Friday, January 8, 2021

Contemplating Ethical Behavior



Brainstorming over just what morality consists, lies at the center of philosophic ethics. In general, morality seems to hint at a system of ethics that is self-evident or decreed by supernatural creators. And so we have doctrine out there that allegedly and ridiculously are said to have been handed down by this god or that pantheon or are inherent in the design of the universe. This degree of absolutist ethics seems overflowingly full of hubris.

Indeed human beings and its tribes are the true creators of the spectrum of abstractions. Whether it by na├»ve myths that attempt to explain origins, mathematical principles and models that approximate and predict natural phenomena, or science and engineering that seek to model natural systems and design artificial ones. 

Fictional storytelling may be the purest derivative of human abstraction, particularly when it is crafted knowingly to be untrue and embodied with the power of and audience's suspension of disbelief.   As such our real experience is enhanced for entertainment and contemplative purposes. Misinformation and disinformation can twist the suspension of disbelief toward malevolent or benevolent ends, although it feels disingenuous to base ones ethics on falsehoods even if the outcomes are positive.

Respect of existence feels to me to be the holy grail of ethics. So easily stated, yet a complicated tension also exists. The myriad of conscious and unconscious beautiful things in the present is a tapestry whose woven threads that requires feeding upon other conscious and unconscious beautiful things. Evolution has mindlessly brought us to this point in time, where our species seems uniquely obsessed with unraveling the purpose and meaning of it all.

Indeed, that purpose and meaning comes paradoxically from within ourselves and the creations our communities have wrought.  And so might we not strive to find some balance of power in our world which allows natural forces to continue while allowing ourselves to explore and create in peace. Eschewing violence for our own species is a daunting challenge and arguably limits the paths we may wander. Thus we have that particular abstraction we call law which at its heart should monitor, regulate, and provide consequences to steer us down a path which maximizes the respect for all things living and inanimate to have a degree of liberty.

Within this contemplation, for each of us individual and as a society, lies the forging of purposeful, meaningful, ethical existence.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

It's About Time




Underlying all experience in life is the concept of time. 

Each second, each year, each eon that passes by is inherently connected with the world around us. Strangely, we modern humans litter our calendar  names with unpurposeful names, many that refer to mythical gods (the days of the week) and emperors (the months). Perhaps, a mindful step forward can be made if we rebrand these day and month names to reflect the aspects of human existence that are important. By doing so we just might better unify Earthling civilization with its global ecosystems.

To that end I suggest reworking the week to a more manageable six day week. Each day of this week are thus named to channel a positive ethic and connection to the world we live in.

Sunday remains in effect as the first day of the week. A pinch of tradition allows us to recall the past, even if it was a more primitive barbaric time when we perhaps worshipped the Sun as a deity. Acknowledging the Sun as energy source it is remains powerful. Warming our sphere, energizing life with evolved photosynthesis, and offering solar powered mechanisms to provide clean energy are just a few of the the Sun's glorious effects. 

Earthday comes next in the week. Without doubt planetary stewardship is responsibility number one for civilized humankind, though we often ignore it. Only with a healthy living planet at all levels can humans truly begin to transcend their evolutionary selfishness. And no matter how much we look outward, in the foreseeable future there is no realistic Planet B! 

Careday follows Earthday, a day named to emphasize the compassion, empathy and joyful emotion that humans are capable of cultivating. The heartful exercise of the human mind underscores our pursuit of positive relationships with other humans, with sentient species, and with aspects of the world that are not as fortunate to possess full consciousness.

Sciday arrives next in the week, highlighting our species' unique pursuit of fact based knowledge. Use of critical thinking skills, scientific method, and information integrity are all important components in achieving goals for our communities and self. The principles of reality won't bend to our mythical beliefs, and with a weekly observance of Sciday we can begin to banish those ancient ideas that fester our modern minds.

Workday follows Sciday. At first blush the droll name may seem to embody what many of us seek to avoid in our 9 to 5 self-enslavement culture. However, physical effort is necessary to tend our gardens, keep proper accounts, and ultimately maintain the positive flow of value in society. Sure, such tasks may wax banal at times, still the infrastructure of society and its impact on the greater world are the milieu of our sapiency.

Artday finishes off the new, improved six day week. Unlike the traditional weekend, Artday is not set aside for mere rest. Instead, in the modern world we can reach beyond tradition to exercise and enjoy the bounty that is human creativity. By celebrating the experience of all our senses, and beyond, we enable our deepest selves to connect to the universe. Thus Artday serves as a worthy predecessor to Sunday's embodiment of the external.

The calendar months, traditionally connected to the lunar cycle, elicit a connection with Moon worship, that we should leave behind. Crescent beauty and tides notwithstanding, we could reach for a better grounding to Earth time elsewhere. Perhaps in the four seasons. We could divide the year into four 90-day months, each consisting of fifteen 6-day weeks. By name, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter could unify humanity in its referential understanding of the Earth's revolution about the Sun.  Indeed the seasonal months differ significantly depending on equatorial distance, still the many cultures of the world can use these four months as a catalyst to celebrate the differences our traditions bring to the table.

For those keeping count, this leaves five or six days each year needed to bring four 90-day months into synchronicity with Earths 365.25 day year. Someone once said that the curious soul of a human was lost forever when they started naming things. Names can be important and pragmatic, but we should leave a space in the Earth year to acknowledge all that remains undiscovered and unnamed. Therefore, the fifth season shall remain unnamed. Each of the five or six days of this season also remain unnamed during this short period. They then serve as a reminder time and existence stands separate from human consciousness. Perhaps, recognition of this elusive truth may give our civilization an unspoken nudge to transcend, and to progress for the better year after year. 

Time meshes all things finite together: human lives. planetary cycles and every aspect of all universes sideways from ours.

Oh, and ending daylight savings time globally is the cherry on top.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

To Be Liked AND Loved, That Is The Exclamation!




With his "To be, or not to be..." Hamlet famously contemplated the ultimate crisis of existence. His conclusion was, put simply, there is a limit to the suffering one can bear before fast-tracking ones self-extinction. In death one can hope to return to a place where consciousness, and pain, end.

However, if continued existence is your choice of the moment then a whole flurry of options present themselves. Among those experiential adventures of mind and body, the interchanges we have with other sentient creatures ranks among the most rewarding.

When we spend time with those we like and love our lives attain value. To be sure there can be value interacting with those we dislike, detest and feel essentially neutral towards, however, at best those serve as calibration to appreciate those we care for.  And so here I'll focus on what I see as the two primary modes of a positive relationship, loving and liking. 

To love is easier to define. Loving, in the extreme, requires unconditional acceptance. At its heart, love puts the well-being of another before your own. As we are all imperfect beings, this protective emotion can provide the deepest security. It is also animalistic, discounting any rational evaluation, and alone can lead one down paths of ecstasy and despair. One might speculate love evolved as an instinctive feeling so as to defend and secure the future of offspring, family and extended tribe. Indeed, if the love is strong enough, no heinous action on the part of another will conquer it. Though our hearts may strain with the deepest pain, we will love the murderer, the backstabber, and the oath breaker until our dying day.

Liking someone, on the other hand, lacks the poetic gravitas of love. Still liking embodies the epitome of valuing a person for their merits. The very essence of liking can begin with superficial aspects: physical attraction, an overlap of shared interests or shared experiences. Yet over time, liking a person may grow ever stronger as we get to know someone's true self. Then, admiration and respect for the real person establishes itself. Liking is not automatic and is not necessarily permanent. One can lose the most treasured friendship should the others flaws become apparent or their behavior shifts awry. 

Nevertheless, liking alone is a dangerous path to tread. Being evaluated stringently for ethicality, kindness, intelligence and skill can create amazing friendships, but without at least a touch of love, a love which invokes forgiveness, the structure of liking can shatter. So whether one pursues a romantic relationship, or a deeper connection with a family member or a colleague, the relationship is strengthened a blend of liking and loving.

At times, each of us may suffer like Hamlet, yearning for the physical or mental anguish to end. Ending ones existence uncalled for, especially when our true friends and loved ones will support us through thick and thin. Together, being liked and loved can amount to the greatest joy that existence has to offer. A loving friend sometimes can help us laugh at the world, or perhaps stir our heart to come alive within our mind, but always, as needed, a loving friend has a hug to share.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Taking the Cons out of our Constitution



In a recent Constitution Center podcast, The Constitution Drafting Project speculated what changes would be made if a modern American constitution were rewritten today. Three teams presented their positions on how it would differ from the 18th century document. Conservative, progressive and libertarian points of view were offered.

Although the positions shared were interesting, they varied very little from the original document, focusing on limiting the role of government, enfranchising all citizens and generally affirming the rights of conquesting humans and their descendants. Nothing truly radical or revolutionary was suggested, let alone a Green New Deal style mission statement.  All said, it was a sad report on modern creativity, wisdom and compassion.  Indeed, human leadership seems ultimately loyal to one thing, its own species.

The original constitutional document transcended ruling paradigms by designating "we the people" above kings and imaginary gods to self govern, alas that is old news today as so many countries have since adopted constitutional governments that imperfectly pursue that intermediate goal. All in all, these constitutions mostly empower conqueror cultures to power themselves with free market pyramid schemes, unconstrained human population growth, and general disregard for all things non-human.

A truly breakthrough, global inspired constitution would reroute power away from self-concerned humans to more perfect constructs that embrace the spirit and letter of truly egalitarian law.  Specifically, a new constitution could designate representatives for not only human society, but also for global environment, the many ecosystems therein, as well as each species, and each and every sentient creature that has inherited a right to live on Earth. Of course, the perception of human sacredness blinds us from planning such a truly transcendent planetary regime that takes all these into consideration. 

Sadly, if there is one thing we humans are good at, it's hiding from our own greater responsibility to the planet. A constitution drafted for all of Earth, straining to be as idealistic as possible, just might be the first true step toward a long-term positive future for the planet as a whole. 

Let's get writing, shall we?

Monday, November 16, 2020

Which Goes Last, the Chicken or the Egg?

"Nature Is Cruel, But We Don't Have To Be" -- Temple Grandin


For generations people have bandied about the philosophical query, "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" This colloquial question at its heart looks at infinite regression by assuming chickens as we know them have existed forever, notwithstanding the silly magical idea that they were created out of dust or some such. 

Science, of course, over the past two hundred years has definitively shown the egg came first way back in the ancestral evolutionary tree prior to todays factory-farm chicken species emerged. Thank you, Charles Darwin. 

Nevertheless, the conundrum of infinite regression in a wider sense remains, challenging us to imagine when we and the Universe we are part of came into being. Current astrophysics hypothesizes that we literally came from nothing. The Big Bang event 14 billion years ago currently prevents us from observing beyond that point, still evidence and theory to date show spontaneous energetic events can, albeit very very rarely, occur in the vacuum of space to initiate such a "beginning" point.

Chicken and egg paradox, in all forms more or less solved. Well, except infinite regression implies infinite progression, which is just as interesting to consider.

Which will go last, the chicken or the egg?

In the future, the undoubted extinction of the chicken along with all life in the universe shall come to pass eventually. Entropy has that covered. More interesting is the progress we as humans will make in the short term as to preserving the rich biodiversity of our planet as part of an ethic of civilization. 

The battle of rational ethics and irrational pleasure is at the heart of this contemplation. Take for one, the ongoing abuse that billions of chickens suffer each year due to the inhumane choice to raise and kill them for profit.  Our species thrives on the mass production of their flesh and eggs for no real reason. Plant based foods that mimic chicken flesh and egg are currently on the market and can lead us down a more ethical path.

Part of lifting civilization up to higher ethical standards is taking a step back and recognizing better choices exist.  Reducing and eliminating chicken slaughter is one step into that future. Good tasting, nutritional, environmental friendly animal meat alternatives available. Science informed policy needs to step in, not only to eliminate cruelty, but also to reduce the threat to our society. Importantly, animal husbandry has been integral to the inadvertent breeding super pathogens, like the Corona virus. This is a problem we need to solve for chicken and human well being alike.

Too often humans obsess over the absolute morals that our ancestors concocted from zany spiritual fantasies. What we need as a society is a concerted effort to look forward with positive and rational wherewithal. It won't be easy, but eliminating the nonsense we have be taught for generations as tradition needs to occur. All traditions should be evaluated and eliminated or at least refined. Global stability and the betterment of humanity depend on it!

 And so the chicken and the egg problem, looking forward, continues to be relevant to encourage us to overturn old ways for better new ones. We have some good solutions underway, but don't count those chickens before they hatch. LOL.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Making America Good Again?"

To be honest, the title of this piece feels as pretentious as the original MAGA moniker. The implication that there was some time when America was amazing or wholesome relative to today is corrupt at its core. If we are to be totally honest, the pursuit of goodness or greatness takes ongoing effort, and frankly such a pursuit by a single nation will always be lacking if we don't partner with the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, our nation has some particular challenges in front of us. Greatness of a nation is meaningless if we aren't pursuing goals that are good. Here is my shortlist of good things we as individuals, communities and civilization ought to be pursuing.

Information reliability. Sadly the idea that everyone has a right to ones (peacefully expressed) opinion has become equated with those opinions being equally valid. Religious, new age, and grand conspiracy magical thinking has degraded the reliability of information available on social media especially. Humankind depends on reliable information to inform our policy and decision making.  Scientific method, fact-checking algorithms, and individual questioning (with evidence to back it up) can begin us down a path of better information exchange.

Community and world service.  Market force driven motivation has corrupted the nature of pursuit in this world. The pursuit of money and power for the sake of said devices has turned much of our civilization into a system with a feedback loop that cares very little for final outcomes. Instead we should be driven more by end goals that include limiting human world population, preserving natural resources and reducing wildlife habitat destruction, as well as ensuring communities have access to services that improve quality of life for all.

Compassion and reason.  At the end of the day, traditions and old practices need to be examined. A two hundred year old constitution will have its flaws especially when interpreted by "originalists" who reinvent founding ideas to conform to their outcomes.  If we take a step back, and apply reason and compassion to our choices we can implement progressive policies that benefit all humans, the planet, and their future.  

Indeed, the months and years ahead of us will be challenging. If we can begin to put misinformation aside and realign our goals, while making an effort to be friendly with all involved, humankind can improve on the good in world. Not just for America, but for all nations, people and beings everywhere.

It begins with each of us reflecting on the good in ourselves and extending that goodness to others.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Heal with Steel

For anyone who hasn't encountered steel and straw arguments, these correlate to the best and worst rationalizations we make of another's point of view. Perhaps taking a step back to earnestly evaluate steel and straw positions in the Blue vs. Red climate we live in, can help us understand, process, and, in the end, heal open wounds in our communities.

One straw rationalization for liberal positions seeks to equate the movement to the transformation from a strict, Christian nation into a land of degenerate, godless, socialism. 

A steel case for liberalism is to regard their efforts as a compassionate pursuit of prosperity and peaceful liberty for all. The positive implementation of science and policy can provide a path to a more peaceful society while building a greener environment.

On the other hand, a straw rationalization for conservative positions is to imagine their movement harbors the desire for theocratic rule with white supremacist undercurrents akin to the Handmaid's Tale. 

A steel argument for the conservative point of view involves the pursuit of a society that encourages learned, absolute moral behaviors. This includes the idea that liberty and economic success stem from traditional beliefs and adherence to the rule of law, which conservatives feel has become too lenient.

To be sure these are arguments are incomplete and comprise the mere beginning of a thought experiment to seed understanding. Indeed, each of us can learn something by extending this exercise to those around us that hold different political positions. If we are less in a hurry to label another's ideology as evil, we just might find where our causes overlap, and just maybe our leadership will step up to work to get us all involved in becoming part of imperfect remedies.

At the end of the day, this election day or otherwise, we are all human beings on a planet whose health is in question due to its occupation by billions of humans. Still, we can work together toward making the world a better place for both humans and the planetary ecosystem itself. No, we will never agree on every issue, and, in fact, we are all susceptible to seeking out scapegoats to cope with how we see the world going wrong. Sadly, these intolerant, misguided, black-and-white, (blue and red?) points of view are not fully real and no matter how much our social media silos tell us they are. 

If we can admit that reality is steel-gray, full of people who are a bit scared and a bit courageous, a bit wise and a a bit ignorant, a bit selfish and a bit selfless, we just might be able to come together.  Wielding compassion, education, effort, tolerance, that gray can become a pretty cool place to live for all.