Truth: Attractiveness

Be attractive.

Truth itself is an enigma. Truth might be known through its many faces, though not all faces are equal in their value to Truth. But attractiveness? Attractiveness seems to be side-by-side with what Truth is.

Whether as a material law (magnetic/electric/gravitational), physical trait (symmetry/garb/health-signaling/etc.), or mental characteristic (charisma/stability/respect/etc.), being attractive secures the resources of survival. Attractiveness is an objective and severe determiner of the consequences a thing receives in its lifetime.

The benefits are plenty: Ability to convince a person to do another’s work; Gather mates for raising offspring or protection; Decrease the likelihood to be neglected or killed (a reason baby animals are “cute”); et al.

Being attractive gives the edge to survival – as has been proposed by others, that which is Good is that which survives.

This principle extends beyond biological evolution too. Non-organic nature seeks to persist in its states forever and ever, from thermodynamics to motion. What persists the longest are those things with strong bonds and mass; i.e., matter in the universe that is “attractive” survives.

Planets – the tiniest fraction of the mass of the stars they orbit – only exist that way if not subsumed as moons of even larger planets. Suns live only so long as there’s fuel to burn, the more fuel, the longer life a star has. Galaxies outmatch any planet or star for lifetime, attracting billions of stars, yet they cease to exist as a whole after cataclysmic interactions with something of approximately equal attractive potential (i.e. other galaxies).

Therefore, being attractive is a necessity of the universe, as plasma, rock, or mammal. Further, there are tiers of attractiveness, differentials of both magnitude of attractiveness and type.

Just discussed has been material attractiveness of the gravitational type, with examples of planets being in their own tier, suns another, and galaxies encompassing them all. The same applies to biological life.

An attractive baby is not the same type of attractiveness as that of a sexually attractive mate (ruin to any that foul-up this distinction). Two babies also cannot be deemed to be equally attractive (e.g. as soon as a child receives more ‘resource’ than another, that first child is by definition more attractive), a concept that also applies to shallow comparisons between two job candidates.

Anything that confuses the type or magnitude of attractiveness does not survive. Planets burn away in stars, social aberrant behavior is mocked and condemned, inconvenient (i.e. unattractive) infants killed once upon a time today. Diverging from attractiveness is punished, thereby adding to the net suffering in existence.

If doing what is unattractive generates suffering and ends its existence faster, the contrast that does not create suffering and survives must be called Good. Being attractive is Good.

Bringing it back, attractiveness reinforces itself as being adjacent to Truth: Attractiveness is a universal quality across matter and time, nature tends toward attractiveness, and the pursuit and state of attractiveness reduces suffering.

How to Be Attractive

First, there is great advantage for a person to be born attractive. Natural symmetry, familiarity, secondary sex characteristics, easy display of health through skin, nails, hair, and teeth, and other traits greatly increase the survivability of both the individual and their genes.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Saint Ambrose

Regardless of birth, fit into physical and social environments. Being ‘average’ and ‘consistent’ for the surrounding context breeds familiarity which is attractive, as well as showing a healthy response to the external stimuli of a particular niche. Further, fitting in with others feeds into social affirmation, an attractive trait that signals others to act on and for one’s behalf.

Success in handling changes and challenges in the social intangibles and the physical resources for survival indicate two attractive qualities: Health in the now, and advantaged genes for later reproduction. Such accomplishment is part of seeming confident. Confidence itself is a sign of health, its natural assertiveness gaining resources for survival and protecting those resources.

There are other ways to express attractiveness; these assets are many and varied. Listening to the opinions of others and one’s self will determine what works best!

Attractiveness Elsewhere

Abraham Lincoln – “I have no other [ambition] so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”

Sun Tzu – Appear as is best for your intentions with others. (Fake it to make it.)

Beauty – Attractive things exist so long as not too much is known about them at the time. (See: Knowledge is terrible.)

First Impressions – “If their initial impressions of the candidates are positive, employers show a higher tendency to ‘sell’ the job by providing information to the candidates about the job rather than gathering information from them.”

Live an attractive life as best you can. Cheers.

Truth: Suffering

Suffering is inevitable.

Truth can be debated endlessly. Look no further than the blind men and the elephant. Simply put, a singular Truth cannot be known 🤷‍♂️

What can be understood are the collection of truisms close to Truth. Things that are agnostic to time, space, culture, and context are more true than dichotomies or idioms. Something that, once known, is of terrible power for its ability to inflict or relieve suffering in one and another. Yet, not knowing can lead to a suffering through ignorance!

So what is truthful?

All life seems to agree on this: Suffering is the only guaranteed experience.

Before you go, hear me out. Suffering is a cornerstone of existence if not the foundation of what it means to be alive.

It all starts at where all things do: at the beginning. First there is the suffering caused to mothers during pregnancy and labor. Second, babes wail at the shockingly cold, shockingly bright loss of everything they have ever known. Communities then suffer the child’s cries and inadequacies while their parents sweat and toil to keep the new human alive – and often that is beyond their abilities!

The baby born, that child will become self conscious. With that knowledge, the young person begins to doubt their own value. Their body morphs through puberty in unknowable, painful ways. Their minds become aware of themselves and other people, namely the failures of themselves and their society. A child is considered ‘mature’ when they lose the shield that was naiveté. In a complete upending of the child’s reality, they come to understand they are betrayed by family, friends, society, and their own body.

That babe-turned-adult suffers once again as the incessant march of time grinds down thought and bones alike. If not outright crippled in mind and body, the ‘edge’ of peak performance experienced in late adolescence is dulled. A second revelation comes where the elder recognizes how much of their short life has been spent with little return. Existential nihilism or a living lie of denial sets in, killing the elder long before they are dead and buried. This is the elder’s only inheritance left to their next of kin, who in turn do not understand the trauma they’ve received. Thus the cycle of suffering, from birth to death, continues on into the next generation.

Matter – atoms and the like – too suffers in its creation, as understood through an empathetic anthropomorphism. All particles exploded into an inferno during the universe’s birth. All suns only formed after eons of atoms floating alone before being crushed and incinerated under their own weight. The universe itself may be convulsing in a cyclic version of Western Hell and has so done since the beginning of time.

Suffering is inherent in creation. Yet does it last?

Absolutely.

We see in the life of a person or a galaxy, suffering is the ever-constant companion throughout a singular existence. From start to finish, suffering is present and repeats its pattern infinitely.

Suffering persists. But what of the Good?

While there are absolutely may be moments of pleasure in one’s life, no two persons can agree on the specifics of such pleasures, or if the pleasure itself is a Good thing! (What is Good has been mentioned before, but a further exploration is later in this post.)

What used to be the common ground of Good was religion. But which religion? Which denomination of that religion? Can a history of stoning neighbors, burning knowledge, and the excruciation of the masses, justified in the many names of God, be considered Good? (Rhetorical questions all.)

When consuming certain mushrooms across the world, shamans and laypersons alike gain the satisfaction of meeting their own God without the need of religion. Perhaps this is a contributor as to why claims to be religious are becoming a minority. Regardless, religion seems to be unable to define a Good in the universe.

Hedonism gives many moments of pleasure. Eating, drinking, sex, and drugs all stimulate dopamine and other feel-good chemicals, these chemicals the only objective cause of pleasure in a person’s body. If pure pleasure is what Good is, the only Good activity in life is the pursuit of opiates until death arrives, the dead no longer suffering.

Sensual pleasure works as well as it does because of the erasure of self it causes. There is no person, there is only bliss. Should a person retain any amount of self-conscious ego, this pleasure is often found to be meaningless. (Not to mention that the individual hardly survives for long, which is not Good.)

The idea of ‘the nation‘ aims to give meaning with shared common purpose, that which the nation claims to be Good. Further, nations promise to carry the ideas and works and wishes of the citizen into the future, a survival-by-proxy. So which nation is Good? When? For whom? What consistently has been considered Good? Perhaps during the disenfranchisement of its women? The crucifixion of its minorities? The genocide of its enemies? The enslavement of the destitute?

The nation has many ideas of what Good is. No idea remains consistent, thereby a changing definition of what is Good. In the book The Rape of Nanking, it is come to be understood that nations will justify its actions without remorse, even glee, passing this ‘goodness’ into its citizens and collective actions. It is clear ‘the nation,’ despite giving meaning and surviving, cannot be Good.

If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.

George Orwell, 1984

In these ways, the Good is entirely subjective. What is Good for one cannot be guaranteed for another. The Confucian Golden Rule of “do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself” usurps its Western opposite of “do unto others what you would have them do to you.”

But Good may yet have something true about it. If suffering is the omnipresent woe, minimizing suffering may be a common agreed-upon Good. But remember that many things done with ‘Good’ intention (Western Golden Rule) cause suffering. Therefore, Goodness with the intent to reduce suffering seemingly is to act less on perceived suffering (the context others appear to be in) and more on actual suffering (the context a person finds themselves in, the only guarantee suffering is indeed occurring).

As Goodness with the minimal definition is an eternal endeavor since suffering persists, Good would need to accommodate failure and continue (i.e. survive). That still does not negate this narrow definition of Good as being subjective, only one in a crowd of other definitions that claim to be correct.

Simply put, a definition of Good may be “reduce net suffering to survive and survive to reduce net suffering.” This does not violate the subjectivity of Good, merely prescribes what the abstract concept is.

Good is subjective. So what is objective?

If any claim to objectivity is made, it seems to be made of suffering and surviving. A person cannot do a guaranteed Good. By the act of existing only, a person can participate in suffering.

You and I will experience suffering, will cause it. Much of it will happen and we won’t be aware of it. In our darkest times, we will seek it out.

Therein lies an objective truth: Suffering is inevitable. With that knowledge, preparing to suffer can be committed to and actions readied to reduce it. How suffering is perceived is variable, but thoughts about suffering tend to trend in two ways: Those that have the means to hypothetically bear great suffering are better; those that endure actual suffering not of their choosing are considered lesser.

Whether suffering is accepted or railed against, if a person finds that they are suffering, it may be a comfort to know suffering is natural and it too can pass. How to address suffering is another topic entirely, an important one to have when suffering is known to exist, persist, and permeate throughout the universe.

In these ways suffering conforms to a universal truth, a first-tier fact that better reveals Truth and hones other truths in their meaning and purpose.

Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.

George Orwell, 1984

Something I’ve pondered on and worth continuing to ponder. Cheers.

April May Goal Review

It’s already May!?

April has been a doozy – certain finance projects have kicked off (lacking from last month’s proposal) and certain personal affairs have required my strictest attention. Needless to say, my time has been ravished.

The damages:

April Goal Review

    1. Summer Plans
      1. Won! I am now set for certain housing needs while on long trips. Meeting individuals and couples who will also be vaccinated are set. And in the face of new information, I’ll be “on my toes” for
    2. Ditch Property
      1. Failed. I donated loads of clothes and dishes and such, but really dropped the ball in pushing the commercial aspect of property dispersal. Hate to say it: I suck at spontaneous entrepreneurship 💀
    3. 1 Hour Writing Habit
      1. Failed. Over 60% of this target was hit, but that’s still a lot of failure, so I did not remain consistent like I’d hoped. Wrote a lot of blogs at least, this included 🙃
    4. 1 Hour Chill-out Habit
      1. Won! Playing games and watching shows – I found that this is a highly useful scheduling item. A ‘chill’ hour (which at times seemed a tad long) gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day, resetting me for writing! Will include ‘chill hour’ into the future 🎮

May Goal Proposal

    1. Appointments
      1. There are dates to make and keep, both personal and social. I’ll be hanging out in temporary housing before my summer drive so I can celebrate the birthday of a very good friend. In addition, there’s some health stuff to knock off the TO-DO list, especially in time for me running around in the summer sun ~
    2. Last Chances
      1. OK, time to be vague: There are certain things that I very likely won’t be able to do later this year or, heck, for the rest of my life. This goal is to leave open to myself time for those experiences. (Don’t worry, I’m cool – just a new paradigm to look forward to.)
    3. Half-Hour Happy Habit
      1. Coming off of the “Hour Chill-out Habit” from April, I’ll force myself to spend at least half-an-hour a day doing games, shows, walks, and reading for nothing but the sake of the activity. I needed little prompt most times during April, but sometimes had to yell at myself to “play the dang game” 😅
    4. 8 AM Half-Hour Writing Habit
      1. Trying again, round two. Maybe if I can specify a time to start the habit, it’ll blossom into better consistency. I’ll be forced to keep the rest of my later afternoon and early evening on schedule. Small steps! (Hoping for big gains!)

The best news is that by the time you read this, I’ll have received shot #2!

Come mid-May, I’ll be fully vaccinated, having played my part since March 2020 and will continue until the United States has gotten something of an act together.

When are you getting your vax? What are your plans for rejoining society at large? Have a special place for your favorite mask?? Do tell! Hope to see you outside in a few more weeks 😁 Cheers!

Truth: Knowledge

Knowledge is a terrible thing.

Truth is something we cannot know. However, Truth is a legion of many faces, each aspect of Truth being a testament to the universe. Through these aspects Truth may be known. Yet, the knowledge itself is a terrible thing.

Terrible, really?

Quite so. Once something is known, it cannot be unknown. The knowledge itself gains a consciousness in its perception. The knower gives the information their own life by spending time and calories thinking on the knowledge.

A terrible part of knowledge is when it allows the knower to become self-conscious. A belief held in ignorance contradictory to newfound information provides a stark contrast to what may have been a life in the ‘wrong’ or ‘false.’ Not many are ready to recognize their failings in this way, that their reality was a lie up to the knowledge gain. Thereby it is born a perfect situation to allow a knowledgeable person to suffer not only the pain of finding in themselves a false-self, but doubly the suffering of perpetuating the now insincere lie of their false belief.

But to live in the dark? To forego the possible suffering of exploring the unknown? Enjoying the bliss of ignorance makes sense if the benefit of knowledge could not outweigh its horrors.

Common nay-sayers to the progress of knowledge cite many of the troublesome topics of modern times:

Gunpowder, biological weapons, social stigmas, dogma, racism, factory farming, sweat shops, nuclear arms, weaponized pathogens, fuel waste, more addictive substances, inhumane architecture, spam email.

Yet, humans continue to push the boundaries of knowledge, to explore, to discover. Ill-content with the state of things, people have gained knowledge of, well, everything a mind can perceive and more.

Language, sparking fire, paper, printing, the raising of crops and livestock, penicillin, engines, mathematics, rocketry, clothing, environment control, the internet, vaccines, subatomic physics.

All-in-all, knowledge has proven terrible in its power for the Good reduction of suffering, and the contrary application of incredible suffering for meager gain. “Terribleness” cannot be said to be in-and-of itself a ‘bad’ thing. By any objective measure – poverty, life expectancy, opportunity, access to resource – knowledge has on the balance been a Good thing, making now the best time to be alive ever.

If the concept of knowledge were visual, knowing would be feeling around into the darkness of the world’s unknown. Some finds would be sweet and soft, treasures to make the journey worth the while; others sharp and deadly, tragedies there in the dark. Sometimes a truly terrible tool is found, a thing with the capacity for great reductions and increases in suffering, depending on its use.

Taking the ‘darkness’ example further, sharing knowledge might be visualized as a light cast on a place – a piece of knowledge. However, that light comes from one direction – the sharer of the knowledge. What may appear true and whole on one side may seem completely false on the other – a shadow cast. Therefore, partial light may play tricks and deceive for a time. Until further insights and investigations cast more light on the subject, knowledge and its sharing suffers from the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant.

Light too, when shown to unprepared eyes, can be blinding. In this way, the illumination and knowledge can send a person reeling from the moment’s bright suffering.

So the distribution of knowledge may cause suffering, at least for a time. To pursue knowledge is one choice; to reveal information is another. Sometimes it’s best to not reveal true knowledge, as in the case of white lies, especially to the unexpecting. Sometimes knowledge will be shared with the express intent to cause suffering, e.g. black truths.

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

William Blake

Therein lies the terrible essence of knowledge. It gives and takes suffering from the world when gained by a person.

This has always been the case. Two-and-a-half millennia ago in East Asia, renown warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu based much of his The Art of War on knowing and keeping others from knowing. Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a half-millennia ago in the heart of Europe that success in life lay in knowing what to do with the power one had. Shortly after, Sir Francis Bacon put it bluntly: “knowledge itself is power.” Or as Susan Orlean puts it for today, “Knowledge is a beautiful thing, but there are a few things I wish I didn’t know.”

So pay respect to knowledge and its lack alike. Context plays a part in guessing whether knowledge gives or takes suffering away, but across time and culture, this remains true: Knowledge is a terrible tool to have and to wield.

What lights do you live your life by?

Cheers.

Truth: Simplify

Simplify.

Truth is an enigma, but there are scatterings of Truth in universal truisms. These truisms are plentiful, none are equal. The further from Truth they go, the more truisms there are, but the less true they are in turn. There, they become a ‘noise’ while fewer and truer the truths become. In that way, the closer to Truth one goes, the simpler the space is as are the truisms found.

Truth tends towards simplicity.

A diamond cannot be uncovered while there’s rough. Gold cannot be picked unless the silt is panned out. Grain does not grow if choked by weeds. A body cannot breath if drowned. About seven things is what a human mind can hold. About 150 persons is what a single individual can keep track of.

To simplify is a cornerstone of existence. We see this exampled in everything from the composition of cellular life to the decomposing of atoms into baser parts to the simplicity of the equations that describe the fundaments of reality.

It is a challenge to think of what, when added, makes things simpler. The act of taking away brings things into focus. Take myself:

I trimmed my professional "expertise" from game design, production, illustration, programming, and mathematics into tools engineering, serving me with above-par pay and sharp skills.
From aiming to please any-and-everyone, relationships of all sorts have become straightforward - my experience knows "why what works with who," making any decision involving others near immediate versus requiring deliberation over months and years.
My time, previously split between an immense variety of activities and active interests,  boils down to creation (writing, game design, sketching), being of use to others (tools engineering, exploring problems) and myself (working out, learning), and achieving a sense of order (planning, chore completion).
Even this blog used to be many goals spread over a quarter and two posts, now regulated to four goals in a single month in a single post.

Yet, simplicity’s opposite – complexity – pervades. This, too, appears to be natural. Planets gather moons to add the complexity of tides. The simplest atom hydrogen is incredible unstable, binding itself with other atoms to form more complex molecules. Organisms evolve to add necessary features, even if that’s combining symbiotically with other creatures.

Life itself could be described as a pattern within the universe that attempts to stall its own entropy. That pattern does whatever it can to survive, which through evolution, has brought forward more complex forms.

Humans too generate a ‘gravity’ to add things to their orbit of concern. Another task makes it onto the ‘to-do’ list. Another acquaintance boosts the follower count. Another car needs payment. Another interest of the moment divides attention. Another another another.

Though how often has “another” brought suffering to life? The pain of indecision contrasts with the toil for more, a common masochism a sleepless person who takes on another responsibility shares with the pet that gorges itself into ache and vomiting.

We cannot help adding complexity to our lives. But as another card is added to the house or another plate is brought to spin, our lives become more perilous.

Our wants are simple: Comfortable environment, quality sleep, satiation in emotion and nourishment, a feeling of worth, and energy to pursue the things we intend and find interesting and survive without cars from what we don’t. Our ways and whys are many more than these.

This complexity resembles what it is: a construction. How well it is built is directly linked to the foundation of planning and intention that goes into our lives.

Complexity can serve a purpose. As mentioned, life will become more complex to survive, with a caveat: The nature of the universe abhors doing anything that is not needed at the precise place and time. When complexity arises, it must be judged, especially in ourselves, since humans are awfully good at justifying what exists, regardless of correctness.

Is this object or situation or action as simple as it can be? Does it serve a necessary outcome here and now? How can it do the easiest thing possible?

A medicine is highly complex but any more or less than necessary ruins its purpose. A wall with its many parts crumbles with any more or less than the required stones. A body – a miracle of moving parts – with any more or less than a very small range of temperature, water, or calories destroys itself.

It’s simple: The farther from the simple a thing strays, the more the thing destroys what it is. Such change is a guarantee. Whether the consequence of the change is intended is up to how simple the origin remains.

Managing change is incredibly useful. For a person, if a situation is unacceptable, that person can add to their life in some ways, subtract in others. Once a person finds a place where they are contented, no more gets added, no more gets removed. They have simplified to a level of stable complexity so they may begin to survive. And to survive, to live, that is a Good thing to do.

In that way, to simplify conforms to a universal truth, reduces suffering, better reveals Truth in its many effects, and is one of the few truths that best represents the Truth.

Simplicity Elsewhere

Occam’s Razor – No more, no less. That which is less indivisible is preferred.

Newton’s Rule 1 – It is vain and unnatural to do more than what’s required.

Tao’s Greatest Treasures – “Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being.”

GI Bill of Rights – Four pages with simple language lasts 77 years and still serves tens-of-millions.

Abrahamic Religions – There is only one cause to the universe and it requires respect for being unknowable.

Theory of Evolution – That which exists came from before and changes over time in the most efficient way possible.

Greek Creation Myth – Out of immense complexity comes a simple few things which then gather to themselves immense complexity and suffering thereby.

Prime Numbers – A value so simplified, it cannot be divided any further without ending what it fundamentally is.

Feel-Good Chemicals – The sensation of pleasure is triggered by only four hormones.

Entropy – The ultimate simplification, the universe flattens all complexity into nothingness over time.

Something to live by. Cheers.

March April Goal Review

Where did March go!!?? It’s been a blur for me, though I hope you’ve had a finer time on this… unacceptable but all too real anniversary.

But why dwell here? There’s the future to consider after double-checking where the most recent accomplishments laid the way here!

March Goal Review

    1. Truths Chosen Formatting
      1. Won! Kinda. Taking a note from folks like Scott Galloway and my own truth of “Simplify,” I’m going to write blog posts on a shortlist of truths. These will be longer-form, combining TLDRs with a chapter-like story delving into the reality of what seems true.
    2. Truths Draft 3
      1. Failed. I’m not giving myself this one. I’ve focused on the end-of-life deathwalk, work, and yearly medical checkups. I’ve done no major changes to the “Truths” list other than paring down to a shortlist of Top 4, Top 10, and Last 10 from a list of about 30 truths I can defend without doubt.
    3. End-of-Life Checkup
      1. Won! This deathwalk (my term for it) has been brutal but oh so valuable! (Highly recommend it for you!) Found that some documents needed updating, recalibrated my endeavors, and have started already on April. (Goals below.)
    4. Another 20 Into Witcher 3
      1. Won! Bam! And no-where near to being done, so it seems 😅 Very much enjoying it so far. Wonder what it would be like on the highest difficulty? 🤔

April Goal Proposal

    1. Summer Plans
      1. May and June will see some location changes. My thoughts are to get a new permanent residence while also getting up to New York State to see fam and a very important cat (COVID precautious, of course). Since I’ll be uprooting, I can head off any downsides now rather than later.
    2. Ditch Property
      1. Physical assets hold a person back, hold them down. I’ve lasted a year-and-change without things like my heavy wooden kitchen table, guest beds, and 90% of my wardrobe. Though I may not get down to 10% of my current ownings, 40% is doable! (If I can move my current storage into a 5×10, this is a win.)
    3. 1 Hour Writing Habit
      1. Everyday, 1 hour, writing. Doesn’t matter what, but it needs to be writing and only writing. 1 hour. Everyday. 1 month.
    4. 1 Hour Chill-out Habit
      1. Like the above, I need to learn to relax. Part of the deathwalk was identifying what I wanted to do in my short life. Under that new awareness, I uncovered that I would re-consume some of the media that has changed me through the years. This hopeful habit gets me on the ball for that enjoyment.

April could bring a lot more change than what I mentioned here – heck, since I’m writing this a bit before month’s end, A LOT could still happen!

Enough about me. How are your goals doing? Do your actions live up to your intentions? If you need answers, check my other goal posts and, perhaps, fast for a day (doctor’s note excused) and do your own deathwalk ~

Anyway, cheers to you and I as we get after it!

4 Ways to Survive: Guns, Germs, and Steel

One of the most highly regarded histories of all time, Guns, Germs, and Steel caught my attention in a big way. How it sets up the dominos of time to bring us to the current era is as clear-cut as the Transitive Property.

The book further levels the genealogical and cultural propagandas so frequent in other lessons about civilizations. Any member of Homo Sapiens is capable of the same outcomes given the same environmental contexts – DNA does not play a factor (as it rightly should not).

Consequences of cultural differences also play out. In a personal eureka moment, I want to share with you the four cultural trends that persevere, usurping any methods that do not conform to one of the four. (Also note that culture drives what a society deems is valuable, thus drives the actions and thoughts of individuals.)

This overview is naïve, of course. Guns, Germs, and Steel does not contend with the question of a 21st-century global culture, the first of its kind. To show these categories of cultural action persist to this day, I’ll outline geo-political, commercial, and biological examples of how society has come to evolve the way it is.

A reminder, in paraphrase, from scholar William Durant: “Good” in history is that which survives. Be it biological, commercial, or cultural, Nature only cares about persisting to the next iteration. All else is a thought exercise at best, moral grandstanding at its most dangerous.

Annihilate

A castle is overcome when it is destroyed and its inhabitants ruined, the besieger then allowed to record only that there was victory for themselves.

First among equals, the primal tenant: an obstacle does not exist if made to not exist.

A culture or action that removes its competitors and predators survives, at least for awhile, and certainly longer than either competitors or predators.

The micro-action of “unfriending” an inflammatory character from Social Media is annihilation. A company that forces the closure of a niche shop is annihilation. A nation that blows-up the economics and utilities of another nation is annihilation. A species that puts to extinction a foe over resources or predation is annihilation.

Annihilation is Zero Sum, meaning that there is no compromise between one entity attempting to annihilate another. Being Zero Sum, once a state of mutually assured destruction is reached by any two entities, those entities must change their cultural attitudes towards each other to survive.

Non-annihilation towards one does not negate actions of annihilation against another. (Why the Cold War was an indirect war.) However, the idea of non-annihilation can assimilate itself into the rest of a culture, ‘pacifying’ a people to use other means of survival.

Assimilate

A castle is overcome when it surrenders and joins the besieger, who then puts to work what is deemed useful at the time.

Apes together strong.” – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The most mutually beneficial tenant, an obstacle does not exist if it not only agrees to no longer be an obstacle, but joins in overcoming other obstacles.

Mitochondria evolving to give easy energy to a larger cell for protection and care is assimilation. When a new employee goes to a company function regardless of personal preference to socialize with the group is assimilation. Every business that buys other businesses, adapting the enterprise in a minor way to accommodate the other companies, is assimilation. Whether Catholic or Buddhist, missionaries morphing the likenesses of their idols to conform to the dominant traditions is assimilation. A nation teaching its language to the conquered, the refugee, the destitute, and the uneducated young is assimilation.

In short, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In that way, a disadvantaged entity survives in at least some part while an advantaged entity grows stronger by the double whammy of removing a rival and adding to its own benefits.

Take note that a disadvantaged entity has no guarantee to be whole and only minorly altered after assimilation. In Nature, niches allow only one entity space to exist therein, otherwise resulting in competition and obstacles. If an obstacle is removed by assimilation, a subpart of what was assimilated may already have its niched filled by the assimilator, meaning the subpart is then annihilated to avoid competition.

If assimilation is yet too costly, a more indirect route of asphyxiation exists.

Asphyxiate

A castle is overcome when it is starved out, the besieger then destroyer or enslaver of any reluctant survivors.

A tenant for the patient or the weak-but-numerous, an obstacle allowed to crumble under its own weight is no longer an obstacle.

A culture that takes no direct action against another entity can still overcome the other. The former does so by cutting off the inputs needed by the latter.

Whether called “asphyxiation,” “denial,” “terminal isolation,” or otherwise, an enclosed system naturally succumbs to its own entropy.

A plant denied adequate water and light, whether given too much or too little, rots and withers. A person not included in a social circle is asphyxiated of attention and leaves. A powerplant cut off from its water coolant overheats by its own reaction. A nation runs out of its fuel and food when an embargo asphyxiates it.

Isolation, which may arrive in the form of inundation (e.g. drowning, the isolation from oxygen), kills – a roundabout annihilation. A system – cultural, commercial, biological, societal – must interact with other systems to survive. It will find its niche otherwise too small to continue without at least severe adaptation and sacrifice.

Some entities have assimilated so many others as to become self sufficient and spared a destruction by asphyxiation. However, should the denial of exchange be parsed farther down (e.g. to a city rather than a country), an entity will collapse under its own wants and waste. To prevent a possible asphyxiator from realizing this, along with avoiding notions of assimilation and annihilation, the disadvantaged entity may agnosticize itself to external awareness.

Agnosticize

A castle is overcome when the inhabitants do not know the besieger is already in the walls, the besieger falling below a level of notice.

The tenant of ignorance and parasitism, an obstacle is no longer so whenever it does not know to act as an obstacle.

A culture beyond the notice of other cultures survives. This is the hardest tenant to exist by, though it is the least destructive to other entities.

Great work must be done to become agnosticized (i.e. unknown) to other cultures. First, the culture, system, or entity wishing to be kept unaware must be self sufficient (immune to needing to interact with outside systems to gather resources or deposit waste). It then must be self regulating (the niche of the system avoids over-consuming what is available). Finally, the system must have complete attraction to its members (nothing must be allowed to leave, and all individuals must cooperate towards maintaining the agnosticized goal).

The first need of an agnosticized culture – self sufficiency – may be circumvented in the case of parasitism. An entity may subsist on the byproducts and rounding-errors of a more advantaged entity. Even greater care is required here to remain under the notice of a destroyer. As far as humans are concerned, we are very jealous creatures, even in the ownership of our refuse.

A mouse whisking away a nibble of cheese or crumb of bread without traps set or cats stalking is agnosticized. A person is spared ridicule by being a no-body without public appearance and so is agnosticized. A local provider is not run out of business by a larger corporation because it is agnosticized from the corporation’s notice. A non-seafaring people left alone on an island is spared disease and enslavement because it is agnosticized. A nation in isolation can slow cultural change because it is agnosticized.

Attention begets change from outside forces, whether on the subatomic level or cultural. To avoid attention, to agnosticize, means survival. Change will certainly come, yet remain internal, free from being targeted for annihilation, assimilation, or asphyxiation by other cultures.

And those are my big “aha!” takeaways from Guns, Germs, and Steel. Looking around the context of things in 2021, we see how these principles continue to play out across geographies, cultures, time, and even between micro-organelles to macro-economies.

To survive is “Good.” How to survive is to annihilate, assimilate, asphyxiate, or be agnosticized against the competition.

For your goals, which of these survival techniques are you leveraging? Help me assimilate your ideas into my own so we both may survive a little longer!

While we strive, cheers ~

The Importance of Putting Things in Order

(Heavy topics ahead – death, regrets, the meaning of one’s life. It’s OK if you want to come back to this later!)

Part of this month’s set of goals is an end-of-life checkup, or as I like to call it, a “deathwalk.”

Having taken my first in 2018, it changed my life. Here’s how I do mine so maybe something similar will change your life too.

Time Aside

A deathwalk shouldn’t take more than a weekend, maybe even a day. I’ve already done mine in March and the majority of my revelations came in a night and a morning – everything else was exploring the best ways to fulfill those things!

My first deathwalk was with a great friend who talked me through imagining my own intimate ceasing, but it required a lot of exposure of thoughts and admittance of stark failures and regrets. Not everyone has such friends or should put such friends through that. For me nowadays, a journal is an excellent place to dump thoughts out, draw maps of meaning, and record lists of what could make the last days of a life worth living.

The privacy in a journal is nice, too, since deathwalks can be very emotional times 😭 But please, don’t get lost on the walk – it can seem overwhelming (death, time spent so far), so keep in mind that without obligations, so much can be reclaimed! You are the ultimate decider of change for your life, so nothing has the power to overwhelm without your say-so. (And it isn’t really real – you’ll live for a long-time yet!)

Premise

The aim of a deathwalk is to explore oneself to figure out what and who is important with limited time left. It requires a fair amount of convincing yourself that you really are to die (I mean, you’ve gotten at least this far).

Some imaginative steps that help me are to think of coming home from a doctor giving the Nth-opinion that yes, your illness, though without symptoms, is incurable and will claim you in a short time.

I avoid thinking of world-ending events (e.g. asteroid) because that would affect how others act too. Here, I think of a permanence in the world, that those I care for will continue on for at least a while after my death.

Time Left

One day left alive is too short – why not just do all the vices available and give over to hedonism? A year is too long (read any statistic showing how New Years resolutions repeat), let alone the unimaginable length that is a lifetime.

Three months, a season, seems the most doable option. There’s enough time to travel, visit people and place but not everyone everywhere, prepare affairs, and settle in for what would be, well, the end.

Perspective

While airing out the bucket-list, this is a time to keep three things in mind:

    • There are only three months to do things in.
    • You won’t be 100% efficient with your time (and who wants to rush when they’re dying?).
    • You have the assets and means you do (i.e. money in the bank) – this likely means no visiting the Moon in the timespan, and serves as a cap on expectations.

I put together top-10 lists for different aspects of my life this most recent deathwalk. However, knowing how long they would take, I had to cut to top-4. Further, with a little googled estimation, I could confirm how much each thing cost to make sure I was betting on realistic assumptions vs. shooting for the Moon.

Documents

One of the biggest things overlooked is the legal aspect of death. Long story short, when arrangements are missing, it’s a mess at best, traumatic and frustrating at average.

Get a list of all your assets together and where they are. Do the same for your liabilities. Write up your passwords and usernames for different services and social medias. Let a handful (literally five or fewer, but more than one) of your most trusted confidants know where they could find this information.

Go one step further at your earliest opportunity to legally draft, sign, and witness a Last Will and Testament through a lawyer. It’ll cost a few hundred dollars, but you are making sure 1) a legally professional format and wording is used, 2) a copy is kept at a legal office, and 3) the professional can help pen Living Wills and funeral arrangements!

Keep your info up to date! Take me: I made my Will three years ago. Reading through it again, everything is in order, except my passwords were old and my list of tangible assets (the list that says “X thing goes to Y person”) was never filled out!

Shame on me. Don’t let it be a shame on you to do this necessary chore. Be the person that reduces the suffering of others after your passing.

Who

After getting the chores out of the way, a deathwalk addresses who should be included in the last months. The figures that first come to mind are usually the 90% of folks who would be the right people to at least see. Commit to seeing them now, or at least plan the steps necessary to go to them should the deathwalk come to pass in reality.

It might also come to mind people not seen or talked to in a while – these folks ought to be reached out to. If that’s a bit too much, such as if the last parting was antagonistic, write letters to them.

Whoever is thought of, write letters to them. Apologize. Get down how much they mean to living and have changed life. Then put the letters away without sending them, somewhere where they can be found and mailed should three months have been a generous estimate.

In this way, affairs with others are put in order.

What

What do you want to do?

Seems easy, right? Ask it again: What do you want to do with only what’s left to you?

Here is where some serious trimming comes in. What do you feel obliged to do (other than getting your paperwork in order)? Scratch those. What is a might be what you want to do? Nix those too. Sometimes a list of things not to do can be more valuable than picking between what to do.

What’s helped me is to look back on what has brought the most passion, the most feeling, the most blissful, forgetful joy. Those are better guarantees for enjoyment than many hypothetical experiences. (e.g. A trip to a new country is outweighed by re-watching that feel-good film from childhood.)

And of course, there’s what’s on your mind already. How would you spend your next Tuesday if there were no obligations for it? Keep those allures close.

Be prepared to cut the least important things for the most important things. Remember: There are only three months left and only so much funding.

Long-Term

After figuring out how to spend the next three months and a well-deserved breather, look ahead.

Keeping the findings of the three-month deathwalk in mind, what is to be made of the rest of life? Preferably, the themes of the deathwalk percolate forward for years.

Regardless, the exercise certainly will have shown things that are weak in life. Is the 9-to-5 worth the effort being put in? Statistics would say no-way.

Undoubtedly, some changes will be uncovered that ought to be made. Figure out how to make the transitions necessary to secure that preferable life. It may not come today or next month or possibly even this year, but walking the long-term to death will show a better way forward than what’s present.

It’s important to live a life worth living, and nothing puts living in perspective like the prospect of timely, tangible death. To prepare for that eventuality, deathwalks expose what needs to be put in order to make the most of our time for ourselves and others.

Deathwalks have served me greatly, changing the very foundation of how I live my life. Only being human, I forget at times and fall into ruts that were not dug for me, so periodic reacquisitions of perspective are a necessity. Like visiting a doctor, visiting ourselves is a huge part of wellness.

This entire post has been pretty high-level, and for that, apologies! The intimate nature of “going for a walk” demands it, but if you’d have more to add, or have done similar things in your life, please share! I super-enthusiastic to know how others go about finding themselves and putting necessary things first.

Thanks for getting through the content! Will aim for something more blissful next time. With that, cheers!

February March Goal Review

February: my birth month and a month of great writing and studying endeavors.

Did I succeed? Or have a good time? What’s next?

February Goal Review

    1. Truths Draft 2
      1. Won! Thanks to the invaluable help of close friends, I’ve wrangled and rewritten the Truths content to something more palatable, more universally applicable. I’ll continue this work going forward.

    2. Birthday Enjoyment
      1. Won! Didn’t make it to Death Valley as planned, yet I did manage to have an excellent hike! It turned out to be a swell birthday weekend of food and some of the best presents I’ve ever received (high-quality framed pictures of a very important cat in my life). Death Valley is on pause for now, but have it on the agenda to make it out late March/early April.

    3. Start Witcher 3
      1. Won! 20 hours was the goal, and 20 have (barely) been achieved! Witcher 3 is a fascinating, engaging, and oh-so-well written game – highly suggest picking it up!

    4. Private Goal
      1. Won! February demanded a lot of time and focus to a core endeavor that had multiple parts to it. Though some of those parts fell through, even more than I expected are rockin’ because of my drive 😎 Looking forward to how this goal turns out in the long run!

March Goal Proposal

    1. Truths Chosen Formatting
      1. Going to pick a format for how to deliver the collection of seemingly universal tidbits. Though, while I write this, the truth of “Simplify” comes to mind… So I may just skip straight to formatting what I have!

    2. Truths Draft 3
      1. That collection that’s going to get formatted? How about I give it another scrubbing, getting it in front of a few other folks (maybe even you)? That sounds like a plan I can get behind!

    3. End-of-Life Checkup
      1. Be not afraid of the heading! This is a periodic checkup on the state of affairs in my life. Is my documents up to date? Does someone else know how to find out my passwords? What are my aims in life? If I was to die in three months, what is there yet to do (a fantastic exercise to take at least a day of contemplation on)?

        Get these things in order and the goal here is met.

    4. Another 20 Into Witcher 3
      1. Let’s finish what was started, eh? 20 hours worked well for my tighter schedule during last month, so about 20-odd hours (totaling ~40 over two months) in will grant me the ‘chill’ my workaholism would seek to get rid of. (Heck, I might just finish the game!)

With the dubiousness of my private goal for February, let’s call it 90% completion for February – cool? By that reckoning, still a fine month! (I know it certainly kept me busy throughout!)

March aims high too. Gimme a month to accomplish what I might, but you would do me a favor: What habits do you think I could include that I’m missing here?

I look forward to hearing from you! For now, much success for your own goals – see you back here in a week! Cheers~

Guide to Your Goals: 10 Themes From Lessons of History

William Durant was a foremost student of history and the human condition. His works in the middle of the 20th century survive long past his death, which by his own criteria, “win!”

Durant’s studies led him at times to conclude with some harsh realities, realities that may not conform to things like short-lived modern liberalism, humanism, or most methods of governance, for all these things pass and come back again through history.

The content of this post comes from my notes of Durant’s authorship. They try to reconcile the socio-historical perspectives of Durant with something tangible to a single person (me). As I tried to figure out what Durant was saying, not all that follows necessarily stands for my own conclusions after reading his work.

That said, let me share with you the ways Lessons of History may matter to us today:

1. Means Change, Motives Endure

What are the motives of a people? A person? What are yours? Knowing what drives action gives a means of control over that action. Just opposite to how the motive to find romance endures in humans across millennia, the means have evolved from arranging marriages for life to hook-up phone apps and divorce more common than “to death do us part.”

Figure out your motives for what you do and worry less about the means.

2. Three Tiers of Concern

Care about your objective needs first. Food, shelter, something to contribute, retardation of pain, interpersonal connection. Meeting needs out-prioritizes all other goals.

Next, you will adopt the most convenience you can for yourself (and so will anyone else). Aim not to be an inconvenience to others because they will otherwise be active in being the same to you. Do whatever you can to make achieving your goals convenient!

Lastly comes the acquisition of status symbols. Beware of these: Symbols change, e.g. having large plantations and families has morphed into acquiring ever larger Instagram followings and slick gadgets. And not all peoples admire the same telegraphs of status.

Symbols are largely traps that sway you from your goals (the original sin here being about caring too much about what others think). But keep in mind the power of symbols because status can be used as a form of barter nearly as well as cold, hard cash.

3. 21st Century Values

Gone are the days where generic endeavors that cater to the lowest denominator had value. Durant calls any ideology a “morale,” though through his other words, certain modes of thinking are objectively more valuable than others vs. subjective as morales are.

Simply put, being attached to ideas of nationalism or other dogmas that originated prior to the 21st century is like refusing to get off a horse to get into a Model T.

As it applies to your goals, keep these things in mind:

      1. Picking a single niche to appease a few is more important than attempting to make everyone happy.
      2. Critical thinking your way, or “working smarter not harder,” will give greater returns than mere labor that anyone can do.
      3. Universal empathy for any other person is a novelty. Care first to have another care about what you do.
      4. Keep away from “exclusivity,” i.e. artificially restricting your outreach. Go where the audience is, which in the 21st century is everywhere across the globe.

4. Ideas vs Outcomes

Ideas are all created equal in that they are born worthless. They may develop into hopes and drives like spiritual and national religions do, but it’s the outcomes from those ideas that matter.

The same applies to goals. Goals are worthless unless they lead to an outcome, and there, outcomes only happen with you taking action.

5. Minorities Drive Majorities

Whether it be personal habits, life choices, or intimate groups of passionate people, very few things have a greater share of impact.

A radical student with a gun in Bosnia fires off the first World War. A few tens-of-thousands of eager Bolsheviks gain control of a country of tens-of-millions to redefine the twentieth century. 30 minutes of daily exercise increases life expectancy more than 30 years.

Whenever, wherever there is an active minority given care, changes are made.

Pay attention to the little things and the one-offs, for they drive the gains and the conflicts, while the passive majority reaps the consequences for good or ill. This applies to your time, your business and career, and ultimately any goal you set for yourself.

6. Competition Comes Before Cooperation

Any two sects will only cooperate to overcome a competition. Competition always boils down to overcoming some form of suffering. As the saying goes, “misery loves company.”

Find where the suffering is in a group of people or just a single other, and sympathize with it. Then you will gain allies against whatever the common antagonist is. Further, these sufferers will support your endeavors to overcome that suffering (i.e. your goals).

7. Fertility Wins

Be it with physical genes or abstract ideas, the success of either directly relates to how wide-spread it is. Things only spread when they are put out there and adopted by others.

People will only adopt whatever your goal is after a few steps happen first:

      1. Actively get that idea in front of others.
      2. Apply the idea in some tangible, valuable way where the benefit can be shown.
      3. Evolve that idea to be “same but different,” as in it must be familiar to the audience yet still unique enough to not have been experienced before by that audience.
      4. Return to step 1.

Being prolific is how you win, and you are prolific if you take action to 1) get yourself out there, and 2) cater demonstrable, novel benefit to your audience.

This may not seem “fair” (see the next point on justice). Unless you and your work persist, fairness does not matter in the least. “Good” is that which survives.

8. Justice Is Proving Merit

As most life advice has it, the world owes you nothing. As Durant would amend, a “just” society can at least give one right: the right to unobscured entry into tests of office and power, simply known as proving one’s merit.

Can you prove you have a mighty body? A strong mind? An attractive character? Or clever means? No more, no less – These are the only things you must feel obliged to show in your goals.

9. You Are Your Greatest Hinderance and Help

As Durant puts it, supernatural belief is the strongest protection against your own misdeeds. However, your fantasies about yourself, your actions, or the world can be taken too far, preventing useful consequences from occurring.

Towards this point, seize control of your mind. Be rational about what is legitimate caution versus overzealous fear. To take another quote, “fear is the mind-killer […] the little death that kills me over and over” (Dune) – only after your own terrors are reined will you be able to get out of your own way to accomplish what you set out to do.

10. Discipline Yourself

A person unprepared for success will be weak when they stumble into it but act strong. Being weak while drunk with power is delusional and therefore dangerous for everyone and everything.

Like letting a genie out of a bottle, getting what you want may be the worst thing to happen.

When it comes to goals, you strengthen yourself for success by disciplining yourself in your life. Family, finances, health, goals – everyday and always. Only then will you be prepared to achieve.

But what if you should fail to meet your goals? Discipline reinforces your mind, so such a failure will have much less impact than if you fail while also weak and undisciplined.

Extra Points Worth Note:

      • Revolution (forcible change of a system) comes when the equality of merit or vote is nullified by an inequity of wealth, status, or means. The situation worsens when the strong (in any sense of the word) create monopolies of the tools and means to livelihood status. Revolutions cycle between these states:
          • Wealth Distributes -> Wealth Concentrates -> (repeat)
          • Monarch / Tyranny (one power) -> Aristocracy (few powers) -> Democracy (no powers) -> (repeat)
      • Force (i.e. action by any and every means and effective methods) is the absolute final arbiter of a dispute or conflict. Only by force may an obstacle be overcome or unattainable attained. All else is a brain exercise for poets and philosophers.
      • Economy is the manager of all things socially, personally, politically, or otherwise. Value floats up, so value injected at as low a level as possible sieves through higher layers, such as socio-economic levels (i.e. castes). Therefore, knowing your current caste, where value is being put into the system, and where you can put in value is of extreme importance.
      • Beware the unsolicited “should.” Whenever a higher power (family, boss, state, divinity) hands-off moral wisdom without invitation, it’s just if not more likely that wisdom serves an all-too-human agenda not your own.

Wow! That’s a lot! William Durant had a lot to say, which applied to a lot of my own goal-mindedness (hence these notes).

Durant found many patterns throughout history on a macro scale. I’ve tried to apply these to the micro and personal scale. How did I do? Which will you start using and observing in your day to day? Let me know!

Stay warm wherever you are, and cheers!