Tag Archive: Shoestring Philosophy


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.

Mice in the grain store

Everyone knows that people in crowds behave differently from individuals. Individuals may be smart, but crowds are stupid. There’s something about being part of a large group that somehow seems to strip away the mental capabilities of the individual; they give up their decision making to the group and hence shrug off responsibility for their own actions. Suddenly they can behave like wild animals.

Crowds - Not as smart as mice
“Let’s smash stuff up!”

The IQ of a crowd is the IQ of the smartest member, divided by the number of people.

So what’s the IQ of the human race? Well, the highest IQ on record is Physicist and Engineer Kim Ung-yong with a score of 210. The earth’s population is 6.92 billion. So the human race as a whole has an IQ of about 0.00000003. You’ll not need me to tell you; that’s a poor IQ for a glass of water.

I figure we’re not even on the same scale as animals – we’re barely alive. Some kind of low level cell virus or something.

But seriously, what about those mice?

A Mouse

Do you know what happens when a few mice get into a grain store undetected? Well, with the food supply so good they make themselves at home. They have babies. Because the food supply is so easy, all the babies grow up healthy strong. They have babies themselves. If twenty mice pair off and have six little mice, then you’ve got seventy mice. All of which can breed. So then you’ve got 280 mice. Then 1120. The population explodes and there are mice everywhere. Hundreds! Thousands! Swarms of the little buggers. It’s good times for mice! The party just keeps rolling.

High in mouse - low in pollyunmouse

Mice rule the world!

The population keeps rocketing until one day, quite suddenly, the grain runs out. Ah – bummer.

So then what happens?

Well, there’s a problem. The surrounding countryside can’t support the massive population of mice. The farmer isn’t going to restock that silo because she’s gone bust (all that grain she had to sell, well, it’s kinda missing). So the mice empire crashes. Every plant and bit of wood for miles around is gnawed to ground and there are desperate mice fighting over bits of dirt and pebbles that aren’t even edible. Soon the ground is littered with the dying and dead. It’s the mouse apocalypse.

Maybe a few survive. These few manage to scratch out a living in the wasteland, but they’ll never have it so good again. Life for the survivors is hard.

So what should the mice have done?

Well, what if back when the first few mice snuck into the grain store they all got together and had a mouse meeting. Some important and clever mouse could address his comrades:Smart mouse knows what to do...

“Listen up lads, we’re on to a good thing here. We can live like kings for as long as we like. So long as we only take a small amount of the grain, and keep quiet, no one will ever know. We can stay here and build self-sufficient way of life that will last not only for us, but for our children, and for their children. We can ensure prosperity for our progeny for all time; until we finally evolve into something that can beat the shit out of a cat.”

They could set themselves up a little self-sufficient hippy commune and live in harmony with their environment. The farmer gets the grain, they take a small cut, life goes on and everyone is happy.

But mice don’t do that. They’re not that smart.

And honestly? Neither are we.

Oh, damnit! There goes the last of the brandy...

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...