Everything Is Connected

Whether it’s love and hate, birds and weather, past and future, or me and you, there are connections – both hidden and in plain sight – in everything. More than ever, we are finding that the world is a web, and I’m not just talking about the internet. That being said, the internet does help us bring some new connections to the surface through data sharing, communication, and information retrieval.

Math is a valuable support mechanism for these types of connections, especially when credible data exists that is representative of both sides of the river. It often can build the bridge to connect the shores, although it cannot always build traffic between the two.

I’ve posted before on the connections of seemingly unrelated phenomena. How can we determine where connections should (and should not) exist? How can we determine the strength and impact (both direct and potential) of such connections? What are the implications of humans controlling such connections and manipulating the bare characteristics by which some things are connected? These are questions to which we may never have an answer, but it’s important to at least ask the questions and attempt the answers. You never know where a new bridge might appear.

Whether its physical, metaphysical, mathematical, sociological, technological, chemical, theological, biological, philosophical, etc. the connections do exist. To start, we know scientific law covers the physical: Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation tell us that every object in this universe attracts every other object with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers. For the others, well, let’s just say the bridges are infinite and are always under construction.

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measuring the balance of human life

Can we measure the balance of human life? Perhaps not with 100% confidence, but we can certainly think about the factors contributing to the state of the system at any moment in time and see where the scale might be tipped.

Overview

As students, we learn about the critical role of balance in science, economics, politics, art, and every other subject. Think about chemical equilibrium, energy conservation, supply and demand, political checks and balances, atomic neutrality, mathematical parity, and artistic symmetry. As individuals, we constantly stress the need for a balance in our personal lives. Think about work and family, business and pleasure, excitement and relaxation. Physical components such as those in the first list are measurable, giving us the ability to understand, track, and predict the state of the system. On the other hand, the second list is quite abstract and is mostly qualified by our own personal well-being, the well being of those around us, and the influence on our surroundings as a whole.

So how close can we get to measuring the balance of our personal well being? Let’s run with Ockham’s Razor and try and make it as simple as possible. Consider this statement: the optimal balance of life is when what you take from it is equal to what you give to it. What does that look like?


What You Give
Contributing Factors: Advice, Assistance, Business Opportunity, Care, Directions, Donations, Empathy, Feedback, Friendship, Guidance, Hard Work, Philosophical Thought, Prayer, Product Innovation, …

Notes: It’s all good. There is an infinite amount of mechanisms by which you can give to society, environment, others, and life in general.

What You Take
Contributing Factors: Awareness, Consumption, Control, Crime, Emissions, Faith, Goods, Greed, Growth, Land, New Ideas, Pain, Reflection, Self-Satisfaction, Understanding, Vacations, Waste, …

Notes: There are many bad ones here, but some are obviously necessary and should take the majority of the weight, such as awareness, reflection, and understanding.

Analysis

Units of Measurement: There are concrete and abstract units through which we might measure what we give and what we take.
–Money – Something upon which we are all dependent.
–Time – Something by which we are all bound even though it is out of our control.
–Text, Speech, and Emotions – Can we measure the impact of our words by the resulting sentiment of readers and listeners?
–Acquaintances, Friends, Colleagues, Contacts, Followers – For certain personality types, does the size of an audience have any relevance?
–Quality of Life Factors (Ambition, Happiness, Health, Life Expectancy, Strength, Well-Being) – The toughest to measure, but the most important to global well-being.
–Dreams – Can you measure balance in life by analyzing what your dreams are about?

Deviations from Zero & Tipping the Scale: What does imbalance mean?
–Positive Case – If we give more than we take, we are left with an internal hole. Perhaps we are absent of understanding or self-awareness, or of our purpose in the world.
–Negative Case – If we take more than we give, our impact is diminished and it leaves our surroundings with less to gain.

Collective Balance: Perhaps balance is not to be determined at the individual level but at the level of societal groups and organizations.
–Family – Does your family collectively balance the give and take of life? Is your family happy, stable, and sufficiently contributing to the well-being of other families?
–Work – Does your work collectively balance the give and take of life? Does it contribute to the well-being of society as much as it takes for business growth and distributable profits?

Conclusion

Balance is important. We know that. But perhaps because it’s difficult to measure, the real importance falls on understanding the contributing factors to the state of the system. Like a Jenga tower, pulling pieces must still keep the tower standing.

Finally, we must think about at which organizational level we can best understand balance in human life, and where the ideal equilibrium should exist. By breaking it into its simplest components and visualizing harmony, hopefully that’s exactly what will result.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton

stomach rumblin, mind a tumblin

I love the feeling of going to the grocery store with not a clue what to get: Stomach rumblin’, mind a tumblin’. Fortunately, most grocery stores are designed in the same way, and I have to give Lord Henry von Supermarket the kudos for smart design.
Most grocery stores will have the produce section first. For someone with no idea what to make for dinner, I think this is ideal. It gives off the nice colors and smells and aura of freshness that get the mind thinking of some good combinations: potatoes and corn, tomato and basil, squash and pepper, onion and garlic, are some traditional ones. But then I usually take that all in and move right to the butcher. Meat is the simplest way to begin designing a dish. I like to think of flavors and meats, marinades and spices. If I’m not in a hurry, I’ll take a gander around the hot food and international food sections to gather up some more flavorful ideas as well. Then back to the butcher.
Last night I wanted something simple, flavorful, and mixable. I’m the type to take a little bit of everything on my plate onto each bite and kick it up with some sauce/condiment/spice before devouring. Here’s what came out:
Center cut boneless pork loin (cut about 3/4 inch thick)
Yellow squash
Sweet potato (California yams)
1. Make a spice rub for the pork. I used cajun blackening spice, fresh ground coarse black pepper, salt, rosemary, thyme, savory spice mix, and a bit more garlic powder. They say not to over-spice your meat? I disagree with that one. The only rules in cooking is to eat or share all that you make and to make sure the kitchen is clean before and after cooking.
2. Rub the spice into the pork, on both sides and edges too.
3. Chunk up the raw yams and boil. You’ll lose some sugars by boiling but you can always add it back in! When potatoes are cooked, drain the hot water, add a big chunk of butter, some brown sugar, and mix. Keep the skin in there, it’s the best part.
4. Chop the squash and cook in a frying pan in butter on med to med-high heat. You’ll get some good brown edges which have the best flavor.
5. Cook the pork. There should be some leftover butter in the pan after removing the squash, but if not, add some butter or a little bit of olive oil and heat it up. Toss the pork in and cook a few minutes on med-high heat. Flip and cook until middle is barely pink / white.
6. Frank’s Red Hot sauce is perfect for this and/or throw some applesauce on your plate too.
I served with a random on-sale cabernet sauvignon called Pepperwood Grove (2006, California). Don’t listen to wine rules, just get what you want. If you don’t want wine, 2% milk hits the spot.
Main advice here is you don’t always have to pre-plan. Try the walk-in approach and let your senses guide you to dinner preparation. Then you won’t be a rumblin’ no more.

gaining strength from weakness

One of my favorite exercises is to take a quote, phrase, idiom, or saying and digest it in every way possible. It’s an exercise that builds upon existing cognition to create new ideas and thoughts. The internal lines of thought leave the individual with a new network of philosophical pathways from which some amazing self-realizations can be gleaned. From a quote comes a new concept, from that concept comes a good memory, from that memory a connection is made, and from that connection an appreciation is built. That’s the breadcrumb trail of thought.

“Our strength grows out of our weakness.” – Emerson

Although not complex in structure, vocabulary, or tone, I enjoy this quote because its simplicity allows diverse interpretation. Emerson connects two antonyms as if they were a pair, complements to each other, one needing the other. And so it goes…

Immediate questions: What are my weaknesses? When did I realize they were weaknesses? Am I weak compared to others or compared to my own understanding of standards? How does one define standards in relation to characteristics? Have my standards changed with my changing abilities or with my realization of new weaknesses? What is my most recent weakness? What is my biggest weakness? Are all weaknesses able to be improved upon? Are there universal weaknesses or only individual ones? What is the most common weakness?
Let’s integrate: If I can somehow build upon the set of all my weaknesses from the time I was born until yesterday (or up to a second ago for purposes of true continuity), with what would I be left at this exact moment? Emerson says it’s strength, and I wholeheartedly agree, simply because I know we all have the capacity to learn. Our greatest trait is our capacity to learn. Learning gives us reason to try again. Learning gives us reason to move on. Learning gives us reason to find possibility. Learning gives us hope for tomorrow. Learning trumps failure.

Here’s a scenario: Consider a set of X functions, abilities, processes, and tactics with which we are all equally born. On day 1, they all exist as unrealized weaknesses. With each experience had and the capacity to learn, an individual has two possibilities: turn an unrealized weakness to a realized strength, or realize weakness and create a new realized strength. Over time, the original set of X expands as new strengths are added and the overall dynamic changes as weaknesses grow into strengths. The result is that from day 1, the number of realized strengths will always equal or exceed the number of realized weaknesses. In other words, as a result of their complementary nature, the proportion of strength to weakness almost always increases.

Wow – what a great realization that is! Rather than despise that which we cannot achieve, instead we must harness our weaknesses, grow to accept them and adapt to them, and find ways to learn from them. With that alone we’ll grow stronger every day.

Image 1: Chet Phillips – “Thought Process”

balancers

So I was walking home from work the other day and experienced a good thought-triggering event. A car pulled out of its parallel parking spot and darted into traffic, essentially cutting off a car cruising at normal speed. I could write a novel about horn honking alone, but it was pretty apparent that the disruptor of traffic flow deserved the horn of death – and he/she certainly got it.

But this got me thinking along the lines of my previous post on complements and natural balance. Does the car horn restore balance or disrupt it? I think you can make the argument either way. In one regard, the act of darting into traffic disrupts the normal flow of traffic. But what purpose does the blaring horn serve other than to show you are angry?

I think it’s about the effect is has on the horn recipient. They may have spent the past few days filled with road rage and impatient driving, maneuvering recklessly into traffic more and more each day. It’s not until a good horn of death rings in your ears that you realize you may be putting others at risk and endangering yourself. At some level, I think the horn restores some driving normalcy to recipients of the horn. A periodic wake-up call to drive safely, perhaps.
Well although the horn example may be a stretch to some, there are many other balancers and neutralizers that restore some sort of equilibrium in this world. They align with the concept of complements and allow our world to continue developing at a manageable, within-an-arms-reach pace.
Politics – In a multi-party system, the scale never tips beyond a controllable level, and therefore we are guaranteed checks-and-balances on policy, law, and governing bodies over time. (1)

Sports – Rules, organiation, and oversight allow for equilibrium to be maintained over the years. No one team or division or conference truly dominates any sport (besides the Yankees). (2)

Weather – If it was always sunny, we wouldn’t appreciate the good weather. If it was always rainy, we wouldn’t appreciate a refreshing shower.
Anyways, just some thoughts that correlate to complements around us. As with the sun and the rain, the balancers let us gain insight from disruption.
(1) Source of data: Infoplease
(2) Source of data: Wikipedia

on complements

I’m a firm believer in complements – things coupled together, whether the relationship is apparent or not. This may not be a universal attribute, and I’m not stating it is. It’s also not limited to pairs, as complements are not two-dimensional. However, it’s a positive philosophical exercise to try and find symmetry where it may not exist so clearly, and it can certainly open up the mind beyond everyday theoretical boundaries. (1)

When I mean complements, I mean things that go together, complete each other, and make a whole. Some pairs may be opposites, yes, but complements are not two puzzle pieces forming a circle. Think of complements as spherical yins and yangs with a bunch of inner overlap.

So where can I start? How about a list of some pairs…

Characteristics – qualitative & quantitative, forward-thinking & retrospective, introverted & extroverted, hand-on & on-paper, leader & follower
Colors – black & white, light & dark, blue & orange, red & green
Words – stop & go, you & me, here & there, near & far, always & forever, mine & yours
Sounds – wind & calm, scream & whisper, ooh & ahh
Feelings – love & happiness, celebration & mourning, happy & sad, anxious & patient
Food – sweet & sour, harsh & smooth, rosemary & thyme, parmesan & romano, spaghetti & meatballs, peppers & onions, steak & wine
Partners – Jordan & Pippen, May & Walsh, Mario & Luigi, Robinson & Rodman (best NBA Jam duo), Brin & Page, Jerry & George

I believe symmetry and balance in nature is good. Breaking from that balance is also good and it’s usually is a driver of innovation, conversation, and collaboration.
Complementary teamwork is essential to making things work. The recognition of individual contributions to a team allow the spherical shape to form where overlaps provide the fuel to reaching a common end goal.

The same applies to relationships. Not one person can drive a couple to a life of love & happiness. It takes two (baby). That’s what makes couples so fun. People need other people. Not one person is a sphere but he or she needs to find a complement to build that sphere together. Sure the overlaps can create disagreement, but the result should be a more dense and stronger bond.

Well, I know I’m no Poe but I hope there is an adsideological takeaway here. Think about complements. Not everything you see, touch, or hear exists independently. Recognize individual contributions as one piece of a spherical success engine. And find your complement and don’t hesitate to make it permanent. Love & happiness will always follow.

(1) I do think the arguments made against the Qur’an on this topic are a bit absurd and biased. In some distant corner of the web-o-sphere there lies an argument that the Qur’an is wrong in stating everything exists in pairs. Not only do I think this is an invalid point of attack on a religious body, but the approach loses credibility with a lack of objectivity. One main argument is with gravity and that there is no counterpart. Well what a worldly view that is! Despite my love for the depths of physics, it still describes less than 1% of the universe. Pairs don’t equal opposites, and I know that I’ve walked on the ceiling in some of my dreams.