Games of Unknowledging – Part II

Robert Browning

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In Part I the various forms of ignorance raised five studied categories with applicable questions. For example, when does knowledge create ignorance? Ignorance for whom? Against whom? Selection and suppression are key factors influencing rise, stagnation, or fall among civilizations, organizations, or families. Recognizing how certain tactics impact you and those people goes a long way toward composing, testing, and restructuring the best available actions and reactions benefitting, as best as possible, the greater good. As A.B. Hill elaborates:

“All scientific work is incomplete — whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone actions that it appears to demand at a given time.

Who knows, asked Robert Browning… [truthfully], but on available evidence most of us make ready to commute on the 8:30 next day.”

These are the wonderful rewards of living and working within a free open-system of inquiry, probabilities, plausibilities, and collective consensus! There is typically more — more accuracy in knowledge, more progress, and more accountability. As a slight apology, I realize this Part II post reached over 5,100 words. On the contrary, its content is so critical, so vastly unknown today by the general American public that I just could not reduce its word-count anymore than I have. I hope you’ll understand why when finished reading.

As I mentioned in Part I, in this post I am stepping extensively into manufactured uncertainty and ignorance, as well as into some women’s social and political issues, their implied status now and treatment throughout history with regard to learned forms of ignorance. However, I will do my best to allow women like Dr. Nancy Tuana and other highly credible female experts to do the talking as much as possible. Experience has taught me in the arena of Feminism, as a bumbling male at times, this is a wise and healthier approach. 😀

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Manufacturing Uncertainty

In the world of athletic sporting events such as the Olympics, or the FIFA World Cup — both held only every four years — during the ensuing three years between, excitement and anticipation build to a fever pitch. In American sports in 2016 the three major pro leagues of football, baseball, and basketball raked in a mind-boggling $27.3-billion in revenues. Viewing the HowMuch.net infographic below it is easy to see just how much in dollars and socioeconomic values professional sports and their fans impact the entire globe.

sports-leagues-by-revenue-July2016

In those stadiums and arenas of competition, both in the front and back offices, locker rooms, television broadcasting and sponsorships, in sports pubs and bars, and family homes, with that much annual revenues and profits flowing, how well do you think it would go over (to everyone in sports concerned) if none of these leagues, franchises, owners, players, and administrative offices had any sort of referees, umpires, or league policies and procedures? Zero. Would it upset some fans? To remain successful and winning, how would players and owners react to no enforcement of any league or game rules? Would parity exist? For how long might it exist?

Whether on the field of competitive sports or in the daily market-place, unchecked, all the worst human faults and ugly behaviors would run wild. Dog-eat-dog and survival of the fittest as they say… or rather the smartest, quickest, and most cunning would soon dominate. Those born disadvantaged would have dreadful, bleak, survival odds. Like it or not, the world and each of us NEED referees and umpires of integrity to keep the playing field equal and fair not just for survival, but for the innate right of livelihood for all.

Consequences of Deregulation or No Regulation
The effects and impact of regulation, deregulation, or no regulation are never more central than in protecting the domains of public health and its environment where our health resides. This is more crucial for those who are disadvantaged and gullible, for unique reasons, and therefore are susceptible to acts of diversion and deceit. Following are five historical cases Dr. David Michaels, PhD, published concerning manufactured uncertainty and sustained ignorance.

Tobacco, Disease, and Doubt — in the early 1950’s as health researchers were discovering and publishing the negative effects of smoking, the tobacco industry launched major campaigns of counter-measures. “Doubt is our product” was one primary rallying cry directed to The Tobacco Institute, the industry’s voice or bullhorn defense against medical science as instructed via memorandum from Hill & Knowlton, Inc., one of the industry’s major public relations firms. With millions of dollars invested from large and small tobacco companies into these doubt campaigns, the success set the precedent for future successes against other scientific communities and their protection of public health and the environment, such as the effects of climate change.

VIOXX — and Merck. Before the FDA could approve Merck’s blockbuster pain-relief rofecoxib hit drugstore shelves, health professionals were finding and reporting in 1999, 2000, and 2004 the drug increased the risks of heart disease. With 88,000 – 139,000 heart attacks (30% – 40% fatal) attributed to rofecoxib, over four years later the drug was finally banned in November 2004. “On Friday, a Texas jury found Merck liable for the death of Robert C. Ernst, who died in May 2001 after taking Vioxx” reported the New York Times journalist. During the case it was found that Merck executives knew of the increased cardiac risks, but intentionally mislead physicians and the FDA in numerous documented company communications.

Beryllium — is a rare element in our universe produced by cosmic ray collisions. It increases the yield of nuclear explosions and thus has been highly valued in the U.S. production of weapons systems throughout the Cold War. As is corroborated by InvestorIntel.com, U.S. weapons manufacturers today dominate the beryllium market at more than 87% share of the world output. The revenues and profits are naturally a guiding economic force and investor’s criteria. The downside to beryllium manufacturing is exposure and lung disease, known as Chronic Beryllium Disease. Once again because of precedents set, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the DOE (Department of Energy) were constantly misinformed by the Department of Defense and funding-PR work by Brush-Wellman (now Materion Corp) the leading U.S. producer of beryllium products, that CBD-exposure was below hazard-standards and sporadic. Floor supervisors at Brush-Wellman were told by executives that when asked about CBD-exposure answer news reporters with more questions and uncertainty. This tactic leads us to another well-funded doubt campaign: PPA.

Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) — this particular case with PPA manufacturers and the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is a glaring use of well-funded misdirection and selling doubt. In the early 1970’s young females began suffering from hemorrhagic strokes when taking PPA. When these strokes were reported to the Mayo Clinic, only 20-years later did the FDA begin looking into the safety of the drug. Why 20-years? The manufacturers of PPA — organized together as the NDMA — were denying it was their drug causing the hemorrhagic strokes. They had hired and funded Yale University School of Medicine to study the effects of PPA. They also constructed the study to be approved by the FDA. In October 1999 when the results were finalized, the Yale study confirmed the link between PPA and hemorrhagic strokes. Did the NDMA remove the drug from pharmacy shelves? No. Instead they hired the Weinberg Group to attack the Yale study and science. The annual sales of PPA were well over $500-million despite over 200-500 men and women suffering strokes between ages 18 and 49 using the drug. These tactics stalled the removal of PPA from the market long enough (in 2000) to redesign them for a ready-made replacement that kept the flow of profits going — at the expense of crippled or deceased consumers. On their company website the Weinberg Group gloated* about their success for the NDMA.

The Funding Effect that $500-million in sales for an industry can elicit against protective science is a modern corporate tactic never to be ignored or taken lightly.

Funding Effect & BPA — When there is a close correlation between the desired results of a study by a study’s funders and the reported results of that study, it is called the funding effect. Dr. Richard Smith, M.D., a member of CBE and former editor of the British Medical Journal explains:

“Why are pharmaceutical companies getting the results they want? … The companies seem to get the results they want not by fiddling the results, which would be far too crude and possibly detectable by peer review, but rather by asking the “right” questions — and there are many ways to do this [see list below] … There are many ways to hugely increase the chance of producing favourable results, and there are many hired guns who will think up new ways and stay one jump ahead of peer reviewers.”
— Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies, by Dr. Richard Smith, May 2005

With regard to BPA, an environmental estrogen used in polycarbonate plastic found in canned foods and dental sealants, exposure to low doses of the poly-plastic was found to alter human endocrine functions. At the time there were many conflicting reports. In response to the negative reports, the American Plastics Council employed the services of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis to dispute the reports and found that the effects of BPA exposure were inconclusive. A separate group of scientists felt the HCRA study was too small given the number of studies already done. When reexamining the some 115 separate assessments of BPA exposure conducted in addition to the much smaller samples by the HCRA, the conclusions were drastically different! What was found to be more disturbing was…

“90% (94 of 104) of the studies paid for with government funds reported an effect associated with BPA exposure; not a single one of the 11 corporate funded studies found an effect.”
— Protecting Public Health in the Age of Contested Science and Product Defense, David Michaels, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, pp. 156-157

A New Regulatory Paradigm
The debates, controversies surrounding corporate funding-effects versus independent science, the millions-to-billions of dollars involved, and the risks posed to public health and our environment has created another industry niche that could be termed as Product Manufacturing Defense. In recent years these law and consulting firms have popped up to oppose independent science panels they label as “Private Surgeon Generals.” Here is one such lucrative strategy the firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP in New York, NY advertises and utilizes:

“Private Surgeons General seek to force manufacturers and retailers of food, consumer and household products to post Surgeon General-like warnings, change package labels and advertising and refund hundreds of millions of dollars to unharmed and otherwise perfectly happy consumers who purchased perfectly healthful and untainted products. Why? Because a substance shown in the ingredient list is claimed to be dangerous or a statement in the product advertising or label is claimed to be misleading.”

In the fight to return and maintain the scientific integrity in federal policymaking, the Union of Concerned Scientists published their January 2017 report detailing why more transparency is needed due to past conduct between manufacturers, agencies, science, and their possible bias. No records of gross misconduct are greater, writes the UCS, than what took place during George W. Bush’s administration:

“Bush administration officials manipulated, misrepresented, and suppressed inconvenient data and censored experts. They systematically chose science advisors based on ideology rather than scientific credentials, they prevented federal scientists from sharing their research and expertise, and they rewrote scientific reports to help justify predetermined policy decisions.

The evidence is clear: when policymakers undermine science, the public is left with laws and regulations that leave them exposed to unnecessary danger.”

It is very apparent that some/many industry-related research is not published, or distorted, or delayed until financially-covering alternatives are in place at the expense of health and/or environmental risks and consequences, some irreversible. Government laws and regulations — our referees and umpires of the highest integrity — must be in place for pure independent research and results to be readily accessible. More importantly, to offer the public and our environment parity-protection from well-funded Congressional lobbyists and biased product defense firms, our federal agencies such as OSHA and the EPA must have the best impartial, scientific information available! A two-way street of the funding for the science and possible conflicts of interest encourages transparency and integrity for these agencies to make informed regulatory policy-decisions.

*  If their website no longer has the page up, their exact verbage can be read here: “Adverse event linked to OTC product” pp. 155-156.

Women’s Issues and Rights

In many ways Western civilization has only just departed the Dark Ages concerning women’s necessary place in all of society. The lethargy belongs squarely on two agents: Men and ignorance. For over a millenia, going back to ancient Greece, any mental or emotional “peculiarities” of a woman’s behavior would be diagnosed as hysteria by doctors; and all doctors were male. It was believed the hysteria was caused by a disorderly wandering uterus. This irregular behavior, as the story goes, led to the invention of the vaginal vibrators as treatment! Until the 21st century some of Emily Dickinson’s passionate works were little known, suppressed by men in positions of power:

Female-PMS_Steve-Hanks

Steve Hanks watercolor

“Wild nights — Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a Heart in port –
Done with the Compass –
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight –
In thee!”

Her publisher was horrified and distraught over whether to publish those first four lines due to “social norms” of 1860’s patriarchal puritan America.

By the 1800’s male doctors noticed the time-correlation between “hysteria” and PMS. By the 1900’s male doctors and medical societies were linking menstrual insanity with tuberculosis and sexual molestation. Fortunately, modern medical science has greatly dispelled the myths concerning women’s bodies, but there is a long bumpy road still ahead with respect to eliminating all the ignorance.

Dr. Nancy Tuana reasons that what a group or person knows cannot fully be appreciated unless the unknowns are equally appreciated and who the knowledge or ignorance benefits or handicaps. It is an area that Dr. Tuana says:

“Female sexuality is a particularly fertile area for tracking the intersections of power/knowledge-ignorance. Scientific and commonsense knowledge of female orgasm has a history that provides a rich lens for understanding the importance of explicitly including epistemologies of ignorance alongside our theories of knowledge.”

Dr. Tuana closely examines seven subjects concerning women’s bodies and pleasures for a contemporary understanding:  Epistemologies of Orgasms, Unveiling the Clitoris, Fingering Truth, The Issue of Pleasure, The Either/Or of Women’s Orgasms, Sisterhood Is Powerful, and finally Bodies and Pleasures. As mentioned before, I will let Dr. Tuana do most of the speaking and attempt to single out her key points within the first three areas.

Epistemologies of Orgasms
The 19th century constructed and taught that sex, and women’s bodies and pleasures were a “problem of truth.” Dr. Tuana goes on…

“Can my investigations of the power dimensions of ignorance concerning women’s orgasms not fall prey to a constructed desire for the “truth of sex”?

…The bodies of my attention are those of women; the pleasures those of orgasm. But bodies and pleasures are not outside the history and deployment of sex-desire. Bodies and pleasures will not remove me, the epistemic subject, from the practice of desiring truth. Bodies and pleasures, as [Michel] Foucault well knew, have histories. Indeed the bodies that I trace are material-semiotic interactions of organisms/environments/cultures. Bodies and their pleasures are not natural givens, not even deep down. Nor do I believe in a true female sexuality hidden deep beneath the layers of oppressive socialization. But women’s bodies and pleasures provide a fertile lens for understanding the workings of power/knowledge-ignorance in which we can trace who desires what knowledge; that is, we can glimpse the construction of desire (or lack thereof) for knowledge of women’s sexuality. I also believe that women’s bodies and pleasures can, at this historical moment, be a wellspring for resisting sexual normalization.”

Hence, Dr. Tuana begins with the clitoris.

Unveiling the Clitoris
Remarkably most adults in America, including university campuses, know more about the penis than they do about women’s genitalia and pleasures. In her many years of teaching at Penn State University, when Dr. Tuana has asked her students to sketch a drawing (from memory) of a woman’s internal and external sexual organs they are vague and typically exclude the clitoris.

“This pattern of knowledge-ignorance mirrors a similar pattern in scientific representations of female and male genitalia. Although the role of the clitoris in female sexual satisfaction is scientifically acknowledged, and well-known by most of us, the anatomy and physiology of the clitoris, particularly its beginnings and ends, is still a contested terrain. A brief history of representations of the clitoris provides an interesting initial entry into the epistemology of ignorance.

As I and many other theorists have argued, until the nineteenth century, men’s bodies were believed to be the true form of human biology and the standard against which female structures — bones, brains, and genitalia alike — were to be compared. The clitoris fared no differently. Medical science held the male genitals to be the true form, of which women’s genitals were a colder, interior version.

Even after the “two-sex” model became dominant in the nineteenth century, with its view of the female not as an underdeveloped male but as a second gender with distinctive gender differences, the clitoris got short shrift. It was often rendered a simple nub, which though carefully labeled, was seldom fleshed out or made a focus of attention.”

Not until the 1980’s did women’s health take another grand step forward in medical science. “…the clitoris expanded in size and configuration to include three structures:  the shaft, the glans, and the crura.” Yet, this new expansion still fell short.

“But none of these [medical] texts focuses attention on coming to understand the sexual response patterns of these and other bits. Feminist imagery diverges significantly from nonfeminist in providing us far more detailed views of the impact of sexual stimulation on the glans and crura of the clitoris, as well as the labia majora and the bulbs of the vestibule, the latter of which possess a very extensive blood vessel system that becomes very engorged during arousal, doubling, even tripling in size, we are told, during sexual arousal… The always-found illustrations of male erections… are now accompanied by an illustration of female erections, …something absent in nonfeminist texts. Feminist texts also lovingly detail the other bits that are part of our seat of delight. Reminding us that the clitoris, impressive though it be, is not our only sensitive bit, feminists also provide us with images of the urethral sponge that lies between the front wall of the vagina and the urethra, which expands with blood during sexual arousal… It was this structure that was allegedly “discovered” with Columbus-like gusto (Christopher, this time, not Renaldus) by Ernst Graffenburg and popularized as the “G-spot.” Although a few nonfeminist anatomical illustrations, post-Graffenburg, provide us glimpses of this pleasurable sponge, apparently neither they nor Graffenburg have gotten the hang of the feminist speculum, for they continue to overlook feminist presentations of the other sponge, the perineal sponge located between the vagina and the rectum, which also engorged when a woman is sexually aroused… Pressure on any of these engorged structures can result in pleasure and orgasm.”

Thus, clearly the clitoris and her compliments are far more than a simple nub.

Fingering Truth
How has the clitoris historically and socially remained as a mere nub? Dr. Tuana explains:

“Despite fifteen years of clear illustrations of this [modern] view of clitoral structures, our impact has been surprisingly minimal, at least so far. A review of anatomical illustrations in standard college human sexuality textbooks reveals a surprising lack of attention to the functions and structures of the clitoris. No surprise, then, that my students have, at best, a passing knowledge of the depths and complexity of its structures.

There is a politics of ignorance at work here, one that is linked to the politics of sex and reproduction… There has been little dispute from the Greeks to the present of the importance of male pleasure and ejaculation for conception. In contrast, the question of female seed and the link between it and female pleasure was always a point of controversy… Women’s sexual pleasure came to be seen as inessential to reproduction, although many scholars admitted that it might be useful in promoting the desire for intercourse.

Female2_Steve-Hanks

by Steve Hanks

Now to this view of the functions (or lack thereof) of female erotic pleasure add the politics of sex, namely the view that the only or at least the main function of sex is reproduction. To this view add the politics of female sexuality, namely the tenet common in scientific and popular accounts well into the nineteenth century that women were more lustful than men and that their sexuality was a danger to men, and a path is cleared to an understanding of why clitoral structures get lost in the process. The logic becomes quite clear:  (a) There is not good reason to pay attention to the clitoris, given that it allegedly plays no role in reproduction and that sex is to be studied (only) in order to understand reproduction. (b) Worse, there is good reason to not pay attention to the clitoris lest we stir up a hornet’s nest of stinging desire. From Pandora on, and well into the nineteenth century, women’s stinging desire and limb-gnawing passion had been branded the cause of the fall of mankind. What better reason to construct and maintain an epistemology of ignorance? What better way to disqualify and perhaps even control women’s sexual satisfaction? 

Leaving Sigmund Freud aside for the moment, genitals came under scrutiny during the end of the nineteenth century as science constructed the category of the “invert,” namely, those who mixed with members of their own sex. Evolutionary theory linked the newly “uncovered” sexual identity of the homosexual to degeneracy, and widespread societal fears of the degeneration of the race (that is, the white race) led to broadened support for eugenics movements… Belief in the degeneration of the race led many to believe that so-called inverts were proliferating. Anxiety led to a desire to be able to track such undesirables and an equally strong desire to believe their perversity and devolution would be clearly marked on their bodies… Although through images to be kept only for the eyes of professionals, whose objectivity and dispassionate nature would protect them from corruption, science began to turn its gaze on the structures of the clitoris to seek out and control deviancy.”

From 1935 — 1941 sexual deviancy outside the accepted binary norms was conducted to ‘learn the physical marks‘ of such behavior in order to stop contamination of the white race by other races (see p. 211 here).

“The point here is that this epistemology is not about truth. …What is missing or only sketchily attended to in nonfeminist anatomies, at least when the focus is on the “normal” rather than the “deviant,” is the desire to map the geographies and functions of the clitoris and our other pleasurable bits.

…What I am arguing is that the history of our knowledge-ignorances of the clitoris — indeed, our lived experiences of its beginnings and ends — is part of an embodied discourse and history of bodies and pleasures.”

For the sake of length and my time-constraints, and probably yours too, I am leaving out the next four sections — The Issue of Pleasure, The Either/Or of Women’s Orgasms, Sisterhood Is Powerful, and Bodies and Pleasures — all four of which are well worth the read! If you are interested, here’s the complete version: Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance.

Abortifacients and the Making of More Ignorance

It is as easy as sipping a cup of Pride of Barbados herbal tea and washing herself with the same herb/flower in a morning bath. Doing this shortly after intercourse, according to secret ancient medicine in the Caribbean islands, prevents conception safely and comfortably. In fact, a woman could do this repeatedly two or three days after intercourse accomplishing more assured results. Why has this profound medical knowledge NOT been circulated around the world, especially in European civilizations? That is literally the million-dollar question.

Age of Discovery? 1500 — 1899 
Advances in European maritime navigation and ship-building saw an unprecedented extent of exploration far beyond the continent’s seas between the 1500’s and 1900’s. Empires such as Spain, Portugal, France, and Great Britain were economic competitors and often bitter enemies when the riches of the New Worlds were discovered and calculated. The magnitude of historical influence on the world by just these four maritime empires cannot be overstated — three of the world’s most widely spoken languages today are Spanish, English, and Portuguese. During the Age of Discovery and Exploration humanity witnessed and experienced at the time what might be described as the biggest economic boom in recorded history, for European nobility particularly, followed by a new age of scientific breakthroughs. But not all breakthroughs found in the New Worlds made it back to European headlines. Why?

Women in the Age of Discovery and After

Pride of Barbados flower

Pride of Barbados

Dr. Londa Schiebinger pinpoints a few different reasons:

“…in the eighteenth century, both European science and societies were structured to cultivate certain types of knowledge over others. Funding priorities, global strategies, national policies, structures of scientific institutions, trade patterns, configuration of technologies all pushed investigation toward certain parts of nature and away from others.”

Centuries of European gender politics and mercantile profits were the undercurrents of this knowledge-ignorance. Following were two basic distortions in 18th century botany. Taxonomists like John Ray asked:  What is the uniformity of plants and flora across various continents? It was postulated that Caribbean flowers and plants were brought to the islands by the Tainos of South America and afterwards by the Dutch, Spanish, and English. What botanists failed to observe was crates and sacks of produce awaiting transport in harbors inadvertently collected soil and seeds of other weedy species. Thus, trade routes/winds, their imports/exports, and human mixing/influence caused taxonomists to wrongly conclude that “uniformity” in tropical flora was global rather than diverse according to regions and climates.

Two centuries later famed English botanist, William T. Stearn, along with earlier recorded scientific excursions from several other renown 18th century European botanists corrected this faulty science. Where 17th century science was in favor of profitable trade and commerce, Stearn also noticed European taxonomists then were not as interested or invested in the notion of boring, all the same, un-lucrative uniformity. Highly novel filled the pockets of East and West Indies shipping and commerce.

The second distortion in 18th century botany which fueled cultural ignorance was technology and transcontinental movements. Not until the early 1800’s did European botany more accurately know and understand taxonomies of the New World’s resources as opposed to their own. Voyagers crossing the oceans preferred succulents and bulbs over heavy stones and minerals simply because they’d survive the journey back to Europe; they weighed much less and cost less to transport. These trade conditions didn’t change until ships became larger and faster. However, New World abortifacients like the Pride of Barbados or the peacock flower, was not embraced in Europe even though the knowledge of its use had been known for centuries in indeginous cultures and in select scientific disciplines.

woman-in-bath

Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th century German-born Naturalist and botany-entymologist illustrator, documented that both Amerindians and African slave-women used the abortifacient flower almost exclusively because they did not want their child born into the slave-trade for life. There are several possibilities of the origin of the Pride of Barbados (peacock flower) and its use, but Dr. Schiebinger feels the more likely origin-knowledge is South America:

“The historical record of the peacock flower used as an abortive from Surinam up through the French Antilles to Jamaica suggests that the plant was known to the forebears of the Tainos, the Saladoid peoples, and followed their migration out of South America into the [Caribbean] islands. …While it is possible that displaced Africans taught the Tainos the use of the peacock flower, I find it more likely that the Tainos and Arawaks taught its uses to the newly arrived Africans.”

Despite the fact that so much Amerindian, African, and Caribbean resources and knowledge entered Europe during the Age of Discovery, their knowledge of abortifacients like the peacock flower did not. Again, why? What induced this European ignorance? Dr. Schiebinger explains pre-19th century social-moral legalities:

“Throughout the early modern period, the general consensus was that for legal purposes a woman was not pregnant — not truly with child — until “quickening” or “ensoulment” took place, usually considered to occur near the midpoint of gestation, late in the fourth or early in the fifth month of pregnancy (or according to Aristotle, forty days after conception for a male child and ninety days for a female child). …Even though abortion was legal in this period, it was never undertaken lightly:  moral trepidation and physical danger argued against it.

Cultivating knowledge of West Indian abortifacients in Europe was discouraged by the fact that European colonial enterprises were largely male. The majority of Caribbean planters and slaves were men, as were colonial administrators, naturalists, and physicians. Colonial governors, such as Hendrick van Reede and Philippe de Lonvilliers, chevalier de Poincy (for whom the Poinciana pulcherrima was named), were most interested in medicines to protect traders, planters, and trading company troops, among whom few women were found.

Developing abortifacients or any drugs used predominantly to control fertility also worked directly against the interests of mercantilist states. Mercantilist governments sought to augment the wealth of nations by PRODUCING growing and healthy populations.”

There is simply no other more pleasant way of putting it. Women, in the Age of Discovery, were breeders, meant to bolster the wealth and resources of male nations. For European states and their foreign colonies, abundant population — both slave and citizen — was to increase production of crops and goods. Domestically large populations filled the armies and navies. It generated workers who would pay substantial taxes and rents. In the empire’s colonies it grew negroes that would push and pad the empire’s wealth. The moral issues surrounding abortifacients were just as centered around a company’s and nation’s wealth-accumulation as it was (or less so) seen in God’s eyes and prosperity for “true believers.”

And so the simple, safe, and comfortable remedy for a possible (objectionable? shameful?) conception — drinking an herbal tea of peacock flower and bathing in a warm “peacock floral” bath — went disinterested and/or suppressed throughout an apparently ‘advanced’ European people. How much has changed today in our knowledge-ignorance of safe, simple, ancient and Renaissance abortifacients?

For further information about women’s bodies and pleasure:
OMGYes.com — “See What Science Says About Women’s Pleasure”

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In Part III of Games of Unknowledging, I want to cover the art of Fabricating Facts, the Revelations of Indigenous Fossils and their knowledge-ignorance, as well as gaining a better understanding of the benefits and advantages of thorough Historical-Interdisplinary Hindsight. I hope you’ll join me there with your thoughts and comments.

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Spring Attacks!

Oh the carnage, the humanity, the bio-economy of it all! The constant mating everywhere! The constant devouring everywhere! Does it ever end!?

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Toris Amarrylus

Daughter’s amaryllis ferrari

It was a very mild winter. Many don’t remember winter being so non-existent. Then came the abnormal rainfall. Many Central Texas lakes and rivers had been well below normal water levels for several years due to drought. Not this Spring! Texas endured record flooding across much of the state. That’s the good news and the bad news. If you are an avid gardener or farmer, it’s bad news — the insects normally killed during cold hard freezes in winter, all survived. If you are a bird, a frog, a pond goldfish, a field-mouse, an armadillo, a rabbit, a skunk, a cat, a grey fox, a raccoon, a ring-tail cat, or a white-tailed deer, no winter means TONS of food everywhere! And if you are a birder or Naturalist (me), it is wildness galore and heaven on Earth for you and all creatures! So as it goes… “it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.

 

Our mild winter, our Christmas, and a sign of things to come began with my daughter’s gift of Amaryllis Ferrari. For about two months it constantly flowered with a total of nine blooms throughout the 8-weeks. On a sidenote, my apologies for the substandard quality of my pictures and videos. It’s my LG camera-phone’s fault.

In late March I cranked down the Martin-house in back overlooking the Guadalupe River valley and Kerrville. I cleaned it out in the hope that Purple Martins would move-in before the common Sparrows, like they’ve so often done. For about a week the two bird-breeds fought fiercely over the 12-unit two-story house. As I watched the battling and wing-flapping, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the many times our neighbors complained about my high school rock-metal band practicing in our downstairs garage. It was so loud at times we shook the living room and kitchen floors above us. Upset and not at all proper fans of quality high-fidelity music, Mom and my sister sounded strangely similar to this yelling and screaming…

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

By the end of April and several back-to-back fronts seemingly every 10-12 days bringing more rainfall, the entire property lit up with golds, pinks, yellows, indigos, crimsons, and every possible types of greens and textures imaginable. This year, instead of two sets of lantana camara, we have three sets. And surprisingly, the once strictly yellow-blooms have turned to a mix of pinks and yellows. How is it possible when we did no transplanting? Then it hits me.

 

whitetail-deer-family

The evil, insatiable Odocoileus virginianus.

This outdoor caretaker, this gardener, this beautification security guard (myself), has a few thoughtless nemeses roaming about at night. The most villianest of them all is Odocoileus virginianus and it knows no limit to its diet! If it’s colorful, green, and designed for human admiration and enjoyment, it’s on the menu! But their insatiable appetite is only half their evil doings. While lounging and munching during the moonlit darkness, as I slumber they leave their calling-card… EVERYWHERE! If you walk the lawn with your head up so as not to bang your head on bird feeders or Live Oak branches, then you will certainly step in Odocoileus virginianus evidence, or shit warmly left behind for a morning reminder of who is ultimately in-charge outside. Yet, there’s a silver-lining to these animal bowels:  transplanted lantanas!

Our family’s 12-acre property and ranchita home has a surrounding lush St. Augustine lawn, a waterfall with pond, and many spectacular plants and native herbs  carefully placed and landscaped. Because I have no desire to patrol at the godforsaken midnight, 2:00, or 4:00 a.m hours, I have brilliantly constructed protective cages around our plants or tasty menu items! There is another downside.

Lantana-3Thriving from nature’s touch and my superb care, our stunning plants quickly outgrow my short-sighted fixed protections, sticking through the wiring offering-up their appetizing blooms to my ever-present, always hungry 4-legged nemeses, who then ironically and quite unintentionally shit more flowers for us… sort of. The deer must loiter long enough for full lantana recycling, or mobile intestinal planting. There’s another thinly silver-lined benefit — thinly in the most invisible sense. Excited neighbors mention they now have “wild native” lantana growing in their yard. Hmm, nothing like sharing the bowels of beauty with everyone!

It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times.

white-winged_dovesThey have 4-6 broods a year and are taking over the neighborhood. I speak of the bull-headed pigeon-offshoot, the white-winged doves. Even their newborn offspring begin nesting a few months after leaving their parent’s nest! Eat, nest, eat, shit, lay eggs, eat with bigger flock, mate like it’s going extinct, eat, shit more, lay more eggs, eat more, repeat. Essentially I’ve described the incredibly vigorous head-bobbing life of the white-winged doves. Their cooing sounds like a bunch of yawning bored unintelligent dinner clubbers. We had enough! Time to take action on the other nemeses.

Some wonderful person invented a deterrent called bird-shot for .22-caliber long rifles. The ammo isn’t too powerful — I used it to hit white-tailed deer in the ass when sneaking up to the St. Augustine grass and bird-feeders in daylight until they figured out I meant serious daytime business… until I was in bed in the middle of the night, when the All-You-Can-Eat buffet begins. The sting on their buttocks makes them scatter… far! Oh the pleasure I would receive watching them kick-up their hind legs when the pellets stung. Admittedly, I felt all-powerful, King of this hill and my Kingdom and all who dwelleth within. Here me roar.

Then a magnificent natural event took place.

red-shouldered hawkWhile shooting the bird-shot at the thousands of white-winged doves over running our baths and feeders, I wounded one of them. He or she tried to fly away, but could only hobble hop in the grass. Another ww-dove came out of the tree tops to be with it — its mate? And then as quickly as it came down it flew back up! I thought how odd. Before I could think of why, WOOOSH! From some nearby tree our familiar red-shoulder hawk in seconds swooped down and tackled the wounded ww-dove, pinning it to the ground within its sharp talons! As it sat on top of the dove, our Martins and Swallows dived-bombed the hawk three or four times, the hawk’s head ducking each time, but unrelenting of its catch. A minute or so passed and the gorgeous bird launched, carrying with it the meal for its family.

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.

It wasn’t long before when that hawk took natural liberties upon our soothing well-designed and maintained waterfall and pond complete with leopard frogs and Goldfish. Two years prior we placed four goldfish in the empty pond. Two were male and fully vivid orange. One was a spotted female Koi, the other an all-white albino Koi. Today, we have some 40-50 fish living happily in our pond I maintain daily. See following video…

One early morning as I was sipping my coffee, out of the corner of my eye through our 11-windowed living room I glimpse a huge brown shadow fall from our rooftop into our pond. As I turned to see what it was the red-shouldered hawk flapped its 4-foot wingspan several times on the water surface, then once it snagged its prey it carried off our albino Koi which had grown to 6-inches in length. She was pregnant too because the all-orange males were both mating her with unending voracity the previous week sometimes wedging her against the rocks splashing water in all directions. In fact, all the fish were having orgies everywhere in the pond! When spring sprung, so did all the raging hormones it seems. But our pure-white albino Koi was no more; sushi for the red-shouldered. As the red Claret-cacti flowers in the header image above alludes…

It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times” depending where in the food-chain you exist.

If it weren’t for my 6′ 0″ frame and build, I might be on the menu too. However, before I get to that, allow me to share a few images of how vivid spring has arrived or attacked, along with a cat (Foster) that when outside is constantly twitchy-jumpy from all the overstimulating wildlife 24-hours a day. When it becomes too much, well… you’ll see how he copes:

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Cliff_Swallow

Cat torturer

One of this spring’s entertainment packages enjoyed by Foster-the-cat is the neck bending flybys — looks like torture sometimes — from the new resident cliff swallows nesting in our back porch. They’re a bit anti-social. They do not welcome Foster hanging around. Some days when he wants to lie in stealth around the pond for incognizant leopard frogs sunbathing on the warm rocks, he rudely interrupts the cliff swallow couple! They are trying to make a risk-free mud home atop our music speakers. HAH! They seem to want what everything else is enjoying:  LOVE. It seems to be the trend — to follow suit with all the other rampant mating orgies which proceed from sun up to sun down and beyond! The cat leaps into the air with delusions of grandeur that maybe, just maybe the gods of trajectory and velocity will smile upon him. Foiled! Foiled again! Why can’t I have wings! Perhaps this is the view from Foster’s perspective providing us evolved humans with endless springtime entertainment…

And so to borrow from Dickens with slight modification…

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times,
it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness,
it is clearly the age of birth, death, and near-death!

It is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity,
it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness,
it is the spring of hope, it is the orgy of feasting.
We have everything before us, we have nothing before us,
we are all going direct to Heaven,
we are all going direct the other way–

In short, the cycle was so far cycling,
that some of its noisiest authorities
insisted on its being received,
for good and evil when spring has FULLY sprung!

(paragraph break)

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

(paragraph break)

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Untapped Worlds – Maior Liberatio

Finally! It’s here. The end. The last part! You are welcome to laugh with me, please. I am. Find a lounge chair, this is the last epic(?) post in persnickety. 😉

A Quick Prologue

I am completely aware that this post is over 11,000 words long. It is extensive to say the least. But I’ve written this much because I feel all the points covered are important, no, critical to drive home just how much day-in and day-out we humans miss so much detail, so much little and large bits of intrigue, mystery, and unrealized joy waiting to be seized and experienced. I encourage you to read the entire post. Read it in portions over two or three days, but please complete the entire post. There is likely something new for you that you had never considered which might catapult your existence into an entirely new dimension.

* * * * * * * * * *

danse_macabrePreviously in Untapped Worlds – Retooling I closed with two suggestions. The first was to realize what compersion is and is not, and how we should embody its fullest meaning. Embracing a most expansive form of compersion is critical. The second suggestion plays off the first. While learning exactly what compersion means, open the flood gates of your lifestyle and deathstyle. Yes, you read correctly. Make your life practically inseparable from death! Sounds spooky and insane doesn’t it? Sounds contradictory doesn’t it? Shush! Hold on…

Put aside tendencies to understand death literally. Put aside for a moment the fear and obscurity civilization’s foreboding institutions have trained your brain to “escape” and disengage death. Now let’s ask the question once again, What does it mean to be more human?

Personality

What is personality? How it is formed. Is it set in granite from birth or is it molded throughout stages of life? In my May 2013 post DRD4-7R I shared what geneticists had found as the chemical brain messenger — the 7R variant of DRD4 — linked to curiosity and restlessness found in 20% of the population. This would suggest that a newborn infant comes with a basic blueprint, but one which expands (or retracts) in stages based upon external stimuli or influences, but interpreted by the internal (neurogenetical) reckoning birth-print. Many modern cardiologists and addictionologists would argue not a basic birthprint, but a familial-print or hereditary-print. Religious clergy, rabbis, and imam/ulama most certainly take it much further. They fall on the side of the ‘granite’ birthprint.

The spectrum of personality’s origin and expression probably falls somewhere in between the two extremes of the nomothetic and idiographic schools. Personally, I fall squarely toward the idiographic for two major reasons. One, human conception and gestation lasts only about 9-months. Granted, there is no denying that those genes passed down from approximately 500,000 generations over the last 200,000 years (start of Homo sapiens only), after those 9-months the experiential influences such as culture, social, and situational factors then interact over an average lifespan of 71-years by today’s figures. Two, psychological states such as PTSD clearly and unequivocally reveal just how sweeping an impact external factors effect personality.

As I also covered in Untapped Worlds – An Intro and Departure, the first two parts of the series, the human brain and body are quite malleable by environment and individually reckoned by our neurogenetic familial-print. As science becomes increasingly useful for verifying the Nature of life it shows the human brain and body are less influenced by general or monistic laws of exoteric or esoteric existence. Human personality is significantly formed and moved like a river which to exist requires tributaries, a landscape, a mouth, and its sea or ocean.

Relationships

James G. Ballard. Abraham Lincoln. Or the some thousands listed in the Fathers Hall of Fame at the National Center for Fathering who did or now live and practice intimate intensive relationships nurturing and expanding their domestic responsibilities. There are a cut of men, fathers, who make great mothers. Many of them are single, waking early to make breakfast, drive their kids to school or extracurricular activities, and then in the late afternoon do the same and get them to bed. Repeat in the morning.

I did all the domestic duties for a year-and-a-half with my two children; one 7-years of age at the time, the other our newborn just home from hospital. Those 18-months were without a doubt the most exhausting and fulfilling times of my life. I will never again take for granted what millions of mothers do day in and day out. They never get near as much acclaim as they should.

A Lost History of the Full Household

How many of you men or fathers have managed a household with multiple children? Can you remember those late late nights and wee-morning hours? Sleep? What sleep.

mbuti_families

Mbuti father

Managing a romance and a household is really beyond a full-time job. It is your own small business but with your entire life savings, retirement, prospective growth-plan, budget, and all three areas of personal health invested… for better or worse. Talk about walking the edge, the fine line, it’s more than enough to put many a man into panic mode. Dads of the West Congo, called the Aka Pygmies, know exactly what I’m speaking about. The Arapesh of New Guinea also know. In the African Ituri the Mbuti are superb fathers. In Tahiti women can be chiefs of their entire tribe! What we industrialized workaholic Westerners see as primitive, they share all responsibilities of child-rearing and parenting equally; right down the middle. In some cases the fathers happily do more! In these “primitive” cultures, sharing domestic duties are not determined by biology or gender. That is a foreign concept. Their dynamic lives are full of everything humanly possible. Parenting and romance to them are embraced art forms in the same context and pragmatism as their neighboring animal counterparts. Long ago the peoples of the Western hemisphere had the same setups. But three major events changed the family households for centuries to come.

The industrial revolution was the first culprit of the household’s demise. In a mechanized civilization long setup to serve/benefit the males, the Western nations would soon see the wide-ranging consequences of fatherless households.  The other contributing events were birth-control and rightly so Feminism. With these three changes came a complete revamping of Western families. But recently slight changes have started a small return to our specie’s natural equal roles. In Sweden fathers get 1-year off for paternity leave, unpaid. Though only around 14% of the leave is actually used, it is a percentage that is slowly growing.

Expanding and returning a man’s domestic roles are required. In those parts of the post-Industrial Revolution world like the U.S., it is more dire given our domestic violence, criminal, divorce, and homeless statistics. Since the early 19th century overhaul of the old traditional households, returning the husband/father back home seems today like an Untapped World.

Family Conversations

How many elderly people have you heard reminiscing of lost family dinners and family time together? How many people do you know, myself included, that enjoy and look forward to family meals of an hour or more? What about for family reunions?

Family on smart phonesIn our American culture of convenience, declining motion due to pay-others-to-do-it, and less patience for perceived problems, have we lost the benefits of friction-to-resolution which leads to a growing art of deeper adaptable conversation and understanding? Family conflicts are rarely solved unless people learn to talk WITH one another not at, and investing the necessary time and energy to do so. But how accurate are our great grandparents memories of a family closeness gone by?

Lost family time is probably a figment of the imagination by earlier generations. Before or after the industrial revolution, birth-control, and Feminism three historical barriers kept families detached:

  1. Segregation. From Socratic Greece to Europe’s Black Death and industrialization, to the Nuer of East Africa or the Baikairi of Amazon, one’s age and gender determined what you could or couldn’t do with the men and family.
  2. Silence. Foreign visitors to Elizabethan England, Beatrice Gottlieb writes, were silent occasions. Italian etiquette dictated that ‘talk is not for the table, but for the piazza.’ And the Rule of St. Benedict taught ‘days are to be spent in silent prayer, avoiding evil words and conduct’, and family meals were for listening to Scripture readings in reverence of God, not idle talk. The same reverent silence was found among Quakers and Buddhists of the time.
  3. Emotional repression. By the 18th century the social norm of European conversation was one of intellect and wit turned into an eloquent social art to be displayed. One’s plumes could be presented in such coffeehouses where educated MEN could gather and match their show with colleagues about politics, business, art, literature, and current science. One such example was Turk’s Head Tavern, Soho, where women and children were strictly prohibited.

If 18th century social conversation was about cerebral edification for the men, the 19th century was about hidden emotions scratching, clawing, and pushing out the nails and hinges of their locked basement doors. There is much irony found in the title-given period:  the Romantic Movement. Though we find glimmers of primal passion in the poetry of Coleridge and Keats, for example, open displays of affection and emotions by men were reserved for paper only. Expressions of such raw instincts was considered irrational and a lack of masculinity! This was absolutely the case at home during family dinners at the table. All topics and conversation were lead and managed by the man of the house. The childhood and life of John Stuart Mill is a sad ‘family’ testimony of the repressed Victorian Era represented by his father.

Expanding Sympathy into Deep Empathy

Many might feel the Golden Rule catches the essence of empathy:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Though it is a popular notion, it is not concentrated properly. It centers on you — your own experience, your own subjective views — and thus how you feel you should be treated apart from a wider general view or consensus. The Golden Rule falls quite short. Empathy requires much more. It requires putting yourself into their life, their shoes, and metaphorically (or literally?) walking in them 100-miles.

Claiborne Paul Ellis (aka C.P. Ellis) was born into an impoverished North Carolina white family in 1927. His father was a white supremacist and active member of the Ku Klux Klan. C.P. inherited all of his father’s world-views and like Adolf Hitler hated all Jews, C.P. blamed all blacks for his socio-economic and occupational woes, indirectly the birth of his own youngest son born blind and mentally impaired, and finally despised the civil rights movement all throughout the South and his native state. When a $78,000 federal grant was given to North Carolina to aid in public school desegregation, as acting president of Durham County’s KKK chapter C.P. was asked how to spend it. Ironically Ellis was elected a member of that committee along with civil right activist Ann Atwater. What followed is nothing short of spectacular:

Because of a simple 10-days long collaboration at the same table as your “hated enemy”, your entire world-view and life can be overturned and done with the most incredible benefits:  spending quality-quantity time with other humans, especially those very different than you, and a lifelong friendship begun. C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater are proof that truer unabridged empathy unites.

Love and Compersion

A historically conservative United States as well as some similar nation-cultures have a general and quite limited notion of love and how it can be more fully received and expressed. The ancient Greeks had no such constraints but one. They recognized at least six varieties of love. Roman Krznaric, an author, cultural philosopher, professor of sociology and politics at Cambridge University and City University, London, and advisor to the United Nations on using empathy and conversation to create social change, describes these six Greek forms of love — notice the difference of Athenian eros versus modern notions of love or romance:

  1. Eros – The first kind of love was eros, named after the Greek god of fertility, and represented the idea of sexual passion and desire. But the Greeks didn’t always think of it as something positive, as we tend to today. In fact, eros was viewed as a dangerous, fiery and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and possess you — an attitude shared by many later spiritual thinkers, such as the Christian writer C.S. Lewis. Eros involved a loss of control that frightened the Greeks. Which is odd, because losing control is precisely what many people now seek in a relationship. Don’t we all hope to fall “madly” in love?
  2. Philia – The second variety of love was philia or friendship, which the Greeks valued far more than the base sexuality of eros. Philia concerned the deep comradely friendship that developed between brothers in arms who had fought side by side on the battlefield. It was about showing loyalty to your friends, sacrificing for them, as well as sharing your emotions with them. (Another kind of philia, sometimes called storge, embodied the love between parents and their children.) We can all ask ourselves how much of this comradely philia love we have in our lives. It’s an important question in an age when we attempt to amass “friends” on Facebook or ‘followers’ on Twitter — achievements that would have hardly impressed the Greeks.
  3. Ludus – This was the Greek’s idea of playful love, which referred to the playful affection between children or young lovers. We’ve all had a taste of it in the flirting and teasing in the early stages of a relationship. But we also live out our ludus when we sit around in a bar bantering and laughing with friends, or when we go out dancing. Dancing with strangers may be the ultimate ludic activity, almost a playful substitute for sex itself. Social norms frown on this kind of adult playful frivolity, but a little more ludus might be just what we need to spice up our love lives.
  4. Agape – The fourth love, and perhaps the most radical, was agape or selfless love. This was a love that you extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. Agape was later translated into Latin as caritas, which is the origin of our word charity. Lewis referred to it as “gift love,” the highest form of Christian love. But it also appears in other religious traditions, such as the idea of mettā or “universal loving kindness” in Theravāda Buddhism. There is growing evidence that agape is in a dangerous decline in many countries. Empathy levels in the U.S. have dropped nearly 50 percent over the past 40 years, with the steepest fall occurring in the past decade. We urgently need to revive our capacity to care about strangers.
  5. Pragma – Another Greek love was pragma or mature love. This was the deep understanding that developed between long-married couples. It was about making compromises to help the relationship work over time, and showing patience and tolerance. The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said that we expend too much energy on “falling in love” and need to learn more how to “stand in love.” Pragma is precisely about standing in love — making an effort to give love rather than just receive it. With divorce rates currently running at 50 percent, the Greeks would surely think we should bring a serious dose of pragma into our relationships.
  6. Philautia – The final variety of love was philautia or self-love. The clever Greeks realized there were two types. One was an unhealthy variety associated with narcissism, where you became self-obsessed, and focused on gaining personal fame and fortune. A healthier version of philautia enhanced your wider capacity to love. The idea was that if you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of love to give others (today this is reflected in the Buddhist-inspired concept of “self-compassion”). Or as Aristotle put it, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of man’s feelings for himself.”
And that is compersion.

And that is compersion.

What struck me the most about the Greek’s emotional diversity was they sought it, embraced it, and refined it in its many forms with a wide-range of people, not just one. They extended it to friends, colleagues, immediate and extended family, spouses, lovers, strangers, and equally to themselves! Krznaric goes on to explain that this approach to human connection would be practically unrecognizable in today’s social circles — or relentlessly chastised for its pluralism and depth. The ancient Greeks would be shocked by our extreme narrow-mindedness and ideals.

Another modern extension of the Greek philia love (or pseudo-storge?) is the little known form of compersion. This love-form also combines possible sexual (eros) and/or emotional joy (philia) discovered outside a traditional binary monogamous commitment, but the compersive joy is experienced by the Giver or the one not literally participating within the outside relationship of their partner/spouse. The Urban Dictionary gives an excellent commentary stating:

“Compersion can be thought of as the opposite of “jealousy;” it is a positive emotional reaction to a loved one’s other relationship. It is analogous to the feeling of joy a parent feels when their children marry or that best friends feel for each other when they are happy in a romantic relationship.”

Personally, I have experienced this form of love numerous times not only with my own children, but with several of my partners and a spouse. The deepest impact it had for me was not just the pleasure and joy I had watching mesmerized by her unfiltered primal passions lost in the moment, but also how profoundly gracious she was for my comfortable willingness to indirectly enjoy it with her. “I have never known” she described “that level, that form of liberation — without any shame or fear — or deeper sharing-companionship with any man!” She fell into the soft couch as if all her breath was taken while melting in pure bliss and awe how much I loved seeing her so happy. This deeper love was ‘returned’ to me several times as well, and she raved about how pleasurable it was for her. That wasn’t all either. We both learned other aspects of each other we may have NEVER discovered on our own, together as a closed-off couple. What followed for us was the strongest trust and bond either had ever experienced. Gone was one social-romantic stigma neither of us had to fear anymore.

Yes indeed, a fictitous dragon was slain. A previously unchartered Untapped World now tapped.

Living vs. Alive

Time

Should an extraterrestrial scientist decide to study the human species and our daily routines, it would quickly realize that a few similar mechanized devices were the cornerstone of our organization. Case and point, the Lilliputians examining Gulliver:

“Out of the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of engine at the bottom. We directed him to draw out whatever was at the end of that chain; which appeared to be a globe, half silver, and half of some transparent metal; for, on the transparent side, we saw certain strange figures circularly drawn, and thought we could touch them, till we found our fingers stopped by the lucid substance. He put this engine into our ears, which made an incessant noise, like that of a water-mill: and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion, because he assured us, (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did any thing without consulting it. He called it his oracle, and said, it pointed out the time for every action of his life.” — Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

We are indeed slaves to insufficient time! Our clocks, watches, cell phones, are all idols of religious worship or talismans to scare away Chronos and all his hungry minions! Working mothers in the West are perhaps the epitome of daily famines of time. Can you blame them as the father’s are away obsessing of gaining “more”? Time has become tyrannical in the U.S. and losing to it is a most sensitive and shaming fear.

You may be surprised how time lives in your language. ‘Time is money. Give me a moment of your time. Living on borrowed time. My time is my own. Take time off. It’s time to move on. What time is it? How much time do you need?’ Time has become a commodity; something to barter with to own or give. How ridiculously ego-centric to think we have ANY sort of time-management control over a cosmological force which is completely immune to our petty desires.

In western Texas near the town of Van Horn, writer Stewart Brand and musician Brian Eno founded The Long Now Foundation. They are two of many behind the constructions of prototype clocks and the final 10,000-year clock in Ely, Nevada. The concept and proposed paradigm shift offers “In a world of hurry,” explains Brand, “the Clock is a patience machine.” Its long slow bongs ring out only once every thousand years.

Since the Industrial Revolution humankind has been appallingly obsessed with minutes and seconds, the hear-and-now, and ‘Friday evening can’t arrive soon enough!’ The Long Now Foundation and Clock encourages our caffeinated species to bring it down several notches, to thinking bigger and broader in much longer terms, thus being more responsible and implementing an attitude against our environmental ravaging.

Put on a 10,000-year watch and think about the next time its chime resounds from your wrist. What will your home look like then? Hmm, another Untapped World timeframe to explore! Are you simply living day-to-day, week-to-week or are you alive inside these 1,000 years? Both worlds are completely compatible.

Work

If you had been born in the Dark or Middle Ages, in all likelihood you would not have been a noble prince, princess, a knight with full armour with Clydesdale underneath, or a Lady-in-waiting. Despite our civil-social evolutions into the modern era from fate and family necessity to freedom and choice with our labors and spouses, there are still obstacles for some who do not enjoy a robust life in the 21st century.

In today’s labor markets it can often feel as if your duties and performance merely contribute toward the success, status, and wealth of a few owners, shareholders, or top executives. In most free-world economies this isn’t far from the truth. Losing one’s sense of purpose, much less finding one, has some devastating effects. How might purpose be protected and cultivated? How might losing it or neglecting it be avoided? Here are four ideas…

  1. Value – Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.Albert Schweitzer understood exactly what that meant. After gaining many accolades in philosophy, theology, and music, Schweitzer’s life and social status were set and waiting. Instead of a life of comfort, luxury, and popularity, at the age of 38 he founded a hospital in French Equatorial Africa. He died there doing what he loved best:  attending to other’s needs. “Even if it is a little thing,” he said, “do something for those who have need of man’s help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.” In medieval times or centuries after, doing such things would have required your holiest vows to make such work and values coincide. Not today.
  2. Calling – While in the Nazi camps Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Dachau between 1942 and 1945, Viktor Frankl learns firsthand the meaning of life. He notes that between prisoners with a vigorous nature for the present do not survive as well as those less hardy but with an unfinished calling beyond the walled fences of barbed wire. On one such prisoner he wrote was an accomplished scientist who had not yet completed writing a series of books before the war started and his arrest. This author/scientist realized no one else could finish his work and write it correctly — he had to stay alive. He knew his calling and it was not dying in the concentration camps.
  3. Respect – if there is anything in today’s rat-race that rivals wealth/money, it is surely recognition. Simply watch a live news interview, TV sporting events, or a tourist recording a trip to a landmark, and you’ll witness the popular act of “bomber-invasion” from random strangers wanting to be seen. It seems to be human nature to achieve some level of status, good or bad in some cases. Deeper respect and admiration are found through meaningful thriving human relationships. They are not found in corporate cubicles or on a factory-line as a cog-in-the-wheel where no human interaction exists. And real respect is rarely found within the mega-efficient lean-staffed corporations of 500-800+ employees spread out over 20-acres, or many sky-high floors, or regional-global offices unless the owner(s) strive and spend their “pocket-change” to make those intimate employee off-the-clock activities between coworkers and supervisors happen on a regular basis.
  4. Talents – What does it mean to be a High-achiever rather than a Wide-achiever? One is extremely specialized and educated in one or two specific areas. The other is a craftsperson, a jack-of-all-trades capable of beginning a project, completing every phase, and finishing it all with little or no outside assistance. Diversity, or what financial investors term spreading out your risks or hedging your bets. From the 2014 film Interstellar, a 2-minute clip about the need for a diversity of talents:

    Become a virtuoso like Leonardo De Vinci was of many fields transferring your natural and learned talents across a labors of love spectrum. Be a generalist happy to learn more in order to do more for others.

Job with Spirit – Everyone has a spirit, a youthful zeal just waiting to come out and play or work. But due to social occupational fears and low self-confidence, that enthusiasm rarely gets released, at least in public and at work. Why? Why must your spirit be left at home or for private enjoyment only? The days of feudalism and medieval strictures are long gone! Overcome those fears. Gain more self-confidence. Start or expand a new Renaissance! “Fear stifles, courage fulfills.” Tap into your youthful creative energy, that Wide-achiever and simply smile at naysayers as you pass them by. In fact, invite them to come along!

Our Natural World

Perceiving

In the first two parts of this series we explored how our brain imperfectly perceives our surroundings and others. Though our many senses — the organisms that feed our cerebral organ for interpretation and organizing — accurately pick up the details around us, but unfortunately the brain can create in various degrees a distorted reality. This happens more often than not.

The Myth of Five
To say our bodies have five senses does not do justice to how incredibly complex our body’s sensors really are and how ‘sensitive’ they should be in picking up information. Though neuroscience is still in its adolescence, many neuroscientists assert there are at least 12-14 different sensors and possibly up to twenty. A quick rundown:

  1. Light sensors in the eyes; 2 types:  rods and cones for intensity of light stimuli.
  2. Sound sensors in the inner ear.
  3. Orientation-Gravity sensors for your sense of balance.
  4. Nerve sensors in your skin:  heat, cold, pain, itch and pressure.
  5. Chemical sensors in the nose for different odours.
  6. Chemical receptors in the tongue for taste.
  7. Muscle & Joint sensors telling the brain about motion and muscle tension.
  8. Bladder, Intestinal & Colon sensors to inform the brain it is time to urinate, when you’re full, and when to excrete.
  9. Hunger & Thirst sensors indicating those needs.
  10. Various body sensations tell the brain when one of your legs have fallen asleep — a lack of proper blood circulation, for example. When your about to sneeze is another.

There are many people which have extra-sensory perceptions like sensing approaching weather changes, or psychic abilities such as clairvoyance, mediumship, precognition, or remote viewing that many law-enforcement increasingly use to solve otherwise unsolvable cases.

“Failing to nurture our senses not only detracts from our appreciation of the subtleties and beauties of everyday experience, but also strips away layers of meaning from our lives. Yet curing ourselves of sensory deprivation is not, as you might expect, about indulging in luxuries like dining on truffles or locking ourselves in a dark room and listening to a Beethoven symphony at full volume, exhilarating though this may be. It is much more about gaining a deeper understanding of how our various senses have come to shape, filter and even distort our interactions with the world — and also how culture has moulded our sensory experiences.” — How Should We Live?, Roman Krznaric.

Becoming more acutely aware of these additional sensory systems is the start to a more enhanced human experience. Yoga or juggling on one leg can refine the equilibrioceptors. Having someone pinch you, bind you, or spank you can refine the nociceptors. Varying temperatures like a cool bath/pool followed by a hot tub then repeat, refines the thermoceptors. Closing the eyes or being blindfolded while moving refines the proprioceptors. Embracing and expanding ALL of the human senses only widens and deepens one’s awareness and full interaction with this spectacular world! Tap deeper into it.

Eyesight’s Enslavement
Over the last 5-6 centuries the visual cortex has become the dominant and largest sensory bank in our brains. “We have fallen into a sensory decline” says author and cultural historian of the senses Constance Classen. And it might be worse than imagined.

improve-visionEverywhere around us is non-stop visual bombardment. Mass advertising relies heavily on imagery — television, billboards becoming increasingly eye-catching and illuminated at night, websites are packed with pics and motion — more than any other medium. And our cell phones? Almost all iPhones and Androids are graphically interactive. In supermarkets produce is a kaleidoscope of vivid colors (genetically?) designed to please the eyes. Wealth and status are paraded by glitzy high-end vehicles, lavish large homes, and landscaping rivaling the Château Versailles. We often judge people by their appearance, facial features, the shape of their body, or the clothes they wear. As the popular diction goes ‘love at first sight’ represents how our English language is pervaded by visual idioms. How often do you hear ‘love at first sniff’ or ‘love at first honk/blast’? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, look before you leap, a sight for sore eyes, and seeing is believing are all common jargon. Vacations today are incomplete without an album of photos or phone video-clips. We now swim in a world largely governed by surface appearances.

What happened to the nose and ears? How can we return them to their natural equality with the eyes? One quick easy way is to close our eyes…more! Keep them closed for extended periods of time. Doing this on a consistent basis forces us to heighten the ears, tongue, nose, and other sensors and receptors. Return to the days of the 14th and 15th centuries when spices, perfumes and pomanders prevailed every day. Sitting in an arboretum or botanical garden, eyes closed, and breath long breaths picking out all possible aromas. If it is outdoors and secluded from noisy traffic and commotion, listen for every tiny insect or bird that sings. If you must, blindfold yourself or your companion to really absorb everything around you which isn’t visual. Do it for much more than 10 or 15 minutes; more like a half-hour or hour to genuinely tap into a world we too often ignore, take for granted, and eventually lose.

Darkness
The remarkable, mysterious, and later refuted tale of Kaspar Hauser, the imprisoned German boy deprived of any light in a dark 2-meter by 1-meter cell most his childhood, and the narrative of Helen Keller — blind and deaf her entire life since almost 2-years old — can both teach us about how acutely compensating the other human senses develop when one is denied or deprived of sight or sound.

In a post several months ago I shared the rising popularity of new restaurants serving in complete darkness. Here are Restaurant.com’s top 10 establishments for pitch black dining enhancing the body’s other multiple sensory receptors! Tap into their little world of alternate sensor-ramas! If you don’t live near these major cities, check for local or nearby 3-star (or higher) restaurants that might host the event once or twice a year.

Travel & Cultures

When you leave home for a long week or extended vacation, do you go looking to deepen your soul or suntan and gift baskets? The Roman poet Horace warns against merely getting from point A to B:  “They change their climate, not their soul, who rush across the sea.” Visiting strange lands and its inhabitants should be the fullest experience possible, not just tolerated until B then back again to A. What are four methods of being a cultured traveler?

Tourist
Prior to the mid-19th century very few people had the means or luxury to travel beyond their region, much less their country or crossing oceans to far away continents. Tourism didn’t explode into a thriving market until the last third of the 19th century as the middle class began earning enough money for railway passenger trains and ocean liners. As this market began entrepreneurs like Karl Baedeker and Thomas Cook (of Thomas Cook & Son) stepped in to capitalize but with very contrasting ideas of travel. The former published step-by-step sequentially numbered tour guidebooks of exactly what to visit at what precise time. The latter, however, organized packaged trips to find literal sojourns to God with the assistance of pious ministers, pseudo-sabbaticals if you will.

Packaged tourism today with a tour guide isn’t much different. Visiting famous landmarks, museums, festivals, beachfront resorts, or hotels in mountain tops, are quite popular vacations. When you travel though what do you do? Follow an airtight itinerary by guidebook or tour group, or do you discover the human landscape, the human story behind and within the landmarks, museums, and inanimate objects in your camera?

There are living monuments not only in foreign lands, but just as well in your own backyard and hometown! Grand hotels should have as a standard feature open nurseries and playground where children of guests interact with native children while parents converse sharing family and cultural stories at nearby benches and tables. In Denmark and followed later in the U.K. social activists came up with an ingenious project in 2000 called Human Libraries where actual people share a story of their life from personal experience to a guest/visitor. The guest then interacts with the storyteller breaking down prejudices and other barriers that typically divide, cause unfounded fears, and subsequent fabricated contempt. Tap into the experience of being a living library for visitors.

Pilgrim
Pilgrims are perhaps the original traveler. The word travel is derived from “travail” which means to suffer or toil without much relief, conveniences or luxury. Matsuo Bashō and Satish Kumar are two perfect examples of pilgrimages. Both men set out on walking journeys without consideration of provisions, possible relief, or shelter. They began with just three destinations:  deep significant self-meaning, very challenging, and cultivate the Wander spirit. In other words, find the roots of yourself as well as the journey’s and destination’s. Find the tiniest details of life and the world around you which are too often lost in convenient rapid travel. Have no strict dates or times. And do not obsess about arrival; find the art of living, not motion! Tap into the world of a pilgrimage.

Nomad
When you think of nomads how would you describe them? One popular image are the Bedouins of the Syrian and Arabian deserts prior to the 20th century. They were known to be traveling camel and goat herders across vast regions of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, to the Middle East covering 21 various countries. In today’s highly urbanized and flourishing societies, these nomadic cultures are slowly being swallowed up by encroaching civilization. How then might we experience in the 21st century what is meant by gypsy or nomadic living according to necessity like the Bedouins? What might be the closest thing to Bedouin life?

wild-movie-wallpaperIt isn’t RV’ing like many retirees do trekking across the continent from national park to national park with all the amenities of a fully furnished 45-foot or larger $200,000 Class A motorhome. It isn’t even staying in a luxurious 3-room log-cabin with massive kitchen and hot-tub/sauna. No, the closest thing today to gypsy nomadic life is basic camping. In other words, throwing a light tent onto your large backpack and hiking to isolated locations camping for a week or two with friends or your tribe; living IN and with the land without your iPod, hairdryer, and television. All you need are what nomads and gypsies had over 100-years ago:  some food, matches or fire-starter kit, a knife, and wet-weather gear. Everything else you might need find in or on the land. At night, have your fire going and gaze above, listen to every single sound, and smell the Earth around you — and perhaps your fellow hikers too (wink). Simplicity is the essence of the gypsy-nomadic experience. Tap into the simple world of basic camping.

Explorer
As a young boy I was spellbound by the stories and travels of the 13th century Venetian explorer Marco Polo along with his father Niccolò and uncle Maffeo. The vivid details of all their stops and their encounters with diverse peoples and cultures utterly captivated my imagination. The Travels of Marco Polo was not like the other romanticized tales of Columbus, Magellan, or Drake that we learned in school. It didn’t take too much reasoning to realize that most of the textbook stories of the Age of Exploration and Colonialization were simply about exploitation laced with racism. None of the 15th to 18th century world Empires had the least bit interest in being taught or enlightened. Neither should our modern desires to explore reflect the Age of Exploitation.

Instead, modern exploration should be derailing ourselves from local daily routine. This can be just as easily accomplished in a 10-mile radius as it can transcontinentally. The power of existential exploration — going without a specific destination — is a strange mix of certainty and uncertainty. Going but not knowing where. You feel compelled to leave the past (and its knowledge) behind, but in not knowing the destination you remain open to embrace other ways of living, thinking, and interacting beyond anything you could’ve possibly imagined. Ask yourself, how many world cultures have you experienced firsthand? Did you know that according to UNESCO World Heritage List there are over 800 cultural sites/regions around the world? Forty-eight of them are endangered of becoming extinct.

Jump off the ordinary vacation of “time off” and sit or walk firmly with time on travels tapping into the world and journey of the intrinsic and extrinsic explorer!

Nature

In the January 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine journalist Florence Williams wrote her article This Is Your Brain on Nature. The magazine issue and Williams’ article complimented the Jan. 10th Explorer television episode Call Of the Wild on the NatGeo Channel.

“Nature nurtures us. It boosts our mood too. According to the attention restoration theory, spending time in nature relieves the stress and mental fatigue caused by the ‘directed attention’ that work and city life require.

Directed Attention is the ability to voluntarily focus attention and ignore distractions crucial to solving problems and completing tasks. But modern life sometimes requires more of this resource than we have — and once it’s depleted, prolonged and concentrated effort leads to mental fatigue, loss of effectiveness, and stress.

Involuntary Attention is attending to the stimuli in peaceful, natural environments — trees, flowing water, mountain shadows — is a different type of experience. It doesn’t require a prolonged effort or an act of will to avoid distractions. Researchers say this kind of focus allows the brain to disengage and restore its capacity for directed attention.”

Williams continues stating that nature improves human creativity by up to 50% and every walk through a park and forest decreases stress hormones by as much as 16%. What does this tell us about too much hectic civilization? After all, aren’t we humans part of Nature since that is exactly where we originated? Is it any wonder that research studies are finding that human mortality rates are indirectly connected to an area’s forestation or trees? Millions of years ago they were literally our homes.

“In a ‘forest kindergarten’ in Langnau am Albis, a suburb of Zurich, Switzerland, children spend most of the school day in the woods, regardless of weather. They learn whittling, fire starting, and denbuilding; they’re able to explore. Supporters say such schools foster self-confidence and an independent spirit.”

Sounds very much like another school in England founded by A.S. Neill doesn’t it?

How should we view Nature today? Is it friend or foe? It wasn’t so long ago that humankind decidedly viewed it as foe. Throughout the Middle Ages, particularly in Northern Europe, the outside world was seen as owned by Darkness, very feared, and home to all sorts of hungry wild beasts, evil spirits, ogres and trolls. In Anglo-Saxon folklore like Beowulf, nature clearly was menacing and completely opposed to human happiness. J.R.R. Tolkien picked up that legacy in the 20th century with stories of hobbits being petrified if passing through the haunted Fangorn Forest or eery Mirkwood. Our words savage and panic are derived from these ancient and Medieval imagery:  savage is from silva, meaning a wood; panic comes from the Greeks’ fear of encountering Pan, the half-man, half-goat Lord of the forests. When William Bradford — a conservative Separatist from Plymouth, England and the Church of England — first landed at Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1620 he described his impressions of the scene as a “hideous and desolate wilderness.” In many parts of 17th century Europe mountains were criticized as deformities, warts, boils and monstrous excrescences, likely due to the harshness to cultivate. It wasn’t until the Romantic Movement that this view of nature significantly changed and it became no longer foe, but friend. And more than just friend.

Our Biosphere, Biodiversity, and Biophilia and the Ecological Self
In the previous Untapped Worlds I introduced Harvard sociobiologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson. I was particularly intrigued by his definition of eusociality. But the social human side of Nature is only part of the story.

For more than 3-million years we have lived and survived in an intricately connected environment. Tibetan Sherpas and Buddhist lamas say that we and all living things on this planet are always touching like smoke reaches everywhere in the wind. They would be absolutely correct. Every second of our lives we touch unseen elements and forces like the air we breath, the sound waves to our eardrums, and the traveling light-photons our retinas pick up. We are therefore very vital, integral, active parts of our biosphere. Whether we grasp this reality or not, we are effecting Nature even when we are not literally out in Nature. At any given time every single day we directly and indirectly influence our lithosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. Think about that impact for a moment. If you think your wood and brick home is ‘your home,’ think again.

Biodiversity isn’t just the categorization of living species on Earth. We must distinguish between genetic biodiversity and ecological biodiversity:

Genetic Biodiversity is the variation in genes that exists within a species. A helpful way to understand genetic diversity is to think about dogs. All dogs are part of the same species, but their genes can dictate whether they are Chihuahua or a Great Dane. There can be a lot of variation in genes – just think about all the colors, sizes, and shapes that make up the genetic diversity of dogs.

Ecological Biodiversity is the diversity of ecosystems, natural communities and habitats. In essence, it’s the variety of ways that species interact with each other and their environment. The forests of Maine differ from the forests of Colorado by the types of species found in both ecosystems, as well as the temperature and rainfall. These two seemingly similar ecosystems have a lot of differences that make them both special.”

How important are every single genetic and ecological systems we live within? For starters the National Wildlife Federation lists these six reasons:

  1. Foods and materials to live healthy and happy. Without the diversity of pollinators, plants, and soils, our supermarkets would have a lot less produce.
  2. Medicinal uses. Research into plant and animal genetics and biology have allowed humans to live extended lives and cure diseases. Every time a species goes extinct our genetic diversity is lost, we will never know whether research would have given us a new vaccine or drug.
  3. Ecological services. Biodiversity enables the cleaning of water and absorbing of chemicals, which wetlands do, to providing oxygen for us to breathe — one of the many things that plants do for everyone.
  4. Ecosystem rebalancing. If given enough time, adjusting to eco-disturbances allows for ecosystems to adjust to interferences like extreme fires and floods.  If a reptile species goes extinct, a forest with 20 other reptiles is likely to adapt better than another forest with only one reptile.
  5. With genetic diversity disease prevention is more successful. This allows species to adjust to changes in their environment.
  6. Sheer wonderment and intrigue. There are few things as beautiful and inspiring as the vast diversity of life — between 3-30 million species, possibly over 100-million — that exists on Earth. And that diversity is constantly changing.
green-desk-biophilic-designs

Biophilic office space

Biophilia is a term and concept that E.O. Wilson popularized in the 1980’s. Earlier I was mentioning a few facts about how much Nature reduces stress hormones and significantly increases human creativity. Because we humans inherently enjoy the diversity of natural life, this is called biophilia. If we as a species do not become much more aware, educated, and a responsible part of Nature’s delicate interacting systems, we will permanently cut our and our descendant’s virtual umbilical cord to life. Period. It is (way?) past due that everyone become a scientist, a member of the Biophilia Foundation, a Naturalist that cares deeply about a quality life today and for our children, grandchildren, and the human species.

The real possibility that Nature could end should move us away from a high-carbon consumerist ethos and closer to a sustainable intimate ecological relationship with our fragile world. Tap into the many varieties of a low-carbon lifestyle and become a Conservationist rather than a programmed Consumerist.

Conventions and Baggage

In the scientific world, especially Quantum Physics, it is often said that the only thing that is permanent is impermanence. Fighting or denying this law is futile. Embracing it and working within it brings liberation and contentment. Progress is achieved by movement. Stagnation is achieved by an accumulation of heavy baggage. History has repeatedly shown that breaking away from antiquated socio-economic and religious norms begins small until it grows into an inevitable movement with sweeping change and enlightenment. But the overhaul and liberation cannot start without a few courageous movers and shakers; the “radicals” if you will.

What You Trust

Hand-me-Downs
When you purchase a computer or laptop, it typically comes preloaded with the newest MS Windows operating system, all the many drivers to run various external devices, programs to do office work, Norton or McAfee protection, perhaps Netflix for movies and TV shows, and also personal duties like online banking, perhaps home security and monitoring, and a few games that you and the family enjoy. Basically the computer/laptop is setup to hit the ground running moments after booting up. Seconds after birth the human brain is not setup to immediately perform adult tasks; not in the least.

The human operating system, the brain and neurology, are gradually programmed in through our 10-14 receptors over the span of about two decades. This is not to say that we are prenatally blank. We do receive a very basic genetic coding, a few simple sequences of 1’s and 0’s if you will, that give our bodies the necessary information to stay alive — or attempt to — with the mandatory help of our mother and (perhaps?) father.

The implications of these pre-natal facts are probably far more reaching than one realizes. It means that during those first years we learn an emotional risk-reward protocol; this behavior results in that reward or consequence. In the latter portion of those two decades based upon our parental, familial, and community, we develop the core of our beliefs on religion, nationalism — perhaps monarchy in certain countries — our young opinions, politics, various mechanisms of emotional relationships, and depending completely on our birthplace and the influences during the first two decades we develop how we “fit in” this world. Much of what we think are truths are simply shaped by our first 10-20 years.

To say it more poignantly, religious, political, and social beliefs are largely an accident of birth, geography, and history. There are degrees of “truth” scattered throughout those three accidents.

Facts and Impermanence
All throughout recorded history there have been monumental events or discoveries that forever change human civilization. For at least 100,000 years or more humans assumed that walking or running were the only means of transportation over distances. That truth was overturned around 3,500 BCE with the domestication of the horse. For about 4,500 years humans assumed precious metals or merchandise were the only forms of commercial trading until China began using paper currency in the 7th century CE. For some 50,000 years or more humans assumed the world and their entire existence entailed only what they could see with the naked eye, until the 13th century CE when magnifying lenses were invented. For approximately 4,500 years humans assumed there were only two methods of higher learning: verbal stories, pictographs, or from slow scribed papyrus that only ‘divine’ authors could record from the god(s). That truth was overturned by the invention of the printing press in the 15th century CE. For probably at least 5 or 6,000 years humans assumed that diseases, ailments, and physical malformities were from angry god(s) until the 19th and 20th centuries when antibiotics were introduced, followed by a growing plethora of other medical cures and treatments today.

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I will not go into how monumental Galileo Galili’s confirmation of Copernicus’s heliocentric theorem was to humankind. It literally changed everything European and Near Eastern religious and political leaders had believed and taught their subjects and all the masses for almost three millenia. John Maynard Keynes is perhaps one apropos example of just how profound impermanence molds human facts or truths. During the Great Depression, Keynes shifted his position and monetary policy more than once and came under heavy criticism by other fellow economists. His response was “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?” How often do we scrutinize our own beliefs, let alone change them, as so many forces, factors, and limitless diversity exists, moves, and evolves into newer forms? Often facts and truths are a matter of human perception, not necessarily universal permanence.

Beliefs vs. Practice
How much are your beliefs and practicing those beliefs worth to you? Can you put a price on them? Henry David Thoreau said “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” When you consider all the various definitions of what life is I believe Mr. Thoreau was spot on. What is most valuable to you in life? Why do people hold certain beliefs? The majority of the human race believe in a Divine Being or God. Why? Regional Director for the Council for Secular Humanism and a former Publicity Coordinator for the Campus Free-thought Alliance, Austin Cline lists seven reasons from his research:

  1. Indoctrination — The high and consistent degree of religious concentrations suggests that people believe their religion because that’s the one they were indoctrinated into and which is consistently reinforced around them. People acquire a religion before critical thinking skills and that religion is promoted without most people noticing.
  2. Indoctrination into Anti-Athiest Bigotry — questioning or going against social norms can be very risky; e.g. being a Zionist Jew inside Syria. Children learn in public schools that America is a nation for people who believe in God and this message is reinforced throughout their lives by preachers, politicians, and community leaders of all sorts. This leads to number 3…
  3. Peer and Family Pressure — People who step outside [social] expectations are not simply choosing a different way of life, but can in fact be perceived as rejecting one of the most important bonds which keep a family or community together. Even if this is never communicated in so many words, people do learn that certain ideas, ideologies, and practices should be treated as vital to communal bonds and should therefore not be questioned. The role of peer pressure and familial pressure in maintaining at least a veneer of religiosity for many people cannot be denied.
  4. Fear of Death — This is self-generated hope out of fear of what will happen after dying — either going to hell or simply ceasing to exist. People don’t want to think that [the possibility of] physical death is the end of all experiences, emotions, and thoughts so they insist on believing that somehow their “mind” will continue to exist without any physical brain in an eternity of sustained bliss — or even will be reincarnated in a new form.
  5. Wishful Thinking — Many Christians seem to wish quite strongly that there exists a place of eternal punishment awaiting all those who dare to deny them political and cultural dominion in America. Many conservative believers from many religions seem to wish that there is a god which wants them to exercise unchecked power over women and minorities.
  6. Fear of Freedom and Responsibility — I personally find this reason very telling. It promotes lack of ownership. [Believers] don’t have to be responsible for ensuring that justice is done because God will provide that. They don’t have to be responsible for solving environmental problems because God will do that. They don’t have to be responsible for developing strong moral rules because God has done that. They don’t have to be responsible for developing sound arguments in defense of their positions because God has done that. Believers deny their own freedom because freedom means responsibility and responsibility means that if we fail, no one will rescue us.
  7. Lack of Basic Skills in Logic and Reasoning — Most people don’t learn nearly as much about logic, reason, and constructing sound arguments as they should. Given how important believers claim the existence of their god and truth of their religion are, you’d think that they would invest a lot of effort into constructing the best possible arguments and finding the best possible evidence. Instead, they invest a lot of effort into constructing circular rationalizations and finding anything that sounds even remotely plausible.

It has been my personal experience living most of my life in the Deep South (Texas is on the fringe of the Bible Belt) that the most common foundation for fundamental beliefs once a person reaches their 20’s and 30’s is a question of convenience really. What do I stand to lose or gain with these beliefs? What is worth dying for or spending years in prison? What is my personal integrity worth? How would this belief-system benefit me? In my opinion, those are the more pragmatic questions the majority of adults ask about religions and not anything concerning a consensus of truth or what extensive scrutiny reveals.

Transcendence
Things are very often bigger than ourselves. We cannot possibly understand all extenuating factors that contribute to human behavior. Though the weight of peer pressure, governments, family, social trends, money, or global dynamics can push us to apathy, paralysis, or disillusionment, we must find ways to take the higher road. A blind ideologue or unexamined do-gooder is not enough. Healthy scepticism should always remain active. Fortunately Gandhi and Galileo understood this risky concept for the eventual betterment of all.

Tap into the unexamined life and your belief systems beyond your own tiny world.

Creating

Many Fortune 500 companies have latched on to the new idea that creativity within their workforce is a valuable asset and should be encouraged. Modern psychologists are in general agreement that a blue-sky attitude at the office and home have many health benefits. But what exactly is the act of creating and creativity? What are the best ways to cultivate a thriving ambiance of creativity? Let’s start with what isn’t.

Conformity: The Subtle Virus
The Renaissance of the 14th through 16th centuries undoubtedly ushered in a rebirth of classical learning and values. It ushered in a broader spectrum of science, language, and literature. For the most part feudalism and religious dogma crushed any spirit of self-expression or free thinking throughout the Middle Ages. But the Renaissance brought about greats such as Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Dante. However, it also created an eventual elitist and disempowering movement by the 17th and early 18th centuries: individual creative genius. In other words, touched by the divine and untouchable by mediocrity. Michelangelo and Mozart received this illustrious title with full honors postmortem too.

Fortunately for all aspiring virtuosos and maestros, by the 1960’s the history of creativity shifted from innate, divine genetic gifting… to ‘technique’ that could be learned just like typing, riding a horse, or playing an instrument. The trick was to learn all the various techniques to find your own unique style! Instead of God’s favour, creativity (within all of us) stems from a grounding of appropriate techniques and hard work through extensive broad education or training. For example, Edward de Bono’s technique-based approach to “lateral thinking.” See exercise below:

de Bono exercise

Have you tapped into the untapped worlds of non-conformity? How many technique-based creativity skills have you really unleashed?

Self-Expression
A long held practice in Buddhism is to seek out life’s marrow in mindful awareness to ordinary routine tasks like brushing your teeth or singing in the shower Need You Tonight by INXS. This is how it should be with creating too. Whether it is cooking, spice and/or vegetable gardening, learning and playing an instrument, writing-blogging, beginning new friendships and romances outside of convention, painting, making wood furniture or interior decorations, walking the family pet, give yourself a daily or at least weekly varied dose of complete self-expression. Tap into that simmering creativity and let it all burst out and consume! Homo faber is good… very, very good!

Wider Freedom
Creativity and creating has been one of the most historic heavily mythologized aspects of human endeavor. Too many people still believe it is the preserve, the jurisdiction of a small group chosen or born with a ‘special gift’ whereas fuller history tells us it is so much more inclusive! And the methods the elite geniuses implement to keep their lofty social, religious, or economic status is cunningly specialized through guilds, dominions, or foundations. Yet real joy, real fulfillment, real challenge, and real accomplishment doesn’t strictly depend on current convention, especially within a macro and subatomic existence that is always impermanent. Fear stifles, courage fulfills.

The Trinsics

There is an old saying in professional sports that you are only as good as your last defeat. In other words, in the highly competitive field of modern professional sports and coaching resting on your laurels is very bad for job security, even if your overall record is worthy of an eventual Hall of Fame induction. There is literally just a miniscule amount of grace to be mediocre, let alone losers. I argue up and down, sideways and backwards with U.S. men’s soccer fans about our national team performances, players, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann all the time because they ignorantly feel that the United States should now be competing for the World Cup semi-finals and soon the World Cup Championship — hysterically being in the world’s top four or top two TODAY! — like we dominated in baseball and basketball decades ago, and like we will dominate if the rest of the world starts playing American football NFL style as they are promoting (in hopes to expand the revenue markets) in Great Britain and Europe.

What fair-weather naive American futebol fans don’t realize or thoroughly understand is the intrinsic value — and to a degree extrinsic value — Jurgen Klinsmann brings to our USMNT and youth feeder programs. They have no clue as to what and where Klinsmann grew up inside (Germany), played with and against, and intimately understands about world class futebol/soccer in Germany, and Europe inside UEFA. That wasn’t something the average American sports fan was even remotely interested in the 1980’s and 90’s. American sports fans and the financial backers/sponsors are mostly (only?) concerned about revenue and profits via high winning percentages and dynasties. Today, I think pro coaches, their staff, and general managers have less than 3-years to make it all happen. Win, win, win; nothing more than extrinsic value. Period.

Measuring something or someone’s value cannot and is not strictly done by a dollar amount or the win column. And it certainly cannot be accurately measured in one or two years, let alone a few months.

Have you tapped into both the intrinsic and extrinsic values of yourself, someone or something?

Deathstyle

Death is always as close and real as life. The minute you are born, every subsequent minute gets you closer to death. In the Western mindset death has become more distant, more detached from every day life than any other point in history. I feel this growing separation is undermining our ability to live more fully.

The rise in medicalized death in hospital or hospice and the erosion of old funeral and mourning ceremonies attended by all family and community have pushed death into an invisible state in modern society. Death and dying has become a taboo topic of conversation or awkward silence at a dinner party. Why? Why has ‘out of sight, out of mind‘ become so trendy and expected?  What has become of the old deathstyle of growing old, facing our mortality with courage, dignity, honor, and dying well? First of all, this can only be reintroduced if we talk about death openly and frankly, as if it were our intimate dance partner. It is a little known fact that being equally obsessed with death as we are with an inspiring life, creates an INTENSE appreciation for the value of life.

A Danse Macabre
In medieval and Renaissance Europe as well as Native North and South American tribal cultures, death was viewed as an unavoidable bed partner. Cemeteries of medieval London, Paris, and Rome were popular meeting places where wine, beer, and linen tradesmen, especially on Saints Day when pilgrims travelled through, were the busiest bustling places in town. People strolled, socialized, and made merry amongst the graves — children played with human bones in the charnel houses by the churches because skeletons were stacked to make way, make room for new residents. Auguste Bernard, historian of French burial locations, wrote cemeteries were “the noisiest, busiest, most boisterous, and most commercial place in the rural and urban community.” The morbid fascination with skulls, arm and leg bones, and cadavers that filled medieval life is more than a historical curiosity:  it holds a crucial lesson for us today. It is the same concept, the same lesson as appreciating something immensely valuable when you no longer have it.

The Reach of Death
There was a time when a death in a community affected everyone in the community. Before the 20th century in Western countries, death of an individual caused a major social occasion altering the space and time of everyone in town. It was part of everyday life like the passing of the seasons. In the 21st century this is no longer the case. Death is treated like an unwanted guest and should be ignored and out of sight of our youth and children.

If life is to be respected, cherished, and held as momentary, then death should be equally respected, cherished, and held as a visiting next-door neighbor.

Caring For Our Elderly
There is no denying that the modern longevity of life has increased exponentially. Medical advancements have improved the quantity of extended years, but in Western nations has the quality of life for eighty, ninety, and centurion aged retirees kept up? Prior to and during the 1950’s many elderly moved in and lived with their children. However, this practice has been in steady decline as more and more women entered the workplace and left behind the traditional roles as caregivers to the children and grandparents. This accounts for the extraordinary rise in nursing homes and hospice. Are there alternatives?

Nursing home integration

Generational integration

Yes there are alternatives. In Japan and China the Confucian lifestyle of filial piety as lived by the great and learned emperor Han Wendi in caring for his ailing mother at the expense of his own luxury and convenience, is one alternative. If one or both of your parents were emotional or illegal causes of tremendous hurt and instability in your childhood and reconciliation is an impossible outcome, there are plenty of other good, funny, and deeply wise elderly patients without family visitors and caring loving treatment at their nursing home where both of you would benefit immeasurably. Otherwise, there are few legitimate reasons not to invite your parents or grandparents to live with you or for you to move in with them. Much life-and-death wisdom can be shared and learned with those on the doorstep of death; any nearby St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital could teach the same lessons. But our parents helped bring us into this world, survive it, and grow to be adults so we can help them leave it with contentment and dignity whether we always saw things eye to eye or not.

How much have you tapped into the world of the aging and elderly? How immediate, frank, and open is a dignifying death promoted and taught in your house? Do you have a danse macabre that deepens the beauty and frailty of life… the paradox of death giving more life?

* * * * * * * * * *

“He who cannot draw on three thousand years
is living from hand to mouth.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”
Cicero

This final message from Goethe and Cicero is this:  if we truly want to change how we live, to be more human, live a fuller extraordinary life, there may come a point where we simply stop thinking, stop planning, and act, go, just do it. There is another aspect to this command:  giving is very good for you and those around you. Examining 3 – 4,000 years of history enable us to rethink our habitual (blind?) ways of loving, creating, working, and dying and are NOT the only choices facing us! All we have to do is throw open the wonderbox of all life, people, and Nature and discover a perpetual art of better deeper living.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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