Sunday, May 29, 2022

Trust Science?

 

Source: https://netivist.org/


Science produced wonderful insights over the centuries. We know more today than we did 10, 100, or 1000 years ago. Are we done? Have we learned all there is to learn about the universe and time and life?

Of course not.

"Since we know we don’t know what we don’t know, why would we assume that what we do know is enough?"

Don’t "trust" the science. No legitimate scientist would ever say, "Trust me, I am a scientist." Instead, follow the science, because science is the best way we have for falsifying competing theories.

Follow science, not scientists. Scientists are humans and thus fallible and suceptible. Scientists themselves know this, and for this reason the scientific method features a process of verification known as peer-review. The community is less likely to be wrong than any one individual. Paradoxically, the greatest advances in science have occurred when an individual challenged the frontier of human knowledge in an unexpected way. Progress depends on the rogues.

Bottom line: Life is an experiment. Choose your questions carefully. When you see an answer, be skeptical and critically examine the investigator's motive, funding source, context, method, results, and conclusions. Have the results been peer reviewed and replicated? Some questions are better than others and some answers are deadly.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The ‘doomed’ resistance in Ukraine

A reflection inspired by McAulay's Horatius at the Bridge 

Reading about the 'doomed' resistance in Ukraine reminds me of McAulay's Horatius at the Bridge [1], especially these lines:

“…To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;
 And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods,
"And for the tender mother who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses his baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens who feed the eternal flame…”

Russian President Vladimir Putin seems determined to win at all costs. Meanwhile, under Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the people of Ukraine are unexpectedly and boldly defiant. Like Horatius at the Tiber river bridge, they are fighting, defending, holding--protecting their families and their property, and giving nothing away. 




Reminiscent of Lars Porsena's Etruscan army attacking Rome as described in McAulay's epic poem, Russia’s forces are extended. The logistics tail is weakening. With the ruble’s value plummeting, the attackers risk finding themselves out of food and fuel, losing support from home, and surrounded by angry defenders wielding pitchforks and torches. 

Putin’s arsenal includes artillery, airborne infantry, and nuclear weapons. Let’s hope a desperate Putin does not resort to drastic (read: nuclear) measures. 

Wait! Strike that.... Let's not hope. Hope is not a method [2]. Let us instead work, co-operate, and sacrifice to ensure Putin does not employ his nukes and thus invite mutually assured destruction.  






Is Ukraine 'doomed'? 


Against Putin's deep resources, Ukraine cannot win militarily, but that does not mean they will be "defeated." Zelensky’s bravery is rallying the West. The resistance has already lasted longer than many analysts predicted, and longer is better! The extended resistance has bought time for the EU and the UN to impose sharper sanctions, cut off SWIFT, and consider Ukraine's request for expedited membership in EU. These measures offer the best path to a favorable outcome but they still require Putin to capitulate. Support is taking many forms, but we in the West who prefer to see a free and independent Ukraine should be reluctant to cause a military escalation. 

Putin’s unlikely to withdraw. His military victory is inevitable but increasingly expensive. Without military aid from the West, there will be heavy casualties before the smoke clears. Having won the territory at great expense, Putin will install a puppet government and attempt to control the population. I suspect he will find governing the region and the people of Ukraine even more difficult and costly than capturing the territory.

The consequences of a Putin victory in Ukraine are impossible to calculate. The former Soviet satellite nations of Estonia, Latvia, Moldova would face attacks next, forcing NATO to invoke Article 5. Russia's allies, China, North Korea, and Iran would join the fray. China would take Taiwan. North Korea would make a move on South Korea. Surely Iran would push west past Iraq and Syria in their attempt to shove Israel off the map. In short, a Putin victory in Ukraine is tantamount to Armageddon.  

To forestall a third World War, we must support Ukraine, NATO, and the EU, to contain Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. 

The long game for Ukraine is to see the day when Putin finally realizes he made a terrible mistake. Once his propaganda machine is unable to persuade, and his economy is in tatters, and his oligarchs have fled with what they could salvage from their wealth, the aspirations of a dictator and would-be emperor will implode. Balance based on fair trade and strong defenses will be restored.  

So the Western alliance is walking a fine line here, staying on the sidelines, using diplomacy and economic sanctions instead of providing direct support to Zelensky. Putin is determined and undeterred. Many Ukrainian fighters and civilians will be casualties in the conflict. Eventually, Putin will come to see Kyiv as his Waterloo. He will fail as a dictator, and disappear into the dustbin of history. Then these Ukrainian dead, who died facing 'fearful odds', shall not have died in vain. 

Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing.


Notes:

[1] Gill, N.S. (2020, August 26). 'Horatius at the Bridge' by Thomas Babington McAulay. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/horatius-at-the-bridge-4070724 

[2] The title of General Gordon Sullivan's memoir is apropos. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/175183/hope-is-not-a-method-by-gordon-r-sullivan/

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Happy Mid-Winter / Imbolc / St. Brigid’s Day!



Imbolc is a Celtic pagan religious holiday celebrated each year from sundown February 1st to sundown on the 2nd. The date marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. 

The name Imbolc can be translated literally as “in the belly,” and figuratively as anticipating the birth of Spring. 

Imbolc originated as a festival in honor of the pagan goddess Brigid, a powerful woman and the matron of healing, arts, fertility, poetry, music, prophecy, and agriculture. 

Today, Brigid is considered the matron saint of Ireland. She was born c. 451 in Faughart,and died c. 525 (age 74) in Kildare

"Fun fact about Brigid is that she is a synchronized goddess who stayed virtually intact as a saint. Her shrine is at Kildare where you can still draw from Her healing well and visit Her perpetual flame."

                                                 --Heather Gaffney Darnell, intuitive reader


Happy Mid-Winter / Imbolc / St. Brigid’s Day!


Enjoy these links:


Year of the Water Tiger

Happy LunarNewYear to all who are celebrating! 


Year of the Water Tiger


May the Year of the Water Tiger bring us peace, prosperity, and happiness.

"Lunar New Year (Chinese Chunjie, Vietnamese Tet, Korean Solnal, Tibetan Losar), also called Spring Festival, begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later." --Britannica



Enjoy these links:

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Map of Emotional Manifestations in the Body

 



Across cultures, people feel increased activity in different parts of the body as their mental state changes. 




"A new study by Finnish researchers published today [Dec 30, 2013] in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, suggests that our emotions do indeed tend to influence our bodies in consistent ways."

"It's worth noting that the bodily sensations weren't blood flow, heat, or anything else that could be measured objectively—they were based solely on physical twinges subjects said they experienced."


Excerpts are from an article by Olga Khazan which was published in The Atlantic on December 30, 2013 and accessed January 29, 2021 from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/mapping-how-emotions-manifest-in-the-body/282713/. 

I spotted the colorful graphic in the Facebook Story of a friend and fellow veteran who shares my interest in a range of health issues. Searching for the original source, I saw that it had already been re-shared multiple times--and rightly so. Hat Tip to Keith Toy, aka Buzz Lightyear. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Advice to my Current Self from my Future, (Presumably) Wiser Self

Fig 1. Hello, from my
59.999-year-old self to YOU!

My favorite author, interviewer, and podcaster, Tim Ferriss, will often ask this provocative question of a successful person now in mid-life:

"What advice would you give to your 20- or 30-year-old self?"

Our mid-20s. That is the time when many of us are starting our working lives. The choices we make then shape our options going forward. By mid-life, we have a few projects and relationships under our belts. We have experienced some of life's finest peaks and valleys. We can look back on those early days with the benefit of hindsight, and offer advice on how to make better choices.

There are any number of truly great and inspirational commencement addresses available if you should ever desire some examples to help you craft a perfect response to this question. Age does not always confer wisdom, but I suppose it is fine to examine our own experience and see the ways in which time has improved our outlook and awareness. 

This leads me to wonder: Is it a safe bet that wisdom will continue to increase as we age? If our current selves are wiser than our much younger selves, will our future selves be wiser still? If so, what might we learn from our future selves? 

Introduction

Today I would like to do something completely different and uncommon. Rather than offer advice to twenty-somethings, or to my own 20- or 30-year old self, I want to turn this question around and upside down. I am going to project my consciousness to life's end, and give my current self some much needed and welcome advice!

I'm 59.999 years old, but let's just call it middle-aged. According to actuarial tables, a white American male having attained the age of 59+ has a remaining life expectancy of about 23 years. So if you will indulge me, today I am going to ask my actuarial 83-year-old self this question:

"What advice would you give to your (almost) 60-year-old self?"

Obviously, I hope you, Dear Reader, will enjoy this exercise and decide to try to adapt it for yourself. To add some realism, you may wish to use an app such as "Age My Photo" to make yourself look older. I tried this and made myself look 83 in the photo in figure 2 below. I printed that picture and posted it above my work station. Now, my future me is looking down, checking on me, and standing by to give advice. Now and then, I ask myself, "What would my future self do in this situation?"


Fig 2. This is how I might look in 23 years,
according to the "Age My Photo" app.

Advice to my Current Self from my Future, (Presumably) Wiser Self

Dave,

Hey there, youngster! I'll bet you don't hear 'youngster' much anymore. Haha! Enjoy it while you can! 

Listen, I am glad I made it to the ripe old age of 83, and I welcome the opportunity to pass along some advice while you are still an impressionable youth--relatively speaking! Take it from me, we never stop learning. So lean into learning and look for ways to expand, grow, and improve. I'm still learning and I aspire to live into the triple digits, but let's face it: the odds are what they are. So let me take time now share some thoughts to guide you through the next 20, 30, maybe 40, maybe even 60 years. Can you (we?) make it to 120? 

Time will tell...

As your future self, I can tell you that some of your choices in mid-life were better than others! Let's map out a plan to find the most beneficial habits, avoid the wasteful or harmful choices, and generate the motivation and discipline to stay the course. 

For starters, do not look at me as an old man with one foot in the grave, but as someone you care for deeply. Appreciate that time goes by quickly and trust me when I say that you will actually be 83 before you know it. So do your best to make better choices now. You'll be glad you did tomorrow! Any chance I have to break the century barrier starts with the choices you make today.

Before we get into specifics, Dave, I want to suggest a framework for the discussion. When I was your age, Tony Robbins was an enormously successful lifestyle coach. Time has gone by and other lifestyle coaches have come and gone, but we still refer to the same timeless ideas that Tony popularized in your time. Tony did a great job of channeling timeless wisdom and extending ideas for his audience to embrace. Tony describes six core human needs that will sound familiar to you whether you are 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, or beyond. 

The Six Core Human Needs

Fig 3. The Six Core Human Needs

The Four Needs of Personality:

  • Certainty - safety, stability, security, comfort, order, predictability, control, and consistency
  • Variety - surprise, challenges, excitement, difference, chaos, adventure, change, and novelty
  • Significance - the need to have meaning, pride, needed, wanted, accepted, loved, listened to, sense of importance and worth, worthy of love. 
  • Love and connection - a partnership of two souls, family love, friend love, unified, approval, attachment; cherished, adored, to feel intimacy and love with another human being

The Two Needs of Spirit:

  • Growth - Evolution is the reason why we were born, why we learn while we live, the need for constant emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development. The reason why our souls are given numerous lives to live and evolve into our best version; to grow and evolve towards divinity.
  • Contribution - the need to give beyond ourselves, give, care, protect, aid, and serve others
Keeping the six core human needs in mind, there are two additional dimensions that we can visualize as surrounding and enable the fulfillment of our six basic human needs. Tony did not describe these extra  dimensions, but we can agree that a wholistic model of human flourishing should include environmental factors such as the element of time, and our changing needs, motives, and abilities around self-care.

The Two Dimensions of Human Flourishing

Fig. 4. Two Dimensions of Human Flourishing 

Time Horizon

The first point is the idea of time horizon and the associated changes in risk tolerance over time. What you worry about changes as you get older. Bear in mind that what seems important to an octogenarian is different from what matters to a 20-something. At 59.999, you already realize that this ride doesn't go on forever. At my age, I have an even more intimate relationship with each passing moment. When I was 20 I could recover from a mistake quickly. At 80, I'd rather not make a mistake in the first place. 

Self Care

How well you are able to cope with challenges and setbacks reflects your personal preparation and resilience. As time goes by, proactive self-care becomes increasingly important. When we were 20, we could skip a work out or a meal or maybe over exert ourselves or over indulge. The consequences for such self-abuse were negligible, because recovery was nearly instantaneous. I am much less able to recover now, and so I need you to start pushing the self-care--for my sake!   

Putting the Framework into Action

Let's now leverage the modified Tony Robbins framework to visualize a lifestyle that will help you get the most out of life, one day at a time. We'll walk through the two dimensions and the six core human needs.  

Notice that the dimensions and the needs exist in tension. For example, humans need both:

  • prudent risk-taking and proactive self-care
  • predictability and new challenges
  • to stand out from the crowd and to be a valued partner, family member, and team mate 
  • to grow, but also to contribute 

This tension is normal and it continues into old age. Expect it. But notice that the balance point changes as time goes by. Perhaps you can imagine two friends on a teeter-totter. If the friends of prudent risk taking and proactive self-care weigh the same, then the teeter-totter's fulcrum is right in the center. In youth, when the time horizon seems so far away, the need to take risks is exaggerated and the requirement for self-care is diminished. The tension between the two exists, but the fulcrum slides to the left for balance. Later in life, the fulcrum slides to the right to reflect risk aversion and more health concerns. 

The point is that we don't beat the reaper by living longer, Dave. We beat the reaper by living more fully. We are human beings, not human doings. I want you to focus less on achievements and more on fulfillment. Concentrate on timeless and enduring values. Get the values right, or the plans don't matter. Get the plans right, or the results don't matter. Once the results align with those essential values, then and only then does it make sense to scale up and out.   

“The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values


Time Horizon and Self-Care

I want you to continue to take prudent risks. But now that you are almost 60, I want you to consider the impacts of actions on others more explicitly. I will view the results of your actions--because they can impact me, and we don't have time to recover from mistakes. Now that you are almost 60, I want you to get more disciplined about what you eat, how often you get exercise, and how well you sleep.  


Certainty and Variety

It's natural to crave variety when you are young and certainty when you are old. You are at the cross-roads now. Continue to seek variety, but be a bit more selective in where you go to find it. At my age, I don't want to eat the same food every day and I don't want to read the same books over and over. But I am aware that I have fewer months remaining and so I will not read a popular book until I have read more of the classics. Start developing that mentality now. 


Significance and Love and Connection

Of course we all want to love and be loved in return. What brings me joy in my age is not the achievements of my working life but the love and connections I've made and continue to make and nurture. At your age, you still want to land the big contract, leave your mark on the world, make the big nest egg that will secure your comfort and provide for your legacy. That is good and noble and just. I want you to think about balancing the tension, though. 


Growth and Contribution

Searching is good. Learning is good. But balance the growth with contribution. Don't spin your wheels. Don't be "busy." Do less in order to be more. Remember the words on your W.I.S.H. list: Earn the respect, esteem, and affection of the important people in my world.

Right now, Dave, you are struggling to make sense of how best to navigate the second half of life. You are looking at many aspects, such as

  • Health & Fitness

  • Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Character
  • Spiritual
  • Love Relationship
  • Parenting
  • Social
  • Career
  • Financial
  • Quality of Life
  • Life Vision

You are seeking wisdom to improve in these areas from many sources, such as

  • Your parents and ancestors
  • Your faith traditions and the wisdom embedded in major world religions
  • Philosophers and psychologists
  • Self-help authors and lifestyle designers
  • Your closest friends and confidants 
The thing is, Dave, you will one day realize that you are 83 years old and either you will still be searching, chasing and trying to keep up with the latest, or you will recognize, nurture, and share the truth that has always existed within yourself. 

Conclusion

Think about the impact your actions today will have on me, your 83-year old self. Are you treating yourself today as someone you love and respect?  Are you treating yourself today as you would want your older self treated? Is your self-talk and self-care similar to the kinds of things you say to and do for your parents or your children? If not, why not? 

I love you, Dave, and I care about you. I want nothing but the best for you in the future. Do you care about your own future? Will you treat yourself with love and respect? Will you consume only the food and beverages and sounds and images and ideas that will benefit me, your future self? If so, we'll both be happier, and your example will be a better one for others to follow.

Love,

Me (You)


Epilogue 


The exercise of projecting one's consciousness to life's end yields an interesting thought experiment. I recommend it. However, I also offer two parting comments. These comments may very well be the basis for future blog posts. 

Firstly, there is no practical way for one to actually anticipate life's lessons in advance. I realize it might be seen as pretentious to try. Still, we all forecast things all the time. We use the information at hand to make all manner of projections and prognostications. Perhaps thinking about the future can help us contemplate what matters most, and manifest a better reality.

Secondly, don't forget to seek out real, living mentors. Imagining an  ideal future is instructive, but taking counsel from one's self alone is foolish. Talk to some 80- and 100-year-olds. Ask them what advice they would give their 60-year-old selves. And here's another twist. Put yourself in listening mode and ask some 20- or 30-year-olds for some advice. If you don't have a younger mentor, you are missing out on a valuable perspective.    

Friday, November 5, 2021

Only 18 countries to go!

Ahoy, readers! Thanks for stopping by for a dose of Philosophy + Special Effects. i.e., PhilosFX. 

Today I am so grateful for the readers from 224 countries who have visited this page at least once, according to Flag Counter. The fact that blogging connects the readers of the world is amazing and the Flag Counter makes it fun. 

This means that as of November 5, 2021, we are down to the last 18 of 242 countries around the globe! I am excited to see which country's flag will be the next added to the collection. 

Who's next? 


If you know of any bloggers from any of these countries, send them a link. Many blogs get thousands of readers a day, but relatively few blogs can boast at least one reader from all 242 countries. Let's add PhilosFX to that elite list. 


Eagerly Expecting the First Visitors from These Countries

American Samoa                               Marshall Islands (11/9/21)                    Saint Helena
Brit Indian Ocean Terr                        Mauritania                                            Sao Tome & Principe
Cabo Verde                                        Niue                                                     Tonga
Central African Rep                            Norfolk Island                                      Turkmenistan
Comoros                                            Palau                                                    Tuvalu
Falkland Islands                                Saint Barthelemy                                   Wallis & Futuna


Note: I'll post updates to the above table as they occur. As of November 9, 2021, we have 225 of 242 flags, and we are now down to only 17 remaining countries! The previous update occurred on December 18, 2019 with Greenland. When will the next new country visit PhilosFX?