Imaginary Loneliness

Hello Gentle Reader,

Have you ever felt lonely?

As babies we hug our parents, and we crave that.

If we have siblings they may hug us.  Sometimes they also hit.  Ouch.  Then we go back to hugging our parents.

Some of us grow up with dolls that we hug a lot.  The doll may be nothing more than a stuffed sock (my wife’s grandmother) or even a doll made of grass.

The point is that there is something within us making us want to be with someone else.  Finding someone is difficult.  Many times it doesn’t work out, ending badly.  If it’s bad enough, it makes the headlines.

This need for coupling is built into our biology, our deep biology.  As an intellectually liberated being, it would be nice to rise above that biology.  Let’s face it, rising above anything is tough, and fighting a billion years of biology is tougher yet.

At the very least we can better understand it by acknowledging its deep roots.  And if we accept those roots, then we can have fun with some of the following questions:

  • Why isn’t everyone multi-sexual?
    • After all, it increases your chances of finding someone.
  • Why aren’t there more homosexual relationships?
    • It makes sense, because someone of your gender is far more likely to share many of your same problems.
  • Why do women invest so much more into forming relationships than men?
    • Clothing, makeup, accessories, emotional and mental investment, all of these are many times greater than what men invest.  What’s going on there?

I’m going to try and tackle the last one for now.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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Selective Hearing

Can you hear me?

Seriously, this old ad joke is relevant in the study of behavior.

There’s a popular understanding that women are ignored by men in meetings, especially in a corporate setting.

As a semi-retired manager, and having run a firm that had more than the average number of women, it’s true.  In meetings, men DO ignore women.  In those meetings, I took extra care to listen for their contribution, and if necessary, stop others from talking over those women so that their words could be heard.

Why does this happen?  All sorts of new-age reasons have been given, including machismo, sexism, aggression, and even our sex-hungry culture.  But there may be another reason.

I’ve also been in meetings where I am the only male.  Yes, me all alone.  And not necessarily the leader of the meeting.  And this is where it gets weird.  Because I’m not a shy guy.  I’m not afraid to make a point if I have one.  Heck, sometimes I make a point even if I don’t have one.

When I’m the only guy, and I start saying something, it’s like I don’t exist!  Another woman might start talking, and all the women immediately turn towards her.  When I started talking, they don’t quite hear me at first.  I found that I have to make quite a ruckus to get noticed.

What could be going on?

Rather than getting all conspiracy theory on myself, I think the simplest solution is the best.  Basically, as men and women, our brains are tuned to listen to those of our own gender.  Men lean towards the low end of the vocal spectrum, women are on the high end.

So, I conclude, it’s not sexism, it’s not even trying to keep people from climbing into the C-suite.  It’s basic biology.  It’s a million years of survival keeping our brains tuned to the noises that make the most sense.  Women listen to women, and men listen to men.

So the next time your main squeeze isn’t listening to you, don’t fret.  It’s not being done intentionally.  That’s biology!  Solution?

Yell louder.

 

Crazy Driver Tales

Does anyone else out there feel that drivers of today are way worse than of yesteryear?

I can remember when my mother got a ticket for not using her turn signal.  Today it doesn’t surprise me when I see a police car make a turn without using a signal.  Normal civilians only use them about half the time.

So, if you, my Gentle Readers, are interested, I’m going to start compiling a list of crazy driver types that I have cataloged over the years.

Today’s driver is the “Wide Body.”  A wide body driver is someone who drives like their car is verrrrrry wide.

I saw this happen while walking past the library.  There’s an admittedly sharp turn for cars to make there, but this gentleman driving a compact car made the turn as if he were a 48 foot semi.  He took his sweet time, he went very wide of his own lane, and drove in the opposite lane for about 50 feet before finally merging into his own lane.

If I hadn’t seen it I would have thought it was a joke.  If he had been driving a truck it would have been a sweet turn.  Perhaps he is a truck driver.  I’d like to think a professional could maneuver a vehicle in the right way, no matter what.

So keep an eye out.  I’m sure you’ll meet your own wide body soon.

 

 

 

 

We are to Gaia, as …

Some time ago, this neat guy proposed that the Earth can be considered a living thing.  He called that “thing” Gaia.

It’s the kind of concept that some people feel is right and natural.  In fact, the concept is part of our most primitive vocabulary, as in Mother Nature.

As he was trying to convince scientists, he made his argument technical.  Most of them didn’t believe him, even though he used big words and had all sorts of evidence.

For fun, let’s embrace the concept.  First, we’ll consider all of humanity a single life form, a species.  Let’s also consider that the set of ALL species on our planet also constitutes a single life form.

Here’s the fun part.  For all of us nerds who dwell on things like AI and computers taking over humanity one way or another, consider this twist.

Humans create an AI to be our servant.  At some point that AI becomes self-aware and decides that it’s better than all the humans that created it.  At that point it harnesses all sorts of technology to systematically wipe out those humans, turning them into its servants.  The AI has become the master.

Ready?

Think about Gaia as being the whole Earth representation of humanity.  It’s been around, in full flower, for a very very long time.

Now, think about humanity as the most recent creation of Gaia.  A new species that is supposed to help keep Gaia humming along for even longer.

Except something goes horribly wrong.  Gaia’s servant becomes self-aware, and decides that Gaia should be the servant, and it should become the master.  It begins waging a war upon Gaia.

Get it?  In this sense,

… WE ARE SKYNET.

 

 

(We are to Gaia, as Skynet is to us.)

Rape Pillage Plunder

Whitesburg Park is a small nature preserve at the end of our street.  We met a neighbor who insisted we visit a small rotting log containing a trio of the most beautiful flowers.  He showed us a picture, and we all hastened to see the real thing.  But his excitement turned to anger; the flowers, the entire log, were gone.  This fragile object of natural beauty had been taken by someone.

His anger continued, but we could only sympathize.  He strongly questioned the morals of the thief and the declining standards of our society.  My own thoughts wandered to a greater issue, one that defines our very humanity.

This small event, one that would not even merit mention in our small time newspaper, was rape.  Our park had something taken from it by force.  Our friend was outraged, but there the insult would stop.  The rapist would feel no guilt, in fact they probably exhibited the trophy to their friends, raising their own standing as the owner of something beautiful.

Rape, pillage, plunder, these are behaviors that we encourage as a society, mostly without thinking.  Consider today’s popular television shows:  Vikings and Game of Thrones.  In the recent past we’ve had shows featuring the excesses of the Romans, Vampires, Zombies; all strong violent motifs with equally strong leaders.

Part of us exalts in the strong leader.  We look for it as children in our parents.  We look for it as young adults in our peers and teachers.  Finally, we look for it in our entertainment and our government.  Whether they are super-heroes or super-villains, village councilwomen or sitting presidents, there is a part of us that gravitates and admires the strength of those leaders.

That part may be very small, giving grudging acceptance of that strong leader’s influence on society.  Or that part may be so large that we embrace that leader as representing the best of humanity, the way society should go.

Here’s where we should become scared.  Strong leaders of the past include Hannibal, Alexander of Macedon, Chingas Khan, Attaturk, Hitler, and Stalin.  Today we have Vlad Putin and Don Drumpf (Trump) among others.  Every single one of these men got away with something illegal, including outright murder.  Not only were they proud of it, but their followers admired them for being so bold.

Scared yet?  This tendency favoring a strong leader is natural, followers prefer someone who does whatever they want to whomever they want when they want; strong leaders are the alpha male.

The alpha male calls the shots.  The alpha male takes more than one mate.  The alpha male doesn’t follow laws, they make them and break them.  The alpha male is always the most powerful male in the room, and lets everyone else know that.

Societies that are run by alpha males usually also have rape, pillage, and plunder.  After all, that’s what makes the alpha male an alpha.  It’s true of chimps and apes, and it’s true of Vikings and Romans.  It’s also true of Putin and Trump.

The fact that white supremacists met in Charlottesville yesterday to idolize Robert E. Lee and Hitler worries many, but this extremism is part of the natural process.  These extremists want an alpha male.  These people want to protect their “tribe” at the expense of all other tribes.  Law, reason, even morals are not a consideration.

Why did the alpha male fall out of favor in the first place?  Why didn’t the Vikings and the Romans become the dominant form of society?  What was fundamentally wrong with Hitler and Stalin?

The answer lies within our genes some 100,000 years ago.  Sometime around then we not only wanted to take care of our babies, like almost every other successful species, but we also wanted to take care of each other.  We call this “family.”  Many species mate when they need to in order to reproduce.  Modern humans mate many times, making few babies.  All the other times we mate strengthens our bond with our spouse.

Many species hold onto their offspring tenuously, pushing them out of the nest the instant they reach puberty.  Humans hold onto their children, in many cases asking them to take care of their parents deep into old age.  In this way humans have reached incredibly long lifetimes, far longer than nature intended.

The desire to have a family, or family phenotype, means that there is something in us that wants to be part of a group, something larger than ourselves as individuals.  And it is this need that helped create the concept of democracy in all its forms.  Many feel that family is the most important part of being human.  And family doesn’t have to mean only those born to our mother, but can mean someone adopted, our living next door, or even someone of similar interests.  Family means what you want it to mean, and some of us embrace strangers more easily than others.

Those who wish to live with an alpha male look towards that male to determine who is part of the family.  For those who are not family, it’s rape, pillage and plunder.

For those who embrace the idea of family, laws and morals tend to direct their actions.  Throughout history, the struggle between alpha male lovers and family lovers has swung towards family, towards law, and towards reason.

Today, rape, pillage and plunder is increasing all around us.  There are little clues from the missing flowers, bigger clues like the events in Charlottesville, and big clues like the rise to power of Putin, Trump and Erdogan.  From big to small, all these point to the pendulum of history swinging in the direction of those who prefer the alpha male.

How far will it swing?  History tells us it will not reverse direction without the application of great pain.

Will we be able to learn from this, and become a better society growing beyond this planet?  History also tells us that we will learn and be better for it.  But history can not tell us if it will be enough to get us off our planet.  For time is almost up.

 

END

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.

 

Political Wars

What’s a “political” war?  Is it different from a “military” war?

Very different.  Let’s start with today’s war.

It’s against the new evil in town; the Daesh.  Formerly known as ISIS, ISIL, IS, and a few other names.

The new name is Daesh.  It’s an attempt to get all these names straight.  It our way of refusing to let the bad guys set our agenda.  It also respects innocent and good-hearted muslims.  It’s also a great way to “stick it” to those evil-doing Daeshers.

So, after the Paris attacks of 13 November, 2015, I started looking more closely at the doing of these devils.  Not only what they were doing, but what we were doing to them.

Turns out that they have a sophisticated organization going on.  Very complex, highly disciplined.  The only way to have that kind of organization so early in the game is if there was a lot of money available in the beginning.

A lot of money.

They get much of their income from robbing banks, stealing from innocents, and working the oil wells and refineries that they have taken over.  But they didn’t always have these sources, especially in the very beginning.

So where did the money come from initially?  Someone had to bankroll this outfit.  Who?  This is suspicion number one.

Suspicion number two starts with a report from the US Government.  They held a press conference stating that they were having a problem disabling Daesh oil wells and oil refineries.

Their solution?  Start bombing the trucks transporting oil products.

Really?  Can this be something the government expects us to believe?

We have bombs that can level cities.

We have missiles that can find a closet in a specific room for any address in the world.

And the US Government can’t disable a refinery?  What’s really going on?

That’s suspicion number two.

There’s something going on, something having to do with lots and lots of money, and probably connected to those oil fields and refineries.

Without getting all conspiracy crazy, there is one conclusion that appears inescapable: This is a politically run war.

Yes, politicians are calling the shots.  That’s what makes a political war, well, political.  A military war is run by professional military men.

In a political war, political interests, such as oil companies, are helping guide military policy.

I can hear their argument now.  “Take out the oil refinery?  Can’t do that, because someday my company will use it again.  Think of all the money that will cost to rebuild!”

Instead, our political leaders tell our soldiers to fight Daesh with kid gloves instead of teaching them the meaning of real war.

Real war?  The US hasn’t fought a real war since WWII.

To their credit, President George Herbert Walker Bush and General Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. executed one of the best “wars” in modern US memory.  In the “First Gulf War” of 1992, they quickly and successfully repelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

 

However, compared to WWII, it’s a drop in the bucket.

WWII was our last true military war.  Korea, Vietnam, and the ongoing “Gulf War Two” are all being commanded by politicians.  These are the last people on Earth who should be in charge of making quick life and death battle decisions.

Politicians are trained to listen to all interested parties, drag their feet, and only then make decisions by consensus that please as many important people as possible.

Our fight, our war, against Daesh and terrorism in general is not a military war, but a political war.  Given the fact that there is “dark money” in the background, and that dubious excuses are being given by the US Government as to their battle success, the conclusion seems inescapable.

This is a political war.

And with history as our teacher, there can only be one outcome.

Tusok

 

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!

 

Dancing?

I think I’ve finally figured this one out. Why do humans dance?

I’m pretty sure that it’s only humans. At least, after all the hours I’ve seen of wild animals doing their thing, none of them have ever gotten up and boogied. Of course, who knows what happens late on Saturday nights when all the cameras are gone, right? Maybe there are rabbit raves? After all, where do all those rabbits come from?

I’ve never been a good dancer, and I’ve never understood why people dance. As a nerd I can blame my computerish tendencies. I can also blame my lack of skill, balance, and coordination. As you can tell, I’m pretty good at rationalization. I can also blame the fact that I learned to dance in the 80s, when disco was big. That alone may have traumatized me.

But why do others like to dance? I could never figure this one out. Every now and then I’d ask someone, usually a dancing partner. At which point they would promptly dump me. I never did get a good answer.

Anyway, after all these years, I think I got it.

People dance as a way to show that they are in touch with nature, deep nature. That’s it.

What is deep nature? It’s the rhythms permeating our lives; rhythms that are so old and so deeply entwined in our being that words are inadequate. Deep nature is life itself, and death; deep nature is breath itself, and the beating heart. Deep nature is hunger, sleep, love, and fear.

You probably already knew this, most people do. Some of us don’t, and we stand at the wall wondering what all the undulating is about.

Dancing occurs in all cultures, to many different beats, in many different forms. It changes slowly between generations, because the beat of nature for your generation is slightly different than it was for mine. Your dancing reflects that.

More women dance than men in our culture; not surprising because women are more closely tied to nature. Do we need music? No, but it certainly helps, as music reminds us of the beating of natural rhythms, like our heart, the tides, seasons, or the sun and moon. Do we need a partner? Again, not really, but if dancing is about communicating our ability to feel nature, then a partner is required, for who else are we talking to? The more people the more the need to dance. The greater the celebration, such as a wedding or even funeral, the more need to dance.

So the next time I see the group get up and sway, I’ll do my best to join in. I may not feel the forces that they do, but at least I can try undulating a bit. I just wish my relatives wouldn’t laugh so much!

Sex and Society: Who are You?

Sex is such a ‘hot’ area within our culture it’s difficult to know when to stop.  There are many other aspects we could touch upon: gender issues, cross-gender issues, our responsibilities to our society, parents, peers, children, mates.  The fundamentals underpinning many of these issues are the same fundamentals that drive many problems today, such as: What defines the successful life?  What does it mean to fulfil our individual roles as a man or woman, both to ourselves, and our society?

There are no easy answers to these questions.  That’s why most people turn to their religion or other mystic source.  Our religious leaders have been addressing these issues for thousands of years, some successfully.

It’s time for science to lend a hand.  That’s why I write, and why you read.  There is a way for us to look at these problems in a systematic fashion that forges understanding and progress.

It has to begin somewhere, and that beginning is yourself.

Who ARE you?

Do you see yourself as a sexual being, a political being, a biological entity, or something lesser, or greater?  Where do you see your lifeline going?  In that great tapestry of ALL LIFE, which thread is yours?

There are two young women out there who started this series, and I hope that they survive the tumult of today’s society to become happy, productive human beings.  I fear that their misunderstandings and our lack of general knowledge of behavior will instead create bitter and under-performing individuals.

These two women represent millions of other young women who have not had the courage or the opportunity to raise their voices.  I also write for them, and hope for them.  I certainly hope that you will find some time to help them, in your own way.