Saturday, April 30, 2005

More humor analyzed to death

The sad thing about romantic love is not that it sometimes ends but that it sometimes lasts long enough for the lovers to get married.

This is a joke? Who is the butt of this joke? Who played this joke on whom? People will always divide themselves into those who find a given joke funny and those who do not. In the case of this joke, would that divide indicate a deficient sense of humor or just that some of our rules are broken?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Giving candy to a baby

I avoid naming names for the most part. That would be a way to wrap a useful insight in a package that would become dated and could be dismissed as personal. But for some readers, abstractions do not have the sharpened edge required to take the head off of a widespread folly whose time seems to have come. Hate mongering plagues every age but it takes a new name in each age. In any era, hate mongering is such a cheap accomplishment...

It is even easier to give candy to a baby than to take candy from a baby and just as harmful to the baby.

It was once unfashionable and low class to peddle hatreds. Hatred and action based on hatred got sort of a bad name from mr. hitler and mr. mccarthy to name just two of a crowded genre. For a long time after the programs of these two enterprising politicians were repudiated, it was noted that they were able to put over some very harmful lies on an uncritical population and leverage fear as a way to prompt the actions that those populations later saw as shameful and unwarranted harm. Why then has the disgrace of David Duke given way to the embrace of Michael Savage, Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh? Every time I read something these people say, the crude and undisguised hatred sears me. Every time I try to consider what their message and appeal might be, I conclude a bit more firmly that speaker and audience alike are tiny-hearted folk in great unspoken dread of losing something. What have they got to lose? They had freedoms but they are positively throwing those overboard in panic. What else have they got to lose? Belonging? To what group could you belong such that exclusion and persecution of or preemptive attack upon other groups would actually make the world a safer place or even improve your own well being in the long run? A bad conscience? Ah ha! who doesn't want to be told that his or her selfishness is natural and called for? That candy is poisoned.

The only real exit from a feeling of powerlessness is to look straight at the fear of which it is made.

Hatred and retaliation may look like exits since they face away from fear but you cannot move beyond them no matter how fast you run toward them. This is not leaving the fear but just turning your back on it so you can lose the awareness of it. "Here, drink the Koolade. Its sweet."

Note: the connections implied here would strike some as far fetched. Where after all, is the smoking gun that links the self congratulatory bashing of "liberals" and foreigners by the named cheerleaders to the excesses of the KKK or blood spilled by the "coalition" forces or the push to define freedom of speech as freedom to read the Bible? There never is a smoking gun because that would wake people up, the way the National Guard woke us up at Kent State. The process of turning a sickened zeitgeist into a groundswell of anger and hatred involves NOT shaking people up while assuaging any unease that might arise over little changes of policies and officials that ratchet towards the elimination or marginalization of the parties targeted by the escalating drumbeat of hatred. If reading books or blogs doesn't do it for you, spend a day at the Holocaust Museum in Washington and see how gradual the process is. Considering how often history has featured a little hatred parlayed into an orgy of horror , one does not need a conspiracy theory to sense that "here we go again": simple weaknesses of the human animal suffice to account for "strong trends and weak orchestration" leading eventually to "weak resistance to entrenched control".
Note: yes, I suspect that to some degree, I can't write this and be free of fear and hatred myself. This kind of self awareness requires constant effort. I don't think we need to get rid of anybody or even throw them in jail, just wake them up, remind them of their own humanity. I am trying to look at what I fear.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Just look! its right there on your forehead

Do not seek yourself in this life, seek others. You can not see
yourself. You will find bits of yourself in this friend and that
lover and put the pieces all together. Be assured: you ARE complete
already. The purpose of the quest is not to acquire yourself but to
see yourself.

Valuing work

They work in vain who say " if only I get this promotion", "when I finish this project, I'm going to start doing what I really enjoy" etc. Such people are judging their own life through someone elses eyes. There is less difference between doing the right job and doing the job right than most people would expect.

The job to consider quiting is the one you aren't allowed to do as well or carefully as you know how.

When goals are distant from the effort of the moment and couched in terms of "why to do this", it is as if you are in a row boat crossing the ocean. When goals are moment by moment and couched in terms of "what to do" , you are still rowing but now move an ocean liner through a ditch. When goals are in terms of "do the best you can", it doesn't matter where the finish line is as present effort becomes the goal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A world of strangers

Since much of what we perceive about another person is their reaction to our behavior, we will never truly know that other person until we have unhidden as much of our authentic self as we can put forth.


You will seldom overestimate your capacity to hurt another person's feelings...there is judgement in all but the most careful perceiving.

We are not likely to succeed if we start a dialog or a relationship by changing how another goes about perceiving us. The prosperous work is all internal. And that work is only a bit more likely. So, until we can see through hurt or somehow be above it, we hide. This reticence is nearly universal though it does not seem beneficial. The exception of course is "being in love" and the tendency of many cultures to celebrate that state in song and ceremony testifies to how deep and widespread is the wish not to be a stranger.

Monday, April 25, 2005

And detatchment is the father

Even the smartest people who approach the process of invention with the thought "I am going to be famous" fare no better than average. Just live. You will have problems. Answers will come by themselves. Ideas should only be your friends...they make jealous lovers.

It is ok to like your ideas but if you marry one, the muse, seeing that you are content, will send you no more.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Word puzzle

Change one letter [hint, its a vowel] in this politcally charged word and you get a second word that is not exactly the opposite in meanng of the first but is the favorite means by which a plutocracy suppresses that first word.

[select text between brackets to see answer:
Sedition can be snuffed out in a society that is looking first for sedation.

More wordplay: The initial substring common to the two words is also common to the name of one of the oldest religious festivals designed to teach that we cannot be calm and sleepy if there is privation anywhere.

Yes, I was at a Seder yesterday. And in the text we read was a passage that is found in many Passover Haggadot:
We must cast out the plagues that threaten everyone everywhere they are found:
  • The making of war,
  • The teaching of violence,
  • Despoilation of the earth,
  • Perversion of justice and government,
  • Fomenting of Vice and Crime,
  • Neglect of human needs,
  • Oppression of nations and peoples,
  • Curruption of Culture,
  • Subjugation of Science, learning and human discourse,
  • The erosion of freedoms.

Bleeding heart liberal sentiments? Yeah, sure, just as long as you don't happen to be looking down the barrel of one of those plagues. I stupidly said "That looks a lot like the effect if not the stated policy of the Bush admininstration". I got a few scowls and a lot of blank stares. Some of those plagues are more manifest and brazen, others just side effects of parochial myopia but I can cite at least a bit of news or an offended party for each charge. Do people not want to be awakened? After the meal, a few individuals did speak to me with some passion about one or two of these areas where the new Pharoh's boot steps on their particular toes. If I ran the seder, I would read from Eli Weisel: "Is silence the answer? It never was."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Competition

There must be some circles, perhaps academic, in which this problem has been long studied and either a consensus or a clear demarcation of opposed views awaits my reading. But I don't hear enough about it in media or blogosphere so here goes.

Compete! It is the one-word bible that pervasively informs so many aspects of life in or play.

This is odd. Most of our conventional bibles, so far as I know, are mostly silent about us beating the competition and leave it to the deity to do that. I do know those bibles speak louder when the say "Cooperate". It is easier to enlist Darwin in this debate than any of the prophets but instead he is drafted and abused by those who have grown up with the lesson that you must get the other guy before he gets you. Even people who are uncomfortable with evolution like to think they are the "fittest". But they misunderstand that word to mean they are more dangerous and self reliant than others.

Only if you are completely blind to the many ways in which all persons and all life on earth are connected and interdependent, do you see the need to outrun out punch or outsmart the other guy as a, no, as THE self evident good.

If you note even some of the connections [ most of us are selectively blind to at least some and neither science nor art have yet found them all] then you begin to see that cooperation is also a sensible thing to have evolved in nature and to be confirmed by being repeatedly discovered in the insights about "brotherhood" and "thy neighbor as thyself" and "the stranger within your gates" and "all sentient beings" that human spiritual leaders have set down for us. Being the first post-evolutionary species, i.e. the first in which cultural [non genetic] behaviors with all their freedom from logic, are as important as any instinct or reflex, we have to be so very careful to see that the same common sense and mathematical balancing of interests that nature must obey is obeyed in our ethics and codes of behavior.

If, on both a personal and cultural level, the need for cooperation were accorded the same heartfelt allegiance the need for competition gets, would family income still be the largest determinant of whether children got all the practical education they could use and got it before it was too late to be absorbed? Would treating employment as a fixed pie, from which one should cut the largest possible slice, still be the de facto operating principle of job markets? Would we let the untrained just rot? Ignoring the pro and con of his assessment of the impact of technology, if you follow what Thomas Friedman sees at the sorry state of US competitiveness you might be prepared to consider that ultimately competitiveness is 90% cooperating and 10% competing.

"But its a dog-eat-dog world" you say? Who made it so? Chicken and egg questions only point to a cycle that needs breaking. Any culture focused on consumption dwells on eating the fruits of education. Help all to a good education or you are forgetting to plant the seeds and cultivate. Break the cycle or the harvests will peter out.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Proxy fights, inaction at a distance

Riled up, hot and bothered, grieved and pissed at a world steered by self serving fools who claim "moral" objectivity but would pass for idiots if they had to defend their programs the way one defends a PhD thesis.

Fuming....but doing what?

Complaining is not the only coin the liberals have to spend in the never ending struggle for sanity and justice. My admiration goes naturally to those who, at some cost or risk, get in the cop's faces with the anti-war placard or climb a tree to prevent the chainsaws taking from us what only millenia could restore. But how are their efforts reported to the world at large? If we don't buy us a radio network, if we don't find some truth that is just as seductive as the pitches for selfishness and the appeals to fear, who do we stir but ourselves?

To the extent that anybody is listening amid the din, complaining is not utter fecklessness. Other than these exhortations and a few hundred dollars to environmental activist organizations, I am mostly just talking the talk. Consider the strange gulf between the self evident fairness of the causes we espouse and the greater efficacy of political fundraising and vote herding on the part of the interests oppossed to tolerance and fairness. I don't really have to be smart enough to psychoanalyze or financially deconstruct the momentary ascendance of the oppressive, the intolerant, the chickens of Hooterville who don't know how much Colonel Sanders spends to keep them focused on the wrong issues. I just have to trust myself and my causes enough to do something.

So? What are my excuses? On what little bannana peel do I slip off the path thinking "Is it that important?, is it worth the trouble? Isn't taking care of this?"

There are no proxies...its just me.

Perhaps because I fear discovering how dull my life really is, I suffer in some instances an inability to distinguish between a loss of nerve and a lost of interest.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pardon my parochial insensitivity!

Bumper stickers don't fit on my bike. This one wouldn't even fit on a car. So until I get the hang of writing bumper stickers, I'll just keep posting:

I am so happy for you that YOU can afford the gas for that SUV, but the earth can't afford it....or do you live somewhere else?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Gelding the Lilly

Sometimes I just feel wonderful. The sun shines on a yard full of flowers and a cool breeze caresses me. Or when I camp in the desert and the sun rises in majestic measured pace repainting every corner of the uncaring vastness with a progression of warming hues...for me alone if you count the audiance. Or I get off the tour bus and walk ant-like for miles along the rim of the Grand Canyon where it stretches the horizon and sparkles under crystal skies and its billion years flood in through my eyes. Or somewhere north of Limekiln on the Cabrillo, I find an isolated beach at the bottom of a precarious climb and sit on the sand with a bit of wine and cheese while surf from some storm I never heard of plangently drums eternity against the cliffs and then the golden disk slips away taking its blue with it, and finally pink and purple embers fade and all that was clear becomes vague shadows. Or, in a flash of recollection, the decades I have focused on this woman, whose hips still call to me, parade from improbable meeting, turn by turn to this moment.

Do I need to know where awe comes from? According to the tour bus guide some dozens of persons per year get off that same bus and "fall" 500 feet down the face of that rim I trod. A few wait for dusk at the beach so they can, without any intention of learning how to swim, wade out into the breakers. What discomfort drives some away from the conclusion that all and any of our reactions to the world well up from within our own minds? We can fool ourselves about our responsibility for our own lives only so long. And while we are fooling ourselves, we are no better off, only out of touch. Gilding the lilly of our good feelings and tarring our bad ones doesn't control either but only puts greater insight out of reach.

If two look on the same scene and one finds awe but the other, terror
Why say the one is a gift from god but the other's a personal error?
What counsels us that we must "know" before we even "see".
Explanation is comfort but acceptance is cure.
All I know about a person who demands to be sure
Is that they never have been and never will be.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


"Knowing" something is as much a feeling as a fact.

How else to account for the certainty of a biggot or the doubts of a saint? This is not to scold but to warn. Its just our wiring: the mind, like a TV, tunes many channels but has only one screen. The trick is to not loose track of which channel you are watching.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Childhood ends...

...when promises and movies presented in black and white are no longer recalled in color.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Yet another burden of being...learn to like it!

It is an inescapable paradox of verbal social animals that one who offers instruction in telling right from wrong appears to place himself above others yet one who neither condemns wrong nor praises right places others below himself.

I think that sentiment both describes and excuses the business I fancy I am about, so it goes on the masthead. And it could be that the silent, who's acquiescence lends strength to those in error, may think of themselves more as being outside of society than of being above the fray but it is still an illusion and serves them ill.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Fragging Rights

Moral training serves the society that institutes it by rendering the individual amenable to control by others when that would benefit the society and averse to control by others when that would work to the society's detriment.

Now here's a little test: If you agree with that assessment but think it describes a dark side of the social contract, you might be a progressive. If you agree but think it describes an essential and benign feature of the social contract, you might be a conservative.
That's not all there is to moral training but in respect of what orders and suggestions we will take and which we will ignore, that's pretty much the program.

Culturally homogeneous societies pull this off...even at a cost to personal freedom of conscience and expression that is seen as oppression elsewhere. Cultural pluralism requires tolerance of a containing, simplified super-culture. When that tolerance is dispensed with, when one of the societies within the larger society holds that its views cannot be contradicted by the actions of any element of the larger society, fragmentation ensues. The essence of the contract of pluralistic societies is tolerance, a agreement that you will just put up with people who don't share all your beliefs as long as they don't hurt you and leave you alone to put your values into practice within your own group. The arrogance to abrogate that tacit treaty of tolerance is expensive: no appeal to common sense or fairness is left with any force should a group find its beliefs under censure following an attempt to impress its moral training on the broader society.
It is arrogance, it is not a right.

Friday, April 15, 2005


put it this way

When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.

I am not all that wild about trucks and tractors but I can't improve on the insight.

This is from Steven Mitchell's somewhat modernized translation of 2300 year old words,
the Tao te Ching of Lao-Tzu.

Sorry, No post today

I am taking a break to day but have something better for you to think about than my usual trash anyway:

This is a snippet of the guidelines for writing essays/credos that could be read over the air as part of NPR's planned "This I Believe" series. It strikes me as a great opportunity for wider public exposure of "value" laden messages than is available to a bunch of liberal bloggers blogging to each other. There are a ton of good writers on this blogroll and a thousand thoughtful things you could say that might change somebody's mind...go for it!

Well, maybe the folks who listen to Rush won't be tuned in but we are after the swing vote not the heartless heartland of CAN reach people that matter!

From the NPR web page:

It may help you in formulating your credo if we tell you also what we do not want. We do not want a sermon, religious or lay; we do not want editorializing or sectarianism or 'finger-pointing.' We do not even want your views on the American way of life, or democracy or free enterprise. These are important but for another occasion. We want to know what you live by. And we want it terms of 'I,' not the editorial 'We.'

Although this program is designed to express beliefs, it is not a religious program and is not concerned with any religious form whatever. Most of our guests express belief in a Supreme Being, and set forth the importance to them of that belief. However, that is your decision, since it is your belief which we solicit.

But we do ask you to confine yourself to affirmatives: This means refraining from saying what you do not believe. Your beliefs may well have grown in clarity to you by a process of elimination and rejection, but for our part, we must avoid negative statements lest we become a medium for the criticism of beliefs, which is the very opposite of our purpose.

We are sure the statement we ask from you can have wide and lasting influence. Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent. Your belief, simply and sincerely spoken, is sure to stimulate and help those who hear it. We are confident it will enrich them. May we have your contribution?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Justice is blind in principal, injustice is blind inherently

Any person possessed of a reasonably standard notion of moral behavior gets the feeling that one just can't afford to be wrong about a hatred they bear. If there is fear in one's mind, it is easy to see hate in the mind of those feared and confounding facts that would temper fear are then most unwelcome.

Oversimplification of the opposition is hatred's favorite ploy even to the point of making oppostion where none exists.

This is why so many, both leaders and followers, are so willing to simply not hear basic facts and not see simple evidence about feared groups of "others".

Beware: in accepting this accounting of strife, we must then accept an obligation to guard against hatred of haters and biggotry against biggots. Even with these, we must engage in ordinary conversation, not words hurled over ramparts. This obligation is its own benefit!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Turning the Bill of Rights into a Bill of Goods

Attempts to fuse church and state do not ennoble government, they sully religion.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


You don't come from nowhere. Your habits, your preferences, your decisions all reflect a continuity with some personal and cultural past througout which learning and collection of experience are summed up in the present and potential you. You will not succeed in correcting a bad habit by some miraculous discontinuity or by some divorce of self from past where you say " I am not that person". You are always you, moving from this moment into the next. The will to forgive what has been done lifts the veil of judgement so that you can come near enough to understand what was done. Understanding is the ground in which change grows, forgiveness the seed and fertilizer.

The first generation to get it right will begin by being the first generation to forgive all those that got it wrong.

Monday, April 11, 2005


I just noticed another way to put a number to the state of awareness of dwindling petroleum. If you googled "peak oil" on the first of the month over the last two years, I bet it went from a handful of scientific and environmental activist websites to where it stands today: 516000 matching webpages!. Of course, "awareness" is a rather neutral term. That number includes pages devoted to dubunking the "myth" and some pages are promoting shakey schemes in stock and commodity trading to "cash in on the comming shortages". The latter seems proof conclusive that we are a sick society...the "maximum PERSONAL wealth" meme is so blind to its consequences that it is happy to mine the tailings and dung heaps it has already made of the WORLD'S resources. It has been often argued that booming economies are win-win engines that make wealth out of nothing but cleverness and a bit of hard work. If you charged a cost of materials to those booming economies that would replace the natural resources which were used up in the process of "creating" all that wealth, I suspect we would have something close to a zero sum game. Faced as we now are with either radical reduction in consumed resources or finding ways to restore and replace the oil, the farm land, the clean air and the clean water frittered away throughout the history of a less populous world, the existing models for distribution of resources as a basis for wealth are going to invert into lose-lose, dog-eat-dog. And looky where the lead dogs are: the profiteers hawking their scheme for you to get rich while your neighbor shivers.

Wealth is an illusion, transient and a corruption if it can only be gained from the poverty of other people or future generations.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

When congregating... like a room full of mirrors we are: none of us the source of light and yet we shine when we seek the light. None of us seeing ourselves until we look into other's faces. And, could we but turn as one, capable of gathering the scattered warmth of the universe into a white hot focus.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The King is in his keep

How could you build a prison so strong the prisoner would never escape? Let the prisoner build it himself and tell him it is to be his castle. He won't even want to escape.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Does it help to read blogs?

Sorry, that is a trick question. Don't take candy, political advice or a ride on the lap from a man who asks questions that way.

The trick? Did you immediately think "help what? help whom?" or did you assume some context and complete the question. You might have assumed "help make the world a better place" or you might have assumed "help ease my pain". Neither tacit completion is unlikely given where you are reading this and the kind of persons who most often read things here. These two certainly exhibit a difference of emphasis in self vs community. Other responses and no response are all possible too. The point I am driving at is that if the only context is a hint that help is needed, i.e. that there is a problem but no further specifics, what is THE PROBLEM THAT BUBBLES UP from the recesses of your mind? Why is THAT the problem lurking beneath the surface of consciousness?

No problem will damage you so much as the problem you feel helpless to solve or avoid. The problem you've never heard of might seem a more dangerous prospect but that sort of problem does not have its ally, worry, in your camp. Be on guard for those propensities in your nature that are really in cahoots with your problems.

Do read and write the angry expose' , the demolishing analysis and the withering sarcasm. But do it for the sake of the community it builds and the truths it restores and not just to be shooting those words like so many arrows into an empty field.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

REWARD: Ambition wanted Alive

Praise the child's effort, more than her successes, lest she come to avoid anything that doesn't come easy.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


If a license were required for a person to discuss the fact that there are too damn many of us on this planet, the licensing test must include some demonstration that the person is fully aware that they are one of the excess humans burdening the life support systems.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Absolute Truth

Try to imagine this: Person A is talking to you about beliefs and is telling you they know person B, not present, who is in possession of the absolute truth. They do not say this mockingly but in dead earnest. And they are talking about another person, a normal flesh and blood human being. "That person really knows what made everything and whats right, whats wrong and why things are as they are and what each of us must do". And you ask person A "What about you? What do you believe? Can you share some of these truths you heard from person B?" And all you can really get out of person A is "I'm not so sure what I believe or I can't be sure its right"

The grating nonsequitor should give you the creeps.

Relax, you are never going to have this experience. We don't work that way. When somebody human posseses the absolute, devine and complete knowledge, that someone has to be YOU. If you become convinced that you are in the company of some other person so endowed then you too cease to have doubt and possess ultimate truth by proxy. But notice, the person with no doubt is still YOU. When you eventually discover there are other sects, there are people who have goofy fairy tales of supernatural elevation of THIER beliefs to dominence then you will go one of two ways. One is more or less "Oh! I get it! We all need to make up these stories. I wonder what's behind all that if we ALL do it?" The other is more or less to buy amunintion, line your basement with canned food and carefully test the purity of thought of those in whom you confide, sometimes appointing others the job of straightening out any starved mind who can be safely introduced to the real truth. For the simpler packagings of faith, relativism really is deadly dangerous company.

To feel that you have come to know the ABSOLUTE and sole set of truths upon which the world is founded amounts to worshiping yourself.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Its all heresy anway.

I catch myself talking out of both sides of my mouth, out of my past and my nostalgia, out of my fright, out my bruisings at the hands of persons who showed much less learning than me yet never doubted their own rectitude gave them authority. I was doomed, born for heresy and confusion because once I took history in the 8th grade and the teacher laid out Greek mythology it was like she was teaching history but I was learning comparative religion and at a very impressionable age. So rather than struggle with the unlikeliness of the sacred texts I was offered on Sunday I just put it in a pigeon hole next to the other unlikely stories. It was decades before I came to value sacred texts again. They do teach. Each generation has a chance to hand down reverence, hand it down by example far more than wordy exhortaions or even pleas for belief. I watch the way the same words get interpreted for the needs of each age, a wheel revolving, from corruption to beneficial doctrine to irrelevance. But if the reverence stays in the community, the hub turns smoothly at the center, and both community and doctrine will be renewed. I am not seeing it as belief in the text then but in belief itself and in the processes of worshipful deliberation. I am in awe only of things that work. Only while they work, only where they work.

Revere the sacred text not for its stories but for the reverent community it keeps. Where ever it came from, it is an unfinished canvas to be painted the color of the life that community lives.

Its a love-hate relationship I guess but neither of those is disengagement.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Model railroading, part 2

Economics, as it is tought these days, attempts to model the behavior of consumers, their confidence, their misery etc, in its construction of the larger models of whole economies. You can get a Nobel prize if you can figure how how it all works. The lesson for those not pursuing a PhD in the dismal science is that all those smart folks just accept that the whole only functions because its tiniest parts function, the macro can only arise from the micro.

But long before those insights were cast in equations, we all had an economics lesson in a proverbial form: "Bad money drives out good". What we need to see is that little truism held because a wider one is with few exceptions:

Selfish behaviour drives out altruism and casts harsh light on our inherently total mutuality so that its negative side is seen and its positve obliterated in shadow.

You can probably think of an example you have seen: the most selfish examples that people get away with set the standard. Ken Lay or Bernie Ebbers surely didn't think they were inventing fraud but rather just doing a better job of it than any number of predecesors who will never see jails or judges. So, this is the force that sets our individual models of how the world works and how we shall survive onto rails, destined for some genteel form of "dog eat dog". Don't you wonder at the relief you feel, the way you are so heartened by the rare example of selflessness that your eyes moisten and for a moment you have no misgivings for our species? We are too adaptable by nature: we are capable of believing anything from "I am just one more wolf like all ther others" to "We're all in this together and I hurt noone without hurting myself". Which model we hold depends on experience more than on teachings. And the commonly held model gives rise to the most common experience.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Model railroading.

Everyone has a model of the world they may not even know they are carrying around in the back of their head. Most of us think we get around pretty well with our model. I cannot fault anyone for operating this way as the absence of a model yields a kind of paralysis... and yet... I cannot view history or the news and still think people are aware of how much they prefer fitting the evidence of their daily experiences into that model over just seeing what happened and leaving model making for later. Look closely: many people you know, every day, demonstrate that they would rather feel justified than be healthy, that they would even prefer to bask in the deep sensation that they are right than to live. In some simple, primative world where assumptions usually held up, reliance on stereotype stood in well enough for policy and was safe enough to use in lieu of researched deliberation. And boy, did it ever save time, a virtue such "thinking" still enjoys. But here we are piling world on world, each group highballing its train to a station called the future. Who thinks there is more than one future? What happens when all the trains headed full tilt for the same spot finally meet? The only way we will survive is if there is only one train and we are all on it. That model train is the one that events are trying desperately to teach us.

The opinion truly worth holding, the one that will promote equally your wellfare and that of others, welcomes all tests and will not require the armor of willful ignorance and selective perception.

To tackle this train wreck on the upstream or input side, consider this:

As unconscious as our true educations have been, we can generally be characterized as having acquired our models of reality through a series of accidents, some of them staged by our parents or our teachers. How on earth can we expect not to then go on and conduct a life full of accidents?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Where was McLuhan when the lights went out?

Wit is one of those traits about which it is extremely hard to be unselfconscious. But whereas having large breasts is the both the medium and the message "your babies would thrive", wit is an endowment that goes completely to waste in a person who thinks their wit is the goods. Its not. It is only the medium. And its yardstick, regardless of self satisfaction or the chuckles of others is just this: did the message escape anyone? Did the point go home like a dagger? Clever words that change no minds are suspect, as if no truth had been told.

Just because you can say it well does not mean you should not watch what you say.