Whaaa…. Good News?

I normally read the news expecting to get depressed.   Today, to my amazement, there was actually good news!

I went on the Huffington Post and found that a Federal Judge ruled that Bush’s wiretapping procedures were wrong!

*Eyes open wide*

I had to stare at the screen for about 10 minutes.  I was shocked in utter disbelief.  Good news for once!  There are still some decent folks in government.  Yay!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/31/alharamain-islamic-founda_n_520548.html

I also read that Obama signed a bill giving out billions in grants and aid to students.   I’d prefer all higher education be funded and paid for in entirety, but this is better than nothing.

One of the main factors behind a strong economy is how skilled and educated the citizen base is.  The greater the diversity of labor, and the more talented the people are at what they do, the better off we’ll all be.   The more incentive we give people to get educated the better.  You can’t lose making people smart.  Or smarter.  It’s worth the cost.

Let’s keep scanning down the page, see what we find!    This is one of those weird days where everything goes well.   Ooopp.  I spoke too soon.  Lookie here.  Jesse James giving a Nazi salute.  Oh good, he’s not a white supremacist.  That’s a relief.  Sarah Palin’s telling us all to reload and target government officials.  Hoo boy.   Senator has a brick thrown through his window.  Death threats.  Geez.  Obama’s drilling for oil.  Great, there goes those ecosystems.  Seriously, just build some nuclear power plants, and let’s use electric power cars.  *Sigh*.   More propaganda that Iran has nukes.  The neocons aren’t finished with the Middle-east yet.   Yale student jumps out of the Empire State building.  Ricky Martin is gay!  Uh oh, Shaq’s got a mistress.  Gitmo’s still around.  *Sigh*.   Some republicans got caught in a strip club.  Oh, how could they!?  *Rolls eyes*  Isn’t it amazing how hundreds of thousands can be killed in Iraq and people don’t seem to blink an eye, then some politicians visit a strip club and the media has a frenzy.

When it comes to sex, people are messed up in the head.  I mean, messed up.  Everyone wants to know about every sexually related affair.  Just study Sigmund Freud’s works.  The human psyche is largely dominated by sexual impulses.   Not too long back I read a book on the history of marriage and it was certainly interesting.  The Catholic church used to have a book they’d produce related to “sexual sins”.  During confession the priests compiled a library of various acts confessed to them regarding sex.   They then used this as a sort of reference guide to administer punishments to the confessing sinners based on what it recommended. I forget what Catholics call that.  Penance is it?

The book only allowed a man and wife to have sex in one position.  I believe it was missionary.  Don’t quote me on that though.  Every other position and act was considered sinful in various degrees.  Priests made confessors tell of their sexual acts in vivid detail.  It’s just repression, the priest’s anger being being taken out on the poor folks coming in to confess.

Sounds crazy but people aren’t any different today.  The culture’s changed around a bit, but people still freak out when it comes to sex.

I hope I don’t come off as a bad person here, but you know, people don’t seem to care about an affair if it’s with an unattractive woman.  You never see, “So and so had an affair with this fat chick”, though that happens too.  It’s almost always about a man and an attractive woman.  You see the celebrity, and then the picture of the gorgeous woman he slept with.  The picture of the guy almost always is one of him smiling, having a good time, and the gorgeous woman in a seductive outfit, or bikini, or something like that, if they have the photo.  That’s not a coincidence.  It all points toward repressed tensions and jealousy.

Yeah it’s terrible when a man cheats on his wife, but you have to ask why you’re getting so worked up over what happened to someone you barely know, especially when the event has no bearing on your life at all.  What makes you angry tells a lot about yourself.

People don’t get worked up over the affair with the fat chick because they’re not jealous.  The women don’t envy the ugly woman, and the men don’t envy the guy.  If she’s really unattractive, it almost has the opposite effect.  The guy becomes admirable, especially if he’s good looking.  I think the unspoken logic goes something along the lines, “Well, she must not have been treating him very well, because why in the world would he go for her, of all people.  The fat chick must be a really good person for him to leave his much better looking wife.  Good for them.”

Gotta love the news.

We’re Destroying The Earth

During the past week or so I have not been able to get the things Alan Watts said in that video out of my head.  “The world wiggles, everything wiggles, and all that wiggling is too complicated.”  How we feel we understand the world once we break it down into simple geometric shapes, and put it all into simple step-by-step operations.

And while I’ve been thinking on those thoughts I’ve also been going out for long walks around town and watching David Attenborough’s films after I get back home.  It then really dawned on me, “Oh my God… we’re destroying the Earth.”

I know I’ve said that before.  I’ve always known this fact yet I feel I’ve came to new sort of realization over the past week.   When I said those things in the past, they didn’t quite carry the emphasis they do now.  I got to watching Planet Earth made by the BBC.  It’s breathtaking.  All the beauty of nature they’ve filmed in that series is beyond words.

We’ve inherited a world with so much beauty, and so many different forms of life, yet we’re just dumping toxic crap in our oceans, pumping smog into the atmosphere, chopping down the forests…  We really are a cancer to this planet.

Yet, somehow, we feel we’ve improved the Earth.  We’ve built our square little boxes which we call homes, and drive our little cars and trucks around on our flat roads.  We’re destroying the Earth and throwing up trash.

One of the things I noticed watching Planet Earth is that many species on the planet have such well-knit societal structures which are in harmony with the Earth.  It showed a group of baboons who live on top of a certain mountain.  Can’t remember the name.  They live in perfect harmony with nature.   They’re a tightly bound group who looked after one another, with small patrols on watch for foxes and other predators and making warning calls if danger approaches.

They live in harmony with the ecosystem yet we destroy every environment we’re placed in.  Everywhere we go the Earth gets polluted and trashed.  As I walked around town that fact was glaring at me.  I thought, “My God, look at us.  This is terrible.”

I started to thinking about various notions of “individual freedom.”  How we define ourselves and our individuality by being different from the person next door.  Therefore you walk through a neighborhood and every home has a different style, painted a different color, different sorts of cars in each driveway, each with their own color, different mailboxes, etc.   Then I compared that to nature and thought, “How trashy.”

When you walk through a forest everything matches.  Every untouched natural environment on this Earth has a certain “theme” to it.  Almost like God played the role of an artist and planned it all out beforehand.   Yet we as humans don’t think that way.  We divide off the land into sections which we designate as “private property” and then allow ourselves to do whatever we want with our section of the land.  Then we, with our shortsighted little brains, think only of our little plot of land and paint our homes and style our yards with little to no thought of how well all of this works with the neighborhood or community as a whole.  The end result is a trashy looking neighborhood.

We in the United States take pride in this form of individual thought.  Excessive freedom.  Everything’s about freedom.  But there are other countries, such as Japan for example, who are better about considering how their actions tie into the whole.  A lot of that is due to their religious heritage being different from our own.

When you go to an American school all the kids are dressed in their own individual outfits.  Nothing matches.  If you go to Japan, they’re all dressed in their school uniforms.

I used to be a strong advocate of individual freedom, but nowadays I’m becoming more collectivist in thought. However, I’m still someplace inbetween.  There’s merit to both sides and I’m not really hardcore about either these days.

I can’t help but worry that humanity can’t understand the breadth of nature with his primitive mind and when we try to “improve” the Earth with our technology we just screw everything up.   Once I started watching David Attenborough’s films, the heritage that we’re destroying became so apparent to me.

Our population keeps increasing and more and more of these shoddy homes and neighborhoods are being shot up.  Nature is being torn down to make room for more humans.

Nature isn’t completely beautiful either though.  Watching predators prey on the weaker species is heartbreaking.  I don’t know.  Disease.  Starvation.  Natural disasters.  *Sigh*  What a mess we’re in.

The more I learn, the more I find myself driven to sadness.  I should’ve learned my lesson from Solomon in the Bible.  My Dad taught me these lessons growing up.  The story goes something like this.  God came down from heaven and offered young Solomon one wish.   To God’s pleasure, he asked for wisdom to rule Israel.  His wish was granted and he ruled and brought peace and prosperity to the nation, but found his mind troubled to a point which drove him to utter despair.

I’m becoming just like Solomon.  It gets harder and harder to smile and laugh these days.   There are some really great books in the Bible and there’s a lot to learn from it.  I enjoy reading Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Gospels.   I’ll quote some passages from Ecclesiastes the 7th chapter.

“A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of death better than the day of birth.

2 It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart.

3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.

4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

5 It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke
than to listen to the song of fools.

6 Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
so is the laughter of fools.
This too is meaningless.

7 Extortion turns a wise man into a fool,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.

8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.

9 Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.

10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.

11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing
and benefits those who see the sun.

12 Wisdom is a shelter
as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.

13 Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked?

14 When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, a man cannot discover
anything about his future.

15 In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
a righteous man perishing in his righteousness,
and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.

16 Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise—
why destroy yourself?

17 Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time?

18 It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
The man who fears God will avoid all extremes .

19 Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful
than ten rulers in a city.

20 There is not a righteous man on earth
who does what is right and never sins.

21 Do not pay attention to every word people say,
or you may hear your servant cursing you-

22 for you know in your heart
that many times you yourself have cursed others.

23 All this I tested by wisdom and I said,
“I am determined to be wise”—
but this was beyond me.

24 Whatever wisdom may be,
it is far off and most profound—
who can discover it?

25 So I turned my mind to understand,
to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things
and to understand the stupidity of wickedness
and the madness of folly.

26 I find more bitter than death
the woman who is a snare,
whose heart is a trap
and whose hands are chains.
The man who pleases God will escape her,
but the sinner she will ensnare.

27 “Look,” says the Teacher, “this is what I have discovered:
“Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things-

28 while I was still searching
but not finding—
I found one upright man among a thousand,
but not one upright woman among them all.

29 This only have I found:
God made mankind upright,
but men have gone in search of many schemes.”

Though Solomon’s a bit sexist against women due to his countless nagging wives, his other wisdom is sound.   Wise men are always learning about the troubles and problems in this world, yet find themselves powerless in so many situations.  You see the wicked bankers on Wall Street prosper, and good people struggling to get by.  You search for wisdom but instead find out that it’s so far beyond you that you’ll never find the answers you’re really looking for.

As Solomon said, the best wisdom can do for you is keep you alive while you have to suffer watching everyone else around you die.  You learn how to eat the right foods, exercise, how to invest your money, and how to manage your own affairs, yet this doesn’t help when it comes to everyone else around you.

Wisdom is scarce.  People are smoking cigarettes, chugging down the alcohol, never learning about money, not taking care of themselves, nor doing any planning for the future.  They’re running up debts, going to wars, believing lies of all sorts… and sadly, you can’t do anything for them unless they let you and want you to.

I was reading an article just recently about a guy who happened to be in Haiti when the earthquake happened.  He had taken military type survival training and the second the quake started he was jumping out of bed and rushing out the door.  He had scouted the building beforehand and knew exactly where the exits were.  He was out of the building in no time flat.

He was amazed that even after several minutes he was the only one who had made it out of the building.  Nobody else had any clue what to do.  Some were calling the front desk for directions.  Others were getting in the bathtub.

That’s what wisdom does.  Thankfully the building didn’t collapse, but if it had, he would’ve been the only one to survive.  Hundreds would’ve died screaming in terror.  He would’ve had to sit back and watch, not being able to do anything.

That’s all wisdom offers in this world.  You survive and sometimes prosper, but it doesn’t necessarily help anyone but you.  And sadly, people can’t identify wisdom unless they themselves are wise.

Machiavelli illustrates this principle perfectly in his book The Prince found within the chapter ‘How Flatterers Should Be Avoided‘.

“I do not wish to leave out an important branch of this subject, for it is a danger from which princes are with difficulty preserved, unless they are very careful and discriminating.  It is that of flatterers, of whom courts are full, because men are so self-complacent in their own affairs, and in a way so deceived in them, that they are preserved with difficulty from this pest, and if they wish to defend themselves they run the danger of falling into contempt.  Because there is no other way of guarding oneself from flatterers except letting men understand that to tell you the truth does not offend you; but when everyone may tell you the truth, respect for you abates.

Therefore a wise prince ought to hold a third course by choosing the wise men in his state, and giving to them only the liberty of speaking the truth to him, and then only of those things of which he inquires, and of none others; but he ought to question them upon everything, and listen to their opinions, and afterwards form his own conclusions.  With these councillors, separately and collectively, he ought to carry himself in such a way that each of them should know that, the more freely he shall speak, the more he shall be preferred; outside of these, he should listen to no one, pursue the thing resolved on, and be steadfast in his resolutions.  He who does otherwise is either overthrown by flatterers, or is so often changed by varying opinions that he falls into contempt.

…..

A prince, therefore, ought always to take counsel, but only when he wishes and not when others wish; he ought rather to discourage everyone from offering advice unless he asks it; but, however, he ought to be a constant inquirer, and afterwards a patient listener concerning the things of which he inquired; also, on learning that any one, on any consideration, has not told him the truth, he should let his anger be felt.

And if there are some who think that a prince who conveys an impression of his wisdom is not so through his own ability, but through the good advisers that he has around him, beyond doubt they are deceived, because this is an axiom which never fails: that a prince who is not wise himself will never take good advice, unless by chance he has yielded his affairs entirely to one person who happens to be a very prudent man.  In this case indeed he may be well governed, but it would not be for long, because such a governor would in a short time take away his state from him.

But if if a prince who is not experienced should take counsel from more than one he will never get united counsels, nor will he know how to unite them.  Each of the counsellors will think of his own interests, and the prince will not know how to control them or to see through them.  And they are not to be found otherwise, because men will always prove untrue to you unless they are kept honest by constraint.  Therefore it must be inferred that good counsels, whencesoever they come, are born of the wisdom of the prince, and not the wisdom of the prince from good counsels.

All those who think Sarah Palin could make a good president are deceived.  My grandpa once said, “She’s a good person.  She may not understand everything herself, but she can get good advisors who will tell her what to do.”  I thought, “No no no.  That’s not how it works.”  I don’t know if she’s a good person or not.  She comes across as an opportunist to me spouting party slogans and never breaking anything down into any depth.

President Obama doesn’t know the lessons from this chapter either.  He gives liars too much of a voice, doesn’t stand steadfast enough, and doesn’t control the debates and conversations.  That’s what a political leader is supposed to do.  Shut up the noise, tell people how things really work, direct the debates in a direction, and stand for something without moving.  But he instead sways with the wind, and has fallen into contempt, just as Machiavelli said would happen.

Intelligent people debate and discourse, entertaining all sides, but in politics you don’t do that.  The masses don’t understand all those fine details and it’s more about being confident and knowing what you’re talking about.  You pose yourself as an authority, that you know what you’re doing, and take control.

The last paragraph from the quoted chapter describes Obama’s administration perfectly.

But I think Obama is a smart guy.  He’s trying to apply the same principle a wise man uses in his own personal affairs to politics.  In Ecclesiastes 7 Verse 18, Solomon talks about not giving giving yourself to extremes, and this lesson is one I’ve only learned recently.

Extremes have their uses.  Principles such as limits in Calculus are useful at exposing certain relationships.  We’re always trying to push the limits of something,  We heat a metal and see how much heat it can absorb before it melts.  Our engineering specifications always tell the maximum output of our engines and devices.

But when it comes to real life, you have to be a person who sees things from every angle.  Grasp to one idea set, yet hold onto the other as well.  It’s so hard to be sure of something.  You humbly look at something, test your ideas, and just see what works and what doesn’t, yet always knowing in the back of your mind that it’s very likely that you’re wrong.

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”  For it is not wise to ask such questions. I never seem to learn this one.  Times are always changing and no matter how hard you try to hold onto things you can’t. You can’t look back.  Just keep your eyes ahead of you and keep moving.

We’re wired emotionally to attach ourselves to things, but those things are destined to death and decay, whether those things are people or things.  It’s inevitable that we constantly experience sadness and sorrow.

Jean Paul Satre, in Being and Nothingness, said when we look back on our past we freeze into a stone statue.  When we define ourselves based on our past events, that past defines us, yet the past can’t be changed.  We too become frozen, just like the memories in our heads — unchangeable.  We become history instead of history makers.

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? Maybe when we try to straighten out this messed up world, we end up simplifying it to such an extent that it no longer can uphold the complex nature required to support life.  Therefore we destroy ourselves in the process.

That’s not to say I don’t support us making the attempt.  It’s just that if things keep getting worse, we’ll need to have all this in mind.  If new technology doesn’t come out to fix the problems we’re now creating, the world is going to throw off humanity like a bull in a rodeo within a few hundred years.  The water will become so polluted, the air so bad, the food so tainted and unnourishing, that we’ll all die off.  Billions of years of evolution to create us, a few thousand years of “civilization” to destroy it off.

But though all of this is rather depressing, I think the world is on some sort of magnificent journey.  The thing is, we’re just not the star attraction.  We’ll have to deal with that.  But if you’d like a glimpse at what nature can do, take a look at this:  (These are clips from the David Attenborough film I was talking about, though unfortunately they’re not in High Definition, like I’ve been watching)

Something truly amazing is going on.  I believe in some sort of intelligence at work behind the laws of nature in this world.  How can you look around you and find it all random?  No, it was planned out by a great artist.  Though the creator of this universe is quite an artist, I don’t know what else to say about It though.  Then again, I don’t feel qualified to say much else either.

If God truly is infinite in all respects, and when It creates steps into space-time, I could see how It would not be too attached to any particular universe or set of things.  It would have an infinite amount of stuff to show us, and to do so requires change, and with change there is inevitably death.  The cruelty in this world may only be temporary, and death a mere illusion.

I have a feeling we step into something new upon death.  After examining quantum mechanics and relativity, and the Big Bang in cosmology, I just can’t picture this universe giving us a short, tiny life then saying, “Well, that’s it.”

When it comes to questions like those, I stand back and say, “I don’t know.”   Don’t listen to those who claim to “see the light” and know what’s going on in this world.  I assure you, they have no clue.

When I was young my childhood dream was to make video games.  I was interested in programming the graphics engines behind computer games.  I loved coding simulators, programming in the physics, the artificial intelligence, and making my own world.  Designing and building games – that’s what I wanted to do.

Then I learned more about reality.  I figured out that whatever world I could even envison in my mind, this world I live in is a million times more intricate, and my artificial worlds would be cheap mimicries.  That’s when I dedicated myself to researching science.

We need to be careful when we intervene in nature’s processes.  We may end up replacing something beautiful with something much less so and ruin everything.

Reflections On Alan Watts Philosophy

Yesterday I was watching a video by a famous philosopher, Alan Watts.  He was big in the 1960s and 1970s.   Here’s the video:


Watch Alan Watts – A Conversation with Myself in Lifestyle |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

I think he’s an interesting guy.  I’m not sure if I agree with the things he says in this video or not.  I’m a bit undecided.  I think whether or not I agree with him will depend on very detailed neuroscience studies.  Until I’m able to finish those studies, I’ll have to remain undecided.

He’s the type of guy who has serious doubts about technology.  Nature has a set direction it’s on and instead of cooperating with nature, we instead have tried to control it and change it.   We’ve tried to dominate it.  This in turn has made us feel alienated from the Earth and the universe and ultimately will lead to a dead end.  Well, in his opinion, we’re already at a dead end.

I think his strongest point is when he talks about how we want to make things straight, whereas the world always wiggles.  He looks out onto the landscape around him and everything is curvy and almost chaotic.   We feel we don’t understand something unless we break it down into simple geometric shapes.  We represent space in terms of lines and distances from an origin point with three extended lines at right angles to each other.  But why do that?  He even goes so far as to say Euclid had a rather weak intellect.

Later we come to Einstein and relativity, and we find that reality isn’t quite as simple as we thought.  Space curves and bends and is even related to time in the strangest ways.  It’s insanely complicated.   Space and time wiggle, yet our theories are square-like, trying to squeeze reality into a mold it was never made to fit into.

He feels we far too often leave the outside world outside, and get lost in our personality.  Lost in various areas of our brains.  We’ve lost ourselves when we think all the time instead of experiencing reality, talking to ourselves and bouncing language and symbols around in our heads.  Other times we attribute our “selves” to illusory perceptions, such as bodily tension, etc., and come to think of that as “us”.

He attributes very little substance to the thoughts which take place in our heads.  In other videos and materials made by him, he’s all about shutting up the “chattering” in our heads.  Words and thought are akin to ripples in a pond, and we need to settle down and remember that those things are illusory, and for us to get out of our heads and back into reality.  To him, that’s what meditation entails.

How to respond to these things.  Well, I won’t go into great detail.  I’ve been studying physics all day long and am a bit tired.  I’ll try to quickly make some points though.

Early in the video he looks out onto the landscape and says that it all makes an impression on him, all at once.  The world simply impresses itself on him.  The world, when looked at in this regard, is ultimately very simple.  The same applies to moving his bodily limbs, or clasping something in his hand.

Take love for instance.  A lot of couples simply fall in love.  They don’t think any complex philosophy, and they don’t have to justify anything in their heads.  They just like each other and go with their feelings.  But then there’s other people who try to define everything out, but is that even necessary?

Love is very complicated to describe, yet when you’re in love and with someone who reciprocates that love, it’s all very simple.   To Mr. Watts, all that language and talk in your head is an illusion.  Just words bouncing around, and you’re making it all complicated, wasting your psychic energy.  Just feel and go with your feelings.

Oftentimes with education, we just lose ourselves in our minds, and become disconnected from reality.  Talk about love all day long, when you’ve never had a fulfilling love life of your own.

To Mr. Watts, we’ve taken science too far, or at least, have gotten lost in our equations and techniques, and have lost the big picture.   It’s all so complicated that we create all this technology which then destroys the Earth and all life around us, and will eventually destroy ourselves as well.   The world is wiggly and subtle, yet we apply theories which are square-like and rigid, and it’s not working.  We need to sit back and say, “Nature, you’re much smarter than us.   Trying to control you, we’ve only destroyed ourselves.”

I think this same concept applies to economics.  When I read these Keynesian textbooks, advocating government intervention in this, intervention in that, controlling this, controlling that, these are the same sorts of arguments that come up.  When you have an economy which consists of over 300,000,000 individual actors, and millions of businesses all interrelated in complex ways, trying to plan such large scale concepts as “aggregate supply” and “aggregate demand”, and screwing around with the money supply by manipulating interest rates, etc., can only lead to disaster.  The economy wiggles, but our theories are square-like and too rigid.

Thinking about it, I guess I am a bit of a contradiction.  When it comes to markets, I say set them free in order to succeed.  They’re too complicated to plan.  Then we come to nature and the universe and I grit my teeth and say, “Let’s go guys!  We need to control these forces and build a better world!”

But do we go back to foraging around for food, chasing buffalo around the plains?  Here’s how I see it.  For now, the artificial world we’ve constructed is one in which nature will not upkeep itself in that state without us having to do work.  We build homes, yet natural processes tend to erode them away.  The homes rot, their foundations sink and crack, pipes rust and bust, etc.

So instead of doing that, should we instead try to find some way to live more in line with nature?  Well, when I study biology, I find it all to be an arbitrary process of matter congealing on itself into cells and slowly evolving over billions of years.  When I examine it closely, sure it’s complicated, and we may well make mistakes trying to intervene in various life systems, but I don’t hold nature up as some holy grail either.

I think we’re on the verge of constructing machines with complex artificial intelligence.  I think we’ll have drone machines which repair our homes in the future.  They’ll stock the shelves in our stores, produce the products, work the assembly lines, etc.   And when that happens, how is that any different than nature upkeeping itself?   The machines, running according to the same laws of nature, will simply run themselves if they’re built well enough.

Next we come to aesthetic beauty.  I agree with him that nature is more beautiful than the city.  The city is all squares and simple geometric figures.  I too find it boring.  That’s why I like to spend my time outdoors.  Nature is very subtle and intricate.  I find the sounds of birds singing, and crickets chirping far more peaceful than ambient music in the supermarket.

So as technology advances and we can construct any world we desire, are we only shooting ourselves in the foot?  Are we going to end up with a world that’s boring and box-like, instead of wiggly, subtle, and beautiful like many of the things mother nature produces?   I don’t know.  As the world population increases, there will be less and less space for forests and peaceful surroundings.  People will be everywhere.

That’s a funny point actually.  If you watch the video above, you’ll hear Mr. Watts going into this deep philosophy, drinking Japanese tea, and then some idiot screams something off in the background, like a moron.  You hear him off in the distance.  There’s always some fraternity boys out at the park, drinking alcohol, screaming, “Wwwooohooooooo.  Where’s the girls at!”  Then they turn up their stereos real loud and annoy everyone.

I was reading an article in Discover magazine not too long ago, and it was talking about peace and quiet.  There’s some scientists from an institute who traveled around the world looking for remote locations where you wouldn’t have to put up with people making noise.   They scientifically measured noise levels, and time between disruptions.

The result?  Basically peace and quiet doesn’t exist anymore, anywhere.  I’m too tired now to find the article, but it’s interesting.  I don’t like that trend at all.

One thing I don’t like about a lot of Mr. Watts videos is that he gets into that “peace of mind” stuff.  He’ll ridicule the stress of city life, and then show autumn trees, with their gorgeous colorful arrays of browns, yellows, and orange, and peaceful water streams.   If only all nature in the outside world was like that!

He should show a beetle walking across the ground and then one those nice birds swooping down, scooping it up into its beak, then tearing it to shreds, the beetle writhing in agony, all in slow motion.  Show an owl eating a mouse, or a tiger pouncing on a gazelle.  Show stars exploding and black holes sucking in and crushing everything around it.

Earthquakes level cities to the ground.  Tsunamis hit the beaches and drown everyone.  Tornados destroy all the homes in a city block.

Nature is not peaceful.  It’s yin and yang.  Black and white.  Good and evil.  It has its days.

Even if we’re armed with our simplistic models, which don’t take everything into account, there’s a huge part of me that wants to throw up my middle finger to the universe, and fight back.  Build a peaceful world without all the madness.   Without death and aging and losing our loved ones.  Without all the nasty conflicts, the diseases, and other torments.

If all we do is sit and meditate and lose ourselves in the moment, and don’t plan or even attempt to understand the universe, that stuff is never going to go away.

In another video of Mr. Watts, he talks about “Work As Play.”  He gives an example of washing dishes.  He says to get lost in the moment, and not to think about all the dishes you’ve washed in the past, or all those you’ll have to wash in the future.  Just think to yourself, “I only have to wash this one dish right now.”  And wash it, and make it into a sort of dance.  So there you go, washing and dancing, filled with bliss, making minimum wage, not capable of supporting your family, or able to afford health insurance, and there you go, dancing away.

Are you guys able to do that?  I’m not.  I can’t just turn it off and lose myself in some pointless job I can’t stand.  I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work for me.  He comes across to me as a Zen Buddhist.  He’s very desireless.  He wants to sit and meditate for hours, just feeling the breeze blow on his skin.  I have desires and wish to do things.  I suppose that makes me miserable at times, but it also gives me a joy which meditation could never give me.

So I guess it’s back to desiring to change the world, yet our first attempts at doing so have failed.  We’ve modified crops in order to get higher yields and now our foods are becoming less healthy to eat.  We have pesticides to keep the bugs off, yet we’re polluting our water.  We’re cutting down the rainforests out of greed, and oil spills are ruining our beaches.

This new age we’re entering requires us all understanding our actions, and how they take place in the bigger picture.  Yet people are acting only according to their personal self-interests, and we’re destroying ourselves out of greed.

When you learn Kung Fu, one of the first lessons you learn is how to take a fall and quickly get back up.  I think we need to quickly get back up and get back to swinging because we won’t win this fight on the ground.

Then again, Mr. Watts would argue that the fight is unnecessary.  Fighting is the problem.  There is no conflict, and that is all is rooted in an incorrect assessment of what reality is.   I think he’s just missing various subtle points.

He says computers and most people have one track minds, whereas the world impresses itself all at once, and does everything at once, never in steps.  To him all that exists is the eternal and ever-present now.   But I think the one under an illusion is him, as he’s never studied neuroscience.  We can’t blame him really, as back in the 1970s, they didn’t know as much as we do now.

He believes that all there is to neurons is a firing on and off.  That’s hardly the case.  There are all kinds of neurotransmitter chemicals, reuptake systems, processes that take place within the clefts of the synapses, dendrite arms and their attachments to stubs, inhibitions and amplifications of signals, and much more.   There are many many different types of neurons with all kinds of shapes and patterns, some with long arms and some with short.  Some with many arms and some with few.  It’s very intricate and complicated.

That oneness of the world’s impressions that he experienced is only that way because of various systems inside his brain.  Specific regions of his neocortex, lateral genitculate nucleus, and more are automatically performing various operations for him, step by step, but doing multiple operations at once, similar to a computer which multi-threads.  He sees that entire landscape at once, and all of its geometric forms, because his brain processes all that information automatically.   It analyzes the changes in contrast, pixel by pixel, from the cells in the back of his eyes, and forms conscious thought of an environment and space.

The reason he doesn’t have to consciously think about various actions, such as moving his limbs, or processing the spatial orientation of his environment, is because it’s all hardware accelerated, and done automatically by his brain, whereas traditional learning, like what we learn in books and school, is done through association and is much slower and more complicated.  In association our brain’s neurons grow additional dendrite arms and link various things together.  It takes energy, resources, and time to do all that, which is why it requires 20 years worth of education, not to mention being very tiring.  In other brain areas, you’re already born with processing and proper links in place.

If I recall correctly, Broddmann area 17 is for raw sight perception, and 18 and 19 analyze the changes in colors and form representations of objects, and I believe form a conception of space.   The words which bounce around in his brain, which for some reason he seems to frown upon,  originate in areas such as Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas.  Those areas are linked by nerve axons to other areas of the brain, which is how we can link words to objects.   I don’t get what’s wrong with that.  I see no reason to consider thought and the words in our heads as worthless noise and “chatter”.

The objects he experiences with his eyes are just as illusory as the words which bounce around in his head.  The objects he sees have set shapes and forms, and his brain tells him that they’re a certain distance away from him, but that’s not true at all.  What he really sees are electromagnetic waves traveling to him from those objects, which originate in the surface atoms of that object, which follow quantum mechanical laws.  The atoms become excited absorbing sun-light and moonlight photons, and then release photons back into space, which then travel to your eyes, and that energy creates the signals which your brain processes.  Sure the atoms wiggle and do strange things, but they’re not entirely incomprehensible.

If you start moving at speeds near that of light, you’ll watch distances change, masses will change, objects will start to bend and curve and change colors.  As Immanuel Kant argued, “When do we know things as they are in and of themselves?”  The answer is we don’t.

I think if we learn how our brains work to a large extent, we can increase their capacity, and we’ll be able to more easily harmonize with nature and understand its processes.  If we can increase our methods of communication from audible speech to something much faster, we can teach each other what we learn much more quickly, instead of having to read books for 20 years, and even then only learn a small fraction of what’s to know, not to mention forgetting half of it.

I think the world is so confusing because it’s old and complicated, whereas we’re so young compared to it.  The universe is purported to be 13.9 billion years old.  At least, so they think.  I’m not even 30 years old!  It’s not surprising that we can’t figure it out.

But I think if our lifespans were 100,000 years, and our brains were thousands of times more powerful, we could easily harmonize with nature, and I believe we’d think in wiggles, not in squares and rigid boxes.

I think the ultimate reality is the laws which govern this universe, not individual people’s perception of it.  I say this simply because from those laws we can assume that other people are having various experiences, even if we ourselves are not experiencing those things directly.  We all experience the world as individuals, but the laws which govern the world are universal.  Amazingly, our brains, as primitive as they are, can discover those laws, and even start to use them to our benefit.  I think nature wants us to take that thread and run with it.  Where it all goes, I don’t know.

This allows us to move beyond ourselves and see the world as one.  His philosophy confines you to your personal inner world, and you never can see beyond it.  Take depression for instance.  You may be happy and easy going, and wonder why that Zen philosophy stuff isn’t working for someone else.  Well, when you study the limbic system, and how it can be damaged, causing things like bipolar disorders, you can, at least in in a way, experience the world of another person, even if you’re not yourself experiencing it subjectively.

He talks so much about experiencing the world in its entirety.  I don’t think that’s possible without dedicated instruction and education.

He’d call me a “prickly” person.  Very analytical and precise.  He calls others “goo”.  Emotional and feeling driven.  I honestly don’t think I’m either.  I use my “prickly” logic to understand the goo, which originates in the limbic system.  It all can be explained scientifically, even though it’s rather laborious at times.  I also have a goo part of me, which can be very loving and warm, though I reserve those things for special people in my life.

But let’s not be too hard on Mr. Watts.  Sometimes when I’m stressed out, just sitting down, quieting my mind, and just hearing the subtleties around me can bring a lot of peace.  Alan Watts is a smart guy, and has a lot of teach.  When it comes to loving and enjoying a lot of aspects of life, he’s a better teacher to go to than me.  I’m sure if he was still alive, and we met, we’d talk for hours and be great friends.

What Makes You Happy?

When I was out for a walk yesterday morning I got to thinking, “What is it in my life that makes me happy?”  I thought it was worth writing down all the things in my life which I look forward to every day.

After thinking on it for quite a while, I determined that around 90% of all my pleasures in life come from having leisure time and learning new things.  A huge portion of my happiness comes from learning.  There are other things which interest me from time to time, but nothing quite gives me the thrill I get when I’m alone in my study working on various research pursuits.

I don’t know which area of research I’d consider most primary.   I’ve never been able to decide among various fields of research.   Here are the main things in life I pursue and am interested in these days:

1. The nature of the mind

Every time I watch a sci-fi movie, and there’s a robot on their spaceship doing some task for them, I just can’t help myself.  My thoughts start to roam and I think how wonderful that idea is.  To build a robot which has intelligence like a human being.  A robot capable of thinking and doing various complex actions.  I can’t think of anything I’d rather build for humanity.  If God came down from heaven and said, “Jason, if you could invent one thing, and I will supernaturally infuse you with knowledge as to how to build it, what would you choose?”  I would choose knowledge as to exactly how the brain works, and all of its logical operations.  Then I’d use that information to build an artificial life-form which could replicate itself and then dispatch those robots to relieve humanity from all toil.

All the robots would be linked together to a master “brain” server, where all the knowledge of humanity is stored.  There’d be robot “terminals” in every city, which looked and spoke like people, and you could sit down with them and ask them anything.  That would be so amazing.

Not only this, but I love learning how the mind works, and attempting to build such things.   It’s just so much fun.

I would be talking with my robot all the time.  I’d be coming up with various theories related to the economy, scientific pursuits, and more, and then I’d ask the robots to confirm of disprove whether I’m right.  All my lab assistants would be robots.  They’d sort through all the data, help me perform meticulous observations, and then let me know what they find out.   It’d be incredible.  Humanity would progress by leaps and bounds.

There would no longer even be a need for money.  Nobody would ever be forced to do anything.  Robots could build us all mansions and do every crummy job we hate.  And they wouldn’t mind it either.  They’d just mindlessly do our bidding programmed to smile at us, always replying, “I’m happy to serve.”

Of course, if I knew exactly how the brain worked, in every way, I’m sure I’d genetically modify myself to where I wouldn’t even need the robots to process information for me.  I’d modify all of us humans and give everyone super powerful minds which could communicate telepathically, and everyone would know everything.

I’d program my brain to be perfectly photographic, capable of remembering literally everything exposed to it, never forgetting new information.  I’d vastly enhance its capabilities to process information.

That pursuit of wanting to understand myself, and the mind, is really what fuels my love of philosophy and neuroscience.   I love studying artificial intelligence and programming computers.

When you watch a sci-fi movie and there’s this rogue scientist guy down in a lab someplace, dimly lit, science equipment all around, working on some crazy invention, that suits me perfectly.  That’s exactly the sort of person I am.

2.  Physics Research

I’m interested in everything related to the universe and engineering.  I love learning how to build things and how everything works.

Sometimes I find myself reading technical engineering books for no reason at all.  Most people find no interest in water pumps, but I do.  Ultrasound machines?  Sonar?  Wind turbines?  Give me books and specifications on it, and I’ll sit here and study it all.

I find joy building things.  Study hydraulics and water pumps, and construct an enormous water fountain and install it in a lake.  Install lights as well and let everyone enjoy it at night.  Or build a high pressure hose which can literally cut through thick rock.  Take a giant rock and make yourself a statue.

I love just walking around town and knowing how everything works.  It’s neat knowing I could build a cell phone jammer and place it in city park, leaving everyone’s cell phones within a two mile radius inoperative, receiving nothing but static.  If I was given the right equipment, I could build you one right here and now.   If I knew the encryption I could start talking to everyone, “Mwhwahahahaha.  All your phones belong to me!” … “Who is this?” … “Hmmm, I wonder?”  *Click … static*

Ten years from now I’ll really be capable of doing some crazy stuff.  I mean crazy.  Knowledge is power.  It’s weird knowing how electrical meters work and how easily they can be manipulated if you need some more power for your lab but are short on funds (LOL).

Or constructing a magnetically levitated train, and understanding exactly how it all works.  That’s just bad ass.  It’s literally like you’re floating in the air zooming all over the place.

And how could anyone not be interested in the universe?  Quantum mechanics?  General relativity?  My gosh, how could you NOT be fascinated?

My favorite time to be awake is at night.  I love to go for walks at 2 AM in the morning, when nobody is out.  I walk out into an open field somewhere and just look up.  Though we often don’t think about it, we really do live on a rock, twirling around like a merry-go-round through space and time in the Milky Way.  Billions and billions of suns, and galaxies galore.  It’s all there, even if you don’t ever think about it.

Though it’s all there, I don’t think many people think about it.  They see the stars at night and I think it’s more of a pretty picture to them, and they don’t actually realize that those are all ENORMOUS fire balls.  We concern ourselves with our stupid jobs, and running to the little league game to watch Johnny, but all in all, the universe is still out there, waiting for someone to discover it.

3.  Economics research

Have you ever just looked out the window and thought that the entire world is rigged?  Why some people have billions and others can’t even get by?

I too wonder those things every day.  I have this obsession to learn everything about money.  Money runs this world, and I have so many questions I wonder about.  The more I study economics, the more I want to study.

The more physics I learn, the less I seem to understand about the world.  Economics is the same way.  I seem to always be learning everything I don’t know, and how my old beliefs have been wrong, whereas I’ve rarely learned the solution to the problems I think about.

I think anyone who keeps up with the world, in any capacity, knows that this world is run by the big corporations.  They buy off our politicians and their greed seems to know no ends.    With me there’s this inner fascinating with the mechanics as to how it’s all done.  I get joy in learning how it all works, even if it is depressing in many ways.

But I enjoy studying all kinds of other subjects.  History is a big one.  Lately I’ve been wanting to do a huge study into Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, but haven’t had the time yet.

What else makes me happy.  Well, I love going out for long walks outdoors.  Just yesterday I went for a 2 hour walk.  Sometimes I just start walking and do a complete lap around town.  Half the time I’m thinking about some philosophical problem, or just mindlessly walking.  Either way, I find it relaxing.

I used to enjoy driving around town, but I don’t anymore.  I’ve only driven my car like four times in the past two years.  No kidding.  I have no desire to drive.

But I absolutely LOVE motorcycles.  Hop on a motorcycle and go for a road trip across the country.  I love riding motorcycles.  I love it when you get to going fast and you can’t hear anything.  All you hear is the wind in your ears.  Imagine driving down the interstate at 70 mph then sticking your head out the window.   That’s what it’s like on a motorcycle.

Then you take a sharp turn leaning into it.  Engine rumbling.  Oh man, it’s heaven.  *daydreams.  extends arms in front of keyboard, like it’s handlebars.  Turns up some Steppenwolf*

Some people say motorcycles are two-wheeled death machines.  If I end up dieing in a motorcycle crash, at least I was enjoying myself up until that point!

Riding around Missouri on a motorcycle is just like in this clip, when they’re on the highway, forest all around them.  Trees and hills.  That’s Missouri.  It’s really nice.

I love road trips.  Not in cars.  I hate sitting in a car for that long.  But I love doing it on motorcycles.

I also love any sort of decorations for motorcycles.  Little medals and things I can hang from my saddle-bags or handlebars.

I love leather jackets of all sorts, especially if they have cool things embroidered into them.  I like motorcycle helmets, leather gloves.  I just love motorcycles and anything to do with them.

I really love playing basketball.  Sometimes I go to the gym and shoot around for hours.  I don’t even need anyone to play with.  I just love shooting three pointers.  See how many I can make in a row.

Video games are a lot of fun to me.  I have a nerdy side to me and like role playing games.  I’ll be going through Final Fantasy XIII on the PS3 before too long.   I used to play games all the time.  I still play them, though not near as much.

I enjoy all kinds of other things but those are the things I do most frequently.  I read, study, do research, go for long walks, ride motorcycles, play basketball and video games.

I’d like to add a nice girl to my life as well, but that’ll have to come when it comes.   I think that’d add a lot of happiness as well.  You’ll notice in everything listed here, it’s all done alone.  I spend most all my time alone.  Really, it doesn’t bother me being alone a lot.  I prefer it actually.

I don’t think I’ve ever understood loneliness as some experience it.  I’ve never felt a pain from being alone and not around people.  But just the other day I heard someone say that loneliness is the feeling you have when you miss friends or someone special to you.  If that’s the case, then I’m lonely at times.  Thoughts of old friends, and wanting to talk with them surfaces in me while I’m out for walks.

When I’m out with friends I enjoy one of two types of situations:  1) simple fun, or 2) intellectual conversations.  I’m fine with either.   I enjoy shooting pool, playing arcade games, eating out somewhere, miniature golf… all sorts of things really.   I also like long walks with a friend, if it’s the right company.

Half The Schools in Kansas City, MO closing down!

Stumbled across this article tonight:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/07/kansas-city-public-school_n_489145.html

Ever think of moving to Missouri?  It’s really nice.  I love it here.  And man will you be impressed when you come and take a look at our schools!  Your kids’ mouths will drop as you tour our campuses.

Olympic sized swimming pools, recording studios,  fencing programs… yep, I’m not kidding.  Sounds like a private country club for the rich, but no.  It’s Missouri’s bloated public schools.  Apparently a belief has set in that schools are not about educating kids in government, economics, mathematics, and science, but are instead social clubs.

“School officials say the cuts are necessary to keep the district from plowing through what little is left of the $2 billion it received as part of a groundbreaking desegregation case.”

2 BILLION!!!  That’s not million.  That’s BILLIONS.  We’re talking Bs here.  Not Gs.  Not Mils.  Bs!  One city!  One school district!  And what did they spend it on?

The district went on a buying spree that included a six-lane indoor track and a mock court complete with a judge’s chamber and jury deliberation room. But student achievement remained low, and the anticipated flood of students from the suburbs turned out to be more like a trickle.

Who needs an imagination.  I’m sure the kids could never imagine what a court proceeding would look like without a complete mock courtroom and judge’s chamber.  Back when I was in school, we had a field trip and visited the courthouse.  Man, those were the days!

Hard to remember the old times.  Back then I remember the gym coach blowing the whistle and us all running outside around the lawn, and then playing soccer, kickball, and baseball out there.  Today?  No way.  That’s totally old fashioned.  Who goes outside?   They need an indoor six-lane track!

“This year alone officials expect to overspend the $316 million budget by $15 million and if nothing changes, the district will be in the red by 2011.”

And no matter how much money we pump into our schools, the kids test scores keep dropping.

Kansas City is among the most striking examples of the challenges of saving urban school districts. The city used gobs of cash to improve facilities, but boosting lagging test scores and stemming the exodus of students were more elusive.

So after blowing all the money, now our schools crawl to the Federal Government for more cash.  But uh oh, Obama’s administration has blown all that money.  There’s trillions allocated for the nuclear missile program to blow up the non-existent Soviet Union.  Trillions for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Trillions for Wall Street and the banker bailouts.  But schools?   Healthcare?   Nah.

Close the schools down guys.  Don’t have insurance?  Can’t afford it even though unemployment is rampant?  Sorry!

Kansas City isn’t far from where I live.   Our government politicians, school administrators, the whole lot of them.  All complete failures.  No priorities at all.

One of the youngest speakers at a forum, 9-year-old Richard Fisher III, had tears in his eyes as he begged administrators to keep his school open.

“Why do you want to close down our school?” asked Fisher, still clad in his blue and white school uniform. “We learn, play and have fun.”

There’s nothing more to say.