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L. C. Moss

Governance

Would You Want To Live In A Cashless Society?

Imagine living in a country where the government knows every single transaction you make, where every single transaction involves financial intermediaries, and at an electronic click, that government could prohibit you from even buying food from a street vendor because you have said something to annoy them?

Imagine living in a country where the government knows every single transaction you make, where every single transaction involves financial intermediaries, and at an electronic click, that government could prohibit you from even buying food from a street vendor because you have said something to annoy them?

What do you think? Would you like to live in a “cashless society?” Am I missing something in the bigger picture?

Photo: Loren Moss

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Existence

Not Fair?

Located 1,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, a reflection nebula called NGC 1333 epitomizes the beautiful chaos of a dense group of stars being born. This image is from NASA Spitzer Space Telescope.

The universe isn’t fair. If it were, there would be nothing to overcome and no need to struggle. We all have to deal with good or bad genes, born into splendor or squalor, good or bad parents, –the point is not to eliminate those differences: Nature ensures that they will always be there for all living things, and we are no exception. The point is to overcome them. In cards, you play the hand you are dealt. A good poker player is one who can maximize a poor hand to win. Same in life.

 

 

 

Located 1,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, a reflection nebula called NGC 1333 epitomizes the beautiful chaos of a dense group of stars being born. This image is from NASA Spitzer Space Telescope.

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Applied Virtue

Eight Useful Axioms For Living

Image by 2427999 from Pixabay
  1. Be good to yourself, be good to others.

  2. Do not fall for myth, legend or superstition.

  3. Follow principles, not men.

  4. Learn to control your emotions rather than allow your emotions to control you.

  5. It is fine to feel, we are human. But only make decisions based on reason & logic.

  6. Never stop asking why; never stop seeking understanding.

  7. The intelligent person is full of doubt, while it is the fool who is sure in his belief. (from Bertrand Russell)

  8. Never stop questioning. Challenge every thought you hold dear. Anything worth believing is worth scrutiny.

 

Image by 2427999 from Pixabay

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Applied Virtue

The Seven Worthy Values

Image by lbrownstone from Pixabay

The seven worthy values are the following:

1        Kindness

Without kindness, nothing else matters. If you are kind, you don’t need a single sacred text. If you are unkind, all the sacred texts in the world won’t help you. Be kind to all living things. If you eat meat, be merciful to your prey. Be respectful even unto the crops that feed you and all the inhabitants of nature. Remember, everything you take, you owe. Be kind to yourself as well.

Be kind but be strategic. Kindness doesn’t imply being a victim or made a fool of. Being kind does not mean being defenseless or tolerating abuse against yourself or against others; quite the opposite. Kindness requires vigilance and prudent opposition against injustice. Kindness does not mean sacrificing yourself to predators. After all, that is being unkind to yourself.

Kindness does require constant cultivation of compassion for all living things. True kindness requires seeing all humankind as belonging to your tribe—the only real group is the human group. Ethnic, religious, political, cultural divisions are all divisive and artificial. Kindness requires generosity, being unselfish, seeking the wellbeing of others; from your family to your neighbors to the people you have never met in far off lands. Everybody counts, no exceptions.

2        Reason

Our ability to reason is a gift from The Universe. Our ability to reason in a systemized way is one of the greatest differentiators between humans and every other living species on Earth. Reason is the foundation for our intelligence, and intelligence plus judgement equals wisdom.

Cultivating our reason to its ideal means that we have a healthy skepticism without falling into cynicism. We seek to see our surroundings with a realism that is neither unduly pessimistic nor excessively optimistic. We should seek to see the world as it is rather than as we are—a self-centered illusion.

Reason is a rejection of superstition and myth, but in order to do this, we must learn to recognize superstition and myth. Often they are so central to our culture,society and world view that we accept them without question. We see them as self evident.

Think for yourself! Don’t passively accept what you are told to think by others!

True reason is not as common as it seems, and calls upon logic.

We are human, it is natural that we feel, that we experience emotion, but our ability to make decisions based on what is rather than what we wish or pretend is the virtue of reason, evidence over wishful thinking. Challenging our beliefs rather than holding them sacred.

Of every value, reason is probably the hardest to embrace for most people, because it requires thought, and thought—unlike emotion—takes effort.

3        Decency

Be decent. Take others into account. If you drink, don’t be a drunk. If you love food, don’t be a glutton. There is a reason the finest restaurants tend to serve small portions. If you like sex, don’t be a pervert. Never sacrifice others to your own desires. The Buddha spoke of a middle path, neither ascetic nor gluttonous. Neither scarcity nor excess. Be a good steward of both natural and human resources. Take care of your environment. Keep yourself clean and keep the world clean. Consume we must, but we don’t have to fall into consumerism. It is good to enjoy life but avoid becoming materialistic. Evade the temptation of materialism. Material possessions are never virtues. Net Worth has no correlation to self worth. Decency means clean living. One doesn’t have to become an ascetic, one can enjoy life, but without becoming selfish, always taking into account our belonging and our responsibility to humanity and the world we live in.

4        Tolerance

You don’t have all the answers. Epictetus says “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” Business sage Ray Dalio says to “Be radically open-minded and radically transparent.” A study of history will show that “truth” is something that we have approximations of and then that gets refined as we advance in knowledge. Men once thought the Earth was the center of the universe. Then they thought the Sun was the center of the universe. Today, cosmologists explain that the concept of a “center” doesn’t really even apply to the universe. Surely in the future our understanding of the universe will continue to evolve, making our current understanding seem primitive and obsolete.

Anyone who tells you that he or she; or his or her group, creed, religion, superstition or belief has the monopoly on truth, they are certainly wrong, but you also must be careful not to commit the same sin. Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism said “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.” And the one who is most sure, is likely most wrong.

It is sad and silly how much blood has been shed in the name of “faith.” Crusades, pogroms, genocide, ethnic cleansing. “God likes us best!” they say. Today, in 2020 a brief look across the world sees Hindu against Muslim violence in India, Buddhist against Muslim violence in Myanmar, Muslim against Christian violence in Syria, Jewish against Muslim violence in Gaza, Christian against Jewish violence that even led to the creation of Israel.

How much blood has been shed over Color? Nationality? Culture? Politics? Reject all these false groupings. All humans are your brothers and sisters. This is not a call for “one world government or other such dystopian nonsense.” Government is best when it is local and most responsive to the people that it serves (not rules, serves).

What others do, how they choose to live, whatever myths they believe are none of your business as long as they are not impinging upon the liberties of others. Don’t like homosexuality? Don’t be homosexual. Don’t like meat? Don’t eat it. Leave others alone. Be tolerant. Live and let live. Don’t go around telling people not to do something you don’t like and blame it on God. “God said don’t eat that!” No he didn’t, you read it somewhere or someone told you, and you now want to beat someone about the head with your beliefs.

Just as Reason is built on a foundation of Logic, Tolerance is built upon Liberty. Liberty is the ability to live your life, to reach for your goals of your choosing and unrestricted by anyone else to the extent that you are not harming others or diminishing the rights of anyone else. Just as responsibilities follow rights, tolerance follows liberty. You should be able to live your life as you see fit, but with that is the tolerance that cedes the same right to others. For everyone to experience liberty, everyone must practice tolerance. Intolerance is the theft of the liberty of others. Never confuse liberty with entitlement. You have the right to seek happiness and fulfilment but no other person, group or government owes you happiness or fulfillment. Those states come from within, not from without.

5        Curiosity

Curiosity leads to intelligence and discovery. Practically every human discovery has come from curiosity. What is on the other side of that mountain? What is on the other side of that ocean? What is on the other side of the galaxy? What happens if I mix this with that? An intellectual is simply a person who loves learning for its own sake.

Without curiosity, there is no progress. Mohammed, the founder if Islam is said to have said “He who leaveth home in the search of knowledge walketh in the path of God.” Not everyone has the genetic build of an athlete, and sadly not everyone has a genius intellect, however even the most humble mind can be curious. No matter where we are, no matter what our IQ, we can seek to learn and to discover.

We have a duty to encourage this trait in our children. When a child asks “why” we have a duty to help find the answer, to explain and to teach, and to nurture this virtue. We all should strive never to lose this virtue and to encourage it in ourselves. Learning something new is an ingredient to a great day.

6        Humor

The ability to laugh is a gift from nature, and a powerful healing medicine. Take it in copious doses. Healthy laughter, not bitter laughter. Vicious laughter is injurious to both the subject and the object. Just as lifesaving medicine can be harmful when misused, when your laughter causes pain to others, you are also poisoning yourself.

Still a person with every other virtue but lacking humor is a failure. Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously: you aren’t getting out of here alive so lighten up. Epictetus reminds us that “It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Make sure you react often with laughter. A sense of humor is a prerequisite to a good life. Just as important as laughing yourself, spread joy to others by sharing smiles and laughs as often as possible. A life well laughed is a life well lived.

7        Wellness

Take care of yourself, take care of others. Wellness is mental and physical health, and nurturing your interconnectedness with humanity, your environment and the universe. Wellness goes beyond health, because not everyone can be healthy at all times; life throws curves at us sometimes. Important is to nurture whatever health we have, and our reaction to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

It is not pure vanity to take care of your body or to feel good about yourself. Learn to be happy with who you are and be the best that you can be mentally and physically. Monitor your stress, meditate, and consider yoga, which is meditation for the body. If you have trauma inside yourself that persecutes you, seek professional help to overcome it.

Again, physical and mental health are core, but wellness goes beyond this to our attitude, our serenity, our outlook.

If you internalize these seven values, they will serve you well. Keep in mind, your beliefs should serve you, rather than you serving your beliefs; and anything worth believing is worth scrutiny.

 

Image by lbrownstone from Pixabay 

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Existence

The Nature Of Belief

"Dr. Herschel's Forty Feet Telescope" anonymous engraver, published in A Complete and Universal Dictionary, 1812. Copper engraved print. Size 20 x 18.5 cms including title, plus margins. Ref F4507

Science vs. _____________________?  Science is not something to “believe in” anymore than “reading” is something to believe in or not. Science is simply a method, hence the phrase “scientific method.”

Science is a method of coming up with a hypothesis or theory, and then testing it either via experiment or observation. Test the hypothesis and welcome others to try to disprove it! Science is simply a method for understanding our surroundings.

There are alternatives.

We can believe things because we are told to, whether orally or in writing. Often, fear is used to enforce such beliefs. Peer pressure is also employed. “Are you a believer?” is a common question in parts of the US, especially the South. The person being questioned is being challenged with regards to his or her adherence to a set of Christian Protestant orthodoxies, usually some flavor of Baptist or Pentecostal. In Pakistan, one cannot hold office unless one professes the correct (orthodox) beliefs—in their case, Islam.

We can also come to belief through induction.

    1. I ate a peanut.
    2. I got sick.
    3. Ergo, peanuts make me sick.

Well, maybe. You can repeat this, eating more peanuts, suffering through the consequences, and go from maybe to probably, but that doesn’t go far enough. Scientific inquiry will want to know why the peanut makes you sick—if in fact, it actually does. Remember, correlation does not equal causation. Perhaps the peanuts had residue of a pesticide that was actually making you ill, and not the peanuts themselves.

A poisonous snake in Brazil, the Bothrops Jararaca, causes people to faint when it bites them. When researchers came to understand why this happened, because the venom had strong hemodynamic effects, they were able to create life-saving angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor medicines to control blood pressure, such as Lisinopril, based on the venom.

People might also believe things simply because they want to, with explicitly no interest in objective reality. Astrology works this way in many people, as do many “new age” beliefs such as “the healing power of crystals.” They don’t work, but certain people seem to enjoy believing they do.

So science does not tell people what to believe, rather it is a method for figuring out what to believe. As any tool, it is important to choose the correct one for the circumstances. For example, science is not philosophy or ethics. Science generally does not speak to what one “ought” to do. Science is not a judge of good or evil, virtue or vice.

Science can be applied to history. Archaeology and paleontology are examples of this. It can be applied to the future also, such as some disciplines within cosmology that apply physics to predict the long-term behavior of the universe.

So when someone asks: “Do you believe in science?” another way to frame this is: “Do you have faith in science?” The thing is, science does not demand faith; quite the opposite. It demands scrutiny, testing, challenge and revision when new knowledge is discovered that makes obsolete the old. Do you want to cross a highway bridge built on faith? I don’t. I want to cross a bridge built based on tested, challenged, and verified materials science when it comes to the materials used in its construction—the types of concrete and structural steel selected, the metallurgy, the geology determining how the foundation is constructed, and engineering (applied science).

Remember, anything worth believing deserves scrutiny. If it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and skepticism, to testing, experimentation and verification, it’s not worth believing.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me below.

Image: “Dr. Herschel’s Forty Feet Telescope” anonymous engraver, published in A Complete and Universal Dictionary, 1812. Copper engraved print. Size 20 x 18.5 cms including title, plus margins. Ref F4507

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According to Accounts Earthly Experience

A brief history of Easter

"Pagan Antiquities, New Grange, Co. Meath" copper engraved print published in Francis Grose's Antiquities of England and Wales, 1786.

According to Biblical lore, the rabbi Yeshua (Jesus) traveled to the great Jewish Temple at Jerusalem with his entourage to celebrate Pesach (Passover). This is where the Christian Passion narrative then takes place. The word in Spanish for Easter is Pascua, also similar to the word in many Romance languages based on Latin. The word comes from Greek & Latin Pashca which is from the Hebrew Pesach – Passover.

The English word Easter comes from the pagan goddess Eostre – a manifestation of the Goddess of the Dawn.  The date of Easter was established by decree of the Roman Emperor after convening the First Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The decree mandates that Easter is on the first Sunday after the full moon following the March Equinox. Eastern Christianity (the Orthodox churches of Greece, Russia, Serbia, Ethiopia, etc.) bases its Easter on the Gregorian calendar.

The consumption of ham comes from the Spanish Inquisition. During this time, the Catholic church along with the Spanish Government under Queen Isabella and King Fernando would torture or expel Jewish or Muslim subjects from the Iberian Peninsula. Many of the muslims were expelled to North Africa, many of the Jews resettled in Poland.  The way that one would prove one’s Christianity to the inquisitors was to eat ham; since pork is neither Kosher or Halal, Jews and Muslims would be religiously proscribed from consuming it. The eating of ham was considered a declaration of one’s Christianity.

Image: “Pagan Antiquities, New Grange, Co. Meath” copper engraved print published in Francis Grose’s Antiquities of England and Wales, 1786.

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According to Accounts

Pray To (insert deity here) For Delivery From The Coronavirus! (?)

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Person A:   “We must pray to (Jesus, Allah, THE LORD, Ancestors, etc.) to save us from Coronavirus!”

Person B: “He could have simply prevented the Coronavirus from afflicting us in the first place.”

Person A: “He wanted to test our faith.”

Person B: “What would we think of a father who set his child on fire to see if they would cry to him for help?”

Person A:

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay
Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay
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According to Accounts Earthly Experience

Three (plus) Great Reads / Listens While You’re Contemplating The Pandemic (including a freebie)

Image by Marisa Sias from Pixabay

No doubt, we live in interesting times, and 2020 isn’t shaping up like anyone predicted. Around the world, we have been ordered, cajoled, or beseeched to isolate ourselves in our homes, or whatever spaces we might find ourselves occupying.

If you are like me, you don’t like being unproductive. For me, a good day is one where I feel I have made progress, accomplished something, helped someone…and learned something.

Here are three of my favorites, available in traditional, Kindle e-Book, or my favorite, Audiobook.

The End is Always Near—podcasting deity Dan Carlin released his first book late last year, almost prophetically. In the book, he talks us through so many case studies in history when civilizations have collapsed, completely in the case of Nineveh, for example, or partially such as during so many earlier pandemics: The Black Death, Bubonic Plague, Smallpox.

Though Dan is a great storyteller, he is also a good teacher, and a mental provocateur. As a bonus, audiobook listeners get to hear the book read by Dan in his inimitable voice.

21 Lessons For The 21st Century—Historian, philosopher and social critic Yuval Noah Hariri published this forward looking book several years ago, but it is still absolutely timely. As we are already well into the 21st Century, living in a world inconceivable only halfway through the last, how must we adapt as a species, a civilization; how do we build on lessons learned from the past rather than repeat the same bloody mistakes?

If you are not familiar with Yuval Noah Hariri, here is an article he wrote regarding how we might think about, and react to this Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. There is also an audio option to listen. If you like this, you’ll love his book. His other books are also worth your time.

Man’s Search For Meaning—It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how,” but it took Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl to demonstrate it through his own life experience and then apply his observations to create his own discipline of psychotherapy called “Logotherapy.”

But this book is no dry psychobabble. The first half of the book is Frankl’s autobiographical recount of his time in concentration camps. Not in the way of “this happened to me, then that happened,” but rather his observations into human nature. What extreme conditions bring out in people, both good and bad. Then he attempts to understand “why? Why do we behave the way we do? What are the predictors and triggers?”

The book is not long. The audio version is less than 5 hours. In the latter part he then describes, for a non-specialist, what his “Logotherapy” is. Different from most psychological therapies, it is not necessarily for neurotic or mentally ill people. Unlike other forms of psychotherapy such as psychoanalysis, Frankl explains how it is useful for many people, perfectly mentally healthy, but who may be facing challenges coping or adjusting to life’s events…perhaps such as a viral pandemic and simultaneous economic recession.

 

Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges

If you want an escape into the world of fiction, try “The Lottery in Babylon” by Jorge Luis Borges. The short, provocative story, only a few minutes in length, will challenge your notions of fortune and luck. While right now, you may be worried whether your number will be called when it comes to a viral infection. Maybe you have been infected. This book is not about viruses or sickness, but it is very much about “your number being called,” literally. Read it. You will never forget it. The short story is now in the public domain and you can download it right here.

 

A bonus recommendation:

Do the current times have you down? Steven Pinker makes the case for optimism in his seminal work “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” One of today’s greatest living psychological researchers deviates from the subject matter of his previous works such as “How The Mind Works” and “The Stuff of Thought” to state the case that human civilization overall is getting better, that we are becoming less violent, less warlike, and more enlightened; even though news and social media seems like it is trying to convince us otherwise.

 

What are your recommendations? What did you think of these? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Headline image by Marisa Sias from Pixabay

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Applied Virtue

What Are You Going To Do WIth This Crisis (Opportunity)?

Whether your crisis is this pandemic, financial, or otherwise, stoic philosophy teaches us that it is an opportunity, a gift in fact, to define yourself by your reaction to your situation and what you do with it

Take it as an opportunity to evolve, to remake yourself.  The situation “is what it is,” but what you do with it is up to you.

Finding opportunities in a crisis is not a bad thing because the world needs to move forward.” – Michael Boricki

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Applied Virtue

The Old Man & The Viper

Photo credit Loren Moss, Scottsdale AZ 2015

There once was an old man who lived alone in a small cottage just outside of a town. The man was constantly tormented by an infestation of rodents that ate his food, gnawed at his meager belongings, and left filth and excrement about.

So the man trapped a viper and let it loose in the house, knowing that snakes prey on rodents.

Soon, all the rats were dead. So was the man.

 

Lesson: The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.

Photo credit LC Moss, Scottsdale AZ 2015

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