Ultimate Fighting, Round 1

Imagine entering a huge arena.  A spot of intense light reveals a boxing ring in the distance, spotlights lining the edges of the arena, all seats filled.  The audience?  Every life form that exists, and ever has existed.  Elephants sitting next to amoebas, an octopus next to the hummingbird, and even the lowly virus has shown up to see the event sitting in special quarantine box seats.

The referee grabs the microphone.  “In this corner, we have the young upstart – Heeu-man-itee!”  A small cheer goes up, mostly from the primates.

“In the opposing corning, we have the reigning cham-peen, vanquisher of all things, the bringer of life, and incarnation of death itself, Muth-Er Nay-chur!”  A huge roar as almost every living thing vibrates the air in some way.

“All right you two.  I want a clean fight, no cheating!”  DING!

The fight is on in the form of today’s rancorous political debates about climate change, and an undercurrent of bravado exists in all camps.  The deniers claim that the scientists have their signals wrong, or that everything they are seeing is simply a “new normal.”  The doomsayers are equally intent in their own convictions, as well as confident as to their suggestions for addressing the problem.

The details of either side aren’t important for now.  What we’re going to focus on is the single confrontation between humans and Mother Nature.  Let’s call her Mom for short.

People feel powerful.  We have conquered fire, we build houses that touch the sky.  We build large lakes where none existed in order to generate power and feed a billion people.  We fly through the air even though we haven’t any wings.  We swim deep under the water, even though we have no gills.  We have seen the atom, and the edge of the observable universe.  No wonder we feel powerful.

On the other hand, what has Mom done lately?  She’s pretty tame, for the most part.  In fact, 999 times out of a thousand, Mom is nothing but peace and quiet.  Waves gently lapping at the shore, gentle breezes rustling the leaves, puffy clouds.

Don’t be fooled.  Mom can jostle a tectonic plate and bring down entire cities.  She can burp a volcano and cancel summer.  She can twist a hurricane out of thin air and wash away a coastline.  And she can parch an entire continent for decades without even trying.

Here’s where bravado meets reality.  Mom is all powerful.  She represents forces many times greater than we can even dream of harnessing.  What little we have accomplished was done with her passive acquiescence.  Should she ever object, there is nothing we can do that can stop her.

This is an important reality check for all true students, whether of behavior or civil engineering or anything else.  We succeed only as much as Mom allows.  We must show her respect, and pray for mercy.

Now, back to our boxing ring.  I hope we didn’t miss anything.

DING!   “And the weenner is …!”


Comfortable positions

What makes you comfortable?  What makes you uncomfortable?

Last week we talked about how birds fly in a “V” formation.  They don’t have to think about it.  Something in their genetic code has resulted in their being most comfortable flying in a “V.”  Flying in any other formation would use too much energy and result in fewer offspring.

What does this have to do with us?  Think about what you like, and what you don’t like.  As a student of behavior, we must have the courage to investigate everything.  And it starts with ourselves.

What do you like?  The color blue?  Bluegrass music?  Picasso’s blue period paintings?  Perhaps the movie, Blue Velvet?  Now think.  Why?  Why do you like these things?  What about a genre?  Do you prefer one style of architecture to another?

Here’s the really tough part.  Try and tease out how much of this is due to being your choice, part of the way you were raised.  Maybe it’s due to your parents, or a loving aunt and uncle.  So, take away all the influences you can attribute to your environment, the way you were nurtured.

What’s left?  We call it nature.  It’s built into your DNA.  It’s your program.

Now, think about everything you like.  Your foods, clothes, cars, even friends.  How much of each of these is part of your DNA?  Can you figure out the amount?

Does it bother you to know that part of your choices in life may be out of your control?  Don’t be.  It took thousands of your ancestor’s generations to help make those choices.  It’s nice to think they made good choices.  But maybe they didn’t.  Whether you like it or not, you are the result of their choices.

Are you comfortable with that?


Big girls, big confidence

One of the many good things that comes of writing like this is getting to see who is out there, reading our few words.  To “big girl” I can only say you have inspired this particular observation.

Confidence.  Who are we?  More importantly, who are we with respect to the rest of the world?  Who are our peers?

A few of us are very lucky in that confidence is something we are both born with (genetics) and something our families nurture within us (environment).

Some of us, however, may have the double negative double whammy.  It may be because of our weight, our speech, our eyes, or something else.  We weren’t born with it; and our families didn’t even try to nurture it.  What’s important is that we face these fears head on.  As students of behavior we have to create our own confidence.  We have to trust our own hearts, our own minds, and love ourselves for what we are.

So many of us have parents who put us down.  It may be that it’s being done unintentionally, in a loving fashion.  It’s also likely that to an outside observer, these put-downs would be considered inconsequential.  But for so many women, the slightest gesture from their mother crushes whatever happiness that held in that moment.

For you who are put down by your parents, love them for who they are, but don’t feel bad about avoiding them for what they do to you.  For today, in this universe, you are the most important being.  And you are connected to everyone else.  Owe to them the same courtesy you expect from others.

As students of behavior, think about confidence as you would any other feature of your physical body.  What does it really mean?  Is it possible to understand confidence to the point where we can both have and not have it?  How much of it relies upon our peers and popularity?  Is it possible for someone who is truly alone to be confident?

Let me know your thoughts!