Sunday, January 30, 2005

Individual Creativity in a Dark Age and How it Could Save the World

In some ways this week was a bad one for me.

I entered the mundane working world once again a few weeks ago. There are a few debts that should be paid off, and then I am through with it. I had forgotten just how much suffering standard office jobs engender. I first saw the help wanted ad, and said to myself, “Ha, this won’t be so bad. Easy money.”

Hubris will get you every time.

Unfortunately, I was not clever enough to figure out alternative means of earning income in a short period of time that 1) was entirely legal, and 2) did not involve me pretending to care about silly issues. If your means of employment does not enable you to express your full creative potential about issues that concern you, then you have to become an actor. Becoming a first rate political strategist doesn’t hurt either.

I have come to believe that any means of funding that we are forced to engage in should go toward the bare necessities for life sustenance, and then the rest should go toward the development of one’s awareness of reality so that one can then fulfill one’s full creative potential. I think that frustrated creative potential, if you happen to have a soul, will kill you, perhaps taking out those in your immediate vicinity with you.

Don’t talk about saving or changing the world. Save your soul. I don’t think we can save ourselves if we think we have a firm grasp on just exactly how reality works. It never ceases to amaze me when people are so sure of themselves. They know exactly what can and cannot happen, what exists and what does not exist, and they know exactly what the rules are and how everyone should follow those rules. These people may already be dead, and for your health should be avoided.

We live in a pretty big universe. Consider that perhaps anything that does not have a non-zero probability can happen or exist, and probably has happened or actually exists. We probably cannot out-imagine the universe. Nor can we “stare the universe down”, and supersede objective reality with what we think it should be. I have a hunch that it is a losing proposition.

Many people seem to believe that there are strict rules for “salvation”. I cringe a bit using religious terminology, but for now this word will suffice. You follow certain prescribed rituals, subsume your identity to an extraterrestrial, supernatural being, and boom. Salvation is yours.

The one thing I believe in whole-heartedly is free will. It is everyone’s right to engage the universe in the manner they see fit, with one caveat: as long as it does not violate my free will. If someone wants to spend their entire life experimenting with the above, then go for it. For my tastes, the above is, shall we say, less than adequate.

Others are pretty sure that we are merely robots. We just happened to evolve in this form as an efficient method for our genes to propagate themselves. Maybe. I think there is enough evidence that there may be more to this world than the above supposition.

I suppose we will all find out eventually. In the meantime, each of us has to decide how to conduct ourselves in the universe, or it will be chosen for us. It has been said that nature abhors a vacuum. Choices have to be made. Perhaps if we are not aware of what choices are available, than somebody else will choose for us. There is no guarantee they will choose for our benefit. In fact, more than likely they will always choose in their favor and to our detriment.

Perhaps this is the basis of conspiracy.

A large segment of our population seems to be deathly afraid of creativity. They desire control. Hunter S. Thompson once said that politics is all about controlling your environment. Just how far will those who fear creativity go in attempts to control reality?

Perhaps reality is quantum in nature. Those who desire control attempt to constrain the true quantum nature of reality into linear constructs where it is much easier to control and understand cause and effect. Perhaps reality is closer to the famous scenario of the butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world starting a chain reaction resulting in a hurricane on the other side of the world.

Creativity is the opposite of control. When something new is introduced into the environment, it can be almost impossible to predict how it will touch everything else in the environment.

In a sense, art is about limitation. Good art, limits our focus, and brings out a particular aspect of our reality in sharp relief. Our senses do the same thing. What we notice in our environment is greatly filtered. Our conscious mind only registers awareness of a very limited array of details. The process is automatic, and most of us never consciously chose what or what is not important. Our early childhood environment probably largely shapes the synaptic pathways. Our brain has to do some filtering; there are just too many details. Under hypnosis, people can relate a whole host of details that would never be available to our conscious mind, such as the heart rate of the person across the room.

The point is, someone else determined your filtering system. You had no choice in the matter. Someone else determined what was important and was unimportant. Our awareness, already extremely limited compared to the extent of information available, was limited and shaped by church, state, parents, peers, and the media. Our awareness, to a large extent determines who we are and what choices we make. Our inflated sense of self-importance can tell us that we are special or unique, but in a very real sense most of us are sleep walking, and were created by something outside of our selves that we had no say in whatsoever.

Most of these influences probably had extremely limited synaptic structures, and never bothered to question any of their perceptions. They assumed that what their conscious mind registered was all that existed. They then actively worked to pass on these limited structures. Through out history people have been willing to kill to maintain perceptions within certain limits. Now days we have extensive means of propaganda distribution that fulfills much of the same function. Our media defines the past therefore it defines the future, it attempts to determine the now by focusing on what it deems important and ignores what may disrupt the linear narrative of control. Many of us have little awareness beyond what the mass media portrays as reality. I am not sure if I am up to the challenge to communicate the true horror of what that means tonight. It means that most of us have given up our very right to be – handed it right over to the television.

As I said earlier, art can help focus our awareness onto a very specific aspect of reality. It affects our synaptic structure sparking a whole host of connections. It can make us aware of what our conscious mind has always ignored. It can give us knowledge that increases our ability to accurately interpret our perceptions. It performs the same function of our conscious awareness by filtering the unnecessary noise so that our attention can be focused on what is important, or at least worthy of our consideration.

I am using the word art in a very broad sense, meaning anything that was deliberately created by a consciousness with specific intent to illuminate a certain aspect of reality. That is a pretty broad range I have in mind, including what is traditionally considered art, but also great journalism or a scientific paper, or anything that enhances and encourages increased awareness of truth. Everything else is merely decoration or entertainment. Decoration and entertainment may have their place, but that is not what I am talking about.

As someone changes within and begins to create something without, they in turn affect others and the process spreads like a wild fire. Very difficult to contain, and no one can say what the end result will be. It shakes the status quo, and it will never be the same. Those who benefit from the status quo, are frightened by the creative process, and that is why there is so much effort to contain and constrain. You are the potential enemy.

Many of us, largely through no fault of our own, are stuck. We have been attempting to make use of someone else’s leftover synaptic structure that was inadequate to the task of accurate perceptions of objective reality. We have given up our right to become an individual. No one told us there were other options. For many of us our creative potential has been inhibited and/or harnessed to furthering the cause of control. We probably have absorbed the fears of those who value control. Most of us are not aware of how much psychopaths have defined our current reality. Our official culture seems to be so designed that the psychopath is the successful model.

Blocked creativity and potential individuality creates a whole host of miseries on our dark planet. So many of us exist in a sort of quiet desperation. We are stuck in the linear narrative of control, lacking the awareness to begin to learn how to take our place in the actual quantum reality of creativity. Creativity is potentially disruptive, and we can instinctively sense it. Our own creativity can force us to examine everything in our lives, and demand that we make changes so that we can further the cause of our own blossoming awareness and abilities.

Right now it seems that humanity is going through a momentous cycle of change encompassing chaos, confusion, destruction and death. Is their hope?

I have not worked through a good understanding of hope to really speak much on it, but I do think that false hope or placing hope for salvation from without is worthless at best, and a soul killer at worst. The desire for outside salvation has great appeal; to be assured of being preserved for just being so darned special has a nice ring to it. No real work involved, just follow the formula and on you go to paradise. Formulas for salvation have proven to be incredibly successful for getting billions to accept wherever they happen to fall by chance. They have allowed all kinds of grand political intrigues to be conducted, consolidating power and inspiring masses on to new heights of mass murder.

If there is any hope, then it falls on each of us as individuals actually becoming individuals. Enough people really need to remove themselves from the polluted pool of mass hysteria and mind viruses.

There is exciting new knowledge in the realm of physics that seems to mathematically prove just how important an individual conscious unit and their awareness is to the unfolding drama of our reality. Laura Knight-Jadczyk gets to the heart of the matter in her essay from last Halloween:
[...] Our universe seems to be made up of matter/energy and of consciousness.

Matter/energy by itself "prefers", as it seems, a chaotic state.

Matter/energy by itself doesn't even have a concept of "creation" or "organization". It is the consciousness that brings to life these concepts and by its interaction with matter pushes the universe towards chaos and decay or towards order and creation.

This phenomenon can modeled mthematically and simulated on a computer using EEQT (Event Enhanced Quantum Theory). Whether EEQT faithfully models the interaction of consciousness with matter - we do not know. But chances that it does because it seems to describe correctly physical phenomena better than just the orthodox quantum mechanics or its rival theories (Bohmian mechanics, GRW etc.)

What we learn from EEQT can be described in simple terms as follows:

Let us call our material universe "the system". The system is characterized by a certain "state". It is useful to represent the state of the system as a point on a disc. The central point of the disk, its origin, is the state of chaos. We could also describe it as "Infinite Potential." The points on the boundary represents "pure states" of being, that is states with "pure, non-fuzzy, knowledge". In between there are mixed states. The closer the state is to the boundary, the more pure, more 'organized' it is.

Now, an external "observer", a "consciousness unit", has some idea - maybe accurate, maybe false or anywhere in between - about the "real state" of the system, and observes the system with this "belief" about the state.

Observation, if prolonged, causes the state of the system to "jump". In this sense, you DO "create your own reality", but the devil, as always, is in the details.

The details are that the resulting state of the system under observation can be more pure, or more chaotic depending on the "direction" of the jump. The direction of the jump depends on how objective - how close to the reality of the actual state - the observation is.

According to EEQT if the expectations of the observer are close to the actual state of the system, the system jumps, more often than not, into more organized, less chaotic state.

If, on the other hand, the expectation of the observer is close to the negation of the actual state (that is when the observer's beliefs are closer to being false than to being true according to the ACTUAL state - the objective reality), then the state of the system, typically, will jump into a state that is more chaotic, less organized. Moreover, it will take, as a rule, much longer time to accomplish such a jump.

In other words, if the observer's knowledge of the actual state is close to the truth, then the very act of observation and verification causes a jump quickly, and the resulting state is more organized. If the observer's knowledge of the actual state is false, then it takes usually a long time to cause a change in the state of the system, and the resulting state is more chaotic.

What this means is that order can be brought out of chaos by observing chaos as it IS and not pretending that it is otherwise.

In short, everyone who "believes" in an attempt to "create reality" that is different from what IS, increases the chaos and entropy. If your beliefs are orthogonal to the truth, no matter how strongly you believe them, you are essentially coming into conflict with how the Universe views itself and I can assure you, you ain't gonna win that contest. You are inviting destruction upon yourself and all who engage in this "staring down the universe" exercise with you.

On the other hand, if you are able to view the Universe as it views itself, objectively, without blinking, and with acceptance, you then become more "aligned" with the Creative energy of the universe and your very consciousness becomes a transducer of order. Your energy of observation, given unconditionally, can bring order to chaos, can create out of infinite potential. [...]
Perhaps now is not the time to lose hope, just get rid of the useless soul-killing hope that somehow just by happening to have been born we are so special.

I have this crazy idea that perhaps the universe really values creativity. So much so, that to enter the pantheon of the creative you have to first grow in enough awareness to even begin to think about taking up the challenge of becoming an individual. You are outwitted and out numbered, and only the really creative fools are willing to risk everything on a slim chance. Perhaps the universe really likes the “give me liberty, or give me death” types, and might meet you half way, but you have to be willing to take the first step without even anticipating success. The first step may just consist of thinking, “you know, maybe I don’t know everything.”

If you happen to have a soul, then hubris may very well kill it. Like I said, it is a big mysterious universe, and our truth will always be relative. There will always be another level of truth beyond what we know now: another puzzle to solve, another mystery to ponder, another enigma to sort through. We are rich, if we admit we are poor. It seems as if the universe has a paradox or two to really stump us.

So many of us are crushed by our daily tasks of supporting ourselves and our families that we have forgotten our place as citizens of the universe. Our focus has been so narrowed that we are practically blind. We are in the middle of this huge farce of the blind leading the blind.

Perhaps it is times like the ones we are living in that really polarize the human race. Those who love control become maddened with desire and attempt to grasp everything and control it with long boney claws. Those who love freedom of expression and creativity become sick of being controlled and start trying to figure what the hell is going on. There is no better time to find out what your essence really is, to discover what orientation your soul desires. Free will can be expressed, but it has to be taken back. We didn’t know enough to value it, didn’t guard it, so it was stolen. Like the prodigal son it is time to go back home. Perhaps now is one of those ‘start investing your talents or be cast in outer darkness’ kind of times.

I didn’t spend any time in this essay describing many of the horrors of our age. I recommend: Official Culture" in America: A Natural State of Psychopathy? And the The Adventure Series.

Also Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower by William Blum. If you think that Abu Ghraib was an anomaly, then the chapter on torture will make you sick. Now is not the time to flinch.

If you want to consider some of the possibilities that future could hold than The Wave may be what you are looking for.

If you are one of the lucky ones, than you are troubled by such questions as who am I, and what the heck am I doing here. It can be a long road fraught with danger, but perhaps there has never been a better time to seek truth. Perhaps now is the time to turn our lives into art - to become individuals. From how it is looking now, it appears that no one is going to avoid the heat, but the heat can be used for the true alchemical changes that can only come for those who have a taste for the truth.

Just maybe the future of the universe depends on you.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Johnny Carson 1925-2005

I find that the death of Johnny Carson has made me rather sad. The only time I watched The Tonight Show was as a kid, during the summer, free from the tyranny of school. My sister and I would visit our grandparents for extended stays, and they would let us stay up late and watch television with them.

Looking back on my childhood, I note that my grandmother created a place of calm and acceptance. I would characterize my childhood as mildly ludicrous and annoying, and if our grandmother had not been there for us, I am sure we would have been much more miserable than we were.

I also recall the innocence and a feeling of hopeful expectancy for what I would do "all grown up". As I recall, I only felt that at my grandmothers. My grandmother passed on years ago, after a long ordeal with Alzheimer's.

Somehow, the death of Johnny Carson, is now all mixed up in my mind with the death of innocence. Entirely subjective, but none the less there it is.

To Tell the Truth part II

Since I mentioned Nazis in part I, I thought I would discuss the Nazi parties deliberate and terrifying use of symbols.

The Nazi party hijacked an ancient symbol, the swastika, and appropriated it for their own ends. In Jung’s The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious he comments on the symbolism:
[T]he swastika symbolizes the “ideal” man, whereas the five-pointed star symbolizes the material and bodily man.
In the footnote he states:
It depends very much on whether the swastika revolves to the right or to the left. In Tibet, the one that revolves to the left is supposed to symbolize the Bon religion of black magic as opposed to Buddhism.
Much earlier in Archetypes, Jung comments:
[...] The archetype corresponding to the situation is activated, and as a result those explosive and dangerous forces hidden in the archetype come into action, frequently with unpredictable consequences. There is no lunacy people under the domination of an archetype will not fall prey to. If thirty years ago anyone had dared to predict that our psychological development was tending towards a revival of the medieval persecutions of the Jews, that Europe would again tremble before the Roman fasces, and the tramp of legions, that people would once more give the Roman salute, as two thousand years ago, and that instead of the Christian Cross an archaic swastika would lure onward millions of warrior ready to death-why, that man would have been hooted at as a mystical fool. And today? Surprising, as it may seem, all this absurdity is a horrible reality. [...]
Anyone who has to tell you that they are an ideal man, or born again, and announce it loudly from every banner and armband is probably not an "ideal" man.

I also found the development interesting of the now accepted symbolism of the six-pointed Star of David associated with Judaism. From the Jewish Virtual Library:
The Magen David (shield of David, or as it is more commonly known, the Star of David) is the symbol most commonly associated with Judaism today, but it is actually a relatively new Jewish symbol. It is supposed to represent the shape of King David's shield (or perhaps the emblem on it), but there is really no support for that claim in any early rabbinic literature. In fact, the symbol is so rare in early Jewish literature and artwork that art dealers suspect forgery if they find the symbol in early works.

Scholars such as Franz Rosenzweig have attributed deep theological significance to the symbol. For example, some note that the top triangle strives upward, toward G-d, while the lower triangle strives downward, toward the real world. Some note that the intertwining makes the triangles inseparable, like the Jewish people. Some say that the three sides represent the three types of Jews: Kohanim, Levites and Israel. While these theories are theologically interesting, they have little basis in historical fact.

The symbol of intertwined equilateral triangles is a common one in the Middle East and North Africa, and is thought to bring good luck. It appears occasionally in early Jewish artwork, but never as an exclusively Jewish symbol. The nearest thing to an "official" Jewish symbol at the time was the menorah.

In the middle ages, Jews often were required to wear badges to identify themselves as Jews, much as they were in Nazi Germany, but these Jewish badges were not always the familiar Magen David. For example, a fifteenth century painting by Nuno Goncalves features a rabbi wearing a six-pointed badge that looks more or less like an asterisk.

In the 17th century, it became a popular practice to put Magen Davids on the outside of synagogues, to identify them as Jewish houses of worship in much the same way that a cross identified a Christian house of worship; however, I have never seen any explanation of why this symbol was chosen, rather than some other symbol.

The Magen David gained popularity as a symbol of Judaism when it was adopted as the emblem of the Zionist movement in 1897, but the symbol continued to be controversial for many years afterward. When the modern state of Israel was founded, there was much debate over whether this symbol should be used on the flag.

Today, the Magen David is a universally recognized symbol of Jewry. It appears on the flag of the state of Israel, and the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross is known as the Magen David Adom.
It appears that what we have here is the effective expropriation and exploitation of symbols to unite people around particular ideologies. The next step is to label everyone else as an outsider. Those who belong are supposed to be special or chosen. Once someone is labeled as this other, they can then be considered as less than human, and violence usually ensues. This seems to be one of the central tenants of one the most violent developments in human history – monotheism:
[...] Here collective identity is explicitly narrated as an invention, a radical break with nature and with the past. A transcendent deity breaks into history with the demand that the people he constitutes obey the laws he institutes, and first and foremost among those laws is the requirement that they pledge allegiance to him and to him alone.

You are my own people, my very own." And, somehow, this takes on heavy sexual connotations because any divergence from the path is labeled as "whoring" after other gods.

This people is to be the exclusive possession of the deity, and none other, and they are to have exclusive desire for this deity, and none other. The Other against whom Israel's identity is forges is abhorred, abject, impure and in the 'Old Testament,' vast numbers of them are obliterated, while in the 'New Testament,' vast numbers of them are colonized or converted. [....] [Schwartz, Regina [1997] The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism ; Chicago, University of Chicago Press]
The Nazi party also effectively and brazenly utilized religion for their own purposes:
"God Is With Us": Hitler's Rhetoric and the Lure of "Moral Values"

[...] If photographic evidence of the Third Reich's Christian leanings were not enough, Hitler's own speeches and writings prove, at the very least, that he presented many of the same faith-based arguments heard in America today. Religion in the schools? Hitler was for it. Intellectuals who practiced "anti-Christian, smug individualism"? According to Hitler, their days were numbered. [....]

Writing for Free Inquiry, John Patrick Michael Murphy explained:

"Hitler's Germany amalgamated state with church. Soldiers of the vermacht wore belt buckles inscribed with the following: "Gott mit uns" (God is with us). His troops were often sprinkled with holy water by the priests. It was a real Christian country whose citizens were indoctrinated by both state and church and blindly followed all authority figures, political and ecclesiastical.

Hitler, like some of the today's politicians and preachers, politicized "family values." He liked corporeal punishment in home and school. Jesus prayers became mandatory in all schools under his administration. While abortion was illegal in pre-Hitler Germany, he took it to new depths of enforcement, requiring all doctors to report to the government the circumstances of all miscarriages. He openly despised homosexuality and criminalized it."

For anyone wanting even more proof, Mein Kampf is chock full of the Fuhrer's musings on God. ("I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord," Hitler wrote). But anti-Semitic rants aside, some of Hitler's religious musings are interchangeable with Mr. Bush's.[...]
Yep, the parallels are frightening, and we have all found ourselves in a real nightmare of a situation that we will probably not get out of unscathed.

If someone told you five years ago that we would be at war, perhaps for the rest of our lives, that our freedoms would be steadily stripped from us, and that the US would see a resurgence in a form of Christianity that preached violence, would you have believed them? Probably not. Now just imagine what the next few years may have in store for us.

Now, what does all this have to do with lying or telling the truth? I will get to that in part III.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

To Tell the Truth part I

Thou shalt not bear false witness...

If you excised the entire OT and left just that phrase, then you might have something worthwhile.

In ostentatious displays of self-righteousness Fundamentalists in the US have repeatedly attempted to have the Ten Commandments displayed just about everywhere in the public view. Then they conveniently ignore one of the most blatant examples of bearing false witnessing the world has seen.

That would be the actions of Christian-approved, self-proclaimed born again George Bush and his cabal of neo-Cons.

If you have been paying attention, then you know that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and there were no WMD in Iraq. You see, when one bears false witnesses, the innocent die. They die horrible deaths, or they are maimed, or psychologically scarred for life. Sometimes people die by the tens of thousands. Sometimes all the bloody limbs that are amputated could fill the state of Texas. Blood spills out everywhere. The carpet of compliant media attempts to cover it, but it seeps through anyway as blood is wont to do.

It is interesting that the commandments do not say anything about lying. No, to bear false witness is not the same as to tell a lie.

If everyone stopped lying then this house of cards, we call consensus reality would fall apart.

When your boss stops by your desk and asks, “Do you want to jump in this meeting? We could use your input.”

You don’t say, “Well you know, I would have rather crawled out of bed and kissed a sewer rat on the lips, than get dressed and come in this morning. Don’t you people realize that we are at perpetual war, the same inside psy-op group from 9/11 is planning another spectacular terrorist attack; we have at least three more countries we are supposed to invade any minute now. The ice caps are melting. The weather has gone mad. The dollar collapsed, like, yesterday. We are precariously perched on the precipice of a WHIRLING VORTEX OF DEATH. You want me to sit in there and pretend I care about something that will fall apart any day now, with people who are not aware enough to know their ass is on fire?! I think my answer is no. I do not want to ‘jump in this meeting’. In fact, I think I could use a drink now.”

No. That just would not do.

When I was a kid, my parents took me to their ridiculous church regularly. I can still remember a sermon on lying. That minister actually said it was a sin to lie to Nazis who are knocking on your door to see if you are hiding any Jews in your closet. What kind of person preaches it is a sin to lie to Nazis? The only moral, good, righteous thing to do is to lie to Nazis; big, fat lies – and to do so repeatedly.

To make our way through this world, we have to lie. I can see no way around it.

Hmm, a better way to phrase the above is that there is a time and a place to lie. Other times lie at your own peril, since you will wreak terrible havoc on yourself and everyone connected to you in any way. You just have to be smart enough to discern the difference.

I like to think about these things. Choose your own philosophy, or your philosophy has already been chosen for you. If you don’t consciously choose your own philosophy then you have just inherited some old piece of trash from your parents, the media, and bullies from middle school. You don’t know where someone else’s philosophy has been. Did they wash their hands before they pushed it down your throat? Probably not, and it has probably been passed around so much it is coated with grime, and it never worked very well in the first place - except to keep everyone involved complacent and machine-like.

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Brilliant

Jazz Funeral For Democracy

Traditional New Orleans jazz funeral entitled "A Wake for Peace": Jazz Funeral for Democracy timed to coincide with the inauguration of George W. Bush. Street theater encouraged. March, rally and inaugural ball featuring local New Orleans musicians.


The Index

I usually did not mind riding the subways while living in Manhattan. While suburban commuters around the country were fighting their way through traffic, I was usually reading and sipping a travel-mug of coffee. I even got used to strangers reading over my shoulder.

Several moves later, I still remember the poor woman who fashioned her own wig from brown bag, paper mache. She parked it right on top of her head, and wore it around town like it was the most natural thing. We were often on the same C-train, and if I remember correctly her stop was somewhere around the Natural History Museum. I have no idea what she did when it rained. I imagine she had a shelf full of them. Or perhaps the wig was extremely well shellacked.

Only the tourists laughed and gawked.

Every straphanger has a parcel full of outrageous stories, and I have my share. As long as you were extremely polite everything was cool. Bump someone and don’t express the proper penance, they might just decide to teach you some manners.

One day, I happened to be reading a technical manual of some sort, and the individual smashed next to me said something like, “Computers are the wave of the future.”

If that comment had been bandied about in the 50’s rather than in the 21st Century he may be credited with prophetic insight. He obviously did not know much about computers, but discoursed for about a minute on the topic. He seemed sane and calm, so I didn’t mind humoring him. I know I have made an ass of myself once or twice talking about something I knew little or nothing about, and am more than forgiving of these little human foibles.

Actually, he turned out to be a very nice gentleman. It was obvious he just needed to talk to another human being. He was not being overtly needy, so I did not discourage him.

He directed my attention to two children and his wife sitting across from us. His kids were absolutely adorable; both sitting calmly, one was reading a book. Some how the discussion moved on to more personal subjects, which was the real reason for his introduction. He revealed to me how he had not been a particularly good father. He had been too angry, he said. He had really struggled to provide for his family. He had been experiencing some recent health problems, and these issues seem to have made him more introspective.

Perhaps it sounds uncomfortable to be cornered by a stranger and have them open up in such a personal way, but the individual was extremely rational and concise. This was not the raving of the dissolute. We were both stuck underground for a while so why not talk.

I replied, “Well, I’m not so sure that kids require their parents to be perfect. We all make mistakes, but so few own up and seek to do a little better.”

I didn’t consider what I said particularly insightful, but it was if a burden had been lifted, and his face lit up. He must have been carrying around some sort of pain for him to reach out to a stranger. My usual reaction when in that kind of pain, and not a very good one, is to turn inward. When we finally departed, we shook hands, and wished each other well

New York is a tough town, but I had many such experiences. In some ways I miss New York. I miss the many accidental meetings. Of course, if you don’t develop guiding principles you will soon be miserable. When do you discourage random strangers from talking with you? How do you do so to prevent it from turning ugly? Who is chatting you up because they want something from you? Who are the over eager leeches who missed that part of brain development that should key them in to the fact that no one cares? And that is just the beginning. In New York, either consciously or unconsciously, one develops a human interaction safety index consisting of complex algorithms.

Or you die.

I developed that index long before showing up on the isle of Manhattan partially from bartending, and partially from attending high school. I worked at a dive bar owned by a one-legged Panamanian after crashing and burning from one of my more stressful jobs. But, that is another story for another day.

In some other dreary city, the guy next to me tonight in my evening commute was reading Overcoming Loneliness. He smiled nervously, and said, “Hello” when I sat next to him, and I responded in kind. Later, when he fell asleep I saw the book title. I realized that the Index had become automatic in some ways. The guideline that I used would be phrased something like, “When someone does not greet you with an open ended question, such as ‘How are you doing?’ they have let you of the hook, therefore do not open the door with an open ended greeting of your own.

We human beings are a sad bunch.

Every US citizen who is not a Bush loving, Baptist choir singing, halleluiah shouting church-goer had better develop a human interaction safety index pretty quick.

Or you will die.

The Necessity for Enlightened Thinking


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Be Careful Out There

I was working on building a website, playing with code, CSS and posting regular entries. Before going “live” with it’s own domain, I decided to perfect it using a free hosting service. Geocities was convenient, albeit probably not the greatest choice.

I got up from the computer, did some laundry, stepped out for a pizza, returned and logged onto my yahoo webmail account. It was gone, along with the site, and yahoo group memberships.

Yahoo had deleted everything.

I had a strange premonition of this happening earlier. Instead of listening to it, I may have pushed the boundaries a bit too far. It may have been the post I wrote about torture in the US, next to a post about Fundamentalism in the US.

Anyway, the site really was too dark; reflecting too much of a turbulent period I was going through in my life.

It is a shame that censorship forced the change, but one has to take what is and work with it. In our age of perpetual war and terrorism it is a struggle at times to not let cynicism rule.

We are not even allowed to be too terribly upset about US servicemen dying. I suppose we are supposed to repeat the mantra, “God bless our troops,” endlessly, and somehow everything will be okay:
Man claims his anti-war stand sparked harassment

By PAUL PANEK, Journal Register News Service
01/16/2005

(LEBANON, Connecticut)-- Peter and Lisa Quercia moved to town three years ago hoping to find a quiet place to settle down, but lately their lives has been anything but peaceful.

Peter said he is feeling a great deal of resentment from town officials after publicly expressing his opposition to the war in Iraq. […]

The most recent edition of the sign stated, "Bush Lies, 1,345, G.I.s R.I.P." on one side and "Bush War, Death Toll, 1,345" on the other side. The numbers reflect the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq. […]
It appears that many of our fellow citizens are caught in a spell, and it may be time to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves".

Others have found different methods for expressing angst:

Police hoping to red-flag 'poo pranksters'