Friday, February 28, 2020

Spoke The Inchworm

As a thought experiment today, I sought to convey the core essence of a variety of groups through turns on the old adage, "Give 'em an inch and they'll take a yard."

In doing so, I challenged myself to make an honest yet revealing representation, so I suspect it will fall a touch short of steel-manning each group's self-image.  Still I hope the creations exhibit a level of pithiness, and a sense of humor along the three foot path.

Tailors: "Give 'em an inch, and they'll mend your torn yard."

Scientists: "Give 'em an inch and they'll provide sufficient evidence before they request a yard."

Priests: "Give 'em an inch and they'll pull a yard out of their apse."

Bankers: "Give 'em an inch and they'll charge you a yard to loan the inch they got for free."

Poets: "Give 'em an inch and they'll claim yard rhymes with pinch."

Engineer: "Give 'em an inch and they'll meter out the rest to three decimal places."

Landscapers: "Give 'em a yard and they'll mow it inch by inch."

Politicians: "Give 'em an inch and they'll redefine it as a yard to advantage their supporters."

Mathematicians: "Give 'em an inch and they'll prove it's 1/36th of a yard."

Vegans: "Give 'em an inch and they will contemplate if its sentience and environmental impact qualifies it to have the rights of a yard."

Trekkies: "Give 'em an inch and they'll beam up Jean Luc Picard."

Friends: "Give 'em an inch, and they'll smile a yard wide."

Minimalists: "Give 'em a yard and they'll take an inch."

Writers: "Give us an inch and we'll weave you a tapestrial yarn."

Have a good one? Share it in the comments! 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Forces at Play

Gravity tugs relentless
galaxies bow before Him
patient assembler of worlds
raging against mountain and molecules
yet life stands up to the challenge
revolts against His heavy edict

Evolution, a planetary empress
She selects, naturally
tickling genes, toppling dinosaurs 
turning apes into tribal believers of woo
breeder, breeder, indifferent excreter
Her toxins make new gardens grow

Entropy and Time creep in the wings
jesters laughing at complexity
ready to unleash the evil of undoing
ultimate savages, They shall devour
each and every quark 
countless eons later, They laugh last

Minds sail such seas of impermanence
building walls to outlast memory of self
Each dances with joyful futility
delusions suffered, sometimes with grace
ever in denial, chasing each breath
toward adventures found, and always lost

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Perfection is the Enemy of Goodness

I find myself often evaluating my behaviors and those of my species' looking for someway to ratchet up the ethical processes of the individual and world. The momentum of current culture is ferocious. Holding on to ancient traditions and ideas is very difficult to erode even when their foundations are inane and their outcomes heinous.

Still, knowing there is no such thing as perfection is important to staying sane in ones daily life. And to be sure being a positive activist can be exceptionally draining. Whether it's as a vegan unintentionally smashing insects with my car, or as an atheist observing winter holidays alongside Christian family members. Giving in a little permits one to live life in an imperfect world and among those we have differences with.

A sense of humor and a joyful heart go a long way to helping to navigate in the real world, especially if one has an activist mindset. Many cite "live and let live" as a guiding principle; however, what goodness do we rob from life if we are unable to peacefully share ideas and persuasively influence others with compassionate and well-reasoned intentions?

And yet the "live and let live" philosophy reigns supreme in American pseudo-libertarian culture, even when the ones living kills animals unnecessarily, pollutes the atmosphere excessively and thieves from resources as if they were unlimited.

It can be enough to wear us down. At some point in ones life we may very well decide to hole up and hide from the world. Even "do no harm" pledges are not realistically attainable, so a compassionate person who falls short in living up to their own ideals can develop self-apathy.

Instead of seeking perfection, we should set aside time to recharge. Dance, laugh, read for pleasure, watch a comedy, play a video game, explore a nature trail, create something beautiful....regularly swim in the chaotic experience of imperfection!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Haiku du Jour

between Earth and sky
brown headed nuthatches fly
humans watch them die

Monday, February 24, 2020

Walkaway: A Glimpse of a Near-fetched Future

The novel Walkaway by Cory Doctorow presents a post-scarcity, peer-cooperative, creative-leap, transhumanist near future. Its plotlines entangle the privileged super-wealthy with the oppressed creative worker base. If found the story less compelling than the ideas it presents, so here's a no spoiler analysis of those points.

Post-scarcity economics and distributed peer culture: true creative innovation can lead to a plenitude of natural resource harvesting and efficient development for humanity. On the surface, a grassroots rise which takes control back from the corporate warlords feels quite positive, however, we must be wary that the base desire to grow for the sake of growth and material wealth does not remain our prime directive. What might complement post-scarcity economics better is an encouragement of true minimalism, human population reduction and whole planet biodiversity conservation.

Scientism and wishful thinking: as much as I am a fan of critical thinking, basic research and progressive policy, we must be wary of the unspoken "technology can fix everything" so let's rush forward with every discovery and innovation. Sure we will likely always have growing pains with new technology like social media platforms and the questionable information revolution its unleashed. Nevertheless, expanding consumerism,  worsening climate change, and resource shortages simply may not ever be sufficiently addressed by scientific innovation. The technological glass ceiling may be high, but the cost of unstable natural and societal environments may suffer. Spending trillions on human Mars exploration may have a modest payoff or it may turn into an interplanetary sinkhole. 

Virtual immortality and high artificial intelligence: the holy grail of current information research is attainment of systems which can out think humans and their current synthesizing constructs (scientific method, creativity, political power, etc.). These AI systems may become the war-machines which make nations and corporations beyond competitive to the point where our leadership will no longer be human. Of course, if our AI capability rises, so does the potential of human mind simulation itself, though it's uncertain at best if existence within transistor space will "feel" equivalent to neuron space. At some level no one wants to die, but if we actually attain the ability to live for long periods of time in a virtual space, will our quality of life rise or will our desire for "eating all the Halloween candy," once fulfilled make us sick psychologically.

These are my thoughts on a novel I recommend, less because of the plot, and more for the reflection its ideas stirred in me.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Small Talk, Big Connections

Life and living are complex, to be sure. Still when connecting with others it helps to have conversational principles in place that produce good things for the relationship, not only for the good of each individual, but also for the greater community and the world as a whole.  Honest, positive exchanges of information benefit all.

Three principles I think work together to create positive conversation are compassion, reason and self-reflection. (and a fourth, sense of humor, may be very well be the mortar between those bricks)

Compassion cherishes the other person, their participation and their point of view as equal or even slightly more important than your own.

Reason brings to bear in a thoughtful manner the best data, logic and established science pertinent to the conversation.

Self-reflection engages humility, integrity, and an open mind during and after the conversation to consider and reconsider ones convictions.

And a sense of humor recognizes that no peaceful battle is ever settled in one day, let alone a single conversation. But laughter can remind us of the goodness of our connection even when other emotions and disagreement are in play.

As a real world example of how one might implement these conversational principles, let's consider the very real scenario when I interact with someone I know and care for who has a belief in a magical position, specifically, let's say, belief in an afterlife. I choose this topic because of the wide range of seriousness and silliness with which an afterlife is considered to this day.

Entering the conversation, compassion leads the way. By considering the person you'll be talking not only can you adjust your presentation to be most interesting to the other person, you also set yourself up to have your information received in a friendly fashion. I think one of the best ways to open a conversation is with a question, so that you demonstrate your interest in the other's thoughts.

What do you think of the idea of heaven?

Even if your friend is a believer you may very well be surprised at how skeptical their position is. As a person who wants to implement reason, this can be a great way to learn some fact or at least understand the exact position your conversational partner holds.

Okay so you believe there is paradise where everyone is happy and you are reunited with everyone in your life who has died, except for those who didn't believe in the Christian god?

By reflecting honestly what your friend has shared seeks confirmation that you understand their conviction. You might very well go through several iterations of fully understanding the basics of their stance. You may find opportunities to gently challenge their premises along the way.

Okay, so Christians judged by Jesus as worthy rise to heaven, but even if you're a non-christian or an atheist who lived your life with love and kindness you wouldn't get there?

Yes it can be trying at times to listen to a story that has little evidence behind it, but a good conversation takes the other's position seriously.  If you can't then you probably shouldn't have started the conversation. Real world persuasion involves patience and calm, honest sharing. Otherwise, the conversation can enter an adversarial dead end to no ones benefit. To this end, reflect on whether your statements might insult the other, instead of a acerbic comment consider sharing a friendly comment that underscores wanting to know the truth better.

I used to believe in an afterlife myself. The hope that we will be reunited with our dead loved ones is powerful, which makes heaven an interesting idea to contemplate.

At a certain point you may sense the discussion is only causing stress, and you'd rather not have it become an all or nothing debate. "Winning the argument" with a friend rarely happens, especially over the course of a single conversation. A better way to end a serious minded discussion is with a bit of humor to fertilize any seeds of compassion and reason that were planted.

Well, if there is a heaven, I hope they have Netflix!

To be sure, being human means we may never perfectly implement the principles of compassion, reason and self-reflection. Still if we make the attempt to ratchet up these principles in conversations with those we care about, we just may find ourselves one step closer to creating heaven on Earth.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Friendship Formation: A Pondering

Like overlapping ocean waves the world offers an endless variety of friendship. In childhood serendipity we stumble upon our first friends with instinctive fervor. What fun we sought playing tag, stick-ball and war, all games inherently requiring others willing to commit to improvised rules of the moment. Sharing secret knowledge, television story-lines, and the very beginnings of personal dreams comes naturally on the heels of play. Layer upon layer of trust we build into alliances with unsigned pacts that culture whispers down through the ages. 

Come adulthood, our passions, societal expectations, and a myriad of other quests take us along currents where all too often old friendships wither from atrophy, incompatible ideologies, or one-off scuffles. Of course, as adults if we are lucky and skilled, new friendships can be forged like ephemeral vessels that carry us ever forward.

The strongest friendships are those that resist entropy. In spite of time apart, colossal differences of opinion or an occasional emotional inferno, those grandest assembled friendships float resolute. And when the next wind of circumstance blows, the metaphorical galleon's sails rumble to life and the journey of that special friendship powers on toward an undiscovered horizon.

Ah, friendship.

Monday, February 17, 2020

on personal reflection and poetry

There are moments when poetry, helps one resolve inner tension.

Today two very nice missionaries asked me to consider their cult-like message, and rather than have a long conversation to help each other examine the possibilities, I kindly indicated how my life experience and personal research had put me on a more rational path. Polite or no, I regretted my comments later, feeling like I was a bit of a jerk and, in contrast, knowing they were off sewing seeds of misinformation. Perhaps a better outcome would have been had were I to have broken bread with these young people to allow time to share, rather than fend off a thoughtful exchange. Nevertheless, writing this short poem helped me reflect and heal my internal bruises of sentiment, somewhat.

Consider writing yourself poetry sometime if your insides ache.

a childhood spent swimming
in a magical pond 
'til frozen contemplation had me walking
walking its surface, along
pursuing knowledge and wisdom, their own reward
still ice skating with friends 
might be less absurd

Friday, February 14, 2020

States of Change: Chapter 23: Vacationland (Maine)

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.

"The panel chair acknowledges the representative from King County for five minutes."

"Thank you Mr. Chairperson. I graciously ask the panel approve Bill LR 7420 for submission to state parliament requesting the change from Maine's currently official, outdated nickname to The State of Mindfulness."

"For thirty years our state has gradually come to terms with the bittersweet, post-fed world."

"Well prior to The Fall our once proud nickname, The Pine Tree State, broadcast an air of natural beauty and plentiful resources that every citizen of Maine can acknowledge was authentic. Indeed, we ramped up the harvest and destruction of those natural resources as part of old Oosa over many decades. And when Disney, Appleverse and Amazonplex relocated their eastern seaboard theme parks to our state, our grandparents sadly sold our state's soul for a pittance, making Vacationland Maine's economic nomme de guerre. In those final years of Oosa we become the tourist mecca. In pursuit of fortune, we also clear-cut more than ninety percent of our forests, losing ninety-five percent of our indigenous wildlife including seventy-three outright species extinctions."

"Karma comes to Frogtown, some might say, and when Oosa fell apart after the Hawaiian incident, our great state fell into an economic wasteland like so many others. One could argue our state was blackmailed into eliminating resource trade in exchange for austere, internal conservationism. Maine could have simply shifted our exports overseas, like so many of the other fallen forty-nine, instead our great state of Maine contemplated its inner Zen."

"The war that was consumerist capitalism nearly tore our state apart in those Oosa days. Populist leadership tempted the material vanity of our egos and though the streets ran with fool's gold, our spirits as sapient beings were nearly lost to the Trillionaire Fairy-tale and its evil phantom, Trickle Down policy."

"Nevertheless, Maine had its Awakening. From grassroots efforts to our fully volunteer legislature, Maine has brought self-sufficiency to all of its communities, and more importantly self-respect. Some may criticize the Neartopia that we work to sustain. Robust animal rights, sustainable human population, and organic social networks to name a few of our achievements. The construct that is Maine has guided us on a path where the focus is not on desire alone, but fully incorporates the three-fold path of modern mindfulness: compassion, reason and desire."

"To that end, I seek the panel's support to put the long overdue Vacationland moniker to rest, where it can serve as a reminder of a past we have healed from. With joyful humility, let us make Maine recognized the world over as a progressive example for all of the greatness of being. Let our state here forth be known as The State of Mindfulness."

"Thank you representative. A worthy contemplation. Let us reconvene for a vote after the mid-morning silent meditation. Namaste."

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Midweek Haiku

frozen macadam
damp leaves deaf to the white noise
sparkling crystals 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Superpower Cycles: from Beowulf to The Boys and Beyond

Having watched the recent series The Boys, I sense we are coming to the end of a cycle where false superheroes reign in the modern psyche. Arguably, humans have had such heroes since the earliest stories of gods and mortal heroes. Yahweh, Hercules, Beowulf, Superman, Dr. Manhattan, etc. etc., each has taken on the guise of a being that visits justice on the evil doers among us.

The Boys, like Watchmen before it, presents a grittier look at superheroism where it meets human nature. In particular, these two stories investigate how individuals abuse their superpowers for corrupt gain, paralleling much closer the political gears that grind in the rear world. In some ways, superheroes provide escapism, but that escapism can reach dangerous levels if we ignore real world issues, locally, regionally and globally.

Though I'm sure superhero movies will continue to sell their black and white battles between good and evil, I wonder if society might be taking a hiatus to consider the real heroes at work in the our world. Those people that are working hard toward refining better ethical standards, spreading compassionate efforts to lessen suffering, and in general serving as stewards toward greater planetary health.

Fiction will surely still inform us as individuals and communities, but perhaps the real superheroes, each and every one us, will begin stepping forward with greater regularity to forge mindful, progressive change.

Monday, February 10, 2020


healthy precipitation
i know the water cycle reigns
solar obfuscation
eventually down the drain

friendships come and go
cycles like seasons
crash course in communication
something new to grow

politics is a hurricane
flooding the landscape once again
the choice of death confronts us
self-immolation or slow drowning


(composed Summer of 2018)

Friday, February 7, 2020

Leap Day

The sunset rectangle around my flat's window-blind fades to midnight gray. I verify the door-cam’s night-vision mode is active and there's no movement outside. Sliding the deadbolt free, I shift the small tower of Amazon packages inside from the February chill. I relock it just as I begin to get the jitters. Restocking on the first of the month always feels like a trailer from a jump-scare horror flick. As I store my sundries in their designated places my calm slowly returns.

One unopened package remains. Unlike my Prime deliveries it is wrapped in thick, reddish-brown paper with my name and address written in looping script. The custom puzzle shop I have a subscription with has become my unsuspecting penpal. I unwrap the parcel slowly with anticipation. Will this month’s entry be carved from hardwood, or machined in stainless steel? 

Box open, a small card reads Enigma Visions on one side; on the other it has the cryptic line: “Leap Forward One Day at a Time.” I lift the artifact from its crepe’ paper nest. The heart-shaped device I hold in my hands glistens like a large Fabergé egg frozen in cellular division. Each emerald facet is inlaid with silver roman numerals numbered one to twenty-nine. 

Experimentally, I touch the silver lower-case i. The puzzle-box emits a warm soft glow and the facet swings out as if opened by a tiny ghost.

Behind the door lies a small prize. Other puzzles I’ve solved have had prizes, but this is the first that promises many. I retrieve the chocolate flower, its petals delicate and fine. Almost surprising myself I pop it straight away into my mouth.

It melts on my tongue in an instant. The intense flavor washes through my very being. My senses spike for a nanosecond and then my tidy apartment unfurls before me like a fern turned inside out. The scene immediately reknits itself into the haphazard, wooded glen outside my childhood home. I am eight years old and in the middle of receiving my first kiss. A mere peck to be sure, but in this altered mind-state it seems to last for hours, and then days on end. I am a detached observer as the fear, excitement and innocent joy define my very being.

Am I to be a forever prisoner here? Am I to be a forever prisoner here? Am I.... In my head I repeat this mantra fit for ancient stars until I've nearly forgotten who I am. And then the scene tints toward darkest green, morphing and contorting until it becomes the jeweled heart sitting in my hands once more. I stumble to the bathroom in a euphoric dizziness, expecting full-on nausea that never comes.

I glance at my iPhone and I grasp that only a single day has elapsed. Without a moment lost I return to the heart puzzle and open facet number two where a second floral nibble waits. Day after day in geologic succession I consume flower after flower, binging on the essence of psychedelic memories one after another . I don’t know what the chocolates are laced with, but for the twenty-eight days of the second month I am raw existence nailed to a cross of nirvana and brimstone. 

Each experiential singularity unveils, peels, slices and dices a core piece of me encrypted by a moving moment from my past. Agápe, Éros, Philia, Storge.  Instantaneous excerpts with my parents, friends, lovers, and Nature--each trip more contemplatively scintillating than the last. Except for rushed bathroom breaks and unthawed insta-meals I am continuously consumed by each epic journey, that in aggregate assemble into the jigsaw of Self.

Falling from a fantastic precipice, I open my eyes to February 29th. The final unopened, emerald door stares at me, beckoning. Tears stream down my cheeks as I face the privileged life I've taken for granted. With enlightened resolve I set the emerald heart on the coffee table, its sides overflowing with the plastic husks of convenience meals.

Shaking, I stand up, walk to the front door and open it wide. The sunrise has just begun. Sun rays feel like smiles on my damp face, and I inhale deep of the chill morning air. Whew, I reek like a corpse walking. First a shower, I tell myself, and then it’s time for a long overdue walk outside.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Insidious, Magical Thinking

Spreading falsehoods like sunlight, on a mythical biscuit

World culture has a bad case of cancer now, and it's been festering for centuries. The widespread confusion between fact and fiction has coaxed humanity's path away from mindful stewardship of planet and civilization.

Arguably, selling fiction as fact has been long heralded by the religions of the world offering afterlives and absolution to mortal humans dealt a hand of suffering. Those mythical stories seem to have made the soil fertile for the cancerous growth of accepting and embracing lies about reality. Corrupt senate trials, trickle-down economics, humanely slaughtered animals, cost-effective Mars colonization, curative gemstones; the falsehoods go on and on serving those seeking to preserve power and mislead people by the millions.

We need to wake up. Not all opinions are created equal. An uninformed, uneducated opinion applied to matters of policy leads to national cults that invade the body politic and poison the world's ecosystems.

Let's keep the fiction labeled as such where it belongs, on the fiction shelves. Speculative ideas and stories can motivate us, sure; but those motivations should engage reason and compassion in their implementation to give us any chance at moving Earth forward for all its indigenous species.