Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Three Strikes

Craving, aversion and ignorance; can they be eliminated? I want to know, I can't tollerate people who don't want to know, and I don't know how to know.

Fork in my Path

Was happy to hear that the Vipassana Meditation Center will be more than capable of catering to my self imposed culinary restrictions. I leave tomorrow. I had a bit of a rough day of dwelling on a few negative issues yesterday. My sister called last night and she was pretty miserable too. It was good to chat. I am very curious to experience the rest of this month. You know how it is when you are heading into a brand new experience, when your powers of prediction and anticipation become inadequate, when each step forward treads on a personally unbeaten path? That sounds like living to me.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Mr. Smarty Pants

Do I need to talk about what happens when we assume? I catch myself doing it all the time. I'm trying not to let it bother me when other people make assumptions about me. When they try to complete my sentences, when they say "yea, yea, yea," when they react to their interpretation of what I say or do believing that they know exactly what I meant or why I did it. It gets tiring dealing with someone who isn't listening to you but is rather listening to themselves listen to you. I try to verify my interpretations. I try to ask questions first. I try not to state my interpretation as fact. It seems to me...It sounds like you are saying...As far as I can tell...Do you mean...Are you talking about...Is that like... Prematurely formed impressions are hard to change afterwards. Don't set the mold until you have seen the subject from all sides. Keep your opinion open and on the table. The trouble with language is that it is an abstraction of reality. It is lossy communication, simplified classification, and the illusion of true understanding. A poor communication channel requires sending the message multiple times, sending the message multiple ways, or a very structured message format and communication context that allows for error checking. The message is not your words, the message is a piece of you, the words are just how you are trying to send it. Good science allows that any new data point may support or contradict the current reigning hypothesis and may help lead to the next hypothesis. True understanding of another perspective is impossible, the best we can do is to try to get as close to it as we can. Don't be an arse Mr. Smarty Pants and I'll do my best to avoid being one too.

Balancing our Humours

Laughter. Humour. Taking everything too seriously. Not taking things seriously enough. The absurdity of life. I'm absurd. You're absurd. We're all absurd. Where do we draw the lines between that which is praiseworthy, that which is funny, and that which is reprehensible? Where do we draw the lines between tears of joy, tears of laughter, and tears of sadness? Under what conditions do we stand up, fall down, or roll over? If it isn't how we think it should be shall we curse it and get out or laugh at it and climb in? If it is how we think it should be shall we follow it with praise or find a new reason to laugh? How shall we respond when joy turns into pride or sadness turns into anger? An eye for an eye only increases the polarization. Laughter brings it back together. Laughter disarms. Lets try not to take everything so seriously, except for the serious stuff of course.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

The Human Asymptote

That was fun. I don't usually think in Freudian metaphors, I tend to like to come up with my own. Other people's thought structures can be helpful but can also be limiting. I talk in discrete elements but I think in continuous flows. If I slice the world in as many ways as possible, each time into a variety of discrete elements, over time the resulting collage of dissections will approach an image of a continuous flow. The asymptote of the humanity function.

Freudian Slip on the Ice

I realized that I feel like a child in my father's presence. We haven't moved the relationship completely over to an adult relationship. I still submit to him almost completely. I don't always speak up when I disagree with him. I am overly concerned about what he will think about my workmanship, my choices, my life. I've somehow returned to the psychological age of thirteen.

When I was three my parents divorced and my mom left the home. I believe this resulted in the stifling of my Id development. The whole split up process probably started before I was three so perhaps I was fixated at various stages. Oral, anal, and phallic stage fixation resulting from both frustration and overindulgence all seem to carry symptoms that ring true in me.

I then built my Superego up in my father's image mostly rejecting the value system of my mother. At thirteen my fathers choices regarding mate selection, job selection, and behavior tolerance went against my image of his values and thus my Superego development was cut off from his guidance.

So my Ego continued on with a three year old Id who sucked on bottles and cigarettes like they were thumbs and a thirteen year old Superego who believed his concepts of right and wrong were the be all and end all of morality. My Ego also had to deal with an overbearing step-mother which only helped to school himself in the techniques of Ego defense, particularly denial, intellectualization, rationalization, repression, and finally regression.

Thirteen years later the setup failed so I transferred power to a dormant Superego based on my mother's system of morality and removed power from my Id altogether. That failed resulting in a return to hedonistic "thumb" sucking.

I am currently allowing both Superego systems to merge into one and grow on its own. The resultant system is proving to posses the best of both of my parents and elements not present in either.

I am also working on developing a relationship with my mature Id to understand my needs. It has involved gradual elimination of inputs in order to determine the essentials. There is a fair amount of healing time required in this process to make up for the past.

So this is why I feel like I am thirteen and three yet neither. I feel like I am finally going to begin evolving beyond my parents value systems and interpreting my emotions and bodily urges. Hopefully once my Id and Superego have matured sufficiently to reassume their responsibilities my Ego can offload his extra baggage and get back to his true purpose; maintaining the equilibrium.

-40 C = -40 F

I just had my first coffee in several weeks so please forgive me.

I have been away at my father's cottage/country house/log cabin/chalet/whatever. He got a call from the heating oil people who said that they had put over 800 liters of fuel into the tank and due to the high volume they were concerned that it may have been empty. Well, when a oil furnace runs a tank dry you can't just start it up again once the tank is full. You need to prime the thing to get whatever water/sludge/whodidthis out of the lines first.

The drive up was good. We got to talk about some stuff that we wouldn't have talked about otherwise. Enough said.

So we got up there and the furnace was off. The whole house was in a deep freeze. If you live in the north east then you have an idea as to how freaking cold it has been. Well, lets just say that the temperature hit -40 (that's the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit if you were wondering) just before the sun came up on Thursday morning. We turned on these little baseboard heaters, some portable heaters, and the oven.

My father, the eternal idealist, was certain that this was going to be an in and out job. We had headed up from the city straight from the office without picking up anything from home. The technician he called didn't show up so at some point my father and I decided we would stay the night. He hadn't let me start a fire up until that point because he didn't want to have to leave the flu open when we left. So I started a fire. With all our heaters, the stove, and the fire I think the main room we were in got up to somewhere between 50 and 60 depending how close to the floor you were. My dad slept on the couch and I slept next to the fire. I guess it was more of a deep "I wish it was warmer so I could sleep" meditation. I really wish I had brought my sleeping bag.

So the next morning we did a closer inspection of the water system and discovered that the well pump and pressure tank were cracked, several of the copper pipes had separated at their joints, and one of the toilet tanks had fractured. Things were just beginning to thaw and we did what was necessary to avoid a watery mess.

It all seemed like a big deal to me, like something that would require professionals to fix, an insurmountable challenge even for two intelligent Engineers (although I often don't feel deserving of that title when standing next to my father). My dad just started taking note of all the problems. I helped and followed pipes, located all the problems that I could see. Then he stood in front of the pump and thought, thought and thought some more. He made a little list and headed off to the hardware store. While he was gone I used a little pipe cutter tool to remove the old hardware and then hauled the newly minted junk out back.

He came back with a new pump and pressure tank, plastic pipe and joints, metal joint clamps, copper pipes and joints, and a propane torch. Anyways, the technician never showed at all and we needed to get back to the city to unload a container of heaters today. We packed up and left but not before mostly connecting up the new pump and pressure tank. All that is left is the copper pipe work out of the pump and the repairs to the severed joints around the house.

So my dad knows his shit. I remembered that he built a house once. He didn't just have a house built, he was directly involved in every aspect of its construction. His brain and body are no more capable than mine, he just has a pile more experience behind his than I do. He believes in himself the way I used to when I was young. No conceit, no pride, just quiet confidence.

Working with him reminded me of a few things. I was reminded that I am an Engineer. That has less to do with my degree or my work experience than with my desire and capability to understand how the world works and how to make it better. The first portion of my life was focused on the how it works side but my recent discoveries have me thinking about the how to make it better part. I don't need to change my weapon, I just need to work on my aim.

I was also reminded that big hard problems need to be broken down into little easy problems in order to get them fixed. Its that whole forest and the trees thing I mentioned here except I was talking about a much bigger forest of a problem.

I also realized that I feel like a child again in his presence. I will elaborate on this in the following post using some Freudian metaphors.

I know my Dad is not the vision of perfection of my early childhood or the ineffectual puppet of my adolescence. My helping of affection from him may not have supplied me sufficient nourishment to make up for the lack of a mother in the house but the respect he served to me, and everyone and everything he came across, provided me more than enough sustenance to keep my heart alive through many a cold cold night. Love comes in many textures and flavours; not always the ones you asked for, but tasty and pleasing to the palate nonetheless.

Monday, January 12, 2004

How did we get to the Glue Factory?

My parents were divorced when I was very young. There were some strange circumstances involved that led to me witnessing some strange behavior. I don't know how it affected me. I have only been able to imagine that it would have a bad effect. I remember throughout my childhood being very aware of myself. Overly aware. I picked my actions and words very carefuly. Everything in life was a game of strategy, who to talk to, what to say, who to be. I didn't know who I was. All I knew was that I was good at things. I was athletic, intelligent, and creative. I had a strong sense of empathy to the point of being completely selfless. I always felt like I was different. I always hated myself for not being how everyone else seemed. Girls used to tell me that I was stiff and walked like a robot. I feared saying hello to someone and getting a "why are you talking to me" look in return. I feared responding to someone who seemed to be talking to me because they might just be talking to someone behind me. I always had a crush on someone but never had the guts to do something about it. There were often girls who were interested in me that I was not willing to even entertain as friends. I didn't allow myself to have any feelings of my own, only those of other people. Sometimes I talked to my sister about these things but rarely. My Father was cold. My mother didn't live with us. I saw her once a week and with that setup it is hard to get past superficial stuff, especially when the wall you were hiding behind was built to deal with the fact that you didn't have a normal family. Once I realized that my family situation was different from many other peoples I used it to build my ego. I was tough. I could handle things. Nothing phased me. I became my father. That is how he dealt with it so that is how I dealt with it. I had a fast horse so I rode him fast, didn't think too much about where we were going. So here I am. The horse is tired and sick and I'm not sure where we are. I know he is getting better and will get us back to our path.

The Mind of a CrowMagnum Man

The adds at the top of this page make me think of this episode of The Mind of the Married Man on HBO where the lead was annoyed that his TIVO thought he was gay. I hope anyone reading gets as good a laugh out of them as I do. I think about trying to steer them every now and again for kicks but then I think that might take me away from my real goal here: CrowMagnumism (Revolve + Devolve -> Evolve).

Ginkgo biloba by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Learning to Help

No one has the answers, we are all just making the best with what we have. That being said, we still have a tendency to approach situations as if we already have the answers. We see situations, recognize patterns and come up with courses of action. We sometimes forget that the course of action is a guideline developed from our experience that will require modification to fit the current situation. We also impose this phenomenon on others in our advice. We project ourselves into their lives, make assumptions, recognize patterns, and come up with courses of action. Then we have the gall to give that advice as an imperative. We refuse to admit that our own advice to ourselves is often filled with bad judgment yet we are quite content to continue advising everyone else. The best advice helps the other person make their own choice and reminds them that making the wrong choice is not the end of the world. Helping is learning, not teaching.

Ode to the Third Port

So trying to use the built in self diagnosis and repair system on the built in self diagnosis and repair system itself can cause latchup. Think microphone listening to its speaker. You have an exponential positive feedback problem. So how do we get around this? Well, not connecting the input directly to the output but rather to a point some distance away from the output so as to keep the gain of the system below unity might help. The signal at that point will be out of phase from the actual output and will result in resonance. If we can observe this resonance without disconnecting the self diagnosis and repair system loop we have created than we may be able to diagnose and repair the system itself. This requires some sort of third system port. Steping outside of yourself to tweak the mixture, calibrate the machine, or tighten that loose screw without stopping the machine. You have to be in two places at once. Biofeedback just outside of the source of self. The CEO isn't going to buy this as being an ode. Newbie.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Inner Management

If my mind is responsible for certain things than it must be managed. Well managed of course. I can't just let it run wild. If there is time where my body does not need the services of my conscious mind than I should either rest it or put it to good use. Random use achieves neither rest nor goodness and has a tendency to distract the body from its own work, rest, or play. Once you set the mind free from the shackles of external expectation you find that you have a raging bull on your hands. Taming the beast requires the use of ancient yet poorly understood reins. The Vulcan nerve pinch would be handy every now and again. Perhaps the skills of a snake charmer. The CEO just issued a memo: All pondering on the meaning of life, humanity, and self are hereby postponed indefinitely for the enjoyment of life as we know it. Dance, song, and ode will be the only forms of communication permitted. Please do not sneak back to your computer during bathroom breaks or your participation level in the festivities will be reset to newbie.

The Boundary of Chaos

Becoming more than you are. Learning how to learn while learning. Learning how to teach while teaching. Learning how to be while being. Mother Nature asked me if I was with her or against her. I watched this show on PBS about the discovery of the DNA double helix. If understanding were all we were up to I might feel alright about it. It's the manipulation I have issues with. People argue that we shouldn't play god. Mankind has been playing god for a long time, genetics is just a new divine appendage. I used to love to argue with the religious that God is just a creation of mankind to explain all the things that we can't explain. A word to abstract away the infinite complexities of the universe. We can push the boundaries of human knowledge forever, but the boundary will always exist. Did I already mention the infinite complexities? The thing that troubles me is that our actions impact both sides of the boundary. We'll be able to discover and fix today's mistakes with tomorrows developments, right? Sounds like a temporal pyramid scam to me. Entropy taking life on a U-Turn. Don't flap your wings too hard little butterfly.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

With a Little Help From My Friends

My night time processing woke me up with a few lyrics in my head. It was probably the Joe Cocker version (I was a big Wonder Years fan as a child) but I include the Beatles lyrics below. I think my last post brought this out. I think it helps answer that question: If I am not my models, if I am not my comparisons, if I am not in control then what am I? (A friend). (My best friend).

What would you think if I sang outa tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm I get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm gonna try with a little help from my friends.
What do I do when my love is away.
(does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(are you sad because you’re on your own)
No I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm gonna try with a little help from my friends.
(Do you need anybody),
I need somebody to love.
(Could it be anybody)
I want somebody to love.
(Would you believe in a love at first sight),
Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time.
(What do you see when you turn out the light),
I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm get high with a little help from my friends,
Oh I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends.
(Do you need anybody),
I just need someone to love,
(Could it be anybody),
I want somebody to love.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm gonna try with a little help from my friends,
Oh I get high with a little help from my friends,
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends,
With a little help from my friends.

The Beatles

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Free Evaluation Comparator

Lets think about that influence thing again. What is it? How do I influence this world. Do I make things happen? If so how? Does my body do as I tell it to or does it react to my evaluation of it not doing what I want it to. This is that little feedback theory of mine rearing its cute little head again. Free will seems to defy the laws of physics but free evaluation seems to be quite consistent.

So lets assume that is the way it is. The entity that I call my conscious self is a complex comparator which has at its disposal a number of very complicated models of the universe, of other people, and of myself gradually built up over the course of a lifetime. The models are built up from our experiences and from the people we have known. With these models it can remember the past and predict and plan the future. These models when compared with actuality generate feedback that results in a disequilibrium. The body naturally moves to reestablish equilibrium. The comparator can also be run between memories and idealized models of the past for learning purposes. More feedback disequilibrium. It can also be run between plans and predictions, memories and plans, predictions and memories, and any of them to an ideal.

So to reestablish equilibrium something has to change. The body must move, the world must be moved, models must change, goals must shift, plans must reevaluate, memories must modify, or if all else fails the comparator itself must change. This makes me think of self testing integrated circuits. One difficulty in their implementation is the testing of the self test circuitry itself. I digress.

This seems to be a very useful arrangement similar to teacher and pupil, parent and child, or mentor and protege. At some point the learner must be trusted to learn on his own and be set free to possibly exceed the capabilities of the teacher. Do you trust yourself?

So teaching should be about teaching how to learn, not how to listen. Teaching how to listen is only taught by teachers who are afraid of becoming obsolete. They might just find that their pupils stop listening. Someone who does not listen and cannot learn is an ugly sight indeed. Teaching how to learn requires a gradual weaning to the point where in the end the teacher will say nothing at all.

So back to influence. My influence on myself is via evaluations. My evaluations should be respectful and evolve with time similar to those in a healthy parent-child relationship. The comparator itself and how it is used should be open for the possibility of change.

Remember that your evaluation process also has a lasting influence on the evaluation process of other living things. Just as your models and comparison system were and are built up from your experiences in this world so are theirs partially built up of their experiences of you. Respect that fact. It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly (which ironically is also a reminder to not be so serious). Encourage the ability to learn, in yourself and others, through good (in the platonic sense) evaluations. Share your learning process with the world, don't hide it. Present the real fallible you, not the fake perfect version you hold so dear.

So this seems to be saying that I need to let go of the reins. Gradually of course. In the end what will be left for me? If I am not my models, if I am not my comparisons, if I am not in control then what am I? How about an input to the comparator that represents the good, available when needed. Sounds like a fine place for some rest to me.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Natural Influence

Imagine yourself as the caretaker of a piece of the universe. The piece you are responsible for does not have a well defined boundary. It is better not to define it with a boundary at all but rather with a dynamic distribution of influence. The influence is high (but not absolute) at the space-time coordinates of your physical body and low (but never naught) at great distances in space or time. It is your responsibility to observe, evaluate, and feedback your analysis to the system while being a part of the system. Are we to focus on our power associated with the strength of our influence or our responsibility for the quality of our evaluations? It seems to me that influence naturally follows quality, and not vice versa, so lets keep things natural.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Responsible Ownership

I think we should abandon the concept of ownership and move things over to a system based on responsibility. It seems like it would be an easy switch in the English language. I am responsible for that piece of land. Ownership relationships are based on selfish independence. Responsibility relationships combine the independence with accountability. They are based on earned trust. The best place to make the switch is with yourself: stop thinking of yourself as the owner of your body and rather think of yourself as being responsible for its wellbeing (which is greater than your wellbeing I might add). Pushing things forward to feeling responsible for the natural system that your body is a part of will then be a simple step.

True North

Been away in the North enjoying clean air, clean water, and a little exercise at play with the extended family. It was nice to have long moments of fun where I was not thinking about too much other than the fun itself. There was still a lot of thinking though. I can't help myself :) My family helps me remember what is important in life. I still try to get inside of all our heads to figure out why we say or do certain things but because we are family, real family, I find myself able to take things less seriously. The longer you spend with people that you care about and who care about you, the easier it is to laugh together. You forget about how absurd the surface of everything looks and remember that what is underneath is much more important. Only patience and genuineness can get you there. I built, I helped, I cooked, I cleaned, I taught, I learned, I shared, I sang, I danced, I played, I listened, I rested. I gave and I received without maintaining a balance sheet of unmeasurable and uncomparable quantities. I played my part.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Kiss of Life

I read this thing yesterday here and noticed a nice little analogy: "trying to speak about reality is like trying to send a kiss by a messenger." We are all a little too focused on the messenger to the point of forgetting why he is calling in the first place.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Continuous Marvel

Maybe letting go is more about not grabbing hold in the first place. Nothing is constant within us unless we continuously chose it. Being is not continuous choice. Being is not habit. Being is continuous trust, continuous forgiveness, continuous acceptance, continuous novelty, continuous love. I focus too often here on what it is not to live. I judge, I hate, I self inflate, I lament, I tire of it all. Enough deconstruction, it is time to build anew. The neurons have finally dislodged their tired old asynchronous connections and are itching to make some new ones guided by a marvelous little force I call life.