Homer and Hospice

This has nothing to do with cartoon characters named Homer; not directly, anyway.

Homer the First was a poet-entertainer who lived about 3,000 years ago.  The only works we have that are attached to his name are about the city of Troy, and then the adventures of a gentleman named Odysseus.

The reason he’s headlining today’s story is because he gives us intimate details about the behavior of people.  Today’s microscope is on how we deal with valuables worn by those who are dying.

I’ve heard that some people attending a funeral will steal things from the corpse.  In Homer’s stories, the same thing happens during battle.  One warrior kills another, and the next thing you know there’s a feeding frenzy around the dead body.  Everyone gets a piece of the victim, literally: helmet, shield, spear, lance, buckler, and so on.  The more famous the victim, the better the spoils, and the greater the enthusiasm.

Ancient history, never happens today.  Right?

Up until recently, I thought so as well.  However, Dad was in Hospice for what seemed his final days.  We all worked hard to make his stay as comfortable as possible, including almost everyone on the staff.  Certainly the vast majority of those working in this industry are on the short list for angels.

However, we made a tactical error.  We left him alone one evening.  The next day, his expensive hearing aides were missing.

Did they fall out?  They never fell out before.  If they did fall out, why did both fall out?

Did they get tossed into the dirty laundry?  A nurse checked ALL the soiled linens (yuck!), finding nothing.

Did he toss them somewhere in the room?  It’s a small room and we looked everywhere many times.  Nothing.

Here’s where it gets fun.  I talked with a policeman friend, with no relationship to Hospice, and he says portable computers and hearing aides are frequently stolen for quick street cash.  A $2,000 hearing aid would sell for $50.  Each.

Then I happened to be talking to a nice nurses assistant one morning, and she confided that hearing aides and dentures were the two most frequently “lost” items.

Dentures?  DENTURES?

Yes, there is a market for stolen dentures.

Stripping a dead or dying body of its valuables isn’t new.

What’s “new” is the fact that we are still doing this.  Our society hasn’t changed as much as we like to think.

As students of behavior, we can use this knowledge to our advantage.  It means we can learn from old stories, ancient cities, and buried civilizations.

As someone caring for his Dad in Hospice, I’ve learned something else.

Stay with your loved one 24/7, and share this information so that someone else can learn from our mistake.

May everyone rest in peace.

 

Canary in a Coal Mine 4

This series was about a little bird that saved coal miners from dying, saved people from being watched by authorities, and someday might save women from predators.

Yesterday I thanked all the women who have recently come forward about powerful men that have taken advantage of them.

Those who have the strength and resources to fight these monsters, I salute you.

For those who are truly weak, truly at risk, and without any resources at all, I wish to suggest a bit of technology that *might* help.  This is where our knowledge of behavior comes in handy.  We can learn from the canary that died in the mine and the canary that watches for government warrants.

We also see the number of women who have come forward against monsters in their midst, and knowing human nature, understand that these are but a small fraction of the total number of women those monsters preyed upon.

Consider this.  Give each young woman a canary as a gift.  She carries it on her phone.  If she’s too young or poor for a phone, let the canary live in a protected place that someone else cares for, on another phone for example, or a school computer.

Let that young woman (for she will surely be young) feed that canary regularly.  She will feed it with her love, her trust, and with assurances that she has not met any monsters.

Should she not feed that canary, it will die.  And those of us who care about her will notice.

We are not asking her for any details that will put her at risk.  Those are unimportant.  What is critical is that we know.  Once we know, we can start the process of hunting out that monster.  If we can do it without her involvement, so much the better.  If it requires her help, we can help her be strong.

But all of this must start somewhere.  Those women who have come out against today’s monsters have taken the next step.

I humbly suggest that this new “Confidence Canary” be another step.  Let every young woman be so equipped.  Let her know that she is never alone.

Thank you for reading.

 

Canary in a Coal Mine 3

This series is about how a little bird has saved lots of coal miners from a lack of air, and can even save people from being watched by a government that wants to know everything.

Today’s post is also going to be about a canary, but first it’s necessary to salute all the women who have recently come forward about powerful men that have taken advantage of them.

As a man, I salute all of you for standing up to these scum.

A long time ago women were stolen as prizes, sold to the highest bidder and treated like slaves.  In fact, it’s been so long that doing any of those things today are crimes.

If you are a woman who has had such a crime committed against you, I urge you to say something, do something, even hit something if necessary.  Letting these creeps go free and unscathed only means that they will do it again.  I don’t care if he’s a film mogul.  I don’t care if he’s an orange president.

Take them down.  You are woman.  I don’t know a tougher adjective than that.

You want backup?  There’s lots of guys like me waiting in the wings.  Trust me, I know.  Guys talk guy talk.  I’ve seen the guys who think they are above the moral code, and I stay away from them.  I also know the guys who would go to bat for a woman who wants extra muscle.

So, again, to all of you who have stood your ground and suffer the public attention such admissions attract, thank you.  Thank you for your courage, your work to make this a better world, your work to take down a scum bag, and your work to make this a better place for our daughters.

For my part, I would like to contribute some small idea that may help more women tomorrow.  Literally, tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

 

Canary in a Coal Mine 2

Yesterday, a little bird told me about how a little bird saved lots of coal miners from a lack of air.

Today, I’d like to thank a little virtual canary that saves concerned citizens from a lack of liberty.  These canaries are endangered, but only because bureaucrats like to eat them.  The canaries only eat virtual bird-seed, which is cheep and plentiful.

These endangered canaries live inside internet services that have records of our comings and goings on the internet.  If you don’t mind the government knowing where you like to spend your time, then you won’t care about the canary.  But if you would rather the government did not watch your internet use, then you will like to keep the canary alive.

The canary is a delicate creature.  And what happens is that the canary will die if the government tells your internet provider that it has to start telling them about your internet use.  By law, the provider isn’t allowed to tell you directly.  The idea is that the government doesn’t want you to know that you are being watched.  This makes sense.

But if you are a cautious sort, you do want to know if you are being watched.  So you keep an eye on this special canary.  It’s called a warrant canary.  If your provider has one, they will tell you where it lives.  You should check on it and make sure it’s alive and singing.

If you check on it one day and that canary is not singing, then you know you are officially being watched.  That’s all.  It’s a great device that not many of you may know about.  But it’s there, and it’s worth keeping alive.

More importantly for us students of behavior, we can learn from this old fashioned idea that has been incorporated into modern technology.  What can we learn?  Stay tuned!

 

Canary in a Coal Mine 1

“A little bird told me so” is a phrase I used to hear as a kid.  Not sure what little birds I was listening to back then, but the phrase is perfect for this week.  This series has to do with canaries, little birds that are sensitive to how much oxygen there is in the air.

There was a time when brave men went deep underground to tear apart rocks we call coal.  Back then we burned coal to heat homes and make bread.

One of the many dangers was the possibility that the miner’s air supply would falter, killing everyone in the mine.  This happened often enough.  So an early warning device was created.  If that device “went off” everyone in the mine got out as quickly as possible so that the problem would be fixed.

That device was a canary.  The little bird would go down in the mines with the miners, and if the oxygen levels were too low, the canary stopped singing.  No singing meant the canary was probably dead.  That meant death for everyone else wasn’t far behind.

Hence the term, canary in a coal mine.  And that’s how the little bird really told them so.

Next, how canaries are working again to keep us free from government surveillance.

 

 

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

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.