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Journal

Two insights about life

Live a magical, inspired life.  At 41 years old my life can be busy.  I have a family with two young boys, a job and my past time is karate.  What takes the most time and energy however are the boys.  There are schedules to be kept, meals, bath times, activities, play, swim lessons, karate and so on.  It is a routine that makes life become a bit of a blur.

Also at 41 years old we’re full of experiences and not much is new anymore.  I rarely feel inspired and do not get very excited about anything.  I think back to when I was young and the excitement the upcoming weekend would bring.  I remember how I would daydream and how vivid my emotions were when listening to music, seeing a great movie or the excitement of an upcoming date.  You’re always surrounded by your peers where the relationship landscape shifts, especially in dating.  The future is wide open and full of possibilities and it is fun to daydream about all of these possibilities.  We’re all in the same situation, protected by the guardrails of our parents and teachers and success can always be had later if one isn’t doing too well in school.

At 41 however, our lives have diverged dramatically and we should have succeeded by now.  We compare ourselves to our old classmates and the divergence can cause some depression, especially when seen through the window of Facebook.  We’re pretty much settled into our lives and not many big changes can be expected.

For me personally, I’m very happy with the decisions I’ve made and life in terms of success is pretty good.  However, I want to feel the excitement of my youth again.  So how to do it?

I’ve found that mixing up my music, watching some really great movies and trying to live an ‘inspired’ life do the trick but the uplifting feeling is short.  So I thought about this for a while and realized that in this age of constant information, endless choices and infinite distraction I should just focus on a few things that make me feel young and generate that old uplifting feeling.

For me and my personality that means living a magical life:  I should see the wonder, mystery and beauty in things such as the stars, scientific discoveries about the universe.  I also return to things that excited me before with movies such as The Hobbit and LOTR, The Matrix and the show Game of Thrones.  Some of these things rekindle passion about the real world:  The Matrix inspires me to learn more about computers, Game of Thrones about Medieval European history and The Hobbit about taking those first few steps out of our homes to go explore the world and have an adventure.  So in essence, it is the fantasy which inspire real world passion and are the path to an exciting life.  I want this excitement in my life, otherwise it can become monotonous and I become a boring person.

So that covers my thoughts on how I think I should improve my life at 41 years old.  However, my other realization about life seems to go in the opposite direction.  In learning more about the universe and what we as human beings actually are, I’ve come to a conclusion that our bodies are just a form of bacteria which evolved on a rock out in space.  One recent book I listened to while on my many recent plane rides is “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  Our universe mysteriously came into being, expanded and over billions of years formed and continues to expand.  We as a human race have only been around for a second in all of that time yet for the most part we considered our home to be the center of it all and our bodies made in the direct image of a God which created it all.  Then we learned we’re not in the center of the universe, that our bodies are very much comprised of bacteria and going the way we’re going with polluting our planet, the possibility of getting hit by a rock or ray from outer space and or destroying ourselves with nuclear war we might not be around for another second in cosmic time.

I think about how a much more advanced alien race would consider us.  We think ourselves so smart but have only been around for such a very short time compared to the age of the universe.  With the discovery and subsequent realization that here are billions of galaxies out there with stars and planets such as our own that are inconceivably older than ours these alien races must possess technology which our minds cannot even comprehend.  And so it follows that they must consider us just a simple form of bacteria who have learned out to communicate with each other by simple, audible means.  We consume other living things and excrete them through a hole at the end and we have four appendages which give us a form of movement and a way to grasp other things.

I tell you, looking at the human body as a form of bacteria really makes all of those beauty products seem rather absurd.  We cover up our natural smell with chemicals called perfumes and colognes, women put paint on their faces and walk around in uncomfortable, ill-fitting shoes.  Men spend hours at the gym which is so slight should seemingly all powerful aliens be looking at us as bacteria, that those bench presses are just a waste of time compared to their power.

Just as we look at bacteria through a microscope I imagine advanced races in this universe looking at us.  Little bacteria moving around, making noise, forming religions, joining and reproducing, killing and then just die as inconsequentially as when they were born.

Yes, unfortunately this has become my thoughts on what we actually are as a human species.  However, I do have one hope that allows us to transcend from being just a lowly form of bacteria and this is the mind.  Yes, perhaps our consciousness is simply due to the billions of neuron connections in that lump of meat we call the brain, but I feel as though the universe has many more mysteries in store for us outside of what we can physically perceive.  I think our five senses are only realizing half a percent of what is out there.  We’ve spent most of our time in physical discovery which is real and concrete, but for that which cannot be perceived we’ve let the fairy tales of religion hold the reigns.  Now I say fairy tales because most of those stories I’ve come to believe are simply made up; “plagiarism of a plagiarism, of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion,”  as Christopher Hitchens says.

It has been my experience that religion focuses on these illusions and stories for the mainstream while keeping the mystical behind closed doors open only to very few or those who doggedly pursue them.  Religion is man’s way of rationalizing the most important question of all, who we are and why we are here.  In other words, it gives an answer to the question of what the hell is going on??

It would be much better to focus on the mystical aspects, of the mind and perhaps our abilities to transcend our consciousness out of this frail bacteria in both death and while we are alive?  This is what attracts me to meditation, to the mystical aspects of Buddhism and to mindfulness.

Yes, it is my belief that there is a lot going on in the universe and perhaps beyond which we organisms with our simple brains cannot perceive and this my friends is awe-inspiring.  And so I quit going to church and instead prefer to meditate, to focus my thoughts and thus try to perceive my life at a higher, clearer level.  It is with my mind in focus that I can live a better life, be a better husband and father and find my mood much elevated.  It is in these meditative states that I also wait for enlightenment, that lightning bolt of truth which gives the answer we are all searching for whether we realize it or not.

And so with that, it is time to meditate.

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Journal

Craziness

It is 8:27 PM on Thursday April 26th, 2018.  We had pizza night and I always regret pizza night right after I’ve eaten too many pieces.

I named this post ‘craziness’ due to a couple of thoughts running through my mind.

  1.  Artificial Intelligence

Recently I’ve started doing the jumble in the mornings in The Columbus Dispatch.  This is my hometown newspaper and I used to do the jumble a lot with my study hall teacher Mrs. Hebert.  It started out a little slow but over time I can now figure the daily jumble out pretty quickly although I’m only 50% on the Sunday, harder version.

When I simply cannot figure it out we now have the luxury of just typing it in a website and the webpage spits out the answer.  This makes me think about how we humans, even though we think of ourselves as intelligent, really are not especially when it comes to the universe as a whole.  We’re designing computers which in very short time will be light years ahead of us through AI and reach an intelligence we cannot even fathom.  As Michiko Kaku said, if aliens have visited us they probably regard us in the same way we look at forest animals.

This is all very humbling especially when it takes me more than 15 minutes just to unscramble a few words and especially when I fail to do so.

When I was growing up the goal was to try to be the smartest in the class.  If you could do that then it was safe to say you were ‘smart.’  Then with the internet the pool became infinitely larger and now you competed with humanity as a whole.  You can try to be the smartest with your comments on social media, be the smartest in your forum or the best in your online game but you’ll always be outdone by someone who is smarter than you.

As time passes it won’t even be the internet you’re competing with but AI and AI is something we cannot even try to compete against even though we breathe a sigh of collective relief when a human beats AI in chess.  Those days are quickly fading away.  We’ve almost come to that realization and the discussion is revolving around if we’ll even survive AI or whatever it decides to do with us.  We’re not smart enough to put checks and balances on it so if we’re honest with ourselves we’re simply playing a game of Russian Roulette.

  1. Fruit/Vegetable Juice

Everyday I drink a mix of vegetable and fruit juice.  However, the question has come to mind about how healthy these drinks actually are given the use of pesticides.  Yes, there is organic but given the level of chemicals we’re putting into the environment how safe are we really from these chemicals?  In the summer I only buy from the farmer’s markets and I trust they do their best to limit the use of chemicals but again, I think it is a forgone conclusion that profits trump safety since the fruits and vegetables have to look appealing so people will buy them and that involves chemicals.  So how much poison am I actually drinking?

  1. How ‘Human” are we?

I read an article that tells me the bacterial cells in my body outnumber my human cells.  We’re only beginning to understand the role that bacteria plays in making us who we are.  That begs the question how “human” am I really?  Could it be that all of humanity is simply a form of bacteria that is growing and multiplying in some organism we know to be the universe?  We use religion as a safety blanket to give our existence meaning and what a shock it would be to discover we really are nothing more than spontaneous bacteria.  As we do get smarter and through AI I think this question will be answered in the next couple of hundred years and it will certainly be a shock to all of us, if we survive AI that is.  AI could decide that we are a plague in this larger organism and take steps to eliminate us.  The most we understand at the moment is that we have consciousness and we inhabit a ‘universe,’ which we perceive through our limited senses.  What else is there that we do not perceive?

  1. The chaos kept in check by the military and police

I’ve come to understand that there is a large amount of chaos going on in the world that is kept in check by our police and military.  Sometimes I read the police logs in my local town of Pacifica and am shocked to see how much chaos there actually is.  It is through the work of the police which keeps this chaos in check and allows us to lead normal lives.  That is the meaning of the “thin blue line,” and the amount of chaos is something most people do not perceive as they are not police nor read the logs.

On a national scale I now realize there is a type of low level war going on all the time.  Bad things are happening everyday that do not make the news and from which the public is kept completely unaware.  Nations are playing a game of chess which involves real power and there is constant competition for leverage.  There are the elites which direct this game of chess to consolidate their own power by using governments to move the pieces.  Given this realization it is quite obvious that although we think of ourselves as an intelligent species we really are nothing more than “forest animals” for any aliens with the technology to visit and or observe us.

The mainstream thinks this is crazy talk yet even the Pentagon has now released video of flying objects of which we do not know what they are.  This is in addition to the CIA files which also describe strange encounters.  As someone once said, “90% of that stuff is nonsense, but 10% is credible.”  Since we cannot explain these phenomena we simply disregard them and go on with our daily lives.  Furthermore, we now have the technology to realize and catalogue individual planets which are circling the innumerable stars in the universe.  The Drake Equation  tells us that there should be innumerable amounts of planets with life on them.  I tried finding the answer to an estimated amount of planets that should have the technology to contact us but none of the websites I visited give a clear answer.  All in, we should be visited by thousands of aliens by now and it is my assumption that if they had that type of technology to cross such a vast distance then they would also have the technology to keep hidden.

But getting back to the chaos, we do not live in a peaceful world.  We think it is peaceful because we build communities and bubbles in which we choose to reside.  Take one step inside a Brazilian favela or in Sinola and you’ll experience the chaos firsthand.  Forest animals indeed.

So in the end we’re not even in competition with AI which will be a man made construction but with the universe as a whole.

And it still takes me over 15 minutes to do the jumble.

With that it is time for bed.

Categories
Journal

Zelda – Breath of the Wild

I had always wanted to play Zelda ever since the the very first one came out in 1987.

First there was Atari, which I remember playing from my earliest memories.  One of my favorite memories in fact was going over to my older neighbor Kevin Heinzenberger’s house and we played Joust together in his room on the top floor.  I remember laughing historically as those nights rode around on birds trying not to get hit, they would go so fast!  I laughed so hard tears came out of my eyes and I was very sad when it was time to go back home.  That is a memory that is burned into my brain and I’ll never forget.

But then, when I was in the 4th / 5th grade or so all of a sudden we had two brand new options that were the hottest toys on the planet.  There was Sega and Nintendo.  Now, I don’t remember seeing commercials or really thinking too much about these gaming systems until I went over to my friend Ryan’s house and he had a Sega.  The very first game I played was called Black Belt and I was absolutely enchanted by the upgrade in graphics and how awesome I thought it all was.  I tell you I would not be able to replicate that feeling of joy even if I were to win the lottery today.

From that point on getting a Sega was my mission in life and I just had to have one.  If I remember correctly I did have to wait quite a while until I think I got it for my birthday after which I played non-stop.

Well, over time I realized that the majority of boys in my class had gotten a Nintendo and I was in the minority with my Sega.  I would go over to their houses but was never disappointed in my choice of Sega although there were to games I loved on Nintendo.  Those games were Super Mario Brothers Two and Zelda.  I had a chance to play Super Mario Brothers a lot over at the Hanley’s on Tall Timbers Court.  Tall Timbers court was the hangout place since about 7 families all with children who attended the same grade school / high school lived there.  If you wanted to know what was going on you headed over to Tall Timbers and I had three good friends who lived on that court.  But getting back to the game, the Hanley brothers let me play Super Mario to my hearts content and I ended up being the first one in the neighborhood to beat the game!  I remember I played it so much they often asked me to stay for dinner which I really appreciated.

As for Zelda however, I never had the chance to play it as I would have liked and so I bought it for the Nintendo Switch based on this memory.  As I’m now 40 I’m not much of a ‘gamer’ anymore.  In fact, I’ve only played Warcraft for the past decade – 20 years in total – and not bought a console gaming system since the Sega Genesis.

Anyway, we got the Switch and my son has been playing the heck out of Super Mario Odyssey, so much so he’s about done with it already.  And so Zelda sat and didn’t get played due to my son using the system and my indifference as to whether I played or not.

Well, after a slow start Zelda began to suck me in.  The game is absolutely beautiful and it is right up my alley being a Hobbit, LOTR, Warcraft, Renaissance Faire fan.  The graphics are stunning and I can lose myself in this beautiful world that looks like something straight out of Middle Earth.  I’m free to explore and can progress as quickly or slowly as I like.

Yes, I can lose myself in this game but what it does is excite the passion I have for exploration, for learning, for the unknown.  I think it was due to gaming, and exploring the worlds of Phantasy Star, of Azeroth and so on that instilled in me the passion I have for travel, learning and exploring this world in real life!  My phantasy worlds in gaming run parallel to my experiences in Spain, France, Mexico, Japan and Vietnam!  Oh, if I simply had the time, money and we could free ourselves from schedule a bit, I too would be a bit like Link out exploring the entire world, learning, getting stronger both mentally and physically.  No, I wouldn’t have the end goal of trying to defeat a terrible demon unless that demon was ignorance.

I’ve got my map of places I want to go on Google Maps that I update every time I find something interesting, historical, beautiful that really touches me.  I label them and so if I’m either ever in the area, or have gone there specifically to visit that particular place, I’ve got it catalogued so I won’t forget.

Link: https://goo.gl/maps/cXF6j2SNjDk

Life is a series of slumbers, where we fall into the normal routine, running on autopilot until we wake up for a moment, wonder where the year or couple of years have gone and have a bit of a crisis!  We realize life is passing us by and we want to feel alive again!

This is what travel and learning do for me.  Yes, I fall into routine as often as everyone else but I feel I also awake from it a bit more frequently than most.  This game Zelda, as silly as it sounds, has helped me wake up a bit from my monotonous mindset.  It has encouraged me to seek out new places here in California to visit, to not be afraid to see what else is out there in the job market and ultimately to do whatever necessary to start to feel alive again in the way my international travels used to.  I think everyone wants to experience some adventure, some excitement in their lives.  That is why we gaze out for long periods over the ocean, buy camping gear or an entire RV, keep the entire travel industry alive with our money!  We want to explore, we want to experience and just sitting home night after night watching something on TV is a very poor substitute, in fact it is death in a recliner!

Playing Zelda has reawakened my thirst for adventure whether it be just planning more meticulously my next trip and plans to visit its historical sites, or perhaps even contemplating a change in careers and taking the time to explore the possibilities.

Life is a grand adventure of experiences, some over which we have absolutely no control, but with focus and planning there are others which make life worth living indeed.

 

Categories
Books

Lapham’s Quarterly – Fear

I don’t believe ‘enjoyed’ is the right adjective to describe how I felt reading Lapham’s Quarterly – Fear.  What is the right word if you continually want to do something yet it causes anxiety and fear while you do it?

It is not that reading this edition made me afraid; it is that it called attention to the abundant anxiety in my own life which was exacerbated in reading about the anxiety and fear of others in this edition.

I often mention briefly the anxiety in my own life in this blog.  However, I am also quick to point out that it is most likely due to my work as an Account Manager such as in this post from January 2016.


Link: https://www.mcurtin.com/2016/01/journal-entry-january-5th-2016/

Excerpt:

Confidence is also what helps shake off this persistent anxiety on my shoulders that lasted for most of 2015.  I handle very large accounts and I have to ensure we never lose them.  In four years at this position I’ve never lost an account and am the only one, perhaps in the entire 64 person national team – that can say so.  When I think about anxiety I’m reminded of a movie by Ben Affleck called “The Company Men” where Ben is an Account Manager and says a line that stuck with me when he was working as a carpenter remembering what it was like at the corporation:

At my old job I was
scared all the time…
Quarterly cost reports,
young guys coming up.
Losing an account, or
who’s getting ahead of me

This quote is very true regarding the life of an Account Manager.  You’re only as good as your last sale and god forbid if you lose any account.  There is always one more report with your numbers where you’re ranked.  Any report in the past where you’ve done well is forgotten the next day and your job is never safe depending on those numbers.

End excerpt


In examining my own anxiety, I realized it more than just my job; it is a mosaic of existential factors as well as internal fears.  Here they are:

  • Work – As mentioned above this gets top slot.  I have a responsibility to my family and any failure in work would result in swift consequences for our wellbeing.  I have a portfolio of customers and losing any one of them results in real and immediate affects to my paycheck.  This anxiety is persistent and success does not alleviate the amount of anxiety since the marketplace is constantly changing.
  • Climate change – I put my faith into scientists and can very clearly see that the planet is warming and will have humongous consequences, especially for my children.  Climate change will cause large changes that we can only guess at now but I imagine will involve mass migration, wars over resources (lost ie. water and found ie. Arctic drilling).  I also now have accustomed myself to checking the air quality – something I used to take for granted – and am shocked to learn that it is usually ‘moderate’ here in Pacifica.  I had thought we had very lean air due to our proximity to the ocean but it appears not so.
  • Politics – With the election of Trump it seems progress has not only halted but that we’re going backwards.  America is no longer to be admired, we’re losing allies, science is trying to be muzzled, and it seems a very large part of American citizens – those who elected Trump – are complete nincompoops.  I don’t think it is realized just yet how damaging this all is; but the more I read the more I realize how many mistakes have been made through the decades and that we’re really just bumbling through it all.  But to top this all off, we now have the threat of nuclear war and a President, who no intelligent person would put their faith in, capable of actually making it happen.

The first item, work, is something that I can control and can put the anxiety away in a box fortified by confidence.  It resurfaces from time to time but is nothing I cannot handle, especially when I get my exercise and the dopamines are flowing.

The second two are existential problems that actually do threaten our very existence.  What drives me mad about these two is that a very large block of Americans don’t seem intelligent enough to realize that these are real and have real consequences.  They shine a light on the deficit of critical thinking skills and that a good part of American culture is no more sophisticated than Monday night football and Jerry Springer.  It is very disappointing.

These existential problems are things I cannot put in a box and contain.  They are persistent, ever present and there is next to nothing that I can do about them except think about possible preparations both short term (nuclear war) and long term (climate change).  By long term understanding which geographical region would be the safest from flooding/drought/war and others.  My only defense here is to enjoy life, learn, practice mindfulness, meditate and just ‘be’ as fully as I can.

And with that, here are my favorite excerpts from Lapham’s Quarterly – Fear along with my comments.

People living deeply have no fear of death. – Anaïs Nin

My thought here is that when you ‘live deeply’ a serenity eventually overtakes you and you see tiny glimmers of the truth.

Again, it is common knowledge that the movement against the fluoridation of municipal water supplies has been catnip for cranks of all kinds, especially for those who have obsessive fear of poisoning. – Richard Hofstadter, from “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” 

I highlighted the passage above because I learned of this conspiracy while searching the deep web.  Just for entertainment I was looking for secrets, for the meaning of life, aliens, whatever.  I came across a post that mentioned fluoride as well as the pineal gland (check pineal-eye on this Wikipedia entry).  Well, I don’t believe in these things but was glad to find an actual reference to the fluoride conspiracy from a source long before the internet.

So, go in peace, my dear man, and henceforth do not judge the life of any man until you have learned more of the facts. – From The Deeds of the Romans circa 1300 England

This is a piece of advice to take to heart.  We all judge, judging in my opinion is a basic instinct for survival:  we cannot sit down for coffee and a chat with every passerby to understand whether or not they are a danger to us.  We have to make a snap decision based on experience and instinct.  But aside from that and on a deeper level, every person has a story;  they were born, they were cared for as a baby – otherwise they wouldn’t have survived – they most likely had friends as well as family; here in the USA they probably went to school, had teachers, there are those that know their story, know there is some good in them.  And now they do what they do based on their life experiences as well as mental capacities they were given.


A native of the United States clings to this world’s goods as if he were certain never to die; and he is so hasty in grasping at all within his reach that one would suppose he was constantly afraid of not living long enough to enjoy them.  He clutches everything, he holds nothing fast, but soon loosens his grasp to pursue fresh gratifications…… 

He who has set his heart exclusively on the pursuit of worldly welfare is always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach, to grasp, and to enjoy it.  – Alexis de Tocqueville, from Democracy in America. 

This is even truer today, in the year 2018, than it was in 1835.  Capitalism is the name we give to our system which is better described as unbounded consumption that is never satisfied.  The only way our system works is to continually increase:  increase production, increase consumption, sell more, buy more, the numbers must always go up.  And so this environment has created a populace that marches to its steady consumer drumbeat with only a few realizing that life is best lived with less. It is the experiences that inherently give life purpose and meaning, not some material object which you own.  This idea goes directly against a basic fiber of American culture which is always to attain more, to never be satisfied with what you have.


and in every job I’ve had since, I’ve always been afraid I was about to be fired. – Joseph Heller, from Something Happened

This is built into the job of Sales and Account Managers put there by management.  It is an integral part of the company kool-aid; sometimes barely perceptible when times are good but overpowering when times are bad.  It is part of a the American corporate contract:  I do well you pay more or there is the threat that I will leave; I do poorly and you’ll fire me.  There is no more loyalty in the old sense, no matter how many ways HR tries to spin all the employees as ‘family.’  I wish corporations would stop calling their employees ‘family’ when that is the least fitting way to describe the environment.


They have demonstrated more potently than any argument, demonstrated beyond question of a  doubt, the appalling dangers and enormous effectiveness of popular and theatrical demagoguery.

They have cast a brilliant and cruel light upon the failure of popular education……

For Mr. Orson Welles and his theater have made a greater contribution to an understanding of Hitlerism, Mussolinism, Stalinism, anti-Semitism, and all other terrorisms of our times than all the words about them that have been written by reasonable men.  – Dorothy Thompson, “Mr. Welles and Mass Delusion.”  

I’ve written before how disappointed as well as surprised and shocked I am to realize how daft many of my American countrymen are when the majority attend at least some schooling and the universities are unparalleled to any other time in human history, yet basic critical thinking skills when it comes to politics and religion seem to be nonexistent.  Trump was elected and the vast majority of Americans are religious.

The quote above on the incident that Mr. Orson Welles caused clearly show that while part of America is absolutely genius (Nasa, Google, inventors of all stripes, science, etc) the majority of the population is not and is easily persuaded whether it be in believing Martians are attacking or Trump would be a good leader of the country.


We (Calvinists) filled more or less the same place in the European imagination that Islam does now, one difference being that the Christianity now assumed to be under threat on that most secular continent is merely sociological and cultural, in effect racial, and another difference being that there was no ideal of tolerance and little concept of due process to mitigate the violence the presence of our ancestors inspired….

If someone had asked a citizen of Lyon, on his way to help exterminate the Calvinists, to explain what he and his friends were doing, he would no doubt have said that he was taking back his city, taking back his culture, taking back his country, fighting for the soul of France…..

At the core of all this fear, real or pretended.  What if these dissenters in our midst really are a threat to all we hold dear?  Better to deal with the problem before their evil schemes are irreversible, before our country has lost its soul and the United Nations has invaded Texas.  We might step back and say that there are hundreds of millions of people who love this nation’s soul, who in fact are its soul, and patriotism should begin by acknowledging this fact.  –  Marilynne Robinson, “Fear.”

Yes, but what is new?  The Calvinists and Protestant Reformation did change the character (soul?) of Europe quite a bit!  People don’t like change; they like the familiar, tradition and cling to what they’ve always done.  I think Ms. Robinson is arguing from the position that since Calvinism and Protestants are now part of the traditional character of Europe it is safe to use in defending another recent change to the character in the form of Islam.  In other words she says Calvinism didn’t turn out so bad and has become who we are so won’t it be the same with Islam?  In 100 years or so they will integrate with our beliefs and customs and part of their religion and culture will integrate with us.

Well, the problem is again, there are many who do not want this change.  Yes, it would be nice if we could time travel to the future, find a beautiful mixed woman without a headscarf speaking beautiful French, Arabic and English who has never believed in the fairy tales of religion and who tells us, see, everything works out very well!  But if we could also travel back in time then we’d meet those people who are absolutely aghast at what Europe has become.  They would point to the fact that they should have never let those natives from the colonies into their homelands!  To see England not be Catholic, the horror!!!

And so, using the fact that Protestants are mainstream now when they were persecuted before and everything turned out alright as a reason to accept Islam now just doesn’t sit well with me.

This doesn’t mean I’m against one or the other, quite the opposite!  For me, the world, its people and beliefs are constantly in flux.  I enjoy learning as much as I can about these changes:  from voices in the Middle Ages dabbling with the Cathar religion to Mormons today knocking on my door and trying to get me to convert, I realize we’re all just trying to get to the bottom of this great mystery of our existence.  For me personally, I have not experienced a revelation yet that dissuades me from believing that all religion “is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few non-events.”


The most important role of managers is to create an environment in which people are passionately dedicated to winning in the marketplace.  Fear plays a major role in creating and maintaining such passion.  Fear of competition, fear of bankruptcy, fear of being wrong, and fear of losing can all be powerful motivators.  – Andrew Grove from Only the Paranoid Survive.

Spoke about my own anxiety in the workplace above.


it is sobering to realize that, according to reliable observers, the Russian image of the U.S. is the mirror image of the American image of the USSR today.  Each side sees itself as peace loving and honorable and the other country – or at least its leaders – as treacherous, unscrupulous, and bent on world conquest……

However, as long as mankind clings to the conviction, reinforced by millennia of experience, that the superior destructive force is still the ultimate arbiter of conflict, the specter of universal destruction can never be exorcized.  – Jerome D. Frank, from “Atomic Arms and Pre-Atomic Man.”  

Yes, the USA and USSR saw each other as the baddie but my thought has always been that the bad country is that which won’t let their people leave if they would like.  We’re free to leave the USA if we choose, those in the USSR could not.


I began to feel a terrified pity for the white children of these white people:  who had been sent, by their parents, to Korea, though their parents did not know why.  Neither did their parents know why these miserable, incontestably inferior, rice-eating gooks refused to come to heel, and would not be saved.  But I knew why.  I came from a long line of miserable, incontestably inferior, rice-eating, chicken-stealing, hog-swilling niggers – who had acquired these skills in their flight from bondage – who still refused to come to heel, and who would not be saved.  If two and two make four, then it is a very simple matter to recognize that people unable to be responsible for their own children, and who care so little about each other, are unlikely instruments for the salvation of the people who they permit themselves the luxury of despising as inferior to themselves.  Even in the case of Korea, we, the blacks at least, knew why our children were there:  they had been sent there to be used, in exactly the same way, and for the same reasons, as the blacks had been so widely dispersed out of Africa – an incalculable investment of raw material in what was not yet known as the common market.  – James Baldwin, from The Devil Finds Work.

This is perhaps one of my favorite quotations in the book.  As I lived abroad, learned languages, studied history and became more critical in my thinking I was able to form my own opinions on many global events over the past 100 years or so.  In the USA our teachers tell us that the wars in Vietnam and Korea were to “contain Communism” and leave it at that.  They taught us that Communism was all bad and we were all good and so doing anything and everything we could to stop the bad system of Communism was all the reason needed.  And from speaking with the older generation today I understand that many of them bought it, a good portion don’t know and a greater portion don’t want to talk about it.

In fact, there are not many with whom I could strike up the conversation with today about the Vietnam/Korean wars and have any meaningful or insightful conversation at all!  What makes this absolutely tragic is that so many people died and it caused so much pain;  all for reasons (or non-reasons) that the majority of people cannot articulate very much at all.

And parents would send their son’s to go die just as blindly today as they did back in the ’60s and ’70s.  Yes, there is access to information but the availability of information does not inherently confer critical thinking skills upon its readers.  And add to this the phenomenon of ‘fake news’ people today really cannot figure out which was is up and which is down outside of their narrow arena of expertise.


When you’re about to shrink with fear, instead do what the peacocks (and many mammals) do: frighten fear by enlarging your silhouette.  Blow yourself up – mentally – feel unbreakable, wear self-confidence like a rhinoceros its carapace, appear immortal.  Deadly fear will immediately run away, its scythe between its legs…..

To live in fear of what’s about to happen is for many people today – owing to our current political situation – a reality.

But to live in fear, period, is a horror, a torture.  You have forgotten fear was the culprit, and you have been obliterated, replaced by a shameful black hole, which breathes – or not – in your stead.  

This evening – outside, a murder of crows darkens the air with its flying formation, announcing the storm of the century, the end of the world – this evening, to live in fear will be my definition of death.  – Philippe Petit, In Search of Fear.


anxiety:  “Temporal prosperity comes always accompanied with so much anxiety.” – John Donne, 1623

Categories
Quotes Random

Jim Carrey quote

Got this from The Elephant Journal and thought it was worth keeping.
Link: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/11/jim-carrey-explains-depression-in-the-best-way-ive-ever-heard/


Jim Carrey shares the startling realization he came to after years of fame: it’s totally pointless to spend our whole lives creating and curating some specific identity for ourselves.

This is all ego: desiring to be important, to be someone, to matter. In reality, this grasping at a singular identity brings us only pain and suffering, for three main reasons. One, it introduces a separation between us and all other beings that dishonors our inherent, interconnected nature. Two, it deludes us into thinking that things are not supposed to change—that we are not supposed to change. Three, it leads us away from resting in our own basic goodness, as it makes us feel that we aren’t enough just as we are, right now.

The antidote to this suffering is to let go of this desire to be “someone.” As Carrey beautifully puts it, “The feeling of wholeness is a different feeling than me-ness.” To feel whole, we must let go of trying to maintain an image of “me.”

Drawing from his own experience, Carrey then connects this truth to the condition of depression:

“People talk about depression all the time. The difference between depression and sadness is sadness is just from happenstance—whatever happened or didn’t happen for you, or grief, or whatever it is. Depression is your body saying f*ck you, I don’t want to be this character anymore, I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you’ve created in the world. It’s too much for me.

You should think of the word ‘depressed’ as ‘deep rest.’ Your body needs to be depressed. It needs deep rest from the character that you’ve been trying to play.”

“I have no depression in my life whatsoever—literally none. I have sadness, and joy, and elation, and satisfaction, and gratitude beyond belief. But all of it is weather, and it just spins around the planet. It doesn’t sit on me long enough to kill me. It’s just ideas.” ~ Jim Carrey