On Jun 28, 2011
Where did our marvel go?
Eons ago, Mankind marvelled at the mysterious. We see evidence of that in all continents, in all peoples, and the legacies they have created. We see ancient Japanese artefacts, which look like creatures from space. We read Homer’s Iliad, containing repeated examples of the Ancient Greeks’ daily-life acceptance of the presence and superiority of ‘the gods’.
Now, it seems few of us marvel.
Few cultures embrace the marvel.
It seems we demand scientific evidence and when science can not describe and quantify things with facts and figures we conclude those things can not be real.
Even worse, human beings overestimate what we know a priori.
Scientists entrench around dogma.
Here are a few examples of scientific views to explain what I mean about entrenched dogma:
- The Sun orbits the Earth, not vice-versa: accepted for at least a few hundred years.
- The world is flat: accepted for at least a few hundred years.
- We are born with brain neurons and those brain neurons operate like wires and survive unchanged until they die: accepted for at least a few hundred years.
- Atoms are the smallest pieces of matter: accepted for at least a few hundred years, while for some it has been a couple of millennia.
- Time is a fixed thing: accepted for at least a few hundred years.
- Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light: accepted for at least a few generations.
- The red shift confirms the universe is expanding….hence, the Big Bang theory: accepted for at least a few generations.
- Our DNA sets a firm and fixed recipe, which lasts our lifetime: accepted for a least a few decades.
- Human beings are the only animal on Earth that is capable of reasoning and making choices…all other animals are only capable of reacting.
I suppose it is human nature to presume or conclude our knowledge to be factually accurate…to be ‘real’…and in some cases ‘to be a priori’. I suppose it is easier that way. It is easy to accept dogma and allow it to squeeze out the marvel. I suppose dogma affords us comfort. For example – religious and political dogma provide such comfort, so, religions and politics have flourished.
Desire for comfort is a major part of the fabric of the human condition.
And Mankind is fractioned by the hard lines of the major religions and political boundaries. Conflicts, essentially tribal battles and warfare, exist on a worldwide scale. This is a dangerous situation and there is no question, Mankind can put its feelings and its knowledge to more-constructive use.
While that helps introduce why and how ‘knowledge’ may be accepted as a priori it does not explain why or how ‘knowledge’ beyond religious and political boundaries is accepted as a priori.
Some folks believe our knowledge can be split into components:
- Things we know
- Things we do not know but we are capable of knowing
- Things we do not know and we are not capable of knowing
I have a different opinion…or, is it a question?
I wonder if we truly know anything.
Over the last few years, things keep catching my attention.
Here are examples:
- I read about Egyptians preserving mummies’ hearts and other body parts for the afterlife while throwing away the brains…what did the Ancient Egyptians know when they did that?
- I experienced a 4-piece synchronicity around the word ‘Matrix’…I can shrug off 2-piece and maybe even 3-piece synchronicities but I absolutely had to draw the line at 4! What do we know about synchronicity?
- I read about Milarepa's Cave in Nepal where a handprint is embedded in the wall of the cave…supposedly a result of the power of thought…what did Milarepa know?
- I watched a TV documentary about cities, or at least things that look much like cities, hidden deep in the ocean at various places around the world….what do we know about that Lost City of Atlantis?.
- I listened to an audio book that stated we now know all the particles in the universe…and I had to rewind to make sure my ears weren’t playing tricks on me. How can we be anywhere near confident enough to say we know that?
- I listened to an audio book that stated Konrad Zuse, an early computer pioneer had postulated the universe could be a simulation, the consequence of programming much like computer software…and now I have watched a TV documentary where a fellow insists machines/robots will self-evolve during the next 20 or 30 years to the point they will do a ‘Planet of the Apes thing’ on humans. Did Konrad Zuse know what he was talking about?
- I have read experiments have confirmed information has travelled faster than the speed of light: in fact, particles have defied other laws of physics including time travel. So, do we now know at least one thing can travel faster than the speed of light?
These examples joined other thoughts that have lingered with me for several years.
- Humans knew the world was spherical more than 1000 years before they believed it was flat.
- We have minimal evidence confirming the universe is expanding. So much rests on the ‘red shift’ including the age of our universe.
- Human perception is a fragile thing. Our brains exhibit plasticity: our perceptions alter the physical structure of our brains and that in cycle alters how our brains operate. It is an iterative process.
- When we observe things we change them: this is graphic when we are observing [with the help of machines] small subatomic things. This is also becoming evident at the neuronal level. Things happen at the boundaries of perception.
- We understand the Earth’s crust shifts with time: mountain rock striations and fossils confirm the extent of major changes over time. We live close to 500°F. For the people of Tokyo the distance between homes and inferno is about 3 miles.
- We know little about our subconscious ‘mind’: curiously, we struggle with a name for that ‘thing’. During recent decades we have called it subconscious, unconscious, and non-conscious.
- On top of that we debate whether or not we have minds. [Science hasn’t found one yet.]
- We debate whether or not we have souls. [Again, science hasn’t found one yet.]
I have concluded we really know very little.
Human beings really know very little.
We perceive and accept estimates.
We call those estimates knowledge.
Sometimes we call the estimates a priori knowledge.
That’s not a condemnation. We should not view that as a bad thing. However, we must keep in mind as we learn more. As we learn more we must keep our minds wide-open, ready to receive knowledge, as unbiased as possible, and non-judgmental.
For the benefit of humankind, we should direct attention to resolving the most-important questions:
- The mystery of the ‘intelligence’ greater than that of Mankind known as the Universal Intelligence, God, etc.
- The marvel of the life-force…what is it that causes life forms to desire survival and ‘to be fittest’ so they evolve?
- The history of civilization on Earth: particularly, resolution of the common ground in the various creation stories in major religions
- The details of the major driving components in humans known as soul, mind, heart, and brain: what are these things, where are these things, how do they operate, and how do the interact internally and externally
- The mystery of humanity: how does the life and death of humans fit in the overall scheme of the universe
These topics should be approached in a manner that paves a better path for future knowledge growth, a human consensus on:
- What do humans truly know?
- What are humans capable of knowing if we approach these questions with a worldwide pooled effort?
- What knowledge lies beyond human capabilities?
We can set flexible boundaries, knowing we will have better information in the future.
We can use a multi-disciplinary approach, involving scientists and religious leaders…using methods like those embraced by the Dalai Lama.
We can nurture an attitude of wonder and marvel.
We can use the tremendous power of our new worldwide technology and ‘social media’ communication tools…bringing the value of developed competence to bear on these important mysteries.
We can unite the brainpower of the world…
…and, while we do it, we can marvel.
On May 25, 2011
I had the pleasure of attending Canadian General Rick Hillier’s presentation at the recent WRHBA lunch.
What an interesting military leader! What a clear message!
“If you are or want to be a leader then remember one thing – people. Focus on people.”
General Hillier talked about process, technology, structure, and organization.
But he was emphatic about the most-important thing...“focus on people”
- Choose people well
- Give them credit when they do things well
- Your job is to free up people…their bodies and their minds
- One person can make a difference!
- Perpetual optimism translates into the emotion - Passion
- People outside your company can help…don’t limit yourself
- When there are dark days go back to the basics – focus on people.
General Hillier also talked about Action
- Leaders Actions speak loudly
- Take Actions to back up your words
- Look them in the eye!
General Hillier talked about “being yourself”…he told many stories…and the stories confirmed our famous General has quite a sense of humour.
As our General Hillier told one story [about relaying the affection of a young Canadian girl to her soldier sweetheart in the Middle East] I couldn’t help but think about General George Patton. U.S. General Patton had a profound sense of duty and honour. During World War 2 he was disciplined for ‘roughing up’ one of his soldiers who, apparently, did not live up to Patton’s high standards for courage. General George Patton was a leading strategist who illustrated more than enough action to back up his words. Yet, his reputation is tarnished by what was considered to be excessive force on his own people. Our Canadian General Hillier took a different approach during his 35-year career. Certainly, ‘times have changed’. And, that may explain some of it. However, when people are in the battlefields, as our forces are now in Afghanistan, I expect the most-important things, the ‘human conditions’, have not changed… the people still experience the fears, the fatigue, the stresses of warfare as a big part of their daily life.
We owe much gratitude to the people of our armed forces…for the risks they take and the work they do to ensure freedom and fairness in our country and around the world.
And, we owe much gratitude to our General Rick Hillier for the top-notch service he provided during his military career and the uplifting messages he now shares with leaders in our Canadian communities.
Let’s follow General Hillier’s advice: “focus on people”.
On Apr 14, 2011
The other day I was returning to the office. As usual, I was listening to an educational CD book.
The CD book was 'The Spontaneous Healing of Belief' by Gregg Braden:
The author was describing a fellow named Konrad Zuse
, a pioneer in the computing industry.
Apparently, at one point Konrad Zuse posed questions (something like), “Does the universe operate on the same principles as a computer?" and "Is our reality actually a simulation?"
Apparently, these questions were posed 50 or more years ago.
The author then mentioned these Konrad Zuse thoughts were a precursor to the 1999 movie "The Matrix
I remember that movie, my memory is - my sons watched it over and over….and over.
While I was thinking about Konrad Zuse and the Matrix movie, I was in a Tim Horton’s drive thru line...about to order. So, I turned off the CD so I could place my coffee order.
After my order was placed I returned to thinking about the movie "The Matrix". I was deep in thought and forgot to pull ahead...I looked up at the car in front of me and was amazed to see its model name - Matrix. It was a Toyota Matrix.
I was captured by the synchronicity so I took a picture of the car in front of me…here it is [with the licence number blacked out]:
Then I got my coffee and headed to the office.
Synchronicities always slow me down.
And I talk about them…this time with Robin.
Robin suggested I look at what I was holding in my hand.
I did that.
Here is what I saw…
When that happened I was really paying attention to this synchronicity.
So I started to tell Cecil my Matrix-synchronicity story.
As I started to tell the story Cecil warned me the Matrix-synchronicity wasn’t over…
When I finished telling him my story he told me he had bought a copy of the Matrix movie the night before I had my Matrix-synchronicity.
So…what do you figure all that means!
PS: do any of you know…
Is the universe a massive computer-program-generated simulation…like in that Matrix movie?
On Apr 12, 2011
If the historical record is correct then the ancient Egyptians threw away their brains.
I mean, when they preserved people’s bodies using the mummification process they did not preserve the brains with the other body parts, which included the heart, the liver, the lungs, the stomach, and the intestines. The ancient Egyptians preserved all those parts for the afterlife. And they preserved the skeleton and muscles.
But, they did not preserve the brains. They threw them away.
I found that fascinating.
So, I did a little research.
Here are the Egyptian hieroglyphs for the brain and the heart:
NOTE: the above hieroglyph for ‘brain’ is what you will find if you search the Internet. Since drafting this Thought Post I became even more interested in hieroglyphs and I purchased Jean-Francois Dumon’s ‘Aaou Hieroglyphic Dictionary’. That dictionary indicates the above hieroglyph does not represent ‘brain’; it represents ‘viscera’…which, of course, means other organs [not the brain].
Jean-Francois Dumon presents the following hieroglyph for ‘brain’:
D36-G17-G17-F51 [I am trying to contact Jean-Francois Dumon to sort this out]
Here is an excerpt describing ancient Egyptian thinking about the heart
Appearance: Those used to the valentine-related heart of Western Culture may be surprised at the Egyptian concept of the heart. Theirs looks more like a vase with handles, and indeed many vases and jars were shaped like the hieroglyph in question. The heart of Egyptian iconography is a fairly faithful representation of a section of the heart of a sheep. The "handles" correspond with the connection of the veins and arteries to the organ.
Meaning: The Egyptians early in their history realized the connection of the heart to the pulse. An ancient Egyptian medical treatise of the heart says that it "speaks in the vessels of all the members." It is not surprising then that they believed that the heart held the mind and soul of the individual. Another Egyptian author stated emphatically that "the actions of the arms, the movement of the legs, the motion of every other member is done according to the orders of the heart that has conceived them." It was sometimes said of the dead that their hearts had "departed" because it was believed that the heart was the center a man's life force.”
The above excerpt is representative of the way experts describe the ancient Egyptian view: the heart held the mind and soul of the individual...and the heart governed the body.
Now, ‘Western’ thinking – thinking heavily flavoured with science - has a different view.
I hope I do not do an injustice to that ‘Western’ thinking when I describe [my understanding of] it this way:
- The brain governs the body [although there is at least a partial acceptance that spinal neural systems can influence the body, independent of the brain]
- The brain may contain the mind…probably, if ‘the mind’ exists then the brain does contain the mind…however, there is no scientific evidence to confirm the mind exists whether as a thing independent of the brain or as a subset of the brain
- The heart is a pump, which pumps blood…it governs circulation of blood…that’s it
Considering all that and more…
Is it reasonable to conclude the ancient Egyptians, when they preserved their hearts and threw away their brains, were primitive and ignorant?
Is it reasonable to conclude the ancient Egyptians were 100% wrong?
Related to this…the folks who follow my Thought Posts know ‘I Wonder’ about a lot of things. This ancient Egyptian heart and brain topic has me wondering. I have read ancient Greeks, pre-Socratic Greeks, did not take credit for most or maybe even all of their thoughts. As a rule they believed the gods caused them to think what they thought and feel what they felt. As examples, if while on the battlefield they became fearful they blamed it on a god and if they prevailed over the enemy they credited a god. [Refer to Homer’s ‘Iliad’] So, it is easy [but not necessarily accurate] to conclude the ancient Greeks heard voices in their heads...similar to the voices normal people now hear in our heads [or perhaps just in front of our faces]. I mean that voice that talks to us all the time, helping us sort out things and decide what to do. Assuming the ancient Greeks heard voices as we now do, they heard [essentially] their own voice but concluded the gods were using that voice to speak to them.
Today, we tend to believe the voice belongs to us rather than a God or the gods.
- Did the ancient Egyptians ‘hear’ voices?
- If so then were those voices in or near their hearts rather than their heads?
On Mar 31, 2011
People do better when they align their work with their talents and strengths than they do when their work collides with their weaknesses.
So - how does being lazy fit in?
Similar thinking is feeding this article.
Procrastination may be a consequence of laziness, or maybe it’s vice-versa.
Certainly, procrastination and laziness are causes of the same effect: when we procrastinate stuff doesn’t get done and when we are lazy stuff doesn't get done. At least, it doesn’t get done ‘right now’.
It seems to me a good question to ask is, "Why isn't stuff getting done?"....
"Why am I procrastinating?"
"Why am I being lazy?"
Specifically, "Am I procrastinating or being lazy because this work/activity does not align with my talents and strengths?"
If the answer to that question is "Yes, I'm not doing this work/activity because it not aligned with my talent or strengths and I know it will frustrate me" then - that's not all bad.
Sure, other people may tend to judge you harshly. The work may align with their strengths and they may have no idea why you make such a fuss...or…do nothing.
If the work aligns with their strengths then for that exact reason they may not even be able to understand why you are avoiding it.
That's their bias at work.
Their bias may be causing them to see you as lazy when you are actually just procrastinating for success.
On Jan 27, 2011
I know people who retired with a nest egg, had major investment losses, and are now back to the old grind of work.
Backing in to another career or job…that, of course, is something we would like to avoid.
The other day a friend and I shared stories and thoughts about investor habits.
We talked about many things: the charm of income trusts, the appetite for dividends, pension fund challenges, that reluctance to exit lost-cause stocks, a range of private investments, and the enticing advice provided by next-door-neighbours.
We talked about retired folks who lost a huge part of their net worth when the markets crashed in 2008…very sad stories, in some cases life-changing stories.
All of this raised a few thoughts:
- Emotions, not logic, play a major role when people make decisions.
- Let’s think about the irrationality factor, a component of human nature…how does that fit in and what, if anything, can be done about it?
- Let’s think about knowledge over-confidence, another component of human nature…again, how does that fit in and what, if anything, can be done about it?
Considering this in terms of Good Habits, Bad Habits, & New Things…
Perhaps people will do better at investments if they carve their current investment activity into 2 pieces:
- Investments that pass a Good Habits test
- Investments that do not pass a Good Habits test…and must be classed as investments that are Bad Habits
The first step would be writing out a list of criteria that when combined will become the Good Habits test for investments.
The next step would be sorting through existing investments to determine the investments that will be retained because they pass the Good Habits test.
The next step would be replacing all the other investments with new investments that pass the Good Habits test.
Of course, this requires some self-discipline and some work.
And, the work should be done when:
- emotions are under control,
- knowledge over-confidence is in check, and
- we are 100% comfortable receiving 3rd party advice.