Archives for category: alternative ways of acquring knowledge

For Mark Twain, things which didn’t make sense were ‘strange’.

For Tom Clancy, a mere hundred years later, they were only ‘different’.

Wanna make some sense out of this?

Do you believe that truth is stranger than fiction?
“Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction,” said Basil, placidly.
“For fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it.”

G.K. Chesterton, 1905

The difference between ‘strange’ and ‘different’ isn’t ‘menial’. Nor harmless.

Currently, we’re still allowed to frown upon things which are ‘strange’ but are insistently taught that ‘different’ is good.

Beyond ‘acceptable’. Actually good!

I’m different.
Noticeably different.
Different enough to know, first hand, how it feels to be frowned upon.
Also, different enough to figure out the difference between ‘acceptable’ and ‘good’.

More than two millennia ago, Protagoras opened up our eyes. Told us it was our job, and responsibility, to ‘measure accurately’.
More than a hundred years ago, Twain warned us. Told us to be careful of ‘well spun fictions’. Of stories too good to be true. Of the fact that in our quest for consistency we are prone to actually discard the uncomfortable truth.

Are we going in the right direction?

In a sense, there isn’t much difference between Mark Twain’s and Tom Clancy’s words.
On the other hand, there is a huge difference between ‘strange’ and ‘different’.

Exactly the same difference which can be found between actual facts and alternative facts.
Exactly the same difference we pretend to not notice when we accept alternative facts as being true.
Well… not necessarily true… only comfortable enough to become acceptable…

Way more comfortable, a.k.a. ‘sensible’ – for us, than the naked truth.
Even if only for the shorter and shorter time frames…

“Dead-zone killer”

Dead-zone killer?!?

How many times can be killed an already dead zone?

Why would anyone want to over-kill sections of their own homes?

NB, the range extender works fine.
Those trying to market the product (to over-market?!?) jumped the shark… but isn’t this what we’ve unconsciously come to expect from the marketeers?

You’re God.
The real McCoy, not the one concocted by us, humans.

Your ‘most cherished’ tool for bringing people back into submission being the all mighty thunder.
Jupiter Tonans. The Thundering God. Thor yielding his Mjoelnir…

And now what?!?
Every worshiping place has a lighting rod installed…

What do you feel?
Have all those people lost their faith in you? In you behaving as a rational being? In your ability to treat them right?
Are they convinced they are now insulated against your wrath?

We learn about what we call reality by
analyzing the information we acquire through our senses.

We.
We, the human people.
We, the conscious human people.
We, because nobody has ever been able to become conscious – as in aware of their own self, by their own. Alone…

Learn.
We are not the only ones who are able to learn.
Our dogs learn our ways. And we continuously learn about more and more living organisms being able to learn. And to remember what they have learned. To fine tune their behavior according to the circumstances into which they happen to live.

What we call reality.
First and fore-most, reality is a concept. We call it ‘reality’. And many other names…
Believers call it ‘god’, scientists call it ‘physical world’ and the scientists who happen to believe are convinced that by studying the reality they will eventually divine the will of the Lord.
The believers being convinced that whatever exists, is here because the Lord wished it into existence.
So, basically, the main difference between the believers and the nonbelievers is the fact that the believers are convinced that the ‘out-there’, the ‘source of it all’, has a conscience of it’s own. A will of it’s own…

By analyzing.
We have been able to build our conscience – our ability to ‘observe ourselves while observing other phenomena’ (Maturana, 2005), because we have a big enough brain, the ability to share complex and meaningful information using language and the ability to put in practice some of our wishes/thoughts through the use of our hands.
At a certain point in its evolution, human conscience has become sophisticated enough to need explanations. It was no longer satisfied with mere ‘connections’ – If… then…, it had started to wonder about why-s. ‘Why does this happen as it does?’ ‘Will it happen again tomorrow?’
Using our by then already established ability to speak up their minds, our ancestors shared among themselves these ‘anxieties’. Discussed them around the fire-place. Started to analyze. The reality. What they perceived to be real. The ‘thing’ which continuously generates the circumstances in which we – all of us, have to make do.

Information.
In order to analyze, the analyst – each and everyone of us, has to separate the meaningful information from the surrounding noise. In order to do that, we have started by coining the very concept of (useful/meaningful) information. As being different from ‘noise’. The difference consisting, obviously, in us being able to find its use and/or pinpoint its meaning.

We acquire.
Information is acquired on an individual basis. For an ‘event’ to become information, it has to be ‘noticed’ by an individual. It has not only to be sensed but also identified as useful/meaningful. Different from ‘noise’.
Which process of identification implying methods which had been agreed upon by the members of the community. Music would be a good example of how various groups of people make the difference between sublime/abhorrent and white-noise. While ‘use of language’ is a very poignant example of how people can both share information and mislead one-another.

Senses.
Everything that we know, had entered our mind through our senses.
Before setting it aside as information or discard it as noise, we have to get in contact with it as a sensation.
Or as a thought. A conjecture. A few pieces of information which put together have given birth, inside our individual mind, to new information. To ‘something else’ which passes the threshold into being information. At least according to our own mind…

Which transforms our minds into our famous sixth sense.
In the sense that our individual minds are capable of building ‘sensations’ on their own. Starting from information that has already been stashed in our memory.
Which brings us to the third reality.

We have – in the sense that we have agreed upon its existence, the surrounding reality. The things we – as in most of us, consider to be real. The mountains we climb, the air we breathe, the pebbles which happen to sneak into our shoes. The reality which is being studied by science. The reality to which we have access through our senses. Our minds and our sense enhancers – scientific instruments, included.

We also have the ‘out-there’. The things we know we’ll never be able to grasp. During our lives! The things our followers might be able to figure out…

And each of us has their own reality.
Individually built even if ‘carved’ from the same (type of) material as the reality shared by the rest of us.
Individually built even if using more or less the same (culturally accrued) methods.
Individually built even if neither of us is alone.

H.M. Romesin, 2005, The origin and conservation of self‐consciousness: Reflections on four questions by Heinz von Foerster

A planned after-thought.
Rumsfeld is both wrong and right. There are unknown unknowns but they are no longer unknown since we speak about them…
Which actually proofs the limits of our languaging.
The imprecision of the manner in which we gather, share and analyze information.

We need to go forward.

Going back is not an option. If back were good enough, we wouldn’t have left it in the first place.

Many people believe we’re reliving the fall of Rome.
Contemporary with that fall was the advent of Christ’s teachings. The fact that, eventually, Christianity has altered his teachings to fit the needs of the christian hierarchy doesn’t demean any of what he taught us.

That people who treat each-other respectfully fare a lot better than those who allow the exploitation of the weak.

That people who live ‘together’ fare a lot better than those who keep forgetting that ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ are both relative and temporary.

That people who are convinced that ‘survival belongs to the fittest’ will eventually make place for those who understand that evolution is solely about the demise of the unfit.

“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”

How many times have these words been invoked? By people who use them to divide? To carve a follow-ship? A follow-ship for them to lead…

How many times have these words been invoked? By individuals cocky enough to pretend they are speaking for Christ? Cocky enough to pretend they are able to fill Christ’s shoes…

Many people consider man – as in ‘human people’, is a fallen creature.

For the simple reason that we had failed to obey our father.

Failing to obey your father may be considered a bad thing. The particulars of the incident should also be taken into account but, generally speaking, we should indeed obey our fathers. At the bare minimum, we should pay attention to what they have to say about things.

Coming back to us, humans, being fallen creatures, let’s examine what we’ve done to deserve this label.
According to the ‘many people’ I’ve already mentioned, we are fallen creatures because we have eaten – against our father’s specific interdiction, “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil“.

Further more, the guilt for our transgression is unequally shouldered between men and women. Since it had been Eve who had talked Adam into eating that fruit, women are considered to be the ‘weaker’ amongst us, humans.

Now it’s the moment for me to remind you about Cain.
Abel and Cain had been the two children brought to life by Eve.
For whatever reason – and, again, against God’s advice, Cain had slain his brother Abel.

We – according to what the ‘many people’ continue to believe, in a literal manner – are the direct descendants of Cain. And of Eve, of course.

Yet we are ‘fallen’ because Eve had helped her husband, Adam, to develop a conscience. To learn the difference between good and evil.
Cain killing his brother has nothing to do with our promiscuous nature …

To me, it’s more than obvious that our fallible – not fallen – nature consists in the fact that we are prone to ‘misunderstandings’. We tend to see things in the most favorable manner.
Favorable for us, those who get to call things as being good or evil.

Whenever we are able to do it, we distribute ‘guilt’ and appropriate success.

Eve had offered us the ‘apple’. The opportunity to see ‘the’ difference.
From now on, it’s up to us to consider the facts.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.””

Does it really matter?

Both fascism and communism appear when enough people are fed up. Really fed up.
So fed up that they have become gullible enough to accept the lies promised by those who want to get ‘at the top’, in the given circumstances.
The difference between fascism and communism, the only one, being the exact conditions which had caused the ire of the people.
Communism can, and will presently be, presented as the only possible alternative to those confronted by a ‘black ceiling’.
Fascism, on the other hand, can, and will presently be, presented as the only possible alternative to those confronted by a ‘glass ceiling’.
The always poor who have no chance of improving their lot will accept the lies promised by the communists. They don’t know any better so they believe those lies are possible.
The impoverished who have no chance of returning to their former situation will accept the lies professed by the fascists. They know what they have lost and need to find a culprit to blame for what had happened.

In a sense you can identify fascism with the right and communism with the left.
In reality, fascism and communism are the two ugly faces of the same fake coin.

An embassy is a conduit.
It brings information back and forth between the ‘host’ and the ‘sender’.

A spy ring is (intended to be) a ‘one way pipe’. It gathers information about the ‘host’ and transports it to the sender.

They have in common the fact that the bulk of the information is gathered from ‘open’ sources. From the media, that is. Newspapers, TV, radio, internet…

Imagine now the following situation.
There is this planet. Let’s say ours. Inhabited by us, the human people.
And you have some other people. One or more species capable of interplanetary travel. Who have found out about this planet and want to learn more about us before making contact.
Since they haven’t yet conquered us – as per our knowledge, and since there’s no evidence of any galaxy wide conflict raging on we may presume the aliens are fundamentally peaceful. Either naturally ’empathic’ – hence in no need whatsoever of being governed, or having such a ‘natural’ form of government that they’re very happy with it.
In their attempt to learn about us and to understand our situation before engaging in any way with us, the aliens have sent an ‘undercover’ fact-finding mission on Earth.

Right now!
When a country capable of yielding almost half the (self) destructing power available on Earth ‘happens to be’ at loggerheads with a coalition of countries which controls most of the other half of the destruction power already mentioned above.

The local agent employed by the fact-finding mission compiles two news articles which, in his opinion, summarize perfectly what’s going on on the planet.

“Medvedev alleged that some in the West would like to “take advantage of the military conflict in Ukraine to push our country to a new twist of disintegration, do everything to paralyze Russia’s state institutions and deprive the country of efficient controls, as happened in 1991.” “

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ‘planetary divide’,

Among those in the audience was Melissa Sauder, who drove nearly 350 miles from the small western Nebraska town of Grant with her 13-year-old daughter. After years of combing internet sites, listening to podcasts and reading conservative media reports, Sauder wanted to learn more about what she believes are serious problems with the integrity of U.S. elections.
She can’t shake the belief that voting machines are being manipulated even in her home county, where then-President Donald Trump won 85% of the vote in 2020.
“I just don’t know the truth because it’s not open and apparent, and it’s not transparent to us,” said Sauder, 38. “We are trusting people who are trusting the wrong people.”
It’s a sentiment now shared by millions of people in the United States after relentless attacks on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by Trump and his allies. Nearly two years after that election, no evidence has emerged to suggest widespread fraud or manipulation while reviews in state after state have upheld the results showing President Joe Biden won.
Even so, the attacks and falsehoods have made an impact: An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from 2021 found that about two-thirds of Republicans say they do not think Biden was legitimately elected.

So.
Forget, if you can, about the war in Ukraine and about the US mid-term elections.
Let’s pretend you’re the head of the alien fact-finding mission.
What recommendation would you send back to those calling the shots in your organization after reading the two articles I mentioned above?

For the outsiders, it seems like Gorbachev ‘made’ Putin.
Gorbachev had destroyed the Soviet Union and, thus, had set the scene for Putin to take over.

I’m afraid things are a little more complicated than that.

Gorbachev – at that time, the best informed decision maker in the whole USSR – had been smart enough to understand that no matter what he might had tried to do, the corpse was already rotten.
That everything but a major ‘upheaval’ could not accomplish anything more than prolong the agony. What he had done was nothing more than allowed the things to happen according to their nature.

I’ll make a short break here and remind you that all ‘imperium’ had eventually ended in failure. The tighter the control exercised by the ruler, the more abject the eventual failure. Check your history book.

So. Gorbachev had taken the appropriate steps. What he had done was in step with the natural flow of history.

Eltsin and Putin, on the other hand, had done the exact opposite.
Eltsin had tried and Putin had succeeded in regaining the ‘reins’ of the government. The reins, the whip, ever stronger control over the barn where the whole stash of hay is deposited…

Why things had unfolded like this?
Because they – Eltsin and Putin, had chosen this venue and because nobody else had been able to do anything about it.

OK, Gorbachev, Eltsin and Putin had made their respective calls in basically the same social and political environments. The economic situations were ‘somewhat’ different but this doesn’t change what I want to stress out. Each of them had done what had crossed each of their individual minds.
Each had been able to do whatever each of them had wanted because…
Because that particular ‘social arrangement’ allows the ruler to make whatever decisions they may see fit.
Because that particular ‘social arrangement’ – dictatorship, no matter how much window-dressing had been slapped on it, allows the person who happens to clamber ‘on top’ to keep making mistakes until the whole ‘carriage’ disintegrates.

Until we learn this lesson…

There is an old Romanian saying which goes like this:

A bat is all you need to break a wagon-full of pottery.

When it comes to splitting fire-wood, things are no longer that simple.
Using the same blunt force approach, even if theoretically possible, would yield disappointing results.
‘Destroying’ has nothing to do with ‘re-shaping’.

Hence ‘wedge’.

On the other hand, a wedge can accomplish the same results as a bat by using a lot less brute force.
Simply because the wedge concentrates more effectively, and in a more precise manner, the available energy in a very small area.

But the more important difference is the fact that using a wedge demands a way more skilled operator than a ‘mere’ bat.

‘Why don’t you cut the crap and just spill out what you have brewed in that twisted mind of yours?’

Darius, Alexander, Genghis, Napoleon, Hitler.
All of them had started their campaigns in a very successful manner. Two of them had even ended their careers that way. Undefeated.
The fact that all of them, including the successful ones, had been nothing but tyrants is irrelevant here.

And where is the difference?

Darius, Napoleon and Hitler had been, eventually, defeated. Each of them by a coalition.

Alexander had basically vanquished one enemy. Which was already past its prime.
And Genghis had successively conquered a long list of ‘unrelated’ targets.
In both cases it was more about blunt force being applied in a more or less skillful manner and nothing about splitting anything. Except for some skulls…

Each of Darius, Napoleon and Hitler had been successful at first. They had started as skillful splitters of coalitions. But each of them had been eventually bogged down. In their own respective successes…

You see, a bat remains a bat. You have to shatter a huge amount of pottery before the bat wears down.
In fact, most of the times the batter goes out before the bat…

When it comes to wedging…
While pottery is ‘consistent’ – equally fragile, ceteris paribus, no two logs had ever been created equal. Furthermore, even when dealing with a single log, some sections may be easily split apart while others may so ‘tough’ that it’s easier to ‘destroy’ them than to use a wedge on them.
In these situations, being a skillful splitter means being able to recognize which sections should be left alone….
But which would-be emperor has ever been able to let somebody else be? Live in peace…

If they live long enough, all emperors will eventually ‘attempt’ an impossible-to-split coalition!

But when has a would-be emperor been born wise enough to recognize such a situation?!?
Or every one of them, to date, have seen each coalition they happened to encounter as an opportunity?
As a log waiting to be split?

Which makes me wonder…
Why are would-be emperors so blind when it comes to reading history?
And how about their courtiers? Also ‘blind’?

Bonus reading. An excellent piece by Cynthia Calhoun.

How to split logs for firewood by hand.

“When you can’t split a log, do one of two things: give up and throw it in the pile or use a chainsaw.”

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