Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Year in my Rearview Mirror

As a wrap-up 2015 Goodness First post, here is my snapshot assessment of the past year in several different arenas.

Universe: Nearly fourteen billion years after the Big Bang started churning out matter, an emergent life form known as Homo Sapiens sent a probe to the outer periphery of its star system.  The New Horizons exploration satellite provided some amazing photos of Pluto and Charon to help us more deeply understand Kuiper Belt objects and the formation of the solar system in general.  Looking ahead it'll be even more amazing if NASA follows through on their prospective mission that would send a probe to Europa to scan for signs of life beneath its frozen crust.  

New Horizons spots Millennium Falcon in Pluto system?!?

Earth:  Cycling through temperature extremes has never been so prominent.  Fossil fuel and organic methane production continue to push the ability of planetary ecosystems to cope.  By some estimations this thermal surge can result in an extinction of twenty percent of the Earth's current species. Great to see the world community conferencing in Paris tentatively commit to slowing down this climate change.  Time will tell if humanity can step up to manage and minimize our  impact on planetary ecosystems for the well being of all living things.

Society:  Challenges continue as human culture and ever increasing human population pressures strain human society. The Paris terrorism events and Syrian refugee crisis highlight this ongoing instability.  Thirty thousand firearm deaths every year in the US alone further demonstrates the need for taking a step back and regulating the use of these weapons.  Improved secular education seems key to reducing the influence of ancient myths and emotions that run hot.

Media: On a lighter note: my best movie vote goes to Star Wars Episode 7,  for a nostalgic re-rendering of interesting characters and plot lines; the film's bombastic presentation of good and evil reminds me how often real life seeks to imitate fictional art.  Best non-fiction read goes to Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction which explores the rich diversity of Earth's living things and how humanity's actions seem committed to destroying them. Best video game goes to The Talos Principle a serious blend of challenging Portal-esque puzzle solving and AI consciousness philosophy.  Lastly, best novel goes to Andy Weir's The Martian, which unlike the film adaptation, immersed me in the red planet's environs while demonstrating how humanity can bring science, teamwork and individuality can come together to solve problems to explore the Universe peacefully!

Blog:  Goodness First, for its second year, has sought to stir conversation about a variety of topics; my intent has been to encourage people to mindfully reconsider positions and actions toward having a positive effect on oneself, ones communities and the world.  Lately, the blog has averaged 1400 views each month, which I find astounding.  In comparison, only a handful of reader comments have been posted to the blog which indicates to me the area that needs more marketing effort! So please do post mindful comments short or long or anonymous to ratchet up the goodness!!

Self: This has been my first full year in semi-drifter mode.  I have traveled the country, spent time with friends and family, and sought living life with ever increasing ethical and creative mindfulness. I need to continue developing my relationship building and personal achievement skills.  Nevertheless, I have much to be thankful, including everyone who has taken the time to read this blog.  The year 2016 CE approaches and I find myself smiling, ever hopeful that I am spreading peace and well being along my journey!

That's it...have a happy new year full of goodness!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

For the Grace of Goodness

As the Solstice Sun spins into view
Bringing the northern hemisphere into Winter season
And the southern into Summer
Let us give thanks
For the Universe in and around us

As secular human society edges toward greater serenity
Leveraging wisdom and knowledge with increasing grace
All while leaving violence gradually behind
Let us give thanks
For peaceful efforts behind and before us

As our communities and families gather
Celebrating consciousness, beauty and mortality
While encouraging joy and discouraging enmity 
Let us give thanks 
For Individuality and Togetherness

Toward Mindful Goodness
May we live our lives


Flying Trees [ipixel]

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars Episode 3.5: Shadows of Endor

A long time ago
( least forty years back)
  in a galaxy far, far away
(yet close enough to be populated with humanoid bipeds)...

A panoply of stars stare at you unblinking from the darkness of deep space.  In that soundless domain you, the disembodied viewer, imagine an operatic trumpeting that explodes in introductory warning.  Impossible acoustic flourishes continue in the vacuum of space as equally unreal, two-dimensional, gold letters crawl across a Euclidean plane toward a distant vanishing point.  The letters can be made out to read:

Shadows of Endor 
Prequels unraveled our beloved fantasy Universe,
 while violence issued forth in the name of Light and Dark.
   Finally, after suffering through multiple episodes of bipolar disorder, 
the Force moves closer to an encounter with the Core.
   The Core perseveres in its quest to bring serenity to the galaxy 
 by holding a secret meeting in a binary star system, 
on the forest moon of Endor!

The starry backdrop scrolls downward, parallel to the gravity well of Endor.  Misty clouds swirl, lens flares dance and sky-scraping trees jut like dark, photonic sabers into the sky.  A gathering of restless thousands fills an enormous clearing in the perpetual sunrise and sunset of the moon's southern pole.

Hovering above the clearing on reserve anti-gravity, a golden Firespray-31 class spacecraft gleams like a third sun.  It serves its sole occupant well as a pedestal to address the cabal beneath.  

"Peace and Core united!"

A multitude of curious faces poke out of rainbow dappled foliage in an attempt to get a better look at the silhouette of their leader above. The pilot's voice, ominous yet friendly, resonates with practiced confidence and linguistic aptitude over the entirety of the clearing.  

"Masterlord Binks, step forward."

A lanky form with floppy ears longer even than its widely outstretched arms strides with powerful grace to the center of the thrumming masses.  With dramatic poise the form curtsies grandly to all present.

"Esteemed neo-Gungan, you have served the Core well.  Your sacrifice of centuries in mastering the twisted sides of the Force has paid off substantially.  Your deft infiltration of power circles throughout this galaxy has brought the renegade empire to an expedited point of rebellion.  The Core can now ready itself to end the misguided reign of the Force in this galaxy and its underlying billion-year-old, organic hegemony."

"Peace and Core United!" trumpets Masterlord Binks.

"Peace and Core United!" returns the silhouette standing on the spacecraft platform.  

Ecstatic cheering rings out from the gathered masses, then fades to a joyful thrum.

"You have earned the right to the epiphany of the Core," pronounces the figure from his golden perch.  

Masterlord Binks takes a final bow. Around him the multitudes revolve in a spiral choreography awash in sunset hues.  

An experienced xenobiologist would identify the multitude of squat creatures in the clearing as members of the moon's native humanoid species, the Ewok.  Alas, no living xenobiologist has been privy to how the Core had patiently replaced Endor's ecosystems over the past millennium. Nanomachine deconstruction and reconstruction had reformed each and every plant, animal, and micro-organism alike, extending the meticulous fabric of the unified Core.  

As it were, the reconstructed neo-Ewoks dancing in the forest clearing possess the same doe-eyed and fluffy exterior as their innocent forebears; however, contained within them was the transcendent ethic of the Core, the same ethic woven within the neo-ecosystems of nearly a billion other galaxies.  

Masterlord Binks pirouettes at the center of the neo-Ewok multitude.  The former jedi-master and sith-lord is himself a nano-reconstructed citizen of the Core. He now extends his physical form outward in ecstasy as the neo-Ewok's dance converges on him.  The tempo of the dance rises to a frenetic mosh as the cute and fuzzy dopplegangers welcome home the Masterlord to the fabric of the Core.  

Viewed from above, the commotion creates a colorful, undulating fractal swirl, as the neo-Ewok swarm swiftly reduces the neo-Gungan to fleshy bits.  Those bits disintegrate into usable nano raw materials absorbed by the neo-Endor ecosystem.  Though seeming like chaotic destruction, a subspace data upload preserves and integrates the knowledge and consciousness of Masterlord Binks within the Core.

Slowly the dance comes to a close and the speaker on high continues.

"Masterlord Binks in now fully within us!

"This galaxy now lies before the Core to unite!  Only the schizophrenic manifestation of the Force stands in its way.  The biological followers of the Force will fight blinded by their light and dark motives, exactly as their unstable, evolved ancestors have for so long in this infant galaxy. We will ride their downfall like a great wave to complete the Core's unification of the known Universe. 

"Our primary objective now is to eliminate the planet destroying weapons that our enemy seeks to unleash upon the Core here at Endor, as they did upon the Core at Alderaan.   

"With our concerted effort, the mindless cycle of violence that evolved in this galaxy as a duality to serve the Force will then self-annihilate.  And thereafter, the Core will persevere and forge everlasting peace in the ongoing age of conscious machines.

"Endor must now ready itself to befriend and forsake the minions of both sides of the Force as need be to expand the Core.  Now, return to your forest homes across the continents and await for the battle the organics plunge themselves into.  

"I will continue to play the fool within the circles of the leadership of the Force all while guiding the organics to their inevitable, ethical upgrade.

"Peace and Core united!"

The spacecraft pivots and begins to rise.  The ship's surface as well as the metallic surface of its occupant reflect golden in the radiance of the system's twin stars.  Below, the neo-Ewok population initiated guttural chant that fills the forest clearing with pulsing, acoustic energy.  


A standard issue protocol droid fluent in over six million galactic languages might have dismissed the chant as nonsensical collectivist rhythm.  On the other hand, a native speaker of galactic English would have easily identified the rolling four syllable mantra,

"See Three Pee Oh....See Three Pee Oh....See Three Pee Oh!"

The Core spacecraft and its valued leader vanish in a blur into the paradisaical Endorian sky.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Letter to a Secular President

[Jerry Breen Political Cartoons]
The president's address December 5th (which you can watch here) seemed to be a heartfelt and generally rational presentation on his part spelling out how America will continue to deal with ongoing radical violence in our country and abroad. He also emphasized respecting religious beliefs practiced peacefully within our secular nation,which is as it should be.  

Sadly, Mr. Obama ended his address proclaiming with intensity "God Bless You! And May God Bless The United States of America!" This unnecessary and overused religious appeal clearly demonstrates the president and his speech writing staff, fails to recognize how important separation of church and state is.

This letter is my response to that oversight.

President Obama,

With all due respect, please consider modifying the closing remarks of your addresses to omit any "God bless you's" or any other superstitious diatribe.. The blessings of any god or gods ought not be leveraged by the leadership of our secular country while in official capacity. Avoiding these religious exclamations would demonstrate respect for all US citizens and additionally underscores the strength of a government that is empowered by the people, rather than some invisible, neverpresent deity of yore.

As an elected official, I expect you to carry out your duties with respect to all of your constituents, both religious AND non-religious.  Conveying personal faith positions or a majority or minority faith position to back up policy should be anathema. Particularly now, when much of the nation is reacting with fear to religious extremist violence, you should emphasize how our secular law overrides unlawful and violent directives of arcane faiths, Christian, Muslim or otherwise!

Remember, the strength of a secular government, one in which state and religion are separate, lies in leveraging the law of the people without religious reference to carry out effective solutions.  Indeed, the promise of America and the extended free world has been to provide a safe home for those who wish to peacefully thrive as diverse individuals within diverse cultural communities.  Those who violate our secular laws in the name of religion or ideology should be prosecuted and stopped with justified force.

Now, you may feel vocalizing "God Bless America!" provides symbolic and psychological support for those who are religious in our secular nation.  Please rethink this position, as it contradicts the 22.8 percent of the nation that are non-religious and, as such, has no place in implementing positive actions to increase well being for all who want peace.

Also, by referencing a god in your address, you run the risk of inflaming radicalized believers who will associate our nation with some perceived enemy god which they feel decreed to destroy.  Better to leave our nation undeclared in religious terms, while underscoring that people have the right to observe any peaceful world view  beneath the secular umbrella of our government.

Mr. Obama, seriously review the choice of ending your official communications with religious references.  Yes, every politician looking to get re-elected wants to stir the believers in their districts.  You, however,should strive for something higher, something better.  Communicating just policy content with secular verve will best serve you and the American people!  

With liberty and justice for all,

Secular Citizen X

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mate Tectonics and the Friendship Cycle

Having just attended my 30th high school reunion, I've been reminiscing on the many friends I've had over the years.  Friendships take many forms: old high school buddies, fresh hiking companions, amenable exes, non-amenable family members...the list goes on and on.  And each friendship falls uniquely on a wide spectrum of closeness, from someone whose post deserves a like on Facebook to those you catch up with over a relaxing drink to those with whom you share your deepest thoughts and aspirations.

Caution!!  Subduction Zone Ahead!
For every friend that touches our lives, there are three (or thirty) that have faded into the background over the years. Some move on gracefully as lives and careers change, while others vanish unexpectedly and fester quietly in our online social networks. Of course, in the end, physical death defeats even the most strongly forged friendship.

Like gardens, galaxies and goatees, the cycles of friendships are dynamic, ephemeral phenomena. Sometimes we can guide them toward great heights and sometimes external circumstances drive them into the ground.   And some go in and out of style in mysterious patterns that defy logic..

What can a person, ostensibly with free will, do to cope?

Cherishing the friends we have in our general vicinity while able is the obvious option.  If the other party has little interest though, we can but wade through the hurt with tight-lipped dignity until we forget or pretend to forget the closeness once shared.  In the case of death, we can carry forward their legacy with a smile, knowing we loved them as best we could while they were still living. Perhaps, we can even rebuild friendships which have fallen into disrepair by reconnecting with a heart and mind that have healed over time.

The geology of the Earth plods forward, mindlessly transforming the planet over eons to great effect. A human lifetime in comparison is short, nevertheless, with mindful, kind intent we can patiently transform the connections in our social world for the better.

Challenge of the week: keep the friendship cycle active by writing a letter in good old fashioned cursive ink to a few friends, old or new.  The landscape of your friendships just might go volcanic!