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.

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!

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

happy havens

We all need something – a haven – through which we can rid ourselves of stress and pain and renew our mind and body.

Stress is a part of life. So is pain, sadness and sorrow. There are times when we feel really small – when we don’t have an impact or don’t matter that much. There are times when we feel big – the world is closing in on us and we are at a breaking point. That’s when we all need to find a haven.

A haven is a place to go – physical, mental, or spiritual – where you come back to your own self, to your most simple and purest form. It’s a place of refuge or rest. It’s a sanctuary for your mind, body, and soul.

There’s a funny thing about life, that feelings can change in an instant. Good days can turn bad with a frown. Bad days can turn good with a smile. With that, we must know that when we are in a rut, there are places to go that can always pick us up and renew our spirits. Places where you can refresh yourself and turn you back into you. Places where you can root the weeds and plant some seeds.

A haven is…
…a place that spurs rejuvenating, creative thought.
…a person that gives you the love and joy found nowhere else.
…a feeling that, when absorbed, squeezes out the immediate stresses of life.
…a view that brings you back to the “big picture”.

A haven is not…
…somewhere to just be alone – havens can be for couples, families, and larger groups.
…one place or thing – it may be the right combination of feelings and surroundings.
…unchanged – havens can be dynamic through time.
…something you have to find – many times it will find you, at the right moment and right time.

A few havens of mine:
Seeing the stars at night or the sun at dawn.
Knowing and feeling love.
Thanksgiving dinner.
Funny dreams.
Fall foliage, cool breeze, mountains, and the serenity of nature.***

In the end, it’s important to know that these places and feelings exist, and that at many times in your life, happiness is only a haven away.

***Picture at top is from last weekend in Blue Ridge Mountains / Shenandoah Valley with Christine. The foliage and scenery were absolutely beautiful and we had a great time at Wintergreen Resort – highly recommend it!

one minute for happiness

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. All it takes to make a difference is just one of those. One minute. That’s all it takes to make someone change their state of mind. One minute. That’s all it takes to make happiness contagious…

One minute. That’s all it takes.

One minute represents approximately 0.07% or about a fourteenth of a percent of the entire day. What else does it represent?

  • The time it takes to brush your teeth.
  • The time it takes to sing a national anthem.
  • The time it takes to check the weather.
  • The time it takes to heat up leftovers.
  • The time it takes to download and install Firefox.
  • The time it takes to write the Schrödinger equation, twice.
  • The time it takes to build a Jenga tower.
  • The time it takes to take out cash at the ATM.
  • The time it takes to pump gas.
  • The time it takes to derive any non-relativistic, Newtonian equation of motion.
  • The time it takes to chug 2 sodas.
  • The time it takes a space shuttle to go about 300 miles when in orbit.
  • The time it takes to make a sandwich.
  • The time it takes to take your temperature.
  • The time it takes to stretch your hamstrings.
  • The time it takes to watch two commercials.

Okay so I got a little carried away with that one. But that’s a good creativity exercise! Anyways, it really does put into perspective what you can do with a minute of time. So if you could take one minute each day and devote it to making someone else happy, could you do it?

Happiness is truly contagious. You see a man smiling on the bus and it makes you happy. An elderly woman making a wise crack about the speed of her shopping cart in the condiments section and you’re chuckled (that happened yesterday). Two people hugging on the street and you feel a rush of comfort. And that’s the funny thing: happiness comes in such simple forms. It doesn’t take money or success or fame or victory but just a simple act of kindness, show of emotion, compliment, or generally positive vibe.

With that I do want to be clear of one thing. Happiness is not always something gained or transmitted through external means, but on some days that minute is surely well spent through internal reflection and thought. That’s not selfish – that’s normal. But in a balanced world what you take is what you should give – double the amount you give back the next day.

So obviously transmissible happiness can be for yourself or for someone else, for a group of people, for a company, for a stranger, for an imaginative thought, for a spiritual state, etc. So what are some examples of transmission routes?

  • Make a phone call or send an email.
  • Give feedback on a paper, post, product, service.
  • Offer directions to someone lost.
  • Read an article and write your thoughts.
  • Carry something.
  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Give up your seat.
  • Laugh at yourself.
  • Double your tip.
  • Doodle.

The constant transmission and contagiousness of happiness. Mathematically, that makes me think of epidemic models. Well, that’s not far off. I’d propose that happiness could easily follow a modified epidemic model:

S = Susceptible = those who aren’t aware of how contagious it is
E = Exposed = those infected but keeping it internal
I = Infected = those hit by the smiling bug and actively passing it along
Standard Contact Rate (Susceptible –> Infected/Exposed) = 1 per day

Everyone starts as Susceptible, and the Exposed and Infected can toggle as they generate happiness internally some days and expose others the next day. You could take into account the doubling of internal happiness to double the Contact Rate on a subsequent day for the Exposed group. A new Susceptible population would emerge each day through birth, and most everyone would die happy. A pretty fun, dynamic model of happiness transmission.

Note: If happiness started with one person and simply doubled each day, it would only take a little over a month to infect or expose happiness to the entire global population (obviously ignoring geographic and other constraints).

In the end, my main point is that you can do something every single day to create happiness, and the mechanisms by which you can create happiness are very simple ones. It only takes one minute each day to give that purest gift of all. Because with a heart and a smile, the world’s happiness is truly in the palm of your hands.


Quotes/Links

  • “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” – Aristotle
  • “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
  • “Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.” – Maxim Gorky
  • The Happiness Epidemic – by David Hernandez
  • Bhutan and the measuring of quality of life through Gross National Happiness

find a voice

find a voice that makes you loud
for those refusing to hear
a voice that binds the friends you find
with those that aren’t quite so dear

find a voice that makes you proud
to shout out the feelings within
a voice that’s strong and never wrong
expression is always a win

find a voice that sets the tone
for those that walk by your side
a voice that carries a friend in need
or a stranger who’s trying to hide

find a voice that makes you known
to those not wanting to learn
the echoes will carry, the thoughts will remain
a flame that forever will burn

perfect chances

your eyes arouse and your heart evokes
the feeling of something dear,
the reason i know is solely because
this feeling i also fear.
as the sun at dusk and breeze tonight
mean nothing for tomorrow,
the love you may flood in my hollow heart
could likely lead to sorrow.
do i take the leap and trust the love
will it prove its worth today?
or do i turn around and say no more
just to keep the odds at bay?
but chances come for so many few
the likes of those that cant see,
chances of sorrow, for promise of love
are perfect chances for me.

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.

balancing education

Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning.” 

– Ron Miller, founder of the journal “Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice”

In my post titled “adsideology 2 and the one brain” I talk about the rise in interdisciplinary subjects and departments in higher education, and the need for the same in the K-12 educational system. Driving “thought mixtures” at an earlier age begins to weld the foundations of math, english, history, etc. while expanding the intellectual capacity of individuals at a young, developmental stage. Making connections for a new perspective of the world will better position the individual and those around the individual to find meaning, value, and purpose in life.

I think that’s why there needs to be a more balanced educational system. I’m not getting into the politics, inefficiencies, and the educational and opportunistic gaps that currently exist throughout the world, but am sticking to the foundation of education systems in general for now. Holistic education involves an understanding that self-actualization and the development of one’s character comes through different means and speeds. The grade number doesn’t matter, but building upon yesterday and striving for a better tomorrow does.

There needs to be more holistic education in the developmental years. The current K-12 education system emphasizes the teaching of facts, rules, skills, and discipline. However, it is missing the necessary methods of transformative learning and experiential learning. Sure, plenty of schools these days act as a community and teach about human interaction. But too much focus is on subject pillars and meeting quantifiable goals. The verticals, although important, need to be connected with horizontal layers of experience that encompass the facts and skills learned in the classroom. More emphasis should be put in teaching compassion, peace, self-respect, self-esteem, and community involvement. In my post titled “wearing other people’s shoes” I talk a bit about transformative learning and why that’s important for personal growth. A change in perspective can sometimes make all the difference, and that notion should be introduced at a young age.
I want to make it clear that holistic education is just one approach to a very large issue in education but by no means is the solution. The solution involves a balance in educational concepts and methods, and this balance should be institutionalized in the school system. A mesh of traditional, holistic, and other educational approaches is more dynamic. This allows for optimization of resources and methods for each individual student.
In the end, it’s the experiences and the relationships that make us who we are. It’s who and what we impact, not what we know. Understanding this at the earliest age will most certainly result in a life of significance, personal happiness, and community prosperity.
“Good grades show you’ve done your work; great deeds show you’ve learned your lessons.”
-Me
i. Top picture is the SunWALK pedagogical model of holistic education, by Dr. Roger Prentice. 
Arts, Science, Humanities + Creativity, Criticality, Caring.
ii. Bottom picture is from a Wake Alternative Break (WAB) trip I led in Spring 2005 to Virginia Beach. We were fortunate to work with the local parks & rec dept to clean up some parks and tutor in a local school. Good times.

on love

Love’s great. It’s the reason people run, fight, cry, smile, think, sleep, and most of all, live. It’s the fuel that can’t be mined, refined, and sold, but is certainly clean and renewable. If you don’t have love, you just haven’t realized it’s there.

Some of my roommates and I watched Love Actually today – great flick. Hugh Grant makes a great Prime Minister and his girl Natalie is a cutey patootey. So is Aurelia, for some of the movie at least. I also like how Aurelia and the writer fall in love even though they speak completely different languages. A prime example of love knowing no bounds.

Anyways, Happy Valentine’s Day and remember, Cupid aint stupid, he’s just a baby and sometimes has bad aim.

“What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson