The Feel Good Part Of You

“Have you ever heard of a part of you called “Your Healthy Mental Functioning?”

“Well, I know we all want to function in a healthy manner.”

“Yes, we all do, but healthy functioning is innate, inborn, your natural state of mind.

It’s your common sense, your peace of mind, it’s really your higher self. It functions when you are not ego thinking. It’s your source of emotional stability.

It’s the part of you that isn’t bothered if the circumstances of your life are bad.”

“How do you get in touch with your healthy functioning?”

“You have to trust that it does exist and have a desire to tap into it.”

“What does it feel like?”

“When you feel a sense of internal stability no matter what happens to be going on around you. It’s when no matter what happens, you keep your cool.”

“Sometimes I feel in charge of myself and other times I feel like I’m losing my cool, why is that?”

“Sometimes you’re into your healthy functioning and sometimes you’re NOT.”

Pause for a moment of pondering

“Your healthy functioning is working when you feel like everything is OK and your perspective is right on target, and NOT distorted.”

“What’s the main thing that your healthy functioning does for you?”

“It allows you to live in the Here and Now, and do the best you can, also it makes you remember that the most important part of life is ENJOYING IT and FEELING PEACEFUL.”

“How does your Thought System compare with Healthy Functioning?”

“Your Thought System is concerned with how you compare to others, your ego pursuits, and your supply of wants and needs. It concerns itself with what happens in your life, good or bad.”

“What about enjoyment and happiness?”

“Happiness. Is a state of mind, not your life circumstances.

Happiness and enjoyment come under your healthy functioning. It’s the part of you that is content. It’s your feel good part.”

“So, healthy Mental Functioning does exist?”

“Absolutely, it always exists when your mind is quiet and clear of negativity and it is NOT focused on your problems.”

“The most important idea is:

LIVE YOUR LIFE IN THE HERE AND NOW AND BE GRATEFUL THAT YOU HAVE THAT MOMENT.”

Over 80? The Truth!

Being over eighty is a moment of TRUTH. HERE ARE SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS:

Hey baby, YOU ARE OLD, period!

You are unlikely to charm anyone at a party with your smile and you’re preoccupied with wondering about hearing aids and walking sticks.

But anytime after 65 you can run into moments of TRUTH, because of aging.

So, you want to survive the elements of old age. You’ve survived up to now, for some there is a breaking point and for others there is not.

Through life you have hardships, things that are difficult and there is NO sign that anything will get better, that’s the point where people quit. But some don’t, they KEEP GOING ON!

Aging is a physical and emotional trial.

The physical part gets our attention first, many aches and pains and breakdowns even as we try to keep going, exercising and eating healthy foods.

But it’s the emotional part of aging that determines how “graceful” we age.

How we respond to aging determines whether we are content or slip into depression.

Your ATTITUDE is everything!

The last act of the Play of Life takes everything we have to keep on moving forward into the UNKNOWN.

So, lets say “YES” to the life we have. Sure we are scared and unsure but we are still here and we can still do our part.

I don’t run any marathons now. But I never did!

We don’t expect our small ailments to go away—just to be semi-treatable.

Pills are our daily diet.

What do we want and need?

A reason to get up in the morning—hobbies and socializing.

We need people.

We are INVISIBLE to young people. They just see the grey hair, NOT the person inside.

Society seems to write off old people—The Lost Generation!

If you’re lucky you have a wife, you need companionship.

Over 80? By this time you’re more tolerant and understanding.

I could go on another 5-10 years, or just another day.

So it’s not really worth worrying about anything.

Young people can be patronizing to old people—they think we haven’t lived, but we have, we’ve seen and experienced many things.

When I look back on my life, I wonder what I’ve done with it.

I took up writing in my retirement and it keeps me busy.

I’m happy!

I never think about the future, NOT much left anyway, I just live every day and enjoy it.

At this stage, health is more important than money.

On a good day I feel 21 but on a bad day I feel 100!

The worst thing about being old is the aches and pains and the frustration that you can’t do as much as you would like.

Everybody changes along with their circumstances. Some mellow and others become cantankerous!

Since I am an atheist, I find it hard to come to terms with my own mortality—that someday I will cease to exist and life comes to NAUGHT!

Technically speaking, I, as an atheist, should be better off and able to deal with death much easier as opposed to worrying about whether or not I’m getting the Holiday Inn or the Sahara Desert to spend eternity in.

Everything living eventually dies.

People are perhaps the only species aware of this in advance.

Knowing this can be depressing or it can empower you to make every day count.

The only time you have is NOW. You have a choice, spend your only time in existence with a good outlook or spend it in anxiety.

Don’t worry about not existing, for the most part of the past 14 billion years of the lifetime of our world, you did NOT exist.

And after you die, you will return to that state of nonexistence.

You must realize our NATURAL state is nonexistence!

Mother Natures handbag has three items in it:

Matter—Energy—Time.

The definition of aging is the effect of energy on matter over time.

Aging from the Outside—wear and tear on the body from outside sources—sunlight causes skin wrinkling ext.

Aging from the Inside—there is the chemistry of metabolism.

Metabolism allows life by assembling billions of chemical reactions that drive life.

Aging is the flaw, the price we pay for being alive.

The chemical reactions generate TRASH, which accumulates over time to yield what we call aging. Cells die, some get renewed, but NOT all.

So, aging is WEAR AND TEAR, from external and internal energy sources.

Luckily we can self-repair. But the repair mechanism reverses only a part of aging.

So, the EQUATION FOR AGING is:

WEAR AND TEAR MINUS PART REPAIR EQUALS AGING

In conclusion, remember this statement I said on my 80thbirthday:

“As I look back on my life, which has been full of tragic moments—I see it as more of a COMEDY than a TRAGEDY.

One of those comedies in which, while you are laughing your guts out—you feel your heart breaking.

The man that takes life too seriously is doomed.”

ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE!

What About the Future?

“Tom, what about the future? Are we headed for utopia or dystopia or maybe Protopia?”

“What is Protopia, Dave?”

“Protopia is a state that is better than today or yesterday. Where progress is steady and measured with the least amount of aggravation.”

“Sounds good. It’s probably NOT possible to have a world where everyone lives in harmony.”

“Dave, how do we make the world a better place, what principles will guide us?”

“Well, reciprocal altruism is one principle. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.

Another one could be: seek happiness with someone else’s happiness in mind. Never seek it through force or fraud.

The same goes for liberty.

Also find rational reasons for your actions by consulting others first to get constructive feedback.

Finally, contribute to the survival and flourishing of other beings.”

“I think we’ve already done a lot towards Protopia, Dave.

We’ve reduced the size of wars, abolished slavery, don’t tolerate torture or the death penalty, expanded suffrage, defended civil rights, legalized same sex marriage and we are trying to protect the animals.”

“That’s right, Tom. Also centralized power will be NO more and location will be irrelevant because you can go anywhere digitally, instantly.”

“I get it, Dave, there will be NO power centers because power will be distributed all over the globe and placed in the handed of citizens locally. The old idea of political power will dissolve.”

“People will come together in geographical cyberspace. With communications such as Skype, talking to people anywhere on earth will be possible with NO barriers to being connected.”

“Hey Dave, I think the motto should be: Think Globally, But Act Locally.”

“I like it, Tom. City states will replace nation states!”

“I think the best government is INVISIBLE, in the sense that no one will notice them until something goes wrong.

When public systems are running smoothly, people don’t think about them.

But that’s not true of bloated bureaucracies, they’re NOT invisible because they are not designed to solve problems speedily or efficiently, if at all!”

“How can we replace bureaucracy, Dave?”

“With an organizational structure that is flexible and can cope with change and solves problems quickly.”

“Bureaucracies evolved in response to rigid hierarchical and slow changing nation states, premised on the presumption that there is one right way to handle things and then standardize it.”

“Adhocracy is the alternative to Bureaucracy. It is premised on innovation and problem solving in response to changing conditions that require unique solutions to new problems.”

“Who would be the power brokers?”

“City states would work with each other globally, and the most powerful person would be the Mayor.”

“Come to think of it, Dave, cities are NOT burdened with issues of borders and sovereignty, which restrict nation states so consequently they don’t work together.”

“The world would be ruled by cities, local democratic entities rather than top-down power or hierarchy.”

“I got it, Dave, we would become a city planet in which activities bypass national boundaries.”

“Tom, cities are the future NOT nations. We’ve become so used to nations as the norm, we forget the concept is barely 200 years old, where as cities date back 10,000 years.”

“The goal would be a global community with a communication system such as the Internet.

Knowledge available to anyone, anywhere and anytime.

A World Economy with markets where anyone can trade with anyone else without interference from governments.

A global culture in which ethnic differences fade away and all people feel they are part of one global species.”

“The democratic way is about a process, in which power is shared equality and liberty is realized within the community. Cities can be the building blocks for global governing.”

Silence while we pondered.

“Well, what do you think, Tom?”

“I think the nation state is failing us on the global scale.

The city was the habitat of first resort and now in today’s globalizing world it has become democracy’s best hope.”

“Yes Tom, I see the emergence of Smart Cities that will be on the cutting edge of urban innovation and promoting intercity cooperation.”

A GLOBAL PARLIAMENT OF MAYORS—BOTTOM UP DEMOCRACY, CITIES WITHOUT BORDERS, THIS IS THE FUTURE!

Facing Fears Is Liberating

Another Tom and Dave discussion.

“Hey Tom, do you know the paradox we are born with?”

“Can’t say that I do, Dave.”

“Let me enlighten you. All humans are born with urges toward Self-Preservation.

We want to survive, to stay alive, yet we live with the knowledge that this desire will inevitably be thwarted!”

“How did we get into this situation?”

“Well Tom, we evolved into a species that became extremely intelligent, so we were conscious of many fears. The greatest fears are:

The Fear of Pain and Suffering.

The Fear of Death. This fear is incapacitating because it literally stops us from living enjoyably.”

 

“Dave, I do know there are two immortality beliefs.”

“Tell me, Tom.”

“Religious belief is one that people believe literally that our existence continues in some form after death.

Then there’s Symbolic belief in which people believe they will “live on” through their work, through people they have known, through memorials marking their graves, and finally through their children.

These two beliefs help us manage the terror that comes from knowing that our physical death is inevitable.”

***

“Right on, Tom. The other resource for managing terror is a feeling of personal significance known as Self-Esteem.

Self-Esteem helps us to believe we are important beings rather than just creatures destined to be obliterated.”

 

“Facing Pain and Suffering is a problem isn’t it, Dave?”

“Yes my friend, but we can do it. As long as we are embodied (incased in a body), we will be vulnerable to Pain. Because of this we are susceptible to illness and accidents. We must face the pain of getting old and seeing our body wear out. Pain is a fact of life, but when you face it you will be free of the fear.”

“Life has its sweetness and its dreadfulness. To live enjoyably we MUST ACCEPT life as it is.”

“Right on Tom. Now what about suffering? Suffering occurs when the mine responds NEGATIVELY to pain.

So, it follows, Pain in life is inevitable while suffering is OPTIONAL!

“What brings on suffering, Dave?”

“Suffering is generated by RESISTANCE, which is wanting the moment to be other than it actually is.

Some people respond to illness, in themselves or loved ones, with fear, panic and anger.

This is resisting the pain of life and the more we resist, the greater our suffering.”

“What do we do, Dave?”

“Deep breathing is great therapy. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. You will feel relaxed and you will be in the Here and Now.”

 

“Dave, what about facing the grim reaper?”

“When you face death you will free yourself from the fear and give you a greater appreciation for every moment you have.

So, reflecting on and facing the grim reaper is not only liberating but essential to living a full satisfying life.”

“I see, Dave, face our fears and we are liberated to enjoy the Here and Now and our minds will be tranquil.”

“Yes Tom, and often we forget that our lives are TRANSITORY, NOT PERMANENT, plus we have a habit of worrying over everything, but when we face death we recognize that worrying is Not worth the fight and agro.”

We both were quiet for a minute soaking up the knowledge.

“Tom, it will help to liberate you if you remember these five statements:

I am subject to aging. Aging is unavoidable.

I am subject to illness, mental and physical. Illness is unavoidable.

I am subject to death. Death is unavoidable.

Someday I will be separated and parted from the people that are dear to me.

What I do, good or bad, I will reap.

 

“Tom, when you are deep breathing be aware of each breath and then:

Notice how great it is to be alive this day.”

Silence to ponder.

“In conclusion:

If we can live in the Present and Accept that all things are impermanent, we can enjoy this moment, right now.

ENJOY THE DAY—THE NOW IS ALL YOU HAVE!!!

Why Do We Believe?

A Tom and Dave Discussion—That Popular Blog Series.

“Hey Tom, I think “BELIEF” would be an important subject to discuss because I find it surprising that so little research has been done on it, since it exerts such a great influence over human life.”

“I agree, Dave, since we are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our reasoning, we need to find out what belief is all about.”

“Tom, do you remember the TV series The X Files?”

“Yes, I do, I even remember the catchphrases:

“Trust No One”, “I Want To Believe”, “The Truth Is Out There”, “Question Everything”. It was a good series.”

“That series was all about skeptics and believers in a struggle between reality and fantasy, fact and fiction and government secrets.

Do you believe the truth is out there?”

“Oh yes, Dave, I’m a skeptic BUT I want to believe and I want to know.

But how can we know the difference between what we would like to be true and what is actually true?”

“I guess Science is the answer. We live in The Age of Science where beliefs are supposed to be grounded in solid evidence and empirical (verifiable observation) data.”

“Why then, do 75% of people believe in religion and only 45% believe in science such as The Theory of Evolution? Doesn’t science mean anything to the 75%?”

“That’s disturbing, but it seems to me beliefs come first and reasons for them follow. Our brains find patterns in the world, and these patterns are formed from both meaningful and meaningless data and then we infuse them with meaning until they become beliefs. From then on, we find confirmatory evidence to support those beliefs.”

“Give me a simple answer to Why People Believe?”

“The nitty gritty is that our brains are Belief Engines!

Data flows in from the senses and the brain looks for patterns and then infuses them with meaning. It tries to explain why things happen and in doing so it shapes our understanding of reality.”

“Very interesting.”

“Here’s another interesting point:

Reality exists independent of human minds, BUT our understanding of it depends upon our beliefs.”

***

“Tom, have you ever heard the statement:

Your Worldview is NOT the World!”

“Yes I have, Dave, everything we know about reality enters our brains via one or more of our five senses.”

“That’s right, Tom, a person living in a specific location on Earth will encounter No more than 1% of all the info and experiences that are available on the planet.

We won’t read all the books or visit all the places and we won’t meet all the people or see all the animals or insects.

The “world” each of us labels as “reality” is in fact a CONSTRUCT in our brain, built from the miniscule slivers of data we take in through our senses.”

Two questions, Dave:

Why does our world feel like the whole world to us?

Why do we believe anything BEYOND the concrete, present-moment data gathered by our senses?”

“Our world is what comes in from our senses. But to survive in the world we need our beliefs to give us confidence.

Since full awareness of reality is NOT an option, evolution has equipped us with a brain capable of generating an illusion (model) of reality in our small worlds.”

***

“Hey Dave, I’ve heard that “beliefs are absolutely necessary to life”, is this true?”

“That’s right, my friend, without beliefs we would have no context to understand ourselves and our lives.

We would be ineffective. Our brains generate beliefs because they are necessary for biological survival.

We actively pursue and trust as true, info we have not personally verified in order to experience our lives in a context we feel good about.”

“Tom, do you know how our brains convince us that we are RIGHT in our beliefs?”

“I guess it’s quite a process involving intuition and reasoning and cognitive biases (feel or show an inclination for prejudgment for or against someone or something).”

“Right again, Tom, I think we better examine this in detail.

The motto is: Intuition First, Reasoning Second. That’s how our minds handle things. Once we have beliefs we maintain and reinforce them through a number of powerful cognitive HEURISTICS that guarantee our beliefs are correct.”

“Heuristics?”

“Yes Tom, a heuristic is a mental method of solving a problem through intuition or trial and error. These heuristics are sometimes called Rules of Thumb, better known as cognitive biases.”

“How does that method work?”

“Okay Tom, I’ll play the Budda. A joke to lighten your day!

No matter what belief system is in place—religious, philosophical, political or social—these cognitive biases shape how we interpret info that comes through our senses and molds it to fit the way we want the world to be but NOT necessarily how it really is.

This is called BELIEF CONFIRMATION.”

“Very interesting, Dave.”

“Lets look at four of these Biases:

Hindsight Bias—the tendency to reconstruct the PAST to fit with the PRESENT.

These are the “Monday Morning Quarterbacks”—after a weekend of games we all know what plays should have been called but weren’t!

We are critical of leaders after events have happened—thinking they should of seen these events coming.

Self-Justification Bias—is the tendency to RATIONALIZE decisions after the fact, to convince ourselves that what we did was the best thing to do.

Sunk-Cost Bias—the tendency to believe in something because of the COST sunk into that belief.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost billions with thousands of war dead and casualties, but the leaders said “we have to stay the course” and soldiers cannot die in vain.

Bias Blind Spot—the tendency to recognize the power of biases in other people but to be blind to their influences on our beliefs.”

“Wow! That’s quite a list.”

“Well Tom, The Truth Is Out There!

Science is so potent because it employs a well-defined method for getting answers to questions about the world. It uses empiricism, evidence and observational experiments.”

“All I can say, Dave, is Question Everything and Trust No One.”

“Right on, Tom.”

There was a moment of silence to soak up all the points of the discussion.

“The human species who weighs all the decisions with cold hard logic and rational analysis probably never existed.

Mr. Spock is fiction!

If you analyse everything you would stand frozen in indecision—Analysis Paralysis.”

“I guess Dave, a leap of faith beyond reason is often required just to get through the day, let alone make big life decisions.”

“That’s right, we are all trying to make sense of the world and nature has provided us with a double-edged sword that cuts FOR and AGAINST.

On one edge our brains are great info-processing machines capable of understanding many things.

On the other edge, we are also capable of self-deception and illusion, fooling ourselves even when we are trying to avoid being fooled.”

***

“Well Tom, in conclusion I will say:

 

I WANT TO KNOW—THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE AND SCIENCE IS THE BEST TOOL WE HAVE FOR UNCOVERING IT.”

The Human Apparatus

Two men were sitting on a park bench, one reading a newspaper, the other, people watching.

The First Man laughed and said out loud:

“There’s an article here that says humans are primates and we share a lot of DNA with apes. What do you think? Is that a put down or NOT?”

The Second Man, who had a long beard, eyed the First Man up and down and then said:

“I’ve got a bigger put down.”

“Oh yea, what’s that?”

“I think a human is an Apparatus!”

“An Apparatus? You mean like an Engine?”

“Yes! What a human is, is due to his genes, the influence of his hereditary and environment, and his relationships. He is moved and directed by OUTSIDE INFLUENCES. He originates nothing.”

“Boy, that’s a put down! I don’t want to think of myself as an engine.”

“Even your thoughts are not originated by you. You are an Apparatus, an Engine, believe me.”

“Well, I have a thought right now that you are talking Balderdash!”

“I get those opinions all the time, BUT you did NOT create that opinion.

It was formed from thoughts and opinions gathered from books, conversations that have landed in your brain out of the brains of your parents, friends and ancestors.”

“Like I said, Balderdash!”

“You can’t even say you put the borrowed thoughts together, that was done automatically by your mental apparatus. You have no command over your thoughts.”

“What if I change my thought?”

“You can’t by yourself, but OUTSIDE influences can do it.”

“Suppose I want to enter into a study with the purpose of changing my opinion and I succeed. That is NOT the work of outside influences. It’s my thought and I originated the project.”

“No, you are wrong. Your project grew out of this conversation with me. No man originates anything. All you thoughts come from the OUTSIDE.’

The First Man was getting irritated.

“Okay, answer me this, what about the creations of novelists and painters?”

“Oh, you mean their IMITATIONS. They created nothing! They observed and wrote and painted what they observed.

No apparatus or engine can create!”

***

After a minute of silence, the First Man spoke up loudly:

“I suppose you don’t believe in Free Will.”

The Second Man laughed.

“There is NO such thing!

Does the man possess it when he gives the beggar his last dollar and goes home wondering what he will eat that day? No!”

“He had the choice between helping the beggar or leaving him suffer. It was his Free Will at work.”

The Second Man said, stroking his beard:

“A choice was made, between his physical comfort or his spiritual comfort.

This is NOT Free Will. I call it forced choice at best, the apparatus at work.”

“I say the man determined it and in doing so, exercised Free Will.”

“Look, in the story of the man and the beggar, we clearly saw he really had NO Free Will.

His temperament, his training and his education had molded him. He was compelled to help the beggar and then he would save himself from spiritual pain. He did NOT make the choice, it was made for him by forces he could NOT control.”

“You keep confusing me. How would you conclude this conversation.”

“I would tell you that the human being is an Apparatus, driven by the purpose to satisfy his own desires and achieve peace of mind.

Our wills are not of our own making, given the unconscious origins of our conscious minds. So, Free Will is an illusion.

Primal emotions are in our unconscious, such as fear, mother-love and guilt.

We have all these in our unconscious that influence our behaviors.”

The First Man got up and walked away scratching his head.

CONVERSATIONS CAN BE ENLIGHTENING OR IRRITATING OR BOTH!

Visit Australia via My Imagination

“G’ day mate!” said the “bush’ hunter sitting next to me at the Outback Pub that was on my Australian itinerary.

“Hi”, I said timidly, as I sipped my ice-cold beer.

This guy looked exactly like “Crocodile Dundee”.

Rugged looking and wearing an Akubra, a wide brimmed hat made out of rabbit fur felt. He had the same sleeveless vest and brown jeans that Dundee wore with brown boots.

But my attention was drawn to the knife hanging from his belt.

“You noticed my knife, let me show it to you,” he said, drawing it out of its sheath.

“Boy, that’s a knife!” I said, inspecting it.

It had at least a 10 inch blade and a 5 inch handle, 15 inches long in total!

Dundee put it back in its sheath and smiled.

I imagined all the various uses of that large knife.

***

I looked around at the walls of the pub, they were plastered with foreign money, women’s lingerie, and a photo of a scantily clad lady with the caption, “the night when things got interesting”.

The menu was on the wall featuring Camel Sausages and BBQ Kangaroo meat.

Yum, yum! I didn’t have the guts to order. Anyway, I wasn’t hungry.

“You have camels in Australia?” I asked Dundee.

“Yes mate, they were imported from Arabia in the 19th century for transport and heavy work.”

“That’s interesting,” I said, getting off my stool.

I shook hands with Dundee, he had an iron grip, and I imagined his hands around a crocodile’s neck!!!

***

I walked out into the sunbaked plains of the Northern Territory.

There were several white painted Aboriginal dancers performing a ceremonial ritual in front of me. They weren’t sweating at all, but it was pouring off of me!

Country music was filtering out of the Outback Pub, quite a backdrop for the scene in front of me. A lone man was playing a didgeridoo, which is a long wooden tube which is blown to produce a deep guttural sound.

***

About 25 feet from me in a clump of bushes were some large spiders and a snake.

I wondered how deadly they were!

There was a river nearby and the locals said it was filled with crocodiles. I decided NOT to go for a swim!

In the distance, about a quarter of a mile, I saw a kangaroo hopping around. I could just make out a joey (baby) in her pouch.

As I walked closer to get a better look, the kangaroo stopped and stared at me.

This Roo was huge, about 6 and ½ feet tall and 200 pounds!

I backed up and bumped into Dundee. I bounced off him like a rubber ball.

“Watch out, mate, you’ll hurt yourself,” he laughed.

I steadied myself.

“You’re watching a “large foot”. They have powerful hind legs and large feet for leaping. They can reach speeds of 35 mph and cover 25 feet in a single leap.

Also, they can jump over 6 feet high!”

With that, Dundee jumped into his dusty pickup truck and drove away down the dirt track.

***

I sat down on an outside bench and closed my eyes…when I opened them, I was back in Sydney by the harbor.

I computed I must have traveled almost 2000 miles from the Northern Territory to Sydney!

I thought about the vastness that gives Australia its character.

The 48 contiguous states of the USA and Australia are just about equal in area size! But the population of Oz is only 21 million compared to the US at 325 million!

***

I noticed I was dressed in my best suit and then I remembered I was going to a concert at the Sydney Opera House.

What a contrast from the wildness of the outback to the luxury of the Opera House!

The Sydney Opera House is one of the most famous and distinctive buildings in the world. It is Australia’s icon.

At a distance, it looks like 6 overlapping shells. Very unusual geometry, I was amazed looking at it.

I went into the concert hall, it was huge, almost 3000 seats and it contains the Grand Organ with over 10,000 pipes!

***

The next day I was scheduled to climb the Sydney Bridge!!!

It is a huge arch bridge, 440 feet from the top to water level, and 160 feet wide.

I was determined to face my FEAR of heights!

They give you a safety briefing, then they suit you up and clip you onto a safety wire. You follow your guide up and up on ladders and catwalks, stopping at scenic points.

At the top you get a breath taking view of the entire harbor. The wind was blowing a gale!

When you descend, you receive a certificate of completion and a photo in your jump suit! I will pin this on my study wall!

***

I then took a coach tour down the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne on Victoria’s south-west coast.

It has a variety of scenery, there are breath taking cliff top views over-looking the water, watching the waves roll in. I saw the 12 Apostles, they are craggy limestone stacks rising out of the Southern Ocean. I also saw some seals lying about.

***

I had to see the Great Barrier Reef. I took a glass-bottom boat tour of the reef.

Fancy some snorkeling?

The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland.

It can be seen from space and is the biggest structure made by living organisms.

It is composed of billions of coral polyps. The colors were mind-boggling.

It stretches over 1400 miles!

***

Back in Sydney to complete my Australian trip, I decided to take in some night life.

I went to the Shady Pine Saloon, where I was greeted by a taxidermied deer and Johnny Cash on the stereo.

Where was I? In Sydney or Nashville?

I ordered a shiraz wine which Australia is noted for.

It was a well-balanced wine and went down easily.

I had three glasses!!!

***

Then I went to The Absinthe Salon Pub. This was the highlight of the night!

The Salon is decorated in the Art Nouveau style and the waiters were dressed in 1890’s outfits. Absinthe is the drink favored by artists and writers including Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh.

They sit you down at a table equipped with an Absinthe fountain. The fountain allows iced water to drip over a lump of sugar into the green aniseed concoction.

Some of these drinks are 75 proof!

You are only allowed three because of the strength.

If you had more, you might see a bright green Kylie Minogue fluttering about!!!

**

I’ll leave you with some trademarks of Australia:

Kangaroos, koalas, platypuses and other critters, outback pubs, BBQ’s, and Aboriginal dances and art.

Australian inventions include the bionic ear and the black box flight recorder.

Canberra, New South Wales, is the capital.

****

Australia is as Big as your imagination and mine is very BIG!

Visit Cuba via My Imagination

Now that I’m retired from traveling long distances, I’m going to travel the world in my head, using my imagination.

***

“What’s up, brother?” said the cool cat smoking a cigar, dressed to the nines, sitting next to me in the Cuban Club.

“I’m just admiring your clothes, my friend,” I said, sipping my minty Mojito ( a Cuban cocktail of rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water and mint).

“Thank you, I try to look good,” he smiled.

He was wearing a white fedora, white shirt with red tie, red a black stripped vest, a white sports jacket, grey trousers and two-toned, white and black shoes.

***

I was in Havana, the capital of Cuba, checking my itinerary of things to do in Cuba.

“I’m hungry, what’s good here?” I asked.

My friend in the cool suit recommended a Cuban favorite, called Ajiaco stew, featuring potatoes, beef chunks, plantains, corn and old beer. Home cooked.

I ordered it, along with another Mojito. It was delicious. A man was plucking away at a double bass fiddle in the corner—good music to eat by.

***

I wandered over to the book rack and looked at all the 1959 revolutionary magazines on display—Castro and Che Guevera.

I walked out into the hot, sunny afternoon and heard the cheers of the crowd in the nearby baseball park. Baseball is the most played sport in Cuba. It was introduced by American dock workers in the late 1800’s.

***

I wandered around some more, past the old colonial houses with terraces.

I came upon a lot with 1950’s classic American cars, of which collectors would kill for.

From Oldsmobile to Chevrolet, Buick to Ford and Plymouth.

These were the Cuban’s everyday vehicles.

I asked the proprietor if I could rent one. He said he would drive me around in one for a fee. I picked out a Cadillac Eldorado and hopped in the passenger side.

“Why all the old classic American cars in Cuba?” I asked my driver.

“When Castro came to power he banned imports on foreign cars. So all the 1950’s cars were frozen in Cuba.”

The suspension was still ultra cushiony, a beautiful ride in a gigantic sedan.

We passed some beautiful scenery and some poor neighborhoods.

My driver let me off at a waterfront street festival. I walked around watching and listening reggae bands and jazz musicians. And there were salsa dancers on every corner.

***

I decided to try a Havana cigar. It was long and fat, made of fermented tobacco leaves.

I puffed a few times and then I made the mistake of inhaling.

I became light-headed. It was strong on flavor and quite an experience!

I imagined people getting HIGH on them.

***

So, on my imaginary trip to Cuba I experienced all the trademarks of Cuba:

The rum, the food, the salsa, the classic American cars, the poverty and the color of the festivals, and of course the cigars.

I saw the colonial architecture and the mixture of African, Caribbean and Latin culture with all the melodic rhythms that lure tourists from around the world.

***

I also learned some statistics on Cuba:

It’s 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

Havana is the capital.

The population is 11,500,000 approx.

The official language is Spanish, but many speak English as a second language.

***

Cuba is a bizarre nation, from it’s colonial relics to it’s palm-backed beaches.

The Paradoxes of Crime and Deviance

“CRIME IS ON THE RISE!” Screams the headline.

Tom and I were concerned about this alarming headline so we decided to do a study of crime and deviance.

“Tom, what do our values and norms have to do with crime and deviance?”

“Well Dave, our values are general beliefs about what is right and wrong, the standards which are worth maintaining and achieving in society.

Norms are society’s rules which define correct and appropriate behavior in society, in other words, how to live together in an orderly way.”

***

“Dave, how do we CONTROL society in order to have the rules adhered to?”

“It stands to reason just knowing the values and norms of society doesn’t mean that people will always conform to them.

So we have agencies that carry out social control.

The formal agencies are the police, courts, probation service and prisons. The Criminal Justice System.

Informal agencies are the family, peers, education, the media, religion and the workplace.

All these agencies seek to encourage conformity by rewards and punishments.”

We both went silent for a couple of minutes trying to soak up and ponder this info.

“Tom, what’s the difference between deviance and crime?’

“Deviance is the failure to conform to social norms.

Crime is behavior which is against the law-law-breaking.

And I will add: A law is an official legal rule, formally enforced by the Criminal Justice System, involving legal punishment if it is broken.”

“People talk from a commonsense view but the trouble with common sense is that there are usually opposite opinions on any subject, people arguing always think their view is the common sense one.”

“So Dave, crime is difficult to understand and control.”

“Yes Tom, crime has been around as long as humans and the public outcries against it are as loud as ever.”

***

“Is crime and deviance built into the structure of society?”

“Some people think crime is a NORMAL state of affairs.”

“WOW! DAVE, THAT IS A SHOCKER STATEMENT!!!”

“Tom, we’ll get into that later, but here’s another view of crime.

Some people think criminals are simply BAD people, and the only way to deal with them is to punish them.”

“Well Dave, if you go back to the 1600’s, punishments were severe. People were hung for stealing a loaf of bread, some had their hands cut off.”

“That’s right, Tom, BUT those brutal punishments did NOT work. Crime kept increasing.”

“How come, Dave?”

“Because those severe punishments made the people callous, insensitive.

That was a bad person getting punished and this official violence made people feel that human suffering counted for very little.

Now days some people assert criminals have bad genes and it’s inborn and nothing can be done.”

***

“People ask themselves: Why would someone enter a life of crime and what can be done to help them back to the straight and narrow?”

“One view is that criminals come from broken homes in bad neighborhoods.

These stresses produce people that are insecure and hostile which leads to crime.”

“Dave, probably growing up in poverty and disillusionment these youths don’t feel attached to regular society and they lack opportunities to change their social condition.”

“Some people feel that criminals could be rehabilitated. So we have tried to make prisons NOT entirely for punishment BUT for reform and rehabilitation. Provide criminals in prison with recreational and educational facilities.”

We pondered the rehab view.

***

“Tom, it all sounds very altruistic BUT it simply has NOT worked. Crime has not fallen. The prisons provide a criminal learning base, inmates learn how to be better criminals. The prisoners uphold the criminal style of life even in prison.”

“So Dave, deprivation doesn’t always lead to crime. Not everyone from a divorced family becomes a crook. Not everyone who is poor becomes a criminal. Deviant people are also found in Middle-Class areas as well as poor ones. Then there is white-collar crime perpetrated by Middle and Upper Class people.”

***

“There is another theory, it’s called the “Labeling Theory”.

Not every criminal gets caught, but when they do, they get labeled as a criminal. And this label gives them a criminal identity.”

“So, the criminal identity follows them through life and it perpetuates the criminal career.”

“Yes Tom, but the most radical view of crime is that “Crime is Socially Created”.

Thus it is the Capitalist System that makes some people poor and others rich.

Crime can be seen as one version of economic struggle.”

“I see what you are trying to say, Dave, you can blame crime on social stratification. The division of society into a hierarchy of unequal social groups: rich, middle and lower and that creates conflict.”

“Some people say if you could eliminate class domination, you could eliminate crime.”

***

“Dave, what is the view that encompasses all of this?”

“This will surprise you, Tom. The view declares that crime is NORMAL, even necessary in all societies!”

“What! Dave you’ve got to be joking.”

“I kid you NOT, Tom. Crime and punishment are a basic part of the RITUALS that hold society together.”

“I still can’t believe it.”

“Think about it Tom, the process of punishing or reforming criminals is NOT to have an effect on the criminal, BUT to perform a RITUAL for the benefit of society.”

“Maybe it makes sense now that I remember the definition of a RITUAL. It is a standard ceremonial behavior carried out by a group. Carrying out rituals over and over is what keeps a group together.”

“Now you’ve got it Tom, in the case of punishing criminals, the group that is held together is NOT the criminal group but the REST of society, the people who punish the criminals.”

“Can you give me an example of one of these rituals?”

“The whole courtroom scene is a ritual of the enactment of justice.

The judge symbolizes the Law. The lawyers argue each side of the case and looking on is the public, who are the object of the ritual.

The trial is staged for their benefit. The trial reaffirms the belief in society’s laws and it creates emotional bonds that tie the people together.

The public is impressed that the laws exist and they are NOT to be violated.

These rituals convince society of the validity of having RULES.

The criminal is the raw material for the ritual.”

***

“People pay a lot of attention to crime, don’t they Dave?”

“Yes, because it reasserts their feelings of righteousness and their membership in a respectable society.”

“So, crime is built into the social structure. The rituals of punishment dramatize the moral feelings of the society and holds them together.”

***

“I’m wondering, Dave, if the social structure is producing crime, is there a limit to how much it produces?”

“Well Tom, crime NEVER gets to the saturation point.

The law-enforcement side does control some crime, BUT the real reason is that crime sets it’s own limit.”

Tom pondered Dave’s point.

“Tell me Dave, how does crime set it’s own limit?”

“It’s ironic really. Lets look at what happens when crime becomes more and more successful.

The criminal organization becomes a society of their own. It creates their own hierarchy, they make rules and they enforce these rules on their own members.

The more successful a crime organization gets the more it progresses towards normalcy. It starts to approximate an ordinary business.

The very success of the organization tends to make it more law-abiding and they abandon their criminal tendencies. It is forced to create a morality to survive.

Crime actually then, drives out crime. Ironic!”

***

“In conclusion, crime is built into the social structure. The Criminal Justice System is NOT very effective in counteracting criminality, BUT because crime punishment is used in rituals, it cements society together.

Also, crime has its own limitations, as it becomes organized, it goes back into the normal world, whether it likes it or not.”

***

“One more thing: Deviance and crime may NOT always be harmful to society!

Without deviance or even crime there would be NO possibility of innovation and change.

The rebels and reformers, the campaigners for peace and justice have all been labeled as criminals.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 30 years for alleged terrorist offences in fighting a white racist society in South Africa, thus changing it and he became President of South Africa.

Che Guevera fought in the 50’s against a corrupt regime in Cuba and the regime was changed and he became Minister of Industry in Socialist Cuba.

It’s often the non-conformists and law-breakers who have contributed to changes which we would regard as a benefit to all.”

Free Speech Under Threat

A friend of mine made a joke about how easy it is to get a degree now days. Youngsters opt for weak minded, mickey mouse, courses such as ,”Travel and Tourism, Events Management, Film Studies, etc.

These are not as challenging as Physics, History or Maths and Science.

He was challenged by the group saying he was making fun of people taking legitimate courses. The challengers told him:

“You Can’t Say That!”. You’re offending the people taking the courses, you’re putting them down as ignorant. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

***

My friend was taken aback by the outburst.

When he told me of the incident, I immediately thought of how people give lip service to Free Speech in principle but being against it in practice.

It seemed to me Free Speech had fallen out of fashion.

So I got together with my friend, Tom, who was the perpetrator of the offending remark, to discuss how free speech is under threat.

***

“Tom, give me a definition of “Politically Correctness.”

“Well Dave, it’s the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are seen to marginalize, insult or exclude groups of people who are disadvantaged or discriminated against.

Language and actions that are or could be offensive to others should be avoided.”

“Right on Tom. This fear of being offensive brings to mind the Charlie Hebdo massacre, where 12 journalists were shot in the Paris offices of the satirical magazine by Islamist gunmen in revenge for mocking Muhammad.”

“Yes, that was terrible.”

“Charlie Hebdo had every right to draw their cartoons, but some people criticized them.

It seems the motto of our age is: “You Can’t Say That!”

“Dave, I am of the opinion that the only speech I would censor is: Speech that proposes or incites physical violence on people or property because that violence is illegal.”

“I agree Tom, but I don’t agree in the belief of a person’s right to suppress whatever they find offensive. Hate speech are moral views a person objects to. But one person’s hate speech is another’s passionate belief. I live by the motto, “Question Everything.”

***

“Dave, lets go over the main enemies of Free Speech in today’s world.”

“Okay Tom, I’ll start with OFFICIAL CENSORS in government who want to control offensive speech—enter the hate-speech laws.”

“I’ll follow up with UNOFFICIAL CENSORS. The Twitter mobs and online petitioners trying to silence everybody whose views are not to their taste.”

“And finally, there is SELF-CENSORSHIP. Because of the first two, people shy away from expressing any strong views.”

***

“Remember Dave, what liberty means with Free Speech in mind:

It means the right to tell people what they do NOT want to hear!”

“We need to lose the fear of free speech. There are times when you feel embarrassment because you said something different from what is expected and then you feel you should apologise the moment anybody takes exception.”

“Freedom of speech is about YOUR RIGHT to think what you like and say what you think, As long as we have expressed the truth as we understand it and then allow others the freedom to respond.”

***

“The Establishment promotes the fear of free speech because of their loathing of the masses, who might use the freedom as they see fit rather than as they were told.”

“Remember, as Tom said previously, direct threats of violence are NOT a free-speech issue.

But anything that restricts a person’s right to express an opinion, tell a joke, or their right to criticize somebody else for doing so—is a free-speech issue.”

“With the right of Free Speech comes responsibilities. We have a responsibility to speak what we believe to be the truth and leave others free to disagree.”

***

“In conclusion: We must fight for the RIGHT to think what we like, and say what we think.”