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!)

 

Unleash your child

Don’t you hate it when you see parents toting their children through a park while tethering them to a leash?  At least I do.

Did you know there’s a good chance that you are doing the same thing?  Yes, the same thing.  Except the leash is inside you, and that child is your inner child.

Yesterday I wrote about how kids can ask the funniest questions about our world.  Why this, and how come that.  You were once that same child.

There’s a good chance that you were also treated like other children, told to wait, told to never mind, and told that it was just the way it was.  There’s another good chance that you hid your inner optimism, curiosity, and enthusiasm from your parts all the way till you went away to college.  There you allowed it to express itself again in new ways.

You probably took courses like English, or Psychology, or even Philosophy, in an attempt to get a better understanding about our world; your world; yourself.

It didn’t work, did it?

Faced with the pressures of family, reality, economy, and survival, you have grown the way almost everyone else has grown – into a common sense individual who no longer asks silly questions.

But that child is still a part of you.  Look inside.  Don’t you still wonder where sneezes come from?  Why we sleep?  Why baby bunnies are so cute?  Why their tails are white and round?  Or why their poop is so tiny, round, and black?

Let your child out.  Ask questions.  It’s the only way we’re going to get out of this mess.

 

 

Dumbing of America – Drink me

Is it only me?  Or is our great nation, the greatest nation on Earth, getting dumber?

What do I mean, this time?

We like to drink our water in a variety of ways.  For thousands of years we were happy with exactly that, plain water.  Then we learned about flavoring the water with leaves, berries, and fruit.  Eventually we added sugar, gas, and started the fizzy-pop-soda industry.

In the few decades that I’ve been alive, I’ve seen the rise of a whole new industry, water.

I never thought it possible, After all, it took mankind thousands of years to figure out how to get a fresh water supply to all of us through a marvelous system of pipes, filters, and pumps.  Now, here we are at the pinnacle of progress, and what do we do?  We turn our noses up at “free” water coming from our taps, and prefer to spend billions on the same water that comes in individual containers.

So, here I am watching a great Korean drama, and what do I see?  An advertisement for drinking water.  Not just any water.  This is water that you flavor, YOURSELF!  Yes, not only are we buying individual bottles of water, but we are also now buying the flavors separately so that you can add them yourself!  It’s almost as if we have stepped back in time.  We are going out to gather our own water.  And then we go out to gather our berries to add for flavor.

What else is wrong with this picture?  You are not only paying for water that you can get from the tap, but you also have to buy the flavoring.  You could have bought some flavored drink earlier, but now you do it yourself.  There’s a good chance that what you are paying for the combined water and flavor is MORE THAN what you would have paid for the flavored drink in the first place.

So, if you know someone who’s paying twice for something they could have only bought once, help them out.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste, no matter what the taste.

Dumbing of America – Energize me

Is it only me?  Or is our great nation, the greatest nation on Earth, getting dumber?

Now what’s bugging me?, you ask.

Energy drinks.  Power assists.  Getting a legal buzz on.

Years ago, when I was but a lad, people drank coffee.  It had a little caffeine.

Since then, we’ve discovered vitamins, enzymes, free-radicals, and all sorts of small things that sound interesting and wonderful.  Humanity is only just beginning to understand all the implications of these compounds, and how they interact to help our bodies function.  Some we think we know better than others, but the science is only beginning.

That doesn’t stop the old snake-oil salesman from putting it into his concoction and telling you that it’s good for you.  And that’s what’s happening.  It doesn’t matter whose drink your putting into your system.  They will tell you it makes you peppy, happy, and better than you were before.  In reality, all it has done is give you a small dose of dirty water, and taken a few dollars out of your pocket.

A few dollars.  Does it seem like a lot to you?  Or nothing at all?  Put it into perspective.  These companies are billion dollar affairs, that spend hundreds of millions on advertising alone.  The actual cost of the product they sell is pennies.  And you pay dollars.

Per unit, you pay more for the drink of “energy” than you do your alcohol, your water, your gasoline!  You spend more for that drug, per unit of time, than anything else in your life.

We have good people working at our company, and many of them in production don’t make a lot of money.  It doesn’t stop them from buying “energy” drinks.  We always get a kick when they ask for a raise, and we gently suggest that a change in lifestyle could amount in a bigger effective raise than anything we could give them.

It wasn’t always like this.  Workers actually saved their money.  They drank water, and brought their own food to work.  Americans in general didn’t believe the snake oil salesman.  We even passed laws to make it harder for them to do business, and set up agencies that were supposed to help guard against them?

What happened?  I have some ideas, but that’s for another post.

Thanks for reading.  Now, where can I get some more energy?

 

Dumbing of America – Get Rich Quick!

Is it only me?  Or is our great nation, the greatest nation on Earth, getting dumber?

Growing up during the 50s and 60s (that’s the 1950s and 1960s for you young’uns) meant that you got to experience the fun advertisements in comic books.  These ads promised you ways to become a handsome hulk at the beach, or grow sea monkeys, or learn morse code.  None of them promised you riches and retirement.  Our society was more interested in honor, integrity, independence.

As the decades have rolled by, getting rich has become more important.  We watch the stock market daily, even though it’s a meaningless number.  We attend seminars on investing our portfolios, even though it’s been proven that none of these methods help.  We invest in dolls and stuffed animals thinking their value will grow to immense levels, someday.  And we allow ourselves to be barraged by ads and people promising us that we can live a remote life of luxury by “working the web.”

Anyone with an account on wordpress knows what I mean.  Most of the people wandering about in the blogosphere are trying to cross sell each other.  They go by various acronyms but they all amount to the same thing; make lots of money by not doing much real work.

How much longer can this go on?

What do you think?