when history repeats itself itself

the memory is pure, but it’s just a flashback borrowed:
a strong link to the past, but a weak one to tomorrow.

the picture is clear, but it’s just a glimpse deranged:
nothing’s really different, yet everything has changed.

the meaning is real, but it’s just a carbon copy:
identical on the surface, but underneath it’s sloppy.

the thought is deep, but it’s just ol’ déjà vu:
ancient is the memory, but the circumstance is new.

when history repeats itself, we’re quick to place the blame,
lessons learned gleaned nothing, and time produced the same.

but take a closer look – today is not the past –
and chart a new path forward where the opportunities are vast…

“History is the only laboratory we have in which to test the consequences of thought.” – Etienne Gilson

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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.

A World Of Readers, Thinkers, And Sleuths

“Let your mind wander through time and space, and follow its trail with curious grace.”

With regards to reading books, I’ve gone through several phases in my life. I enjoyed them as a young kid, then hated them in middle school, and was swamped by them in high school. I read mostly magazines and equations in college. But in grad school, I learned to find time for books outside of class and homework, and began understanding them more clearly. And now, well, I don’t really have a definition for it… but I’ll try.

I love books. I absolutely love books and I think they love me. Old books, new books, bright books, dusty books, hardcovers, paperbacks, biographies, picture books, ones with funky-looking text, ones with big characters, cookbooks, humorous musings, philosophical contemplations, new takes on old theories, old takes on novel wonders, manuscripts, adventures, essays, creative ramblings, confessions, ones with good names, and especially the nameless ones. There are so many books to love, and I love them all. I love that I can love them all. They are there for me when I want them and there for me when I don’t want them. I can read when I’m happy, read when I’m sad, read when I’m puzzled, or read when I’m mad. I don’t have a deadline for a book and I’m not tested when I’m done with it. I can pick it up when I want, and can forget about it if I want to do that too.

The book store is one of my favorite places. I really can’t believe how many books have been written. These are the words and thoughts of people from all over the world, on all types of topics, in a sometimes-organized-often-disorganized effort to better understand our world. These are the words of the millions of deceased – those that saw what I could not see – and willingly tried to explain it to a world of readers with whom they have no acquaintance.

It’s also funny that book stores are categorized, because the case can be made to fit any book under a thousand headings. That being said, I’m always surprised at how well most authors can maintain the scope and focus of a single book. I find my mind wandering constantly and, as a result, feel that this is the natural way for me to write and express my thoughts and feelings. Scope and focus are nice if and only if scope and focus are how you feel you can best express your thoughts and feelings to the world.

With that in mind, let me express a small array of thoughts:

1. Books, and literacy in general, provide a channel through which we all can better understand the world in which we live.

2. Reading and embracing books at a young age (including picture books) fosters creativity, analytical thinking, and a drive for discovery and understanding.

3. No book is a bad book, and everyone is an author. We all have something to say, and everything said is worth a read.

4. Writing and reading enables self-realization coupled with the ability to wear other people’s shoes. Books connect and network our planet – the living, the dead, and the unborn.

Lastly, I want to quickly describe a couple web resources that help organize that which we read while making it a most economical endeavor. Aside from all the free content I can get from the web, these are a few of the mechanisms I use to discover, monitor, research, and purchase books:

  • Amazon – I use the built-in “Wish List” feature to maintain a collection of every book in which I’ve had some interest in purchasing or researching more. The Amazon iPhone app is also great – for adding books to the wish list and even purchasing books within a few clicks. I’ll usually walk around the book store, find a title I like, read the front/back covers, flip through a few pages, then look it up right away on the Amazon iPhone app, read some reviews, and either add it to my wish list or immediately purchase a used copy (for around 1-50% of the in-store/new price). Amazon itself is also a fantastic place to find similar books, related but higher-rated books, or books on any other random topic in which you might have a short- or long-term interest.
  • Google Books – I use a lot of Google products because I like having many dimensions of my life synced in the cloud under my one Google profile. Google Books is another one of these and is where I keep track of what I’ve read, what I’m reading, and what I want to read. I can read reviews (including those from Amazon), write reviews, add personal notes, and even read excerpts (if not all) of the book online. A very nice online, personal library.

That’s about it for now. Love books. Read books. Write in your books. Share them with others. Talk about your books. Recommend your favorites. Have fun with them!

The Personal Finance System and Reasonable Economic Fasting

Understanding personal finance requires more than a regular checking of balances and a paying of bills. It requires:

  1. Conscientious recognition of all inputs and outputs of your personal financial system
  2. Analytical recognition of the internal and external factors that contribute to changes in your personal finance system
  3. Deliberate manipulation of the controllable factors when your short and long-term financial strategies dictate necessary change(s)
  4. Careful planning for and reaction to the uncontrollable factors in order to mitigate risks to your system and strategy

Personal finance can be depicted as a system because, well, it’s a system. There are inputs and outputs to your system. You make and you spend. You gain and you lose. There are internal and external factors that can change its overall state. Markets fluctuate. Rates change. Job success merits a wage increase. A loss of a job diminishes income. A health problem or car accident can lead to unintended expenses. The state of your system is directly affected by the collective impact of both controllable and uncontrollable factors.

Fortunately, this system is quantifiable and is readily measured. Through various ways and means, you can determine the state of your system at any present moment. For the oh-so-organized, you can determine the state of your system at any moment in the past. And for the oh-so-very enabled (I think you know where I’m going with this), you can peer into the state of your system for any multitude of moments in the future.

With this notion, there should be an overall strategy to your system – a place where you want to be financially and how you aim to get there. Your aim will be based on the financial knowledge you have built over time, with regards to the controllable and uncontrollable factors contributing to your system. And to your benefit, your knowledge will only increase over time, making your strategy more targeted and the desired future state that much more accurate and achievable.

So you recognize that there’s more to understanding your finances than the ATM and your wallet. Where should you start? Perhaps with what I call “reasonable economic fasting”.

What is your financial baseline? In other words, how can you determine the bottom line steady state of your system? Without needless purchases and expenditures, how much do you have, how much comes in, and how much goes out? Spend as little as possible, and organize your bottom line financial system.

For a specified period of time (a week, two weeks, one month, etc), don’t make those needless purchases. Do carry on with your basic grocery, health care, and sufficient living expenses. But don’t get those Don Mattingly rookie cards off eBay (although I would call them a basic need), trade a book with someone rather than buy a new one, and cook your own steak and potatoes rather than dish out $35 for a nice plating. Find your financial baseline, and I guarantee you’ll gain some new knowledge with regards to your personal finance system:

  • The Value of Money – How much is a dollar worth to you? How much is a dollar worth to you compared to yesterday?
  • The Value of Saving – How much is a dollar saved worth to you? Given your baseline, what is your maximum savable amount per pay period (the least hopefully not being less than $0.00)? A dollar can go a long way if it goes away for a long time.
  • The Value of Spending – How much is a dollar spent worth to you? Do all your baseline expenses amount to what you pay for them?
  • Controllable & Uncontrollable Factors – At your financial baseline, you should be able to determine which fluctuations in your bottom line are a result of uncontrollable factors versus controllable ones. Which expenses sustain your desired lifestyle, and which are a result of it?

In the end, it comes down to simple recognition and organization. Take the time to understand what goes in and comes out of your personal finance system, and try to analyze the impact of key controllable and uncontrollable factors affecting that system. If needed, find your financial baseline as a starting spot, and use some intuitive planning to craft your strategy. After all, thought planning is free.

Spectrum Logic

The visual representation of information is critical for both learning and teaching. To put something on paper and organize the information as to make visual sense – in words, lines, colors, and curves – is to recognize some understanding and to create a basis for new insight and discovery.

Logic is the study of reasoning, the systematic approach to reaching a conclusion, or the examination of competing arguments with regards to a central issue or question. Logic can be broken down into deductive and inductive reasoning, one drawing conclusions from specific examples and the other drawing conclusions from definitions or axioms. Logic can also be broken down into analysis and synthesis, one examining individual component parts and the other combining component parts into a whole. In any event, logic is a way to get from questions to answer, disbelief to belief, and data to insight.

One such type of logic is visual logic, or what I’ll call “spectrum logic”. It’s the combination of the visual representation of information and the many realms of logic. The reason I use the term “spectrum” is two-fold. First of all, it’s by definition the representation of a full range of possible values/conditions for a given topic. And second of all, it suggests continuity along its range and therefore implies a high level of seamlessness and efficiency.

So in the world of analysis and problem solving, how do we apply spectrum logic? Well, just follow every possible visual path from any origin within your visual space and try to optimize your path to the result. Place your problem in the center of a sphere/cube and run the full spectrum of paths to that center point. Left to right and right to left, bottom-up and top-down, outside in and inside out, spiral inward and spiraling out. Think about the component parts that make up the visual space, and the conditions that fall along each path. Why is your problem so complex? What makes it so complex? Can you qualify your problem in color, words, shape, and text? Can you quantify it and its components? Is it made up of many unknown dimensions or a few known ones? Picture your problem, logically break it apart, and put it back together. Take a diverse set of paths to and from your problem, and find out which one gives you an optimal set of insights in return. Hopefully, if the answers and conclusions are not clear, you’ll at least have learned something in the process.

Boundaries Of The Human Condition

“That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.” – Thomas Jefferson

There exist many concepts and rules by which we are bound, some of which we may be aware and some of which we may not be aware. Those concepts and rules of which we are aware exist throughout nature and space because we can observe them and learn them, manipulate them and control them, and hear them and speak them. Those concepts and rules of which we are not aware exist because we cannot observe them and learn them, manipulate them and control them, and hear them and speak them. In a sense, we are bounded by that which we can know and cannot know – although those boundaries can and will change throughout the course of history.

It’s interesting to think about our intellectual boundaries, limits, and intersections because they can be sliced and diced a thousand and one different ways. To a chef, his or her capacity may be bound by a colander, letting some things in and others out, clogged and dirty at times and crystal clear at others. To a biologist or chemist, he or she may see it as some semi-permeable membrane that expands and contracts, filters substances based on the needs of the whole system. And to an astronomer, the boundaries may be the vast unknown of our universe: with new discovery always comes more knowns coupled with more unknowns.

Regardless of the profession, it’s valuable to think about. For me, I’ll gladly wear the shoes of a different scientist each waking day but to start, here are a couple different categorizations of our intellectual boundaries, just to jot some thought.

Spatial Dimensionality

Think of our intellectual capacity as bounded by one big room. This room can grow as it’s supported by more material, can shrink with the absence of structural connections, and can lose energy with a loss of insulation, cracks in the windows, etc. It can become more complex or simple in a hour’s time with the addition or removal of new features and can take on a new look and persona with the manipulation of a few simple characteristics such as paint and fixtures. You get the point.

Walls – The walls are the support and protection, and are the primary means by which we are bound. The walls are our rules of lateral movement, being, and knowing. In a room of infinitesimal walls, we’ll find just as many corners (getting us ever close to the perfect circle) but we’ll still be limited by a surrounding perimeters. In our room, the walls are our physical concepts, our school subjects, our theorems and laws, our rules of society.

Floors – The floors are our foundation. Without the floor we would not be able to maintain our position and as a result, move from one position to another. The floors are our foundation for thought – our family, our circumstance, our physicality – our reference point.

Ceilings – The ceiling is our limit. The ceiling provides cover and security, shape and reflection, and a foundation for belief and new thought. The ceilings are our hypotheses and conjectures, our gateway to the unknown as much as it they’re the gateway for belief and clarity of vision.

Corners – The corners are the intersections of life, the crossroads of knowledge and new thought. Every corner is formed by the other structures mentioned above. The corners are the relationships, the interdisciplinary nature of life, the idea that everything is connected.

Existential Dimensionality

Now think a bit differently. Think that our intellectual capacity is bounded by core concepts which, when intersected, form feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and understanding. The core concepts are the things we should study – the basics of existence from which we should gain our foundations. I spoke about studying people earlier, with an overview of Archimedes. For the places, I’ll talk about some of my 2010 visits in the near future. And for time, we’ll it’s the scale by which we can make sense of history, and the perception and reasoning that comes with it. The triangulation of these three things gives an enclosure of feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that form the boundaries of our intellectual capacity.

People – We are who we are as much as we are who we’re with (and who used to be with us). To feel, learn, and think, we must understand how other people feel, learn, and think (or felt, learned, and thought). This is core to society, law, science, religion, and everything else.

Places – We are who we are in the place that we are. If I were in a different place right now, my actions, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs may be different as a result. Place is a part of circumstance which most certainly contributes to our thoughts and beliefs.

Time – We are who we are because of the historical context in which we live. Time forms this context and provides structure to the way we think, how we can act, and as a result, what we might think and believe.

Feelings, Thoughts, & Beliefs – Our coordinates at any one time (say, x=people, y=place, z=time) describe who we are. The result of who we are is an output of feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. These form the boundaries, limits, and intersections of our intellectual capacity. Change coordinates, and we’ll find new outputs. And the most important thing to note: as with mathematical coordinate systems, there’s no limit to our coordinate system space, only to a local solid surrounding a group of coordinates. Limits may exist on my axes, by not on the coordinate system as a whole.

Links

the mind as a map

The human mind should work much like modern mapping and camera technology – zoom, pan, adjust, layer, interact – and export too.

At any moment, the majority of minds fall into one of two categories: big and strategic, or focused and tactical. But as changing times require changing minds, the third category has emerged: the dynamic and balanced. This category can be seen as a mix of the first two, instantaneously being able to function based on the attributes of the surrounding medium.

These minds are very much like new cameras, mapping applications, GPS tools, and related emerging technologies. They build a informative picture for a user, based off organized databases and knowledge bases, and allow a level of functional interaction to continuously feed new information to that user. These functionalities, when applied to the human mind, are all essential for continued growth in a rapidly changing (and unpredictable) society.

Zoom

  • Act as a lens. Be able to zoom in and out from a single focal point. For any given topic, the mind must be able to pay attention to the smallest of details while still being able to see the big picture. Understand the color and shape of the individual puzzle pieces while at the same time seeing where that piece fits into the full picture on the puzzle box.
  • Re-focus instantaneously at every level of zoom. Purposely making pictures blurry can provide useful in some instances, but the act of focusing should be natural and automatic. 
  • Like looking at a Magic Eye or a lovely Seurat, be able to find the right level of zoom where the picture is most clear.
  • “Zoom Analytics” as I’ll call it, should be embraced as a common analytical method. It’s always been a mathematical problem solving technique, but not universally taught.

Pan

  • Need to be able to swiftly move from topic to topic, and connect those that are related.
  • Moving back to a previously-visited topic should bring quicker loading of that memory.

Adjust

  • The mind must continuously grow in dimension and adjust for core characteristics. Recognize patterns and contrasts, shapes and sizes, color and form and adjust the view and output accordingly.
  • Toggle perspective and angle to see the infinite sides of any one picture. Perspective is everything.

Layer

  • If the brain consisted of data and memory silos, the main interface should be able to integrate any combination of data and memory into a single comprehensive picture.
  • It should be able to see localized data as well as aggregate data for larger constructs. Filter data and memory based off a set of parameters, re-organize it, and feed it into the common operating picture.

Interact

  • The picture is not static. The brain must by dynamic in nature, allowing a constant influx of new information and updating of old information. 
  • Re-organization of data and memory should be consistent with the changing society in which we live. When a scientific/technological revolution occurs, the way in which our information is processed and stored must be compatible with the changes in society.

Export

  • Not every tool can do every task. That’s why exporting is good. Create a new data set from which you, or someone else, can work. Export a map or a picture that can be analyzed by another set of eyes. For the human, you must be able to transfer stored information to others, and most importantly, communicate it effectively. English is English, math is math, kml is kml.
  • Language is good because it is a standard by which we can effectively communicate. Choosing words wisely is something that should be practiced on top of a common linguistic standard. It’s one thing to speak the same language, but another to foster understanding.

And so, truly finding a balance between big and small perspectives is important. It’s important for making wise decisions, being a team player, being an effective manager, giving valuable advice, and finding optimal direction in life. So as much as you make sure you can get deep in the weeds, make sure you can easily get out.

“It’s not what you’re looking at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau