Friday, February 25, 2011

New Practice

I have a new practice that I hope will allow me to be courageous in all situations. Whenever I feel a fear that I can notice and name, I tell myself, "And I am going to die at some point." If I am unafraid of dying, I don't need to be afraid of anything else. Because, what's the worst that could happen, as a result of the thing that is causing me fear? I might die.

So the monologue might go something like this: "I am going to run out of money. And I am going to die at some point."
"I am going to run out of money because I don't spend enough time working. And I am going to die at some point."
"I don't spend enough time working because I am following my best understanding of what I ought to be doing at this moment."
 "There is a real possibility that I could face humiliation and public censure, due to legal troubles that arise due to not having enough money and not working hard enough to get it."
"And I am going to die at some point."

Either you can serve God or Mammon. There is only one person inside your head (if you are healthy), and only that person can decide what to do. You will be known by your fruits.

If I don't follow my own best judgment, I am lying to myself.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Every Writer is a Publisher

I have woken up to the fact that the internet changes everything, and that the people who want the change to be for good are going to win. All it takes to make that a self-fulfilling prediction is to believe it, and participate.

For example, now every writer can be a publisher, by blogging. The writer is responsible for writing something that gets a discussion started, by expressing his or her views. The publisher decides what views get published. In other words, the blogger has the ability to delete the comments of the people whose ideas he doesn't like. But this is not censorship, because the only place he can delete other people's comments, is on his own blog. A man's blog is his castle. It makes a blog an effective tool for expressing your own point of view. You can't be hounded or brow-beaten out of it. Rarely will a good blogger ever WANT to delete a comment by another writer, unless it is abusive, vulgar, or ad hominem. Responding effectively to honest critics is one of the best things that can ever happen.

You get the credit you deserve for well-thought-out ideas (and bad ideas), if you blog them. There was a big problem with the newsgroups of the past, and in any unmoderated discussion. Those using abusive tactics can put a stop to any discussion, by forcing it into responses to the abusive tactics. Those willing to use the same tactics, can silence any particular point of view by vigilantly attacking whenever it starts to be discussed. Thus you had the Godwin's Law which states, "If an internet thread goes on long enough someone will eventually bring up Hitler."

Whether one person's blog is fair to anyone else in the universe can easily be up for question. But that it is fair to the one who publishes it, is certain. So, you get your voice. And whoever doesn't like it, doesn't have to read it. But it is out there, and hopefully can be found by the people who are going to like it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Positive Developments in the Social World

Positive things will soon start happening world over, as they already have in some Arab and Muslim countries.

It is inevitable that, as information becomes more and more available, the conditions we live in will change. Ignorance (other than willful ignorance) will become less of an obstacle. Certainly, not everyone possesses the intellect to make use of the information sources that are now available. But those who are capable are no longer held back by limited availability of information. If you find a gadget you don't understand, you sit down at your computer and look up everything you could want to know about it. You can satisfy any scientific question (unless it is at the boundaries of expert knowledge) in seconds. Look up formulas, learn a new language, research a purchase, or a hobby or any subject whatsoever. This IS the whiz-bang world of our dreams, in terms of information access.

I don't know how the availability of instant information and mobile communication has exactly worked to bring about the recent examples of "people power". I suspect that scholars are busily writing good explanations of that as we speak. What I expect to see manifesting more and more in our society, are quiet victories of best practices. More people, more of the time, more rapidly, will see what policies and practices are most beneficial. Not in the big areas of conflict, like abortion, where our warped media have sensationalized the issues. But in ways that people live their day-to-day lives. Things like organic gardening, learning how to knit or make candles, healthy eating, avoidance of environmental toxins, minimization of waste. How to deal with your teenager's emotional problems. How best to support a friend who just revealed having a debilitating condition like diabetes or MS. The easiest was to prepare any food.

I think we will begin to have some trust in each other again. This is why I am writing a blog - so that people can read my collected writings, and come to feel that they know who I am as a person. I may not actually need to have anyone read this until the moment I am trying to get a job, or make an economic trade. My writing might be quite boring to almost everyone. But at a certain moment, someone will be very interested in what and how I think. If I can write what I think and not be ashamed to have it on public display, then it becomes a living resume. The fact that it has been published over time gives it credibility. (I'm not saying that fraudulent web credentials are hard to get. But if the other person really wants to know how I operate, they have enough to read to get to know me. For most purposes they might have with me, they can then quickly determine, from personal experience with me, whether I have accurately represented myself.)

We WILL find ways to cooperate and help each other more. We will stop wasting human capabilities (those of the unemployable) because for-profit business can't figure out how to use them. People are going to stop overworking, and will find ways to trade what they want to do for what other people want to do. I know that sounds like wishful thinking, but everything humans have ever created, they have first wished for.

We wanted a light bulb, so someone figured out how to make one. We wanted to trade with money that wasn't as heavy and physically limited as gold, and we finally created monetary structures that allowed rapid and focused development of building and factories. The industry of finance then developed to exploit the capabilities of those monetary structures. As that industry matured, it destroyed many of the qualities of the monetary structure that allowed it to be used as a tool for advancing the interests of the commonwealth. Free markets, as Adam Smith described them, no longer exist in the developed world.

At this time, the structures of our economic system, which are created and supported by our system of laws and government, are under the control of and used largely to concentrate wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands. That this is insanity, is an understatement. US government at the highest levels has descended into farce. There is less and less of even a pretense at doing the "will of the people". The last act of that farce is the Republicans' attempt to push a radical, anti-abortion, anti-labor, anti-woman agenda. And Obama seems to have bowed to the inevitability of longterm, mass unemployment.

Getting back to wishful thinking of the creative kind (I hope), people could change their way of life pretty rapidly. If we can feel that we really know the people we are dealing with, we could create more connection, trust and caring between people. My anecdotal experience of what people are getting from social networking websites, especially FaceBook, is that the good greatly outweighs the bad.

I don't trust Facebook, though. I would like to see all important infrastructure of the internet be open source and/or somehow democratically regulated. That includes search engines, especially Google.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Asleep in the Air

According to the BBC, albatrosses can sleep while flying. This is an amazing thing - though I imagine that once explained, it seems normal and well-within the bounds of possibility.

To say "albatrosses can fly while sleeping" would sound much less credible, as it conjures up images of sleepy birds taking off, flying, and landing in their sleep. Sleep-flying - like some of us sleep-walk. No, they probably soar up 1000's of meters in the air, find something like the Jet Stream, and put their wings in idle. I wonder if, while they are asleep and flying, do they have dreams of flying? From watching cats and dogs sleep, I am utterly convinced that they dream about running, barking, growling and meowing, so I imagine albatrosses dream of flying, too.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Queer Love

Nobody gets to call Love "ugly".
You can tell me that I am unloving,
But you can't call my love "ugly."
God is Love. Love uses Love to make Love.
(that is what God made us of.)
We are made of Love.

Love is not demanding. It needs nothing but to know its object exists.
If you say I am demanding, it's not my Love you are talking about.

What part of God is not Love? God's anger? God is not Anger.
God's hatred of sin? God is not Hatred.
God's vengeance? God is not Vengeance.
These parts of God come and go. Love abides.

Or, is your God eternally angry? Then my God vanquished your god long ago.
Take down the mask of anger, Love.
Make it a sword, and end my bodily existence.
You will live to Love another day.
I will live to Love forever.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Letting go of Fearful Things

Maybe fear is just an artifact of childhood. A child needs to be pliable and controllable, and to pick up avoidance behaviors quickly. There is survival value for a child in having a strong sense of fear in reaction to unknown and threatening things.

Most people become much less fearful as they grow up. It seems clear to me that the strength of an individual's fear-instinct lessens over time, as long as the person is living in a healthy emotional environment.

I don't understand my parents' fearfulness as a normal, healthy or useful response to the actual circumstances of their lives. My mother had her doubts; but my father seems completely convinced that his strenuous effort to be as safe as possible at all times and in all ways, is effort well-placed. His understanding of Christianity is mainly that it is the safest course. God is a loving God because He gives us this opportunity to be safe. You have to take some risks in your investments, but with proper understanding of financial markets, these risks are actually the safest course.

I have to appreciate the value he actually puts on the life he is living. When my life was similar to his, I saw little worth protecting. I was miserable in the present time, so why would I want to ensure that this would continue into the future? I don't have insight into his thinking because I cannot follow it. But I see that when he laughs, it is often a carefree laugh. He taught me lessons I am sure he didn't intend to, for better or worse. He still does.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


"Unmanifest" refers to something that doesn't exist. It begs the question, "Are there multiple types of existence, or is existence an absolutely abstract category, admitting only one of two possible values?

"Non-existent" and "unmanifest" are useful adjectives, given the grammar of our language. A writer might say, "The General found supplies non-existent." That doesn't mean he actually found supplies (objects) that were non-existent. It does mean that he came to understand there were no supplies. "Non-existent supplies" is a formulation that describes a situation. "Non-existent" isn't meant to describe "supplies" (unless the intent is humor.)

"Unmanifest" can be used to describe qualities that are absent. "The General's courage is as of yet unmanifest." Courage is a quality that a person may, or may not, manifest. Here "unmanifest courage" describes an evaluation of the General, but "unmanifest" is not really an adjective describing his "courage". "Manifest" and "Unmanifest" describe things that don't have physical existence, or the nature of whose physicality is ephemeral (eg. a smile or a thought).

A thought is a particularly good example of physical and non-physical reality interacting. We sometimes consider a thought as an abstract reality, that doesn't require a living person to be thinking. Thoughts can reside in books, grammatically, at least. And since thoughts can be expressed in so many various ways, it seems that they are not dependent on any particular physical objects. And yet our own, current thoughts have quite a tangible reality to us. If it is not actually our thought that is tangible to us, then at least the sensory experience that gives rise to it is. But I feel that I experience my thoughts as much as I experience light, sound, heat or cold. So is a thought an abstract or a tangible thing? Or both? Is my thought an expression (or manifestation) of an abstract thought? I want to say yes to the latter, but it leads me to the idea that something can be unmanifest, and yet exist.

Existence has a strong implication of physical reality in my thinking. I don't want to BE a thing that exists only in logic or imagination. I want to BE a physical body. Existence, other than physical existence, is fine for prime numbers between 1 and 10, but I don't find it appealing. To much like not being alive, which is too much like being dead. So, I want for "existence" to really mean "physical existence". I don't want to be unmanifest, because is seems too much like not being around at all.

But if you have a strict definition of existence - that it can only on or off, true or false - then an individual person's existence is on shaky ground. The working definitions we use to define ourselves fail at the boundaries. Are you your will? Your sensory experience? Your body? Some combination of these?

Sort of.

The thing most present and tangible in your existence is also the thing least definable. And the thing you cannot ever experience as an object, is also the experience itself. It is only an abstract idea, and yet it is all you have ever known. I still don't feel like I have myself figured out.