Don’t blow through the pleasantries.

“Hi there.”
“Hi”
“How are you?”
“Good. How are you?”
“Almost perfect.”

It’s true that I’m almost perfect. Really.

I’m being more honest than when I say “ok” or “good”.
I’ve also heard people give the depressing “Not bad” and “Can’t complain”.

The “How are you”s are part of the exchange of pleasantries. They’re supposed to be pleasant, right? Then why do we blow through them with a catch phrase? And then we stall, searching for something more tangible to talk about, like the weather, which will save a conversation, yes, but it will also make you want to check your cell phone for more stimulating conversation with faceless people.

I realize that the so-called pleasantries breakdown the walls we have built up. They slowly bring the conversation to more meaningful levels, so that we’re more comfortable.

Why is that?

Sure, our genes may be coded with the fear response to strangers. Strangers who may be from another tribe who want to kill me for my food, shelter, or women, but why continue the drive-by pleasantries today, especially in this country, where survival is pretty easy? Even in low-income areas, no one is starving.

Ok, so keep the superficial pleasantries…what’s next?

When we get to the more meaningful part, we circle around asking the “how” and “why” question and get neck-deep in the comfortable quicksand of what we did, where we went, or what someone else is doing. We might get to some feelings, like “It sucked.’ Or “It was awesome.” But when was the last time we asked a probing “Why?” follow up?

We’re conditioned to make the “How are you?” the start of the conversation, and it’s ok to make it a greeting. Hey, it’s the best greeting I can think of..It jumps right into YOU. But instead of it being the start of the conversation, I think it should be the conversation. Let’s keep the courage of our convictions and see how someone else feels. Maybe give each other a new perspective?

The “how”s and the “why”s are the reason we’re here: It makes up the dialgoue that enables us to connect with people and grow.

I think a good start to connecting is to take that greeting seriously.

So…
How are YOU?

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TED Talk Tuesday: Atheism 2.0



Alain de Botton says religion is a system that works. It knows human nature. So let’s not throw away the template just because the content is questionable. He wants us to use the religious method.

Religion treats us like children. And it is well to. We need to be life-long learners, but we cannot wait on chance occurrences to teach us the important stuff. Botton describes the value of the religious system of education, from the sermons to repeated practice, which the secular world has left to the individual.

Even our higher institutions expect the newly minted adult walking onto their campuses to know what it’s all about. After graduation, the corporation is ready to provide us the structure for our lives, and the branding and clarity.

“…except they’re right down at the bottom of the pyramid of needs. They’re selling us shoes and cars. Whereas the people who are selling us the higher stuff — the therapists, the poets — are on their own and they have no power, they have no might.”

Life is about growth and discovery, and we need to get into our groups and start communicating our ideas in a more organized way. The secular world has fled so far from religion, it’s forgotten that we need to congregate. We need sermons. We need to communicate ideas.

“My concluding point is that you may not agree with religion, but at the end of the day, religions are so subtle, so complicated, so intelligent in many ways that they’re not fit to be abandoned to the religious alone. They’re for all of us.”

Tell it, brother!
Amen.

National Defense Authorization Act has been passed: The government has now taken our right to trial

During Hurricane Katrina, martial law (termed state of emergency) was declared in New Orleans while the city streets were cleared, power was restored, and looting stopped. Martial law power was instituted during World War II when Japanese-Americans were imprisoned to protect all of America from the possibility that ethnic loyalties would turn the Japanese violent.

Martial law is declared when the safety of the populace is threatened. It gives military control over an area and military power over you. You can be arrested and jailed indefinitely until the military decides to release you. It is one of the paradoxes of life. We fight war for peace. We have martial law take our freedom, to protect our freedom.

Earlier this month, the government claimed the power of martial law

Congress passed the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) which has declared that American citizens who are suspected of supporting terrorism can lose their right to trial. This emergency measure is to protect us and is only temporary. Like in New Orleans, after power was restored and the roads cleared, martial law was lifted. Like after Japan surrendered to the US in World War II, the Japanese-Americans were released from prison.

But how long can the government hold current martial law power when our war isn’t against a group with a leader or against looters during a natural disaster? When do we win the war on terror?

It’s true, the military is not patrolling the streets, but why wasn’t the wording in the NDAA made more clear than “supports terrorism”? Why didn’t it specify that support is giving information, material, or physical help to a terrorist? Why didn’t the law err on the side of protecting our freedom while protecting us from terrorists? Why did they instead take absolute power over arresting Americans in the US?

A terrorist attack killed nearly 3000 Americans on 9-11.
In comparison, over 28,000 babies born in the US die before their first birthday

In reaction to the attack on 9-11, the government waged war in three countries, created a Department of Homeland Security, and has taken our right to trial.

I think we must ask why they deserve to take such a power to protect us in a war that has no end in sight.

Sources:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/01/02/president-obama-signed-the-national-defense-authorization-act-now-what/

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20081015/infant-mortality-us-ranks-29th

TED Talk Tuesday – Derek Sivers shows us how to start a movement



It’s hard being the first to step out of the group:

“Let’s declare our independence from the king.”
“Let’s free the slaves.”
“Let’s not eat animals.”
“I’m going to spin on my head while you scratch that record”

Sivers shows us that the importance of the leader is significant, but the first people who listen to him and do something are the key to driving a movement.

“If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow. And when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in.”

We are social animals, but thankfully, our need to achieve and follow our individual desires drags us forward to a better future, kicking and screaming…or in this case, dancing.

MLK commemorative post: Dr. King fought against the majority. Today we have the same fight.

Dr. King once said: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.” And so, today, we too, must sacrifice to take control of our lives once again.

Dr. King fought against the apathy of the white majority and today we also fight against the apathy of a majority

Dr King inspired others to face the powerful and established practice of discrimination. The discrimination which Dr King fought against was based on race, but it didn’t affect the mostly white US population. Society went about its business, just like today, but today our apathy led us to a recession that almost resulted in the total economic collapse of our country.

A corporate system without consumer oversight is a system that will promote inequality

Today we have a cultural acceptance of our powerful financial system, which has slowly grown and allows us to spend less and have more money in our bank accounts. The benefits of this system are for everyone, from the corporation to the consumer. Still, the situation threatens the very structure of our free society.

Power follows money, and today we see a movement of power from elected officials to a corporate minority. This concentration of power has grown so large that when the existence of a few banking and automobile corporations was threatened, the whole country was affected: Regardless if you were rich or poor, we lost businesses, jobs, and retirement savings.

We can reclaim power over the institutions if we follow Dr. King’s advice: Sacrifice.

A sacrifice of personal financial growth. As Dr King sacrificed, we too must sacrifice our way of life to correct the injustices of today: We must turn away the money that trickles down from careless and dishonest Wall Street bankers and the corporations. We must control our own finances and earnings to take back the power we are giving them. We must move our money to local banks and credit unions. Institutions should be dependent on us. Not us on them.

Race cannot be used to determine who is given opportunity, and neither can capital

Today, as in the past, we have a grave danger that cannot be ignored. We cannot continue to be apathetic about the division of the country into rich and poor, just as the population before the 1960s was apathetic about the division of the country by race. We cannot continue to watch our capital accumulate in the hands of the minority. The future of our society depends on our capacity to sacrifice and to recognize the power we have as consumers.

Yes. We can.

Patrick and I aren’t friends anymore

I remember I met Patrick at the Ravari Room. I would go there most every Wednesday, to watch Tony and his jazz trio bang out tunes. After that night, I ended up hanging out with Patrick regularly, but ironically, it was only after he stopped returning my phone calls that I realized who he was. He was a teacher who taught me how to truly value people.

It’s not just what people do for you, but why they do it that makes them your friend

I was lost when I met Patrick. I needed to accept myself and construct my own value system for life. I was selfish and I would use people without appreciating what they had done for me. And I survived off of their attention. Little did I know that Patrick was the teacher that I needed, if only I had been ready to change.

One day I told Patrick that I had given some money to a friend at work who was in need, but I hadn’t realized that I was close to not being able to make my bills for the month. I didn’t want anything from him, I hadn’t even thought about it, but Patrick promptly said, “Let me know, I can help you out if you need it.”

When Patrick’s friend Chris moved into his house, Patrick said it was a little aggravating to always see him at home. I said, “But it’s nice to have that help with the house payment.” Patrick replied, “He’s not giving me anything. Not yet.”

Patrick moves to the ghetto and gets robbed

Within 6 months of moving into a low-income neighborhood, Patrick’s bike was stolen out of his garage and then his HDTV from his living room. Both were stolen because he had not locked his place. It may be naive, but the pureness of his attitude is inspiring because it assures me that he wasn’t a person that needed other people’s sacrifice or trust. He had a confidence in humanity.

It may seem that he sacrificed something, but what did he really lose? Things. Things which he certainly valued, but didn’t derive happiness from. And just as important, what did he retain? His courage, which serves as an example to others.

Patrick didnt compromise his values for money. He treated me like an adult. He helped me when he saw I really needed it, offered money, connected me to his company to apply for a job, among numerous favors.

After a couple of years, I guess he decided he had given me enough chances to develop confidence in myself and become self-sustaining. I regret that my change in attitude did not come sooner, but I’ll always remember his simple, honest, positive approach to life. I hope to live by the example he unconsciously set for me and everyone in his life.

Patrick knew everyone should be given a chance, because humanity is lost if we don’t try to provide an environment that promotes encouragement, trust, and love.

I’m glad he took some time to trust in me.

TED Talk Tuesday: Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy



Why is there apathy? Meslin says it is because our environment encourages it. Apathy is in our nature, just like our determination, selfishness, and kindness. But our environment is a powerful promoter, of both good and bad traits. Meslin describes how society makes it hard to to be active in your community, how media depicts heroism as being for the chosen few, and how the system makes political involvement uninspiring and the political process complicated and manipulative.

“As long as we believe that people, our own neighbors, are selfish, stupid or lazy, then there’s no hope.”

Meslin made me realize that the bigger and more complicated our system grows, the more apathy will creep into our actions. If we can see that the system we are building is making our future both easier and impersonal, we can change it. In effect, we must save us from ourselves. And in a society so free, if we do not, we only have ourselves to blame.

So let’s reach out and empower ourselves. Start buying more from the people in our community. Let’s not give our money to careless and dishonest Wall Street bankers. Let’s vote less for the two parties and more for the third party that hasn’t been compromised by money. We can make the change. As Ghandi said,

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy.

And neither are you.


Follow me and I will take you away from the everyday.

If this is something you care about, then SHARE it. Let’s get out of the stands and into the game. Let’s interact.

TED Talk Tuesday : The only absolute is whether you tried to do the right thing


Damon works in AI (Artificial Intelligence) and he faces the problem of programming ethics into computer programs. Think that’s hard? Then look at the moral framework you use in your own life and realize it’s much harder than you think.

What Damon talks about is how we, as the programmers and users of technology, must decide how to use this technology.

Plato tried to find absolutes of justice. Like the 1 and 0 of ethics. Good and bad.

John Stuart Mill said we must do the thing that results in the greatest good, a simple numbers game.

And then there is Kant. He may have had the formula, but it’s no easy method. In fact, it’s the hardest way for humans to live:

We must use our reason.

“The sad truth is that most evil done in this world is not done by people who choose to be evil.

It arises from not thinking.”
Let’s start a conversation. Is it right to buy foreign goods? Give our money to dishonest Wall Street bankers? Give the government the power to take our right to trial to protect us from terrorism? Take a job we don’t enjoy just for the money?

Don’t worry: There is no right or wrong.
But we must have a reasoning for our actions. Otherwise our lives aren’t really our own.

Here’s to a new year of doing what we want and knowing why we do it.