First Gift, Final Gift

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I’ve had a glimpse of how our society deals with death.  I spent ten days with Dad in a wonderful hospice house.  We spent the first half getting the pain meds out of his system, and the other half getting him strong enough so he could leave the place.

I spent many hours with him as cheerleader, advocate, and caregiver trainee.  However, there were many hours where he slept, so I got to know everyone.

What impressed me most was how many workers and volunteers truly care about their mission.  They are unsung, so I’m singing about them now.

However, there are also so many patients, mostly alone.  They were waiting.  Waiting to die.

Here’s the surprise.  Some of them are done.  As a gift to their children, they are content to hasten the process.

If you’re shocked, or sad, you should know that is how I felt.  At first.  When I listened to their stories it becomes obvious that many people are giving themselves up so that they are no longer a burden to their children.

It’s a wonderful gift.  It’s their decision.  And my only regret is that I’m not sure how many of those children appreciate that decision, that final gesture.

Creating a baby is only the first step to what will be a lifetime of joy.  But there are so many hard hours ahead.  Children who grow up tend to appreciate the gift of life given by their parents.

But the second greatest gift can be found at the end.  It is the parent letting go, and letting their child be free of their burden.  It’s sad to see them go, but it’s also a chance to celebrate their life and begin looking forward again.

To all those unsung parents who have sacrificed much during their lives, and then at the very end, life itself, for the benefit of their children, I thank you.

We should all thank them.

The best way to do that is to never forget them.

Mom and Dad.

 

Dream a Little Dream

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Dreams.  I can’t get them out of my head.

Dad’s dying.  Did I mention that?  Sure, everyone dies, but he’s taking his time.  He’s smart, tough, tenacious, and still has the capacity to dream.

His dreams are a bit modest nowadays.  Going to the potty.  Getting back to his old apartment.

The size of the dreams aren’t important.  It’s the fact that he has them.

He fights to make them real.  If I’ve learned nothing from Dad during the last few months, it’s how to keep fighting.  And hanging onto those dreams is critical.

I used to dream, back in my day.  All us kids dreamt of superfast trains and living on the moon.  There would be hotels under the ocean and everyone would live to be 150.

So much for those dreams.

Here’s the problem today.  I had those dreams way back when.  I wasn’t the only one.

Today, I don’t hear anyone’s dreams of the future.  The term I hear most often is “dystopia.”  People are depressed about the future.  They don’t have dreams.

They have nightmares.

If someone does dream, it’s for something next month, or next year.  A new phone.  A better snowboard.

Have you tried dreaming?  Really dreaming, long term?

I have this super smart cousin, and I asked him what he thought humanity will look like in 100 years.  His first reaction?

He’ll be dead.

Yes, but your daughters might be around.  It’s more likely that their daughters will be alive then.  What kind of world will they live in?

He didn’t like my question.  He’s been having nightmares about humanity.

I encouraged him to dream.

By the way, dreaming does not mean wishing for free money from the government.  That’s another story.

The best dreams are big dreams that you have to work for.

Don’t believe me?  You don’t have to.

Ask my Dad.

 

Harriet the Monster

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The daughter recommended it, the wife read it first, and now I’ve finished it.

Monsters.  Specifically, My Favorite Thing is Monsters.  By Emil Ferris.

It’s dark and it’s beautiful.  She draws (literally) upon many iconic images from Chicago during the 1960s, and she draws upon many of the works of art in the Chicago Art Institute.

Since I’m devoted to studying behavior, what does this monster-based thriller teach us?

Here’s where another book comes in, Harriet the Spy.

It's a classic.  Please read it if you haven't!Harriet is also out to solve a mystery.  She’s also learning about the world of adults.  And she’s also wrestling with who she is as a young woman.

The similarities end there.  For Harriet is a tame post card of last century compared to Monsters.

And that’s where our learning comes in.  The differences in the way such a similar subject is treated tells us more about what underlies society than reams of studies and surveys.  Art, done correctly, becomes one of the best ways to look into the deepest psyche of our collective soul.

And that, my dear friends, is where you can find the real Monsters.

Happy Hunting.

 

 

Facebook as our Secret Weapon

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Consider all the evil ways the Russians and Chinese have wreaked havoc on our American way of living.  I am, and I’m getting peeved.

The Russian mafia have all sorts of ties to Don John, the Great Orange in the White House.  Putin is probably the richest man on Earth, at least twice as much wealth as Mr. Amazon.  The Chinese not only have the Great Firewall, but entire military units whose only purpose is to hack into American security systems and steal secrets.

Where will it all end?

If we don’t do anything, it won’t end well.  So it’s time we started fighting back.

The Russians and Chinese have created electronic walls, keeping their people insulated from the rest of the world.  They do this because they can feed their people propaganda about how good they have it, and so their people don’t make trouble.

Our secret weapon?  Facebook.

Mark and his minions should work on ways to crack the Iron Firewall and the Great Firewall at the same time.  Perhaps by setting up invisible proxy routers that ordinary Russian and Chinese people can reach.  And then?

Just let people be people.  Let them join in the fun of seeing cat pictures, silly vids, fake news, and everything else.  More importantly, they can see what’s really going on in the world and start putting pressure on their own governments to change.

Better yet, if the time comes for a new world government, maybe we can all be friends for once.  Right now, that’s not happening.  Facebook may be the weapon we’ve been looking for.

Ready…

Aim…

Facebook!

 

How About Coffee?

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Quoting another source semi-verbatim isn’t my style, but with the proper citation and it being only a little bit of quoting, we should be able to swing this by the legal department.  If there’s a problem, please ask nicely and this post can be modified.

But there’s a reason it’s worth quoting, it’s great writing and speaking.  The text is from Piers Bizony‘s book on the making of 2001 A Space Odyssey.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in aviation, space, movies, science fiction, science, anything technical, or anything having to do with behavior.  I fall into 5 of those categories.  You’ll want to buy it because it’s too good to share.

First, paraphrasing only slightly, we have Marvin Minsky, the expert from MIT advising Kubrick who had no problem understanding that the emptiness of 2001’s dialogue was intentional

” … And after the momentous statement that the monolith must have been deliberately buried, one of the astronauts says, “Well, how about a little coffee?”  Kubrick’s idea is that the universe is too majestic for short sighted people.”

Now, here’s the good part where I’m trying to be as faithful to Bizony as I can;  Kubrick’s wife, Christiane, speaking about her husband’s intentions.

“Stanley thought we are always falling behind our scientific and technical achievements.  We are very good at making more and more things – but to do what with?  We haven’t kept up, psychologically and philosophically.  We are not profound.  We are still getting away with the most boring entertainments.  We are shallow, and we know it.  We suffer from it.  The choices we make are not satisfying.  Our sins are all of omission – of not doing the more interesting things that we could do.  There is a lethargy, a lack of energy and concentration that prevents us from reaching the key point where we are as creative and perceptive as we would really wish to be.  We are in the terrible position of being smart enough to know that we are not smart enough.  For instance, we still can’t imagine, “What is God?”  So in 2001 we see fantastic tools of communication.  People can speak over zillions of miles, but nobody has anything to say.  So we pretend.  We live in a little world of nonsense and send each other funny photos and cute stories, with this enormous technology.  “Happy Birthday,” and so on, when nobody seems to care, or react.  It’s very melancholy – although two things we really can do.  War and pornography we’re good at.”

Bizony then distills much of Kubrick’s angst.

 “2001, so optimistic on the surface, is in fact a morally complex movie.  Either we will bore ourselves to death while our machines sneak in through the back door and take over; or else we will blow ourselves to hell, our modern minds still compromised by an instinctive taste for aggression.  It seems we have to keep fighting to survive.  And we have to stop fighting to survive.”

page 421, Piers Bizony, The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, published by Taschen, 2015

PS – For goodness sake, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, please do both of those first, and as soon as possible.

 

Supply Our Own Light

I study behavior.  I want everyone to study behavior.  It’s necessary for us to succeed as a species.  Strangely enough, Stanley Kubrick said the same thing.

“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this, and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death, then our existence can have genuine meaning.  However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”

Studying the universe in all aspects is also part of behavior.  Our knowledge of the universe, how we go about acquiring and treating that knowledge, and our feelings about the universe are all human behaviors.

One of the most difficult things we must overcome in understanding behavior is detachment, removing ourselves from the equation.  We must have no feelings, no passion for our subject.  Whatever happens, happens.

We know that people mistreat animals, other adults, even children.  Yet as students we must take a deep breath and consider all the possibilities.

We watch as someone rises to power, corrupting government and the economy so that he amasses great wealth in a short period of time, without benefit to society.  We must stand by and learn, knowing that this has happened before.  Like stress in tectonic plates, these will also be relieved someday.

A despot secures his power, removing hard fought liberties from his nation.  We must take a deep breath, re-read our histories, and apply this new knowledge to our preparations for the future.

Kubrick was right, not only for technically conquering the vastness of space, but also for understanding behavior in all its forms.

We must confront the universe without passion, without preconception.  In order to explore the universe of behavior, we need only one thing.

We must supply our own light.

 

****  Boring Notes Follow ****

This quote is from the last few lines of page 508, Piers Bizony, The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, published by Taschen, 2015.  The book doesn’t indicate where Mr. Kubrick’s quote was taken from.

Quoting another source semi-verbatim isn’t my style, but with the proper citation and it being only a little bit of quoting, we should be able to swing this by the legal department.  If there’s a problem, please ask nicely and this post can be modified.

But there’s a reason it’s worth quoting, it’s great writing and speaking.  The text is from Piers Bizony‘s book on the making of 2001 A Space Odyssey.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in aviation, space, movies, science fiction, science, anything technical, or anything having to do with behavior.  I fall into 5 of those categories.  You’ll want to buy it because it’s too good to share.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, please do both of those first, and as soon as possible.

 

Beware the Fourth Reich

by Jim Marrs

Is such a thing possible? Can we truly even think that there could be another country fighting everyone else so that they can control the world?

It sounds like a dystopian fantasy at the moment. It is the kind of thing movie producers get pitched to them by desperate writers during orgiastic parties.

Wait a minute. Orgiastic parties? Do those sorts of things still go on?

Yes they do. Check out the #MeToo movement. Check out a new book coming out about how the mega-millionaires of silicon valley consume women.

What about the rise of the ultra rich?  More and more wealth is being concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

At the same time, Earth’s resources are being depleted at an increasing rate.

AND there are a whole lot of people consuming those resources.  More people alive at this moment than have lived throughout all of human evolution.

Let’s add in the forces of variation (we are all different) and natural selection.  In other words, there are forces out there that help decide which of us are going to have kids, and which of us don’t.  Those same forces are going to work on your kids, and their kids, and so one.

Most of us understand this big picture, and we start feeling a sense of fear.  In the USA, Turkey, and many other countries, this sense of fear has already manifested itself in several ways.  First, many are attracted to a strong alpha male figure because we are genetically programmed to seek out alpha males when we’re afraid.  Think about running into daddy’s arms during your first thunderstorm.

In the USA, we have another way of measuring group fear: purchasing weapons.  Gun manufacturers have never seen growth like they are today.  I know a guy who personally has stockpiled 40,000 rounds of ammunition, and that’s not even considered extraordinary.  I was talking with a police officer who told me that a neighbor of ours had shown him his secret weapons vault under the house.  There was hundreds of firearms, and also tens of thousands rounds of ammunition.

What are we afraid of?

The coming storm.  And a good name for that storm is Reich Four.

Finally, some feel better words.

The only way to fight fear,

and I repeat, the ONLY way to fight fear,

is through knowledge and understanding.

That’s why we have to study behavior.

Beyond Alpha, Omega Man

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Going beyond Genes means looking into Heaven and Seeing ourselves.

In my last post I suggested that many people are afraid of the future, and have flocked to alpha males as leaders.

The reasons they do this are genetically based.  A million years of hanging out with alpha males can’t be wrong, right?

It can be wrong.  It is wrong.  Our current civilization has grown and thrived precisely because we have rejected the alpha male concept.

With alpha males there is no true love between young men and women.  Only the alpha male can be loved.  There is no democracy.  There is no social choice.

Alpha males bring rape.  They bring pillage.  They bring plunder.  If you like these things, then you are prone to like the alpha male.

 

What we must do is reject the alpha male concept.  Men must become greater than alpha.  We must extend all the way into omega.

Men who have alpha characteristics have the greatest challenge of all.  They must have the self control to contain those impulses.  They must focus their great energy into areas that will benefit society, not themselves.

We have the knowledge to understand why alpha males exist.  We have the technology to understand where these impulses come from.  And we have the understanding to control those primitive impulses, channeling them for the good of everyone, not just a select few.

So, to all males out there, seek to become omega.  If you are an alpha, learn to channel your “alphaness” into “omeganess.”  All of us will be glad you did.

 

Code Alpha

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Would you vote for this man?

There is great uncertainty in our world.  You feel it in your bones.  Lots of people on the planet.  Too much information about your friends, and way too much about people labeled friend.  News media that keep screaming about one thing or another.  Poison in our air, water, food, even in our medicine.  What do we do?

We are afraid.  When we are afraid as children, we run to the safety of strong arms, our mother and father.  When things are really bad, we want the strength of a man, an alpha man.

Part of us is always looking for him.  The heroes of comic books and the big screen are always men that are strong and powerful.  Young women know this all too well, they flock to the few young men that exude power and strength.

Even other men know this.  Strong men tend to have lots of man friends, but man friends who are secondary, willing to live within the alpha shadow.

Why do we flock to the alpha male?  Probably from millions of years of evolution.  Our ape and chimp cousins do the same thing.  The alpha keeps the group together.  The alpha battles for supremacy, and then he has the most children.

No problems with politics.  Once a younger buck comes along who can knock the alpha down, then there’s a new alpha in town. He gets the tribe, he gets the chicks.  No one cares where the old alpha goes, he’s toast.

Under the alpha male system, you have to live with certain things.  I wrote about that earlier, so we won’t worry about it here.

The reason we don’t use an alpha male system today in most of the world is because of one of the most powerful behavioral forces of all time, love.  I wrote about that as well, so it doesn’t need to go here.

Today we see the rise of many alpha males as leaders: Trump, Putin, and Erdogan.  One of the things that surprised me about the rise of Trump was how many women preferred him over a woman.  Talking to them reminded me of the alpha male complex.

All these women respect strong men, in fact they prefer them.  A strong man gives them a sense of security in the future.  It doesn’t matter if that strong man doesn’t care about them, lies or cheats or steals.  All that matters is that he is strong.

No doubt you also know women like this.  Even though they leave a bad relationship involving a strong man, they end up back in another alpha male’s arms.

We’re seeing the same thing today.  Only these alpha males really are at the top of the pyramid.  And we can partially blame our genes.

Let’s hope that this time around, the alpha games don’t end as badly as history suggests they will.

Heaven Can’t Wait

There’s a whole lot of smart guys telling the rest of the world that religion is a whole bunch of hooey.  Let’s not worry about that.

Instead let’s dwell on the good stuff religion does.

Keeps us together.  Helps maintain some level of respect for each other, and reduce the amount of violence we heap on each other.  Those are all good things.

There’s one big problem every big religion faces.  Getting members motivated to do good, and avoid doing bad.

In psychology this is reinforcement, positive and negative.

In many judeo-christian religions, the biggest positive reinforcement is called heaven.  It’s a place good souls go after the body dies.  Other religions have happy places as well, all with slightly different amenities.

As far as I can tell, way back in the beginning, christianity didn’t emphasize the negative aspects.  It was some centuries before they began talking about hell.  Even more centuries to imagine the idea of purgatory, hell’s waiting room.

Heaven.  Hell.  Whatever you want to call them, you can’t have a good religion without them.  If people believed that there was no heaven or hell, then they would damn well do as they pleased.  We’d be living in anarchy.

Therefore heaven has to exist in order for a religion to work.  Hell also has to exist in some form, but not as importantly as heaven.

Here’s the fun part.  Heaven and hell already exist.  They are real.

And they are both right here.

My actions, your actions, everyone’s actions create ripples throughout society.  They create a disturbance within the force of nature.  They slightly alter the course of humanity’s future.

If you’re a good person, your memory, your actions, your “soul” does remain among the rest of us in the form of what you’ve left behind.  You exist in the sense that we all remember you, respect you, and retain a small part of you long after you are physically gone.

Heaven is right here on Earth.  You live on in the sense that part of you lives on within me.

So the next time you hear someone say religion is bad, or argue that religions shouldn’t exist, remember this.  You’re already in heaven, and they aren’t.  Sit back, be good, and enjoy eternity.