Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Random Thoughts: What did they think would happen...

So now that the military has completely thrown the door open for women (yeah women!) what are we really to expect? I have heard anecdotally that male combat vets are OK with women in the fox hole next to them. They've recounted stories of heroism that declare without question woman can do the job. Great. Equality. Finally.

Now we are to understand that women will be trained as navy seals and army rangers, but rest assured standards will not be lowered. Yeah right. These programs are so grueling that most hardened men drop out/flunk out, with many reduced to tears. So excuse me if I fail to believe standards won't be lowered for women. There is no crying in the fox hole, right?

This announcement coming at the same time the current regime in Washington is busting balls in the armed services for rampant sexual abuse. What did they think would happen? These men are trained to be killing machines, their humanity altered to see other human beings as targets to be destroyed. For centuries, for eons, these men have been separated from "friendly" women. Whereas in the field of battle these men were not prosecuted for slaughtering the men, women or children of the enemy - and it doesn't take much imagination to see even these professional soldiers sexually assaulting the women of the enemy. So, now let's put these same trained killers together with women in the close quarters of combat, yes, that's great idea. Oh my, you're telling me that woman are being assaulted. Who could have predicted that?


I heard that the current regime in Washington is pushing to have ethanol produced from newly abundant natural gas resources. Isn't it bad enough that state and Federal governments prop up this bogus industry with massive subsidies as it is? This is stupid, foolish and wasteful all in one. When they dreamed up the ethanol industry in response to Global Warming (I guess) it resulted in 40% of the U.S. corn crop being used as fuel for our cars instead of as food for the world. The price of corn and all the products in the food chain (including meat) dependent on corn skyrocketed. What did they think would happen? Didn't take a rocket scientist to see that one coming.

The ethanol industry is floundering for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the immoral implication of burning food as fuel when billions of barrels of oil are readily available. So in order save it the government is going to force the use of natural gas in ethanol production. I makes zero sense until you factor in the political contribution aspect of it all. Without doing the research I would bet that the ethanol producers are massive contributors to politicians and PAC's.


A dozen states including Minnesota have implemented a sales tax on businesses partnering with web giants like and the like. Amazon began sending letters to these small businesses in Minnesota saying essentially "you're fired". This is how Amazon will get around the burden of having to calculate and collect taxes for individual states and localities. So, in other words, these small business, who likely rely on the sales they derive from's incredible reach, may likely go out of business or have greatly reduced incomes - and therefore pay less taxes. We call that cutting off your nose to spite your face. What did they think would happen?

The crafty Democrats who wrote and sponsored this legislation claim to have factored Amazon's reaction into their numbers and still plan on seeing a 5 million dollar revenue increase. Of course this law like so many will spin off something called the law of unintended consequences. I predict a loss of revenue as some of these businesses go under and of course the likelihood that new businesses that serve the web giants will go elsewhere to set up shop (like across the river in Wisconsin).

But I could be wrong.


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Transcendence: Rise Above and Reenter

In a previous post we looked at the problem of insufferable boredom.  To some degree we have boredom to thank for some of the greatest discoveries, notions, concepts, art, music and scientific breakthroughs. There are two kinds of people in the world, those who plod along with what the world offers and those who transcend (however briefly) the humdrum world to a place outside the daily grind to discover something more. It is one of the key attributes that separates us from the lower animals. A dog never strives to more than a dog, he needs no greater understanding of his world or his place in it.

It may be that boredom is the key to human progress (if one calls where we are today progress, I'll leave that to greater minds than mine). All I know is that I have been afflicted by the need to transcend the everyday nothingness to either better understand or contribute. Not all people who act and feel this way are extraordinary  - I use myself as a case in point - but all extraordinary people are seekers of some such transcendence.

I have been, since I can remember, striving to create something or to have a greater understanding of the world metaphysically, spiritually or what have you. Basically they're the age old questions of why am I here, why is there something rather than nothing and who am "I". Some people don't even entertain these questions and just move about their world day to day. Either they understand that these questions cannot be answered and see no value or they just never go there intellectually. They just let the experts figure it out. Some are seekers some are not.

In Walker Percy's book Lost in the Cosmos he digs deep into the mechanisms of transcendence and reentry, concluding in part that the bigger you are the harder you fall - or - what goes up must come down. The problem of reentry into the everyday everyday is a matter of how softly one lands. Celebrities, sport stars and artists often land the hardest. This is simply because when they rise into the stratosphere the fickle what-have-you-done-for-me-lately public loses interest so quickly they crash to Earth with a resounding thud. There are countless tragic stories of just such crash landings.

There are others, like business titans and scientists who rise to the top of their fields with one defining deal or that one remarkable breakthrough. They can also struggle to exist in the ordinary world. They too implode (or explode). Few, like Bill Gates or Albert Einstein, can stay above it all and continue to live in a transcendent state. There are those, say like pop star Michael Jackson, that transcend and reenter, transcend and reenter over and over. It is well chronicled that he became increasingly weird each time, ending in his tragic overdose death not long after going through a bizarre episode of being accused of child molestation.

Even minor celebrities having tasted the sweet nectar of transcendence refuse reentry. Some successfully re-invent themselves - singers become actors, journalists become novelists and sports stars become broadcasters - and others like José Canseco a one-time baseball star resort to antics that keep them in the public eye but often diminish what they have accomplished and render their reputation into shambles.

That old phrase "be careful what you wish for" can be prescient. Looking back I resent the fact that I haven't lived the large life. I always thought I would, having the ambition I had as young man before the world whipped me back into reality. I often wonder if people of talent and ambition are unconsciously afraid of what success might do to them and the ones they love. I have wondered this about myself. In my own way, having some talent, or so I've been told, (see here and here and here) feeling the need to transcend the humdrum world I have never given it my all. I beat myself up about it all the time. Part of me tells me I'm not near good enough at any of these things, but another part is afraid of success - because then expectations are set. I also am a day dreamer, thinking things and never acting upon them. There is also the phenomenon of the talent as the promoter. I guess I never believed in my talents enough to seek out a promoter, and I'm a lousy self promoter. Why? Because I'm afraid of success? Or am I afraid of reentry? Probably both.

But I could be wrong.


Sunday, June 02, 2013

The problem of boredom...

" ruinous boredom is for humanity...Boredom is the root of all evil." -- Soren Kierkegaard

I was re-reading Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos when I came
across the chapter on boredom and was profoundly struck by immensity of the problem on the human condition. Walker explained that the word boredom didn't exist in the English lexicon until the 18th century. He asserted it was most likely because men were so busy just trying to stay alive there wasn't the time to be bored. I'm not so sure considering the role of spectator sport throughout history, and of course, the whole gladiator thing at the height of the Roman Empire, bloodsport wasn't invented because one's personal survival was itself of paramount concern.

Boredom is an odd thing, particularly in the modern age. There are countless ways to entertain oneself. Entire industries and vast enterprises have been developed explicitly to engage any extra time and money we may have - all to alleviate boredom. Case in point the whole video game industry. Yes, obviously the game makers are in it to sell games, but it's the bored gamers who drive it. The sheer excitement I've seen in my own son and his friends when a new game has finally come out is only eclipsed by the swiftness of the boredom factor that sets in a mere two or three weeks later. Anticipated for months and exhausted in a few weeks. There's a psychological component that goes deep into our human nature itself. Is boredom wired into us?

The cost of alleviating boredom in a monetary sense is only one factor. The devastation boredom can cause is literally incalculable. Set aside the money that is spent for all manner of boredom relief, be it going to sporting events, acquiring "boy toys" or going shopping to buy unneeded things like another pair of shoes. In most cases no one is really hurt by these sort of activities. On the other hand we have gangs of young men so bored out there minds that they lash out and destroy or even kill. There is the teenager that delves into dangerous drug and alcohol abuse out of boredom or self hatred (whether they know it or not). Then there's the middle-aged man who spends everything he has and then some at the casino or racetrack because another night sitting at home with his wife is simply intolerable. Rather than being bored thrill seekers risk their lives engaging what seem like crazy stunts just to feel fully alive. It has been said that kings, dictators and presidents take their nations to war because they're bored. The question becomes what makes routine daily life so intolerable that death itself (yours or someone else's) seem the only relief?

You see we all suffer from it, myself included. Some of you having read this far probably suffer from it... For those still with me, don't worry I don't think it is any sort of mental illness or anything like that. Sure boredom may contribute to depression or even suicide, but I think it's a perfectly normal temporary condition. Personally when boredom strikes me it's mainly a lack of energy, mental energy. Since I don't care for physical workouts I can't chase boredom away by taking a run or riding a bike. My boredom relief involves mental exercise and often, more so these days, I just have no energy for it. That's me, for others it's different, quite different.

There's always something to do, always. That may be part of the problem - maybe there's too much. We get bored when there's nothing to do, but also when there is too much, or when everything waiting to be done is overwhelming. We don't even know where to start not being bored.

For some it's a lack of any creativity at all, the mind being so numb from the sheer magnitude of modern life there's nothing left to ignite a spark of an original thought. These people are so lacking in confidence, they avoid anything that forces them out of their comfort zone. They passively look to others, maybe the TV or the Internet to take their minds off their pathetic self perception.

We spend most of our waking lives just trying to distract ourselves from our waking lives. It seems bizarre, but give it a moment to sink in... Examine your own daily life. How much of the day are you spending looking for something outside yourself to fill your eyes and ears?  If I'm being honest - it's almost all of it. Is it normal? Is it healthy? I don't know. Am I hurting anybody, or more importantly am I helping anybody? Do we have the right to even be bored when there's so much that needs to be done? Again, I don't know.

Was Mother Teresa bored? Was Dorothy Day? Were the Ringling Brothers bored? How about Super Bowl Champion and MVP Tom Brady? One of the most interesting interviews I ever saw was a CBS news interview with Tom Brady the Super Bowl Champion quarterback for the Patriots. Here's a man with multiple Super Bowl rings, the very pinnacle of his profession, millions of dollars, good looks, super-model girlfriends - yeah girlfriends, and just about everything any red blooded American man could possibly want. Is he satisfied? He says no, there's got to be something more than this. In other words he's bored.

Well I doubt Mother Teresa was ever bored. Like any of the relief workers in Oklahoma this month there's too much to do to even think of being bored. When urgency dictates action boredom disappears, but is this then the solution to boredom - living in crisis mode? I don't think so.

A good question to ask is: is personal boredom really a problem?

We are either engaged or attached to something or have an aversion and by choice are disengaged, or we are neutral - we simply do not care. So, if we are not in a state of attachment or aversion and things appear neutral, it could be that boredom is our natural default condition! It is completely natural that we feel unengaged, indifferent or distanced - bored with - the things we find neutral.

When we’re bored we feel like a victim of our circumstances, we feel disenfranchised, disconnected, but since the main cause of boredom is internal it is therefore the opposite of personal creativity. The solution naturally is also to be found within our ourselves. Yeah, easy for me to say...

For some being bored is a blessing. Life has slowed enough to allow boredom to set in. It may be that something is out of balance. For those who lack the energy (like me) or are just so lazy they can't be bothered to act or think creatively boredom is going to be a constant challenge. Try not to burden or hurt others because you're bored. Some people with a medical condition or metal health issues are going to have to seek help. Personally I think much of the boredom problem is a bit of selfishness. Try reaching out to others and make yourselves useful, serve humanity and those less fortunate and you might find that boredom takes a back seat.

But I could be wrong.