What did Aristotle do in his spare time?

20160913_162225I don’t know the answer, but the question came to me as I was looking through Imotions’ “Top 50 Human Behavior Experts to Follow in 2017”. Judging only from their online profiles, they seem like interesting and very bright people and I definitely want to learn more about their observations of human behaviour. But what I found equally interesting is what each of them chose to list as “Interesting Facts” about themselves – and it wasn’t so much that the facts were interesting; it was what each person thought would be interesting to someone reading their profile. I’m not a human behaviour expert, but I think I could tell who was being cheeky, who was being serious, and who felt completely awkward filling out that section.

I’ve often thought about what makes a person interesting. Who are they when they’re at home? What do they think about when they’re vacuuming or in line for groceries? Do they ever just sit around being boring? (This is how I got to the Aristotle question; under “Interesting Facts” on his profile, I imagined him submitting something like: Constructs landscapes out of seashell fragments in his spare time; also, asks a lot of questions.)

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All in this together

Signing up for an online newsletter last week, I got this message:

confirm-humanity

I know what it meant – it was someone’s way of putting a new twist on “let us know you’re not a robot”. But I couldn’t help taking it further. Was I really just confirming my own humanity, or confirming that humanity is a real, valid and meaningful experiment? It sounded more like an invitation than a command to me, and it repeated itself in my mind, mantra-like, for days. Confirm humanity. Until Kurzweil’s prediction about the singularity comes to pass, humanity is really our only choice in terms of a form of existence. Why not verify, validate, substantiate, endorse and generally reinforce it?

Humanity has a better chance of thriving if we do it collectively rather than individually. Somehow, though, we seem determined to use up most of our energy on reaching our individual goals rather than collective survival. John Stewart says in Evolution’s Arrow: “We have been designed for evolutionary success, but poorly.” We can’t quite seem to put the common good ahead of our own self-gratification; to make the best use of our temporary individual existences to better our collective existence.

Stewart thinks we can overcome, and that we can intentionally impact our own evolution (see evolutionarymanifesto.com) although he states pretty clearly that it won’t be easy.

Maybe he’s right. It seems to me easier to find meaning in the day-to-day struggle of existence if I look at it from the context of humanity pushing and dragging itself along some kind of path to improvement. We may not each appear to move very far along the path, at least, not according to what we consider to be progress, but what’s important is that we contribute something to humanity in the meantime. I’m reminded of a radio interview Stephen Lewis did with CBC during which he asserted that it is not hard to make the changes that improve the human condition – you just have to overcome passivity and indifference. I find it hard to listen to Stephen Lewis without being inspired, but I know that impacting humanity is more tangled and confusing and frustrating than it sounds. Lewis himself admits “I ricochet from rage to rage.” But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Don’t give up on humanity. Confirm it.

 

Random thoughts of home

10_OctoberLately my thoughts have been focused more on where we exist in physical space than on how we exist as random bundles of energy. Mostly because my move across the country is getting closer – just over six weeks, for anyone who’s counting – and almost everything is starting to get framed in the context of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing then. Continue reading Random thoughts of home

A change for the better

There’s always one day near the end of winter when it feels like we’ve turned the corner into spring. Even though I know we’re not done with the snow and cold, there’s one day when the sun actually feels warm, the air smells fresh, not frigid, and the shadows somehow don’t seem so long. Yesterday was definitely that day.

Oddly, though, as I stood soaking in the last few rays of the sun, I could feel a tiny part of myself resisting. It was like I wasn’t quite ready to give up the shelter of the dark and cold; not quite ready to expose myself to all that light and warmth, much as I’ve been craving it all winter. How weird is that?

It reminded me a bit of Dr. Doolittle’s Pushme-Pullyou. As a species, we survived by adapting to change. We developed the human brain’s capacity to solve problems, learn from mistakes, build pyramids, put two and two together to get four, create language and express ourselves through art. At the same time, as we evolved, we seem to have developed a resistance to change; a comfort level with keeping things the way they are, even if we suspect that change will bring something better than what we have. I’ll call it the laziness gene.

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What’s love got to do (got to do) with it?

Edmonton-20120702-00299

If you’re looking at the pieces that make up the experience of being human, love’s got everything to do with it, is my answer. (I’ll get to the cats later.)

Love forms how we see ourselves and how we see others. It impacts every interaction we have, with strangers and with family; face to face, on a screen or in a book; whether we’re thousands of miles apart or in the same room. Love can alter our memories and it shapes how we face the future.

Continue reading What’s love got to do (got to do) with it?

Dancing and quantum physics, part I

quantum 2There are billions and billions of tiny dancers whirling and twirling inside each of us at any given moment. Those sub-atomic particles that quantum physicists are so fascinated by are constantly in motion – leaping, darting, spinning (Richard Feynman called it jiggling) – in what’s been referred to more than once as a dance.

So if those same particles – the ones that make us up, along with everything else in the universe – originated from the creation of the universe, then dancing is literally part of what we are. It’s a fundamental element of life. A lot of it seems spontaneous, but parts of it might be choreographed, although how and by what isn’t completely understood.

Continue reading Dancing and quantum physics, part I

Tiny pieces of possibility

Atoms in motionSometimes understanding the world and its human life forms is hard, even when you take it in little pieces. That’s nothing new, but it has hit home for me over the past few weeks and left me wondering what it is that motivates humans to act the way they do.

I’ve been studying physics as taught by the late Richard Feynman, former professor at Caltech and Nobel Prize winner, who is famous for a series of lectures he gave in the early 1960s to first year students. Not sure I’d ever be able to take on the whole Feynman Lectures on Physics, but someone thoughtfully pulled the basics together in a book called Six Easy Pieces, which, from its name alone, sounds ideal for this search I’m on.

Continue reading Tiny pieces of possibility