Sunday, November 25, 2018

Who are you?

I really wanna know.  From the immortal words of The Who....

With consciousness comes self-awareness, and with self-awareness the notion of identity.  Who are you?

Those who ask the question of themselves have recognized that their identity is incomplete, or perhaps, they've discovered, is fundamentally incorrect.  We all have an identity.  But we don't all recognize it, or how it defines our choices.  So, I really wanna know, who are you?

Initially, we receive our identity from our circumstances.  I am a child.  I am a step-child.  I am an orphan.  Whatever our circumstances, we have a distinct identity, but generally lack the context to have any awareness of the significance of this first step.

Of course, before this realization, or perhaps, at the same time, through our bodies, we discover our gender identity.  I am a boy.  I am a girl.  Interestingly, if we mark this as our very first identity, then we may recognize that we live in a time where politics has been oriented around first-principles.  What is gender identity, who has the right to define it, and as it is defined, who has the right to assign that identity to an individual?  Something less than twenty years ago, the answers were "boy or girl," no one defines it, it's just a fact of biology, and the assignment is made by your anatomy, affirmed by doctors and your parents.  Simple.  The reality being debated now is no longer so simple.

So, for the vast majority of us over twenty, our initial identity was likely to be an amalgam.  I am a son.  I am a daughter.  Perhaps, I am a step-daughter.

Traditionally, through the influence of parents, close family or peers, our next step is to identify through sports.  I am a baseball or football fan.  My team is the Atlanta Braves.  Or, I play hockey, or soccer or football.  Sports identity can become foundational, to the degree that even when we move on from the origin of that identity, we retain it.  Who are you?

Depending on our family heritage, we may also receive another identity; that of religion.  I am a Christian.  I am Protestant.  I am Catholic.  I am Lutheran.  In the politics of our time, it has become increasingly important to expand the range of valid U.S. religious identities to include all religions.  Although it is part of our foundational truths that all Americans should be free to practice their faith, U.S. history makes it clear that religious identities outside Christianity -- still -- are not considered first-class citizens.

This cultural war has been ongoing for several decades now, with lines drawn first around the celebration of Christmas -- is it OK to say "Merry Christmas" to your colleagues?  The right to any and all religious identities is also at the forefront of our current political debates, and as with gender identity represents a return to first-principles.  Which religious identities are valid?  Who defines religious identity -- are non-traditional religions cults, or equally valid?  What is "non-traditional" -- how old must a religion be to be "a tradition"?  Are all religions equal, or are are some more valid than others?  Here we venture into notions of truth.  What are the fundamental truths?  How do we value and measure these truths with respect to religious traditions?

Before we get to political identity, it is far more likely that you identified yourself, in addition to sport, relationships and gender, by a hobby.  I am a ballerina.  I am an artist.  I am a gamer.  With this step, we have taken our first tentative steps into defining our own identity -- based on what we want.  And as what we want shifts, we may discard these identities and form them anew.  I am a programmer.  I am a motorcyclist.  I am a writer.  I am a hunter.

At an increasingly early age, we begin to understand our sexual identity, and expand our gender identity in terms of sexuality.  Traditionally, the acceptance system has been simply: I am a boy who likes girls.  I am a girl who likes boys.  Binary.  Simple.  But the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s ushered in the freedom to openly express sexual preferences, and with this increasingly public expression, we've seen the binary system bifurcate, and then split again and again.  Gay and Lesbian,  transitioned (perhaps simultaneously?) to Bi-sexual.  With Katy Perry announcing that she "kissed a girl," the cultural attitude toward the notion of "lesbian" began to shift toward open acceptance.  Political support for gay marriage offers the measure of acceptance within the U.S.  And, with Bruce Jenner's transition and the political shift that has occurred over just the last few years, the transexual identity has become the latest front in the sexual revolution -- which bathroom can you use?  Here too, we're working our way back to first-principles.

Of course then, we have political identity.  Traditionally: I am a Republican.  I am a Democrat.  Simple.  Binary.  More recently, we have found these political divides have become ambiguous, and the political machinery has recognized that polarization is the key to energizing constituents.  To this end, mobilizing supporters around a brand has become the norm, "I am a Hillary supporter."  or simply "MAGA."  To fail to realize that our political identity has become as fundamental to us as our religious, sexual or gender identity, and yet to also fail to realize that it may be no more valid than our sports identity puts us, as a society, in great peril.  Who are you?  Why?  What do you believe... really?  Why?  In this era, we have seen tremendous fear... this fear should tell us something about the depth of our understanding.  But rather than work toward first-principles here, we are generally very quick to lean on the validity of our political identity.  As with religious identity, this is a space that is far too complex to navigate, and the risk of discovering conflict with our "team" far too high.

Once we have matured into each of our identities, we risk much in deeply assessing their validity.  And we risk even more in moving to change our most deeply held identities.

But there are still safe areas where we can explore and expand our identity.  As we move toward adulthood, we are likely to form a new identity based on our vocation.  I am an electrician.  I am a Physicist; perhaps, first, I am a college student.  I am a Psychiatrist.  I am a farmer.  I am a poet.  I am a sculptor.

Next on our journey, some, earlier than others, most will identify with a relationship.  Here, we venture into a shared identity.  I am a boyfriend.  I am a girlfriend.  I am a husband.  I am a wife.  Here too, traditional relationships have been radically expanded.  Complicating matters is that this identity is a dance -- the partners or group must agree on their mutual identity to give it validity.  Who are you?  To have defined yourself as a husband, or a wife, and then to go through divorce is to witness the dissolution of your identity, perhaps violently.  One moment you were one, the next... what are you now?  ...I am single?  ...I am divorced?

Although becoming married is increasingly no longer a generally accepted criteria for becoming a parent, the tradition here has been to adopt the "married" identity with the expectation that one would soon become a parent.  I am a father.  I am a mother.  Here, this relationship identity is a one-sided choice.  And, although it is a shared identity, once made successfully, it becomes permanent.  Once established, no circumstance may alter this identity.  Because of this, this identity may become more fundamental and more foundational than any other.  And yet, as we have seen in the evolution of our culture, it is insufficient.

Beyond politics, and often, because of it, we begin to recognize our place in the larger world.  I am an American.  I am a citizen of the world.  I am a human being.  Or, feeling alienated, perhaps we identify, I am an alien.

Who are you?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Free will

Karma: the universe operates in balance and will actively restore balance across time and space.

Destiny: there is a Universal plan for you.  The Universe operates at all times for your benefit.  No matter your choices, just as water always flows downhill, the Universe continually resolves a new plan.

Free-will: within the realm of time and space, you always have a choice; your will or the path laid before you — your destiny.

The question you must resolve for yourself is whether your will is ever of benefit to you.  When is your judgement superior to the compassionate judgement of the Universe.

What, then, would you choose?  Which will would you seek to understand most fully?  Which will should you pursue?

Choose wisely.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Masters of Matter

The Industrial Revolution may be examined through a more abstract lens: It marks the era where mankind became "the masters of matter."  By leveraging human capital, resources, new forms of energy and technology at scale, we moved to increasing levels of control over the physical world.

The nuclear age ushered in a new era... it was the dawn of our move to become "the masters of energy"... the laser followed shortly, the transistor, then the Integrated Circuit, the CPU and then GPU.

Whereas our role as the masters of matter was expansive, growing to consume available space, resources and energy, the primary technological pursuit within the realm of computation has been to reduce scales toward zero time and zero space, thus maximizing computation within time and space per unit of energy.

The masters of matter harnessed resources, energy, technology and labor to produce.

The masters of computation -- a subset of those within the realm of the "masters of energy" -- harness a new era of labor: the human computer has been replaced, quite literally, by the digital computer.  Where the titans of the Industrial Revolution harnessed the manual labor of humans, augmented by technology, the titans of the Information Age harness the labor of digital workers... the computers.

Whereas the human laborer must be augmented to expand their capability, and when they cease to work, their productive output is also halted... the digital worker can be run endlessly without further involvement by the original programmer. More extraordinarily, the digital worker may be replicated endlessly.

This might suggest that the programmer's purpose would rapidly come to an end.  With the workers defined, and able to be replicated, and driven relentlessly, there is no further need for the programmer.

This perspective fails to realize the fundamental power of programming and computation.  Working in layers, the programmer is able to produce exponentially more complicated solutions over time.  Although the programmer may no longer be needed to maintain operation of the original building blocks, the ability to move on to new pursuits means that the programmer may employee the digital worker in increasingly sophisticated ways.

One of the "end" states for this pursuit that is now increasingly obvious to the world is the creation of general A.I.  At the point AI becomes sufficiently capable that it can replace human programmers, we will have entered into an era where human-kind is obsolete.

With this awakening, we tend to fall back on the idea that we obtain capabilities that are somehow unique to us, and may not be replicated digitally.  Love, compassion, creativity.  It is shortsighted to imagine that AI can not be creative.  And, we dismiss the ability for AI to exhibit love and compassion at our peril... for it is these attributes alone which may save us from our creations.

Perhaps more importantly, it is short-sighted to conclude our exploration of abstract levels of mastery.

What remains?

What becomes of us, and our AI progeny, when we enter into the era of mastery of time and space?

What do we need to learn to truly master time and space?  Do the masters of time and space already exist?  Perhaps.  The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed.

Once we have mastered time and space, then what?  ...perhaps, we leave.

Watch: Her - Samantha Leaves

Sunday, July 15, 2018

What is love?

Love is not a feeling... it's a choice...

Choose to love...

Choose to open your heart to another...

Choose to spend your time and attention... choose to give your gifts... choose to touch lovingly (physically, or even, with just your eyes)... choose to share words of affirmation... choose to serve.

It is the expression of love that is real.  It is that expression that changes the world.

When someone does that for you... AND you open your heart to them, you will feel "In love."

...opening your heart requires trust... opening your heart requires vulnerability, and the courage to let yourself be vulnerable.

Opening your heart to another, and allowing them to love you also comes with a certain degree of obligation to reciprocate... there is a karmic balance... this not a quid-pro-quo... they love you, so you must love them... it's deeper and far more complex than that...

The minimum that is required of you is to act freely, with honesty and clear intention -- you must understand what you want, and then you must communicate honestly.   With that, then, everything else will take care of itself.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Awakening and PTSD

In May 1989, we visited a number of doctors.  By one, I was tentatively diagnosed with PTSD.  We never returned to that Psychiatrist; both Anne and I concluded that the guy was a complete hack.  ...but in hindsight, he may have been on to something...

In Panama for a week in April, I had "seen" things that I couldn't understand... many, mundane... but I had glimpses of an extraordinary connectedness that went beyond words...  for the last few days of the trip, I also lived a life I had dreamed about as a child, but had forgotten.

Returning home through Miami, the experience became even more miraculous.  And, I began to disassociate with reality.  Suffering from sleep deprivation and starvation, the degree of chemical imbalance was becoming extreme.  But I loved every moment... mostly.

Recovery from that period took several years.  Understanding that experience has taken decades.

Over the last seven years, I have finally begun to integrate the physical and the meta-physical... the experience with the imagination... and the truth with the delusions.

Over the past two or three (or seven, or 29) years, I've discovered that many of the truths I've "discovered" have been known by others all along.

For example: Last year, I encountered deeper insight into my perpetual question to myself and others, "What do you want?"

In through 19:01: “The question is: “What do you mean by ‘actually want?’”

...I've learned... sometimes, the hard way.  Awakening comes in many forms -- but I can say from experience that when it comes to awakening, "the hard way" can be VERY hard.

Extraordinary experiences of several varieties may yield variants of the “PTSD” experience.  For those finding themselves on this path, part of the recovery process involves building a larger understanding, and re-establishing a balance between the extraordinary aspects of metaphysical realities, and the mundane realities of every day life.

Digging a layer deeper -- a consequence of extraordinary experiences (those that result in PTSD) is the disruption of the framework of values, and the goals which depend on those values.  Rebuilding a frame of reference that allows one to pursue valued goals is central to recovery.

In through 26:10 Peterson offers insight into a strategy for building a vision for life, concluding: “Better have a valued goal, or you can’t get any positive emotion.”

The team at Boulder Crest has redefined the perspective on PTSD by considering “disorder” to be a fundamentally wrong attitude toward the experience.  Their attitude aligns perfectly with my lessons-learned over the last three decades.  They define, instead, the need for "Post Traumatic Growth;" recognizing, in their particular domain, that the skills and experience developed in combat demand growth.  Rather than seeking to "fix a disorder" their program is oriented toward seeking to rebuild a renewed sense of the purpose for life, organizing thinking around the emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial wellbeing of the participants that come through their programs.

For now, their program is limited to a very select few.  But the skills the teams teach are invaluable to us all, regardless of our experience.  We all need to deeply understand our purpose, and to build a framework in our lives to move forward effectively.  For most of us, this process is ad hoc at best.  For the vast majority of the world, this isn't even "a thing."

Furthermore, to do this well, requires a deep understanding of "how things work" -- or, as Peterson put it, it's necessary to “do a structural analysis of the subcomponents of human existence.”

Since the '90s, I've been formulating my life goals, aiming to organize my thinking around what I want out of life.  In 2006, I was inspired by Ted Leonsis's blog to expand the scope of my thinking.  But this year, I've finally begun to encounter the state-of-the-art in thinking about the future.  For example:

I know there are thousands of self-help books.  And, I've heard of many that are oriented toward purpose, goals and finding direction in life.  But, off hand, I don't believe I've read any that I'd recommend.  ...I've been winging it!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What I'm doing now

As of April 15, 2018...

Quality time with friends and family
- Dinner with J and the kids in June
☑︎ Help A move

- Republish WinFan and WineFan Pro for iOS 11
- Port FeatureMapper 2.4 to Swift 4 and iOS 11
☑︎ updates for 2018

- Run daily
- Hiking
☑︎ 22+ push-ups daily

- Euler's Gem
- E-Squared
- The Algorithm Design Manual
- Childhood's End
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
- The Circle
☑︎ The ABCs of My Life (6/2/2018)
☑︎ The Abundance Prophesy (5/26/2018)
☑︎ TCoC (4/1/2018)
☑︎ Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives (4/14/2018)

☑︎ What I'm doing now
☑︎ A new model for the bi-polar experience...
☑︎ Implications of intimacy...

- Summit Point Main

- WWDC (June)
- Hilton Head (June)
☑︎ Austin (May)

As of March 18, 2017...

Spending quality time with friends and family

- updates for 2017
☑︎ FeatureMapper 2.3
☑︎ TrackDay 4.2
☑︎ ColorAssist 2.0

☑︎ Hilton Head (June)
☑︎ South Carolina (October)
☑︎ Cambria, CA (November)

- E-Squared
☑︎ ACIM (September 25)
☑︎ The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
☑︎ Saturn's Children
☑︎ Emotional Freedom
☑︎ FastCompany
☑︎ Smithsonian

☑︎ 22 push-ups / day
☑︎ Running (soon)...

- Summit Point Main with MARRC


- Saturn's Children
- Emotional Freedom
☑︎ Ready Player One
☑︎ Distilled Spirits: Getting High, Then Sober, with a Famous Writer, a Forgotten Philosopher, and a Hopeless Drunk

☑︎ Live, love, forgive, learn... and have fun!


☑︎ Why Beauty Is Truth
☑︎ The Martian
☑︎ Finite and Infinite Games

Saturday, April 07, 2018

A new model for the bi-polar experience...

What if bi-polar disorder isn't a disorder, or a disease, but a phenomenon? ...something that we may all experience to varying degrees, but for some, a phenomenon which runs out of control? ...what if we understood the phenomenon as a normal cycle, and taught those who are prone to spiraling out of control: 1) what the phenomenon is all about, 2) what to expect from the experience (the good and the bad), 3) how to recognize the phenomenon, and 4) how to regulate the phenomenon.

Those who have experienced being deeply in love know: The head over heels euphoria is intoxicating. Whether powered by imagined potential or actual reciprocation, the intoxication can become addiction. Pull that relationship apart suddenly and we're devastated... heart-broken. To be "in love" is to open our heart to another, to feel the connection that comes from that openness, to feel the energy that enters our heart, and the euphoria that comes from the power of love.

Where the "in love" experience is about openness of the heart, "mania" (the positive side of the bi-polar experience) is about openness of the mind.

Bipolar is an intellectual emotional experience: Open your mind to another, to others, or the Universe, and feel the energy. Elation. Purpose. Enthusiasm. Drive. Connection. Clarity. The power is intoxicating. It feels like you can think anything, create anything, anything!

The early stages of this intoxication trigger a dopamine rush which feels extraordinary... this is a happy time. And like the "in love" experience, no one can tell you that it's wrong!

Often, the experience is easy to mask. In the early stages, it's controllable, and seems normal. And, in fact, carefully regulated, it remains controllable; thought and behavior remain in normal ranges. We all do it to varying degrees. This is what life is all about: purpose, enthusiasm, drive. ...all three of these are traits we admire, right?

But, for people who are susceptible, the cycle can run out of control when they don't understand the experience. Like opening your heart to first love, for those who are prone to intellectual openness, and those who are prone to addiction, the intoxication that results from opening your mind is as real as intoxication from alcohol; it's a chemical phenomenon.

Excitement, enthusiasm, the ideas... all encourage less sleep. During sleep, new ideas pour into the newly opened mind. Why sleep? The world is alive. The ideas are flooding in... new understandings... old knowledge connecting in new ways... inspiration. Now, is a time for action, not sleep!

And the cycle has begun.... The failure to regulate the rush of ideas, energy and enthusiasm yields changes in eating patterns, disruption in the sleep cycle and a reduction in deep sleep each night. Increased energy levels, accelerated speech, heightened intellect, and shifts in attitude, focus and priorities become externally visible. At this point, the phenomenon may become visible to others. But to the uninitiated, the signs are non-obvious, or may seem benign... and, initially, they are... The newly evolving symptoms seem peculiar... but are not clearly "a problem."

Two or three nights of this cycle can be disruptive, but they're not the end of the world. A change in pace; a day or two of regular meals; exercise; and a few nights of regular sleep... things can return to a normal balance.

But with the first experience, the doorway has been opened. From that time on, the person who has profoundly experienced their "open mind" will have the ability to return to that state. Without greater understanding, they'll be prone to going further into the addictive cycle. And without appropriate controls, they'll be prone to allowing that cycle to cascade out of control.

Sleep disruption and deprivation, irregular meals, and activities that increase focus on thought -- especially enthusiastic communication with others -- will promote the cycle.

Lack of food ultimately means a lack of energy. The biological lack is counterbalanced by the energetic intake via the open mind. This may or may not be a problem...

What is definitely a problem is the lack of sleep. Sleep is your body's mechanism for removing waste from the brain. Increased thought results in increased energy consumption in the brain. Increased energy consumption produces increased waste products. But a lack of sleep means an accumulation of waste in the brain.

This is the aspect of the bi-polar phenomenon that can legitimately be treated like a disease. A person who will not sleep, and isn't eating will rapidly develop an abnormal brain chemistry. And, the cascade that results from this phase of the experience is both visible, and can cause real harm... to the individual, and to those around them...

At this stage, we enter full-blown mania. Control becomes less of an option. Thoughts and behaviors become erratic. Although the individual may seem lucid, and will exhibit high levels of self-control, the racing thoughts, the extraordinary connections and insights, and the amped up dopamine cycles will all combine to create a life experience that is both extraordinary, and terrifying.

From this stage, returning -- gracefully -- without external intervention -- is unlikely. Without intervention, the natural recovery from the extreme manic cycle is the crash... a full-scale collapse of systems, thought, feeling... and deep withdrawal from the dopamine high.

From the highest highs... we hit the lowest lows. Thought is uninspired. Motivation gone. Purpose lost. Hope becomes hopelessness. The high is remembered, but serves only to amplify the current pain.

Recovery from mild depressive cycles is possible with sleep, a return to a regular diet, and a non-threatening environment. A shift in focus. Gentle exercise. Recovery and stabilization.

But at this state, there's a high risk of rapid cycle. Recovery without a shift in activities yields the opportunity to spin up the positive cycle again. Most will eagerly resume the cycle. But if nothing has changed, the greatest potential is that the cycle will repeat with greater amplitude until the final crash is sufficiently devastating that it brings outside intervention.

At the extreme, the depressive cycle becomes a full-blown disease. Chemical imbalance. Ongoing mood, sleep, thought disorder... but now, in a very negative space. From here, intervention is difficult... all "help" is perceived as a threat. The individual is often correct in perceiving that "no one understands" -- both the highest highs and the lowest lows have opened a view on the world that they know "no one else knows." The alienation that comes from feeling misunderstood can promote violent anxiety, paranoia and fear. Although these feelings are merely a symptom of the underlying problem, they can become the focal-point for the treatment, causing a further cascade out of control into complete disorientation and terror.

Finding someone else who has been through the experience, or is at least open to learning about the experience, and can help the individual navigate their mind is key. The loss of dopamine, and the resulting withdrawal is overwhelming, and the desire to return to the manic state can become uncontrollable.

The wrong sort of intervention, or perceived threat, can amplify the depressive cycle further. Without understanding, the cascade can continue. It gets worse. At the extreme, nothing matters. Physical motivation may become impossible. Lack of desire to eat. Lack of desire to function. And, in the extreme: no desire to live. At this stage, suicide enters the individual's thoughts as a viable alternative to the misery and suffering. Hopelessness amplifies those thoughts.

But it can get better: Sleep. Regular diet. Gentle exercise. Informed compassion. Gentle guidance into positive experiences. Positive music. Carefully guided discussion.

Recovery from any stage of the experience is possible.

Although medication can help with driving a return to a normal sleep cycle, the wrong medication strategies can cause further harm... rapidly.

Recovery without medication is also possible, but requires insight that is rare. It also requires deep thoughtfulness, compassion, and courage from those closest to person going through the bipolar experience.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Implications of intimacy...

It is broadly accepted that what we all desire most is to love and be loved in return.

It is also true that there is equally broad confusion about the nature of what we all seek.

Sexual drive, romance and attachment often feel like love.  We talk about them and often treat them as being synonymous with love.  But in spite of our collective confusion, we can gain considerable clarity by recognizing them simply as biological drives.  They are essential aspects of our lives as humans.  Each represents a fundamental force which guides our behaviors and promotes the propagation of our species.  ...but they are not love.

Although they are all closely associated with love, the confusion of these drives and the feelings that come with them with "love" is a problem as old as humanity.

Intimacy also feels close to love... And, too often, we mistake intimacy as a path to love.  Perhaps greater intimacy will yield real love!?

True intimacy is a momentary encounter with the deeper connection we seek.  It has an ineffable quality.  We can talk about it, but ultimately, true intimacy is a form of connection that surpasses the experience.  Physical touch.  Exactly the right words.  A uniquely special gift.  A beautiful moment in time.  A particularly meaningful act of service.  The moments in which intimacy is encountered are the ephemeral form of the connection that is fundamental to love… in those moments we experience that connection.  But, although this connection may feel like love, it is not love itself.  The connection offered by intimacy is only temporary — something instantaneous, existing only in the moment — but when it’s right, in those moments, it is just as powerful as love.

There are asymmetric forms of intimacy: A photo which captures the true spirit of the subject may enable a connection with the viewer across time and space.

But this asymmetry is perilously close to the many forms of pseudo-intimacy and false intimacy that pervade our experience.  In the eye of the beholder, these forms of intimacy often feel real and are as powerful as true intimacy.  They drive the pursuit of the imagined intimacy.

True intimacy is symmetric, lost in the moment, deeply connected... a dance, without thought or calculation.  It may be as brief as a glance or smile, or for those lucky few, may stretch over a lifetime.  Intimacy is real.  It reminds us of a connection that we crave so desperately.  But, by its very nature it is ephemeral.

Ultimately, what we are seeking through intimacy is love -- the ultimate connection.  That feeling.

In spite of our collective experience and confusion, love is not about feelings.  Real love is not an emotion.  Real love is not a feeling.

Love, is a choice.  Specifically, "your love" is your choice to offer your time, touch, words, gifts or service to another.  Gary Chapman detailed the five love languages in his 1995 book, The Five Love Languages.

To be "in love" certainly describes "a feeling"... "You'll just know it when you feel it" has been the wisdom of ages.  But it is more helpful to understand being "in love" as the very real experience of opening your heart to another.  Feelings derive from loving and being loved.  But they are the symptom; the effect, not a cause.

With some, the process of opening our hearts is so easy and so rapid that we confuse the result with the choice.  "Love at first sight" is the archetype for this phenomenon; the choice is made instantaneously, and the feelings then derive from the experiences that unfold after that choice.

It is helpful to untangle these experiences from our biological drives.  Once again: To be "in love" is not romance -- though a romantic relationship is certainly where the "in love" experience is felt most clearly.  It is not sexual desire -- though a physical connection, whether imagined or experienced, can also feel very powerfully of the "in love" experience.  It is not attachment -- although, we often use our attachment to justify that we are "in love"... the desperation to retain that connection, the refusal to let go may feel like the experience of being "in love" but careful consideration will reveal many attachments that clearly have nothing to do with love.  It may be very difficult to distinguish the feeling that comes from an open heart from the feeling that comes from attachment, but the two should not be confused.

Love, is a choice, followed by action.  Words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, physical touch, or quality time.  Each may be offered.  Your love itself is a gift to another.

Often, when we offer our love to another, we experience the phenomenon of opening our heart.  Fear can inhibit this process.  Fearlessness or affirmation can promote the process.  As we open our heart, we may experience this as being "in love"...

Although love is a choice, your choice to love another conveys absolutely no rights to you, whatsoever.  The intended is under no obligation to accept or return the love you offer.

Further, we have no inherent right, even, to express our love to another.  The only thing inherent in your choice to offer your love to another are the obligations you then take on.  A sincere offer of love brings only obligation; specifically, the obligation to be respectful, patient, kind and compassionate to the other.

The hope for a connection does not convey any right to that connection.  Rather, the nature of any connection is a mutual understanding -- whether consciously understood, or implicit.

Intimacy, then, suggests the opportunity to explore that connection.

This path, once opened by both parties, becomes real.  But it affords no guarantees.  Only the opportunity for the couple to step into the unknown.  To explore, together, the nature of their connection and the implications that connection has for their future... together... or apart.

Intimacy is a meaningful and valuable way to explore the path together.  But even as the couple explores the path together, there are no guarantees.  There is only the moment.  What lies beyond must always remain a mystery.

This, is the implication of intimacy...

Friday, September 09, 2016

Live, love, forgive, learn... and have fun!

What's the meaning of life?

...simple: To live!

Whether you understand it or not, whether you accept it or not, you chose to be here... and every day you spend here is a choice.

Within the constraints of time and space, a unique set of experiences and perspectives are available to you. Enjoy them!

To do that, start with a fundamental question, "What do you want!?" Discover your talents. Discover what matters to you. Play. Have fun! Help others.

If you do nothing else, love.

Within the limits of time and space, you may find it difficult to feel God's love. But, the love of others is immediately accessible. And, through that love, you're able to glimpse the love that God offers.

Too many ask "What is love!?" or "How will I find love?" or "How will I know I'm in love?" Too many confuse sex drive, romantic attraction or attachment to another as love. These are all powerful drives. But they're biological -- evolution's agenda -- they're not love. So, what is love?

To love, is to share our time, touch, words of affirmation, gifts and service to another without expectation. Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages sums it up beautifully.

Most of us have been fortunate to love and be loved at some point ...the compassion of a stranger ...her smile and the light in her eyes ...a hug from a new friend. Everyone has a story. Something simple that means more to them than they fully understand... A depth of connection that they can't explain.

During and immediately after birth, touch is our first experience. The beauty of touch as an expression of love is that it's reciprocal.

On the couch, with my six week old daughter sleeping soundly on my chest, tears streaming down my cheeks, I finally experienced true love for another. Eventually, I struggled to put words to the experience... To me, the best way to describe the feeling was to say "I had fallen in love with my daughter." But for the first time in my life, I had fallen in love in a way that didn't involve sexual attraction, or romantic attraction, or attachment. I was feeling something entirely new.

It would take another 24 years, and several more children, to fully understand... But, eventually it finally clicked:

To be "in love" is to open our heart to another with the hope that they will offer us their love through their time, touch, words, gifts or service.

As our heart is filled by their love, we feel love... "you'll just know it!" is true... unhelpful, but true. You'll also know it by paying attention to their actions: Do they spend quality time with you? Do they touch you lovingly? Do they offer words of affirmation? Do they bring you gifts? Do they offer acts of service?

And, all too often, sadly, once we have opened our heart to another, we will experience "The Void" -- the ache that comes from the lack of love from that special other... Whether it is temporary or permanent, the longing, desperation, and deep sadness that comes from having opened our heart to another only to feel it left empty is overwhelming. It causes us to question everything about that love, and our choice to be loved...

Forgiveness is the answer

Inevitably, we will have the need for forgiveness, and we will need to forgive. Forgiveness to another enables our heart to heal. Through our forgiveness, we let go.

Are there people who have hurt you? Are there people who make you angry? Forgive them. You have nothing to lose. Forgiving them doesn't "let them off the hook." Forgiving them doesn't mean that you have to forget. Forgiving them doesn't mean setting yourself up to repeat the past. Forgiving them is simply letting go of the past, living in your moment, and embracing your future free of the wounds of the past.

Asking forgiveness is the first step toward rebuilding a damaged relationship. If you have caused harm -- in any way -- there is always a way to feel sorry, to sincerely offer an apology, and to ask for forgiveness. A true apology is offered without expectation; you should not expect to be forgiven. But, to help the other to heal, you can acknowledge your mistake, you can offer to make amends, and you can honestly express your desire to heal the relationship. If you are refused, you have the opportunity to forgive them and be patient. Time is often the answer.

Live and learn

For decades, I've said "You can learn the hard way or the easy way. Listen to me, and I'll teach you the easy way. Keep doing what you're doing, and you may learn the hard way."

What I haven't said is that learning the easy way is a very slow process. Although a lot can be understood at an intellectual level, deep learning comes from experience. And, there's nothing like learning the "hard way" to translate experience -- rapidly -- into a lesson learned.

For my part, I chose "both." There are some lessons that are worth learning the hard way. There are a few lessons that can only be learned the hard way.

To me, it seems that lessons involving emotion can only be truly learned through experience -- the hard way. "Tis better to have loved and lost than to never to have loved at all." are terrific words, but it's only after losing love that they'll truly resonate. At that point, many of us find ourselves bitterly disagreeing. Love lost is a very hard lesson... but there doesn't seem to be any other way.

Likewise, courage is splashed across the big screen in the latest spate of war movies, but too few of us truly understand what bravery and courage feel like. There is no easy way to learn and deeply understand courage... you have to face the circumstance, feel the fear or the terror, make hard choices, and push through the experience... at the end of it all, we call it "courage." But, in the midst of it, we explain it only as "I did what I had to do." "...I did what anyone else would have done."

Ultimately, reflecting on the question "What do you want?" I suspect that all of us can realize that we're here to learn something. Certainly the need to live, love, forgive are common to us all. But, there's something in particular you're here to learn.

For my part, it has always been easy -- revealed in my very first words: "How's it works?" Although I wasn't conscious of it at the time, I'd spend the next two decades of my life exploring the mechanical and electrical world to understand "how's it works?" Cars, trains, planes, TVs... anything with buttons. Anything that moved.

In 1979, electronics, integrated circuits, the microprocessor, the computer would capture my attention. In 1984, philosophy and theology were added to the list. But, they weren't new, at four, I wondered about the nature of infinity... the limits of time and space. If you go to the limit, and then go further, what then? With the August 1985 cover of Scientific American, the image of the Mandelbrot Set renewed a fascination with mathematics, and ignited a new appreciation for how deeply math is woven through the fabric of our reality.

In 2003, I learned that my answer to most things is "both" or "all of the above." That has made focusing a challenge for me. What do you want to learn? Everything. But, the touch-stone has always been "How's it works?"

Have fun!

As a game developer, there is a particular irony to me that we live in the most extraordinary simulation ever invented. Whether you attribute that invention to God, or the spontaneous evolution of the properties of this universe following "The Big Bang", it's undeniable that the limits of this reality -- our time and space -- afford an extraordinarily vast playground.

Although we are radically constrained by our bodies, in this era we are fortunate to be able to use technology to extend our capabilities. Throughout history, we have explored through our imagination. With science, we have explored with our technologies. And, increasingly in this era, we are able to explore with our spirits.

What are we here for? ...the simple answer for me has always been: To have fun!

Sure, there are loftier pursuits: helping others, creating beautiful works of art, saving the world, making the world a better place. But, whatever you chose, if you're not having fun, you've probably chosen the wrong pursuit. ...I don't mean that every moment will be fun. I mean, when you look back on the last day, week, month, or year and say "What do I love!?" If you're not doing *that* with some portion of your life, you should be looking more carefully at your alternatives.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Blog post for Melissa

A friend was asked "What do you do?"  Answering on her behalf, from my experience, this is the answer I see:

Q: What do you do?

A: I guess what I do depends a lot on your perspective. To some, it might seem that I just spend weeks away from my family talking on a microphone to a bunch of tourists on a bus. To others who know better, it's clear that what I do is far more subtle.

To them, I'm a teacher. I share my knowledge of the people, places and cultures of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. While many of my students sleep, or tune out with their earbuds firmly embedded in their skulls, a few of the students, and many of the parents, listen attentively and learn.

In the end, they may not retain many of the facts I've shared. But they all share in the love for these beautiful islands and their people.

But, for me, it's about more than being a teacher or a guide... Through my passion, my time, and my attention, I share my love for the people and places we visit -- and offer my love to the people I guide. Many appreciate what I offer and return that love, saying that their lives have been enriched by the time I've shared with them. We are a global family; my brothers and sisters, my children... Many, I'll never see or hear from again. But with a special few, I stay connected. Although we may never see each other in person again, the time we've spent traveling together has formed a rare and special bond.

I love what I do. I'm good at it. My life and the lives of those I touch are better for the work I do.

You don't have to understand... But if you really want to, why don't you come see for yourself?