Getting old is a B***h, or is it?

There is nothing as final, for us insignificant humans, as death.  It comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and shades.  Sometimes it comes slowly, dragging on for years and sometimes it sneaks up on us with absolutely no warning.  As I approach 70, I see the increasing need to utilize as many living moments as possible.  I refuse to live this life with one foot in the grave, constantly wondering about this magical afterlife where there are no taxes, disease, indigestion, nagging spouses, flat tires… oh the list is endless!  I choose to live in the present and utilize as many opportunities as life presents.  This approach may lead to some uncomfortable situations but the rewards from seizing the moment are usually worth it.  It is so easy to say no to new opportunities.  These opportunities are generally scary in nature and may lead us to places we did not expect to go.  But don’t you see, these are the places where the blood flows a little faster and the heart beats a little stronger,  these are the places where life is lived!

I hear people say, and I am sure I have said it myself, that people in general are a pain.  It would be much easier to live alone in the woods and never see another human.  Yes, this would be easier, but with the bad comes a whole lot of good.  Life is not about things!  It is not about cars or houses or beautiful clothes. I am certain you have either said this or heard it in your day to day travels.  Life is about people and the endless interactions we have with them if we choose. The happiest people I know are the ones who have many friends and are not afraid to try new things even when it is a little scary.  Scary, within reason, is good!  It makes you feel alive!  So, snap out of it, turn off the TV, and when an opportunity presents itself, grab it like there is no tomorrow, because quite honestly, there may not be a tomorrow!  This life is a one-way ticket, sort of like going to the amusement park for the day.  You are in this big amusement park we call life, and you are the boss, you decide what rides you want to ride. Don’t leave the park without having experienced the whole thing.

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Artificial Intelligence or AI, what you need to know.

 

Creación de Adán (Miguel Ángel).jpg

Thanks to the media, many of us already know a great deal about Artificial Intelligence (AI).  Some of the innovations we have seen in movies are scientists working hard to make robots that look and act human, cars driving themselves, factories needing less humans to function, phone calls from robots (BOTS), intelligent phone answering machines,  sex robots, virtual reality programs and the list continues on.  What does this mean to humanity?  What is our purpose if AI does all the jobs that we have always done?  In the near future McDonald’s and all the other fast-food places will produce food with robots and not teenagers.  I’m not sure how you feel about this, but I personally am relieved that hormone-charged adolescents will not be making my food.  We humans have been through many apocalyptic changes in our existence.  We survived the industrial revolution, although its continuing effect on the environment is still lurking in the shadows. We survived the nuclear age so far.  We survived the black plague with virtually no medical knowledge.  We have survived two world wars.  We even survived the last ice age.  In the end, although excruciatingly painful to our human family, many of these calamities have made us stronger as a species.

Today we face a new obstacle, Artificial Intelligence.  We are now staring into the eyes of the most serious threat that we, as custodians of the earth, have ever faced.  The very essence of what life is could possibly change.  The melding of AI and humans is in its infancy and moving faster than is probably prudent.  Some futurologist think that this is an evolutionary step where man melds with AI to become smarter, stronger and more resistant to the whims of the universe, therefore more likely to survive.  Some of the smartest and most successful people in the world are now telling us to move cautiously into the world of AI.  Elon Musk, owner and creator of Tesla and Space X, says, “AI is man’s biggest threat”.  When one of the smartest men in the world says AI is man’s biggest threat, I think we should probably listen to him!

So why is AI a threat to humankind?  I think the best way to explain this is with my chocolate peanut butter analogy.  A TV commercial several years ago depicted a man walking down the sidewalk engrossed in his peanut butter jar.  Unbeknownst to him, a fellow human was walking towards him immersed in his chocolate bar.  Both men were so involved with consuming their particular food that they failed to see each other and collided.  The one man says to the other in an irritated way, “you got chocolate in my peanut butter!”.  The second man responds, “you got peanut butter in my chocolate!”.  Together they both bite into the combination created by the collision.  As they look at each other in amazement and smiles form across their faces, the words come across the screen: REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS.  No, I have not lost my mind, there is a connection.  AI could not create the concept of a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, only we can.  Computers do not make these kind of mistakes.  They may lose files, break down or a multitude of other things we have become all too familiar with, but they will not generate new ideas!  New ideas often come from mistakes.  Please do not misunderstand me, computers are capable of solving problems with immense numbers of variables.  In the last year or so the program called WATSON, made by IBM, looked at all the data created by the city of Chicago and solved the rat problem. Now the computer tells the RAT PATROL where there will be a problem and dispatches them to prevent it.  ( IBM’s Watson, the Jeopardy-beating “thinking machine,” is studying to take the federal medical licensing exam. It’s doing legal discovery work, just as first-year law associates do, but faster. It beats humans at finding lung cancer in X-rays and outperforms high-level business analysts.)  Without computers, some of our most sophisticated airplanes would not even fly. They are too complex for the human mind to keep up with the variables that arise in flight.  So, back to the original question, why is AI a threat?  The letters AI should give you a clue, Artificial Intelligence.  We are currently the only intelligence occupying this planet.  There is no competition.  We decide what stupid thing we are going to do and generally do it with little regard to its impact on the world.  Assuming that AI emerges and develops a rudimentary understanding of right and wrong, and cares about the planet as a means of self-preservation, then it may well decide that it is not going to let us do something stupid!  More and more there is talk of using AI in military situations. What if the AI decides it does not want to take the lives of a group of people?…or, what if it decides that people are extraneous?  To bring this all together, like the peanut butter cup, many of man’s greatest ideas came about from an accident.  We are imperfect and that’s what causes us problems and also makes life more interesting.  AI will not make mistakes and may have little tolerance for them.  We may become obsolete or even worse, a nuisance!

Oh my, this is getting scary.  Are you beginning to see the problem?  AI could lead to a smart, exciting future for mankind or it could lead to one of those horrible movies where the computers take over the world.  Movies like Terminator, I- Robot, The Matrix, Eagle Eye, Ex Machina, Her, Transcendence, Robocop or The Day the Earth Stood Still, are sci-fi stories that reflect different futures with AI.  They range from horrible for humankind, all the way to rather inconsequential to our existence,  but make no mistake, AI will change the future in ways we cannot yet imagine.

Sometimes when people talk to me about my articles they ask me if I have any answers and I usually say, I don’t think so. In a world controlled more each day by corporate interest and less concerned about the human condition, I have a hard time seeing some light at the end of this tunnel.  I guess my best advice is to grab your ankles and hold tight.  It may be a bumpy ride.

 

Am I thinking too much, or not enough? Looking for happiness.

 

 

I have what some consider an analytical mind.  My mind is thinking about things all the time, not just things like paying bills or fixing a problem with the car, but phenomena I observe on a daily basis.  For example, when I see light reflecting off the surface of water, I am thinking of the texture of the water surface and how it affects the absorption of light and heat which in the ocean could be a big deal.  When I work with students and observe a certain behavior I contemplate the environment and genetics that led that child to behave in a certain manner.  There is nothing that I see that does not evoke some cerebral response.  I have learned to keep quiet about these observations so as not to cause people’s eyes to glaze over in boredom, but the constant assault of ideas never stops.

So, this morning I was lying in bed trying to force myself to get up and begin the day and I started thinking about the drug problem that has encompassed this nation and probably the world.  So many people have died, and many are currently addicted with little or no help available.  Families are being ripped apart every second from addiction.  The pain and suffering that is blanketing our country is touching everyone.  To think about a problem like this, one has to strip away all the obvious answers and look for some universal constant that explains why this has become such a large epidemic.  First, and most important, drugs have always been a part of human behavior.  From early man who realized that certain foods turn into alcohol if you do the right things, all the way to the Indians who learned that opium can be extracted  from poppy seeds, a drug that allowed them to talk with the gods.  The problem is not with the use of drugs but the quantity of drugs available!  The Indians had to collect and process a lot of poppy seeds to make a small amount of opium and it was probably not that potent.  In other parts of the world, making alcohol requires a tremendous amount of work collecting available fruits, processing them and allowing the product to ferment to an intoxicating beverage.  Tobacco used to be more difficult to obtain and had far less available nicotine compared to modern tobacco.  In other words, drugs were labor intensive and if you wanted to get high, you had to put in some serious labor. So, drugs have always been a part of the human experience.

Now, lets look at today’s drug scene.  Pharmaceutical companies produce enormous quantities of thousands of types of drugs of which some are life saving, some help us deal with pain and some are abused.  In a world where people lived by the golden rule this would not be a problem, but in a world permeated with greed, this can be an issue!  Although we see an avalanche of ads on the media telling us of the altruistic nature of the drug industry, there is an ugly underbelly.  Certain drugs that are produced by the drug complex are addictive and have been adopted and distributed by the illegal drug industry.  If the pharmaceutical companies were truly good in nature, they would make every effort to curtail the non-legal use of these addictive drugs.  This does not seem to be the case.  Anyone who wants to can walk out your front door, or take a short drive and buy most any drug illegally!   Yes, they tend to be expensive and that causes an all together additional problem which I won’t go into now.

Let me step back a few feet and add an additional factor to this scenario. Humans are pleasure-seeking creatures.  It is the basic nature of our species to search for a plane of existence that is pleasureful. We do not like pain. We do not like stress. We do not enjoy feeling depressed. We want to be happy!  Now one must realize that happy means many different things to many different people. If you have not noticed, our modern society has little interest in any of us being happy.  In today’s world it is important to be on time, dressed right, pay the bills, raise children, drive on congested roads, smile most of the time and do what the boss tells you to do regardless if it’s correct.  We live in a very stressful environment not designed in any way to make us happy. So now I can move on to my finale.

To lay this out simply, humans have relied on drugs for ritualistic ceremonies for eons.  Today, drugs are readily available to anyone who wants them.  As I said before, humans are pleasure-seeking creatures and we live in a society that does not meet our primal need of being happy. If you bunch all these things together and you don’t see the reason so many people want to get high or need to get high then you just wasted about five minutes of your time reading this article. Before any effort to battle an increasingly addicted population can be made, we must tackle the reasons people turn to drugs.  As our society becomes more rigid and demanding, the use of drugs will continue to rise. It is a natural reaction to the stresses being placed on people, the more stress, the more drugs will be a part of the coping agent.

To finish up I would like to add that there are probably a hundred other factors contributing to this drug epidemic including parental models all the way to genetic predisposition, but all these factors, in my mind, pale to the fact that we live in a stressful environment where thanks to a greedy pharmaceutical industry we have unlimited access to addictive drugs. Unless we become a happier society and lasso in the drug companies, no amount of money or programs is going to halt the direction we are headed. The way I see it, we are in for a bumpy ride.

 

 

My two favorite media people

 

Have you ever watched the Tree House guy on the Animal planet channel?  If not, your life is incomplete!  There is not a more delightful, wacky and charming real person on TV.  Pete, the originator of the Tree House show travels around the country building the most creative and beautiful tree houses you could imagine. It is hard to put into words the feeling that he invokes from his viewers and customers.  He is a naturalist, an environmentalist, a humanist and an amazing designer.  In the show, after he finds the trees “that talk to him”, he sits down for an hour and creates the most incredible tree houses you can imagine.  He brings his crew in and in a relatively short period of time they recreate dreams for an awaiting customer.  No doubt most of these creations are not in reach of us poorer folks but the emotion that he creates in his art is infectious!

Pete being Pete

On the other side of my two favorite media people is, believe it or not, Bill Maher.  Many people do not have access to Bill because he is on HBO, and that costs more money to watch.  Others do not watch him because of his sometimes foul language and irreverent behavior or disdain for religion, but I watch him because his guest are very intelligent people from all sides of the issues and he conducts very informative and honest interviews.  The reason he is on HBO and not one of the major networks is because of this very fact; he speaks the truth!  He was fired by ABC because he made comments about the 9/11 attack that offended some people.  To paraphrase, he said the terrorists were very bad people but he could not say they were cowards since they gave their lives for their cause.  Every week Bill comes on and says the things that no one else will say.  He says things that many of us think but are afraid to admit to, let alone say out loud.  Bill has become the conscience of our culture, sitting in the back of the room reminding us who we are and what is real and what is unreal.

Bill with Steve Bannon

In many ways Pete and Bill have the same goals in mind; they each want us to enjoy our lives and open our eyes to the beauty that is in this world.  They want us to see what is possible if we are capable of dreaming of a better world. Pete, with the beauty of nature and the creativity he exudes, and Bill with his words on what we need to change to make this a better place for all of us to live peacefully, are both national treasures.  Hats off to both these guys!

We are slowly being boiled…ribbet

Do you remember the frog story? If you placed a frog in water and slowly raised the temperature of the water, the frog would stay in the pan and eventually be cooked.  In a similar vein, no one mentions in the frog story that if you say dumb things to people for a long enough time, they may in time become dumb!  I do believe we are in this situation now!  We are being boiled in stupidity!  The outlandish tweets and statements that I hear every day are killing my brain.  Just yesterday I received one of those hate Obama posts that made some statements that I knew were false.  I tracked down the real Obama speech and listened carefully to it and there were his words, which were cut and pasted to create an entirely opposite statement than what the President said.  Who does this stuff?  I am sure the dems have done some of this stuff as well, but the total reversal of what Obama said was created in the video.  I wonder if it is the Russians or just crazy people in the states?  Who ever it is, it is creating an environment of total distrust and misinformation! Like the frog, we can not survive as a country with this type of pervasive distrust boiling in every part of our lives.  I do believe that this is in fact the Russians, and they have taken advantage of our first amendment, the freedom of speech, and inundated us with barrages of lies and twisted facts.  This leaves us, the American citizens, unable to determine what is true and what is false.

Take Hillary for example, she has been involved in many amazing programs for the American people, including the CHIP program, (Children’s Health Insurance Program), and the Violence Against Women Act , but many people in this country believe she is an evil villain. Her worst crime, if you consider it a crime, according to her detractors, is sticking with her husband.  The man has some deep emotional issues stemming from a crazy childhood which led him to do some not-so-nice things, but many people believe he was one of the premier presidents in our history and Hillary stuck with him despite his flaws.  I thought this is what the religious right believed in.  I think there were some folks in the republican party and maybe even the Russians who feared Hillary would become president and spent the better part of a decade destroying her image.  Despite several investigations on Benghazi and the email scandal, nothing was found that warranted any legal actions against her. It is almost as if they had future information that Hillary would be president and enacted a tsunami of attacks on her accomplishments and character to change the future.

Another amazingly stupid belief is that the Russians did not interfere with our elections! The only thing I can come up with in response to this is; TAKE YOU HEAD OUT OF THE SAND! THEY DON’T LIKE US!  THEY WANT US TO DIE!  THEY HATE CAPITALISM!  THEY ARE SET ON DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY!  Every protective agency in our government has confirmed that the Russians interfered with our elections.  There is a good chance that they actually affected the election but that will be hard to prove!  What is going on here?  Have we all lost our minds?  This has happened in many societies in the past but never did the opponent have the power of our modern technology!  First, TV was used to change the face of America with stereotypes and advertisements and then Facebook, Google and the rest of the mega-corporations came along and  screwed with our brains in ways no one even thought of 20 years ago. Tack onto this our addiction to phones and our infinite access to everything at every minute of our lives, and I see a breakdown in our future.  For example, if you bought a car, took it to the interstate, stomped on the gas and held it there, in what would seem like a short time, the engine will either die with a whimper or explode under the hood.  Folks, the pedal is to the metal and the engine is starting to strain.  If we do not let off real soon, our engine will blow up! Of course there is the other option and we will just wither away like most countries have done in the past, but they did not have the communication technology that we do, so this may be a different game…Hold on…We will see…

There is a new addictive drug in our midst

In a society burdened with a variety of addictions, from alcohol, nicotine, sugar, TV, violence and an assortment of illegal as well as legal drugs, it is hard to imagine a new addition to this list, but there is, TRUMP! Over the last year and a half the airways have been assaulted by a form of reality TV unlike anything that we have seen before. We, the population of the USA, and maybe a large part of the world have become addicted to the daily and sometimes hourly updates of this saga. I find myself waking in the morning in need of a quick jolt of this drug by turning on the TV and soaking up the latest insanity. Many people used to rise and drink their coffee or have a cigarette, but today, a large group of us quickly turn on the TV to get a needed fix. Not only has the public become addicted to this new drug, the media, as well has become enamored by this shiny stone. If I were to guess, I would say that discussion of this news mania encompasses as much as 75% of all TV news, and some of the more political channels must be approaching 100%!
The discussion, depending on which channel you watch, is designed to sway you in a certain political direction. I do admit that I lean in what is a more liberal slant, but that is not the intent of this article. News in the past was designed to inform us so that we could make our own decisions based on facts and information.  But now, we are inundated with so much information, which in many cases is untrue, and when it is seems true, it is hard to determine if it is true. We have a plethora of fact checking sources, but in some cases these sites are corrupt as well! This new drug is literally taking over our world by causing the brain to create opiate like endorphins every time you hear new information and this is a major addiction problem!  Not only has this new drug become a staple in our lives, it has created an atmosphere of distrust of a magnitude unlike anything we have experienced as a nation. Like all addictive drugs it will take time and resources to heal from this epidemic but, hopefully we will.
In the mean time we must begin to wean ourselves from this drug. Many folks I have talked to have gone cold turkey by refusing to watch any news. This may not be a good idea since you will no longer be exposed to any information and we all know that information is valuable in our society. I think the best way to withdraw is to find a news source that you can determine is fact oriented and presents the truth without any political bias. This may be difficult and I dare not advise you on this but there are sources out there that do attempt to distribute the news in a fair and unbiased way. I could go on and on but I must get down to the TV and get my morning fix…bye.

 

What does Pro-choice mean?

As a teacher I spent many hours answering questions about abortion from my students.  Most students were fully convinced of one side of the debate, a position which was predictably based on their parents’ or their church’s views. Many were convinced that I was a rabid pro-abortionist, mainly because of my rather liberal point of view in other areas.  If I were to classify my thinking, I would consider myself a Social Libertarian.  You might ask, what in the hell is that?  Put succinctly, I cherish my individual rights but see the need of a society as complex as ours, with its many moving parts, to be regulated by a central government.  Among these critical needs would be: the military, social security, highway system and most importantly health care!  After all, if you are not well, none of these other things matter.

So with that said, let’s move on to the topic at hand.  Abortion is, by any measurement, a complex issue with rigid points of view on both sides.  The extreme right feels  that even when a mother’s life is in danger or a woman has become pregnant through rape, abortions should be illegal.  This ranges all the way to the far left, who believe that an abortion should be readily available with few restrictions. There is little chance that the two extreme groups are ever going to come to a compromise.

So let us take a step back and look at the things we know:

  1. If we do not curb the increasing population of humans, life on earth as we know it will cease.
  2.  Starting 18 years after Roe v Wade was passed by the Supreme Court in 1973, major crimes have dropped every year,
  3. I think a women should have the right to determine if she wants to have a child.
  4. Children should not have children.
  5. Many unwanted children become wards of the state.
  6. Throughout history attitudes about abortion have changed based on the size of the population and economic security.
  7. The economic drain on our society from neglected children is growing rapidly.
  8. Children of reluctant parents are sometimes born with severe medical and social problems due to poor parental skills and lack of medical care.
  9. Abortions preformed in unsafe environments by untrained individuals are not a favorable direction in a modern society and will result in the deaths of many women.

The first and most important fact to consider is that, NO ONE WANTS AN ABORTION! I can’t imagine that one wakes up in the morning excited that she is going to have an abortion that day. This includes all liberals, conservatives and everyone in-between.  Abortions are not anyone’s first choice but in some cases may offer a way out of a extremely harrowing and difficult situation.  For example, were a women to become pregnant by rape, how in the world would she be expected to be sanguine about birthing that child.  Why would she want to commit to raising this child for 18 years?  She may love children in general and be open to conceive a child but I feel pretty certain she would undoubtedly prefer to have a child based on love, not the violent act of rape!  This is one of those areas where the adage, ‘Take a walk in my shoes’, comes to mind.

More than a few women experience medical complications during pregnancy and childbirth.  In this case, a difficult decision would need to be made weighing the mother’s life against the fetus’s life.  I do believe, and feel that this is a consensus opinion: a mother’s life has priority over the fetus.  I can only imagine the difficulty in making such a decision.  There would be several doctors, the mother, clergy, administrators and members of the family involved!  I do not think that any of us who have not been confronted with this dilemma can imagine the stress and pain involved in a decision of this magnitude.

By far the most difficult issues we must consider are the unwanted child of a young girl, of a drug addict or genetically challenged parents.  In nature this is not a problem; if an animal is unable to survive, mother nature removes it from the gene pool.  In our world we have circumvented nature with our modern medical advances.  Many of you who are reading this would not be alive today if not for the marvels of modern medicine.  Again, we are faced with a difficult decision.  When a severely challenged child is born, the effect ripples through a family, not only emotionally but financially with little support from the medical community or the government.  Many families have been financially destroyed by the birth of a challenged child.  In a world where many of us are denied adequate basic health care, it is hard to financially justify bringing a profoundly challenged child into the world who could generate medical bills that could run into the millions, while at the same time, others have little to no health care.

As you may now see, abortion is very complicated.  I believe the decision should be made by the woman and persons intimately involved and not legislated by government.  That’s the libertarian in me.  Said another way, I believe a woman should have the untrammeled right to determine if she is able and willing to take on the serious responsibility of raising a child. This is not a decision that I would want somebody to make for me.  To make this even more complicated, we would have to consider when does the fetus become a viable life.  I, like many others, believe that when the baby is able to survive outside the womb, then they become a protected life. Some other points of view suggest that as soon as the sperm finds the egg, it becomes a viable life.  There is also the spectrum of ideas between these two beliefs. Abortion has become the passionate talking point of politicians and this scares the crap out of me.  Do you really want politicians deciding what you do with your private life?

As I said at the start, if I were a women considering an abortion, it would be a very difficult thing for me to decide to do, so I am glad that I never did and never will have to even think about making that decision. But, there are many women out there who have to make this choice, and hopefully they will base that decision on sound reasoning.

Do I need a BUCKET LIST? Hell no!

 

A popular notion of today’s senior citizens is the idea of a bucket list.  In this ritualistic behavior, a person, usually older, lists the activities that they feel need to be accomplished before they take a final breath.  Although humorous in nature, as portrayed in the movie BUCKET LIST, I think it embodies a notion of regrets accumulated throughout life.  That could have been the most depressing thing I have ever written!  Let’s look at it another way.  My favorite analogy of life is the stream bubbling gently over the rocks on its way to the sea.  In this analogy, a person is a leaf being carried by the water over the rocks, around the rocks, through the ripples and occasionally over a waterfall (ouch, that has gotta hurt) on their way to that great resting place, the sea.  As one travels down the stream, it is important not to get stuck behind a rock, but to continue your journey downstream.  I think the point here is to not get in a position where you are not moving ahead in your life.  Examples of this might be a job that totally brings you down, or a relationship that does not make you happy.  If one chooses to push against the rock with the idea that they are going to move the rock, guess what, you are going nowhere and neither is the rock.  Some people make the choice of pushing against this rock for their entire lives and never see the rest of the stream, only to be beaten up and finally decomposed to be returned to that huge organic biosphere we call earth.  Yes, this will happen even if you make the journey to the sea, but think of the things you will see and experience on you journey.  Obviously, the notion of relaxing and allowing the river to take you where it pleases is a little simplistic, but, the idea of seeing and acting on potential experiences is the path to an exciting life!  This could be as simple as accepting an invitation to go out to a place you would not normally go.  One seemingly simple act could change your life in ways you can only dream of.  You could meet a person who offers you a new exciting job, or the women of your dreams, or a new friend that may influence your life in ways you can not even imagine.  Of course there is always the potential for bad things to happen as well, but isn’t that what life is about?  There could be no ups without an occasional down, no left without a right, in fact without all these ups and downs and rights and lefts, life would be incredibly BORING!

I guess what I am trying to say is, if one lives their life, embracing opportunity as it manifests itself, there is no need for a bucket list! If you have explored all the avenues that have been presented to you, you probably have not been stuck on a rock.   The concept of life is simple at its roots, but the complexity arises when one considers the amazing journey we all experience as we make our way down the stream.  For myself, which is the only person I can truly speak of, it has been fantastic.  I do not have a bucket list but I keep my eyes open for opportunities that excite me and provide me with new knowledge and experiences that I have not yet witnessed.  As I get older, I realize like so many others that this brief adventure we call life, is a gift of immeasurable value and cannot be bought for any amount of dollars.  It’s all about squeezing every drop of water from the towel! It’s about floating down the river and gently sliding off the rocks.  It’s about not being afraid of the words ‘I love you’ or making sure the people around you know that you care for them. It’s about not taking any regrets to the hereafter, where ever you think that is.  If you live life, YOU DO NOT NEED A BUCKET LIST!

John Lennon’s IMAGINE

 

The song IMAGINE, by John Lennon, came over the car radio the other day and I allowed myself to be immersed in the words.  This is such an amazing song that depicts an imaginary world full of harmony and peace.  As I sat there listening to these words, I wondered why is our world so distant from this idealistic scenario.  Why are so many countries in the world immersed in continual conflict?  Why is there severe human hunger and desperation in so many parts of the world?  Why and how do individuals gain so much power so that they are able, at will, to restrict the rights and ruin the lives of millions of men, women and children?  We watch it on the news daily as people around the world die or suffer in so many ways.  Our own national news is dedicated to reporting in detail every horrible thing that happens in our country and world.  Sometimes I feel as if we are hardened to the terrible things we see over and over, courtesy of the media.

It is my opinion that IMAGINE is one of the best songs ever written to address the idea of a potential peaceful world.  People have listened to this song for many years and still enjoy it when it comes across the radio.  So, why is the world a mess?  What is it about the humans that keeps us from becoming a peaceful race of people?  Believe it or not, I have a theory.

Behavioral scientists have theorized about a human genocide gene for several decades.  Maybe this is an explanation of why the Chinese hate the Japanese, or the whites hate the blacks, or the Germans hate the Jews.  I could go on and on and on.  It’s hard to dispute this idea when one studies our history and the reoccurring theme of genocide in our world.  An impartial observer of earth would have no choice but to think that this behavior is indicative of our species.  If you believe this hypothetical gene is a real factor in human behavior, then it is easy to extrapolate this idea to the pervasive violent and self-destructive behavior that runs rampant through our world.

Ever since the first human attacked another human which is depicted in the biblical story of Cain and Abel, or more recently in the movie 2001 a Space Odyssey, we humans have been a rather self-destructive lot.  We are unable to follow a short set of rules, the commandments, or any guidelines to help us get along with each other.  War seems to be our way of culling the herd.  It seems that whenever the population gets too large we either go to war or some kind of plague takes down a large percentage of the population.

If we can imagine a world of peace, what lies in our way to prevent this from happening?  Worth repeating, what is it about human behavior that keeps us from living in peace?

 

Imagine
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world…

The money illusion

I think it is time for people to realize just what money is, and why it
is foolish to spend your life trying to get as much as you can.  Now,
don’t misunderstand me, we do need money and the more money we have, the
more money we can spend which occasionally leads to more fun and
happiness. The problem is the system is designed to make you feel as if you have
more than you actually have.  Let’s look at a house for example; way back
in 1960, my parents bought a medium size rancher in Maryland.  They paid
the ridiculously low amount of $19,999 for it.  At the time that
was a lot of money when salaries were generally under $10,000 per year or
hourly wages were in the $1 to $3 range.  Milk was 19 cents a guart and
gas was 20 cents a gallon.  Cars were a couple of thousand dollars!
Candy was a penny to 5 cents and a loaf of bread was under a
dime!  So, back to my point, after buying this new home they had to
furnish it, maintain it, pay the mortgage, which included interest and
taxes, plus deal with inflation, which over the last 50 or so years has
been around 2.5-3.5 percent! Do you realize that the current dollar is
worth a little more than a penny in 1950 dollars?!  It does not take an
Einstein to determine that the cost of a house is a lot higher than what
you first think. After living in the house for almost 50 years my
parents passed away and the house was sold for the incredible amount of
somewhere around $300,000! That seems like a large sum of money but the
numbers behind it are insane.  First, the interest alone on a 30 year
loan is generally doubles the cost of the loan which means the cost of
the home is really about $40,000.  Second. as the value of the home
inflates, the taxes go up and in 50 years that adds up to a lot of
money!  Let me make up a number of $1000/year on average for the taxes
over 50 years, which is probably very low. That comes to $50,000 in taxes for the
life of the house. Not to mention, the $300,000 return is in current
dollars which are inflated almost 100 times! Now think about
maintenance; the roof was probably replaced twice, the flooring was
constantly being upgraded, occasional painting interior and exterior,
appliances replaced, furnace replacement, heating,
cooling and lighting the place, insurance and general maintenance on the
multitude of different systems in a house. Do you see my point?  The
house is a great thing for many reasons but it is not a terribly great
way to invest your money. In fact, there is no great way to invest you
money, that’s right, none!  Yes, sometimes people buy something and due
to circumstances, that thing, be it a house or a bar of gold, the price
skyrockets, thus the individual makes a substantial gain in their worth,
but this is the exception, not the rule.
The bottom line is the system is rigged and beyond occasional blind
luck, your money will not grow in real dollars over time. There are some
individuals who save large amounts of money over their careers and sit
on that money.  This money is being eroded on a daily basis
by finance fees and  inflation.  In reality your money is just holding its own in
real value, if you’re lucky. I always laugh when people say that they are getting 2
or 3 percent on their savings. Really?? That is the general level of
inflation, which means that you are breaking even, not growing your
wealth. The real problem arises when people retire.  Many retired people
are on a fixed income, which means their income will not match inflation.
That means, don’t plan to live too many years after
you retire or inflation will get you before the many diseases of old age have
their way with you! With all that information in your heard, I guess there is one final
piece of advice I think I can give you, enjoy your life and remember that the real things in
life are not sold in Wal-Mart but are in your heart and the people around you.