Watching movies since I was a kid, I’ve noticed an escalation in the fearsomeness of cinematic monsters.  Things like quicksand and skeletons were all it took to scare the bejesus out of me in the 50s.  Granted, I was a kid, but flicks for adults weren’t much more ambitious in what they used to frighten.  Though we had the atomic bomb in our lives to invest emotion into the latest film creations, what appeared on screen hardly competed with the kinds of silver screen horrors available today.

And so, perhaps, we might trace an evolution of those things we use to scare ourselves, beginning with the myths and legends from the past.

Obsessive person that I am, twelve years ago when I reviewed all the myth and legend literature I could find on dragons, I created a database with 428 incidents of dragon contact over the course of several thousand years on six continents.  Noted in the database is the dragon appearance, country of origin, date of conflict, dragon’s lair, his or her weak spot, weapon used if there was a fight, assistants used if the hero required help, and the nature of the treasure the dragon might have been …

Stage Management

June 22, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Political, Society, Web

Transparency is not much embraced by the economic powers that be. Corporations and the agencies of government that represent their interests have been pushing hard for opaque economic governance for more than 30 years. It’s easier to perform the tricks of the trade when you control the stage.

“Deregulation” is the word used to suggest the benefits of letting corporations make money without the burden of accountability. We’ve gone about as far as deregulation can carry us. The federal government has been replaced by corporate representatives. Having legislated that corporations can do what they feel is best for corporations and the country, corporations have decided what is best for them is to control the country. Not a big surprise there.

Having deregulated transparency, we’ve obfuscated the reality that more knowledge is a good thing. Watching the dissolution of the economy, we’re realizing again the benefits of keeping government and corporations separate. We went through this struggle early in the preceding century.

My colleagues and I design network and coalition structures. This work goes with the territory of preparing web applications that manage the business and communications of networks and coalitions. One of the blessings of the new online communications technologies …

Perhaps I was six or seven years old. I’m not sure. It was at the Standard Club in downtown Chicago around 1960. There was a magic show for the children while the adults socialized. I was sitting on the floor with the other kids watching the magician pull rabbits out of hats. I was terrified. I was terrified I’d be called upon to assist after it became clear he was picking kids to help. I’d made a strategic blunder by sitting toward the front. Show over, I was deeply relieved I’d made it through without having to stand in front of all the sitting kids and risking being laughed at for being stupid.

I loathed front rows. My goal in groups was to be invisible.

My grandparents were members of country clubs and the downtown Standard Club. My mother’s mom and her husband lived in Hyde Park on Chicago’s South Side and so traveled to Ravisloe in the southern suburbs to relax with friends. Dad’s parents lived in the northern suburb of Glencoe and frequently took my sisters and me to Lake Shore Country Club farther north down Sheridan Road. Lake Shore Country Club had a swimming pool and a …

A child exhibits characteristics from both parents. The parents’ features in their children can complement each other in ways that reinforce and even encourage specific maturational trajectories. For example, pairing two musician parents not only increases the chance of a musically inclined child, but also increases the chance that the child will be maturational delayed. Maturational delay is a hallmark of creativity, encouraging a child with an infatuation for pattern and form. Keep boosting the maturational delay and a line gets crossed where infatuation with pattern eclipses a facility to communicate internal experience. How the environment affects the parents can determine how this line gets crossed.

“Disorders” characterized by maturational delay, such as autism and Asperger’s, are encouraged by the choices we make when we fall in love, in addition to what we expose ourselves to as we live our lives. The previous two entries outline the influence of mate selection on the origin of autism in our children. Working in cooperation with sexual selection are environmental influences that compel how children’s social and mental lives unfold.

Since the death of Darwin, little thought has been given to how the environment might influence human evolution in a single lifetime. Politics …

Though little discussed, the ability to send our children back in time is an ability all of us have. This ability has to do with how we choose a mate.

It has been estimated that our lineage of homo departed Africa around 50,000 years ago. From there, the various branchings of humanity began. There is evidence of overlap with Neanderthals in Europe, but there is no certainty of conjugational relations. Regardless, as bands then tribes grew separated by greater geographic spans, the last common descendant between diverging lineage threads grew further apart in distance and in time.

Academics have hypothesized several reasons that humans left Africa. I would suggest that robust language facility had no small amount to do with the compulsion to explore. We might conclude that language was well established because across the planet, most cultures display a relatively small number of left-handers, anywhere from 2-12 %. This number suggests that those that left Africa used the same brain we right-handers have today–larger left lobe with smaller corpus callosum–as opposed to the alternative, earlier left-hander model of both lobes being similarly sized with larger corpus callosum.

We might also consider whether those myths and stories that seem to …

There are many ways to kill a dragon. I counted several hundred strong-man dragon interventions in the almost one hundred books I read when I was snake-charmed by the subject. Courage, strength and cleverness were the qualities looked for in a dragon vanquisher. Many battles led to happy endings where the victor gained a wife.

Myths and legends are a little like spring garden catalogs, offering pictures of the ways a man can gain a mate along with instructions to society and its women on how to best encourage the man’s strong features. Our catalog of stories for the last few thousand years have offered guidance for the families of the women on how to pick strong, protective men for their grown-up little girls. When women began to pick their own husbands, they sought men with qualities that society respected, men with strength and streaks of independence, men who could be relied upon when dragons reared their heads.

Gilgamesh slew a dragon-like creature, a stand-in for the goddess, when records of these stories first emerged. Not just the Indo-Europeans, but Semitic, Asian and aboriginal peoples revel in these tales of acts of courage in gaining honor and a wife. Not …

The symbol of our earliest known religions, back when goddesses ruled the world, was the serpent. The goddess had several familiars or manifestations. The serpent was unique.

“The snake is life force, a seminal symbol, epitome of the worship of life on this earth. It is not the body of the snake that was sacred, but the energy exuded by this spiraling or coiling creature which transcends its boundaries and influences the surrounding world. This same energy is in spirals, vines, growing trees, phalluses, and stalagmites, but it is especially concentrated in the snake, and therefore more powerful. The snake was something primordial and mysterious, coming from the depths of the waters where life begins. Its seasonal renewal in sloughing off its old skin and hibernating made it a symbol of the continuity of life and of the link with the underworld.” Marija Gimbutas, 1989

Over tens of thousands of years, the snake transformed into the dragon. The Western dragon is the serpent demonized by Indo-Europeans who conquered goddess culture. In India, Indo-Europeans demoted serpent deities to a lower caste, suppressing the serpent gods in myth and story. Farther East, the serpent was deified and made magical by the Chinese, …

It crossed my mind yesterday that individuals with autism are not likely to be superstitious. This conclusion would also suggest that autistics are not magical thinkers. If this generalization has some truth, then this characteristic would not only make them unique in today’s society, but unique going back through multiple societal transformations past bands and tribes.

There are those folks that exhibit obsessive-compulsive disorder behavior as they seek to exert some degree of control over the world by performing personal rituals. OCD is not uncommon with people that are autistic. But OCD that features an obsession with pattern and a compulsion to participate in pattern replication is not the same as OCD linked to event control. The latter, which is more a robust expression of a superstitious frame of mind, suggests someone deeply fatigued by magical thinking. I am estimating that autistics are not magical thinkers. Autistics don’t easily intuit how they might change the world.

In the 1960s, I had two friends, brothers, who exhibited unique behavior. One had, at the time, undiagnosed Tourette’s syndrome, and he exhibited bizarre ritualistic behaviors, astonishing physical strength and a powerful intelligence. His brother retained unique thinking processes characterized by his seeing himself …

Consider that the exploration of cause-and-effect relationships, the hallmark of good science, is a direct result of magical thinking characteristic of the ancient religions. Science worships gods no longer but continues to practice ancient religious rites. No practice is as ancient as that which strips complex, interconnected experience of its interrelations by focusing on single narrative threads. Magical thinking reduces magic to thinking by making believe that we influence events by arbitrary actions.

Push a doorbell and hear the thunder sound. We immediately estimate that another push might compel another roiling of the sky.

Science seeks to influence events by nonarbitrary actions. With wild success.

Nonetheless, science still follows the ritual format of making believe the world can be understood and influenced by exploring these single threads. Ignored is the notion that all the threads connect.

There are seven million stories in the Naked City. We can only tell them one by one. We would not presume to suggest a single Dragnet adventure is the same as all Los Angeles that day. Nor would we suggest that the reproduction of a single story is the same thing as what actually happened to those people.

Science does not presume to be …

Immanence is an ancient concept. The archeologist Marija Gimbutas explored in detail excavations of ancient goddess cultures in Eastern Europe. She and others have concluded that the spiritual foundation of these people involved experiences of the gods and goddesses as always present, or immanent. This is in contrast to the later Indo-European interventions and subjugations that included the introduction of the transcendental god.

Science reasonably rejects this transcendental God. God comes with lots of baggage. Modernity, after devoting lots of time to sorting through God’s luggage, gave way to this post-modern era where we’ve decided to just store it in museums. God’s dirty underwear is on display in climate-controlled, beautifully lit exhibitions in the West’s museums and learning institutions.

Also on display are the remnants and revelations of the ancient goddess religions. Though later raped, tamed and domesticated by the Indo-Europeans, the ancient goddess was no shrinking violet. Excavated cities with no walls suggest that warfare was relatively rare. Yet, human sacrifice was not uncommon. The goddess was immanent. Life was not gentle. The serpent was her familiar.

An immanent goddess preceded the Indo-Europeans and exists today in the third world and in the East. Characteristic of the ancient immanent …

It is not beyond consideration that the web is beginning to exhibit emergent characteristics that would suggest how intelligence evolves. Online, we can assume that consciousness exists. Hundreds of millions of consciousness derivations are behaving, invested in specific personal outcomes. Unexpected synergies are beginning to surface. Observing this online evolution, we might form tentative hypotheses on how earth’s biological infrastructure evolved.

Developing theories of biological evolution that presuppose that consciousness exists is not the same thing as presupposing that a mythological god intervened to both start the process of evolution and makes sure that the process unfolds to his or her satisfaction. Presupposing that consciousness exists, thinking outside the box of not considering god as a variable that you cannot isolate and weigh, you offer space for alternative conclusions. We tend to constrain our thinking by not taking into consideration the very thing that makes our thinking unique, consciousness, and the possibility that consciousness in not an emergent feature of evolution but the very instrumentation with which evolution plays, the ocean that the fish is unaware of.

In other words, instead of beginning your evolutionary theorizing by presupposing that god does not exist nor have influence on biological evolution, we …

I run a small web development firm. There are seven of us specializing in html design, website maintenance, PHP MySQL programming, email marketing, pay per click (Google Ad Words), tech support, server maintenance, email consultation and search engine optimization. Where possible, we try to spread the specialties around.

I’m the search engine optimization specialist. I have little tech facility but have skills in pattern manipulation and recognition. Engaged in search engine optimization (SEO), I weigh the specific variables the search engines use to decide how to rank a website and then design the site and provide links to the sites in ways that encourage search engines to give them higher rankings.

About seven years ago, I sort of fell into this portion of my profession as a result of creating high quality local retail directories for Chicago and local towns. I created the directories, loading them with links to local business websites to funnel traffic to my client websites. I’d give my clients free ads within the directories. The program worked well.

Over time, the directories themselves achieved higher and higher rankings in Google. They commonly ranked #1 in Chicago, making my clients happy, but they were also ranking in …

Virtual Organizing

June 11, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: Activism, Web

There are more and less effective ways to organize online.  It is extremely difficult to work with activists exclusively online and by phone without any real-world contact.  Handling web and other communications for a budding national organization with over 30 coordinating committee members, Marcia and I became intimately familiar with how things can go awry.

The communication system was begun by two well-intentioned older males with many years of experience organizing on the Left, and they proceeded to seek to reproduce the positive results they’d achieved in the past using organizing methods they were familiar with in the world of flesh and blood.  The put together a group, the Coordinating Committee, that then granted the founders the authority to make executive decisions.  With no committees other than the Administrative Committee itself during the important early period when founding issues and logistics were established, the Administrative Committee did its best to make things work efficiently.

Transparency, hierarchy and diversity issues emerged quickly, characterized by arguments over what these three founding principles actually meant or how, in the context of the forming organization, these three processes should be interpreted and addressed.  The well-intentioned older males didn’t get what the issue was.  In …

Fundamentalists and pluralists are in disagreement across the political, academic and societal relations landscape. There is a tendency for a pluralist to agree with some or all of what a fundamentalist believes to be true, with additions. Sometimes the fundamental beliefs get reframed, as Newtonian physics has been absorbed into contemporary physics. Fundamental beliefs sometimes are reinterpreted. For example, Christian origin myths are embraced by pluralists as stories, but not as fact. Often fundamental beliefs remain true or useful but become part of a larger pattern or perspective that suggests or includes far more. Patterns can keep widening.

Even pluralists can discover that their interpretations have been reframed.

There are struggles on the American Left between fundamentalists and pluralists, usually over process and/or strategy, sometimes tactics. Leftist fundamentalists retain a commitment to change and to empowering the disempowered, but they are often utilizing a process almost identical to those that they would replace. Organizational structures are astonishingly nontransparent and are characterized by several levels of hierarchy with limited diversity. White males are usually in control.

For example, many U.S. labor organizations are usually run by elected white guys with an executive’s prerogative to make top-down decisions. Focus in parochial. Jobs …

Slowly I grow better at letting opposites be true.

There is evolution where processes can be explored in detail and there is spiritual experience informed by an understanding that consciousness or a deep sense of play informs all levels or all scales of experience. They seem to be opposites when viewed from a post-modern, reductionist point of view, which maintains that consciousness is an emergent, contingent feature of evolution.

The three P’s: pattern, process and paradox seem to keep me dancing to the music while I’m moving through the day. Pattern is about recognizing connections. Process is about learning to view the world from the present, which means honoring behavior over words by focusing on transparency, horizontal communication and diversity or integration. This view is the activist’s process perspective. Exploring paradox is to examine the transition between world views. Surfing societal transformations reveals paradox like a sudden sandbar demanding immediate attention to two not thoroughly integrated perspectives.

Things can be connected, things can be offered attention and more than one thing can be true at the same time.

Stephen J. Gould, the evolutionary biologist, was a pluralist among reductionists. He didn’t subscribe to science theology, which demands that simpler means …

We live in Evanston, twelve blocks from Chicago. Northwestern University is about six blocks north of us. Loyola is about two miles south. We are in the middle unit of a 5-unit, antique row house. Our backyard is cement, like a largish carport, surrounded by a maybe 3-foot band of dirt. An astonishingly large maple tree covers our backyard, making it almost impossible for grass or garden to grow.

Still, the animals find us.

We have possums, squirrels, birds, mice, a rat, chipmunks, crows and the occasional raccoon. Down the street we happened across a skinny fox chasing a local squirrel. Coyotes cruise up the canal banks or along the lagoon. Deer bop through on occasion. We harbor tortoises year-round in a large turtle pen sunk perhaps two feet into the dirt.

There are several bridges to an awareness of interconnectedness and evolution. A necessary feature of these unique bridges is that they abandon language. As language users, we habitually think in single-narrative threads, intuiting cause and effect as the way of the world when it’s the only path our words are capable of walking. We think narratively in a non-narrative world. We make the world a story. Our lives …

Wildlife

June 7, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

It’s a little creepy, the rat in back.

The tortoises are still in hibernation with March about to begin.  The bird feeder is posted above the tortoise cage, where the squirrels and birds scatter seeds on the leaves and snow that cover up the turtles.  I watch the sparrows and squirrels eating seeds, and I watch the rat eating seeds.  Just one rat.  He seems as comfortable in the daylight as the others.  I worry there will be more.

In a month, when the weather turns, I’ll have to reach deep into the turtle pen and haul out all the leaves stuffed in to keep the turtles warm.  These are Missouri/Arkansas tortoises transplanted to Chicago, hence the extra padding–they don’t dig deep enough.  I’m not excited about this task.  I hope that once I’ve cleared the refuse, the rat will go away.

About five years ago–after my October stuffing of leaves above the turtles after they’d dug themselves into the ground–I noted that my wedding ring was gone.  I figured the ring was in a leaf bag.  Maybe the ring was somewhere in the yard.  I couldn’t find it.  Marcia and I went and bought another.  I had my 800 …

It’s difficult to explain the certainty that we experienced, the confidence we had that times were changing fast.  In the late 60s and early 70s we could see the confusion in our parents’ eyes.  We were not confused.  Radical change was underway.  I felt lucky to be alive.

When I cut my hair to go to work for my father in his Chicago girdle and bra factory, I was choosing to go underground.  I wanted business skills.  I wanted the skills to build.  So I withdrew from pastoral, coastal St. Petersburg, Florida, and became a spy in an urban, consumer economy.  Not feeling a part of the world of buying and selling things, I had a talent for it.  So I chanced a dance with this bottleneck to change, the American compulsion to consume, and entered into a 19-year career as a sales rep.  I quit working for my dad and started a gift and stationery sales firm.  I was a foot soldier, as McCain would say, for the consumer economy.  It was surreal.

Almost 40 years later, what felt immanent then is now visibly unfolding.

A couple years ago, walking past the living room of a friend, I noticed …

Often undervalued are the benefits of death.  At the same time, death’s distressing repercussions are often ignored.  This dance of epiphany and dread passes by like an almost soundless Main Street circus parade comprised of Hollywood Academy Award celebrities high-stepping down the boulevard holding hands with children dying of depleted uranium poisoning.  Planted inside the rolling cages with thriving wild creatures are people’s pets with rabies.

Is death always followed by release?  Something peculiar seems to be happening the older I grow.  After a person passes, bonds I experience with the living become bonds I experience with the living that are dead.  The bonds do not break.

The present becomes informed by presence.

As if the world were not mysterious enough with its incalculable times incalculable number of webbed interconnections coyly encouraging our use of single narrative threads to suggest a non-narrative ever-present, evolving now.

Add to that our loved ones disappearing when they die.  Granted, they drag a part of us with them, making us wise whether we like it or not.

Wise like a guru spending Tuesday in the Old Country Buffet.  Students bringing gifts from the meat island.  Guru having plenty already.…

The reductionist–even as enlightened a pluralist as Stephen J.  Gould–concludes that consciousness is an “emergent” feature existing simply because it exhibits evolutionary utility.  Enough said, say the sociobiologists, the Neo-Darwinian, the evolutionary psychologist, the adaptionist, the gradualist, the Dawkins/Dennett fundamentalist and the great majority of tenured evolutionary biologists.

Still, this leaves untidy little threads waving around like tapestries partially woven by unexamined hands, as if those female Greek goddess weavers just keep warfing and woofing along, long after the other gods have withdrawn from the great god stage.

We are aware that we are aware.  There are those parts of us that are not aware.  And, there is just aware.

Buddhist texts suggest that just being aware is good enough.  The other layer of aware is an unnecessary addition.  If being just aware is good enough for consciousness, then it’s good enough for us, suggest the texts.  Only, we can’t get to aware without first being aware of aware.  Seems particularly paradoxical considering that a foundation evolutionary principle is that species or individuals unfold over time by embracing/remembering previous experience and carrying those influential experiences forward.  We don’t grow by ridding ourselves of what we don’t seek to be influenced …

In the past, I noticed that I often struggled that I struggled. Achieving the ability to observe that I was having difficulty having difficulty, I was eventually able to just observe that I was having difficulty. Eventually, I acquired an ability to just observe.

In other words, I was often angry I was sad, sad I was angry, angry I was angry, sad I was sad, frightened I was frightened, frightened I was angry, occasionally angry I was frightened, sad I was frightened and sad I was angry.

I don’t remember being frightened I was sad. I was familiar with eight of the nine dissociative derivations. It might be some kind of record. I suspect not. At some point, I just started noticing that a sizable portion of my experience was my experience of my experience. I realized that I was operating on three experiential levels at the same time: observer, experience 2, experience 1. And, I realized that I was realizing it.

Being in the present had always been sort of a group adventure. The present for me was characterized by several layers of experience. It was when I began to notice this view of the present and exercised …

Grief seems to evidence itself in behaviors of activists around me. Rather, it’s a choice to avoid that feeling that informs how an activist’s life unfolds.

When conducting business, talking to clients and meeting with prospective clients, I don’t pay attention to their internal psychodynamics. Still, I’m frequently astonished at the unique ways that clients think. My job involves guiding clients to achieve an overview of their project, business or business plan in order to translate it into a website navigation structure that provides both introduction and detail. Together we discover the right category names, sequence them and provide a cogent pathway for a visitor to walk. I marvel at the challenges this task presents to certain ways of thinking.

Compel a person to think both big picture and narratively when that person is used to thinking detail and/or associatively, and you can hear the gears grind as if they’ve never driven shift. With time, we finalize a plan, the staff creates a website and the client is happy. Working with people to put their best face forward, I see one of their best faces. I get a front row view of people’s dreams.

Evenings and weekends, I’m in a …

Magic

June 1, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Ontogeny, Society

The Boulder, Colorado, philosopher Ken Wilber makes a powerful argument that many contemporary individuals attracted by spiritual experience confuse magic and spirituality.  Wilber is known for Integral Philosophy, which traces an unfolding of life on biological, social and personal levels, using a multiscale, multistage evolutionary sequence derived from his studies in several disciplines.  Some of the evolutionary principles shared in this blog have been influenced by Wilber’s work.

Briefly put, a belief in magic is retained by tribes or myth-based cultures and some stages of childhood before rationality engages.  Societal and childhood stages of development are seen as closely tied.  Societally and personally, once the age of reason has arrived, magic withdraws as a useful explanatory principle.  Yet, there is a future stage, marked by sensitivity to how experiences that formerly seemed unrelated were actually interconnected.  This awareness opens the door, on a personal level, to spiritual experience, and on a societal level, to accepting responsibility for that which shares this planet.

In the orchestra of ideas, you have the strings (biology), percussion (society), brass (ontogeny) and winds (individual biography).  Themes are introduced in one area, picked up by another and then played by all as concepts are examined in …

I have friends with gaydar. Usually women, these friends can conclude a guy is gay after a brief conversation. I don’t think it’s the way they dress or the way they talk. It’s a childlike aspect they pick up on. When they are wrong, and the guy they thought was gay was not, that person had a Peter Pan quality about him.

When I was in college, I evidently jammed some guys’ gaydar. On occasion, I’d have to tell gay guys I was straight. I had girlfriends. It’s just that I was living out the life of my hero, Peter Pan. The Mary Martin version. If there was a major in childhood, I had the course load: children’s lit, art, children’s theatre, developmental psychology, clay, drawing, children’s clinical psychology, etc.

Many years later, when I fell in love for the first time I experienced a powerful connection between Wendy, as she was portrayed in the Mary Martin production of Peter Pan, and the woman I’d fallen in love with. It’s only now, more than 15 years later, that I fully realize why her wearing the Wendy-like white nightgown so filled me with reverence, fear and joy.

I’ve heard of the …

I started talking when I was three.  My first memory is potato-on-the-spoon relay races in nursery school.  I felt humiliated and appalled at my lack of spoon/potato acumen.

Grown-up humor I remember as being beyond me.  No clue what made people laugh.  Adults felt terrifyingly foreign.  I stuck with kids.  Not that kids felt particularly safe.  They just felt more familiar.

Next door I had my own personal bully.  Mostly it was verbal abuse and a little pushing.  Kevin grew up to be a sensitive poet.  Perhaps I encouraged memories that inspired metaphors for his poet’s inner shame.  Regardless, that house that I grew up in has now been torn down.  Kevin’s house still stands.

My sister once asked me if I felt sad that the house we had grown up in had been replaced.  I looked at her, astonished.  “Sad? I feel relieved.  With the house gone, childhood feels more finished, buried and far away.”

They kept me in nursery school an extra year so my speech would catch up a bit.  Finally, I started kindergarten, but evidently I was still difficult to understand.  For the next few years, I would be taken out of class each week for …