Thoughts on Thinking

"When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" John Maynard Keynes

"If you're unhappy with your life, change your thinking." Charles Fillmore

"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it." Eckhart Tolle

"People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them." Epictetus

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates

"Consciousness is a terrible thing to waste." PunditGeorge

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Desert, A Monastery, and Me

Okay, an olive grove amidst Saguaro cactus.  Where are you?

Arizona.  Arizona desert.  Smack in the middle of the desert is an unlikely oasis, or, more likely, Shangri-La.  St. Anthony Monastery.  Yes, there is a Greek Orthodox Monastery in the Arizona desert.

Visitors are welcome and may take a self-guided tour of the lovely grounds and chapels.  Aroma.  Did I mention aroma?  Each chapel has a distinct fragrance.  Even the gardens emitted the sweet aroma of orange blossoms. 

Very quiet (it is a monastery) and the St. Anthony Church and other chapels inspire a quiet moment of mediation.

Who knew?  Certainly visuals and impressions that induce thoughts that go bump in the night.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

“Carrots kill! – study shows eating carrots linked to death!”

So much for your mom’s efforts to get you to eat carrots.  She probably wasn’t attempting to kill you, but if the above headline is true, that could be the result.  The headline is a fiction, as is the study it draws its fervor.

Several years ago while teaching a public speaking course, I was discussing the importance of citing valid, verifiable, and appropriate support for a persuasive speech.  A few students were less than rigorous and cited some noisy headlines and claims from “research” that proved to be, well, not research.  A study might note a correlation of X with Y, and note associations of X with Y, and the findings would state such.  But correlation and association are not causes.  Sloppy journalists, lazy students, agenda driven interest groups, and political groups tend to “mis-represent” studies and research to further their aims.  Duh.  Yet unless one asks some basic questions, such mis-representations can enter lore as a “fact.”   Take the following illustration.

I cited a study (fictitious) from the mid-2000’s that sampled men and women in 12 states who were known to eat carrots as a part of their diet in 1885.  The demographic profiles and measures of carrot consumption were presented (fictitious.)  What was disturbing was that 100%  of those sampled adults who ate carrots, died.  All of them.  None spared.

Who knew that one of the greatest killers of the late 19th and early 20th century were carrots?
Mass Killer identified in study
Mark Twain reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once remarked that there are three kinds of lies:  “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.”  I’m sure he would have included “polls” had they been more fashionable in the guided age.  Indeed, what to make of the telephone poll that asks if the person would “support” the President if he did X, or, would the person “support” the President if he did Y?  (You can imagine the mischief already!)

No matter how one responds to such a calculated poll, those polled supported the President.  Or change “support” to “oppose.”  To coin a phrase, fake news.

Sadly, the rapid dissemination of information in our times permits selected headlines and correlations to be derived from “research” to modify public thinking to support some mischief, usually clothed in fear.  Lies, damn lies, and statistics are legion among those forces seeking to restrict your freedom “for your protection” or safety.  I mean, really, who on earth designed those goofy bicycle helmets?  And what fears of catastrophe drive a municipality to mandate their wearing?  Or digital cameras watching a road 24/7 for miscreants not wearing seat belts...or peering through house windows in search of  _______ (fill in the blank.)

Never forget that one evening several years ago millions of people went to sleep content with themselves only to wake up diagnosable as “obese.”  Did they spend the night in a blackout raid on the pantry and refrigerator?  Nope.  The next day adjusted federal formulas for determining “over weight” and obesity went in force.  New problems arose!  New fears!  A new need for food labels!  A new need for a war on fat!  Tax calories! (aka soft drinks)

Did I mention lies, damn lies, and statistics?

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Digital Resurrection (of sorts)

Not long ago, while rearranging a closet, I came across a video copy of a :30 second television commercial for the then new Saturn SL1 - a car which I had recently purchased.  After buying the Saturn, I was contacted by their customer satisfaction crew.  I was satisfied, and remarked that I "chased UFO's" in my Saturn.  Which was true, in a sense.  At that time I was affiliated with MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) as an assistant state director and thus had opportunities to visit with many fine folks who had witnessed curious things or, in some cases, encounters with unknown craft, etc.  Saturn found that amusing and promptly produced the commercial below.  I had the second generation VHS copy converted to mp4 to preserve it.  (Not sure where the disruptive background noise came from in the digital.)

Production note:  To maintain the integrity of the commercial, an exact model of the Saturn I had was used in the spot - except for the drivers seat, the interior was gutted to allow for camera, microphones, crew, and gear.  A long night shoot in south Louisiana (haven't figured that one out, but 'twas fun).

Hated to see Saturn fold.  Bought four models from them - good time all.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Galactic Perspective

Wrapping one's head around something as vast as a galaxy is a feat.  When a galaxy turns out to be an itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny bit of the Cosmos, then some serious head knocking may result.  Fortunately, there are folks who dare to track the movements of the galaxies, large and small, and pay attention to what is revealed.

Laniakea: Our home supercluster

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Thought Process that goes BUMP a lot

If you've got the time, enjoy this incredible discussion (debate) between clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson and television journalist Cathy Newman.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Welcome 2018.

Is the glass half full or, is the glass half empty?  You know the question.  Yet what’s the answer?

The sage question has nothing to do with volume.  It has everything to do with perspective.  Your perspective.  Yours alone.  No one else can view the glass (or anything for that matter) the same way you do.  And vice versa.

Think about it.  You look at the glass.  Through your eyes, through your optic nerves, through your brain imagery.  You are the only person who has this view-point, this perspective.  It’s your eyes, etc., and the imagery is influenced by your beliefs, memory, and experience.  There is no way anyone else could see the glass the same as you.  Therefore, the only “correct” answer to the question is the one you provide.  Someone else’s answer will be “correct” for them.
Half full.  Half empty.  On the level

Bottom line, don’t worry about it.  If you see the glass as half FULL, then you probably expect a full glass.  If you see the glass as half EMPTY, then you probably expect the glass to be empty at some point.  It’s a subtle but important distinction.

Yes, I think it can be safely considered that the folks who see a glass half FULL are more likely to be satisfied with their life than the folks who see a glass half-way to empty.  Why is that?  Ask that tricky question yours truly keeps tossing about:  Do you want to feel good?  If you can answer Yes! then you see the glass on it’s way to being full.  I have yet to find someone who answers “No”, at least directly.  The response will be Of course I want to feel good.  But...”

A person who places a condition on feeling good will have a difficult time reaching that feeling.  Just as your perspective is yours alone, so is your desire to feel good.  Why shouldn’t you feel good?  Are a you a bad person who ought to suffer?  (Many people have a version of this belief as a part of their perspective.)  Must  you fulfill  some duty or obligation before allowing yourself to feel good? (Your time and energy must be given to someone else so they can feel good first.)

But George, it’s selfish to want to feel good, when so many people are suffering.  Well, yes it is.  It’s your perspective, your feeling, and your intention.  Not someone else.  I’ve yet to have explained how one person’s suffering (or refusal to feel good) somehow makes another person feel better.  If you deliberately ate a bad mushroom and had to be hospitalized, would some sick person be released from the hospital, healed?

You’re flying somewhere.  Before you take off one of the crew will demonstrate (or a video will show) how to use the oxygen mask should the cabin lose air pressure.  You will be reminded to place your mask on first before assisting anyone else.  You cannot be of full service to anyone else (child, spouse, friend, whatever) unless you are in good condition.  So, why not extend that practical approach to feeling good?  Doesn’t it make sense that you are more likely to be of assistance to another if you are feeling good?  Now, understand that this does not mean that just because you feel good that others will be able to feel better.  They might.  They might not.  That’s a process up to them.  Perhaps your example will be of use to them when examining their perspective.

A lot of beliefs are in flux world wide.  When a way of thinking is no longer serving a person, dissatisfaction is the first symptom.  It’s not surprising then, when such discomfort is aimed at someone or something else.  I’m miserable because of you!  One extreme solution is to eliminate the source or cause of the perceived suffering.  Perceived because it is only that person’s perception that interprets the suffering (the half empty glass is draining rapidly – time to panic!)

A belief is a thought that is repeated over and over and over and over...gaining momentum and force in perspective.  Perspective can be ruled by long held beliefs (I can’t feel good until...) thus an improved perspective can only be preceded by a change in thinking.

Happy New Year!  2018 is a year you can feel good about.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Merry Christmas!

(Re-posted with updates)

The Winter Solstice continues to be one of the most enduring moments for reverence and celebration.  The darkest day of the year has come and hence forth each day shall be filled with more sunshine.  I'm not aware of any civilization that did not make a big deal of the turning point of the year.

So, of course, this became the season to celebrate the birth of Jesus who became the Christ.  It's pretty well accepted that Jesus was born not in winter, but in the spring and six years earlier than our calendar suggests.  Since Pisces, the fish, was an early Christian symbol, I'd surmise that the birth occurred under that astrological sign.  This is all irrelevant, of course.  The historical Jesus Christ was one of a handful of master teachers known to us, and his instructions on how to live a more wonderful life have proven itself repeatedly.

Mischief arose when the teachings of this Master were edited, blended, codified, and otherwise rendered theological and political.  All the latter are man-made.  Some of the recent history of organized Christianity is not pretty - the Albigensian Crusade, Spanish Inquisition, and burning witches come to mind, and of course the scourge of ISIS.   But this is man acting against man and not reflective of Jesus' teachings, principle of which is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It is fashionable now to minimize the impact of Jesus or even seriously question his existence.  I distinctly recall through the years the "absence of evidence" of an historical Jesus.  Why, if the teachings and movement were so profound, many ask, does the principle source for historical information in the region shortly after the death of Jesus, mention him in only a brief paragraph? 

The source is Josephus, who wrote a voluminous history of the Jews called "Antiquities."  Recently I purchased the complete works of Josephus, because I like history, and because I was curious to read the rare, fleeting, mention of Jesus in the decades following his death.  It is a brief paragraph.  But what a paragraph! 

3. (63)  Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works - a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.  He was {the} Christ; (64) and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and then thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.

That's an account given when many who knew Jesus were still alive.  He must have made quite an impact to earn that paragraph so quickly.  Note:  It is possible that various translations of the paragraph may have embellished the telling.

The history is irrelevant.  It is the teachings that shifted much of human consciousness and continues to do so.  Jesus taught that thinking (prayer) was the road to a wonderful life.  Thinking is very personal, therefore the relationship to God that Jesus taught, had to be personal as well.  That, of course, didn't go over well with Priests or any positioned person to whom obedience and, well, worship were required.  Radical stuff, actually, especially the notion of treating others the way you wanted to be treated, irregardless of how they treated you.

So, to celebrate the Christ Mass, is a good thing.  It is a Merry Christmas.  It is a Happy Holiday.  It is as pagan as it gets, for the celebration is ancient.  Adjacent to Christmas, in our modern calendar, is the New Year!  Really, rejoice that the great Teacher came to teach us joy, then embark on a fresh, new year that uncluttered with the mistakes (and erroneous thinking) of the previous year.

Why, there's even a host of robust celebratory music to accompany the season.  Joy to the World!  Happy New Year!