Knowledge is not Power

UCLA Library By Jemore at French Wikipedia.

In the time between the 1950s and the early 2000s, knowledge was power. Information hid behind books, in scholarly papers, and in the minds of scholars.

Going to college qualified you for the highest positions of employment on the basis alone that you had access to this forbidden knowledge and more importantly the proof you’d studied it.

The university education however, began to slip with the introduction of the internet, and the paradigm of power shifted as fast internet evolved.

As a child, we’d wait 10 minutes for a 5 minute video to load, lectures that were an hour long would take 1-2 hours of uninterrupted loading, and considering that the internet used to take a phone-line to connect that was a tall order.

With the advent of faster internet and the slow building of the Internet’s collective database, information long lost to the stacks of libraries became easily accessible.

Businesses no longer needed an MBA candidate to tell them how to run their marketing at top level, when they could simply look up what that candidate knew.

Without really meaning to the internet transformed the once instant success of a college degree into a hollow shell of a requirement, many businesses demanding it for tasks as simple as mail room attendant.

Moreover, it should be stated that universities were not ever constructed upon the basis of job skills training. While this was often a pleasant side effect of the educations received at these places, the true purpose of any university is the advancement of knowledge. The teaching parts were often stapled on as an unpleasant reality for many a researcher, a requirement to receive the funding they need.

The outside world, the business world, decided collectively that the job should be correlated to the education, though as of late one might argue this is simply a convenience measure for their HR departments to quickly remove a swath of candidates from the running of any one position.

Thus, as knowledge became easily available it became worthless, and little has come in its wake to replace it. Or so it seems. As a new resource once seen as trivial replaced it.


Hubris and other drugs

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

Robert Browning

The heat death of the universe is appealing to the mind that is predisposed to Nihilism.

In a world where ultimately everything will die and end, what is the point?

Not to be unkind, but there are of course several problems with all of this.

The biggest of which is the hubris of man to assume he’s cracked the code of the universe. The second is a problem of context.

It is an easy trap to become enthralled with the scale of things. The mind damned in it’s ability to conceptional on some level huge things, but not to actually understand them, to say nothing of manipulating them.

It is a special skill, and it is a skill, that each man must cultivate to admit his own smallness in the face of the universe.

The first time I conceptualized how small I was, and I did not realize this until much a time after, came on the fourth date with a girl I loved. We stood on the Santa Monica pier at night, and looked out across the ocean. Behind us humans bustled and played, but before us stood the ocean.

She was talking about moving out of California, but I found myself distracted listening to the crash of the waves, and I in the dark of that sea knew what it was to stand before an unthinking god. I knew what my ancestors worshiped.

Man is such a small fragile creature, yet we can think of huge impossible things, and consequently become overwhelmed and consumed by them.

My first rebellion against Nihilism began with the admittance of how small I am in the face of the universe, and how thought I can reach for the concepts of infinity, I could never manipulate them.

We can conceptualization the death of the universe but none will be around to see it. To us, thought quite finite, our lives are our own practical infinity. They are all we will ever know, to the best of our knowledge, and they go on forever, until they don’t.

What is Mankind to do?

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I am not here to disparage or discount the suffering of those people oppressed by systems put into practice long before I walked this noble earth.

I come only to ask a simple question? What is the way forward?

I see now the justifiable pain of millions swelling before us like a tide that threatens to destroy all in its path, but beyond it, I see the counter.

History is a pendulum of bloodshed perpetuated upon one another for the slights of the past.

It only stops when the debts of the past are forgiven.

Now people misunderstand that word. To forgive is not to forget. When you forgive a debt it is not struck from the ledger, and anyone who wanted to could look back and see that the debt existed and to whom it was owed.

However, to forgive the debt means that it shan’t be collected upon. That those to whom it is owed decided to let it slide, not out of compulsion, but out of a desire to stop a cycle of violence, and oppression.

I am not so naive to think people will want to forgive, and I am not so naive to think that everyone on the side of control will even be able to see that they owe a debt to those they’ve oppressed, but I hope that this generation can learn.

We’ve tried hyper capitalism, we’ve tried communism, and hate, and war. We’ve done it all. The ideologies of the past have failed and yet I do not see many who are volunteering new ones?

The way forward I think is to look at the past, and forgive it. To realize that to be Err is human and then with a heavy sigh begin the difficult work of a holistic and nuanced ideology based not on a single utopian idea, but perhaps under a realistic embrace of the idea that we are never done.

There is no stopping point for the human race, because to be complicated is to be subject to entropy. Everything falls apart, everything changes, no static system can stop that, mainly because those systems were built by ever changing humans.

So what is a mankind to do? Mankind must use our great big beautiful brains to think ourselves out of the problems of the past. Or at least die trying.

We don’t sweep a floor once and think, “there, I’ll never have to sweep it ever again.” so why would we assume something as complicated as politics would be that way?

How are you doing?: We need to start opening up a little

The common greeting, how are you doing, is a rhetorical question. “I’m good, ok, fine!” is the refrain, however, this needs to change.

The time has come to change that.

Mental health is at the core of many of the problems we struggle with today.

It’s my sneaking suspicion that most humans who struggle with different aliments of life if they be addiction or overeating, are at their core dealing with a mental health issue.

Somewhere along the way, we lost empathy for one another. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I think the constant erosion of community that has dominated culture since it’s inception, but especially now in the digital age.

Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit feel like connection but like junk-food only ever seem to satisfy.

Young men especially wander aimlessly in a desert that feels hopeless. Thus often their anger wells up, and they are prone to acts both big and small of violence and resentment.

Somewhere in the corporate marketing haze we lost sight that humans are not sterile emotionless creatures, but social beings that need connection and care.

Shame doesn’t work to correct the long term behavior of a human, it just forces those people who relate to the shamed further down the rabbit hole.

Mindfulness as a way out

Most people misunderstand mindfulness.

In most people’s mind meditation is a check-mark on the to-do list.

the most common refrain, and the refrain i used as a shield from the terror of mindfulness, and it is terrifying, is that “i cannot concentrate.”

this is because the modern mindset is one lived in the shadow of the ego. The internet in all it’s fantastical power has done much to help us, but spiritually it drains us.

Each day it unveils another horror perpetuated by man on man. It is easy to become disheveled and depressed at the sheer number of horrors. Not only that the various social media platforms program themselves to feed a steady serving of this bad news to us, as our minds are naturally problem solvers.

The problem with that is of course that these problems are nuanced, layered and complex. They require systemic solutions that will take years, and in the mean time we are ultimately powerless.

But the actual issue, is of course the modern human rarely pulls himself out of this world of symbols.

To Paraphrase Milton ” the mind is a place unto itself, it can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.”

People fundamentally in this world of horrors, to-do lists and constant movement lose sight of the true goal of mediation.

Meditation is practice in waking up, over and over, each day knowing that it will never be the last time until we live this mortal coil. Mediation, is trying to stir yourself awake enough times so that at the end of your life you can look back at it and think yes I lived.

Mediation is a practice.

The best metaphor I heard about meditation was this ” meditation is like sweeping a floor. One does not sweep a floor once, and think there it is done, I shall never have to sweep the floor again. Meditation is the acceptance that though the floor is clean temporarily it will need to be swept again.”

Loss of Legacy Part 4

Standing in the dust of the east the men of the west clutched their pearls while laughing nervously as the Soviets crumbled slowly, their eyes wide with a silent fear.

For around 10 years or so, the world sat in a sort of of consistent and odd high , the 90s were a time where everything seemed possible, and the new century loomed.

2001 changed all of this. The slumbering giant of the Military industrial complex awoke. It looked upon the ruins of the twin towers and with pointed teeth grinned a corpse-like grin, one eye turned to Washington while the next turned to the middle east.

In this post terrorism United States, the long held belies learned in the cold war ramped up once again, they’d found a new enemy. In the cold and fear of the winter of 2001 the men in charge took advantage of that fact and plunged us into a now nearly 20 year old war.

The corporations that run the proxy war were the only victors.

The men who grew up in the shadow of the bomb shoveled young men like themselves, to a country that hated them, to a pointless war, and broke every law possible in a rampant quest to stave off the realization of what they’d done.

It is a curious aspect that people tend to grip harder to their untruths when presented with evidence to dispel it. The real truth was that the bomb simply unveiled our own human fragility, and in the blind fanaticism to get theirs before the world ended, the men and women of the past tipped off another slower, and more menacing threat.

Climate change.

In an Oedipean twist of fate, those who sought to escape death did so, the mega wealthy burned the planet down in the quest to quench their fear of death, to make the most of a dying world and in doing so caused the world to die.

Now older, they look back at their lost legacy and cringe. They poisoned the rivers, killed the animals, and crosscut the rain-forests. In the face of the very destruction they feared they turn away now from the truth, because they are ashamed.

What have they left behind? A boiling planet? A series of bleeding fractured drug war ravaged countries? An endless frivolous war?

The legacy lost has been found again, but it is not a legacy of peace and beauty, but one of conflict and destruction.

That is the final truth, you may put aside and not worry about what the future generations will think of you, but they will come and will judge you, whether your try or not.

The Loss of Legacy: Part 1

We live in a strange world. A world where no one thought we’d make it through the 1960’s-1990’s. I recall my mother having the TV on one day, it was 1991, I was 3 years old, but I still can recall her looking at the TV in shock and awe. I would later learn the reason, or I should say understand what she was responding to. My mother was born in the heart of the cold war, and she watched her immortal, ever present enemy crumble on live television.

My mother like most Americans did Nuclear bomb drills, and the whole of the world went through an existential crisis. Existentialism was nothing new, individually, culturally, or even on a national level. However, in the face of Nuclear Annihilation, all of this seemed petty.

Suddenly with but a fraction of the sun’s power we discovered the first man made global existential threat, the Nuclear weapon. And if we want to be candid that is all a nuclear bomb is, a piece of solar energy brought here to terra firma.

The nuclear bomb still looms in the world, do not get me wrong, North Korea, and Iran both seek to bolster their political might with their own pieces of the sun.

However, the bomb dominated the lives of those who lived and were born from 1955-1991. The USSR stood posed to destroy the world, and the USA went along with them piling the bomb high and hard, making more and more destructive weapons. Each side bragged about and showed of how powerful their own arsenal was in an ever present game of chicken that would result in the complete annihilation of the human race. If not from hellfire from nuclear winter that would soon follow.

Starvation is never a pretty sight, and the nuclear winter that would follow a nuclear war would starve billions. The human race suddenly faced it’s own doom, brought on not by an army or a pestilence but by a fraction of a fraction of a star’s power, and they stood, as a babe before the storm, naked and afraid.

With this in mind, we began to see the decline of legacy, and the rise of I have to get mine now, and the future is none of my concern.

And this makes sense, why plan for a future that from all the media, from all the nervous chatter, might never come?

Continued in part 2:

And the worst part is… we are all doing the best we can.

I am a highly critical individual. My primary focus is myself. Lately, I’ve been working on becoming more accepting of the universe. More accepting of the sticky F key on my laptop, more accepting of my erratic sleep schedule, and more accepting of my penchant for emotional outbursts.

The world is on fire right now, but in it’s defense it’s been burning for a long time. The embers that started this fire are at their youngest 500 years old. I am not the right person to comment on all this, I am a Hetero white guy, living in an upper middle class suburb outside one of the richest cities in LA. All I can say is, well F#*$.

My mind jumps to be critical, but the voice of mindfulness puts a gentle hand on my shoulder, and I recall, there is no better reality where none of this happens. Everyone, including me, is doing their best, and it’s all a tragedy.

That does not mean we cannot change the future. I’ve just realized that I cant fix now because now is already too late.

It’s hard to see a path forward in this land of desolation, where 100 companies create nearly 70% of all pollution, a corrupt political system rots slowly around us, and people of color are gunned down without cause or consequence to the killer. But, what else can a man do?

This morning I sat with this overwhelming sadness, before reminding myself of my favorite metaphor of mindfulness.

One does not sweep a floor with the intent that this will be the last time the floor will ever have to be swept, one sweeps the floor because it is dirty. The floor will become dirty again, but that is a problem for the future.