Words from the Interior

"With everyone’s imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world." – Chuck Palahniuk

Trust me.

I was sitting alone at a charge station in the Sacramento Airport. You know, the place where a person can come to sit and ignore reality via their electronic devices. A few minutes after I sat down a man approached, asking if someone was occupying the chair next to me. I replied, “no, i don’t think so.” My indecision driven by the fact that there was an iPhone charging in that seat that wasn’t mine or his. I told him I didn’t know who it belonged to, and he said that was strange. I agreed.

I unplugged the phone from the standard plug and plugged it into the usb port, thus opening a spot for him. We both sat in silence for a few minutes lost in the electronic world.

A woman approached, smiling. She claimed the phone was hers and thanked me for not unplugging it. I smiled back and replied, “no problem,” and returned to my computer.

I looked at my would be charge station companion and said, “Mystery Solved.” We shared a laugh.

A few minutes later he said, “Can you watch my stuff for a few minutes, I’ve got to go change my seat at the gate.” I acknowledged his request, naturally.

I began to wonder, how had I secured such trust. Is it because I appear to be an upstanding citizen with my army softball tournament shirt and close cut haircut? Or is it because we shared a laugh at the expense of an odd situation. I’d like to think that I am a naturally charismatic person that incites people to trust me with their valuables, but I can’t be certain. Maybe its just a byproduct of being a white guy with an expensive looking Mac.

Either way, I gained the trust of a human today. For that, I am proud.

Why the Internet is Turning Us into Manics

There seems to only be extremes in the internet meme world.  Some examples:

and

This is programming people to think that these responses are perfectly normal for any number of responses. The fact that there are a set of memes referred to as “Rage faces” just furthers the association.

The curious factor is that this phenomenon is occurring naturally within the internet social kingdom. This is not a push by any particular group of people or “entities,” this is natural-born mania. This concerns me, partly because people who are brought up in this bipolar environment aren’t learning control. Imagine a world where people don’t understand that raging about a topic isn’t socially acceptable, or worse, imagine a world where raging is a social norm.

Furthermore, the word “ever” is overused. Many things are expressed as being, “the saddest thing ever,” or “the funniest thing ever.” This ceases any previous contributions from existence. It is as if the only thing that is important is the present. We are presented with a number of stimuli and we are expected to only appreciate this one thing, until a new thing comes along to replace it. This present-state-mindedness has a whole slew of negative connotations. Much like many words used today, like “awesome,” it has lost all meaning.

The odd part is that all of these responses are generally given only in the metaphysical, and rarely the physical. I can guarantee the majority of “lol”s were never out loud. It has become shorthand for, “I’ve got nothing else to add.” It’s a dead-silence killer, much like audible-pauses in normal life. So, if we are living in an extreme world, but we don’t express any of it physically, what does that say about our future? I’m not sure laughter is the best medicine without the physical manifestation.

What should we do about it? Find the colorful areas between hilarious and devastating and enjoy all the hues.

Reality as a Wave

I propose the philosophy that reality is much like a sound wave. It encompasses a steady stream of stimuli that that enter our sensory systems. As seen below in the pictures, the energy (stimuli) is in constant flux. Our perceptions, biases, knowledge, etc. shape the wave as it flows. The two extremes, the crest and the trough, are the absolute limits for the True reality.

True reality is an all-encompassing concept. It includes all possibilities of a particular stimuli. Take for example light, we perceive lights different colors, but those change depending on what’s between our eyes and the source. Such is the same for intangible concepts, such as morality. We wear veils of morality that prevent true reality from ever reaching our brains.

As the idea pass through the environment around us, it ebbs and flows, constantly changing. No two experience is quite the same for this reason.

image

This may however, be argued against via Chaos theory, which eludes to the idea that, although things appear to be orderly, their order is anything but. To say that the energy of an idea is constant may be a bit juvenile, because it can change rapidly, but I argue that there is a natural flow to everything, whether we can see it or not. All things are subject to laws, even the illusive subatomic particles, which can’t be truly tested because every time we do, we change the outcome. You don’t need to look at a grain of sand to see a beach.

On the macro level, ideas are waves, constantly moving. Picking where you stand is important.

Violence.

What is it about violence that causes such excitement, and controversy? For as long as I’ve lived, there has been a polarity in views about violence and its effect on society. One side always claims that censorship is a violation of creativity, and the opposition always claims the destruction of society. Is it really destroying America?

First, I’d like to state that our language is violent in nature. Consider all the verbs that are used so commonly: destroy, kill, blow away, steal, etc. All of these verbs are used in common language every day, without much notice. They fill our work and personal lives. “That deal was a real steal.” “I killed that presentation.” We are ingrained linguistically to think in a violent manner. The question is, do we speak violently because of the environment we grew up in, or is the environment violent because we are there? It sounds like an obvious answer: We are a violent spiral that worsens by the year. At least, that is what everyone tends to say: our world is going to hell – essentially. Our language is partly violent because as Anglo-saxons; we were violent people. Vikings shaped a large portion of how we speak today, and we all know how violent they were. You could say that our pillaging ancestors live through our language. That’s a scary thought, or is it?

How we speak, is our choice. As Americans, we have a multitude of cultures to choose from for our word choices. But, do we really have a choice? The answer is no. We are bound by our environment, at least from a social standpoint. We gather our idioms and phrases from those around us. We are part of the human collective. In order to find meaning amongst ourselves, we use phrases common to the group. Thus explains the changing terminology throughout the ages. We change as the phrases change. But then, shouldn’t we have evolved out of such violent language? Or does the fact that we’ve held onto these Viking speech patterns make us innately violent?

Well, no, because to say that all of English is derivative of one people is an oversimplification of linguistics. English is an amalgam of languages. It is a sponge, soaking up everything around it. This actually poses a bigger question, if English combines all languages, then that MUST mean that we are innately violent because we have seen non-violent language and have rejected it for our own. I hope this isn’t the case.

Alright, so our language is angry. So what? We can’t assume that one trait of our existence is the driving purpose of our violent nature. Language is just a physical manifestation of emotion. So, in order to dig deeper into the violent question, we must examine motive. If language is an auditory explanation of motive, then that must mean our motives are violent, right?

Human beings are historically manipulative and will lie if it suits them. Children learn this on their own, without adult supervision. This is not a “learned trait.” A child doesn’t have to watch a parent lie about something to come up with the idea on their own. What does this say about motive? Well, if we accept that humans are manipulative, we can generally say that we are always looking for situations that are beneficiary to the individual. Every culture has differing opinions of what that means, but Americans are typically taught of “individualism.”

The problem with individual progression is that it is impossible. It is nearly impossible to survive on your own. Every college kids dream is to live on their own, but what does that mean? They still depend on food, shelter and social interaction. These needs are driven by physical and emotional needs. It is well documented that we need all of these. Don’t believe me, don’t eat for a week.

But, these seem like contradicting criteria: the desire to be independent, but need to cooperate. The fact is that they are. I believe this imbalance is the nature of most violence. For whatever reason, we have learned to be materialistic. People have use numerous ways to acquire things, the accepted manner in the 21st century is the socio-political approach. Gather power through the manipulation of others around them. Everyone wants to claim good intent, but there is almost always an underlying desire to solicit people for person gain. When I say, “accepted manner,” I mean it literally. It is taught in leadership courses and to college students. Controlling people via verbal manipulation has become the new “siege.”

Back to my point, we have innate desire to collect, which probably comes from thousands of years of the hunter-gatherer mindset: Gather to Survive. Unfortunately, our built-in mechanisms haven’t caught up yet. This gatherer mindset causes clashes with 7 billion people trying to do the same thing. All wars have been started over a conflict of interest, which is a simple way of saying, “I want what you have.

To sum it all up, we are violent because we have taught ourselves to be. How do we change that? We change our habits. We change our language. Want to change the world? Change the verbs.

Atheism is Arrogance

In this essay, I am defining Atheism as the belief that deities don’t exist. There are other demarcations of atheism; however I am focused on that one in particular.


Atheism is a belief system, not a scientific fact, like many would choose to say.  Using some deductive reasoning, I am going to attempt to assert that atheism is an ideal that is neither accurate nor fair to the idea of logic to begin with.


First, I’d like to address the problem with facts. First, a scientific theory is an idea that is accepted true by empirical evidence, i.e. experimentally proven statistical value. Simply put, if test A comes back with the same results 100 times in a row, it is thought to be empirically sound. We call these scientific “facts” because we suppose that if event A happens 100 times out of a 100, it is likely to continue to occur. This is an assumption.


The problem with this line of thought is that not all things are 100% accurate. This is in part because there are many variables that affect any given experiment, including the act of testing it to begin with (for more on that, see the uncertainty principle, or Gödel’s theorems, etc.). One fine example is boiling water. It is accepted that it boils at 100 degrees Celsius, but it can be affected by altitude, air pressure, and other things, not only that but it isn’t 100 degrees precisely. If you narrowed it down to the smallest degree of temperature measurement, there would be fluctuations, which isn’t even possible because we are limited on how accurately we can measure it in the first place.


That being said, we can’t prove anything 100%, particularly something we observe, which is everything. The basis of science is observation. We know that our mind perceives things different ways. This line of logic leads to the assumption that we can’t prove anything to 100%.


Secondly, God is not measurable. Intangible subjects, such as the social sciences, are difficult to test. As stated earlier, they are tested and assumed “statistically sound” because they meet certain criteria. The idea that humans are attracted to each other for the purpose of procreation is a long-held belief. This is based on the observation of human behavior. However, it can’t be proven. There is no way to test this, at least not yet, namely because the process of thought that leads to the action of sex is convoluted. Male species go to great lengths to impress females. They attempt to “show” how well a match they are by various means, e.g. frilling of tails in peacocks, or the romantic dinners by humans. Many people attribute romanticism to the need for human connection, but if females didn’t require the show, males wouldn’t do it. Of course, that is an assumption, and can’t be proven.


Thirdly, what humans believe is true about God can’t be true. As said earlier, we base all of our beliefs or opinions on what we observe. Theists believe in deities because they have written accounts that speak of them. These books were written by humans. Holding faith in a particular belief isn’t holding a faith in that belief, but in fact holding faith that the person who originally said it was telling the truth. Faith in God is Faith in Humanity. Humanity is not a truthful 100% of the time.


This line of thought leaves us with the following: If testing a phenomenon never reveals 100% accuracy, then we shouldn’t believe anything we test and if God can’t be tested, then we can’t disprove the existence of God. In this argument, we can strongly assume that the idea of Atheism can’t be true. Doubt supports its inaccuracy. Faith in God, however, isn’t subject to the same metric because faith in God doesn’t require 100% factual evidence. It only requires faith. Assuming that Atheism is the philosophical extreme in one direction, all philosophies in the other direction are possible. To say that Atheism is 100% true, which is inherit in holding that belief, Atheism is arrogant.

Misunderstood Ignorance

Any good speech tends to begin with a definition of its topic. Ignorance is defined as, “state of being uninformed.” There is a lot of rage in the world about the hatred for ignorance. I ask though, whose fault is it really? You can’t blame someone for being ignorant. This is similar to hating a child for not understanding physics. So, why the hate for ignorance? Well, many humans have an egoist approach to their mentality. Simply put, they think they are better than others. Because of this, they take stock in the idea that anyone that doesn’t understand the same clump of information, they must be ignorant and thus, less of a person. When you devalue someone else it allows for strong feelings towards that person without any remorse. This is how wars are done without complete dysfunction from soldiers. When soldier A views soldier B as their enemy, they can kill them because they have determined their cause more valuable.

What does that have to with ignorance? If something bothers someone for long enough, they feelings grow more intense. Let’s say there are a group of people who tend to be void of a certain piece of information. The more you interact with that phenomenon, the more it bothers you. Depending on your level of tolerance, that feeling can turn to hate.

To summarize, humans separate themselves from those void of a piece of information, thus devaluing that person, which allows for the growth of hate.

Again, I ask, whose fault is it that they are ignorant? You can’t blame someone for not knowing something. If anything, it is the owner of the information’s fault for not sharing. As I’ve said millions of times, education is the strongest link towards evolution. So, instead of screaming ignorance, try a civilized lesson first.

Continuing on the path, I think it is actually a subverted hatred for those that choose ignorance, which is a paradox. If knowledge is known, but not chosen, what is that? Ignorance is the wrong term. An even more overused term, “stupid” supplements this gap. Stupid is defined as, “a lack of intelligence.” However, is that their fault? You can’t help what you don’t know. If you are going to be mad about it, be mad at yourself for not correcting the problem.

What I’m eluding too is that I’m tired of seeing people complain about “stupid” people. It isn’t their fault they fail to see reason. Not to mention, most people that claim that “everyone else is stupid but me” are far from geniuses themselves. Again, stop being mad at the person, be mad at the action and find a way to fix it rather than complain.

Adios 2012

Here we are at the end of 2012. As I see others post various accomplishments or events that transpired, I wonder what the significance of celebrating a new year really is. I suppose, like anything, we have to compartmentalize our memories in order to make certain events easier to remember. It would be difficult to recall events if we didn’t time stamp them. There is no romance in that though, there is nothing special about that, so why do we hold such emphasis on various milestones? I think it’s a means of change. We can tell ourselves, this year will be different. It’s a way of saying, “that year was bullshit, but I can look forward and say this will be better.” I suppose that is where New Year’s resolutions come from. It’s a fresh start. We all need fresh starts. 2012 has been a rough year for a lot of people. Deaths have been plentiful, the world crumbles – so it seems – but life perseveres. No matter what happens, life continues.

It is in this optimism that I find solace. We can push through our pain and suffering by acknowledging that our past is our past and our future is unknown. We can make the best of the road ahead because we’ve lived through the time behind. So, from this, I say, Happy New Year.

So, how’s the weather?

When most people think of Hamburg, they probably think of Germany. Normally, this would be true for me as well, so imagine my confusion when I see an exit sign for Hamburg, Iowa. Out of pure curiosity, I pull off the highway and enter the town populated by 1200 people. At first glance, it seems like everything that encompasses “small town America.” I see a bar named, “The Blue Moon Bar and Grill.” My love for that particular brand requires me to stop in.

Opening the door causes a grimace from the two patrons sitting at the bar. It was either from the introduction of sunlight to their irises or from my presence as a stranger. Either way, they stare at me for a few moments – I wade in the uncomfortable waves.

I don’t allow their stares to waver my goal, so I step up to the bar and quickly snatch up the menu to avoid eye contact. The 40-something waitress asks if I want something to drink, I respond, “Water, please.” I quickly glance over the one page menu and order a patty melt.

At this point, the men return to, what I assume is, their previous conversation. The first topic they banter about is the weather. This 10 minute conversation got me thinking about the importance of the weather in daily conversation.

For 27 years, I was under the impression that inquiring about the weather was a way of filling a lull in conversations. However, as of recent, I have noticed that this particular topic is more prolific than I realized. It comes up in almost every conversation, whether with close friends or distant acquaintances. I have theorized a few reasons for this.

First, I think the topic comes up so often because it affects every part of our lives. What to wear, how to drive, mood, travel decisions depends on whether it’s sunny, rainy or otherwise. It really is, the only thing to talk about. When the sky is overcast, we poor humans are limited to that daily dosage of the Vitamin D that our mood centers so severely need. It is by this learned knowledge that we can infer a lot of things just by asking, “So, how’s the weather.”

While, I will say that it does usually come up in the lull of daily dialogue, it is often the precursor to further discussion. I don’t view it on the same level as the, “How are you?” question. Human beings ask this, but are rarely concerned with the answer. It is a courtesy, however by asking about the environment, we can assume a lot about the answer. Additionally, it’s such a simply question that requires very little effort of the questioner, where-as all the effort relies on the questionee.

So, next time someone asks you how the weather is, think about what they are really asking, and be happy they care.

Driving on Three Wheels: A True Story

I first heard the noise when I went to the wrong Kansas City. I was driving south through America towards Texas. I made an attempt to stop in the major cities for a few reasons, the biggest being the larger per diem rates than staying in a nowhere town like Hamburg (Iowa not Germany). The route my GPS takes me is right by Kansas City, so I put Kansas City into the search window on said GPS. It says, “did you mean Kansas City, KS or Kansas City, MO?” My thought process was, well, the bigger one should be in the state it’s named after right? So, I click that and off I go. Throw on some tunes and I roll.

A few hours later, I’m approaching what I think is the bigger Kansas City. I turn down the music so I can concentrate. I hear a strange noise and comment, there is a helicopter somewhere. I ignore it and keep driving. As the GPS navigation comes to an end and the only thing around is a farmhouse and a baseball field, I start to reevaluate my decision. I bust out the phone and start searching for hotels. The first Best Western that pops up says it’s in Kansas City, Missouri. I slap my head, turn the music back up, throw the car in first and drive the 10 miles in the “right” direction.

Fast Forward 20 minutes, I see the KC skyline approaching. I stop to take a picture of it. Getting back in the car, I start to hear the thumping sound again. It only happens whenever I release the throttle. It strikes me as odd, but doesn’t seem to be affecting anything. At this point, it is a real low thump. I drive around for a bit, ignoring the noise. I find my hotel, park the car and don’t think about it until after I’ve eaten. For the record, Negra Modello with Lime is brilliant.

Sitting in my hotel room, I find my way to the Subaru forums and search around for “clunking noise when I take foot off gas.” Oddly enough, there are several forums with that exact title. Most of them say it’s a normal Subaru noise; something to do with inertia and bad flywheel technology. I sigh and decide I’ll take it to a dealer when I get to Texas.

Next day, I drive to Junction City, meet with some friends, have a grand time eating at Pizza Hut Buffet, talking about old times and new news. After the visit, I jump in the car and head towards Oklahoma City, my next stop. I hear the noise, but it hasn’t changed, so I ignore it.

2 hours later, I’m approaching Wichita and the noise starts to get worse. It isn’t just happening when I decelerate, it is clunking consistently. Now, I’m worried. I pull off and into a Best Western Parking Lot. I sit in my car, waiting to figure out what to do. I Google Subaru dealerships and call the one in Wichita. The service center closed at 6; it was now 6:15. I curse and grab a room. I’m pissed, but at this point, only because I don’t know what’s wrong and I didn’t make it to OKC. The car sits in the parking lot, completely aware of what’s wrong with it, while I sit clueless, watching The Empire Strikes Back, in the hotel room. I call my step-dad and says that it might be the rear differential. The internet agrees with him.

The next day, I wake up at 6:00, ready to get this fiasco over with. I jump on the freeway; my destination is 12 miles away. I never drive above 40 mph. The clunking continues, but I’m hoping it can make it the whole way. I see the exit, “North Rock Road” and turn on my blinker. Shortly after, I feel a crack, a smash and I’m suddenly leaning to the left. I look to my left and see my rear tire trying to beat me in a drag race. It zips past my car and slams into the median. It gets about 7 feet of air and falls dead in the grass beside me. I manage to pull the car off the road and onto the shoulder. That was all automatic.

I laugh to myself; I definitely over-thought the whole thing.

The moral of this story: Don’t get your tires serviced at Sears.

Innate Morality

Is “good” a learned attribute of humanity, or are we born with it? Is it true that infants are innocent, or are they sin incarnate? Is baptism necessary, in order to cleanse an unclean body to ensure placement in heaven?

This questions bare many theological ties, however, they are questions that have been asked for as long as humanity has uttered the ultimate existence question, “Why?”

First, we must decide what is truly “good.” As a 21st Century resident, my perception is that morality is mainly based around religion and its various incarnations of the Ten Commandments. All versions of western religion have these basic tenants for good will. Outside of the bible, morality has been discussed. Plato described the Cardinal Virtues in his dialogue with Socrates. They are as follows:

  • Prudence - able to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time
  • Justice - proper moderation between self-interest and the rights and needs of others
  • Temperance or Restraint - practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation
  • Fortitude or Courage - forbearance, endurance, and ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation

These of course, are all western ideologies. For an eastern look, I want to examine Hindu, mainly because it encompasses the largest percentage of eastern followers. The entire basis for Hindu ethics relies in Dharma and Karma. Dharma is discussed so vastly, it’s almost impossible to make a simple list; dissimilar to the western equivalent.

Karma is understood in Hinduism as a universal law of cause and effect. Positive actions produce positive effects; negative actions produce negative effects. To act dharmically is to act in a karmically positive manner. When one acts dharmically, one necessarily produces positive karma. This karma is cumulative: one accrues karma, positive and negative, not only throughout the course of one’s life, but throughout the course of one’s multiple rebirths. It is karma that determines one’s rebirths.

So, now that we’ve broken it down a bit, let’s look at the various motivations for being good.

Western Theology is largely based upon the “do good or go to hell” approach. If you want to get into heaven, be a good person.

Eastern Theology focuses upon the reincarnation aspect. If you are a good person in life, you will be rewarded in your next life.

Both of these approaches are very similar and are quite self-serving. If you hold belief in an after-life, there is motivation to be a “good” person. But, what if you don’t believe in an afterlife? How can an individual who thinks “dead is dead” be motivated?

There are several ethical theories that address the issue of morality outside of religion. The first is very similar to reincarnation, but the locus of fear is different. Basically, consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness of that conduct. Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right act (or omission) is one that will produce a good outcome, or consequence. If an action yields a positive outcome, it is moral.

Returning to Socrates for the second, he argued that “if the gods approve of some actions it must be because those actions are good, in which case it cannot be the gods’ approval that makes them good.”

Evolutionary theory also posits a morality stance. Within the confines of the evolution argument, it is argued that an organism will take all measures for survival. This means that, ultimately, an organism will act in the best interest of the group, in order to save itself. Most of this theory is discussed in the book The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, and others.

Returning to the original question, are we innately moral? I argue that it is a yes, we are born with the genetic makeup to be good moral people; however this is not always true. If that were the case, there would be no need for the Justice System. Mutations exist within the human genome. The X-Men are real – they are psychopaths. Mutations within their DNA and chemical imbalances cause the “selfish gene” to act against its survival programming.

Being “good” or “moral” is a selfish act. It is necessary for the survival of the species. It comes in all forms of ideas. If all humanity acted in an immoral manner, we wouldn’t survive as a species. Humanity wants to be good for its own sake.