​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… 😉

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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

Common Place Hypocrisy 

The discussion around Climate Change science is a good example of a common place hypocrisy .

How many times have you read through some compelling information, complete with graphs and diagrams, set forth to convey and convince you of a particular complex bit of the argument, all while leaving you no clear communicated actionable position? As if the true goal was simply to “Win” the argument.   A Socratic exercise with the prize being a quiet acknowledgment of cleverness. And what is expressed in these sophist arguments other than a desire to pollute less and leave the world better than we found it? Why can the question not just be “Who thinks we should pollute less?”

As in all human endeavors the truth often revolves around those ideas or actions/inaction that we find value in. What value do we find in these overly complex discussions which we seem intent on repeating while deferring action until consensus is satisfactorily reached?

The answer lies in the question itself. Our ability to hold pedantic views on a myriad of topics allow us to pontificate and espouse beliefs in a way that assures no consensus can be reached, and therefor we never need to internalize any of these ideas into a codified conduct of behavior.  In summary, we can identify with great ideas and not change our behavior one bit.

An example of this duplicitous ability is that all of us want to save the polar bears, but none of us are willing to simply pledge to not buy convenience drinks in plastic bottles.

Would you hang clothes to dry instead of running the dryer?

Would you purposefully limit your showers to 5 minutes?

Would you pass on a trip to a foreign land and opt for a local destination?

As simple as these ideas are, the vast majority of us are unwilling to take such simple actions and yet we readily wave the flag of environmental stewardship on social media and elsewhere.   It is to have the conversation as …

  • “We need to do something!!” he said.
  • “YEA!!!” they replied.
  • “Let’s start now! ” he said.
  • … wait a sec..i didn’t know you actually meant ‘us’… or actually meant ‘right now…” they said. 😐😐😐

And that is an example of common place  hypocrisy.

Where else do you see this dynamic?

Giving freely, the Energy to Maintain

 

The truth is far simpler than we would like to admit. We create constructs in how we interact with the world to ensure that we (our ego, the thinking part) feels OK and is able to really do whatever the hell it wants. Vice, Victim-hood, expectations, justification, wrong action all require an attention to the future or the past.

We seem to expend a great amount of energy serving the needs of the ego (also a product of a focus on the past or the future) to continue to re-enforce itself, all while obscuring any true sense of self. A self without attachment to external ideas, things, property, vices, or virtues. Instead, we are rooted in a perceived reality thoroughly filtered by the ego. What is WORSE is that the more we heap on ourselves to create an identity, an armor against harm, a sense of worth or entitlement that comes from external to ourselves, the more we have to maintain it. We cannot have armor without having to polish it and care for it. We cannot feel entitled or justified in the wrong action without constant attention to maintaining that perception.

Just like every single piece of physical property you have, the habits of the ego will require some level of energy to maintain. From a quick note written on a discarded envelope to a bicycle, to a house, to a paper clip in the back of the desk drawer that hasn’t seen light in years, all of it will require some attention, some energy, and some focus at some time. It is the same for the ego….. everything that makes it up drains energy and focus from the present to sustain itself….. the ego lives by sucking away energy and awareness from the present.

Most of the “beliefs” and ideologies we have are there simply because “we get something of value out of it”.

Even in negative situations such as arguing and fighting, we are re-enforcing our sense of self. We fight over things we decide are important, but is most of the time really just a feeding of our ego which by its Temporary nature demands that we nurture it, care for it. The ego has to be cared for and told that it is “has worth”, and it can do so by draining energy and attention from others through conflict. Like a wood stove, the ego needs a steady supply of fuel.

Whether situations are negative or positive interactions, it doesn’t matter. It can all be used to drive our sense of self, sense of entitlement, and justifies our behavior. Indeed we often create situations solely to justify predicted or planned behavior. We are motivated to pursue that which we gain value out of, which is not always in line with the pursuing of pleasure and avoiding of pain. The Ego can find value in pain and suffering as easily as in Joy and Happiness.

But a value to whom? Only to our individual Ego.

Concepts of good and bad, positive and negative, right and wrong do not change this fact.

Even identifying with pious or altruistic endeavors, while certainly an alluring state for those wishing to improve themselves, are still only a state of being… subject to change without warning. It provides a sense of answers when there are none, a sense of hope or promise in the future, a defined value system with which to measure your action, but it is a personal construct, a fabricated and invented scale with which to measure, a “thing”; chosen and adopted because of what value it brings to the table for our mind to mull over.

The Ego fears the unknown. The Ego drives us to classify, categorize and run our experiences through an egoic filter to ensure that we gain value out of it, or abstain from it. We reject and accept ideologies not based on merit or truth, but based on preconceived ideas and current desires. We use our mind to fill in holes in thought and logic with mysticism, magic, and beliefs. That is not to say in any way that things like religion are a bad thing, but it is still just a “thing”. A “thing” that will require care and feeding, a “thing” that will be interpreted based on our egoic needs to feel like we are “DOING” something… about “this or that”, but still just a “thing” in that it exists externally and can not be independently verified as truth, but rather needs to be “believed” in, which is to say accepted in the absence of facts.

We construct and use these “Scales” or “measures” on which to place ourselves and gauge ourselves, but we are the creators, the fabricators of the scales. They are simply made up and if we don’t like the measure, it is our own doing, but we often blame and associate the blame to others and external things and become a victim, or justified, or etc….

Free from ego, past behavior can look like absolute madness …… much of it looks like nothing more than child-like tantrums over more complex topics.

A common Idiom is that we should “Bury the Hatchet”, we are more apt to simply bring in another truck load of dirt to cover them up. Hatchets can not be buried. They must be extracted and discarded… but only in the sense of yourself… there are no hatchets that belong to more than one person.

There is no such thing as a “shared experience” in this world with which two people can use to collectively remove these buried hatchets. The hatchets are buried in our own mind and fiercely defended by our ego. They are as much a part of who the ego is, than any other part. Perhaps even more so, but with the slightest understanding that the Ego is part of the mind, and therefore a tool and a reflection of our thoughts rather than your true self, will allow us to cast the ego aside like a winter jacket on a summer day.

 

“Economical Environmentalism” or “Buying my Ideology”

 

The overriding theme of advertising present in most “Going Green” advertising is to engineer a sense of emotion. While this is most often than not disguised behind a veil of “concern for the future” it is, in reality, the typical idea of doing something by doing nothing. Whether it is losing weight or finding happiness by taking a pill or saving the world for future generations by converting to solar power or taking two-minute showers it is just the age old marketing program set to different music. What is actually being sold is not the device, system, or product at all, but instead the emotional experience associated with it.

In truth though this type of advertising does prove to be a good example of what you must consider if you want to understand your impact on the environment though, and it requires no emotional attachment whatsoever.

Instead of worrying about your “carbon footprint”, or the impact of your conveniences on the status of human-caused “climate change”, there is a far easier measure you can use to determine how active you are in hastening the end of the world as we know it. Just look at the amount you waste. Start at the end of the chain and work backward. How much Stuff you throw away, how many trash bags a week, how much good food lands on the trash, how much water do you use a month, how much electricity, and even how much you use the restroom, are all immediate indicators of your impact on the world.

Reduce all of these by 10% to 20% and you’ll be doing more than all the Go-Green companies trying to sell you things made in China, shipped across the ocean, trucked across several states, stocked in your local store, bought, used for several months and then discarded in the trash which of course opens up some space in the garage for some other Stuff….. that you just need to have now.

Less in = Less out

 

 

 

 

 

‘Vice and Virtue’ or ‘It’s a biochemical thing, you just wouldn’t understand’

There is much truth in humor, but none of it seems to be usable. How many times I have heard a comic state something that strikes at the heart of a feeling only to tuck it back inside quickly. Perhaps it is simply too truthful or perhaps it is a statement reflecting something that is innately within and is therefore worrisome. Those dark thoughts are an ingrained behavior which we know we will not change.

Are there thoughts and behaviors which we cannot change? Are these thoughts and behaviors difficult to change because they have biological interactions as well? Certainly many of these behaviors are known as a vice, and certainly, the root of vice lives within the biological interactions of man with his surrounding world. There are no vices which are not manifested in the physical world.

In this perhaps is the lesson, that vice is the foundation of dark thoughts. If so, then good thoughts are the only thing that can bring the house of vice down, as it must certainly be shaken from its foundation.

Once again we see the battle that matters is between your soul (the true self), and your interaction with your mind (the often master-less servant). I believe I have seen these two entities before in cartoons and film. An angel and a devil perched on the shoulders arguing between vice and virtue.

May you choose virtue more than vice, as your history is the sum of this decision.

 

“Do we really Value That!!” or “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.