The Second Space

Regular readers of my blogs will understand what I am referring to in the subject line of this particular one. My previous blog was about how we had spent the morning doing our usual Sunday outdoor activities in the park. These activities tend to free up the mind, and to remind you that there exists another world independent of us human beings out there, a world that can continue to exist without our meddling. You tend to forget your worldly concerns while you are out there in the park.

We had a completely different agenda and experience on Sunday afternoon. We attended a rally and march organized by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The march was in the Kentlands, a neighborhood community close to us in Gaithersburg. The Kentlands are actually within walking distance, but I was already tired from the morning’s activities. I was in two minds about going. We also had very little time to rest before departing for the rally. We finally ended up driving to a parking lot at a shopping center close to the site of the rally, and walking the rest of the way.

This was the scene early on, as people were gathering. You can see that it was relaxed atmosphere. The crowd was diverse in every sense of the word.

The place began to fill up by the time the event began in earnest and people began to speak. This speech was by Will Jawando, a Councilmember for Montgomery County.

It was crowded by the time we started marching – after the speeches – but it was possible to practice physical distancing. People were generally good about wearing masks.

The march itself was a laid-back affair.

We did a loop within the Kentlands, probably not more than a mile. We were led in the chants by a person at the front of the march. People were quite relaxed. At one point, there was a person who seemed to disapprove of the subject of the march who stood on the side where the people were walking insisting that “Blue Lives Matter”. Luckily, nobody engaged with him. But it was a good moment for me to actually think about how I should respond if somebody said something like this to me. The response would start with, “Yes, all lives matter, but…”.

We marched past the front of Lowe’s, the big-box hardware store in our neighborhood, and noticed that it was all boarded up, to the point that the massive doors in and out of the building were completely covered up. If you did not know any better, you would not have known that there were doors there. This is an indication of the thought process of the people running the store. They were scared, even though the people marching past were a bunch of suburbanites – all ages, genders, and races. And it was in the middle of the day! It felt like ignorance to me at that point. But, having said that, I have to admit that I myself had also been somewhat ignorant about what to expect at the march earlier on. None of the other stores were boarded up. In fact, some of the employees at Chipotle, a restaurant that we marched past, came out of the store to offer people drinks. A notable moment in the middle of the march was when we all stopped for a minute and knelt on the road while the names of the people who had been killed by police action in recent years was announced over the megaphone.

The march ended back where we started. There were a few more speeches made before the rally came to an end. Throughout the event, the organizers handed out snacks and water to people who needed it. Thankfully, the weather was nice the whole time. Of particular note was the fact that the organizers were all young people. Bravo!

There was a light atmosphere to the whole event. There were police cars parked around the venue of the speeches, but at a distance, beyond the crowds, and they had their flashing lights on. The Gaithersburg city police who were standing around the place where the march started – the place where the speeches were given – were in casual-looking uniforms, wearing biking helmets and shorts. They had their bikes with them. They were also unarmed. They did not look menacing as in some other cases that we had witnessed on TV. They also looked relaxed. The Montgomery County Police who were along the route of the march looked professional and serious. They generally kept a distance from the marchers. I wonder how they all felt about the speeches that were being given, speeches that addressed the impact of the bad behavior of their brethren. The head of the police for Gaithersburg chose the opportunity to speak in solidarity with the marchers.

I have to say that while I enjoyed the new experience, I feel that I was not completely drawn into its spirit. I say this because I was not particularly moved by the experience. I did not learn too much either. I did not get worked up and emotional. I did not get much useful information or motivation to engage further. Perhaps, we should have at least been carrying a a couple of banners ourselves, but we were nervous because this was our first time taking part in a rally. Being wimpy comes easily to some of us. I suppose one has to also consider the overall objective of a peaceful demonstration. In our case, I think it was an expression of solidarity of overall purpose. Other people, especially those who are most directly impacted by the injustices, have more in their hearts. They are crying out to be heard.

I will end with a few more pictures.

Days of Introspection and Reckoning

It is a time of introspection for me, a time for me to once again confront the possible limitations of my own humanity. This time, my internal conversation is about my latent biases.

I think that those of us who happen to be privileged in some way or the other cannot help but have our own biases. Regardless of whether our parents tried to inculcate the right set of values in us, regardless of whether we were taught that all human beings are the same regardless of our race or background, or creed, people can end up feeling not just different, but maybe even superior. I am probably guilty of that even if my first reaction is to try to deny it.

At this time, my thinking is mainly focused on racism against blacks in America. I want to spend some time thinking about my learning process in this regard. As a young person growing up in India, I was not very knowledgeable about the experience of the African American people. I knew about slavery, and I had read Roots by Alex Haley as a youngster before I came to the United States. I also knew about the civil war and events associated with it. That was probably the extent of my exposure. I remember seeing movies from the USIS that talked about America, but the plight of the former slaves was not one of the topics that was touched upon. Lets admit it, the USIS was mainly peddling in propaganda that only presented the country in a positive light.

Before I came to the United States, I did not know much about the Civil Rights movement. I did not know anything about Jim Crow, or the events of the South in those days, in places like Birmingham, Durham, Selma, etc… I had not heard of the Freedom Riders. My real education on this topic started when I came here in 1980 for my higher studies. I would like to believe that I did not have any inherent biases against people of other races that I interacted with when I arrived as a graduate student. I encountered people from all over the world in the university, and we were all going through the same experiences in the same set of circumstances. But I am not sure now if I am remembering things correctly.

My regular trips from the university where I studied to New York City opened up my eyes a little bit to the black inner-city experience of that time. It was not a very happy introduction. You have to first remember that those times were, in general, especially bad for NYC as a whole. The city was still recovering from near-bankruptcy in the 1970s, and the infrastructure was in real bad shape. Times Square was still a red-light district. There were a lot of homeless people in the city, and they seemed to be mainly black. There were people hanging out in street corners who seemed to be looking for trouble. You had to be careful wherever you went because the city could be a dangerous place. There was graffiti and rubbish everywhere. The place was dirty. I remember being attacked by a bunch of kids one evening on a street near Columbia University. I remember the smelly and graffiti-covered subway cars that I traveled on. Often, there were homeless people sleeping on the cars. But I was young, and I found NYC to be a fascinating place. I used to love to travel on the subway system. I tried to experience every subway line there was, and every destination. I even bought a book about the subway (I think I still have it), and also resolved to cover all of the many lines of the subway system within a 24 hour period. Thank goodness I never attempted that in real life. On a different occasion, I remember being stopped by a plainclothes agent of the law (I was not sure he was an official policeman) for inspection at the Pelham Bay Park station, a terminus, because there had been some incident at some previous station on the line. The person wanted to make sure I was not involved in a crime. He let me go after a few minutes. I loved to wander around Central Park. New York City was my backyard, and I really experienced a lot of what it had to offer to a young person living on a shoestring budget.

One of the things you noticed about New York City was that there are a lot of people who were not well off who actually lived there. This was in spite of the fact that the place was very expensive. In my mind, the white man would commute every weekday morning to the downtown area from his suburban home – for his high paying job some big financial company, in one of the massive skyscrapers that dominated downtown. He would arrive in the morning for his work, and then disappear back to his comfortable suburb as soon as he was done in the evening. Such people were actually scared of the real city, and did not seem to want to have anything to do with it. The downtown areas used to become empty shells in the evening, abandoned by the better-off. The other rich who could afford it would live in the expensive apartment buildings around Central Park. The rest of the people who lived in the city were spread out over the five boroughs, depending on the levels of income, and depending on whether they were able to find a rent-stabilized apartment in a reasonably good neighborhood. Many people lived in high-rise apartment complexes in NYC. The poorer you were, the further away you were from downtown. Some of the apartment complexes in the outer boroughs of NYC looked like remains from a battle-zone. Many seemed to have been abandoned. In some cases, all that was left was what looked like a shell. Some of the buildings had fences around them to prevent them from being using for nefarious activities, like drug dealing. Most of the people who seemed to hang around these spaces seemed to be black. And you could ask yourself why things turned out that way for the blacks who occupied these spaces, and you could reach different conclusions based on your biases, and based on how much real studying you bothered to do about the history of the black people in the USA. That was the way it was in the 1980s for me.

We now live in Montgomery County in Maryland. It is a diverse community overall, and we would like to believe that we are enlightened, but I wonder. In spite of all its affluence, there are pockets of poverty, and places where people need help. People who are well off do not generally wander to these places. I have tried to tell myself that I am one of the enlightened people who understands where people come from, but how can I be so sure. I try to keep up with all aspects of American History these days, not just from the perspective of the White Man, so that I know what I am talking about. I have educated myself about the time of Jim Crow. I have educated myself about the Civil Rights Movement. I learned about the experiences of people of those times who spoke up, people like Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. I have listened to the speeches of MLK. We have watched shows like 13th, and When They See Us by younger film makers like Ava DuVernay. I learned about the workings of police forces all over the country. I learned about the Southern Democrats, and about the Freedom Riders, Birmingham, Selma. I learned about Rosa Parks, and discrimination, and lynching. I learned about the biases and the racism in the system. The white people actually thought they were superior human beings in those days, and, even though they may not admit it, many probably still have a few subconscious biases about this even to today.

And we now arrive at this moment in the history of this country, and the horrible incidents of today. I tell others that in order to understand the situation properly and achieve empathy, you have to study the history that brought us to this point. But now I am not convinced that even this is sufficient. Something more basic has to change. So I continue to try to educate myself about myself even more. Teresa and I watched the videos of Jane Elliot. We realize that there are insidious ways in which we can develop our biases, and it is not just about color. It is not simply a matter of empathy. It is not just a matter of knowing the true story. There is something more basic within oneself that is not good that is just waiting to come out. I realize that I have developed my own biases without really thinking about it. I really need to act with more thought and purpose in each and every moment going forward.

Today, we listen to the many, many, voices, some of them young, providing perspectives on the lives of the black people, especially in the inner cities. Social and news media are, thankfully, providing the outlets for people to speak. And I have hope. There is a significant push back from the black community every time some kind of police-on-black atrocity takes place, and it has become more and more effective. The voices are being heard, and they are voices that speak with a clarity of vision. They speak with reason. And I become a little hopeful that the push back will trigger some real change.

The first major backlash I remember from police on black violence in recent times was after the beating of Rodney King in 1991. The only reason why people knew about the incident was because somebody had made a video recording of it. Similar backlash, and accompanying violence, happened big time most recently in Ferguson, MO, when Michael Brown was murdered by a cop. Many other incidents have happened in the time between Rodney King and Michael Brown. The police officer got off without any punishment in Ferguson, just as has happened countless times in the past every time blacks have been killed by cops. Unfortunately, the focus of the press and others in these situations in the past seemed to be on the violent aftermaths. So, it is a legitimate question to wonder if things could go in a different direction this time.

I do think it is possible! One of the differences is that the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis was so blatant that it is not just the blacks in the community who are outraged and are actively responding. And the response to the murder is happening not just in Minneapolis. It is happening not just in the USA. It is happening everywhere! The press has picked up on the important narrative of racism, injustice, and police violence. The white people in the country are actually joining the marches in large numbers. And the youth of all backgrounds are involved. And it is also multi-generational. And the police have responded in many places with their entire arsenal of military-grade hardware and shown their true colors by using these against the citizens. And every single thing that happens out there is being video-recorded. Every mindless violent act of an out-of-control police officer gets shown to the whole world. I think every reasonable person who sees the official violence has to be angry. And , for a change, social and television media has been very good at amplifying the positive messages coming from the protestors. I hope for something concrete to happen before the momentum fades away.

But a reactive response to the moment is not sufficient. We need fundamental change in our mindset as a society. A band-aid simply will not cut it. It is going to take much more hard work by every single one of us to get a better understanding of our our biases and our racism, and to effect real change. It is not easy.

I want to conclude with a few links that caught my attention.

This is a interview on CNN.
https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/06/10/cornel-west-george-floyd-cooper-ac360-vpx.cnn

Here is a blog about the murals that are coming up in Minneapolis in the aftermath of the shooting.
The George Floyd Murals of Minneapolis: A Demand for Justice, Hope and a Better Humanity

There are moments of humanity in the middle of the violence. Here is a nice story.
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/06/06/breonna-taylor-protesters-protected-lone-lmpd-officer/3166914001/

We shall overcome.

On Fire

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it.
..

Billy Joel

Meanwhile, the chaos spreads, the country burns, the flames fanned by our clueless and self-centered leader – the conman!

Pandemic!
COVID-19
Presidential incompetence
Presidential ignorance
Presidential lack of responsibility
Absence of National strategy
Absence of oversight
The blame game
China, WHO
Massive Death count, still increasing
Massive unemployment
Recession
Depression?
Corruption in government
Politics of Stimulus
Poverty
Hunger
Homelessness
Inequality
Prejudice
Social Injustice
Race History
Racial Injustice
Oppression
Broken Justice System
The 13th Amendment
White Privilege
Systemic Violence
Broken Policing system
Police Violence
Inhumanity
Death
Video recordings
Qualified Immunity
Anger
Protest
Agitation
Opportunism
Vandalism
Destruction
Violence
Chaos
Rioting
Sabotage
Crimes
Losing sight of the message!
Policing Strategies
Police training
Crowd Control Techniques
Empathy?
Humanity?
Confrontation
Tension
On The Razor’s Edge
Action and Reaction
Death
The National Guard
The military police
The military
Broken government
Chaotic leadership
Missing leadership
Divisive leadership
Cowardly leadership
Deadly leadership
Tinder for the flames
More Anger
Burn, burn, burn
From Coronavirus to race relations,
Clueless in America

vote, Vote, VOTE, VOTE!

We may not have not have started the fire, we have to try to put it out. We have to come together in Solidarity.

It was heartwarming to see pictures of police and protesters coming together in solidarity in some cities. These are signs of hope.

This morning, it was heartwarming to see a older white lady standing all by herself on the grass near the intersection of Great Seneca Highway and Kentlands Boulevard holding up a sign that said BLACK LIVES MATTER to anybody who cared to turn and look. For some reason, it brings tears to my eyes every time I think of it.

We shall overcome.

Living with Contagion

Most of us have never experienced anything like this during our lifetimes.  But one should also understand that smaller outbreaks of similar nature have been taking place all over the world even in recent times. Fortunately, those were contained. It was only a matter of time.

It has been just a few weeks since the spread of this contagion started.

Already, almost everything that we took for granted in our societal interactions and in our consumer behaviors outside of the house has had to be rethought.

Lifestyles have already changed.

National economies have already been altered.

Some people’s lives have already been shattered – even if they have not fallen ill.  People need to eat even when the economy shuts down.  It is a matter of survival for the weakest of our lot.

Some of the changes that have happened may be here for the longer term.

And the worst is yet to come…

The people who had a responsibility to anticipate and do something about the spread of this contagion early enough in the process, to try to limit the damage, failed us miserably.  They are still failing us.

I have often wondered what would happen in the world if some of the things that we took for granted go away.  How would we survive?  (What we are experiencing now is not the worst case of something like this happening.)  Ironically, being better off as a society does not necessarily mean that we are better prepared to tackle something like this.  Events like this might bring out the best in some people, but, as a group, stupidity seems to reign to a greater extent in places where people are more comfortable and well off.  When your mind becomes far removed from the basics of surviving, and the less you are interested in understanding how things really work, the more stupid one seems to behave.  Perhaps the brain hurts from the effort. A special mention needs to to be made of the President of the richest country in the world, and the behavior of some of the youth of the country.  They have no idea what a pandemic means, and how to behave responsibly in these circumstances.  And what about the people who do not seem to care for the truth, to the extent that deliberate lies and misinformation spreads, stuff that can make things worse.  And then there are the stories of complete incompetence. (I am not really that surprised about this particular case.  I have experienced similar frustration with the system in the past.)

Meanwhile, one is overwhelmed with information, information being forwarded from all over the Internet. A lot of it is from well-meaning people.  Every vendor that has my e-mail address has also sent me a message on how the contagion has impacted their business and interactions with their customers.  A lot of what one is hearing is repetitive.  How much of this can you take?  How much of it can you absorb?   Better to watch some late night comedy shows once in a while.

In the middle of all this, we cannot forget the people who are fighting this disease on the front lines.  These are the doctors, the nurses, and the other hospital staff who are taking care of the sick.  They are taking a lot of risk,  and they are putting in a lot of time already.  They are being stretched.  And their job is about to get more difficult.

It is going to get worse before things get better.   A few us may not be here at the end of it all.   All we can do is take care and try to be prepared.  And perhaps it is good to remind oneself once in a while that one does not live forever.

 

Here and There and Everywhere

Who are my people, who are my brothers and sisters?

I am back home after more than a month of travel through Peru and India.  I now have a break in the travels. I am finally in a position to start preparing for my bike ride in July.  The training has started in earnest.  Here are some pictures from the last three days of bike rides.  It is great to be back in a familiar place!

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Pennyfield Lock

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Four Mile Run in Virginia

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The turtle on the towpath

Visiting a lot of places in different parts of the world in a short period of time can be a jarring experience.  People and their circumstances are different everywhere. Life in relative isolation in suburbia in the USA is very different from life in a big city in India with the constant human interaction, which is again different from the life of a farmer or miner living on the Altiplano (high plains) of Peru.

Most “common” people in the world are busy every day dealing with their own life circumstances, basically dealing with their day-to-day needs.  I think that people try find some kind of comfort, and maybe happiness, in their own life circumstances, without necessarily trying to compare themselves to their better-off counterparts in some other part of the world.  The only kind of world they really know and understand is the one that they have experienced during their lifetime.

Many of us are products of our circumstances in life that were beyond our control – where we were born, who our parents were, our family background, our friends, the culture around us, our religion, where we ended up in due to various circumstances not entirely in our control, etc..  We have developed a sense of values and morals that came out of our upbringing and experiences.  We developed our own philosophy for living our lives based on our experiences.  Perhaps we even find ourselves comfortable in life without too much struggle.  It takes guts and determination to break out of a place that we find ourselves in “naturally”.

People in different parts of the world are going through similar adventures in their lives, but they do so in different environments primarily because of life circumstances outside their control.  I do not think there can be one formula that works for all of us when it comes to determining how we should all live our lives.  The question I have for myself is if I have the ability to be comfortable outside our own comfort zone in life? Am I able to understand what somebody else living in another part of the world is going through when I interact with that person?  Can I find a way to empathize with people whom I am unfamiliar with – people from a different land?  I think we can all learn, but perhaps it is easier to not take the trouble, and perhaps even find a way to condemn.

We may be ready to condemn people who are different from us, even when it is very likely that we would act the way they do if we happened to have been born in their shoes.  It may be best not to judge other people blindly without getting to better understand where they come from and what drives them.

Cruelty and Injustice

Some of us have enough spare time on our hands to ruminate about what goes on around us in this world, sometimes without any “education” or any formal process that forms the basis for our lines of thinking.  I know it is a waste of time, but there is something intriguing about the search.  I have enough time on my hands that I even created this blog a few weeks ago musing about what it is all about.

But sometimes, when you see what is going on around you in the real world in real time, you can be shaken out of this somewhat disconnected and disjointed state of mind, the state of mind where you feel like generally talking about things in the abstract.  There is specificity. And your mind screams – really, is this what we are capable of?  Events that can evoke that kind of a response are happening all around us all the time. There are certain aspects of human reality, and of the nature of human unkindness, that make you want to scream – what is wrong with us?  Is it our true nature to be cruel and unjust?  Does it take a truly supreme effort for us to get away from our basic instincts?  I fear that this could be the real truth.

I do believe that if I were left to my own devices I would end up revealing the true nature of the cruelty that I myself am capable of.  I can sense it in myself, feel it lurking somewhere in the background. And I know that I have even revealed this innate element of my character to people who I have interacted with all my life.  Family, friends, relatives, and even other creatures of this earth (watch that mouse that you have trapped, or the cockroach that you have squashed, die!), have experienced it. A process of learning, forgiveness, and maybe even forgetting, can perhaps help deal with this state of being, especially as you age, but the process never ends, and some memories never go away.

But does one not have to at least try to learn that because of the nature of this society that we inhabit, because of the nature of this interconnected and interdependent world that we have built up, we need to at least try rise to a different level, and we need to work to uplift everybody around us, not just ourselves, in order to survive?  Could being good also not make you feel good?

I am in this frame of mind because of a story I read in the newspaper yesterday.  This is not an isolated story. Cruelty and injustice happens everywhere and everyday. Most of these stories do not affect us directly, but I tend to have a gut reaction and respond sometimes when hearing such stories.  Here is one such reaction I had in the past.  We can try to close our eyes because something does not affect us directly, but ultimately these things say a lot about us, and what we are willing to accept.

If you are inclined to follow the link I provided but are not inclined to read the entire article, the videos will provide you a shorter synopsis of what this particular story is all about.

Costs of our Life Styles

What we may not realize here in the US is that a lot of consumer products, and some of the services that we use, can be remarkably inexpensive in the grand scheme of things. In some cases it is hard to imagine how a product can even be made available to sell at the particular cost point to our benefit.  Some of our mass-produced food and clothing come to mind in this regard.   Economists will probably tell you that there are many reasons for this, and several factors that make this possible.  My point is that things are this way also because we, the public, generally wish it to be that way.  While we might feel good about the situation we are in in this regard for the moment, some of this does come at a cost, a cost that we ignore because we do not like to think about things for the longer term and in the bigger picture.  We may not realize that the situation could be a cause of issues over the long run.  Perhaps the living is really not that easy.

One of the results of our desire for cheap stuff is that we are willing to go anywhere in the world to get them.  This is probably the primary reason for the successful existence of Walmart.  I know that I myself like a good bargain and do not necessarily look for where the product came from. Cheap consumer products are brought in from some place abroad – where they can be produced less expensively – with cheaper raw material, with cheaper labor, with perhaps poorer working conditions, and maybe even using environmentally exploitative methods. In some cases even child labor may be involved.  We also look for the least expensive way to get work done, for a cost that we would not be willing to pay ourselves if we were ourselves in the business. We  are willing to exploit other people whom we we might even consider less equal to us in some ways.  And then we can get upset with the others when there are other issues that arise.  And if there are middlemen involved who have their own axe to grind, people can get squeezed even more to support our way of life.

Most of us will go go through life without even thinking about these kinds of consequences about the things we do and accept as normal, but it is also good to read about organizations that see what is happening and try to make at least a small (may be very small!) difference in changing how society works in these contexts.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/08/13/634962251/ben-jerrys-milk-with-dignity-pact-with-farmworkers-seems-to-be-paying-off?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=news

We should be supporting such organizations, and perhaps even be willing to go the additional mile in this regard in terms of possibly accepting an increased cost of living.  I believe there are organizations that focus on this kind of concept if one is serious about this.  Here is a link to one.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Trade_USA

It is also not too difficult these days to get a better understanding of how your favorite store sources their products, and to respond appropriately.

 

 

American Opinions on a Tough Topic

In my opinion, this is a subject that our politicians and religious organizations, in general, have made very difficult to address rationally. The citizenship seem to have a more nuanced set of opinions on this subject than you are led to believe, opinions that seem to change little over time. In my mind, the topic also seems to dominate the national discussion excessively, to the detriment of other issues that can more critically impact the well being of the nation.  But it does seem to be a good topic to push agendas and foster divisiveness.  The politicians of today are mostly a bunch of hypocrites.

First of all, the results of a survey.

I was led to the survey by this article.

The last section of the article seems to suggest that attempts to legislate in this regard may make little or no difference in a practical sense in the final count.

A Half-baked Theory About Everything And Nothing

I actually wrote this a long long time ago, before the days of blogs, but I did not share it with anybody for reasons that should become obvious to you.  I send it out today without trying too much to revisit the thinking that produced this.  Why not?!

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And I reserve the right to change my theory when I get smarter…..

I have not studied philosophy, and for that reason it is probably not a good thing to write about things philosophical. But I also do not see why somebody cannot develop a philosophy that is based on their experience.  It need not even be original, and perhaps someone will feel the urge to point that out to me.  So here it is – the half-baked theory about everything and nothing, the theory about life and death, the theory about order and chaos, about purpose and randomness, about sorrow and joy, love and hate (and I am actually getting carried away at this point!).  My theory may prove to be untrue, in fact there may be no way to prove it, but it can at least help me to make sense of the world in my mind, and hopefully give me some comfort in my thoughts.  Once you think you understand how things work, you may be able to stop your worrying.  Perhaps one will be able to even handle adversity better when it hits, at least that is the hope.

So everything is really all about nothing.  Everything just is. Past and future really do not mean anything, especially if you look far enough in either direction.  Your sphere of influence is very temporary.  These things that we call emotions, as opposed to things like hunger and pain, are only real in our minds.  Knowledge and so-called progress is something that we need to keep us going as a species, but in the grand picture these terms do not mean anything.  I am not trying to paint a bleak picture of the world.  I am not saying that we should not pursue knowledge and progress.  I am not saying that we should try to avoid emotions.  What I am saying is that we should realize that these things only make sense in the somewhat “artificial” circumstances of what exists right now.  In fact, we would not survive the moment or the day if we did not have these “things”, and we need to understand that and make use of these “things” appropriately.  I also know that I have mentioned thus far represents just a fraction of what defines humanity, but I also believe that the theory can cover anything can you can throw at it.

So why do we have all of this baggage that human beings carry around with them?  Essentially it is because our capability to think and join the dots has evolved to the point that we would have a hard time surviving without the baggage.  We have basically evolved from the point where we lived like the rest of the animals, to the point where we can think and put two and two together.  We have learnt how to use the capabilities of our brain in an efficient manner.  We have learnt to extrapolate from our observations.  I am not sure that we have really become smarter, but we have also learnt to somehow find ways to remember what we have learnt in the past and pass that knowledge down.  We are using what we already know to extend our understanding of the things around us.  As we extend this knowledge we also learn to make more and more use of the resources around us to further the new goals that we set out for ourselves.  Why do we as human beings feel a need to set such goals?  Is it primarily because that is the way the human beings are being taught to think from the day they are born?  A child does not know any of these concepts at birth.  We use the terms knowledge and progress.  It started with fire, the wheel, and the simple tools of prehistoric man.  We are carrying the same concept into our brave new worlds.  I wonder what would happen to a child who was brought up differently.

The ecosystem that we have created on this earth is clearly unstable.  The only reason we have created such ecosystem is so that we can support our expanding humankind, extend our lives and support our concept of progress.  But by doing what we do, we further extend our reach.  It is a system of positive feedback, and we know that such a system is destined to blow up at some time.  So the forces that work against this, both natural and man-made, are in a sense equalizing forces – but we are getting better and better at handling these countering forces also.  If we stop for a second to think about it, all of this makes no sense.  But we really do not need to stop and think about it right now, because we believe that such problems are for the future generations, and that they will find a way to address them.  Perhaps this is true, but the processes we use for addressing the daily problems today can also amplify the problems of the future.  In the worst case, humankind has taken over the entire Universe and there is no further place to go – that is unless we believe that the Universe is unending.  But most likely, it will never get that far, because, the more we assert ourselves as a species, the more we will face newer and newer problems that are more and more difficult to tackle, and at some point, the process of positive feedback may not even be able to sustain itself. We could even get hit by that one-in-a-million type of phenomena that can destroy everything around us in a single instant.  And who can forget that while we are making progress, we are also creating more and more efficient ways to destroy ourselves.  Any way you look at it, our days are limited in more ways than one.   Under the circumstances, it makes very little sense to speculate on the things beyond us, and to try to read more into the things around us than what we can actually rationally grasp and understand easily.  To us it all seems to happen for a reason that can be explained logically.  That makes us us comfortable.

So why do we have this need for progress, something it seems that other species do not seem to have on this earth?  It does not necessarily seem to be a good thing.  Is it because we are special when compared to other living things?  Why is there a belief that when we die something special happens, whereas this may not necessarily be true for other species?  Well, perhaps it does, but that should not matter in the current reality.  Human beings will surely disappear in their current form in the future.  So what does it matter in the big picture?  We think too much of ourselves.  I think all of this thinking is a result of us being able to connect the dots, and then expanding our ability beyond where it needs to go.

So, what are we to do as individuals?  Should we throw away everything around us and change our life?  That does not make sense.  The only reality that we have is what we experience right now.  It does not make sense to throw everything away and to go off and live off the land (even if there is actually an argument to be made that one may really be happier in life doing just that).  But we can at least think of the results of our actions right now.  Are we going to continue to support this system of positive feedback?

One of the elements in this ability of ours to expand our domains happens to be our ability to work with each other towards new purposes that we define.  Without this, we would be goners.  Can we use this capability to our advantage?

Do we really need to try to help other people?  Is there a universal concept of morality?  Why should I not just look out for myself?  Placed in the context of the now and here, the answers to these questions are not likely to be encouraging, because we might feel that it really does not matter.  But it does matter when you think about your place in the universe of all human beings.  The structures that we have created so that we can expand our domain only survive because there are at least a few people who think that the answers for the above questions are important.  The fact of the matter is that we would not have our societies if we did not have such people.  So what do we say about the others who do not necessarily do what we call “good”.  There is no absolute basis to condemn them.  Everything just is!  I think that this is the reason we try to find other ways to motivate people.  The only real reason to motivate people seems to be so that we can continue our “progress”.
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And I do not think I have become any smarter since I first wrote this…..