Friday, September 28, 2007

Professional Responsibility

A little tidbit about myself. I am professionally certified in the field of safety & health. I'm supposed to help people do their work safely so they can return home to their loved ones at the end of the day healthy, uninjured, and in one piece. The old view was that it was the safety guy's responsibility for safety at a work site. Uh uh. It's the employer's responsibility to keep the workplace safe and it's the individual's responsibility to work safely. It's the safety guy's responsibility to be a resource to help both accomplish that. Personal responsibility you see. Something sorely lacking in our society these days and a topic you will no doubt hear a lot about if you are a regular visitor to this blog. I've been pretty fortunate to have worked with employers and employees who, generally, haven't drifted too far afield from this basic premise or their respective responsibilities. Once in a while however...

Another little tidbit about myself. In addition to being a safety & health professional, I believe in Natural Selection. These two facts sometimes come into conflict with each other.

One other thing. I also have a somewhat warped and twisted sense of humor. You'll probably see a lot of this type of picture here. Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

WORD verification?

Type the characters you see in the picture above.


I don't suppose that leaving the box blank is an option, because I DON"T SEE ANY FREAKIN"CHARACTERS!!!

Am I the only one that has been having trouble lately with "WORD Verification? Maybe it's because I'm running into it more now that I'm in the blog world. I don't know, but I have to say I have just a couple of issues with these necessary annoyances. First of all, they're rarely words so why do they call it word verification? And are they case sensitive or not? Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't, what's up with that? Blurry backgrounds, characters all running together. Lines slashed across the whole thing. Is that a capital "B" or a "3" getting real cozy with that lower case "d" next to it? Who the hell knows? Give it a shot, place your bets, cross your fingers, close your eyes and press "Submit". Sorry, no winners this time. Here's another unintelligible picture, call Tom Hanks and give'er another try. You might just find the Holy Grail.

Word verification is part of a group of security tools called CAPTCHA which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. They were developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The Wikipedia entry says "A CAPTCHA involves one computer (a server) which asks a user to complete a test. While the computer is able to generate and grade the test, it is not able to solve the test on its own. Because computers are unable to solve the CAPTCHA, any user entering a correct solution is presumed to be human." I certainly understand the need for these things. I know that email accounts, blog comments, concert ticket sales, etc are besieged and flooded by automated spamming all the time. I hate spam. Spamers are vermin who should be dragged into the street, stripped naked and slapped silly. I'm not suggesting these threshold guardians be done away with. I'm just asking for a fair shot at solving the puzzles because I also hate the idea that there's a computer out there somewhere that's presuming I'm not human. And it's laughing at me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hey Buddy, You Got a Permit For Dat Reincarnation?

Okay. I don't know how I missed this Newsweek story from over a month ago. China in what has to be one of its most bizarre moves, has decreed that Buddhist Monks in Tibet are forbidden to reincarnate without government permission. I ain't makin' this up folks. Here's the link to the article By Matthew Philips. The State Administration for Religious Affairs ( I don't know about you but the term "State Administration for Religious Affairs" sends shivers up my spine) says that the law is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." Well those Tibetan Buddhists have nothing to worry about. We all know that once the government institutionalizes a program, well, it's just gonna run like a top. Smooth as silk. If you do have a complaint you'll just have to go to the Hypnotic Regression department (take the escalator down, deeper and deeper into a state of total relaxation).

Of course regulating reincarnation has nothing to do with their real intentions. As the article points out, it's their latest strong arm tactic to do what they've been trying for 50 years. To cut off influence from the Dalai Lama (who's been in exile in India for 48 years) and squash the Buddhist order in Tibet. The plan is to set up a puppet Lama (not THAT kind of Llama) of their choosing who has been legally and officially reincarnated - in Tibet. One who has properly disembarked from his metaphysical plane. One who had his spiritual passport properly stamped. One who will do what they tell him.

China, China, China. Ancient and glorious culture. So much potential, and now that the world knows the lead in the toys was ALL the fault of Mattel's design flaws and that you're completely innocent, maybe you can focus on living up to it.

I just hope that someone in Washington hasn't read this and realized that reincarnation can be used by illegal immigrants to get past that wall they want to build. DHS will be all over that. And you thought the lines at airport security were long.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Things to be Desired

If you're like me, you have about a million links saved in your "favorites" folder. And, if you're like me, they're probably not very well organized. When I'm surfing, I have a tendency sometimes to go through the list to organize it, to clean it out like my desk, filing cabinet, garage, closet, dresser, etc., etc. Unfortunately, I make just about as much progress in the electronic arena as I do everywhere else. I have the best intentions but invariably something distracts me. I discover a misplaced something or other. I wonder why on Earth I saved this or that. I remember why on Earth I saved this or that. I find something to read or to play with. Before I know it too much time has passed and I need to stop to move on to something else. I make a mental note to pick up where I left off and next time really get the job done. Unfortunately most of my mental notes are written with disappearing ink.

Anyway, this weekend I found myself engaged in exactly this activity. I dropped down the list of favorites and started clicking. I deleted a couple. I had fun revisiting several. Had no idea why I saved several more but was absolutely sure they must've been important so I kept them. Then I came across one in particular that I had forgotten I saved. However once I saw it I had no problem remembering why I saved it. It links to the the words of a poem that I've always liked. I think I may have first heard it in high school or thereabouts. I had a poster of it on my wall in my dorm in college. There was even a recording of it made back in the 70's that was very popular although I never got around to buying it. Some may consider it a little schmaltzy but I like it anyway. It's message is pretty simple and it makes a great deal of sense to me.

It was written around 1927 by a lawyer and poet from Terre Haute, Indiana named Max Ehrmann. He had written in his diary "I should like, if I could, to leave a humble gift -- a bit of chaste prose that had caught up some noble moods." He called his "bit of chaste prose" Things to be Desired but he used the Latin translation. You probably know it as the Desiderata. It may be schmaltzy. It may be corny. It may have been used on a few too many posters and "If you love something you've got to let it go free" type cards. But that doesn't make the words and the ideas any less meaningful.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

--Max Erhmann 1927

Friday, September 21, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I'd like to suggest that if you're going to insist on going out dressed with your underwear visible to the world then you need to at least demonstrate proficiency in putting them on. Mom & Dad must be so proud. At least they can be happy that she's wearing them.

I was going to just post this picture and leave it at that but then I saw this story called "Momma Owie" the other day. It's about a two year old girl (yes, that's TWO) who called 911 when her mother passed out. It gives me hope.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Raise the Bar

Recently, while perusing an internet news site a headline caught my eye. The article was entitled “Will Science Render Men Obsolete?”. Hmm. Had to read that one. Basically it was a report of a team of scientists who successfully turned adult stem cells taken from bone marrow into sperm cells. The research was focused on finding a solution to infertility – a noble goal to be sure. This article however seemed to be focused more on a hypothetical situation the gist of which was that a woman could get pregnant using sperm made from stem cells taken from another woman. No man, no mess. Ah…no thanks.

This touched a bit of a nerve with me. While it’s possible that this procedure may be used in some specific, isolated instances I don’t for a second believe that it will ever result in male obsolescence. My opinion has been reinforced by a later article reporting on research which determined the 237 reasons why men and women have sex. The top three reasons for men: I was attracted to the person, It feels good, and I wanted to experience physical pleasure. No brainer. Now the part that made me do the happy dance…top three for women… I was attracted to the person, I wanted to experience physical pleasure, and It feels good! No man, no mess…NO FUN! I never doubted that we do have our uses nor do I have any doubt women will be keeping us around at least a little while longer. No, the article didn’t touch a nerve because I’m worried that science will render men obsolete. It’s because of the general attitude toward men that resulted in the question even being raised at all.

Think about the stereotyped images on television that we’re bombarded with regularly. Unbathed beer swilling couch potatoes in boxer shorts. The standard TV sitcom format of fat buffoonish lizard-brained caveman married to a beautiful, intelligent wife who rolls her eyes and shakes her head as he spends the better part of a half hour making an ass out everyone with a Y chromosome. Angry, destructive, abusive, psychotic stalkers in made-for-TV movies on for-women-only cable networks. Commercials with dazed and confused fathers left to “babysit” their out of control children who proceed to destroy the house with more efficiency than a Makeover Home Edition crew all because the wife went (gasp!) SHOPPING. Murderers, rapists, scam artists, deadbeat dads, unfaithful husbands and boyfriends, players, womanizers, slimy salesmen and smarmy losers in pick-up bars. Useless, helpless, clueless, tactless, brainless, heartless, scum, scum, scum one and all.

Of course at the other end of the examples of manhood spectrum we find…The Romantic Hero. The ultimate guy. The man’s man. The woman’s man. Confident, handsome, rugged, compassionate. He can comfort a crying child, make passionate love to a beautiful woman, be a leader of men, fight for what’s right, and defeat the forces of evil. He may have flaws, wear scars, receive wounds, he may lose a battle, but he never gives up and he never loses the war. He says the right thing, does the right thing, has all the right, um…equipment…and skills for every endeavor. He is the shining example, he is the pinnacle of manhood, he is the ideal, he is…a FREAKIN’FANTASY. The helpless idiot psycho slob is our nightmare, an example of man at his worst and the inspiration for articles about science rendering men obsolete. The romantic hero on the other hand is the guy all the guys want to be and all the ladies want to be with.

The truth is that here in the real world, between those two extremes, somewhere in the middle between the scum and the hero, lies…us. The regular honest guys who work hard, play hard and just try to do the best we can. We love our wives. We love our kids. We help our friends. We have our share of stupid moments (alright, sometimes more than our share) but we really do have brains and we actually put them to use a fair amount of the time. Not every guy is DaVinci or Einstein or the guys that figured out how to get to the moon but a lot of us can do better than walking and chewing gum at the same time. We are capable of remembering our anniversary or your birthday without prompting. We get that it’s “parenting” and not “babysitting” and we relish time spent with our kids. And yes, though our parenting style may be different from our spouse’s we manage just fine and have the same number of healthy, uninjured kids when she gets back from shopping as there were when she left. We shoulder our responsibilities and hopefully, somewhere along the way, have fun and enjoy our lives.

We can all think of examples from our past where we were at our absolute best, and our absolute worst. It’s a sliding scale, that space between scum and hero, and the place we occupy on that scale can change in a heartbeat. Most of us spend the majority of our time, our normal day to day life, somewhere in the middle. But each and every one of us has the ability to move from one extreme to the other. The law of entropy states that things in order have a natural tendency to fall to disorder when left without interference. It requires very little effort to slide down the scale and you don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner in Physics to know that to push something uphill requires work. Motivation to do that work comes in many forms. For me the push to keep attacking that hill comes in no small measure from being a husband and father. More specifically, a father of daughters. Certainly it would be just as important if I had sons, but I don’t. I have daughters and that’s where my experience and focus lay.

Psychology would have us believe that girls grow up to subconsciously marry a man just like their fathers for better or worse. I’ve known women that have done just that – for better or worse. Others may go out of their way, for whatever reason, to find someone as UNlike their father as possible. Whichever direction they go, I believe (generally speaking of course) that their father/father figure is the one responsible for setting the example (good or bad) for how they see men in the future. She grows up watching the interaction between him and her mother and learns what a relationship is “supposed” to look like. He also plays a huge role in developing or damaging her self-esteem to the point that it will carry forward into her adult life.

I’m not addressing abuse here. That’s, of course, a very serious, traumatic topic that needs attention and discussion. But not here, not right now. What I’m talking about is much more subtle. Something that happens in normal homes with loving parents and that won’t devastate lives but can certainly affect them for a long time. The homes where common courtesies like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are ignored (“Hey, get me a beer!”). Where there is no respect shown (“That’s stupid”, “You’re stupid”, “Why don’t you just shut up?”). Where consideration isn’t given. The parent(s) who favor(s) (intentionally or not) one child over another. The parent(s) who still hold to the ridiculous male-dominated view that they have to have a SON and once they do the daughters are secondary. The father who prizes physical beauty and constantly harps on his daughter and for that matter, his wife about their weight or other physical attributes (“You have such a pretty face honey, if only you would lose weight”). The parent(s) for which less than perfect is unacceptable and who fail to praise honest effort (“You got a ‘B’ in math? Well, you’ll just have to study more and try harder”). These are not hypothetical. I have known real people – good, well intentioned people – that fit into all of these examples. All these things make marks. Over time they contribute to a script that will be followed later in life. A script that will affect relationships with lovers, husbands, children.

I take my responsibilities to my daughters very seriously. That’s what motivates me to push myself higher up that ladder. To show them that they don’t have to settle for the examples they see on TV and all around them. Am I always successful? Of course not. I do the best that I can but yes, sometimes I do backslide. Sometimes I even fall into the examples that I mentioned. I’m human and I hope that when they’re adults and parents they’ll understand if they don’t already. Their mother and I love each other very much. Neither they, nor anyone else that knows us can question that. They have that as an example. But in our house they also have examples of other things that are every bit as important for making a relationship work. Courtesy, consideration, and respect. Can you do it with love alone? Maybe but without those other things it’s really difficult to make it up that hill.

Someday my girls will fall in love and marry. Before they do I want to know that they are happy with and confident in themselves. That they have self-esteem and a respect for themselves. That, as Stephen Covey says, I and their mother have “communicated their worth and potential so clearly that they will unquestioningly see it in themselves”.

I want them to know that they do not have to settle. They do not have to tolerate a relationship without courtesy, consideration, and mutual respect. Nor does he. I want them to know that it is their responsibility to themselves to raise their expectations and to accept nothing less in a relationship than they deserve. I want them to know that they have the ability to raise the bar.

I’m not the only guy that’s insulted by the portrayal of men in the media and popular culture. I’m not the only guy trying to get to the top of that hill. I’m not the only guy that has realized that was he does and says to his kids today affects who they are tomorrow. That gives me hope for my girls, because some of those guys have sons.

I don’t think science will make us obsolete quite yet. There’s that whole giving physical pleasure to women thing. But we’ve got other important work to do too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Attention on deck ye scaberous dogs!

Shut yer bung hole and listen ‘ear.

Avast me ‘ardys. T'day, September 19th, be International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Here be t' OFFICIAL TLAPD website. Take some time t' explore. Ye’ll find more information on how t' talk and act like a pirate than ye could ever possibly use.

In case that’s not enough for ye bilge rats, here be a video tutorial by Graham Stark & Paul Saunders an' mates on that demonstrates some o' t' basics just t' get ye started.

Here be your's truly preparin' to go claim 'is treasure.

Ay've even 'eard tell of some maties 'oove been so inspired they've taken a big step off the gangplank and started Drink Like a Pirate Day! Now that's the spirit.

Get out thar today me beauties and show t' world that you have pirattitude and in t' process make t' place just a wee bit more fun. Arrr.

Monday, September 17, 2007

United States Constitution Day

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for theUnited States of America.

Today, September 17th is officially United States Constitution Day. I've included links below to the National Archives and another informational website where you can find the full text of the Constitution and all amendments as well as articles on the history of the writing and ratification of this important document. I believe that every American should take the relatively short amount of time it takes to read our Constitution. Then do everything in our power to protect and defend it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Show your patriotism, go home and f**k!

America seems to have more than enough politicians who sneak around visiting prostitutes, trolling for sex in airport bathrooms and hitting on interns, all while lecturing Americans about morality and trying to regulate what we can and can't do in our own bedrooms. ENOUGH I say!

THIS is the kind of elected official that America needs!

Skip Work, Make Babies, Governor Says

According to this Reuters article, in order to help combat a declining national birth rate, the governor of a Central Russian province told couples to skip work and go home to have sex on September 12th. Any woman that delivers a baby exactly nine months later on June 12th of next year will receive valuable prizes. Some can even win an apartment, a fridge, TVs, or cars. Doesn't matter if the baby is a boy or a girl and even unmarried women can win (though they won't get the BIG prizes).

How refreshing to have a politician tell YOU to have sex rather than tell you NOT to while he tries to get it himself - illegally, immorally or otherwise.

Those zany Russians. What a country!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Rise of the Three Brained Man

Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I and my entire family are lovers of live theater. In a former life I did a lot of technical work backstage for several productions before finally being lured onstage into the spotlight. My wife and I met while working in a theater production. In addition to this I’ve also worked in positions that required me to deliver presentations to live audiences. As anyone who has ever spent any appreciable amount of time in front of audiences can tell you, sooner or later you will be struck by stage fright. I’ve experienced it. So has Laurence Olivier. That means 1) I’m in good company and 2) susceptibility to stage fright is unrelated to one’s level of talent. Anyway, having personally experienced the feeling of weak knees, perspiration, dry mouth, nausea, shaking, complete and total loss of all memory, and the overwhelming desire to run away simultaneously coupled with the inability to move - it was only natural that an article entitled “Pulling Back the Curtain on Stage Fright” would catch my attention while pursuing MSNBC this morning.

I’ll let you read the article for yourself but the upshot of it is that the source of stage fright is rooted in evolutionary biology. It developed as an instinctive survival mechanism. The quote that drove this point home, that made me stop and think (and laugh out loud) was this one from Mary Fensholt, consultant and author of “The Francis Effect: The Real Reason You Hate Public speaking and How to Get Over It”:

"The fear of public speaking or performing is more than anything a fear of being eaten."

Well, there you go. I know actors who fall to pieces at the thought of a bad review. Talk about tough audiences. And how would you like your actor this evening sir, medium rare?

The theory behind this is that in man’s early days one that stood out from the group was more visible and more accessible, easier to “separate from the herd” if you will, therefore more likely to be taken down and eaten by predators. Let’s face it, back then man was not at the top of the food chain. Constantly stressing over literally being eaten kinda makes your next performance review seem rather insignificant by comparison, doesn’t it? Ever seen a deer or a rabbit come out in the open to eat? Not the most relaxed looking critters in the world are they? Man developed instinctive mechanisms just like theirs to send him into overdrive in order to get himself out of dangerous situations or to fight like crazy if escape wasn’t an option. That’s why it’s called the “Fight or Flight” reflex and it’s still present in us today. Along with several other “instinctive” automatic reactions that can help us…or get us into trouble.

Have you ever noticed that the natural default response of most people is to focus on the negative? In almost everything. I was reminded of this on September 11th when I read several blogs and articles reminding us to try to remember the good that was hidden beneath the tragedy that day rather than focusing on the evil. I’m not remotely denying the presence of evil that day and I’m not trying to minimize the role that evil played. But in the wake of that evil there were some truly amazing acts of good. The heroism, the selfless acts of courage and love, the good ordinary people who stepped up and became extraordinary, the sympathy and kindness from the rest of the world as they reached out to the US and cried with us. This is an extreme example but the tendency is present in all of us and in all aspects of our lives. What’s our biggest complaint about the news? They only ever report the bad, never the good. You get a message that your boss wants to see you in his/her office and you have a flash of “Oh crap! What did I do?” Your kid is late getting home and hasn’t called and the instant assumption is that there’s been an accident. If you’ve been with a spouse for any length of time you tend to forget the things that made you fall in love with them and all you seem to focus on now are the things that drive you out of your mind. Well guess what? It’s another holdover survival instinct. We come preprogrammed to focus on the negative. Even if there is only one negative item surrounded by a dozen positives the negative is what draws our eye. It’s a survival thing that drew our attention to and kept us from getting clubbed by the one angry caveman in the crowd of happy ones. A useful instinct to be sure but it can sometimes keep us from focusing on the good stuff. Good stuff like attraction, love, romance. Well…even these when broken down and analyzed are found to be driven by instincts, chemistry and lower functions in the brain (talk about ruining the mood). How and why you’re attracted to one person but not another has as much to do with subconscious assessments of who is healthier, has better genes, a better immune system, more fertile, will be a better provider, protector, child bearer, etc. than any conscious thoughts you might have. Ah, L’amore.

And where within us, pray tell, do all of these instincts, emotions, reflexes, and reactions originate? Well it seems that almost every part of the body gets credit. “I have a gut feeling”, “He has intestinal fortitude”, “you have a lot of gall”, “Affairs of the Heart”, “That boy’s got a lot of heart”, “Venting your spleen”, “He’s got backbone”, She’s hot-blooded”. Nobody ever puts the credit where it belongs. In the brain. Yep, mission control. Corporate headquarters. The brain.

The general perception is that each of us is walking around with one brain. All of us have known people who gave us cause to question whether they even had half a brain, you know the ones, they usually get promoted or elected to high office. But I’m speaking anatomically so for the sake of discussion let’s assume that we all have one regardless of whether or not it appears to actually be used. Developmentally, we have arrived at the brain we currently have via a very long and winding road. The brain that is now residing in our head is actually three brains layered atop and interconnected with one another. Those three brains are often referred to as the Reptile Brain, the Mammal Brain, and the Reasoning Brain. They all are associated with specific areas, pathways, and functions inside our head.

The Reptile Brain is the oldest and most basic part. It essentially is a small structure that sits on top of your spinal cord and keeps all the automatic systems running. Everything that your body does on autopilot is pretty much controlled here. Your heart beating, breathing, temperature regulation, food digestion, reflexes such as pulling away from a flame or being startled, all preprogrammed and taken care of without you having to think about it. It also runs the basic needs that keep you alive and by extension keep your species alive. Hunger, thirst, sex, fear, self preservation, aggressive behavior, territoriality, etc.

The Mammal Brain was the next to evolve and it’s a structure that we share with all other mammals and even a few birds (hold the bird-brained jokes please). In it resides a complex, interconnected system collectively called the Limbic System, more on that in a minute. Suffice it to say for now that it’s considered the seat of the emotions and of mood, it’s responsible for pain and pleasure, memory and it’s a thermostat of sorts, a regulator of body systems.

The Reasoning Brain was in evolutionary terms the most recent to develop and is present in higher mammals and is most highly developed (though not always used) in humans. Here is where we get our ability for abstract thought, complex communication and language, appreciation for art, ability to strategize and plan, and generally ponder the purpose of the universe and our presence in it.

These three structures, or brains, are not separate and distinct so much as they are a highly connected interdependent system that regulates our bodies and enables us to function and survive. Evolution, rather than tearing down the house and building a bigger one in it’s place just kept building additions to the old one. The new, complex, state of the art wiring was connected to the old basic system. If you’re into computers you can think of it as an Atari Pong, an X-Box, and the Star Trek Holodeck all wired together and somehow managing to work. Things go swimmingly when those systems are in harmony but often they are at odds with each other and we end up with conflict between what we feel and what we think. What we want and what we’ve got, what we should and what we shouldn’t do.

Now, I mentioned the limbic system. The truly interesting thing about the limbic system lies in it’s relationship with the reasoning brain. It connects the higher and lower functions in the brain but it is in the interaction between the mammal brain and the reasoning brain that human consciousness is believed to be. Some even think that this is where the soul resides. Emotion and reason. Together. In balance.

Those old, old instincts that live in the reptile and mammal brain and that I mentioned earlier are still useful to us. While most of us don’t generally have to worry about literally being eaten there is the occasional threat of being clubbed by the modern caveman. Those instincts help us avoid or escape dangerous situations. In less extreme instances they sharpen our senses and improve performance, put us “in the zone” when we need to be. That’s when we force ourselves to step out onto the stage and give the performance of our lives. We get the best benefit from these instinctive reactions when we engage our reasoning brain, recognize what’s happening and use them to our advantage. It’s when we allow them to take over, to rule all of our actions, to paralyze us that they become a problem. That’s when stage fright makes you puke, erases your mind and turns you into a babbling idiot.

From the beginning and every year since the majority of mankind has been trying not to stand out. Trying to avoid the scrutiny of the predator. Always staying close to the herd, following the rest of the flock. Using the mammal brain and living on instinct and reflex. But every so often someone takes the risk and breaks free. Uses the rational brain and dares to think freely. Those are the men and women that have changed history. Those that broke from the flock rose to give us some of our greatest contributions. Those with emotion and reason in balance. The reason to think, to reach, to change and create and the emotion to give them the passion and conviction to succeed.

We need to swallow down that fear and force ourselves to step out of the wings onto the stage. The orchestra has finished playing the overture and the curtain is about to go up. It’s showtime. And nothing's going to eat us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Memory...

Monday, September 10, 2007

The New Kid

Okay, daily hasn't worked out very well so far so here's a long one to make up for it.

Once upon a time a new kid came to town.

He didn’t particularly like where he had come from. He had lived among bullies. He had been picked on. Pushed around. Told what he could and couldn’t do. Told what to think, what to believe, how to act. When he tried to voice his opinion he was told to keep it to himself, that his opinion didn’t matter. Whenever he spoke up for himself and tried to protest his treatment he was smacked around and threatened with punishment. He was unhappy not having any control over his own fate and was unable to see a future for himself. Life became unbearable. Finally he made the difficult decision to leave everything he had ever known behind and go somewhere new.

When he arrived at his new home he was nervous, frightened even but at the same time excited. Everything was new, foreign, unknown. He knew it was natural to be frightened of the unknown. What if it turns out to be bad? Well, he tried very hard to remember that the unknown isn’t good or bad it’s just…unknown. After it was understood he could decide if it was good or bad so he chose to focus on the potential good in every new experience. After all, could it be any worse than where he had come from? He liked the idea of being in a new place, being able to make a fresh start far away from those who mistreated him. He set to work living his new life. And work it was, for life wasn’t easy in this new place. But it was good. And for the first time in as long as he could remember, he was happy.

It didn’t take long before he realized that problems can’t just be walked away from and left behind. They have a way of following you, trying to continue being problems. The people from his old home knew where he was and they reached out and tried to continue interfering in his life. They felt he owed them for his existence and that he would continue to owe them. They believed this debt that they thought he owed gave them the right to control him forever. That he belonged to them and he should submit to their will for the rest of his life. He disagreed.

He had experienced life outside of their control. He understood how life was supposed to be lived now. He had the opportunity to decide the course of his own life, to express his own opinions, to follow his own beliefs, to be happy. He had freedom. He knew that he could never live under their control again. And he told them so. Timidly at first because he had been kept down for so long and wasn’t used to open disagreement. They reacted the way bullies always react, with hostility and threats of punishment. But this time, because they were separated by distance those threats weren’t easy to enforce. His confidence and conviction grew. His voice became loud and strong. He tried reason, discussion, debate, negotiation all to no avail. Eventually it grew to open argument, an outright refusal to come to terms and eventually, an ultimatum. As they grew ever more hostile he grew ever more ardent in his desire to protect the freedom he had found. They again responded with warnings of punishment and this time, to prove they were serious, sent representatives to carry out their threats. But he was no longer willing to sit still and quietly take their punishment. Once and for all he had to stand up to the bully. And so they fought. Long and hard. Both were injured. Both were bloodied. He fought desperately and was very nearly defeated. But in the end he won. And the bully finally backed down.

Afterward, as his wounds healed he thought about his struggle and his hard-won victory. He thought about where he had come from and how he had been treated. He remembered how it had first felt to experience his new life. And, after tasting freedoms that he had never known he remembered how it felt to have someone try to take those freedoms away and make him submit to his old life. Having experienced life without those freedoms he knew that they should never be taken for granted. He vowed never to do so.

He moved forward, charting the course of his life and navigating by the star of his belief in the rights and freedoms that all people should have. He was far from perfect. He stumbled and made mistakes along the way as everyone does. But always he held fast to his beliefs in those rights and freedoms. He told everyone that would listen about those beliefs. He tried hard to live a life of character and compassion and eventually became the embodiment of his beliefs. He became an inspiration, an example of how life could be for those who could never imagine escaping the pain of the life they had.

Eventually he came to realize just how many others there were who were living in oppressive situations similar to, or even worse than the one he had come from. And out of compassion he wanted to help. Countless were helped simply by his example. They were given hope and found the courage to leave and come to the place that he had moved to. Others were inspired to stand up and deal directly with the situation at home. But he wanted to do more. He gave assistance where it was wanted. He reached out, opened dialogue, negotiated, persuaded. On a few occasions when the situation was dire he even fought. Again, being less than perfect, some mistakes were made. He showed occasional bad judgment and made poor decisions. He was drawn into some situations that he should have avoided, acted before fully understanding the situation or the people involved. But always, he was guided by his beliefs in the rights of the people.

As time passed it seemed that the more people he helped the more there were who needed his help. Who expected his help. It seemed in fact that fewer and fewer were being inspired by his example to help themselves and instead were waiting for him to do something for them. Along the way he had made friends who believed as he did and they contributed but the need had far outgrown their ability to keep up. So some went unaided. And some of those that went unaided became distressed over having been overlooked. That distress grew into resentment and in some cases outright anger. The enemies that he had made along the way recognized an opportunity and helped this anger and resentment to grow and spread. He underestimated the importance and could not conceive it possible that people could truly feel this way about him. He had been the example, the one people always looked up to. He was motivated by good intentions and driven by the conviction that everyone deserved the rights that he enjoyed. He kept on believing he would win out in the end and everyone would come around to believe his message. They’d all eventually want what he had.

But he was tired. And he was spread too thin. When his attention was focused on one, someone else was being ignored. And the resentment grew. Some, disillusioned and frustrated by their situation, angry over receiving no help, or help they didn’t ask for were encouraged by others with bad intentions to seek him out and attack him. He was wounded. Hurt deeply physically, emotionally, psychologically. How could they do that? He was only trying to help. Trying to release others from oppression and introduce them to the same rights and freedoms that he had found. He had to find those responsible! He knew it was only an angry, radical few and behind them were the very bullies guilty of repression and tyranny. He knew he was right and that if he gave those repressed people the freedom that he had they would understand and thank him and be forever grateful. In his anger he accused the oppressors. He intimidated and harassed them. He told them what to do and how to act. He refused to listen to their explanations. He gave them ultimatums. He threatened them with punishment.

During this difficult time his friends and even those who had never even met him reached out to comfort and counsel him. They gave their sympathy and offered help. They advised him to try a different course, to act more slowly, to think, to try to more fully understand the facts of the situation before deciding on an action. To live by his ideals and continue, even through pain, to be the example that he had always been for them. But he refused to listen. He was on a mission and nothing would interfere. He became stubborn and arrogant. He told his friends they were wrong. That they should keep their opinions to themselves and that their opinions didn’t matter. When his friends spoke openly of their belief that he was following the wrong course he publicly ridiculed them, accused them of being cowards and questioned their motives and the value of their friendship. Everyday he alienated them more and more until, one by one they turned from him and only a few remained.

He continued undaunted and when the evil ones did not capitulate to his demands he attacked with the ferocity of one convinced that he is right. And eventually they were vanquished. The oppressors were removed and the people were given their freedom. And their anger turned to hate.

His confusion mounted. He couldn’t understand what he had done wrong. He gave them their freedom. Freedom! They should be rejoicing. They should be on the same path to happiness that he had walked. Instead the attacks continued. And not knowing what else to do, he continued punishing the attackers. And in his frustration and fear he began to see attackers everywhere. Even where there were none. Everyone was suspect, even neighbors and loved ones. No one could be trusted. Especially those that were different. Those that looked different, thought differently, acted differently, behaved differently, held different beliefs. Those that disagreed with him. Those that were different…from him. He had forgotten how to understand different. Not understanding different meant it was unknown. The unknown wasn’t to be trusted. The unknown was bad. Those who were bad had to be found at all costs. But who were they? Not wanting to take chances everyone who came into his house was given rules that had to be followed. They were told where they could go and were they couldn’t. What they could do and not do. Some were spied on. He told lies and used questionable tactics but it was all justified, wasn’t it? It was for the greater good. Besides, those that were bad weren’t entitled to the precious rights and freedoms that he held dear. And he’d find the bad ones even if it meant denying those rights from some of those who were good, who were deserving. His intentions were pure. The ends would justify the means. He was on a mission and he wouldn't back down until that mission was accomplished.

This brings his story to where it is today. The ending has not yet been written. He is very slowly beginning to realize that the bullied has become the bully. That in his fervent desire to deliver his message he has become so completely focused on the delivery that he has forgotten the content of the message. His conscience is speaking to him. In a soft voice. Timidly at first because it had not been listened to for so long. But that voice will grow louder. Eventually he will hear its message and come to the realization that he has drifted off course. That he has lost sight of the star that he had navigated by for so long. He’ll remember the importance of the message and realize that the ends are hollow and meaningless if the means did not stay true to his character. He’ll reflect and someday awaken to the fact that the reason his freedom was so dear to him was because he stood up and asserted his right to have it. It was something that could never be given to him because it already belonged to him. It was treasured because it had been fought for, claimed, by him. The reason those he tried to force his help on resented him was because he hadn’t taken the time to understand their needs. He had tried to give them a gift of his beliefs without respecting the fact that they might have beliefs of their own. He tried to make a present of something that at the time they neither wanted nor were ready to have. Freedom was something that was already theirs but they were not prepared to reach for it, to claim it as he had.

He will someday come to realize that he was most helpful, most effective when he lived his beliefs but didn’t impose them on others. When, rather than force people to their feet, he helped them to stand when they tried to get up on their own. Rather than drag them down his path, he helped them learn to walk and to choose their own direction. When he lived a life of character and compassion and served as an example, an inspiration, of how life could be.
If only he could be told. But, like the freedom that he had to win for himself, this message can’t be given to him. He has to look within and discover it for himself. He has to remember his true character and begin again to listen to his conscience.

Just an idealistic little fairy tale. I'm quixotically hoping for a happily ever after. B.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Quixotic Hierophant?

I thought I'd explain a little for those scratching their heads over the name of this blog. First of all I'm a little weird, in a good way (at least I think so) so there's that. I'm also rather eclectic with interests, tastes and beliefs that run from one extreme to the other.

You could look up these words yourself but I'll save you the time:

Quixotic, according to Merriam-Webster, is derived from the story Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and means
1 : foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action;
2 : Capricious, Unpredictable.
Synonym see IMAGINARY.

A Hierophant according to the Encarta Dictionary is an
1. explainer of mysteries: somebody who interprets and explains obscure and mysterious matters, especially sacred doctrines or mysteries
2. interpreter of events: somebody who explains or comments on everyday matters ( formal )
3. ancient Greek priest: in ancient Greece, a priest who revealed the mysteries at the annual festival of Eleusis.

Furthermore the Hierophant is one of the major arcana cards in a Tarot deck. Interpretation of Tarot cards varies pretty much with the number of interpreters but for my purposes here I like this one I've excerpted from Aeclectic Tarot:
A Hierophant is described in the dictionary as being a priest in ancient Greece, an advocate, or an expositor. An expositor is one who explains or interprets...the Hierophant represents education, learning, conformity, group identification, and belief systems. We all learn by living with others. The Hierophant represents churches, schools, clubs, companies and societies because his realm is structured groups, rules, rituals, procedures, and assigned roles. The card represents when the blind following of tradition or conformity can be enriching or stifling. The Hierophant's role is the gift of learning, the ability to balance one's own counsel against that of the group. Wisdom doesn't solely belong to external or internal forces. Relationships with others can be enriching or stifling. Keeping only one's own counsel isolates one from others and any support or comfort gained in a group. Wisdom is learning the best times to accept or to contribute to the support and comfort of others. True wisdom is a complex balancing process of weighing both internal and external factors.

So there you have it. A capricious, unpredictable, foolishly impractical, extravagantly chivalrous, romantic explainer of mysteries who interprets and explains obscure and mysterious matters, interprets events and explains or comments on everyday matters in the pursuit of ideals, learning, and wisdom through interaction with others while maintaining balance with my own counsel.

I put my ideas, opinions, etc. out there. You read them and comment on them. We converse, debate, etc. I learn about you, you learn about me. We go away hopefully respecting each others views and having at least thought about something that we otherwise wouldn't have thought about that day. In short...A Blog.

And so it begins.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

So she says to me, "You should write a blog"...

I had just finished expounding my views on my scientific rationalization of Astrology, existence, and the hereafter (don't worry, you'll get to hear it too). That was my wife's response. "You should write a Blog."

And I snorted. No, really. Snort. Me? A blog?

A lesser man would've taken her response as somewhat insulting. A "that's nice honey now go away", pat-on-the-head dismissal. Honestly I wouldn't blame her if that's exactly what it was meant to be. After 22 years with me I'm sure there are times when rather than a pat-on-the-head she'd rather give me a kick-in-the-ass and tell me to shut the hell up. But...after 22 years with her I know for a fact that rather than insulting her response was meant to be complimentary. As in, "honey, you have a lot to say and while I don't always agree with your opinions I do find them interesting. I think that others would too." No. Really. That's what she meant. She loves me, what can I say?

That was on Saturday. Now it's Wednesday and I've had a few days off work for the holiday and I find that the idea of me writing a Blog has resurfaced in my head. It never really went away, it just sloshed around in the stewpot of thoughts until it bubbled back up to the surface. I laughed (snorted actually) off the idea on Saturday but today it doesn't seem quite as crazy. I still have serious doubts that anyone will give a rat's arse about my opinion of anything and I certainly don't harbor the belief that the internet needs anymore bullshit added to it (in fact at some point I plan to use this very media to rant about the damage being done by this very media). So why?

Hey, I'm almost 50 years old. I'm married with kids. My country and society in general are headed in a direction that I don't particularly like. The world seems like it's getting more dangerous or at least nuttier every day. I'm at a time in my life and at a place in history where there's a lot to think about. A lot to be thankful for. And a lot to be pissed off at. The idea of writing down my thoughts for some reason appeals to me right now. I have a lot of them. Too many sometimes. I don't meditate per se, not in the Buddhist-sit-on-the-floor-cross-your-legs-and-chant kind of way but I do try to spend some time in quiet reflection. I'm shooting for that quiet mind thing. Problem is, it doesn't always want to shut up. So I guess if I'm going to have so many random (and sometimes not so random) thoughts maybe I should try to organize them. A little. So I'll give it a shot and try writing them here. Even if I'm the only one that ever reads them. It'll be kinda like me talking to myself - hey, it runs in the family. At least until somebody else shows up. Then I'll welcome the company. And the conversation.

The only real rule here is:
Intolerance Will NOT Be Tolerated.

Frequency of postings? I don't know. Let's say daily and see how it goes. So, until tomorrow...

Oh, you're probably wondering about the name. The Quixotic Hierophant? Well. That's a good topic for tomorrow.