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.

Pure Human

Adults can teach them so much, but we can learn from them as well.

When I’m given the opportunity, I prefer playing with kids.

Watching Dad fight his way back from another broken back, clawing at life itself trying to delay the onset of the inevitable is both heart-wrenching and inspiring.

When I’m playing with kids, I wonder what they’ll be doing in their last years of life.  Will they have the resources to assist them?  Will they be given the same kind of fortitude necessary to fight their last battle to the bitter end?

I always treat kids with a great deal of respect.  Try to understand them, play with them at their level, with generous doses of extra fun.  I act silly, because they seem to enjoy seeing an adult doing silly things.  Things like puffy cheeks, moving tongues, cross-eyes, making coins disappear, rolling in the dirt.

At least they think I’m an adult.  Most adults consider me a giant kid.

But kids are the purest form of human on this planet.  At their age, they can absorb massive amounts of information many times that of an older person.  Their minds are only just starting to model the world around them, and I enjoy helping them form those models so that they are robust, with a small dose of magic for fun.

The only prejudices they carry are those they’ve already learned from parents and peers.  Gender preferences, aversion to spice or dirt, even playing with their food can be formed before they are the ripe old age of one.  Too bad.  The great wild world is already being closed off for them.

But watching those prejudices, and carefully playing at their edges is also part of the fun.  Teaching kids to be skeptics should be part of everyone’s curriculum.

Of course, playing with gravity is already on the syllabus.  It’s one of the first items for every baby who sits in a high chair.  And it’s one of my favorites as well.  Try it now, go ahead, just drop something for fun.

The kids represent our future, they are the ones who will take over as we fade away.  These pure humans will be slowly trained, constrained, contaminated both mentally and physically, and then finally make their way into the wild where they have to prove their economic and social worth.  That’s a lot of stress to put on someone.  By the time they make it through, they just aren’t the same person as when they started out.

We battle the forces of darkness for their sake, not ours.  Dad doesn’t realize it, but his battle is also their battle, tomorrow.  It’s up to you and me to connect the dots, and learn from my Dad in order to help them.

So, enjoy life, play with the kids, and always,

Remember the children.

They are why we fight to survive today.

Who moved my Jam

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We have a morning ritual, I make breakfast.  It’s simple, and I have a system.

Where did it go?

Except.

Every now and then I reach into the fridge to grab the jar of home-made jam for our home-made bread.  Yum yum.

If it’s where it’s supposed to be, I can get it with my eyes closed.

If it’s not there, I have to start looking.  And looking.  And looking.

While I’m searching the shelves, bottom to top, front to back, I think about our brains.  I know, it sounds gross, but it keeps my mind off the lost jam!

After all, this is her fridge.  She uses it way more than I do.  She may have had a good reason for moving the jam.  She may not have even thought about it.

But there’s also that man woman thing.  After all, we know women are more likely to use landmarks for navigation, give directions using relative movements, and are much better suited to shopping and gathering versus targeting and hunting.

Of course these are gross generalities, but I’m still looking for that jam!

This isn’t saying that the way a woman organizes, or looks for things is bad, or good.  It’s just different.

  1. The good thing about the way a woman stores things is that it forces local familiarization.  She notices when that old store has changed its awning.  I didn’t even know it had an awning.
  2. It’s harder to become disoriented, especially when you’re juggling so many other tasks.  Kids screaming, you dropped the purse, and a friend just yelled at you from behind?  No problem, you still know you’re by the library heading to the drugstore.
  3. It’s easier to give directions to another person, like a friend who is also shopping.  A woman can say, “Go to the shoe store that’s next to the record store.”  The man would have to say, “Go 2 blocks North then turn East one block, North one more block and West 4 blocks and it’ll be the 5th store on the South side of the street.”

All said and done, the woman’s way requires more brain power.  That’s probably why men don’t like it.

It’s also probably why I can’t find the jam.  I’ll ask my wife when she comes down.  For now, I’ll start making toast.

Purse Intelligence

As a boy-child growing up among man-children, I took pride in being disdainful of feminine things: Curly hair, dainty clothing, jewelry, excessive face painting.

As a man-child I now appreciate a few feminine things as having some influence on my manliness.  However, I have been long mystified by the purse, that bag every woman carries.  I have seen the purse since birth.  A woman without that accessory only heightens my suspicion.

By the way, we are not talking about pursing your lips.  That’s another story.  No, this is all about the bag, the big bag, the big, sometimes extremely expensive bag.  The bag that comes in thousands of different shapes, sizes, and quality of manufacture.

The few times I have entered the anarchy that is a woman’s purse (always with her permission) have been fraught with anxiety.  I get lost in the tumble of devices, containers, papers, and what-not.  The range of what is in a purse never ceases to amaze me either: medicine and makeup to slips of paper from years ago.

There are the purses themselves.  They can be bought for a few dollars, and last a few days, to those that cost thousands yet last a lifetime.  Macho brain wonders, why?

The answer to my macho organization problems was to buy a beautiful black portfolio case.  Over a dozen zippered pockets, totally black on black, looks great.  Holds everything I could want, from pocket knife and phone and pens and notepads and computer and cords and on and on.

Then I started really using it.  Guess what?  I couldn’t find stuff quickly at all.  Putting a black phone into a black bag with black pockets means it becomes invisible.  Try finding an invisible phone when you’re in a hurry.

My solution?  I started carrying a flashlight.  Yup.  Can’t find something, find your flashlight first and then start looking.  Aaaargh.

Not too long ago, I actually lost something sentimental for a few weeks, and finally found it.  My moment of jubilation was quickly overwhelmed by this realization.

OMG.  If this was simply one big pocket it would be so much easier.  I instantly realized what I was thinking.  If this was a purse, it would be easy.  OH NO!

Here’s my macho confession.

Women’s purses are smart.  Making it one big bag means that you know where everything is, even if you have to dig for it every time.  There aren’t a dozen little pockets where you can hide things.

One big bag means that it’s easier to make.  One big bag means that you can be creative with the outside so it matches your outfit, your mood, and your personality.  And most importantly, one big bag means that it’s easier to find things.  Everything.

Women already knew this.  They knew this all along.  They’ve probably known this since the invention of the first purse, some thousands and thousands of years ago.

And I finally figured it out.

Now, that’s intelligence.

 

PETH

There’s a group of extremists who practice guerrilla warfare against those they feel treat animals unethically.

They throw blood on those who wear fur.  They terrorize researchers who run experiments on mice.  I’m sure there’s many other things that they do, but that’s not my point.

My point is that we have to get these guys to expand their horizons.  People are animals, too.  Hasn’t anyone taught them that?  People, according to most people, are even more than animals.  We have souls.  And bank accounts.

If the people who are against the unethical treatment of animals are truly on the side of animals, then why don’t they include people in the mix?

Here’s their dilemma.  If they DON’T include people under their protective umbrella, they are then admitting that PEOPLE are special.  People are different than animals, perhaps even better.  That explains why animals need a special militant arm of defenders.

If they DO include people under their ethical treatment umbrella, then they have a whole ‘nother dilemma.  THAT dilemma would mean they have to start DEFENDING people against unethical treatment.  This would include harassing people based on their own research.  It would include children who are being slowly tortured by people who should never be allowed near them.  It would mean that they could even target politicians who put personal gain ahead of their constituents.

Will this happen?  Will there ever be an organization that is dedicated to the ethical treatment of people as well as animals?  It’s a nice thought, but I doubt it will happen.

There’s a good chance that the members of such groups are in them only because it gives them a mission that seems righteous.  Talking to one of them and challenging their belief system amounts to challenging someone about their religion.

And I’ve already learned, no one likes to be challenged.

Maybe that would be unethical.

 

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.

 

Religion, Guilty or Innocent

There’s a whole lot of holier-than-thou smart guys running about, telling the rest of the world that religion is a whole bunch of hooey.

They might be right.

Then again, what’s their problem?

My guess is that they are blaming a whole lot of badness on the fact that religion exists, and a whole lot of people claim to be religious.

First off, I don’t think you can actually blame religion itself for much badness in the world.  Sure, Daesh and Taliban claim to act for religious reasons.  Religious states such as the Vatican or Israel also claim to made their decisions based on holy texts.  Political demigods such as Erdogan and Trump are in the same category in that they have based much of their public appeal on religious grounds.

Wait!  There are so many examples where religion is the basis of great evils in the world.  Doesn’t this mean that religion must be the bad guy here?

No, definitely not.  It’s not logical, it’s not scientific, it’s not fair.  Only because all these players use religion to further their own selfish purposes doesn’t mean that religion itself is the bad guy.

Religion is a device that helps holds groups together.  I talked about this earlier.

I was going to talk about heaven here, but this point is probably more than enough for now.  So, heaven is just going to have to wait.

See you next time!

 

Ms. Socrates

The last time I mentioned Socrates, I was applying for his job.  In my humble opinion, Socrates was the greatest teacher the world has ever seen.  His philosophy was fairly good, and still works for the most part.  The fact that he also showed us how to use logical reasoning properly, laying the groundwork of the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution wasn’t bad either.  Overall, not a bad looking resume.

The fact is, very few great men could be as great as they were if it weren’t for help from others.  Their parents for one thing.  Perhaps the most understated assistant to history’s greatest names are the spouse.  Who cleaned up after Pasteur?  His wife.  Who kept Einstein happy when he was a struggling clerk?  His wife.  First wife.

Which brings us back to Socrates.  He was married.  Had two kids.  But I’m guessing that his family didn’t really have an interest in his work.  After all, what wife or teenagers want their very foundations of reality shaken?

Especially wives.  Telling a spouse that they do something wrong, whether it’s big or small, is not great marriage advice.  Please don’t rinse the dishes BEFORE you put them in the washer.  Why do you leave water in the saucepan?  Put the jam in the SAME place in the fridge each time so I don’t have to search every time.

On the other hand, Ms. Socrates had to work hard so that Socrates could spend quality time with his students.  If she’d been less supportive, Socrates may have spent more time fishing, or practicing some kind of paying trade so that her kids had more toys.

Instead, she worked hard with less.  She made sure her kids were loved and nurtured enough even though their father was busy with things they didn’t understand.

I’m thinking this may be important because, if I ever do get the job of Socrates 2, then my best friend / wife could feel the same way.  I’m pretty sure she’d be the perfect helpmate.  She may not really care about these things, she certainly doesn’t like being challenged, and I learned long ago to never complain about how she does things.  Certainly makes being married that much easier.

But frankly, I don’t think I could do the job without her.  Don’t think I’d want to.  After all, all this work is designed to try and save the world.  But if she’s not in it, the world may simply not be worth it any more.

So, hats off to all you supportive spouses.  And a tip of my toga to Ms. Socrates.  Thank you for helping us all out.

Tusok

 

Pain is a Pain, can be a Gain

Being a pain in the butt is hardly a compliment.  But it may be a back-handed compliment in that it’s the unwelcome relative to what is best about our lives, living.

Our Western cultures have been oriented towards denying, reducing, even eliminating pain.  Eastern cultures tend to embrace pain, much as we sometimes have to embrace that relative we have to see over the holidays.

Nothing embodies emotional pain more than family, especially dysfunctional families.

Problem here is that we are going to talk about pain that’s not emotional.  No, this is pain that hits us below the belt.  Above the belt.  Right at the belt.  Remove your belt, just in case.

In broadest possible terms, pain can be good or bad.  In either case, pain is a way that your body “talks” to your “self.”  Do you think that dogs can feel pain?  If you do, then you have to also agree that dogs have a sense of self.  I believe dogs know themselves.  I only wish they had the sense to upgrade their owners on occasion.

Good pain tells you if you’re doing too much, pushing too hard, eating too much pasta.  That last only pertains to industrial pasta.  Homemade pasta is never painful.

Good pains include itching, in moderation.  I’m not sure what itching means.  My latest theory is that it’s the little bugs living on your skin asking to move somewhere else.  Every time you scratch those buggers get a ride to another piece of real estate.

Pain also comes in different forms, that apply to both good and bad pain.  Here’s some of the ways I suggest we describe them: acute, chronic, diffuse, specific, permanent, sporadic, rhythmic, shared by others, something only I feel, and finally, those that can be found versus impossible to find.

I know this is a lot, but pain covers a lot of area (ha!).  As a yogi, we have to embrace pain as part of living, appreciate it, and understand the good versus bad pains.  If our movements produce bad pain, stop!  Perhaps see a doctor.  If our movements produce good pain, also stop.  Rest.  Repeat.

As the US Marines are fond of saying, pain is weakness leaving the body.  Who knew that Marines were yogis?  They are.  Don’t mess with the Marines.

So, embrace your pain.  Understand it, and listen to your body.  It makes you a better yogi.  It makes you a better student of behavior.  And it makes you a better person.

Tusok

By the way, sorry about all the bad puns.  They sort of happened.  Hope they weren’t too painful.

 

Seeing Layers

Have you ever had to speak in front of an audience?  Has someone suggested that you think of them as sitting in their underwear as a way to reduce your own anxiety?

How in the world does that REDUCE my anxiety?  Heck.  That would increase my nervous nature.  I’ve seen some of those people in the locker room.  Trust me, keep the clothes on.

A long time ago I enjoyed an encyclopedia that included pictures of a person that could be viewed in layers.  First layer had all the skin.  Remove that clear page, and underneath was the muscle.  Then circulatory, nervous, and other endocrine systems.  Finally, the last plate held our bones.  Talk about layers.

As an exercise for all you aspiring students of behavior, turn the next person you meet into layers.  It’s fun, and they don’t have to know you’re doing it.  In fact, it’s better if they don’t.

For starters, do it in the physical sense.  Look at their face and strip off the skin.  Then the muscles, and take a look at their bones.

Now for the second part of our exercise.  The best part.

Start removing layers of behavior.  The first layer is the obvious stuff, the trite conversation, the routine greetings and reports, the choice of clothing and hair style.  Look at them deeper.  What does their family life look like?  What about their underlying understanding of nature and philosophy?  How about their childhood?  What part of the world were they raised?  What is their ethnic background?  How about their gender, life experiences, education, and significant people in their formative years?  What about their characteristics, goals, and fears?

Each and every one of the items mentioned above is a layer that can be appreciated all on its own.  Like some of the most wonderful layer cakes with every layer being something different, people have many nuances throughout their character.

So, the next person you meet at work who starts boring you with routine office gossip, start undressing them with your brain.  Don’t stop at the underwear or skin, that’s not only creepy, but uninformative.  Don’t stop until you get to the very bottom.  It’s a dive worth doing.