Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I've come to believe that the questions one is asking determines one's focus, and thus one's outlook and direction in life.  The questions we ask are very, very important, and we need to pay close attention to exactly what it is we're asking ourselves.

Today, it occurred to me that Zen has a question (well, at least one), and that it determines one's focus:

What is happening right now?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Skepticism in 14 Easy Steps!

Step 1: Wonder how so many people (meaning: non-Christians) can be so wrong about religion. Ask: if Christianity is real, why isn't it obvious?

Step 2: Wonder, if so many people can be wrong, perhaps we can be wrong.

Step 3: Wonder, can everyone be wrong?

Step 4: Observe wackadoo religious friends. Make powerful negative associations with them.

Step 5: Make atheist friends. Realize that not everyone is wrong: some people are just willing to change their minds in light of reason. Make positive associations with these discussions.

Step 6: Read Waldrop's Complexity. Discover Scientific Pantheism.

Step 7: Fall in with wackadoo Scientific Pantheists.

Step 8: Form powerful negative associations with "fellow" wackadoo SciPans. Stop associating with them.

Step 9: Watch Bullsh!t.

Step 10: Watch Mind Control With Derren Brown.

Step 11: Read Derren Brown's Tricks of the Mind. Develop total man-crush. Hear, for the first time, the term "skeptic" used to describe a subculture.

Step 12: Subscribe to the Bad Astronomy blog. Hear references to "skeptics" often. In particular, the "Skepchicks".

Step 13: Develop healthy crushes on (all of) the Skepchicks. Especially one.

Step 14: Change one's website, Facebook page, and taglines to mention "and skeptic" among one's traits.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Making the Friendship Grade

I was just wondering what criteria people use to filter friends from non-friends.

When I meet someone whom I consider a potential friend (as opposed to a passer-by), the very first thing I try to discern is if they are Republican. If they are, I move on. If they're Libertarian, I'm keeping my eye on them: chances are not good. Socialists are rare but acceptable. ; ) The next thing I try to find out is if they are Christian*. If they are, they had better be really subdued about it and open-minded to non-Christians, otherwise I'm already over them.

I should add: I don't do this by asking directly, but by looking for ancillary evidence.

Politics for me trumps religion… not sure why. Besides, most people on the right are also Xian, anyway.

Actually, I guess hygiene trumps both of them. I just don't like smelly people. Sorry, it's a personal failing of mine. So it goes.

I guess the next level of my radar would be geekdom. Do they recognize Firefly references? Do they appreciate my quote from Big Trouble In Little China?

If they pass those three (four, providing they don't stink) litmus tests, they've got a good shot of being a friend of mine. : )

(*Yes, specifically Christian. I haven't met anyone from another religion that bothered me. When I do, maybe I'll expand my list.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Appropriate" is my new favourite word.

I've begun practicing Zen is more earnest since my last trip to Massachusetts. I like to think of my practice over the years as being comprised of a series of hurdles (mountains?) to overcome. That is, revelations seem to come in waves, and only after chewing on some particular concept over time.

At the moment, the concept upon which my teeth are gnawing is "appropriate action". This is a term that came up in the context of being in the moment: if you are truly aware, you will take appropriate action. ...This was the promise, anyway! This seems counter-intuitive, perhaps, because being truly aware requires being fully in the moment, with your thoughts focused neither on past transgressions or future possibilities. In essence, it is action without "thought", in the traditional sense. And I don't believe we (humans) are predisposed to acting appropriately without thought. Or so I fear. Rather, so go my thoughts on the matter. : )

And yet my judgment is premature, because being fully in the moment is, itself, so difficult to attain. Most of my thoughts, I have observed, are "future thoughts". Mostly, potential actions. I like to think, for example, about what I will write on my blog, or what it would be like to be a spiritual leader, or how I would defend myself against some kind of abuse, or how enjoyable it would be to get back to college, or what I'm going to draw next... Sure, I also think about past transgressions and how I might have responded to them. But I think I spend probably 65% of my time thinking about the future. One might claim that potential is my vice. : )

So anyway, what I continue to work on is being present, and watching this "appropriate action" come of it. Or not. It will be interesting to see. But I feel this is one of the tallest mountains I've yet climbed!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Speaking of Choices and Happiness...

A wildly fascinating video about happiness. The conclusion (backed by scientific evidence) is that we manufacture happiness to suit our situation.

A lot more could be said on this subject (like the inverse effect for pessimists), but this is a great start:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


We can easily be paralyzed by choice, living in our consumerist society.

It seems to me that the best path is to choose quickly, but not to be attached to your decision.  And that's not limited to being willing to change: it is--more importantly--not wasting your time imagining how much better the alternatives may have been.

That's very, very difficult.  It's extremely easy to be disappointed.

One of the benefits of zen, it seems, is an awareness that creates satisfaction.

[thoughts derived from a TED talk]

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

When Someone Says Something Nasty

...Ask, "what else could that have meant?"

Chances are good that they aren't attacking you, but reacting to something negative in their own life.  Try and figure out what that could be.

Monday, August 11, 2008


What you're focusing on was probably determined by a question. Sometimes it's an external questions, but you probably asked yourself something that led to your present focus.

Be mindful of the questions you ask yourself.

Don't Neglect Visualization

Picture something you want. Really imagine it, as clearly as possible.

Now make the picture bigger, brighter, sharper, and more appealing.

...Are you more motivated to get that thing?

Things I Learned Today

Better to say something "seems to me", rather than something "is". Example: turn "Robert Anton Wilson is an enthusiastic philanthropist" into "RAW seems like an enthusiastic philanthropist to me."

General Semantics may be an interesting thing to investigate, as an alternative to NLP.

I revisited the idea of confirmation bias. The effects of this seem to be enormous; worse, it seems that people grossly underestimate its effects. What we focus on seems to determine our reality. RAWilson said "we live our beliefs; we endure our reality". I love that phrase.

The LSD guy (forget his name) proposed that there were 24 neurological stereotypes. Further, people of one stereotype tend to congregate with others like them, and segregate themselves from others who aren't.

Three questions to ask before you do anything:
  1. What end result are you looking for?
  2. Why do you want to do this?
  3. So, what specifically are you going to do with those results in mind?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Philippe Starck on God

"God is the answer when we don't know the answer."

A good talk by Philippe Starck (the cool orange juicer guy), and humorous in places.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Constant Crisis of Faith

What I value most about my "belief system" is its tendency to change.  After so many years of this, I have come to realize that what I believe now will inevitably change.  In other words, what I believe now is wrong.  It's like living in a constant crisis of faith.

Part of me wonders if this is a bad thing.  But I cannot imagine another state of being.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dilbert Says

If the media had ignored the calls for war with Iraq, or treated the WMD situation as crazy alarmist talk, the war in Iraq wouldn't have happened. But war is big money for the media, especially with a celebrity dictator in the mix, so there was a tremendous incentive to help it along.

--Scott Adams

What I like about this thought is that it points away from the "conspiracy theory" of the war in Iraq, and suggests that the media's assistance to the war was a product of its sensational nature.

All systems have their flaws, their tendencies.  There is no escaping it.  The best we can do is be aware of these.  Unfortunately, I believe there is a natural tendency to avoid questioning these kinds of things.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Taking Appropriate Action

It's never too late to take compassionate action.

Nor is it ever soon enough.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Atheism and Awe

Awe and atheism are not mutually exclusive.  I think it's a common misconception, actually.  At least I have never met an atheist that wasn't moved by a powerful sunset!  The difference lies in the attribution of such a sight.

In fact, when I came to New Mexico, it was a regular event (at least several times a week) to see something that would almost move me to tears. I could call these "religious moments".  Despite this, I never once thought God had anything to do with it.
Atheists, generally, are similarly "moved" by an elegant equation or bit of code, or a startling conclusion from a test... and I'm sure you would recognize that.  There's little difference, really, when they admire a vast sky or mist in the cherry orchard: they are awed by nature and the confluence of discrete events that synthesized that moment.

Pantheists tend to be a little more explicit about it than atheists, but I suspect they have the same basic responses.

What Makes Science Better Than Religion?