Monthly Archives: March 2013

Discovering Corruption & Defining Morality

Discovering corruption is integral to the entire human experience. In an imperfect world our bodies are designed to try and fight anything that can hinder our progress and physically it takes the form of our immune system. Like many things in our lives, the body can be used as an example to explain larger more complex social issues that might seem unrelated.

When it comes to corruption, and by extension morality, the first thing to realize is that there is no perfect system yet. In the same way our immune system can fail, so can we when we try to identify corruption. While many argue about morality in terms of what is right, what is wrong, or if there is some divine origin or not, I see morality in a different way. Morality is merely our tolerance for things that may or may not get us to our perfect goal. I use the word may because it is really hard to know for sure if something we consider moral is indeed progressive in nature.

What we are constantly doing with morality is trying to find the “sweet spot”. The sweet spot is enough focus to move us forward but at the same time being able to allow things that would hinder us otherwise. Imagine you had to warm up a small point on a wall and you could either choose a laser or a flash light. The flash light, representing a large tolerance, could warm up the spot at a slow rate. The laser on the other hand could warm up the spot much quicker but it requires you to be on target. This has been the case with human morality since the dawn of time; trying to find the right amount of rules, not too many and not too few. Divine morality which people often call upon as a standard has deviated greatly in tolerance over time. If we look at Judaism for example, it has 613 Mitzvah (rules). Neo-Judaism, also known as Christianity, has significantly less. Using this example as a reference, Christianity would be the flash light where as Judaism would be the laser.

It is difficult for a lot of us to think in tolerance terms. Every action must be either right or wrong even though it is completely possible for an action to be simultaneously both right and wrong such as a person stealing food to feed their starving family. We, as architects of the future, have a challenge on our hands. As technology proliferates everything we do new questions of morality will need to be tackled. So how do we go about this?

Discovering Corruption
The easiest way is through modelling. The very idea of corruption is based around the idea that something should be one way but what is really happening is different. Our immune system functions by identifying things that don’t belong and this same method can be utilized for discovering corruption. When a model doesn’t exist, or needs to be changed, it can only be changed through a democratic function. Any kind of model change outside of a democratic function will ultimately not be able to survive and will collapse under the needs of the whole.

Once we have established a model then we can start seeking out the anomalies. Who is involved that shouldn’t be? Who is doing something they don’t regularly do? Once we establish for ourselves the way things should function it becomes much easier to figure out what is not functioning properly.

In real life practice we do this all the time and just don’t realize it. When a husband or wife suspects their mate of cheating it is because there is corruption present in their model of reality. It might be unconscious subtlety that makes the person believe they have some kind of intuition or special powers. In fact most things that could be considered exceptional intuition are a result of understanding models. You can actually utilize this method to gain intuition through basic deduction instead of relying solely on the itchy feelings you get.

In order to identify if there is corruption taking place follow these steps.

  1. Identify the Model
    This can be one of the most challenging parts but is the most important. Figure out what is “normal” or what “should” be happening. This can be challenging because what you consider to be normal might not actually be normal. The easiest way to figure out normal is to figure out long lasting precedents. While it is true corruption can be there from the start, this is not usually the case.
  2. Identify Anomalies
    What doesn’t belong? Again, this can also be difficult. You need to try and stay as objective as possible. If you feel something is wrong, you might have the need to prove yourself right. If you’re out to prove yourself right versus trying to discover true corruption you will identify things as deviant that actually aren’t. If you are emotionally invested in the potential corruption you think exists, it might be prudent to ask for feedback from a third party.
  3. Verify
    The final step is to do some kind of exploration to see if the anomalies you identified in step 2 are actually taking place and if they are a product of corruption. There is always the possibility that something might be off or different for valid reasons.
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Escaping Emotion (A Method)

The idea of escaping emotion has been around since the starting of civilization. Emotions can often be negative and so we will try to be objective or practice other methods of escaping emotion such as meditation. The need to escape emotion is usually always used in the context of escaping bad emotions such as fear or sadness because no one really wants to escape joy unless they are in a phase of their life where they are seeking purpose.

The most interesting thing about escaping emotion is how often we do it but we just don’t recognize it. I remember when I was a child and someone asked me how I was feeling and I responded truthfully, “I don’t really feel anything at all.” This was followed by, “Are you feeling alright?” I quickly learned that the proper response to that question was that I feel good or that I am okay. I think everyone can relate to this. How many times have you been asked how you are feeling and responded with, “I am good” when you knew that wasn’t entirely truthful? Why do we do this?

Humanity is obsessed with binary choices. Something has to be good or evil, wrong or right, and happy or sad. When we interact socially with people there is usually emotion present such as excitement or regret. When we interact with fellow employees over work tasks there is almost never emotion involved unless there is some kind of problem. I imagine there are people reading this blog right now that are stateless. They are neither happy or sad and if they were to really meditate on that for a moment it might actually make some people feel uncomfortable. In fact an unemotional state is where we spend a significant amount of time but we hardly reflect on it. This is because in an unemotional state there is no need to reflect, you have a goal or an objective of some type that needs to be accomplished and this might be something as simple as the need to go to the washroom.

Imagine you are driving down a long high way where the scenery was completely the same and suddenly you come to screeching to a stop to let ducks cross the road. If the trip took hours, it wouldn’t matter, you would only remember the emotional state you were in when the ducks crossed the road. When you reflect on your state of no emotion it might feel like you’re not living. However, after awhile you will realize that this state can be utilized to have moments of clarity.

Emotions are a reactionary force to try and get us to do something to compensate for some kind of stress or make us recognize lack of stress. That said, you are capable of interacting with the universe in a non-reactionary way. So how do you voluntarily escape emotion? That is the simple part. Unlike meditation this state is easy to get into once you recognize it. Let me explain. Odds are you have never really reflected on this state you enter on a regular basis, but now that you know it exists all you have to do is catch yourself in the act. Once you catch yourself in the act you can reflect on it and once you know how it “feels” you can gain the ability to turn it on and off. When you enter this state it might allow you to make better choices then to simply follow your emotions which almost always have a much shorter term horizon.

There is No Win

Humanity is obsessed with winning. Motivational speakers will make their living talking about how not to fail. However, the true reality of the world wouldn’t make for a very motivational speech.

There is no win that comes without a loss, to either yourself or others. For every victory there is some form of sacrifice that occurred to make the victory possible. The best athletes in the world will sacrifice their social lives, future career potential, and their daily comfort just so that they can win.

Most entrepreneurs will fail on average at least four times before achieving success. The biggest losses come when we are incapable of accepting the reality of loss in the creation of victory. A perfect example is in a relationship if one partner is incapable of accepting a loss. The obsessive need to win can destroy a relationship because compromise is a form of mutual loss. For a relationship to “win” there must be mutual loss.

Our primary perception of victory comes from human competition but this isn’t necessarily the best model to portray victory. This model of victory and loss does little to demonstrate balance of priorities. Instead of teaching our children that they can achieve certain things if they sacrifice other things, we teach them that they must simply be better than others. The other problem with the traditional model of victory and loss is it does a sore job of explaining that time sacrifice can possibly compensate for genetic inefficiencies.

The idea of sacrifice applies to the entire human race as well. All victories we have made as a race have come at some kind of loss. Almost every choice we make is on some kind of sliding scale and as the times change the scale size may vary but the scale never stops existing. It is important to realize that everything has a cost and we must understand the sacrifices we will need to make in order to achieve victory going forward.

Balancing Forces (Karma)

We talk about balancing forces regularly. The most common is this concept of Karma. Since Karma is religious concept with after life meaning, I am instead going to call it balancing force. There are two types of balancing forces in our world direct, and indirect. I am going to touch on both of these types in this article and also explain how you can utilize both of them to improve your life.

Indirect Balancing Force
A large amount of the time I hear people use the term karma in a sentence it is out of smite. You’re cut off while driving, someone gets the promotion you wanted, or you are bullied in high school. What do you say? “Those people are going to get what is coming to them!” The problem with this is that not only does this not help you, according to the way we believe balancing forces to work, you are probably completely wrong. Let me give you a scenario. Every day you got bullied in high school and all you could think was, “one day that bully will get what is coming to him.” The only problem is he actually did get what was coming to him every day when he went home and got beat by his parents. In this scenario, the positive points he gets at home is negated by his bullying. If there is a universal score board, he has nothing to lose or gain.

The real truth is that the universe doesn’t always work out the way we want it to. People who are mean and aggressive become rich and successful while other people who are very nice won’t be able to afford their mortgage. Now it is very true that there is a common story that exists where the mean jock will go on to work at a grocery store for the rest of his life and the quiet nerd will go on to be super successful, but this isn’t always the case.

If you want to believe in an indirect balancing force (Karma) you need to completely change how you view events that occur to you. When someone cuts you off in traffic instead of saying, “that person will get what is coming to them!” you need to say, “Thank you, this negative event you have caused me will make my future brighter.” Since you don’t have access to the universal score board, you have no idea what another person’s “score” is.

I personally don’t believe in a universal score board but I do believe in an indirect balancing force for another reason. We are all connected through our interactions. If I hold the door open for someone there is a connected event with that person that is created. If there is a person watching this occur, there is another connected event created. The combination of these connected events can have consequences on an individual. While it is impossible to predict ultimate outcomes, being mean to everyone is not going to have the best outcome.

Direct Balancing Force
Obviously relying on an indirect balancing force isn’t something most of us can be satisfied with. That is why we created systems of justice. Now these systems don’t always work as they should, but they are our first pass of bringing an ideal to reality. A direct balancing force also applies to when a person works very hard and is then rewarded for that hard work.

When it comes to direct balancing force there is really not that much to talk about because it is a force of our own creation so we have a general understanding of how it works and its current flaws.

Creating Reward Scenarios
Have you ever done something that you knew you were supposed to and then something positive happened shortly after? When positive things happen within a short time frame of an action we did, we sometimes like to create a relationship between the two and this is a very good thing.

Good things actually happen to us all the time but the problem is we can never be 100% sure why these good things happen. It could be that you are some how being rewarded for something you did, or it could be random. Regardless of why a good event occurs, you should associate it with an action you think most benefits your life.

This is partially deluding ourselves but it works out in our favor. If something good happens to you randomly and you accept it as random, besides possibly making you feel more lucky, the event has no force. Now if you believe the positive event was caused by something you did, then that event has more meaning. Depending on the positive event it may be impossible to know what actually caused it. It might very well be that it was caused as a reaction to something positive you did. If you can’t know, it is better to give the positive event some force to allow it to help shape your life for the better.

Finding Hope

findinghopeWhy do bad things happen to good people? This is probably one of the most common questions I am both asked and that I also read about. I want to both answer this question and also confront something we are all guilty of and that is the fact that we tend to gloss over horrible events. When we read about terrible events such as rape we will admit it is horrible and then move on. The problem is the victim can’t so easily forgot.

When talking to people who have went through horrible events I will often hear a common statement, “What happened to me was meaningless.”  The reality is that these events do have meaning, we just don’t want to believe it. If an event was truly meaningless, it would have no affect on people. Rape victims will go so far as to become promiscuous in order to try and make what happened to them meaningless. What we all need to embrace is the fact that corrupt events are not meaningless, they have the most important meaning of all, they are an indication of a problem.

Very few would say to a rape victim, “Thank you for your sacrifice, you have brought to light that corruption still exists and hopefully the power of this event can help change the world for the better.” Our entire culture is backwards. We worship those who gain happiness and success, and dismiss those who have been broken. We should worship those who have went through all forms of suffering; we have no problem doing it with soldiers but when it comes to rape victims we avoid it. Instead we pity them or express how horrible it is that something so bad happened to them, as if they didn’t know, and we indirectly degrade them as people. Everyone around them change for an event they had no control over. In our lack of understanding, some people will go so far as to blame them, but this is all wrong.

When a child burns them self on a hot stove, who do we blame? Do we blame the heat, the ignorance, or the child? Do we blame the pain that brought the child suffering? No, instead we realize that the pain was a necessary part of learning. What we try to do is teach the children not to touch hot stoves before they actually do it. In the same way horrible events represent the pain of society; events that are necessary but can be avoided.

Bad things happen to good people because in our current state they are our only guidance to escape all suffering. However, in order for us to prevent them from happening in the future we must all realize that bad events are not meaningless and that, in fact, they are very important. It is imperative we pay attention to when bad events happen so that we can better prevent them from happening in the future. We cannot not dismiss bad events as just something that happened in the past.

Conversation with an Atheist

1319049368159_ORIGINALHe sat across from me, a little confused, “You’re telling me you believe in God?” I nodded and I knew where this conversation was headed, “So you believe all that stuff in the bible, you think it is all true?” I shook my head, “No I do not.” I could tell the common line of arguments were already lining up, the common atheist rhetoric that is used mostly to target those with a belief forged by the necessity of human capacity. I began to speak, “I don’t have a common belief in God I…” as if to try and catch me off guard he quickly interjected, “easter bunny.” I sighed and he continued, “God is no more real then the Easter Bunny or a flying spaghetti monster.”
“You forgot Santa Clause.”
“Exactly! how can you believe something that could of so easily been made up?”
“To assert that God is as real as a flying spaghetti monster is to assert that if God were real that God would be tangible. Theoretically if the flying spaghetti monster were real I would be able to reach out and touch it, this does not apply to God in my opinion. You could compare an intangible concept such as God is as real as karma, or love, or anger. However using fictional physical tangible entities to disprove an intangible one is a little silly.”
“This still does not prove that God is not fictional.”
“True, but my belief system does not have the necessity of God actually existing. While it would be nice, it by no means is a requirement for me.”
This was clearly not what he was expecting but none the less, defiant, he continued, “Well if God is so great why does he let suffering happen?” I laughed a little, “Why should he stop it?”
“Because God can.”
“So you assume that if God existed he has to be good or conform to some human trait that you have defined. You clearly admit that you don’t believe in God yet you seem to have a clear understanding of what its personality should be if God did exist.”
“It doesn’t make any sense though, why would God create something to let it suffer?”
“Well first, you’re making the mistake that I believe that God created us as a completed entity, which I don’t. Even if God did create us in the current state we are in right now, truly that cannot be a final state, but let me get back to your original question. Suffering is freedom. If we were incapable of making bad choices we would be no different then anything else, we would be complete automatons without any freedom whatsoever.”
“So you believe God created evil,” he said frustrated.
“No, we created evil as a way of defining things that make us less progressive as a race. Even if there was some kind of supernatural forces in play, it would be the same thing, a force stopping us from progressing as a race.”
“But there is zero proof of God! We are figuring out everything! We used to think we were the center of the universe. Surely you don’t think evolution is false?”
“Where I believe we came from does not factor at all into any belief I may have about God. While there may not be proof that God exists, we have circumstantial proof in the form of microcosms. Everything we don’t think God could be possible of, we’re doing. We’re creating artificial universes and intelligence. Despite the fact that we are a combination of multiple independent personalities, we are capable of working as a group to create a cohesive universe. If we were to create a universe with life, how would they fathom us?”
“So you believe God could just be some hyper intelligent entity or race that created us?” he said with a laugh.
“That is possible but, honestly, impossible to know. There is something more important then that though. It is how we relate to God that is important. You see everything we are trying to accomplish is represented in God as an epitome. Science is a way of gaining knowledge, God is all knowing. Art is the discovery of the meta physical, God is perfect meta. Philanthropy is represented in God as love.” his demeanor suddenly changed, he became curious, “do you think there is a correct religion? Do you think everyone is worshiping the same God?”
“This is where I disagree with Oprah. Every religion is not worshiping the same God, they are worshiping aspects. Further each religion we have today is characterized by primary traits. Christianity is love, Islam is majesty, and other religions are tradition. Each of these characteristics when combined make a singular personality. Of course they don’t see it that way, each system believes they can exist without the others. That would be like a warrior incapable of disciple or compassion. So what we get is war.”
“I still don’t believe in God, but you have done a better job convincing me then anyone I have met, but I just don’t feel it is reasonable.”
“That is understandable, what is reasonable is affected by time. If I could time travel 5000 years into the past it would be fairly unreasonable to ask those people to build me an airplane. What is truly unreasonable is that many atheists are completely aware that it is a logical impossibility to prove a negative yet they will write entire books on how something doesn’t exist. At the end of the day if God doesn’t exist that doesn’t bother me because it means we have something we can build.”

Suffering

tears10Suffering is responsible for every accomplishment, happiness, and transcendent experience imaginable. The suffering of boredom, lack of success, or lack of quality of life drives us to do the things we do. Almost every spiritual system that currently exists revolves around reducing suffering. We are constantly trying to reconcile the fact that our entire reality is shaped by suffering but at the same time try to avoid it as much as possible. Our success at life really revolves around our pain tolerance for life in general. The lower our tolerance for suffering the greater our drive will be to try to escape it.

We don’t usually think in these terms, instead suffering is considered wholly evil. The world tells you that if you’re not happy there is something wrong with you and you should get the problem “fixed” through any means possible. This is not to say I don’t believe that people can have true biological sicknesses that can make them depressed but mental illness doesn’t seem to be declining. The people that manage to break free of restraint though monetary gain will often times become like fish out of water flopping around on a deck hopping from one religion to another. The others who have freedom but don’t do spiritual or religious jumping jacks instead achieve by creating a new level of personal suffering for themselves that they can beat.

Spiritual leaders of old have mislead the world. What they either don’t know or hide from the world is that suffering can be as addictive as joy. People will plunge themselves into suffering because they are drawn to it. People in perfect relationships will destroy them. People with empires will burn them to the ground. When these things happen we dismiss them, call them crazy, and then move on. Teens will often test the waters of suffering which will make them act in ways that seem completely irrational to their unfortunate parents. Since we have classified suffering as evil, people who are drawn to suffering will often times consider themselves evil and may incorrectly feel the need to do evil acts.

What we must understand is that the reason people are drawn to suffering is not because they are insane but instead it is because their lives have lost purpose and it is only through suffering that they can regain purpose. How deep they go into their personal suffering is really how far they are from their objective. We have created systems that monopolize on this in the form of religion. Humans will constantly plunge themselves into suffering drugs, violence, and criminal acts where they will then get to a breaking point where they will become “seekers”. Once they are in seeker mode the first religion to get to them with the most community support will usually be the religion they convert to. The religion will then, of  course, take credit for changing that person’s life when in reality they changed their own life through self-inflicted personal suffering.

Suffering is necessary for progress but what is not helpful is when people are destructive and pull us backwards. The idea of constructive suffering needs to be explored and we need to give people the opportunity to suffer in a way that will not permanently damage them or society. We must embrace the fact that people pursuing suffering are seeking purpose and not simply dismiss them or get them to go on drugs.