Opinions or Facts ?

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Free Beer Tomorrow !!!

What is left of a life lived in the pursuit of concepts?

Success, Progress, Achievement, Productivity, goal?based fulfillment, attainment, what are these to a person that has been dead for a day, an hour, a second?

What are these things to the ones left living?  Do we think back fondly to our Grandfathers, Grandmothers, and ancestors and think… “YES, the sum total of their efforts to external things really worked out well.”  Or do we recall the time they gave us… the quality of our interactions, the relationships.  Do we consider their intent, or judge only on the results of their actions.

Does it matter how much money and wealth a relative has left in their wake if they were unkind to their children, angry, or short tempered with everyone they knew?

Are we defined by firmly held opinions about transient issues?

Do we accept our opinions as facts to quickly?

Do we invest in being Right about something, more than understanding its nature?

A life lived in the pursuit of tomorrow is the equivalent of a bar sign reading “Free Beer Tomorrow”.  It is a belief and an expectation, neither of which having anything to do with the razors sharp edge of existence, the instantaneous, perpetual, finite, infinite now.

Nothing Ever Happens on a Global Scale

Life is often a matter of scale. The overwhelming weight of 35,000 years of human history finds us toiling away on this earth amongst nearly 8,000,000,000 of our brethren and yet Friday can seem a long way off.  Statistics identify that at every second of every day lightning is striking the earth somewhere and yet there is a quiet repose when watching an approaching storm. An individual driving off for holiday on Memorial Day weekend is stuck in traffic pondering the philosophical question of “where in the world are all these people going, and why do they have to be in front of me?”

The trick it seems is in understanding your applied scale and then being able to choose it.  The golden age of communication that we now live in provides a constant stream of information from around the globe. Of which most is inane, negative, and fleeting in any importance. The conscious mind must be a gate keeper as the unconscious mind is a purveyor of all thoughts that are entertained. Horror movies do cause bad dreams, bad news from 1000 miles away can make you sad and for the soldier fighting in a far off land, the idea of death is not just a mental concept.

The mantra of “think global, act locally” as often cited, is at odds with itself as much as it is seemingly foolish.  The idea that an individual in America can help Africans facing a drought by taking two-minute showers is vanity at best and egocentric narcissism at worst.   However, if taken in a different way it accurately defines the role of the missionary who is willing to change their locality, but that idea is one of selflessness and not self-fullness.  The non-communicated requirement for this statement to be anything but folly is that you must be local to global issue you are to take action for. So there off you would be better saying “be local, act locally”, which is more a statement of what is real than some ideological expression as you are bound to your present location as inseparable as you are bound to your arms and legs.

Being a body that sits always in a single place within time and space we are only able to view the world from a perspective of “Self” and all of human history is more a summary of results from individual actions than of a collective. We do not express the purpose of a vehicle by detailing the individual functions of its many parts any more than an obituary list the historical changes in the world during one’s period of life.

From birth to death the constant element is ‘Self’.  Without this, there is no conscious, no responsibility, no action, and no progress. It is all the individual parts, fulfilling their individual purposes that make the vehicle go.  It is local, insulated action or inaction that makes the world what it is.  From sacrifice to murder, from salvation to suffering, from pleasure to pain, it all begins and ends with “Self”, and at the same time that by itself is not very impressive.

The Supremacy of Self

There are few Choices in life which do not carry some level of consequence. Most choices are fundamentally a weighing of the negative aspects of two options. While we may wish to make the “best” choice, we most often do so by determining what the worst choice is, and going the other way. This requires we weigh all facts, good and bad. This is true in our personal lives and should be true in how we make choices as a society.

Liberty is defined by wikipedia.com as follows:

Liberty is the ability of individuals to have agency (control over their own actions). Different conceptions of liberty articulate the relationship of individuals to society in different ways—including some that relate to life under a social contract or to existence in a state of nature, and some that see the active exercise of freedom and rights as essential to liberty. Understanding liberty involves how we imagine the individual’s roles and responsibilities in society in relation to concepts of free will and determinism, which involves the larger domain of metaphysics.

Much of the discussions related to how we shape our society hinge on what tradeoffs we are willing to make between liberty and safety.  On one extreme we could have full liberty with no societal limitations to personal behavior.  On the other extreme, we have a controlling state which continuously removes liberty to ensure the greatest safety.  Neither of which is desirable.

The danger is an inattentive society where short sighted decisions are made to ensure safety and longer-term considerations regarding freedom of choice and individual autonomy are not considered.  In all of these decisions, I would suggest we begin with the concept of “Supremacy of Self” as the basis for change.  We are all at our root individuals. We have differing opinions, desires, wants, needs, and aspirations.  It is not the role of a body politic to make decisions for individuals.  The role of the body politic is to create an environment where individuals are free to determine their own destinies and work towards their own goals.  Laws define commonly accepted limitations on individual liberty only in that one person’s freedom does not infringe on another’s ability to exercise their own.  As Oliver Wendell Holmes stated:

“The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

A similar statement could easily be made regarding the rights of the state.  In a free state, the laws should not govern either of the individuals in the analogy above.  It governs the space in between and puts limitations on their exchange to ensure both parties are treated properly. Laws that encroach on liberty are laws that extend past the responsibility of society to create the environment and begin to limit or decrease the ability of an individual to make their own choices.   It is at this point that Liberty is impacted.

As defined in science, nature abhors a vacuum.  When one thing is drawn away another will fill the space, and in the eroding of liberty, only tyranny can fill the void… albeit a slow, encroaching cancer of tyranny.

​But You’re Supposed to!

There many many things in life that fall overtly or silently into the category of what you’re ‘Supposed to’ do. Many times this seems to be more of an expression of momentum or cultural bias than any level of objective wisdom or individual consideration.

You’re supposed to stay in school, get good grades, avoid drugs and alcohol. You’re supposed to get a good job and focus on making money, have a nicer house, in a nicer neighborhood, and a nicer car. That is if you want to fit in with others that value those things.

Or perhaps your situation differs and you’re a third generation Union worker or welfare recipient. Those categories carry their own lists of ‘supposed to’.

Many world religions have lists and lists of ‘supposed to’ written into their dogma.

Some of our ‘supposed to’ ideas have a broader cultural underpinning.

You’re supposed to get married, have kids, and stay married. You’re supposed to treat others fairly, pay your taxes, have compassion (or not) and of course ‘be grateful for what you have’!

In other cultures, gender roles and responsibilities are defined differently and various patriarchal or matriarchal systems take root. These systems result in unique ideas of ‘Supposed to’. In Some African tribes, women elongate their necks over time with large metal rings because they are ‘supposed to’. In parts of Africa, woman are the leaders of tribes and practice polygamy, taking several husbands. These are the same social mechanism that leads young adults to prioritize a call to their mothers on Mother’s Day in Western Civilizations.

Some of these ‘Supposed to’ ideas are codified cultural or familial responsibilities.

Parents will certainly directly or indirectly communicate expectations to their children that they think are in their children best interest. Stay in school, stay out of trouble, value good grades, etc.

We are ‘supposed to’ obey the law. In a society with a well-developed Justice and punishment system, the threat of jail time enforces that we are supposed to do that.

But other ‘supposed to’ ideas are not always good. You’re supposed to have a few drinks at a party. You’re supposed to value promotions. You’re supposed to be married by 30.

These are cultural and social pressures that are driven more by a desire of people to validate their own actions, choices and (learned) priorities by creating social groups that mirror back the ideas that they value.

And some ‘supposed to’ ideas are written into the very fabric of our understanding of life. The role of a father or mother. The importance of a specific religion.

So, most likely, some of what we are ‘supposed to’ do is probably very much in our interest and based firmly on our developed understanding of how our various societies function. It is the expression of a million little lessons tidied up in an un-communicated conceptual idea.

But certainly, some of these ‘supposed to’ ideas are adopted without question our consideration.  Exposing these ideas is difficult because the gaining of insight of these ideas is a deconstructive process.  It is a subtraction of ideas whereas in general wisdom is the addition of ideas.  It is not a search for an idea to add to your worldview but is instead a search for something that is not there… Perhaps that you have not considered or developed a reason to associate your identity with being a Democrat or Republican, it’s just that your parents were.  Perhaps it’s that you thoughtlessly agreed to stash away part of your wages in a 401k for a third of your life and never bothered to reconsider that you could have bought a rental property instead by now.  Or perhaps you are at the extent of your financial means to support a lifestyle of excess that you were silently taught to value via pop culture.

Exposing the damaging actions that you made because you were ‘supposed to’ is also hard because many times they will be seen as mistakes you have made. And we all know… You’re not ‘supposed to’ make big mistakes like that, are you… 😉

Tyranny begins quietly

Tyranny begins quietly. Often the first thing to go is the ability to have a clear expectation of your government’s limitations. 

Some thougts that give me pause…
No one in our federal governmental authority positions is really following any hard rules or fully executing on their responsibilities anymore.   DoJ won’t prosecute,  Congress didn’t pass a budget for 6 years, POTUS approves targeting US citizens overseas with drone strikes without oversight,  The INS maintains a catch and release policy,  and Congress passes domestic banking laws to seize Iranian money. Sitting US Congressmen and women think that “Due Process” is met by giving you the ability to appeal to a court AFTER they’ve removed a constitutional right, the NSA is busted for illegally spying on US Citizens and it’s the whistleblower that is wanted for treason,  while congress passes a public appeasement law that banned the NSA from doing things…. that they weren’t even doing. 

Our Congress and SCOTUS are blatantly partisan and both recent US Presidential candidates openly talked of enacting change whether Congress approves it or not (the whole phone and a pen idea (via EO and this is both the Republican & Democrat parties)

So at this point….   I am not sure I understand the limits of my government, and that is a bit worrying…

I wonder… are we just old?

After a recent back and forth with a friend about whether identity-politics should be included as a consideration when trying to create an apolitical work place, whether it was even possible to exclude it, or whether any issues stemming from issues due to identity-politics in the workplace would be covered via other policies,  I was left with a bit of a trailing question…

I wonder… are we just old men lamenting the changing world?  From my perspective, the upcoming generation often thinks in siloed thought bubbles that are routinely focused on choosing between an already defined pair of binary choices.  They are also are able to entertain and invest in multiple conflicting beliefs by not maintaining a holistic view of how differing topics interact and contradict.  The idea of a complex issue being settled with a Yes/No choice is a very acceptable way for them to interact with the world.

Perhaps the real World War III was raged in western education systems for the last 70 years… and the real loser was reason and logic.  Surely the diminished capacity for critical thought and high expectations of individual entitlement will have a greater impact on what type world organizations (types of governments) we end up with in 20+ years. More so than any war in history.

A mere 300 years ago there was no concept of “universal human rights” and today we speak of “a right to a healthcare service” and government welfare programs provide cell phones.

So while the world is changing and while we may think it is not for the better… perhaps the idea that is was ever “for the better” is an illusion itself.  A pre-maturity expression of hope,  and it is simply an illusion that fades with age, experience, and cynicism.

Can we still do simple things?

It is a question worth asking and also one worth being honest about.   Too often the myriad of information at our fingertips allows us to construct a web of complexity around our ideas, resulting in us resting in a very satisfied position of inaction.

Surely we have the capacity to do simple things, but do we have the will or ability to exercise this with actual action?

Many generations before us have had a requirement of action foisted upon them, but we have not. We have not fought any wars that have required a national mobilization. We have not faced the impacts of an economic depression. In short, the current crop of Americans (and many other western nations) have had it so good for so long, we’ve lost sight of the fact that we didn’t earn this current level of ease which we enjoy.

Consider what simple changes you could make in your life, and then determine why you can’t. Perhaps we should eat better or exercise a bit more.  Perhaps we should challenge our level of investment in our job, Church activities, or a devotion to watching a particular TV show.  Which actions do you take that are purely a habitual action and which are still active choices you are making?

Could you succeed at the following for 7 days? 30 days?

  • Remove all dairy from your diet.
  • Read a book for 30 minutes everyday
  • Walk at least one mile everyday
  • Etc.

What simple things can you suceed in doing? … and why don’t you?

How to be Happy – A short summary of 10,000 years of advice

Really… it all comes down to two primary tenets.

  1.  Realize that other’s assessments of you are flawed in that it is run through their own paradigms and filter of life experiences. Only you are responsible for knowing who you are and you better be honest (authentic) about that, which ìs the hard part.
  1. Know that you cannot choose other’s behaviors, but only how you choose to react to them…
  • Often this just comes down to giving a “High-Quality No”
  • This is not about getting mad and stifling a reaction. That just builds up till you blow up……   It is about ripping out the weed of anger in your mind that leads to you getting mad and objectively realizing that you don’t need to be mad just because other people are acting poorly…
  • Check out James Allen’s book “As a man Thinketh” for a deep dive into understanding your thoughts, or you can read Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” or just view this TED talk on Stoicism for a short-attention-span version.

For extra credit, research the history of “Lorem Ipsum” and it’s link to a 45 BC philosophical work.

  • You may have seen the text of this as it is used often to approximate a Latin based language when proofing Print layouts and is included in many web and print templates as an example.
    • “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”
  • So many lessons from history are “Hidden in plain sight” and form a cultural foundation that remains nearly invisible