Category: CyberTao


Do it anyway…

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Kent M. Keith, 1968

You can still lose even when you really try.
Try anyway.

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I ate a cheeseburger....

I figure most people have heard of the saying “You are what you eat”. It’s usually used as some kind of oblique reference to the fact that you’re eating something you probably shouldn’t be.

“Um… is that a… are you… uh… are you eating a squirrel?”

“Yup. It’s OK, it’s got ketchup on it.”

“You should be careful; you are what you eat!”

“Skkkkrt!!”

And that’s when she ran up a tree and started throwing acorns at my dog, officer.

Nobody here except us squirrels....

Well, ok. Maybe you’re unlikely to turn into a squirrel (or a cheeseburger, or a lentil soup). However, if you think about it, your body is entirely constructed from the food and drink that you shovel into the front of your face (the stuff you spill on the shirt doesn’t count). So on a basic level, we really are made up of exactly what we eat.

But, then… if we are what we eat. Then other things are made up of what they eat too. So, although you might eat a cheese burger, the various bovine contributors to your meal were also made up of what they ate. So… um… grass or something, mostly I guess.

If you follow it back, any animal you might choose to eat is probably made of plants (and if you stick to salad, you get to eat the plants yourself – you know – cut out the middle man and all that). But… what do plants eat?

Plants sup a few nutrients up from the soil and they drink in a lot of water… but mostly they live on… well… Sunshine.

Sunshine!

You are what you eat – and what you eat is entirely plants – and plants are made from sunshine. So – you are what you eat and what you eat is sunshine.

So next time you’re feeling not so special and need a bright thought try this one on for size:

You’re made of fucking sunshine!

Your face was fused in the furnace of a star....

The higher purpose clause

What is the higher purpose clause?

Well, is an argument used by many religions, governments, and even individuals to justify doing something that is clearly wrong, on the grounds that it is for the greater good.

The Higher Porpoise Clause

Not to be confused with the Higher Porpoise Clause

“We’re going to build a new dam and flood your village to make a reservoir so the people in the next town have clean water.”

Well, shucks. It sucks to live in that village.

In many cases that’s as far as it goes, some authority or other balancing the needs of different groups and deciding to screw one in favor of the many. I guess that’s just progress.

However, the real danger of the Higher Purpose Clause is that it can easily be used to justify almost anything.

Let’s start with a trivial example

Imagine that there is a person with a bomb and they are about to kill ten people. The only way you can stop this person is to shoot them before they set off the bomb. You know that if you shoot, you will kill the aggressor. Chain of argument goes: this person is a murderer; I can save ten innocent lives; the only person who comes to harm is a killer; so I’ll shoot.

(I know, there’ll always be those who wouldn’t shoot – those who’d let the killer blow up the innocent people, but we’ll assume for now that you’re not one of those – we’ll see what happens to those people later)

Fine and dandy. You’d save the innocent many by killing the killer.

So let’s take the same scenario up a notch, shall we?

Let’s say that rather than one person set to kill ten people, you have a group of ten people about to kill one hundred people. You can save all one hundred people by blowing up the ten killers with a handy bomb.

Handy Bomb

Oooh, handy!

The moral argument is still the same, you save ten times as many people as you kill and every person that you kill is in fact a killer being prevented from acting out the murderous plan. Only there’s a catch. If you agree that you should blow up the ten, I’ll shoot you.

What?

You have just become the aggressor in the first example.  Therefore, while you feel morally ok about blowing up ten people, I feel morally ok shooting you to prevent it.

The problem here is a lack of information. If you knew the whole picture and you could see everyone’s intent, then a clear course of action for the greater good could be made. Even in this trivial example, it’s easy to get caught out. So what happens in the real world where things are so incredibly complex? Well… soldiers blow the shit out of hospitals and schools; they kill hundreds of thousands of civilians in a vague hunt for a handful of people they probably won’t even recognise if they found. Then politicians put a snappy strap line on it and sell it as Righteous and Good. The higher purpose clause at work – don’t worry about those foreign civilians, it’s for the greater good of the free world.

Hey, it's just like the real thing....

Bombing the hospital looses you 1000 points, but that's ok because you can get those back by boming the school...

So what’s the alternative?

Quite simply: Do no wrong.

Each act should be good in its own right, without further justification. It’s wrong to kill, so if the bomber is about to kill ten people, you let that happen. The bomber may do wrong, but that’s no reason to also do wrong.

The trouble with this philosophy is that if you follow it, you get fucked.

You can probably get away with it in a large city if you’re careful and lucky and hide in obscurity, because you’ll never need to do wrong. You can probably get away with it if you live on a mountain where nobody will trouble you.

However, we still live in a world where some people exist in poverty and others live like Emperors. If you’re reading this then on a global scale, you’re probably an Emperor (or at least, a well off noble of some kind). Without the will to defend yourself and your country, you will be dragged down into the darkness. So you must fight, or at least condone others to fight on your behalf.

“All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

So what’s the answer?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’d like to say that you should do something, but do no wrong. In practice that’s not how I behave at all.

If I’m walking down a dark alleyway in the night and I’m confronted by a man with a knife I have the same options. If I do nothing – I get fucked –  evil wins. If take care to do no wrong, I put myself at risk and I probably get fucked – evil wins. So what do I do? I fucking kill him. I don’t feel bad about that. If I were to invoke the higher purpose clause I could say that I am protecting innocent women; that if just made my escape and let him go then next time he might attack a girl that couldn’t defend herself. But that’s not it. That’s not why I’d do it. I’d do it because I would be fighting to win. I would be defending myself with no holds barred. If I let him go he might follow me. My intent would be to end any threat to myself. Because of this, if I knocked him down and he wasn’t getting up again, the situation would be altered and I could walk away.

The higher purpose clause would murder him while he was down. That’s why I don’t trust it.

The difference is – if he runs away – I won’t follow him.

So what’s the answer?

I guess you pay your money, take your choice, hope things all work out in the end…

The next town

I was reading a post by Steve the Taochild today about perspective. This reminded me of a little story about the way people look at the world.  

A man was walking along the road when he came across a monk sitting by the roadside.Monk by the road

“I am going to the next town,” said the man, “what can you tell me about it?”
“What did you think of the town from which you have come?” asked the monk.

“It was awful. It was dirty and cramped and full of liars and cheats!”

“Ah,” said the monk sadly, “I think you will find the next town is much the same.”

Later that day another man came along the road, he too met the monk.

“I am going to the next town,” said the second man, “what can you tell me about it?”

“What did you think of the town from which you have come?” asked the monk.

“It was beautiful. It had wonderful parks and the people were open and friendly.”

“Ah,” said the monk with a smile, “I think you will find the next town is much the same.”

What is Ma?

I have a hand. The hand is not me, but it is mine. I have a brain, this is not me, but is it (mostly) mine. I have thoughts, but again, these are not me. I have memories, they are mine, but they are not me.

There was a philosopher that used this argument for the existence of a soul, but the argument is flawed simply because I can just as easily say: I have a soul, but it is not me. I don’t think I have a soul, I think that idea is just wishful thinking that’s gotten tied up in dogma.

But I do know that whatever part of me I pick out, that part isn’t me. Even the sum of all those parts doesn’t quite cover it. There’s more to me than the sum of my parts. There’s more to you than the sum of your parts too. We have emergent properties that are more than we can really understand.

We have Ma. An emptiness that longs to be filled.

Ma is negative space. Ma is not something that is created by the elements themselves but rather it is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences the elements. It’s the bit that’s not specifically defined and yet adds meaning and purpose to that which is defined.

Lao Tse explains it like this:Lao Tse

 Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
but the empty space between them
is the essence of the wheel.

Pots are formed from clay,
but the empty space between it
is the essence of the pot.

Walls with windows and doors form the house,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the house.

[Lao Tse]

Perhaps in the same way, your body and mind form the human, but the empty space within you is what drives you. Most of all, it is the fear of that emptiness that is the essence of you. It is the fear of hollowness, the longing to be complete, that pushes people to create Gods and Souls. We are all defined by the emptiness within us and we constantly fight it.

Maybe when we know we are empty we can learn not to fight it but to use that space, in the same way we can make use of the space in a pot or in a house. We can make it ours. We can fill it with blackcurrent jelly. We can go live in it. There, we can find peace.

And, somehow, I’ve completely failed to turn a post about Ma into a ‘your mom’ joke… damn… time for a Socially Awkward Penguin:

Socially awkward pengiun

Ah... yeah... what I meant was...

Finding yourself

Omni omni omni...

I used to hear about people doing all sorts of things in order to find themselves. People attending religious camps, climbing mountains, trekking across deserts, and sitting alone in the dark staring at the wall. One guy even spent a whole winter living in a tiny wooden shack surrounded by hungry polar bears. I mean, seriously? Find yourself? Really? Here’s a hint. Put up one hand in front of your face. You’ll find it’s attached to an arm (unless you’ve had a nasty accident or something, in which case you may need to apply the principle to a different limb). Follow that up to the shoulder and you’ll find that you’re actually right there! You’re attached! You’re not going anywhere. Hey you’ve found yourself, have a beer and get on with your day, right?

I mean, what do you really find if you sit on a mountain top by yourself for three months? I guess you find out that it can get damn cold at night; that toilet paper is actually pretty cool stuff; that body odour really isn’t that big of a deal; that it doesn’t really matter that you felt like an idiot when the girl you fancied mocked you in front of your friends. But you knew that already, right? I mean, toilet paper? How cool is that?

Man, toilet paper is so cool...

I’ve been up the mountain; I’ve walked the desert and I’ve spent my nights watching the ocean. Somehow I knew I was lost, but I didn’t find myself in any of those places. I tried other places too. Turns out I’m not at the bottom of a bottle of vodka, nor am I upside-down in a BMW in a ditch in Germany (at least, not right now, anyway).

What lampost, officer?

Nice parking...

Everywhere I went I just found my history was already there, just waiting for me. I realized that it’s not about finding yourself at all. It’s about cutting loose all the things that are not you. All that shit that builds up in your mind that just isn’t that important but makes each day harder. I used to be real bad for that. My history lived behind my eyes. Everything I saw was colored by the glow of the bridges I’d burned and disfigured by the shadows cast by the dead. But one day I realized: That history isn’t me. It’s shit that happened, sure. I was there. But it isn’t me.

Maybe some people feel they need to be alone in the mountains to cut thru all their history and their current situation to find what’s left. I don’t think you need the mountain. I think you can find yourself, right now, right here. You don’t need that romantic, meditation imagery. You don’t need those scented candles and voodoo worry dolls. You don’t need all the commercialized pine forest relaxation aids and panpipe moods.  You don’t even need to finish reading this post. You just make a choice to cut loose.

So I put my hand in front of my face. I followed my arm up to the shoulder. You know what? I’m right here. I’ve been here all along. In the end, I guess, I finally found myself, but there was a slight problem. Turns out that I didn’t like me very much. Guess you can’t win ‘em all, huh?