Head Over Heart

First, a disclaimer. I am the one of the biggest victims of “intuition” there is.

It has proven me wrong, time and time and time again.

Across the current media and social media landscape there is much feeling and emotion (heart) but rarely is it backed up with a full and thorough and skeptical evaluation of not just the facts of any event, but the factual CONTEXT of any event. Chock it up to record levels of division in American society (many foreign powers enjoying it, you can bank on this…).

Sadly, we are not seeing what unites us! And the FACTS of what unite us are quite simple:

Common national border with no border crossings between individual states… this is huge, actually.

Common language… with a nod to diplomatic accommodation of newcomers, English (the language of all pilots worldwide) is spoken in American, albeit with many regional accents and flourishes.

Common Protection. Our US Armed Forces, Federal, State and Local law enforcement, though far from perfect, serve society at large. A look at history shows that many a march and protest has been absolutely crushed by The State. But not here. In fact, protesters seem to feel that freedom extends so very often to looting, which is something I can’t get head or HEART around.

Common Cause… at the end of the day, do we not all prefer FREEDOM along with all the RESPONSIBILITIES that incurs?

Common Care… do you really want to disintegrate your neighbors, your fellow community members… even if they disagree with your opinion? Or, could you think about the VALUE of commonality in a community, state, region, nation and seek to find that extremely elusive thing, that nobody has discussed for at least twenty years, CONSENSUS.

So, lets go “Head” for a moment. (Heart, you can save your reaction to a good novel, movie or dramatic series.) Let’s explore the concept of “Enlightened Self Interest.”

According to Psychology Today®: “Enlightened self-interest refers to the understanding and trust that what a person does to enhance another’s quality of life enhances one’s own quality of life to a similar degree. More simply put, it is the idea that “what goes around comes around.””

So, it is a version of the “Golden Rule”, then? Yes. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica®: “Golden Rule is precept in the Gospel of Matthew (7:12): “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. . . .” This rule of conduct is a summary of the Christian’s duty to his neighbour and states a fundamental ethical principle. In its negative form, “Do not do to others what you would not like done to yourselves,” it occurs in the 2nd-century documents Didache and the Apology of Aristides and may well have formed part of an early catechism. It recalls the command to “love the stranger (sojourner)” as found in Deuteronomy. It is not, however, peculiar to Christianity. Its negative form is to be found in Tob. 4:15, in the writings of the two great Jewish scholars Hillel (1st century BC) and Philo of Alexandria (1st centuries BC and AD), and in the Analects of Confucius (6th and 5th centuries BC). It also appears in one form or another in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, and Seneca.”

So, the Golden Rule transcends major world religions. What a concept. It must have worked then, it surely would be a welcome alternative now. It probably ALWAYS works because it is based upon KINDNESS, not judgement, or worse.

Back to the HEAD… intellectual evaluation of all things is of great advantage when it comes to informing one’s self before any major decisions or commitments. The “Hearts” intuition, as previously stated, can be so terribly, terribly wrong. What are those facts. What did that individual actually say… is it in print or hearsay? Can it be corroborated… not just be an echo in a single silo that is sorely disconnected to any possible OTHER explanation? Since the turn of the new millenium (Y2K anybody), it seems like all the noise that comes at us from every single source, is largely someone’s “opinion.”

(Please shut up! That’s all of you who I do NOT know – – who attempt to fill up my inboxes with unwanted content! If I want your opinion I will ask for it.)

Instead, why not share your EXPERIENCE? Tell me what happened when you were there. I will add this to my information from others who were there. You know the time-honored adage that “nobody sees a car accident the same way” ? I have found this to be absolutely true. Even those who were accused of wrong doing in a car mishap are often being victimized by the actual wrongdoer. Again, head over heart. We had the unfortunate experience of having one of our vehicles in a bump and bender accident in the past couple of years. The perpetrator accused my spouse of being at fault. However, OUR dent was halfway down the passenger side and HIS dent was on the driver’s side FRONT bumper. So, given the facts, who is at fault? Clearly him. Physical evidence doesn’t lie. In order to avoid the accident, he simply needed to stop. He didn’t and rammed the side of our car. Turns out there was a significant amount of distilled spirits modifying his driving decisions. Head over heart. A simple look at the vehicles revealed the facts, no matter how loud the other driver yelled.

In our current social landscape… everybody has an opinion, and is hiding behind near anonomity of online identities. It’s sort of cowardly, on all fronts. Typing away in seclusion is hardly heroic or inspiring of integrity or honor. Twitter. Geez louise. Like so many things, a good idea gone bad. (“Breaking Bad?”)

But Tweets are the tip of a very large iceberg. We now find ourselves in a soldering pit of self perpetuating informational silos that throw refined gasoline upon the flames of the Heart, but rarely bring a single calorie to the intellect of the Head.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/328749https://smallbusiness.chron.com/negative-effect-social-media-society-individuals-27617.html

https://www.zdnet.com/article/the-decline-of-social-media-in-the-2010s-a-status-report/https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/digital-campaign/

Generation Like

Yes, some of these links may seem dated. But do they? REALLY?

Head over Heart.

Here are two contrasting opinions…

“When something looks too good to be true, it usually is.” – Emmy Rossum

“Today remind yourself that nothing is too good to be true. Your great hopes can be realized. Your most wonderful dreams can come true. All that you really need, you can have. An incredible goodness is operating on your behalf. If you are living a paltry life, resolve to stop it today. Expect great things to happen. ” – Norman Vincent Peale

Which is correct? They both are, I believe. Or at least, most individual’s reality lies somewhere between. I note that Norman Peale’s version does have an imperative “…resolve to stop it today.”

It does complicate things a bit. But, in reality, no. If we are optimistic, but SKEPTICAL, and rely on our own do diligence (PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY), we can be informed on a wide and broad plain… and sift through an event, the multitude of reasons (all sides) for it, historical precedence (it’s all been done before, folks) and more… leading to a sound, and personally cogent amount of intellectual reasoning for an “informed opinion.”

——————————————————–


Long John Silver: (Muppet Treasure Island – looking at skeletons) “Flint hung ’em up there after he gullied ’em… to mark the trail to the treasure. Wicked sense of humor ol’ Flinty had…

Long John’s Crew: “- I-It’s a sign. This is a cursed place. – Yeah!

Long John Silver: “Well, there’s an informed opinion.”

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Could In Ear Monitors (headphones) eliminate the need for Symphony Orchestra Conductors?

Okay, this is a weird topic, perhaps. But I have been watching PBS’s “Great Performances” series called “Now Hear This…” which is intriguing to me, as part of my world is being a working musician.

https://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/now-hear-this-series-2-about-the-series/11780/

One of the very clear statements by the program host, “celebrated Violinist and Chief Conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic, Scott Yoo”, is that the real reason for a “Conductor” is that the folks on one side of the Symphony Orchestra “…can’t hear the other side.” Extrapolation: If there was an effective multiple, in-ear monitor mix for EACH of the instrumentalists, you wouldn’t need a conductor. Unless for show.

Motion picture soundtracks have had this situation for years… with many recordings for film tightly timed (the performing instrumentalists) with headphones. In a live performance, in-ear monitoring has evolved to an extremely high level. Shure, Inc., out of Illinois, is a major player in this field as are others in the “transducer” manufacturing game… those who make microphones often make headphones. There are about 100, plus or minus, musicians in a Symphony Orchestra.

http://theidiomaticorchestra.net/14-orchestra-size-and-setting/

This means you’d have to invest a substantial amount initially for a 100+ feed monitor mixer with in ear headsets. However, this “one time” investment would last years. Not to devalue the position of a Conductor, but from a Post COVID economic standpoint, it seems that not requiring a conductor for timing might be a huge step forward. Plus, even WITH a conductor, certainly creating a better way for everyone to hear each other would be a benefit. The entire concept MUST have already been employed at better funded Symphony Orchestras… …just sayin’.

https://midasconsoles.com/product.html?modelCode=P0B4A

https://www.studer.ch/en/products/vista-x

https://digico.biz/consoles/quantum7t/

https://usa.yamaha.com/products/proaudio/mixers/rivage_pm/specs.html

https://www.shure.com/en-US/products/in-ear-monitoring/psm1000

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What the Herd Heard and refused to Hurdle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgive my selfish enjoyment of simple word play. However, I am returning to the theme of “The Herd” and how significant and often dangerous such “group-think” can often be.

First of all, I’d like to begin with a choice bit of text from Ayn Rand. But before I do, a short disclaimer. I am not the fan of Ayn Rand that I was in my youth, and mostly this has to do with Rand’s devotee Alan Greenspan, whom I continue to believe was mostly responsible, or irresponsible, for the banking, investment and real estate debacles that took place during the first parts of the millennium – – and still have echoes and eddies. (Sorry, Alan. You have been most successful at living well below the radar on this… with your allowing of all those “creative” investment vehicles to make the stratospherically wealthy even more stratospherically wealthy.)

From Rand’s Atlas Shrugged…

“Thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And, his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think — not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of un-focusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment – on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it, that ‘A will not be A’ so long as you do not pronounce the verdict ‘It is’…Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.”

(hints of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” starts to filter in here)

No, not really.

But, as my good pal Rusty often begins in his statements to me, “here’s the thing”:

If one – as an individual – is lazy about discerning the real facts surrounding anything (… and in these phone-laced-media-driven-unfiltered-blue-light-special-times, it is easy to be lazy… especially when the world is spoon fed information ever waking second), then that laziness will out itself in forwarded misinformation, an incorrectly promoted view of the reality of events, and will continue to contribute to the social unrest and divisiveness that seems to go on and on in a seemingly unending manner.

I believe that one has to take the time, on any major subject, to be certain that your SOURCES are legit and, more importantly that THEIR sources are legit (and if necessary that those sources are legit).  It can be a wild ride down the rabbit hole, and Google results, Bing results, Yahoo results might not be showing one the total picture.

For myself, a dear friend gave me library access to large city municipal libraries, that all have remarkable search engines at this point. One can get access to major libraries upon request. There’s nothing like some historical perspective from multiple historical sources to help shape a position or clarify one being presented.

Now, certainly, each of us has implicit bias from our upbringing, historical experience and general sense of “smell,” but all too often we are willing to let our emotional position over-ride the logical, researched, data driven position for any given topic.

This comes hard-to-port when conversations delve into all those topics your Grandmother told you not to address in polite company, namely: Politics, Religion, Money and Sex.

(Whatever happened to manners?)

However, as we stumble into the future, AND the aforementioned noise from social media, online, broadcast and word of mouth become louder and more aggressive, having the personal fortitude to refrain from snap judgement on topics can be a challenge. In addition, that snap judgement can easily make one a pariah among social groups, i.e., friends, and family.

The art of listening is an exercise more of us, especially myself, should give more attention. Listening and not knee-jerk judging is challenging for most of us, as the voices in our heads are ready and raring during a debate-laced discussion. It doesn’t have to be this way. And it’s mostly hard for it NOT to be this way. Being simply aware is a good first step, TRYING not to vocally step on your fellow conversationalist is good second step. With practice, debate can become the far more civilized “discussion.”

(My blood pressure understands this ever so succinctly.)

Discussions that produce a common ground of consideration… of topics to further investigate and fact check are worthy. The herds in 2020 are following both large and small parades. Some have their genesis in relevance, but few of size are truly walking the walk of their proclamations, and ever the echo are the spots lights of media and the rush to judgement.

By way of example, during this pandemic, I think I have experienced enough finger-wagging to create wind power for alternate energy acquisition.   My typical, emotional reaction is immediate: Get off your stink-free podium and think about who made you the Lord Arbiter of Correctness, when all the facts are still unknown about this pandemic! Sure, data would indicate that distancing and mask wearing is a good thing. But wait, has anybody questioned the long term health of our immune systems if folks are simply not exposed to things like this?  Herd indeed.

(Triclosan, developed in the 1960s is on my personal list for weakening society’s immunity.)

But I digress.

The reality is yours.  Make of it as you will. But please consider that sometimes, the safety of the herd – ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO DETERMINING THE TRUTH –  may not be as safe as you think. (Another lovely analogy of herd safety, The myth of Lemmings aside, only humans have been absolutely proven to commit mass suicide.)

I firmly believe that most discussions, and their topics, may be worth thinking about it and “going your own way”. Additionally and most importantly, we must be vigilant in allowing others to do the same… without recrimination. Democracy, real democracy, is messy.  Building consensus is nearly impossible, at least until and unless there’s a major shared catastrophe.  However, listening and respecting other’s opinions is an excellent foundation for building consensus.  We may never agree on most things, but it may be vitally important to agree on some things.

BRIAN: No. No, please! Please! Please listen. I’ve got one or two things to say.
FOLLOWERS: Tell us. Tell us both of them.
BRIAN: Look. You’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we’re all individuals!
BRIAN: You’re all different!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we are all different!
DENNIS: I’m not.

©Monty Python, PTY, Ltd

Be well.

– PBW

 

 

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End Of Line

 

<END OF LINE> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newline

“End of Line” (EOL), line feed, or line break) is computer code-speak for the end of a line  or lines of code) within ASCII [American Standard Code for Information Interchange] or EBCDIC [Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code]. When displaying (or printing) a text file, this control character causes the text editor to show the following characters in a new line.

<END OF LINE> when applied to humanity’s short existing on the planet has many reverberant returns, invoking everything from extremely real scientific research going on at this very moment (and has been for the better part of a century) to wild ass conspiracy theories, with tidbits of actual facts molded and shaped to form an opinion.

Here’s mine. Artificial Intelligence, ESPECIALLY during this unexpected COVID-19 Pandemic, along with the social unrest fanned by both closet and actual anarchists, will quietly rise to levels of public and social integration, with the general public not even being aware of it.

Certainly, major news outlets and their incessant cycling and recycling of topics haven’t even considered it, with many of them being the beneficiaries of AI when it comes to audience retention via headline development.

What, you don’t believe it???

https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2019/08/23/ai-making-waves-in-news-and-journalism/#7048d0fe7748

Believe it.

In my personal opinion, “Armageddon” is likely to NOT be instantaneous, but take a boat load of time. Maybe thousands of years. Maybe we avoid our species extinction, maybe we don’t. Comedian George Carlin, nearly 30 years ago, thought we would not.

George Carlin: Saving the Planet – Full Transcript

At the risk of being called out for it, here’s my personal up-to-the-moment opinion:

We’re not paying as much attention to all of this as we should be, and instead have devolved into name calling, finger wagging, judging, and much much worse on the “violence to eachother” scale. Surely this can’t be good for a bright future.

Here is a list of links – from today, 29 July 2020,  that support my position that we are not paying enough attention. Going through them all will take some time. NOT going through them all will keep readers more ignorant of where they are actually living, here and now. As with each of our personal historical arcs, decisions, decisions.

With a bit of an acknowledged full-body shudder from me, here we go…

[Of note: Skynet is a fictional artificial neural network-based conscious group mind and artificial general super-intelligence system that serves as the main antagonist of the Terminator® films franchise, begun by Director James Cameron]

These links are to real technology, in use and available now…

https://marketplace.intel.com/s/offering/a5b3b000000Duz8AAC/iqfevercheck?language=en_US

https://www.sourcesecurity.com/people/dr-rustom-kanga.html

https://www.sourcesecurity.com/

https://www.dedrone.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watchtime_continue=4&v=EQEKi8Uih6U&feature=emb_logo

https://www.knightscope.com/

https://www.echodyne.com/

https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/02/17/844721/ai-openai-moonshot-elon-musk-sam-altman-greg-brockman-messy-secretive-reality/

https://openai.com/blog/better-language-models/

 

“…Its [OpenAI] goal is to be the first to create AGI—a machine with the learning and reasoning powers of a human mind. The purpose is not world domination; rather, the lab wants to ensure that the technology is developed safely and its benefits distributed evenly to the world. But three days at OpenAI’s office—and nearly three dozen interviews with past and current employees, collaborators, friends, and other experts in the field—suggest a different picture. There is a misalignment between what the company publicly espouses and how it operates behind closed doors. Over time, it has allowed a fierce competitiveness and mounting pressure for ever more funding to erode its founding ideals of transparency, openness, and collaboration. Many who work or worked for the company insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak or feared retaliation. Their accounts suggest that OpenAI, for all its noble aspirations, is obsessed with maintaining secrecy, protecting its image, and retaining the loyalty of its employees.”

James Cameron [“Terminator®” film director] has got to have a smirk on, followed by his own full-body shudder.

And thus ends the musing for today, a balmy day in July 2020 here in Northern Vermont.

Be well. Be safe. Be smart.

– PBW

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A Fractal Sense of the Continuity of Choice

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

“If you are just safe about the choices you make, you don’t grow.” — Heath Ledger

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

“We are our choices.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre

“It’d be great to be in a position where you can make choices regardless of money. My tastes are always gonna lead me to go for the amazing project where I’m being paid in Turkish cantaloupes.” — Will Ferrell

—————

For those who have enjoyed (or been terrified by) a near death experience, I would ask… did yours feature a primary pathway that splintered into pathways, which splintered into pathways and so forth and so on?

Who knows. That’s was my experience, many years ago.

I was reminded of it last week, when my weedwhacker chucked a rock at our basement walk out door’s window. I heard the plink, then a quiet “tick” of a crack, and then another and then another…it basically went on for about two hours until the outer pane of the thermal, two pane window, had fully spider-webbed into a thing of beauty. (And an upcoming expense.)

Cellar Window After the Rock

The Cellar Door Window – After the Rock Hit

The idea of trunk, branch, branch, branch is integral to our decision making… at the moment, during the day and during our existence. It’s also extremely basic:

“If this, then that.”

As a young person, making informed choices is extremely difficult, simply because of lack of experience, lack of living. As an older person, making informed choices is also difficult, but for far more complex reasons as the distillation and discernment process can be arduous and full of potential peril.

None-the-less, the decisions have to keep coming until we get to the point in life where we are either unable to make them in an “omnispheric” manner or we have lost the faculty, or because we simply don’t want to anymore.

The very real synchronicity between super macro and super micro layers of “what we know” continues to fascinate me. The patterns of star dust in a Nebula. The way the Milky Way looks at night. A river delta from a satellite photo. A Tree. An Iris.

If the Universe and All-That’s-In-It has been determined by some to be a random “decision”, golly — it sure remains aesthetically beautiful to me — at any viewpoint.

And for lack of a more salient explanation, the Universe has a “design signature” of continuity that is absolutely everywhere.  Trunk, branch, branch, branch. From the cellular to the deep space images of galaxy fields.

The River makes a choice to flow where gravity, tides and obstacles suggest, then everything changes, and it flows elsewhere, a process that repeats without end to create a delta. The Tree sprouts branches that reach for the sun, which sprout branches that reach for the sun, that sprout branches that reach for the sun. The proteins defined by the genetic code define the same patterns in an Iris.

What’s intriguing [to me] about this is: in each case, there is an implied destination and goal. The river flows down hill to the sea. The tree grows upwards to the sun, and simultaneously downwards to minerals and water. The iris grows to enable vision, to inform and (hopefully) delight.  And to better serve, at least with me, the processing of making a choice.

For ponderers, which is mostly everyone…though many won’t admit it, for philosophers and thinkers and for those with irascible, irrepressible creative urges, the idea of choice… and whether we are truly in 100% control of our own individual destiny, will continue to be argued, and expressed in the arts, even if barely perceptible.

Our unfortunate frame of reference for “time” as human beings on this planet is ridiculously short. If only our choices could be made with the benefit of really understanding that our single, individual lifespan is part of generations before us, and in the case of those of us who have reproduced, after us. The constantly shifting sands of genetic instructions, blowing and creating the dust of who we’ve been, who we are and who we will be.  Is this “always”?  What would all those folks who came before us, who MADE us, think of our choices?

I choose to consider it.

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Succeeding beyond the Job Concept

“Most people think life sucks, and then you die. Not me. I beg to differ…

I think life sucks, then you get cancer, then your dog dies, your wife leaves you, the cancer goes into remission, you get a new dog, you get remarried, you owe ten million dollars in medical bills but you work hard for thirty five years and you pay it back and then one day you have a massive stroke, your whole right side is paralyzed, you have to limp along the streets and speak out of the left side of your mouth and drool but you go into rehabilitation and regain the power to walk and the power to talk and then one day you step off a curb at Sixty-Seventh Street, and BANG you get hit by a City bus and then you die…Maybe.”

— Dennis Leary, Comedian (born August 18, 1957)

30 May 2019

First of all, the title of this entry is the “Long O”, old testament Job. Not the short O “job” as in “work.”

The NIV, or “New International Version” of the Christian Bible shows Job as a long suffering fella, just minding his own business and getting in the middle of, what is essentially a bet, between God and Satan. Nice.

And before you think I am getting all religious on you, note that this blog entry is not a plea to end all the suffering in the world, as there has been and always will be suffering. Instead, it is more of a “work through it all” personal observation piece.  Done in one afternoon skirmish.

For the Buddhists (and, frankly, how can a thinking person not appreciate the Buddhists?) it gets more nuanced, if not a slow meander on a Mobius strip-based pathway:

The Four Noble Truths comprise the essence of Buddha’s teachings, though they leave much left unexplained. They are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. More simply put, suffering exists; it has a cause; it has an end; and it has a cause to bring about its end. The notion of suffering is not intended to convey a negative world view, but rather, a pragmatic perspective that deals with the world as it is, and attempts to rectify it. The concept of pleasure is not denied, but acknowledged as fleeting. Pursuit of pleasure can only continue what is ultimately an unquenchable thirst. The same logic belies an understanding of happiness. In the end, only aging, sickness, and death are certain and unavoidable.

The Four Noble Truths are a contingency plan for dealing with the suffering humanity faces — suffering of a physical kind, or of a mental nature.
The First Truth identifies the presence of suffering.

The Second Truth, on the other hand, seeks to determine the cause of suffering. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only bring suffering. Ignorance, in comparison, relates to not seeing the world as it actually is. Without the capacity for mental concentration and insight, Buddhism explains, one’s mind is left undeveloped, unable to grasp the true nature of things. Vices, such as greed, envy, hatred and anger, derive from this ignorance.

The Third Noble Truth, the truth of the end of suffering, has dual meaning, suggesting either the end of suffering in this life, on earth, or in the spiritual life, through achieving Nirvana. When one has achieved Nirvana, which is a transcendent state free from suffering and our worldly cycle of birth and rebirth, spiritual enlightenment has been reached.

The Fourth Noble truth charts the method for attaining the end of suffering, known to Buddhists as the “Noble Eightfold Path.” The steps of the Noble Eightfold Path are Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Moreover, there are three themes into which the Path is divided: good moral conduct (Understanding, Thought, Speech); meditation and mental development (Action, Livelihood, Effort), and wisdom or insight (Mindfulness and Concentration).

For me, I just try not to whine too much, a far-too-easy reflexive action I have been honing for decades. Yes, I am terribly guilty of it.  As one of my close friends says, “Yes, we dwell at length on our ridiculous first world problems.”

Especially now, in an era that seems amplified beyond all capacity with the “End of Everything”.

Frankly, I personally have come to feel that the Apocalypse, as it were, may not be as instantaneous as many of us have been taught.

“The Greek word for Revelation is Αποκαλυψις or Apocalypse. Revelation always implies the unveiling of something previously hidden, in this case, future events. As the final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation brings to fruition symbolism found in Genesis 3:15 in the first book of the Bible. “

I didn’t know that… that “Revelation” in Greek is “Apocalypse”, which is a rather rewarding piece of information and elevates my point:

What if the “Tribulation” portion of St. John’s Revelation lasts ten centuries?

Sure, there’s all these quite apparent signs… the collapse of bees and other pollinators, the critical fulcrum of human development and the resulting pollution of the small, isolated planet we live on (don’t poop where you eat), the political mayhem and insidious leveraging of speeding technological expansion and instantaneous communication pathways, and the ongoing lack of integrity of so many in such high positions of authority.

I wonder what folks thought in the late 1700s. The mid 1800s. The Late 1800s. The early 1900s. The mid 1900s. Etc., etc., etc.

I also wonder if we as a species have done this before — whacked a planet into near nothingness and then simply moved.  (Think long and deep about Mars, for example…)

These are hardly original thoughts, but I often think them none-the-less: we all see our own truth through our own eyes, filter and shape it through our own experience, and ultimately funnel it down our own faith and belief. I think that if all of a sudden, humanity was zipped in its entirety to a new home planet, this one would likely recover quite nicely. (Probably be a battle eventually between the big cats, the big bears and the big apes, but then again, they might respect the twins of death and destruction a little more than we do.)

A very close friend of ours recently disclosed his fresh diagnosis of multiple cancers. I am thinking currently that this diagnosis is his own apocalypse, his own revelation, and we who love him will try to do what we can to help… which can be difficult to achieve if the afflicted individual, and he is, has been highly independent his whole life.

Another close friend was at one time going through an absolutely painful and traumatic divorce.  Referred to spouse as “my Buddha”.   Sometimes suffering can be so visceral it sounds like a hard cracker being halved.

Another non-original tidbit: “What happens to the human soul as suffering becomes increasing ordinary?”

At the foundation of being a true human being is to be able to offer our best, most sincere attempt at providing comfort to those who are suffering, to accept it with grace from others when we are suffering, and to try our best to impart our experiential findings of that process to our family members, offspring and friends.  That’s about it.

(That last paragraph is way more wordy than “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  I would say that the simple version credited to Jesus is more succinct.)

As I type this, from one of multiple computers, in a funky, low brow but comfortable home, looking out the door at several vehicles in the yard, taking in the luscious, vivacious greenery that is northern Vermont in almost-June, sure: I could think about my troubles. My debts. All the cleaning I have to attend to. The work I have to complete by the end of the week.  Or, I can realize just how good I have it.  I will rise up and attempt the latter…

Disagreements abound. But, with a slow, mindful inhale and a hopefully generous dose of perspective, we might all find that we, as humans, as society, as a civilization have much more to agree about than disagree… and concentrating on this – the agreements – will likely make the disagreements more malleable.

At least it’s a hope. Or as Dennis Leary says, “…maybe.”

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Following the Herd

[from Monty Python’s Life of Brian]

FOLLOWERS: Brian! Brian! Brian!…

BRIAN: Good morning.

FOLLOWERS: A blessing! A blessing! A blessing!…

BRIAN: No. No, please! Please! Please listen. I’ve got one or two things to say.

FOLLOWERS: Tell us. Tell us both of them.

BRIAN: Look. You’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals!

FOLLOWERS: Yes, we’re all individuals!

BRIAN: You’re all different!

FOLLOWERS: Yes, we are all different!

DENNIS: I’m not.

[End Excerpt]

————————————————-

For the past couple of years, I have been free wheeling in thoughts surrounding “Tipping Points

Why do human beings seem to flock into “group think” without significantly and individually questioning one’s own decision tree to arrive at an opinion? This has always seemed rather odd to me.

In my own experience,  it comes from a distaste for the barrage of “everybody is doing it”, or “they say that we should…” or “if you don’t join us, you are a _________ !”

Being one who prefers the outer perimeters of social situations, I have never “joined” any specific large group, save for the Cub Scouts for a year as a third grader (participated under parental duress. It is also highly probable that my discomfort with “group think” has lead to more than one sacking from employment situations over the five decades of my work career!).

The one thing that has me completely flummoxed of late is the overwhelming group think taking place as a result of clever, if not nefarious, campaigns of misinformation across multiple media platforms.  No wonder world wide mistrust of information is growing.  I mean, really, who or what can be trusted?  It is rather alarming in scope.

In one of the episodes of the British series, Black Mirror,  individual’s optic nerve can receive implants so that all events can be recorded and played back AS RECORDED.

Sure, it solves all disputes as five “cameras” recording an event, pretty much show the same event… except when the event is hidden or obstructed to an extent from all cameras. This happens regularly and most recently at a Red Sox baseball game when the “replay” wasn’t able to overturn the call because the players obstructed the views of several cameras to the player’s hand reaching for the base while the baseman tagged for the out.

Returning to how to discern absolute fact, it’s difficult and challenging. Especially as individual memory of an event is absolutely affected by individual personality. Which is why compelling people can tell complete lies and get large numbers of other people to believe those lies as truth.  As said in this blog previously, my friend Paul Appleget said to me years ago:

“A lie is not a lie; until one of those individuals WITHIN the lie, forgets that it is the TRUTH.”

Yes, it is a bit of a mind bender to get around, but it does shed a small ray of light on group think. Think of the negatives of “the herd mentality“, flip them to positives and one gets “Collective Intelligence

And here lies the likely and most prominent aspect that describes how divisive an era we currently reside within:  Herd Mentality is unyielding commitment to a line of thought… EVEN if all the best and coldly collected evidence is contrary.  Yet, Collective Intelligence relies on cooperation, communication and discussion, the very attributes that used to take place in most civilized debates… a search for meaning via opposing views, but with the searchers not making the opposing views “personal.”

I don’t agree with the opinions of several of my very close friends.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t speak to them anymore, it simply means that we disagree… and that is okay. In fact, if they all DID agree with me, it would be incredibly boring if not claustrophobic.

Returning to Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal “The Tipping Point” it is worth reviewing “The Law of the Few”… and note “Persuaders”

And finally this important excerpt from Herd Mentality from Wikipedia:

“Researchers at Leeds University performed a group experiments where volunteers were told to randomly walk around a large hall without talking to each other. A select few were then given more detailed instructions on where to walk. The scientists discovered that people end up blindly following one or two instructed people who appear to know where they’re going. The results of this experiments showed that it only takes 5% of confident looking and instructed people to influence the direction of the 95% of people in the crowd and the 200 volunteers did this without even realizing it.”

The next time there is an invitation to join into a train of thought… please consider taking just a few moments out to consider “what, when, where and why…” and what you might be giving up in the process. You might be surprised, in many instances to hear an internal voice questioning yourself. Don’t crush it. That is your conscience. Please pay attention.

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My God, It’s full of Stars…

 

 

 

 

 

 

I won’t be the first or the last person to comment on this seminal statement from Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (in fact, it actually was in the book AND the sequel film, 2010: The Year We Make Contact.)

To the point: there is nothing I enjoy more – and rarely get to do with an exhausting work schedule  – than sit in a reclined chair, outside and wait until my eyes adjust to the dark…

And then, that precise moment in the history universe reveals itself to my naked eye… most astonishingly.

Planets, stars, constellations, Milky Way Galaxy, and of course the shooting stars and man made satellites.

I count them.

On the few moonless, clear nights of July-September, the amount of activity in the Heavens is completely amazing. And of course, this is only what one sees without magnification.

I liken leaning back and viewing the infinite universe as some of my life’s profoundly sacred moments; in that everything that every was, and will be, is right up there in view. The common mistake we make as human beings is to view everything, and I mean everything, with relevance only to ones lifespan. And, the average life span of humans is simply too short, especially when viewed in a universal sense.

80 years versus 13+ billion years

80 vs 13,000,000,000

Or, one would have to live 16,250,000 lifetimes.  That’s a lot of taxes! (insert wry wink here)

But back to the night sky. Last night I counted 28 satellites and 10 falling stars. Not quite close to my personal record of 35 satellites and 26 falling stars, counted in Greensboro VT fifteen years ago.

When the evening is quiet (and we are grateful and fortunate to live in a mostly quiet neighborhood) it only adds to the star gazing splendor. If you can share it with a close friend or loved one (or both) its even more rewarding.

Contemporary hand held technologies, i.e., your smarty pants phone or tablet have many “app” options for night sky revelation and calibration… calling out individual stars, constellations, planets and more. Plus, most will operate in a “red” mode that won’t disturb your night time vision. These apps can greatly expand ones knowledge of “what is what” in the night sky.

My reverence for the night sky is long in my own years… many significant events have happened while looking up…first kisses, dreams of future, recollection of pasts, philosophical ramblings of epic proportion, etc. And finally, like many who can’t help but exorcise emotion as creative endeavor, the night sky often makes its appearance in my songs, verse and stories, as well as drawings and paintings.

My long standing hope is for every single person on this planet gets at least a few nights a year, to drop their troubles for just a few moments and look up.

Look up to the future, look up to the past. As life itself came from the stars, when we look up, we see all of Life (yes, the big Life with a capital L).  All life that has been and has yet to be.

For me these bodies of light in the night sky remain uniquely humbling and comforting – –  at the very same time.

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Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President (Feb 2018)

A short list of thoughts from someone who didn’t vote for you—or your opponent—in 2016. (used “write in”)

Caveat: an apology, as “letters to the President” are hardly original.

1. Thanks for the positive financial bubble. Our lower middle class family has benefited, but the long term costs of these benefits are not clearly defined. We are in hopes that your conviction that the economy will grow enough to make up the difference plays out, even if history has not been all that kind to this approach. However, I would be remiss in not admitting that right now, we’re better off than we were a year ago.

2. Is there any chance you might consider going cold turkey to your Twitter addiction? Yes, going cold turkey is very hard. But, as you have professed significant intelligence, I am confident that you could drop your Twitter use for at least 30 days. This would give the results of your executive orders a chance to develop as they will without distraction from you or your advisers. In order for your constituents to get a clear bead on what you are doing in the following: Economy, Environment, Law Enforcement, National Security, Immigration and Statesmanship, I suggest that NOT firing off a running stream of consciousness commentary may better serve you and what you are attempting to achieve. The old adage, “actions speak louder than words” really holds true, as I expect it did for your parents and grandparents.

3. Stand by those individuals who seek the Truth. Seeking the truth in all things is a challenging thing. Truth is a consensus; there is ample proof that 25 witnesses to an event will give you 25 different appraisals of that event. However, there are many in Federal agencies who simply want the Truth. They are not out “to get anyone”. They simply want the truth. At this junction in history, we face an unprecedented amount of technological advantages, but also vulnerabilities. Do we, as Americans, wish to be naive about this? I suggest that all the investigations going on will lead to something salient. It may not be of your personal taste and that is too bad.

If you have nothing to fear, proceed fearlessly.

This latter position doesn’t require comment, only your support of Our Democracy and Our Constitution. If you belief in those two icons of our Nation, than logically, you can’t come to any other conclusion other than to ride it all out with dignity and statesmanship that the Office of President demands. I know you can do this, if you wish to.

4. Spend less time in Florida. Though I know you probably realize it will be under water in your children’s lifetime, spreading your presence in other parts of the Nation you lead might be worthy of your consideration. And, if you spend time in other parts of the Nation, please be open to other’s opinions and be patient with differing views of thought. Here in New England, we have “Town Meeting” the last bare knuckle form of democracy practiced in the United States of American. In the annual Town Meeting, there is much disagreement, some of it quite heated. However, for the most part, at the end of the meeting, or during it, most towns break for lunch, and come together in a very civil, community, fashion. The reason is simple… we are COMMUNITIES, which means that though we may disagree with each other, this disagreement doesn’t have to be uncivilized or unkind. I have many close friends with whom I vehemently disagree with their positions on many things. However, our common cause is in complete agreement. Plus, I know that even with the disagreement, these friends “have my back” as I have theirs.

5. Let Mrs. Trump loose to pursue more visible, positive programs of her desire. First Lady is a great platform to get a great deal of GOOD THINGS done. Don’t hold anyone back in this capacity, least of all the First Lady

6. Consider a refresher course in American History. This will give you perspective on what has worked in the past, and why. Another old adage your parents and grandparents likely knew if not lived by, is from Philosopher George Santayana…”Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

There is a proper balance between all things Federally managed… a balance between environment and material extraction from it, a balance between security and privacy, a balance between dignified, fair immigration policy and national security, a balance between taxation levels and infrastructure spending needs, a balance between budget and deficit concerns and military spending. Surely, you are familiar with a balance sheet and the basic principals of human dignity. Balance is hard to manage, ask ANY of your living predecessors. However, if you find it, you will be rewarded by more of our citizens recognizing you are trying to fulfill the demands of your position as US President.

In closing, thank you (if you actually read this in person), no matter how unlikely this result would be. The great thing about the United States is that, with a few qualifications, anyone can be voted in as President. You represent the 45th person that has been elected to this solemn position. I would ask you, pursuant to item #6 above, how many of those 45 individuals have made a really positive difference during their tenure? I would follow up that being remembered for making a positive difference would be a good thing. And, quite possibly, something that others could Tweet about.

Respectfully submitted,

Peter Bruce Wilder
Vermonter

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Rules to Live By

The challenge for so many of those committed to religious fundamentalism is that they have a difficult time recognizing that they have knowingly locked themselves into what is really a closed room of intellectual fascism.

I observe that this plays out in the simple manner that,  if they don’t understand another, different position, they don’t respect it.  They have no empathy. Without empathy, they cannot understand a different social position. This plays out in knee jerk, typically hyper-religious judgments that have no factual bearing in the teachings of major Earth-followed prophets.

These fundamentalists are not alone, by a long shot.  It is difficult in a violent world to not have immediate judgement without considering the path that brought individuals to that violence.

It’s a timeless adage, one known in every language on the Planet: “without walking a mile in another person’s shoes, you cannot possibly have the benefit of that fellow human being’s experiences.” This results in a conscious, self-imposed (if not celebrated) ignorance which then develops into a crude justification for extremely harsh views (or worse) of others.

Ignorance remains the root cause for reactions to the many frightening aspects of change… like those who still oppose the practical aspects of Darwin’s findings, for example.

The saddest thing inflicted by self limitation and lack of empathy is that one’s life does not become enriched by the experience of the living (and sharing) of life itself. This leads inevitably toward an unhappy death, a death that is feared because it follows a life unrewarded by the conscious filtering of the simple consideration that there might be another experience (experiences) different than our own…and that that experience has equal validity simply because it is.

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