Too Big to Fail

Too big to fail.  Most of us recognize that turn of phrase from the last bailout/banking crisis.  Several years after the bailout we are still seeing the fallout from when the banks were running wild with unregulated mortgages and related financial instruments.  Well, not really financial instruments, more like government endorsed Ponzi schemes…

Too big to fail is wrong- Not just for the banking industry, but for all American businesses.  It has rendered us fat, complacent, arrogant and manipulative.  Manipulative because our businesses rely on the abuse of the law and corruption of the law makers to further, and ensure, their profit.  Do not create a superior product and service, rather, legislate or sue your competition out of business.  This strategy has left our blades dull, our minds…less than stellar.  Competition, and the fear of what your competitors can do, should be driving our companies to greater heights of innovation, exploration and commercial success.  Failure, and the fallout thereof, is what our companies must be willing to risk in order to compete.  Entrepreneurs know this, small business owners live this, and the United States should be wholeheartedly embracing this.  We need failure.

 

Emotional Intelligence continues to rear its head.

I’m linking to a couple of pieces written by Travis Bradberry, the gentleman who wrote Emotional Intelligence 2.o.  I’m curious to see if he equates success to wealth, as Daniel Goleman seemed to in his book, Emotional Intelligence.  I still need to run down the connection between the two authors, see what history and influence they may have shared.  And, of course, read Bradberry’s book.  That said, the two articles I’m linking to are largely for my benefit, as an aid to remind myself of best mental practices.  I’ve found, independently of any particular book or article, that the mindset that he talks about is largely a very positive one.  I refuse to say that it guarantees success in any form, but I’ve certainly found it preferable to other approaches.

How successful people stay calm

Nine things successful people won’t do

 

Books I’m reading

Self-reflection is great, it keeps the mirror companies in business.  In my case, I need one of those mirrors with a wide angle in order to reflect on everything, but there you go.  With that said, an introspective human being should be reading, too.

On my plate…

H.P. Lovecraft –  Pretty much everything he wrote.  $0.99 from Amazon.  Another writer I’m reading now described him as a mystery/suspense novelist that uses horror as the back drop.  I’m reading through his works now with that perspective in mind.

Charles Stross – The Atrocity Archives.  Part geek, part Samurai Cat.  I have a weakness for computer jokes and dry humor.  Most of the math/physics references fly right by me, but the writing is fun and I do love the inside jokes.

Patrick Rothfuss – I just finished his first two Kingkiller novels.  Strong writing and comes highly recommended by Jim Butcher, another personal favorite.

Just a few things crossing my plate right now.  What’s on your shelf?

Principles and the proverbial line in the sand

I had the honor of sitting down over coffee with a friend of mine today.  I wish I had more of those opportunities but it seems like connecting with people becomes more of a challenge every year.  This friend was using me as a sounding board for some analysis of issues going on in their life right now- something that they just don’t do, so I will respect that honor with their privacy.  With that in mind, one of the things we were talking about hit home.

The issue was a serious one- where do you draw your line regarding your principles?  I mean your core, fundamentally held beliefs.  And what level of arrogance does it take to hold somebody to a stated principle that you know that you yourself have… perhaps taken a fuzzy interpretation of a few times?  When I was younger, perhaps more idealistic and certainly sillier, it was easy to take the bad ass, no prisoners approach to ethics.  Wrong was wrong, you violate an important issue and you’re banned from my life with all attendant emotional consequences.  It’s easier to be unforgiving when you haven’t racked up a multitude of personal failures( or you’re running for political office).

Now though… Now, I can say that I’ve sacrificed my principles many times.  Not all at once, not always cataclysmically, but certainly I have failed them; ventured too far over the fuzzy area of the line.  I am not proud of that, I certainly demand better of myself, but I have failed.  Repeatedly.  In my closest relationships, I have experienced a violation of my principles and trust several times.  Certain trusts have been consciously violated, sometimes almost maliciously so, to the point where repairing the relationship is perceived to be almost impossible.  When I was younger I would have said, “Forget them, they aren’t worth it in your life.  You can do better, expect better, etc.”  Now, I find myself willing to more willing to forgive, but not to forget.  I extend more grace than I used to.  I value people and relationships more.  It’s not that I don’t aspire to live my beliefs, my principles that hopefully help guide myself as a decent human being- it’s just that I’ve started to realize being decent isn’t always about remembering how to follow the rules.  I suspect several of my former pastors might disagree with me.

During our conversation, one of the things my friend brought up was the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  They said that was a warning that you should never give somebody a second chance to make the same mistake with you.  A protectionist statement.  I disagreed.  I said it was a matter of understanding that second chances involve both risk and responsibility, a warning that it isn’t all about the other person.  We reflected on that one for awhile.

If this post seems obscure, or poorly worded, please understand that some things remain private for other people.  I don’t share my dirty laundry(or, hopefully, anyone else’s) on the Internet, even on a blog of few followers.  People deserve respect.  That said, I’m still thinking this through in my head, to word it better so that I can better understand that line that isn’t there.

Robin Williams

Wow, now there was something I wish could have ended differently.  He remains one of the few celebrities I wish I could have met in person, as I suspect we could have a wonderful time.  Depression is one of those frustrating illnesses that is so difficult to handle.  I compare it to alcoholism or drug addiction- you can be told you are one, that you’re afflicted by it, and, on some level you might recognize something is wrong, but 99% of you has no idea there’s a problem.  I battled clinical depression from about age 10 to 20, and during that time I had no idea that’s what I was fighting.  It wasn’t until after I had dealt with the consequences that I realized I had no idea what healthy happiness was.  My baseline for normal was anything but.  To this very day, I treat depression like a recovering addict.  I have to continually remind myself that a relapse is possible, and that I need to guard myself against that.  I don’t know if Robin lost his way, forgot where his baseline was, or was just overwhelmed, but I hope he has found his peace.

Teachers, promoters of commie pinko liberalism

I was talking with my friend Dave the other day and remarking that teachers are often held up by the right as the go to whipping boy for liberalism.  My own experiences are almost 100% in contrast with this, but Dave did point out to me that I did spend most of my schooling in Montana.  Not precisely a hot bed of liberal moral decay(relatively speaking), unless you’re a conservative from Montana, in which case all those commie pinkos can rot in Hell with their Obama Care and gun control stickers.  Hurrah!

I spent some considerable time thinking about my experiences because I question pretty much everything.  In this case, is it that teachers are necessarily so pro liberal policy, so much as just more exposed, in general, to a wider class of socioeconomic experiences than your typical conservative platform recognizes or allows?  To be updated later.

Further thinking about the whole scenario has led me down a couple paths.  The first path is that education, and by extension, being an educator, naturally leads one down the path of somewhat conservative principles.  If this statement is true, and I am developing an argument that it is, then holding teachers up as liberal effigies to burn is somewhat counterintuitive to conservative practice.

The second path is that the two main issues I see teachers being used as foils in the Left vs Right pageantry are usually on issues of religion and military service.  If that is the case, then it is less that teachers aren’t necessarily liberal as it is the conservative agenda attempting to be advanced that I don’t care for.  More to come.

Water has memory.

My friend, Dave, and I, were discussing the whole silliness that is homeopathy, at least as it pertains towards the concept of water having “memory”.

The basic concept is that water retains the chemical memory of whatever it is mixed with, no matter how diluted it gets. That implies that water from a polluted source will always have a negative influence on the body, while something from a “pure” source will have a positive effect.

The upshot of all this is millions of dollars in bottles of water meant to be healthy for you. Good business. The flip side of this is, by utilizing that same logic, I should be able to grab some nice Voss Artesian water, infused by the molecular ghosts of angry dinosaurs of yore, and get 30 miles to the gallon in my truck. Nothing like the memory of T-Rex to improve my fuel efficiency…

Figuring things out part two

So, why the conflict, you might ask? Or, I might ask so as to be able to further my conversation with myself… It’s a prop, you see.

Growing up as I did, I had very little formal religious training. A little bit of Sunday school, one week at a day camp, a few things like that. Much of my exposure was during holidays and via traditional media. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to explore a codified religion in more detail. I chose a fundamentalist Baptist congregation that was the backbone of my martial arts instruction at the time…

As educations go, it was a good one in terms of learning more about the bible, dogma and particular world views held by Christian conservatives. I spent quite of bit of time learning popular arguments and rebuttals, the catechism associated with protestant Christianity and in general, enjoying the fellowship of other Christians.

There were a few things I noticed, however.

1) Despite being of Protestant origin, my religion of choice clung just as closely to their rules and traditions as the Catholic Church does to theirs. The rules may be different but the ironclad thinking is the same.

2) The rules appear arbitrary. That is, when looking at the interpretation of a verse, book or event, the rules for determining when it should be accepted or used as context appear to be at the discretion of the user. Classic example would be that men shouldn’t wear earrings or have long hair, but we are no longer allowed to stone our children for disobedience. I’m not sure where the church stands on stoning other people’s children though, that might still be open for interpretation. Mind you, there are ton of rules that go along with determining how to properly interpret the Bible, which is something that should warn you in and of itself

3) Rather that using their Faith to recognize the extraordinary events that occurred in the Bible, they attempt to defend them with Science- until they reach an indefensible position. At that point, rather than accepting that which cannot be explained, they attack the Science with their Faith. This is not a position that can be successfully defended by an honest, rational person.

4) More emphasis is placed on what happens to you after you die than what happens with what you do while you live. For a religion based on events over the estimated 4500 years, from Creation to the death of Christ, there is a bit of irony that so much focus is placed on what happens after one leaves the place where it all happened. I point this out so that…

5) If you are to experience the wondrous works of God, why is it so necessary to die first? We have an entire universe to explore and understand, to shepard and admire- right now. Final understanding might not come until our end, but nowhere in the Bible have I seen justification for ignoring it all in the mean time. Which means…

6) Faith(and by extension, much of modern Conservatism) should not be used as an excuse to act in a manner inconsistent with that found in the Bible. Love thy neighbor, shepard the weak, take care of the planet and its creatures, grow in knowledge and wealth, and seek understanding.

The explanation of my schism is ongoing, my understanding, continually under construction, but I find myself done for the day.

When you finally start to figure things out…

My father lamented to me, a couple years before he died, how frustrating it was that he was just starting to figure things out and now he was too sick/old to do anything with it.  He died of cancer at the age of 63, which in my mind was about 40 years too young.  He was barely into middle age as I see things.

I was reminded of his lament recently as I go about my own life, trying to figure things out, to grapple with the complexities and responsibilities of my life, and the lives that I have a direct impact on.  I laugh easier, but worry a little more.  I treasure moments with my friends and family even as I try to organize my life better to make more of them.  I spend more time photographing things as I realize how much of my previous years exist only in my head.

As my children grow older, I spend more time trying to be a good parent and role model, which is difficult when I stare into the face of my many shortcomings.  I have heard it said many times that most parents just want to give their children a better life than they had.  I don’t know if that is exactly accurate in my case, but I certainly want them to have a different childhood.  To that end, I certainly hope I am succeeding.  I want them to laugh more, love more, enjoy more than I did- and hopefully, never need to experience why I would want that for them.

All of this reflection has been tied into a conflict I have with my organized faith.  I say organized because my personal faith and my organized faith are not always in sync.  I suspect many people can admit to this.  In this particular conflict, I find myself taking issue with the common concept that, as a Christian, we are not to be of this world.  I find that this directive lacks immediate responsibility, and possesses a certain Puritan starkness that is counter to my nature.  What we do in this world matters in the next, but I don’t think we should view it simply in the context of rewards in the next life.  I’m going to stop here, for now.