Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Fading of Friendship

Luna and Terra, A Friendship Ever More Distant (+4 cm/yr and counting)
Even the best of friendships can become distant...slowly, sadly, silently...and in many cases incompletely.

A topic doesn't get more melancholy than the slipping away of a once wonderful friendship. Alas, part of living life fully is taking a soulful look at the sorrowful transitions in life including the erosion of our most joyful of connections.

The gaining of a friend itself is a most mysterious thing that calls for a separate contemplation. Nevertheless, once you have a true friend in your life, it glows with a unique goodness. Imbued with a blend of mutual respect, conversation, and adventure, nothing is quite as life-affirming as two people who earnestly want to hang out with each other.

And yet lives change, priorities shift, and occasionally mortality steps in. On the surface the friendship may end abruptly, but minds can be much more subtle in getting to closure. Few things are as subtly painful as remembered joy that is no longer there. It is in these moments of loneliness that resilience of self can pay off, whether we find joy in doing things by ourselves or reaching out to others in our friendship circle.

The fading of a friendship can feel terrible, but it can also be the sign of new beginnings. A short melancholy period can allow the soil of the mind to refresh itself and become receptive to new seedling friendships. It can also serve as reminder that there are other, perhaps neglected, blooms in ones garden of friendships, among family members, colleagues, and even old friends who may have incompletely faded.

In the end it pays to delight in the friends that orbit your sphere today! Open your heart and mind to the variety of connections out there, for a crescent moon setting tonight is so very often followed by a rising sun.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Observation Thine

Sitting at my window I watch the background of trees, their leaves glistening. The maple tree to the northwest catches my attention. Each leaf is a dark green paw reaching out for sunlight to convert solar energy into food. In a mysterious sequence a dozen leaves among hundreds signal me. In rapid succession one by one each star-shaped form droops a couple inches, turns a darker shade of green, and then quickly returns to its starting position.

For a minute I imagine what message Gaia, spirit of the Earth, is sending me. Perhaps, a story of ancient natural forces forging the landscape over eons or a warning of environmental disaster coming my way that will permit me to save hundreds of lives. Ah, 'tis a magical moment to be sure.

Then I take a step back from my speculative fantasy and chuckle. The drops of rain that give all the greenery a glisten are of course being pulled by gravity earthward. Along its path the water's weight presses the leaves down momentarily. Gradually, the translucent liquid finds its way to the ground pooling on the grass and adjacent concrete patio. And then a fresh flourish of rain begins the pattern anew.

Our interaction with the world begins with our senses. How naturally we build stories to explain those observations. Tales of childhood magic compete with more practical science lessons. Fiction and fact, pure and simple? Arguably, both views bring insight yet both are incomplete.

Perhaps there is no need to discard either interpretation entirely, so long as we recognize where fantasy transitions to a more factual beginning. Indeed, the fiction might inspire the writing of a nature poem, or the misguided outcry that the world is ending. The factual might encourage one to plan a wild meadow or to grimly recall doldrums in an uninspiringly taught Biology 101.

Of course there are many reactions one might take after most any observation. Sadly, the observation act itself is an active experience we too often shrug off before moving on to something else more pressing or previously scheduled.

For a change, pause and consider closely your next glimpse, sniff, sensation x, y and z both together and separate. Meditate and contemplate, muse and synthesize, and without reservation, enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Defying the Certainty Principle

We are living in an era of global instability. Humanity is causing tremendous detrimental change to the planet we live on and yet as individuals and tribes we continue to pursue lives that feel positive to us in surprisingly isolated human communities, mostly in disregard to their greater effects to others.

Taking a step back to examine outcomes can be hard. Each of us as a nascent, global activist is involved in a constant onslaught of local experiences that can have impressive personal impact. To insulate ourselves from the complexity of these experiences we often turn to black and white principles aligned with faith and tradition rather than compassionate and critical examination of the moment.

Uncertainty is the zombie-mammoth bumbling about the room. And she's been around since humans developed knowledge sharing technology, or more simply described: language.

Uncertainty can scare our subconsciouses back into a cave where we seek guidance from outdated tales that seek to allay our fears with primitive conclusions of misplaced certainty. Often these tales are comprised of mythical magic and holy how-we-used-to-do's. Their intent is psychological, to help us forget the fears of uncertainty, or to confront them with wild abandon.

Alas, in modern times more than ever, we have a choice to deny gut responses and reactions from traditions. By taking the time to contemplate any impasse that allows it we, as individuals and communities, can leverage compassion and reason to change the world for the better.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

color of the moment

not feeling blue today
life is good
not feeling cobalt either
my goth phase is well over
cornflower is right out
earthier than my mindset
cerulean ain't happening
disco glow ex-girlfriend reasons
cyan is off the mark
too old school Commodore 64
navy doesn't even bear mentioning
[mention redacted]
oh fuck it 
color me hex #31178B

Thursday, July 19, 2018

One Rule to Uphold Them All

Today I revisit my thoughts on the Platinum Rule as an upgrade to the Golden Rule. In short the often cited Golden Rule (Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done Unto Yourself) seems to me to me proselytizing in the extreme. Why should the rest of the world be treated as if your personal world view was sacrosanct. In the extreme a masochist who enjoys pain might very compassionately believe that inflicting pain on others is a most ethical path.
A logical followup to the Golden Rule is a somewhat improved Platinum Rule (Do Unto Others As They Would Have Done Unto Themselves), which explicitly takes note that every individual has a different take on any situation and we should treat their position with respect.* Thus actions desired by one can be tuned to the others desires, if we assume we understand their wants. Again in the extreme, a masochist may desire pain so even though I disagree with their point of view, I ought to act to deliver the pain they desire, even if the act itself is not my personal wish. 

These odd reflections make it apparent to me no rule can serve in all situations. Still, a primary ethical rule would be an excellent starting place to address life's ethical conundrums. To that end, I feel a significant upgrade to these metallic rules would be Rule One: Do Unto Others As Agreed Upon In Good Faith. (I am tempted to name it the Mithril Rule, but a numeric paradigm hierarchy seems more appropriate)

Rule One derives from humanity's most incredible yet too often unused gift: complex, two-way communication. Our ability to share information back and forth in iterative fashion has the potential to resolve most any human dispute and to at least mitigate those that are especially hard. Why this doesn't happen naturally seems often because we don't communicate with the second party allowing pride, power, privilege, and dogma to derail or avoid outright compassionate discourse. 

Let's look at the components of Rule One in detail:

"Do Unto Others" explicitly indicates taking action of any kind. Actions can occur reflexively, after internal thought, consideration of available evidence, and with reflection in conversation with others. Notably, thoughts and feelings are not actions in and of themselves. Only after we choose to share our ideas into reality do they manifest as actions in the world. 

"As Agreed Upon" emphasizes that a negotiation occurs before all action. Ideally, a compromise solution will come out of a thoughtful conversation between affected parties, though, arguably sometimes with imperfect results. Additionally, if the second party cannot converse (due to unconsciousness or mental inability (i.e toddler, coma patient, non-human animal, or ecosystem), the acting individual is challenged to contemplate meaningfully how their action will affect others and the world around them and adjust accordingly. (Note: The Golden and Platinum Rules are specific cases of Rule One when there is no opportunity to negotiate )

"In Good Faith" importantly underscores that we reflect upon our position, the evidence, and the liberty of the other parties when negotiating and acting. This catch-phrase intention is all too frequently ignored in practice, especially when we apply selective ethics to how we think something should happen regardless of secondary party input. 

In reality, Rule One can serve as a guidepost to encourage the best behavior and best pursuits of thoughtful, compassionate individuals. As a starting point and foundational ethic it sheds light on how to construct compassionate, effective laws, global mores and personal codes of conduct. The results of the actions we take should be continuously examined, reflected upon and tweaked to bring about the best outcomes. 

If all this seems like a lot of work to make decisions on how to act, well, damn it all, decisions should take effort because actions affect others and the world.

Rule One isn't intended to be sacred nor inflexibly dogmatic. By all means contemplate, research and innovate yourself on better ideas that can serve humanity, the planet and its ecosystems. And if you're just in a hurry and don't have the time for adequate contemplation and conversation, in a pinch you can always fall back to an action that reflects Rule Zero: Do No Harm.

* It has been suggested to me that this respectful nuance is implied, even embedded, in the Golden Rule itself. I disagree. Clarity in a guiding principle is paramount. If the intent is to treat each other with respect then there is explicit need to encourage an effective means of determining how others actually feel with regards to their respectful treatment, rather than basing it on ones own thoughts and feelings alone. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Retooling the Market Wasteland

From time immemorial we have been sold on the dominance paradigm that survival of the fittest is the Universe's prime directive. I'll concede, vertitas, the tendency for more complex systems to bubble up to the surface of reality, has indeed been the amoral principle behind matter formation, molecular aggregation and even leading to the living systems that are us and around us today.

Life itself managed to wriggle out of the interstellar womb, but not as something inherently sacred, instead as a phenomenon that was able to spread its pattern of complexity within specific environs, at least with more directed outcomes than non-biological chemistry. Humankind, by biological happenstance, currently holds the elite position of being able to spread itself and its memes throughout the sphere around us.

The leading human meme of late millennia, unsurprisingly has been market forces. Market forces were developed by humans as an extension of the survival of the fittest paradigm. Of course the things that reign victorious in a "free market" are those that serve humans, and reward idyllic Randian creators foremost. As such, libertarian purists seem to yearn for an even more unregulated market where survival of the fittest principles serve as judge, jury and executioner for any prospective products, services, or tenets.

What market forces selectively ignore when minimally regulated are the value of maintaining a fully healthy world.  Arguably, humanity has overshot its success, becoming a self worshipping plague species that barely recognizes the need to keep its own ecosystem alive and thriving. Not to mention, it fails epically where the respect of the rights of humans, other conscious creatures, and their healthy ecosystems are concerned.

The archetypal ethical solution is to do as little harm as possible. Leaving our planet behind entirely and reaching for the stars as an entire species may become the "least harm" noble path of the far future. However, in the interim science informed compassion can serve the world by shaping market forces to increase the value of respect for conscious life, limited resource use and environmental health.  Indeed, by melding heart and mind together into our society, world markets can become the constructs we desire them to be, a system which benefits the whole planet, humans included, as we begin to stretch our amazing patterns outward beyond Earth.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

States of Change: Chapter 18: Crossroads

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

More than ten thousand corporations call the Indianapolis Industrial Ring HQ. The data servers in the IIR complex collectively hum 24-7 as if it the second coming of the Cryptocurrency was underway. Even on this Sunday loop transport and automated delivery modules cart office supplies, printer rods and support personnel to and fro in a labyrinthian, video game of motion.  Suite 316 of the northwest arc houses the diminutive Genetic Crossroads Limited Partnership module.  Its minimalist sharespace is busier than most modules in the whole of the IIR. The monthly business meeting is well underway.

GCLP's business model was designed to leverage the Augment fully; strategy conferences, expert system data-sharing, state accounting and even employee morale building exercises were key aspects to that model.  In fact, the ten full-time bio-technicians employed by GCLP have only ever worked remotely. The founders Prim and Merc, however, meet monthly face-to-face to discuss personnel adjustments, mission recalibration and individual project closure.  Today, VisARs off, they focused on the last.

"...DNA Depth Analyses adequate for extended generation survivability?"

 "Check. Ten thousand life cycles assured at a ninety ninth percentile confidence level."

"Habitat flora, fauna, and resource impact meta-studies fully compliant?"

"Check. Approval confirmed by each African ecosystem council and the International Riparian Oversight Committee."

"Individual organism, environment, and global simulation data all acceptable to GCLP standards?"

"Check, check and checkuna-matata!"

Merc paused, shaking his head with a grin. "You're a strange one, Prim."

"What? You don't like my Lion King reference?"

"Lion King? Right. Okay, that about does it. All paperwork for the release of the Clarias cavernicola recovered genome is digitally signed and now submitted. If the South African government approves the funding the golden cave catfish will swim back from from extinction."

"Excellent, Merc! Pretty crazy that our little Indiana startup is making waves across the oceanographic bioscape! Resurrecting extinct fishes from the abyss! Five years ago, who would've guessed?"

"It's not surprising at all Prim. The terms you negotiated for the CRISPR PHISH protocol license has been a boon for the company. We now have seventy-five restored species to our name, with twenty-one others awaiting funding approval. Maybe fifty years ago it would've been surprising, but given the technology and ethical standards of the moment, you should be proud, not surprised."

Prim laughed. "You're right of course, but do you ever get the feeling we've overstepped. You know, kinda playing God."

"By playing God, do you mean wielding science and compassion in judicious steps to restore the damage humanity has done to the planet over the past three millennia?"

"Yep, that's the feeling--righteousness. How can we can know the long-term global outcome of resurrecting species that have been dead for decades."

"This ain't Jurassic Park. Restoring the planet's biodiversity pre-anthrocine is the company's mission and business is booming! Subtext: I think we're doing good works, Prim. God for sure has never deigned to step in so it's our responsibility to do our best."

Prim laughed again. "Talk of God and fish makes me think of the Jesus story where he magically multiplies loaves and fishes to feed his waiting audience."

"Don't know that story, but from what I hear that Jesus character had some freaky superpowers. If he was truly an ethical leader you'd think he'd have resurrected the fish in that story and set them free rather than eat them."

They both laughed.

"Ok. Business meeting complete. Dinner is my treat tonight, Prim. Clean Meat Kitchen has the new Red Steak cultivar, hot off the Middle Eastern bio-shelf."

"I'll take the treat, Merc, but I'm steering clear of the red stuff. Fake-news or not, the cultured flesh of Stalin, or any animal for that matter, just susses gross. I'll stick to my plants and veggies."

"Suit yourself."