More on Change

Here’s some new thoughts (for me) about the current broad changes taking place. What if there is no error happening? I’ve heard it said many times in recovery that whatever IS is God’s will… God does not make mistakes. So, let me explain how that might be a way to look at what it coming down the pike for humanity.

Sometimes, I think that God, the Gods or Nature have made some sort of very stupid blunder in allowing us humans to so pollute the atmosphere that global warming is unleashed. It seems like there are too many people. It seems like a huge disaster in the making. All sorts of species, we are told, stand to loose out and go extinct.

I can also see economic problems on the horizon with robotics rendering our current economic systems unworkable. Historically, large scale economic dislocation has led to violence. For example, in pre-Hitler Germany, the economics got so bad that people had to take home their day’s pay in a wheel barrow and by the time they got it home, it was almost worthless. That economic disaster laid the groundwork for the holocaust in my opinion. Today, we have a so-called “proto-fascist” running for president. I think his support derives from the huge economic dislocations of the past decade. That dislocation is bound to increase.

I see antibiotic resistance developing which would allow some menacing diseases to once again kill and disable people. That seems inevitable even if we stop using antibiotics in animal feeds or for infections where they are useless. Those actions would only slow the spread of antibiotic resistance.

If there is no error; no divine errors or blunders of nature, we are on the verge of a new round of Darwinian style evolution, that will bring much “gnashing of teeth.” But some will accept the challenges ahead and adapt. The world will change but not end, the ecology will change but not end. Humans will also survive though there may come widespread droughts, famines and pestilences such that some may not make it, but many if not most, will survive and eventually we will prosper again and hopefully we will be better fit as a species.

Economics of Robots

The economics of robots is of concern to people generally as robots replace
human labor. Starting with the least skilled work, robotics can do jobs
with fewer mistakes, faster and more efficiently. They can work 24 hours a
day and don’t need lunch breaks or vacations. An employer does not have to
make accommodations for their disabilities or offer parental leave. Neither
does the employer of robots need to bargain with a union.

Robots are gradually sliding up the scale of skills that they can provide.
Current research on self-driving cars will produce robotic “drivers” of
superhuman ability who never make mistakes. This technology will easily
transfer to trucks and some 3.5 million truck drivers will have their jobs
at risk. They will, no doubt, move to massive amounts of re-education in
a futile race to get skills that have not yet been rendered redundant to
some technology or other.

In the US, we have already seen much of our manufacturing employment go
overseas to much cheaper workers. Some people are hopeful that we can shut
off the flow of jobs over our borders. However, robots are even cheaper than
the cheapest. Those jobs are gone for good.

A person might think that a rebuilding of strong unions might counteract the
movement to roboticize the workplace. As Tyler CowanTyler Cowan points out,
strong unions and high priced labor will just accelerate this trend.

Paul Krugman
speaks about classes of workers that can and cannot be replaced.
Krugman points out that mere diplomas will not save the day. Even highly
skilled jobs are being replaced by technologies and that trend is very
likely to continue and expand.

My own field of software engineering is being farmed out to technologies as
are many other engineering tasks. Legal research is performed faster and
more accurately by machine learning implementations than armies of
paralegals and lawyers. People are showing up at Doctor’s offices often
better informed about their conditions than the physician. Krugman says even
highly skilled jobs requiring a great deal of education are getting taken
over by technologies. I agree.

Here, again, high priced/high skilled jobs where shortages occur just spur
more research and greater efforts to find technological replacements for
people. And whoever succeeds in replacing high priced labor with low cost
technology can win really big rewards in the marketplace today.

If this trend continues over the long run, expanding further and further up
the skill scale, it is possible that markets for the production by robots
will fall away as no one will have any money because they are unemployed.
It is also possible that all (or most) wealth will accrue to robot owners
while everyone else lives in a starving, brutish poverty. That would create
a very dangerous political environment.

So, I forecast that some sort of redistributive mechanism is going to arise.
It could be universal ownership of stock in robot driven production. It could
be state ownership. It could be a tax based redistribution. I am not
predicting which manner of redistribution will occur but that some manner

Alternative Brain Fuels and Alcoholism

There is some murky (to me) evidence that the alcoholic brain may use acetate for fuel.

Understanding this seems to require some investigation of the structure and chemistry of brain cells particularly glial cells and astrocytes.

It turns out that there are a number of alternative energy sources for the brain. For example, ketone bodies, lactate, pyruvate, glutamate, or acetate.

As a recovering alcoholic, this metabolism switching from glucose to other fuels makes an intuitive sense to me. I’ve had glycemic issues since before alcoholism. Since recovery, I have found that alternative fuel, especially ketones from coconut oil or MCT, work well for me to keep away hypoglycemia.Something about my chemistry seems to simply do better without glucose. It may be that acetate
is yet another way that a brain can operate without glycemic problems. Of course, with alcohol generated acetate, you create a whole host of other problems.

A Lifetime of Change

My Mother died a couple of weeks ago. She was in her 90s. Her death led me
to think about what had happened over her lifetime. It seems especially
interesting what happened for women.

She was born in the US in the 1920s just after women got the right to vote.
That right to vote took a constitutional amendment ratified into law by men
though women demonstrated and petitioned and generally made it known they really
wanted to be able to vote.

In my mother’s time, WWII came along. There are these iconic posters of a
working woman saying ‘We can do it.’ Indeed, WWII debunked a myth of prior
times that women could not do heavy industrial work.

In 1957 the pill was approved for severe menstral disorders and in 1960 it
was approved for birth control. I don’t know if my Mom ever took the pill.
My Dad had a vascectomy in about 1958.

Rape within a marriage was legal until the 1970s. The previous laws said
that permantent consent was given by the act of marriage.

The attempted Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution failed in the late
1970s and early 1980s. But it was a close vote.

Excercise and Capacitiy Development

In a 2003 book called Power of Full engagement, authors Swartz and Loehr develop a them around excercise and capacity development. The original idea was that muscular capacity develops from excercise and rest. These authors, however, looked into a generalization of that development process in people and found that all sorts of human capacities grow in the face of stress/rest cycles. I think Swartz and Loehr make a very compelling case that we need stress nut we also need breaks from stress during which our growth takes place.

I heard Dr. Tom Cowan author of the Fourfold path to Healing talking one time about how we should welcome diseases. In this case he was talking about flu and his reasoning was that the fever that accompanies a flu tends to kill off cancer cells. the notion he expounded on was that the body can actually seek out and admit a flu infection in order to prevent a worse disease. I would add to that idea, that the immunity is another human capacity that strengthens from a stress and rest cycle.

We humans, being human, would like to avoid stress entirely. We would like to avoid disease entirely. We can imagine utopian societies free of violence, deprivation, disease and ignorance. That utopia ideal has yet to overtake the planet. And in fact, it might not be such a good idea.

In the 1960s Ethologist John B. Calhoun did a series of experiments with Norway Rats. His most famous was called Universe 25. In this experiment, he set up an environment that closely resembled our ideas of a uptopia only he did it for a colony of mice.
The mice prospered and went from an initial population of 4 individuals to over 2,200. But by the 600th day of the experiment, the mice were on their way to extinction. They lost the capacity to reproduce. Their behavior became abnormal and often destructive and the mouse society collapse in what Calhoun called a “spiritual death.”

Thoughts about Thinking

Troop losses

Troop losses

The idea of symbolic process is familiar to most programmers. The idea is that some things are accessible through symbols. Although we use symbolic processing in technological realms, it is also useful in considering the inner psychological and spiritual worlds.

A programming variable is a type of symbol. It has a name and a value and the value can be accessed or changed by invoking that name so it operates in a type of dynamic metaphorical way.

A common paper road map is another symbolic idea. A road map is a symbolic representation or model of some geographic area. It is not, in itself, the reality of what it represents. It is a metaphor for real world road systems.

I have found, through many years of practice, that some of my innermost being and processes are accessible in a symbolic or metaphorical way. This ranges from a yoga technique of being able to raise my body temperature by focusing on a vision of a fire in my abdomen, to the dream generated intuitions that can bring novel solutions to work related problems.

I practice various forms of meditation. Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve been involved with a lot of meditation dealing with thought and the attempts to detach from my thinking and become more of a non-judgmental observer of my own thinking. As I do this, I often see how my thoughts are often reactions to external things and how my thoughts interact with each other and resonate well beyond the initial content.

For example, I have an alarm clock that offers a 5 minute ‘snooze’ feature. It goes off at the appointed time and press the snooze button, then I practice gratitude for 5 minutes while waiting for the snooze period to end with another alarm. That 5 minutes of gratitude can continue to resonate optimistically and joyfully for several hours. I could not have realized the effect of that practice without an ability to observe my thinking.

Observing my psyche without judgment is also an important component of self-discovery and for providing access to the unconscious components of my being. Judgment will immediately suppress my thinking if I think it is unacceptable. This suppression is sometimes silly as it is not very effective. The thought does NOT go away in the face of suppression. In fact, suppressed thinking can grow just outside of view.

I have have tons and tons of unacceptable thoughts! There is murder, mayhem, X-rated material and stuff practically gauranteed to produce post traumatic stress disorder. That is all mixed in with some generous and uplifting stuff. I suspect most people have a mix similar to mine, but since i don’t actually occupy the space between anyone else’s ears, I don’t know for sure what goes on there.

So, suspending judgment, observing thinking and accessing the body and unconscious through metaphor are simple tools that most people can employ. Great insights can be had doing this. But acting on those insights is a different issue. I recently read an article speaking to the idea of actualizing the discoveries that arise from spiritual practice. It is not so easy!

Cultural Withdrawl

There is a cultural withdrawal going on that has some disturbing implications. I’ve met a number of Millennials who are have not become independent. I can attribute that to an ever extending childhood and adolescence, but that’s not really what I’m concerned with here.

I know young men who are not interested in pursuing relationships. They tell me “the deal” is not worthwhile. By “the deal” they are talking about the traditional role of being a male: getting married, having kids, buying a house and so on.  They prefer to withdraw into a bedroom and play video games and avoid the work world.

I am exploring that phenomena at this point. It is not just the men I know. The Deseret News published an article about it. I am seeing example in the Lad culture in England, the sekkusu shinai shokogun of Japan.

I want to investigate this because I have had times in my own life when I, too, thought “the deal” was not worthwhile and too difficult to attain.

Sense vs. Vision

I have found great value in coming to my senses. There is a reference to this idea in the biblical tale of the prodigal son who came to his senses. Sensing does work for me as a powerful first aid for grief or PTSD type brain storms. When i devote my attention to sensing, my thinking lessens.

At times, painful image or words come through my mind unbidden. They are sent and re-sent, thus they can be called resentments. Even though the term resentment is usually used to denote some sort of anger, I have found it useful to apply the term to all sorts of thinking that gets re-sent through my mind. This specific terminology allows me to apply some stuff I learned about dealing with resentments. My mind can really get stuck repeating thoughts. It is as though I am addicted to those thoughts.

There is a chapter in the AA big book called Freedom From Bondage. That chapter describes a method to get free of resentment. I have used that method many times and I can attest that it does work to stop the squirrel cage of repeated thoughts or even visions.

Another idea I have used in relation to troublesome thinking is the idea of diffusion. I got this idea from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) literature. I have never actually been to an ACT therapist. Instead, I have read a number of books and articles and listened to many podcasts on ACT topics.

Some of the techniques I found in ACT are very similar to mindfulness meditation techniques. These techniques are great for building a bit of detachment (or diffusion) from thoughts or ideas. By allowing a thought to become just a thought instead of some part of who I think I am, it gets easier to let the thought go. The thought gets less powerful, less painful as I get even a micron of distance from it. There is more to ACT that just diffusion and I do recommend looking into it.

But, sometimes I find it valuable to take a totally different approach in to my thinking. Because my recovery has been effective, most of the time, my thoughts are NOT pain laden forms of self-abuse. In fact, my thinking has value and I want to explore my inner visions. I want to examine my thoughts and ideas. I want to get closer to my innermost self. I have come to trust my mental processes as gifts and I am no longer concerned that my thinking is so insane that it is simply not to be trusted.

There have been time, of course, when my mind seemed to have nothing better to do than to torture me or someone nearby. I have not gotten rid of my mind’s capacity to criticize. I need that capacity. In fact, I need all of the processes of my mind, even the darkest and most unacceptable. I need to accept my thinking, my visions and my emotions and the values reflected from those. And especially, I need to mine that stuff for my values, which I then need to live.

I pray for God to guide my thinking and visioning. I pray that even when I do not believe there is a God. And I get a deep sense that my thinking has become trustworthy. I write down the guidance I receive and I write down descriptions of visions and I articulate ideas in my journals and I then examine what’s there. Some is nonsense and some is really significant and useful. Sometimes is is surprising what is written from my guidance. I am connected in this way to some part of myself that I really need to connect with.

I live in a time when rationality is a most esteemed characteristic. I want things to be scientifically validated. But there are certain things for which rationality is not the only or even the most important tool.

I’ve found that the subconscious phenomena of life are accessible through metaphorical thought. For example, I can raise my body temperature by imagining a fire or warm sun in my abdomen. I also speculate that access to genetic information is available through these intuitive and metaphorical processes.


More Back To Basics

We have a new 90 in 90 Back To Basics. It uses Underearning as the focus of the reading, but it is open to all and thus it is not an official UA (or any other fellowship) meeting. “The only requirement to participate is a desire to do the 12 steps.”

Text for this meeting series.

This meeting uses the Back to Basics yellow book, by Wally P. that can be ordered from Amazon or from Wally P’s website. It is also available at many bookstores that cater to 12 step communities.

We are doing a weekly cycle. Monday morning is session 1, Tuesday morning is session 2, Thursday is session 3, Friday is session 4. On the other days, each member of the sharing partner pairs can do their 4th to 9th steps. We see these as 6 meeting. Each person pursuing a 90 in 90 can add one further meeting per week to fullfill that commitment.

I have committed to leading the reading meetings for the entire 13 weeks if need be. Newcomers have been matched to available sharing partners.

My sense is that God is using me. I did not know I was capable of this. I feel a huge sense of gratitude hearing these people recovering. I’ve also done my own 4th to 9th on a troubling stuck-ness in my job. That was huge. It got me unstuck. This process is so much simpler than any other I have used, yet it is also much quicker than any other process I’ve used. My hope is that this is not only my experience, but that it works this way for others.

I’ll receive a person’s 4th to 9th this weekend. That process, in the past, has also provided me with great healing, even though it was not my own inventory.


God and Evil

God and Evil is a notion that came to in my daily practice. In my AA big book, pg 449, it is written:

Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.

Another thought comes from the Tao Te Ching verse 5:

The Tao doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil.The Master doesn’t take sides; she welcomes both saints and sinners.

These two quotes hold out an ideal — an ideal that runs counter to my reactions. Most rcently, for example, the bombing of the Boston Marathon seems like something that could not have been allowed by God. “God must’ve made a mistake” would be that line of thinking.

I work in a professional newsroom, where things like the Boston bombing are detailed, investigated and brought to attention. The bombings were in my face and I couldn’t shut them out for several days. In fact, there are horrors in the air much of the time in a newsroom. I have to think about them. So do first responders and those who work in the justice system or medical system and no doubt many other people. I “process” a lot of this stuff via contemplation, journaling and prayer. As a result, I am becoming less and less entangled in the emotions of events. This emotional stability is extremely valuable.

It is enough that the traumatic events of the world traumatize those directly impacted. It is not useful to repeat the trauma in every person who observes or thinks about events. I have found that I cannot directly, by any force of will, make myself not feel horror or make myself not think of those horrifying things that come up every day. But I am finding a way of emotional stability on these turbulent oceans of fear, outrage and uncertainty.

Good and evil may not be able to exist without each other. They are judgements, not facts. As soon as I ascribe to something that it is good, I imply that there exists something not good. And likewise when I make the judgement call that something is evil, I automatically create the idea that there is something non-evil.

I could modify a poplar physics notion and postulate that

for every judgement, there is an equal and opposite judgement.

I can also hold that many, if not all, of my judgements are judgments of God or God’s handiwork.

If you accept the idea that my judgments are judgements of God, I would also offer, that God created this judgmentalism, this reactionary tendency. These things seem to lead into a conundrum of tangled logic that the rational mind cannot.

But the judgements I make, are just expressions of life looking after life. For example, the cat thinks that killing and eating mice is a good thing while the mouse probably thinks cats are horrible monsters and certainly an evil to be avoided. Here, good or evil are relative to whose perspective you take. In fact, I cannot find good or evil that are not relative to perspective.

This goes right out to the extenction of species, like dinosaurs who once ruled the planet. Their extinction made room for us. But our horrific genocides also probably have benefits for other species on this planent who compete with us.

Fortunately, I don’t need to know the nature of God, good or evil in order to make use of God. In fact, I really don’t understand God, or know if there really is a God, at least in the anthropomophic sense. God may be some illusion that is patently false. I have found that to be irrelevant to my own spiritual need. God does not even have to exist in order for me to make effective use of God.

That means that debates over the accuracy of the Bible and the efficacy of
beliefs and identities that power religious warfs are irrelevant to me perosonally. I don’t care is evolution created the human or if God planted us. It is interesting to observe the cat and mouse, but I’ve finally come to a place where I don’t need to overlay them with my inner conflicts.