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Love - What better way to progress from philosophy to poetry for a few posts than with Caprese Salad flowers? I discovered this presentation style of tomatoes one day when I had a few extra moments to play with them. Now it is a tradition with my daughters and I as to who can arrange the most bloomingly floral versions made from tomatoes, kalamatas, mozzarella, and basil - sprinkled with our herbs de provence and balsamic / olive oil drizzle. These photos are a couple we've made the past week.

Secret Ingredient: It is all in how you slice the tomatoes. Oh, and reduce that balsamic if you can!
Music Accompaniment: Cat Stevens

As to a thought for today to match the art of the food - I must go to a foundational quote to my identity that I sadly was reawakened to (as alluded to in a previous post). Sadly - in that I'm dismayed by just how much I had strayed from incorporating the quotation in my day to day life.

So here it is: "Love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself." - St. Exupery

Isn't that amazing? The more time I spent thinking about every word, the more I realize just how much Exupery hit the nail on the head, and yet also filled it with rich meaning and complexities with just a single short statement.

For the sake of posterity and over indulgence (it's a food blog after all), let's break it down:

Process - love is a process, a verb - not a noun. Love is an action to extend, not a state to be obtained. This dovetails into my previous post discussing life and identity as verbs.
Leading - love is guiding, leading - it is traveling alongside someone hand in hand - it is not a state internal to yourself, but an action externally performed
my - this is my favorite word in the quotation - note that it is written from the perspective of my leading you, and not you leading me. Love is an action on the behalf of the other - and for them, not vice versa. Clearly love is not a possession, but selfless act. The only place the author of love enters in is via the leading, but otherwise love is about the one being lead.
back - I'm not leading you to a new you; I'm not guiding you to a place you've never been before, but rather simply returning you back to where you already are. Again, my role in love is simply a hand to guide, not an imposition of my definitions.
gently - while I may not be the best at this, it is a reminder that it is all about gentleness that we guide. This is where we channel the Desiderata, avoiding vexations to the spirit.
to yourself - the destination of love is oneself, specifically the oneself in the person being loved. The strength of love exists at the core of oneself. And because of that, love demands a strong identity. The stronger the identity, the core - the easier the leading is, and the easier it is to be loved. In fact, love demands a strong identity.

With such an amazing revelation for life, it is easy to see why I chose at an early age to make this a cornerstone to my identity - and why I'm so frustrated to have let the perspective slip into the subconscious, instead of the active guiding hand I want for defining who I want to be.

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Beginning and End - There are two steps in every recipe that almost everyone I know takes shortcuts through - and I think they are apt analogies for how we live our lives. And strangely, the two steps are the bookend steps to a recipe.

First, who do you know that always preps the food beforehand? Who do you know that consistently manages to preheat the oven in sufficient time? Prep work for our daily life is not only forgotten, it is a sign that we have too much luxury in time.

On the other hand, who ever lets their cooked meals rest like many meals demand? Who spends time "plating" their food to make it appealing to the eyes alongside the stomach?

So was the struggle to make sure my Stuffed Peppers turned out today.

Secret Ingredient: boiling the pepper shells into the same water used to cook the rice to infuse them with pepper taste. Oh, and adding the leftover balsamic steak sauce for a splash of umami.
Music Accompaniment: +Dave Matthews Band is a good pepper match.

We live so much in the moment, yet not tasting it deeply, inhaling the now - and yet we also do not spend time preparing our plans for life, letting it come to us, not the other way around. To continue yesterday's comments, life is river on which our identity travels. We do not control the current, but we can decide our intent. And intent is all about planning. I look around and intent appears to be largely missing in many people's life.

And if intent is the chopping prep work and oven preheating, then savoring is the plating of the dishes. We run from event to event with little intent, but also little savoring of the completion of an event.

I've learned the hard way that meat must rest after grilling to reclaim their juices and spread evenly the heat of the event. The resting period forces you take a breath and appreciate the action of cooking. They say that embracing delayed gratification is a key step in childhood development, and a sign of higher intelligence. We need more of it in our lives, with emphasis on the delay - like proper whiskey aging.

Ha! - what baloney all this talk is! Really? Savor the moment in a food blog? Live with intent? Well, of course - that's all obvious. This is all self evident self help filled with aspirations but otherwise ridiculous in the day and age when things are at a fast pace and we don't have the luxury to execute without major life style changes. Nice to haves, but otherwise impractical in the modern day.

But that image of a well seasoned hunk of grilled meat resting, reclaiming and redistributing its juices before being devoured is stuck in my mind - I know there is a new, non obvious lesson here.

In the mean time, I'll end with this alliteration: May your life be seasoned with intent, and savored with postcoital satisfaction.
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Life as a Verb: Family reunion time, 7 adults and 6 kids. How to make "Welcome to Portland" meal? Ah the old standby of #Porchetta - this time delivered via a massive 13 pound bone-in rib roast that includes 15+ pork chops in it, plus a bunch of tenderloins to boot. So big that the grill was the only option. And with such extravagance, I could finally justify the purchase of that $55 bag of fennel pollen I've been lusting after for two years. Sheridan's even keeps it behind locked doors to enhance the mystique. Add in grilled asparagus, mini potatoes roasted in the drippings, some heirloom caprese salads.. Ah, a treat befitting to the company!

Secret Ingredient: the fennel pollen, of course
Music accompaniment: Lenka, of course

With such a weighty hunk of meat (largest I've ever made) my thought of the day is on nouns versus verbs, continuing the discussion on the nature of identity.

We think of life and identity as nouns. Something to be achieved or possessed. As if they exist in the absence of action, weighty concepts similar to the hunk of meat on my grill right now.

But my love of cooking is not the food but the act of making it. My love of life is the chase, not the kill. So why do I fall into the trap to define both life and identity as nouns?

+Sean Carroll wrote "Life is not a substance, like water or rock; it's a process, like fire or a wave crashing on a shore. It's a process that begins, lasts for a while, then ultimately ends." Much better! By a process, it is as close to action as you can get and still satisfy grammatical requirements to be a noun.
Extend this to identity.. Our identity is a process, our bodies are mere substance by which we act. Identity is the imparting of change, not the change itself, which are just the wake behind us. We think that substance trumps action - we want to preserve our legacies with towers with our names on them, but action far exceeds substance when it comes to impacting the world.

+Muriel Rukeyser wrote "The Universe is made of stories, not atoms." Again, stories are verbs, atoms are nouns. Existence opens, says #Tzu.
Life is a river flowing, identity is the oar in the water doing our best to exert some semblance of direction (certainly not the fallacy of control) in its varied currents, steeped in punctuated equilibrium.
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Theseus Decay: The posts of late have been some heavy meals, reflecting the life cookbook I am currently reading - +Sean Carroll's "Big Picture" in which he lays out the case for a poetic version of naturalism. I'll return to some more lighter fare in a few posts - particularly as I get to touch upon the many thoughts sparked during a 10 day trip rafting down the Grand Canyon.

Today's meal is #Picadillo, which has flavors of a Ship of Theseus. We all know the heavenly foundation of ground beef, onions, cumin and tomatoes. With this combination, you can make so many delicious dishes. Add in a bunch of cinnamon(!), raisins(!), and olives(!) and you have a dish that is both unfathomable and so far distant from the origin that you have to question if it is even related.

Secret Ingredient: cinnamon sticks make for fun surprises in the final dish. Oh, and the Castelvetrano olives from Mezzetta are PERFECT for Picadillo!
Music Accompaniment: +Ry Cooder and the +Buena Vista Social Club®

One interesting concept that is peculiarly recurring is the concept of Ship of Theseus, and its inevitable follow on discussion of identity. The concept focuses on an ancient ship that Theseus once commanded. Over the years, its planks and support beams are slowly replaced, one by one, until eventually no part of the original ship remains. The question is, with all of the original material now gone, is it still really the ship that Theseus commanded? And the question gets worse, with huge gray areas lying in wait no matter how you answer. How much does it need to have of the old ship before being something new? If I take a ten planks from the original ship and use them to build new ships, are they all Ships of Theseus? What if I keep the planks, but reconstruct it in a different shape? Is the loss of just one plank enough to warrant the loss of title?

Add in some of the thought experiences of Star Trek's transporter and you introduce more complexities. It's all fun philosophical day dreaming with little application to the day to day… except… it keeps cropping up in my mind with such applications.

Take for instance another ship - the ship that carries our souls and identity - our human bodies. They themselves are Ships of Theseus. We all know our skin replaces itself every few days, but did you know that nearly all cells are subject to replacement throughout our lifetime? Even a number of brain cells replace themselves after 3 or 4 decades. Just think, the memories in your mind will soon be stored using neurons that were not the original ones used to record the memory. We are in essence walking Ships of Theseuses.

And even worse, a huge portion of our body is not even "us" given the biosphere that we have discovered in our own bodies. The human body is mostly made up of non human DNA

How do you apply it to identity? Identity is inherently fluid and adaptive, but yet we hold on to some constructs that are fundamental to our self definition. Can these planks slowly decay and replaced with replicated memories of ourselves? Over a lifetime, is our identity adapting, or is it suffering from existential questions as the body and mind slowly get replaced with new material, resulting in a person that is simply an inexact copy of the one chosen in our formative years?

Memories in some way become replications of memories. Identity itself has its own planks being replaced with replicas over the years.

I had an unnerving example of this during my recent Grand Canyon trip in which I found two fundamental quotes to my identity left forgotten in the dusty corners of my brain. I literally found myself struggling to remember the quotes (which I'll cover in future posts) - which left me dumbfounded. They are so crucial to my self identity - true corner stones - that to suddenly realize I had both forgotten them and could not recall them quickly, I felt debased and uprooted in a very unpleasant way. I realized that the Ship of Theseus question was now active in my own identity. Did I loose these guideposts because the 30 years have passed in my brain's neurons? Did my identity replace these concepts with wood of a different make and size approximation?
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Illusion of Identity -- With a 4 year old at home, I'm quite conscious just how much we tend to her building of the concept of her identity - like farmers watering a field. Today I ponder the illusion behind that crop we call Identity, pulling in lessons from the two previous posts on probabilistic thought and the division between intelligence and intent. To get there, we must first Split a Chicken.

You know, it's funny, but I never had - or even seen - a split chicken until our doula for our first daughter made one for us as a conciliatory gesture for missing the actual birth. Lots of symbolism there, but moving on…

Secret Ingredient: you know, I live with deep regret for all those roasts I've made of the years without making full use of the drippings into a Au Jus.
Music Accompaniment: +UB40 Official songs - yeah, I don't know why, but it works great.

Now from splitting a chicken to splitting identity from awareness. This is a story of how I had an epiphany today in which my brain made new pathways in my personal ontology that I haven't had before. But first, I must build the road so that you may come along:

With a 4 year old at home, I'm quite conscious now just how much we tend to her building of the concept of her identity - like farmers watering a field. We encourage her to name it (literally with a unique name), strengthen it with compliments, relish in its uniqueness. Our goal as parents in these first years is to define this structure of identity so that we have coat hangers on which we can then hang on such societal concepts such as ethics and morality, emotion and analytics, social norms and political discourse. But without the concept of identity - and the creation of one in our mind - on which to hang them, all these higher level ideas that we build from 3 years old to adulthood are just floating in the wind, and ephemeral. Just try to imagine empathy without identity, among many other metaphysical concepts or states. Heck, there is a reason why the #Cogito of "I think therefore I am" exists, as identity is the only thing we can trust. But can we?

So you can gather now, that I've been thinking rather Taoist of late, and ever since wanting to explore the idea of embracing probability in my rational mind self in an earlier post, I've been realizing just how tall of a structure our human mind creates to form ones own identity. The problem is, this structure is a yet another artifice and one created to maximize our Darwinian survival - but an artifice nonetheless. And as such, it can be yet another thing that can be stripped away, just as my good friend has systematically stripped away many societal notions to lead a nomadic life.

So we know that the creation of identity, the I in the Cogito, is a necessary first step. And therefore, the shedding of it will take some work. I think of the work in the Taoist mindset to remove the ego, or the Buddhist Pursuit of identity differentiation, or the Baha'I pursuit of the Delphic "Know Thyself", or the Avatar blend of Scholasticism and Buddhism with its connected life force. But none of these appeal to the poetic naturalist mind, and inherently are false premises that are built on top of identity rather than the removal of it (even I'd argue Buddhism).

But tonight I thought of an easy way in which my mind suddenly realized I was floating in a sea of stars without meaning or individuality. I thought of the paper clip maker referenced in existential risk literature by Nick Bostrom. In this exercise, you imagine a super intelligent paper clip manufacturing robot, built with the simple mandate to build as many paper clips as possible. This paper clip manufacturer soon begins to realize that having humans on the planet is interfering with the optimal creation of the maximum number of paper clips, so true to its programming destroys the human race and perhaps all of life in its quest to fulfill the goals of its programming.

There is no consciousness or intent in the paper clip machine, nor is there any concept of identity. The whole point of the exercise is to emphasize that super intelligence can occur without consciousness or identity.

And so with that, I realize today that life itself is its own form of a paper clip machine.

To get there, I go to the #Matrix movies, where Agent Smith wipes the sweat off of Mr. Anderson's forehead and declares that the human race is a virus, a form of life that has exceeded its natural boundaries and is now all consuming in its spread across the globe, consuming all resources without regard until it destroys its host, in this case the planet. I love this image and have always subscribed to it, but I realize today that we are more than that virus, as that analogy applies just to humanity.

If you step back further, life itself is the very building of the paper clip machine. Go back to the primordial soups and you realize that the moment some proto-DNA strands first self replicated, that life became a paper clip machine - but instead of building paper clips, its job was simply to replicate itself in a fashion to ensure the most optimal ability to expand replication. This is the foundation of life, and once set in motion, it had no end, just like the paper clip machine.

Fast forward, oh and few eons, and humanity evolves in its Matrix virus fashion, but still built with that fundamental paper clip manufacturing programming for self replication. Identity evolves as a coat hanger for all those higher level ideas for societal structure. But in the end we are a paper clip manufacturer with these artifices built up just to ensure overall maximal realization of our programming for replication.

And there, at that moment, with that viewpoint applied to my own identity, I saw myself disappear, as the self was a artifice created on top of that programming. I was able to hold on to language and senses, so I could see existence still proceeding on Time's arrow - but for a few moments I truly felt the dissolution of identity and reduce myself to mere DNA programming with a single goal in mind.

At that moment, it went dark into the emptiness of space in "my" mind. I could no longer use "I" to describe where "I" was for "I" did not exist. Existence simply was, and was so vastly but empty, with a few pieces of nearby matter waiting to be used to further the goal in the programming allowing the very ability to perceive that very same matter.

I loved being fully immersed into that space (but without the I to be aware). It felt beyond primal or Darwinian or anything remotely subjective (again requiring identity). It was purely rooted in naturalism. So I close by encouraging you to take the thought experiment and imagine your collection of DNA and body as being a mere cog of a much larger paper machine maker, and finally see your identity as an artifice designed as a necessary expedient to fulfill your programming. Then dissolve the coat hanger, and let identity fall away…
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Dividing Intelligence from Intent -- I've been digesting some heavy food of late, so for those few readers of these missives, I beg your patience as I make my way through some heavy courses still coming out from the kitchen of my mind. So, again, let's prep this course with a small appetizer of actual food before getting to thought. Tonight, I share with you Carnitas.

Funny thing about carnitas is that if you cube the meat into two inch chunks before cooking, they are immeasurably easier to shred. If you employ the hands of a nine year old daughter, it is even easier.

What I love most about Carnitas is the smell permeates the house, and the slow cooking ensures that even the neighbors will come knocking. I love the patina that forms on the underside of the Dutch oven lid - another sign that you are making heaven with mere pork, onions and oranges (and a few more items along the way). Sadly I know we are cooking away more of the flavor than consuming - but it heightens the chase over the kill, which is never a bad tactic to living fully.

Secret Ingredient: well, not so secret, but I usually double down with both orange juice a sliced orange and a good dosing of lime juice in the cooking liquid.
Music Accompaniment: "Alexa, play songs by Pink Martini"

Now, some food for the mind:

People who know me know that I am fascinated by the work of Nick Bostrom, from existential risk to super intelligence and the singularity point. What is most fascinating is a) just how real and scary the threat is, and b) just how much different the threat is from the ridiculous and ignorant renditions of artificial intelligence that is coming out of pop culture, particularly the nonsense in Hollywood screenwriting.

It's that nonsense that I think about today, trying to figure out why the disparity between the realistic Bostrom's future, and the latent fear in pop culture's view of robots taking over the world. In particular, it is the realization that we have an underlying assumption that intelligence implies consciousness and intent. People equate the three concepts as different facings of the same object - that while they have different manifestations and vectors into daily life, they are all inherently emanating from the same source. That may be so for humanity, but we are incredibly naïve to think that what applies for our higher level thinking must exist for other manifestations.

In particular, we know that intelligence is independent from consciousness. People began that jump the first time a machine calculated numbers faster than humans. Unfortunately, in our hubris, we downgraded the computational intelligence rather than segregate intelligence from consciousness. We all say, well it's just math, of course computers can do that, it's not smarter then humans, just faster at doing math - and therefore math really must not require intelligence to master. Quite the fall from grace, when you think of the Mayan mathematicians that were one step from godhood.

The problem with downgrading math and not instead divorcing intelligence from consciousness is that we will continue to downgrade intelligence piece by piece in tiny landslides, oblivious to the mountain that is crumbling in the process. Sure computers can search documents faster than us… sure computers can recognize faces faster than us… sure computers can generate poetry indistinguishable from Shakespeare…. Meanwhile we downgrade each new faster ability as not really intelligence. Soon mankind and its hubris will be on a tiny island of identity and self awareness, with no boats to go anywhere.

In the end, computers will own that mountain of intelligence. There is no intelligence that a computer cannot perform better with than humans. It is inevitable, and inevitable in a short time frame.

But there are other mountains out there that build the structure of human identity, and consciousness and intent are one of them. (Yes, I can easily be convinced that these are two facets of the same object, but having made the mistake with intelligence being in there, I'm a bit more cautious to not prematurely lump consciousness and intent together). We can have intelligence with consciousness/intent - the very thing that Nick Bostrom discusses and that Hollywood gets so wrong. We can also have consciousness/intent without intelligence - something that arguably exists all around us in other life forms.

The paper clip machine thought exercise is the classic way to explore how unbridled intelligence devoid of consciousness, ethics, and intent can still be an existential threat. By doing this mental exercise your mind leaps over the many landslides of intelligence downgrading and realize that the whole mountain is a wash.

So that is my thought today - the eschewing of any link between intelligence and intent.

One addendum for dessert - This separation makes me think of my life long dream to recreate intelligence of either myself or of structured philosophy (e.g. Spinoza) and force an automated conversation to occur visually between these two intelligences (both lacking in consciousness) - all with the expressed purpose to have this conversation spark an original thought inside the mind of a conscious observer (me). The experiment makes far more sense now that I have made the leap to separate intelligence from consciousness
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Embracing Probability - Matter behaves deterministically, but yet life is built entirely on probabilistic behavior. If life was strictly deterministic, it likely would not exist in the first place - or at very best, a perfect paper clip maker. Throw in quantum work, and even the deterministic nature of existence is highly questionable. So today's thought is all about how we have become addicted as cognitive humans to absolutism in an otherwise world where probabilistic systems inherently yield more advanced results.

So yeah, this will be another heavy meal in a post, so let's hit the food first again - something easy that can offset the verbiage that follows.

Nothing like a big impromptu summer Sunday get together to justifying grilling out 50 pomegranate chicken thighs and drumsticks and with some coconut corn on the side. If you haven't had the Thai street food of coconut corn, well, then you have never licked your sticky fingers clean to the bone before.

Secret Ingredient: that one bay leaf in the coconut basting sauce packs a wallop
Music Accompaniment: The Temptations, courtesy of Alexa thinking I asked for "My Girl". Perfect.

So back to food for the brain. A branch of computer sciences focuses on "wetware" where circuits are design to not yield digitally definitive zeros and ones, but analog probabilities of zeroes and ones in which anything can happen, but otherwise things mostly behave consistently.

Go up the software stack and another big breakthrough that has helped with the deep learning crazes is Bayesian neural nets that consist of probabilistic data structures, where variances are built into the systems, and the programs must deal with not getting the same answer every time.

Both of these are of course built to better model the inherently messy configuration of biology, where chemical interactions occur in a messy soup of proteins and DNA strands. But the hope is that by supporting probabilistic processing throughout the system, one can build a more robust, self correcting, adaptable and ultimately advanced machine.

All this is context for my thoughts today. First, for the computer scientists out there, you know the typical design stacks out there from hardware, to drivers, to OS, to Apps, to UI's. What if we add in more layers on top for the user? Keep adding layers for human senses to interface with the app, cognition centers for image recognition and sensory processing and aggregation, and then all the way up (Blooms taxonomy included) to metacognition of language comprehension, abstract understanding, and ultimately to synthesis. It's a nice stack - and one that we will need to embrace as we merge computers into our lives, and potentially our bodies.

Now, with that stack in mind, let's bring back the concept of making all layers in that stack be probabilistic. So the EE's and computer scientists are working on the computer side of things as mentioned above; the human body already has it down pat.

That leaves just the human brain with its identity, societal influences, perception of reality, ethics and belief structures. And what's interesting, is just how much the brain thinks digitally despite being built on analog structures. Ethics are treated as black and white, when we all know they are not. Belief is assault for any lack of consistency, yet belief is incredibly probabilistic based on many influences (so many so that it is only a step away from random at times). Even identity is looked at as substance and not action - thus we believe we are built of predictable and stable rock instead of thinking of ourselves as a chaotic flame flickering with action.

This digital absolutism in our minds is there for a good reason. It was crucial to allowing us to step above our animal peers on the objectivity of existence. When building Rome we could agree that a Corinthian column in the architect's mind was the same as that in the sculptors mind. We could have Socratic method to build ethical and political structures, ever vigilant for contradictions in logic.

So, I ask, what would happen if we embrace this idea that not only are our lives action instead of substance (separate post to come), but also that all aspects of our mind's actions are also probabilistic in nature. What if we root out anything in our mind that sounds absolute and replace it with squishy probabilistic thinking? What if we evolve our metacognition to embrace their underlying unpredictability like what we are doing in the lower portions of the stack with computers? Philosophically, what if we take the probabilistic ontology, and apply it to our personal epistemology?

This is more than philosophical relativism, and the deconstruction of absolutism finalized by Descartes' cogito. What am I talking about is embracing the relativism, and changing our concepts of self, society, perception, belief and ethics to all be and act probabilistically.

It's an interesting thought exercise, but yikes - to get there, we have to undue all of the years of training from 10,000 years of civilization building. It would be returning closer to nomadic life, like an earlier post. And it would be a race against the building of those probabilistic structures in AI to the point of super intelligence singularity. But I believe we could be a better race in the long run to embrace probability into our identity.
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Cognitive Dissonance -- My thoughts today are recursively battling themselves, and then stepping back to assess if there is a winner behind the carnage of the mental battlefield. Before getting to the bloodshed, though, let's hit the food part first.

I remember once talking with the chef Pascal Sauton (of Carafe). There he was surrounded by the complexity of his French menu, but he only got really animated when he started to speak of cooking a whole side of lamb with nothing but a wood fire, salt and some pepper - oh, and /maybe/ an herb. This short interaction with him engendered a love for simple good cooking. Thus tonight, it is chicken breasts with lemon wine sauce served with couscous and a big balsamic fig summer salad. Simple in that it went from idea to table in about 20 minutes.

Secret Ingredient: the one thing I forgot to add - the capers!
Music Accompaniment: ah heck, "We are the champions" by Queen - at least while cooking.

So now to the battlefield - I had lunch this past week with a self qualified "ultra liberal" who owned a military contracting company. Not too different from my own situation of doing military reconnaissance work while being such a pacifist that I can't run over the worms on my driveway after a rainfall.

People are filled with cognitive dissonance - from relationships, to careers, to lifestyle choices. No one is immune to compartmentalizations in order to preserve a premise for consistency. Let's be honest here - for all the bluster in ethical and rational purity, it's is a sham. People are inherently chaotic and relativistic, mapping to the needs of a situation or even the chemical balance in the mind at any given moment. Meanwhile, the mind drags along morality behind it, barely dressed and certainly given the hard task of trying to clean up the mess that the rest of the brain has made in actions - like the mess of a kitchen I have from "just" a twenty minute dinner.

For me, I have always embraced Sir Walt Whitman's statement "You say I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large and contain multitudes". Being large, you have the freedom to embrace different perspectives, with the risk of a wavering moral compass, or an inconsistent core identity.

So it is with this context that I've been pondering, why did I not have a stronger internal rebellion over the cognitive dissonance in my career vs personal belief? I am at peace with the dissonance - but how and why, and ultimately is it really a flaw of morality that must be rooted out by having that peace? If I answer yes, then I shut down much of my ambition - if I answer no, then I'm floating in a flat sea of relativistic meaninglessness, with no mountains, paths or tools to guide me.

Since I'm in the witness box with this post, I'll reveal that I'm in the latter boat - no, the contradiction does not need rooting out and is not a sign of ethical, moral or personal decay. But while I am getting at peace with having dissonance, I haven't found peace with the imagery that all things deteriorate into equal nothingness without have some absolutes to build upon. It's like looking around and realizing that everything is made out of protons, electrons and neutrons - and thus everything is ultimately the same everywhere with no differentiation - and suddenly the richness of life went out the window, and anything hinting of vibrancy that is left is merely a sham.

So that's the wasteland of the battlefield to me. I've won the war by establishing peace between the warring sides - and in so doing have exposed my self to a far greater existential danger of cold lifelessness. Winter is coming.

Hmm.. must be +Game of Thrones time.
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Nomadic Life -- One of my dearest of friends is a nomadic world traveler. The world truly is his oyster and home, with no particular place in x,y,z that defines his identity beyond today, and possibly tomorrow. Those of you who know me, know who I am talking about :-)

In thinking about him today, I realize just how much the mind uses location to anchor the identity of a person in the mind's perception and organization of its social or mental network. I think of the well known memorization technique that uses location clues to "hang" concepts onto, like hanging the numbers of Pi onto different bookshelves and countertops in a virtual representation of your house. So too does our minds orient people in a location based mental map in order to organize our network of friends.

So what happens to my dear friend in this scenario? He floats in an empty space lost without an anchor to hold him in my mind. I'm sure he doesn't mind - perhaps even relish in the thought of causing my mind to work a little bit harder to adapt to non traditional lives, justifiably so.

But my pondering today is on the concept of identity in a nomadic life, and the loss of nomadic living in today's society. With the loss of nomadic motion, it is easy to buy into the idea that we gain the ability to advance, as if a solid footing is a requirement to build mental structures, family structures, technological structures. The rejection of nomadic life is cited as the reason why advanced society has flourished.

In this day and age where people are increasingly working from home, and work and social lives increasingly digitize, location demands less of a role in our societal requirements. While this can result in the retreat of one's identity into further smaller shells where people never leave their homes, with groceries delivered, and all other needs fulfilled by the all mighty internet pipe. But it can just as easily be the opposite - we can return to the embracing of life and identity that is independent of location, of a nomadic life where you travel to the place that optimizes your sustainment and not vice versa.

In honor of the nomadic life, get out your spears and enjoy a taste of boar - at least today's mass production version. Herb crusted pork loin - and wow, it was so juicy it didn't need drippings or gravy.

Secret Ingredient: Adding a layer of herb paste under the breadcrumb crust to ensure it adheres.
Music accompaniment: +Bob Dylan's Time out of Mind - manly and honoring the gray clouds of a Pacific Northwest day

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