Thursday, October 31, 2013

Raising Funny Kids 42: Existential Kids

Existentialism means different things to different people. It is not a single doctrine laid down definitively by one person or group. Each author writes about it in a different way, offering their own indelible stamp.

The list of existentialists is extremely diverse, ranging from devout Catholics, Protestants, and Jews to agnostics and staunch atheists, and includes many nationalities, temperaments and personal beliefs.

Existentialists tended to be mavericks, outsiders of the philosophical academy who wrote in untraditional ways: fiction, plays or essays, as well as traditional philosophical treatises. In fact, most of the individuals whom we classify as "existentialists" created their works before the term was even coined.

As diverse as existentialists are, there are certain affinities among them that justify grouping them together as purveyors of an existentialist view. Their greatest similarity may be their own strong devotion to individualism, and their emphasis of the individual in discussing philosophical subjects.

Most parents recognize that they are raising a young existentialist by the time their child reaches adolescence. Questions of why, how come, are you sure, and did you know, are common. Insistence upon doing things "their way" as opposed to the "common way" is observable, even as toddlers.

The subject of death, existential angst, and the many ways one might die are also curious topics for the young existentialist. Young existentialists are those precocious kids who walk up to the older relatives in the family and cross-examine them on their beliefs about everything: life, death, and the meaning of it all.  

Most kids enter the world at what Dabrowski identified as a Unilevel Processor, a Level I or II. They are happy, content, playful kids. Little introspection and little inner conflict exist. Most problems are recycled through what they know or feel. Depending on the kid, they might develop multilevel elements by which to integrate or disintegrate the world, or they might not; instead reintegrating and recycling continually through past information searching for new information. 

Some kids come into the world as a Multilevel Processors, a Level II, IV, or V.  For a Level III processor the formation of an inner psychic milieu emerges, and they tend to focus on a more vertical tension between the higher ("what ought to be") versus the lower ("what is") as a way of integrating and disintegrating information. During this back and forth, inner transformation can lead these kids toward epistemological questioning, e.g., "how can we know for sure?" 

A Level IV kid comes in at a slightly more advanced multilevel development stage. They are the kids who develop a sense of mission early on in life and seem capable of acting on his or her own ideals. It is not so much "this is the way the world should be" or "that is the way the would should be" but, rather, "this is what I could do to affect the world." 

This is that level of cognitive development where self-actualization takes place. Initially it manifests as an obsession between understanding who one is in comparison to others and then grows into a deeper understanding with a clear goal for interacting with others and making the best of one's time. 

A Level V kid, rare indeed, is a kid in a highly advanced multilevel development stage. They are kids who are often called "old souls" (by the more esoteric-minded) or referred to in some way as being "mature for their age." These kids have a great inner knowing and depth of consciousness - a connection to something larger than us, in which we can trust, if we feel authentic doing so. 

These kids are often times helping out other kids. Whether or not they enjoy serving groups in a leadership capacity or not, their abilities often times usher them right out in front. There's something about these kids, even as they pass through the teenage years; there's an inner peace of sorts, like they have accepted their limitations in knowing due to what they recognize and sometimes verbalize as human limitations. They also recognize that they will outgrow many of these limitations given enough time.

The intensity of existential children could be compared to the intensity of profoundly gifted children. Like gifted children, young existentialists undergo a multilevel crisis not unlike the existential angst famous authors, artists, philosophers, and other creative or intellectually active sorts experience. 

Each question represents a large universe in which the number of possibilities is staggering. Abstract categories are codified by young minds for the purpose of life research, a term I coined in elementary school whereby all experiences were analyzed or as I said before I was ten years old, "thought about a lot" in relationship to their meaning for me, my friends and family, and the world at large. I even thought about what these things might mean (or not mean) for a creator, if one existed. 

When it comes to existential kids it is important that we do not attempt to categorize or put them into levels, even Dabrowski's levels, but rather we need to try to understand the nature of their striving. These kids are far too complex to be neatly pigeonholed. There are levels within levels within levels within levels, and their individual development may span on more than one of those levels at the same time. 

Perhaps the image of the complexity found in the PDB (Prostaglandin H2 Synthase-1 Complex) structure can convey the sense of what inspires existential kids. Changes in these kids' perceptions can sometimes seem so radical from an outside, linear perspective that it is difficult to track from whence they arose without being an authentically existential (pardon the tautology) individual oneself. 

Interestingly enough it is after these major transitions when existential kids (and adults) experience the greatest moments of peace.

Raising existential kids can be a luminous experience. As they begin the process of inner transformation through the process of spontaneous and organized multilevel integration and disintegration of what they learn about themselves, others, and the world in which they live, parents who might at one time struggle with their children's authentic expressions are often later breathless and amazed by their growth. Few boundaries exist for these kids, irrespective of their environment. Even in dimly lit circumstances with few possible opportunities for outward expansion, an existential child will search for the levels of freedom they need to grow within themselves. 

Interacting with existential children is similar to interacting with gifted children, and often times the two go hand in hand. Understanding the emotional and personal development needs of these children is often times driven by mastery of one particular quality: intensity

If one does not have a high level of intensity within oneself, seeking out counselors, mentors, teachers, friends, or family members who exhibit this characteristic can offer a positive value in the life of an existential child. If these individuals cannot be found, don't fret because the child will create this intensity for themselves.

People say that what we're all seeking is the meaning of life... I think that what we're really seeking is the experience of being alive. 
Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Inhibiting Facebook Expressions

Facebook users said in a survey that they cannot comment as effectively as they would like due to Facebook's limitations in self-expression, and thousands said that they felt more options beyond "like", "share", and "comment" were needed. 

The Professional Institute of Busy Bodies (BBs), which commissioned the survey from Random Research "to gauge the scale and impact of 'inhibition' and social silencing among Facebook users," released the results Monday during a fictitious news conference. BB represents a whole bunch of Facebook users across the country, including 20,000 vegans, 15,000 Yoga Instructors, and 5,000 work-from-home professionals, who sign in from their Macs, PCs, iPhones, or iPads, including Facebook users who have their Twitter accounts linked to their Facebook pages.

In all, the busybodies sent invitations to participate in the survey to 15,398 high school graduates in June. A total of 4,069 responded that they were busy enjoying their summer vacation.
Twenty four per cent of respondents said they “sometimes” or “often” could not adequately respond to a Facebook post because there were not enough buttons. Most often, the buttons they stated were missing were (in the following order): "dislike, sorry, who cares, and lol." In the notes portion of the survey Facebook users who listed "lol" as a necessary button said that it would save them time typing "lol" and thus increase their own productivity. 

The survey asked Facebook users whether they agreed with a number of statements about their ability to freely respond to posts. It found:
  • 37 per cent agreed that they had been prevented by Facebook software or management from responding to a post from the public or a friend about their choice of meals in the past five years.
  • 14 per cent agreed that they could click freely and without constraints to the posts their friends posted on the inherent difficulties associated with getting off one's arse and going to work.
  • 10 per cent said they could just type what they wanted without constraints because they had absolutely nothing better to do with their days. 

In addition:
  • 50 per cent of respondents said they were aware of “cases where a post was misconstrued" (or "liked" inappropriatly) causing them to wonder about their friends' moral judgment.
  • 71 agreed that "our ability to click on posts in a way that relates to higher human expressions and progress, which are based on scientific evidence and facts, have been compromised by Facebook limitations," although a greater number (81 per cent) thought they could just type what they wanted to say.
  • 48 per cent said they were aware of cases where their friends clicked "like" when in reality they probably weren't happy that someone's grandpappy was having surgery or had passed away. These incongruities “suppress expression, and led to incomplete, inaccurate or misleading impressions.”
  • 74 per cent of respondents thought the sharing of private family business with complete and utter strangers has become too widespread. They stated that they clicked "like" in acknowledgement of having read the post rather than expressing their delight associated with reading or thinking about the content. 

In recent years, there have been numerous complaints from Facebook Users feeling inhibited by Facebook management from publicly talking about their feelings. Some complaints are being investigated by Facebook-leak Information Jumbler Haji Ketosis
Haji Ketosis's grandmother, who is also head of policy and communication for BBs, said this is the first time anyone has collected “quantifiable evidence” about Facebook inhibiting self-expression and then releasing that information to the public.
“It’s a potential threat to all Facebook users,” granny said. “We need to fix it.”

Contentment: A Progressive State


            Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and joy that comes from having reached a state of satisfaction. While it has been argued that this state of satisfaction could impede one’s growth, the counterclaim is instead a logical fallacy of correlation versus causation.

            Phrenological mapping, a classic case of correlation versus causation, is a pseudoscience that rose to popularity in the late 18th century. Developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796, phrenology purported that (based on the concept that the brain is an organ of the mind) certain brain areas have localized, specific functions or modules. Today regarded as an obsolete amalgamation of primitive neuroanatomy with moral philosophy, the belief that contentment impedes one’s growth or progress is equally primitive in its understanding of “state” with respect to movement versus repair and maintenance.

            Where propositions are said to be true or false, states are said to obtain or not. In this respect, the proposition that satisfaction is not present in movement, which is associated with progress, is false. In order to support the claim that contentment is an inhibitor to progress, one must assert the following propositions:

  • ·      For progress to exist, movement must be present.
  • ·      Movement is not present in satisfaction.
  • ·      Therefore, satisfaction cannot exist in progress.

Let us consider the first two propositions:

            “For progress to exist, movement must be present.”  With respect to movement patterns in spatiotemporal data (data belong to both space and time or to space-time), the nature of progress involves movement from one space in time or state to another. Discovery and learning are direct results of movement from one state to another. As new information is presented, processing occurs. This processing is what one might call progress or expansion to include new information. In this respect, I would agree with the first proposition.

            “Movement is not present in satisfaction.”  Over the past few decades, ‘positive psychology’ has put the notion of ‘happiness’ at the forefront of scientific and psychological research. Such happiness is often described in terms of contentment or ‘life-satisfaction’, and is measured by means of self-assessments.

            Historically, desire theories evolved with the emergence of welfare economics. Pleasure and pain are inside people’s heads, thus economists began to see people’s well-being consisting in the satisfaction of preferences and desires, the content of which could be revealed by the person experiencing the state. The ranking of preferences gave rise to the development of ‘utility functions’ for individuals, and methods for assessing the value of preference-satisfaction.

            The simplest version and also the argument chosen to counter the second proposition exists in the version of desire theory called the present desire theory, according to which someone is made better off to the extent that their current desires are fulfilled. If for example one is satisfied or content with what they define as existing in a state of active and continual growth and progress, the sensation of satisfaction is operating in conjunction with progress. Just as the brain’s drainage system, called the glymphatic system, flushes fluid from the brain and spinal cord into the space between brain cells which contract at night allowing cerebrospinal fluid to rush into the brain’s interstitial space and wash away debris, so too does the state of satisfaction work as a faucet to clear out stagnant thoughts or exhaustion that arise as a direct result of being in a constant state of progressive movement. In this sense, satisfaction is an integral part of the state progress.

            Satisfaction serves progress just as sleep serves the brain’s ability to wash away toxins. Being in a constant state of movement associated with progress is akin to insomnia, the sleep disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep as long as desired. Chronic insomnia can cause muscular fatigue, hallucinations, mental fatigue, and/or death, as seen in prion-based fatal familial insomnia.  

            If contentment is satisfaction’s primary task, it is an integral part of human progress that serves additional functions besides clearing out the negative effects of exhaustion associated with movement. Contentment, in this respect, is integral to well-being.

            Physical well-being must exist for progress to be sustained. Thus, the subjective interpretation of pleasurable experiences found in contentment must also exist for progress to be sustained.

            The argument for contentment as an integral aspect of progress can thus be presented as:

  • ·      For progress to exist, satisfaction must be present.
  • ·      Satisfaction is an integral aspect of progress.
  • ·      Therefore, progress cannot be sustained without satisfaction.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

On Humour

First a few words on changing my last name to Laughing. Why this homage to humour?  Why place the bar so high? Is it not in some ways, pretentious? In reality, the name change should be taken as the expression of a debt of admiration, symbolizing something I find so deeply moving and with which I can identify so closely. 

Humor has always been, for me, more than a mere coping mechanism for dealing with life, it is a "belief" built upon innumerable reflections into the nature of social interactions. Our opportunity to soften or otherwise "lighten" the burdens of others and in return for our effort simultaneously and genuinely receive more than we give. While this is not the motivating factor, it is an important feature inherent in the act of giving of oneself in the sense that much of what we are and can be is directly related to what we are and can be for others. 

Laughing isn't just one expression among others, a common expression like yawning, sneezing, coughing or signaling our ancestral tribe members. It's an expression upon an expression, a symptom, perhaps, of an emotional burst of ecstasy, one that liberates a type of energie that is not meant (entirely) for one individual alone. 

If I were more versed in the inner workings of the biological structures inherent in cell-to-cell communication, I would imagine that laughter is a result of a physical phenomenon that regulates the production of some pretty powerful "feel good" proteins that ward off illness, including some illnesses of the mind. Be it a mutation or part of a system that participates in many cellular processes, laughter's ability to mediate the internal well-being of cells seems more than plausible, it seems blatantly obvious; even to a lay person.

Laughter vibrates the body like a memory recalling itself. Involuntarily we react to stimuli that heightens positive emotional states, such as joy, mirth, happiness, relief, or appreciation. Perhaps it is in the nature of this essence that those things we consider "humourous" feel like such "gifts".

Robert Provide said: "Laughter is part of [a] universal human vocabulary. There are thousands of languages, hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way."

Be it a primitive, unconscious vocalization (Provine), laughter brings people together in ways that other forms of sought after connections cannot. Laughter is delightful and enjoyable on both a personal and social level and enhances the flourishing meanings of life we adopt for ourselves and express in many aesthetic, literary, physical, or musical acts of expression. The best part about the many types of humour that lead to laughter is that you don't have to be an artist or a scholar or anything other than human to enjoy it. 

Humor results in a profoundly humanistic megadose of love, faith, hope, and positive attitudes all wrapped up into the simplest of packages: a laugh, an induced picture perfect form of internal idealism. So really, the question isn't why did I change my last name to Laughing, it's why didn't I do it sooner? 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Funny Thing About Stones

It's funny how much one can learn about oneself and others simply by sitting along side a stream and contemplating the nature of stones...


There are rare moments when one comes across one of those decorative pebbles, like the ones placed in your garden. They add a beautiful accent, but require a worthy landscape to be truly appreciated. 

Then there's those rolling stones... the ones that are always on the move. As much as you'd like to go panning for them and add them to your collection, they somehow slip right through the mesh and float away...

There are those magnificent boulders, those rare ones you see while out hiking a mountain in the Swiss Alps. They are incredible pieces of art to be admired, but impossible to carry back home. 

There are those wonderful stones that have been nurtured by the earth... only when these stones are excavated, cut and polished can you see their astonishing glory. They are amazing to behold.

And, finally... there's the stone that has been conceived of almost since the beginning of time. Tremendous forces have shaped it. This stone has amazing character, shows subtle elegance and can compliment any occasion, big or small. 

Questions are the stepping stones to great thoughts...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Facebook Paradigm

Facebook users are familiar with the world at large, have real life social groups, and/or interact with people off-line in course of their daily lives. Social interactions, however, ofter rather clear-cut distinctions between classes, gender roles, professional affiliations, and between the haves and have-nots. Coupled with real life challenges in social relationships and the effort one must invest in managing nuances in human emotion, millions of people have gravitated toward Facebook in order to construct their own way of interacting with the world and understanding interpersonal relationships: by using what this article calls the paradigm of Facebook. 

Facebook offers (me) a platform to explore what people consider funny or interesting. I do not post much of consequence about my personal (or professional) life other than admitting to the fact that I have one. Other than a few significant life moments (moving countries, general travels [after they occur], and a couple life events), the majority of my own sharing involves disseminating interesting articles, sharing comics or artwork, and/or responding to follow-up comments from my "Tweets" on Twitter, which are "tweeted" into my Facebook account. Essentially, Facebook, for me, is mostly a chance to see what some of my friends are posting and share a few laughs or interesting dialogues in return. 

Because Facebook has such a robust platform, it is often times easier and faster to share photos with friends or family via private message than it is to email these same large files. It is also a great place to store photos, keep an archive of one's social sharing, and have everything we do neatly time-stamped for our own reference (or records). 

Facebook's platform allows users to neatly categorize people (friends, family, close friends, acquaintances, groups, followers). "Friends" are the ones with whom users prefer to share their thoughts or discoveries. This ordering provides users with a sense of security and a framework from which to interact with others. That there are so many users who rely on such a framework is not surprising. After all, people are habitual in nature: taking the same routes to work, eating many of the same foods over and over again, or living their daily lives in a similar fashion year after year. Unless a major life event occurs, it is generally business as usual. 

In all these routines, most people understand the world in the context of social interactions, major life events, news headlines, advancements in technology, or the cuteness associated with little furry animals. Thus, it is not surprising that millions utilize a Facebook paradigm to make sense of social interactions. 

Facebook only offers a few simple options with respect to interactions: like, comment, share. There are other more advanced options like: hide this story, report, etc. however, the major action involves liking a post, commenting on a post, or sharing a post on your own wall, via private message, or with a friend (assuming you have permission to post on their wall). 

Over and over again, users perfunctorily like, share, or comment on posts that intrigue, interest, delight, annoy, or otherwise move them to share their own thoughts on any given matter. While the majority of comments are generally "on topic" others can sometimes be self-promoting, subject-specific promoting, or entirely "off topic" in a way that decorum in responding (or not responding) is called for. This is when "things" can get a bit dramatic. While my own participation in this type of social interaction is null, I have read a few doozies that made me quite glad I was witnessing these things virtually and not in person. 

There are people who do thrive on dramatic interactions or themes, and Facebook users offer endless opportunity to post material for these people. 

Facebook is one of the biggest social experiments of our generation. Whether you are a person who enjoys what is posted or not, largely depends on the friends you have on Facebook as well as the individuals or organizations you follow. 

Facebook can be an endless source of primary source-like information, even if you're reading the information second-hand. For individuals who enjoy exploring the world in general, without strong biases or prejudices, reading posts by individuals across the globe can provide one with more nuances that news stories can offer. Real thoughts and opinions expressed by the individuals involved or living in a certain area when a major world event takes place provides endless material for writers, researchers, and scholars who are seeking out empirical evidence to support a theory or argument. 

While one could maintain that Facebook is senseless, a less-than ideal form of social interactions, or a complete and utter waste of time, these opinions occur as a result of free will that could be used for bad, as well as for good social interactions. In this sense, perhaps it is best that these negative interactions occur virtually like in a video game rather than in real life interactions. While this point could be argued, it is not the focus of this article. 

(Irregardless of how one uses Facebook) The Facebook universe can only present the world in such a limited two-dimensional fashion that the paradigm of Facebook ends up being one that essentially limits human interaction to a Technicolor-like experience, with all its vibrant joys, saturated levels of meaning, and "like" faux pas (such as those that occur when individuals click "like" on a sad news story) that leave many feeling less than satisfied. 

Like most people, I am of the belief that Facebook, like any activity, social or otherwise, is what you make of it.  It can be a positive add-on to one's life: be that a chance to retreat from work or real-life social pressures, an opportunity to goof-off, a way to keep in touch with friends or family members who live far away, a window into the lives of fellow world citizens, a chance to read interesting or relevant stories one might not come across online or on the news, or a way to express oneself - all in a time-stamped, permanent footprint that might not EVER blow away with the winds of time. 

(just like what we post, share, or email online)

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Columbus Conspiracy

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue 
with The Niña, The Pinta, and The Santa María. 

Conspiracy theorists respond to challenges to their conspiracies by quoting the great-uncle of all conspiracy theories, Christopher Columbus (1451 - 1506) when he said "this very voyage is a conspiracy."

Christopher Columbus on Santa María in 1492
oil on canvas oil on canvas 

48 x 72¼ in. (121.9 x 183.52 cm.) 

signed and dated 'E Leutze/1855 (lower right)
Emanuel Leutze (1816 - 1868)
Auction House: Christies; $1,142,500

As fate often times dictates, the 30 November 2011 sale of Leutze's painting of Columbus departing from Palos in 1492 is one of the oldest conspiracies of them all. The provenance starting with Charles Gould found its way into the fine art market to convince world leaders that there is no such thing as conspiracies. 

"Leutze's painting of Columbus in 1492 has become synonymous with parapolitics." As stated by the someone who accidentally bumped into the present owner outside Christies that fateful day in 1988. 

Parapolitics is a political or political science theory used by several different researchers to describe that which conspiracy theorists research. 

Parapolitics just so happens to be the term for a 2006 scandal involving Columbian politicians and the paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia. 

Cover of Lobster's second issue, 1983
Editor: Robin Ramsay

A few conspiracy theorists have gone so far as to claim that the UK magazine, Lobster, is a front for conspiracians who, under the guise of publishing how politics has been influenced by intelligence and security services, are in reality sending "secret" messages back and forth to Peter Dale Scott (1929 - present), a Canadian born, former English professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a former diplomat and poet. Scott has been critical of the American foreign policy since the era of the Vietnam War. 

To have learnt from terror
to see oneself
as part of the enemy
can be a reassurance

This maverick-like scholarly gentleman dressed up in his "polished / gaiters with a buttonhook" minds the Darkness like no other conspiracy theorist, toying dangerously with abstract didactic principles his influence upon modern day conspiracy theorists vacillates between confessional and scholarly. Secret reports indicate that the Lobster contains many of his lesser known conspiracy citation theories in the margins. 

The "deep state" of conspiracy theories, such as the ones floating around the Internet, have muddied the waters for the members of the international brotherhood of parapolitics by publishing outlandish, blatantly ridiculous conspiracy theories that make the real theorists dating back to Spain in the mid-13th century look foolish along side them. 

It is now difficult to separate the good CIA from the bad CIA. 

As with all potentially valid conspiracies, one must first look to the depth of coverage offered by the theory, its detailed documentation. The absence of rhetoric in these secret and/or public reports help to uncover and destabilize government take-overs and cover-ups. 

Leutze's painting artistically depicts The Columbus Conspiracy in a way that we might better understand the motives and plots of the valid conspiracies that have followed. It is subtle, refined, and complicated. The mechanisms involved involve aspects of government procedure, legal processes, and economics principles of which most world citizens are not well-versed. 

It is for these reasons and more that true conspiracies, such as The Columbus Conspiracy, continue to thrive by challenging the entire worldview to conduct their own historical research, starting with the basics. Once you know the laws, you can begin to formulate the questions that unravel such conspiracies. 

Until then, visit your local city hall or corporate headquarters and gaze up at the paintings of the men and women whose portraits still hang, forever watching over us while we busy ourselves investigating everything but that which seems too simple to matter. 

The Legend of Haarlem Shield
Pieter de Grebber (c 1600 - 1652/53)

Haarlem ontvangt het zilveren zwaard en het schild met de vier sterren van de Duitse keizer Frederik II vanwege de verdienste van de stad tijdens de vijfde kruistocht; de verovering van Damiate (1219) met hetzaagschip. Het verhaal staat bekend als de Wapenvermeerdering. Deze tekens sieren sindsdien het wapen van Haarlem. Het schilderij hangt in de regentenkamer van het stadhuis in Haarlem.

English translation:

Haarlem receives the silver sword and the shield with four stars of the German emperor Frederick II because of the merit of the city during the fifth crusade, the conquest of Damietta (1219) saw the ship. The story is known as the Weapon Propagation. The characters since then adorn the arms of Haarlem. The painting hangs in the rain room of the town hall in Haarlem.