want to hold my woman tight in our bed.  It's keeping me up at night, the image I keep replaying through my head.  Some sort of late-night indulgence into the meaning of mortality and old age has me out on the couch writing a blog instead of sleeping.

Today, my father and I decided to ride our bicycles to the top of Bear Mountain.

This 1,300' (or so) flagship of the Palisades Interstate Park System has a winding depression-era scenic drive that ends in splendid views of the Hudson River and a 50-mile vista over the Hudson Highlands all the way to Manhattan.

We started our day with breakfast at a local 50's theme diner.

We ordered hamburger-steaks and talk about health in diet, aging, and getting the most out of your time and your mind.

My father talks about how he is always thinking and planning, and how he doesn't see himself as a genius.  His business is finally successful, and is growing at a prolific rate, and he can finally take a moment to think about his accomplishments- ones worth being proud of.

I mention he is very good at personal efficacy, at geting the results he wants out of himself, but not as good at getting that from his employees and other people he works with.  He has a hard time knowing how to give over responsibility.  He is so effective at what he does that he often can get away without passing the responsibility over to anyone but himself.

This is all in a larger context: I am working for the family business with an ulterior motive.  

I believe my father, who has dedicated his life to this company, deserves more free time.

We finish breakfast, and start to take some of our precious time driving to the hiker's lot at the base of Bear Mountain.

 Unfortunately, it's the peak of leaf-peeper season and all the city folk come upstate to remember what a tree looks like.

The Palisades Parkway was a zoo for Oktoberfest, and we found ourselves mired in endless traffic the likes of which we'd never seen.

When we finally arrived at the exit for Bear Mountain, it was closed off.  At the encouragement of a wage-slave park worker, we ended up having to ride the grass and pull a marginal u-turn across the median, with the bikes on the back of my dad's sedan bouncing precariously.

We worked our way back to a parking area the next exit down, which is predictably empty in stark contrast to the frozen bumper-to-bumper madness on the parkway only 3/4 of a mile away (Pareto's Law).  This is where we see the colorful airfoil fluttering provocatively in the wind.

This is where I approach what I assume is yet-another-extreme-sports-geek.

I walk up and greet the dog, who accepts and nuzzles me, kind and gentle.  The man is clearly attuned to his task and I notice two things about him:

1) This guy is really old!

2) This is a very small paraglider, in a most odd place to go gliding!

We strike up a conversation.  Eventually my father comes over, after unloading our bikes.

I ask,"Are you practicing your pop-ups?"

The man responds; "Yes. Do you do this?"

"I've done it a couple time before, in New Zealand".

He looks at me slightly more, replies "...Ahh, I go to France every year to climb and hike and I see these things soaring over my head and I finally decided I am getting too old.  I don't have much time left to try this and I am losing my agility for climbing."

I ask "You rock climb?"

He says "Oh yes."

I ask him,
"You climb at the Gunks?"

He takes a deep breath,

"I was climbing at the gunks in the 1940's. I'm the oldest member of the American Alpine Club."


It's my turn to take a deep breath.  I think for a moment of how to respond.  So far, we have been playing each other, feeling eack other out to see if I am a yuppie tourist and if he is another over-rich crackpot finding hobbies to try reclaiming his youth.

I finally say "Not a lot of people climbed there back then."

It's the only thing I can think of to say.  I am awed.  This man is living legend, and I don't even know who he is.  His full-face helmet distorts his features and hides his jawline.  I don't know his name and it might not mean anything to me if I did.

My father asks some questions about flying, and micro-meterology.  I idly mention refill recovery times or somesuch.  My father says he is worried about breaking bones at his age.

Matter-of-factly the man gestures at the pack on his back and replies,

"Well, that is why this has so much padding, and I wear the helmet.  And with a good gust, this thing will just drag you along the ground."

I find I really like this man.  He feels like a kindred spirit.  I don't want to interrupt him any further.

We chat awkwardly a few more moments, my father and I looking for beta on how to get our bikes to the next exit without getting jammed-up in traffic and without cycling on the Palisades Parkway.  With brief description, as if he had confidently memorized this unusual route, he tells us the trail will get us close, and I confirm on the map.  At a lull, I say:

"Well, we'll let you get back to it.  I'm Brad."

He says "I'm Fred."

I shake his hand.

My father and I walk back to the car, get our helmets out.  I say:

"This trip was worth it, even if it was just for that and the bicycling turns out to be a bust.  That guy is a living legend.  He's probably done crazy shit you can't even imagine!  He's from the old-school of climbing, and he was probably doing crazy routes, like the hardest stuff in the world."

The name Fred also sticks with me.  

I can't put a finger on it, but I have a waist-high stack of Climbing magazine going back to 1998 that attests to countless hours of a younger me poring over pages in search of lore.

My father and I mount up, and ride off.  We are trying to ride to the top of Bear Mountain, right at the peak of leaf-peeper season, and I am soon lost in the joy of sharing a spectacular fall day with my dad.

We make one wrong turn, quickly remedied, and happily find the feeder trail (an old access road) is bikeable.  A brief technical-on-a-roadbike downhill section full of thorns has my dad walking, and me grinning.

In no time, we emerge into the shoulder of the Parkway.  Usually, people fly at terrifying speeds on this stretch, often upwards of 70MPH.  Today, we are cruising past every type of imaginable vehicle, all mired in the same misery.  I take smug satisfaction in beating the game.

We ride up the closed on-ramp and suddenly it is silent but for the wind rushing past our faces:

We have the road to ourselves.

Many more smiles ensue.

The Park, bless them, is only allowing a quota into this area, controlling traffic for Oktoberfest, and it has deterred the vast majority that usually throngs in dense droves to the top of Perkins Drive, the only paved route to the top.  We are occasionally passed by a car, but mostly we can talk and revel in the splendor of our precious Hudson Valley, passing unforgettable views of Peekskill and the Bear Mountain Bridge.

We hear babbling brooks, our faces are caressed by shimmering waves of falling leaves.


The trip is, generally speaking, wonderful.


We arrive at the top to no fanfare.  We suffer the one disappointment of the day- usually there are a lot more motorcyclists riding interesting machines, we settle for chatting up a couple women on CBR-600's.  They gave us the dish on the traffic, and I asked them where they were riding from.  When they replied Westchester, I figured they wouldn't be much help in getting J (my partner) riding, so we wandered around a bit.

We did all the touristy things, walking down the path the where the viewers are, climbing up the tower (a somewhat tragic massacre of ladybugs under impatient tourist's feet) and taking a few pictures of  the view.

When we are ready, it is only a five minute ride back down the 800 vertical feet of Perkins Drive.  I take video on my cellphone the whole way.  The rest of the ride back is pleasant and uneventful.

When we return successful, Fred is still there.  He has been standing in the same spot for hours, doing a most improbable thing for an 89 year-old.  He is meticulously practicing his technique for popping up his paraglider.  It confirms what I already knew:

This guy has some serious dedication.


Burned into memory: I see Fred Beckey hunched over in the middle of a big field, looking old, tired, and vulnerable, waiting for the wind to blow the right way.

He is a perfect metaphor for aging.  


Back at home, I look Fred up.  Turns out, at least for a climbing geek like me, that yeah, he's kind of an anti-hero- my favorite kind of hero, and he's definitely a world-famous climber.  His name is Fred Beckey.

“If Thoreau and Emerson describe the transcendental American theme, then Beckey — after Ahab, akin to Kerouac — describes the oddly manic drive to scale and map and detail the wilderness in a modern way,” said Steve Costie, executive director of the Mountaineers, which eventually accepted Beckey as a member. “Almost adversarial; never transcendental.” -NYT

"The current crop of the world's best climbers waited in line to have their picture taken with Fred, so they could post it on their Facebook pages," she said. 

Fred Beckey is this sort of role model for the alternative lifestyle, like Yvon Chounard.  He's the epitome of doing what you do because of what you love.

It's funny; here my father and I are trying to find our way. We want to have more time to do the things we love . 

I think back over our breakfast conversation.  My dad in his golden years, with many passions unfulfilled, and myself a consummate dropout somehow finding myself in the world of business. We need to be able to do good work, and stay financially independent, while living full and rich lives.

And here we ran into an expert!


Beckey has a degree in business administration from the University of Washington and had a career in marketing, though he chose to work part time seasonally.  
"That was the way I could get enough time off to climb," he said. "I don't know where I got the reputation for being a climbing bum."  
Beckey said a famous photograph of him standing at the side of a road holding a sign reading, "Will belay for food," was staged as a joke. 
"I have a car, a house and a money market fund," Beckey said. 
Reisner, his climbing partner from Portland, has been inside Beckey's house in Seattle's Lake City neighborhood. The walls are decorated with mountain photos taken by Beckey, and also by Austin Post, the USGS aerial photographer who made classic images of the North Cascades and southeast Alaska.  

"It's like walking into the throne room of the mountain god," Reisner said. -T.R.


Unfortunately, that god, at least today, looked very tired, stubborn, 

and alone.


Yet, I still would be honored to be his friend.  It's his drive and passion and dedication and accomplishment that have made him so admirable to me. 

 I just don't know how to reconcile that with a rich family life, with a deep immediate personal connectedness to other people.  I am scared of this feeling that I am disconnected from my immediate world, despite all the zen vibes I get from climbing and playing music, and despite all my best efforts to foster closeness in my relationships. 

Am I strong enough to be great?

 And that's what keeps me up at night.  That's what makes me want to hold my woman tight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Caught in the Middle


I've been somewhat torn in my value system these days.

I am torn between three influences- 

J., who is extremely socially conscious and constantly pushing my understanding of privilege.


My father, whose company employs me and who, driven and hardworking, is finally financially successful and respected by the small circle in which he exerts his influence, after many years.  He is pushing me, perhaps unwittingly, to follow his life model, one which I deeply respect and resist at the same time.

And I am reading of a group of privileged intelligent white males who have all these clever ways of gaming the traditional structure of our society: Ryan Holiday, Robb Wolf, Tim Feriss, etc.  

These guys are perhaps my generation's response to Fight Club, to being torn between the promise of being a rockstar and the reality of being an office workhorse jockeyed by a corporation.  (Are you and I part of the same generation?) Their view seems so deeply flawed however, as it still leaves it up to the individual to fend for himself- man vs world, elite cliques, etc.

***

I have always been good at reconciling diverse viewpoints by mining their core essence, but this time I might finally be stumped.  It is a time of transformation.  I need a way to live that is honest and simple, fulfilling a few key goals:

Continual self-improvement.

Increasing enjoyment of my life.
Health is a key factor, here. 

Actively helping other people.

Working to protect the natural lives of other living things from human interference.

Building a rich social network of interesting people.

I need time to contemplate "great" questions and discipline to enact solutions. 

I need a lifestyle change.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Indigenous Resistance Day

Disclosure: J, my beau, was very upset by this post and its title.  As a privileged white male, it is not up to me to critique the efforts of the oppressed.  And she is right.  
      I get confused sometimes because I so much more strongly identify with the oppressed, and feel that even the privileged people I know are often profoundly unhappy and trapped by the trappings of their lifestyle.  
      Still I did not wish to imply that any movement of a people to claim freedom and autonomy ought to be condemned, even as I strive to find a sustainable way to balance the needs of all people, and increasingly, my concern for all living things.
     The post stands, because I still feel strongly that this view can help people.  Whenever there is an opportunity to encourage a collaborative stance rather than one of opposition, I will do whatever I can to get people to work together.  I truly believe that peace cannot come from resistance, but only through deep connection.
     That said, I respect that sometimes the forces of the world still seek to destroy you, connection is impossible, and your only option is to fight back.  Tit-for-two-tats.
     The below is a cautionary tale: For me, I need to shut my mouth sometimes.  For other people, they have to be careful of unintended consequences, and most importantly: be careful of becoming the very intolerance you loathe.


“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”- A.G.

Can we admire and appreciate both stunning native cultures and the amazing efforts and diverse accomplishments of C. Columbus?

 Isolated cultures are now mostly lost, violently destroyed, or re-contextualized to irrelevance, and Columbus's efforts were largely stolen away from him by a greedy monarchy with a history so colorful  that it's at home in a Spanish soap opera.

"Weep for me, whoever has charity, truth and justice! I did not come on this voyage for gain, honor or wealth, that is certain; for then the hope of all such things was dead." -C.C.

For goodness sake, the man had to explain to the greatest leaders of the world, in painstaking detail, that the world was round.

There's a lot to be said for hundreds of years of amazing intellectual awakening and growth for 'us' to be able to recognize the injustice he wrought upon 'native' peoples.

People just didn't have the tools back then to put pacifism into action.  In plain English: people can be stupid.  It was too important to conquer or be conquered.  Spain was on the brink of bankruptcy.  If you want a more recent example, look at US dropping the bomb twice on Japan.  Or just think back to your high school days...or your office politics now.

And yet today the EU is working desperately to bail each other out, to help find stability, rather than seeking an opportunity to capture a neighboring country.  There is more prosperity in teamwork, and this is beginning more and more accepted around the world.  War doesn't pay.

"There would be an end of war and preparations for war if the cost were borne by those responsible for war." -F.C.H

It's not so black and white as pulling down a statue of Christopher Columbus and patting ourselves on the back.  Most of us have blood on our hands, to varying degrees.  Anyone can be a monster in the right environment.

Our safety and satiety rests on the backs of generations, just like any of our accomplishments (agriculture, algebra, medicine and moon landings).

People are hard-pressed to give up their conveniences, even if their development, or even their continued use, leads to suffering.


We have to recognize that glamorizing history doesn't make most people any more willing to live in the past.  Trumpeting future doom doesn't much help us avoid it.  We must evolve or perish.  This has always been the case.  We are forever changing..at least until entropy kicks in.

And yet, in my country, I see intolerance on the rise.  I see people so isolated from each other that, once again, they aren't seeing a fellow human when they judge someone.  This applies as much to cashiers as it does to billionaire presidential candidates.

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

If the majority of people were more connected to their world, and less desperate for survival and success, maybe most of the world's great injustices could be solved, through small actions or inaction.

 I know that being in a rush, being less of a part of my community, breeds in me a lack of compassion. Yet I am becoming more stressed and impatient the longer I work and live here.

As for C.C., he left quite a clear message on how he wanted to be remembered:

"I should be judged as a captain who went from Spain to the Indies to conquer a people numerous and warlike, whose manners and religion are very different from ours, who live in sierras and mountains, without fixed settlements, and where by divine will I have placed under the sovereignty of the King and Queen our Lords, an Other World, whereby Spain, which was reckoned poor, is become the richest of countries."

The Hero and Savior of Spain.  Except, maybe Columbus' understanding of humanity wasn't as forward-thinking as his understanding of geography and navigation.

After all, he was merely following the foremost thoughts of his day, and exceeding pretty much everyone's expectations of how they might be enacted. He was such a good savior and hero that he expedited the imminent slaughter of millions.

Oops.

His intentions were 'good', and that slaughter would probably have happened within a couple hundred years either way.  It seems worth considering.

So maybe this ought to be "foster a culture of understanding day"...but I'm afraid most of us aren't ready for that yet.

Still, it can't hurt to try.

Let's devote some time to seeing things from someone else's point of view.


Is it a crime to fall in love?
Can we ever tell where the heart truly leads us?
All we are asking is...
A little understanding.
Why can't the world 'leben und leben lassen'?
'Live and let live...'

Friday, August 17, 2012

On Protection and Purpose

Wie viel ist aufzuleiden!
How much suffering there is to bear!

I am getting to the second half of "Man's Search For Meaning" by Viktor Frankl.  It's a weird book written by a holocaust-surviving psychoanalyst, but the part about the meaning of life really resonates with me.  There is no meaning of life.  I realized that the process of evolution basically precludes a meaning of life.  It's like learning the code you've been writing for 16 years isn't actually compatible with the operating system.  It took a bit of a nervous breakdown, but over the years I have patched the system.

Frankl makes a lot of supposition in the book, and assumes what worked for him was also what worked for all the jews who survived the Holocaust, that it will work for anyone, and that survival is paramount above all else.  He uses a lot of fuzzy logic and asserts a lot of stuff that I don't believe in.  One big concern of mine is his focus on the future and past, rather than the moment.  He touches on, but in my mind misrepresents, meditation.  But I like this paragraph:

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. 

Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.


That's beautiful.  Life is so richly full of such opportunity.

The last time I wanted to rush to the defense of my lady, I was living in Williamsburg, illegally, in a house with my girlfriend. When Lindsay interacted with the landlord, it was terrible, with harassment and many other issues.  But she managed to mess up the lease badly enough that there was little recourse, and of course me living there illegally didn't help her case because  the landlady had spies checking on us and ties with local government.  So my hands were pretty well tied.  It sucked to feel like my suggestions, to help our situation, were falling on deaf ears, and to not be able to get enough information to do anything but blindly trust Lindsay to figure the situation out.

Eventually, Lindsay and our housemate Emily were in this huge one-sided feud where Lindsay seemed to be having some sort of nervous breakdown that only involved Emily and none of her other life activities.  It was an awkward spot to be put in for me because Emily was also crazy and so it was hard to tell the stories apart and have any idea of what was going on.

Fast-forward.  Now I have a lady with a proven track-record of maturity and responsibility.  No one is perfect, but she seems eminently qualified for the things she feels she is qualified and recognizes her weaknesses willingly.  She is being manipulated by a person who is trained to recognize psychological weaknesses and yet cannot seem to influence or manage anyone in a positive manner.

My lady is in danger of being fired because she has a hard time showing this person their cognitive distortions of the situation.  This person is seeing things wrong, and has for many years, and it's ridiculous to expect a first-year farmer to be able to teach clarity of mind to her manager. I want to rush to protect her, but I also know this is her battle to fight.  I don't want to be like my father, coming in to school to make things go my way.

So how do I support Jules without being overbearing?  How do I express how much more I trust her than anyone else in my life, without overwhelming her and without giving up my autonomy of understanding?

Of course, I know she will read this, and so I will get that answer from her, hopefully.

But in the meantime I can speculate a little bit on my own weaknesses.

I get passionate and hear what gives me glimpses of understanding, not necessarily what the other person is trying to tell me.

I insert myself into situations to "micromanage".

But that one is hard.

Sometimes, an important situation requires micromanagement, as in mountaineering with a novice.  Other times, it's less critical...

At work, someone, let's call him D, and I were tasked with arranging the technical presentation at coming tradeshows.  Big money involved, a big chance to make big impact, present an image.  We decided to go with a very slick 60" smart-TV.  So we divvied up tasks and one of his was: find cases to fit the monitor.

Several conversations later, numerous iterations, we both have a much better understanding of the problem, which is good, but he is getting a 42" monitor to fit the case he had decided on, rather than the other way around.  I suggested he think about the larger cases, which I went out of the way to find for him, but he had already contacted the shipping company about the standard size.

So I don't think we will ever get the info we needed to truly make the decision which is: what is the cost of the case and shipping for a 42" versus a 60" monitor?  What is the impact, at a tradeshow, of a 42" versus a 60" monitor, and what is the ease of setup of a 42" versus 60" monitor?

Then we make our best decision on the information.  But a lot of people around me, they don't know to look for that information.  And D is better than most.  So I don't want to push it, I don't want to say look here, look here, look here, do that.

He is receptive to my ideas and he understands what I am trying to do most of the time- that's valuable support when I'm trying to push through a technology project that other team members might be scared of.  But still, do I just let it slide?  For now I am letting it slide.  This is my first time working with D and I don't want him to feel it is a grindstone to be avoided.  I like working with him.

I think Frankl hits on something that is very Jewish, and also maybe key to other religions as well.  Not only does religion offer a sense of place and purpose, but, Judaism in particular, offers a unique sense of service and fulfillment through simple service to oneself and the community that is possibly a happy uniter of the protestant work ethic and buddhist

I guess the bottom line is this- My life has plenty of calls to rise to the occasion.  I have lots of opportunity to find the right (or wrong) answers in life, and to fulfill the tasks life sets for me.  I only hope I am up to the challenge.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Becoming Human: The Search For Meaning

The Great Books Foundation published a book series that was somewhat transformational for me.

I had just dropped out of college, was back living with my parents, and had little hope for myself, mt future, my world.  I was seventeen and felt overwhelmed by a world beyond comprehension, and out of control.  I mostly lived in the internet, and wandered aimlessly in my bathrobe.

I was suffering, yet with the impossibility of comparing personal experiences, I will never know the depths of it.  So I was wandering aimlessly in my parent's basement (something of the coolness, isolation, and mustiness was reassuring, as I am sure I was comforted by the solid concrete floor and walls) when I happened across several brown paper bags full of books.  They were mostly mildewed and tattered and water-stained and swollen- but in the piles, buried in between pounds and pounds of books I found this series.

The series was called "Becoming Human".

It probably did a much better job of giving me a foundation for coping with tragedy, stress, suffering and despair than my 17 years of suburban upbringing ever did.  A few years later, I recognized this, and suggested the series to a friend.  I'm not sure he even bothered with it, despite his being a voracious reader.  I guess we are each receptive to things in our own time, under our own terms of circumstance.

In future posts, I'll try to talk about each piece of written work within each book of the set, some 50 or more written pieces, and discuss their personal significance to me.  If I have a hard time remembering the details, or it feels immediately relevant, I will reread a story.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

While you were sleeping...

I saw that title in Chronogram and it resonated with me pretty well.

I guess I feel pretty disconnected from my friends and all their happenings.  I haven't seen Irene in ages, Juliana and I are always varying degrees of sick, tired, and busy.  One of my oldest friends seems to be headed for certain trouble in sketchy situations.

I don't know, I'm just reminded of that part from Cabaret:

Can we ever tell where the heart truly leads us?
All we are asking is eine bisschen Verständnis -
A little understanding -
Why can't the world 'leben und leben lassen'?
'Live and let live...'


So, in case you missed something while you were sleeping, here's what's going on in my life:

I am trying to really come into my own as a marketer at work.  I am really into UXD (User Experience Design) as a sort of life choice, since it encompasses a lot more than just gamification, but also embraces gamifying things.

Which now makes me think of La Vita Dolce, the movie where the father convinces his son that the concentration camp is one big game to win a tank.  All I remember is that kids big goofy grin at the end, full of joy.  A whole horrorshow joke built up to that end.

Maybe my head is in a dark place.

It's stressful, trying to live a life on my terms, in this area.  I often wonder if my coworkers can understand even half of what I say.  It's very discouraging, but I guess I must keep trying to learn their language, even when I gently lead them to a simple conclusion and they blissfully assume the exact opposite despite my best labors.

And I feel like I never have the time I need to communicate with Juliana.  I am living an entire life of on-the-fly last-minute interactions.

Continuing, while you were sleeping...

My digestion, for weeks, has been terrible.  My insides feel ripped up from the burrito I had last night.  I keep trying to eliminate grains and starches, because that seems to help, but then my energy cycle gets weird, which upsets Juliana, and I inevitably find the rigor too difficult and go back to eating something full of wheat.

I've also been thinking about autism, depression, cognitive distortions, the relation of diet to autism and whether or not people thing so differently that they might never understand each other.

 My apartment is lovely, and a joy to live and cook in.

Juliana is caring, and beautiful.

I live near where I work, and I have ever-greater specificity of purpose, even if my faculties often take a couple steps backward.

My biggest concern is a lack of will and time for reflection.  I need to stop rushing from thing to thing without thinking.  I don't do it with work, when I am in the office, I force myself to think out things to avoid mistakes, but this is harder to do with my personal life.

My bigger biggest concern is my health.  I simply can't keep burning the wick at both ends.  It's not nearly as much fun.  I have to figure out how to dial it back.  My current lifestyle doesn't meet a number of my passions and desires and yet I still rarely have a couple hours of rest.  I have no idea how Juliana finds the strength to do it, seeing how she works a good hour extra on either side of her day, or more.  I feel weak and unsupportive sometimes, but she assures me I am doing great- I guess she is an excellent manager.

Vinny's birthday is coming up, the Juliana's and then mine.  A quarter century.  

And we are going to NOFA this weekend, the Northeastern Organic Farmer's Association's bi-annual conference, now in Amherst MA, full of workshops on how to run manage and grow a farm.

Gotta run!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

He likes that she says his name all of the time.  It's unfortunate that the dishes stay in the sink, and other indicators of trends, but then again, there's illness to blame.  He also knows he can come across poorly, condescending.  He is tired.

Meeting the drummers.   One looks like Kevin Kline and talks like Jude Law and is somehow associated or involved with a girl named Natasha with piercing blue eyes and strangely attractive jowls or dimples, deep smile lines really, speaking of tectonic smiles to be witnessed by a lucky few.  They come from Chicago and at first with his enormous shimmering nipple rings and their talk of making artisan drums welding and kiln-firing they don't seem very interesting at all, flashing nipple glint possibly blinding small children nearby.

But coming back wearing a kitten shirt Kevin Kline/Jude Law is strangely transformed.  Now they're talking about fun and fundraising, about spaces and rappelling and it turns out he and Natasha are avid spelunkers.  I suppress a giggle.  He stares into Natasha's eyes for a while as she tells him about fundraising to rappel off skyscrapers and certifications to clean oil off cooling towers.  Her excitement becomes infectious and he realizes he would gladly visit their big studio in Chicago.

And who really comes to such a bland part of New York to live at a nun's farm to take a drum workshop?  As one man passing through the kitchen explained to his cellular phone- lots of strange things going on.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Inre this Atlantic piece (and lululemon, which I wore yesterday bicycling to work, ha)-

     I think this is a little different than Maqubela makes it.  When I did beta testing for www.superbetter.com (health achievement app) the testing group (All-Stars) was pretty diverse- the exception being most (not all) folks were very tech-savvy.

     I'd expect tech-savvy early-adopters to be the kinds of people to do buggy beta testing, so it's no surprise that the demographics for using health tech would match the demographics for fluency with other mobile/lifestyle tech.

     Heck, Pirsig went over this in Zen and the Art of M'cycle Maint.- people are afraid of what they can't understand, particularly if they're relying on it for health.

     If anything, the variety of people who signed up for SuperBetter demonstrates, to me, the strong desire of less-tech-savvy people to use better tech for their health. It's becoming increasingly obvious there's some stuff not working so well with traditional healthcare, and people are starting to respond to that.

My question is- Does most data show that minorities are less tech-savvy than other groups?

     So for me, it's a question of how soon digital health tools will start being more effective than traditional ones, or augment traditional healthcare, without losing the benefits of the 'real world' in the process.  Figuring out how to do that is a good place for lots of healthy discussion.

For a whole lot more fascinating on the future of tracking for health, check out the comments here: http://e-patients.net/archives/2012/03/whats-the-future-for-self-tracking.html?replytocom=98057#respond

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sometimes it's fun to experiment.



I do need to get better at shortening my memes, though.  Maybe next time I will be more clever.  But this is definitely a step better than Gushers commercials from the 90's, IMHO.

Monday, April 23, 2012

On the Origins of Teepees.

Listening to Radiolab got me thinking, as it tends to do.  They posed an amusing, seemingly flippant question:

Why the cowboy hat?  

Where did the cowboy hat come from?  Who invented it? 

The Radiolab show on Patient Zero makes the interesting claim that it wasn’t Stetson and his “Boss of The Plains” hat that was so lusted after, nor was it the cowboys who bent and kneaded and abused their hats into the shape we now know as a cowboy hat. 

It was a process more akin to the fur of a mouse.

Slightly more and fluffier fur will make give a mouse a slightly greater survival advantage in cold climates.  So it is the climate, and the evolutionary vectors of the mouse, dictating the outcome of fur.

Well, climate, that is easy, people study that all the time and make predictions.  Stetson did that to make his ‘perfect hat’ for the west.  It’s how people play the stocks or cash in on a fashion trend.

But what even is an ‘evolutionary vector’?

For all I know I invented the term myself. 

Evolution is any change improving the survival advantage of, traditionally an animal, but really anything that can reproduce- an idea or a system.  But  vectors are a way of plotting the direction of ‘progress’ in evolution.  

Evolutionary Vectors are trying to predict whether a particular structure or system will consume greater or lesser energy over time.

 Evolutionary vectors are trying to calculate the odds of whether it is sustainable or prone to boom-and-bust or more or less robust against extinction.

But the question comes in whether we can engineer faster or more efficient evolutionary vectors?  Can we, as the mouse, decide longer fur is better for us?

...
Well, isn’t that as simple as putting on a coat?

It’s so easy for us to put on a coat when it’s cold outside.  And shed one when it’s warm.  How much easier and more responsive than fur coats that must molt and regrow.

Which leads to a very simple observation:  Mice don’t wear coats.

In other words, humans are more capable of manipulating and changing their environment than any living thing has ever before.

Evolution works by contradicting expected entropy.  Living things are energy concentrators.  And they are energy manipulators, trying to store energy to do work when it is most advantageous to the genes of the living thing.

People have taken this to the extreme, trying to burn through millions of years of accumulated biological energy (in the form of hydrocarbon chains) in a few decades.  And shit, we fucking rock at it.

But, this would clearly fall into the category of unsustainable.  Our margin of error is fairly large, but our rate of consumption is really too astronomical to debate.  Millions of years in √† Tens of years out.  We’re draining out of the well much faster than it can refill.

But heck, we’ve gotten this far.  Maybe we have a chance to start collectively thinking in longer terms than minutes, days, meals and orgasms.

So when I look out my airplane window right now, 30,000 feet over the Midwest, (and creating about ten thousand times my fair share of greenhouse gasses from fossil fuel emissions) I see the pac-man shapes made by rotating watering systems. 

Crop circles.  The graffiti that aliens would make to mark their visits.  But here, as far as the eyes can see, are crop circles made by people, driven by very basic animal needs.  Needs like energy-concentration.  Energy concentrated in plants by the sun.

We have come a long way.  We are in a place of potential and understanding far beyond anything we saw before.  We are blossoming a beautiful awareness of our impact on the world around us.  We know amazing things about the human mind, about the physics of our universe, about the diversity of life.  Einstein would tell us we are standing on the shoulders of giants. 

But our understanding is still very piecemeal, and very theoretical.  The wisdom of scientists and philosophers has not really been integrated.  Small pockets of special interest control valuable insights carrying with them hidden implications.

People are still communicating at a very animal level.

If we are to survive, we must learn to better share the collective wisdom of the world with each other.
We need a better system for communicating complex viewpoints on complex issues.  A system that is accessible, adaptable, and revisable by all people.  A system that is fair but competitive.

And hell, we are very close.

It is predicted that almost one in seven people in the world are on Facebook. Fiber optics transmit data packets at the speed of light.  What does that say for communication?
(With seven degrees of separation, does this mean that everyone knows someone on Facebook?)

We have massive-scale wikis on a wide range of subjects. What does this tell us about vox-populi, the voice of the people- collaboration in popular thought?

The evolutionary vectors are all pointing toward a fusion of our strengths, playing against our weaknesses.  We must work together.  We must work for future us’s who have not been born yet.  
The survival advantage is too great.

So put on your coat, it’s cold outside.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The "Quit Yr Job" Paradox

I finally figured it out,

Why so many of us go to work day in, day out, unsatisfied.  We talk about quitting as if it is some future victory we will claim.  The few who do quit- rather than changing jobs, or going back to school, or most often: staying the course or getting fired- inevitably do so quietly, without that sense of victory they had longed for, so long coming.

The thing is, in our longing for a sense of control- in the same way we embrace religion, routine, and fad diets- we have embraced job waffling.  The power to quit your job is one of the few reliable powers left to the American worker.  Of course, nowadays, so many Americans are out of work.  But I digress.

So we can never really quit, because that means losing the job.  Quitting quitting is much harder than just quitting the first go.  So if one can hold work, they do, because they are holding onto that freedom of choice, that power of self-expression that is the ability to quit your job at any moment.

So you might as well hang onto that unsatisfying job for the satisfaction of choice, because once you are unemployed, you have given up your bargaining chip.  You might be left with some unknown thing, even less fulfilled than when you were assistant manager at Starbucks.  And you become a quitter, rather than someone who could quit.

Of course, the choice is far more complicated.  For me, quitting didn't even become a consideration until recently, when I realized I had been lying to myself.  I was not, in fact, pursuing my clearly stated goal of sustainable contentment.

Which is pretty clear.  It's 3:26AM and I have work tomorrow and I'm already way behind deadline.  Something does not compute.  But it is nice to know, when a dodgy situation's all going to hell, well "by God I can get the Hell out of Dodge!"  But you know, once I did I'd be a failure.  And who wants that?

Nobody wants that- even though it's questionable whether or not my time at RMS is as productive as any other possible path for me right now.

Well, we're coming up on my third Vegas experience, which promises to be very different from the first two.  For starters, I'm not single!  Ahh, but my past experiences weren't all that adventurous anyhow.  Maybe they were, but not so far as attraction-relations were concerned.  Denny's Grand Slam for one, please.  First Ticket out of here, please.  Vegas 1.0 I was woefully unprepared.  I was miserable.

Vegas 2.0.  Lower expectations, greater freedoms.  The opportunity to get stupid.  Aha!  Vegas, where mediocrity shines.  If it gets overwhelming, focus on some fascinating character study drawn out from the rich tapestry of life on the strip.  Bury myself in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.

Vegas 3.0.  With all the stuff at home to look forward to, with Juliana in my life to tie me to a tangible reality, bringing with me the Dao De Jing and Food Rules and Flow- Optimal Experience this promises to be the most rewarding foray into depravity yet.

And there's so much to learn in work and play, I just hope my physical form can support it.  I hope I can rest enough for the constructive part of my brain to click on, instead of flickering dimly as it has for so many weeks.

I kep thinking about that article, reading in New Zealand, about how Jews are resilient, because they see low points as periods of great potential.  On one hand, that is the only way to think (everyone who believes in Evolution believes they're a survivor) but on the other hand, I can't help but think there has to be something to it- that we find opportunity in our weaknesses.

So I look forward to leveraging my weaknesses, as I keep trying to help mankind live and learn in sustainable contentment- which, it's interesting, is a goal awfully similar to the Buddhist practice of Bodhicitta- "the intention to achieve omniscient Buddhahood as fast as possible, so that one may benefit infinite sentient beings."  


Although I guess my twist is, I don't believe in reaching 'Buddhahood' as an individual.  To me, it must come as a social effort, as something we all help each other toward, and the reward is intrinsic in the effort.  That is- my process of attainment is a path of self-fulfillment and if I am fortunate it is a worthy example for others to follow.  


I merely seek to share a set of tools and knowledge, and make them as universal as possible.



"May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings."


...And another early-morning ramble bites the dust.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Restful Need

I feel kinda like those starving shipwreck victims who hallucinate that other people are legs of lamb, except for me they are sheep and I am begging them to let me count them...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"To have a long, real career, you can't be that crazy. And you have to be on top of your shit. And you have to be good when you're asked to be good." -Joel McHale

Friday, March 23, 2012

Goodwill Toward Man

It was shaping up to be one hell of a trip. But still, under his anxious and hopeful Dexedrine high, beyond the promise of the future, he had to consider the past. A welling-up of loneliness spurred by the knowledge of her, out there, with a companion, an ally, that wasn't him. The feeling of a lack, a scabby hole still present that would heal if only he'd stop scratching at it. If only it would stop itching.

And for all that, if only he'd not been so difficult, if only she'd been a little bit more something-or-other...they had some good times all the same. So he is forced to wonder- does travel make her think of him?

And he's probably only thinking this because he's doing so well. He's engaged in the struggle of really living and challenging himself to be a better person but historically this has always come with untenable consequences. He only wishes he had someone, anyone, he could trust (complicitly) to tell him: this is progress.

It's a flaw of the system, growth is not necessarily progress. Health is not necessarily wellness. Happiness doesn't mean success and success rarely means happiness. But he is happy. Still struggling, but he feels the progress. He thinks he's better able to get along now, better able to grope out to other people without hurting them, without irritating them, without his special form of selfishness that he works so hard to eradicate.

It's as if, one day, he sees himself on top of the world, and the next, he is trapped stumbling aimless in a fog. But he has to admit he is doing better in the fog than he has ever done before- despite not being able to see a thing once the mists descend. He has to pay attention. When the fog lifts: Where am I?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

AMA shows true colors.

The American Medical Association basically admits doctors aren't trustworthy in a subtle admonishment about medical student's Social Networking activities. 'We need to make sure the public doesn't see what doctors do on Facebook' is the message.

I find full disclosure refreshing. The open sharing of information results in better, more mature ideas. Communication eases stress and allows communities to optimize who does what.

But people are routinely warned: the dumb shit you do on Facebook may cost you your job. Well ok, this is almost certainly true. But do we really live in such a censured society that doing something harmless will get you canned?

Well, yeah, maybe sometimes.

But this article is a good example of when digital tools allow the unintended consequence of better information- in this case, what thought leaders in the medical community really think of their peers.

They're so afraid that thoughtless medical students will drag down the public image of medicine. Well, I think the established medical paradigm is doing a fine job of that on its own.

In my own interactions with the medical community, I have found it to be money-driven to the point where help becomes less convenient the sicker a person is. This is both personal anecdote (well to determine if these illnesses are causing your crippling fatigue, we need you to drive to specialists in five places but if you're 10 minutes late you lose your appointment) and from my work (overhearing a conversation about how a doctor has to 'convince' a care facility to take on a patient because they won't 'make money' for the homecare agency- the doctor does this by threatening to withhold patients with 'valuable' diseases- the ones that have good profit margins after insurance reimbursement.

So, medicine is unfair. And a lot of people feel openness is the solution. Stop letting a system control your life. Make the invisible visible.

And I think it mostly boils down to resistance to change. People are scared of change, and they don't believe they'll benefit from trying to understand boggling complexity- they probably feel they'll never understand. But with crowdsourcing, and by leveraging computers for their strengths (rather than leveraging them for human weakness, Facebook) we could turn medicine on its head.

That's why I think HealthVault is soo freaking cool. It's a tool by Microsoft to organize and control all your medical data and track the progress of your health data. And if Microsoft starts using this data (anonymously) to determine whether a particular health regimen is effective...they could potentially start competing with a number of traditional healthcare options- and they have the clout to deal with other big companies and the FDA.

Treat diseases and illnesses on a massive scale. Become a health slactivist.

Computers in healthcare. Could they be our saving grace? Or a dangerous scapegoat?

And a footnote: The slactivism debate eerily smacks of the FDA "off-label" social media debate. In the case of social science- it opened new thought on how to better get people to think before clicking 'like', signing a petition, or donating money. The pharmaceutical industry simply complained and pulled themselves from social media. Fishy?




Sunday, March 18, 2012

Histrionic Rage

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

My favorite farm girl is from the Bronx.

My favorite farm girl, last we spoke, was in a suite at the W, making sales in DC. My favorite farm girl is selling real estate in Brooklyn. My favorite farm girl went into graduate school in political science. My favorite farm girl went to Mexico, then back to British Columbia, where she radiates happiness and beauty and bakes pies with the little ones and is seen in the company of a boy in a silly hat with crow's feet hung from his eyes. My Favorite Farm Girl found a promising job with a national electronics retailer. Sigh.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Friendship, Technology, and Fear.


I'm not sure I've ever learned how to be a good friend.

Does this mean I'm not a good person?

Probably.

Even online personality profiles tell me I'm less kind than average. I don't feel less kind. So this must mean I act less kind.

This is why I think it would be great if everyone had their own reality TV show for a few days, once a year. We'd get to learn so much more about ourselves by going to videotape.

If it's become standard in professional sports to do all this analysis after a big game, or during training, then why not for everyday people facing everyday problems? I think we could really benefit from that feedback, with or without a coach.

But most people are probably more socially adept than I. I think I'm okay much of the time, but I am making up for a lack of emotional connectivity with intellect and rote tricks.

Maybe we all feel this way? I think this is another place technology, and the 'Primer' mindset, can help. Do others feel like I do? Well, a blog crawler could easily tabulate keywords and associated phrases.

Imagine the relief: "Well, no, not everybody thinks like you think. Not everyone feels what you feel. But 64% of the 30 Million active bloggers in the world have expressed similar things to what you are right now."

Forer effect is a really good sign that most people's fears and beliefs are pretty universal. It's why I feel comfortable, when data is lacking, to use personal anecdote as a guide rule in how I approach problems. If I imagine myself in a certain position, I can usually get an idea of what a person is feeling or how they are going to act.

But it takes a lot of work on my part. It is not intuitive. And, I often just wind up stuck in my own head, or my own problems, and I end up walling myself off from others, despite my best intentions otherwise. I am not good at sustaining the effort. And I wind up upsetting my friends while I'm trying to empathize with them. I either wind up some sort of overbearing problem-solver or a distant sociopath. But Your Mileage May Vary.

I recently upset a good friend. I didn't mean to. I was trying to understand her predicament, because I sensed a lot of turmoil in her life that kinda tasted like impending doom. But maybe it was just impending upheaval and change. I tend to be wary of extreme change. It's an aspect of my fear of extremism in all forms.

But I upset this friend while trying to puzzle out what she was thinking, how she was doing what she is doing. I don't know if I threatened her independence, or ruined her concept of me with naivete, or what. But I tried my best to send the sort of message I would like to receive. And it didn't go over too well.

Maybe I just need more instant replays, so I can master my swing, through better feedback on results. But I hit a foul ball.

If I can't even figure out how to communicate with myself, how am I supposed to do it with someone different? Someone who has different sensitivities and problems, who has lived a completely different life from my own?

And so we are not all alike. We are all completely different. Which is another reason we need algorithms and computers to help us. They can guide us on how we are different. "64% of people expressed a similar keyword phrase to what you are feeling, but of those, a 42% majority used this synonymous expression, and only .001% said it with your language and phraseology."

You are a unique and beautiful snowflake.

There are ways you can help yourself and others that are amazingly universal to all humans.

We just have to figure out the intersection of the two. Or, I do. Because I have a hard time empathizing intuitively.
______________________________

I am very afraid.

My brain is fogging up, cutting out like a faulty hard disk. I kept spacing out last night. I told myself I was tired. I meditated. I slept nine hours. I drank two cups of coffee. I'm still nervous & weird and having a difficult time focusing. What's going on?

Somebody help!

But the lines are down. I am nervous about repeating past social disasters. I am told that interacting positively with other people is necessary to feel good. Work is probably a good place for this. But when I can't maintain focus and build rapport, I tend to find I am burning bridges as fast as I can build them. I turn into the hot mess. Which is a problem.

At my workplace, there is a lack of reliability. There's a certain tendency toward flakiness. I am definitely part of this. Overcoming my fears would help immensely. So I work at this. I try to be open and communicative. I do my best to be kind and available. Sometimes this comes across as strange.

Again, it would help to get feedback. I'd like to know: What am I doing that weirds people out or makes them distrustful? Let's go further- is it all in my head? If I just went into work and smiled and nodded through everything, would it all work out?

I tend to think I am functioning at a much-reduced capability. But maybe others don't notice. I am told others don't notice, but then the way people interact with me seems to change dramatically. Huh? What is going on?

I'm sorry, I had to call in sick to work today. My head hurts. But I don't have a headache. I have the heeby-jeebies. I have the fear.

I have the brain-fog chronice fatigue syndrome. I have the lack-of-willing syndrome. I have the obsessively internal cannot stop thinking syndrome.

I have the I-don't-know-what.

So tell me, what's going on?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Intelligence Quotient?

Seems kinda weird to brag about your IQ. Because someone smart enough to have a sufficiently high IQ to brag about, should know that bragging is only the most hollow form of social achievement.

"...the abstraction of intelligence as a single entity, its location within the brain, its quantification as one number for each individual, and the use of these numbers to rank people in a single series of worthiness, invariably to find that oppressed and disadvantaged groups—races, classes, or sexes—are innately inferior and deserve their status." -Stephen Jay Gould

If one wishes to ice that unhappiness cake: "The ceiling of most standardized (validated and normed) intelligence tests is at around the 99.9th percentile."

So, congratulations, you've distanced yourself from nine-hundred and ninety-nine people out of a thousand who could be your friends, allies, supporters. But in a chaotic world of 7 billion people, that's a pretty lousy measure of individuality, considering how narrow in scope an IQ test is to begin with. If you're one-in-a-million, there's eight of you in New York. If you're bragging about your IQ, there's too many to count. (I wanted to include links here to how people and corvids can both only count to about seven (not 7 million or 8 thousand), and it's our ability to use language that lets us count any higher, but I can't find the links and have to get to work!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From Feedback to Kaizen: reflecting on Richard Feynman

Yesterday, I started telling our new Director of Sales about my father's guiding rules. These are simple concepts that take a lot of thought and effort to truly understand (in the sense that you can effectively apply them), but they are easy to carry around. These memes take up little space in the noggin.

Examples I gave included "feedback on results" and "design controls". It occurred to me that these were systems my father used not to fool himself. This reminded me of a 'speech' by Richard Feynman, the brilliant humanist and scientist.

He said,
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are
the easiest person to fool."

A recent salon.com article spoke of the importance of fact-checking. I think the article's view is old and tired. Let's all be each other's fact checkers! But on the other hand, what she is saying is a very exciting idea. She is suggesting a much more democratic process than traditional human discourse. But how do we fact-check each other?

Well, one thing that really pissed me off as I grew out of school (figuratively, as I am only 6' tall, but dropped out of highschool at 16) was how woefully underprepared it left me for being a human being. I knew there was stuff that was much more important to my day-to-day life, that somehow other people were learning and I wasn't.

"But this long history of learning how not to fool ourselves--of
having utter scientific integrity--is, I'm sorry to say, something
that we haven't specifically included in any particular course that
I know of. We just hope you've caught on by osmosis."

well, it turns out all this stuff other people were learning was not this. Somehow I caught on to the integrity of not fooling myself. I got it by osmosis from my father and ran off screaming on an exciting adventure. I took not-fooling-yourself to absurd extremes, then realized they weren't that absurd. I realized that RPF was talking about science, but that not-fooling-yourself as a human is much harder. We're designed to fool ourselves. We don't even have the words to describe this deep introspective process. I went cave diving into my own underpinnings with a very weak guide line to find my way back out. I'm pretty sure I nearly went nuts.

Well, I'm back.

And I'll tell you, we need a lot of clever people to tackle the world's problems today. RPF was a sharp guy, and I don't think he even thought to delve into the underpinnings of language, the Progress Paradox, the myriad ways we are now unraveling how we have been naturally selected for survival, not in this world we live in now, not for an optimal life, but as carriers for genes.

But damn, he sure came impressively close. Check out his speech here. If you like it, I suggest finding a copy of The Meaning of It All.

"The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to. ... No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it. " -RPF

So we have some very good scientific principles for science, but we don't have very many good ones for living our lives.

So I leave you with a call-to-action! An extremist guiding rule of my own: Kaizen.

The zen philosophy of taking the smallest possible step forward. The idea of, when necessary, breaking every action into as many smaller actions as possible, and noting the progress of each nigh-imperceptable step. This is the concept of how to climb a mountain. One step at a time.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I am the 100%.

I am the 100%. I believe there are 7 billion of us and nobody is escaping this planet anytime soon. I believe that every single person I have ever met is a good person, so I have no reason to believe anyone is evil.

I have seen the perpetration of evil. Lots of evil things occur every day. Many of them are the actions of individual. I believe even an individual who repeatedly commits evil is a good person. I think it is time we tried to understand a system that allows evil and suffering on a large scale, a system that allows us to ignore the suffering of our fellow man.

I believe in the future. Now is the best possible time to have ever lived. The world is beautiful. I want to understand that beauty. I want to share that beauty, even after I am dead. I know I will never see beauty the same way the other 7 billion do.

I am willing to work hard. I am working hard. I have not been given the tools I deserve. I feel this way about every other person, too. I wish I better understood each of them, and I wish I better knew how to bring them joy. I know we would work together, if we were able to understand each other.

I am willing to blame systems for problems. I am willing to blame ideas for problems. I am willing to blame icons and idols and actions for problems and I will point my finger at evil. I do not blame myself. I do not blame others.

I am not the 99%. I am not the 53%. I am not the 1%. I am a humanist. I will sacrifice, to help mankind live and learn in sustainable contentment. I am the 100%.