Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Wicked Smart Challenge

Dear Voracious Consumers of Intelligence:

The precise origin of Wicked Smartness is unknown to this author, and is a matter of great academic dispute. Won't you please assist me in conclusively establishing that which we collectively consider wicked smart in an attempt to create from that which is available to (this) finite mind so that we might ascribe meaning to the original title: Wicked Smart.

Together let us attempt to outline in broad terms its history, pointing out inconsistencies and gaps in our knowledge, bearing in mind along the way that, as the Great Carlyle has said, ultimately <history is but a distillation of rumor>

The first mention of Wicked Smartness is found in Herodotus, the Greek father of history, writing in about 450 BCE. He refers to <the curious custom practiced by the Pelasgians of following everyday the calendar of rites written on their oracle's tablets> (Histories, VI.56). Herodotus discusses the derivation of this custom: <I may say, for instance, that it was the daughters of Danaos who brought this ceremony from Egypt and instructed the Pelasgian women in it> (II.171). The Pelasgians, of course, mentioned both by Herodotus and the more reliable Thucydides, are recognized as the majority tribe within the nomadic population of Greece and the Aegean, before their gradual assimilation by the Hellenes. There is therefore a strong case to suggest that the very origins of Wicked Smartness can be traced beyond the classical age and back to Egyptian civilization, the ultimate cradle of our culture - unless you consider lower Mesopotamia (3500 BCE) the ultimate cradle of our culture, in which case I'd say: me, too!

Let us more comprehensively consider wicked smartness origins some other time, and for now attempt to shed some light on contentious issues. First, which of the multifarious versions is the genuine work of Wicked Smartness? Fakes and translations are legion. For our purposes, real Wicked Smartness will be the so-called Greek version, as found in Constantinople in 1422 by scholar Giovanni Aurispa. Both in depth and in originality, it stands out as the truest incarnation of Wicked Smartness, as someone who took the time to put a bunch of stuff together so that others might consider the stuff he considered more easily. In other words,

Wicked Smartness is the act of 
enabling ease of examination. 

Second, why is there so little mention of Wicked Smartness in this ancient text of conventional histories? Is it because the focus was on documenting histories rather than a discussion on the value of documentation and categorization? which begs the question:

Q1. Is Wicked Smartness an act or an examination of an act?

The mere attempt to gather together information in a way that enables ease of examination constitutes an instrument of radical change, unleashing forces too power for authorities to control. Thus it had to be hidden away from the masses in official accounts, for those who know how to examine novelty.

Again and again throughout history, the act of enabling ease of examination resurfaces. From Anaximander's search for boundless origin or principle (Greek archê) to Quintilian's Training of an Orator to the Roman copy of something enigmatically named the <codex diei>, the book of days.

All these and countless others not mentioned herein combine and define humanity's understanding of Wicked Smartness. From survival to agricultural and monastical societies throughout the Ages, referencing the slow rhythm of the seasons and eternity, with eyes firmly fixed on the afterlife and the daily upheavals of experiencing existence, our species has, since the rise of the genus Homo (200,000 years ago) attempted to develop and demonstrate Wicked Smartness after reaching what we define as behavioral modernity about 50,000 years ago.

Let us today re-examine this 50,000 year old concept of Wicked Smartness in this Wicked Smart Challenge and build for ourselves, here and now, that which we might prize as Wicked Smartness so that our vision of it, along with copies of Boccacio's, paintings of Botticelli and other masterpieces, might become the new version of Wicked Smartness by which we give ourselves a giant pat on the back.

The Wicked Smart Challenge

1)    What would happen if you switched jobs with a friend for a day? Now, explain in detail your experience. 
a)    Document all of your thoughts, sensations, and feelings. 
b)    What did you learn from this experience? 
c)    Do you consider the consideration of new information learning? 
d)    Must you memorize this information to become Wicked Smart
e)    Are you now Wicked Smart because you have done something that others do not do? 
f)     Is it your action that makes you Wicked Smart or is Wicked Smartness merely an insight into a novel or otherwise lesser known experience? 
g)    Which experiences produce Wicked Smartness and which do not? 
h)    Who decides?
2)    Create a rainbow utilizing the glass method. When the sunlight passes through the glass of water, refracts (bends) and forms a rainbow of colors on your sheet of paper, pull out your shovel and begin digging for gold.
a)    Myths often survive throughout the ages because they contain a grain of truth. Find out if this one is true today, and you may not only reap the benefits of discovery, but also determine if Wicked Smartness is defined as an act.
b)   If you do not have a shovel, you can call your local weather office, and ask for the probable occurrence of rainbows in your area, based on satellite imagery of cloud formation. Triangulate the exact coordinates of the rainbow’s end, and track them down using the app Waze. Secure the area and excavate a ½ hectare site, aiming for an average drilling depth of 3 meters. Use a magnetometer to establish an electromagnetic and geophysical profile of the zone. Sift for pots of gold. Be sure to have your attorney on speed dial so that you might assert your right of ownership and patent the <Rainbow Digging> process.
i)     WARNING: If the end of the Rainbow occurs inside a bank vault, find another Rainbow.
c)   While digging or drilling for your Rainbow, ask yourself, are you Wicked Smart for having followed these instructions?
d)   What if you do not find a pot of gold at the end of your chosen Rainbow? Is Wicked Smartness the successful monetary outcome of a given action? Or, is Wicked Smartness the mere willingness to dig or drill?
3)   Disappear from your daily life. Don’t you sometimes wish you could start all over again? How difficult would it be to just walk away from your life and start anew somewhere else? As someone else?
a)   Test the waters by spending the day on the run from your friends, family, and colleagues.
b)   Use the Eurail timetable to start planning your disappearance act. Look up train times and check if you need to book a reservation. Note that some train rides are not included in the Eurail pass. Determine which train you wish to take.
c)   Once you’re on the Eurail train, ask yourself: Am I being Wicked Smart? Is Wicked Smart defined as the act of experiencing something novel? Is every thought held within or as a result of this experience something that is Wicked Smart?
d)   If Wicked Smartness can be held within a novel experience, and not otherwise experienced outside of it, is it the act or the experience that gives rise to Wicked Smartness?
e)   If while considering these thoughts on Wicked Smartness you miss your connecting train, do not fret. Simply get off at the next station. Walk to the other side of the platform, and wait for the train traveling in the opposite direction. Then, get on that train and exit at the next stop. You are now in the location where you can get back on track.
f)   While you are waiting for the next train, ask yourself: Was missing my connecting train Wicked Smart? Would others consider missing a connecting train less than Wicked Smart? Are the thoughts I’m having right now held within the experience of Wicked Smartness?

4)    Design your own Wicked Smart Challenge. Do things you haven't done before so that you might consider thoughts outside the realm of your normal thinking (assuming your normal thinking is already not the epitome by which all Wicked Smartness could be measured). 
a)    Document your experience as did Herodotus. Wait a few thousand years for someone to examine your thoughts and documented experiences. If a future scholar defines those thoughts and experiences as Wicked Smart, you are Wicked Smart
b)    If you do not want to wait this long or are otherwise put-off by the idea of not being around to experience the praise and gifts lavished upon you, keep doing things until someone calls or refers to you Wicked Smart. 
c)    Once someone refers to you as Wicked Smart, you are now Wicked Smart and can begin reaping the benefits of thinking of yourself as Wicked Smart ... 
d)    From this posture, you may tout yourself as Wicked Smart and define for the rest of us Voracious Consumers of Intelligence just exactly what it means to be Wicked Smart. Then you can charge us for this insight. 
e)    Once you have made the Fortune 400 List, you will forever go down in history as Wicked Smart.

The End. 

What is Wicked Smart

"She hits you with a joke yesterday that she tells tomorrow."
~Chris Salter

Now, that's a good question.

Wicked Smart people ask simple questions. The answers we give, the associations we make, is where the concept of wicked smartness arises. But what is wicked smartness, really? 

Is wicked smartness the ability to figure out complicated mathematical equations or the ability to retrieve large volumes of data off the top of one's head while simultaneously linking that data to new data in real time in a util way that is of value to more than one person in society? Or, is wicked smartness the ability to make associations between seemingly divergent concepts in a way that others exclaim,

Wow! I never thought of it that way.

George Carlin, hence: George Carlin's brand of humor.
An upside down backward Bible

Is an upside down backward Chinese braille Bible = yesterday's joke told tomorrow? Or is all of this stuff just make-believe? Things we make up, tell ourselves - invent to entertain ourselves so that we might somehow feel as if we have some control over the mind blowing, brain warping experience of existence? 

If everything we know is just stuff we make up, how do we know which stuff is wicked smart and which stuff is just plain nonsense? (and what is nonsense?) Is there a hand test by which universal wicked smartness might trickle down into our brains? Where lies the common denominator? Or is everything equal simply because everything exists? and is therefore equally wicked smart and equally nonsensical at the same time? How can we accurately ascribe weight to equality by nature of existence (while simultaneously held in existence)? 

If there is a difference in the weight of two concepts, ideas, or objects, can they really be examined? Does every thought, concept, idea, object, being, manifestation, event and so forth have its own independent criteria (separate from the criteria we give it) by which it can be examined? Who is capable of rendering an impartial judgment or assessment? Would one have to be outside of existence to render an impartial judgment? And what does it mean to examine? Isn't this a little like thinking about infinitum from the space of finitude? Is the brain just thinking about itself while stuck within itself? Is that which we examine and categorize really just our attempt to escape the predicament of existence? 

What is the last refuge by which one might make the wicked smart vs not wicked smart determination? Historically wicked smart meant survival of the fittest. Now wicked smartness is associated with making connections others do not see, and then capitalizing on them and making the Forbes 400 list. 

Personally, I have no idea what wicked smartness means. Like my teenage children, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be in life. I spend my days considering projects intended to generate revenue for all involved. I spend my free time engaging with friends and family. I spend my private time thinking and writing and painting and filing new enterprises and registering intellectual property and riding Segways through parks and cities. And despite this, friends call me "wicked smart" - a compliment to which I respond with great erudition: Thank you. 

How can one respond to a compliment on which one has no direct authority to evaluate? Perhaps, by attempting to create a Wicked Smart Challenge that all can take to determine by mean average that which we collectively consider wicked smartness. 

Regardless of whether any of us have the capacity to do so, let us consider wicked smartness for ourselves. And if in doing so we make associations between the equality of differences and say, This one is wicked smart and this one is not, then we can equally claim to be wicked smart if by our measurement system we determine that we fall into the category of wicked smart; forever associating ourselves with wicked smartness until we do something dumb - which we will later define as something else. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Funny Sentimental Mornings

If you are in search of a funny sentimental morning with which to start your day or the day of your loved ones, then this post is for you. 

Funny Sentimental Mornings, 

Begin with a quiet, relaxing candlelit breakfast. There's nothing like meandering your way down the stairs only to be greeted by the welcoming stillness of a beautifully set, deliciously presented breakfast buffet, set atop a white linen tablecloth, adorned with freshly cut flowers and freshly prepared fruit and vegetable juice. 
Something internally pleasant happens to us when we greet the day softly. When our first step is onto a carefully placed down feathered pillow, and each step thereafter is gingerly guided toward a veritable feast for the senses. We smile. Our mind smiles. And as the sun rises to greet us, we have time to ourselves to awaken back to the dream reality as our bearings line up and we prepare ourselves to embrace the day. To race against ourselves, to create and do and inspire. To know where we need and want to be and for how long. To know what we wish to accomplish each step along the way, be it the strengthening of a relationship, the creation of something that wouldn't otherwise exist were it not for our brining it to light, or the privilege of doing our part in good citizenry. 
Whatever is planned or left to spontaneous unfoldment or natural progression, is quietly savored, imagined, and informed by our brains that it will be greeted in the order received, but for now, for these brief moments we have all to ourselves, we're going to relax the tension from our shoulders, take light easy breaths, and sip from the nectar of the gods, known in some countries as "coffee". 

The Candlelit Market of Petras van Schendel

This morning I was reminded of the Belgian painter Petrus van Schendel (1806-1870), whose mastery of light captures the attention of this colorblind purveyor of fine art. I may not see color, per se, at least not as traditional colorsighted individuals view color, but even I notice the difference between the moonlight and the light of the morning's sunrise. Maybe not so much in this painting, but conceptually and in person. 
The moments between early morning and sunrise are specifically soothing. The light captures the unique properties of subtle illumination; all is possible. Our internal response is filled with aliveness and possibility. The light illuminates our daily tasks and all seems easier and more playful. Fun, even. 
When we start our day with a soft, pleasant easing back into the waking world, we should place importance on how we greet ourselves every day. If we greet ourselves in a rush, give away our sacred time to others, or otherwise bombard this time with the day's business, we are not preparing ourselves for battle or celebration. We are preparing ourselves to be drug about by the peripheral whims of our life's circumstances. When we greet ourselves like royalty, we build empires. 

Morning comes too soon for most people, but that is because most people are jumping into their day, playing catch-up from the moment their feet hit the hard floor. Softening our initial footsteps, preparing a beautifully lit breakfast table, and greeting the world for her possibilities remarkably captures the quality of the day before anyone else has the opportunity to define it for us. 

Torment cannot be mistaken for morning. Mornings must be cultivated between the cool, off-white illumination of the moonlight and the warm, golden illumination afforded by candles until the sun rises. The flickers of light tint our flesh and thoughts with tones of warmth and vitality, leaving unexposed skin and thoughts in grey-black shadows. 

Breakfast need not be fussy to hold our attention. A basket of fresh pastries, juice, cheese and meats (or vegan choices) are an easy way to recreate the beautiful mornings by which our predecessors used to greet the day. Class and cultivation need not vanish as a way of life, enjoyed only on special occasions and holidays, or in our most romantic fantasies. 

Making time for beauty in our lives may not have anything to do with humor, but it sure puts us in a good mood, making us a thousand times more receptive to the little moments that make life rich and rewarding. 

Funny sentimental mornings are my family's favorite way to start the day. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

More Than Just a Profile

Like other profiles, my profile on FB appears two-dimensional. But there's more to me. I'm more than just the token philosophical humorist or art connoisseur. I'm a passionate individual whose online interactions with others lead me to become more reflective, as I think deeply about the significance of individual actions, both in terms of their moral consequences and in terms of what they imply about life and the world. 

In short, I am a philosopher. I am a lover of wisdom, pursuing truth above all else (at least when I'm not busy thinking about other things, like the evolution of Pacman). Like millions of other profiles, the videos, photos, and status updates I share, offer the world as much information about me and my tastes as they do about the subject at hand. 

Many of my posts herein, on Twitter, or FB question how it could be that humor, which seems so innocuous, could make such a positive impact. Rarely do I make these comments directly, but instead, post a joke (often one that fits in 140 characters or less) with the hope that others will question the power of humor vs whether or not the synonym for 'reality' is 'offline'. In other posts or tweets I question whether bygones want to be something else and why I still look both ways down a one way street. 

Humorous, wry, witty, or otherwise clever (sounds like an invisible pat on the back) as these pithy observations might seem, they are philosophical in nature. Because of my moral outlook, notably visible in my no drama, no negativity, PG rated musings, followers generally keep their mischief from me. Rarely am I tagged (or rarely do I notice I am tagged) in negative, slanderous, or otherwise unpleasant postings. 

The Socratic Method 

Over the years, my philosophically humorous blog has taken on an artistic overtone. My keen interest in the finer arts competes with my otherwise lighthearted, surreal or otherwise irreverent stance toward elitism, which of course illuminates my real life association with it. As I tell my audience, humor is just another way to pass eternity. 

Readers might be inclined to dismiss my revelation as one of many creative meanderings influenced by humor, art and technology, and in part, they'd be right. But the discoveries in this quip are not unique to this comic. Whether presenting my case to an audience who hears nothing but jokes, the struggle for meaning is a philosophical dilemma nearly every human being experiences. We all seek to find the right thing to do in each situation, in our lives in general, or to leave behind as a legacy of our having existed among billions of other beings. 

Indeed, we seek to find and understand the good life, the life constituted by doing the right thing - the life that gives meaning to the person living it. 

In search of the good life and meaning is what put me on the path of philosophical questioning (in the first place). My awareness that I and others were sometimes unhappy echoes Socrates (470 - 399 BCE) who, in Plato's (427-347 BCE) Apology, tells us that a person may falsely believe that he or she is happy. Like Socrates, I do not simply wish to believe that I am happy; rather, I wish to know that I am really happy, that I am not fooling myself just because I enjoy many aspects of my life. 

For Socrates, "The unexamined life is not worth living." The good life entails that we examine our life - know thyself - as well as the assumed values in our own tradition. Such values need to be re-examined to determine whether or not they are true and absolutely real (cue Descartes). 

If we discover that our values are not really our own, we should lay them aside until we can properly define and understand those which serve our ideals by which we wish to live. In doing so, we adopt a lifestyle of questioning, challenging, and defining the truths of the world. In philosophical terms this activity is known as the dialectic, and serves as the foundation for the Socratic approach in philosophy if one wishes to live a life in pursuit of knowledge. 

The Socratic Method involves questioning those who claim to know or questioning that which we think we know in order to engage others in a philosophical dialogue in an attempt to define the fundamental nature or essence of some idea or thing. Whether something was virtuous, pious, good, friendly or soulful, Socrates sought proper definitions of ideas and things. If a universal definition could be found, then one could apply the definition to one's own particular life. 

However, this didn't work out so well for Socrates in the end. The people of his beloved Athens sentenced him to death by drinking Hemlock for corrupting the youth and not worshipping the official gods. This sounds ridiculous for people living in the Western world or in First World nations, but absurdities such as these persist in many places of the world. The contents of this blog, if not authored in a nation tolerant of free speech, could potentially land its author in prison, or at least censored. 

When it comes right down to it, we cannot find happiness by following narrow belief systems or traditions. There are few universal constructs and more importantly, a construct does not have to be universal to be valid for an individual. That which makes us happy, that which motivates us toward taking positive action, or that which brings others joy through us are all equally universal in that when an individual can successfully identify such notions, happiness generally follows. 

Happiness is one of the most commonly sought after universal sentiment. Whether one finds their happiness in sharing their thoughts with a wider audience, in creating or collecting artworks, in conditioning their body toward excellence of form, in discovering new lands and new cultures, in conducting high profile business deals, even behind the scenes, the ensuing happiness that arises is their reward. 

Happiness is already something within us.
What we do to ignite it, is our own.