while the world sleeps

while the world sleeps
i’m sitting here thinking
bout making a brighter day

where the trees and stars
the birds and breeze
move with harmonious sway

where the strangers we meet
the folks on the street
share laughs like long lost friends

and the places we go
through the highs and lows
give happiness that never ends

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Waves, Coherence, & the Origins of Inspiration

So I’ve taken a few months off from writing – not because I’ve been out of thoughts and ideas but because I’ve just wanted to take some time to reflect on my thoughts and ideas to date. I’ve wanted to somehow soak it all in and envision a larger realm of thoughts and ideas emerging in my life. I’ve wanted to ride a different psyche wave for a bit – one of absorption and reflection rather than construction and emission.

Waves, phases, and cycles are a major part of our lives. Some are natural, some controlled, and some just plain impossible to understand. Some can be calculated and predicted while others come completely unexpected. What drives these waves and cycles, and how does the combination (or interference) of multiple waves in our lives affect our overall well-being and happiness?

In the physical world, the relation (or correlation) between multiple waves can be described or denoted by something called coherence – how much their phases differ and, when combined, what the resulting wave might look like. Let’s think of coherence for our psyche wave as our level of well-being and happiness that results from the combination of all the waves in our life.

To look at this idea in more detail, we can identify several waves and cycles in our lives: seasons, weeks, days, running and working out, our diet, relationships, playing sports, volunteering and giving, sleep cycles, dreaming big, acting small, being social, feeling courageous, extreme happiness, comfort and security, professional experience, travel, spending and saving, learning and teaching, new thought, and well, on to infinity with this list.

Well, this is where it gets tough. Given the complexity and often complete unpredictability of these waves and cycles, how can we ever determine what our resulting psyche wave will look like, or at least what it should look like? How can we identify the properties of these waves – that is, how frequently they come around, how high they take us, how low they take us, how they change in time, what interactions they make with other waves, and what really drives them from the get go?

These may be questions for many millennia, but I want to look at the most general driver that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently: inspiration. The source of true inspiration is seemingly quite unpredictable yet it is the major driver of a peaking (or cresting) psyche wave of well-being and happiness.

From where does one find inspiration? Is it something to be harnessed and propagated, or is its movement about society entirely beyond our control? From where do we find the courage to venture and the fuel for adventure, the motivation to take on the world and the drive to motivate the world around us? Is inspiration in itself a natural cycle of crests and troughs or can we deconstruct it into its own understandable DNA? What drives the waves of inspiration?

In my search for the end of the internet, I found an interesting post on inspiration by “Duff McDuffee” on Precision Change, a personal development blog. Thank all Gods, earthlings, and minerals for the internet! Duff spends most of the time summarizing several unique realms of thought surrounding the origins of inspiration but most notably concludes with some very compelling ideas:

“Inspiration is the natural and automatic drawing in of spirited experience, just as inhalation is the natural drawing in of breath. You cannot force inspiration any more than you can force an inhale. Just as inhalation happens naturally as long as you don’t try to control it, inspiration also happens naturally and is just as near and easily available.

Inspiration comes from the same place that dreams come from. It is a place beyond understanding, knowing, and controlling. Inspiration is born of naturalness, of being, of attunement to spirit. When you stop controlling and start listening, inspiration naturally arises.

Inspiration is also wild, mysterious, and unknowable. Inspiration is the stuff of pure creativity. It cannot be measured, predicted, or controlled.”

So inspiration is natural like breathing, mysterious like dreams, and immeasurable like pure creativity? But what about sunsets, hymns, good naps, lasagna, beaches, speeches, births, deaths, memories, wins, losses, and the moments that take our breath away? What about the performances, trips, meetings, phone calls, churches, hikes, and wonders of the world?

To me, inspiration just comes in many forms, expected and unexpected, natural and brought forth by our own acts. Sometimes we can find it easily, and sometimes we can’t. But the key is that we can learn about it, and learn about it we do. As we grow older, see the world, and interact as a society, we can learn about the origins of inspiration. As we learn about it, we can harness it, maintain some coherence between multiple waves, maximize our collective peaks, and maintain the highest level of well-being and happiness. To me, that’s pretty inspiring.

Focus, Balance, and Strength

One is for focus, two for balance, and three for strength. From the most basic sequence of integers we can understand critical characteristics and qualities that, in a sense, provide a backbone by which we can be happy, learn, and grow.

One is one. There is nothing to surround it, there is nothing to be bent. It’s the focal point of many, and the starting spot for all. Above one comes everything else and into one everything comes.

Our society puts a lot of focus on one. We like to see a single result and hear a single voice. We want to find our soul mate and discover the holy grail. We seek to structure our world by its basic individual units, the atoms and nodes. We break down our problems into individually digestible chunks. One is the basic unit of math, the center of gravity, the perfect result. One is the focus and concentration of everything else.

But one stands alone. Where one is one, one is only one. One would be none if no two came from one.

Two is the balance of ones, the pairs of nature, the couplets of science, the squares of math, the rhythm and meter of poetry. Two is evenness and congruence. Two is good and evil, hot and cold, yes and no, high and low, winners and losers, protons and electrons, male and female, life and death. From two we can find harmony and bliss and make connections not previously seen by focusing on one. Two is love. Love is two. Two is the threading of life and the creator of balance within the cosmos. Two is the secret order within disorder, through connections and relationships that make us more than one.

But two still lacks shape. Where two is two, there is only one view of two. Two would be one if no three came from two.

Three is the unit of strength, the shape of our space. It represents our current (most common) perception of spatial dimensions. Three is triangulation, inflection, exponentiation, and curvature. Three is the operation and its result – a combination of the whole picture. Threes provide motion and non-linearity, a dynamic quality of life. Threes make twos unique and unbounded while making stronger our threads. Three is two and one together, forging balance and focus for strength.

Three is the strongest number. Geometrically, the triangle is the only shape that cannot be deformed without changing the length of one of its sides. Spatially, three provides dimension and perception. Three is our basic unit of existence and reality, and well, most of our buildings too.

Three also represents complexity in knowledge. If two is the threads, three is the knots. Three is multiple connections – knowledge with shape. Tie two threads together and you’re building new shapes, discovering new binds, making new questions for answers worth seeking.

And triplets are an optimization of our minds. Remember two things and you could have remembered a third. Try to remember four things and you are likely to leave one out. Triplets are an innate unit of the human mind, something by which we are all naturally bound.

Focus, balance, and strength. With three we find strength, and from three we derive balance and focus. Three qualities that make us better individuals, partners, and citizens. Three qualities that, if we learn to utilize and optimize through our life, will surely better our professional, personal, and spiritual lives.

And at the end of the day, numbers are an underlying language of life. We can look to numbers to represent many aspects of life – both physical and philosophical – to help understand how we interact, how we grow, and how to succeed. Looking at a simple sequence of numbers can provide insights that are easier to understand in a world of infinite space and color. Numbers help provide shape to our thoughts and can thread our understanding across cultures and generations. Now did somebody say math is boring? 🙂

String Theory, Email Threads, and Happiness

Our lives are made up of millions of threaded moments in numerous conscious and subconscious dimensions. Identifying these threads – from multiple emails to time volunteering to a loving relationship – and making them last, making them stronger, and weaving them through multiple life dimensions is a key to health and well-being.

String theory attempts to relate multiple disparate concepts about our universe into a more unifying framework. Specifically, it states that subatomic elements (electrons, quarks, bosons, etc) are not three-dimensional objects but rather are one-dimensional strings that vibrate to take on semi-measurable characteristics (mass, spin, flavor, charge). Additionally, string theory posits that our universe is made up of unobservable dimensions that, at the most basic level, provide some sort of logical consistency to the known laws and theories of the physical (and metaphysical) world.

Well on a more macro level, our lives are very much made up of strings and dimensions. For our purposes, let’s just call them threads. Threads are made up of several connected points spanning one to many dimensions of our lives. These threads are our conversations, our friendships, our good deeds, our actions, and our spontaneous thought streams – the basic units by which we live our life. Our life dimensions are our jobs, families, friends, teams, systems, cultures, and countries, as well as our core knowledge, ideas, and feelings  – the encompassing elements by which our lives fundamentally exist. And finally, our lives have outputs too! They are our health and our well-being, our happiness, our faith, our understanding, and the meaning we extract from the world.

Think about some threads of your life:

  • Email Threads – Maintain a steady stream of conversation to build new knowledge, ignite new thought, and establish a strong connection with someone.
  • Volunteering – Show up when you don’t feel like it, encourage others to work harder, and continually establish yourself as a reliable and dependable contributor to society.
  • Love & Relationships – Always give to, and never give up on, the ones you love most in this world.

So now to the crux of my point: these life threads are the critical inputs to ensure our happiness and well-being are properly sustained, cultivated, and shared. By identifying these basic units, making them stronger, tying them together, crossing them through multiple dimensions of our lives, and “vibrating” the heck out of them, we can collectively share happiness and good faith as a society through better relationships, systems, and mutual understandings. Seems chaotic, yes, but in chaos there is a natural simplicity. Said the great thinker and founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung: “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”

Thanks to Outpatient.com for use of the image.

The Secret Sauce

Everyone needs a secret sauce, a blend of ingredients that when experienced, defeats all stress and evokes bliss.

Every palate is unique. The perfect combination of flavors is different for every person. The feelings evoked by a single bite may be bliss or miss, depending on a multitude of factors. As a result, every palate has its own “secret sauce”. This is that perfect combo that trumps everything.

For me, my secret sauce is exactly that – a sauce. My Nono (grandfather) has made hundreds of pans of his sauce over the years, filling his house with the smell of awesome and the aura of glee. It’s a perfect blend of vegetable and meat, spice and heat, tang and sweet. I, like so many, have taken his recipe to try and duplicate it, but to no avail. That’s a distinguishing characteristic of the secret sauce – it’s part sauce and part human. What makes it so great is that my Nono makes it and nobody else. The flavor can be closely duplicated, but the feelings and the experience as a whole cannot. I love the fact that it is made by him, he has been making it for so long, and it has made so many people full and happy over the years. That combination, with the flavor, makes me as happy as can be.

And so there’s a secret sauce of life; a secret sauce for personal delight. For each and every individual there is a unique combination of feeling and experience, not to be duplicated by any other individual, that defeats stress and evokes pure, inner bliss. Surely it could require some physical component such as a a place or a meal or a friend or a game, but it’s not about the food but the mood. The feeling and experience, like that which I own when having my Nono’s pasta sauce, is unique to me and is all I need. For you, maybe it’s Ragu. But it doesn’t matter. We need to know what our secret sauces are and how we can find them. Only then are the ingredients of the world used for the most genuine condition, the most fundamental of purposes, the being of happy.

Links

Happy Planet Index vs Human Development Index

With my post on “Everything is Connected” I thought I’d investigate a bridge between happiness and the level of development in a country…

The Happy Planet Index (HPI)

“The HPI is an innovative measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives.”

The Human Development Index (HDI)

“The first Human Development Report (1990) introduced a new way of measuring development by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income into a composite human development index, the HDI. The breakthrough for the HDI was the creation of a single statistic which was to serve as a frame of reference for both social and economic development. The HDI sets a minimum and a maximum for each dimension, called goalposts, and then shows where each country stands in relation to these goalposts, expressed as a value between 0 and 1.”

Thoughts and Hypotheses

There are two relationships we will want to consider:

  • Correlation: Is there any direct relationship (positive or negative) between the values of the HDI and HPI?
  • Clustering: By region (or other characteristic field) can we find any clusters in the data?

Since these are composite indices of several weighted variable inputs, hopefully this top-level approach can identify some possible matches and mismatches between underlying data fields too. Related to the HDI, I bet the UN’s HPI (Human Poverty Index) has a bridge to happiness… or most likely, unhappiness.

Data/Discussion

  • There seems to be a connection between deviations in the data. When there exists a large deviation, for a specific region, for the HDI, there seems to also be a large deviation of values for the HPI. Notice that Africa, Australasia, and the Middle East all have similar double-digit deviations. What does this tell us about the range of development and happiness within a specific region? Perhaps this could be tested across many country-level metrics to see if the similar deviations occur more frequently.
  • As with the above note, since we have these metrics on a same scale/range, let’s combine them to see who has the highest composite score. In alphabetical order we have: 84, 125, 138, 137, 133, 134, 126, 134, 119, 117, 119. There seem to be three groups here: High (>130), Medium (100-130), Low (<100). Depending on a user need, algorithms can be created to join metrics to provide a big picture representation of economic, political, sociological, etc metrics, and flexibility can be built to dig into the weeds on the underlying data. This would be a nice comprehensive framework for understanding how countries (and regions as a whole) change over time.


  • Looking at the scatter plot, it is clear that some clusters may exist, for example with Africa (blue). Caribbean (orange), Europe (green), and Russia and Central Asia (purple) also show some quick visual clustering, while the Middle East (red) shows the opposite. What could this mean? That regional trade, policy, weather, etc are good supplementary foundations for providing happiness and development?
  • We could add trend lines and quickly check for any linear (or logarithmic) relationships. If any relationship does exist as a whole or with a region, it is certainly not a directly proportional or inversely proportional one. This was expected as these metrics are quite different (despite the overlap in life expectancy as an input dimension).

Moving forward, the methodologies and underlying dimensions (with their sources) should be compared. Data is always good, but with good data one still must be careful. That being said, this is a good start for a much larger investigation into the connections between different country-level metrics, especially if they are to be used in international and national policy.

life’s keys

life’s keys
by kevin berardinelli
october 20, 2009

There’s a key to being happy
etched deep within your soul
to find this key and use it
should be your lifelong goal

It’ll open doors to friendship
and show the world you care
life is only as pleasant
as the smiles that you share

There’s a key to finding love
found deep within your heart
the thump and beat will echo
when shot with Cupid’s dart

Although the road’s not easy
and the signs are never clear
embrace the path to get there
and the key will soon appear

There’s a key to growing old
found deep within your mind
a key to understanding
that starts with being kind

A simple thought or question
or lending a helping hand
reminds us that we’re all
a part of something grand

Though these keys may seem absurd
and taxing to obtain
the lesson here is crucial
and actually very plain

Look deep within your self
for guidance every day
your heart and mind and soul
will ne’er lead you astray