The First Big Challenge of Life, Mastering Love

A friend of mine saw a man lying on the cold sidewalk in Seattle, without even a blanket. She gave him one, bought two mocha’s and muffins and sat with him for a few minutes, eating and talking. She wondered about all the people who were ignoring him. She hoped it didn’t mean too much.

Cognitive dissonance hurts

We often naturally invent that people deserve their circumstances. It’s one of many ways we avoid cognitive dissonance. Life is unfair. We don’t like thinking things are wrong, God’s wrong. We don’t like thinking “I should do something” outside of our planned budget and schedule- that feels wrong, too. We don’t like feeling guilt.

Empathy hurts

And there are so many millions (even billions!) of people hurting. We can’t empathize with them all, we think. We have to ignore almost all of them, most of the time. And in that effort to ignore, often we’re ignoring the pain as we walk down the street and pass someone lying down.

Kindness and connection

At times, almost all of us do acts of kindness. Our empathy gets the better of our inner fearful curmudgeon.

Some people seem to have an easier time connecting with love. Many of them have worked hard to tame the fears, insecurities and selfishness that separate us from love. Some of them simply keep putting in the effort.

The first challenge of life- reaching love

Perhaps that’s most of the work of the first part of life- mastering reaching out to love. Most of our parents try to teach us this, as do most religions and philosophies. But few parents have truly mastered the lessons. They teach as best they can.

I like to think I’ve mastered it. But it’s not true. I hope by now, nearing age 60, I’ve developed at least some mastery. Being committed to truth, I must admit that I, too, am merely a work in progress.

What’s next? Making a difference

Some people have told me they’re proud of me for my current efforts. It took a fair amount of courage to give up my job and work on PeopleCount full time. At the same time, I had to quell the fears of my wife and kids. Lots of people told me not to, to play it safe. Even my parents said that. But love won out.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. I did manage to put together a team for a short while. Then circumstances took away a key person. I didn’t quite have the skills to compensate. So I’m still trying. I’m trying to finish building the software, write the blog, connect with people and find funding. Probably I’m still making the same mistake- tackling too much at once…

If you’d like to make a difference, please do.

Life is Illusions

Illusions. A Facebook page called Birds Gallery has a video of a huge flock of birds creating illusions in the sky.

There’s no flock, just illusions

There’s really no “flock.” That’s just a pattern we name and an illusion we think we see. Really, there are just individual birds flying next to each other. Each bird knows nothing about the overall pattern, yet the pattern forms. Is God willing the “flock” into existence? Are we seeing something that doesn’t really exist? Things exist- but is there “a flock”?

How many are there in this pattern? Ten thousand birds, a hundred thousand, a million?

A huge flock of birds creates a shape

Imagine 40 trillion things dancing and moving together

Imagine 40 trillion living things dancing and moving together, being born, growing, doing the work they’re shaped to do, and then dying and being replaced. Constantly, and over decades. The flock is an illusion, a cloud-like mass that seems to move and change shape. What kind of illusion could 40 trillion cells create?

There are about 40 trillion living cells in the human body. Their dance creates each us.

In your mind, you’re a person, a thing. But that’s just an idea. You’re the result of trillions of cells simply doing what they’re shaped to do. 

And those cells? Each one is an illusion in itself, the dance of trillions of molecules which are also just doing what they’re shaped to do.

In the right conditions, complexity emerges

In the blackness of space, there’s too little matter and energy for very interesting things to arise. In the heart of a sun, there is too much energy and matter. Yes, it creates a sun, a huge energy source in space. But there seems to be too much energy inside it for stable patterns to form.

Somewhere in between, there’s enough matter to be interesting and about the right amount of energy that patterns of things form and break apart. There’s flux, but also relative stability. The most stable patterns persist. And when there are enough interactions and yet enough stability, replicating patterns appear. And when patterns replicate, their numbers grow. When there are enough of these replicating patterns, they interact with each other and can form new patterns of patterns.

With the right range of conditions, complexity increases. Animals emerge. Humans emerge. Even consciousness.

Politics and accountability

What does this have to do with politics and accountability? Not too much.

Both are patterns we see, illusions. Is government wonderful cooperation that creates civilization? Or a horrible font of oppression and theft? Neither. It’s an illusion that we create.

We really do have the power to design and create the government of our dreams. If we do it together. And it’ll require at least a few people and some backing. Join me.

What’s in a Name? Redskins and Primitive Sports

In a small forum I read, the conversation about the name “Redskins” arose again.

What’s in a name? Pride?

I find it strange how attached people are to names. As if there’s really any meaning in them. If you’re offended by it, just say so, so people will either opt to appear offensive or change.

I try neither to be ashamed, nor proud of my ancestry/lineage/race/religion. Isn’t pride a sin? Supposedly they’re over-represented in fields of accomplishment. What does that have to do with me?

How many find it offensive?

One listed some stats (this, this and this. Just FYI– I didn’t look at them…) Apparently they attest that about 90% or more of native Americans are not offended by the term “redskins”. Does that mean the term offends 10%? This wikipedia page says about 1.7% of Americans identify as Native Americans, about 5.2 million people. Are we okay with offending 520,000 of them?

One person said that in some predominantly Native American high schools, students “wear the name with pride”? Is that pride in the school, pride in their community, pride in their tribe, pride in being Native American?

Sports are primitive

Let’s face it, sports are primitive. They’re great in many ways, but they’re all about distraction, entertainment, and exercising our emotions, including our violent sides.Often they’re experientially rich- letting us explore lots of emotions connected to our physical sides. They create a drama for us to get wrapped up in. They’re even more shallow than TV, though, which at least gives us new looks at life. They’re fun for many. We should keep them.

Sports are primitive. And their team names are arbitrary, and appropriately primitive. Perhaps we should give them special license for primitive names.

Maybe we should vote on it

My personal opinion is that we should get rid of the name “Redskins” as it perpetuates stereotypes and the significance of race. But I don’t feel strongly about it. It only becomes important when enough people feel it’s important. Maybe native American descendants aren’t there yet. Or maybe they have moved past it, so caring about the name is beneath them.

How about we vote on this every 2 years? Maybe that would get more people out to the polls. And it would provide a tiny bit of accountability, so we can take responsibility for this part of our culture.

And play with it

It’d be great if there were a team called the Christians. And they played the Lions… Maybe we should move the names Democrats and Republicans to teams, too…

Forward and Backward Reasoning about the Future

Of the many types of interesting thinking, this article is about forward thinking and backward reasoning, about the future.

First of all, keep in mind that as humans, our understanding is limited. In particular, our view of the world is limited and biased. God might see all, but none of us do, even our leaders. In particular, many of our elected leaders were elected precisely because they see the world with limits similar to our own. While God has no fears, our leaders expressed fears and worries similar to our own.

Future forward reasoning

This begins with our understanding of the world of today, the world we live in. We look into the future and see changes we want. Then we take actions toward those changes.

A common example of this is solution-based-thinking. We look at a current problem, imagine a world without that problem, and design a solution, a way to achieve it.

Future backward reasoning

This isn’t just backward reasoning. In fact, that is a pretty common mistake, when used about the present. We want to assert “America is great” or “America is headed in the wrong direction.” So we think it and, given that view, find consistent reasoning. Future backward reasoning is different.

Imagine a future we desire. Imagine standing in that future, with all of its differences from the world today. Look back in time- how could we have gotten here? (Of course, there’s much more to being a futurist…)

This is what I did with PeopleCount. Imagine a future where politicians are accountable to people? Where are representatives truly represent us? What does it look like? How do we get there?

Future ass-backward reasoning

We figure the future will be mostly like it is today. We want something a bit different, but we fear a few things, and are cynical about improvements. We feel like we can’t commit to a particular future, but we’re willing to try hard to avoid the things we fear. So we imagine a future of the things we fear most and try to avoid them.

I did this with wealth. I wanted a more financially secure future. “More” means it was based on what I had today. So I was frugal and saved. I payed my bills on time. When my wife suggested expensive vacations and home improvements, I dragged my feet.

Future head-up-our-ass-backward thinking

We figure the future will be mostly like it is today. And we forget that, being human, we have a limited, biased view, one full of errors. In particular, we forget that our fears and worries are mostly due to our limited view.

I did some of this in the area of wealth, too. It was okay. It was a normal life. I kept busy avoiding expensive things I didn’t value. What I didn’t realize: I didn’t really value much about the life I had. I didn’t ask myself, “What would make life worth living?”

Notice your thinking

Think about: What’s going to happen next year for you? Will you have a job? What job? Will you be living with a partner, a friend, a spouse, a cell-mate? Who will that be?

What kind of thinking did you use to think about all that? Did you start with the future you wanted, or something mostly like today’s world? Were you concerned about avoiding certain dangers or failures?

Did you remember to take into consideration that your view of our current world is limited, biased, probably wrong?

Personal Quirks and Food for Thought

This has nothing to do with PeopleCount, just about food. I’m just writing. Though to add a keyword, I could say: There’s no accounting for taste…

My family is weird about food, starting with me. In general, food was plentiful and good when I was a kid.

Food Background – from nothing to desserts

My parents fled Nazi Germany. They escaped when they were 8 and 12, their families a few weeks apart in November, 1938, landing in NY. They grew up poor, in Brooklyn. They never had desserts. My mom said that once in a while they’d go out to a place to have an ice cream soda.

When Dad left the navy, he went to college on the GI Bill, and even got a masters in electrical engineering. Then Mom and he got married and the next day took a train to Seattle where Dad started work at Boeing.

I grew up with a brother 15 months older, then a second brother almost 4 years younger, and my youngest brother 6 years younger than me. Mom decided her upbringing was wrong. Kids should have desserts. My parents started out with nothing, but Dad had a decent salary. I helped my mom clip coupons and label prices on packages at the box store to save money, and we bought only the cheapest ice cream. But we always had sweets, and often wonderful pastries and fresh rye breads.

The worst – coffee and tuna fish

I don’t like coffee. I even dislike its smell. I love sweets and chocolate, but I won’t eat mocha- not even if it’s baked in a cake!

I remember disliking coffee as a kid- the house had a bitter smell. Here I am, age 59, and it just occurred to me: I was 4 or 5 when I stopped letting my parents kiss me. I’ll bet it was due to the smell of coffee on their breath…

Tuna fish smelled even worse. When my mom made tuna sandwiches for my brothers, I couldn’t even stomach going into the kitchen in the morning. She’d leave my lunch next to the front door. I’d shower, dress, grab my lunch and head out.

Vegies, wheat and milk

Vegetables turned me off. When Mom boiled brussels sprouts, spinach or cauliflower, I’d almost gag. Luckily, they didn’t force me to eat them. In fact, I almost never ate vegetables as a kid, except in stew or spaghetti sauce (though the mushrooms felt gross.)  Grudgingly I’d choke down a bit of salad with a vinaigrette dressing. (I began eating vegetables in college, after discovering stir-fry, and now eat most…)

In my 20’s I had a health problem that was cured by giving up sugar (for a while) and wheat. I stopped eating wheat for a long time, and now eat it rarely. I became lactose intolerant sometime in my late 20′- I never eat milk or cheese.

My wife and kids

My wife also doesn’t like coffee, but had no problems with food. But after pregnancies, my wife was allergic to wheat, milk and eggs! My kids, too, were allergic, but the older one was okay with eggs. So we never have milk or wheat in the house. My younger son seems to have gotten over it.

He has always had this weird habit of leaving a bit of food on his plate- like 1-2 more bites. It always bothered me that “he wasted food.” And my dog‘s a bit similar…  More about him next time…

The Paradigm of Politics: Adolescent effort to Win

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Paradigm of Campaigns

In the previous article, I looked at how Trump childishly tries to dominate. In this, I’ll look at the more mature behavior of adolescents- desiring to win and be right.

As I said in the previous article, I’m no expert in this. I’m just looking and thinking. Also, there’s nothing wrong with acting childish or adolescent or adult in politics. Although it’s our society. We can make rules and say what’s right.

Adolescent struggle to win, and make the opposition lose

The childish struggle for power soon changes into an adolescent struggle to win. There are rules for the struggle, the rules of games and sports. The contestants fight within the rules. And they fight to win for their fans, as well as for themselves. Meanwhile the fans empathize with the wins and losses of “their” team and the challenge of battling the opposition.

We saw a lot of this in the Republican debate. The candidates besides Trump followed the rules of decorum. They tried to score many of the same points, but couldn’t be as immature and boisterous. They certainly were adult as well, but it’s very challenging to be adult with Trump.

In politics, an adolescent win often means being right and making the opposition be wrong. We see this frequently. It often takes the form of repeated noting of something questionable the opponent did, like Hillary’s acceptance of huge payments for speaking to financial firms. It’s one thing to note it, it’s another to keep harping on it.

Referees replace parents

Adolescents are no longer disciplined in sports by their parents. Instead, they have referees who make sure they follow the rules.

If we choose to keep our politics at the adolescent level or higher, we really should do what we’ve done in professional sports and have professional, disciplined referees. They should be stepping in as often as referees do, policing even little mistakes to maintain the rules and ensure politicians don’t get carried away.

We could even make rules like no lying or name-calling. So you could say someone was lying in a certain situation where you quote them. But you can’t call them a liar.

This might make politics very challenging for some, like Trump. But it would still be fair.

Of course, we shouldn’t bar him from running for office for this. But at a debate, his microphone could be turned off as a penalty for an infraction. And for insulting the moderator he could be kicked out. But we’d have to be disciplined about it.

In the next article, we’ll look a bit at adults, and a new possibility.

The Paradigm of Politics: Trump’s Childish efforts to Dominate

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Paradigm of Campaigns

One of things that fuels the emotional Trump rallies is our political paradigm. In America, politics is a struggle for power. In my view, we have several different ways of fighting for power.

Note: I’ve learned a little about this, but am no expert. I’m just looking and thinking and sharing with you.

Childish struggle for power

Where do we learn to struggle for social power? It’s usually as young kids with siblings or neighborhood friends. Kids push their way to the front- like that reporter did when he stood up at a Trump rally and commanded attention. Or they interrupt and talk over each other, like Trump did to reassert the upper hand.

Little kids take whatever they want and assert things are “mine” even when they’re not. It reminds me of the story where Trump did everything he could to run some woman out of her beachfront property. His wants trump his compassion.

Some kids bully others, steal from them and feel no remorse. Like when Trump took goods from people but declared a project bankrupt and didn’t pay them.

Where are the parents?

Little kids break the rules their parents give them, testing boundaries. Like when Trump calls women names. He knows not to do that. But he can’t help himself. He has a sense its wrong, but has to be reminded. And then, like a little kid, lies that it was all in fun and he didn’t mean it. Or he makes a joke about it to try to take attention away from an adult conversation about manners. He wants to dominate. He refuses to be dominated even by a parental figure.

Trump seems to have a very young judgement about right and wrong. Many have sued him. For him, court is the parent figure. If the court doesn’t say it’s wrong, then he gets away with it. And since he’s a bully, frequently his mom, the court, has to step in to force him to do the right thing.

Public dominance – shame and expulsion

Kids also learn to call each other names, ridicule them. Trump just can’t resist calling his opponent “crooked Hillary.” This means little or nothing to adults. But Trump supporters, who seem to operate at this immature level as well, all mimic the name-calling, trying to use the force of public shaming.

Or they use the final option of little kids- to reject someone and expel them from the group, like Trump does so often from his rallies. Or they “take their ball and go home”, as Trump did by sitting out one debate. They also dominate by physically fighting or threatening to fight, like Trump dominates by reminding his followers of how great it used to be to beat people up at rallies.

It’s not just Trump

Many of Trump’s followers seem to love these behaviors. Probably many have a hard time with the complex rules of adolescents, much less to behave as adults. They want that thrill of dominating.

Americans often try to keep our politics more adult than that. But those childish lessons are inside. Many of us let them out at sporting events.

Being attacked by such childishness easily provokes childish responses. Rubio got sucked down to that level when he criticized Trump’s “small hands.” The other candidates resisted pretty well, but not always completely. It’s very, very tempting to fight fire with fire.

Next: The adolescent effort to win.

Apple Software Quality Stinks

This has nothing to do with political accountability or democracy. I’m frustrated with MacMail, and I have a blog, so I’m complaining. I’m using Mac OS 10.11.6 (El Capitan).

  1. MacMail keeps crashing. For months it was crashing once or twice a day. Each time, I had it send the report to Apple. They must have received 50-250 crash reports from me. They should really send a note of apology after 10 and have a live human send a status update after 50.I’ve built software apps for over 30 years. Not even Windows crashes this often!In the last couple of weeks, since an upgrade of the OS, it’s been “only” once every few days…
  2. MacMail keeps losing my mail folders. They just disappeared!  The remedy is to delete the account and then re-create it, so it re-downloads 4,000 messages. I did this once, but haven’t had the time recently, so I have no subfolders and can’t file anything- very frustrating.
  3. One can’t zoom into an email. My wife asked me to review an email. I was sitting a bit behind her, so needed the text bigger. So she selected everything and changed it to 18 point…A friend sent me a bunch of comments about something I had written. The font was tiny. I couldn’t copy/paste it to a text window because it had different colors. So I did a screen grab of it, saved it to disk, opened it (in Preview), and then enlarged it.  I guess I could have printed it to PDF and enlarged that, or copy/pasted it to a new email. But is zoom so difficult?

Ah well…  Maybe they’ll fix it someday…