The Chance to Learn & Thrive

The Chance to Learn; the Chance to Thrive

April 17-18, 2018

 

Leonore Zweig grew up the daughter of a bricklayer.  She grew up in a village called Lusatia and upon graduating from what we might call high school, she continued her studies.  She eventually received a doctorate from Heidelberg University in 1921 and worked as a teacher in both England and Berlin, Germany.  In 1923 she married a lawyer named Ernst Goldschmidt and they had two children.

 

 Upon receiving an inheritance from a murdered cousin, Leonore established her own school in 1934.  Leonore had lost her job the year before she opened her own school.  Working for eight years at the Sophie-Charlotte-Gymnasium in Berlin, she was fired in 1933 because of her religious preference.  You see, Leonore was Jewish.

 

The Private Judische Schule Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt or the Private School of Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt as it would have been known in English was granted a license to hold official examinations in 1936.  In 1937 Leonore’s school became an examination center for the English University of Cambridge.  This meant her students could enter universities in the rest of Europe and North America if they scored high marks on their examinations.  The school was shut down by the German government in 1939 and the Goldschmidt family, along with many students and teachers, immigrated to England.

 

Leaving their German home was not easy for the eighty children that accompanied their school’s founder.  Most left behind parents and many never saw them again.  Those that returned to Germany after World War II found a very different landscape and homeland and many discovered their parents had been victims of concentration camps.

 

A roll call of the students of Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt is something like a Who’s Who of professional and influential people.  Clearly they had potential and all achieved it.  They made contributions to their world and the world was a better place because they lived in it.

 

The purpose of today’s post is to ask you to think about how we limit the opportunities of others simply because we might have a “perception” about them.  The legal definition of the word discrimination has nothing to do with statistics or science.  It does not involve theology or proven results.  It simply is “disparity of treatment”.  Like the Golden Rule that has been around for almost as long as there have been beings that walked upright on two feet, it refers to the treatment of others as we ourselves would like to be treated. 

 

The Golden Rule, reflections of which are found in every code of conduct known to mankind, is an ethic of reciprocity.  It is a moral directive that relates to basic human nature: Treat others as you would like to be treated; do not treat others in any manner that you yourself would not like to be treated; be careful because what you wish upon others you also wish upon yourself.

 

The so-called Golden Rule makes all of mankind inclusive in acknowledging that we feel and receive things similarly.  It is not the same as another maxim of reciprocity, “do ut des”.  That states “I give so that you will give in return.”  The Golden Rule is giving without any expectation of something in return.

 

Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt taught her students without knowing what their lives as adults would be or how far they would go in their studies.  She willingly helped them escape a Nazi regime that would have put them to death simply because she was devoted to creating a chance to learn for all who desired such.

 

I recently received a recipe that touted itself to be the healthiest brownie recipe ever!  Since I am human and like brownies as much as the next person, I was thrilled.  A healthy snack with chocolate is like winning the lottery!  The recipe contains only four ingredients and even a vegan would love it.  With almond butter, protein powder, cocoa powder, and bananas, the recipe would seem like winner, right?  Unfortunately, it is not for me.

 

The perception and headline for this recipe stated nothing incorrect.  I completely understand why their perception that it is healthy would seem an accurate perception.  The problem is that it is not healthy for all people.  The number of people allergic to cocoa powder is low, very low.  Less than four percent of people have actual food allergies and of that four percent, less than half of one per cent are allergic to the cacao bean, the source of cocoa.  A brief note here is probably in order.  The bean or fruit of the cacao plant is called cacao.  Once ground into a usable powder, the name changes to cocoa.

 

Generally speaking, people who are allergic to chocolate are allergic to something added to the chocolate and not the actual cacao bean.  Fortunately for me, I am not allergic to chocolate although my waistline might like it if I was.  I am allergic to several, make that, many things, however, and one is included in this recipe.  I am allergic to bananas.

 

The perception that the recipe is healthy is correct.  It just is not healthy for me.  As someone who is in that four percent and having severe allergic reactions, I have to be a wise consumer of what I eat and put into my body.  IN other words, I have to be a food detective before opening my mouth to consume.

 

We all need to be fact detectives when it comes to deciding what we like or don’t like or what we feel is not in keeping with our beliefs.  Yesterday’s post about Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt is proof that the Jewish are capable of many great things and the Nazi regime’s claim that they held no benefit for mankind was false. 

 

Nannie Henry Burroughs was a woman who also opened a school.  Her school was in Washington, D.C., the capitol of the United States of America.  Nannie’s father was a free man but her mother was born into slavery.  Born in 1878, Nannie was born free but had few opportunities being a woman of color.  Her father was a Baptist preacher and Nannie herself gained national recognition speaking at the National Baptist Convention at the age of twenty-two years.  Her speech was entitled “How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping”. 

 

Nannie Burroughs founded the National Training School for Women in 1909, a school which continues today.  She also established the National Association of Colored Women.  Thirty years later a world war would be fought, in part based upon racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination even though Nannie Henry Burroughs had already proven such to be ridiculous.

 

Nannie Burroughs is proof that the perception that race determines ability is false.  She valiantly worked for all wage earners but especially for those of African descent because their discrimination continued even after the War Between the States, commonly called the Civil War.  She would later be appointed to a national position by President Herbert Hoover.

 

The perception that religion calls for us to divide mankind based upon skin hues is an incorrect perception.  No true religion or spirituality embraces such.  The fear that propels such beliefs is just that – fear, not fact.  It is nothing new.  In her book “Jane Eyre”, Charlotte Bronte wrote: “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”

 

In deciding who to feature for this post, I purposely elected to feature women who invented schools and created the chance for education to be received.  I agree with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who said: “It’s an universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

 

“What we need are mental and spiritual giants who are aflame with a purpose . . . We’re a race ready for crusade, for we’ve recognized that we’re a race on this continent that can work out its own salvation.  When [one] learns what manner of [man/woman he/she] is spiritually, [he/she] will wake up all over. [We] will rise in the majesty of [our] own soul.”  The words of Nannie Henry Burroughs ring true even today.

 

Recently several states within the United States have or tried to enact legislation that goes against the chance for all to experience the same opportunities.  Similar legislation has been introduced in other countries and many terrorist groups advocate the same or similar beliefs as those supported by these laws. 

 

When we single another out and label them in such a way that prevents them from having the same chances as others, we discriminate.  Sometimes such discrimination leads to people being fired, refused service or even being captured and killed in concentration with ovens designed to murder those “different” people.

 

Such actions do not give anyone an advantage and they restrict the future of us all.  The students of Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt and the workers helped by Nannie Burroughs are just two examples of how important it is that we recognize the inclusiveness of mankind and not look only at our differences.   When we open up opportunity for one person to learn, we create the opportunity for better living for all of us.  If we want to continue the chance to make a better world, we need to live smart and live with kindness and equality towards all.

 

In-Between to Birth

In-Between to Birth

April 15-16, 2018

 

Last year I joined millions in watching the live feed from an animal park in New York.  A giraffe was due to give birth and the world seemed fascinated.  There were various feeds one could follow and several offered advertising with proceeds in the form of pet supplies and food being given to local animal shelters.  I happily participated in making my watching count.

 

There were those, however, who felt it all a great deal of nonsense.  “Get a life” was the most common negative comment seen.  Some readily admitted to watching in-between commuting and so felt they were not for whom such comments were directed.  Others felt they were being mindful to the miracle of birth.  I claimed to be a part of neither camp.  I watched because I find giraffes fascinating creatures.  I do wonder at their evolution and creation for they seem to be a bit in-between the larger mammals and the delicate faces of the smaller ones.

 

The Rt. Rev Steven Charleston wrote a wonderful blog comment about our being “in-between”.  This time last year as I was watching the birth of the giraffe calf so many had eagerly awaited, Bishop Charleston posted this:  “We are in-between. Right now, we are in-between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But in reality we are always in-between in life. In-between is where we live and move and make our reality. We go from birth to death between many polarities: health and illness, joy and sadness, hope and despair. We inhabit these spiritual spaces of transition, constantly moving from one level of experience to the next. It is in the in-between that we discover the presence of the sacred, that creative force that helps us transition and adapt. We are the people of the in-between.”

 

Watching the young giraffe calf be born, along with millions around the world, I realized that we were all in-between and teetering on the edge of something very similar to world peace.  This young calf and his two giraffe parents had united millions around the world, something no politician or political party had ever been able to accomplish.  As we spent time in the in-between of a fifteen-month pregnancy and its culmination in birth, we were all feeling hope and fear, joy and wonderment.

 

Being mindful of our living is something we often fail to experience.  The reality of this birth was beautiful.  As the calf slowly edge his way out, the mother would welcome him with her tongue and kisses.  It was as if she realized her calf’s reality was changing drastically and she wanted to encourage him and comfort him that all would be all right. 

 

It has become very trendy to engage in the practice of mindfulness.  The experiences of “being mindful of the moments we live” are said to bring one joy and enlightenment in your living.  Life is all around us and while we need to spend less of it online and more of it in person, we can learn from all aspects of it.  Every day is a new day and our reality changes with the dawn of each new day.  Let us give thanks for this new day and recognize the new life ahead of us all.

 

The first few days of Easter this year I have looked to past blog posts and themes in an effort to be more mindful of what is and what will come.  History is a great teacher if we take the time to learn from our past.  Nothing is lost in the present if we take the time to really be in each moment.  Each day is a new birth for us.  It is our responsibility to live the life we have been given.  The future is there waiting for us to make it something meaningful.

The Reality of Being

The Reality of Being

April 14-15, 2018

 

American author and artist James Thurber once stated:  “Philosophy offers the rather cold consolation that perhaps we and our planet do not actually exist; religion presents the contradictory and scarcely more comforting thought that we exist but that we cannot hope to get anywhere until we cease to exist. Alcohol, in attempting to resolve the contradiction, produces vivid patterns of Truth which vanish like snow in the morning sun and cannot be recalled; the revelations of poetry are as wonderful as a comet in the skies, and as mysterious. Love, which was once believed to contain the Answer, we now know to be nothing more than an inherited behavior pattern.”

 

Born in Ohio and raised in both Virginia and Ohio, Thurber had a rather typical early twentieth century American boy’s childhood.  Not so typical was an injury he suffered as a child when an arrow of his brother’s resulted in Thurber being blinded in one eye.  He worked as a journalist in Ohio after attending but not graduating Ohio State University and then moved to New York City where he obtained a position on the staff of ”The New Yorker” magazine.  Thurber become known for his cartoons of animals and his drawings of dogs soon had their own career on pages of periodicals, newspapers and books, often watching strong-willed women and seemingly weak men.

 

Thurber once remarked “The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people–that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature.”  Many enjoyed both his drawings and his books, of which there were more than just a few.  Often people saw themselves on the pages of Thurber’s drawings; always they saw their neighbors.  Few took offense, though, knowing that Thurber was pointing his pen not only at them but also himself.

 

“There but for the grace of God go I” is an idiom attributed to Anglican priest James Bradford.  It is also a paraphrase of the scripture found in the New Testament, I Corinthians 15:10.  That the quote in English form is also attributed to a Roman Catholic priest is no surprise and quite fitting given Bradford’s life.  Ordained an Anglican priest shortly before the Roman Catholic Mary Tudor took the throne as reigning monarch of England, he was later imprisoned and hung for his beliefs.  Bradford preached of the connectivity of mankind and saw himself in the face of the lowest of it.  Mostly, Bradford saw each man has a reflection of another except for perhaps life’s circumstances.  He advocated spreading good will not judgment.

 

However you might define reality, we are real.  If you doubt that, get a hammer and bring it down intensely upon your finger.  I really doubt you will question the pain experienced.  Life is transitory but the travails we experience are very real to us.  “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”  Elie Wiesel was referring to events leading up to World War II specifically but his words ring true for everyday living.

 

We are not only real, we are connected one to another.  Three years ago Nepal suffered a terrible earthquake.  About that same time Face Book began running a streamer at the top of personal pages giving ways people could contribute to charities helping the victims of the earthquakes in Nepal.  Some people protested this.  They were good people with no motive for malice but they really did not like the streamer inviting them to help others.  “Wouldn’t it be better to help people in our own country?” was a common response people posted on their own pages.  “Why do we have to see this ticker about giving to Nepal?”  The unspoken meaning here was that one should let the Nepalese help themselves while we help our neighbors closer to home.

 

That is a great thought except for one thing – Nepal was a country in dire straits even before the earthquake.  The victim of countless regimes whose only purpose was personal greed, these “live and let live” people were in abject poverty before nature took its revenge on them.  How can someone with nothing have their lives and homes literally upturned by seismic events then pull wealth out of their empty pockets to “help themselves”?

 

Every country has its poor, its disenfranchised societies.  For many, these populations are simply uneducated, sometimes on purpose based upon gender, and/or the wrong ethnicity, again the victims of deliberate discrimination.  Sometimes these populations suffer from illnesses that are not fully understood or greatly feared.  Do these Face Book subscribers donate to these groups within their own countries?  No one country has enough money given to completely render all needed assistance to these groups.  The reality is that there is always a need for which we could render aid.

 

Reality may be a word that means different things to different people and sadly, many feel they are invisible and that their lives do not matter.  Another thing all countries share is that somewhere today someone will take their own life.  In spite of a number of terminal illnesses, accidents, and crimes that will result in death, people will feel their own personal situation has no meaning and is just a riddle too hard to contemplate resolution except by death.

 

Einstein might have been correct when he said “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”  I prefer to believe that human stupidity is reversible, though.  Another in common is countries where children and adults wear socks is that, at some point, one will end up with a mismatched sock.  Seeming to defeat the laws of physics, one sock will magically disappear.  Once during an epic spring cleaning, my spouse and children put all their mismatched socks into bags.  The final count was an even one hundred pairless socks.  Of course, once the socks were all laid out, pairs were found or someone remembered the puppy tearing a sock up, another was worn outside and holes appeared, etc. 

 

Just as our socks were real, the mystery of the disappearance of their matches had resolution.  For an hour, said spouse and kids enjoyed making up stories about the disappearances.  Their imaginations took flight and they did indeed come up with delightful tales.  In fact, I think at least two children, now adults, still imagine at least two socks are orbiting the earth as I type today!  The reality was far less exciting and entertaining but resolution was found.  We did not find all the socks but those that remained single became adorable little snowman figures sold at a charitable auction.

 

Mankind is real.  We have problems but we also solutions if we have faith that we can find them.  It will not be easy but then, most things seldom are.  Pain cannot be seen or even quantified on a scale with weights and balances and yet, pain is all too real for those experiencing it.  We should not share in another’s blame or guilt but we can and should offer to help.  Life is hard but it is not impossible.  All we need to do is believe in ourselves.  Perhaps that is the hardest problem philosophy has to solve.  This weekend I hope you smile more than you cry and, when you pass another, your eyes are opened to not only see the worth of that other person but also your own value.  We are real.  We all matter.  Our lives have purpose and meaning.

I Think. I Feel. Is That Wrong?

I Think.  I Feel.  Is that Wrong?

April 11-13, 2018

 

Philosophy is the quest for knowledge, the searching to determine, analyze, and arrive at conclusions that are either proven or taken as proof.  Philosophy asks “What are we?”  Emotional intelligence is using knowledge in a social setting, recognizing emotions, both of one’s self and of others.  Emotional intelligence is learning what different feelings are, how to discern them, and how to apply them in making choices and in one’s behavior.

 

There are three basic models of Emotional Intelligence.  The “ability model” was developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer.  Aptly named, this model is concerned with a person’s ability to process emotional information and then the application of that knowledge in social settings.  Konstantin Vasily Petrides proposed the “trait” model.  Defined as the ability to encompass “behavioral dispositions and self-perceived abilities”, this form of emotional intelligence is determined through self-reporting.  The third model is a combination of the other two and was suggested by Daniel Goleman who determined that emotional intelligence was a combination of abilities and traits.  Goleman maintained that this array of skills and characteristics was vital in leadership ability.

 

While it may seem like emotional intelligence is counter-intuitive to the early teachings of ancient philosophers, it cannot be discounted.  Scientific studies indicate that people with high emotional intelligence also have greater mental health, perform better in their careers, and make more effective leaders.  Does this type of intelligence exist, though?  How does it interact with established belief systems?

 

One of the earliest forms of emotional intelligence is often overlooked, in my humble opinion.  In my brief research of this subject, I found no mention of the earliest admonitions by both eastern spiritualties and early Abrahamic religions which speak on this subject.  As discussed a variety of ways and times on this blog, the so-called Golden Rule addresses emotional intelligence quite simply by encouraging us to think of others as we would want them to think of us.

 

A growing concern worldwide is the attraction young adults have towards joining internet families which encourage them to maim, kill, and even commit suicide.  These are not young people without families.  They are, however, young people who feel disenfranchised from their environment.  Some might say they have poor emotional intelligence.  Is the problem really with them or with us?

 

Man is a social animal.  Much like the wolves that roam forested regions across the planet, man is a pack animal and seeks companionship.  Young people will find their own “pack”.  How we employ our own emotional intelligence often determines whether or not these young people will connect with their physical neighbors or their internet friends, sadly many of whom are false friends.

 

Young people are knowledge seekers.  They thrive in exploring the wonders of the world and, like any young thing, need guidance in their explorations.  Emotional intelligence should be more than a way of connecting and convincing others of our own beliefs, though.  True leadership means guiding people towards what is ultimately healthy for everyone, not just one particular set or cliché.

 

Too often, these young people are being swayed by promised of family, of communion, or belonging.  They are welcomed with what appears to be open acceptance and are encouraged that they are valued for being themselves.  Their energy is what is valued, not their being or personality.

 

What makes us unique individuals is not what we have in common but what we have that sets us apart.  In a world that values popularity, though, the uniqueness is seen as a threat.  Conformity based upon popular trends is the barometer, not individuality.  If a young person who rebels against wearing a school uniform suddenly runs away to join a faction that requires everyone to look alike or women to completely cover and hide themselves, what is our correct emotional response?

 

I do not try to deny emotional intelligence.  I think it could be the saving grace for the world and the one sure road to peace.  We must be certain, however, that we do not insist others be just like us because that then will lead us nowhere.  Mankind is a group of unique individuals that share commonalities but we are all individuals.  As such we have the right to develop our own beliefs and traits.  If we gauge another’s emotional responses based upon our own set of standards and our own personality, then the other person will never measure up because they are not us.  All too often those who are different from us are seen as being “freaks”.  IN a world where many seek to find their own individuality, will they find it only to become labeled as aberrations, weird, wrong for being themselves?

 

People with what is termed “high emotional intelligence”, often called “EI”, recognize their emotions and are able to describe them accurately.  “Sad” is a term that covers a variety of feelings.  Someone with high EI seldom says they are sad; they are frustrated, depressed, scared, irritable, anxious, worried, etc.  They are curious and embrace change, knowing when to learn from the past and when to let go.  People with high EI accept themselves and their strengths as well as their weaknesses.  Acceptance does not mean one stops trying to improve; it means one knows where the starting point for improvement is.

 

Life takes courage to live and learning takes greater courage.  As we go through our daily living, we cannot forget the basic reason for such – learning about life.  Aristotle once said “Happiness depends on ourselves.”  We must take care of ourselves and be healthy physically in order to develop good emotional health and intelligence.  Perhaps the greatest thing to learn is that life must be lived and lived wisely in order to gain wisdom.

 

 

 

 

Chaos, Contemplation, and Change

Chaos, Contemplation and Change

April 9-10, 2018

 

If philosophy is the science of thinking, then chaos is the science of surprise. Most of us have heard chaos theory explained in the following example:  If a butterfly flaps its wings halfway across the world, then a storm will occur a few weeks later.  Putting it in perspective, butterflies in Chile were busy around the time of Easter which accounts for the recent storms in the Midwest portion of the United States of America.  Six months ago all the butterflies in the Butterfly House in a botanical garden in the USA were disturbed by a tree falling outside and so we had powerful storms in the South Pacific Ocean two months ago.  Such a theory has a backside, though.  If there had not been a butterfly house housing hundreds of butterflies to be disturbed, there would not have been the monsoons,  If Easter tourists in Chile had not disturbed the butterflies, twenty million people in the USA would not have spent this past weekend under tornado and severe storm watches.  Is it really all the poor butterfly’s fault?  Can something that small have such a large effect?

 

For most of his life, Karl Marx was not gainfully employed.  The man who penned “Das Kapital”, a scathing condemnation of prevailing capitalist ideas and functions, living mostly on the goodwill of his friends, preferring to spend his time thinking and reading at the British Museum instead of earning his own way and living on his own.  He was not well-known and yet within seventy years of his death, one third of mankind was under the hand of governments that considered themselves “Marxist”.

 

Chaos theory is built upon the belief that the smallest of changes in a system can result in very large differences in that system’s behavior.  Marx saw many benefits in the capitalism of his time but chiefly he saw it as a stepping stone, a period of history that would bring about greater change.  Marx applied science, or so he thought, to his predictions about society and the dependence the owner had on his workers would, Marx believed, ultimately bring them closer together into one society.

 

Isaac Newton developed thoughts about physics.  With his work, one can take information about the present state of an object in motion and, using Newton’s laws of motion, predict where and what that object will be in the future.  Marx sought to do this with developing societies.  Many of his followers believed they were being optimistic about the future.  After all, the philosophies of Locke were given as causes for the American and French revolutions.  Perhaps Marxism would be the “planned solution” the world needed to prevent further chaos.

 

Philosophy cannot be relegated to the walls of academia.  It began with man and it follows him today in every aspect of his/her living.  The ideas of one impoverished thinker spread like wildfire across the globe from Eastern Europe to Russia and China.  Buddhism, Islam, or Christianity has ever had such a swift, effective, and devoted following.  The Russian leaders Stalin, Trotsky, and Lenin, the Yugoslavian Tito, Chinese Mao Zedong, Vietnamese Ho Chi-minh, and the Cuban Fidel Castro not only read and believed Karl Marx, they changed the world because of their following his ideas.

 

The sensitive dependence that Chaos Theory is built upon is not really news.  Aristotle mentioned it in his writings:  “the least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand fold”.   Scientifically, chaos theory is the study of nonlinear dynamics, making predictions on random events based upon deterministic equations.  I would be remiss if I failed to note that even defining the term chaos is up for discussion so defining a theory based upon something that is still being determined or defined is … well, not an exact science.  It is generally agreed upon that chaos is the science world does not refer to a state of confusion but rather a state of apparent lack of order, something very much like dynamical instability, a state of being discovered by French physicist Henri Poincare.

 

In using chaos theory, two general conditions have been established.  The first is that systems, all systems, rely upon an underlying order of sorts and that even the smallest of systems can create large, complex behaviors or effects.  The second condition or assumption is something known as “sensitive dependence on initial conditions, coined by Edward Lorenz in the mid twentieth century.  A meteorologist, Lorenz was using a computer to predict upcoming weather conditions.  Having completed one particular sequence, he reentered the numerical data and then left the computer to its own equating.  He later returned expecting to see a duplication of the first transcribing and equations but instead discovered results that were very different.  Instead of entering the data exactly, he had left off three digits in one number, entering “.506” instead of “.506127”.  Such an error was not expected to have made much difference in the results since the primary three digits were what were needed.

 

Lorenz repeated his efforts, each time only slightly varying the data in ways that were thought to be miniscule and therefore having little or no effect.  What he discovered was that the slightest differences, even those beyond our ability to measure, could have significant effect on the outcomes.  This meant that predictions of past or future events or outcomes was impossible, a concept that violated the very foundations of physics.  Physicist Richard Feynman explained: “Physicists like to think that all you have to do is say, these are the conditions, now what happens next?”

 

In order to use Newton’s Laws of Motion, one has to be able to assume that precise measurements are possible.  Newton held that nearly perfect measurements were possible and would suffice.  Poincare discovered that the slightest variation made huge difference in astronomical computations. Since absolutely precise measurements of objects in space is impossible or chaotic, then all predictions based upon assumed orderly measurements were nothing better than random thoughts on the subject.  In presenting his theory of the Butterfly Effect at a meeting in Washington, D.C. in 1972, Lorenz illustrated an anonymous meteorologist’s assertion that, based upon chaos theory, a single flap of a seagull’s wings would be enough to change the course of all future weather systems on earth.

 

The so-called “Butterfly Effect”, first described by Lorenz at the December 1972 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., vividly illustrates the essential idea of chaos theory. In a 1963 paper for the New York Academy of Sciences, Lorenz had quoted an unnamed meteorologist’s assertion that, if chaos theory were true, a single flap of a single seagull’s wings would be enough to change the course of all future weather systems on the earth.  He would later repeat his thoughts in a paper entitled “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?”

 

Today some of those countries who completely revamped their government in favor of Marxism have loosened the reins.  They have discovered that the behavior of mankind is more akin to the apparent randomness of chaos theory than an exact science.  Free will may be a tenet of Christianity but people of all belief systems, cultures, and socioeconomic levels are living proof of it every day.  We often define chaos as randomness or a lack of order.  James Gleick, author of “Chaos : Making a New Science” defines chaos theory as “a revolution not of technology, like the laser revolution or the computer revolution, but a revolution of ideas. This revolution began with a set of ideas having to do with disorder in nature: from turbulence in fluids, to the erratic flows of epidemics, to the arrhythmic writhing of a human heart in the moments before death. It has continued with an even broader set of ideas that might be better classified under the rubric of complexity.”

 

Whether constrained by government or the idle pondering done on a solitary walk, the power of thought cannot be underestimated.  Some thoughts are logical conclusions based upon known data while others are the unexpected surprise of simply living.  We can all make order from the chaos of our lives.  It doesn’t take being a government leader or someone famous.  Maya Angelou once stated:  “I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.”

 

 

The Next Step

It has been one week since many celebrated Easter, two days since many finished their celebration of Passover and today Eastern Orthodox believers are celebrating their Easter.  I would love to say my absence this past week was because I was celebrating but I was instead dealing with family crises and illness.  However, we are now all facing the same question as we enter into this new week.  What’s the next step?

 

Okay so let’s say you have really thought about the last hour and fully been in the moments of each of those sixty minutes.  You fully experienced that sip of beverage and felt is as it entered and then followed its course through your throat.  You smelled that bite of food before partaking it and then thought about the texture and taste instead of gulping it down in a hurry.  You felt that air on your skin as you walked outside and heard the ambient sounds around you.  What comes next?

 

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and human rights activist, who was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. His books include “Being Peace”.  Nhat Hanh describes the process as being mindful as much more than just thinking about things.  “Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life. There are those of us who are alive but don’t know it. But when you breathe in, and you are aware of your in-breath, you touch the miracle of being alive. That is why mindfulness is a source of happiness and joy.

 

“Most people are forgetful; they are not really there a lot of the time. Their mind is caught in their worries, their fears, their anger, and their regrets, and they are not mindful of being there. That state of being is called forgetfulness—you are there but you are not there. You are caught in the past or in the future. You are not there in the present moment, living your life deeply. That is forgetfulness.

 

“The opposite of forgetfulness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you are truly there, mind and body together. You breathe in and out mindfully, you bring your mind back to your body, and you are there. When your mind is there with your body, you are established in the present moment. Then you can recognize the many conditions of happiness that are in you and around you, and happiness just comes naturally.

 

Nhat Hanh believes we are all entitled to being happy.  Many people do not.  They would rather wallow in their self-pity because it seems comfortable to them.  The next step after you have been mindful for an hour is to be brave and practice mindfulness for a day. 

 

Nhat Hanh explains:  “During the time you are practicing mindfulness, you stop talking – not only the talking outside, but the talking inside. The talking inside is the thinking, the mental discourse that goes on and on and on inside. Real silence is the cessation of talking – of both the mouth and of the mind. This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful kind of silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.”

 

The next step is to believe you deserve the right to be happy and let the silence teach you.  Listen ot the advice of this monk.  “Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort. Do you have to make an effort to breathe in? You don’t need to make an effort. To breathe in, you just breathe in. Suppose you are with a group of people contemplating a beautiful sunset. Do you have to make an effort to enjoy the beautiful sunset? No, you don’t have to make any effort. You just enjoy it.  The same thing is true with your breath. Allow your breath to take place. Become aware of it and enjoy it. –  Effortlessness; Enjoyment. The same thing is true with walking mindfully. Every step you take is enjoyable. Every step helps you to touch the wonders of life, in yourself and around you. Every step is peace. Every step is joy. That is possible.”  When you achieve that, then your step will be one of joy.

 

The Monopoly of Life

The Monopoly  of Life

Easter – April 1, 2018

 

ON this day when many celebrate the victory of one over death, I want to speak to those who see life as a game.  Certainly there are many video games based upon this concept.  We should never mistake our breathing as being the same as an inanimate character on a video screen, however.  Life is far too precious to reduce to a competitive activity played for entertainment.  We need to own our living and make it count.

 

Ownership is usually considered when discussing material things like house, cars, business, or property.  The concept of land ownership is both new and old and is the reason behind many lawsuits, disagreements, and wars.  Throughout time cultures have advocated the communal use of the land while at the same time wanting to control such lands.  It may sound complicated but think of the game Monopoly.   Elizabeth Magie used this game she invented to protest unfair economic policy.

 

The point of Monopoly is to obtain properties (or at least cards with titles to spaces on the game board that signify properties0 and then allow others to use your land in the form of rent paid to the property or card owner.  The game player becomes the landlord and every time someone lands on a space for which he/she “owns” the card, rent must be paid.  Sound a bit unfair?  Elizabeth Magie thought so, too.

 

A monopoly is when a person or company is the only one offering a certain product, usually a necessary commodity.  A monopsony is a single entity’s control of a particular market to obtain an item and oligopoly is a few businesses dominating a particular field or industry.  Who would have thought all of these could be expressed in a game?  Elizabeth Magie did.

 

The examples I will use are found in the United States of America but none of these terms or economic policies are the sole characteristic of the U.S.A.  Every country on earth has them – regardless of their political structure.  In fact, the more restrictive a government, the more these terms are present and carried out in life.

 

If I want to see a professional baseball game in the U.S.A., I have to go see a team that is part of Major League Baseball.  There simply are no other professional baseball teams in the United States.  That was not always the case, however.  In the early 1900’s there were a number of professional leagues that were trying to make money by playing before paying crowds.  Baseball was a most popular sport, often called “America’s Game” although variations are found in many cultures worldwide.

 

These different leagues were not always playing fair or as gentlemen and in 1915, the Federal Baseball Club in Baltimore sued the National and American Leagues under the Clayton Antitrust Act, a law designed to help protect consumers.  If only one business offered a necessary product, that business could charge whatever it desired and consumers would be at the mercy of said business’s possible price-gouging.  The Federal baseball Club wanted to have a fair share of the public’s affinity for baseball but could not compete with the larger National and American Leagues.  Pardon my pun but they wanted to level the playing field, so to speak.

 

The court case made its way through the court system and eventually ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court.  The 1922 decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes has resulted in professional baseball being the only sport in America exempt from antitrust laws, a sport often called “America’s favorite monopoly.”  FYI – Major League baseball will begin its 140th season on April 3, 2016.

 

In writing the decision of the court, Justice Holmes penned:  “The fact that, in order to give the exhibitions, the Leagues must induce free persons to cross state lines and must arrange and pay for their doing so is not enough to change the character of the business. …  The transport is a mere incident, not the essential thing. That to which it is incident, the exhibition, although made for money, would not be called trade of commerce in the commonly accepted use of those words. …  Personal effort not related to production is not a subject of commerce. That which in its consummation is not commerce does not become commerce among the states because the transportation that we have mentioned takes place.”

 

Let me make his eloquent words more easily understood.  Baseball is not commerce because it does not “produce” anything.  Antitrust or monopoly laws refer to things that are produced and because baseball does not produce anything, it is not commerce and therefore not subject to laws of commerce.

 

Land ownership and land value might seem to fall under the same sort of issue.  Early American patriots advocated that the land was for all and all should benefit equally from its usage.  Certain economics philosophies such as Georgism gained popularity with many followers.  Georgism was so named after Henry George, the author of “Progress and Poverty”, a book in which George upheld that while people may individually own what they create, natural opportunities such as land belong equally to all.

 

Elizabeth Magie was a follower of Henry George and led an active life with varied careers.  In the early 1880’s she worked as a stenographer and was a writer.  She also worked as a comedian, actress on stage, an engineer, and not surprisingly, a feminist.  By the dawn of the 1900’s she had a job as a newspaper reporter and at the age of 44, married.

 

Magie invented a board game which was designed to demonstrate the ill effects economically of land monopolies and how land taxes could alleviate such problems.  She called her game “The Landlord’s Game” and obtained a patent on January 5, 1904.  In 1932 she revised the game and obtained a new patent for the newly named “The Landlord’s Game and Prosperity”.

 

Elizabeth Magie followed her own economic philosophies of Georgism with her game.  She did not have it sold to a commercial manufacturer.  Burton Wolfe explains:  “Players… made their own game boards so that they could replace the properties designated by Lizzie Maggie with properties in their own cities and states; this made playing more realistic. As they drew or painted their own boards, usually on linen or oil cloth, they change the title “Landlord’s Game” to “Auction Monopoly” and then just “Monopoly”.  One enthusiastic player of the game was student Priscilla Robertson who would later become the editor of “The Humanist”.  “In those days those who wanted copies of the board for Monopoly took a piece of linen cloth and copied it in crayon.”

 

The game grew a following and in 1932 Charles Darrow obtained a copyright for his version of the game.  It included the familiar white box of classic Monopoly games.  Also in 1932 Parker Brothers company bought Elizabeth Magie’s original patent for the sum of five hundred dollars.  In keeping with her original purpose of the game which was to popularize and spread the Georgism economic philosophy, by now whose followers were misnamed as “Single Taxers”, she was not interested in making money from her game but in illuminating the public.  She also insisted that Parker Brothers not make any changes to her game.  They reissued the game to the public but then immediately recalled it with very few being sold.

 

In 1940 just four years before her death, Elizabeth Magie, the original inventor of the game Monopoly, was still a strong voice for supporting what one believed.  “What is the value of our philosophy if we do not do our utmost to apply it? To simply know a thing is not enough. To merely speak or write of it occasionally among ourselves is not enough. We must do something about it on a large scale if we are to make headway. We must not only tell them, but show them just how and why and where our claims can be proven in some actual situation…”  Living one’s beliefs was not a game to Elizabeth Magie; it was life itself.