Knowing Better

Since writing my last post, Risky Business, I found myself thinking about something that Mom used to say often to me as a boy, “You know better than to do that!” Usually that was accompanied by a scolding for teasing my sisters, but that’s another story. What I was thinking about today was the phrase know better, and what that means.

I’ll begin by talking about implicit versus explicit knowledge. How do we come to know something and is there something we can do to know that something better? What’s driving that set of questions is something that I learned many years ago, the difference between knowing something explicitly and implicitly.

Let me illustrate what I mean with a typical conversation I had around the time I was five.

Me: “Auntie Helen, can I have some ice cream?”

Auntie Helen:May I have some ice cream”

Me:May I have some ice cream?”

Auntie Helen: “Certainly, Rickie”

What I was receiving from Auntie Helen was an implicit lesson in etiquette, the difference between “may” and “can” used in the context of making a request. It was also a lesson in which verb was best to use. But at age five, I wasn’t ready to know about rules of grammar and etiquette. I was able to use “may” and “can” properly with Auntie Helen but couldn’t have said why. I just knew that Auntie Helen regarded it as more polite for me to talk that way. That’s implicit. I could speak in full and properly constructed sentences, but I couldn’t tell you what a sentence was, let alone its components: nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives and so on.

Much later, from memory sometime around grade seven, I was taught English sentence structure and grammar at school. I learned how to conjugate verbs correctly, for different persons in different tenses. When I learned what all that meant, it left me more powerful in the correct use of language. I was now learning how to speak and write explicitly.

I’ve created the following ways of holding these two distinctions:

Implicit is when you know something, but you don’t know that you know something.

Explicit is when you know something and you know that you know it.

In both examples, “know” means epistemological knowledge, knowledge acquired intentionally and correctly.

What I’m seeing around me everywhere is a world of people who haven’t got this distinction, and the suffering that flows out of that ignorance. Nowhere does this show up more than in a couple of memes that have surfaced over the last few years. One is “disinformation”, another similar one is “fake news”. Explicitly “disinformation” and “fake news” simply mean something offered as fact that is not fact. Implicitly “disinformation” and “fake news” mean something so catastrophic to the future of all mankind that some form of suppression or censorship must be undertaken. You and I are not up to managing this “not fact” on our own and must be protected.

What I’m also seeing is that there are no bad guys out there, only people with power not realizing explicitly what they are doing. What’s running the show is their feelings! But who would ever admit to this? Would you? Would you say to someone, “Sorry, but I’m grounding you in your apartment because I feel like it”? Of course not. You’re a good person and what your doing is for the public good. Something like that. Sure, implementing lockdowns and blocking disinformation on twitter upsets people. But it’s for their own good. What we have is an unbroken chain of those with power issuing orders to those without power. It’s been going on for thousands of years. There aren’t many moments in that time-frame where someone in power sat down and questioned what was being done. “Should I be telling others how to live their lives? Maybe that’s their responsibility.” may have popped up but it was quickly squashed, like a cockroach scuttling across the kitchen floor. Maybe it’s nothing more than when knowledge is implicit, feelings rule and thats mankinds biggest problem! But few of us get this. We can’t get this because all we can work with is our feelings!

I cannot begin to do justice to this topic in a short blog. There are too many layers of ignorance to explore and take apart. What concerns me, especially in the context of do no harm, is the anger that’s flowing out of these occurrences of suppression and censoring. I’m alarmed at the animosity that’s flowing on social media these days, the polarisation between groups, a real “It’s them or us!” way of being. Personally, I don’t like others thinking that I need protection from the “fake news” and “disinformation” that’s going on out there. I’ll work it out for myself, thank you. And I believe that by and large we can all work things out for ourselves.

What’s needed first is a sound education in thinking better for our children. Start them with a simple lesson, like do no harm. Teach them to think for themselves. Let them work out the variations of harm not to do to each other. Likely they already come to school with this lesson in place. Start them with simple concepts and principles like that.

As their maturity grows make the teachings explicit. What is a “fact” and how is that determined? What is “logical” and how is that determined? Teach them about “non-contradiction”, about how things connect. Teach them the philosophical categories: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Most important, teach mutual respect and toleration. “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men” must never fall out of existence. And please, please, please don’t get annoyed with me because I used the old-fashioned word “men” instead of “people” or “humanity” or whatever. Instead, give me a little smile, maybe even some sympathy because I’m just an old-fashioned fart, and help me build a better life, a better world. We can do no better than that.

Risky Business

The other day I came across the 2002 movie, Panic Room, a thriller that Heather and I watched way back then. It’s a Jodie Foster picture, one in which she and her daughter spend most of the movie in a state of fear in their home’s “safe” room. A very scary movie that got our adrenalin rushing. These days, such safe rooms can be found for sale on the internet and are intended to make the buyer safe from many of life’s threats – tornados, armed home invaders, debt collectors, etc.

Since then, the idea of a safe room has been implemented in most universities around the world. But on the university campuses, the safety is not from physical danger but, to quote from wikipedia, places “intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations”. The University of Sydney, Australia takes this even further and declares “everyone in our community has the right to feel safe”. I confess to finding these intentions a bit disturbing.

Before I talk about why I’m disturbed, I’ll restate that in my intention to bring about A World of Honour, I start with the goal of living in a society founded on the principle of do no harm. This includes not just physical harm to others, but verbal harm as well, the teasing and insulting of others. We’re all too familiar with name-calling based on race, religion, social status, sexual preferences and numerous categories. I am unequivocally against such boorish behaviour. Stop it. Don’t do it. But here is where my disturbance begins.

The world is full of risk. Sadly the world is still full of insulting people. I red-facedly admit to having been one of those people, a boy who would tease and bully his sisters with nasty name-calling. As children, one of our most valuable lessons is taking on the old nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never harm me”. Here the focus is on the target of the taunting, a place where we have all been. Although it’s not an easy lesson to master, it ultimately can leave one with power over being harmed by the cruel and thoughtless words of others. It’s also a power that young children can master. As I see it, a university student is someone who mastered not only the three R’s but also mastered dealing with boorish louts.

Universities in particular are places where one goes to experience conflict and criticism, not of the childish name-calling variety but of ideas and conversations. Political ideas, moral ideas, social ideas are never met by one and all with agreement. Holding an ideal and promoting it to the world is risky business and idealists are and must be risk takers, willing to accept feeling unsafe.

The world is inherently unsafe to all life. Death and danger are around every corner. We can do our best to minimize risks in our life and indeed should. But a right to feel safe? Impossible and undesired.

I’m one of those people that Jerry Seinfeld talked about in his monologue, the one about our fears. From Jerry, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

That was me, but rather than find a safe room to bemoan not feeling safe, I did something about it. I joined Toastmasters and over my many years of membership, mastered my fear. So did millions of others.

None of us have a right to feel anything. But all of us have the right to do something positive about our feelings.

Life is risk. Nothing is guaranteed. The decision to come alive and create a flourishing life will take all the courage we can muster. Asking the love of your life to be your partner forever will take courage. You will not feel safe. Taking on a challenging career will take courage, asking for that promotion or raise. Starting your own business will take courage. Quitting a secure position that you don’t like and finding something else to do with your life will take courage. We’re not supposed to feel safe. Fear is the proper response to such situations. Courage is the proper virtue to draw on.

Free advice is usually worth every penny, and I try never to give it out. But to universities and university students I offer the following. Tear down your safe spaces and replace them with risky rooms. Safety is for the dead. Use your fabulous thinking mind to build a life filled with risk and chance taking.

Truce!

This is an invitation to every person on Earth: take on do no harm from A World of Honour with your heart and soul. Agree to that of your own free will. Then keep that agreement as if your and my life depends on it – which it does! In doing so we have become part of an evolutionary process for the human race, 2/8,000,000,000 of all humanity, transforming into something new.

But beware. The first thing that might come up is the unfairness of it all. We are taking on this agreement unilaterally. It’s one of those agreements we make with ourself. We begin doing no harm even though others will still be doing harm to us and others. And while it may be unfair, it’s also all-powerful. It’s the beginning of a journey in which we have become the top dog in our domain, answering to no one but ourself.

The journey begins with the agreement. I’m calling the agreement a truce. It’s a unilateral truce. We promise never to do harm to another. We begin with making this truce with ourselves. We start there, with what’s close. Begin by a bit of introspection. Where in life are we harming ourselves? Start looking with the visible harm. Maybe you’re someone with an addiction that you think is harming you. You are someone who smokes a pack a day. Resolve to quit. My classic addiction was food, I ate way more than was needed and I was overweight. I took on a diet and lost 20 kgs! And I was flabby and out of shape. Took on an exercise program. 2 ½ year later I’m holding true to being my word, kept the weight off and feeling better than ever.

I’m not intending to be glib about this. I know that any of the above are the hardest challenges any of us will face. We’re up to the task. Now begin undoing the harm. Sit down and begin a list of everything that you do to yourself that’s harmful. Build on the examples that I’ve given. Be ruthless and uncompromising. Remember that you’re the monarch of your realm and your commitment is to restore peace.

Once you’re satisfied that you’ve covered areas of personal harm, expand the list to include harm that you are doing to others, beginning with those closest to you, your family and friends. Again, start with the areas of visible harm. If you have children and you smack them, stop. It’s harming them. If you are ever committing acts of aggression against those close to you stop. Expand this now to include verbal abuse, perhaps unconscious acts of teasing or the like or name-calling. Again, be ruthless. You are engaged in bringing peace to your realm.

Next move on to looking at areas in which your inaction is doing you harm. For me, the best example has been my expertise at procrastinating. There are things that need doing and I don’t do them. Way back in my Toronto life, I belonged to a Toastmasters club and gave a humorous speech on procrastination. I won awards for it all the way to the regional level. Didn’t help though. Later in my Sydney life I procrastinated on paying our electricity bill, even with the help of the warning letters, and finally they cut off our power. I’ve red-facedly learned my lesson from that and haven’t neglected paying a bill since. That one was a double-edged bit of integrity breakdown in that I was also breaking my word about paying the bill, something we all do when undertaking such agreements. We give a promise to pay our bills as they become due.

I know this is sounding like something out of a self-help course, a bit of psycho-babble. And it is! What we are undertaking in building A World of Honour is a revolution in psychology, sociology, politics and philosophy. We are taking on something close to unpredictable and unprecedented.

These ideas have been around for a long time! I’m not one to be quoting scriptures but try this one on:

2 Kings 20:1 … Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.

This will take immense courage. We will be facing fears and lifetime habits. The pull to stop will be immense but we must start somewhere. Start at the beginning. Start with your life and get it working in tune with the A World of Honour ethos: do no harm, be your word and everything by agreement. Get your house in order.

Let’s come alive and think our way to leading flourishing lives. Let’s think up ways to honour that miracle of birth that was you and me.

Chemical Reactions

I was reflecting back on a recent post, The Biggest Problem Facing Mankind, and a few more thoughts popped up that expand the topic. When I thought about what I had written, I concluded that it’s not so much that our feelings determine our actions as how we act on our reactions to our feelings. With most of us, our feelings are something deep-seated, something from earliest childhood that are likely inherent in our nature. Feelings of fear, anger, joy are universal. We all have them, some strong, some weak to non-existent. We share these deepest feelings with other animals and the brain uses them to generate automatic reactions that benefit our survival. When fear hits, we’re ready to fight or flee. Perhaps it’s a feeling of something like curiosity that has us begin our journey of thinking. Our wee-baby-self wonders about things, about everything and that leads us to mimic and ultimately to talk, walk and learn as human beings.

Something is going on in the brain as this happens, chemical reactions, neural pathways formed, I don’t have the knowledge to say much more about this. What we practice over and over becomes what we’re good at. Back at this wee stage we practice talking and walking and quickly we master it. Soon we can do it automatically. The metaphor that I like for describing this is that we carve grooves into our mind. As we travel again and again through these grooves, we deepen them until they are habit.

It was this habitual way of being that I’ve been thinking about. I was reminded of the expression, “Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll show you the man”. It seems to be uncertain who first uttered these words, but the message is unchanging. Those earliest lessons last forever. Perhaps the grooves worn into the mind become permanent and cannot be eradicated. I know from personal experience that my three sisters and I carved deep grooves into our minds when we were all younger than seven, typical behaviours that had me tease and bully them and them do the same in kind. Today, with the four of us all in our seventies, we can revert to being toddlers in an instant and be teasing each other without noticing – and finding our tempers boiling yet again. Sound familiar? I find myself saying things to them that I wouldn’t say to anyone else. Without doubt what I am doing is harm, something that I am morally committed not to do. Now, in our defence we do tend to catch ourselves early in these childish behaviours and stop any escalation of our reactions, but it still happens as those well-worn grooves take over.

What I’ve taken on recently is to expand that process of “catching” myself. A friend put me on to a book, The Presence Process, by Michael Brown, that addresses our human tendency to act from reactions and instead learn to master responding consciously in a more constructive manner. Perhaps this is the best we can do, learn new ways of acting in place of those harmful reactions.

An example of this responding rather than reacting from the well-worn grooves in my life is my road rage reaction. I’m sure I picked this up from Dad at a very early age. We never drove on a road that wasn’t crowded with assholes. “Signal, you asshole!” “The light’s green asshole, you can go now!”  I can understand how a five-year-old could acquire such judgements as easily as I learned to be careful with hot cocoa. If Dad said those things, they must be true. These days I practice catching myself when something triggers me when I’m driving. The response I use to bring me peace is simply saying to myself, “It wasn’t personal.” I think that’s the best I can do, catch the anger in its earliest moment and bring up a conscious choice that soothes the beast.

I’m not sure that anyone has ever claimed to have a method by which we can eradicate undesired practices from the brain. Perhaps it can’t be done. Meanwhile it’s up to each of us to take on whatever mind technologies we find that help us in becoming masterful at doing what’s right rather than doing what’s harmful.

Isn’t that what a thinking being would do?

Cultural Contribution

The men and I were beginning our usual Wednesday night’s Men’s Group meeting. George made an announcement during the business session that we were being asked to put on hold our various rituals that were connected to what were deemed to be North American First Nations cultural items and we were being taken to task for cultural appropriation by some unknown person, possibly from some affiliated group in the U.S. Specifics were sparse. Much conversation followed, some of it of the nature of “We shouldn’t be doing that”, some of it more like, “But we’ve always done that”.

The specific violations that we were looking at were strictly verbal in form. For example, some of us take on a spirit name, something we picked up during our participation in a New Warrior Training Adventure weekend. It wasn’t that we took on a particularly North American indigenous name. One of us calls himself “Strong Tree”, for example. I am called “Orca”, in honour of my British Columbians roots. The offense was that we used the phrase “spirit name”. Another example. Often during conversations, when a man finishes speaking, other men respond by saying “Aho”, which simply means, “I heard you” or the like. The word “aho” is deemed to be a word from the North American indigenous cultures.

My contribution to the conversation was not so much in dispute of whether what we were doing was some form of “appropriation” but rather than everything that takes place in our Men’s Group meetings and on the New Warrior Training Adventure is done with the highest respect. We cherish our participation together and choose forms of conversation that honour that sense of appreciation. I know from the feedback I got from most of the other men that I spoke for them. We ended our conversation on cultural appropriation by putting it on the table for future discussion.

Later back at home, I realised that I knew little about the topic. I knew that it was an emotionally charged issue for many and decided to investigate further. From Wikipedia I found the following definition that seems to capture the issue:

Cultural appropriation is the inappropriate or unacknowledged adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from minority cultures.

The rational side of my brain immediately had problems with that definition, caused in using inappropriate and appropriate in the same definition in the two different meanings of the word. Here’s one of 3 definitions on “appropriation” I found: take (something) for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission. But I settled myself down as I see all forms of appropriation, taking something for one’s own use without the owner’s permission as being inappropriate. Were we in our Men’s Group doing any form of appropriation?

I couldn’t, and in the light of my research, don’t see it. Picking up and using phrases and customs from other cultures cannot possibly be any form of appropriation. Copying and stealing are not the same. As I see it, ways of expressing myself that I have copied from another culture is a form of honouring that culture. I see it as a better way of expressing myself than I have in the past. That someone would find this offensive puzzles me. If I end our Men’s Group meeting by saying, “Ciao!” to the others, clearly I am using an Italian expression. Is that appropriation? How does that differ in kind from saying “Aho” to one of the men after he has spoken?

Sadly I see so much of this as being part of what I think of as call “Woke bullying”. Cultural appropriation has become a way of attacking someone, making them wrong, putting them on the defensive for something that I would declare inherently neutral or ambivalent in nature. I know well that each of us can be offended by words and customs that others express, but is that their problem or ours? Logic tells me it is my problem when someone upsets me when there was no intention to do so. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” springs to mind from my childhood, and that’s what I was advised to say to myself as a child when someone seemed to be out to offend me.

My challenge today is to examine this in the context of my A World of Honour ethos, do no harm, everything by agreement, and be your word. We in my Men’s Group clearly have and had no intention to do harm. We also had no agreement with anyone not to use phrases or ideas from other cultures. By the standards of the world I wish to live in, no violation occurred. I can understand that someone might be offended by our use of “aho” or taking on “spirit names” I can’t. I would also state that our Men’s Group has a high degree of “cultural awareness” as in “I’m aware of this as being a tradition developed by North American indigenous people and am appreciative of their contribution.”

But we do this in the privacy of our meetings. When someone in our group is offended we will take appropriate action. Meanwhile, we stand innocent of any offence.

I will close by offering a better expression: cultural contribution. I am declaring as spokesman and member of my culture, that whoever finds something of value in it, they can consider themselves free to take it for their own, to be used and cherished as they desire, as a contribution from us with no strings attached. And thank you for considering something that we have created as being so appreciated that you want to use it as your own.

In the spirit of generosity, may we go forth and contribute freely to each other from this day forth.

That’s what I think.

Followership

As I gathered my thoughts today about what I wanted to write, I reflected back to conversations Heather and I had recently on leadership. I began thinking about the flip side of leadership, which is all about the following of the leader, or maybe followership. First thing I noticed as I began to write was that my spell checker picked it out and underlined it in red. How come? It had no such problem with leadership. Maybe it’s because no one has ever really studied the art and science of following. Maybe it’s because there’s no such art and science.

What I’m writing today is more of some musings than a delivery of well-thought-out principles. I’m intending to stimulate thought and ideas rather than lay down something that I can defend.

Here goes.

Followership begins as an emotional response to some experience. If there is any rational underpinning behind the experience, that will come later. Followership always begins as a positive experience. It begins the moment you are inspired by someone. Later experiences of fear and dread may arise because of becoming present to what it might take to achieve where you want to be lead. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is 1668 words long. I read the whole speech for the first time a few years ago. I was left dramatically inspired. The speech is eternal. Its message is about bringing freedom and equality to the “Negro” of the United States. It is not a speech about ways and means, about logic, about dogma. It is a speech of inspiration.

Followership begins a few nanoseconds after the inspiration is experienced. It is usually unspoken, unexamined, unquestioned. It’s another emotional experience if put into words would be something like “Count me in”. For the follower it likely is experienced as a single experience. Later, maybe moments later or maybe years, there may be some back tracking as other factors come to play but in the moment you are part of the following. You are full of fire and passion.

All followership begins with only two people: you and your leader. Here’s the quote that I read most mornings as I sit down to do my writing. It inspired me and captured something that bound me to its creator.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I’ve included this quote in an earlier blog, What no one told us, and it’s attributed to Howard Thurman. I had never heard of him until I used Google to try and find out who was responsible for the quote. Turns out Mr. Thurman was someone who greatly inspired Martin Luther King. Somewhere in King’s life he had a moment of one on one with Thurman and became a follower.

Followership is a gift which when combined with the gift of leadership forms a whole. Both gifts are conditional. They can be taken back and must be nurtured continuously for them to stay in existence. A follower stops following over some sort of fall-out. The fall-out may be significant, like the discovery of some form of treacherous betrayal or simply a slow, withering away. When I was a young man, John F. Kennedy inspired me. I remember hearing some of his speeches in 1960 when he first ran for president. I wanted him to win and was so ecstatic when he defeated Nixon. And I was a Canadian high-school student! What did I care about American politics? I can still remember driving to university with Robin Carson in 1962 and him telling me that we might all be blown up before the day was out. That’s how I heard about the Cuban missile crisis. And like everyone of those times, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when Kennedy was assassinated. Later I stopped following his ideas as I couldn’t accept the ways and means of politics, but I never stopped admiring the man.

Because followership is such an emotional issue, the follower is wise to continuously examine the worthiness of what the idea is that’s being followed. This is my personal conviction and is not offered with a caveat. I’ve spent over 40 years thinking on this and can find no instance where doing critical thinking about anything is a bad idea. For something that you are about to follow, large or small, think before acting. If you don’t have time to think, you probably shouldn’t act.

Followership that goes beyond two people into what can be called a movement will always have some well-thought-out ideas behind it. These may not be good ideas but there will be a depth to it. The civil rights movement from the United States goes on today from those who were touched deeply by Martin Luther King’s inspiring speech. Although I can’t remember an accurate date for it, I remember reading the American Declaration of Independence back in my teens and being aware that I was experiencing something great. Those ideas of freedom became part of my sense of life before I could articulate why and have been the explicit driving force in my life since 1971. Clearly the words of Thomas Jefferson and Howard Thurman brought out followership in me.

But no idea for me exists without some why behind it that must be answered rationally. Why is freedom important? Why does it matter? I need freedom of thought and action as a prerequisite to living a happy and meaningful life. That’s the starting point of my thought. It’s my axiom. Ultimately freedom is a gift that I granted myself. No one can set me free. I am free now. I am happy now. I am fulfilling my purpose now. I have come alive. You can too.

Who moved and touched you? Who do you follow? Do you know why?

The Biggest Problem Facing Mankind

A friend and I were chatting recently about the passing of Queen Elizabeth and how he had spent some time watching her funeral. He asked me if I saw any of it and I said that I hadn’t. I noticed that I never watch TV anymore, except for entertainment. The news gets me particularly depressed, angry and fearful. War in Ukraine threatening to escalate to a nuclear holocaust, global warming bringing us forest fires, floods, droughts, melting the icecaps, COVID and diseases, pollution, famine and starvation, all competing on the news for which is the deadliest problem facing us all. Who needs that?

But it got me to thinking about those issues. What if most of the problems facing us are consequences of a deeper problem, one hidden from our view because of ignorance or because we don’t want to look? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most if not all our concerns have a common cause. Try this on: the biggest problem facing mankind is resolving conflicts between one’s feelings and one’s thinking.

Do no harm. Everything by agreement. Be your word. I didn’t invent these virtues. I doubt that I would find many if any people who would disagree with them. They’re part of how we all think life should be handled. Surely there is not a leader of any nation today who disagrees with this. Misters Biden and Putin have never declared that they like hurting others. Yet they are. Our leaders are dragging us into wars that no one wants – through their feelings.

Feelings of pride, of anger, of greed, are trumping doing what we know is right: to wage peace. I know it sounds simplistic, but is it anything more than that? When I talk to many of my friends these days about what’s happening in Ukraine, the conversation seems to be an expression of their anger or fear, not the deep thinking that might be there.

What is not happening is an unequivocal resolve to do no harm. Starting at the top, the leaders of the countries involved are not holding the line on this. They are all running the same variations of “Yes, but…” where what follows “but” is some stream of rationalizations that justify going to war rather than doing what is right.

On a personal scale, I’m reflecting on a current problem that I face which is getting this blog written and posted. What’s been giving me grief are my feelings, I’m not up to it, feelings of uncertainty about what to say, about whether I have anything of value to say, what difference will it make anyway, I’m not a writer, what if it’s awful, and so on. I start finding other things to do. I’ve got lawns to mow, emails to write, shopping to do. Before I know it, another week has gone by and nothing got written. Feelings of doubt trample my intention and will. Keeping my agreement with myself loses out, leaving me annoyed and disappointed with myself. I do myself harm.

What is there for me to examine is whether I let my feelings call the shots or my thinking. This intention to write a blog and post it is an agreement that I have with myself. My choice is to honour that agreement or not, to break my word. Clearly there is no emergency or other extenuating circumstances confronting me. There are only negative feelings to be dealt with.

Although the magnitude of the issues differ, I am saying that what Misters Putin, Zelenskyy and Biden are facing are the same. All know that it is wrong to harm human beings. All have feelings of animosity that are calling the shots and harming others, murdering them. Until we begin speaking about such matters in these terms we will continue to commit these actions of unspeakable inhumanity to each other.

Rational thinking would demand that world leaders sit down at a negotiating table and refuse to leave until a peaceful resolution was reached. If it takes weeks, months to reach such an agreement, so be it. What method of thinking would allow another outcome that permits the intentional destruction of each other?

While the talks were being conducted, the rest of us would go about our business in peace, knowing with comforting certainty that we have left our fate in the hands of leaders who will stop at nothing until a peace accord has been reached.

Feelings rule. Thinking rules. Choose.

Thinking about thinking

Following on from my last post, I can see the necessity of defining what I mean by “thinking”. Here’s a link to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to examine what the experts say. If you click on that link, you’ll find that they have over 20 different entries for what think means, in my view far too many to work with. The definition that I like and that I’ll be working with is this one:

1ato exercise the powers of judgment, conception, or inference REASON

I’ll push that definition out a bit to include Critical Thinking, a subject that merits its own website as you will see if you click on that link.

I have always prided myself on being a good thinker and cluey about what went on in the world. Hey, I was a university graduate and for years worked for IBM, a company with the slogan Think. Sure, there were lots of things that I didn’t know, but I was sure that I knew how to think, knew which way the wind was blowing. But as the decades passed and I became more and more interested in thinking about thinking, I was hit with some disturbing thoughts.

Back in the day as a working stiff, I spent most of my time writing computer programs. I was excellent at sitting down with someone, listening to a problem that they had, conceiving of a computer system that would solve that problem and then writing the programs that delivered the solution that they were looking for. Every step of that process required logical thinking. One wrong instruction in my programming and I would deliver garbage rather than solution.

As I sit here now and contemplate other professions, I see similar logic happening. Whether it’s having my car tuned or my teeth looked after, rational thought is unfolding. Building a bridge, baking a cake, composing a melody, driving to work, planning a holiday abroad, meeting up with friends after work for a drink. Everything we do takes correct thinking to make it happen. I get the pub wrong for meeting up with friends for drinks and I’m sitting alone wondering what happened.

None of that is rocket science. Yet all of that requires thinking about what we want to have happen and then doing the correct things to bring it about. We must exercise our powers of reason.

As I began thinking about this blog post, I looked back over my 16 years in public school and university and couldn’t think of a single course that I took that had as its purpose to teach us to reason, to think rationally. Why weren’t we taught reason and critical thinking along with reading, writing and arithmetic? Put more poetically, why weren’t we taught our four R’s instead of merely three? Reading, writing, arithmetic and reason!

One consequence of thinking rationally is that we begin to make connections. Actions have consequences and we begin to see how A can lead to B. We begin to question everything. Even without being taught formal reason and logic, kids begin to draw conclusions from their lessons.  I know that I began questioning everything at an early age and I was lucky that my questions were handled respectfully. But sadly too many of us are rebuked when we ask uncomfortable questions and we learn to stop questioning. Today, making any challenge of statements that are given to us by the authorities can see us slapped down as spreaders of misinformation. Review what happened to Socrates or what is happening now to Julian Assange or Edward Snowden.

It’s my desire to live in a world built on rationality, one that does not fear questions but welcomes them. When I think about building such a world, I conclude that it’s an error in logic to attempt such building by directly taking on those who rule. They are too firmly entrenched and will do what it takes to stay there. We will build A World of Honour from the bottom up, not top down.

So how can we use our beautiful thinking brains to flourish in this world?

I invite you, dear reader, to take on building yourself a life that has you come alive. In doing so, you will be joining me in my quest. In doing so, we will change our world one person at a time. Perhaps there is no other way to do it.

I invite to you take way from our visit together these three thoughts:

  1. As a social code, adopt the code of honour that I wrote about in an early post. Do no harm, everything by agreement, and be your word if adopted with courage and determination should keep us in good stead with our world.
  2. Using our rational minds to the best of our ability, choose actions wisely that will help us build the life of our dreams.
  3. Don’t allow ourselves to be distracted. Let us focus tightly when working on our dreams.

These are three simple ideals that we can live by. Join me in continuing our evolution to bring about A World of Honour.

Human Being Defined

Way back in time when I wrote my first post, an early inclusion was the following:

But isn’t the defining characteristic that makes a human being different from our chimp cousin intelligence, the capacity to think? This emerging mutation became more and more a gene that gave its owner a better chance at survival, a better chance at passing on that gene to the next generation.

I touched on a fundamental point but didn’t give any detailed proof or explanation to back up this assertion. If we’re going to build a new world together, I intend to start with a foundation, a definition which becomes the starting point to which all subsequent thinking and propositions will return. I’m proposing a new social system which includes all human beings. Unless I begin with an acceptable definition of human being and build from that, any system that I come up with will be floating on a cloud of confusion, drifting on a half-baked assumption. A lot like what we have now, but that’s food for thought for a possible future post.

Let’s continue with the evidence at hand and work backwards to my proposed definition. You, dear reader, are a thinking being. My evidence is that you are taking in my words using this capacity and understanding what I’m saying. Take your life and go back in time all the way to your birth. You began to demonstrate your thinking skill as you learned to speak. By the age of two or three you could speak in sentences and understand what other people were saying to you, follow simple instructions, understand the fairy tale that mum was reading to you. That is what defined you as a human being. You were gifted with his innate skill to think, to think logically, to understand what was being said to you and act upon it. No other living creature can do that. It’s our unique and defining skill.

We have other skills, other traits and characteristics too, ones that we share with other beings. As mammals we have the innate skill to suck at mother’s teat. We experience pain and pleasure, fear and anger, but these features don’t define us. They are not unique to humans.

Let’s reflect for a moment about all the things that we humans have created using our power to think. In no particular order nor in anyway judging their worth, I began my search on this using Google. In .53 seconds I was informed that Amazon alone sells over 12 million products, and if we look to everything available in the marketplace, the number expands to over 350 million. If we look at any supermarket today, we find that they will have about 25,000 different items on their shelves. Included in this list would be the keyboard I’m using to type the letters appearing on my screen using my Word app flowing along wifi waves to my internet modem and landing somewhere in the cloud of data in a bank of data servers somewhere on the planet another .53 seconds or less after I type. Mind boggling. The number of human beings who got together to create all of this is also mind boggling. All done by thinking.

Human beings created Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa which we turned into a song and sang along with Nat King Cole, read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women or watched numerous filming’s of the story.

And in a darker vein human beings also created atomic bombs which we then flew in bombers and dropped on our fellow humans in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As I type these words two of our fellow humans, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, are reminding us all too convincingly that we might be repeating similar bombings but on a much broader scale.

Why am I so interested in definitions? Because they become so important after we go beyond the simple thinking we learn in our earliest days. We got off on such a right foot. Mum and Dad taught us dog, cat, run, jump, carrot, potato, eat, sleep. So simple, just point and speak, point and speak over and over and even little you and I got it all correctly. Later I went to school and was taught how to read and write, how to represent those simple words that Mum and Dad taught us using letters that were combined to represent “dog” or “cat”. I was taught numbers too, simple arithmetic. But to go beyond this required a new way of thinking beyond point and speak, a way involving concepts and logic. I was never fully taught this and likely neither were you

As human beings, we will thrive or perish depending on the quality of our thinking. Without explicitly knowing what it means to think rationally has held us all back from living life fully. In a sense our life’s work is to improve the quality of our thinking so we can improve the quality of our own and others’ lives.

My desire and intention is to live in a world where each of us is busy creating the next symphony, the next poem, the next cancer cure, where we’re all busy having fun with our friends, playing with our children, walking on the beach enjoying the pounding of the surf. I want to live in a world in which each of us is doing our best to come alive, to figure out what that might look like and then to pursue that goal with the best that’s within us. This is what I’m calling A World of Honour.

To that end, I’m inviting everyone to take on the three principles of A World of Honour: do no harm, everything by agreement, and be your word. I’m offering this as a pact, a truce from which to live with each other as we create a glorious future together.

I want blue skies and rainbows in my future, not mushroom clouds. How about you? What do you think?

Declare Your Independence

In my last post, Let’s Talk Our Walk, we were examining the institution of government. How about in the spirit of the revolutionary Americans of 1776, declaring our independence from it? I think this is how it must unfold. Each of us, independently seceding from the current governmental paradigm, declaring to ourself and to the world that we no longer have someone entitled to boss us around. One by one we will withdraw our sanctions. Yes, the universe will ignore us at first, but as our numbers build and we become more present change will happen. How this change will look I cannot say, but it will be good change, change that leaves no one out, change that doesn’t call for more blood to be shed.

I’m calling for a paradigm shift in how we are governed. The only appropriate government that I say befits a species of reason is one of self-government. We inherited the current can of worms that rules us, and one by one must take back our birthright: to govern oneself. In a previous post I offered an oath one might take to illustrate the shift. Something similar is needed for the declaration that I’m talking about.

Here’s one I’ve put together to examine. It may not be the final expression of what I want to say nor the best, but it captures the spirit of what I believe is needed. Have a read. Amend it, make it better.

Here goes.

Declaration of Personal Independence

In taking on the challenge of living a life befitting a rational being, I declare the following statement as my own, to live out of each day and to remind myself of my intentions to live a flourishing and responsible life.

I declare that:

  1. I am free.  I hold that my life is my own to be lived for whatever purpose I choose.  I claim every second of my life as mine and that no one may have even a second of it without my consent.
  2. I am free to act.  I hold that all actions are possible to me excepting those which do harm to another.  I hold that I may participate singly or with all persons who choose to participate with me in all matters of human endeavour, including but not limited to those of business, religion, science, medicine, education, philosophy, and politics.
  3. I am free not to act.  I hold that I may decline to partake in any endeavour.  This includes but is not limited to refraining from participating in religion, education, business, science, medicine, philosophy, politics, and war.
  4. I am entitled to keep the fruits of my action.  I hold that my property is my own.  I hold that every penny that I honestly acquire is my own and that no one may have even a speck of my property without my consent.
  5. I am responsible.  I take on the responsibility for all the consequences of all my actions and inactions.  I will not pass on my responsibility to anyone who chooses not to accept it.  I promise that should I purposefully or otherwise commit action against another or another’s property that is harmful, I will bring correction to it.  I also promise that should some person or persons aggress against me or my property, that I will defend myself to the best of my ability within the framework of my personal ethics.

Being that these are the principles by which I live, I now sign this oath of my own free will, I now promise that I will support these ideas and principles for as long as I live.

Signed by ________________________ 

this ____   day of  _____________________.

In the presence of _______________________________

If you have printed off your declaration and signed it, then much is possible that wasn’t a moment before.  You are now free. You always were, but now it’s public. If nothing else, you and your witness know. I took this action before posting this blog, so at least Heather and I know that I am free. I’m sure that Biden and Putin and the rest will never know and will never care but that’s not my concern.

My concern is how to best live a life that has me come alive. Telling others about what I think and why I think it is my concern, what makes me come alive. This makes me come alive, taking action that promotes the ideas that I’m most passionate about.

Yes I want others to read my blog and become captivated by it, to take action and join me in this adventure without any guarantees of where it might lead. I would love for better minds to pick up on my ideas and take them further and faster than I could ever hope for. Whether this happens is not my concern either. That’s for others to choose.

Your life matters and no one has the right to interfere with it. This simple truth has been stated many times before in many ways. And then we lie about it, we rationalize, we come up with an endless stream of “Yes, but” where what follows the “but” is a lie.

Oh what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practise to deceive!

Sir Walter Scott

Consider that COVID lockdowns and the Ukraine are predictable consequences of the tangled web of lies that govern our politics. Our paradigm shift begins with telling the truth.