Battle of the Sexes

Yesterday I talked about how messy Mother Nature really is.

To sum up Her methods, she throws a lot of things together and sees how they fare in the “real world.”*

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about species like the platypus, or making natural soap.  The outcome is messy, and as humans we don’t understand everything she does.  After all, we’re only human.

Speaking of humans, we are also a product of Mother Nature.  And therefore, we must also be a mess.

Here’s where the fun starts.  Ask a typical woman what she thinks of men, and she will tell you that, as a class, they are pretty much messed up.

Ask a typical man the same question, and you’ll probably get the same answer.

We think differently, we experience the world differently, and we remember differently.  As a result, we live together yet apart.  If we find a partner, we grow together, and yet also grow apart.

Let’s talk sex, raw unadulterated baby-making orgasm related sex.  Got your attention?

When humans are young adults, the sex drive goes into hyper mode.  Men think about it all the time.**

Young women think about it somewhat less.  But young women do think about babies.  They are genetically programmed to do this.  Young married women who want a family go into their own hyper mode.  As an old man I’ve been able to talk with some women who are unafraid to tell me their habits.  Sex every day.  Maybe twice a day.

This is a husband’s joy.  For a wife, she is working.  And she’s feeling a bit stressed, because it’s her job to collect that baby-making stuff and turn it into a screaming, teething mass of tissue.  And she’ll do whatever it takes.

Including, if month’s of making babies the old way doesn’t work, going to the doc and checking out the latest technology.

Let’s fast forward a few decades.  The baby has grown and left the nest.  The man is still around, and for the most part, his sex drive is a good fraction of what he had as a youth.

But for the wife, she’s done her job.  The sex drive is probably greatly reduced.  Let’s face it, for many women it may be gone.  For many women, it may never have even been there!  Once the hard work is over, why bother doing something a grotesque and messy as making love?

Here’s where our messy Mother and humanity clash.  For we have been made this way.  We are an experiment.  She has turned our women into beings that live longer, are generally smarter, and more attuned to sustainable living than the male half.

What does this mean for the future of our species?  After all, we left our own nest some 100,000 years ago.  As species go, we are still babies.  Does this sexual dichotomy mean that we are stronger than the dinosaurs?  Or does our declining birth rates mean that our species is doomed?

We didn’t get a chance to talk about natural selection, and that’s where things can get truly interesting.  But I don’t want to bore you, either.  I just wanted to point out that there is a battle between our sexes in the bedroom, and on the stage that Mother Nature has provided.

So, think about that the next time you are “getting some.”

 

 

* Lets be clear here.  Mother Nature, or Mom, always lives in the real world.  It’s us humans that prefer to live in a delusion.  Let me know if you want to hear more.

**  If you don’t think this is true, do your own research.  Just be careful.  Take backup!

 

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!

Why study Behavior?

“You in the back.  Yes, you.  Blue shirt, chewing gum.  Why are you here?”  I used my gravelly voice.

She looked about, casting for help, and responded timidly.  “Because I want to study behavior?”

“I already know that.  This class is Behavior 101.  More to the point, why do YOU want to study behavior?”

She stared at her device, blankly, then looked up again with fear in her eyes.  I’ve seen that fear at the beginning of every single new class.

“I’m not sure?”  in the form of a question.

“You’re not sure?  Are you in the right body?”

The class tittered, giving me time to find her name.  I wandered across the stage for drama.

“Perhaps, Miriam, you have a boyfriend and you want to understand him?”

Her eyes widened, and she shook her head no.

“No?  Perhaps then you wish to learn why your mother always acts crazy with you?”

“Leave my mother out of this!”

“Miriam, do you want to save the planet?  Do you care about your unborn child?”

“Of course!”  Almost petulant.  Good, perhaps she had a backbone.  But a backbone can also be a weakness.  Best to test her now, rather than later.  I let the silence linger.

“Miriam, do you have a hidden agenda?

“What?  No!  I don’t think so.”

How do you feel about drug testing on cute little animals?

“Very much against it!”

“Mizz Miriam!”  I put as much fury into my face as I could without laughing.  Acting was the hardest part of my job, and I can’t write about it without smiling.

“Who made you God?”

“Professor!” she gasped.

“You, all by yourself, encouraged by your animal-loving friends, have already decided.  How can I trust you to learn the truth, if you already have the answer?”

“But they’re so cute.  How can hurting them possibly…?”

“Miriam, you might be right.  Perhaps it is cruel to hurt cute little animals.  But our job is to study behavior, not to judge it.  You have to learn to put your judgements away, and to study behavior with a completely open mind.  Do you understand?

“Maybe.”

“Miriam, are you the kind of person who distorts reality to fit your agenda?  Will you sacrifice logic and respect for others in order to achieve what YOU think is right?”

“I don’t know.”

“YOU … DON’T … KNOW?”  I bellowed this to the whole class because it was so important.

“Listen, all of you.  By the end of this semester, you will know why you’re here.  If it’s not to start understanding behavior, you will at least begin to see what it takes to understand behavior.  This road to knowledge is not for the greedy, or the weak.  You will be dissecting live specimens in this class, and that specimen is yourself.  If you have an agenda, you will fail.  If you have a problem with truth, you will fail.  If you have a bias or preconception of any kind, you will fail.”

I turned back to face Miriam again.  The poor thing was already trying to sneak out the back door.

“Miriam!” I bellowed.  She stopped and turned.

This time I smiled and asked her the ultimate question.

(stay tuned!)

 

You want to study what?

The guidance counselor screwed his face into a Picasso print.

Behavior,” I said.

There is no such major.  How about psychology?

Sure, sounds good.  Does psychology study organizations?”

Sure, there’s Industrial Organizational Psychology, and Organizational Behavior.

Great, and do they teach you how to lead people?”

No.  For that there’s Business.  And maybe Military Science.

That sounds good too.  Does they also teach what’s best for the nation?”

No, not necessarily, that would be Political Science, or maybe Philosophy.  You could study those.

Great!  Do they emphasize history, and other cultures?”

Not so much.  You could study History.

But what of also studying other cultures, both those that still exist today, and those that are extinct?”

Well, for those you could use some Anthropology, Archaeology, and maybe some Ethnology for variety.

“Now you’re talking!  And will those disciplines help me understand the big picture, the grand forces that help define success versus failure, growth versus death?”

That’s a tall order.  No, for that you should get into economics.  Yes, you’d make a great economist.

That’s pretty cool.  I’d like to be an economist.  They get to be on TV all the time.  Do economists also deal with what makes people really care about?  Things like the meaning of life, where we come from, what this all means?  You know, like what happens when we die, that sort of stuff?”

Well, no, for that you should really be studying Religion.  You could become a priest, or rabbi, or mullah.

I’m okay with that, too.  After all, people give you lots of stuff.  But will I also be able to study all the rules that people should live by in order to always be safe, respectful, and kind to each other?  Are there enough religious rules to make everybody always kind to each other?”

Not quite.  For that you’re probably going to have to study Law.  Yes, the law is all about the rules that govern how we deal with each other.  Yes, I can definitely see you as a lawyer.

Nice.  My father always wanted me to be a lawyer.  Maybe I could be a great trial lawyer.  Yeah, I’ll be a prosecutor and take on creeps!”

The counselor looked at me with a sigh of relief.

Good, I’ll put you down for trial law, he said.

He started typing away, but was thinking aloud…

First, you should start learning psychology…

 

 

Listening is hard to do

They say that we are all born with two ears and one mouth.  But it seems that most of the people we meet act as if they have two mouths and only one ear.  How many times have you been with a friend who gets a call on their phone.  Instantly their one ear is attached to the phone, yet they are talking to you and the other person.

Listening is behavior.  And it’s time I heard something from all of you.  I’ve got tons of questions, a few billion questions (they don’t weigh as much), and some fairly good observations.  And writing these down now and then is not only good exercise for me, but it keeps the old neurons on their toes.  Did you know neurons have toes?

So it’s time to listen.  What do YOU think about all this sort of behavior stuff?  Do you have questions?  I know you did, once upon a time.  When we’re young we bother our parents with all sorts of bothersome questions.  They typically tell us to go away or not worry about it.  Do you remember any of those questions?  I’d like to hear them and maybe, together, we can figure out some answers.

Maybe it’s not as hard as we think.

 

 

Posers and Complicators

Philosophers study behavior.  Philosophy is behavior.  We study behavior.  Therefore we study philosophers.  Does this also make us philosophers?

To some degree the answer is yes.  Does this hurt?

It shouldn’t, because one of the greatest assets of becoming a student of behavior is that everything we study is a kind of mirror.  What we learn about others also teaches us something about ourselves.  Usually.

For instance, the study of mathematics is behavior.  But mathematics itself is not behavior.  Math, simply, is math.  It wouldn’t exist if humans didn’t exist, but the concepts underlying mathematics would.

As students of behavior, our study of the study of mathematics can be very interesting.  One of the most intriguing things to come out of math during the last century was something revealed by Kurt Gödel, and beautifully described by Douglas Hofstadter.  Simply, Gödel proved, mathematically, that we can’t fully understand a system from within that system.  We’ll talk more about this another day.

When we study philosophy as behavior, it becomes impossibly complex.  The problem isn’t the subject itself, but those pretending to ‘practice’ philosophy.  If you have ever been lucky enough to hear a live philosophical debate between experts, you may know what I mean.  There is nothing but misunderstanding, big words, long complicated threads of thought, and meandering statements without meaning that goes on forever.  If you want to experience the same sort of thing without as much of the boredom, visit any philosophical thread on the internet and try to follow along.

More importantly, there are never any conclusions.  Philosophers can’t know when they’ve come to a conclusion because none of them are even sure where they are.

Are these fighting words?  Do you disagree?  Let’s try an easy experiment.  Find any two philosophers – expert or not, it won’t matter.  And give them a philosophical term to define, in 25 words or less.  And let them do it separately.  Then compare the answers.  Are they going to be the same definition, or different?

I’m writing down my definition now.

 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_G%C3%B6del

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godel_escher_bach

 

I love the sofa

Philo-sophy = I love the sofa

Isn’t this what philosophy really means?  After all, it seems that almost all philosophical discussions take place in nice cushy locations with glasses of sherry or wine being passed about.  Sure, if you’re in school it’s going to be beer in the bar, but the situation is basically the same.  Safe and sound and comfortable.

Why not discuss philosophy when you are digging a ditch for water runoff?  Or restringing 12,000 volt power lines after they’ve been pulled down during a storm?  Or while practicing engine-out procedures in a single engine aircraft?

The answer is that philosophy doesn’t address real-life scenarios.  Philosophy prides itself on addressing issues that don’t matter.  At least they don’t matter today.

The problem with today’s philosophy is that there are issues that matter tomorrow, big issues that can result in our having a better world, or worse world.  And today’s philosophers don’t seem to be able to connect the dots between behaviors we execute today and those long-term implications.

The problem with today’s philosophers is that they are too comfortable.  It’s time to take their drinks away.  It’s time to push them off the sofa and out of the bar.  It’s time to make them get real jobs and still try to apply philosophy to our lives.

Or is it?  I forgot myself for a moment.  I’m supposed to be studying these philosophers, understanding them in the context of human behavior.  How they fit into society, and what their impact on that society may be.  Forgive me, Gentle Reader.

In that case, we must return to their habitat and observe them as they behave, naturally, on the sofa.

Where’s my sherry?

 

Closet Philosopher

Philosophy is the study of behavior.  True, it is the study of very specialized behaviors.  Philosophers study the nature of the universe, the underlying and unchanging nature of great concepts such as Justice and Truth and Right and Wrong.  But underlying and unifying all these concepts are people, you and me.  These are just very specialized aspects of you and me, therefore philosophers study behavior.

Philosophy is a behavior in its own right.  In order to do philosophy, you have to think about these things.  Thinking is behavior.  True, it’s the sneakiest form of behavior because we don’t (yet) have a way to see inside someone’s head to tell what they are thinking.  So when you see a lady lounging on the beach with a daiquiri in hand and you ask her what she’s doing, she can say “I working doing philosophy” and we would have to take her word for it.  It may be that she was thinking of something else, or may have even been napping (it’s impossible to see her eyes behind those big beautiful sunglasses and floppy hat), but there’s no way for us to know.

The reason we should study philosophy as behavior is because so many of us look towards philosophy in order to understand our world.  So many young people take philosophy courses in school, and so many other adults attempt to tackle philosophy when they have time.  But, as far as I can tell as of this writing, no one is making any great strides in understanding.  Everyone is still, just talking.

That’s why there are so many closet philosophers.  We don’t like to admit it, but many of us (especially writers and other artists) are thinking about these sort of big questions.  And it’s our duty as students of behavior to put some of our tools to use in their behalf.  We certainly aren’t going to expect great philosophical insights.  But perhaps our observations can shed some light on the WAY philosophy is studied today, not upon philosophy itself.

Are you with me?  Alright then, let’s open that closet door and join the rest of society.

Creeeeek…..

Philosopher’s Closet

Here’s a show stopper for you.  Philosophy is really the study of behavior.

“Oh, hey! Hold your horses!” you say.  “Who are you kidding?” you say.

Oh yes, Gentle Reader.  Bear with me but a few moments, and you may agree with what I suggest.  Let’s peek inside the Philosopher’s Closet and see exactly what kind of clothing she wears.

Ahh, I see the ever popular toga and flip flops, hanging right next to the dark three-piece suit.  On the shelf is the old goblet for hemlock, and it looks like a pipe box – but both haven’t been used for a long time.  No little black dresses, no high heels, a very practical wardrobe.  What about accessories?

I see a whole assortment of recently worn eyewear, so no lasik going on here.  And a lot of paper, some going back many centuries.  Obviously a lot of writing and talking going on.  Let’s look for that book of axioms and conclusions and see what it has to say.  There are a whole lot of great volumes littering the floor, covering every subject under the sun, but where are the conclusions of philosophy?  Here it is, lying on the floor next to some old tobacco.  A very thin notebook.  Let’s open it up.

Well, isn’t this interesting.  Not much in this.  Some lines about syllogisms, a little geometry and some higher math.  A nod to biology, and that’s it.  Next to all these other great volumes, this seems a bit too lean, doesn’t it?

It should.  Philosophy is an academic discipline and an art form that doesn’t directly produce anything we can measure, so far.  What they purport to study is what people do and think, and that’s behavior!

But what philosophy is in strictly functional terms is this; people talking about stuff.  People talking.  That’s behavior in itself, and that’s what we study.  They think they are talking about the meaning of life and great concepts such as Truth and Justice, but as far as the rest of us are concerned, they are only talking to themselves.

As students of behavior, we have to recognize this talking, and the entire art form that we call “Philosophy” as a particular kind of behavior.  So let’s ask this question; can we study it and find out what it’s all about?

I think, therefore we can.