Forward this, three.

These last few weeks I’ve pointed out the increasing prevalence of “forwards” based on fiction.  At the same time, there seems to be a lack of active skepticism in our society.  All of this is being undermined by one incredible force; the momentum of entertainment.

In the beginning, there were gods.  Many gods.  Gods existed in the wind, the fire, the tree, and the sun.  We have gotten smarter and more sophisticated since then, and today we have fewer gods.  Some religions claim to only have one, but that’s a topic for another day.

Yet, in all practical terms, our society worships many gods.  These are the gods that appear on the altar we call TV.  They are beyond beautiful.  They are beyond reach.  Their words are music to our ears.  And we believe everything they say.

In reality, these are entertainers.  They are chosen from the ranks of many beautiful people based on their ability to talk, to look attractive, and to mesmerize us with any words it takes to make us feel better about ourselves.  If you’re a “bleeding heart liberal” then you’ll want to listen to someone who makes you feel better about your taxes helping families in need, or children getting vaccinations.  If you’re a “freedom loving gun-toting conservative” you’re going to want to hear about the evil socialist president and his equally evil sidekick, Hillary, and how the military is being decimated.

The point is that we believe their words, all their words, without digging deeply into what are facts and fiction.  It’s very possible one family is being helped by our taxes, but is it the best way?  How many families are there, and are we indeed teaching them skills and values necessary for them to become self-sustaining?  It’s also likely that the military is being decimated, but is this a surprise?  Our two-war military has been on a buildup schedule for many years, and Pentagon planners have known a draw-down is inevitable.  Is it a bad thing?  Our military spends a lot on very dubious programs.  Are they the first to go, or is it a form of corporate welfare meets pork barrel?

If you bow to the TV on a regular basis, and believe the words of your idol, then that is your god.  As a serious student of behavior, step out of your body and watch yourself.  Is that entertainer the god you want to follow?  Or would you rather follow your own conscience?

So take a bow.  To yourself.

 

Breathing? $1 please.

How crazy is this? Someone charges you for breathing. You, right now, breathing. You can’t deny it, Gentle Reader, for I know you breathe. My theory of biology says that if you’re alive, you have to breathe. Biology predicts that you will continue to breathe as long as you’re alive.

Prediction is the hallmark of science. I like to think that any discipline becomes a true science once it has acquired the ability to predict. This makes chemistry and physics true science. It also means that economics and sociology aren’t quite there.

Let’s try to make a behavioral prediction, based on prior experience. One experience that our society has had over the past several decades is this simple fact; bottled water has become popular. Water, one of the hallmarks of our advanced civilization, has been provided abundantly and cheaply to the entire population. Someone took the same water (fundamentally), put it in a bottle and sold it. We bought it.

As an observer, I’m not being judgmental. This is only an observation. You probably buy bottled water. I have also bought bottled water. But I don’t own any stock in bottled water companies. There. Full disclosure.

Now, back to being a student of behavior. We’ve seen this development of people buying bottled water in the face of an abundant cheap substitute. What’s next?

Bottled air. How much longer (not if, but when!) will it take before people in general are afraid of breathing the air? Pollution, bugs, and maybe the fact that it doesn’t have the right scent or right mix of gasses?

Or think of it this way. Our society enforces clean air standards on automobiles and factories so that our collective air is clean. What if they started passing those costs onto us in a direct form? So with your chicken comes a separate bill for clean air. Every time you buy a car you pay a clean air charge.

And in the most extreme, how much longer till you sign up with a bottled air company to come and plug in a new bottle of air for your home once a month? Pure, clean, mountain air from the Himalayas brought to you fresh.

Sounds crazy, today. But what about tomorrow?

I’m going for a drink.

Two “p”

Every little thing we do is still behavior.

When we pee it comes out of us in a certain way.  Most of us never think about it.  We assume that it comes out of us exactly the same way for every person on the planet.

A doctor of pee (or a urologist / urogynocologist) probably thinks differently, because they get to see pee in many people.  For me, you see, pee can come out in two separate streams!  How is that?

How common is it?  How many variations are there?  That’s behavior for you.  It’s small.  It’s kind of gross.  But it’s the kind of thing we should pay attention to.  Especially when it comes time to clean the toilets!

 

Sun-day

On this typical day of worship, let us all rejoice in that greatest of all forces in our part of the universe, the Sun.  On the day I’m writing this, I started out feeling quite gloomy.  So did the day.  Cold, gray, fog, snowflakes.  Yuck.  A bit of a downer, I’m afraid.  Did I have a bug?  Was it something I ate?  Perhaps.

I got up from yet another nap, and looked outside.  Sunlight!  Immediately my mood is brighter!  I’m feeling alive again.  I can write again – if you’ll allow me to call this blog, writing.  At any rate, there is a definite connection between my mood and sun!  Why is that?

Well, there’s the chemical reactions that have been well-studied.  Our mood altering hormones and other neurotransmitters seem to be influenced by light.  When it happens during our day-light cycle is also important.  We started to notice this sort of thing when people began jetting about the globe, hence the term, jet-lag.  (Yet another way aviation has shed light on our behavior!)

But why else?  What is it about daylight that would make this particular animal feel better?  And that I’m not sure about.  It should give us an evolutionary-reproductive advantage over the uninfluenced beasts, but why?

Yes, it’s one of the many mysteries of behavior?  Any ideas out there?  I have to cut this short, because I’m going outside to catch some rays!

Aloha!

 

Welcome to Yoga. Prepare to die.

Scared?  Don’t be.  This is the attitude you should have when you walk into a yoga class.

In fact, this is the best attitude to have when you get on an airplane, drive a car, or even walk across the street.  Our lives only come with one guarantee, you see.  At some point in time, we’re done.  Everything we do leading up to that time is called living!

I absolutely love to fly airplanes. Small ones, single engine types.  Most fun you can have by yourself, incredibly liberating.  But one of the most surprising revelations during my flight training was learning that good pilots spend a lot of their time thinking about what happens when things go wrong.

When we fly, we are exhibiting one of the newest and most revolutionary forms of behavior mankind has ever exhibited.  We are defying the law of gravity.  But reality intrudes, and every pilot who has flown enough knows that at some point something will go wrong.  It’s how we respond to that emergency that counts.  So the next time you meet a pilot, remember that they may look optimistic on the outside, they are really thinking morbid thoughts on the inside.  The best pilots are well balanced optimistic pessimists.

Now, welcome to yoga.  We warm up our bodies, we twist and turn, plank and invert.  It’s fun in many ways.  But what we’re thinking on the inside is that, someday, something is going to go wrong.  After all, our bodies have a trillion parts to them.  It’s how we deal with that bad part that counts.  We push the edge of our ability, and hope that when the time comes (it will come!) our yoga practice makes us better able to handle the health emergency.

Optimistic pessimism.  Or is it pessimistic optimism?  Yoga and aviation.  Who knew?