Tag Archives: truth

Tijuana Border

Exploring Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico is quite literally the place of legends. When I told friends and collegues I was planning a trip across the border during my stay in San Diego responses ranged from “You’re going to get your head chopped off” to “They have the best hookers on the planet!”.

Tijuana Border

The same information was presented on the internet. There were two extremes – brave travelers singing the praises of wild Tijuana or conservative vacationers giving dire warnings of entering the third world. So – if you are considering a trip to Tijuana here are a few pieces of advice I learned during my stay.

1. Getting From San Diego to Tijuana

The good news is getting from San Diego to Tijuana is simple and inexpensive. For around $5 you can easily get from the airport to the border. Simply take the 992 (bus) to America Plaza Station. At America Plaza take the Blue line (Trolley) to the border. The last stop is San Ysidro transit station. You can walk across the border from there – just follow the Mexicans across the border. (Airport to Border = 1 hour commute)

Getting across the border is as easy as walking across. There is no one there checking paperwork or so much as guarding the entrance. However; to get back across you will need your US passport. (We’ll talk more about that later.)

2. You’re in Tijuana. Now What?

Once you’re in Tijuana you can find almost anything in this world that your heart desires. That’s both good and bad. You can purchase a women for the night, gorge yourself on cheap tacos and $2 beers, or simply enjoy the Mexican culture and buy a few trinkets from the local shops. Depending on the kind of entertainment you’re looking for – the night is yours.

Negotiating: Please buy my Shit!

No matter what you want to do plan on people soliciting you at every turn. Remember – you are a gringo. You are they kind of person that comes across the border and buys stuff. You buy trinkets, you buy food, you buy alcohol, and you have US dollars in your pocket. These shop owners and local business people will hound you relentlessly in effort to part you from your all-mighty dollar. This isn’t a bad thing just know how to deal with it.

One trick of the trade is be sure to negotiate prices. It doesn’t matter if you are buying a trinket in a shop or haggling entrance prices at a club. I found that if you are at a shop aim for 60% their asking price. Be prepared to walk away and negotiations will almost always be in your favor.

Water and Air Quality

Do not drink the water unless you want to shit yourself for the next few days. Any water that goes in your mouth should be from a bottle – this includes brushing your teeth, washing your food, and ice. When in doubt don’t eat or drink anything suspect.

Also, the air quality is horrible. For some reason the people of Central and South America refuse to keep a car with a cadalytic converter. Mexicans seem to remove this part like it’s cancer. For this reason people with asthma or allergies might want to pack an inhaler.

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Women, Drugs, and Nightlife

Everything you’ve heard about Tijuana is true. Hookers are cheap, strippers are cheaper, and the beer is almost free. My advice – stick to the beer.

However, since you aren’t going to use my advice here’s some information. The strippers in Tijuana are much more forward than those in America. $5 is likely to get you more than you expected and touching seems to be encouraged. If you go to a strip club expect to be continuously solicited, groped, and harassed by naked Latin women.

Beer should cost you about $2 a piece and Tequilla around $3. If you are paying more than that find another place. Settle on prices for EVERYTHING in advance – this will help you avoid the Gringo tax. If you can, try to pay for each drink as you go or do a really good job of keeping up with your tab. A common scheme is to over charge drunken Gringos at the end of the night.

Avoid hookers and drugs. Nothing good can come from that. Most stories of murder and robberies involve some combination of these two things.

Getting Around

Pretty much everything you want to do in Tijuana is within walking distance. If you must take a cab do not use the guys immediately across the border. Use a random cab in the city (which are everywhere) – they are substantially cheaper. As with everything settle on a price beforehand. Almost everyone speaks English, but this isn’t guaranteed. Learn a few words of Spanish before you go. 

3. Getting Back to the U.S.

Now that you are sufficiently hung over and undoubtedly filthy from a night of legend-making you probably want to come home. What you probably don’t realize is that the U.S./Tijuana border is the busiest border on the planet. Hundreds of thousands of people cross DAILY! Wait times can range from 1 – 3 hours so plan accordingly. (Mornings are usually busiest)

To get back in the country you will need a U.S. passport. Border control will ask you a few questions, check your identification and you’re home free.

Hint: If the line is really long there are guys offering to expedite your trip to the front of the line for $5. They will lead you to a van and take you to the front. Mexican border authorities, who are apparently in on the scheme, will move you to the express lane. I used this option one morning when the line was unmanageable and it took about 30 minutes to cross the border (instead of 3 hours). Please use this option with caution and always be mindful who you are getting in a van with.

Once you get back across the border you can take the Trolley right back to San Diego. The trip takes about 45 minutes and cost $2.50.

Tijuana

Guatemala

Question: Do we control our own fate?

Holden and I had a long conversation about our lives the other day. We discussed the many decisions we’ve made over the years and how each of them has led us down the path to where we are today. The question came up: Do we control our own fate?

Holden was of the opinion that much of what happens to us is the result of “right place, right time” (he estimated 20%).  For example, the new job I recently landed, he argued, was largely due to being at the right place at the right time to be given the opportunity. I disagreed almost completely.

We control our own destiny, damn it!

In my experience we control our own destiny – not dumb luck or chance. Sure we encounter obstacles along the way, but over the long haul our success ultimately hinges on how we respond to them. Take Holden’s example of my new job. I would argue I was given the opportunity based on a lifetime of good decisions.

I developed leadership skills by putting myself in positions to learn them, I chose the right degree path in college based on employment outlook, I attended a reputable university, and I chose a career with a fair number of opportunities. Even with the many, many mistakes along the way the overall result of these decisions put me in a position to get the job – not chance.

Holden then brought up a good point. What about instances of pure bad luck that is out of your control like a serious injury or illness?

I concede that these obstacles do present a distinct challenge in life, but in most cases they are simply another challenge that can be overcome.

Attitude Conquers ALL

One example sticks out.

I know two individuals who were put in a wheel-chair due to the uncontrollable actions of someone else. One is my close friend’s wife. She was put in a wheel chair after being shot in the back while out to lunch. The act was completely random. In fact she had just started the career of her dreams and she was out with co-workers (a result of her good decisions, ironically).

The second person I know in a wheel chair is my mother. My mother was hit by a drunk driver and paralyzed for life.

These two women both faced life altering circumstance, but their response and subsequent lives couldn’t be more different. The young women who was shot has continued her life, is excelling in her career, and is leading a very happy life.

My Mother – well – she is not.

The difference? The character and attitude of these two individuals. This leads me to believe that while life can be difficult – ultimately it is up to you to succeed.

Am I Wrong?

But perhaps I am over-simplifying.

Their circumstances were not equal. No one’s are. The young women who was shot had an excellent home life. She was brought up with self confidence and love. Her support group was vast. Perhaps this gave her the tools she needed to succeed?

My mother was abused. She didn’t ask for it. She was taught to be self conscious and insecure.

Neither of these women chose their parents – that was dumb luck. Does our control end at our circumstances? Can we control the mental habits we are born with or that we are trained with as a child? Am I wrong?

What about people born in Somalia or other war-torn and third-world countries? I’m quite sure a great attitude will not conquer all if there is nothing to eat.

Which is it?

So which is it? Is it chance or do we control our own destiny? Maybe it’s some combination of both? Maybe Holden is a little smarter than I thought and maybe I’m just a little bit afraid to admit some things really are out of my control.

religion

How to have a relationship with an Atheist

My wife is Catholic. She was born and raised in church. She finds comfort in the community, the family bond, and the idea that God is actively involved in her life – keeping her safe. She enjoys the traditions, loves Christmas time, uses prayer as a form of meditation when life is tough. She’s also married to a non-believer. Me.

My wife is aware of my agnosticism and honestly she doesn’t like it. She can’t relate to my way of thinking. She says I’m all logic and reason with no emotion. Of course that is partially true, but on the same token I fail to understand why she is pure emotion. In a way we balance each other out nicely. I remind her to think it through while she reminds me to have a heart. I don’t think this dynamic is unusual in a relationship.

Discussions on Religion

Sometimes we have brief discussions about religion, but I’m a bully. My thoughts are logical and well thought out – I have data points and examples to prove my thesis. My wife relies heavily on the emotional aspect, faith, and why religion just “feels” right. We quickly realize we aren’t speaking one another’s language and aren’t likely to convince the other of anything.

I don’t want my wife to be Atheist though. There’s something about her conviction that I really love. If religion is where she finds her source of strength and balance who am I to take that away. She’s peaceful and doesn’t use religion as a weapon – overall it’s a positive thing in her life. I suppose it’s no different than the way I use my own thoughts and moments of meditation to get through life.

Finding Happiness with Difference

Sometime people wonder how a believer and a non-believer can live a happy life together. The two ways of thinking seem almost diametrically opposed to one another. They’re not.

We still share the same morals. In principal I believe that many of the moral lesson taught by Jesus were good ones – just as I believe the lesson taught by the Buddha or Gandhi are good. So often instead of focusing on our difference – I focus on what works for us.

Good and Bad on Both Sides

While I am basically against the brainwash of organized religion I do not deny that there are good and bad people on both sides of the religious spectrum.   The Priest that married my wife and I is one of the most wonderful people I have ever met. He is thoughtful, educated, and everything a man of the cloth should be. Carl Sagan, an Atheist, was by all accounts also a great man. I’ll bet if the two of them met they would have a lovely conversation.

I think my overall point, from a non-religious perspective, is that life is more about who you are as a person than what your particular beliefs are. Be a good person – religious or not religious. That is how my wife and I treat our relationship (though we’ve never officially said that). My wife is a wonderful, caring, beautiful person – much better than me. I try to be a man of integrity who puts his family first – treat people with respect. We both WANT to be good people, that’s an important step.

What about the Kids?

How will I raise my kids? I’ll raise my kids with truth and without bias. I’ll teach my children what the historians say, I’ll teach them to about the world’s religions, and a variety of viewpoints. My wife will undoubtedly teach them about Christianity, the tradition, the love, and the comfort of religion. Both are important.

I have complete trust in my future children’s ability to choose what life suits them best – without my wife or I forcing them into anything. What is important to me isn’t if my children are Christian’s or Atheists, but rather if they are good people.

Giving my children the ability to think for themselves is the greatest gift a father can give. Along with that comes the trust that my future children can make decisions for themselves. Love, support, trust, and freedom – that is what my children will receive. I don’t think anyone can ask much more than that from their parents.

Where they fall on the religious spectrum will be up to them.

Thoughts?

Conspiracy Theories

Sometimes, late at night, I find myself drifting to that strange part of YouTube. The part where extremely intelligent people find strange patterns in events and history then connect them almost ingeniously to form some sort of malicious meaning. About the time I begin to tell myself “Man, there might be something to this.” I realize I’m tired, delirious, and it’s time to go to bed.

Sometimes I do stumble upon a few interesting things. Here are a couple of confirmed “conspiracies” if you are interested in such things.

MK Ultra

Project MKUltra is the code name for a covert research operation experimenting in the behavioral engineering of humans (mind control) through the CIA’s Scientific Intelligence Division. The program began in the early 1950s, was officially sanctioned in 1953, was reduced in scope in 1964, further curtailed in 1967 and “officially halted” in 1973. The program engaged in many illegal activities; in particular it used unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens as its test subjects, which led to controversy regarding its legitimacy. MKUltra involved the use of many methodologies to manipulate people’s individual mental states and alter brain functions, including the surreptitious administration of drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as various forms of torture.

Libor Scandal

The Libor scandal is a series of fraudulent actions connected to the Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) and also the resulting investigation and reaction. The Libor is an average interest rate calculated through submissions of interest rates by major banks in London. The scandal arose when it was discovered that banks were falsely inflating or deflating their rates so as to profit from trades, or to give the impression that they were more creditworthy than they were. Libor underpins approximately $350 trillion in derivatives. It is controlled by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA).

Bilderberg Group

The Bilderberg Group, Bilderberg conference, or Bilderberg Club is an annual, unofficial, invitation-only conference of approximately 120 to 140 guests from North America and Western Europe, most of whom are people of influence. About one-third are from government and politics, and two-thirds from finance, industry, labour, education and communications. Meetings are closed to the public.

Here’s a list of 33 more if you’re bored.

Over 50% of my income to taxation: Why I’m mad as hell and you should be too!

I think we’ve been bamboozled. We’ve been tricked by catch phrases and fun words like “liberty” and “freedom”. We’ve been fooled into thinking we are somehow better off than everyone else. We’ve been lied to and told that our “capitalist” economy is the strongest, our people the most free, and our opportunity the most rich. Lies.

We are as taxes, as spied on, as lied to, and as manipulated as almost any other Government on Earth. We are kept fat and happy with illusions. By the media telling us how bad it is everywhere else, by “Honey Boo Boo” and cheap hamburgers. Too fat and brainwashed to care. To apathetic to do anything about it.

“At least we aren’t over there.”  We say.

A First For Me

Today marks the first major tax hike I have experienced since the start of my career. I’m mad. I can’t justify this setback internally. Why am I giving away more security for myself and family to an entity that is making no investment in me? How do I benefit? My family? My community? How can I give away over 50% of my income and still the Government ask for take more?

Payroll/Income Taxes. Property Taxes. Sales Taxes. Communication (phone/cell phone) Taxes. Social Security Taxes. State Taxes. City Taxes. Fuel and Energy Taxes. Taxes to pay for my car tags each year. Increased costs of goods via trade and import taxes. Fees for passports and licences. Inheritance Tax. The list goes on forever.

The myth is that the Government is spreading the wealth. Helping the poor. Taxing the rich to give to the needy. Robin Hood. This is a lie – not just because I say so, but because it’s a fucking lie. This increased tax is for everyone. Not just by means of increased costs of goods and services, but actually and really a higher tax for nearly everyone.

Over Taxed, Under Serviced

We may all see at least a 2% loss of take home pay. Is it fair that a guy making $50,000 is expected to survive off of $25,000 a year (or less!)? That person would be considered fairly poor by almost any standard. At what point are we over taxed and under serviced?

Is that point when our nation is 15 Trillion in debt? Is that point when our country has recession as a direct result of our Government’s fiscal policy? Is that point when other nations hate us because our Government instills a feeling of dread and terror on them in the form of Drones and military superiority? Is that point when a man who takes home $25,000 a year is considered middle class? What are we thinking?

Obama promised no new taxes for the middle class. The super-rich begged for more taxes, it seemed. Yet today, while I watch my income fall by at least 2% I see the stock market fly upward at over 200 points. Someone is getting rich today, not me. Someone is laughing about the end of the fiscal cliff, not me. The super-rich are more rich than ever – smart enough to avoid the Government and capitalize on new legislation. We’ve been fooled.

Where do we go from here?

I don’t know. I just want people to stand up and say: “This isn’t right.” Something is broken. We have to admit that when a Government takes by force half your income, there is a problem.

You can’t leave the country. Too much social stigma, too expensive, to much Government, too costly personally. You can’t complain. You are labelled crazy or jailed. You can’t refuse to participate – you will be breaking the law and jailed.

To be honest, nothing will happen. Most people will be happily abused until they become uncomfortable. Until they become hungry, until their cable is shut off, until they can’t drive to Wal-Mart, until it’s too late.

For now, I’ll keep complaining here. A blog no one reads anyways.

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3 Key Components to an Awesome Relationship

Today Holden sent me a very insightful email that I would like to share with the world. 

I think the key to getting along and having a fruitful relationship with your spouse, family, co-workers and anyone else has three essential elements.

1. Look Beyond Yourself

The first element is, you and the person you are trying to have the harmonious relationship with need to be able to look beyond themselves. They have to be able to recognize their own bias and remove the cloudiness of their own personal perspective and see other’s perspective.

For example, I never realized just how boxed in and self centered I was until I worked at GISTech and really got my ass handed to me over and over by my two senior co-workers who were as self centered as I was. When you have three extremely self centered people who always think their perspective is the only perspective, its going to spell disaster, and I was the low man on the totem pole so I got shit on there and bullied. I think this might be where Stoicism could play a helpful role. Removing yourself emotionally to free yourself to survey the surrounding environment.

I remember I use to trash my wife’s dad the way your wife will freely trash yours, then I finally realized that despite everything I said being blatantly true and her feeling the exact same way, maybe I should just leave the bashing to her. I still take jabs at the guy, but I shouldn’t. I should just leave it to her, because she really doesn’t need me to remind her that her dad sucks. She knows it, she lived it. It took stepping outside my own little box to realize that.

2. Roll with the Punches

The next element is part reciprocation, part just letting shit roll off your back.

Sometimes people say things that really do not jive with or annoy you. You just have to learn to let it roll off your back, but the other person also needs to learn to reciprocate and return the favor when you’re being the asshole. I think my and your wife’s issue is that she doesn’t reciprocate well. I feel like she expects all of us to simply let anything she says roll off our backs, but she doesn’t take it well when we say anything that slights her in the least. Then I eventually get to a point that I stop letting things roll off my back, and she thinks I’m bullying her and hate her guts. I don’t really how to address the problem. If it were you and I we’d just tell the other to quit being an asshole.

My wife and I used to have the same problem, She’d take my bullshit all day, but then if she dished a little, I would blow up on her ass. Hell, it still happens sometimes. Its a lifelong growing process. I’m still guilty of dishing more than I take sometimes. Its just important that you don’t let me get away with it if I am.

3. Admit when You’re Wrong

The final element is admitting when you’re wrong.

When I do something really shitty (like punching a hole in the wall, throwing a tantrum… etc) I’ve learned just to suck it up and admit I’m a douchebag. Fuck it. I’m a douchebag. The first step to a de-douching yourself is admitting your own douchiness. Some people just can’t admit it. Some people really can’t stand to lose face or look foolish. You have to get over it if you’re going to have successful relationships. You have to learn to admit you’re wrong.

So, there you have it. This is what I’ve been personally working on. The lucky part of my marriage is that my wife just seems to naturally have most of this down and she’s very receptive to me just calling her out, as you are. I’m the one who needs most of the work. Luckily, I’ve grown up enough over the last few years to finally realize it. In your case, the tables are turned I think. I think you know everything I said above to be true and you follow the philosophy. The next step is just bringing your wife along with you.

A New Year. An Old Man.

“You better give your Peepaw a hug, I don’t think he has much longer left.” I told my wife.

His eyes were watering, he was struggling to breathe, and sometimes I would see him shake a little as he was trying to move around. The rest of the house was rustling about almost like they didn’t notice the poor old man coming to terms with his own demise.

It was only a year ago, Christmas time last year, that I had spent time with my wife’s Great Grandfather. He seemed so much more alive then, but now his body seems ready to give out. To let go of the life still in his eyes, to rest.

I wonder to myself if he feels alone. The children running around the house, parents chatting about nothing, but Peepaw sits alone in a comfortable recliner enjoying what will probably be his last Christmas. My observations are full of mixed emotions.

Here sits a man who has had a full life, much better than most. He has been married to his dear wife for over 60 years, he has started and handed down a successful business, and has a wonder family surrounding him. What more could a man ask for in his final days. How much more peacefully could anyone go?

On the other hand I feel a hint of dread. The curtains are closing, his inevitable death is coming quickly, but he is alone in his journey in this. No one can truly empathize with what he must be feeling – it must be a little strange that everyone moves around so carelessly going about their daily business as he knows that these are his final hours. Literally his final moments of existence on this planet. Everyone pretends not to notice – getting dessert almost seems more important.

Of course it’s not that no one cares. He’s an 89 year old man and his death is something almost everyone has accepted – even if it’s just subconsciously. Something unsaid we have all agreed to. Inevitability. Finality.

Still part of me feels like we should all be crowded around him – appreciating the man and his life – while he’s still coherent enough to appreciate the gesture. Part of me wants to lean in and whisper a question: “What is the one thing I should know about life?” Oh the knowledge, the wisdom, he must have during these final hours. Regrets, pride, advice.

If there is any sort of afterlife. Any karma. Any higher power. Or even if there isn’t. Let it be known that a young man noticed you that day – your final Christmas. Maybe its some comfort, some justice. A young man unrelated by blood, a young man that never said more than a few words to you, a young man who only shook your hand and stared you in the eyes and tried to communicate at that moment that I appreciated your existence, noticed, cared.

I didn’t ask anything, you never lectured me, but I learned a lot from you.

A Religious Journey: Searching for Faith

I’ve struggled with religion and faith my entire life. My studies began early and continue today. It started before I can remember as my Parents dropped me off at Church. Some of my fondest memories are those in a little Baptist Church as a child. Sunday school, church plays, and of course the plethora of Southern banquets featuring some of the finest dishes Grandmothers from around the county could muster.

Religion and the church community gave to me what everyone desires in life. An absolute truth, the warmth of love and affection, family, the kindness of a stranger smiling at you from a few pews away, and of course belonging. In a word: Comfort.

But from the time I can remember “believing” was always difficult. I would constantly struggle with the nagging feeling religion is make believe. I felt out of place and wondered how everyone else seemed to believe so whole-heartily and so easily while I struggled with my faith constantly.

I didn’t give up. As in life, the things that didn’t come natural to me (faith), I worked twice as hard as the next person to achieve. So I prayed daily for God to help me “believe”.

“Dear God – Please help me with my struggles in faith. Please help me find the evidence I need personally to find strength in my faith in you. I am sorry for my lack of faith and I am working hard to  find it.  Please put me on the right path.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

So my days would go from about the ages of 12 – 18. There were even times I believed strongly that God was there. Sometimes my hard work seemed to be paying off – though my doubts were never far behind.

Search for Faith

When I first arrived in college I decided to get serious about religion. I started watching videos that I hoped would strengthen my faith. I met a “preacher” who taught young people. And so intense self-indoctrination began – seemed to work – but eventually failed.

At one point I was ready to testify to my fellow college students on campus. I had almost convinced myself it all made sense. I painted an almost clear picture of what I had come to believe. But what I found mostly radicalized me and I saw in myself the symptoms of any individual induced to delirium.

Most of what I found I could not reconcile with my own personal thoughts and feelings.  Everything seemed overly radical, lacked evidence, and seemed almost loony. Though I learned many good lessons – those lessons were not independent to Christianity and proved nothing.

There were young earth creationist, those that claimed religion was about faith and not proof, those that claimed man and dinosaurs roamed the Earth together, and worse. Even those whom I admired failed in their efforts to provide reasonable evidence.

So, as a college student I decided to seek knowledge the best way I knew how. I enrolled in a few religion classes and finally I found what I was looking for, but not what I expected to find.

The scholarly approach to Religion was exactly what my personality craved. I learned about the history of the Bible, I found evidence of scholarly research, and was surrounded by people seeking the same information I desired. I had Christian Professors, Professors of different faiths and belief systems, and Professors with no beliefs at all.  I was truly left to gather the evidence and for the first time decide for myself rather than be told what I should believe by a Spiritual/Intellectual leader.

My Decision in Faith

I have become comfortably Agnostic. I’m an Agnostic because after years of searching for the information to strengthen my faith in Christianity, after giving it all I have to feel the right emotions, and after an entire youth spent in the indoctrination process of religion – it all failed.  I still came out hopelessly unable to believe.

I’m an Agnostic because I am a Scientist of sorts. Not a Rocket Scientist, of course, but a Scientist in logic and methodology. I am open to new evidence, new ways of thinking, and new interpretations. For or against religious belief.  Thus far all evidence points toward the non-existence of a God – especially the one described in Abrahamic religions.

I’m an Agnostic because for the first time in my life I feel like I am not lying to myself. I’m not struggling to force myself to feel a certain way or to believe a certain idea because that’s what I’ve been taught is right.  I think that’s something I can live with.

* I have written in length on religious topics on this blog.  You can check them out here.

Is discovering you are a fool the path to enlightenment?

There was a time not too many years ago when I thought I knew best about pretty much everything.  But over the last few years I have awoken to the realization that I am markedly inexperienced about most all aspects of life, and so is most everyone else.

Since then the world has become a much different place for me. Suddenly it seems so much larger, more volatile and unpredictable and much scarier. Where I used to take comfort in the many facts of life that I was so sure about, I now find myself clinging to a life raft, floating in a sea of uncertainty.

I have retreated from these ideas of absolutes- absolute truth, justice, and fairness and instead look to history, logic, science and the idea of Animal Spirits (as coined by John Maynard Keynes) to explain the world around me. But even with these tools at my disposal, finding answers only leads you down a road to more questions and inquiries.

Enlightenment through History

George Santayana, a Spanish born American philosopher coined the very famous phrases, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and “Habit is stronger than reason”.

I am familiar with Santayana thanks to an eccentric college professor I once had who bore an uncanny resemblance to David Bowie (both in stature and dress) that made us read a bunch of essays Santayana authored.

At the time I took the philosophy class I was about 19 years old and a complete moron. But some things did stick. The most important being, history will repeat because human nature is what it is.

History is a great indicator of just what mankind is capable of, both good and bad. And therefore, nothing should be a shock to any of us. Nations will continue to rise and fall; revolutions will continue to spark change, and we will continue to see free societies fall back into the same tragic pattern of dictatorship and monarchy.

People will continue to senselessly kill each other as well.

But take comfort, for time and time again the human spirit to reach for justice has always resurfaced and always find a way to fight back.

Enlightenment through Logic and Science

How many people actually know what science is? I don’t think many do, including many scientists themselves. Science is a method. That’s all. It’s a method of testing ideas and hypothesis. When someone claims something is scientifically proven they are fools. Science proves nothing, it only disproves.

Logic follows along the same lines, to me personally anyhow. This idea of logic or Logos has always been interesting to me. Aristotle called it the argument for reason. He made the argument that there were three ways to persuade a man- Logos (reason), Pathos (emotional appeal) and Ethos (persuasion by leadership and moral character).

To me, this idea of breaking down the world literally scientifically (as in methodically) and logically (by means of reason) are the best way to remove personal bias and get to the bottom of why things are as they are.

The vast majority of the world takes a different approach. The vast majority of the world looks at the world through cloudy lenses where the left eye is fogged by Pathos and the right is smudged with Ethos.

If you read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, you know exactly what I mean. In his seminal work, Carnegie teaches us invaluable lessons on how to win over everyone from our wives and mother-in-law to our bosses and co-workers, to the schmuck you’re trying to sell a new religion to at their front door step! How do we win them over? By employing their natural inclination to appeal to their emotions (pathos) and be persuaded by a person who speaks with authority and has a smile of gold (ethos) to win them to your cause.

While Carnegie’s book is a great tool for succeeding in the business place, marriage and personal relationships (it did wonders for my social skills), I almost feel like the novel is more a grim reminder of just how fickle and shallow most people are. Therefore, I try to stick to breaking things down methodically and logically as possible to not only understand those around me but to defend myself from similar manipulation.

Enlightenment through understanding Animal Spirits

In graduate school I took this really great course that essentially pitted Classical and Keynesian Economics head to head and made them duke it out all semester long. I left that course both enlightened and confused as ever!

The two great lessons from class that stuck with me are:

  1. An inverted yield curve almost certainly spells recession!
  2. Animal Spirits- a spontaneous urge to react prematurely- is almost certain to throw off even the most thorough quantitative deductions!

The first lesson about the inverted yield curve is pretty interesting but has nothing to do with this post. The second lesson, speaks loads about human nature at large.

When September 11th happened, many people in my community went out and stockpiled food and water. Why? What do airplanes crashing into skyscrapers hundreds of miles away in New York City have to do with food and water in northwest Georgia?  It was a desire to feel secure. Suddenly, people were flooded with an abundance of uncertainty and fear, and the only thing they knew to do was buy food and water. It was almost as if we were all knocked down a few levels on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and scrambling to find ourselves again.

This sort of symbolizes how I imagine John Maynard Keynes felt about Animal Spirits in economics. When certain situations present themselves, people tend to have these knee jerk reactions that almost seem completely illogical and sometimes even counterproductive, which throws the entire model off its axis and sends the economists with their huge unified theories back to the drawing board, scratching their heads.

The lesson to be learned is, people aren’t always logical or predictable and there are no unified theories. The only thing you can count on is that history at large will repeat itself; habits are stronger than reason and at the end of the day a typical person will fall back to their emotions and the charisma of other make their decisions.

Conclusion

I didn’t realize all this until I realized I myself was just another face in the crowd succumbing to the same follies time and time again. Now that I’ve liberated myself a bit, I think I’m happier but also much more frustrated. I feel almost trapped in an endless game of two steps forward, one step back, and once you turn on this one part of your brain, there is no going back. There is no more stepping back into that realm of Ignorance is Bliss.

The real lesson to be learned is that we are all foolish and really know little about anything at all. This is where enlightenment takes hold.

Ying and Yang of Growing up Rough

From the ages 6 – 12 I lived in a predominately black neighborhood in South Atlanta.  To be honest it was the hood. Not just the kind of place where people claim they grew up in a rough neighborhood, but it was really just the suburbs – this was quite literally the ghetto.

Rough Neighborhood 

I was the only white kid, that I knew of, in my neighborhood.  I remember two high school guys fighting outside my house one day and even my dad was unable to break it up. I remember being a little scared that the one boy was going to kill the other.

He had a padlock in his hand and was bashing the poor bastard’s skull in.  His white shirt was drenched in blood. What’s even more fucked up is I remember rooting for him too.  The guy that was winning was from my section of the neighborhood and I kind of looked up to him.

Another time a young man was shot a killed at the beginning of our subdivision.  I remember walking to the bus stop for school the next morning and seeing his blood still staining the sidewalk.  It was strange – he was the first and only person I have ever known personally who was murdered.

There are times I look back on my life and relive it like a movie.  I can barely believe it myself.  I remember times my parents would have so many people over they wouldn’t notice and wouldn’t care when people slipped me shots of liquor, which I took proudly, just to seem cool.

I remember seeing pounds of pot stacked in my living room being packaged for sales.  Even back then I knew how many grams went into a nickel, dime, or quarter bag of marijuana to sell on the street.

I saw my Dad go to jail a few times, I saw my Mom on the brink of self destruction, and I saw enough young people come and go through our home that I’m quite sure both my parents will find a warm spot in Hell for all eternity for blindly instigating their addictions.

Ying and Yang

My life is almost a Ying and Yang.  On the one side I look back on events that seem surreal – some of which I’ve mentioned. Other events make me realize how I made it.  For example, my best friend, who I spent a lot of time with, had two of the best parents on the planet.

They were from Puerto Rico and devoutly religious.  I distinctly remember once suggesting to the Father that he lie to his daughter so we could leave to play basketball without her getting upset.  He looked me directly in the eyes and said: “I never lie to my children.”  That will stick with me for the rest of my life.

I also remember playing little league football.  It seems like every child who grows up in a rough neighborhood is absolutely convinced he will grow up to be a professional athlete.  I thought this too, without question, for my entire childhood.  I think that explains why so many excellent athletes come out of seemingly rough circumstances.

It’s kind of funny too.  While my Mom and Dad were terribly addicted to one drug or another most of my childhood I distinctly remember that my Mom would make me do all of my homework and write my spelling words down five times each until I was in the 5th grade.

If she did one thing right it was letting me know how important school was to her. Both my parents knew how to make me feel proud of myself and I think that has proven invaluable throughout my life.  If anything, I have never had an issue with self worth.

Moving Out

I’m not sure how I would have turned out had I not moved out of that neighborhood when I did. Man was that conversion interesting.

I remember going from a school where I was almost the only white kid in the entire building, where you had to be checked with metal detectors before entering the school, and security guards walked the hallways – then to a school with almost all white people and no security what-so-ever.

I had an accent, wore baggy clothes, and was completely oblivious that I was any different from the rest of the kids. In fact, it wasn’t until high school that I started to dress like a typical “white guy”.  It took a thorough lashing by all of my “friends” in high school until I realized I dressed like a black guy. I quickly remediated my wardrobe problems and slipped into the expected mold.

Somehow I found a place on the sports teams, made all A’s, and found a way to fit in. It is almost insane to me how resilient yet fragile the human mind is.  You can overcome almost anything or crumble because of almost everything.

When I take a careful look at my life over the past 25 years I am incredibly thankful for what I’ve overcome.  I’m incredibly thankful for what I don’t have to relive. I’m infinitely thankful for the future I see myself having and sometimes it all still feels like I’m remembering a movie I saw – not my own life.