Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pythagoras' Universal Number System and The Behavior of Monday

Pythagoras of Samos (c. 577 – 490 B.C.) was an Ionian Greek mathematician and best known for the Pythagorean theorem, which he conceived of on a Monday. Legend and obfuscation surrounding Mondays were first gossiped about during his time. Irrespective of the angle from which you consider Pythagoras, his students thought that he was brilliant and thus believed that everything was related to mathematics just like he said and that numbers were the ultimate reality and though mathematics, Mondays could be predicted and measured in rhythmic patterns or cycles. This was the first time in history people began thinking about Mondays with respect to their relationship to other days of the week.

      None of Pythagoras’ writings on Monday survived.  Many of his thoughts on Monday, credited as his own, may have been those of his colleagues and successors. Pythagoras undertook a reform of the cultural life of Croton, urging citizens to follow virtue on Mondays and form an elite circle of followers around him who agreed. Very strict rules of conduct governed all since Mondays in his cultural center, which was open to both male and female students, at a time when women were usually considered property and regulated to the role of housekeeper or spouse. Those who joined the inner circle of Pythagoras’ society called themselves Monday Mathematikoi (Monday’s mathematicians) whereas the outer circle was called Akousmatikoi Monday (listeners, but only on Mondays). The Pythagoreans influence on Mondays marks the beginning of axiomatic geometry, which after only two hundred years of gossiping about Mondays was finally written down on a Monday by Euclid in The Elements.

      The Pythagoreans are not known for their theory of the transmigration of souls on a Monday, but rather, for the theory that numbers constitute the true nature of Mondays. Pythagoreans were musicians who sang about Mondays as well as mathematicians. Their Top 10 Songs about Monday include:

1.  Blue Monday
2.  Monday, Monday, Monday
3.  Long Monday
4.  Very Long Monday
5.  Manic Monday
6.  New Moon on Monday
7.  Blue Monday
8.  They Call it Stormy Monday (But Tuesday’s Just as Bad)
9.  I Don’t Like Mondays
10. Monday’s Suck

     According to legend, it was a Monday upon which Pythagoras discovered that musical notes could be translated into mathematical equations when one day he passed a some blacksmiths at work, and thought that the sounds emanating from their anvils being hit were beautiful and harmonious and decided that whatever scientific law caused this to happy must be mathematical and could be applied to music. He went to the blacksmiths to learn how this happened by looking at their tools, and discovered that it was because the anvils were “simple ratios of each other, one was half the size of the first, another was 2/3 the size, and so on.” 

      The Pythagoreans also believed in something called the “harmony of the spheres,” believing that the other days of the week moved according to mathematical equations associated with the energie of Mondays, as expressed in mathematical equations. Of course, nothing to support this theory exists, but who cares.

      While Pythagoras’ major accomplishment was that famous Monday discovery that music was based on proportional intervals of the numbers one through four, he also believed that the number system, and therefore the universe’s system, was based on the sum of these numbers: ten. Thus, Monday was associated with the number 10, which in binary is 1010, a repeating pattern of equal weight and measure with an outward trajectory. Some historians might hypothesize that this repeating pattern of equal weight and measure with an outward trajectory was purposeful, but I, personally, wouldn’t take it to that extreme.

      Pythagoras or his buddies, one of the two, or three, or four, or more, also discovered square numbers. They found that if one took, for example, four small stones and arranged them into a square, each side of the square was not only equivalent to the other, but that when the two sides were multiplied together, they looked like a Monday and equaled the sum total of stones in the square arrangement, hence the name “Square Root”. I have often pondered whether or not this is why Farmer’s Markets are often held on Mondays in Town Squares; an answer to which I might never know for sure.

      Pythagoras was the first to think that the Earth was round, that all planets have an axis, and that all the planets travel around one central point.  He originally identified that point as Earth, but later renounced it for the idea that the planets revolve around a central “fire” that he never identified as the sun moving through the house of Monday.

 And that's why people thought he was nuts! 

Domestically Challenged

Okay, confession time: I'm not just domestically challenged, I abhor domestic housework. Never in my life did I imagine myself Windexing and wiping away God-knows-what-was-stuck on the INSIDE of the cabinets in what is supposed to be our delightful little 14th century historic Parisian abode. 

Nor did I realize, by the way, that electric stoves were still in fashion. How in the world does one work one of these God-forsaken contraptions!  

I know what you're thinking... what a princess, right? 

Yes, you would be right. 

So, for all my fellow princesses out there - you know who you are - here's a few thoughts about being domestically challenged! 

Unable to do housework

Abhors housework

Dislikes housework

Wondering exactly what it is that constitutes housework? 

Does Windex work on everything? 

Can you put Windex on carpets?

Windex should come with a 
WARNING LABEL: Stains Carpets! 

Where do they sell those floors that clean themselves? 

How do you interview a housekeeper when you're not sure what needs to be done? 

Is cooking housework? 

Do houses come with a manual? 

Speaking of which, does anyone have Emanuel's phone number?

How come suds came out of the washing machine?

I tried to defrost the freezer and the frig stopped working. 
What should I do? 

How do you clean a couch? With a vacuum? 

Can you make toast in an oven? 

Speaking of which, how do you turn it on?

Isn't 350 a lot of minutes to bake brownies? 

Is there a How to Clean Your House for Princesses Manual? 

If yes, please don't send it to me, I don't want to know.

Speaking of Emanuel again, I could really use his phone number. 

Is ironing and pressing the same thing? 

Does anyone know how to set-up a cable box that they send in the mail? 

Do they sell windshield wipers for outside house windows? 

We weren't allowed in the kitchen growing up. 
Now I know why. 

Do you realize that cleaning house could literally take all day???

And then the next day, it's dusty again! 

Where do they sell Dustifiers that capture all the dust like humidifiers capture humidity? 

The people at BHV didn't know what I was talking about. 

I never could understand why they sold plastic gloves with flowers on them. 
Now I know. 

Cleaning is the fastest way to ruin a beautiful manicure. 

To women everywhere who actually do this every day, my deepest, heartfelt sympathies. 

I never want to clean again! 

To my chagrin
I had to clean

I never knew
Houses spew

But now that I know
What a toil it is to tow

I will never again

About the things that don't get done
Because cleaning is just no fun

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Américain in Paris

We're back! 

We arrived back to Paris yesterday morning at 9am.  Coming from California, we're completely off the local time zone, hence the morning tea at 2am. 

It's a 11+ hour flight from the Los Angeles Airport to Paris' Charles de Gaulle.  Fortunately, our rickety old plane touched down safe and sound and customs was a breeze. They looked at our passports, confirmed our names, and Voilá: Bienvenue à Paris. 

Arriving with 6 pieces of 65+lb checked luggage, 3 carry-ons, 3 backpacks, and two kids (3 computers, 3 iPads, and my son's Xbox 360, which he couldn't live without), we were a force to be reckoned with upon arrival. 

We lined up 3 carts right in front of the baggage claim carousel. Within moments, an older French gentleman decided to give me a piece of his mind about lining up 3 carts side-by-side blocking other travelers from reaching their bags. Never mind the fact that there was 10-15 feet of access on either side of us... 

Vive la France - Liberty leading the People
Eugene Delacroix, 1830

I thought this man was going to rouse a riot with his complaints as other passengers soon took notice and began glaring at us... that is until the luggage started coming down the conveyor system and I singlehandedly - as if they were goose down pillows - flung off all 6 of those suitcases snap dab onto the carts! 

I am Woman
Hear me roar! 
Me (in my mind) 

In the midst of pulling down our own luggage - which actually won me a few nods of admiration - I saved a man from being pulled along the carousel by his luggage as I yanked both he and his suitcase back to safety (he was literally pulled onto the conveyor belt, refusing to let go of the desperate grip he had on his suitcase).

Within less than 5 minutes, I had all the luggage loaded and we maneuvered our way out from the chaos we had started - to the promised safety implied by the word: Sortie (exit). 

Had we been in a predominantly English or Spanish speaking country, I might have had a funny or witty comeback to diffuse the situation at the airport, but not being fluent in French makes joking an especially interesting challenge - one I'm looking forward to overcoming. 

Rather than telling jokes "about" the French, I guess it's high time that I learn how to tell a few basic jokes "in French" to diffuse future, socially awkward situations. 

Bilingual Joke

An American thief in Paris planned to steal some paintings from the Louvre. After careful planning, he got past security, stole the paintings and made it safely to his van. 

However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas. When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied, “Monsieur, I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh.


If you have De Gaulle to become an art thief, you probably think you have nothing Toulouse!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Five Levels of Humor

Saturday Evening Post cover

Like with all expressions, humor offers a window into an individuals mood or state of mind.  In terms of development, humor reveals behavior that is narcissistic and self-absorbed as well as altruistic.

Rather than being an age-related theory of humorous development, with the common adage that kids prefer "bathroom humor" - not all people start out egocentric and end up with the high guiding principles. Most people fall somewhere in between, which while often times stressful, at least offers with it an ideal to work toward, and more importantly, ideas to laugh about.

(This image pretty much sums up my academic career)


At level I, the individual is mostly concerned with the self. Egocentrism leads to tyrannical behavior.  These individuals do not see their own imperfections; instead, they focus on the flaws of others. A person at Level I uses other people for self-gratification and self-aggrandizement. 

Humor expressed at each level mirrors the sentiments of the individual. In Level I, for example, individuals are often attracted to others for superficial reasons, mostly so that they can show off to others. Here, jokes that focus on superficiality are typically expressed and enjoyed. 

Parents at this state of development expect their children to be reflections of their life goals so that it reflects well on them. Essentially, the needs of the other person are not taken into account. The motto at Level I might be, "I'm perfect, but you're not." 

In Hewitt and Flett's (1991) Multidimensional Perfection Scale, this has been labeled, "other-oriented perfectionism."  Other-oriented perfectionists set up unrealistic standards for others and focus on their flaws; this is accompanied by blame, lack of trust, and feelings of hostility toward others (Hewitt & Flett, 1991). 

When others do not meet their expectations, these individuals punish others emotionally through disapproval, guilt, or the removal of privileges (as with children). This type of behavior is a recipe for dysfunction. The humor that often attracts people in Level represents the lowest level of humor attached to human expression. Creating and sharing this type of humor affects people in two distinctly different ways  (1) Humorously exposing the behavior that needs to be changed without damaging someone's fragile sense of self; (2) Propagating negative behavior, giving others the sense that it's "okay" because "since there's so much of it out there, it must be okay." 

I have observed that comedians who seem to run out of material often times resort to low-level humor. 


Psychologists generally view perfectionism as a "pervasive neurotic style" - at this level of development, individuals are often at the mercy of the social group. They continually ask themselves, "What will people think of me if I ...?" 

Facebook, while offering a playground for many emotional expressions as well as the easy, nearly instantaneous sharing of photos with friends and family, is where neurotic forms of perfectionism are most visible.  Many people who actively participate on Facebook post updates and images that reveal a deeper insecurity and feelings of inferiority toward others, judging themselves as lacking in comparison. 

While personally I had a good time actively participating on Facebook during my research into humor, I did observe that the majority of the people exhibited a polarized "all or none" type of behavior, i.e., "Either I am perfect or I am worthless." 

Comedians who perceive perfectionism as a negative trait focus primarily on the expression of perfectionism at Level II.  The person needs to excel in order to bolster flagging self-esteem. The chief sign here is obsession. 

On Perfectionism: What's Bad about Being too Good
Adderholdt-Elliott & Goldberg (1987; revised 1999, p.4) wrote: in a constant state of anxiety about making errors. They have extremely high standards and perceive excessive expectations and negative criticisms from others, including their parents. Sometimes those external pressures are real, sometimes they come from within. Perfectionists question their own judgments, lack effective coping strategies, and feel a constant need for approval. They fear being exposed as frauds or imposters. Many avoid the healthy risks that will help them grow, procrastinating, or refusing outright to try new experiences for fear of failure. 

This behavior is characterized by a strong motivation to be perfect, accompanied by the belief that others have perfectionistic expectations of our behavior as well as the belief that they are living perfect lives and harshly judging us for not measuring up. 


Healthier forms of perfectionism emerge at higher levels of development. At Level III, the individual becomes a seeker of self-perfection.  Instead of feeling inferior to others or feeling inadequate to meet the expectations of others, the person becomes aware of his or her potential to be "enlightened" and feels inferior to that potentiality. 

A glimpse of the possibilities in oneself for integrity, empathy, wisdom, and harmony is a powerful motivator and incentive for personal growth. The longing to become one's best self propels the individual to seek out illusions, recognize truths about oneself, and transform egocentric behavior and lower-level instincts toward one's highest self. This undertaking is an arduous journey that requires support and encouragement for undertaking this challenge. 

Life can offer drama lovers fantastic levels of reality, from persecutors, victims, and rescuers to winners and losers. However, at a more evolved layer of TP, we find 3- and 4-ply layers of reality where there are no polarities; there is only oneness, i.e., we're all in this together. 

At Levels I & II, the pull to negativity is very strong, and there is little, if any, awareness that a higher reality is possible. "Maybe for others, but not me" is a typical lower-level response. In the higher levels - Level IV & V - the pull is equally as powerful, actively directing the personality. Given that all expressions exist, there are subtle truths to each that can be balanced toward the feeling of harmony without getting trapped in new illusions of grandeur that often accompanies early enlightenment. 

"We see in others what we first see in ourselves," was my response to Dr. Robert Graham of the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank in Escondido, California, which was dubbed the "Nobel prize sperm bank" by media reports at the time. 

Dr. Graham responded to me: "Your writings on wisdom, a subject on which I was once more familiar, but have not since considered, deserve many re-readings." While I have long since held this belief, not everyone has appreciated my sharing of this sentiment (note the level III'ness in this comment). 

At level III, humor reflects a higher, but still caught in the lower, reality. A struggle emerges from the climb out of habitual ways of being in the world toward a higher reality. Descartes laid the foundations for this type of self-evolving awareness in his Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking Truth, stating that, "Good sense is, of all things among men, the most equally distributed; for every one thinks himself so abundantly provided with it, that those even who are the most difficult to satisfy in everything else, do not usually desire a larger measure of this quality than they already possess." 

Individuals at Level III live with a vertical tension between "what is" and "what ought to be" in oneself. This is not a comfortable experience, which leads to two distinct outcomes: (1) the abandonment of continual personal adjustment in favor of a more comfortable experience, or (2) the acceptance of "not knowing" in favor of continual growth and development, which can lead to the perfection of personality. 

The types of humor that appeal to Level III individuals include: 

1. Hierarchization 
(critical perception and evaluation of one's values) 

2. Dissatisfaction with oneself
(frustration and anger with what is)

3. Inferiority toward oneself
(frustration at one's inadequacies) 

4. Disquietude with oneself
(agitation and anxiety with what is)

5. Astonishment with oneself
(surprise and shock in regard to what is)

6. Shame
(embarrassment over one's deficiencies) 

7. Guilt
(anguish over moral failure)

8. Positive maladjustment
(antagonism against social opinion and protest against violation of intrinsic ethical principles)
(Dabrowski, 1977, p. 44)

While the simultaneous removal of doubt in conjunction with the acceptance of not knowing is difficult, these inner forces do express different ways of evaluating one's personality and reflecting on one's character. They epitomize the work associated with inner transformation. Despite significant ups and downs there is usually an upward trend given that higher-level reality exercises a stronger influence on the personality than that of lower-level realities. 


At Level IV, much of the inner polarity has been transformed and the person is able to commit to living a life permeated by high ideals. There is a greater capacity for self-reflection, for acceptance of others and of self. There is more self-regulation, which minimizes the control that baser desires have over the individual as well as the possessiveness associated with trying to control others. Compassion and understanding of he plight of others is consistently maintained. Perspective is informed by a clearer vision of the meaning of life experiences. The humor at this stage is a representation of wholeness and the appreciation of inherent perfection in all of life. 


Level V is the perfection of the personality. It is life without personal conflict. Here, behavior is guided by the highest principles. At this amazing level of human development, the individual becomes a wise teacher, guide, and example for others. 

Autonomy from the lower layers of reality are personified in this individuals personal expression as well as in their humor. Life is lived in service to all - including the self - of humanity, not in service of the ego. The motto for this type of expression and humor is, "All is love."