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Alexandra Riecke-Gonzales
11,232 followers -
Social Media Coordinator at NWUAV and RP Advanced Mobile Solutions
Social Media Coordinator at NWUAV and RP Advanced Mobile Solutions

11,232 followers
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Oh look, it's #NationalDogDay  

Guess what that means?! Excuse for dog pictures :D :D :D The #cattledog  is Tigger (deaf and partially blind). The #Malamute  Husky mix is King (he's gained quite a few pounds since that picture). The #goldenretriever  is Sandy. And the #pitbull  is Rex.
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2015-08-26
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"Why don't you take poetry as an elective?"
"I don't like poetry."
"Why?"
"Because language is hard enough to understand."

It's true. Poetry is not my forte. I tend to avoid it. As someone who has spent years studying communication I am well aware of how complex it already is. Adding the complexity of changing sentence structure, choosing convoluted words, and the distraction of rhythm or rhyme? Yeah, I'll pass.

But, David does make a point...

Poetry, in the past, was often part of something bigger. It was part of a cultural shift that hadn't happened yet. It was a part of making that shift a reality. So it's convoluted, confusing nature is to be expected.

+David Amerland​ writes:

_"All of this reflects a peculiarity, perhaps. For all its power and timelessness, poetry is undergoing some challenging times where it’s losing audiences and failing to produce fresh firebrands to take on the tradition (https://goo.gl/5dE8yv). Where are the new Poes (https://goo.gl/E1w1PF) to cry out their love and loss (https://goo.gl/mv2uFY) or even the new Tennessee Williamses (https://goo.gl/e3JpVR) to hurry us on and tell us to be mindful? (https://goo.gl/B7t2Mn)."_

Is it possible, that right now our society doesn't support poetry culture?

Maybe, with the pervasive nature of the internet and our freedom to write and publish anything within seconds, the art and culture of poetry doesn't have the room it needs to breath, to develop. As much I don't enjoy poetry, there's a sadness in the thought of poetry dying. Because it is so incredibly powerful and it highlights something dear to my heart: the power of a few, carefully chosen words.
Code

Long before rock and roll was considered the “work of the devil” (https://goo.gl/XMy2dr) subverting the morals of proper-raised youth and destroying the fabric of civilized society (https://goo.gl/t38znQ) we had poetry (https://goo.gl/2dY9QU) and a clutch of poets whose rebellious attitude towards society, morals and art (https://goo.gl/oxUpPM) reshaped the world of letters.

The Pre-Raphaelites featured amongst them gender breakaways like Christina Rossetti (https://goo.gl/DSt7No) whose Goblin Market (https://goo.gl/6A8oLc) has cast a haunting allure upon me ever since I first read it, and were responsible for the backdrop through which Lord Byron (https://goo.gl/d2yjui) would rise to notoriety as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” (https://goo.gl/rgxWMr), living his short life to the fullest.

Poetry is, by design and definition, distilled semantic meaning layered upon context, driven by intent and enriched by association of each of its layers. Its similarity to code hasn’t gone unnoticed (https://goo.gl/1Ciknw). Nor has its impact diminished with time (https://goo.gl/uBEFh). And even though it has to compete with a myriad other forms of entertainment and self-improvement it, its close connection with the psyche (https://goo.gl/NzjgZb) makes it a vehicle unlike any other when it comes finding a means of self-expression (https://goo.gl/BvzaYD) as well as self-discovery (https://goo.gl/n1apjs).

Wilfred Owen’s 1914 (https://goo.gl/NyqPgg) for instance or Futility (https://goo.gl/FKS97Z0 weave a spell about life, war and death that’s impossible to avoid. W. B. Yeats’ (https://goo.gl/qkkDih) An Irish Airman Foresees His Death (https://goo.gl/XxoOvx) asks us to consider how to balance our passage with our passing (and why). His Second Coming (https://goo.gl/m1hA43) has virtually become the anthem of our days.

Dover Beach (https://goo.gl/DLYdXX) written by Matthew Arnold (https://goo.gl/AChdQ2) has prompted much analysis and discussion (https://goo.gl/5Z0aHZ) for its haunting, timeless imagery. Poems do more, of course than just use their words to evoke pictures that pry open our minds. They challenge beliefs (https://goo.gl/SWVGUz) become the basis of books (https://goo.gl/pGZtnN) and act as representative agents of a particular time (https://goo.gl/R6oVXo).

But poetry, like music, does way more than that. While it may be representative of its age, it mines and feeds upon the strands that go into the make-up of the human condition. As such, with few exceptions, poetry remains current, vibrant and relevant. In The Sniper Mind (for instance) I referenced Rudyard Kipling’s (https://goo.gl/qgUoRu) work: If (https://goo.gl/4rSYkD) with its deceptively simply meter (https://goo.gl/7zW0pp) that goes on to unfurl, almost like a recipe for bravery and cool-headedness with each reading.

In Shakespeare’s poetry we hear the ebb and flow of human emotion (https://goo.gl/i7zvZN) indistinguishable from the far more contemporary W.H. Auden (https://goo.gl/ZgwIao) whose Law Like Love (https://goo.gl/NT122e) explores the paradox of our need for guidelines we are seldom prepared to always keep (https://goo.gl/Tyn8pZ) or Dylan Thomas’ (https://goo.gl/BVpqV6) Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (https://goo.gl/mi2KHF) that challenges our acceptance of death.

All of this reflects a peculiarity, perhaps. For all its power and timelessness, poetry is undergoing some challenging times where it’s losing audiences and failing to produce fresh firebrands to take on the tradition (https://goo.gl/5dE8yv). Where are the new Poes (https://goo.gl/E1w1PF) to cry out their love and loss (https://goo.gl/mv2uFY) or even the new Tennessee Williamses (https://goo.gl/e3JpVR) to hurry us on and tell us to be mindful? (https://goo.gl/B7t2Mn).
Arguably it is a temporary dip as we marshal out ills and sufferings and hopes and longings in a new century (https://goo.gl/XuihZM) before we spring forth with fresh talent and new vision. Maybe. But in the meantime we can still enjoy those of the past (https://goo.gl/1rgJmY) even if they were founded on a mistake (https://goo.gl/Bf8t8J).

I hope you have had the kind of foresight and wisdom that ensures you are now enriched with coffee and fueled with donuts, croissants, cookies, ice cream and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.
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"Kindness costs nothing, yet it is the most precious gift"

But does it cost nothing?

This saying has been making its rounds lately with everything going on in the world ... And every time I see it I can't help but wonder if it's really true.

Kindness comes at a price

Think about it. Even if it doesn't cost money it costs something more precious ... Time. A week ago I discovered a few boys chasing a dog in my neighborhood. They stopped at my gate because they thought the pup was part of my massive pack. When I told them he wasn't they looked at me with that questioning face of "how do we catch him?"
"Let me grab some treats and a leash. We'll get him."
Once we caught him though, we then took an hour to find his owner. When we finally found his owner and he opened the door he looked at the dog in frustration, looked at me and said a nonchalant thanks. I tried to explain it was the boys' efforts that captured him, looking for the man to look them in the eyes and thank them, encouraging their positive behavior. No such luck. So I scrambled to recover, thanking them for their dedicated efforts, explaining that they probably saved the pup from being hit by a car or worse!
At the end of it all I had lost an hour and a half, received no genuine thanks for my efforts, and had my diminishing hopes in humanity tested by a man who clearly didn't deserve his dog's loyalty.

Worth it?

Seeing those boys try so hard to do the right thing ... Yes, it made my kindness worth it. Because I left the whole situation feeling that those boys will grow up to be kind people, despite the lack of kindness around them.

+David Amerland​ writes in today's #SundayRead

It may seem odd that we have to use specific techniques and regulars to be what we broadly call “human” but the truth is (and it is an unpalatable one) that being human is ill-defined, that being kind and tolerant and gracious towards others is not our default mode. We learn all this. We learn to love. We learn to be better. And it is now more important than ever that we work hard to ensure that what we create helps us all “step up to the mark”

Hopefully those boys continue to learn that despite the price of kindness, it's worth it to be a good human being.
Human

When a disabled man drowned we found out about it when the video of his death surfaced on social media (https://goo.gl/KKcLRs). More shocking perhaps is the realization that frequently, when we fail to do what is human and decent, there are few laws to compel us to.

We live in a world that is paradoxical. It is increasingly polarized just as it becomes more infused with information. It is increasingly transparent just as we realize that there are limits to what transparency can do when there is no mechanism of accountability.

In the world’s transparency index (https://goo.gl/JL9td5) the countries that consistently score well, unsurprisingly, are also the ones that top the world’s happiness index: https://goo.gl/jcunPG. Who wouldn’t want to feel happy in a country where the government is responsive to the needs of its people, every politician is held directly accountable and everything done is communicated well in a way that helps establish relationships and build trust.

Unsurprisingly (again) the world’s trust index which ranks countries in terms of the trust their citizens feel towards each other and the institutions that govern them, the countries that top it appear to overlap with the world’s happiest countries and the world’s most transparent ones: https://goo.gl/wyEyQw.

It’s a no-brainer. The overlap between transparency, accountability, happiness and trust (and you can read these four ingredients in any order you like) is so obvious that obviously we have never really thought of legislating for qualities we all strive for. Or rather we should all strive for. Until now.

The key is data. Not because it allows us to see just what works but also what doesn’t: https://goo.gl/DZrYVM. In the past, living trapped inside our own minds, housed in bodies that were trapped by locale and geography, we couldn’t aspire to anything beyond our own survival. We couldn’t try for anything beyond the small, achievable moments of our own happiness. The world was too ponderous and too imperfect in its connectivity for any one individual to do anything about. The inertia was too large to overcome. The task itself momentous.

But we don’t live in that world any more. We now see what happens in India (https://goo.gl/NdmWct) like it was occurring in the street outside our own house. We can see what happens when a man is stopped in a ‘routine’ traffic stop as if we were there: https://goo.gl/SKe6Ub. We have data that correlates the intangible (such as trust) with the tangible (such as crime) - https://goo.gl/RghGQP. And we begin to understand that while there is no legislature or laws or guidelines helping us be human, helping be better there are laws and regulations that frequently help us be the exact opposite: https://goo.gl/C054Bw.

It seems insane that we would legislate against our own better nature but find it difficult to legislate for it. There is a reason for that. We expect things to be better than they are: https://goo.gl/r9bKd8 because to expect otherwise is to descend into cognitive dissonance (https://goo.gl/KUvQ9) of the kind that soaks up mental and physical resources we usually do not have. So, we hope that the world is kinder than it is, better than it is, more responsive than it is. And, incredibly enough, by and large, this hope pans out.

We are willing to trust strangers, for instance, (https://goo.gl/L2v41c) because we project in that act our own willingness for the world to be better (https://goo.gl/1wHPEk). We all want to live in a better world and we hope it will come about naturally.

In that expectation we are half right. Our own hope and projection, applied widely enough, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People appear to be mostly good. And mostly kind. Which then makes moments like the unnecessary drowning of a disabled man all that much more jarring. So, what gives?

Here’s the thing. We may not have evolved to be anything beyond what our own tribes accepted as necessary to survive: cruel to our enemies, kind to our fellow tribes people. Remorseless to our prey, full of extravagant largesse to our pets, back at home. Joshua Greene, certainly thinks this is the case and that can also become key to understanding what we now have to do: https://goo.gl/5pNpS7. His theory is not without criticism (https://goo.gl/WG4jhX) but the criticism itself is subject to scrutiny and though looking at qualities that we should consider, always, as somehow ‘given’ rather than consciously developed will always sound better when reductionism (https://goo.gl/8bWj6r) of any kind is not involved the truth is we are complex creatures.

We are programmed to survive. The complexity of our internal make up makes us subject to logic failure. More than that it makes us subject to the kind of failure that eventually rules against our own survival. There are two saving graces in this admittedly grim picture. One is as old as we are. The other is new. We now need both.

The old one first: We are hardwired to connect: https://goo.gl/NUDlSu. That means that we are hardwired to be social. For us this is the prime directive (https://goo.gl/1M553w). Socializing exposes to normative influences (https://goo.gl/jHQGh9) that help our own internal complexity recalibrate. We become less weird, more moral perhaps. We certainly work within the broader range of a more widely accepted norm.

The new one is technology: our own tech not only allows us to connect more and see more it has also began to show us how we function (https://goo.gl/Fcoh9r). When morality itself (https://goo.gl/Zov2ry) is an emergent phenomenon (https://goo.gl/V2MnaN) then we have the means within the social structures we create to ensure that normalization is the norm across a much broader swath than it is to date. That means we have to find ways to legislate for morality and human behavior much like we try to not demonize it: https://goo.gl/VPM5zr.

It may seem odd that we have to use specific techniques and regulars to be what we broadly call “human” but the truth is (and it is an unpalatable one) that being human is ill-defined, that being kind and tolerant and gracious towards others is not our default mode. We learn all this. We learn to love. We learn to be better. And it is now more important than ever that we work hard to ensure that what we create helps us all “step up to the mark” (https://goo.gl/CmJdB2).

As our world becomes more and more complex we need to find ways to help our ancient brains adjust faster, be better and become smarter. That is the only way we can ensure that our species succeeds at extending its timeline (https://goo.gl/1vNAMG). Or, in Bill & Ted’s immortal words: “be excellent to each other and PARTY ON DUDES!” - https://goo.gl/hy9M8g.

There is no current legislation for coffee and donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake but there should be (and you must, currently, add chocolate ice cream to the mix). Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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"Have some compassion!"

"I'm sorry, this is just who I am..."

Is it?

A concept I regularly struggle with: What is "just who I am" and what is "because I choose to be this way?" I admit, when it comes to human beings, my compassion could use some work. I struggle to see past my distrust for human motives and character and simply see another human in need.

Compassion requires trust

Which you'd think as a fellow human being I'd have for other humans. I mean, it should come naturally to emphasize with those who are like me, right? Unfortunately, I've seen so much untrustworthy, selfish behavior from strangers in the world, that I struggle to lead with compassion for people. I struggle to look past my gut reaction of "what's their game? What are they trying to get out of me?"

Is that just who I am? Or am I choosing to be this way?

Maybe a little bit of both? I naturally use my past to guide me through my present (in the past people have been untrustworthy so I move forward cautious with trust) but I also choose to listen to that voice that warns me every time I interact with a new human.

+David Amerland​ writes in today's #SundayRead

"It may sound clinical. It isn’t meant to be. In order for us to truly become more responsible we need to be able to rise above the situational dictates that guide us. And that, requires awareness."

So my awareness of my lack of trust is step 1 towards a little more compassion. Step 2: Action.
Caring

The mind is a maze. Once you start going through its tortuous paths there is no knowing where you will end up. On nights when sleeplessness weighs heavy on me and more caffeine flows through my bloodstream than blood, I find myself observing a dichotomy of thought that I have never successfully resolved.

Part of me marvels at the lucidity we are capable of, the ability the brain has to look at a mass of jumbled facts and find the edges, recognize not only how it all fits together but also the underlying rules that govern it, by recognizing the recurring patterns within it (https://goo.gl/8JWp3M). This part of me is all edge. Logic appears to rule my every thought. Everything falls apart as I tease out connections and understand guiding principles. There is a thrill in the feeling of the clarity of logic and the ability to use what I see to understand what I cannot (https://goo.gl/sQCiRy). At the back of my mind, during those times, I fancy that existence mine and everything that I observe is a mental construct. Everything is made up of thought lines and thought forms (https://goo.gl/SSp2VO) held in a dynamic balance by sheer mental focus.

But there’s another part of me. One that feels. A part that looks upon a total stranger or even another species, in distress and feels their plight (https://goo.gl/lmdzj5) and by feeling is moved to take action. What fascinates me is that on the face of it there is no logic to this. The plight of others is outside of ourselves and, frequently, far removed. Logically there is no directly discernible reason as to why we would (or should) feel anything, but in a time when plants themselves appear to have more neurobiological responses than we have previously credited them for (https://goo.gl/WS1bnZ), understanding our own is critical to forming a fuller picture of who we are.

We are, out of necessity, bound to a physical plane. Because it is impossible to separate the mind from the body learning to unravel the connection is key to understanding the entanglement of the two: https://goo.gl/MnMo6B.

When a ‘simple’ yawn is evidence of a deeper mechanism of empathy (and compassion) - https://goo.gl/UZHDsn, there is the suggestion that from an evolutionary point of view, compassion may be one of the very few instincts we have left: https://goo.gl/9B8i5F. And compassion, in its qualitative composition, is now under scrutiny like never before: https://goo.gl/ufVfHY.

When it comes to examining compassion and how it affects us we are willing to use anything, from evolutionary biology and game theory (https://goo.gl/MfDZEc) to attempts to redefine the word (https://goo.gl/YGMKT1) and a look at how we feel at our journey’s end - https://goo.gl/3CZNDR.

As we understand more and more about science and how it can be used, we are also using those tools to look at human behavior that in the past has resisted quantification. Compassion is one of these areas: https://goo.gl/bHqoMy and its study shows that even when we are faced with difficult situations, compassionate choices can make us feel better about them: https://goo.gl/LxU5Ge.

Research shows that compassion at work can change working environments for the better: https://goo.gl/Ub6eLb and being compassionate towards ourselves, first: https://goo.gl/fvcHYl can help us overcome barriers to a better performance.

We are, usually, afraid of feelings. We don’t always understand their origin and we are uncertain about the guidance they provide for us. Yet, it would appear, that for all the value we place upon logic (and the universal appeal of Spock is largely based upon that - https://goo.gl/9bjpy) we must also learn to embrace emotion. More than that, we must learn to trust it and for that to happen we need to learn to trust ourselves under different emotional states. Psychology is still torn about this, with half the experts telling us not to trust our feelings (https://goo.gl/RZbEip) and the other half the opposite: https://goo.gl/aJ5QfW. But what we know from neuroscience is that feelings, just like thoughts, arise from specific stimuli: https://goo.gl/DF68ZP. Understanding this gives us a higher-lever perspective on who we are and why we do some things. And that becomes the doorway into re-writing the code that runs us.

It may sound clinical. It isn’t meant to be. In order for us to truly become more responsible we need to be able to rise above the situational dictates that guide us. And that, requires awareness. And it requires a balance between what we think and what we feel. Above all, indeed, it requires compassion, towards ourselves and then, the world around us.

Now, hopefully you’ve followed your instincts here and you’ve stocked up on coffee, croissants, donuts, cookies, ice-cream and chocolate cake. All the things, in short, that make this day feel special. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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The power of seasons ...

Growing up in Hawaii, I truly had no idea what it meant to have seasons ... And how they impacted an individual's way of life. Though the days get slightly shorter over the winter and the weather gets slightly cooler, a little rainier... That's about it. Otherwise it's breezy, summer weather all the time.

But then, I moved

First to Colorado, then to Oregon, then to Ohio ... And boy, did I realize the power of seasons! It changed my clothing choices, my daily routine, even my mood! +David Amerland​ is right, no matter how much we dive into our virtual worlds, our physical environment still has great influence ... I mean think about when you're outside in the cold trying to post something to your virtual world ... You can't do it without special gloves or fast enough to freeze your fingers.

As David writes:

"We are, truly, products of our environment. Try as we might we cannot completely divorce ourselves from our surroundings. But that is also the bridge between us and our distant ancestors."

Maybe our weather is what we need to keep us tethered to reality. Maybe, our weather, is one few things that keep us from escaping into something so manmade that we forget that we're mere man. Or it's just a nuisance we still have to deal with ... Will we ever know? 😉
Seasons

Most of you reading this know some truths: we live in the always-on, digital age. Time-zones are a nuisance. Technology is enabling us to be, virtually, almost anywhere, sometimes everywhere. We are, more than at any other time in history, creators of ourselves and masters of our paths.

We no longer have to really worry about the weather (although we still constantly talk about it - https://goo.gl/erbmgk) or go to bed the moment it gets dark (https://goo.gl/PkiSUW). And yet, these are, it would seem recent developments in our history. The ancient vessels we reside in are still subject to the phases of the moon (https://goo.gl/PKS6C9) and the flow of the seasons (https://goo.gl/fykNAd).

Summer is a time when living is indeed, easy as the song suggests (https://goo.gl/ziq4A). Our body is also finding it easier to keep itself healthy: https://goo.gl/Aadypm. Even our teeth are affected by it (https://goo.gl/YbTbQU). But summer is not without its challenges it would seem: https://goo.gl/ZdhSHU particularly as the hot weather gives rise to higher temperatures (https://goo.gl/YRHTy8).

Summer also impacts our productivity: https://goo.gl/YhPP0s. Reduces some of our physical capabilities (https://goo.gl/4eACnh) just as, with some thinking, it can enhance others: https://goo.gl/BqQ5ih. Summer helps us produce more Vitamin D (https://goo.gl/2UjUWC) and it may also be the time we decide to do something different, something that will help us appreciate the life we have: https://goo.gl/leUmoI.

Musical tastes, in the Summer, also appear to favor a particular type of tune and song: https://goo.gl/E74UHA. But much is changing. Summer, that used to be the season reserved for the “summer blockbuster” hasn’t actually been that for some time: https://goo.gl/88qcfK and even the carefree nature traditionally associated with the season seems to have changed: https://goo.gl/nh6oK5 (ignore the “summer seems cooler this year” comment of this 2014 piece as we now have a new record this year - https://goo.gl/UrAcPa).

For me, each summer has been the time I marked in my mind with songs (https://goo.gl/hcytMY) and made plans to sleep less, workout more and just do more to prepare for the pressures of work that start the moment September kicks in. It used to be the time I chased waves each morning at Kirra Beach (https://goo.gl/VkXCxd). These days I go canoeing (https://goo.gl/RxPKh3) or try some of the scenic locations that are currently within easy reach: https://goo.gl/kovyqr.

I don’t know if I smile any more than usual (https://goo.gl/G5M3wi) but that’s only because I consciously try hard not to smile less at any other time of the year. Because I do have a couple of super soakers (https://goo.gl/TKxbvE) I see summertime as a challenge to be even less serious about myself than usual.

We are, truly, products of our environment. Try as we might we cannot completely divorce ourselves from our surroundings. But that is also the bridge between us and our distant ancestors. We can feel some of the visceral delight they took in the change of the seasons offered to them by their gods (https://goo.gl/bPvWjZ) while applying our own special cognitive layer in how we perceive each season and what we do in it.

True to form summertime affects the goodies on offer. In addition to coffee and cookies, croissants and chocolate cake there has to be, at the very least, some chocolate ice cream (thank the Chinese for that: https://goo.gl/4GYbpi). You should have plenty of everything now. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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It's #BringYourDogToWorkDay !

Since I work in a dog-friendly office, every day is bring your dog to work day ... So Sandy came to work with me today :) She was on crash patrol duty this morning! She kept a watchful eye on me while I learned how to fly a drone ... Just in case I had a crash she was there to retrieve!
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Friday rituals
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The seduction of secrets and conspiracy

I see what +David Amerland​ means about secrecy and conspiracy in today's #sundayread and why we have them:

"These few, just like lottery wins (https://goo.gl/l3ZWtG) feed into the psychology of our brain (https://goo.gl/vKgT1w) triggering specific neurological pathways (https://goo.gl/2WSKbV) that deliver a ‘reward’. A sense that we actually have done something substantive, when really, we have done nothing."

But I'd take it one step further and say it's not just about reward ... It's about, for lack of a better word, boredom. I think so many of us are bored with our lives that rather than dig into the terrifying topic with who we are and shy away from our responsibility of that boredom, we seek distraction. What better distraction than digging deep into how another human being is lying. Digging into another's faults so we must not look at our own.

Do you ever think about the typical American​ life?

I often try to imagine it and I sincerely worry it goes something like this: _Wake up. Rush to get to work and the kids ready for school. Dribk coffee. Work 8-10 hours doing something that feels monotonous at this point. Eat a lunch that's filled with processed foods, which make you feel lethargic around 2pm. More coffee or switch to an energy drink. Rush home to make a dinner for the family with more processed foods. See each family member as they come into the kitchen to collect their food and leave. Watch TV until your eyes get tired and you're ready for bed.

If every day feels like the same day over again and every day doesn't offer an opportunity that we take to self reflect and explore ... Yeah, we're probably insanely bored with our lives. Which gets us asking, there has to be more right? But because we haven't been trained to look at ourselves and ask more of ourselves, we look at others. And we ask "what are you hiding" instead of "what more could you too be doing with your life."

Secrets are sexy

They're enticing. They offer us opportunity to completely forget about ourselves and dive down a rabbit hole that has a foreseeable end. They're a distraction, and a damn good one. But, as tempting as it is to dive down that rabbit hole, I think we should first ask: Has figuring out secrets and proving conspiracy theories actually made anyone happier? Because that's what most of us seek, happiness. I'd wager it really hasn't. But I've also decided I'm too busy with developing my own being to deal with someone else's secrets. Maybe my busyness is my own personal conspiracy ;)
Secrets

The idea that there are nefarious powers, hidden in plain sight, capable of self-organizing to such a highly disciplined degree that they can actually play a long game to the detriment of the rest of us is something that has never fallen out of favor with the public at large, giving rise to conspiracy theory (https://goo.gl/AQsduj) after conspiracy theory until there is a seemingly endless list of them that reflects the complex gamut of human bias and our capacity for delusion (https://goo.gl/D12LaV).

Now the past few years have produced quite the conspiracy theory trove (https://goo.gl/VvV0MU) and pop-culture has assimilated a great many more (https://goo.gl/cV79Qb) with even ‘experts’ joining the frame and fueling the fire (https://goo.gl/0mVm).

This begs the obvious question: why? Paradoxically, conspiracy theories, both of the left and the right and every political and religious hue in between are a psychological response to our sense of helplessness. They are an attempt to believe that somehow, even incredibly complex events over which we have zero control, have an agency we can affect: https://goo.gl/11rk3e. They persist because we always seek to exert control over the world (https://goo.gl/dhrCuF) and they become less prevalent as we find other ways to do so.

Interestingly, just like the 1997 film “Conspiracy Theory” (https://goo.gl/NcWnRY) where a crazy story is found to be a shot in the dark that finds its mark (https://goo.gl/iJ8WU2) some conspiracy theories have turned out to be true: https://goo.gl/Y7ClA6. These few, just like lottery wins (https://goo.gl/l3ZWtG) feed into the psychology of our brain (https://goo.gl/vKgT1w) triggering specific neurological pathways (https://goo.gl/2WSKbV) that deliver a ‘reward’. A sense that we actually have done something substantive, when really, we have done nothing.

When it comes to belief, facts seem to hold zero value as a TED Talk by Michael Shermer suggests: https://goo.gl/ySU2ZX. Our willingness to deceive ourselves, obviously, has an evolutionary link to traits that were designed, in the very distant past, to actually help us: https://goo.gl/0fLI3K, even though, today, it is mostly being used to manipulate us: https://goo.gl/i5zd53.

We feel that we lack control when secrets around us abound, when transparency is lacking. And secrets affect us psychologically (https://goo.gl/8Zq44b), eroding our inner balance (https://goo.gl/5cqfyT) pushing us to “come clean”.

As you’d expect, conspiracy theories (and too many secrets for that matter) have a detrimental effect in society: https://goo.gl/K6a58Y. We were never meant to keep secrets in societal structures of the scale we have harnessed today. As a result we appear to be tearing ourselves apart (https://goo.gl/IRlRcn).

So, what do we do? Is there a solution? Are there things each of us, at the level of the individual can do to wrest back control, gain a sense of order in our lives? Feel that what we do and who we are makes sense again? Apparently having a purpose helps: https://goo.gl/SbCKrw. A lot.

Creating a community that is nonjudgmental, welcoming and supportive, also helps. (https://goo.gl/QBSiFK). Caring (https://goo.gl/0bYn5g), alongside thinking, is a critical ingredient. The sense that we have been cast adrift, that the world we knew, or felt we knew, no longer applies is not new. People have experienced it since the very beginning of time, the moment they felt the impact of change. The change we feel around us is accelerating. We really have one of two choices. We allow ourselves to become trapped by the ancient heuristics (https://goo.gl/EOZVEy) of our mind, or we find new ways to matter. Fresh means of re-acquiring control. And the strength to connect with each other at a level that, once more, begins to work for each of us. For all of us.
OK now. Coffee? (You’d better be able to say “Check!”). Donuts? Croissants? Cookies? Ice-Cream and Chocolate cake? (“Check!” again. You’re all set then. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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We're not all that we seem ... It's just the hidden pieces aren't super powers

Or maybe they are? I've never really been big on super heroes. Every time someone asked me the expected "if you could have any super power" I'd say "I don't really want the responsibility of powers." Sure, heroes get glory. But most of them remain anonymous. And think of the guilt that comes with such responsibility!

But then again, how often do we contemplate our responsibility without powers?

Are we even doing as much as we can with the powers we have? In today's #sundayread +David Amerland​ writes:

"Despite the obvious additional responsibility that comes with having great power (Spiderman fans, rejoice: https://goo.gl/HqU7XH) there is always a yearning it seems for us to be more than we appear to be."

I think we already are more than we appear to be. And I think rather than consider the power and responsibilities we already have, we choose to dream about other powers ... And maybe ignore the responsibility that would come with it.
Superpowers

I grew up steeped in superhero mythology (https://goo.gl/E4EeZU) my mind frequently playing “what-if” scenarios in which stark moral dilemmas were presented in impossible situations and action still had to be taken. It was a useful pastime that informed some of my understanding of a world which back in the 70s was fragmented into geographically isolated regions linked only by television and music.

The time afforded me to day dream (which is what it was really) also allowed me to explore mental concepts (https://goo.gl/Bf2Vgl), determine the dynamics that govern them (https://goo.gl/YW0CJ4) and look for the reasons they occurred in the first place (https://goo.gl/oDqpUH).

In a series of superhero posts I put together some time ago (https://goo.gl/m2JZaj), others chimed in with incredibly deep thoughts, including +Bruce Marko (https://goo.gl/ryqn8f) whose exploration of the subject raises some incredibly valid points.

Superheroes are so deeply embedded in our culture that we frequently don’t think about the impact they have (https://goo.gl/d7zr3e) nor the fact that from a purely semantic point of view, the various attributes that make them possible (https://goo.gl/QGD0uJ) are a yearning we have towards the better version of ourselves.

Of course, I frequently played the game where I would ask myself the question. “If you could have any superpower you wanted, which would you choose?” Upon consideration each one individual superpower, however great, always left me feeling that I was missing out which is why my choice (which I will divulge a little later) was both a little more pedestrian, maybe, and directly telling, given what I now do for a living.

But first, since we are talking superpowers and since we now know a lot more about physics and science and the way the human body interacts with the world than the 70s, let’s take a look at Joy Lin’s TED-Talk mini-series where he explores the feasibility of flight (https://goo.gl/Ki0uwu), invisibility (https://goo.gl/wXRKDA), immortality (https://goo.gl/Aq4dPx), super strength (https://goo.gl/zrKSP), super speed (https://goo.gl/EAOI21) and body mass manipulation (https://goo.gl/bB18r6).

Lin’s factual take on this process kinda punctures the “I wannabe a superhero bubble” but it takes nothing away from the catalytic power superheroes have in modern culture: https://goo.gl/RLkcky.

These days I still spend a lot of time following Dragon Ball (https://goo.gl/5H5Ai) where its main character, Goku (https://goo.gl/4A3b1Y) embodies the consistency of character and moral approach that we identify with in the superhero genre (and for Goku fans here are some superpowers you might not know he has: https://goo.gl/utAmlx).

Like always, superheroes allow us to safely explore the interstices in our social fabric in ways that no other means can do with the same effect: https://goo.gl/5eSdxU. They allow us, again, to dynamically explore our morality: https://goo.gl/vh4xQa.

Despite the obvious additional responsibility that comes with having great power (Spiderman fans, rejoice: https://goo.gl/HqU7XH) there is always a yearning it seems for us to be more than we appear to be: https://goo.gl/3iWfkk.

Over the last three years I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time, deep in a universe where certain superpowers appears to be within our grasp: https://goo.gl/x47LOu. It resulted in a book that teaches us how to be the better version of ourselves we frequently yearn for: https://goo.gl/ECaMt0.
But back to that time, so many decades ago now, when I was asking myself the question about superpowers. The one that made most sense to me back then was to be able to know everything by simply focusing on it.

We are not quite there yet, but in the digital age, when search, the web, social media and interconnectivity have resulted in a highly networked hybrid mind of sorts we are all becoming smarter (https://goo.gl/IYZsPS) more knowledgeable and, with a little search ‘magic’, capable of finding out almost anything about anything we want.

In that regard, at least, the superpower I craved when I was 13 seems to be firmly within my grasp. I hope yours is too (choose wisely).

And speaking of wisdom I hope you’re reading this with a river of coffee and a mountain of donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate ice cream (coz it is summer now), within easy reach. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Today was Sampson's first day as an office dog!!

He did great ... And now he's out like a light lol
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