The Necessary Delusion

a bird may soar
to 30,000 feet
but eventually
must stop to eat

this freedom we chase
is only found in delusion
imagine until you sleep
there is no other conclusion

free is a bungee jump
fleeting as you fall
until the cord reminds
you’re tethered to the wall

we are all bound
equally by physical laws
and time has no mercy
on our physical flaws

we are all bound
to consider adjacent souls
each swish of our tail
affects the shoal

maybe being free
is a life without selfishness
growing your compassion
alleviating helplessness

is it possible to find freedom
living within boundaries?
can life break the moulds
forged in nature’s foundries?

maybe we can
for a time
and find
a new kind of rhyme

the burdens
we face
so real
we scrape for escape
from this oppression we feel
and so maybe freedom
is just striking a deal

because surely if we
don’t feel free
for a few moments
and lave in the stream
of a dream
while our spirit foments
life will be drudgery
with nothing but suffering
freedom is our interface
from a reality we’re buffering

and maybe without
this ability
to self-deceive
we would never know
what we could ever achieve

Skills and Value

Topics are building up in my head faster than I have time to write them, and so despite the fact that I swore I was going to write about numerous other topics, particularly in the area of psychology a Facebook conversation has led me down a different path.

The conversation was about a McDonalds worker who wanted her $8/hr salary to go up to

From money.cnn.com

the living wage of $15/hr.  Which is still not a terribly high wage.  The conversation that ensued went as you’d expect.  Most people (who are in good jobs and living comfortably) saying that working at McDonalds requires no skill and thus should be paid accordingly.  Or criticizing the person for not doing more with their life and thus have no one but themselves to blame.  One person did make the argument that no wage has kept pace with inflation, which is true, but minimum wage has gone up at an even slower rate.

I made numerous arguments in response, most importantly challenging the assumption that the person had all these choices in their life.   Most of the people reading this blog live in a position of privilege.   And it’s not your fault.  Your parents probably pushed you, help educate you, made you aware of different options for your life, encouraged you to do well in school.  You probably grew up in relatively safe neighborhoods.  You had friends that were similar to you.  You had good schools to go to, with a lot of skilled teachers.  But not all neighborhoods are safe.  Not all parents care enough to encourage your education.

From blog.volunteerspot.com

Not all schools are equal in the quality of education they provide.  Some environments make it easier to fall into a bad crowd.  Not everyone has the freedom to go for further training after they get out of high school.  Maybe they have to work to take care of a sick parent who has massive bills because they couldn’t afford health insurance.  There are a million scenarios that could limit the opportunities one has.

I also made the argument that I did not choose my career path as a meteorology professor because of the money.  It is because I loved it.  I am glad it pays well enough for me to live comfortably.  But should all of a sudden a McDonalds job become available that pays more.  I am not going to jump ship and say, “Yay more money, flipping burgers all day is going to be awesome!”.

An argument was made by someone that garbage men get paid a good wage so they

From nypost.com

could do that instead of working at McDonalds.  Okay true.  But we can’t all be sanitation workers let alone teachers, lawyers and doctors.  It’s also important to remember that at one time sanitation workers didn’t get paid very much.  Thanks to unions though they could organize, strike, and refuse to pick up garbage until they made a decent wage to live by.  Because picking up the trash and removing waste from our streets is actually an important and necessary part of our society.

I think education and teachers are extremely important.  But do I think that makes a job that doesn’t require as much knowledge and skill less important?  Of course not.  There is nothing inherently more valuable about my role in society than someone who picks up the garbage.  In fact someone could argue that picking up the trash is perhaps more important.  When trash was in the streets, things like the bubonic plague happened.  Hygiene and sanitation are extremely important.  So let’s go a step further.  Is there anything more inherently valuable about my job than a restaurant worker?  Arguably we can have a world without restaurants and everybody cooks their own food.  Might  not be a bad world, but that’s not ultimately our world.  People like to go out to eat.  There will always be restaurants.  So restaurants are just as much part of the fabric of society as anything else.  So should the required skill level in any job be what determines the wage.  The sanitation worker, from a skill level is just as demanding as a burger flipper and yet makes more.   Is that right?  I would further argue that an employee earning a living wage at any job has more loyalty to the company and stays longer thus becoming better at their job.  If you’ve had bad service at a McDonalds, maybe it’s because they are constantly having to train new people since the pay is so bad that people leave after a short time.  The money isn’t probably worth the level of abuse they get from customers.

Now there are even more good arguments to be made about a McDonalds worker making a living wage.  They would need less social programs saving the taxpayer money, they can perhaps afford to move to send their kids to a better school to break the cycle of poverty, not to mention they may now have more free time to better themselves or spend with their kids, which also helps break the cycle.  However what concerns me the most is the attitude towards the poor.  One commenter on this thread said that “it serves them right making a low wage for their self-inflicted wounds”.  I was like wow.  As I’ve just argued it is extremely judgmental to assume the wounds are self-inflicted, but basically this person is saying:

“Hey poor person, sucks about the mistakes you made in the past.  You deserve now to suffer the rest of your life because of that”.

How callous is that? I wonder if that person has ever had somebody so unforgiving to their mistakes. And how should the poor person respond?

” Thank a lot Captain Hindsight.  Now that I realize my mistakes I’ll go back in time and fix it.”

Furthermore we can see how materialistic our society is by people who would look down on poor people in such a way.  Because where is the condemnation to the rich owner of

From socialmarketbuzz.com

McDonalds or any corporation?  Why don’t we judge him just as harshly?  Because he has money of course.  And obviously he must be working really really hard in order to make all that money.  This is of course nonsense.  A single mother working two jobs to support her family is most definitely working harder than the CEO of McDonalds. And I doubt that mother is having fancy lunches on an expensive account and playing a round of golf out in the sun with business associates.  But even if they were equal, why is that CEO more valuable than the person working at minimum wage jobs?  The corporation itself made almost $30 billion last year in revenues.  And the CEO’s take home pay is $9 million a year.  Is that CEO that much more valuable than one of his employees?  Is he/she that much more skilled?

And if workers should get a living wage, many argue about how much everything will cost.  But there is a second option.  The company could make less money.  The CEO could make less money.  Is that likely?  Perhaps not, but in the free market there is always somebody who is going to take an advantage of an opportunity and will undercut the competition and take home only 2 million a year instead.  That CEO is still living a better life than 99.99% of the people in this world.  If we want to equate a monetary value to skill, a CEO still makes far beyond what his or her skill warrants.

The Great Pyramids, one of the 7 wonders of the world, was built on the backs of slave labor to entomb the rich and powerful.  When I look at the vast wealth of a few, at the expense of countless millions who can barely meet their daily nutritional needs for themselves and their families, I wonder how much things have really changed.  What’s clear is that by dehumanizing the poor as many do in this country it allows a system to continue that allows the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.  So it saddens and sickens me when I hear people idolize wealth and abhor the poor.  If the income gap continues to widen in this country I can tell you that statistically speaking one is more likely to find themselves in a poor man’s shoes.  Perhaps only then will people learn.

What is Love? (written Nov. 12th, 2012)

Humanity has been trying to define this since the first musicians and poets, perhaps even earlier.  So I figured I might as well take my shot at it.

My central thesis is that love is too narrowly defined by society and as a result we don’t experience as much love as we are capable.  I am of the opinion that no feeling of love should be discounted and that love when it happens is always a good thing.  I am normally one that approaches everything from academic standpoint, but I am going to try and keep most that out here, because my opinions are a product of both what I have read, but also from experience.  And ultimately, regardless of what we might learn academically about love, much of the views we form about love does seem to be experiential.

So perhaps to start, we should look at what we love.  I feel that love deepens in accordance with the complexity and changeability of what we love.  Which is why loving another human being is the most satisfying, but also the most difficult and sometimes rather perilous.    I feel that this is one of the reasons why people find it easier to show love towards pets, because they are relatively simplistic in comparison to humans, and are less likely to change in personality.  Provided you show love and care they will give back that love in care.  In many ways I feel this is the attraction of God as well.  However a religion defines God, God while perhaps quite complex is also unchanging and I think many people find this appealing.

In the realm of other humans, we feel love towards family, we feel love towards friends and lovers.  As a quick academic aside there is an evolutionary reason for feeling love towards family (genetic interest), love towards friends (reciprocal  altruism) and love towards those we have sexual relationships with (both genetic interest combined with reciprocal altruism for the purposes of helping offspring survive).    But putting this aside, I believe that we categorize love we feel towards different people, but I would see the feeling of love is often indistinguishable only the way that express that love is different.  This is for obvious reasons and that is important, but in general I feel that when we over categorize love and in essence try to define it under narrow criteria we lose some of its value and joy.  For instance we accept the fact that if we have a second child that we can love that new child as much as the first.  You can love your mother just as much as your father or one cousin just as much as another.  And this would be true for friends also.  Now obviously all these people are slightly different and so how you express and show that love towards them or the reasons why you love them will be different.

What we don’t accept is that when you fall in love with someone, that you can’t fall in love with someone else and still feel the same love you felt for another person.  There is some logic to this of course.  Part of this has to do with the act of “falling in love”.  Falling in love is quite the emotional roller coaster.  The physiological changes are immense, and anybody who has had that to happen will know that they are literally not in their right mind for a good period of time. There is a reason for the expression “love is blind”.  The act of falling in love often defies reason, which makes it more wonderful because that sort of loss of control is so intense and so unique that it makes the experience very spiritual.  This is probably a good thing again from an academic standpoint because you want the experience to feel very significant since the care of offspring is a long term commitment. (And yes I know that we don’t have to create offspring, but that is the evolutionary goal of all life of which we are included).   The key is that intense feeling of being “in love” fades, which is not to say that love gets worse, but the way it feels simply changes.  You get your sanity back. J  That feeling is not supposed to last 20 years and probably not even 10 years.  The point I’m trying to make here is that nature has not prescribed how many times we are supposed to fall in love, only that we will fall in love, possibly multiple times.  This feeling cannot be control, you do not choose who you fall in love with, it just happens.  Just because you are already with someone doesn’t mean it can’t happen again.  I feel that we as a society we find it easy to condemn that person and this is wrong.  However, I think also if you are with somebody already and you fall in love with someone else, we too often tie more meaning to that than there really is.  We can turn our lives upset down, and leave the person we are with for what we think of greener pastures, only to find ourselves, after the “falling in love” feeling fades to the same problems we had before.

I truly believe that our ability to feel love is unlimited, but what we are limited by is energy and time.  This is the only limit that can be fairly placed on love.  In life we must make choices.  Perhaps not about who we love more, but who we expend more of our time and resources on in expressing that love.  The amount of love you can show one child if you only have one, as opposed to 3 children is clearly more, even if you feel the same love for all your children.  We often regret most not being able to express love in proportion to our feelings.  And this can be a sad truth in life.

Love is beautiful.  Love inspires.  Love gives strength.  Love helps you grow and learn.  Love makes us better.  Even if we have limited time and energy, we should try to never be jealous when someone we love feels more love in their heart for more in this world.  Love is a good thing, and often means the most when you love without having a good reason to.  Love also happens rarely, which makes it special when it happens to you, and it should always be cherished.

Perhaps the only thing that all love has in common is that it hurts when one is rejected: whether it is a friend, a parent, a child, a lover.  We might feel that hurt in different ways, but it all has the power to give us sleepless nights, sobbing, stress, and depression.  So maybe Haddaway had it right all along in answering the question.

What is love?

Baby don’t hurt me, no more.

 

But isn’t this also what makes love beautiful?  If love was so certain I truly feel that the joy would not be as a great.   Choose to feel the joy, and life will always feel full.  I am thankful for all those in this world who have touched my heart and soul.  I promise to keep reminding you of how thankful I am for that, and hope I can touch your heart and soul in return.