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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I Leggo My Ego

Everyone studies behavior, whether we like it or not.  We’ve been doing it since we were babies, watching parents and siblings very closely.

Today we watch our co-workers, our boss, our employees.  We watch those who feed us, and those we feed.

To truly get a deep understanding of what makes us tick, we have to open our minds to infinite possibilities.  The very way we are raised, and the haphazard methods we normally use to learn about behavior introduce bias into our understanding.

The only way to get rid of bias is to recognize it within ourselves and let it go.  Only then can we get a deep understanding of what makes others do what they do.

Getting rid of bias isn’t easy.  The first step is to get rid of our own sense of self-importance, our ego.  If we accept all others as being of value equal to our own, in a world that contains no judgments, then our ego is no longer a factor.

Without an ego there is no longer right or wrong, good from bad, and moral from immoral.  There is only, behavior.

Without an ego, we can begin to get a better idea as to what may be going on within someone else’s mind, even if that someone else is a wild animal or sports team.

So, let go of your ego.  Don’t throw it away, keep it close because it comes in handy at times.  But when you’re going to get serious about understanding behavior, put it aside; it only gets in the way.

 

Earth Stands Still Day 3

There were several elements in the classic sci-fi movie that were made due to censorship.  The movie is The Day the Earth Stood Still, and it’s from 1951.

One of those elements was the fact that the great robot servant of Klaatu brought him back to life.  Klaatu tells the young woman that the ability to create life is limited to the Almighty Creator – God of course.  Censors of the time were sensitive to the fact that most Americans are God oriented, and suggesting that something else could create life itself would be blasphemy.

SPOILER ALERT!

If you haven’t read the original story, do it now.  Because here comes the punch.

Klaatu was the servant.  The “robot” Gort was the master.  Creating life was just another thing that Gort could do.  In fact, he was able to create life using a voice print.  And if that seems far-fetched, think about the fact that today’s forensic investigators can finger a perp using a drop of bodily fluid or a shadow on a video camera.

The original story is great science fiction because it pushes up against our envelope of understanding.  Why do we think life is so special, so unique that it can’t be created in a lab?  In fact, that’s exactly what Gort does on his space ship.  He builds a lab so that he can recreate the murdered Klaatu.

The insights of this fictional story are far deeper than this.  As behavioral scientists, we must first wrestle with the fundamental question of where humanity sits within the natural universe.  If we are somehow distinct from the universe, imbued with supernatural qualities that no current understanding can ever penetrate, then all our attempts to better our nature will fail.

On the other hand, if we admit that our lives as humans are fundamentally the same as all other life on this planet, and that being of nature, we are also confined to the same natural laws, then there is a chance we can use the tools of science to create laws and theories of behavior that will improve our chances of survival into the far future.

I love the original story because it forces us to face that question.  I’m frustrated by the censors, and by the movie producers, because Harry Bates’s original insights have been suppressed.  If I am successful enough, and live long enough, I’m going to correct that omission.

Thanks for reading.

 

Earth Stands Still Day 2

Here’s the deal.  A great movie from 1951 was based on a story from 1940.

I greatly encourage you to read the original.  You can find it here.

For those of you who don’t want to read it, no worries, I’ll talk about it here for a bit without ruining it.  And tomorrow’s post will talk about what it’s really about, spoiling the ending for those who might read it.

So, first.  The story was far ahead of its time in many ways.  The space ship wasn’t just a space ship, it was a time traveling instantaneous space traveling vehicle.

The setting isn’t post-WW 2 Washington, but a future Washington where there are robot servants and all sorts of ray guns and other great future-leaning insights.

The alien is hurt by accident, so that’s not the issue.  And the hero of the story isn’t a little boy and his mother and an absent-minded professor, but an intrepid investigative spunky reporter who refuses to give up until he understands what’s going on.

So many of these story elements are lacking in the 1951 classic, obviously designed for current audiences.  I can’t critique Robert Wise (Director) in any way for these decisions because the man was a genius.  There were certainly good reasons for all his choices, one of which may have been unintentionally ironic.  It’s the scene where doctors are discussing Klaatu’s great health and healing abilities even as they light up their cigarettes.  There are others, but I’ll let you enjoy finding them.

So please go read the story.  It’s worth it.  And this next post will also make a whole lot more sense.

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Stands Still Day 1

There’s a movie called “The day the Earth stood still” that is classic science fiction.  It’s not heavy on special effects, there’s a strong story line, darn good acting, and it’s all anchored within the day’s great political tensions of the time.

The reason I’m writing this review today is that I had a sudden urge to see what kind of special effects had been used in the more recent adaptation of this classic.  I was able to easily see everything I wanted, including the caliber of acting and the alteration of the story line.

After seeing as much as I could stand, I decided that the original stood so far above and beyond the remake that I needed to say something, and here it is.  Please watch the original, it’s worth it.

But wait.  There’s more.

One of the things you should always be doing, whether it’s differentiating between fake news and real news, or understanding the true meaning of words, is digging until you find the source.

Turns out the source of this great classic movie is rooted within a short story.  And that short story deserves far more than a quick mention in the credits of the 1951 film.  So that’s my next post, a review of that story.  Stay tuned.

 

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.

 

Roddenberry’s Warning

Hello friend,

It’s been a long time since I’ve visited any of you, and for that I’m sorry.  I’ve been busy adjusting to a new life of semi-retirement, as well as writing a new book.  This one will be an easy read, a romantic comedy.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, the wife and I enjoyed watching 3 versions of Roddenberry’s original Star Trek pilot called “The Cage.”  One of the 3 was a two part episode called “The Menagerie,” but is essentially the same program.  We enjoyed watching the three versions in order to see how the concepts were evolving at that early stage, as well as how Roddenberry was working within the constraints of TV.

For me, however, the most interesting part occurred around the 32 minute mark into the “restored” version.  Yes, I’d seen it before, long ago, but had not the maturity at the time, nor had the experience of almost 3 decades of internet usage under my belt.

Here’s the text of that critical minute:

VINA: Perhaps if you asked me some questions, I could answer.
PIKE: How far can they control my mind?
VINA: If I tell you, then will you pick some dream you’ve had and let me live it with you?
PIKE: Perhaps.
VINA: They can’t actually make you do anything you don’t want to do.
PIKE: But they try to trick me with their illusions.
VINA: And, they can punish you when you’re not co-operative. You’ll find out about that.
PIKE: Did they ever live on the surface of this planet? Why did they go underground?
VINA: War, thousands of centuries ago.
PIKE: That’s why it’s so barren up there?
VINA; The planet’s only now becoming able to support life again.
PIKE: So the Talosians who came underground found life limited here and they concentrated on developing their mental power.
VINA: But they found it’s a trap. Like a narcotic. Because when dreams become more important than reality, you give up travel, building, creating. You even forget how to repair the machines left behind by your ancestors. You just sit, living and reliving other lives left behind in the thought record.
PIKE: Or sit probing minds of zoo specimens like me.
VINA: You’re better than a theatre to them. They create the illusion for you, they watch you react, feel your emotions. They have a whole collection of specimens, descendants of life brought back long ago from all over this part of the galaxy.
PIKE: Which means they had to have more than one of each animal.
VINA: Please.

(both the bold print and underline are mine)

The moment I heard that line, I realized that it was the seed Roddenberry used to create the entire episode.  It’s the moral nugget he would place in each episode of Star Trek, and it’s why the original series carries a moral weight, above and beyond any of the subsequent spin-offs.

… when dreams become more important than reality …

That’s the problem we face today, in a form that Roddenberry could not imagine.  Bradbury did, with his floor-to-ceiling interactive TVs and book burning firemen.  But today’s technology is taking us even beyond what they could have imagined.

For few young people of today can take apart and rebuild a toaster oven (easy) let alone a computer or cell phone (hard).  More conversations have to do with Hollywood and first-person shooters than with history or current politics.

And the dreams we had as a society, of building a civilization among the stars?  Those can be realized instantly with fantasy books and video games.  Why bother actually working towards building the first true space station, or lunar base, or martian colony?

If you’re a trekkie, check out the original version at the 32 minute mark.  Vina (played perfectly by Susan Oliver) explains this to Pike (played perfectly by Jeffrey Hunter) at the 32:40 mark.  Then think about it, and then turn off all your electronics.  Do something real that gets us closer to your dream, your real dream.  Because when you realize your dreams in reality, you leave something behind that your children will enjoy.

Above all, please remember the children.

http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/1.htm

http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Cage_(episode)

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!

 

Messy Messy Mother Nature

My friends,

Consider, if you will, the platypus.

An animal concocted of many parts: bird, turtle, otter, kangaroo, and who knows how many others.

Or take the common ant, available in so many varieties and colors.  Or the banana slug, or jellyfish.

Each in their own right is a thing of beauty, a thing wrought of nature.  A thing that should be the very essence of beauty in the eyes of their queen, or mother, or lover.

For us, they can be an abomination.  How can anyone, or thing, love a spider?

To be a true scientist, especially in biology or behavior, one must accept that all things natural are, in fact, beautiful as well.*

Here’s a fun but seemingly unrelated fact: My company manufactures natural soap.

So what! you say.  What? is this some kind of subliminal advert? you protest.  Your eyes are already getting ready to close this window.  But wait!**

What I’ve learned in making our soap is that the chemical reactions are vastly more complex than we understand.  In fact, what passes for soap in today’s society is a chemical detergent.  Highly engineered chemicals that are extremely efficient at removing oils and water from your skin.

Because they are so efficient, people also buy lotion to try and re-oil and re-moisturize that very skin.

In natural soap, anyone’s natural soap, lotion and lots of other re-moisturizers are already there.  It turns out that Mother Nature makes tens, if not hundreds, of different compounds during the soap making process.

Here’s my point.  When you put together a species, or when you combine natural compounds and make soap, the outcome is not clean and neat.  It’s messy.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Then how does Mother Nature check her own work?  Is there some way that she tests her products for “doneness” in order to make sure her improvements are greater than her mistakes?

Some people don’t think Mother Nature ever tests for improvements, but I think she does.  That’s why life may have started out as one celled plants, but has ultimately peaked with mankind.  If you’re not a fan of man, then maybe you’ll agree the peak was dinosaurs.  No matter. Overall, Mother Nature makes things better.

How she does this, and what it means for you and me, I’ll discuss tomorrow.  For now, I suggest you go and get some natural soap.  It’s good for you.

 

 

 

*We’re going to skip a definition of beauty for now.  If you want an essay on the essence of beauty, and a definition that can cross cultures, clades, and countless centuries, feel free to ask!

**I’m only bringing up the soap bit to make a point.  This is not an advert!  If you want validation of this statement, however, I will provide a hint.  Search for “Uncle Earl’s Soap.”