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L. C. Moss


The Same Stuff

Christmas tree farm

Behind my brother’s suburban home just outside of Columbus, Ohio city limits is a stand of evergreens, mostly spruce and fir, some pines and even junipers. I looked out upon them this morning and thought of the diversity among them. Different conifers, different adaptations and appearances. Unlike deciduous trees, they have adapted to keep green throughout the winter months instead of dropping their leaves and going dormant.

“All different but the same” I thought to myself, musing about that one mother tree that all conifers evolved from. “I wonder how far back that might have been, 70 million years to the Late Jurassic? Who knows?” Well someone probably has it figured out, but certainly not me, not a paleobotanist, nor a botanist at all. I would guess that conifers were around far, far longer. Maybe longer than deciduous trees. Maybe even to the Carboniferous period, before even the dinosaurs.

I thought back to the three whitetail does that almost jumped in front of the car I was driving one night a few days before. Warm blooded mammals. Same as me but different. I remembered reading how counterintuitively, mushrooms and other fungi are closer to animals genetically than they are to plants.

All different, yet all the same stuff.

I contemplated the closest tree to me, just across the wooden fence separating my brother’s property line from the stand of conifers. It was a tall juniper. The stand belonged to a larger property, a Christmas tree farm that had been there for many years, before the suburbs grew around it. The property was already marked for development, and apparently had even been sold, though the sellers were still tenants until the developers were ready. In the meantime they were able to continue operating their business.

These trees, at the far end of their property were all far too mature to be household Christmas trees; most well over 15 feet tall. The originally German tradition, adopted by North Americans in the US and Canada, of harvesting an evergreen as a ritual Tannenbaum or Christmas Tree has largely died out, with the urbanization of populations. A few people still buy real Christmas trees from urban lots that set up in November and disappear the day after Christmas, but most, if they set up a tree at all, do so with an artificial, plastic totem, sometimes bearing only the vaguest resemblance to any plant found in nature.

I sat there looking at the tall juniper, wondering how long it had been there, when it was planted? It was almost certainly more than a decade old, meaning it had sprouted from a seed before I left my home city, a decade before. Columbus gets more rain in December than snow, but this year, my first back for winter in quite a few years, was very much a “white Christmas.”  Today was sunny, and the temperature was well above freezing. The snow was melting but there was still plenty on the ground.

“That tree and I, if we go back far enough, have a common ancestor,” I reminded myself. I looked down at the snow-covered lawn. The only footprints were that of my wife. Coming from the tropical Andes, this trip was her first time experiencing snow, and she had earlier trekked around the house recording the experience to share with her friends via her smartphone.

I thought about the earth under the snow. I have often said of Ohio, my home state, “This is the soil I am made from.” At this moment I remembered that it is also quite literally, the soil that the juniper, and the firs and the spruce are all made from, and the dormant oaks, maple and beech trees. The walnut and buckeye trees. The winter wheat we passed in a field a few days before. We are all the same stuff.

I couldn’t help but think about idiotic human squabbles and divisions over illusions like race, the passports we hold, and religion. I looked out over the serenity of the pines, the spruce, the fir, there in peace and stillness. Different but together, different but also the same.

I thought about careless, unnecessary pollution, and on an individual level, simple litter. We poison ourselves. We are everything around us. The idea that we live apart from nature is as fictional as a pantheon of Greek gods living atop Mount Olympus. We throw things out, into rivers that flow elsewhere or winds that blow away, but the Earth is round. There really is no elsewhere. It is a matter of perception, and a matter of time.

Under the seas, the continents are all connected. The same water flows in all ocean and the same sky rains upon all of us.

We are all the same stuff. Every lichen, every mushroom, every protozoan, cedar, crocodile, moose and salmon. Every Samoan, Swiss and Senegalese.

We are all the same stuff.

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According to Accounts Earthly Experience

The Barefoot Poet From Persia

Image by Daniel Kirsch from Pixabay
I never complained of the vicissitudes of fortune, nor suffered my face to be overcast at the revolution of the heavens, except once, when my feet were bare, and I had not the means of obtaining shoes. I came to the chief of Kufah in a state of much dejection, and saw there a man who had no feet. I returned thanks to God and acknowledged his mercies, and endured my want of shoes with patience.
– The Gulistan, or Rose Garden
Sa’di (pen name of Muslih-ud-Din, Persian poet ca. 1184-1291)
Image by Daniel Kirsch from Pixabay
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Do You Have A Soul Or Spiritual Self That Exists In An Afterlife? Heaven or Reincarnation Perhaps?

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Think of it this way. Hopefully you learned from science class when you were a child how water evaporated from the oceans, lakes, rivers, and land into the atmosphere. If they didn’t teach you that, just remember that when you put wet clothes out in the sun or mop the floor, they eventually dry. That water goes into the air. Eventually that air, as it rises, cools and can hold less water in solution. That is why you see clouds in the sky: either puffy ones of water droplets, or wispy ones of ice crystals.

Eventually that water condenses into larger droplets and gravity can act upon them. This we know as rain, or if it is cold enough, snow. Yes, sometimes we can get sleet or hail, but you understand the point.

Now, that raindrop has a point in time when it condenses and you can identify it as a discrete entity, apart from the surrounding water vapor. It starts to descend towards earth. Depending upon how high it is when it is formed, air currents, etc. It will take a certain period of time to reach the Earth’s surface.

Now, think of you, or your “self” as that raindrop. You are made of something more immutable. In the case of the raindrop that would be water itself. But that raindrop exists for a period of time and then it falls into the ocean, or is absorbed into the earth, and no longer exists as an identifiable discrete raindrop.

However, the water has not been destroyed.

It hasn’t been destroyed; it hasn’t even been damaged. The “stuff the raindrop was made of” is just fine, only the “self” of the raindrop, its definition as a discrete object is gone. The water that made up that drop of rain flows from the ground into creeks, then into rivers, then into the ocean, eventually evaporating, and possibly forming another raindrop. It’s a cycle. If it forms another raindrop eventually, it isn’t the same one, but it is made of the same essence, part of all the water on the planet.

That water it was made of probably existed for billions of years and will probably exist for billions more. Even far into the future when the sun is running out of hydrogen and expands, boiling our planet into nothing, the water will exist as vapor in space.

Your essence existed before your temporal “self” and will continue to exist long after your phase change, or “death.” Life after death? If it makes you feel better, but remember your “self” is just an illusion, or at most, a temporary imprint, like an image in a kaleidoscope that is there one minute but gone the next.

This isn’t something to fret. You lose your consciousness every time you go to sleep. But do you dread sleep because you lose consciousness? No. Likewise, your essence, your “essential stuff” is practically immortal. Only the image of you as a “thing unto itself” is an illusion. The body decays, the mind loses its acuity, our loved ones “die.” We die.  But just like the water in the raindrop was already there, and will continue to be, your essence was already there and will continue to be, but you must let go of the self, the attachment to the “I” in order to embrace this.


Are we literally like water? No. Pilots will tell you “The map is not the terrain; it is a representation of the terrain.” This is a framework for understanding, not literal dogma. In the business world where I come from, we have frameworks; they are ways of categorizing and organizing thinking. Management consultants have frameworks, research analysts have frameworks.

Think of it this way: I can measure something in inches or centimeters – or for that matter miles or knots. If I say something is 1,000 meters or 0.6 miles, I am saying the same thing but from two different frames of reference. And even then, the measurements are human artifices to describe our environment—but they are descriptions of our environment, they are not the environment. The raindrop allegory is a framework to help you understand reality, but it is not reality itself. You of course are not a raindrop, and no allegory is perfect. Keep in mind that we are here to escape dogma, not create more of it.

Going back to the water and raindrop example, water can of course be created and destroyed, by combustion or electrolysis for example, just as all life on a planet can be destroyed. Again this is not literal, it is an allegory.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

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According to Accounts Applied Virtue

Do You REALLY Know What Jordan Peterson Says? Hint: Make Sure You Hear It Straight From Him!

Image courtesy

I was glad to hear that the Canadian Psychologist / Philosopher Jordan Peterson is back from his multi-year health nightmare, and appears to be on the mend. I have only been aware of him for the past year or so, and have become a big fan – but beware, a lot of people with political agendas and motives try to hijack his lectures or misquote him to their own causes and ideologies. If you look into Dr. Peterson, go directly to the source, not some web snippet or second hand source. This book, 12 Rules For Life is a good introduction for the public, though the specialist may prefer to go straight to his more academic texts such as “Maps of Meaning.”

I had heard some controversy around the author, Dr. Jordan Peterson. Then went to Amazon and read some of the reviews. Many were less book review and more insult or ad hominem attacks. “Who is this guy?” I asked myself. I remembered the Audible audiobook subsidiary of had a money back guarantee so I took the chance and purchased it. What a great book! I read it just in time to give a copy to my daughter for her 18th birthday.

There is nothing remotely controversial in the book, just great observation from a mix of Dr. Peterson’s own personal and professional experience as a clinical psychologist in Canada and college professor. The book is not preachy, it is not “thou shalt not” or anything like that. It is much more aligned with what Viktor Frankl called “Man’s Search For Meaning.” Some comments in other reviews made it sound like Peterson is some kind of religious fanatic. I saw the opposite (he seems to be an agnostic). As an acolyte of Carl Jung, he does see myths (his term) as powerful tools, and storytelling an ingredient of culture, and uses many examples from Buddhist, Babylonian, Egyptian and Germanic lore…and (shockingly) the bible to illustrate human nature.

With regards to the audio version, Dr. Peterson’s high, squeaky voice and rural Canadian accent does not make him someone who would normally make a living as a narrator, but I am glad he read it. Once you get used to hearing his voice, it is genuine and endearing. I am really glad I discovered Peterson through this book. I am now an avid fan.

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Applied Virtue

Man’s Search For Meaning: Short & Profound; Deeply Moving

By Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

I had heard about this book for most of my life but I had never gotten around to it. It’s very short, less than 5 hours. The first half is an autobiographical account of Dr. Frankl’s time in a concentration camp, but not in a “This happened to me, then that happened” kind of way, but more of his observations of human nature under extreme conditions, and what he was able to learn from the experience. The second half is about Logotherapy, or the psychological theory & clinical treatment framework that he developed after his experience.

Logotherapy says that the key to human thriving is to have a purpose, or mission in life, and many things that manifest themselves as psychological or emotional troubles stem from a misalignment between the way one is living his or her life, personally or professionally, and that individual’s meaning – his or her “why” or mission in life, or lack thereof.

It isn’t an inspirational or self-help book, though it will certainly inspire many, and I am sure has helped many. It is not written in the 2nd person, that is to say, the author is not telling the reader what he or she can or should do, though one could certainly apply the principles in the book. Dr. Frankl first explains his experiences, and then what he was able to take from them and formulate into an intellectual and therapeutic framework, with many examples from life and his later practice.

It is written for the public, so it is much more interesting than a medical or academic text. It is very accessible to the non-expert reader, in fact it should be on the reading list of middle and high schoolers. This short book is something I will definitely refer to for the rest of my life. Do purchase it. You’ll be glad.

Headline image by Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

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According to Accounts Earthly Experience

A Great Introduction To Jung’s Work, Thought & Life

I feel a little sheepish for diving into Jung relatively tardy in life, but better late than never. Before jumping into one text of his or another, I wanted to get a general idea of the foundations of Jung’s psychological theories, and also a little of the man himself.

Have you ever used the word “extravert” or “introvert?” You can thank Carl Gustav Jung for those concepts.

I found this book: “Jung – An Introduction To His Psychology” ideal, as it gave a very clear, well organized account of his philosophy and psychology – I think the man was clearly both philosopher and psychologist; and also importantly the environment and backdrop that was so important to his formation.

This to my knowledge was the only English-language survey of his work approved by the professor in his lifetime. I am glad I read it, I have a greater level of esteem for the man and admiration for his intellectual product. I look forward to continuing to delve into his books and papers. This is a great start, highly recommended.

Click the link below for your own copy!

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Meme Warfare Can Influence Election Day: Here Is How To Protect Yourself

Image by Роман Распутин from Pixabay

If you use Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or any other social media platform, you’ve likely encountered them: internet memes. These pithy, shareable, and often fun, units of culture have given people an entirely new way to visually convey their beliefs.

The term “meme” originates from the Greek words “mimema”, meaning “that which is imitated”. And today, memes live up to their name. They top the list of the most rapidly copied forms of media, often taking the shape of images, text, video – or a combination of all three.

Memes are clearly powerful. A single meme can spark a cultural movement. Although fun and playful, there is, however, a darker side to memes. A single meme can sway an election. The truth is that memes embody the latest form for propaganda. For example, in the 2016 US presidential election, many memes were made by a Russian troll farm to influence the outcome.

Five days away from the US elections, voters everywhere should understand what cybersecurity experts call “meme warfare”, and how it could influence the upcoming US election.

Enter Meme Warfare

Meme Warfare is a term that refers to using memes as individual weapons of information warfare. The primary goal of meme warfare is to influence or shape public opinion, and therefore informing human behavior. The internet has ushered in an era when deception can be perpetrated on a mass scale. Below are a few examples of meme warfare.

Example A:

Meme Warfare Example from Checkpoint Security

Example B:

Meme Warfare Example from Checkpoint Security

Example C:

Meme Warfare Example from Checkpoint Security

Example D:

Meme Warfare Example from Checkpoint Security

Implications of Meme Warfare on Election Day 

On Election Day, meme warfare has the potential to make a significant impact. Security experts at Check Point outline two possible scenarios in how meme warfare can play a role on Nov 3.

  1. Uncertainty of results. Memes claim a candidate has won a state or the entire election, when in fact it’s not true. This has the potential to dissuade voters from voting if they think the election is determined.
  2. Claims of foreign interference. Memes begin circulating that Russia or Iran meddled into the election, when in fact it’s not true.

How to Stay Protected

  1. Bring awareness to others. Teach your friends and family about meme warfare and to be slow to trust the claims of memes, as they could be purported by bad actors.
  2. Watch for bots. Often, bad actors create social media accounts that are really bots propagating disinformation.
  3. Verify information. Once you see a meme circulating, search and scan reputable media outlets that have done the diligence to confirm the information.

Headline Image by Роман Распутин from Pixabay

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According to Accounts

My friend said: “No guy from India would put up with me, but then my dad…”

By Ethan Kan from San Francisco, USA - Aasif Mandvi, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The Audible Original one man play “Sakina’s Restaurant” reminds me of a conversation I had years ago with a close Indian friend. She was born in the US, likes to party and drink beer and is a huge football fan (Go Buckeyes!) but her father is a Hindu religious figure, and her family is generally very observant. Her grandmother had just found a bride for her brother in India and he was preparing to marry.

“Well, what are you gonna do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“No guy from India would put up with me, but then my dad…”

This short, touching, and often pretty funny sketch grasps that theme, the culture clash of immigrants, especially from Asia in a very different culture, the family dynamics and conflicts, the motivations. I really enjoyed it. As the performer goes from one character to another sometimes it is a bit confusing as you try to follow and figure out what character he is now; but it is worth listening to more than once. I found this especially fascinating because I am a grandson of an immigrant who came to America from one country, married an immigrant to the US from another country, and now find myself an emigre from America to even another country. Still, I think, it must be easy, in my case all from the same hemisphere and largely the same culture, compared to someone coming from across the Pacific where things are vastly different, and every day you know you are an outsider.

By the way, my friend? She ended up marrying an American guy, but remained single until she was 40, avoiding the family crisis she would have caused. She and her husband are doing fine. I highly recommend this brief 1 person audio performance.

Photo by Ethan Kan from San Francisco, USA – Aasif Mandvi, CC BY-SA 2.0

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According to Accounts Applied Virtue Governance


Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Photo Credit: Sarah Josephine Taleb, c. 2010
“Modernity has replaced ethics with legalese, and the law can be gamed with a good lawyer. So I will expose the transfer of fragility, or rather the theft of antifragility, by people “arbitraging” the system. These people will be named by name. Poets and painters are free, liberi poetae et pictores, and there are severe moral imperatives that come with such freedom.
First ethical rule: If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud. Just as being nice to the arrogant is no better than being arrogant toward the nice, being accommodating toward anyone committing a nefarious action condones it. Further, many writers and scholars speak in private, say, after half a bottle of wine, differently from the way they do in print. Their writing is certifiably fake, fake. And many of the problems of society come from the argument “other people are doing it.”
So if I call someone a dangerous ethically challenged fragilista in private after the third glass of Lebanese wine (white), I will be obligated to do so here.”
~Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Antifragile
Photo Credit: Sarah Josephine Taleb, c. 2010
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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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