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Tuesday
May192015

Stupidity is a form of dishonesty

I have been reading and immensely enjoying a war memoir by an Irish woman married to a German official living in Berlin during the second world war. The block leader- the party member whose job it is to collect dues and spy on the other residents is the local gardener. After WW1 he lost all his savings in the inflation of the early 1920s. In the crash of 1929 he loses his job and again all his pitiful savings needed to get married. He joins the Nazi party and finally gets married though its too late to have kids. the author remarks on a Berlin joke of the 1930s- intelligent and dishonest=nazi, stupid and honest=nazi, intelligent and honest=anti-nazi. And the gardener is honest, though portrayed as stupid- he cannot through the many lies told by his beloved party. When the war ends he is hanged by disgruntled locals- or perhaps by Russians- from a lamp-post. His luck has run out yet again.

But it made me think- we often describe people as stupid but honest- meaning they won't cheat or lie to you. But this is a child's definition of honesty. Real honesty- the only kind that has developmental potential- is knowing when you are deceiving yourself. It's having a propensity for self-deception, it is, in fact, hypocrisy by another name. 

Stupid people are forgiven for being easily deceived. But most deceptions are a result of greed not a simple mistake (you can tell the difference- a simple mistake allows of correction, the greedy reject outside correction). We are greedy for an outcome we don't deserve, or something plainly unlikely- we deceive ourselves that something is true when it is obvious to outsiders that it isn't.

Focusing on the stupidity or intelligence of a person seems less use than seeing how much they choose to deceive themselves. But even this doesn't quite hit the mark- the moral censure isn't needed. Those that deceive themselves are lacking mental flexibility. They can only see things one way, the greed makes them inflexible. By focusing on mental flexibility you outwit stupidity and dishonesty.

Saturday
May092015

What path are you on?

I like paths. They seem to wobble arbitrarily but actually they follow the path of least resistance. They reflect a group intelligence- all the people or animals that have walked the same way. A dead straight path would actually be less efficient, you'd go up and down more than necessary. The more hilly the terrain the more tortuous and crazy seeming are the paths. Of course you're much more likely to lose your way on a winding path.

 

Monday
Apr272015

King of the Headhunters

Taken on Burmese border, nagaland. the number of heads equals the number of brass skulls around his neck.

Monday
Apr272015

Meryl Streep quotation

Meryl Streep on acting, but it could be about many things: "Pretending is not just play. Pretending is imagined possibility." Worth musing on that one. 

 

Monday
Apr272015

Car seen in Kohima, Nagaland

You see strange things in India and Nagaland is right at the very edge of India. Christianity is the main religion here, Buddhism is unknown except among recent immigrants. So this is very definitely not a Buddhist swastika.

 

Thursday
Apr162015

How I write by John-Paul Flintoff

Top UK author, lifecoach and social entrepreneur J-P Flintoff writes this way:

"I used to spend a long time dreaming about how I intended to write something before I wrote it. I might do that at a table, with a cup of tea, or lying in bed in the morning, after everybody else had got up. But one day - after years working as a journalist, cranking the words out under pressure of deadlines - I realised that, in practice, I never wrote the way I had dreamed I would write. I often wrote something entirely different. I also realised that it was more fun that way - to have no idea what I was going to write until I wrote it. In the process, by actually writing, I learned my own mind. And I concluded that dreaming-about-writing was a waste of time. From then on, I decided only to write when I was writing, and to apply the same approach to other things to. Don't think about something if you can actually DO it. This has saved me an awful lot of time, and made me very productive. I have also, since then, been better able to a) enjoy my cup of tea as a cup of tea and b) get up at the same time as everybody else, and have breakfast together." John-Paul Flintoff, author of How To Change The World www.flintoff.org

Thursday
Apr162015

perpetual motion in life

In 1150 the Hindu astronomer Bhaskara mentions a perpetual motion machine made with mercury and slats that contain and direct its motion. In the 1200AD Arabic manuscript of Ridwan there are six perpetual motion machines described and illustrated. By 1235 the idea had travelled as far as Europe, and we went crazy about them. Making perpetual motion machines became a widespread fashion, a sort of mechanical and legitimate parallel to alchemy. By the by, all kinds of developments were made in gearing and levers- but most of all in precision. It was the gradual increase in precision that led to accurate clocks and measurement and the successful mechanisation of cloth manufacture, armaments and wind, water and ultimately steam power. The childish and captivating dream of perpetual motion- an endless quest format – succeeded in supplying us with machines far more incredible, and certainly far more useful, than the original concept. The Greeks had already discovered steam power – Hero’s engine – but without precision transmission it was useless except as a toy- and toys only captivate us for a while. Perpetual motion supplies a far more compelling story- something miraculous and free, forever just out of sight.

In parallel with this introduction there have been esoteric ideas introduced by Arab writers that work like the perpetual motion machine. They engage and intrigue and set in motion an endless quest, and the ultimate effect on refining and extending human potential is far greater, and more life affirming and astonishing, than the magic and seeming miracles initially promised.