Tag Archives: Language

Sorting Reality from Ideas

We live in a culture where some segments truly believe (or at least act like) preferences and feelings have some kind of sacred status – where the more villainizing, stomping, protesting, and loudly signaling our outrage, the more legitimate our argument is. As if our personal passion were a suitable substitute for substance – as if spouting off with vein popping force somehow makes the argument more credible. Some of us apparently lack depth perception to see beyond ourselves, and as a consequence, we project our arrogant ignorance along with our fears, suspicions, hopes and emotions on to public figures, associates as well as cultural icons of every stripe, dead or alive. We live in a universe whose boundaries extend to the outskirts of our own ignorance. We then mistake our ghostly projections for reality, not knowing the vomited echo of our ignorant self indulgence blowing back on us is not an accurate picture of the social landscape. What we see as reality is actually composed of reflections from the hall of distorted mirrors in which we live and breathe.

Unless we make the investment to exit the shadowy cave of our own self importance to embrace the wider social reality , we will continue to falsely assert our sanctity and suffer the frustrated experience that is spawned from that reactionary prison. Unless we embrace a reality that recognizes we coexist and attempt to forge a climate of respect and dignity at the same time we also defend against real antagonisms that can destroy us, we will become a fountain of frustration spewing maligning scorn and incessant tantrums toward any perspective other than our own. Even worse, through the destructive force of our self importance spawning a reactionary climate, we will conjure up the very demons that consume us. We will bathe in the toxic bile we made out of this false idea that we alone have the one true bead on how we all should think and behave…

In the dim glow of our ignorance we can miss the profound hypocrisy and irony of our stance. Our ignorance will also protect us from an awareness of our powerful contribution to the disintegration of the foundation on which we all stand. This also means that when the destruction of our own making comes to fruition, we will be ignorant of its source much less its resolution or prevention. We will continue to live in a wordy world of self righteous blame and impotence like any fundamentalist – baying at the moon with the expectation that it should bow to our cries and change its course.

A cat is natively wired to be suspicious of being attacked from anything outside its very small trusted comfort zone. This is not because of how the world actually is, it is because the cat sees the world through its own self induced lens. It thinks of how it would behave and projects that motive on to the outside world, and then bathes in the experience of life that is generated from that place… And this, by the way, is the very nature of the spectrum of mental illness that spans from neurosis to psychosis.

The Power Law and The Nature of Systems

Zipf’s law, also known as the power law identifies the uncanny consistency of the frequency of behaviors in natural systems, including complex organized adaptive systems like biology. For instance; the frequency of the most used word in any language no matter where it originates will occur approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word, three times as often as the third most frequent word, and so on.

Ziph’s law goes by other names, such as the power law, but the orderly distribution of relative frequency is remarkably consistent across many systems, these include physical, biological, and social systems. City populations follow this distribution. So do the sizes of craters on the moon, the strength of solar flares, the frequency of behavior patterns such as sex or foraging in various animal species as well as the sizes of activity patterns of neuronal populations, volcanic eruptions, and so on. It is also true of social systems.

This information on Ziph’s law has a lot of implications if it is fully unpacked. If we extract the value from what it means we might consider the fruitless waste of time it is doing things like angrily baying at the moon over the 1%, or whatever name is given to primary social influencers. Changing Ziph’s law seems fairly unlikely to succeed no matter how loudly we squeal. It is perhaps a more effective strategy to focus instead on the fact that we are all responsible for the tone of the relationship climate we all live in and contribute to.

Based on the fact that natural systems arrange around this law, including social systems, a more effective thing would be to build a social economy based on how much we can give to each other, rather than how much we can get from each other. In this way those who, in the future, will assume the inevitable mantle of having the most influence might also be inclined to behave with these same values. Even if this took a couple generations to take root and bear fruit, it would be worthwhile. A quote attributed Gandhi, perhaps falsely, but good advice no matter where it came from comes to mind; “Be The Change You Want To See In The World”

 

 

When Objects and Actions are Laced with Meaning

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There are many ways to look at language. Depending on the lens we use to look at it, different aspects of how language relates to our experience of life are revealed. If we use a lens that looks at language as a two pronged process, the first based on identifying objects and actions, and the second, optionally breathing meaning into these objects and actions, this lens enables us to clearly see the roots of human identity and culture. From this perspective, we can form a map that is able to move us more effectively in intentional directions.

The first aspect of language is in identifying objects and actions. This is the basis of understanding the physical world, the second aspect is the basis of identity and culture and also becomes the means by which we express the nature of our emotional being. A rock is a rock, unless it’s a special rock, imbued with meaning. A rock embellished with a story, and a history, with cultural significance can become an object for which people act to fight and die for.

Throwing is an action involving an object in motion, until and unless it is imbued with meaning. Throwing a coin into a fountain for instance means nothing more than the description of the process, unless that action also symbolizes the hopes for the thrower to realize a wish. If the act is connected to meaning it is then transformed from a mere act, to something significant. It is this significance, that the individual and cultural world is built on. This blend of objects and, or actions and meaning is the fire on which our individual and group identities, indeed our perception of consciousness is formed.

We could study the structure of the alphabet for an eternity and never have the key to know it’s significance unless we shares meaning. Meaning, until and unless it is shared is sterile. It can only live within an individual, but if it is packaged up and transmitted one to another, its significance can spread. It is this replication of, and defense of a particular set of shared meanings which defines groups or cultures. Our experience of life is determined by object and action to be sure, but it is also defined by meaning. Our cultural bonds grow in a soil of object and action, but the energy that drives the experience is built on meaning.

So powerful is this aspect of meaning in our lives, that we humans can suffer from ideological blindness where we become so lost in the meaning that we lose sight of their connection to objects and actions. At the extreme, it is possible to become infected by a totalitarian regime of meaning, that locks us in a frustrated prison of expectation and frenzy, where we fruitlessly attempt to get reality to conform using our ideals, not realizing that it is the loss of our moorings in reality that is the problem, and not reality’s failure to conform.

Reality sets the boundaries to the possible, it is up to us to appropriately blend significance into the mix of objects and actions to accomplish anything real. It is this awareness of the basis of expression that enables us to express a meaningful life.

Cancer Is a Biological Outlaw

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Cancer is a biological outlaw. It begins its career as a cell triggered by a set of circumstances that cause it to diverge from participating in a contributory role in the community it draws nourishment from. Instead of a vested stake in the biological community that sustains it, cancer turns to a life characterized by parasitic behaviors that turn predatory over time.

Cancer turns against the cooperative unity on which biological systems depend and becomes an expression of destructive greed and consumption without a community aligned purpose. Its implied purpose narrows to its own interests, to the immediate gratification, to right now, to more and more, to domination over cultivation – to itself at the expense of the community. Through its behaviors, cancer becomes a biological outlaw.

If cancer was assigned the attributes of a self aware being, it would be defined as either failing to recognize its detrimental behavior toward its own future, or identified as someone that doesn’t care. Either way, it’s devoid of participating in the implied social contract that all sustainable living systems depend on; that of working in the limited context of the environment and contributing nourishing value back to the biological community it depends on for life, so that community is stronger than it ever could be as isolated parts.

There are many kinds of cancer with many different causes, but the common thread is a lack of regard to translate the taking from the community with corresponding activities to give back something of value to it. In the case of Pancreatic cancer, once the cancer takes root and steals the resources it needs to establish a foothold, it begins to use that theft to hijack the production machinery of nearby cells to feed itself even more. It uses this fuel to grow stronger and demand more. With increased strength, it now causes the enslaved cells working at a frenzied pace to serve its demands to sacrifice their lives in order to make more room for it, and for it to selectively feed on the dying remains to strengthen the cancerous process still more…

Cancer can enjoy a burst of extravagant artificial wealth by predatorily consuming great quantities of the genuine wealth produced by the nourishing relational acts of the biological community from which it feeds. As it increasingly consumes without regard for renewal, it crosses a terminal threshold where its demands exceed the capacity of the system to compensate for the collective theft, murder and interference of nourishing biological commerce. It is at this point where the biological system cancer depends on to fuel its excesses collapses in on itself.

Why does cancer behave this way? Why does this myopic collection of predatory behaviors consume without an eye for the sustainability of the system on which it depends? Cancer dominates, but if its strategy is successful, it becomes a victim of its own success. It ends up dominating itself out of existence. It is destroyed itself in a bonfire of its own greed and ignorance.

Upon seeing this cancerous behavioral agenda clearly exposed we might recognize that cancer comes in many forms. We might be inclined to see the parallels between cellular cancer and social behavioral cancer on other scales. Upon seeing this parallel and coupling it with some of the behavioral dynamics coursing through our human behavioral veins, we might be compelled to wonder if there is such a thing as “Mancreatic Cancer”. We might also ask whether we ourselves are engaged in aligning our individual and collective activities toward cultivating that which sustains us – that which we need.

When it comes to the micro decisions that lead to the macro effects of our life, not only reflected back on itself, but echoing outward to the community at large, we may want to be careful to define success before we engage in it, because in our frenzy to accomplish a false success, we could find out too late that as soon as somebody wins at monopoly, the game is over for everyone.

For more information about the way Pancreatic Cancer works: Click Here

The Evolution of Behaviors

Behaviorism Will Peck For Food

In 1948, B. F. Skinner published a landmark paper illustrating how animals develop superstition. Basically, if an animal is fed at irregular intervals it associates whatever behaviors it happened to be doing right before receiving food with receiving food. After that, it thinks those behaviors are what brings the food. It develops a “superstitious connection” between the unrelated behavior and the food.

This understanding of how connections are developed has been the foundation of behavioral conditioning and behavioral psychology since its discovery. This capacity for false (or true) association based on whatever happens to coincide at a particualr time is stitched onto our perception faculties and consequently, our psychology. People given mild stimulants unbeknownst to them have been recorded associating the effects of the stimulant with the things happening in their local happenings for instance. It is also important to emphasize that while the perception faculties sometimes falsely associate correlations, sometimes these factors are actually causal, and understanding this causal connection can lead to a survival advantage. This is probably why the capacity is seated in our biological makeup to begin with.

Our biological perception tendency to weave coincidental happenings into causal connections (which may be true or untrue) has an enormous implication in terms of understanding ourselves, our culture, our history, and the level of trust we can place on our individual certainties if we apply the information appropriately. It easily explains the reason medicine was stagnated for centuries by such notions as humors. It explains the cultural prevalence and behaviors that flow from beliefs in omens, and may be the foundation for all the world’s superstitions and religions. It may also be a strong if not causal factor in some disorders such as O.C.D. and other destructive compulsive behaviors. It has strong implications on our sociality because of the underlying message of acceptance or rejection we get for adopting certain ideas or behaviors as well. This may also be the foundation of bird song and language itself. The list goes on…

Behaviorism Will Press Lever For Food

While this symbolic association built into our perception faculties has definite survival value in that it is rooted in searching for a cause in order to more intentionally choose specific behaviors that lead toward survival, it is also true that these faculties are not entirely accurate, and come with a downside. This aspect of evolutionary biology, where a benefit comes with a potential downside is not unusual in the least. Evolution in peppered with these cost/benefit aspects, and much of who and what we are is a product of those competing priorities

 

Is our social behavior an Echo of Physics?

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Every atom the functions as part of our biological system craves specific relationships with other atoms. There are systems that are geared to satisfy those hungers and other systems, like our immune system, that are geared to reject and expel any elements the “do not belong to the in-group” so to speak. It is this complex social dynamic between physical elements that forms and maintains our biological structure.

Like the relationship dynamic that happens on a micro scale, as a whole, our biological system has specific hungers that must be met as well. From a certain perspective, our own behavioral and social actions are, in essence, a reflection of that from which we are physically composed. This can be found clearly echoed in scientific disciplines such as sociology. The following is one example:

According to Social Identity Theory, comparison with an outgroup is the main engine by which positive ingroup distinctiveness is formed.

Experiments conducted by Henri Tajfel and others into the so-called Minimal Group Paradigm illustrate this point well.

In the experiments to see what the minimum was to establish an in-group, a number of assumptions, concepts, values or practices were accepted in order to better allow a view of the onset of human group formation and of the appearance of discriminatory behaviours toward out-group.

From the article:

“Intergroup behaviour was analyzed in a situation of “mere categorization” such as where people involved as subjects in this research were told that they were individually “overestimators” or “underestimators” of the number of dots in a display. It was found that even under very flimsy and apparently baseless assigned social categorisation into two distinct, and previously “unheard of” social categories, in-group favoritism and out-group derogation occurred in the distribution, by the research subjects, of “rewards for participation” in the study.”

This is more evidence that shows how hard wired we are to cling to a group and reject anything perceived as out-group.  For a more detailed look Click Here

Ant Colonies have Group-Level Personalities

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This glimpse at ant life may help give us some insight into human group dynamics. As it turns out, ants have group-level personalities as well. The same way human cultures are shaped by environmental circumstances that powerfully influence their characteristics, ants and other social creatures may be influenced by these same factors.

From the article: “Colonies of funnel ants show group personality, which affects their success at collecting food and competing with other colonies… Some colonies are full of adventurous risk-takers, whereas others are less aggressive about foraging for food and exploring the great outdoors… these group “personality types” are linked to food-collecting strategies, and they could alter our understanding of how social insects behave.

For the full article Click here:

What if relationship, rather than genetics is the dividing line between organisms?

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In the video below, Gershom Zajicek M.D speaks about certain viruses as necessary (obligate) symbionts; meaning we were once infected with a virus that is now in an inseparable relationship with us. The common idea is that viruses are infections, but he argues that they span the spectrum of relationships from destructive, to beneficial and in some cases, necessary for our survival.

Some of these vital viral strings, embedded in our genome provide services such as helping forge the relationship between the uterus and the early stage embryo, the formation of the placenta and so on. Because they offer adaptive advantage they have formed an obligate relationship over time and this is how they get to ride on the wave of relationships we currently call human. One example of the fruits of this relationship is the proto-oncogene which governs cell division. It helps our cells grow and divide in specific and limited ways to form and maintain such things as cells and tissues. In fact, when this process is broken we see cancer.

Among the things Dr. Zajicek proposes is that transposable elements (TEs) and Human Endogenous Retro Viruses (HERVs) are two names for the same phenomenon. Transposable elements are snippets of DNA coding that can communicate one cell to another, or across organisms or species, and changes the way an organism operates. This means they can actively modify biological functions during the lifetime of an organism. This method of evolution may need to be added to the currently understood mechanisms which include , descent, genetic variation, mutation, genetic drift, natural selection, and coevolution.

If HERV’s and TE’s are synonymous, this would have enormous implications not only to evolution, but to many other disciplines such as medicine, ecology and so on. TE’s, for instance, may be in some cases an immune response from one creature to defend against what it perceives to be a pathogen (from its perspective). We would receive this as a disease. There may be vectors, such as bacteria that mediate this process. If we look through this lens, we see the dynamic root of many of our own diseases in the way we relate in the context of the larger biological body of which we are part, and on which we depend for nourishment.

Of course, whether this vision is an ghost due to the lens or a clear image of what is really going on remains to be seen. If we expand the notion Dr. Zajicek proposes on to the larger biological relationship landscape, this would indicate there is an active dynamic and far less than random communication flow by way of meaningful structures, not only within species, but between them. It would mean that species may not be the level at which we should define organisms, but by relationship spanning from antagonistic to obligate. (Necessary). If we were to apply a ven diagram to the biological landscape, we would see many overlaps that violate what we have traditionally considered species. In other words, defining organisms by genetics alone may have blinded us to how the larger, more revealing biological relationship landscape works. 

While we have a long way to go to unravel this Gordian knot we call biology, if this proves true, it would explain quite a bit, have enormous predictive capacity, and if applied properly would have a huge impact on our understanding of evolution on many levels beyond the scope of Mendelian (inherited) genetics.

What is Important?

This video is a perspective on what’s important.

Here is a text of the narration:

What is important?

What is important? How would we measure it, and how would we know the measure was accurate? Although there are many possible ways, if we use a scale of things that have the most profound influence on our ability to realize our full potential, and use that to measure what we currently apply our energies to as a global culture; we can see the gap, the gap between what’s important, and what we do.

Somewhere in our not so distant past, on some day we couldn’t pinpoint because we weren’t watching, we crossed a critical threshold. We crossed the threshold where we no longer live in a world where people starve because we can’t feed them; we now live in a world where people starve because we don’t feed them. We have the skills and resources to make this a plentiful world, but we do not yet have the focus, nor the will – to do what’s important.

We have the capacity to cultivate a world brimming with potential – potential that can only be realized if we have each other’s backs. Instead we live in a world where, acting out of fear, we have to watch our backs – a world where we have to defend ourselves from ourselves. Maybe we don’t recognize this is the recipe for self made poverty – maybe we are suffering the echo of our collective traumatic past, where a veil of ignorance forced us to be at the mercy of a frightening and often cruel environment, and as a result, we learned to exploit each other, to dominate, or be dominated… This is a past we need to navigate away from if we’re going to cultivate our full potential. Until we do this, we will continue to rob ourselves of what’s important.

What’s important is you – the family, who shapes the lens through which the child understands reality by the way you treat them and each other. You forge their developing identity in the fires of the relationships you expose them to, and this defines whether that fire will refine them, or destroy them. You are the port from which the child launches, and you define what that child will be equipped with to navigate the wider social seas, and how they will influence those they touch – for the rest of their lives. You are what’s important.

What’s important is you – the teachers, who have the wheel that steers the future as you pass the torch of knowledge to the next generations. You’re not merely an installer of facts, but a primary cultivator of the tools that will determine whether we will capably face the challenges that lie before us, or sink under their weight. You have a powerful hand on the rudder that steers this Earthen ship of ours through sometimes troubled waters. Together with the family, you set the tone for the direction we will travel. You are what’s important.

What’s important is you – the friend, who doesn’t have to be asked, but actively seeks to offer your best. Your behavioral vocabulary doesn’t include apathy. You willingly act on behalf of your friends – ready to deliver a comforting word, a helping hand, or a stinging challenge depending on the need – your purpose remains constant – to serve each other. You have a powerful hand in the stability of this Earthen ship in which we all ride. And your aid through the storms, and companionship in fair weather, makes this journey we’re all on worthwhile. You are what’s important.

What’s important is you – the stranger, who may not be familiar with those in other ships that pass by, but know that they are full of kindred kinds – you who understand that it takes all of us, communicating through actions big and small, that we’re in this together, that we share the same waters – and that sharing what we have of value with each other is the reason for the abundance we have. You are the one that opens the door without being asked – you don’t hesitate to act to strengthen the larger community of life on which we all depend for breath because you know you are part of that same body. You are what’s important.

And what’s important is Earth – it is our common ground and our greatest teacher. On it we can stand together and flourish – or divided we can fall back into the soil which once generously gave us this opportunity for a plentiful life. Earth has given us what we need and taught us by writing its lessons into the fabric of who we are – like the need to strike a balance between give and take that’s written into our breath… and how all it asks in return is that we recognize that using that breath to cultivate fruitful relationships is what’s really important.

 

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The Wisdom of the Tree

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A tree simultaneously stretches itself downward into the soil to draw the water and nutrients as it stretches up and outward toward the sky to capture the glow of sunlight and drink from the atmospheric delights that waft past its swaying branches. In so doing, the tree stitches the elements at its disposal together and if they are sufficient, it uses them as a vehicle to propel itself toward its full potential. A tree breaks the prior symmetries of certain structures, not for the sake of destruction, but to reassemble them into its own likeness – in its own form.

At its crest, the wave of self assembled organization that is the tree matures to relate with other trees and the creatures that call it home, and to cast its offspring to the wind in the hopes of making even more like itself. Like the tree, we need draw from places of nourishment to realize our potential. Like the tree, if we do not stretch ourselves to reach those nourishing places, we are destined live beneath the threshold of our full potential.

We have some measure of choice in where we stretch ourselves. Let’s make sure these places we cultivate our own assemblies are also those that nourish our potential – that contribute substance and strength to the canopy we all live beneath – this community of life we both live in and depend on.