God. First.

Sunday is a good day to discuss religious topics in a behavioral context.  In fact, any day is as good as another, but Sunday works for me because it’s at the end of my workweek and it’s the ‘religious’ day in the context of how I was raised.

Saturday is fine, as is Friday.  Technically, it seems that for those who are sufficiently religious, every day should be a day of worship.  But there’s the crux of it – worship what, exactly?

Let’s worry later about who / what / if we worship anything in our modern age.  For now, let’s hit the back button on our magic history browser and ask what our great great grandparents were worshiping in their day.

Even if you are an ardent follower of a modern religion, you know that there was a time “before” your god came around to enlighten your people.  Before that you were heathen, and you worshiped the “wrong” god.  Presumably those people also knew there was a time before, and so on.

Eventually we will come to a group, a tribe, perhaps even a clan with a chief.  And this clan went about without any god.  The didn’t have a god, because, before their clan, there was no group that needed god.

Then, whether you think it revelation, or necessity, or inevitable, they needed god.  Where did they find god, this First Clan?

My guess is that they looked up at the most important, regular, and life-giving object in any human’s existence – the Sun. (And this is a pure guess, Gentle Reader.  Everything before here is straightforward logic.)  Yes, the Sun was God number One.  It’s big.  It’s bright.  It gives light.  It gives life.  It pretty much does it all.  Even today we know that the Sun is the only thing that makes living on Earth bearable.

There’s evidence from anthropology that this is likely, and we do know that ancient civilizations also tend to focus quite a bit on the sun.  So, as students of behavior, the next time you respect your god, or the next time you look up into the sky, think about where it all began.

Up there.

 

Does Warren Buffett have a good soul?

Winter forces us to hide within modern caves.  Its bone-shattering cold and blankets of ice force us deep into dark places, nowhere to gaze but within ourselves.  Deep within there is supposedly an unchanging essence that defines us as unique entities.  Some call this essence a soul.  Is it real?  Is it eternal?  Can it be rewarded or punished or born again?  It’s hard to say because all of these claims are impossible to prove.  For the moment, let’s accept the idea of a deep essence, and call it our soul.

Saying someone is without a soul is normally a great insult, for it means they are evil, doing harm to others, without redemption.  Yet even by our religious standards we know this is wrong.  Everyone has a soul, and it’s that soul which is judged to be good, or evil.

As I sit here by the fire, watching another layer of snow blanket my yard, and sip on an extremely good IPA, my thoughts turn to a well-known tycoon.  This tycoon is Warren Buffett, whom many call the “oracle of Omaha,” but whom we will call simply, WB.  WB appears before me an a regular basis because of his popularity in the business media.  A recent Bloomberg article profiled one of his newest, and youngest, trusted advisors.  This advisor was making news because she’s only 29 years old.  She started working for WB at the ancient age of 25, and within four years already holds the Chairman position in several companies in the WB empire.  Her name is Cool.

Now Cool earned her way to this position, and has worked an extremely hard and focused life.  Under her guidance weak managers have been replaced and companies that would have been ignored or jettisoned are now being properly attended to within the WB empire.  The article quotes WB saying certain companies wouldn’t have been bought if it wasn’t for Cool.  The WB empire is now comprised of many dozens of companies with a total annual revenue of 160 billion dollars.  Almost any way you look at it, this is a large company.

But I’m not here to discuss the business empire; we’re here to study behavior.  The behavior of large groups are normally most meaningful, but we can learn something by taking out the microscope and putting the occasional individual on the slide.

What kind of person is obsessed to the extreme with accumulating wealth, building an empire, and growing only for the sake of growth?  If this person was a cell in our body, we’d be worried.  As a member of society, we laud them as leaders and brilliant meta-managers, even calling them “wealth creators” from time to time.

As we adjust the microscope’s focus it’s doubtful WB or Cool are any of these.  They are popular, but are they of value to society?  A proper evaluation would require an article for another day.  For now, we want to see if we can zoom in on their soul and describe it.

The soul of WB is bent on conquest, is insatiable, and highly focused.  His wealth allows him all his allotted hours to spend with his children and grandchildren.  Yet he chooses to spend time with business associates instead.  He’s near death, and every moment becomes more precious than the last.

Meanwhile, Cool has been blessed with riches, power, and publicity.  This seeming blessing may be a curse, for it puts her on course to value board meetings over board games with her future children.  Even if she chooses to start a family, there’s a good chance she’ll have her children later in life, and fewer in number.  The amount of time she’ll spend with them will be less than average, and there’s a better chance their values will be heavily influenced by material goods, superficial relationships, and an obsession with wealth.

Remember that this site strives to be impartial observers of behavior, of human nature, and unbiased scientists as much as possible.  The above observations and expectations are grounded in evidence, precedence, and experience.  They are not meant to be judgements; for there is no good or bad delineation here.  WB is ambitious, and Cool is his protege.  These are given.  What we want to address is their essence.  Deep inside, once all the trappings of society, technology, and the superficial layers of skin and time are removed, what is it that is left?

Not surprisingly, we are left with a soul reeking of ambition, a soul without empathy, and a soul unconnected to the rest of us.  These souls are rooted in the present, solidly looking to their immediate left and right.  These souls choose to ignore the past as irrelevant to their existence.  They choose to ignore the future they could do so much to create.  And they choose to ignore the other souls around them, not only those of their family, but of their fellow humans as well.

As souls go, these are exceptional qualities, but not uncommon.  Installed in a lesser vessel, souls such as these become psychopaths, embittered divorcees, or worse.  But placed in a healthy body with an extraordinary mind, coupled with a charismatic persona and then given a push by an unpredictable universe, this type of soul has been known to stamp great slices of history with their name.

The greatest of these souls was Alexander the Great of Macedon.  When he began his career he was younger than WB, even younger than Cool.  He charmed both his army and even the conquered across the known world.  2,350 years ago, this 20 year old sought nothing less than world domination.  He would have achieved it as well, but for an errant arrow he met somewhere in today’s India.  Part of his charm was that he led his men into battle, being up front where they knew he was working as hard as they were, taking the same risks.  Had that unlucky archer known, he would have missed Alexander.  Had he missed, his city would have been conquered, an older Greek soldier would have become his Governor, and life would have continued under a new master.

As it was, this archer may have smiled for a moment as he watched the dreaded Alexander fall from his wound.  What he didn’t see coming was the power of the soul within Alexander, a soul that had bound his legions both in duty and love.  That archer awoke the monster of vengeance within the army, and not a single defender or citizen survived.  There was no life to continue under any master, and that city was lost, known to us only as Alexander’s farthest reach East.

And what does the soul of Alexander, one of our greatest military leaders have in common with WB?  They are the same.  Nothing could stop Alexander or his army, errant arrows included.  WB has not stopped his quest for growth.  Which sounds more impressive?  Owning a large portion of a holding company whose portfolio includes companies with a combined annual revenue of 160 billion dollars?  Or conquering the world from the Mediterranean to India?  There is no city named after today’s tycoon, WB.  Alexander founded at least 30, many of which still survive, and at least one still bears his name.

So what of the soul of WB?  Is it good, or evil?  Would he have been an Alexander if he’d been born 2,300 years ago?  Is what he is doing good for humanity?  These are all questions for another day.

Hate. Part 1.

Hate, do I like it? Do I want it?

I must, because it lingers like a bad smell.

I complain about hate, but nothing happens.

If I didn’t know better I’d admit I LIKE to hate.

I hate them. They hate me.

Hate.

 

My friends hate you.

I love my friends.

So, I hate YOU.

Hate.

 

Where did it come from?

Father says THEY are all alike.

Mother says THEY only think about ONE thing.

So, as a woman, I’m allowed to hate men?

Hate.

 

Why does it persist?

Is it because Eve bit the apple?

So as a Man, I’m allowed to hate women?

So says my priest, my rabbi, my mullah.

Hate.

 

Why do I hate strangers?

Is it because they committed an evil upon me in a past life?

Is it because I have so many more turns to make upon the Wheel?

So says my guru, my brahmin, my spiritual guide.

Hate. [1, 2]

 

[1] First part in a series of short studies touching on hate as a behavior. The goal is to find something that resonates with you, oh Gentle Reader. If there are other studies in this series, you can find their links here.

[2] My apologies to real poets. The fact that this came out looking even remotely like poetry was unintentional. I tried to write poetry once, in public, and the result was a disaster. I would not do this to you on purpose!