Archive for the ‘Spirit’ Category

Basic Principles

2 August 2020

I have written about these things before, and will likely write about them again. As I see events unfold, it seems necessary to restate these things and amplify their meanings as I continue to attempt to apply them.

These particular principles are not principles of action (such as the Buddhist “Eightfold Path”), nor are they principles of self-betterment, or of ultimate truth, or of science. They are principles I use to help me understand what is going on around be and to explain it to others. I feel it necessary to reassert them because so many others who write on history or current events ignore them.

In brief they are as follows:

  1. The personality is immortal, but not immutable.
  2. Life is a game composed of freedoms, purposes, and barriers.
  3. Outcomes and conditions of play can become undesirable when criminals are allowed to participate without restraint.

This list contains principles that are often explicitly denied by observers and commentators. There are other basic principles that tend to be implicitly agreed on:

  • Effects are produced by causes.
  • Effects may not always be intentional.
  • Players may lack awareness of the game and of each other.
  • Useful information can be gained by careful study.

Personality

Aspects of this subject have been discussed here and elsewhere on this blog.

I have sometimes written of the human personality as a “point of cause” or as a “spirit.” But in this context, the more common expression will serve. That we are immortal beings, totally free and indestructible in our essence, is seldom taken into account by most observers. Most never consider the ramifications of this fact, even if they consider that it might be true.

This is a central fact of life that has been purposely hidden from us because of the supposed “Pandora’s Box” that would open if it were widely believed. To the extent that a population does believe this, it tends to become “less manageable” but not, I think, in a bad way.

The personality, as a package of attitudes and behaviors (or reactions), results from personal experience, conclusions, and choices, made – not over one lifetime as many assume to be the case – but over a much longer stretch of time. That beings can become “set in their ways” is explained in part by the actual duration of their experience, but also by the fact that most of it remains forgotten, or unavailable for conscious re-evaluation. This can even be the case for early experiences this lifetime, which accounts for the continued popularity of psychotherapies.

Though evolutionary psychology has made some promising contributions to human understanding, its reliance on genetic transmission of behavior traits hinders it, as this is basically a falsehood. Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of “morphic resonance” is closer to the truth.

Could modern technologies be a product of morphic resonance?

Games

Games make life interesting. “Any game is better than no game.” While this fact of life results in a baffling array of human involvements, it is a powerful principle that is too often overlooked.

Games may be played over a wide range of self-awareness and self-determinism. At the low end we have the game of the slave and the victim, and the slave owner and victimizer. Though the criminals that like to create slaves and victims tend to see themselves as “superior beings” they really aren’t. The “narrative” supporting such games just makes it seem that way.

At the top of the scale we have games that extend far above the level of play easily accepted or tolerated on Earth today. On Earth you have sports as good examples of higher-level games. They are usually seen as enjoyable for all levels of participant. They have the brilliant feature of never ending. There is always another match to be played, another chance to demonstrate superior competence and to “win.”

Political and business activities are usually degraded games based on the sports model. You have teams (parties, companies) they have goals (influence, profit) they have freedoms (rights) and barriers (rules). To the extent that all this stays reasonably balanced and above-board, these games can stay relatively sane, but as these games directly impinge on human life and well-being, they tend to be taken too seriously, and to become degraded through the influence of criminal personalities.

Politics and business in their current state are highly degraded, and are intimately involved in the negative outcomes we are currently experiencing and that we have been experiencing for hundreds, thousands and millions (if not billions) of years.

Criminals

My church has released three “video essays” on the subject of the struggle between the criminal and the honest being:

Honest People Have Rights, Too

The Third Party Law

The Anti-Social Personality, The Social Personality

These videos (essays) cover basic facts of life that lie behind the subjects of Ethics and Justice.

As might not be totally obvious in these videos, the process of bringing order into a community (or any group, including family, business, nation) does not involve simply making laws and then locating and punishing those who violate them. It involves locating criminals, yes, but not by the criterion of: You broke the law. And once located, the criminal need not be punished (punishment itself being a criminal idea) but only handled in a way that will render him less dangerous and less toxic.

We get at least three very important derivatives from this data:

  1. Justice does not equate to punishment.
  2. Criminality is not defined by lawbreaking but by a secret intent to do harm.
  3. Thus, criminal personalities may exist in high places, undetected.

Though the motives of criminals are often described as “predatory” or “parasitical” these will often be less obvious than intent, as measured by the traits laid out in those videos. And though the mob may scream for “justice” in the form of punishment, this only leads to more criminality in the end.

We should become much more aware of the fact that crime can and does exist in high places and that people in those positions may use their ability to “control the narrative” though propaganda channels to deflect attention away from themselves onto false targets.

The “mud slinging” can become so socially acceptable and pernicious that people of good will can be persuaded to participate in it, and in so doing, degrade themselves as they forward lies concocted by others for no other purpose that to cause conflict and confusion. This is the level that society has currently stooped to, and it is very disheartening.

I hope that this brief discussion might result in more clear thinking and right action.

A New History of Freedom

5 July 2020

It seems more appropriate now than ever to re-evaluate our concepts of freedom.

Traditional history, on a perhaps superficial reassessment, could be seen as the story of the gradual enslavement of all beings. So, what of the story of their freedom?

A modern trend to re-teach history from the viewpoint of humanist ideals is impeded by a lack of data and understanding of exactly what freedom is really all about, and how we have been deprived of what seems like our fair share of it.

We see throughout traditional historical narratives a constant effort to normalize violent conflict and conquest as somehow inevitable, as an intrinsic part of human life. But is it really?

Though Hubbard is the obvious thought leader on this subject as far as I am concerned, others have, in more recent times, been stepping up to the task of filling in some important gaps in our understanding of what really happened and why.

This discussion will present the “facts” as I see them, without any particular reference to how I learned of them. They almost certainly remain incomplete, but are startling enough in their basic findings to make their study worthwhile, if not vital, to the cause of freedom.

Origins

No history of this universe, much less of Mankind, has answered the ultimate question of the origin of life and its games. At least not as a narrative list of facts and events, as we expect from our histories. Which is not to say that we haven’t tried! But we need not be overly concerned with the gaps in detail. Any concept of a Creation Event roughly serves the purpose, whether this be in the form of Divine Intention or a Big Bang. Yet: In those two possible paradigms lies the crux of our problem.

People really don’t have a clue about what actually went down, and are more or less willing to accept whatever story seems most popular at the time. And even though the truth must be resident in each of us, it seems to be permanently unavailable to us.

Detail from a painting by Akiane.

One viewpoint on this that has endured down through the ages in various forms still proves workable when properly framed. This is the idea that it all started with an intention, and that original intention is all that really keeps everything going.

Attempts to supplant this viewpoint using modern Physics have been frustrated by some sort of conceptual brick wall. The observed phenomena seem to point in a direction that seems totally imponderable – and perhaps is; the idea that there is really nothing there. You add up all the pluses and all the minuses that seem to be operating in this universe, and you come up with approximately zero.

Or you could say you come up with a question that seems impossible to answer: Where did the motion come from, and why does it keep going? The Big Bang, though it gives a somewhat workable mathematical model, doesn’t solve this. The idea that “God started it” actually solves the problem better. And so we find ourselves staring at a causative factor that adds up to completely and entirely – nothing.

That ultimate cause would of necessity have to be immaterial has occurred to some (such as Socrates), but rejected by most – even the religious. It just seems too weird. Yet it is the best answer. Those of us who believe in “zero as cause” do so (I hope) not under any pressure of dogma, but simply because our data point that way, and because technologies based on it have proven to be workable.

Freedom and causation

A simplistic analogy that uses this view of causation might go something like this: A baby is born, and finds itself totally alone. To amuse itself, it invents things to play with. Meanwhile and elsewhere, another baby is born under similar circumstances. Eventually these babies – now children, perhaps – meet each other. And now they have a game. And that game involves sharing the things each one made with the other. This results in a mutual agreement that the things that have been made and the space they occupy will persist and be seen as “barriers.” And that their ability to move objects, perhaps create new ones or destroy old ones, constitutes their “freedoms.”

boys playing

In other words, original cause led – somehow – to the playing of games. And games involve freedoms, barriers and purposes. Thus, freedom only has meaning in the context of barriers and purposes, which is to say, in the context of a game.

To restate the apparent actuality of the situation: “Nothing” led to “zeros of cause” led to games, which involve freedom, barriers and purposes. The “zeros of cause” (in case you missed this point) created all that we see and know as matter and life. Absolutely all of it.

The games of life

If you can imagine that the children in our little parable did not yet choose to take any form, but remained as “zeros,” then you can also perhaps imagine that they could play most wildly, as their games would not affect them directly, but only indirectly through the loss or destruction (perhaps) of some treasured object. In a universe where the zeros of cause do not identify themselves with objects, the freedoms of play are very great, including almost unimaginable extremes of violence.

When, however, those “zeros of cause” begin to identify with one or more objects which they have created, then they begin to take violence in play more “personally” and desire to set up rules of play, which amount to additional barriers of a sort. However, to serve as totally effective barriers, those rules would require total agreement, which can never be obtained. Those who do not wish to agree with the rules of play are considered “criminals” by the other players, and are thus subject to being expelled from the game.

You see the problem with this, though. How can you expel a “zero of cause” from any game if it wants to continue to play? There’s no real way to do it. Your only hope is to convince the “bad guy” to follow the rules. But if you try to enforce your rules with more violence, then you become the new “bad guy.”

See how this plays out? The original problem arose when we began to identify too closely with the objects of play. They weren’t dolls in doll houses any more. They were us!

Some young people play a game of tug-of-war.

And now we have a whole range of games that only exist on the basis of a certain amount of self-deception. We don’t want to be free of our objects of play (our bodies, for instance) even though we could be. Though that would solve the problem of “not enough freedom,” it is an unwanted solution because we prefer the self-deception inherent in so many of our games. Yet eliminating that self-deception is the only real solution to the problem. Why do children play so easily with each other? Because they keep the objects of play external to themselves. When they stop doing that, they start getting into fights.

Contexts of Freedom

The games we have been playing on this planet for a long time now involve, according to the assumptions laid out above, enormous amounts of self-deception. A certain amount of self-realization (to coin a phrase) must occur for the situation to move forward towards more freedom.

flying boy

This need not, at this time, amount to total spiritual emancipation. It only needs to extend far enough to allow us to envision a new path forward in the context of this set of games we play here on Earth.

But even if we reach some consensus on this new path forward, we need to keep in mind our larger context, the context of the games being played in this universe.

All evidence to date suggests that the rest of the universe has not yet come to terms with its own story and with the deceptions involved in keeping that story alive. Those guys are breathing down our necks. They always have done so, and they probably always will. We don’t even know yet what has held them back from a total Earth takeover. Something has, as they are certainly capable of it. It could have something to do with the current function of Earth as a prison.

Can you imagine a prison so isolated that the prisoners eventually discover how to free themselves, while the guards never find out? And then when the guards do find out, what happens? Do the former prisoners retain their new-found freedom, or lose it? That chapter of the story has yet to be written.

So: Do you think it’s all too impossible to be worth trying to change things? Do you think the ultimate “victory” of the “bad guys” is inevitable? Or would they just be deceiving themselves (and us ourselves) about their success? Is that seemingly endless cycle of self-deception really worth all the trouble it causes, given what we have learned about it in recent years?

These are questions we must answer if we care about freedom.

Pseudoscience and Fake News

17 June 2020

OK. I’m going to attack two gnarly subjects in one post! Can I do it?

In searching for a way that would communicate to reconcile the intellectual warfare that goes on in the name of “rational debate,” I ran across this:

When therapeutic entrepreneurs make claims on behalf of their interventions, we should not waste our time to determine whether their interventions qualify as pseudoscientific. Rather, we should ask them: How do you know that your intervention works? What is your evidence?

From article: “The Demise of Pseudoscience” Richard J. McNally, Department of Psychology, Harvard University.

This is the way a professor of psychology (at Harvard, no less!) chooses to communicate a saner approach to the problem of conflicting data. My teacher would have said (a bit cryptically) “Look, don’t think!”

Why do people prefer thinking over looking?

It becomes obvious that a lot of accusations of fakery are not based on better data, but only on an offended sense of “what must be correct.” And on the other hand, both bizarre and subtle lies have been blindly accepted because of who spoke them of where they were printed. Too many are thinking without looking.

I am currently studying a lecture series addressing this problem. It consists of 70 lectures and I have listened to 60 of them. If any answer has emerged so far, perhaps it could be summed up in the phrase: “it’s easier to think.”

The price of looking

How much does it cost to “look” at an atom? It costs at least $100,000 to accelerate ions with a cyclotron. The cloud chamber or similar detector needed to see particles resulting from the collision of an energetic beam against a target would cost another few hundred dollars (minimum).

The annual budget for the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) was $383 million in 2017. The Large Hadron Collider cost about 4 billion Swiss francs to build.

A good optical microscope costs about $500 (though I got one once at a thrift shop for $50). A desktop electron microscope might cost around $50,000. Oscilloscopes to see electronic waveforms start in the hundreds of dollars.

You can also learn to communicate with animals, essentially by looking at the thoughts they send to you. Almost any sort of spiritual growth involves some sort of training along these lines. It takes time, it takes practice, like learning to play the piano.

So when it seems too hard to just look and “see” the answer, a lot of people prefer to think instead. It’s got a lower price tag. That’s my best explanation, anyway.

So, refusals to look are basically just confessions of laziness or poverty.

If you want to find answers to difficult questions, answers that work, you have to look for them.

Looking via the Internet

Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN when he developed the communication protocol that led to the World Wide Web. He did this so that scientists in different countries could share their research results.

Today, a lot of research resides behind “paywalls.” That means that you have to subscribe to a site just to look at its content. Although I guess this makes economic sense to the companies that publish research papers on the web, it can be a problem for some of us, particularly if one paper costs $30 or one year costs $300.

Some governments, institutions and organizations are either required or prefer to publish their findings openly. Although this is great for a person like me who wants to find out what’s going on without going broke, the results can be daunting. For example, the CIA has released thousands of its documents to the public. So: How do I know which ones might be interesting? They aren’t going to tell me!

Well, some near-lunatic (maybe) might decide to spend three months of his life just looking through every CIA document that has been released. Then he’ll re-publish, or post links to, the ones that he thinks are important. But that guy’s a lunatic, right? Well, how else am I supposed to get data? I can’t do all that looking myself.

Dr. Mercola

This guy’s an MD. He sells supplements, mostly, and has used his business earnings to create a team that posts usually several documented articles on his site every day. But because he has picked up on the fact that some vaccines are causing problems, along with garnering criticism from vested interests that don’t like his nutrition push, he has become interested in trying to find out what’s in back of all this noise. His poking around and talking with various critics has ended up with him being pushed off Google, YouTube and Facebook, at least partially.

Search, social media and crimes in high places

Although it has been alleged that the CIA was deeply involved in the development of Google and social media for purposes of domestic espionage, that could just be someone’s idea. (However, look at some of the crazy things that the CIA is documented to have been involved with!) Thus, the fact that those platforms have bumped Mercola, Alex Jones, and many others could be seen as “censorship.” However, it is more likely that those companies are just trying to stay out of trouble and make lots of money. So they prefer to avoid controversy. Of course, this means that they will avoid any content that is deemed “controversial” while admitting any content that is deemed “non-controversial” or “mainstream.” In so doing, they exit the stage as platforms where you might be able to find true data that the people in power don’t want you to find. They become little more than entertainment platforms.

In so doing, the big players on the internet tend to align themselves with some shady people who would prefer that the general public not find out what they are really up to. It’s not that the companies are in knowing collusion, necessarily. It’s just that corporate timidity tends to make it look that way. Now it’s just harder to tell what’s true by looking.

The new Merchants of Chaos

In the “old days” there were some newspapers – in fact, most newspapers – who liked to make the environment look chaotic because it “sold more papers.” At one point, some of these papers were referred to as the “yellow press” or “yellow journalism.” Regardless of the exact true goals of those particular papers, they assisted greatly in moving public opinion over to favoring the Spanish-American War (1898), widely considered to be a war that never needed to be fought.

Of course, modern journalism sees itself as above all that now. For a while, some news departments at some TV networks were given editorial control over their own content, as a matter of personal integrity on the part of senior executives. (I have read this but can’t confirm it on Wikipedia). But now it seems fairly obvious that News has become just another form of entertainment, and that various networks, for one reason or another, are taking sides in the political arena. For someone who watched TV news in the 1960s and 1970s, this seems really strange.

The tendency in TV and on the internet to favor “news” stories of emotion, intrigue and opinion could be seen as just a symptom of the insanity that is the human condition. But it makes it very difficult to look at things as they really are using the internet. We all try. And while we may become quite intrigued, in the end we are usually disappointed. The internet seems to be no friend to the truth.

Example: Learning Styles

I can search for “learning styles” and get many many articles on the subject. Only Wikipedia (with a few others) contains the sobering truth that “learning styles” is a poor interpretation of a questionable theory and has never proven out when subjected to rigorous test.

Thus, we have a kind of “pseudoscience” living on the tongues of so many pedagogues yet empty of real meaning or applicability. It has become one of many socially-accepted falsehoods. “You only live once.” “You think with your brain.” Do you recognize these as pseudoscience? If not, why not? They are, you know!

If the people who wish to control public perceptions of what is true decide that a popular concept should not die, even though it is false, they have many tools by which they can pursue this goal. One way is to label any scientific data challenging that concept as “pseudoscience.”

Pseudoscience

It is easy to label certain subjects as “pseudoscience.” These are subjects that have never entered the scientific literature as we know it, though they claim to be “scientific.” This has been the fate of the subject I have devoted a lot of my time and attention to, as well as a host of “speculative” subjects that, while taken seriously by their proponents, did not in fact rely on scientific methodologies for their development, and basically consist of story telling.

But let’s look at some of the subjects in Wikipedia’s list of pseudosciences:

  • Free Energy. This must be false because it violates the science law of conservation of energy. However, the extremely long-lived state of matter (which is a form of energy per E=Mc^2) remains unexplained. As does the existence of mental energy.
  • Astrology. This is one of the most widely-used psychical practices in modern times. I don’t know that it ever pretended to be a science. I have no data on its efficacy.
  • Biodynamics and Homeopathy. These are listed though there are numerous scientific papers concerning both of these related subjects.
  • Polygraphy. This widely used technique for detecting truthfulness has been found in scientific studies to be totally unreliable.
  • Reincarnation. Here is a subject that is commonly considered to be religious only. However, it has been seriously studied by scientists for about 50 years now. “Skeptics” simply refuse to take it seriously because it’s implications are too upsetting. From my point of view it is a proven fact. End of story.
  • Chiropractic. This is a long-practiced healing technology that has its own schools. It is rejected by mainstream medicine because of its spiritualist origins, not because it doesn’t work.
  • Scientific Racism and Eugenics. These were “sciences” in word and in practice until it became obvious that they were actually well-worded propaganda designed for political ends. What other modern “sciences” might someday end with a similar fate?
  • Paranormal and ufology. Totally dismissed with one broad sweep, here is another group of subjects, where, as with reincarnation, the implications are just too upsetting. These are only pseudosciences to the degree that “science” refuses to study them. Who is this “science” anyway?

Fake News

Accusing someone of “fake news” is another way of discrediting data that is embarrassing, inconvenient, or threatening. Of course, many news stories are in fact fake. But we are just as likely, these days, of seeing a news outlet report a fake story one day, and accuse some other source of doing the same thing the next day.

Then there is the related matter of choosing what stories to bring forward, and which ones to neglect. To the extent that those choices influence the bottom line, who can say that we are getting a fair and unbiased view of the world through any commercial news enterprise?

But fake news is also used by various groups to influence public opinion and force political decisions that otherwise would be considered unpalatable or in fact unethical or illegal.

As gone over, the New York dailies of the late 1890s helped push the U.S. into an unpopular war through made-up stories of Spanish atrocities.

From an article on the subject: In 1803 news of a political settlement in France reached the British stock exchange, inflating prices. The news was not true. In 1835 a British newspaper ran a series of stories about the discovery of life on the moon. They were a hoax calculated to raise circulation. In 1897, a newspaper reported that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) had died in London. The actual sick person was someone else.

During World War One, European newspapers were full of fake anti-German propaganda. As it turned out, Military Intelligence branch 7 had reportedly hired 25 writers to dream up horrific stories about what was going on in Germany. The Germans were doing the same thing in papers they controlled. However, there is no mention of this in the Wikipedia article about MI7.

The U.S. government lied about what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 to get the country more involved in the Vietnam War.

This all gives us an unsettling picture of how information can be manipulated or fabricated for various sensational, economic, or political ends. If this all seems a bit goofy, I assure you that is it. We exist in a state of considerable goofiness, and that is for sure.

Waiting for the dust to clear

It did not come out until this century, almost 40 years after it happened, that the 4 August Gulf of Tonkin “engagement” had been fabricated.

That the CIA was involved in various secret research programs involving dangerous drugs and other questionable practices between 1953 and 1973 was not brought to light until the Church Committee uncovered it in 1975. There are numerous individual accounts from people who fell victim to these projects.

That JFK was shot dead by a sharpshooter stationed at the “grassy knoll” and not by Lee Harvey Oswald has been the finding of every serious investigator who has looked into the assassination since the day it happened in 1963. This finding is still denied by officials and Wikipedia continues to report that Oswald was the only shooter.

Thus, we can see that it might not be enough to wait until the truth comes out. It might never come.

Our only viable strategy, in situations where it seems to really matter (and I think it does in the case of the JFK assassination) is to find other ways to discern who is lying and who is telling the truth.

It has been my practice, besides using human evaluation tools like the Tone Scale and the book Science of Survival, to read as much as I can stand to read from a wide variety of different sources in order to get as big a picture of a subject as I can tolerate to look at.

The Warren Commission was put together by Johnson to gather evidence about the assassination. It included Dulles, former CIA director, who had presided over such atrocities as MK-Ultra and the Bay of Pigs and who had been sacked by the now dead man for his foolish escapades. Roughly 40 different authors (going by one list of books) wrote about the event. As far as I know, none of them agreed with the Warren Commission’s findings. There were maybe five, or less, really serious researchers, and they are all very dismissive of the Commission’s conclusions.

What is obvious to me is that JFK died in a context. The people on the Warren Commission, as well as the new President (Johnson) were all part of that context. Many of them had deep and abiding motives. And there is a huge amount of evidence that the Commission’s report was incomplete and in some technical respects totally unbelievable. In the bigger picture, it is so possible that the Warren Commission lied or misled that it’s a nearly inescapable conclusion. And that means that it happened some other way. This is an example of an event that will be very difficult to ever get right. However, if we got some other things right, perhaps getting this one wrong wouldn’t matter so much.

Key breakthroughs are needed

In the end it may be that I will just have to wait patiently for the human race to realize certain things about itself that it would prefer not to admit.

But I’m not ready to be that patient. I just got finished listening to a lecture that talks about this. And it gave me the idea that maybe I should be proud that I belong to a “pseudoscience” in the same way that people of color decided they would be proud to call themselves “black.” The lecture made the point that in some ways, these higher-level truths don’t belong in the realm of science, because science has defined itself as a study of the physical, and we are dealing with things beyond the physical, with true causation. And though this subject is accepted as a religion, most other faiths cannot really abide by our teachings. Neither Christianity nor Islam believe in reincarnation. That’s fully half of the world’s people. They don’t believe in it, they aren’t taught it. And that includes some of the the best-organized churches. And yet reincarnation is a central truth of human existence. It is in some ways the most observable truth. Many other important truths can be derived from it. But if you would rather think than look, you will never discover it.

The Human Condition

12 June 2020

I’m reading too much.

The main thing that bothers me about it is that when I read I tend to eat more. When I work on electronics projects I don’t eat as much.

But I thought it was important to get an idea of what is on the minds of the thinkers and dreamers of the world, and so I read.

Writers of the Future Online Workshop

In an attempt to keep the momentum going for the Writers (and Illustrators) of the Future Contest, the contest organizers decided to create an online version of the workshop that they give to the (mostly) young writers who usually (but not this year) participate in the annual awards ceremony in Hollywood in April.

I know someone connected with the contest and they told me about the free workshop, so I took it. Today I “graduated” the workshop.

It’s a somewhat unsettling story, should you choose to read it. Very short, and not framed as a real story, but as a one-way conversation.

New Ideas, Old Ideas

The various articles and videos I read and watched today started with a “google” search (I don’t use Google, currently using SwissCows) for some subject that was bothering me the day before.

One of the first videos I came up with was set in a little county library auditorium in Minnesota full of retired white people being lectured to by a black woman from nearby Macalester College about the impact of integration on educational outcomes for people of color.

The next video I watched (don’t hold me to this exact sequence) was given years earlier to a group of very educated people at the University of California Berkeley by a woman named Nell Painter about the long and convoluted history of the word “Caucasian.” The Caucasians were a light-skinned group of people used as sex slaves in both Europe and Persia until political changes gradually closed those trade routes around the 1700s.

After watching that, I was attracted to a paid add on YouTube’s website about “understanding the human condition.” This led me to a recently-crafted website out of Australia featuring a biologist by the name of Jeremy Griffith who has been working on promoting his theory since 1983. To be brief, Griffith believes that the development of consciousness in Man made possible by a greatly enhanced nervous system, led people to question the validity of their inherited instincts. This, he said, has led to a psychological pathology (psychosis) that can only be resolved through new understandings brought to us by recent research in the field of biology.

It is an enormously hopeful viewpoint, and in many ways quite true, though various theoretical details, clearly, are incorrect. Griffith looks forward to a future in which the current political clashes between the Left and the Right will resolve, and people will begin to live in peace and harmony, free of the psychosis that they had to endure in order to become civilized animals.

Next, after doing some cooking and checking my emails, I found a wide variety of articles being suggested to me by Pocket (a kind of news service used by the Firefox browser) of interest.

Foreign Policy magazine was writing about a new type of multinational corporation that is successfully evading Western attempts to prevent corporate abuse of power in the developing world (where corrupt practices are often endemic).

A whole series of writings was offered on the subject of “abolition,” in this case, the abolition of the prison system of “crime prevention.” Of course, I am painfully aware (I had a pen pal who was a prisoner when I was a teenager in high school) that prisons are not there to prevent crime. Neither are the police. They are there to keep the poor in their place, for lack of a kinder way to state it. They should be there to deter real crime. But real crime is too crazy for most police or justice systems to confront.

These articles included a review of what happened in Camden New Jersey after they disbanded and then re-created their police department in 2013. I am currently studying a lecture series given by Mr. Hubbard in Camden in 1953. We also have a very strong Truth About Drugs activist, Michael DeLeon, who grew up in Camden. (Camden is directly across from Philadelphia.)

Then I stopped by an article from The Atlantic about how we started measuring everything we did as humans using money (or “cost”) around the time of the Civil War. It didn’t attach this trend to the sudden increase of influence in the U.S. of foreign bankers (and their accounting systems) around that time. But I do. It was described as the creeping advance of capitalism in America, which is the Left’s way to say the same thing.

Then I read an article by science writer Tim Requarth entitled: Why Do So Many Researchers Still Treat Race as a Scientific Concept? It is essentially a review of a recent book by journalist Angela Saini. In the book and the article, it went over certain fundamentals of “race” that I would summarize this way: The human genome has something on the order of 50,000 genes, depending on exactly how you count them. Of these, 4 or 5 were recently found to be involved with the shape of the nose. Probably that many, or fewer, determine skin pigmentation. Humans are 99.5% genetically identical, and out of the genes that are different, only a handful have anything to do with outward appearance. Therefore, there is absolutely no valid scientific reason to connect race (outward appearance) with genetics, biology or medical outcomes.

The only valid-sounding exception I have ever heard involves the fact that the rate of Vitamin D production in the body is somewhat related to density of skin pigmentation. But you can’t tell that by asking for a “race” label. You have to look at the individual. There is also the example of sickle cell diseases. However, you have to get tested for it. Though it seems to have been an adaptation to survive malaria in Africa, it could be passed on to anyone through genetics.

Though many interesting “disorders” have been linked to gene expression, most of them are quite rare.

What really makes people sick

In my acquired understanding of the human condition, sickness exists as a spectrum of disorders starting just below the level of perfect, radiant health all the way down to, and including, death. You can even postulate human conditions lower than death, since the personality survives death, and thus can get some very strange ideas about “life.”

Though it may be an over-simplification to state that all these disorders are caused, basically, by the same thing, it is a simplification worth considering. That one thing is “suppression.”

Suppression could be defined here as life’s own desire to end its involvement in the game of life.

trapped

That’s a sloppy definition but will serve for this discussion.

Suppression has many vectors of attack. One includes pathogens (germs). Another involves self-defeating personal attitudes. And another involves attempts by others to lessen you or your ability to survive.

These can interact. Thus, the ill-wishes of another, acted out in your vicinity, can make you sick. If there is a pathogen in your environment, you become more likely to fall victim to it if you are under suppression. This explains a lot.

This is why I object to the MDs telling me that I can only “stay well” by wearing a mask and gloves. It’s not that this advice is totally ridiculous. It’s only that this broader concept of sickness has been known about since 1950, and was fully backed up by workable technologies (or “treatments”) by 1965. Yet MDs (and most others) continue to talk and act like Hubbard never existed, never discovered what he discovered, never taught his students to use it, and never tried to tell the world about it. He did!

In this way, I share my exasperation with Jeremy Griffith. You can see it in all his videos. He has been roundly reviled in his own country for his utopian dream of a better world. Well, since when was that something to revile people over? Why shouldn’t we all dream for better times? Just because they are hard to attain doesn’t mean they aren’t worth dreaming of.

Likewise, if “the Left” were to embrace the finding that the personality never dies, they would discover behind that some truths that bind all people to each other and to their environments, and to a shared future. They would begin to understand why human rights are so longed-for yet so difficult to make real. They might start to make some wiser decisions and some wiser proposals. We have already tried, I am told, offering our ideas to the Right. Though this may be an ongoing effort, I see no sign of progress, really, at this point.

In the context of the eternal personality, the “importance” of outward appearance dies a swift death. The concept of YOLO becomes painfully hilarious. The theories of psychiatry, of course, completely shatter. And the true range of future possibilities becomes vast. I invite my patient readers to consider the possibility that it could be so…

6 June, 2020

7 June 2020

Got my blown tube replaced at Mike’s Bikes this week, and back on the trail today.

Race is on people’s minds, including mine

It was a very full day. My day started attending the 3rd session of Part 2 of a symposium on the subject of “race-based data.” I had never heard this term before. This is a term used particularly in Canada. It has to do with the fact that Canadian scholarship and politics have discouraged the use of the concept of “race” as a valid way to describe anybody.

However, there is pressure – from somewhere, appears to be the medical or public health sector – to start identifying individuals racially. They claim it is needed to help deliver “better” COVID-19 treatment to minority communities.

Various groups and individuals who have been struggling to end racism in Canada have argued against the need to do this, as race is not a valid medical category. They suspect that this race label will actually be used to further racist actions or monitor their “success.” Their experience with research that incorporates a race label is that it has never resulted in policies or actions that have reduced racism in Canada or bettered the lives of most oppressed communities. They are particularly concerned because it appears this data will be used to assist public health agencies in their contact tracing efforts, which involves police cooperation. These communities don’t trust the police for reasons that should be obvious.

The discussion I heard Saturday morning was one of three live streams I attended, the other two on Thursday and Friday. They were all organized and for the most part facilitated (the action of deciding which questions get asked and who will answer them) by Llana James, a Canadian activist currently working at the University of Toronto and pursuing a doctorate there. She is also leading a project to propose a set of “protocols” for use in designing and operating research studies and data collection that involves oppressed communities. Her knowledge is wide-reaching but hard to say how deep.

She had many panelists (called “discussants”) at the three different sessions. The first session included Naomi Klein, a notable activist mostly working in America. She is Canadian by birth, but – among other things – currently works at Rutgers (New Jersey) as a teacher, though she never quite finished college herself. She is currently considered to be one of the top “public intellectuals” and is known for her involvement in the Occupy Movement and in Climate Change.

Naomi seemed uncomfortable and tongue-tied in this discussion. I don’t blame her. The Canadian intellectual frame of reference is considerably different than what’s found in the U.S., and their language is almost tortuously over-precise, in a style reminding me of the British.

But I patiently followed each discussion. Almost six hours in all. Their main point seemed to be: Adding racial identifications to sociological – or particularly medical – research data was very unlikely to do oppressed communities any good, so why cooperate with it? It sounded like just another Pied Piper game to them. And with the data ending up in the hands of corporate players or police, it was just as likely to be used for more oppression and exploitation.

Interesting.

After getting back from shopping I got back on the computer, and watched (among other things) a TEDx Talk by a guy named Anthony Peterson who is a black man from Hawaii who works in Nashville as a consultant on the subject of “race.” His conviction is that race has no set biological or genetic definition, and thus is basically just a cultural construct. Because it is connected with visible differences of appearance, it continues to attract the attention of people, and to be a part of our experience. But it is not useful as a way to categorize people for research purposes. Apparently the reason it was invented as a concept was to force people into categories for political, not scientific, purposes (that topic I found covered in another article).

All these people are desperately trying to find a solution to, a handling for, racism. Yet the word itself trips them. There are many “races” who have been oppressed, including whites. Does calling this “racism” even make sense?

Now I turn to my dictionary (which most academics refuse to quote, for some reason): It doesn’t help that “race” is a homonym – a word that has two different sets of meanings. In this sense, “race” is related to “ratio” or the idea that different people could contain different proportions of “something.” My dictionary states that earlier anthropological uses have become largely meaningless. More properly, in science, it would refer to genetic differences. But these often don’t manifest in appearance that much. In a related meaning it can refer to ancestry. It can also refer simply to a regional group, an ethnic (language and customs) group, or a nation. More broadly it can apply to any group where any similar characteristics can be discerned. And in the expression “the race” it usually means Mankind (the “human race”), although this usage has been gradually declining in literature over the last 200 years.

Racism comes from the older term “racialism.” That is basically the assertion that one group is superior to another, or that is should be “kept pure” at any cost. This is also known as the “caste system” in India (still very strong there), and the “class system” in the West (now hidden in most countries). These are usually linked to biology, not through genetics, but through the control of who one is allowed to marry; families, in other words. Families can be quite genetically diverse, while helping to maintain “social order.”

In my own look at history and the human condition, I can imagine that at one time there might have been a good reason to keep social positions controlled through family lines. This seems to be an almost natural function of the family. If a child wants to work below his family’s place, he must “break out” of the family, and risk disgracing it. If a child wants to work above the level of his family’s place, he must also break out of the family to find additional resources to help him or her become proficient at the higher level. In the U.S. this has been institutionalized in the process (or ritual) called “going to college.”

There are so many bits of missing data, large misunderstandings, and blind spots associated with this whole subject that it is very difficult to think clearly about it. My usual choice has been to think of racism as a form of crime. That it also is a useful expedient to keep a society more “orderly” complicates my argument that it’s basically criminal. But it is obvious today that arguments of “race” “class” “caste” and similar systems have been used to justify oppression up to and including genocide. Today we consider such actions to be criminal, and they have been “crimes” on this planet at least since the Laws of Moses.

The basic problem, then, from my viewpoint, is the criminal. What we call “racism” could be considered just one of many criminal practices. The purpose of the criminal is to enslave others, or to make them helpless to disobey by various other means. The criminal fights a losing battle, but fight he does, and often quite cunningly and with a degree of effectiveness. Our great failing in politics, economics and law is to not recognize the criminal for what he is, and to not handle him effectively (which does not involve punishment, regardless of how much it may be begged for, but may involve isolation from society). This is a huge and prolonged failing that has caused a lot of suffering and dismay throughout human history. It is only the beginning of solving the problem, as there are technical reasons why non-criminals tend to fall under the influence of criminals, and those must also be addressed.

Riots

Take, for example, the problem of riots. For purposes of this discussion, a “riot” could be considered to be a group meeting that began peacefully and turned violent.

There are several possible sources of criminal behavior in a riot situation. First, there are likely to be some people with criminal leanings, if not criminal intentions, in the crowd. Second, there may be similar individuals among those observing the meeting, but not part of it, such as the police. Third, there may be persons that amount to agitators that may not be present at the meeting at all, but who have spread lies about the various participants – possibly to both “sides” – at some previous time, or even in many previous times which could amount to a torrent of misinformation (such as we sometimes see vomiting out of various media sources).

This third source, in particular, can predispose the participants and onlookers to take violent actions. But also, criminals in the crowd can use the appearance or actions of the observers to incite the crowd to fight the observers, or their environment in general. And likewise, criminals among the observers can use the appearance or actions of the participants to incite the observers to fight the participants.

Without the priming influence of Third Parties (capitalized here because of its specific technical meaning in this context), the transformation of a meeting into a riot would be much less probable or possible. As has been noted, the media can serve in this role – whether that be unintentionally or on purpose (as is often argued).

Most attempts to understand riots focus on the first two elements but ignore the third. It should not be ignored. With Third Parties present and active, a meeting can turn into a riot even when the first two elements (criminals on the ground at the time of the transformation) are absent. It can turn otherwise sane people into combatants, all by itself. This is my own personal message to anyone interested in understanding and controlling destructive violence in a group.

Sacramento

As those outside the city may or may not be aware, there was some rioting that occurred in Sac. Most of it happened a week ago. Then a curfew was put in place and this seemed to handle things for the most part. The curfew has now been lifted. Understand that the days were mostly peaceful, but some nights not so much.

The violence resulted in board-ups, including this one on K street.

a boarded up Sacramento restaurant

This business was among several who wished to communicate their solidarity with the protestors.

On Saturday, more meetings were held. One very peaceful one was held in the morning while I was out grocery shopping. Another held at the Capitol was still ongoing when I returned.

protest meeting at the Capitol

As you can see, this was peaceful, and included people of all colors.

But standing by “just in case” were National Guard soldiers with their vehicles.

National Guard presence at the Capitol

Sorry this image wasn’t sharper.

This concerns me, as it signals a breakdown in communication and a desperateness on the part of government that is regrettable and could be remedied.

Meanwhile, DOCO has begun to return to “normal” as restaurants have been permitted to reopen.

DOCO on Saturday afternoon, 6 June 2020.

Those who choose to remain oblivious

I cannot totally fault anyone who would prefer to remain outside and removed from all this turmoil.

On my way back to Folsom, I saw many and numerous persons preparing their rafts for a fun trip down the river, while others had already made it into the water.

Rafters on the American River.

This image doesn’t really do justice to the numbers involved in this activity. Some of my photos from two weeks ago were more representative in that regard. But you might notice on the right, if you look carefully, geese swimming up to one of the rafts.

The animals, of course, continue to go about their business. Most of them would probably be better off if human beings disappeared from the planet entirely. On the other hand, animals don’t harbor the same degree of concern for their futures as we do, nor the means to alter their futures.

blue bird on its house

The bird with the blue back gave me another opportunity to photograph it. Though I have held on to the idea that this is a bluebird, the large white throat on this specimen does not match the images of bluebirds in the bird book I have. This may be another species that is just displaying some feather iridescence.

quail family with squirrel

Above we see a quail with several chicks pecking around at the bottom of a huge cottonwood while a squirrel looks on.

An old cottonwood is featured as “Poplar” in my story View From The Forest. Even the squirrel makes a momentary appearance. These quail, however, were about a mile further down the river than where I expected to see them. My guess is that human activity in their old neighborhood (surveyors, I think) forced them to move. I wish the image of the chicks was better. They’re cute!

Cottonwoods

In my story, Poplar looses a branch during a storm, and complains mightily of the pain and discomfort involved. I had the cottonwood lose a branch because that’s the only tree along this river that I have ever seen lose whole branches. Its wood must be a bit softer and weaker than the oaks and walnuts. And on Saturday I saw another example of this, at the table where I usually stop for water and a snack.

fallen cottonwood branch

I did not recall any winds recently that were particularly rough. But something happened to bring this branch down. The cottonwoods in this park are very big (thus, old). It could be this is a sign of their age. But in any case, the tree remains standing, with the great majority of its branches intact and fully functional.

I thought I’d end this post with a series of cottonwood photos. In this first, a tree stands alone, isolated from its brothers and sisters probably due to human actions.

lone cottonwood

It has obviously suffered some breaks, and my thought is that they prefer to live together where they can help protect each other.

In our neighborhood in Ann Arbor Michigan there was a huge cottonwood. It was left standing in front of one of the new houses that was built there.

neighborhood cottonwood summer

The original scan this was taken from was not all that great. And I believe the original photo was black-and-white, though not sure of that. I asked my image editor IrfanView to adjust the colors for me as best it could.

But this is a mighty tree, is it not? That house is, what? about 20 feet tall. So the tree is roughly 80 feet tall. This tree remained straight, strong and intact for the full time I lived there. And every summer it rained down its cotton on the neighborhood.

In the winter it looked like this:

neighborhood cottonwood winter

Winter can be quite beautiful. You have to sort of imagine it here, but can almost see that sun sparkling off the snow. If it stayed real cold, the snow would remain crystalline and sparkly. Seems kind of peaceful, doesn’t it?

I encourage your comments.

Flat!

31 May 2020

…being a slightly decorated listing of unfortunate events.

It was threatening rain yesterday (Saturday) so I postponed my shopping trip until today. Probably just as well, as there was a demonstration downtown yesterday around the issue of the recent killing of a black man in Minneapolis. I have not seen the video.

This morning some people – volunteers I guess – were trying to clean off the spray paint left by a few out-ethics “demonstrators” on the Supreme Court Building (and legal library) across from the Capitol building.

volunteers try to remove paint defacing the Supreme Court Building in Sacramento

I had been in Folsom doing my shopping when I found I had run over something (looked like broken ceramic) that had punctured my front tire. So I came back home on the train, then got on my other bike to take a second try at a bike ride.

flat tire
Flat tire!

The demonstrators had walked across the “tower bridge” to visit West Sacramento. I thought I’d ride over that way, too. Someone defaced some utility boxes with their message. It’s a valid message, but not good to deface public property with it. Makes your “cause” look questionable, doesn’t it?

black lives matter

And another box near Macy’s:

defaced utility box near Macy's downtown.

Macy’s is one of many department store chains having problems competing with online shopping sites. And the pandemic lockdown doesn’t help. This quite large store hasn’t closed for good yet, but it very well might.

Government and Corporate

Governments and business have been intertwined for a long, long time. When something goes wrong in a society, where can you find the causes for it? The answer, of course, is the criminal. It might be a criminal in government, or one in corporate, or one not much connected with either.

Governments are usually expected by businesses and the public to capture and punish street criminals, such as the ones who defaced those utility boxes. However, punishment has not been found to be effective in reducing such crime. In places like the U.S., governments have also been leaned on by the public to capture and punish “white collar” criminals, usually ones thought to exist in business. But governments and businesses have always been so intermingled, that such actions are seldom very thorough.

Businesses, for their part, often don’t have definite methods for keeping their employees honest. They may choose to fire someone who is not performing satisfactorily. But what about someone who appears to making the company more money by engaging in questionable activities? The business may choose to try to hide such people from outside scrutiny or protect them in other ways. This is a long tradition in both business and government.

Thus, when a police officer acts like a criminal, most people expect him to be treated like one. But government (and business) would prefer to handle such matters more quietly. And so, the public are likely to perceive that an injustice has occurred in such a case.

My ride down Capitol Mall took me past the Wells Fargo Center. This is an old American bank with a colorful tradition.

Wells Fargo Center front plaza

Inside is a restored stage coach – one of their favorite things to display.

stage coach inside

This company made it’s wealth, we can suppose, by providing valuable services to its customers, like package and letter transport before the transcontinental trains went in. Those actions can be respected.

But those coach routes were being “made safe” by the U.S. Army’s program of rounding up and killing or encamping all the disgruntled native Americans who saw their lands being given away and destroyed. In like fashion, the British Navy used to protect East India Company merchant ships. And later the Company itself, with its own private army, took over much of India in order to protect is ports and other assets.

West Sacramento

I rode across the bridge, stopping for a minute to watch the boats on the river.

boats on Sacramento River

Across from downtown Sacramento, where the waterfront is set up as a tourist destination, is the West Sacramento waterfront – a decidedly corporate creation.

West Sacramento waterfront

There is a “nice” walkway and park along that side of the river, but a man found a bench there a convenient place to indulge in a somewhat fitful sleep.

Man sleeps on bench at entry to West Sac riverfront walk

What could he possibly be worried about? From a corporate perspective, everything is going fine, “we’re all in this together,” and we’ll all get through it somehow. Corporate, however, owns large and expensive assets, while this man probably doesn’t even own a bed.

We can see that an intention existed at one time to make this area a nice place. But how firm was that intention? How much did it include the local government and nearby residents?

West Sac waterfront walk

While this part of the waterfront remains tidy, the area is not in really good condition.

At the north end of the walk is an old railroad-and-car bridge (built 1911). The bridge can swing sideways to let bigger boats through, but I’ve never seen it do that. There are plans afoot to move the vehicle traffic to a new bridge. A much higher bridge to the south carries freeway traffic.

The view across to downtown Sacramento gives us a look at the steam locomotive they have parked in Old Sac with newer, higher buildings behind.

view of downtown from West Sac

I judge the Sacramento side to be in better shape, probably because of all the foot traffic in Old Sac.

I return to the vicinity of Tower Bridge to explore in the opposite direction.

donuts in an intersection

Someone has been using this intersection to make “donuts!” There are reports from many places that “car nuts” are taking advantage of the not-so-busy streets in many cities to do show-off stunts like this.

Just to the right of this location is Raley Field (for Raley’s a local grocery chain) which recently became Sutter Health Park. It is a successful minor league baseball park.

Beyond the ballpark is a lot of undeveloped land. Just before the I-80 bridge, several apartment complexes have been built, with some still in-progress.

apartments being built

The older building is called The Foundry.

the Foundry apartment building

The newer buildings are called 980Central.

980 Central

There is a cute little park in the middle…

new west sac mini park

Both were developed by the same company. They rent apartments to singles, young couples, and small families, starting at $1500/month.

Across the street is the beer garden/pizza restaurant and play field.

the Barn from the playfield

Beer is big in this area. But the pandemic lockdown has made this empty on what would normally be one of its busiest days.

the Barn

YOLO!

I have previously addressed the issue of YOLO here: https://lecox.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/notes-from-the-wild-side-and-yolo/

YOLO!

Perhaps YOLO is part of the problem we’re having. It’s…not true, of course. But what happens to a person if he totally believes it? On the one hand, its sentiment might entice you to throw caution to the wind and feed your hunger for new experiences, the supposed original intention of the phrase.

On the other hand, it could lead someone to be much more averse to experiencing “bad” or “unsafe” things that could cut one’s “only life” short! This could be related to the expression “I’m good” which had one boost in popularity in 1980 and another around 2000 (according to Google’s N-Gram Viewer, which I like to use on all unfamiliar expressions). It really means “please don’t bother me with that because it’s beyond my comfort level.”

It’s easier to go ahead and wear a mask than to wonder why someone supposedly representing the medical establishment told us that we need to all wear masks and be six feet apart to “stay safe.” There is actually no study demonstrating that these precautions, applied the way we have applied them, would slow a pandemic. It’s just a guess. But when YOLO crashes into “I’m good” your result is an economic crash of unprecedented proportions.

Next, I found this sign next to an art installation on the river. No one wants to wipe the bird turd off. Not even me!

A few interesting things

This well-known flowering plant (this one at Folsom Winco) is called agapanthus.

agapanthus flowers

However, these ones, planted near the new apartment buildings, aren’t fully identified:

pink liliaceous flower

And out in back of the Barn, beyond where the paved trail ends, I saw a pair of jackrabbits playing around in the weeds. They were chasing each other, but I was too slow for that with my camera.

jackrabbit
jackrabbit
jackrabbit running

On my way back home, I took this shot of my other bicycle, with a pretty girl riding a bike in the background, among other things.

girl riding bike, etc.

At the foot of the bridge stands this sycamore tree. I think it is the largest sycamore I have ever seen.

rhododenron and

Beside it grows a little rhododendron bush. How did it get there?

Oh – and the lizard with its tail broken off. I almost forgot this one. From Folsom.

Memorial Day

23 May 2020

Memorial Day came early this year. That’s because now it officially falls on a Monday – the one closest to the end of May (that’s in May). Otherwise, we would have had to wait until June first.

Freedom

Downtown the conservatives were having a freedom rally.

Though Memorial Day is about war dead (originally, the Civil War), we have a current pressing concern about freedom. So a bunch of folks brought out their flags and came down to the Capitol to hear speeches and so forth.

I was not there long. I was listening to a Hispanic guy talk about how his people don’t want to be on the public dole, but would rather work and make a good living. He was talking about how most of his people are Christians. He was talking about how valuable freedom is to his people. This, of course, is not unique to Hispanics.

memorial day rally

In the old days, they used to call it “Liberty.” But whatever you call it, the real point is that one can use one’s freedom of will or freedom to act to enrich oneself at the expense of others or for the benefit of others. It was the “liberty” taken by the colonizer of North America that lead to the colonists desiring their own “liberty.” We know (more or less) what happened to the native Americans and to the imported Africans as we as a “free” people pursued our own sense of what “liberty” meant to us.

It sometimes must be pointed out that happiness usually arises from a good balance of freedoms and barriers. If, back then, there had been more barriers in place against the killing of native Americans or the enslavement of Africans we might be in a happier condition today.

However, governments and other institutions charged with managing people tend to err on the side of barriers. And so we have the current situation. (It should be noted that there was never any real medical consensus that the steps recommended by the CDC or the WHO were the best steps to take in this situation. It was a political choice made about 15 years ago.)

The barriers begin to fall

Nonetheless, a new consensus is arising – after three months of “shelter in place” – that it is time to start opening things back up. And so this Saturday, I saw a LOT of people rafting on the river.

rafting on the American river

And then I saw even more people rafting on the river!

even more river rafters

I also saw people sitting outside restaurants at tables eating, and even going into some restaurants. And I saw signs announcing re-openings.

However, for this pool at Sac State to be usable by people again, there’s going to be some real cleanup needed!

More flowers

a garden-quality mullein (verbascum)

The floral scene continues to alter weekly as we move closer to Summer. The above flower was on the Folsom trail I use to get to the river. It is a mullein (verbascum) – a variety I have never seen before.

everlastings

These flowers are known as everlastings. They dry very well, and are often seen in flower arrangements dyed different colors. This plant is the only one I have ever seen in the park.

wild grapes in flower

Grape flowers have basically no petals. These are wild grapes and grow as a weed throughout this area. The grapes they produce are small but sweet.

mock orange bush in flower

I have never seen this mock orange in flower. I had a similar bush outside my window in Seattle. It is very showy right now.

St. John's wort

I thought I should take a photo of a St. John’s wort. It is widely known as a medicinal plant and is also very much in bloom in the park. The plant has some unusual characteristics, such as numerous small translucent dots in the leaves, and an odd serrated edge on the flower petals. I caught a bee in this shot as a bonus.

Dry hills

Across the river in the Folsom area, is a south-facing hillside. It has already been baked brown by the hot sun. This is a very typical scene in many places in California that aren’t directly on the coast.

It could be that these hills were once more verdant. Many of these places have been grazed for quite a long time. But I suspect hills that look like this have been the norm in inland California for hundreds of years. One looks at a slope like this with Permaculture in mind, and tends to think, “Wow, could that land use some swales!” Such land is at constant risk of catching on fire, and my understanding is that the natives used to set fires on purpose to control the dry underbrush.

Life as Treatment

20 April 2020

This is intended to be a brief philosophic look at various approaches to life and its problems. It is provoked, perhaps, by the material I am studying right now, along with our current social situation.

When we think of “treatments” we usually think of medicine. What has now become the tradition in Medicine (though the profession seems to prefer to call itself “scientific” with the implication that this is not “traditional”) is to identify a disease or disorder or condition that accounts for the symptoms the patient is complaining about, then find a proper treatment that will lessen the symptoms or make them go away.

Ideally the treatment “cures” the problem and the patient is healthy again, or at least back to his or her previous level of health. But if the problem continues, it is common to simply continue the treatment. Some problems, it seems, can’t be cured.

Condition: Being alive in a human body

My studies have informed me that “being human” is actually a non-optimum condition. Everyone accepts is as normal because most are unaware that there are any better alternatives. Indeed, some might not agree that there are any “better” alternatives, even assuming they were aware of any. There are some among us who have become aware of alternatives and have deliberated on this question. For most of us, living in a human body is the baseline, normal thing that we all do.

However, we can see it as a “chronic” condition, and identify certain “treatments” that are required to maintain the “patient’s” health:

  • Feed the body using the most nutritious food available, and water.
  • Protect the body with clothing, heat or cooling, and shelter.
  • Make sure the body has some way to get around (transport).
  • Give the body enough sleep or rest.
  • Give the body sufficient exercise or vigorous work.

In fact, our entire economy is anchored on these necessary “treatments” for the condition of “having a biological body.” If you didn’t have a body, you wouldn’t need money to keep the body treated so it would remain healthy. You might still want to enjoy the entertaining or “fun” aspects of human life. And those cost money, too (for the most part). So not having a biological body might not make an economy totally unnecessary, but it would be an economy based on entertainment, not on food, shelter, etc.

Condition: Body not feeling good

For this, we usually go to a doctor to get “treated.” Most “scientific” doctors use medicines as treatments, though we somehow survived for thousands of years without modern medicines. This suggests there may be more to treating unhealthy bodies than mere medicine.

We have found that there are many body conditions that will “heal,” often without even the help of a doctor. While others seem to persist or get worse once they start. Many doctors, I think, believe, that we just have to find better medicines and this will make more conditions totally curable.

Meanwhile, they are content to take in considerable sums for those treatments, whether they lead to a cure or not. My personal opinion is that doctors shouldn’t get paid if they can’t effect a cure.

Condition: Feel sad

The field of “mental health” has become a special category of physical health. This is only because the people currently in charge of this field decided that they should be doctors and treat mental problems the way doctors treat physical problems. This was a bad decision, but they don’t seem to care that much. The general public seems perfectly happy with this system as well. After all, it all comes under the general heading of Having a Biological Body.

Oddly (I think) these “doctors” tend to see mental health problems as treatable, but not curable. I think they are just greedy and lazy. But the general public tend to agree with this rendition of the problem, because there is a consensus that life is a condition that requires treatment, but cannot be “cured.”

Condition: Dead

Though there is no widely accepted treatment or cure for this condition, it should be noted that a few people every now and then have recovered from it. In other words, their bodies were clinically “dead” for a while and then they became alive again.

This fact opens up the possibility that the general public – and physicians in particular – have overlooked something about death (and life, needless to say) that they should really know more about. Only a very few have not overlooked this and they, for the most part, were rudely ousted from their chosen professions as somehow “unfit.” Hubbard, of course, was one such person.

Condition: Stupid or uninformed on some subject

The “treatment” most people accept for this condition is called “education.” It is one of the most widely praised treatments that society has made available to its members. Traditionally (now, in, say the last 100 years or so, but not before that) this treatment consisted of going to school for roughly 12 years, then if you survived that in some sort of good state, continuing to go to school for a number of years more.

Most schools still utilize “grades” which are a method of evaluating for the student how well he or she has learned some particular subject. They also use “teachers,” who are considered somehow necessary to education even though there are so many books (now) written on so many subjects that no one could possibly ever read them all, but could possibly read some subset of them and become quite adept at certain skills with no help from a “teacher” at all. The “teachers” in that case would be the authors of the books!

That the alternate form of education outlined above has occurred successfully – and perhaps is the most successful form of education – seems to have escaped the notice of people who think you have to have schools where teachers teach subjects to students.

The failure of society in general, and those in charge in particular, to realize that education consists mostly of looking to see what is there, studying it with enough care to gain some proficiency with it, then practicing those learned skills until one becomes adept, is a big reason why a number of people aren’t gainfully employed, are barely literate, or are incompetent at their jobs.

The ability to recognize and apply the above data about education has led to some persons, by the age of 14 – some even younger, competently able to do “adult” work.

Condition: Constant improvement

This condition, in this world, is considered by most to be impossible. All you can expect is to grow up, get a job, make it through a lifetime having more or less fun and bearing more or less responsibility, then getting old, then sick, then dead.

Most still believe that this is all there is, even though it has been amply demonstrated now that this isn’t all there is.

Though many, given the choice, would still choose to play the game of biological life on Earth, most aren’t aware they have a choice. Well, that’s just not true; they do have a choice.

It is my hope that more and more will learn this fact and act on it. Then life will become less and less treatment and more and more game. Isn’t that what most of us really want?

On Evolution

21 March 2020

Sitting at home a lot during these days of self-quarantine, I resort to the computer for something to do. I use Mozilla Firefox as my browser. And Firefox uses an app called Pocket. This is a feed of “popular” articles that a user can mark for “saving” or later review. Of course, cloud apps don’t actually save anything to the client device (the computer you own and work with) but keep everything on the server (a network of computers that you don’t own, but store all data available on a network – in this case the Internet). Although I believe Pocket provides some sort of local save feature.

At every logon, the featured articles in my Pocket feed change a bit. They include quite a wide range of writing, but mostly those offered by traditional publications that once had hard copy versions, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, New Yorker magazine, The Atlantic magazine, Harvard Business Review, and so on.

Newer content sources also appear. Quartz is a business-oriented news service. Wired is a technology-oriented magazine that has a hard copy version. Vice is a younger-adult-oriented media provider. Vox is a left-leaning provider of “exploratory journalism.” Mental Floss is another example of many newer media companies that are now online-only. The Conversation is an academically-oriented site. I may also see posts form NPR, Citylab, Aeon (an Australian educational charity) and many others.

Though there is a lot of variety provided by all these organizations and all the people who write for them, there is a tendency – certainly in the topics I follow – to not challenge too heavily the Status Quo.

Though I challenge the Status Quo for ostensibly rational reasons (that it isn’t working that well and has become exclusionary) I admit that I may harbor a more irrational bent for challenging our desire for a stable belief system.

Be that as it may, certainly one concept that has moved solidly into the position of a stable belief system, at least in the realm of academia, is Evolution. Some would argue that Evolution is one approach to the larger problems of “Origin Science.” Yet this concept has not yet received broad academic support, although there is some movement in that direction, such as the Institute for the Science of Origins at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH).

Which came first?

Without getting into all the sociopolitical ooze that accompanied science as it drove itself into the twentieth century, “modern” science seems to formally reject any idea that ideas, or a desire to create, could have actually preceded form, or the results of creation.

This was a significant divergence from the concept of Prime Mover expounded by Aristotle, and the willingness of many earlier scientists to believe in something like God. Further, the new concept contained a sort of logical riddle: How could creation ever happen, if what was created (the physical universe, for example) also created the desire to create (life, for example)? It makes more sense that the desire to create would come first, and then the creation would follow.

Eastern religious ideas began to enter the West with the colonization of India and other such areas starting in the mid-1700s. It is theorized that certain power groups in the West were concerned about the “soft” ideas of the East and sought to counter them. However that may be, we find in Darwin a desire to explain biology in terms of physical causes only, and in his half-cousin Galton, a desire to breed mankind into “better” forms (Eugenics).

What the West had on its side was that the physical was obvious, measurable, and thus knowable, while spiritual things were seen as intuitive, impossible to measure, and thus impossible to gain any certainty about. To this day many scientists, both in the East and the West, believe this basic premise either explicitly or implicitly and are only comfortable with concepts of physical causation. That does not, however, mean that “spiritual causation,” as one might call it, has not been investigated, demonstrated, and in fact found – in many ways – to be as measurable and as knowable as other forms of causation.

Ramifications of the doctrine of the Prime Mover

For Aristotle (according to what I have read about him so far), the main thing that the idea of a Prime Mover allowed into the picture was God. But in more general terms, what the concept allows into the picture is Spirit.

The simplest concept of spirit is indeed the concept of a Prime Mover. More colloquially, we could see this as a being who got something started, then sat back to watch what would happen. This being might then wander off to put its attention on something else, yet the system it had put in motion could continue to operate.

As we can measure the “age” of the entire physical universe by various methods and theories, another ramification of this concept is that Prime Mover, God, or Spirit, has existed for a LONG time, and might, for all we know, still exist. This gives some people what I might call the “Santa Claus problem.”

He sees you when you’re sleeping;

He knows when you’re awake.

He knows when you’ve been bad or good,

So be good for goodness sake!

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

There are plenty of people in the world (and it seems in the West in particular) who don’t want anybody to know when they’ve been bad or good!

And this is one theory why concepts of Spirit, immortality, past life memory and similar things have been discouraged or invalidated in the West.

Secular attempts to re-establish the concept

There have been a significant number of individuals and groups who have sought to preserve spiritual concepts as religious beliefs. Far fewer have made attempts to secularize these concepts.

Hubbard’s own efforts along this line began with a secular intention. It was not until 1954 that the church was established, years after his initial breakthroughs had been communicated and applied.

However, broadly speaking, academic interest in “spiritual” phenomena has existed for a long time, and has resulted in a significant – if not broadly accepted – amount of work in the field. I always like to point out the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia School of Medicine as an example of this. They have documented thousands of cases of past life recall.

Another development has been the attempt to make Intelligent Design an academically acceptable research discipline. So far, per Wikipedia, this has failed. The concept attracted, and was started by, so many religious people that secularists think of it as just another attempt to re-inject religious doctrine into the classroom. For these people, it seems, Intelligent Design means Prime Mover means God. This concatenation of essentially unrelated ideas has spoiled the movement.

Evolution as an information problem

I have seen arguments that run something like this:

At every instance of procreation (or cell division in simpler organisms), there is a chance for the genetic information in the cells (or the sex cells in higher organisms) to vary from that contained in the parent cell or cells. This can result in an offspring (or daughter cell) containing different genetic material than the parent. If this offspring lives to reproduce, that genetic variation survives. If it does not live to reproduce, that genetic variation does not survive. This limits the information passed forward in time to: Yes or No, did that variation allow that organism to survive to reproduce? Thus, any other information that the organism might acquire over the course of its lifetime is meaningless from the point of view of genetic information.

This means, for example, that a person who procreates from the age of 20 to 30 can forward no useful genetic information gained after the age of 30. And that if that person had died before the age of 20, he would have forwarded no genetic information at all.

Of course, most scientists in the field believe that experiential information does not encode and so cannot be forwarded. Yet at the same time they believe that genes broadly determine not only physical appearance, but general behaviors and abilities as well. How does all that data ever get into the genes, if the only datum available is survival to procreation?

Cell differentiation is another problem, but this one has been researched into the ground. They’ve got it all figured out how, in advanced organisms, a single cell pair relying on just one copy of its genetic code eventually turns into an organism with eyes, legs, a liver, etc.

How did all this information get into the genome? Researchers don’t seem too worried about that question.

A solution to the information problem

What is the difference between a living cell or organism and a dead one? All most scientists can tell us is that something made the cell or organism unable to function, and that was that.

Well, causes of death are usually so diverse and so obvious that this explanation is difficult to argue against. We have a few “freak” cases (an accelerating phenomenon in modern hospitals) where people die and then mysteriously revive. Their own stories of what happened are discounted. But they almost universally validate the concept of the Prime Mover.

Whether people report that they were “called back” or simply decided that they really didn’t want to die just then, we see the whole concept of Spirit assert itself as a reality of (at least) human existence. And this gives us a solution to the problem of too little information to ever really successfully evolve.

To fill this role, Spirit must have some sort of mental capability, or “somatic memory” of its own, distinct from mere genetic codes. And the research finds that it does. Spirit, in fact, seems to have a lot of really interesting capabilities. It fits the requirements for a Prime Mover. It can bring physicality into existence without itself ever being physical. And so it can add something to a living organism that makes it alive, that gives it a purpose, and motion. In theory Spirit exists above the level of genetics, and probably created genetics. In sober reality Spirit helps us to do things that could never be encoded into our genes, but can easily be remembered or recreated. It can also make profoundly stupid mistakes, act crazy, and pretend to be dead. Without Spirit, real evolution would have never been possible, and the future would be a total dead end. With Spirit, we possibly have another chance.

…like the day before Christmas

20 March 2020

As more pronouncements occured regarding how best to “flatten the curve,” I thought it might be wise for me to go out and do my weekly shopping a day early. The day was forecast to be sunny (it was at least partly sunny all day) and of moderate temperature after a series of long rains.

I brought my bike with me in a quite sparsely-populated train. The first thing I realized was that I had forgotten my camera, and so this post is unillustrated. I was wondering if anyone would try to enforce the six-feet rule on the train. It wasn’t until we reached the first station in Folsom that a security person got on and checked for evidence of paid fares. And though she didn’t mention the six-feet rule (there being only two passengers in the whole car), I noted that she just looked to see that I had a CONNECT card, but didn’t take it from me and hold it under her scanner as she normally would have.

Folsom Winco was, thank goodness, not overly crowded. There were a lot of older people there, many a good deal older than my 65 years. Winco was keeping its bulk bins open (I wondered if they would), but had run out of certain items, such as dry roasted peanuts to make fresh-ground peanut butter. They were also out of organic rolled oats. Sometimes I think they could just switch to totally organic and probably only suffer a minor loss of customers!

The lady running the self-serve checkout machines had to help me with an item that didn’t register the same weight when I weighed it as it did when I bagged it. She commented on the flourishes I used to enter the product codes and swipe the bar codes, saying she found them entertaining!

I packed everything into my panniers, and placed a little zipper bag (found at Goodwill) inscribed with the message “see you at the barre” on the top of the rear rack using a couple of bungee cords. It contained some water, a couple of odd items that didn’t fit easily in the side bags, and a fig bar. And I was off.

In the first field I bike through to get to the river, I found the Miner’s Lettuce now overgrown with grasses, the blue allium blooming all over the place, and a lovely yellow borage (probably what’s known as “fiddleneck”) popping up in places. Then I spied a small raptor in a short tree just ahead. It flew off as I approached and tried to catch something on the ground but was apparently unsuccessful. Eventually it flew back and sat on a post not far away and let me look at it. It had a lovely mottled brown plumage and bright yellow feet.

I then joined the main trail. It was quite busy! At first it seemed like the usual crowd of Saturday fitness bikers, then I started seeing families and older people. I realized that with school cancelled and many jobs suspended, this first sunny day of the week was the perfect time for families to leave their dreary homes and enjoy the out-of-doors. I heard one guy comment as he passed, “The park’s just like the day before Christmas!”

Importances

In these days where touching someone or going out for a frivolous social event – or work – runs the risk of “unflattening the curve,” our leaders have had to wrestle with the question: “What’s too important to close down?”

Here in California the “winners” have been: hospitals and other health care facilities, core infrastructure services that most of us never think about, food distribution businesses, food growing businesses – even breweries, homeless shelters and the like, news media, gas stations and auto repair shops, banks and credit unions, hardware stores, home repair workers, mailing and shipping companies, educational institutions if they can find ways to do their work without having people touch each other, laundry services, restaurants but like schools – take-out only, office supply stores and similar supply businesses, delivery services, transportation that supports essential activities, care-givers, professions needed to support essential activities, childcare as modified by certain guidelines, and employees needed to maintain essential operations in business (like security guards and whatever).

When I was a lot younger I would have looked at this list and felt that it made sense. But back then I would have wondered, well, why do people do all those other things besides these things? Now I have a better idea of why they do. But that doesn’t change the fact that the above-listed activities are some of the most core activities in any human community. If any one of these goes bad – like health care, or food – those affected are in some deep doo-doo. And yet in our society these days, many of these activities are operated as for-profit businesses.

In theory, if some human activity ceased to be profitable, it could not attract investors, would go unfunded and eventually collapse. But that can’t happen to any of these essential activities, can it?

And although there may be some wiggle room in the grey areas of moral choices, the basic answer is, no, that can’t happen to essential activities.

My thought on this is that if you try to force any essential human activity into a situation where it can’t survive unless it can pay investors interest, then you are going to run into some major problems sooner or later.

One scenario is that the investors – normally represented by the Board of Directors – force managers to do whatever is deemed necessary to keep the activity profitable. In other words, managers are pushed towards throwing moral values and humanitarian values – which is why most of these ARE the essential activities – out the window in favor of a value system based on whether the activity can make money or not. We know that this has happened to many human activities. A vivid though imperfect example is the field of mental health.

The other scenario is that the activity somehow manages to make the necessary financial adjustments in a way that preserves both the core values of the activity and its financial attractiveness. We know this doesn’t always happen, and that we have lost or risk losing some of these core activities simply because they can’t figure out how to make themselves viable.

My more recent realizations about all this stem from Hubbard’s assertion that money is basically just a form of energy. That led to the understanding that every activity must inflow more energy than it uses just to operate at all. In a purely physical system this excess energy is often referred to as “waste.” In a business it is often called “profit.” And in a non-profit it may be known as “reserves” or some similar concept.

In a physical system, the ratio of energy output to energy input is called “efficiency.” However, attempts to apply this concept to human systems have not always been that successful. One reason is that the economists don’t always factor in the costs (or energy use) of all those essential services needed because we are human. If this mistake is committed and the result is a recommendation that new hires be paid less (or some similar move), then that mistake may contribute to what we call “poverty” for some workers; they can’t make a “profit” on their own labor!

The complications resulting from the various pressures of life and less-than-rational human responses to those pressures are many and varied. One example which I looked into a while back is public transportation. I don’t know about other places, but in the Sacramento area, customer (rider) revenues only account for about 20% of the operating costs of the system. If the Sac Regional Transit District couldn’t get state and federal money (support from taxpayers who don’t use the system) then it couldn’t provide the services it does now. I don’t know if it could even operate.

Another I have been looking into recently is the mental health system in California. It’s problem is that not enough people want to be mental health workers, and a lot of communities don’t want anything to do with having a mental health facility in their area, or otherwise have a bad image of the subject. In this case, the activity is currently over-funded but is unable to provide the services demanded of it. In short, it’s a criminal system. It wastes almost all the energy poured into it, so everyone’s getting tired of it, even though everyone knows that better mental health would help society in so many ways.

So this is one of the huge shortcomings of “modern” society: It has real problems drawing the line between brag and fact, and forcing essential activities to get good products instead of resorting to criminality. Just today I read an article on the history of coffee production. It gave me chills! The amount of inhuman treatment of workers that had to be undertaken to make coffee profitable was utterly despicable. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that coffee is basically just a legal street drug and only masks the true problems people are having in being alert and productive with a temporary “high.”

I hope this latest challenge gives some who care about such things reason to pause. Over and above all the gory details about how this outbreak actually came about, we have the irritating fact that the medical knowledge – even the spiritual knowledge – that, if used, would have made this attack much less serious than it has been, has been with us for decades now, neglected and unused. We can’t just blame our ills on “profit motive.” We all need what sometimes gets called a “profit.” There are more basic failings at work here. We have known about them for some time now. But we have only begun to properly handle them. Not in time for this challenge. What about the next one?