Saturday, March 26, 2011

CoPurposes--Weaving Relationships with Purposes

Love is not a one size fits all.  Each person needs something different and each person can offer something different.  This blog is me taking an idea I've already expressed one step further into the realm of relationships.

I hope these ideas will be helpful for several reasons.  If you're looking for a relationship ideally it'd be with  someone that shares similar values and goals.  While it's both impossible and unadvisable to look for your clone, common ground can mean common footing during future difficult times.  The second, perhaps more important, reason the below could be valuable is that it can help us love our partners better.  Knowing how/why they think the way they do can mean we can support and serve them with both greater depth and specificity.

O, and once again, life isn't about one thing.  Life is about all of the below.  These are not mutually exclusive categories so much as they are handles to help us understand lofty concepts.  May you take time to consider how you can gain fulfillment from these purposes and consider which one you can grow the most in.

Life is about:
  • Relationships
    • Activities they tend to engage in: imagining the future with others, outings with others, keeping up with old and new friends, etc.
    • Strengths:  values others (either/and a few deep relationships or many social relationships), truly cares, they are the social glue that keeps people together, etc.
    • Pit falls: idolizing love, idolizing others, codependence, being clingy, etc.
    • Needs:  people, time, access to important relationships, to make new connections and to maintain old ones
  • Achievements 
    • Activities they tend to engage in: competition, loves goals to work towards, needs a challenge, goal oriented hobbies, enjoying checking things off to-do list, thriving under deadlines, etc.
    • Strengths: they get things done, dedicated, focused, task oriented, etc.
    • Pit falls: driven, blind to relational damage due to bulldozing, being trapped on the tread mill of achievements and never feeling good enough, etc.
    • Needs:  to be cheered on, set achievable goals, make small steps in the direction of goal, celebrate progress, etc.
  • Experiences
    • Activities they tend to engage in: travel, trying new foods/drinks, sexually experimentation, creative self expression, cognitive stimulation, emotional catharsis, etc.  (Expressed sensually, cognitively and emotionally)
    • Strengths: able to appreciate all that life offers, in the moment, exuberant, passion for life, artistic, creative, genius, etc.
    • Pit falls: selfishness, hedonism, being snobbish about art/intellectualism, constantly needing a 'fix' of an experience, etc.
    • Needs: to go on trips/vacations, to be allowed to budget for trying new things, plan for the future, remember others, appreciate what other people find beautiful, etc.
  • Self-Improvement/Growth
    • Activities they tend to engage in: religion for the sake of personal growth, self-help programs, physical fitness, etc.
    • Strengths:  growing, teachable, wants to improve, etc.
    • Pit falls: self-critical, adhering to program to the detriment of the rest of their life, idolization of process, etc.
    • Needs: honest feedback, to have mentors/heroes/teachers in their life, accountability, a cheerleader, to appreciate improvements, etc.
  • Cause/Mission
    • Activities they tend to engage in: volunteering, charity, utopian idealization, etc.
    • Strengths: they're givers, passionate, resolute, visionary, optimistic, servants, etc.
    • Pit falls: quixotic, unrealistic, jaded, disillusioned, too heavenly minded to be any earthly good, forgets to smell the roses, thinks of people as pawns to be manipulated rather than enjoyed and valued, etc.
    • Needs: reality checks, to be involved in something greater than themselves, grateful receivers, to appreciate progress, be around people that care about the same cause, appreciate the now and not be trapped in the future, etc.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Wonder What It Feels Like to Be an Animal?

I wonder what it feels like to be an animal.
I wonder what it’s like to be a squirrel--to love heights, the view from way up there, to fear the ground.

I wonder what it’s like to be a whale and to want to free yourself from the water for a glorious few seconds to breach.

I wonder what it’s like to be a sea turtle to travel three thousand miles to crawl up on the shore for a few minutes for a reason you don’t understand since you can’t possibly knew that you’re pregnant or even what that concept means. What pull do they feel to the shore? What push do they feel from the water and from their body?

I wonder what it’s like to be a cat and to love the thrill of the hunt.

I wonder what it’s like to be a beaver and to really, really enjoy gnawing, hording, piling, packing, building.

Or a bird building a nest for that matter. What do they feel!? What about sitting on an egg?

What about defending a territory or fighting rival mates?

I wonder what it’s like to be a migratory robin, albatross, tuna, sea turtle, wildebeest, prong horn, caribou or any other migratory animal and really feel a desire to move in a certain direction, toward a certain star formation, a certain azimuth of the sun, toward a certain polarity of the Earth. Is it a sense of hope? Is it a memory? Is it a wanderlust boredom?

Do predators that must have an enormous amount of patience waiting for prey to come close play mental games? Is what they’re looking at seem incredibly interesting? How do they prevent boredom? Are they thinking about nothing or a profusion of thought?

What’s it like to be a bird and really want to preform a mating ritual? Just gotta dance? Performance anxiety? Preoccupation to please? Just gotta sing?

What about a penguin that needs to huddle together to stay warm? Do you just feel so much better together? Is it just about the warmth?

Do meerkats feel a paranoia?

What about a reptile that needs to sun itself? Does the heat feel like a mind blowing ecstasy or a warm peaceful comfort?

Pictures from here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

What is the Meaning of Life?

This blog is not me ascribing so much as it is describing.  I'm looking around me at humanity and saying, "What do people say life is all about?  What meaning do people give their life?  Why do people get out of bed?"

Certainly I don't just write to describe, though.  I want this to be prescriptive, too.  May we be more intentional in our choices, in our actions, with our legacies.  Consider where you fit in and then where you'd like to see yourself.  What changes need to be made?  What are the baby steps to get there?

There are three sources of pleasure.

Only three things that give us joy in life.

I challenge you to add to this list.  And, yes, there is great room for overlap.

Experience--Life is about feeling deeply.  It's about seeing something new, going somewhere fresh, tasting a dish for the first time, feeling the caress of a lover in a new way or with a new lover, feeling an adrenaline rush.  This, to me, can also be about more cognitive things and not just your senses--it can be experiencing the wonder of deep, meaningful thought, creativity, self-expression, painting, singing, music, capturing beauty. There is also a profound emotional side to this source of pleasure.  Is there not a satisfaction is feeling righteous indignation?  Is there not a satisfaction sometimes in a "good cry"?  Absolutely!

What is the opposite of this source?  Pain.  So, part of a person's life who uses this source to find their life's meaning is to avoid pain.

What is the absence of this source like in person's life?  Desensitization.  Being cloyed.  Frigidity.  Anesthetization.

How can we maximize this source of joy and pleasure in our life?  Seek out activities that move us deeply.  Set aside time to experience new and old things.  Be in the moment.  Slow down.  Learn how to deal with distractions.  Just do it.  What's on your bucket list?  Do you even have a bucket list?  Stop what you're doing and make one!

Hope--The night before Christmas. The hour before seeing your love after an extended parting.  Packing for an exciting vacation.

Anticipation wells up into giddy splendor often. That's hope. What gets people through times of war, famine, death, poverty, suicidal thoughts? Hope. Without a future it is impossible to be thankful in any real sense and, therefore, it is impossible to be happy without hope. Hope keeps us alive when everything else is stripped away.

This source gets tied into our life purposes in many ways.  One of the greatest is in goal setting.  Goals are places we can anticipate being someday that fills us with hope.  Hope about becoming a more virtuous person, a more spiritual person, a person with a better lot in life.

Hope and love kiss when we spend our lives trying to promote a cause, a mission.  Saving the world, the whales, people's souls.  Making the world a better, more just, verdant and loving place.

What's the opposite of hope?  Dread. Fear.  Anxiety.  Angst.

What's its absence?  Apathy.  Powerlessness.  Being distracted from the future with past/present.

How can we maximize our pleasure gained from hope?  Setting goals for yourself and what you'd like to accomplish with your life.  What do you want to change about yourself?  Your health?  Your character?  Your occupation?  Your little part of the world that you live in?  The whole world?  How do you want to be remembered?  What are you passionate about?  What gets you angry?  I've heard and thinks its true that what makes you the angriest about the world might be what you're called to help fix. :)

Love--It's all about love.  We're a deeply communal species and because we couldn't survive without each other (evolutionarily) we can't survive without each other (existentially).

People that focus on this for their life's purpose tend to elevate the ideals of true love, soul mates, love at first sight or family, friends, community, affinity groups, church (separate from religion).

What's the opposite of love?  Hate.  What's it's absence?   Coma of the soul.  Anhedonia.  Indifference.  Apathy.  Bleak.  Bland.

How can we foster this purpose for life?  Set aside time.  Make new friends.  Connect with old.  Choose careers, living locations that facilitate spending quantity time with loved ones.  Schedule quality time for events, trips and memories.


  • Experiences
    • Hedonism
    • Neophilia
    • Adrenaline junkies
    • Philomath
    • Artistry
  • Hope
    • Mission/cause
    • Achievements
    • Self-improvement
    • Spiritual growth
  • Love
    • Family
    • Romance
    • Friends
    • Community

Feedback please!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Evolution, Why So Blue?--An Idle Speculation on Coloration

Seed question that propagated this blog:  Why are some skink tails blue?

Then, the questions kept rolling in:
  • Why is blue a relatively rare color in nature?  Is it actually rare?  What percentage of different clades like flowers, reptiles, birds, etc. are blue?
  • Is blue the anti-red/orange?
  • Could it actually be to attract predators to its tail (so as to distract from its body/head) much like false eye spots/false heads?
  • Does it serve a mating purpose?
  • Why do some of the same species of skink have red or pink tails?
  • Does the skink's tail detach?  Would a predator attacking its tail as opposed to its body actually make it more likely to survive?
  • Is sight an important sense for the important predators of the skink?  What are the main predators?  Is there variation in coloration in areas that have more of a certain kind of predator?
  • Are the pigments that create blue difficult to evolve or metabolically costly to make?
Hypothesis Number One: Blue is the anti-red/orange.  Meaning it functions as the opposite of a warning color.

You may be well aware that many species use the bright red/orange coloration to advertise themselves as poisonous, venomous or foully flavored.  It's literally a bold move, but for many, many organisms it's a great way to avoid getting eaten.

So, why on earth would you do the opposite of that warning coloration and essentially advertise that you're edible?  It seems suicidal, but there may be strategy in it yet.  First, consider some other animals that do something sort of similar:

False Eye Spots (so a predator goes toward the end that you're best at getting away from and that is the least vital to survival):

False head Tails:

I've even seen video where this guy (or perhaps a similar species) will move their wings up and down to create a motion with the false antennae that is picture perfect of the real deal. 

How we could test to see what the purpose of the tail really is:
  • Paint the tails other colors such as red or the normal color of the skinks body and observe
    • Differentiation of mating success
    • Differentiation of death by predation
  • Find out predator distribution and abundance in areas that have color variations such as red or pink.
  • Test the break-ability of the tail during predator attacks to see if attracting predators toward tail and away from body/head is actually effective or not.
  • Count the number of broken/attacked tails in a normal population in comparison to comparable lizard species to in comparison to skinks with variant tail colorations to determine if the tails does in fact serve as a escape mechanism.

Second hypothesis: Blue is the anti-red/orange for mating displays.  Blue is dangerous since it is the opposite of a warning coloration and therefore red would more likely be used first, but once red/orange is taken subsequent species will want to contrast themselves to avoid inbreeding and watering down their evolved adaptations.

Is it just coincidence that blue footed boobies and the red decorated frigate bird nest on the same islands?

How we could test it:
  • See if there areas that have blue species but no red species
  • Count and establish the coloration break down as percentages
  • In areas that there is variation or even reversal of coloration establish population sizes of both contrast species as well as the significance of predation.
  • Genetically trace the age of species and see if blue species or red species split first from a common ancestor.

Their hypothesis:  Blue is the anti-red/orange for displays in flowers.
  • Same as above.
Hypothesis Meltdowns?

Images are from here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehere, here and here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Irrational Things Atheists Believe

We all believe irrational things--things that are subjective and not empirically testable.  

Is this such a bad thing? Is it even possible to live without the scaffolding of these ideas and many, many others? What would life be like without these kind of ideas? Can noticing these ideas give us humility and more level playing field when dealing with/thinking about/talking to people that believe things that seem utterly foreign and ridiculous to us?

  • Epistemological Beliefs
    • Reality is Coherent--As Einstein famously put it, "God does not play dice."
      • How we live like reality is coherent: 
        • Science invests billions of dollars into research.  Many of our expectations about what life will be like on a given day are met.
    • Reality Is Not an Illusion--Is what you see what you get?
      • How we live like reality is not an illusion: 
        • We find love and life meaningful.  
    • Continuity of Reality-- "We have no logical reason to assume that anything we've learned from science will be true tomorrow." --Cameron Green
      • How we live like reality has continuity: 
        • We act according to our experience.
    • Causal Relationships--One thing leads to another--cause and effect. How do we know that when one cue ball hits another that the two events are actually connected? The philosopher David Hume wrote much on this conundrum.  
      • How we live like causal relationships are determinable:
        • We administer medical treatments.  We write and read history books.
    • Memory Is Accurate--How do we know our most trust and dearly held memories are accurate?  How do we know our brain didn't just make them up and they seem real?
      • How we live like memory is accurate:
        • We go up to and kiss our loved ones when we see them again.  We cherish fond childhood memories.  We recall and use information like directions to get to work.
    • Senses Are Reasonable Facsimiles of Reality--How do we know that we can trust our senses?  How do we know they correspond to reality at all?
      • How we live like our senses are accurate:
        • We follow traffic signs and lights.
    • You’re Not Completely Crazy--Is it so crazy to think we're not crazy?
      • How we live like we aren't completely crazy:
        • We make decisions and live by them.
    • Solipsism Is False--How do we know others are thinking, feeling, volitional beings?
      • How we live like solipsism is false:
        • We care for the needs of others.

  • Existential Beliefs 
    • Life Has Value--Funerals suck.  War sucks.  Abuse sucks.  Why?  Because life is precious.
    • Life Has Meaning--What we do with our lives has some value otherwise we wouldn't keep doing it.
    • Identity/Consciousness/Mind--We believe in ourselves and others as a whole, independent being rather than a talking set of individual neurons and atoms.  Attributing a volitional personality to a human is the same thing on a different scale to giving the random occurrences of 'life' and 'the universe' to 'God'.  
    • Contiguity--Many have said (controversially) that every atom in your body is replaced every ten (or seven) years. Assuming something close to that is true, how can it be said that we're the same person? Yet we still believe it every time we see an old friend! 
    • Free Will--Our choices are our own and not a mechanistic predetermined byproduct of things outside of our control. 
    • Love--It's more than a hormone. It's more than a pre-programmed mechanism to create and rear young. We believe and behave like love is real.
    • Justice Beliefs
      • Virtue/Vice and Good/Evil--Every time we resist evil and do good we show that we believe in moral obligation/virtue/vice/good/evil.
    Brenner Emmanuel Michel's "Hercules Between Virtue and Vice"
    My point:

    Of course all of the above has rightly been questioned and doubted by philosophical luminaries, but I bring it up to point out that both you and I have sacred ideas and that we all hold things true without proof everyday. That, by in large, is a very, very good thing. You may well cognitively doubt every idea above, but you still believe them functionally if you use them. Just as many believers deal with doubts about their religion's teachings so can an atheist doubt the list above, but still be counted as a believer on the basis of how they live--actions speak louder than words.

    What is religion at its most very basic? Ideas. Ideas about life, morality, metaphysics, origins...etc. Just in the same way that believing life has value has existential and social utility so can other religious ideas--even if we deeply doubt their veracity. Ideas are tools--tools that can help improve our lives by being the scaffolding on which to build a life. What I'd like to show with the above list of things is that there is common ground between atheists and theists to discuss ideas, values and meanings. We all are subjective. We all are biased. We all operate with ideas that are unfounded. We all have memes.  It's a level playing field between atheists and theists in this regard. We all make assumption leaps and some of these ideas are vital to living a fulfilling life.

    Pictures from here, here and here.