Monday, December 31, 2007

Year End Tribute to Thinking

A tribute to the power of thought will close this eventful year. Lynne McTaggart may get this year's vote as the most innovative author for a revolutionary literary and scientific concept. She writes:

"The Intention Experiment is no ordinary book, and you are no ordinary reader. This is a book without an ending, for I intend for you to help me finish it. You are not only the audience of this book, but also one of its protagonists, the primary participants in cutting edge scientific research. You, quite simply, are about to embark on the largest mind-over-matter experiments in history" (Introduction, xvii.)

If that gets you excited, read on:

"The book you hold in your hands is revolutionary, a groundbreaking exploration of the science of intention. It is also the first book to invite you, the reader, to take an active part in its original research. Drawing on the findings of leading scientists on human consciousness from around the word, The Intention Experiment demonstrates that thought is a thing that affects other things. Thought generates is own palpable energy that you can use to improve your life, to help others around you, and to change the world."

After reading these words on the book flap, I thought to myself that changing the world through the use of directed thought is right in line with the goal of my own blog. But is this a serious book or one of those fru-fru, self-help, dime-a-dozen books that come out by the thousands annually? It wasn't long before I had the answer as I read further:

"The quantum theories developed by Bohr, Heisenberg, and a host of others rocked the very foundation of the Newtonian view of matter as something discrete and self-contained. They suggested that matter at its most fundamental, could not be divided into independently existing units and indeed could not even by fully described. Things have no meaning in isolation; they had meaning only in a web of dynamic interrelationships" (p. xix.)

For the next 200 pages the reader is taken on an adventure that for the uninitiated could prove a challenge to what he or she considers "reality." However, McTaggart meticulously explains in plain layman's English the foundations of this revolutionary science, or rather, a new interpretation of the findings demonstrated previously by quantum physicists.

Most startling to me, who has studied the science of intention for years, was the author's conclusion in the chapter 11 entitled "Praying for Yesterday." Turns out, that several dedicated scientists have come to the conclusion that intention can work backwards and influence things that happened in the past:

"Although our understanding of the mechanism is still primitive, the experimental evidence of time reversal is fairly robust. This research portrays life as one giant, smeared-out here and now, and much of it--past, present and future--is open to our influence at any moment. But that hints at the most unsettling idea of all.
Once constructed, a thought is lit forever" (p. 175.)

This is certainly opposed to the current understanding of the laws of physics that time flows only in on direction. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN spoke of this in its current issue (January 2008) in an article entitled "Making Space for Time." The prestigious New York Academy of Science hosted a scientific conference to grapple with the mystery of how time works. The word mystery gives a hint to the reader that the properties of time are generally unknown and open to interpretation.
Perhaps these ardent conferees might benefit from collaborating with the less "respectable" scientists highlighted in McTaggart's book--actually, the whole world might benefit. Said the SCIEM article:

"On the face of it, time seems pretty simple, like a one-way street: eggs don't unscramble, laugh lines don't vanish (not without Botox anyway), and your grandparents will never be younger than you. But the universe's basic laws appear to be time-symmetrical, meaning they are unaffected by the direction of time from the point of view of physics, and the past, present and future exist simultaneously. . .but scientists can't explain why order lies in the past and disorder in the future. A solution has appeared so elusive that at times it has been regarded as a distraction from more 'respectable' research. . .'It's been very difficult to make progress over the past 20 years, because there hasn't been much new to say' " (p. 26.)

Also enlightening, was the chapter "Hearts That Beat as One." Two novel ideas emerged from these pages. McTaggart writes:

"Most astonishing of all, the heart appeared to receive the information moments before the brain did. This suggested that the body has certain perceptual apparatus that enables it continually to scan and intuit the future, but the heart may hold the largest antenna. After the heart receives the information, it communicates it to the brain."

After I got my mind around that startling admission, McTaggart continues:

"McCraty's [from the Institute of HeartMath] conclusion--that the heart is the largest 'brain' in the body--has now gained credibility after [further] research findings. . .Armour [a scientist from the University of Montreal] discovered neurotransmitters in the heart that signal and influence aspects of higher thought in the brain. McCraty discovered that touch and even mentally focusing the heart cause brain-wave entrainment between people" (pp. 54 - 5.)

The book goes on to say that two people focusing loving thoughts toward one another begin to resonate to the same "tune" or frequency. Although, McTaggart does not say it, the opposite could also be true and probably is, which may explain many of the unenlightening occurrences in human history.

While occasionally, Ms. McTaggart takes leaps in her arguments that seem to defy logic, she concludes her illuminating book with an inarguable message:

"We can no longer view ourselves a isolated from our environment, and our thoughts as private, self-contained workings of an individual brain. Dozens of scientists have produced thousands of papers in the scientific literature offering sound evidence that thoughts are capable of profoundly affecting all aspects of our lives. As observers and creators, we are constantly remaking our world in every instant. Every thought we have, every judgment we hold, however, unconscious, is having an effect. With every moment that it notices, the conscious mind is sending an intention."

If that isn't enough, she goes on to say:

"These revelations force us to rethink not only what it is to be human, but also how to relate. We may have to reconsider the effect of everything that we think, whether we vocalize it or not. Our relationship with the world carries on, even in our silence.. We must also recognize that these ideas are no longer the rumination of a few eccentric individuals. The power of thought underpins many well-respected disciplines in every reach of life. . [thus] we will have to reframe our understanding of our own biology in more miraculous terms. We are only beginning to understand the vast and untapped human potential at our disposal: the human being's extraordinary capacity to influence the world. This potential is every person's birthright, not simply that of the gifted master," (a proposition that would most likely be heralded as a great breakthrough by such a Master.)

And, in keeping with the award winner in yesterday's blog and the hope of a better environmental tomorrow, I found the following the most extraordinary statement of all:

"Our thoughts may be an inexhaustible and simple resource that can be called upon to focus our lives, heal our illnesses, clean up our cities, and improve the planet. We may have the power as communities to improve the quality of our air and water, our crime and accident statistics, the educational level of our children. One well-directed thought may be a gentle yet effective way for men and women on the street to take matters of global interest into their own hands. This knowledge may give us back a sense of individual and collective power, which has been wrested from us largely by the current world view espoused by modern science, which portrays an indifferent universe populated by things that are separate and unengaged. Indeed, an understanding of the power of conscious thought may also bring science closer to religion by offering scientific proof of the intuitive understanding, held by most of us, that to be alive is to be far more than an assemblage of chemicals and electrical signaling" (pp. 194 - 95.)

McTaggart and the scientist she studied might be on to something. Recently,
the city of Atlanta was heading toward imminent disaster because of drought conditions and near-total lack of rainfall in 2007 that left their water supply extremely low. The citizenry was encouraged by their beleaguered, but religious mayor to pray for rain as a last resort to fill their near-empty reservoir. Many snickered at the seemingly light-weight proposition that praying for rain might actually bring a result. However, the national watched as rain did indeed pour down a few days after the invocation and, since then, Atlanta has had several deluges that has brought rain levels back almost to normal for the year, even if not yet filling the reservoir. It cannot be proven, of course, if prayer had an affect; but further studies into the phenomenon of thought generated change are certainly in order.

If this line of thinking has gotten you excited and hopeful for a better tomorrow through the power of directed thought, Lynne McTaggarts book is a must read. In addition, the last chapter explains how readers can involve themselves in her forward-thinking intention experiment. It would be my guess that anyone taking part would be changed for the better and that, in and of itself, changes the world.

Before leaving 2007 behind, I want to mention two other enlightened changes that caught my eye this past week. Although not of the mind-blowing scope mentioned above, these two show that as a society we are moving slowly but surely in a direction of goodness. First is the judgment made in a recent court case involving corporate fraud and tax evasion through a less-than-righteous tax shelter. I was struck by how thoroughly the judge dispelled any belief that what the criminals did was acceptable from the aspect of society at large. Try to picture Judge Marry Ellen Williams making the following pronouncement:

"In sum, this transaction's fictional loss, inability to realize a profit, lack of investment character, meaningless inclusion in a partnership, and disproportionate tax advantage as compared to the amount invested and potential return, compel a conclusion that the spread transaction objectively lacked economic substance" (WSJ, 12-27-07, p. A3.)

Hear, hear, Judge Williams, we applaud you for bringing these hucksters to justice and also give kudos to the legal system which is little by little cleaning up corporate crime, even some of the complicit attorneys involved.

And ever wonder why housing for the poor has to look so, well, institutional? Could it be an unconscious thought by moneyed society that the poor deserve no better because they lack a proper worth ethic or something? I always thought that low-income housing could certainly be as appealing as regular housing if a few good, enlightened architects got their brains around it. Well, WSJ highlighted several cases where this has indeed happened in its article "High Design for Low-Income Housing: Established and Rising Architects Bring Innovation to Affordability:"

"The interest in design comes as affordable housing is increasingly being mixed among middle class and even luxury homes. And as costs have soared in many urban neighborhoods, more communities have adopted 'inclusionary zoning' ordinances that require developers to set aside units for families of modest means" (12-28-07, p. W10.)

NIMBYism plays a huge role in where low-income housing has been situated in the past, but new,enlightened designs, some downright extraordinary, are changing the attitudes of those initially opposed.

And finally, a contribution today from another Observer-in-training:

Freecycle is a global recycling phenomenon. Since it started
in Arizona in May 2003,it has grown to more than 4 million
members in more than 4,100 cities, from Istanbul to Inwood.
It boasts of keeping more than 300 million tons of trash out
of landfills every day and has inspired imitators.

There are, says founder and executive director Deron Beal,
as many heartwarming stories as there are groups: the
American Indian tribe that collected used prom dresses
for girls in need; the Hurricane Katrina evacuee who
furnished a new home;the 98-year-old man who collects
and assembles bicycle parts, then gives what he's built
to children; and the woman in Austin, Texas, who collected
items for an orphanage in Haiti, then got FedEx to deliver
the shipping container for free.

Thought you might enjoy...
Freecycle turns trash to treasure-Yahoo! News us/

As more and more people envision a lighted tomorrow, the
faster humanity will move in that illuminated direction.
Have a happy new year and may blessings rain down
upon you in 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

And the Winner Is......

With 2007 coming to a rapid close, it seemed prudent to review where we've been, see how far we've come and give a grand prize to the idea, theme, thing, issue, concept, creation, thought, situation, circumstance or entity that changed for the better and moved the farthest from January through December. This year the grand prize goes to [drumroll] the world's attitude on the environment. There actually was no close second. It takes many years of effort at multiple levels for the man on the street to finally agitate for change, and this year was the tipping point as far as the environment was concerned. While humanity still has a LONG way to go in adjusting its behavior to that required for a sustainable future, it had a wake-up call in 2007 that could not be ignored.

As the collective consciousness changes, so finally does the corporate consciousness. The WSJ reports in an article entitled "Best of Ads, Worst of Ads" that:

"Green is the new black. Madison Avenue tried to curry favor with consumers this year by coloring products and brands with an environmental tint. A long list of companies such as General Electric Co., Chevron Corp., and Home Depot Inc. all jumped on the ecofriendly bandwagon. One Toyota Motor Corp. ad featured a Prius being created from straw, twigs and other natural elements. The gasoline-hybrid care is built up and then fades back into nature" (12-27-07, p. B1.)

So, it was not just this Observer who noticed the new, bold trend over the last year in advertisements. The next sentence is telling, however, "Despite the energy spent on ecofriendly marketing messages, very few stood out. . ." and none made the cut for the best or worst ads of the year in the opinion of the newspaper. I would beg to differ.

In many of the previous blogs, I've mentioned environmental ads that have been large (full-page), obviously very expensive, and have gotten to the heart of several pressing environmental concerns. While many might say, "OK, but where's the beef?" I would counter that the ads show a good start in the right direction in letting consumers know about corporate intent or sometimes actual innovative products. (The next few years will show whether corporate intent turns to action. It's one of those "stay tuned" situations of which Observers are so fond.)

Two such ecofriendly ads were carried in the January 2008 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. A German company Allianz, who specializes in insurance, asset management and banking, ran a full-page ad asking the reader to chose from the following: "The more dangerous thing on the planet is a) a pack of wolves b) a herd of cows." Of course, the answer is "b." I wondered what that quirky question had to do with insurance and banking, and it soon let me know:

"Livestock is one of the largest sources of the world's greenhouse gases. Having global expertise in Risk Management, our experts at Allianz are working on ways to reduce the negative effects of climate change on people and businesses. . ."

Hum, seemed like a bit of a stretch but it was obviously eye-catching.

On the other hand, an ecofriendly ad in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN sported a stylized daisy made from plastic bags:

"Environmentally friendly plastic bags are a beautiful thing. Ecoflex, one of the latest breakthroughs from BASF, is a biodegradable plastic that can be used in bags and packaging. It's shelf stable for one full year then completely decomposes in compost within a few weeks. Innovation is popping up everywhere."

This one was informative and touted a necessary product that can be used right now. It struck me as amazing that a huge chemical conglomerate like BASF would spend so much to let consumers know about innovation in plastic bags, such a mundane product, but loading up landfills by the ton. My hat goes off to BASF not only for the new product but for letting us know about it; both are enlightened changes.

In another SCIEM ad was something really trendsetting, a non-spark spark plug. According to this ad about the Pulstar pulse plug:

"Spark plugs have changed little over the last 100 years. . .Pulstar pulse plugs generate more than 10 times the power of any spark plug available today. This visibly robust spark ignites fuel differently, allowing for a more complete burn than is possible with spark plugs. More efficient ignition yields improved engine performance and fuel economy" (p. 19.)

The logo for this company includes the words "A spark of genius, Pulstar pulse plug." This proves again that environmental innovation can go beyond the obvious and into the mundane fueled by a true spark of genius.

Although I am ending the year on an environmental note, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC is starting off 2008 with 2 of its 8 lead articles on recycling. The articles cover "High-Tech Trash" which the world is drowning in to "Why Recycle?" at all. Both were highly informative and directed toward john-q-public in an easily readable format. The first article on high-tech trash says that an enlightened trend in Europe just getting a foothold in the U.S. is the mass recycling of high-tech trash. If the cell phone, computers and the like are recycled at all, the parts and pieces are usually shipped to undeveloped countries with more lax environmental laws than the developed countries have. However, a company in Tampa, Florida is trying to change that unidirectional flow of high-tech trash into the maws of its giant shredder. David, as it's called, eventually separates the parts into bins that can be sold for scrap. Surprising to me:

"The most valuable product, shredded circuit boards, is shipped to a state-of-the-art smelter in Belgium specializing in precious metal recycling. . .a four-foot-square box of the stuff can be worth as much as $10,000."

The article goes on to say that in Europe, recycling of high-tech equipment is common, but in the U.S. only three companies have taken up the banner. "It wouldn't take many more machines [like the one in Tampa] to process the entire country's output of high-tech trash" (p. 80.) The EPA is exploring a certification process that would make sending trash away less profitable, thus improving the odds the trash stays home for recycling. WSJ also covered the recycling of e-trash in a recent article so the momentum is building in the U.S. Stay tuned!

Be sure to check out In a beautifully illustrated double spread ad of lighted prehistoric cave art, the informative text explains:

"TALKING EXPLORES HISTORY. DOING REWRITES IT. IBM and National Geographic have teamed up on a Genographic Project--a five-year study that uses sophisticated computer analysis of DNA contributed by over 200,000 people to map how mankind has populated the globe and uncover the genetic roots we all share. Start seeing the bigger picture at [the website noted above.]"

Now here's an enlightened team that may prove that we are all literally related in a "brotherhood of man," to quote a wise man who lived a couple thousand years ago. This research could have far-reaching implications as more people accept the inescapable truth that we are connected with every being on the planet.

And finally, a sultry photo of two young lovers in front of a twilight skyline of Shanghai topped a blurb in NG on unprecedented change in China:

"The country's breakneck economic growth is spinning off new opportunities. The proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college has doubled in less than a decade. And the government encourages individual ambition as long as it doesn't run afoul of the central plan. But there are few role models for young people to emulate. A 25-year-old can't follow in the footsteps of a 45-year-old: The paths that the older person took are no longer on the map" (p. 14.)

Through the eyes of this Observer, I see that education is often the path to freedom and the rate of increase of young adults enrolled in college is encouraging as is the fact that they have no path to follow but a new one. What possibilities this making-new by an educated populace might provide for a giant country being reborn in a new age.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cancer Cure Quiz

This is a quiz. Which one of the following intentions do you think had the greatest impact on the cancer cells to which they were directed:

1--An directed thought to reinstate the natural order of the cancer cells in the petri dish and return the cell's growth rate back to normal.
2--A Taoist visualization that imagined only three cancer cells remaining in the dish.
3--A lack of specific intention, but rather a prayer simply asking God to have His Will flow through the researcher's hands.
4--An offering of unconditional love to the cancer cells in the dish which involved meditating on a state of love and compassion along a Buddhist line.
5--A visualization of the cancer cell's dematerializing, going into either the light or the void.

Many people might pick number 5 because this type of visualization is often encouraged for those suffering from cancer. I am most familiar with that one because a late friend used this intention daily to fight off the invading cancer cells in her body and was ultimately unsuccessful in her attempts to rid her body of the deadly cancer cell invasion.

Many of a religious persuasion might chose numbers 2, 3 or 4 depending on his or her belief system. In this case a cancer victim might couple it, just to cover all bases, with the killer intention noted above. Kind of a pray and kill one-two punch.

Surprisingly, however, what worked most often was number 1: the intention to return the cancer cells to their original, healthy state. Frankly, I would not have even considered the possibility that "thinking" the cancer cells back to health would have worked. But, it's SO obvious when one realizes that all organisms--small or large--want to exist in a healthy state, after all it is the norm. As Tammy Faye said in a previous blog, "God don't make no junk."

In her very enlightening book on the many facets of directed thought entitled The Intention Experiment, Lynne McTaggart explains the results in more detail: "[The] various intentions had quite different effects. The most powerful were undirected intentions asking the cells to return to the natural order, which inhibited the cancer cells' growth by 39 percent. Acquiescing to God's will with no specific request was about half as effective, inhibiting the cells by 21 percent, as was the Taoist visualization. An unconditional acceptance of the way things were had no effect either way, nor did the imagining of cells dematerializing" (pp. 151 - 52.)

We shouldn't be surprised then when the recent cover of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (January 2008) proclaims "Cancer Drug Paradox: It Kills Tumors By Repairing Them." In the article "Taming Vessels to Treat Cancer, " Rakesh Jain says: "Restoring order to the chaotic blood vessels inside a tumor opens a window of opportunity for attacking it. Surprisingly, drugs meant to destroy vasculature can make the repairs and may [also] help reverse conditions that lead to cardiovascular disease and blindness." The author goes on to explain the recent findings, and it is a fascinating tale of seredipity and synthesis worthy of its inclusion here as enlightened change. If you want to read something completely new about cancer research, read the article in its entirety.

When western medicine is thoroughly melded with that of the east, which I predict will take place in the next 25 years, it will be possible to experiment in combining directed thought/intention with the theories mentioned in Mr. Jain's article. The results could be what one might call miraculous. Until then, however, we must make due with juxtaposing mainstream and non-mainstream experiments when we notice it, as we have done above. What this may do RIGHT NOW is open a door of opportunity for those with cancer to try chemotherapy and other modalities as well as directed thought to reinstate the natural order of their cancer cells and return the cell's growth rate back to normal. If a group joined in that intention, it might be particularly powerful.

One caveat on cancer and dying I feel compelled to include here: from the eastern perspective, dying is freedom and potentially a release to bigger and better things in the next life. Thus, there is no failure in dying and, in Reality, should be a time of rejoicing. Where, when and how we die is part of a complex equation and mere intentions may not in and of themselves keep a person alive, nor should they. Ultimately, death is inevitable--even if we figure out how to put it off for a while--and one time when we don't usually have the final say.

On another note, a YouTube website featuring Sarah McLachlan's song "World on Fire" was sent yesterday by a thoughtful contributor. That a video-downloading website like YouTube has taken off in popularity and is being used to distribute such thought-provoking pieces as the attachment is one of the most enlightened trends of 2007.
Check it out:

And finally, the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (January 2008) mentioned above also carried a blurb in its top 50 trends in business, policy and research about how an lab in Padua, Italy began sharing bird flu data with other worldwide labs in order to increase the likelihood of success in fighting any future outbreak. Why that is a noteworthy trend is that no other bird flu lab had taken that cooperative approach--with the corporatization of medicine, sharing is out and hoarding information in the name of money is in. However, Naria Capua changed all that at least in relation to bird flu research with her courageous and gutsy move: "Her efforts helped to pave the way for the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data, a consortium through which findings can be freely shared while giving credit to the researchers involved" (p. 54.) Hear, hear Dr. Capua, the world needs more enlightened leaders like you!

Tomorrow, it will be on to the January 2008 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and several trends I will highlight from its glossy pages.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

And Back to the Propaganda

I'll let you all in on a secret: this blog is partially an exercise in learning to not-know (see previous blog.) As an Observer-in-training, it's essential that my eyes, heart and brain are opened every day to what's happening around me, and most times I just have to act AS IF I am already an accomplished Observer. (Some call that pretending. That's OK. Turns out, that psychologically acting AS IF something is already a fact is the surest way to get there.) One thing about not-knowing, it gives "open-mindedness" a whole new meaning:

1--The WSJ reports yesterday from the December 19, 2007 issue of the New Statesman, a left leaning British weekly,that global warming may have stopped. Why is that? Because apparently the earth's temperatures have held steady since the year 2001."The world's temperatures rose sharply from 1980 to 1998 but have leveled off since then according to Mr.[David] Whitehouse's reading of U.S. and United Kingdom government statistics. In other words, he says, global warming has ceased. While scientists have proposed a variety of theories for the recent plateau in temperature, those explanations are inadequate, said Mr. Whitehouse, who spent 18 years covering the sciences for the BBC and holds a doctorate in astrophysics." It is not surprising that "Mr. Whitehouse's observations didn't go over well with many New Statesman readers" (p. B8.) And so the global warming conversation continues.
2--Brian Cox, an accomplished actor, said something worth quoting. It might give a person something to mull over in its simplicity: " 'You've only arrived when you're dead. Until then the options are open' " (WSJ, 12-26-07, p. D6.)
3--There are over 4 million bloggers out there, talking, opining and yakking it up. Many like myself take no risks in doing so; we just sit down and blog away. Others, take great risks in presenting their world to others. One such person is a Ms. Sanchez who WSJ reports blogs from Cuba at risk to life and limb every day. This courageous lady
,disguised as a tourist, sends her blog from wireless internet cafes and is quoted as saying: " 'You have to believe that you are free and try to act like it. Little by little, acting though you are free can be contagious.' " Seems that she already knew about acting AS IF.
4--What caught my eye first was Toyota's front page ad "Between theory and practice reside two words. Why not? The next time you are faced with a challenge ask yourself these two words. To see how Toyota is inspired by them every day, visit" And on the next page was the headline Toyota's Expected Sales Could Put it Ahead of GM: "Toyota Motor Corp said it expects global sales of blah blah blah. . .a level that could put it ahead of rival General Motors Corp. as the world's largest auto seller on an annual basis"
(WSJ, 12-26-07, p. A7.) 30 years ago, anyone would have laughed right out loud if asked about Toyota's chances of EVER overtaking GM in car sales. Then, the carmaker sold a really tinny, small cheaply made automobile only bought by poor college kids (I'm exaggerating, but you get the picture.) I guess the laugh is on us and now we know their secret. Instead they asked, "Why not?"
5--On that same front page yesterday was a small blurb that read: "Opposition leader Bhutto accused President Musharraf of failing to stop the spread of Islamic militants and vowed to crack down on the groups if she wins Pakistan's parliamentary election." I had intended to include it here with the comment that I feared she was a dead woman walking because she could not possibly survive with that revolutionary attitude. Guess I was right, but didn't know it would be proven true by day's end.
6--Harkening back to Mr. Putin's front page TIME Person of the Year cover, WSJ reports that the editors did not view this as an endorsement nor an honor. They were merely highlighting the fact, as observers, that he had a huge impact on the world in 2007 but "the verdict is still out: 'whether he proves to be a reformer or an autocrat who takes Russia back to the era of repression--this we will know only over the next decade' " (WSJ, 12-20-07, p. B6.) Enough said.
7--A WSJ reporter interviewed Michelle Rhee,the new superintendent of the Washington DC school system, which she is turning on its head. How has she done something that everyone thought was impossible? By having the full backing of her boss, the Mayor who recruited her from outside the system,and not being committed to keeping her job. What's more she got rid of the ostentatious furniture in her office because she said she wouldn't be using it; does not believe that her mission is incremental change; and doesn't plan on making this job a career. She is quoted as saying: "This is a one-time gig for me. So, I can make every single decision in a way in which I think is in the best interests of the kids--without the politics, without owing people, just with that [kids] in mind" (WSJ, 12-22-07, p. A11.) If education had more of these mavericks, it might be good for the profession. But more than that, it might be wonderful for the kids. It is certainly proving to be true in Washington DC for the first time ever.
8--After seeing the zillionth ad about CO2 reduction by corporate America, I am starting to be convinced that this trend may be here to stay. Canon was the latest to throw their hat into the ring with a full page ad that read: "Sustainability is our standard for measuring CO2 reduction. One Canon energy saving technology has reduced CO2 emissions by nearly 7 million tons, the amount assimilated by the seas surrounding the earth's corral reefs each year." These words surrounded a gorgeous picture of the Blue Hole in the Belize Barrier Reef. The ad concluded: "Produce. Use. Recycle. CO2-emission reduction throughout the product lifecycle" (WSJ 12-21-07, p. A7.) Keep it up corporate America. We like what we see--now let's see the words turn into action.
9--And finally, it was startling when Venezula's President, Hugo Chavez, lost the recent referendum on a proposed constitutional revision to keep him in power for life and other reported democracy reduction measures. It was equally surprising when he accepted the results, even if begrudgingly. What was more startling was learning about the man who made it happen, Gen. Raul Baduel, the 52-year old retired general, who was one of Chavez's best friends until recently. Back when they were young bucks in the barracks, they made a secret pact with a few others to bring down the "oppressive" Venezuelan government and later did just that. Ironically, Gen. Baduel was the force that brought Chavez back to power in 2002 after a failed coup. Since retiring last July, however, he has had a change of heart and is considering running against Mr. Chavez in the next election. WSJ says this of the General: "Now Mr. Baduel holds a unique place in this divided society: He is respected by both the president's supporters and detractors. Long a hero to one side for cutting off the coup against Mr. Chavez, he is now a hero to many on the other sideBut he
for staving off a kind of coup by Mr. Chavez himself."

But here's the real interesting part: "Mr. Baduel, a vegetarian with a deep and eclectic interest in world religions, is not a typical Latin American military man. He has spoken publicly of his belief that he has been reincarnated. Although a practicing Roman Catholic, he is fascinated by the orient and is also adept in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism. In his office filled with statues of Catholic saints and Chinese warriors, he keep a Koran as well as a Bible and meditates and works amidst burning incense while listening to Gregorian chants" (WSJ, 12-24-07, p. A9.) Amazing, I would say, but take care Mr. Baduel because Mr. Chavez strikes me as potentially a very vindictive man.

That's it for today, folks! Tomorrow we talk about enlightening cancer research. Stay tuned.

Dare to Not-Know

As I go through my day, I have to constantly remind myself that all the information received has been filtered in some way for some purpose by some body. That's the definition of propaganda, isn't it? The answer is yes, I looked it up. You can too, if you wish. While I see no way around it at this time, there is a mind game I made up that has helped me to realize that what is being presented is only one version of a universe of possibilities. I called it Dare to Not-Know.

It started like this: for one day, I tried to have no set opinion about anything. When a topic came up--usually of the emotional kind--instead of thinking the usual, habitual thoughts about it, I tried running with the opposite (see previous blog) or thinking of something really far-fetched, maybe ludicrous about it. If I went to the extreme, I tried to have no set opinion at all, but merely observed the subject from as many angles as possible. I played with it; relished the new found freedom and clarity of vision this new way of thinking presented. Jim now plays along with me too, and that is particularly fun.

In the beginning, this exercise was quite difficult and the success rate low. Withdrawal was emotionally excruciating--after all, set opinions are the foundation of who we are. Or so we think. But the trial was kept up and something magical started occurring. Freedom of thought, or should I say freedom FROM habitual thought, began slowly replacing the usual mental patterns and then an added bonus occurred: intuition had a chance to get a foothold. By daring to not-know, intuition began to take up residence and a whole new mental world opened before me.

I can hear the arguments now--especially from mental types: "But if we don't have opinions, our whole world will crumble." Hum, if we go back to the premise that almost all we know is from propaganda of one sort or another, filtered in more ways than we can imagine, we come to the realization that our opinions are not our own anyway. Thus, you could say that we are enslaved in someone else's made-up world. If you like that state, you are welcome to stay there. If you don't, you might give Daring to Not-Know a try. You've got nothing to lose--after all it's free, may be fun, and can be done in the privacy of your own brain where ever you are. Windshield time provides lots of opportunities to practice.

Just for the record, I'm no expert at this not-knowing myself, but would sure find it interesting to engage in conversations with folks who have tried it or have become practitioners of not-knowing over time. If this new mental way caught on, the world might be changed for the better--at least in our own minds.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Practical God

I don't mean to pick on atheist; I used to be one. From that experience I know that many atheists still cares about a god deep down inside, they are just mad at him for the shape the world is in. Actually, they get very emotional about it and wonder what kind of god would create a world like this with the wars, murders, earthquakes, corruption, etc etc etc. Their response is to pretend He doesn't exist--kind of like that is going to hurt His feelings or something.

What finally turned me around was finding a God to which I could relate. Not some holy-roller God who requires daily adoration, but a more practical, executive-minded Being who works with a purpose and enlists attuned thinkers to formulate a plan and then create the programs to carry it out. If interviewed by a Fox News reporter, let's say tough-talking Bill O'Reilly, about the current state of worldly affairs, this CEO God would respond calmly and with great insight into and loving understanding of the human plight.

O'Reilly: "So, God, we've only got a couple of minutes. But, tell me, how did we get in this mess anyway? You know there are some folks who think it's time you get ousted. They'd rather have no god then this."

God: "The trend of our modern civilization, in spite of all its mistakes and errors, is to produce thinkers. Education, books, travel, in its many and varied forms, enunciation of science and of philosophy, and the driving inner urge which we call religious, but which is, in fact, the drive toward truth and its mental verification--all these factors have one objective, and this is to produce thinkers. Given a real thinker, you have an incipient creator and (unconsciously at first, but consciously later on) one who will wield power in order to "precipitate" or cause to emerge objective forms. These forms will either be in line with Divine purpose and plan and, consequently, will further the cause of evolution, or they will be animated by personal intent, characterized by separated, selfish purpose, and constitute, therefore, part of the work of retro-active forces and the material element."

O'Reilly: "Then, what you are saying is WE are responsible for all this, not you? I find that hard to believe and don't think those in favor of your demise will buy it. But, God, that's all the time we have today. Maybe we can have you back again some other time to develop this further. Thank you for joining us."

God: "Thank you for having me, Bill, and be sure to watch closely the world unfolding before you. It will certainly be full of surprises as more thinkers come on-board to my plan over the next twenty years or so."

(Unusually, Bill decided to let God have the last word, and, because of that courtesy, God smiled knowing that O'Reilly might become a thinker in his next lifetime or two.)

God's excerpt is taken from A Treatise on White Magic, A. Bailey, pp. 551 - 52.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Is It Discovery or Uncovery?

Before launching into the Christmas Day science marathon, a few words on the meaning of discovery might be in order. It's probably the nerd side of me that gets enjoyment from reading the meaning and derivation of words in dictionaries. Take the word "discover"--it literally means a lack of cover and has come to mean finding something new for the first time. But discover carries a connotation of finding something new that wasn't there before. When I was growing up, I thought discovery meant just that.

As an adult, I have come to understand that it really means "uncovery"--finding something not new that has always been there but for our ignorance.
The same could be said of miracles. St Augustine put it bluntly: "Miracles do not happen in contradiction to nature, but only in contradiction to that which is known in nature." That there is nothing new under the sun is literally true--everything possible to know is already available and ready for uncovery when humanity has eyes to see it and is ready to receive it.

Sometimes, I play a mind game and turn the word around to make another. The exercise can be very enlightening and is full of meditative possibilities. Forget mindful meditation on an orange--words are so much more abstract and interesting. Sir Isaac Newton is a case in point. One can take his last name and and turn it into the words "Not New." I would bet that with his studies of ancient wisdom and things mystical, Newton was aware of the true meaning of his "discoveries" as partial uncoveries during the age of enlightenment.

But, I digress and must get back to the topic at hand--the most enlightening science changes or uncoveries of 2007 from DISCOVERY magazine, note that the groupings are mine:

#1 out of 100--"China's Syndrome: Tainted products and choking pollution spark anxiety across the globe"
together with #6: "Conservation gets a green light: can a fluorescent bulb save the planet?" and #21: "Quantifying Global Warming" where Al Gore's various accomplishments were listed as well as a list of the global warming studies all speak to the environmental issues that have certainly been the forefront of news story, both scientifically and politically. Probably because of Gore, this year saw the melding of science and politics to an extent not seen before. The fact that the magazine chose such a politically infused subject for its lead science story shows a definite lighted trend, although a little uncomfortable and messy for many at its inception.

#9--"The Genome Turns Personal: with individual sequencing, medicine may soon be custom-tailored to your own DNA" was the top-billed enlightened uncovery regarding DNA in 2007, a heady topic that also included: #43: Human Genome Reveals Signs of Recent Evolution. It would be my guess that because this relatively new area of uncovery is just in its infancy, it will be subject to much reinterpretation over time. In all likelihood, DNA, which science has now proved emits a small packet of light called a biophoton, has much to teach us.

#11--"Hormone Replacement Therapy Linked to Breast Cancer" was a vindication of the studies and findings of the late Dr John Lee who made this claim for years before his death. If you want to read the whole story of hormone replacement therapy, you can read Dr Lee's book "What Doctors Don't Tell you About Menopause." It was a courageous act of the Women's Health Initiative in July 2002 to abruptly ended its study when it saw the data unfolding about the detrimental effects of HRT because it went against the grain of the medical and pharmaceutical establishment at the time. The findings were confirmed in 2007.

#17--"Is Pollution Weeding Out Male Babies?" together with #22: "Pesticide Effects on Sex Last Generations in Rats" by epigenetic changes in DNA and #42: "California Bans Phthalates in Plastic Toys" as well as #51: "Wastewater Decimates Minnows" shows a trend that I voiced a concern about ten years ago and that I saw was flying under the radar until now. My thought at the time: so, this was how it was going to end. Humanity was going to be sterilized invisibly and no one was going to pay attention until it was too late. Because 4 out of 100 choices highlighted the topic of hormonizing pollution, there is new hope that the invisible will be made visible. Whether meaningful change can be made in time is another matter entirely.

#29--"First Steps Toward Wireless Electricity" together with #52: "Amazing Battery Made of . . .Paper?" shows a leap forward in the science of energy. Tesla, who died a recluse and penniless, would be vindicated with the uncovery regarding wireless electricity made at MIT. Humanity may now be ready for the next phase of energy uncoveries--including advances in the storage of energy-- for which it was not prepared in the early 1900's. Tesla was certainly a man before his time and a forerunner of things to come. Thank you MIT for picking up the pieces.

#39--"Plants Use Quantum Computers" was probably the most startling uncovery of the lot: "Using ultrafast lasers, they [scientists at the Lawrence Berkley National Lab] found that the interaction between the sun's energy and the chlorophyll molecules. . .relies on a piece of quantum mechanical weirdness known as superposition, where a single photon of energy can temporarily be in many different states at once. This allows photosynthesis to probe all the possible reaction pathways withing the various chlorophyll molecules. The most efficient pathway is selected and energy is transferred through the bacterium as the superposition collapses." The author of this piece goes on to quote one of the scientists, "This is similar to quantum computing in some sense. This is how quantum computing realizes its incredible efficiency and its ability to solve very complex problems, because it can evaluate many solutions at once." As a plant person, I had no idea that was going on in my leafy companions. I will have to show them more respect in the future.

And that leads us to #65: "Physics Exposes Light's Weird Quantum Nature" in which scientists have actually observed the collapse of the aforementioned quantum superposition, a first in 2007. Says the Harvard scientists who uncovered the previously elusive phenomenon: " 'This is the kind of research that people will immediately start teaching in physics classes when talking about quantum mechanics. . . this is the first time this basic building block of physics has been directly observed in a very beautiful, clean and textbook kind of way." Wonder if they talked to the scientists at #39. Probably should, don't you think?

#47: "Dimensional Math Problem Solved: More than 120 years after it was first discovered, mathematicians have successfully mapped out a 248-dimensional object called E8 " which is described as "one of the most complicated structures in all of mathematics and a table with more than 200 billion entries. Printed out on paper it would cover all of Manhattan." The principle uncoverers at MIT states that "E8 probably reflects the world somehow: everything interesting does." This one definitely warrants following because E8 could map the invisible, physical world. If nothing else, it's beautiful as illustrated by the colored, two dimensional drawing of it on page 49. Check it out, E8 might prove to be the ultimate mandala on which to meditate.

#78--"Tablets of Unknown Ancient Script Surface" in southeastern Iran: although some think the tablets are a hoax, some alternative historians might feel vindicated at the discovery. What ultimately might be uncovered is the remains of a culture not previously known to exist. Stay tuned, because this may be the first of many such uncoveries in the next 25 years.

And finally, life would not be complete without the uncovery noted at #96: "Function of the Appendix Explained." We all knew that little appendage has some use, right? Well, apparently it is a safehouse for bacteria. You know, you get the runs and wipe out all the good bacteria. To the rescue comes bacteria-in-waiting from the previously quiescent appendix. Good going, appendix. The secret you've kept all these years is now open to the public. Hopefully, you will survive the experience.

On Thursday, it will be on to SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN's 50 top science stories. See you then.

Monday, December 24, 2007

TIME Off-Kilter

TIME was trying to create waves apparently with its choice of Person of the Year, Vladimir Putin. The managing editor is quoted as saying, "I made up my mind about President Putin a few months ago. . . " I guess that means that their polling website has no meaning because it did not have Putin on the radar. Therefore, the new approach in polling the masses that I thought was enlightened change has been downgraded to meaningless and merely a marketing ploy. OK, I AM only a beginning Observer-in-training; so these kind of missteps are to be expected. I'll be the first to admit it.

The first runner up was Al Gore so TIME's editorial board did not dismiss the polls completely. In an interview regarding the matter, Gore made a statement with universal significance even if one does not believe that humans are contributing to global warming: "I do genuinely believe that the political system is not linear. When it reaches a tipping point fashioned by a critical mass of opinion, the slow pace of change we're into will no longer be the norm. I see lots of signs every day that we're moving closer and closer to the tipping point" (TIME, 12-31-07, p. 98.) Couldn't have said it better myself (see the sidebar about the reason for this blog.)

And what about the Burmese monks? Well, they didn't make the cut, although they were featured in TIME's Best Pictures of the Year at page 135, along with a quote of the Buddhist mantra chanted as they protested: "Let everyone be free from harm. Let everyone be free from anger. Let everyone be free from hardship." I would like to give them a Teddy Award, myself. Joe Klein, a columnist in TIME, gives an annual Teddy award, honoring bravery and for those striving valiantly.
While Klein gave his award to several politicians and bureaucrats who will be forgotten in short order, I would give it to these men and women of Burma who gave the words "daring greatly" new meaning. The following quote written by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago speaks as if from the grave to these courageous monks: "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again. . .who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly."

Moving on, would it surprise you as it did me that some of life's bigger questions were also search engine staples? Three of the top hits on Google in 2007 by category were: Who is. . .God; What is. . .Love; and How to. . .Kiss. Although the other categories about Google news (American Idol show); Movies (Transformers) and Campaign (Ron Paul) were more predictable and mundane, the questions of who is God and what is love could potentially show a movement toward more enlightened discourse. How to kiss seems to fall in with the other two, although one would have to use their abstract reasoning capacities as to how.

The AIG company is currently running a series of ads both on television and in print that tout the power of the positive adding years to one's life. They are uplifting and sometimes quite informative. Take this one, for example, entitled "How to pick a puppy that's right for you"--"Here's a test you can perform when you first meet the puppy. Gently roll him over onto his back. Hold him there with one hand on his chest for a full 30 seconds. A normal puppy will resist you at first but then accept it. A dominant dog will struggle the entire time. A submissive puppy won't resist and might lick your hand. An independent dog will resist and avoid eye contact. That determines how the puppy accepts the stress when socially and/or physically dominated." It concludes by saying: "Pets can add 7 years to your life." My question, if that's the case for pets, might it not be the same for a human partner? We should give it a try. If anyone does, let me know, and we will post the results.

Speaking of ads, Hyundai, the Korean car manufacturer, is running a multiple paged ad on change entitled "Think About It" that I found quite enlightening. It begins: "Thinking begets ideas. Ideas beget change. Change begets human rights. And longer lasting light bulbs. And donut holes. You don't have to cure cancer to change the world. And besides, there's more than one world that needs changing. So change something. Anything. It's all good." It then goes on for several more pages encouraging the reader to make the changes necessary to move evolution onward and upward: "Change doesn't just happen. And you're not going to find it in the hall closet. You've got to fly 230,000 miles into space in a steel tube for it. You've got to scribble on a chalkboard for 50 years for it. Sometimes, you even have to go to jail for it."

Since it's Christmas Eve, I thought it timely to speak about Bethlehem, which is surprisingly governed by Palestinians, and the wall going up around it. The Israelis, who are putting up the wall, do not distinguish between Christians and Muslims living there. All are treated as a suspect Palestinian, and the wall solution is the only one the Israelis find viable. TIME (p.13) quoted a Christian university student, who must travel through the wall and checkpoints daily: "Jesus Christ wouldn't be able to leave Bethlehem today unless he showed a magnetic ID card, a permit and his thumbprint." We look for enlightened change in this volatile area in the coming year by joining with others in meditation and prayer. Jesus Christ will join as well, I'm sure.

And finally, a quote from the late Tammy Faye Baker Messner will lead us into Christmas: "I refuse to label. . .We're all just people made out of the same old dirt, and God didn't make any junk" (p. 172.) Hear, hear, Tammy! I bet with what she went through, she knew the true meaning of Christmas and the message of love brought to us by that babe in Bethlehem. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

God is No Wimp

Yesterday on our annual Christmas trek to Racine, Wisconsin to pick up Mom Schirott, Jim raised a protest about an atheist organization from Madison that made it their business to erect a pyramid structure called the Pyramid of Freedom in Racine's Memorial Square next to the nativity manger. The Journal Times (12-21-07, p. 9A) noted that a member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation "started thinking about how they would respond to the religious symbol [manger scene], which they believe has no right being displayed on public property. 'It infers that this is a Christian nation,' Sorenson said. "The country has no religion. This is our objection.' "

From an Observer's standpoint, what was interesting was the vehemence and emotion that these non-believers felt about the topic of Christmas. Could they not just have as easily ignored the manger and put their energy into something more positive? Or put up the Pyramid of Freedom as a pagan solstice symbol in addition to the manger. Certainly America was founded with religious freedom in mind--not lack of religion--and has room for all beliefs, at least that's the idea. Ironically, the symbol of the pyramid--which also graces our dollar bill--is a central theme of the Masons, several of whom were among the nation's founding fathers. These brave men might find that a pyramid erected next to a nativity scene would be quite apropo.

But, what I really started to think about was what atheist have against God. What I concluded is that we need a god even the atheist could love. Think about it. The god that has been created in humanity's image and likeness is rather wimpy--sits on a throne, is a pacifist no matter what, either pays close attention to every move we make or ignores us completely depending on some inscrutable god-thing that we can never comprehend. He must also be a narcissist because preacher Rick Warren's latest Christmas commercial proclaims "God made man to love him." Whether it's him or Him, we are left with a god who makes something in order to adore or be adored.
So, who could like or respect that god?

Religions compound the problem by attributing all kinds of behavior to their brand of god while claiming they have exclusive rights to the franchise. What kind of god would ask his creations to erect separative structures in his name in order to have adoration take place? One begins to wonder if on Sunday this supreme being makes the rounds from church to church in order to get filled up for the week with adoration. Or, if some don't make Him dyspeptic like they do the atheists who have a point if you really think about it.

So, what kind of God could atheists rally round? An Observer might speculate that even atheists might come around to a God that makes more sense and is less wimpy. But, you know, that God probably wouldn't care. He's too busy saving the world and is only interested in those who care to join Him, atheist or not. Adoration is not required, nor for that matter is belief. Now that's my kind of God.

On today's God theme, after all it is Sunday, we have two other items of note: The Journal Times noted above, also highlighted a CBS special called "In God's Name" to be aired tonight. The French Naudet brothers had a near death experience in the twin towers on 9/11 while filming a special on firefighters (yes, they were filming BEFORE the impact) and began asking the questions "Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?" Subsequently, the duo interviewed twelve religious leaders representing over 4 billion followers and created the 2-hour special about the daily lives of these men. One of the brothers concluded, " 'I think what people will probably see is that the one constant link throughout the world is that everyone looks to reunite the human and the divine. A lot of them, if not most of them, spoke quite beautifully of that connection with God on a very poetic level, of that importance the voice of God has in their life and what he brings them." One wonders if the Naudets explored what each of these leaders offered to God, as well. Practically. A rational, thinking person might conclude that if they represented 4 billion people as spokespersons of God, the world should look differently, like more enlightened, a place where right human relations prevails. As religious leaders, what is their responsibility in facilitating loving understanding? It's a question that arguably is far more important than what these leaders had for breakfast or for that matter what they get from God.

And finally, a contributor emailed an editorial from the New York Times entitled "A Pause From Death" (12-20-07) that she said showed enlightened change emanating from the United Nations, a place that was created as a place of light but does not always shine: "The United Nations General Assembly voted on Tuesday for a global moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution was non-binding. . .and failed repeatedly in the 1990s, but this time the vote was 104 to 54, with 29 nations abstaining." The editorialist noted with derision that the United States, Iran, Iraq, China and Sudan were of the latter group. He concluded by saying: "On Monday, New Jersey became the first state in 40 years to abolish the death penalty. That event. . .left much of the country underwhelmed. But overseas, the votes in Trenton and the United Nations were treated as glorious news. Rome continued a tradition to make victories against capital punishment: it bathed the Colosseum, where Christians were fed to lions, in golden light." The question is do we or do we not need the death penalty to sustain law and order? More and more the world is coming around to the view that we do not. Eventually, all nations will come to this conclusion, but in this period of darkness before the dawn, we are not all there yet.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

World Plus 70,000,000

Chevron ran an eye-catching full page ad in the WSJ (12-18-07, p. A5) that began: "The world is growing by more than 70 million people a year. So is that a problem, or a solution?" Not knowing how adding 70 million people a year could be any kind of a solution, I actually continued reading the small print. The tiny text went on to say that the need for energy would increase by 50% over the next 25 years and could be one of the greatest challenges our generation will face. Hum, what else is new, I thought. But then came the real meat of the matter: "The key to insuring success is found in the same place that created this need: humanity itself. When the unique spirit we all posses is allowed to flourish, mankind has proven its ability to take on, and overcome, any issue. It's a spirit of hard work, ingenuity, drive, courage, and no small measure of commitment. To success, to each other, to the planet. The problem becomes the solution. This human energy that drives us to succeed has been there every day since the beginning. And it will be with us to shape many tomorrow's to come. So join us in tapping the most powerful source of energy in the world. Ourselves. And watch what the human race can do." Indeed it is challenge and striving that pushes humanity's evolutionary envelope both physically and mentally, a fact that these words captured most compellingly. That a huge oil company printed this ad showed real enlightenment--it could almost have been written by one of the Tibetan Masters.

And now back to China where we spent much of yesterday: in a page before the enlightened Chevron ad was the headline "China's Environmental Agency Gets Teeth." No we are not referring to dentures here, rather a sea-change in attitude regarding the environment in that rapidly growing economy: "China's environmental controls, long criticized as weak and ineffective, are starting to have real economic bite. This year, officials have rejected billions of dollars of new factories and other investment projects for failing to meet standards." The article emphasizes the fact that from 1995 to 2005, the state agency who controls the environmental rejected only 2 proposals; last year it rejected 110 and this year 187 representing $91 billion in spending that will not happen. In fact, the agency is showing the world that China can and will tackle tough problems when confronted by economic realities and outside pressure to change. Of note was a requirement for public comment, which had always been in place and routinely ignored,
on the building of an impending nuclear power plant. This enlightened trend is worth watching.

And finally, this blogger will be on the road for the next four days, probably thinking and composing future messages the whole time. After all, there are those 100 SCIENCE stories to cull through. See you in a few days.....

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Enemies at the Firewall

Enlightened change does not always have to be "good" from the standpoint of the general public. As a matter of fact, it can be alarming if one does not stand back and take in the larger picture. Case in point is the article in TIME (12-17-07, p. 56 - 58) entitled "Enemies at the Firewall" which describes China's latest efforts to hack into government computers worldwide: "Chinese computer hackers are allegedly breaking into high-security networks in the U.S. and other countries. Is Beijing creating an army of Internet warriors?" The writer concludes "yes" of course and describes a network of work-a-day hackers being clandestinely supported by the Chinese military through hacker competitions. . .Chinese newspaper articles suggest that the establishment of a cybermilitia is well underway. In recent years the military has engaged in nationwide recruiting campaigns to try to discover the nation;s most talented hackers.The campaigns are conducted through the competitions that feature large-scale prizes. . advertised in local newspapers." In that case it would be hard to miss--or deny. However, the Chinese government is indeed denying the allegations of the recent and widespread hacking adventures including those against the US government, the German government, other western governments and major corporations.

The article goes on to say:
"China has long regarded cyberwarfare as a critical component of asymmetrical warfare in any future conflict with the U.S. From China's perspective, it makes sense to use any means possible to counter America's huge technology advantage. The current wave of hacking attacks seems to be aimed mainly at collecting information and probing defenses, but in a real cyberwar, a successful attack would target computer dependent infrastructure, such as banking and power generation."

Why I might observe this as enlightened change is the use of cyberwarriors in warfare, which shows an evolution from use of physical force to that of mental prowess. While I'm NOT advocating warfare, most likely, humans are going to have to evolve from the use of physical force to the use of mental means before they will get past the need for warfare at all. Thus, from the Observer's standpoint, this is progress.

Speaking of China,
the Olympics in Beijing next year was certainly a catalyst for change. That a communist-ruled country could be transforming so rapidly is a marvel to watch. I initially wondered how long the people, given their introduction to the outside world through the internet and other sources, would tolerate its central government But, from all reports, many of the young people are quite satisfied with their lives and are more interested in their newly acquired cell phones and other consumer items than the government, human rights issues or Tibet. After all, they are embedded in their culture just as we are.

In the story of the tortoise and the hare, China is the tortoise and Ukraine is the hare. China might have it more right. That's one nice thing about being an Observer, history tells the tale, not our various opinions.

On another note, I made the prediction to my environmentally disappointed daughter a few years back that corporate America would catch the social responsibility bug when it paid to do so. Well, apparently it is now paying in several different ways including the fact that international companies like GE and Microsoft, for example, were forced
by the EU and the Kyoto Agreement to embrace environmental causes. Force might be too harsh a word, but persuaded doesn't quite touch my view as to how it came down. Al Gore's prodding, which has added a shame factor to everyone's plate, hasn't hurt either. And although his science may not be spot on, politically he knew where to manipulate the sensitive, emotional areas to get his point across. Brilliant, really.

Even the WSJ has gotten into the act in a full page ad (12-17-07, p. R11) announcing an Executive Conference sponsored by them called ECO:nomics--Creating Environmental Capital to be held in Santa Barbara CA in March: "A unique conference , ECO:nomics takes a CEO-level view of the rapidly developing relationship between the environment and the bottom line. New business opportunities are materializing thanks to regulation, new technologies, and a growing sense that a world reliant on finite resources must adapt. But the risks are high, and both winners and losers are emerging. Who will end up in the lead?" This kind of gathering would only be organized at a time when the groundswell was so great that CEO's would find it advantageous to attend. The time is apparently now.

This is in the same paper that reported on the front page and further on page A3 that in Bali, Indonesia "nearly 190 nations approved a pact to combat climate change. The agreement paves the way for developing nations to take a more responsibility in fighting the global threat, a departure from the Kyoto Protocol. The accord hammered out at the end of a 12-day U.N. conference stops short of requiring binding cuts." The passage goes on to say meetings will take place over the next two years on a global treaty to replace the Kyoto Agreement. "The leader of the U.S. delegation called the accord 'a new chapter in climate diplomacy' and said the U.S. is 'very committed to developing a long-term global greenhouse gas reduction emission goal.' " Now, that is truly lighted change and proves that the U.N. can be an international leader in such weighty matters.

And a final note on the labor watch (yes, we have a labor watch as well): unions' best days may now be past, and they don't know it yet. Take for example the current writer's strike. If this goes on too long, people may decide they no longer need network TV, particularly when they have found new, more entertaining sources. Again, time will tell whether the writers were enlightened or unenlightened to go on strike over an issue that has little meaning with their audience, the man on the street. Of course, this does not count the groupies who bring donuts and other food to the strikers in order to brush shoulders with this illustrious crowd.

This coming week, I will host a SCIENCE blogathon event. DISCOVER magazine recently reported the 100 most newsworthy scientific events of 2007. Those stories will be highlighted that have shown world wide illumination, transformation or trends of science for a better tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Running the Opposites

Many believe that things are often not as they appear and are, in fact, the opposite. This is a thought espoused by the Tibetan Masters who teach the Ancient Wisdom and others who believe that what is before us is transitory and illusory. Whether one wants to go that far or not makes no difference. Observers, however, can use this premise to help acquire and then hone budding abilities in creating their new way of thinking. It gives real meaning to the phrase "I've changed my mind" because in this case, at least for a while, it is true. I call this exercise Running the Opposites.

On the surface, it's really very simple. Take any strongly help belief--it works best with something emotional--and then run with the opposite thought. Let's say a person in our lives really upsets us for whatever reason. We've decided they are no-good, lazy, crazy, manipulative or add any other negative thought here about that person. It's probably not a stretch to say we have at least one of these people in our lives. Then, the idea is to flip the brain to the opposite set of thoughts about that person and run with it. Spend time with it. Savor it. While at first that might be a stretch given the previous habitual thought pattern, given time the exercise becomes easier and easier. One finds that engaging the heart in the process really helps, because the mind alone comes up a bit cold sometimes when the negative emotional nature just won't let go. Try it both ways with and without the heart engaged and see what I mean.

This is no starry eyed, Pollyanna exercise, it has very practical application. After all, what we call reality is only based on our limited knowledge at the moment--it doesn't make it true. Given this, the opposite could be true if we had eyes to see. And then again, maybe neither is true. If we keep postulating on possibilities, an unlimited universe opens before us. We might even get a chuckle at some of our previously held "Truths." This could be the beginning of real freedom and enlightened change in action. Give it a try--it's actually fun.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Today in TIME

TIME magazine in general is rather an unenlightened source for blog material. It is good reading for other reasons, like keeping up with aspects of the news I don't garner in other places, but it does not tend to highlight those movements that are changing the world for the better.

Having said that, one noted feature this past month has been No, that is not a new ethnic recipe, but rather our chance to vote on the Person of the Year via online poll. Each week for the last several weeks TIME has devoted a page to various famous nominators and their nominees and then invited us to vote as well--that is inclusive and enlightened and I applaud them. Examples of the famous nominating the famous include:
1-Hugh Hefner, you know him, for Steven Jobs, you know him too.
2-Lisa Randall, an non-famous scientist, for Dick Cheney, for cynical--not enlightened--reasons.
3-Nora Roberts, the author of romance novels, for Hillary Clinton, the infamous Senator from NY.
4-George Allen, a former Senator, for General David Petraeus of Iraq fame.
5-John Irving, the author, for Al Gore, the Nobel Laureate and Oscar award winner
6-Lance Armstrong, the athlete, for the Voters of Texas, who approved $ for cancer research
7-Betty Ford, one Republican First Lady, for Laura Bush, another Republican First Lady.
8-Steven Chen, YouTube Founder, for the Burmese Buddhist Monks.

My vote went to the Buddhist Monks of Burma for demonstrating lighted change while also courageously putting their lives on the line for freedom. Mr Chen eloquently stated: "The Burmese Buddhist monks demonstrated on a global scale their humble, peaceful protests for a set of inalienable, basic human rights that no government can revoke or suppress." It might be an equally courageous act for TIME magazine to name these intrepid souls Persons of the Year, a designation that could have far-reaching ramifications to these men and women who are now either in prison or hiding. Aesop said it is easy to be brave from a safe distance. These monks did not have that option.

But who will be the TIME Person of the Year? My guess is Al Gore because of his "MO" (pronounced mow) which has been explained to me as unstoppable political movement. It seems that this is Al Gore's time, and so far he is making the most of it. John Irving says of his nominee: "Gore has devoted himself to bringing awareness to environmental issues that endanger the planet, namely global warming." Stay tuned because the winner will be announced on NBC's Today show this Wednesday, December 19th.

TIME had two other lighted tidbits worth mentioning: first, The New York Philharmonic will be making a cultural trek to North Korea by invitation of Kim Jung Il. The orchestra has received flack for this move from the WSJ editorial page a few weeks back, but I would beg to differ. Apparently, we have a chance for a small opening with North Korea and what better way than music to begin to bridge the gap. Music can have magical properties; so, we will see what unfolds during and following the tour.

Second, Harvard has announced more free tuition and much improved financial aid packages for lower, middle and upper middle income students. The motive behind this is a bloated endowment fund and possible Congressional involvement. However, it is enlightened change to educate a larger and more socio-economically diverse student base than to build larger and more fancy buildings as others have done (e.g. Princeton.) Says Harvard's President, Drew Faust, "Education is the engine that makes American democracy work. And it has to work, and that means people have to have access." While not the most pithy statement ever recorded, we do get the point. TIME and other printed sources have noted that Harvard could start a trend in higher education toward more free or greatly reduced tuition. Stay tuned.

And finally, globalization is shrinking the world, that is nothing new. What is an enlightened change is that more and more people are having to brush-up on or in many cases learn world-wide geography, many for the first time. The WSJ in their Weekend Travel section today (12-15/16-07, p. W1) highlighted an online quiz game on locations and landmarks that is winning millions of fans the world over: "One of the most popular video-games on the internet right now is about as low-tech as a high-school social studies quiz. The free game, Traveler IQ Challenge, has become an unlikely hit by getting players to locate Kinshasa, Moscow and other cities and attractions by clicking on a crude, two-dimensional map, and scoring them based on the speed and accuracy of their responses." The article goes on to say: "Issues like climate change, globalization and the war in Iraq are encouraging interest in far flung places. . .Ambrose Briese said after World War I that 'War is God's way of teaching Americans geography.' " On a troubling note it says that the public "has a long way to go before. . .improving its grasp of geography. A survey from early last year sponsored by the National Geographic Society found that only half of young American adults, ages 18 to 24, could locate New York City on a map. Six out of 10 could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East." If you want to try Traveler IQ Challenge, you will have to Google it because the website address was not listed in the article, go figure (maybe that's a test to see how well you can navigate the world wide web, which has many similarities to learning geography.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Catching Up

As I said, my file is full of articles illustrating lighted change. This first go-around will empty that file this weekend and may prove to be quite a marathon. Maybe even enlightening. You judge. Many of these articles highlighted are here not only for what they say, but that they were news at all. Remember, we are trend watchers and plan to carry on for many years. . .
  • The Wall Street Journal has been running advertisements for the University of Virginia Darden School of Business entitled "The Darden Perspective in First Person" written by professors at the school apparently. The ads are in prominent places in the newspaper and are about surprisingly enlightened subjects, particularly for a business school. Obviously, the years of unethical business behavior have had an impact at the collegiate level. Note this one by Saras D. Sarasvathy, Associate Professor of Business Administration, "Why Can't I Buy Shares of Human Hope?" (12-11-07, p. A21.) She asks the question "Why can't I buy futures contracts in Rwandan prosperity? Or options in environmental conservation in Brazil: Or equity in the emancipation of Afghan women?" Ms. Sarasvathy concludes, "People are learning that there is calls in human hope and asking more and more questions about ways we might all benefit from the eradication of human misery. The answers to these questions will certainly require more struggle. But the struggle is worthy of all our creative efforts. . ."
  • You might think I'm stuck on advertisements--and in a way, I am. They provide a window into how we think and what we are thinking about--and what we want to spend money selling. Surprisingly, a full page ad entitled "Let's Redefine Christmas" recently ran in the WSJ, 12-4-07, p. A5. "If you feel that the gift giving season has become a burden and too commercial...if you wish your gifts were more personal and meaningful...if you would rather spend quality time with family and friends rather than in stories shopping for can redefine Christmas this year." The ad then goes on to list alternative holiday ideas and concludes "If you'd like some helpful hints on how to redefine Christmas, please go to REDEFINE-CHRISTMAS.ORG" and "The sole purpose of this message is to facilitate charitable giving. Please pass it on."
  • And here's another ad from Time magazine last week "Diversify Globally. New Online Global Trading in 6 different markets in local currencies" from The six markets are Canada, US, UK, Germany, France, Japan and Hong Kong. What effect will globalization of the trading markets have on the worldwide economy? We will watch as this trend unfolds at whatever level of knowledge and expertise we have on the topic.
  • Biofuels are another hot topic and most likely a wave of the future. However, ethical considerations have already come into play in this young market: WSJ 12-12-07, "Royal Dutch Shell will fund a project that aims to produce transport fuel from algae, as biofuel production from crops is increasingly criticized for causing deforestation and higher food prices." "Higher oil prices in recent years have improved the economics of alternative fuels...Shell is also motivated by government mandates in the US and Europe..." A question for the Observer, does motive make a difference as to whether something is enlightened or not?
  • "If aliens are out there, how should Earthlings go about getting in touch with them?" was the first line in an article "Scientists Debate Protocol for Reaching Out to Aliens" WSJ, 12-12-07. It goes on to say "A dispute erupted recently among the scientists over an effort to draft the protocol. . .several scientists resigned in protest." Two things are worthy of note, first that this topic was highlighted in a mainstream newspaper. And second, that we would not be past fighting (unenlightened) when discussing such an evolved topic. Let's say the aliens in question were watching this dispute, what might they think about it? One never knows, but could be aliens are not "out there" but rather right here in another dimension able to tune into our goings-on. Given the contentious nature of these scientists wanting to reach them, the aliens might decide not to engage at this time.
  • Remember when we had never heard of Doha? This tiny country of 750,000 is now hotly pursuing the 2016 Olympics. Thing is, Qatar's native population is only 20% of the total and most services would have to be outsourced internationally. That would be a first, but it might be rather enlightened for the Olympics Committee to consider a Mideast, Muslim country for this athletic spectacle.
  • In the US freedom is taken for granted, so much so that we often turn a blind eye to those who still put their life on the line for it. Arthur Mutambara is one of these freedom fighters, and he does it working from the Zimbabwean Parliament. John Fund of the WSJ interviewed Mr Mutambara (12-8-07, p. A11:) "As Mr. Mutambara prepares to pack to fly home to Zimbabwe, I ask him about his own safety. Doesn't he worry about what the regime could do to him? He says he would if he weren't convinced the leaders are 'both moral and physical cowards' who are unsure of what might happen if prominent opposition leaders such as himself are killed. It is also a relief to know his wife and children are in South Africa while he is on the front line. But he recognizes the risks he faces every time he returns. 'After all it was your Founding Fathers who said give me liberty or give me death, he says flashing a smile. 'I plan to gain the first, but I know I have to risk the second to get it.' "
  • "A United Arab Emirates-based project called Kalima ('word' in Arabic)has announced plans to translate hundreds of foreign books into Arabic and distribute them throughout the Middle East. The venture, which has official government backing was inspired by a United Nations' report that pointed out that more books are translated into Spanish each year than were translated into Arabic in the past 1,000 years...You can see a list of Kalima's first 100 titles at the project's website, Kalima's list of books is multicultural by design, since its purpose is to give Arabs access to the widest possible range of information about the world beyond their borders" says Terry Teachout of the WSJ. Mr Teachout wonders out loud what the Arabs might take from this glimpse.
  • "In a Shift, White House Seeks Direct Engagement" with North Korea. Jay Solomon says, "The White House said that President Bush sent a letter directly to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il seeking cooperation in implementing a pact to dismantle its nuclear arms in exchange for full normalized relations. The move is the latest example of how the White House has reversed itself on numerous foreign policy fronts" (WSJ, 12-7-07, p. A9.) Many say it's about time, but don't you wonder why now?
  • Vinzenz Brinkman is an extraordinary visionary. When everyone else saw white classical statues and thought nothing of it, Mr. Brinkman saw something else. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard Campus, is currently hosting a show called "Gods in Color." "The prime mover behind the show is. . .the German archaeologist who has spent the past two decades investigating polychromy--literally the use of many colors--in Greek and Roman sculptures. 'Without color,' Mr Brinkman said in a recent visit to Harvard, 'you can't understand ancient figures at all.' He went on to say, 'The emotional response of viewers here is as intense as it has been everywhere else. The new view of antiquity upsets some people. Unconsciously, they register the message that images lie. Artists through the ages have been working hard to achieve just that. The aesthetic ideal of the Greeks was mimesis: the imitation of life. and it was color that brought their statues to life.'" (WSJ, 12-4-07, p. D4.) Now that is enlightening.
  • And last but not least for today, "Green Projects Generate Splits in Activists Groups" (WSJ, 12-13-07, p. B1.) This argument is between the wind turbine groups and the trout stream groups. So, now we know, even the greenies fight. But, it's enlightened that this is mainstream news and that we can watch how it unfolds.