9/11 Nudity

Today is a day of respect and reflection.

As we reflect, let us ask ourselves WHY?

Why do perfectly healthy young men, all Saudi, dedicate their lives to destroying so many other innocents?

Why do their religious leaders condone such actions?

Why does the Saudi government condone, even support such actions; as recently alleged in recent court filings? and possibly in still-redacted government reports?

Why do our leaders and academics not discuss the underlying reasons all these people would want such violence?

Here are some possible reasons for the violence.

1) These Saudis and other religious extremists are crazy and like to do such things.

2) Perhaps these extremists are intent on starting a 100 year religious war, like the Crusades of old?

3) Or perhaps these extremists are registering their inability to fight Western evils in all its forms?

My bet is on number 3, because the other two don’t make sense.  It’s also the one that extremists use for recruiting.

What are these evils?  One is unconditional support for Israel and other religious countries, no matter how their Islamic populations are treated.  Another is our export of vice in the form of gambling, entertainment, movies, TV, songs, etc.  And finally, the icing on the cake, is that there are no regrets on the part of Western leaders.  Vice is big business!

On this day, this day on which we should all pause and respect those who died because of extremists, and those who have gone and fought the extremist enemy, we instead have fresh evidence as to how we are exporting our own morals onto those who don’t want them.

A beautiful young woman decided she would gain fame be desecrating ancient monuments in Egypt.  They warned her, they tried to stop her.  She and her photographer managed to survive, and escape with the pictures they wanted.

Was the experience enough to stop them from publishing those pictures?  Oh no oh no.

But what’s worse is the several news organizations decided they would help her by publishing her story to the internet.  And so it grows.  It’s news, of a sort.

But what is worse is that we are insulting today’s Egyptians.  We are insulting their very identity.  And we are tempting them to strike back in any way they can.

Here are a few links to her story, and a few others highlighting the US effort to “fight evil” as well as how “evil” also exists within our borders.

We will never fully appreciate the sacrifice made by those in the twin towers until we are ourselves brave enough to ask WHY.  Until we have enough backbone to fight against hate and disrespect WHERE EVER it appears.

The young woman should be publicly chastised, and the pictures deleted.  She should be returned to Egypt to suffer their laws.  The gentleman trying to murder people in his car should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Those organizing “far-right” rallies should be suppressed by every leader who has sworn to uphold the costitution, sung the National Anthem (of the US), or recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

Until these things happen, nothing will happen.  Until the next set of extremists make their stand.

Honor those who perished, honor those who truly serve, and honor those yet to come by answering WHY.  Then do something about it.

Thank you.

 

 

http://www.francesoir.fr/culture-medias/voyage-sexy-et-nudite-les-deux-passions-de-marisa-papen-photos-instagram-blog-nue-tour-du-monde-seins-topless-blog

http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/egypt/belgian-model-s-nude-photos-at-pyramid-draws-egypt-s-ire-1.2086855

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4872328/Nude-model-reveals-forced-spend-night-jail.html

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/model-marisa-papen-and-australian-photographer-jesse-walker-arrested-in-egypt-over-naked-photos/news-story/5797489cd1517920cc4f67f3a8c65fd6

https://thinkprogress.org/man-arrested-at-far-right-rally-for-allegedly-attempting-to-run-over-counter-protesters-3fc95906c458/

 

END

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Quiet Conspiracy

Hello Friend,

The Zika virus has been in the news alot.  First drawing international attention when babies were born with abnormally small brains in Brazil, it has lately made news because we now find that it can be sexually transmitted between people.  The mosquito is no longer the only way to get it.

But there are some researchers who have found out something else about Zika, something that should be upsetting people almost as much as malformed babies.

Male infertility.

Several researchers have looked at what the Zika virus does to testicles in mice, and their conclusions were not good.  Others have confirmed that the virus has a great affinity for neurons and testicles.  This helps explain why babies are so impacted during pregnancy.  But it also may explain why it makes men infertile.

Except we hear all about the babies.  What about the babies yet to come?

Here is where we have some conspiracy fun.  For many governments feel that there are simply too many people.  Think of how much more joy you would have if you didn’t have to deal with so many people all the time.

Consider also the fact that fertility in the developed nations has been falling for decades.  Some countries do their best to encourage larger families, but the overall trend is down.  Some large countries, like Japan, have already begun to decline in population.

The fact is we know that Zika is going to contribute to the decline in global fertility.  We won’t see the impact for decades, but we already know it’s here.  And so does your government.  The fact that they don’t want to make a big deal out of it is simple.  They want fewer people.

 

PS: I’m leaving links to both science and news articles out for now.  Ask and I’ll update as needed, but you can find everything here on the web.

 

Brilliant Suffering

I finished Larry Brilliant’s autobiography today, and enjoyed it immensely.  If you read his book, you know what I mean and can skip the remainder of this paragraph.  If you haven’t read this, I recommend it highly.  His life truly begins as he joins the love of his life in pursuit of the meaning of life.  Germinating at the feet of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, nourished by the Summer of Love and hardened by the abuses of that era, Larry becomes a radical doctor helping those no matter who they are.  His soul-mate decides their shared paths go through India, and to India they go in pursuit of enlightenment.  Guru Maharaji determines that Larry’s dharma lies in helping others, and that his karma yoga is through work.  The ultimate prize is eliminating killer smallpox, a disease that killed over half a billion people in the 20th century alone.  That’s more than all the wars and famines and tragedies all put together.  The adventures, the successes, and the failures are enjoyable told and hold many lessons.

Larry asks the ultimate question that every compassionate soul has asked through the ages: Why does suffering exist?  He typically pondered this while holding the body of a dead child.  I am going to answer this question in terms that rely on what we know of biology and ecosystems and philosophy.  I’m going to keep it as short as possible, so that much detail may be lacking.  And I’m going to answer it in such a way so that it addresses a related question: What is the best way to relieve suffering in the world in the long term?  Most recently, Jeff Bezos has asked this question, inviting his twitter followers to submit their suggestions as to how he focuses his charity.

However, neither Larry Brilliant or Jeff Bezos, or even most people are going to like the answer here.  For the truth is raw and uncompromising, much as Mother Nature shows Herself to be when in her full glory.  We tend to forget that to Mother Nature, all forms of life and death and joy and suffering, are all aspects of a single existence.

Moreover, when you look closely at the holiest of all holy texts in every religion, you see that they agree on that fundamental truth.  Life and death, joy and suffering, are all part of the same thing.  You can’t have one without the other.  A Tibetan monk explains to Larry, when he asks the question yet again, that suffering will always be part of the human condition as long as ignorance and obsession exist.  In the same scene, Larry is blessed for the simple fact that he is fighting a great scourge of humanity, and to alleviate any suffering is an act to strive for.

This is not an argument against charity, but an answer to the question “How can I be most charitable?”  At the same time, I hope to explain why suffering exists in any form, and why our best charitable efforts may in fact not appear to be charity.

Suffering may come from many sources, from outside ourselves, but also within.  We generally agree that some suffering is good for the soul, for it makes us tougher, makes us more willing to take risks.  But when is suffering too much?  Who is to decide?

Nature decides, using the most fundamental rules possible: life and death.  When she unleashed smallpox upon humanity, a third of its victims would die a gruesome and painful death.  Another third would be permanently handicapped.  The remaining third?  Survivors.

Now that we have eliminated smallpox, we will not know what made those survivors different from the rest.  What kind of world would this be if smallpox still existed?  Would it be a better world?  We simply don’t know.

And that’s the point.  For those of you who are spiritual and wish to second guess God, you can feel angry about the death of an innocent baby to such a gruesome disease.  But if God is playing the game for all of humanity, and not only that one baby or her family, then who are we to be critical?

Suffering exists, and we must learn from it.  As long as ignorance exists there will be suffering.  Such is the wheel of life.  No matter what your religion or how you talk to your God, fundamentally they all say the same thing.  Sub ek, all one.

Which brings us to the final point, how then do we best spend our precious charitable resources?  If you are moved to help someone read a book, buy groceries, or weed their garden, then you should.  However, if you have access to billions more resources, then consider this.  You should be pushing mankind further, higher, faster.  For Jeff Bezos, every last bit of his energy should be directed to making his dream of colonizing space a reality.  Spending even a few moments on any other endeavor may make him more popular, but only increases the risk of getting humanity off the ground.

Improving humanity means greater knowledge, and that automatically means less suffering.  It’s not the same thing as putting silver into a beggar’s hand, but it is far more lasting.

Namaskar

 

May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May they never be disassociated from the supreme happiness which is without suffering.
May they remain in the boundless equanimity, free from both attachment to close ones and rejection of others.

 

Boo. You.

Boo!

Not scared?  You will be, by the end of this story.

YOU should be scared because this is all about you.  It’s all about WHO YOU ARE.

You see, once you know who you are, you will also know who you aren’t.

Let’s start off easy.  And since this is Halloween, let’s start off imagining that you are chained to a classic rack of the Inquisition.  Scared yet?

First off, as your Inquisitor, I will clip your long fingernails.  Now I’ll give you a nice manicure.  Look at those fingernail clippings.  Are they you?  Are you they?

Of course not!  You are not your fingernail clippings!  You don’t care if they go or come, do you?  And look at how nice your fingernails look!

Is the nail polish dry?  Good.  Let’s go to step two.  I’m now pulling out all your fingernails.  The whole thing.  Don’t worry.  It won’t hurt.  Much.  I’ll wait for the crying to stop before we continue.

Now, here are your fingernails in a box.  Here are your fingers, without any nails.  A bit bloody, but that will heal.  Are YOU still YOU?  Probably.  People will recognize you.  You can sign your name on checks and play with your smart phone.

Can you guess what step three is?  Step four?  Do I need to elaborate?  I hope not.  If I remove your hands, your feet, your arms, your legs, and so on, when do you stop being you?  If you were to be deprived of everything except your brain, and if we knew how to keep your brain alive and even still be able to communicate with you, would that be you?

A story was written a long time ago about this very sort of thought experiment, called “Johnny got his gun.”  It was meant to be a statement against war, but it serves equally well as a question about where YOU end, and the rest of your body begins.

The next time you’re clipping your fingernails, think about what would happen if the nail clippers suddenly became possessed and began clipping away at your body, out of control.  At what point would they have stopped clipping body, and started clipping you?

Boo!

 

Humility Helps

“Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?”

So begins Abraham Lincoln’s favorite poem.  It’s all about mortality, and poetically reminds us that our time on this Earth is short.  Many act as if they are immortal, yet all of them eventually return to dust.

Why was it that Abe had to remind himself of this fact?  Certainly he already knew this.  Being surrounded by the Civil War must also have been a constant reminder as to everyone’s eventual end.  And he was the first President to start receiving actual death threats (as far as I know).  So what’s with the poem?

Another way to ask this same question is why don’t modern politicians and leaders remind themselves of the same thing?  How many actually acknowledge their mortality, not only in words, but in deeds?  The newest pope comes close, by the way.  Why does admitting their own mortality matter for leadership?

Because the sin of pride distorts your world in your favor, and increases the distance between your view of reality and the rest of us.

If you are proud enough you expect to have a 747 at your beck and call.  You expect to live in a palace with a staff of 100.  You expect a legion of photographers to follow your every move.  And the more you come to expect these things as normal, the more likely you are to make decisions that reinforce your reality.

Do small airplanes get in the way of your 747?  Tell them all to stop flying wherever you fly.  Are the parks around your palace looking dingy?  Ask the government for a few million to tidy them up.  Are the paparazzi getting a bit too close?  Ask for laws to keep them at bay, or decide you’re above the law and do whatever you want to mislead them – like speeding.

But if you’re serious about making great decisions and seeing the world as the rest of us, then mortal, be not proud.

Don’t be afraid of your public, take a regular flight from Washington to Chicago in the economy seats.  Palace park has litter?  Go pick it up yourself!  Paparazzi want your pictures?  Give it to them, and stand there till they get bored.  Heck, hire some yourself and make some money yourself.  Better yet, lead a modest, quiet regular life and bore them to exhaustion.  If you really want them to go away, that is.

Abe was humble because he wanted to be the best leader possible.  He knew he was smart and powerful, he didn’t need sycophants for that.  But he also knew he had to understand, to the best of his ability, what the world looked like for ordinary Americans.

He may have been afraid that fateful night when he went to the theater.  He certainly knew he had enemies and crazy people threatening him.  But he also knew that he could not live in fear, not if he wanted to be a great leader.  Especially when his country needed a great leader the most.

I like to think that Abe would still go to the theater that night, even if he knew what was going to happen.  And to me, that is the greatest attribute of leadership – humility and the loss of fear.

Thank you Mr. Lincoln.

 

Impact of an 8 year old

Saturday, yesterday, at noon, here in my peaceful little village in the middle of Ohio, a little boy was killed by a car.  We don’t know the details, yet, but they don’t matter.

We do know is his family was crossing the street.  A car driven by a sixty-something hit the entire family; all of them went to hospital.  As of this writing his is the only death.

The 12th of July should have been a memorable day for him because he probably got ice cream, saw the water falls, and probably enjoyed seeing many of the dogs and people walking about.  The village was different from his home in Virginia, and perhaps he would remember us as he grew into a young man, a man with a family, a career, and the possibility of helping humanity into the future.

The title of this essay is deliberately harsh, because the impact of that car has caused this little boy to impact my life, and through me, perhaps, some of you.  It’s my fervent hope that his life does not end with a short obituary and a few tears.  It’s my dream that events like this create a greater impact within ourselves, and our society.

I dream of a day when every tragedy causes us to pause, appreciate each other, and be thankful for the simple things in life.  I dream of a day when every tragedy becomes a new incentive to learn, and improve ourselves and our society.  And I dream of a day when tragedies like this are only known through ancient history.

We must be careful not to over-react.  Was the family paying attention and following the rules of the road?  Was the driver competent and was the car in proper working order.  If something did fail, what was it and how can we prevent such events like these in the future?

This little boy’s memories of our village have been erased.  But his memory becomes part of ours.  Even as I write this, I’m also reading about children whose memory is being erased in Syria, Gaza, Irag, Afghanistan, and other places.  Will our society ever grow to the point where those lives are also mourned?

Or will their impact be lost?

 

 

Silencing your Genes

Suicide, a willful decision a living entity makes to end their own life.  The very word elicits a shudder from every normal person, and for those who have been touched by it, a deep feeling of sadness.  But to study and understand people, society, and life in general, we must move beyond our personal feelings and think about what suicide means.

Suicide means that someone, something, that is alive chooses to not be alive.  What happens when a soldier chooses to participate in a dangerous mission and never returns?  We call such missions suicide missions because that is what they represent.  What happens when an organization is disbanded?  In a sense, while it is together, that organization is alive.  Suddenly it no longer exists, whether through bankruptcy, ineptitude, or some other form of life-altering event.  What happens if someone decides that they never want to have children?  In this sense, their ‘life’ as represented by their genes will cease to exist.  Their unique genetic signature will die, because it is only through offspring that such information is preserved.

In all these cases, a choice has been made in which ‘death’ may not be in the form that we are most familiar.  That soldier’s suicide mission may not result in physical death, but a mental collapse from which there is no recovery.  That business that was purchased by another no longer exists in the same form, even though its products and name may continue.  And that person who is capable of reproduction has decided, willfully, to not have children.  Though their body may live to a ripe old age, their genes will not be passed on.  This is genetic death.

Choosing not to reproduce is a choice.  It deals with the same forces of life and death for the individual as it does for the family.  There are great joys that come with creating a new human being.  And there are great pains as well.  Our Western Civilization has seen a great reduction in reproduction, possibly because the apparent cost of children is rising while the benefits are decreasing.

Balancing great forces of life within ourselves, and making a choice.  As unbiased students of behavior, we should be impartial and non-judgemental.  But we should acknowledge at least one bias;

Life is nice.

 

Suicide as Behavior

We don’t want to think about it, exercising free will upon ourselves in such a way as to end our lives must be discussed.  It happens all too frequently today, and usually distresses everyone around the ‘victim.’

One of the reasons it’s difficult to discuss is that we don’t want to admit that everyone considers suicide as an option.  The good news is that very few people consider it as a viable option.  It’s considered, and then it’s gone.  Because it’s a deep dark thought, we never have to admit it.  Yet evidence of its familiarity are all around us.  Shakespeare perhaps said it best (of course) as Hamlet considers whether he should be or not.  However, consider this.  How many children have considered running away from home, away from the repressive regime represented by their parent?  How many parents have heard the tearful teenage admonition, “you’ll miss me when I’m gone!”?

The thoughts are there, always to some degree.  In some minds the dark forces are stronger than in yours, and for that we are thankful.  It’s our job as students to try and tease out the forces that push the decision one way or the other, no matter how ugly they may be.

And in this fashion, the simple lessons of primal biology give us the greatest insight.  For it may be that the choice of suicide is one of avoiding pain.  In fact, it could be argued that most of the decisions we make everyday are to avoid pain.

Yes, suicide is painful.  No matter how we would choose to do so, there will be some fear factor in its execution, and fear equals pain.  Furthermore, we are human, and we have relationships with others.  We know that our choice will bring pain to those we care about.  Add up all this pain, and we have a sum representing the force of life.

Life.  For most of us, life is mostly joy.  But for some, life is mostly pain.  In truth, life is a mix of both.  Sources of pain are pressures from our peers, parents, and teachers.  We have homework, social obligations, possibly a job, a family, and a huge project.  Perhaps we don’t have a job, and we want one.  There is the great divide between where we want to be and where we are, even after years of toil.  Add to this our knowledge that all these sources of pain may increase over time.  The sum of all these sources of pain, added up across time, becomes the force of death.

Then we choose.  The easier the tools are to find, the more accepted the choice is within society, then the more likely we are to choose death over life.

As students of behavior, it’s difficult to truly say we study this phenomenon with impartiality.  But we must try.  And as we study, we realize that suicide does not only come in one size, or in one form.  For that we must step back, and consider the balance of forces on yet another scale.

The scale of a generation.

 

Dark Side of Free Will

Every power and right carries threat and responsibility.

As students of behavior, and with a rudimentary knowledge of philosophy, we can identify a power that only people seem to possess; something called free will.

As a great power, we revel in it throughout our childhood.  Our first car, our first experience away from home, our first great financial decision are all empowering actions that declare “I have free will!”

There is a terrible downside to free will, one that is touched upon all too seldom because of its terror.  And for those of you who tremble easily, you’ll be forgiven for closing this page and visiting again next week.

This terror exists in every being that possesses free will.  It lives in you, and for that reason you will be afraid.

This terror is what we call suicide.  It is the decision of an individual with free will, exercising that free will in such a way as to end their life.

As students of behavior we must commit ourselves to an impartial, unbiased, and evenly balanced study of all things that behave.  Suicide is one of those things, and we must study it.  This next series will touch upon suicide in many forms, not only the form in which you know it best, and fear it most.

Through these articles I have come to meet many of you, and know some of you have been touched by these dark forces.  I extend my condolences.  Many years ago a cousin decided to take her life, at such a young age, and it still pains me to this day.  I have some understanding of the forces that were acting upon her, but can never know exactly what went through her mind in those final days.

To her I have not ceased thinking about what she did, and what it may reveal about myself, society, and life in general.  Here are those thoughts in a few short essays.

For KM.

 

Civil War Wonders

The American Civil war was our bloodiest and ugliest contest, a distinction our short history should not soon forget.  It is an American trait to be fascinated with this period of our time, and to learn as much as we can about a period in which over a half million Americans fought each other over the concepts of self-rule, federalism, and self-determination.  It wasn’t land or riches for which we fought, but a way of life for our society.

A friend and I had a gentle go-around many of the “what-ifs” that surround this history.  He argued that McClellan saved many lives by NOT fighting as fiercely and Lincoln wanted.  I argued that he may have saved his own life, and that of some of his men from an early death.  However, he also gave the South time to mobilize and entrench further, as a result it took far more Northern resources to vanquish them.  In other words, had McClellan struck quickly, decisively, and with conviction, he may have lost his army, but he may have won the war and saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

We will never know.  That’s the problem with history, it’s already happened and there’s no back button.  However, as students of behavior, we are entitled and expected to reenact the war in order to test our theories.

Consider this.  If the body has an infection, isn’t it best to root out the cause before it’s had a chance to settle into hard-to-reach areas?  We all know that an infection that settles in the lungs can result in a lengthy hospital stay, but if you catch it early a few pills of antibiotics are all you need.

Consider this as well.  If you were to meet an adversary on the street, would it be better to show them fear and condescend at first?  Or is it best to put on an air of bravado, matching their own threatening posture, and showing them that any potential move of theirs can be matched by an equal or greater reaction of yours?

History has shown, time and time again, that the latter is always the winning strategy.  As students we must be wise enough to learn from history, and to understand that behavior manifests itself in many forms.  This is why those who study military strategy, tactics, and theory are also students of behavior.  In many ways they are the highest form of our discipline, because what they study is at the very heart of the purpose of our discipline; survival.

So, to all those who serve and also serve to teach us,

We salute you.  Thank you for your service.