A Sunday (Christmas) Chat with Myself — 24 December, 2017

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”  ― Dr. SeussHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The biggest iconic opposites polarity in humanity celebrating Christmas is between Jesus, or December 25th, the day we celebrate as Jesus’ birthday, and Santa Claus. To me, Santa Claus is little more than a sales gimmick created by Coca-Cola to increase their profits, and is an icon of the shopping frenzy that takes place during the pre Christmas season. Santa Claus is to the real meaning of Christmas what a plastic, ten cent diamond is to a real thousand dollar diamond: Artificial. It is the exact opposite of what the season is about.

Jesus’ birth–his gift to all earthly creation–is that there is hope, and that’s not what Santa Claus offers you! Jesus offers hope: a way to lift ourselves out of the hopeless misery that we are/were in, and the opportunity to turn hate into love, and be loved in turn; To replace wordly passion with compassion; To replace violence and war with understanding and compromise; To replace ignorance with true education; To replace selfishness with unselfish  deeds that  care for all creation, not just ourselves and friends; To replace punishment–prisons–with understanding and a helping hand.

A 2013 CBC  report states that Canadian prison population  has increased by 75% in the last decade. The report further states that, ten years ago, the number of inmates in federal Canadian prisons was nearly 12,000. It’s now over 15,00! Obviously, punishment doesn’t work! Until we start treating criminals as human beings that need help and not our contempt, our prison population  will never go down!

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ” 
― Mary Ellen Chase

There was a time, before the Great Depression of the 1930s, that social assistance was provided by religious charities and other private groups. Today, welfare is big business and  has migrated from the offices of Pastors in religious institutions to government, and a report by the National Council on Welfare indicates that there are 1.7 million Canadians on welfare–obviously a growing statistic! And the last “Ho ho ho” that I heard from Santa Claus, he wasn’t too concerned about feeding the hungry and clothing the sick as he flits to and fro between us and the North Pole!

In order to survive, primitive man had to think of himself first. As we to evolve, Jesus the Christ was born to us with a new message: it is better to give than to receive. Is the idea of Santa Claus’s popularity just an attempt from the Dark Side to keep us primitive, to think only about our own selfish wants?

Giving and receiving is fine. It’s a Christian tradition. But charitable giving and receiving is Christ-giving and receiving! That’s what Christmas is all about!

“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” 
― Steve MaraboliUnapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

A Sunday Chat with Myself

“The sad thing about Artificial Intelligence is that it lacks Artifice and therefore Intelligence.” — Jean Baudillard

In a C|Net article titled, “As AI and robots rise up, do humans need an upgrade too?” the author continues, “Forget hacking a computer. Some researchers want to hack the brain (italics added) to create human superintelligence to compete with AI.” In this article, the author makes some convincing arguments in favor of a better brain, and in its  prescribed aspect, I agree with her. Many of us could drastically reduce the calamities that befall us if we’d “upgrade” our thinking capacity, like upgrading our skills, education, and my favorite, playing professional Brain Games like Lumosity and Brain HQ. but aren’t we putting the cart before the horse?

We talk about AI (Artificial Intelligence) taking over, but forget that AI is a human–a mind/brain creation–something that we’ve usefully invented through the use of our brain, and then, instead of taking pride in our accomplishment, we limit ourselves to think that the brain did it all, that we’re just a brain. No more!

“Before we do something about Artificial Intelligence, why don’t we do something about Natural Stupidity?” — Steve Polyak

We are much more than a brain. We’re a Soul! In other words, we’re a thinking, reasoning, eternal, feeling being that has somehow–still largely unknown to us just how we did it– created a brain–an indispensable tool–to help us create even greater things. As such we should celebrate our infinity, rather than degrade ourselves into believing that we’re only a brain that has somehow developed a mind, and that’s all we are.

Like a carpenter with his hammer, what does it prosper me to upgrade my hammer, as this article suggests,  but remain clumsy and continue to keep hitting my thumb with it every time I try hammering a nail into a board? Doesn’t it make more sense to upgrade my spirit–my soul, and therein eliminate  from clumsiness?

In this same article, Bryan Johnson is quoted as saying, “Looking at superintelligence for me is like when you’re on the motorway looking so far out ahead that you crash into the car in front of you,” and I believe this is exactly what we are doing by accepting brain improvement over Soul improvement.

Improve our spirituality and our brain will automatically work better for us to our interests, because it is only a tool–a beautiful, wonderful, powerful tool–of something in us that’s much, much bigger!

“Artificial Intelligence has the same relationship to intelligence as Artificial Flowers have to flowers.” — David Prnas

Arguing …

“The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.” — George Bernard Shaw

I love to argue! Some of my colleagues refer to this, my passion, as a barbaric sport. If I must argue, then, instead of arguing, why not debate like civilized people do? Debating, they say, is more civilized and, since Man is the only creature that we’re aware of  that can reason, why not help him reach for higher stratums by reason of ‘civilized’ debate, rather than ‘barbaric’ arguing?Argument

Hogwash!

Troubled by the restrictions and shortcomings common in formal debating, many years ago two friends of mine and I organized our own “Arguing Club” in order to satisfy our penchant to exercise our minds.  But, instead of adopting the many rules found in a formal debate, we had only one rule that mattered: the person who got angry first, lost the argument! We did, however, add an addendum to this rule–an “Escape Clause” that we knew  at some time we’d need, should one or all three of us become disinterested in the subject being argued and wish to just drop it, and call it “a draw.” Also, unlike a formal debate where opposite teams are given time to research their point of view, our topic for argument was mutually decided upon at the moment, allowing for no time for either parties to do research. Ours was a spur of the moment thing, and we had a reason for doing so, which I’ll get to later.

So, before I go any farther into proving the superiority of arguing over formal debate, let me state that, to stubbornly argue about anything— little things– and insist that you’re right gains you nothing. Many friendships–indeed, many marriages have suffered simply because one or both members just refuse to give in, afraid that their ‘error’ might expose a weakness in them. To the contrary. Be assured, to admit error is not a sign of weakness. In fact, to stubbornly insist on being right against all odds can show you up as being ‘brilliantly’ clueless! Instead, if you find yourself cornered where you face superior reason, take advantage of the moment and listen: open your mind to learning something new from your ‘opponent’ that you didn’t know before. In the end, that little bit of humility will thank you for it: you’re now truly on the road to getting smarter!

So, back to my ‘argument’ that arguing is superior to formal debating. Spur of the moment arguing, like my friends and I had set up, can be compared to driving peacefully along a straight stretch of road when suddenly you hit an icy patch. You can’t stop Father Time so that you can dig out the driver’s manual from your glove compartment and quickly brush up on what to do in such a slippery emergency. All that you have at your disposal now is a very heightened awareness. You’re suddenly more awake–desperate– than you’ve been during your trip up to now. Good driving habits–instructions– long forgotten, stored deep within your psych, pop up front and center as you wrestle with the emergency.

The same mental awareness happens when you properly prepare yourself for an argument. Like a crack platoon of  battle-hardened troops, all your heightened senses now are front and center, ready to defend your views! Bits of information–maybe something from years back that you had glimpsed on a billboard, or heard a high school teacher say, crashes through your brain’s cobwebbed time barrier and rolls off your tongue as if it’s always been there, fresh and handy. You’re a sudden genius!

No, I don’t promise that, overnight, you’ll become a famous battle-hardened arguer, feared by all opposition. Oh, if it only were that simple!  First, it’s not that simple and, like all worthwhile skills, it can take a while before you become a real challenger in the argument arena, and like the skills of any Learned Grand Master of any trade or profession, it takes a lifetime to make your opponents fear and/or respect you. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  • Arguing and formal debating can be compared to a speaker and a listener. As in all meetings that we attend, the one giving the talk can be compared to the arguer, because he has to be more aware than the listener. The listener, for all that it matters, can fall asleep. Awareness plays an important role in turning on all your senses. Because of this heightened awareness, the speaker will always end up knowing more about the topic than the listener, no matter how much the listener concentrates on the topic.
  • A true Arguer is a person who desires to learn more than the average person, and to learn it fast.
  • Although we “Three Musketeers” had one rule: he who got angry first lost the argument, not once do I remember any one of us getting angry during our many sessions. That rule was just sort of a decoration that we added to help keep our arguments fun and in line.
  • Did I mention that our argument sessions were designed to be fun? A lot of studies have shown that the brain learns better, and retains more of the information, when it is fun to learn.
  • Back to the topic of speaker and listener, have you noticed that a good speaker, one that the public flocks to, enjoys speaking and, over the years, that makes him ever more proficient in his speaking skill, and develops a broader span of knowledge? The key here is, have fun and it will all come to you!
  • Don’t be shy about taking the opposite or disliked view when a topic is presented. It’s usually easy to win the argument if you take the ‘popular’ side of the view and one that you’re familiar with, but just spewing out a bunch of known information does little in sharpening your quick-thinking skills, nor will it help broaden your knowledge-horizons. Taking the opposite view in discussions, especially unpopular ones, is a common practice among lawyers when learning their trade. That’s why the good ones seldom loose a case! Besides, it’s taking the opposite view that brings out your platoon of crack self-awareness troops.
  • Be selective in choosing whom you wish to engage in an argument. There are far more people out there who are more interested in picking a fight with you rather than engaging you in mental competition! Not heeding this advice can even put you in physical harms’ way. If your opponent shows any sign of anger, quit the discussion! Believe me, an angry or frustrated person cannot be swayed to accept even the most simple truth. That is why politicians rarely go out and meet with a demonstrating crowd. An angry crowd is a closed-minded crowd!

There are Two Ways …

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
– S. Kieregaard

The above thought came to mind one day while listening to the evening news. I don’t have a problem accepting the ‘facts’ that are presented by the various news channels during their news presentations. Although presented different, the contents, or ‘facts’, were basically the same, which can be taken for some sense of reliability. However, what piqued my interest was listening to the various opinions that many of the news anchors added to their feature story of the day. Does this mean that the news presented earlier wasn’t complete, or a bias of the real truth?