Saturday, August 18, 2012

I want a tech consultant!

I see a gap in the job market. I see a role that needs to be filled. I see a way people can find work, good work, good paying work, and be providing a valuable service to those around them. It is this:

Technological consultant

As a middle-aged homeowner, parent, businessman, I keep being confronted with technological issues, but I'm not a computer science major, and I do not work in any tech field. When my car breaks, I take it to a mechanic. I do not have the time or inclination to learn how to fix cars. Nor do I have the time or inclination to learn all about technology. I just want to be able to live my life without getting my time eaten away by little technological challenges. While I admit they are "little," they cumulatively rob me of minutes every day, hours every week, days every year and add up to a monumental waste of time.

Time I value. Because my time has value, I would pay some one to do this. If I can pay $100 for some one to do in 20 minutes what it would take me 3 hours to figure out, then that is a no-brainer, if I value my time as worth more than $33 (which I do, because I make somewhat more than that at my job--I could spend that 3 hours doing my job, making more than $100 in the process.)

This is how the economy is supposed to work:  People spend time on what they can do most efficiently. So I see a brand new need, a job that needs to be created, a new type of career for our new society:  Technological consultant. You come to my home, you advise me how to set up computers, televisions, video game consoles, how to interface it, connect it, stream it. You listen to how my family wants to watch tv, how we want to use our computers, how we want to listen to music, and then you tell us what hardware, software and services we need to accomplish that.

This person I am hiring should be truly independent. I do not want to talk to the Best Buy "geek squad" or the Apple gurus at their shops because they have a vested interested in promoting their own products. To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I want some one who can deal with the notion that my wife has a Mac and I have a PC and sometimes we may want to use each other's computers, and there ought to be (must be?) some way to make it so I can sit down at any computer in my house -- wife's, mine, mother-in-law's -- and easily check my e-mail or facebook or whatever.

It is about knowing all the technological options and configurations, and being able to advise people what is best, because I am drowning in options that waste my time and without time, I cannot even breathe. Because breathing requires movement and movement requires time.

This new career could be akin to an independent contractor, a general contractor, a self-employed individual. Eventually, the government may be involved with licensing or certifying that people have enough know-how to call themselves this type of profesional, whatever it may be. Maybe this should even be a degree program in colleges. Learning to advise people on how to readily adapt to changing technological landscapes.

Well, maybe I'm just an eccentric suffering under my own glut of technological crap I feel I need to learn to keep up in today's world, and feeling I am falling ever more behind... Or maybe I'm the "everyman" voicing what a lot of people may be feeling. Some one please step up to the plate, ring my door, and give me your business card. Mr. Technological Consultant. I would gladly pay a high hourly rate to spend some time talking to you. And I know about high hourly rates (being that I am a lawyer).

This is today's 2 cents. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
Ciao & Namaste & Amen

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Hidden Cost of National Prosperity

Well, maybe it's not so hidden, but here it is:

We live in a world with a global economy. This means nations are competing with one another for scarce resources. Some do very well and maintain a relatively rich lifestyle (like the USA). Some do very poorly (like Ethiopia).

There is a very real and well-known psychological drive which involves envy and greed, and which I'll call "keeping up with the Joneses." I do not think anyone would be surprised to think this happens on a national and international scale (i.e., people want their standard of living to be as good as anyone else's).

In theory, this means people in poor countries should have huge incentives to go to extreme measures to try to build wealth however they can, to catch up to rich countries. One way to gain advantage in this area is to be more exploitive of your particular natural resources, worry less about polution or climate change or things like that.

However, the destruction of planetary resources -- take, for example, the Amazonian rain forest -- does not just affect the long-term future of those particular nations, it affects everyone in all nations. Because the Earth is a single, interdependent biosphere. Which means those poor nations destroying their natural resources and polluting and otherwise harming the planet for some short-term economic gain (economic survival in some cases) are not just selling out their own future, but the future of the rich nations, too.

One obvious way to stop this absurd, global rat-race is to NOT have one nation be more economically successful than any other. So we find a way to give all economies, all societies, an economic equilibrium so there is no significant difference in standard of living from one place to another. Obviously, it would be imperfect, but if it is close enough, it should eliminate a major factor driving those willing to harm the environment for financial gain. People in rich nations would have to become less greedy and materialistic, the trade off being that their planet (and their descendants) might actually have a healthy future.

Yes, it is a simplistic view of the situation, but sometimes simple is good, in terms of a starting point. Well, I'm sure this only tracks what many others have to say, but perhaps the way it is stated is different. If not, then it's still one more voice in the wilderness adding to the call to action.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

UNETHICAL MARKETING BY LAWYERS?

The following article / blog / editorial was NOT written by me, but was located by me on a "cached" internet site. It addresses an issue I have been concerned with, and to avoid the risk it may disappear from the internet, I am reposting it here:

Are ghostwritten lawyer blogs unethical? : Real Lawyers Have Blogs

Hits: Post by Error on 11/Jan 2012

AD postion 3 The ghostwriting of blogs is apparently becoming the rage for attorneys and law firms.
A law firm who our client development team spoke with yesterday afternoon knowing that LexBlog doesnt author lawyers blogs asked if we had a recommendation for someone who could do so.
A lawyer with the firm said a Marketing Person told them the firm needed a Facebook page, a Google+ page, a Twitter account, and a blog. The Marketing Person said they could hire a bunch of college students who would write the blog posts and post to the other social media media on a regular basis - in some cases, multiple times a day.
Put aside the ghostwriting of law blogs being shortsighted (you dont farm out networking, relationship building, and the demonstration of your expertise), theres a question whether it is ethical for an attorney to have someone else blog for the lawyer or their law firm.
Lawyer Advertising is governed by each state, whether by the states supreme court or bar association. is typical of states restrictions on Lawyer Advertising.
Is an attorneys failure to disclose that their blog posts are written by someone other than the attorney or law firm misleading? Is doing so omitting a fact (that you did not author the blog posts) so as to make what you are doing as a whole materially misleading?
I think a real case can be made that it is misleading and unethical.
When the question of was raised by the Aba Journal a couple years ago, Attorney , VP, Business Development & General Counsel for Avvo, Inc. said "Ghost blogs are unethical if there’s no disclosure."
Some lawyers argued that much of the work product law firms do is written by one lawyer, while attribution is given to a more senior lawyer. To which King responded:
Attorney Advertising is subject to Rules of Professional Conduct, the most critical of which is that marketing communications can’t be deceptive.
Passing off someone else’s writing and ideas as one’s own, in a marketing vehicle designed to showcase an attorney’s engagement with and competence in a given area, is deceptive.
King was not along in his belief that ghost written blogs are unethical.
Some deception is countenanced in most areas of commerce (advertising often involves deception), but lawyers have ethical duties that nobody else has.
Using a ghostblogger may not be illegal (that is, violative of rules carrying official sanctions) but it’s unethical.
From well respected Miami Criminal and Bar Grievance/Admission Attorney, :
No question the public can feel mislead by a ghostwritten blog. This from a consumer of legal services who responded to the Aba Journals question:
Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the “use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work. ..
Thomson Reuters FindLaw apparently knows ghostwritten lawyer blogs are unethical. As I shared yesterday , paraphrasing news reports and legal updates, to law firms.
Rather than listing a lawyer or law firms name as the author of a blog post, FindLaw says the post is On behalf of the name of the lawyer or firm.
Some law firms will list the author of their blog posts as the law firm. I dont see anything misleading there, no matter who at the firm writes the blog posts. The blog posts may not be as effective for business development as blogs citing the individual attorney author, but it doesnt look like an ethics issue.
In the long run, attorneys and law firms are going to benefit little, if any, from ghostwritten blogs. The vast majority of ghostwritten blogs paraphrase news and legal developments reported elsewhere.
Many of these ghostwritten blogs are going to damage the reputation of the attorney and firm. The exact audience youre looking to reach - reporters, clients, prospective clients, and other bloggers who cite and share your offerings - will be turned off by such blogs that offer no value.
Bottom line, youre skating on thin ice from an ethical standpoint when it comes to ghostwritten law blogs. Ive seen attorneys run before their state supreme court or bar association on ethics complaints with less basis.
And in addition to other types of ethics complaints, this would be one that would draw a ton of publicity on and offline. Nothing gets more sensationalized when it comes to legal news today than lawyers and social media.You may also discuss on the and on .

From: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:JTnZfWTOHI4J:www.findalawyer-usa.com/view/Are-ghostwritten-lawyer-blogs-unethical-Real-Lawyers-Have-Blogs_52845+unethical+blog+findlaw&cd=6&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Illogic of Atheism

As a philosophy major in college, I eagerly embraced atheism. Well, not eagerly. In fact, as a teenager, I devoured fantasy novels and was depressed at the notion that there was no magic in the real world. Yet, I valued honesty above all else and atheism seemed honest to me.

Over a decade later, I had an epiphane: Atheism was NOT the product of logical reason or belief. Theism was the natural extension of logic.

My reasoning went as such: From the shape of a loaf of bread, you can tell the shape of the pan in which the bread was baked. All things are a reflection of the things that surround them and shape them. Humanity was shaped by the universe and we are a reflection of the universe. In this sense, I use "universe" to embody all forces that surround and impact our evolution.

This led me to deduce the Rule of Similarities. Basically, the self is similar to the non-self. Because the self was shaped by the non-self. Everything that is not the self in the universe is like the pan and the self is like the loaf of bread. The characteristics of the self necessarily reflect characteristics of the non-self.

One characteristic of the self is consciousness. From my Rule of Similarities, I deduce that the universe is conscious because otherwise I would not be conscious. My consciousness is necessarily a reflection of the universal consciousness.

Once you get to this point and understand it (or at least are open to it as a possibility), you will suddenly see a lot of wisdom further supporting this position. For example, the adage, "there is nothing new under the sun." In fact, science is continuing to reaffirm the notion that there is conservation of matter and energy in the universe. How, then, can we possibly conclude that consciousness is new, is not similarly eternal?

Okay, for those skeptics, let's back up. I do NOT insist on this Rule of Similarities as a truth. I personally believe it, but for other reasons and personal experiences which help bolster my belief. Had I read this blog when I was an atheist, I doubt it alone would have convinced me to believe in a universal higher consciousness. However, bear in mind that I'm not trying to convince you to believe in a universal consciousness. I'm merely trying to make you realize that belief in the NON-existence of a universal higher consciousness is NOT the natural extension of reason or logic.

The illogic of atheism is that it (atheism) is derived from an illogical rule. It is clear not derived from the Rule of Similarities. What rule leads to embracing atheism? It derives from what I will call the Rule of Naught. This I summarize as follows: Nothing exists which has not been proven to exist. So, by that rule, aliens do not exist because they have not been proven to exist. But, wait! Plenty of atheists believe in aliens! Why? Because, they say, in such a vast universe, it is likely other planets like ours exist that also can give rise to evolving, intelligent life. Hold on...what is their reasoning... Does it sound at all like something you might derive from the Rule of Similarities?

That's right, in most aspects of science, removed from pondering God, scientists do NOT embrace the Rule of Naught. Believing a thing does not exist requires as much proof as believing it does exist. It is NOT scientific or logical to believe God does not exist in the absence of proof.

Now, in addition to other things, I am a pragmatist. Let's assume we reject the Rule of Naught, and so we reject atheism, but we are not yet sold on the Rule of Similarities, so we instead lean towards agnosticism (i.e., I don't know or maybe the whole thing is unknowable). The Rule of Similarities is not a hard fast rule. You do not have to agree that all things are similar to all other things in all ways. Things have similarities and things have differences. However, the real value of the Rule of Similarities is to give us a starting point in the absence of proof one way or the other.

To digress, I would point out that in the American court of criminal law, we have a define the starting point thusly: Innocent until proven guilty. Some may misinterpret this as an application of the Rule of Naught, or even as an illustration of the wisdom of the Rule of Naught in practice. That it is wise to have a rule that there has not been a crime until there is proof of a crim. In fact, this is actually an application of the Rule of Similarities. Law-abiding jurors assume the accused is like them --law-abiding --until and unless it is proven otherwise. Thus, if you are on the jury, you assume the accused person is innocent of the crime (just like you are innocent of the crime) until something else is proven. The wisdom of this application of the Rule of Similarities in court systems through thousands of years of judicial evolution should reinforce its merit in our minds (if it works, don't fix it; the proof is in the pudding; etc.).

Sometimes, you will want to know how to act in the absence of certainty about what something is like, what it's characteristics are like. In those situations, what do you do? You EXTRAPOLATE THE UNKNOWN FROM THE KNOWN. This is the Rule of Similarities in action. The Rule of Similarities is just another name for inductive logic which, while not as perfectly consistent as deductive logic, is nevertheless better than nothing.

So, in the absence of certainty as to what, if any, God or Universal Consciousness may exist (or not exist), the Rule of Similarities (or inductive logic, if you prefer) dictates that we extrapolate that the universe is like the self, a collection of liquids, solids and gas (or particles and space, or mass and energy, or forms and waves) the sum of which parts give rise to some conscious awareness. Until we have some proof (or even evidence) to the contrary, the logical and reasoned mind should lean towards belief in a universal consciousness as most likely true. This does not PROVE the existence of a higher consciousness, and it does not DISPROVE atheism. It is not meant to. It is meant to distill what is most reasonable to believe based on what we humans perceive and understand about the universe (and without getting into the complex physic and such which, to my limited understanding, seems to reinforce my own view of consciousness, and maybe yours, too).

For those who remain skeptical (and I like skeptical, so good on you if you are one of those), I hope you can at least acknowledge that my reasoning make sense, and supports embracing a QUALIFIED assumption that a higher consciousness exists. The qualification, of course, is that nothing is yet affirmatively proven, we do not yet have God under a microscope (that we know of) and as we evolve our thinking and undertanding of the universe, we may modify this belief. So, I ask atheists who base their position on REASON to instead replaced that with a QUALIFIED SPIRITUALISM, so you can be working with the more reasonable and likely starting point, that there is a higher consciousness, in your endeavors where this starting assumption might be relevant. This will avoid you making errors because you have incorrectly tainted your endeavors with the false (or at least less likely and less supportable) assumption that there is no higher consciousnss.

At the risk of going to far an alienating those who might be open to this notion, if you stick with it, I think (but you are free to reject this if you so choose) you may actually come to realize that consciousness exists on many levels outside the human mind, both on lower and higher levels. This can happen with a sports team, at a family gathering, with friends, at a concert, in a board meeting (yes, corporations can literally have a consciousness, or meta-consciousnss if you prefer). We do not directly interact with those consciousnesses, so we do not perceive them, but that does not make them any less real (well, the less we perceive them, the less they are part of our subjective reality, so if you call that reality, then they may be less real to you).

Carried to its logical extension, there is a meta-consciousness that thinks of itself as Coca-Cola. And it wants to live and grow. And it probably hates Pepsi. And there is a whole level of drama and romance and intrigue that is going on over our heads in the meta-consciousnesses of corporations and governments and organizations and associations and really any kind of groups. I think some individual members of these groups may be aware of this and may be able to tap into the higher consciousnesses, at least for some while. I think that feeling of connecting to a higher consciousness is a heady feeling that people crave. This is part of why people are drawn to family reunions, concerts, etc.

Why would people want to watch a movie in a theatre rather than in their comfortable living room? Now that you can get quality sound and picture at home, without the expense and hassle and limited snacks and selection at the movie theatre, why go? Why are movie theatres NOT all going bankrupt now that home entertainment options have surpassed what they offer? Because gathering with a large group of people to see and experience the same thing, simultaneously, connects us into a form of meta-consciousness that, in some deep way (generally unrecognized) makes us aware we are part of something eternal, which suggests that death is not the end, and so it comforts and energizes us.

What is the common thread here on when consciousness arises? I guess this may be akin to the "chicken / egg" question. However, I think that whenever minds come together for common purpose, striving with the same will, their wills unite and create a larger consciousness. Sports fans tap into this; it is part (if not the whole) of the appeal of the sports fan mentality. They are tapping into a group-think, a higher consciousness that reaffirms the spirit and connection of all things. Yes, the NFL, NBA and NASCAR are next to Godliness in that they connect us to a higher consciousness.

Concert goers know this, too, and reach heights of ascension communing to a musical theme, "sharing the ride" that leaves them feeling connected and renewed by the affirmance of that connection.

When it comes down to it, you cannot NOT see higher consciousnesses (say that five times fast) forming all around you, if you are open to the possibility that they exist. Does thinking that Santa Claus might exist make little children see him? No. So it is not a trick. It is not brain washing. I you agree something is possible, and then you see proof, that is not a false proof, it is not tainted, it is not brain washing. Admit that this is possible and then wait to see the proof, because it will happen. When you decide to admit, "the existence of higher levels of consciousness is possible, and may make sense," then the proof will come to you over and over and over again until you are a believer. So I don't try to prove the universal consciousness, I just try to undo any false assumptions you may have that are blinding you to this truth. And if you already see this truth, bravo, and thanks for reading.

And since I do say this is an evolving concept, a qualified spiritual system capable of being modified as future discoveries may warrant, I'm open to criticism or suggestion, or even proof of being wrong. If I'm proven wrong, then I've learned something and I will thank you. I have no ego in the truth, as I did not create it. I'm just sickened by how many people seem to think honesty is a sin, or fear it leads to gloom and doom and hopelessness, that pragmatism and realism must lead to the conclusion that life is meaningless and death is the end, so lets cling to our happy lies and enjoy life while we can. That sort of practical irrationality, which has seemingly infected much of the world's population, is actually perhaps the greatest hindrance to people being able to set aside their differences, embrace their commonalities and reach world peace. Or at least that's my present belief-in-progress.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is Art?! Finally an answer!

I realized last night what Art is. Maybe this is presumptuous and maybe I should reflect on it more than a day before deciding it is the best possible definition. However, I figure if I'm wrong, i can edit this later or other people can chime in with their contrary opinions. Basically, I feel passionate about this definition now, so I'll strike while the iron is hot with a blog on this point.

Art is a combination of stimuli whose meaning(s) are in a state of flux. This state of flux makes the art "alive."

It is readily contrasted to a fact. A fact does not change. It needs to be communicated only once (well, depending how clear the communication is and how good your memory is). Take this sentence:

"The capitol of California is Sacramento."

That's a fact. Communicate it and the sentence has served its purpose, it has been conveyed. Rereading the sentence does not add anything new and is a largely a waste of time.

Art does not communicate a fact, or does not communicate JUST a fact, but it rather embodies potential to evoke different meanings or feelings from different people or from the same person at different times. So you can look at a Picasso painting and get some insight or revelation about the painting, about yourself, about how you view the world. Then an hour later, you can go back and look at it again and see differnt meaning, gain different insight. The painting has not changed, but its meaning has changed.

How is this possible? Art accomplishes this by putting together different elements that have some dramatic interplay not just with each other, but with the audience. There are gaps or latent ambiguities in the art that necessarily require the audience to fill in the blanks from their own mind and depending how those blanks are filled in, the meaning of the piece can change.

As long the art has the potential to give rise to new meanings, it is a living thing. It bonds with the audience and becomes part of them or an extension of them.

However, art -- or at least most art -- is not eternally alive. A latent ambiguity in a piece of art may be susceptible to finite interpretations. Eventually, the audience has run the gamut of possible interpretations and relationships with that art, the art then ceases to live. Basically, to fully understand the range of pssible meanings in an art piece ends the life of that art piece, and it becomes inanimate. It ceases to be art and becomes a communication of certain specific, finite meanings or possible meanings.

Now, more possible meanings an art piece can have, the longer it can go before being fully understood to the point that it dies, the more eternal it is. I think this is the ultimate way that critics judge, or should judge, great art. Like the Mona Lisa with her ambiguous smile.

Well, I can already see that this view of art needs to be refined and expanded and evolved. However, I do think there is some kernel of value in looking at art in this way.

The best example of how this defintion of art makes sense, at least to me, is to consider movies as art. There are films you see once and never have to, or want to, see again because you "got it." There's not much mystery, it is readily understood and simplistic. If you are flipping channels and you see the movie is on, you will have no interest in seeing it again because one viewing was enough. There are other movies it seems you can never get enough of. Every time they are on, if you see they are on, you can get sucked into watching it again, like it is the first time.

Why aren't I bored watching Shawshank Redemption for the 50th time? A simplistic explanation is just that it is a great movie, riveting, whatever. However, consistent with the views stated above, I think the movie has a lot of strong and deep ambiguity about meaning and life and values and justice and every time you watch it, you can get something new from it, you can interact with it differently.

A saw a talk once by a screen writer who said the key to good stories was to give the reader problems the reader has to actively solve. You don't lay out all facts in the story for the reader, but you lay out hints and partial revelations and let the audience then do some mental work to put the pieces together into something meaningful. By making the audience actively engage in problem solving, you thereby engage the audience and create an engaging story. I guess my own view of art is somewhat consistent with that, only I am suggesting an elaboration, that if the story is easily solved, because the latent ambiguities (the problems the audience must solve) are too limited, too simple, the story has limited appeal and a short lifespan before it becomes boring. No one will feel any compulsion to see / hear / read it again. So I'm adding a value that a great story does not just have problems to solve, it has problems that can inherently be solved infinite ways (or at least the more the better) and can be solved differently based on the state of mind of the audience at any particular moment.

Well, I again see this needs much refinement. I think some people craft final articles for posting on blogs. I hope my readers (if any) will accept that, at least for now, I am using the blog as more of a stream-of-thought notepad to jot down ideas as they come to me, for possible refinement in the future or by others.

Ken Myers
www.sfvinjurylaw.com
www.kendrakelaw.com

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Logical errors related to faith and religion.

I am a believer in faith. I believe one place faith is appropriate is when the truth about a matter is not known (like what happens after you die) and one belief will support a healthy mindset (such as the belief that there is an existence after death in which we have some form of reunification with our loved ones) or an unhealthy mindset (such as a belief that death is an absolute end and nothing more exists).

Now, I would not have thought the latter belief was particularly unhealthy when I was single and childless. I had loved ones, but I guess the bond was not nearly as strong as that with my own children. As soon as I became a father, the notion that my children and I would one day lose each other permanently was depressing to the point of being unthinkable.

Now, I did not embrace faith in an afterlife only after becoming a parent. I had already decided for myself that belief in an immortal soul was more sensible than believing in nothingness after death, and was more optimistic. I view optimism as a healthier mindset than pessimism. However, becoming a parent reinforced my belief and I feel strongly had I been an atheist up to the point that I became a father, I would soon have embraced a belief system that afforded me hope of reunification with my children after death.

The bottom line is that we do not know, no one knows, precisely what existence we have, if any, after death. So, any belief -- including atheism -- is somewhat illogical compared to simpy admitting and embracing a doubtful mindset. However, I feel that the belief I have embraced allows me to love my children with less reservation, to avoid time spent worried about the risk that death is an absolute end, and having an stronger fear of death that might lead me to be more selfish in how I live my life in order to postpone my death or that of my loved ones.

I mean, I'm not happy about the notion of death, but I'm also not particularly worried about it. I have enough confidence in my view that death is only a transition, and that we ultimately will reunite with our loved ones, that I could easily see myself sacrificing my life for a greater good. I could also embrace a societal moral that people will not go to selfish, extreme lengths to prolong their own life at any cost. Death come to everyone eventually. I look around and see alot of fear of death, see people sparing no expense at measures to prolong their life even after they have reached a ripe old age. I feel this is not particularly good for the planet, these people use up resources better spent on other things.

I'm not embracing some view that all people should suicide at age 30 like in the movie Logan's Run. But I do think like the idea of people embracing a mindset that allows them, after reaching a certain age (like 70, 80, whatever) when they will NOT bend over backwards to eke out an extra month, year, whatever. I freely admit it's easy to say that at age 42. Will I feel differently at age 70? Maybe, only time will tell.

However, the point is that, in an overpopulated world where we are straining scarce resources to support our population, I don't particularly like the notion that so many people seem obsessed with extending the lifespan. Is it really so great if we manage to find scientific means to make lifetimes twice as long? Till the after lifespan is 150 years? 300 years? To me, that is not inherently good. It will almost overnight greatly exacerbate the population problem on Earth.

I think this terrible fear of death so many humans have makes us commit resources to extending life or preserving it at all costs, rather than focusing on other society goals like finding a fairer way to share Earth's resources, finding a higher purpose for humanity than merely prolonging our existence, etc.

So, anyway, I think a mindset that lessens fear of death is healthy and useful and positive. So I embrace such a mindset. Am I fooling myself? Have I brainwashed myself? If so, is that wrong if the end result is a healthier mindset? Is truth -- or true doubt -- sacred and inherently better than embracing a lie that objectively improves quality of life on Earth?

Okay, enough about that. The point is, I have faith. I like faith. I think I have more faith than most Christians I know. Most Christians I know, despite their supposed "faith" in immortality and an afterlife and reunification with loved ones, are inconsistently paranoid of death and depressed when loved ones die. To me, this reveals a certain dishonesty. Basically, the best explanation I can come up with for why they are so paranoid and concerned with death is that they do NOT truly believe the Christian view of the afterlife that they claim to embrace. If anyone has another explanation, I'd be glad to hear it.

Moving on, to the point I wanted to make initially, I was debating religion with a smart Christian friend. He made what I found to be a surprising logical error. He said that he was Christian because he had seen miraculous things in his life that proved his faith. So, basically, he was raised Christian and had faith in the Christian tenets. Maybe he woule have lost that faith at some point in time EXCEPT, he had some certain miraculous and inexplicable happenings. Maybe some one was supposed to die, prayers were made, and the person lived. Maybe this person was in danger and was spared by some seeming impossible coincidences. Whatever the case, it was enough to convince this person that there was some force watching out for people responding to prayers, etc.

The logical fallacy is that even assuming those miracles prove there is a divine force that watches out for us, some divine plan, some power to prayer, NONE OF THAT proves Christianity. In fact, I'm nowhere near being Christian, and I myself believe in all those things. I believe in a higher power that has a higher plan, that there is a purpose to everything, and that our own thoughts, wishes, prayers can help steer how the future unfolds.

So, basically, here's the problem in a nutshell: Imagine a man appears one day at the White House and claims he is Jesus Christ coming down for the second coming. I think we will all agree Barak Obama would be mightily skeptical (as would anyone else hearing this). Now, let's assume this man then takes Barak to a hospital and proceeds to cure all sick patients in that hospital with the touch of his hand. Question time: Does that prove the man is Jesus Christ? NOT IN THE LEAST! It proves nothing more than that this man has a power to heal with touch that is beyond what we can understand. That's it. Could be some advanced technology (maybe the man is an alien or working with aliens?) Could be this man has mastered some form of sixth sense or untapped human potential. Could even be some incredibly complex and wide-reaching conspiracy wherein every patient and every doctor in that hospital is part of some conspiracy to fool Barak and fake all the healings.

The point is, a logical thinker must be cognizant of what is actually proven by a miraculous event. Just because you are taught that belief in Jesus Christ can work miracles, and you then pray in Jesus Christ's name, and your prayer is then answers, in NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM proves Jesus Christ existed, was the son of God, or that there is any validity to Christian dogma.

My own opinion is that the benevolent higher force that exists, whatever it may be, does not really give a flying fig how you couch your pleas for help. In fact, I tend to think we ourselves are fragments of God, like neurons that help to make up the universal brain of God, and whatever we wish for or pray for or expect to happen, is more likely to happen because our own Godhood helps to steer the future to unfold the way we hope or pray or wish or expect it will unfold. So, in that sense, it does not matter one whit if your prayer is in the name of Jesus Christ or Allah or Mohammed or Zues or Quetzelcoatl. Your wishes and expectations will still have power to steer the course of the future. You will still see the future unfold in ways that sometimes reveal some master plan and defy coincidence. This happens for everyone, even non-Christians (it has certainly happened for me) so it in no way proves there is any legitimacy to Christian dogma.

So you can go ahead and embrace those limited things that ARE proven by such miraculous events, just as I do, but please do not go too far and imagine those events somehow lock, stock and barrel prove totally unrelated, dogmatic religious dogma or myth.

Friday, March 23, 2012

On Veganism

In 2003, I was for a brief time jobless while living in Las Vegas, and contemplating a career change. In that place of uncertainty and perhaps even some level of depression, I made the decision to experiment with psychedelics at the age of 34.

Now, I don't recommend such experiementation for all. Again, I was 34. I had significant savings, so I was not in financial trouble. I was single and childless. Basically, the only thing I felt was at risk was myself, and I was not particularly afraid of death since one of my issues was feeling a lack of purpose to life. In those limited circumstances, I felt that this drug experimentation was, if not ideal, at least not particularly irresponsible.

For the record, I also opted for a legal psychedelic, which I will not name. It has since become a scheduled drug by the DEA. So it is now illegal, but at the time it was legal. I point this out because, in fact, I was not breaking any laws when I did this experimenting. From that standpoint, it was on par with getting drunk on alcohol -- imprudent, but not illegal.

This trip did not create hallucinations, but it did make me feel very aware of everything that the mind normally screens out of conscious thought. For example, I was entirely conscious of the weight of the shirt on my back. I had a bite of chocolate and felt like it had 100 times more flavor than anything I'd ever eaten. Basically, I was on sensory overload.

Eventually, without gaining any real insight about much of anything, I decided to call it a night. Before sleeping, I took a shower to help relax. It was as if I felt every drop of water on my body simultaneously. It was sensory overload to the nth degree. It became so overwhelming, I began feeling a sense of mental expansion as my mind tried to process it all. I felt a sensation very much like my mind was growing larger than myself, and larger and larger, and this accelerated. It became a bit like being in a rocket taking off and in a matter of seconds I felt something totally unexpected: I felt one with everything.

I was no longer "Ken," I was now a fragment of the universe, like a finger or toe, though much less significant than that. I was nevertheless a living tool for the universe. This, I later found out, is called "ego death" and sometimes happens on psychedelics, and it can sometimes happen for other reasons, such as the product of meditation.

This was not a frightening place. On the contrary, it was the most peaceful and harmonious mental state I ever experienced. There was no fear of death, or even pain. What happened to my physical body was unimportant because I was the universe, and the universe was immortal. It was a certainty of purpose and immortality that was infinitely comforting.

In that mental state, I still was in my own body, still had my own memories and thoughts. Aspects of my personality were unchanged. But the egotistical aspects were all erased. The things that we do regularly, without thinking about it, based on ego, based on insecurity, based on fear, those were all erased.

I slept and awoke to find I was still in that same mental state. I realized I was hungry and went to have breakfast. However, the notion of having some fried or overly sweetened breakfast -- my general preference -- was totally unappealing. I felt a desire solely to do that which seemed best for the universe, and for nurturing life in the universe. In that mindset, the notion of eating junk food, or anything bad for me, was just completely alien. I did not have to suppress or overcome any desire for sweets or junk food, there simply was no such desire. Instead, I had complete satisfaction and joy in the notion that I was eating in a way that nurtured the cells of my body -- cells I felt I had a duty to care for.

So I had some pieces of fruit and some healthy cereal. When lunch came, I had some plain white rice and a carrot. I saw that much of my kitchen was stocked with food I simply could not bring myself to eat because I knew it would harm my body, and my goal was to nurture life, including my own life.

I went to the store and as I shopped, I realized I could not bring myself to eat meat, or in fact anything that required suffering of an animal. I also was not sure if dairy came from ethical farming or not, so I elected to avoid it until I found out for sure. I erred on the side of depriving myself rather than risk supporting some source of suffering. In that moment, I adopted a vegan diet.

This was a complete 180 from how I had been eating. I was raised on junk food and my mother's pot roast and fried chicken and the like. I never thought I could do without those comfort foods. Yet overnight, I gave them up in that mental state of ego loss (some may say, "enlightenment," but I cannot say for sure that is an accurate label).

The psychedelic I had taken lasts about 6 hours according to everything I read, so it had long worn off. However, this mental state of ego loss lasted three days. After three days of living in a way that was completely selfless and nurturing of life -- not watching tv, not eating meat or any kind of junk food, spending my free time exercising, doing yoga, reading educational books, etc. -- my ego began to reassert itself little by little. A desire for chocolate finally led to me eating some junk food. Then a desire for a cigarette (I smoked at the time) finally overcame my 3 day abstinence from smoking. I had even been having thoughts of giving away all my worldly possessions, and becoming something of a monk. But those thoughts faded. I started watching junk TV and playing video games.

However, despite the resurgence of my ego, and returning to my old habits and ways, one thing that did NOT change was my veganism. For whatever reason, that had taken hold in three days and I did not want to give it up. It was, in fact, surprisingly easy to maintain the diet. I learned to cook delicious vegan foods which became comfort foods as satisfying as anything I had grown up eating.

One caveat is that my reason for staying vegan was a bit different than the norm. Over the prior days, I had done some reading on living to help the planet, to nurture life, etc., and I read how creating meat to eat uses a lot more of Earth's resources than creating grains, fruits and vegetables. I read how there simply was not enough resources on Earth for everyone on the planet to eat the typical American diet. So to eat that diet, one is effectively saying "fuck you" to the rest of the population, and is saying it is okay to take more than your fair share of Earth's limited resources, even if that indirectly causes suffering and starvation elsewhere in the world. Basically, I remained vegan because I felt I owed it to my fellow man.

This actually means I was not vegan. From reading some vegan literature, I learned you are only considered a vegan if you abstain from eating meat or any animal products because you feel the animal is on a par with humans such that eating the animal or its byproducts is unethical. I had a problem with that. For all I know, carrots don't particularly like being plucked from the soil and eaten. Trees give nuts and seeds to grow into new trees, not to be chewed up by humans. While we may be able to more readily empathize with animals and animal suffering, I was not sure that made it any better to make a plant suffer rather than an animal.

And where did that leave carnivors in society? Did vegans think it would be good to invent some kind of plant-based food that would satisfy all carnivores so we could feed it to lions, tigers, ant-eaters, sharks, etc., and thereby prevent any animals from being eaten by any other animals? Where did the goal of saving animal lives end? Did we need teams of veterinarians to go out in the wild and try to save and heal any sick or injured wild animal?

No, in the end, I decided life is meant to feed on life. Animals, too, are meant to be food. The notion that this is morally acceptable only so long as the animal is eating by a carnivore, but not an omnivore, seemed to be splitting hairs. However, I kept to a vegan diet not because there is something wrong with eating animals, but because it was selfish to take too much of Earth's resources for myself. I felt a moral obligation to try to live a lifestyle that was more sustainable and less likely to lead to famine, shortage, and strife among humans.

I also thought that while eating animals may be morally acceptable, there was something wrong with developing a system that essentially tortured animals in the process of grooming them for eating. So I still felt that there should be some more ethical types of raising animals for food, in a way that gave the animal some measure of quality of life before its ultimate slaughter for food.

I still think those are good thoughts and good reasons to be vegan, or vegetarian. However, I have "fallen off the wagon," when I fell in love with a non-vegan, and moved away from my vegan support network back to where I grew up. Times grew a bit rockier and I let that induce me to slowly and steadily eat more meat. These days, I eat as bad a diet, as meat-centric as I ever did. I do, however, look back on my year of being vegan with some measure of pride and longing to return to that way of eating. Not just because I have some guilt eating my current diet, but also because I frankly felt healthier eating that way. I weighed less, had lower cholesterol, at more of my own cooking, was more creative in my cooking, never had to fear about working with raw meat in the kitchen, etc.

So, basically, I do see myself resuming veganism one of these days, or at least vegetarianism. It is a goal of mine. I guess, though, I still would not be technically considered vegan because, again, my motive would be mostly that I think it is better for myself and humanity, and lessening animal suffering is only a secondary issue, and the notion that eating meat is inherently evil is, in fact, not a motive at all and not a position I think I agree with. (However, I am open to the notion I still have more to learn and maybe vegans have a point I just do not yet appreciate in this regard.)