Nature is Carnivorous

November 7, 2011 | Filed Under Health, Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

Animals kill and consume animals. It’s a fact of life. And the Earth itself not only provides life for animals but it consumes them too (through death and decomposition). Nature is carnivorous, through and through.

I do not mean this as a criticism of vegetarianism or veganism. Everyone has his or her reasons. But I really do think that a person who loves reality, who is committed to being at peace with reality as it is, will not shy away from the consumption of animals on purely ethical grounds. Perhaps taste. That is understandable. Some people simply do not like meat (though the lamb lollipops I had last night make this hard to believe:-P )

It is also understandable to not eat meat because you are not happy with the modern food supply and modern practices of raising meat.

But let me just be clear about something: modern industrial practices do not nullify the fact that human beings are part of nature and, in fact, natural meat eaters.

The best solution for the modern person is not to abandon meat and thus further your displacement from nature, but to change the way you eat meat. Raise your own animals and participate in (and appreciate) their death. Or buy your meat from a neighbor. Know where your meat comes from. Experience the harvest of an animal (this past spring I experienced the harvest of rabbits for the first time and it was a rewarding experience). For a great book on this topic read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

As a species, we have displaced ourselves from our natural setting. Part of realizing peace and health is restructuring our lives to be at peace with our natural constitutions as human beings.

All the science shows that every successful population of human beings to have lived prior to the agriculture revolution (i.e. the vast majority of human history) consumed meat / fish / fowl as their primary source of calories. And modern science (and personal anecdote) clearly show that meat satiates us better than any other other macronutrient. The thing is, just like everything else, doing meat the *right way* takes work. It’s a lot easier to get our calories through convenience than our own hard work. But it’s not the best way.

We are omnivorious and primarily carnivorous. Just like nature.

Beyond Narratives

October 3, 2011 | Filed Under Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

I know a woman who’s entire sense of self is wrapped up in what others think of her. To increase her sense of value, she seeks validation. Because she does not get the validation as often as she’d like, she genuinely believes that people do not love her (even those close to her who would die for her). And because she believes that the people close to her do not love her, she actively looks for evidence that people do not love her. And in actuality, her false belief that people do not love her causes real-world alienation between her and the ones who do.

For many people, serious problems derive from the stories they tell themselves and their rules for determining self-worth. We are prone to define narratives in our minds which then establish expectations. But when reality does not match our expectations, we are prone to get depressed, feel alienated, feel resentment, etc. The thing is, we have control over our expectations.

Does this mean we should get rid of our expectations? No. Expectations are a tool of the mind. But they are a very limited tool. Expectations are best suited for learning how the world works. They lead us astray when our entire sense of self worth gets wrapped up in them. Especially when our expectations are out of line with reality.

Most people analyze their own self-worth and the rest of the world at the level of stereotypes and labels* (i.e. Do people give me the right label or the wrong one?). Labels are really just ways of defining how we think other people think about us. Am I smart? Am I good mom? Do I have a degree? Am I successful? Am I a writer (I dreamed of being a writer my whole life after all!) ? Am I rich? Am I green. Am I the greatest golfer of all time? Am I in the right social circle? Am I a whore? A slut? A good girl?

All of these labels make reference to our pasts and futures, but tend to paralyze or strongly constrain the present. That’s not always a bad thing. As I said, we want to honor reality, and we honor reality by learning about reality and forming expectations about reality and acting based on (hopefully) accurate expectations. But our modern minds are in overdrive and we tend to create a reality that isn’t really there. And it not only lets us down, but it keeps us from living fully.

The mind is a tool for existence. It is to be used for living. It should not define us. We should not live by the stories we tell ourselves (especially if they are inaccurate). We should simply live.

*Note: I read a study recently that suggested that most women, when looking back on their lives, evaluate their lives based on their children (was I good mom? did I produce well-functioning adults? do my kids love me?) and most men evaluate their lives based on the total balance of successes and failures (was I a successful businessman? when I started something, was I likely to finish it? could I fix things? was I in control of my family?). It’s an interesting distinction between the sexes, but in both cases, relies on a mental narrative that does no good in the present. As Tony Horton says… Do your best and forget the rest.

basic math doesn’t work for every domain of life.

October 2, 2011 | Filed Under Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

in business, it is often the case that spreading the pie increases the size of the pie. so 20% can be greater than 100%. this doesn’t make intuitive sense, but it makes sense in the light of human motivation and social cooperation. the sum is greater than the parts.

let’s say that i have a business that i try to run on my own. i have my own skills and talents. but i also have limitations. i can only achieve so much on my own. so i turn to some business partners who each have something unique to contribute. i take a gamble and offer them each 20% of the business, conditional on their meeting some pre-specified goals. with 5 people, each with their own unique talents and motivations, and realizable goals that correlate with business growth, it is quite likely that the value of the business will grow exponentially. So rather than 500% growth which would make my 20% equivalent to the previous 100%, we may very well get 5000% growth. And that 5000% growth makes my 20% much more valuable than my previous 100%.

this sort of dynamic is quite common in business and often requires the founders of a business to take a leap of faith – to really believe that the business will grow exponentially with the right people involved.

but there is also a spiritual law where basic math doesn’t make sense. i’ve found that sharing joy with others drastically increases your own personal joy. whereas hoarding joy, descending into the self, is the fastest path to the death of joy. so the more you share yourself and your resources with your friends and loved ones (within reason and human limitations), the more you are rewarded with happiness. however, you do have to be selective. you are not an infinite being. you can overextend yourself. and you can burn through all of your resources. so there is a fine line to walk. but when you have the time and the energy, it pays to put it into other people rather than just putting it into yourself all the time.

Burning incense at our altars

September 9, 2011 | Filed Under Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

I was attending a lecture with a varied but exclusively university-oriented audience of some five hundred when the lecturer, a Ph.D. in physics, said, almost in passing, “Remember that only three hundred years ago men actually believed the world was flat!” Considerable knowing laughter greeted this astonishing misrepresentation (or, should I say, falsehood?), and the assembled all murmured a kind of self-congratulatory hum of satisfaction with their own superior knowledge. At another point the lecturer dropped a reference to the onetime belief that the sun revolved around the earth. More laughter. The physicist, it was apparent, was merely offering burnt incense at the altar of some of our twentieth-century idols.

- G. B. Tennyson

Sadly, we are all prone to do this kind of thing in order to puff ourselves up. When your value derives from comparative-isms rather than your self’s best, you spend your whole life burning incense.

nor do I think that it is a desirable state of affairs when women see men as the enemy

August 29, 2011 | Filed Under Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

For the Strauss-Kahn case has uncovered the divide, not between men and women so much as between old and new feminists. Old feminists, from Genevieve Clark to Erica Jong, believed that the goal was political and sexual freedom for women, not the political and sexual subordination of men.

I cannot accept the idea that womanhood automatically implies victimhood, nor do I think that it is a desirable state of affairs when women see men as the enemy.

The man-hating tirades of my female colleagues are nothing but puritanism in disguise and I suspect that our feminist forebears would be dismayed by the climate of inquisition that seems to dominate relations between men and women today.

DSK case exposes rift between feminists

Conservatives & Liberals

August 25, 2011 | Filed Under Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

Conservatives want to be your daddy, telling you what to do and what not to do. Liberals want to be your mommy, feeding you, tucking you in, and wiping your nose.

Getting The “Cancers” Out Of Your Life

August 25, 2011 | Filed Under Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

I think we all “tolerate” certain things in our lives that we shouldn’t because we hope for change that won’t happen.

On the difficult end of the spectrum is the parent who is simply habituated to be oppressive, terrorizing, suffocating, controlling, guilt-inducing or whatever. Sometimes you can have an otherwise positive relationship with this person, but every time you are with him or her, you feel it… like a nagging tumor in your soul that you just wish you could rip out.

But then there is the god-awful, micro-managing boss who’s always looking over your shoulder, questioning you and causing anxiety. Or the employee who’s always making excuses, and wearing your patience thin. Or the girl you have a crush on who despises you and uses you and treats you with contempt.

It doesn’t even have to be a person. In my own experience, the 24 hour news cycle had a similar dampening effect on my soul. As does the addictive qualities of soda.

I’ve found it useful throughout life to identify the things that weigh on your soul, tear you down, eat you up… and to treat them like cancerous tumors. Painful to remove, sometimes impossible to remove, but even then, worth managing as well as possible.

The main point is to be aware of the things that drag you down. That keep you from having a pure spirit. And then to do the hard surgical work to get them out of your life.

The Hymn of Hell

August 25, 2011 | Filed Under Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

It may be that the most influential book I’ve read is Charles Williams Descent Into Hell. It made vivid for me the way in which pure selfishness is really self-destructive. It’s a great psychological portrayal of what happens to the person who turns inward, at the expense of those around him or her.

And it confirmed my suspicion that the warm-up tune ME ME ME ME MEEEEEEEEEEEEE is really the hymn of hell.

Half the sugar please

August 12, 2011 | Filed Under Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

Instead of having sugar loaded and no sugar at all (artificial sweeteners) I wish companies would offer a “light on the sugar” option. I hate artificial sweeteners, but I also hate the sickening sweetness of most products (e.g. Gatorade, etc.)

When I stop for a Mocha or some other coffee drink, I almost always ask them “is there any chance i could get that with half the sugar?” And lately a lot of the local spots will do that for me, though normally it makes more sense to ask for “half the syrup”

I just don’t get it. Why not the middle road?

Gender, Conformity and Punishment in Schools

July 19, 2011 | Filed Under Small Talk | Leave a Comment 

Over 60 percent of students in Texas get suspended or expelled. That’s ridiculous in its own right.

But let’s look at the numbers:

83% African American male students
70% African American female students

74% Hispanic male students
58% Hispanic female students

59% Anglo male students
37% Anglo female students

Disregarding all the other obvious variables (class, race, etc.) one clear pattern is that male students are systematically punished in public schools (at least Texas public schools) more than female students at a rate between 13% – 18%

Based on anecdotal evidence (my parents taught high school students and my brother recently graduated from high school) and the frequency of news reports, an objective observer would be smart to infer that most school fights these days occur between girls. So realistically, the bias in punishment could be even more skewed. I wonder what the boys are being punished for. Could it be that the system is simply intrinsically biased against male behavior?

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