I’ve written fairly frequently about death and dying. The concept of non-existence for eternity fascinates me. I suppose that might be a taste weird, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in my wondering. One of my first posts on the subject is about my attitude toward my own death. You can read it here, if you’re so inclined.
I’ve also written about one of my closest friends who was killed in Vietnam, long ago. That post is located here. Another came much later, and is about another friend I had known since before I can remember. I hadn’t spoken with him in a long time and heard about his death from one of his brothers. It can be found here.
I also touched on the subject of grief, somewhat generally, in a post where I ended by lamenting the loss of people I never knew but somehow felt I should have upon hearing from those who were close to them. That post is located here.
All this is merely an intro to a thought I encountered recently on Facebook, and I wanted to share. I think it more than adequately expresses what grief truly is, and how it affects us. What follows is that sentiment. I want to remember it well.
Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.
“Is it all just for us, or do we get to share it with anyone?”
~ Paul Sutter (Astrophysicist on “How The Universe Works”)
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is around 100,000 light years in diameter. That’s roughly 587,900,000,000,000,000 miles or 946,100,000,000,000,000 kilometers across. Those are in the quadrillions, which translates loosely into a “shitload.” The fastest man-made object—according to my research on the Intertubes—was a bit of a toss-up between NASA’s Helios 2 and their Juno spacecraft; that is until the Parker Solar Probe was launched. When it reaches its closest to the sun (in a few years) it will be traveling at approximately 430,000 MPH! That’s screaming. However, even at that speed it would take nearly 1,560 years to cross the entire galaxy.
Current estimates suggest there may be as many as 200,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe. Astronomers, astrophysicists, and cosmologists suggest our galaxy alone contains up to 200,000,000,000 stars. That’s an awful lot of stuff, eh?
Yet, in all of this, we have not been able to answer the most fundamental question we have about the universe . . . Are we alone? Is there life out there we just haven’t discovered? I like how astrophysicist Paul Sutter looks at it (see the quote from him, above, that I started this post off with.) I find it difficult to believe, now that we understand much of the physics and chemistry of the Universe, that life hasn’t (or won’t) evolve in places other than this one nondescript star system we call home.
Another quote I love is one I’m going to paraphrase, as the original quote, from Edward Robert Harrison, doesn’t quite provide the essence of what I’m trying to get across. His quote is: “Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas, which, given enough time, turns into people.” It almost says it all, but I think “Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas which, given enough time, begins to wonder where it came from . . . and where it’s going,” is a bit more on point.
If you are unfamiliar with, or new to, the field of cosmology you might not know what this means. Essentially, it’s refining what is the generally accepted understanding of how the Universe has evolved from nothing but sub-atomic particles to Hydrogen and, through the process of star formation (and spectacular stellar deaths via supernovae) the heavier elements have been formed . . . many of which are the building blocks of life, and us. We’re the descendants of the primal Hydrogen that made up the early universe and its first generation of stars.
To me, the concept of evolution—both of the universe itself and of life on Earth (perhaps elsewhere)—is far more incredible and truly beautiful than any origin story of any religion I’ve encountered . . . and I’ve encountered a fair number of them. Imagining the evolutionary process, which has played out over billions and billions (h/t Carl Sagan) of years is—for me—a challenging flight of fancy and an enlightening exercise in the dialectic, or zen, or yin-yang of life in this universe.
I hope one day we’ll find out we’re not alone. Perhaps that will give us the humility we need to get along with one another on this little blue dot we call home.
I didn’t really care for the visual I created and posted yesterday, depicting the four boxes of Liberty, so I created another one. I thought yesterday’s was OK in depicting the concept, but I used really simple graphics of the boxes themselves. Last night I thought maybe I should use pictures depicting people—at least for some of them. So . . . here’s the new graphic. It’s much larger than the one I posted yesterday.
PS – You can use all of these boxes simultaneously, save for the last one. Even during a revolution, though, civil life has to continue and it’s quite conceivable all four boxes could be in play at some time.
I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I don’t see the Republicans and white supremacists (I consider them synonymous today) just fading away.
I wasn’t sure if I could “re-blog” one of my own blogs using WordPress’s “Press This” widget, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve also updated this post somewhat. I added the flier depicted below, which I found in a box I’ve been holding onto for entirely too damned long, and made some minor text fixes.
One more thing. The situation I wrote about in the original post I’m re-blogging (six years ago yesterday, btw) has likely gotten worse. At best, nothing much has changed.
Seeing what appears to be the recent appearance of members of the Military tending the flag at virtually every golf tournament, I find myself wondering what it says about the direction of our cultu…
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I spent a few years in the business of helping others, shall we say, adjust their perspective. In the late seventies and early eighties I lived in Playa del Rey, California, a small town with an inordinate number of bars squeezed into a couple of blocks less than a quarter mile from the beach.
I frequented one of them more than the others, as it was almost literally across the street from my front door and, in the business I was in, I only needed to be able to get home quickly once in a while. The bar is still there and, if you watch TV, you may have seen it in a few shows. It’s called “The Prince O’ Whales.” I practically owned a stool there and had asked them to carry The Glenlivet when I first started frequenting the place. They were kind enough to oblige me and I have no idea how many cases I personally went through in the few years I spent much of time there.
However, this post has precious little to do with where I lived, how I survived, and how much Scotch I drank in my thirties. It’s actually about an article that was printed in the November 12, 1981 edition of Rolling Stone. It was written by P.J. O’Rourke. If you were an adult around that time, and you’ve not encountered this before, you may really enjoy it; it’s quite funny . . . and mostly (reasonably close to) the truth.
I have searched high and low for a reprint or a .pdf or URL where I could find the article in its entirety, but it doesn’t seem to exist online. Fortunately, I had made a copy of the pages and recently I took the time to re-type the entire article. I thought it was excerpted from his book “Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People,” but it appears the first edition of that book was in the late eighties. Regardless, I have always found O’Rourke’s sense of humor—at least on this subject—pretty damn entertaining. Enjoy!
Beyond cocktail coquetry.
Cocaine and etiquette are inseparable; they go together like
cocaine and, well, more cocaine. But why should courtesy be so important when “Sinus
highballs” are passed around? Why shouldn’t we behave the way we behave with
stupidly in the refrigerator as though we’d smoked marijuana or run naked
through the streets killing policemen as though we’d taken PCP? There’s no firm
answer: In fact, cocaine would make killing a policeman easier, since he’d be
much less likely to turn into a 9-eyed moon demon while we’re trying to wrest
the gun from his holster. Yet such behavior could not be less appropriate to
the ingestion of “Alkaloid Chitchat Flakes.
Cocaine demands gentility from its partakers, perhaps
because it’s such a sociable drug. MDA is a sociable drug, but it makes people
so sociable they’ll screw a coffee-table leg. That’s not good manners if the
table has an expensive lacquered finish. Or it may be the price of “Talk
Talcum” that inclines us to courtliness, though heroin, too, is costly, and
repeated use of that turns people into Negroes (Reagan administration
statistics clearly show.) Most likely it’s the special magic cocaine performs upon
us all that ignites our civility and refinement. Cocaine makes us so
intelligent, so quick, witty, charming, alert, well-dressed, good-looking and
sexually attractive that it would be unthinkable to be rude under its
influence. True, there are exceptions. Cocaine doesn’t always do that to you.
But it always does it to me. And that’s plenty of reason for people to behave.
THE FUNDAMENTAL NEED
FOR SELF-SACRIFICE . . . AND HOW TO DEAL WITH IMPORTANT PEOPLE
The most important thing to understand about cocaine is, no
matter how wonderful it makes us feel or how interesting it makes us act, it is
bad for our bodies. This is the basis for all etiquette surrounding cocaine
use. And this is why it’s never bad manners to go off alone and fire some “Nose
Nikes” and not share them. To risk your own health while protecting the
well-being of others is the only honorable thing to do. For the same reason,
when offered someone else’s cocaine, you should Electro-Lux as much as possible
for their sake. If there isn’t any left to take, they will be less inclined to
destroy their mucous membranes, become psychotic, suffer heart palpitations or
die from an overdose.
However, for reasons unknown to medical science, there are
people cocaine does not harm. Important people who might be able to help
someone’s career are never injured by cocaine, no matter how much they’re
given. Neither are famous writers or actors or other personalities with whom
many people would like to be friends. Also unaffected are extraordinarily
good-looking, sexy people. In other words, the type of person reading this
article seems to be immune to cocaine’s deadly consequences.
The detrimental effect of a “Cerebellum Blizzard” on others,
though, cannot be overstated. There was a washed-up musician who hung around a
well-known New York nightspot mooching drugs. He turned into a dangerous
psychopath and tried to bore several people to death. My own younger brother
took too much of my cocaine, and the result was a painful bloody nose. Another
unfortunate case involved a vendor of the item itself. He had, no doubt,
sampled too much of his own wares and began to threaten people with violence
just because they owned him small sums of money . . . well, relatively small. A
mysterious informant—who, honest, felt really bad about it—was
compelled to turn him in to the police. (Jail is a famously discourteous
PROBLEMS OF ETIQUETTE EXAMINED
1 – How to Serve
Nothing is more awkward than taking out a vial of
“Granulated Money” in a bar or restaurant and having everyone you know expect
to get some. If you try to pass the “Powdered Trapeze Act” to some people and
not to others, you may get hit over the head with a bottle. And that’s bad
manners. Instead, excuse yourself inconspicuously, saying something like,
“Well, I sure have to go to the bathroom, and so do Robert and Susan and Alice,
but Jim and Fred and Bob don’t have to go.”
Parties present the same problem. In the past, such secluded
spots as coat closets and dark corners of the butler’s pantry were used for
spontaneous lovemaking. Nowadays, these nooks and crannies are crowded with
people taking drugs. But there is still charm in an old-fashioned excuse. If
you would like to give a “Peruvian Speed Bump” to Eileen, an attractive woman
who’s a power in the entertainment industry, but not to her unemployed
boyfriend, Mark, you can always say: “Excuse me, Mark, I thought Eileen might
like to blow me in the laundry room.”
2 – When to Serve
One of the delights of an “Adenoid Snack” is that it’s appropriate
at any time of night or day, often for several days and nights in a row, though
perhaps everyone’s favorite moment to take cocaine is right after a great deal
of it has been taken already.
An increasingly popular time to make your snout play “Selsun
Blue” with the “Dandruff of the Gods” is before an elaborate dinner. This
brightens table talk, lets guests enjoy staring at the food and arranging
little lumps of it in patterns on their plates, and gives the hostess many
valuable leftovers. (An oyster souffle, for instance, can be reheated and fed
to the pets.)
Another favorite moment for an “Inca Pep Rally” is the
second the dealer arrives with the gram. However, some people find it difficult
to figure out when that will be. This is because cocaine dealers operate on
Dope Dealer Savings Time, which is similar to Daylight Savings Time. Just as
Daylight Savings Time is one hour later than Standard Time, Dope Dealer Savings
Time is one hour later than you could possibly imagine anyone being.
3 – What Implements Should Be Used?
There are any number of devices on the market for taking
cocaine. Some are amusing or even useful in carefully measuring portions to
make sure everyone gets too much. But most sophisticated drug users still
prefer the rolled-up $100 bill. Better yet is a $100 bill folded over and
placed inside a wallet. If you have a great, great many of these, people will
find a way to get cocaine up your nose.
4 – What Else Should Be Served?4 –
Most people enjoy a couple of thousand cigarettes with their
“Face Drano.” Other mix “Indoor Aspen Lift Lines” with multiple sedatives to
achieve that marvelous feeling so similar to not having taken drugs at all. But
everyone, whether he wants to or not, should drink plenty of whiskey or gin. If
you smell strongly of alcohol, people may think you are dunk instead of stupid.
(Whatever you serve, overflowing ashtrays, wads of bloody Kleenex and empty
Valium bottles can be arranged to make an attractive centerpiece.)
5 – Who Pays?
There’s considerable debate about this. Some say the guest
should pay for cocaine as a way of saying thank you to the host. Others say the
host should pay for cocaine as part of the entertainment. Most people, however,
believe society should pay for cocaine by having to watch maniacally
self-indulgent movies, fragmented TV sitcom plots and fractured and pathetic
live performances by brain-broiled comedians and pop musicians wound up tighter
than a Hong Kong wristwatch.
6 – Topics of Conversation
. . . one of the things you’re really getting into is cable
TV which is going to be like the rock & roll of the Eighties because everybody’s
going to be hard-wired into 240 channels and there’s this huge market for
software already which is why you’ve got this programming development deal
together that right right now is a class at the New School but is almost sold
to Home Box and is going to be an hour a day that’s part news but like part
entertainment too like this New Wave group that you’ve already done three
minutes on with mini-cam on quarter-inch but you might turn that into a
documentary plus maybe a docudrama for PBS because it’s this sound that’s sort
of Western Swing but punk but ska which is all in the interview you got with
the bass player that you’re going to publish in this magazine you’re starting
which will be all the complete cable listings for all of New Jersey with public
access stuff that isn’t listed anywhere plus like interviews too and . . .
Just because your mouth is moving much faster than your
brain is no reason not to carry on an engaging conversation.
7 – Romance
If you have taken too much cocaine and are unable to become
aroused, try talking into your partner’s genitals. This gives a fair imitation
of oral sex. However, if you have taken even more cocaine, try not to rape
anyone you know.
8 – An Important Question
If a man gives cocaine to a woman, is she then obligated to go to bed with him?
9 – Another Important Question
If a woman gives cocaine to a man, is he then obligated to
go to bed with her?
Jeeze, I didn’t realize it was this late! I’ve gotta run—gotta
get up and go to work in the morning. Plus I feel like I’m coming down with
something. Mind if I do another line before I go?
10 – How is a Dealer Introduced?
It can be a problem knowing how to introduce your dealer. Is
he a friend? Is he an employee? Or is he a dead pumpkin if he sells you another
load of Dexamyl cut with Portland cement? In fact, there’s no proper way to
introduce your dealer socially, because no one ever deals cocaine. They just have a little extra. You see, a very
special friend of theirs—who was in Peru on different business entirely—brought
back, as a personal favor, some incredible rocks, which are also pure flake and
happen to be crystals, too (unless this gram-ette of alleged narcotics is so
hopelessly filled with muck that it’s indistinguishable from Nepalese temple
which case it will be given an exotic name like “Mudlark of the Andes” and a
spurious history having to do with Spanish conquistadors and Indian
headhunters). So no one ever deals cocaine, but they’ll give you this little
extra they’ve got, for you know, what they paid for it, which is unfortunately
$150 a gram, but really, man, this is special stuff, like the Indians used to
get by rubbing a coca bush between two Spanish conquistadors’ heads.
11 – Is It Polite to Refuse?
It’s probably not bad manners to refuse cocaine. It might
even be very gallant to turn down a spoonful of “Platinum Maxwell House,” but
it’s hard to be sure, because, so far, it’s never been done.
12 – What to Wear
Many people believe it doesn’t matter what they wear while
taking a dose of “Brain Tabasco.” Some people even take it in the nude (not
counting a gold Rolex). But, as in every other social situation, clothes do
matter. Richard Pryor is an example of inappropriate cocaine dress. If he had
been wearing a nice, conservative Brooks Brothers suit and an oxford-cloth
shirt, he would have escaped most injuries. Unfortunately—as
is so often the case in today’s increasingly informal world—Mr.
Pryor was wearing a polyester sport shirt decorated with Jamaican bongo
drummers and dyed in colors visible only to bees. This went up like a torch.
Wool, long-staple cotton and other natural fibers have superior flame-retardant
Based on a post from my friend, John Husband, I came across this great article by Vinay Gupta, which simply and (I think) quite elegantly lays out an understanding of an issue I have long sought to internalize . . . but which I’m loathe to claim I actually understand or can clearly articulate. Part of the reason I’m posting this is so I have access to the two simple explanations of the framework. What follows is a bit of Gupta’s post, with a link at the end to the original.
I recently pestered my friend Noah Raford to summarize his understanding of Cynefin and complexity in a single page document. Noah called it the Strategic Complexity Framework.
I, being still a bit dyslexic, can never keep the “simple, complicated, complex, chaotic” thing from Dave Snowdon‘s Cynefin framework straight in my head. And I think about complexity as having three domains (but that’s another story.)
So I’ve taken advantage of open licensing to produce a version of Noah’s Strategic Complexity Framework, called the Strategic Complexity Framework… for Dummies.
A translation guide: Simple (= Simple): put stuff in boxes. Hard (= Complicated): build a rocket ship. Fickle (= Complex): weather, economy, farming. Borked (= Chaotic): war zones, collapses, volcanos.
There’s a ton of great work out there on the background to all of these models, but I have conveniently filed knobs off. Simple!
A friend of mine on Facebook shared the following quote by Bertrand Russell, which was sent to Sir Oswald Mosely in response to a request by Mosely to debate the merits of fascism.
There is no doubt in my mind the Trump administration, and the bulk of the Republican Party that’s currently enabling him, are fascists. They have every intent of restricting our freedoms and keeping us in relative poverty and misery, all so a few may get wealthy at our expense. We must not allow this to happen. We must not give away those precious rights and freedoms we’ve won, and that so many have suffered to gain.
Dear Sir Oswald,
Thank you for your letter and for your enclosures. I have given some thought to our recent correspondence. It is always difficult to decide on how to respond to people whose ethos is so alien and, in fact, repellent to one’s own. It is not that I take exception to the general points made by you but that every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry, compulsive violence, and the sadistic persecution which has characterised the philosophy and practice of fascism.
I feel obliged to say that the emotional universes we inhabit are so distinct, and in deepest ways opposed, that nothing fruitful or sincere could ever emerge from association between us.
I should like you to understand the intensity of this conviction on my part. It is not out of any attempt to be rude that I say this but because of all that I value in human experience and human achievement.
In September of 2002, nearly four months after my 55th birthday, I became a father for the first time in my life. I was in China with Linda, who would later take me as her husband, to adopt our Aimee. Actually, since we weren’t married she had to adopt as a single mother and I was sort of along for the ride, though I was all in.
As part of the process, I had joined a Yahoo chat group especially for parents and prospective parents adopting in China. I also joined a group led by internationally adopted adults who were willing to share their experiences, as well as their admonishments.
I was very active for a while and what follows is one of my posts (from October of 2005) that is still being shared every month with prospective parents of Chinese children being adopted by people in the U.S.:
Gosh, Gordon. You ask such simple questions. My heart truly aches (along with my head) contemplating what our children will eventually deal with as they grow older and their ability to understand matures and develops.
I agree with you, in that we can’t possibly settle the abandonment issue for them. As you say, they own it and we, at best, are innocent bystanders. (I won’t even discuss on this list what “at worst” might be for fear of provoking a firestorm of protest.) What I think we can do is respect them enough to let them take the lead, by becoming loving, attentive listeners. As they gather experiences and come to realizations about the meaning of their lives, we need to be there for them; nonjudgmental, understanding, and supportive. It doesn’t hurt to read about the experiences of adult adoptees (from their own mouths – or fingers) and their parents.
Even then, we have no guarantee they will be able to answer their own questions, or resolve the issues (real or perceived) they will deal with. As you know, I have been following the discussions on IAT for some time now. It has changed how I view my role as an adoptive parent and, at times, I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with it. I consider the discomfort part of my growing process for, as you also know, it isn’t stopping Linda and I from returning to adopt another child.
I know you and Patti well enough to believe you will give it everything you’ve got (and maybe a little more) to do right by your children. If you haven’t already, you might want to read Cheri Register’s book “Beyond Good Intentions: a Mother Reflects on Raising Internationally Adopted Children.” I hope others will contribute to this thread. I think it’s important to understand these issues as early as possible, preferable before one travels to China.
How could I know what country I’m in if there weren’t so many flags flying all over the place? The Urban Dictionary defines “Jingo” as “Someone who is extremely and overly patriotic. Differs from regular patriotism in that jingoism is usually more aggressive.”
My . . . aren’t we exceptional, if we don’t say so ourselves.
Call me crazy, but I find it puzzling and borderline offensive to see flags flying all over the place. Flags are appropriate for military installations, vehicles, and uniforms. Same goes for police and firefighters. Even at schools they make some sense, and I have no problem with individuals flying them from their home for Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, and similar occasions.
But Arby’s? Taco Bell isn’t flying one, though I suppose you could make an argument for a Mexican flag being appropriate. The Hat has no flag pole and neither do most businesses in most any city or town. Flying a flag at a business is, I suppose, up to the owners of the business, and they certainly have every right to do so. I just can’t help wonder why it’s deemed so important to continuously announce one’s patriotism or theoretical love of country. If your flag is bigger than mine, does that mean you’re a better citizen than I; that you’re more enthusiastic about our freedoms and liberties, such as they are?
Also, we Americans seem to have forgotten our flag etiquette. In fact, I’d wager the most of the most enthusiastic flag wavers know the least about how one respects the flag. For instance, you are not supposed to wear it as a piece of clothing. Three people come to mind immediately: Sarah Palin; Ted Nugent, and Tomi Lahren. If you fly one at night, it’s supposed to be illuminated, yet I’ve seen many a home with a flag displayed 24/7, and unlit at night.
I’m not claiming to be more — or even as — patriotic as the next person. What I am interested in pointing out is the hypocrisy of people who wear their patriotism on their sleeve (sometimes quite literally) and lay claim to being super patriotic, despite having neither the knowledge, nor the understanding, of proper respect and etiquette with respect to our nation’s flag. When I think of patriotism, I harken back to what Thomas Paine wrote 241 years ago this Saturday in “The Crisis“:
“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.“
A phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet also comes to mind. I paraphrase:
“The Jingoist doth flag wave too much . . . methinks.”
This overblown patriotism they exhibit is hardly convincing. If they were so damned patriotic, so pure in their love of country which — one might be disposed to think — requires a love of its people as well, it should show in their actions and their relationships with their fellow citizens. On the contrary, most of the loudest chest-beaters harbor a great deal of declared animosity to those they deem as “others”. It’s difficult to see that as something American values ought to exalt.
I learned a long time ago the truly strong are humble, reserved, and quick to help, not hurt others. By the same token, the truly patriotic aren’t likely to brag about or hold their love of country as a weapon to be wielded in a culture war against fellow citizens. As an American, I love my country . . . and I love it more than I love any political party, any religion, or any philosophy of governance or economics. As a human being, I love humanity more than my country, but I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life, so it means a lot to me; nearly everything I’ve ever loved is within its borders. Nevertheless, I don’t need to feverishly wave a flag to prove I’m an American. It’s my heritage, and I’m thankful for it, not proud of something I had nothing to do with.
Pro tip — You don’t have to know you’re making a racial slur for it to be offensive. If you didn’t intend it to be offensive, it just means you’re a fool, but not necessarily a bigot. Also, negligent is often worse than intentional.
Born in 1947, I am an officially retired pensioner who still has two teenage daughters and a desire to contribute. I remain intensely interested in, and fascinated by, Systems Thinking, Machine Learning, Knowledge Management, Decision Intelligence, and Business in general. I am also conversant in such concepts as innovation and ideation, collaborative tools and strategies, crowdsourcing, and the use of social media to accomplish goals ranging from improving business processes to promoting small retail businesses. Since my "retirement" I have done a little bit of freelancing as an editor/proofreader, as well as some technical writing. I've also done a fair amount of Facebook marketing as well.
There's lots more where that came from. Need some help? Perhaps another set of eyes? Contact me. The first one's free! ;0)
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.