What do YOU do?

Such a common question, and we encounter it quite frequently as we get older.

We’re defined by our function in life. How we make money. How we contribute to the economy.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

But is it what we really do? Who are we really?  Why are we afraid to reveal our true inner selves?

Are you what you do for money?  Or are you a mother, father, lover, fighter?  Are you an adventurer, gambler, drinker, or artist?

Have you ever thought of answering this question at a party totally differently?

“What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m a recovering bullfighter who hangs out at the library 40 hours a week,”  or,

“I’m a scuba diver supporting marine ecosystems by being a business lawyer during the week.”

Who are YOU?  Really?

 

Avenge thyself, demigod!

In the Avengers movie [1], the evil antagonist Loki finally meets up with Mean Mr. Green, also known as Hulk.  Loki demands that Hulk pay obeisance to him as a GOD.

In that instant, Hulk grabs the spunky evildoer and uses him to mop up the floor.  A few thwaks and whomps later, Hulk stalks off, leaving Loki embedded deep in stone.  And as he walks away, he mutters something under his breath.

When the movie first came out, the line made me laugh.  Hulk mutters, “demi-god.”  And it’s perfect.  For Loki is not a real god, he’s someone who thinks he’s a god.  A half god.  He’s like a demitasse (half glass), only half full.  And in that one word Hulk sums up the loser, Loki, as someone who just doesn’t measure up to his own ego.

I saw the movie again a few weeks later, and noticed that something changed.  I didn’t think much of it then, but seeing the movie again a few days ago reminded me of that change.  Hulk doesn’t say “demigod” any more.  He says “puny god.”  Two words.  And these two words don’t mean the same thing as demigod.

Why would the director / producers make this change, especially when the movie has already been released?  And what does this say about the film industry, and about our society in general?

The best reason I’ve heard is that the word was changed because too many people didn’t know what “demigod” means.  In order to please as many people as possible, the producers altered the language so that it would be more accessible.  Too bad that the words don’t mean the same thing.  A “puny god” is still a god, only small.  In the original language, a demi-god just isn’t a god at all.  But more people understand the word “puny” than “demi.”

What does this say about film in general?  It says that our reactions are being analysed at the finest detail.  Only by watching and analysing reactions to every line of the film, even after its release, can the producers have noticed that the laughs weren’t as great as they wanted.  No doubt they tested alternative language, and settled on one that worked better than before.  It means that our emotions are the true product, and that the film is only a mechanism designed to reach into our hearts, and wallets.  There was a time when the creation of a film was considered an art form – no longer.

And what about us?  The artist who created the script put in “demigod” because it was the best word to use.  But most people couldn’t understand that simple word.  Not only do they not understand, but they can’t be expected to go and learn what it means, so that they can smile at the memory of that scene.  Or better yet, they can watch the film again, and appreciate the true humor that the writer has woven into the story.

Instead, we make our movies, our stories, and all other aspects of our society a little bit simpler.  Big words are bad.  We don’t trust politicians who use them.  And we don’t want to see big words in our lives anywhere else.  And that’s too bad, because, sometimes, the best word to use is a big one.

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/

Om – not just a pretty sound

Om.

As a semi-macho guy, I didn’t take easily to yoga in general.  Believe it or not, the two hardest things for me to digest were the 5 minute rest at the end of my class (savasana), and chanting the occasional om at the beginning or the end.

Lucky for me, my yogini was fantastic, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and patient.  She taught me not to grunt.  She pointed out the importance of really resting after practice, instead of bolting up and out to get back to work.  And finally, very discreetly, showed me the way to enjoying om.

The chanting of om is highly varied between teachers, classes, and even styles.  What I’ve learned however is that it helps frame the class – giving it a beginning and end.  It helps unify your class, even if you don’t utter a sound.  And it helps break the ice, as it were.

There are many spiritual aspects to om.  You can liken it to the sound that created the universe, sort of a big bang.  For those who appreciate physics, it could represent the cosmic background radiation.  Or perhaps it represents the resonant frequencies left over from that cataclysm that created everything we know.

Joseph Campbell, that genius of myth, enjoyed saying om because it contained every vowel known to man.  It resonated through time for him, unifying past with present with future.

Then there’s me, semi-macho man.  When it comes to spirituality, I’m not buying.  The fact that my main yogini has a voice that melts butter and makes even the lowly om sound like opera is a good reason to be interested, but to actually say it?  Worse yet, how is it that I’ve even come to enjoy it?

Let’s get functional.  When you say om, you’re vibrating your body.  Vocal cords, larynx, trachea, lungs, sinuses, the works.  If you say it like Joe Campbell, starting with ahhh, moving through om, and finishing on a closed mouth “mmm” you in fact go through a wide range of frequencies and resonating configurations within your own body.  And why is that good?

You shake things up.  It’s a good, clean way to warm up your body without moving major muscles.  You loosen up the old nose.  You breath a bit easier.  You listen to both the om on the outside, and how it echoes inside.  You can hear it in your ears, your nose, your lungs, and even in your gut.  It’s a nice way to give yourself a sonogram, without having to fill out insurance forms.

You do it at the beginning of class, and it helps you start.  Do it at the end of class as well, and now you have before and after notes that you can compare.  And that’s what yoga is all about.  You.  You and your body.  Yoga means coming together, and the lowly, un-macho sound of om is what brings both outside and inside together with minimal effort.

So the next time you’re stuck in a spiritual class where om is spoken, relax and enjoy the ride.  It’s just another pose, but one that reaches farther inside than you realize.

Om.

 

Fifty shades of black and white

A women’s only yoga class giggles while discussing “50 shades of gray” while doing down dog.  They’re all reading it.  And the funniest part of this is that they are all very religious, even orthodox.  So what’s with the giggling?

Are we so starved for new sensations that even modest, orthodox women want to think about sado-masochism?  Perhaps it’s a form of regret, because we’ve lost our traditional roles as men and women, and laughter is a great way to soften the pain.  Finally, maybe it’s because we keep pressing the boundary of shame?

I’ve only read a summary of what the story line is about, but why would something like this attract our attention?  Granted, the old stories of the Marquis de Sade also made for titillating reading back in the day, but now it’s all vampires, zombies, and cougars.

Finally, why would a class of yoga women want to live through the life of a young (fictional) woman who is willing to be used by a man for his personal pleasure?  What sort of message does this send to those of us who are still impressionable, looking for structure and direction in our lives?

Here’s where the black and white come in.  When you look at the line that divides black and white, you see a distinct line.  Look more closely, and little by little the grey will appear.  The line may even become fuzzy, indistinct.  But the point is that the grey only exists where black and white meet.

Our goal as adults, parents, lovers, and citizens is to help steer each other clear of the grey.  We don’t want to fall into darkness, but lead each other into the light.  As society pushes the boundaries of right and wrong, traditional role models, and looks for new experiences, it’s going to be up to those of us who are still anchored in tradition.

How do you feel?

 

How much would YOU pay?

You’ve seen those people – always trying to sell you something.  Drink this and you’ll have energy!  Read this and you’ll have a great job!  Practice this and you’ll find a great lover!  Follow my advice and you’ll be rich!  Come to our services and find the answers to life!

I’m not going to sell you anything.  I’m going to ask you a question.

Have you ever thought about how much you would be willing to pay, if indeed those people had the answers?  The real answers.  In general, we already know that most people don’t really believe these carnie actors.  Because they only pay 19.95 for the book, or subscribe the the book club for 5.95 a month.  None of this breaks anyone’s budget.  But what if they really had the real answers to the big questions.  How much would you really pay?

Here’s a tougher one.  The ultimate question.  I’m thinking you already have one, so go with that.  It might be different for someone else, so I’m not going to guess what it may be.  But you probably have an ULTIMATE QUESTION (reverb here, please).  Whatever you question is, there’s a good chance that you’ll never answer it for your entire life.  They usually don’t get answered.

What if you could; get an answer, that is.  What if there was a right answer, and knowing that answer could enhance your life some incredible amount?  So what’s it worth?  Twenty?  Forty?  Your entire income from today to forever?

Sorry, don’t have any right or wrong answers for you here. You should know that other people have sometimes thought they had a lead on THE ANSWER and did put everything on the line.  Some religions encourage this.

But did you ever consider the flip side?  That is, perhaps most of us aren’t meant to know the answer. Perhaps just knowing the answer hurts us more than only having the question.  And think about this.  What if the answer itself isn’t important.  What’s really important is HOW WE GET THERE!

That’s right.  It’s not the answer that’s meaningful, but the process.  Perhaps some of us already have the answer, but now that we’ve got it, we realize that just telling it to our friends is like giving them the answer to a test problem.  They won’t understand.  Worse, the answer could hurt them if they don’t know how to use it properly.

How’s that?  So, let me ask you again; what’s the answer worth to you?  And even if you know the answer, can you handle it?  Are you willing to work for it?

 

 

 

I’m HAP(py)!

Guess why I’m so happy!  Go ahead, guess.

Oh, never mind, I’ll tell you.  I’m a happy guy because I have a good idea of what’s going on.  I know why I’m here, why you’re here, and why our dog wags his tail.  I’m centered, grounded, rich in health and family, content with my lot, and pure of spirit.  I even have a few dollars in the bank.

No matter how you want to say it, the real reason is that I have a good idea as to what it’s all about.  How did I get this way?

First, I became a philosopher.  Philosophers think about thinking, and I thought a lot about lots of stuff.  But a lot of philosophers spend a lot of time throwing around dead names and confusing definitions.  That certainly didn’t make me happy.  I still hang out a bit on some philosophy boards, and they are just as confusing as 30 years ago.

I became a different kind of philosopher – a High Altitude Philosopher.  And by high, I mean the moon (on occasion).  By standing on the moon and looking back on our Earth, it’s amazing how many petty problems disappear.  It’s amazing how simple our lives become as well.  And that’s why I’m such a HAPpy guy.

Go ahead, ask me something tough, and I’ll tell you what it looks like from the moon.  Try it yourself.  You might be surprised at how you start to cherish your self, your own life, ad your loved ones.  And how much you realize your problems are indeed very very small.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Valentines Day, to you!

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone.

I know it’s probably a made-up “holiday” designed to make us buy cards and chocolate.

But underlying that is the message, I like you.  Doesn’t matter who you are, I like you.

And for those who are extra special, I like you – a lot!

I can’t see anything wrong with the sentiment or the results.

So, I like you.  And for those I like a lot, expect a kiss!

 

Tim Armstrong, pick on someone your own size!

Armstrong tried to wrest a few more dollars out of his workforce the other day by making some excuses.

The big excuse (and his big mistake) was picking on a few babies.  One of the babies was born premature, weighing about 1 pound and delivered after only 5 months of pregnancy.  The bill that AOL got was about 1 million dollars.

I don’t blame Tim for yelling about the bill.  That’s outrageous.  But what’s even more outrageous to me is that he BLAMED THE BABIES!

They didn’t have anything to do with it Tim!  Why don’t you pick on the insurance company, or the hospital, or whoever else is actually billing you that outrageous amount???

What is it with today’s egoistic megalomaniac leaders?  They find it easier to pick on those without voices, and leave the true culprits alone.

Help me with this one.  I’m ready to retire… to the moon.

 

Beautiful yoga; Ugly yogi

I really detest exercise.  It’s not me.  Never was.

But common sense, a weak back, and a desire to live a productive healthy life (NOT necessarily long) is a pretty good motivator.  And there is also the mental health benefits.  Like a nano-vacation, getting out of our regular skin is a great feeling, even if it is only for a 1/2 an hour a few times a week.

Along the way I’ve discovered yoga.  It’s been described as slow gymnastics by the Dutch, repressed dance by choreographers, and as a new form of torture by anyone who has seen a contortionist or the cirque de soleil.

That said, it’s going to be the last exercise my body will endure.  I can do it sitting down, or standing in line, or even lying in bed.  Heck, I’ll be doing it in my coffin just before they torch me; the pose is called corpse pose!

More to the point, yoga itself is beautiful.  Balancing the position of every muscle in your body against gravity, and against yourself, is a precise discipline that makes me appreciate my body in new ways.  My gurus and yogini friends claim that all this stretching and balancing will reduce the chance of hip surgery and even simply falling and breaking my hip or head.  But learning more about my body, and getting stronger at the same time are true benefits that I can appreciate today.

There are some side benefits.  Savasana for one – getting to just lie on the floor for a few minutes at a time.  Reminds me of nap time in kindergarten.  And then there’s all the pretty yoginis, of all ages.  Skin tight fashionable clothing, sweating and posturing right there next to me.  How can that not be fun?

And, yes, there’s the downside, and the reason for this article.  I do love the new exercise we call yoga, but I’m terrible at it.  My body is rather ungainly, doesn’t flex well, and certainly doesn’t do anything in a coordinated way.  Yesterday my shoulders went one way and my hips decided to go an entirely new way, and my knees went in two entirely different directions.  It took the instructor a few minutes just to stop laughing long enough to try and put me back together.

Yet, as ugly as I am in yoga, I’m learning from it and getting better.  I feel sorry for those fellow students who have to look at me when they’re pointing their heads my way.  I also feel for those courageous instructors who feel that they have to touch my body to get me bending in a meaningful way.  I want to offer them some sanitizer when they finish.

If I can do it, you can certainly do it.  And there’s a good chance you’ll look a heck of a lot better at it than I will.

Namaste!

 

Physics as Behavior

This is a review of a book on Archimedes, the first Physicist.

This may seem like a bit of a stretch for a site about behavior, but, believe it or not, the study of physics is an aspect of behavior.  And, as disciplines go, physics has been extraordinarily successful.  In fact, it would be extremely difficult to find any aspect of our lives that has not been touched by our knowledge of physics.  As students of behavior, we need to understand this discipline as a part of our humanity.  And what better place to start than at the beginning?

Which brings us around to an excellent art exhibit that took place here in Cleveland, ending in January 2014.  The only other exhibition was in the Getty Villa.  Cleveland almost lost the opportunity, an exciting story in itself.

http://www.cleveland.com/arts/index.ssf/2013/08/sicily_reverses_cancellation_o.html

Of the many great treasures, one of which is reputedly the finest example of greek sculpture in the round (if I may say, this is one good looking dude.)  It’s so exemplary that he gets a room all to himself.  http://www.clevelandart.org/events/exhibitions/sicily-art-and-invention-between-greece-and-rome

Tucked away in the corner of the last room, however, was a non-descript page of vellum oriented the way a lowly monk inked it in the early 13th century.  Prayers, instructions for blessing loaves at Easter, and many other religious details are easy to read.  Underneath, however, are the almost imperceptible letters of a 10th century scribe, who copied an earlier work.  The work he copied was those of Archimedes.

As awesome as it sounds, the page of the palimpsest gets short shrift from the docents.  “Archemides invented the screw” I heard one say.

I highly recommend the book sold in the gift shop.  “Eureka Man – the life and legacy of Archimedes” by Hirshfeld is excellent.  Some of the tidbits include learning about Aristochus, the first inventor of our heliocentric model of the universe, 12 centuries before Copernicus.  We also learn about big numbers.  The greeks only had a “myriad” that meant 10,000.  Archimedes needed something a little bigger in order to fill the universe with sand.  So he invented something quite similar to the exponent system we use today.

This book is extremely well-written and a fast read.  I did my best to savor it, but find it too exciting to go slow.  The fact that anything survived multiple empires, religious uprisings, and still make it to the light of day is quite an exciting story in its own right.  That it records the thoughts and findings of one of the greatest minds of all time makes it all the more remarkable.  Buy this book!  (Here’s a link to it on amazon)

http://www.amazon.com/Eureka-Man-Life-Legacy-Archimedes/dp/080277766X