Enlightened Conflict

growing up unevenly

July 18th, 2014

 growing up and shutting up


“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

Anaïs Nin






No one grows up evenly.




We don’t even think and learn evenly.
<my 2011 post: http://brucemctague.com/intellect-ignorance-the-learning-boundaries>


Here is the truth.


Ignorance is boundless.


Knowledge is limited <only in terms of time>.


And learning is never symmetrical.




If you believe how you think, what you think … and what you know <and what you think you know> is the foundational idea of Life <and growing up> then you would have to believe by expanding the circle of knowledge you are simultaneously expanding the boundaries of ignorance.



In other words, the more things you learn, the more things you become aware you don’t know.


Now that, my friends, is an awesomely simple concept.



The whole idea of ignorance always outpacing knowledge and learning is something I believe we should think about more often.





learn stupid 1 boy meets worldlearn stupid 2

Because <1> … we make comparisons or judgments based on linear standards.
This is relevant to growing up, test scores and even performance reviews.
“If you started here you should be here by this time.”



Because <2> … we feel a constant failure to learn everything <or more>.


Therefore we constantly get discouraged because by remaining in the ‘ignorance zone,’ despite having invested energy in knowledge gathering to actually get out of that zone, one can theoretically never feel a satisfaction of ‘something completed’.



Because <part3> …. Ignorance attacks you in a 360degree fashion.

This only matters because we attack ignorance on a focused limited degree approach.


I will illustrate by showing you this diagram <which I did not do> where the circle of knowledge has inconsistent edges.

uneven Circle Of Knowledge-


When I saw this diagram I thought it perfectly reflected:


-              how people expand their learning knowledge <outside a school construct as well as inside a school construct>

-         my own personal challenge when it comes to increasing knowledge and ignorance

-            why people <in general> grow up unevenly



Suffice it to say … even as we expand ourselves and get better … the choices we make … well … make us grow unevenly.


And that can not only make us feel uncomfortable but it can also make the people around us feel uncomfortable.



“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”

Gayle Forman





All this unevenness is simply growth … and growing up.


Each spike in learning and knowledge is the another initial breakthrough in the attack on ignorance.


Each spike inevitably leads to a curiosity driven rounding out of fuller understanding and knowledge.
Using myself as an example … beyond some ’rounding out’ I would imagine there is an inevitable new ‘spike’ somewhere else … I assume I had read or heard something that piqued my curiosity in another direction.


Therefore, and I believe this is the neatest thought, this is a perpetual process with spikes and rounding out but in the end the circle just keeps getting bigger and bigger <and bigger is better>.



Unfortunately … this is also a reflection of growing up.


Growing up is uneven.


You become more expert and informed on certain topics at the expense of others … some experiences at the expense of others.



sitting in doorwayThis also has repercussions on where people end up in Life.


The well rounded circle – that might have characterized the end of the classic education system and the classically defined ‘well rounded person’ – is inevitably being replaced with the profile of an expert <or increased passion on a topic> in some particular domain.



This inevitably means creating a person who will never end up with a perfect circle … but rather an ellipse, at best, or some wacky trapezoid <or some random shape with edges … not rounded curves>. And some people will actually be a straight relatively thin rectangle.

My main point?


There is no such thing as a well rounded person. You may aspire to be well rounded but even at your best … you are some shape other than a circle type person.


I admit.


I like this thought.


I like that we all grow up unevenly and we learn unevenly,


It implies society & culture is like a jig saw puzzle up to us humans o figure out how to fit together.


But his also creates some problems for us wacky ‘comfortable with a plan’ group of citizens.


It focuses us on ‘we need to build this type of expertise’ silos of people. And yet people, in general, are maximize in a more random ‘stimulate and go in whatever direction you want to go way.



“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
Albert Einstein




We know what we want.
We want ourselves, anyone in fact, to simply be a well rounded individual maximizing their talents.



We don’t really understand how to attain it <because there is a randomness to the plan>.
While “we are made up of layers, cells, constellations” is a little too poetically nebulous for me … I do like ‘we grow up unevenly.’
And I do believe it makes us a little uncomfortable … this unevenness.


And we try and try <and try again> to even it out as much as we can.





Maybe we should be investing the same energy to encourage passionate energetic unevenness instead.


Maybe if we did that the overall ‘grown-upedness’ or intellectualism of all people would simply reside at a higher level.brain and clever pooh



And then I would have to assume we would be smart enough to then figure out how to put all the uneven jig saw pieces together and create a better happier world <with happier people as individuals>.



Just a thought.


But I am an uneven guy.

one of those people

June 27th, 2014


butterfly finger


“… it’s the good fortune of even just knowing him. He’s one of the most stimulating things in my life. I don’t know what it would be like to spend 60 seconds with him that were dull.”
Jack Lemmon






I don’t really have a point to make.


I saw this quote from Jack Lemmon in reference to Billy Wilder.


The names and the actual people are kind of irrelevant.

Imagine being one of those people.



‘One of the most stimulating things in my life.’


‘Don’t know what it would be like to spend 60 seconds that were dull.’




Oh my.


That would be spectacular.


blooming_in_the_rainI don’t think you can ever try to be one of these people … or practice it … or even learn it.



You either are … or you aren’t.


I imagine we would be lucky if we encountered even one of this type of people in our lifetime.


guilt free accumulation

June 18th, 2014

Guilt Free SweetSpot

“Culture is an elevated expression of the inner voice which the different peoples of the Earth have heard in the depths of their being, a voice which conveys the vibrant compassion and wisdom of the cosmic life. For different cultures to engage in interaction is to catalyze each other’s souls and foster mutual understanding.”
Daisaku Ikeda





Recently I have had two discussions revolving around the same cultural concept tied to future desires <and behavior> of people.


Let’s say the discussions have revolved around things like ‘what does the future kitchen look like?’ … or ‘what does the future bank <or financial provider> look like?’ … or ‘what does a person’s happiness with wealth look like in the future?’



It is kind of guessing <in an educated thoughtful way> what people will want to behave like … or what behavior will make them happy <from a Maslow type perspective> in the future.


This is good type thinking … not simply mental masturbation.


Changing behavior is slow.

Generation slow.

Because most of today’s older generations are simply defending their behavior … not truly modifying it <modification would be if they change behavior because they wanted to instead of because they had to>.





By the way.

Thinking about the future ‘what does’ type stuff can be Jetsons type pie in the sky type thinking … or it can be more pragmatic ‘rising generations with existing perceptions and how will they act in the future’ type thinking.


I tend to be more pragmatic.
I do so because it is fun.


It is fun in that every … yes … every generation rising <young to old> rebel against the norms & ‘standards’ of the older more established generations.

Some changes stick … and some don’t.


The fun is trying to figure out what will stick and what won’t. The only thing you can be sure of is there will be windows of opportunity where a rising generation will always say ‘I will never do what they did/do’ <albeit historically they will adopt many of the same characteristics as they mature and assume Life responsibilities>.





The windows exist and if you can identify the underlying attitudinal shifts you can be successful by offering things that tap into this attitude <and you can reap the benefits of their behavior>.




You would have to be blind, deaf and dumb to miss the attitude among the young that older generations are greedy.


That’s easy.


The hard part is that we old folk flippantly disregard this attitude as the naiveté of youth. Silly us old folk.

The young DO recognize the value of accumulating wealth and the benefits that come along with it.


No matter how we may want to couch this attitude in some trite platitudes … people will always want to be valued and fairly compensated for the value they provide.


The future challenge is how to let the Reptilian brain ‘accumulate wealth’ and increase personal value … all the while balanced with a moralistic <semi altruistic> belief that ‘I want to be fair’ <at its most hedonistic shallow level it would actually be ‘how can I become wealthy and not look like a greedy jerk’>.



Trendwatching calls it ‘guilt free.’


I imagine the more positive slant on it is a revitalization of some sense of altruism … or fairness.

People, especially younger people, are feeling conflicted between their desire to earn & spend and their aspiration to do the right thing.
They are looking for products and services that will deliver value and quality while, at the same time, provide reassurance that their ‘accumulating’ is not seen as greedy.


guilt free accumulation

Trendwatching researchers suggest that consumers are experiencing guilt over how they spend and on what. They are taking a closer look at how companies conduct their business, from where they source their products and whether they are engaged in socially-responsible initiatives.

The key to addressing consumer guilt is to identify the choices that cause the consumer the most concern and “absolve” them of the guilt.

Once again.
This doesn’t mean ‘me’ desires go away.
It, in its most simplistic sense, is suggesting a ‘guilt free’ aspect to the desire to accumulate wealth or things. in the end there is an implied ‘balance’ … you are bargaining with your desire to accumulate.



But in this sense you have added a belief if that a ‘me’ can make more, earn more & and accumulate/have more … and feel good about it if the ‘optimal end game’ is connected to a greater ‘we’ aspect <environment, society, sharing of that which is accumulated with less fortunate>.

This mental bargaining is an attempt to alleviate the guilt that gnaws at the conscience of those who, mostly with good intent, want to do the best they can and accumulate the most wealth they can.

Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.”
Robert South


Wealth is therefore achieved with a balance of ‘what I could have had but shared.’
It shows an innate sacrifice of ‘me’ … but not at the expense of success.
Instead it shows a sharing of individual success. Successful wealth management <growth> shows ‘not too much’ by ‘I could have had more but I don’t.’

It also meets a Maslow thought … ‘I am successful … not everyone can be successful … therefore by being as good as I can be … which is better than many people … I can contribute to those who cannot do what I can do.’


All the psychological mumbo jumbo aside.

It is a sense of fairness.
Fair to me and we.


I called this attitudinal concept Community individualism in 2010.
And I still call it that.


The seeds of this type of thinking have been planted and while it will most likely not prosper in current adult generations it will thrive in younger rising generations.


It will be <at least in my eyes> the prevalent psychographic attitude every business will need to attend to in the future.



Interestingly if you google my ‘community individualism’ concept you will find a number of really well written articles and intellectual papers outlining the battle <tension> between ‘community’ and ‘individualism.’


I say interestingly for 2 reasons:


1. Because I believe there is an entire rising generation who is answering the battle for “us” <versus just ‘me’>. They are living it and have grasped it and are embodying how to be and do both.

We <older folk> could not figure it out.
They have.


2. I am the only one, I have found, who believes there is no tension, but rather an embracing, between community & individualism in this next younger generation.





This global generation … those who will own ‘community individualism.’


I will not bore you with everything I have written but give some relevant highlights to align everyone on my thinking.



global cirizen kidsThe post millennial generation (The Global Generation) will have been preceded by the two extremes of community and individualism. The worldwide web will enable a higher level of intimacy between cultures and globally dispersed local communities (or maybe, more specifically, individuals). We see this emerging even today (it just has not matured). Not surprisingly, this technology has transformed our worlds – empowering people with access to extensive circles of population as well as connecting in surprisingly personal and intimate ways.

My thoughts may seem extreme … but I believe the Millennial generation is “too far down the path” to be the Global Generation. They were the early adopters of a web based global community aspect and there will certainly be “cusp” generational citizens, but as a whole they are being bombarded with the vocal minority and don’t have the global counterbalance (I guess what I mean by that is I believe Millenials will still fall back on country cultural cycles as the subconscious place to go). Millennials will be open to a global community (which is the reason why I believe the Global Generation will be successful as they follow in their footsteps).


Generations are not set by birth, but by accumulated experience over a lifetime. As Millennials will deal with a Crisis, the Global Generation will deal with the aftermath.

This balance of community and individuality will permit this generation to better accept and respect the choices made by individuals globally and yet strengthen local communities (I actually believe that will be represented by strengthened country patriotism). The community aspect will definitely lead to some cultural or geographical driven conflict yet the respect for individual choices elsewhere will balance the conflict within a “values set of rules.”



< link to what I wrote before: http://brucemctague.com/global-generation-part-1-dawn-of-enlightened-individuality >


All that said.
As noted above … I believe that while generations turn and attitudes evolve over time that the advent of the internet has truly enabled a new ‘mixing’ of an attitude and should enable new behavior.


Interestingly … the internet has not just changed behaviors but also attitudes <in that we are now better able to judge others’ behaviors>.


Transparency doesn’t just go in one direction <towards the bad guys … and ‘evil corporations’>.

guilt free list


And while the internet may appear to sharpen <or cocoon> opinions & beliefs it has actually made us more aware of issues and differences <whether we like or dislike the differences is a different issue>. It may have made us more defensive with regard to our own attitudes it has also encouraged us to go on the offensive to showcase our ‘moral cores.’


By the way.


This doesn’t mean a ‘flatter’ world.
It means a more aware world.
You can no longer just ‘be me’ and be invisible … me is now always visible.


This comes with some repercussions whether it’s protecting or projecting your image or character. The world today with its internet driven transparency forces us all to take a closer look at not only our behavior but also what that behavior ‘begets.’


In the end.



Guilt free accumulation is the future attitude <generating a type of behavior> that needs to be addressed if you are in business and want to innovate products & services … or just want to understand what attitudes which need to be tapped into in order to be successful.


Why should you believe me?


I will end with what I started with … “an elevated expression of the inner voice which the different peoples of the Earth have heard in the glimpse of ourselves find ourselves depths of their being, a voice which conveys the vibrant compassion and wisdom of life.”


Listen closely.


The inner voice of fairness is raising its voice to be heard.
A lot of us older folk may try to shut it out … but the younger voices will be heard.

And in being heard they will drive the behavior of the future.



Ignore this voice at your own peril.


when did I get duped?

December 18th, 2013

dumb is never cute


As a follow up to my long convoluted indulge or decadent article <and some notes I received> I wanted to share a question <and thought>.

The thought is about … well … the question. The question is ‘when I got duped into becoming an accumulator of things?”

Here is the thought from some commenter in a national publication:


“… we, and by that I mean most of humanity since the Neolithic, have been duped into believing that life must be lived by accumulating. This is simply an ideological lie. Is it impossible to imagine a world lived by the economics of the gift? Even the most cursory look at various enduring cultures around the world shows us that people (who are left alone to do so) living lives according to deeper principles are more content, more spiritually rounded, less troubled by existential angst, than by westerners tricked into believing in the ideologies of power and wealth.”  – comment in The Guardian about Materialism




I will begin with acknowledging there is a shitload of psychological research that seems to support the fact that materialism <accumulating shit> doesn’t make us happier <psychologically>.


The gobs of research suggests that materialism, a characteristic that reaches both rich and poor and researchers define as “a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project”, is both socially destructive and self-destructive.

It’s associated with stress, anxiety, depression and even how personal relationships can be affected.


In fact … there has long been a correlation observed between materialism, a lack of empathy and engagement with others, and unhappiness and research is reinforcing this by showing causation.

For example, a series of studies published in the journal Motivation and Emotion showed that as people become more materialistic, their wellbeing <good relationships, autonomy, sense of purpose and the rest> diminishes.

As they become less materialistic, unhappiness rises.


I say all of this to say … well … Nuts.


Nuts to the comment I began with.

Nuts that maybe I should be smarter.

Nuts that maybe I have been duped.



What a bunch of crap.


I haven’t been duped.

I have a mind of my own.


And do I really not know when I am unhappy? <and why I may be unhappy>



For the most part … yup.


I believe most of us understand that it is a dreadful mistake allowing ourselves to believe that having solely more money and more stuff enhances our wellbeing.

Oddly … despite the fact we poor everyday schmucks know this … this belief appears to not only be embraced by those poor deluded people in movies, but by almost every member of almost every government <and civilization>.


How can this be?

Worldly ambition, material aspiration, perpetual growth … taken in and of itself … is a formula for mass unhappiness.


I say that … but I have not been duped.

damned straightIf I enter the rat race then I have chosen to be a rat.

If I choose to compete with the Joneses than I have chosen to be one of the Joneses.


Society hasn’t duped me into doing so.

If I decide to follow an ‘ideology of wealth and power’ than that is my choice.

And you know what?

For the most part I don’t have to choose that game if I don’t want … and still be successful.


Do I believe the game is rigged in some form or fashion?


Do I believe that the game is easier won if you decide to play the wealth & power game?

You bet.

Not choosing to do so is like swimming against the tide in some form or fashion.


It’s not easier … but it can still be done.


But the bottom line.


Do I feel like I have been duped into becoming an accumulator? Shit no.

If I truly believed that then I disregard free will, free choice and self-interest <balancing moral and material>.choice what it looks like


Do I believe there should be a balance of moralism and materialism?



Here’s the deal.

Having a thread of materialism makes better society … through creating better and smarter stuff.


But being duped? C’mon. I am not buying it.

I think I am smart enough <and most people> not to accumulate bad thinking.

overindulgence or indulging (quod satis est)

December 9th, 2013


or …  indulging or decadence?indulgence buy shit


“quod satis est” <what is enough> – Horace



I was torn between calling this indulgence versus overindulgence, indulging or decadence or “quod satis est” <what is enough> … in the end … it doesn’t really matter because it is simply a discussion on what is pure decadence – or greed – and what do we actually deserve as people.


I imagine it is also a discussion on what Horace discussed as ‘what is enough’ or ‘the hollowness of unparalleled prosperity where we need to recognize the unacceptable limits <on prosperity> and finding some sanity in enough.’


Or in his exact words … ‘… supplicate and implore the gods that prosperity may return to the wretched, and abandon the haughty.’


Materialism is a tricky topic.

And people who dumb it down to simplistic thinking are being silly.

We all want things.

Not just for sociological reasons … but for practical ones. Things can make our lives easier and better. While status can certainly play a role <this is where indulgence or decadence can rear its ugly head> materialism at its most basic level is a fairly practical concept.


And comparing those who ‘have something’ to those who ‘have a lot’ is difficult.


Where do you draw the line?



Where is the line on ‘having something’?

What exactly is ‘the hollowness of unparalleled prosperity’?

Where do we define a ‘recognition of unacceptable limits?


Horace was a pretty smart guy.


And even all he could do was ask the question … not offer any true answer.


“ … sensibility of the age, materialism itself, which seemed so solid, is revealed as a false god. Growing affluence appears to breed only an insatiable hunger for more, a desolate sense of something always lacking. Horace asked himself, just as we are asking ourselves, these questions: What exactly is this new dominion, empire, or global new order? Can it offer unlimited peace and prosperity, stretching forward into infinite horizons of time, or does it consist of little more than a soulless efficiency, an instrumentalism that makes everything a means to an end, with the end itself lost along the way? In which case, might not the greatest loss and poverty be of time itself, the lived and living moment, the day, which is the gods’ gift to us, but which is always being sacrificed to a more glorious tomorrow?

Horace’s response to living in his time of global power threatened by its inner vacuum of values, not so unlike our time of global question mark roadcapitalism, in which no value other than the monetary is recognized, was to be contrary.”- Harry Eyres <Horace and Me>




Sometimes I believe we confuse the issues when I hear people bitching about greed and capitalism and ideals and social responsibility.


Capitalism is simply a process or system or possibly even an economic ideology … but that is it.

Simply a framework in which people work within.

And values are associated with people and not a framework. If no value is recognized other than money that is not the fault of capitalism … it is the fault of people.


The system does not breed greed or overindulgence.


It is a system in which people institute attitudes & behavior. It is people who abuse or use the system. You can be as good, or bad, as you choose to be within capitalism.


All that said.


Before I show the following quote let me say that I am certainly a capitalism guy … but … Schumpeter <who I thought was a really really smart guy> suggested the following:


“Moral poverty lurks within capitalism.” – Joseph Schumpeter


I like this thought.

It isn’t that capitalism IS moral poverty but that within capitalism LURKS the possibility of moral poverty.


What that suggests is that there is a constant battle between prosperity <or having shit> and morals.

We constantly battle what psychologists called ‘hedonistic adaptation’ <once you have something you want more>.


And I agree with Schumpeter.

I believe that is the battle we face day in and day out.


So with that said I state unequivocally that ‘greed’ does not rule <despite the fact I see a shit load of people suggesting that greed is leading to all the issues we face>.

Greed, among the few, will always be in constant battle with the majority in which is constantly fighting against moral poverty.


That is life.

That is economy.

That is societal salvation.


But I do believe we are facing some interesting societal challenges as we think about whether we have embraced ‘indulgence’ as the norm rather than an exception.  Maybe better said … have we embraced an odd perspective on ‘something we deserve’ versus ‘something we earn.’


An evolving economy is all about ‘moving up the ladder.’

Maybe not socially but certainly accumulating <accumulation not necessarily being material but rather anything that you find valuable to accumulate … honor, integrity and kindness included>.


<note: ponder that thought for a second>



But at some point we seem to have begun to believe we deserve some things.

And, no, this isn’t about entitlement programs and crap like that … this is about ‘I deserve a certain salary’ or ‘I deserve a certain size house’ … or even ‘I deserve that opportunity.’


Maybe it is semantics but attitudinally there is a massive difference between feeling like you deserve something rather than feeling like you have to earn it first.


Which leads me to some thoughts:


-          Perversion of capitalism

Capitalism is a living breathing organism.

One in which microbes fight with other corrupted microbes intent on perverting the organism. The organism also has other microbes which are healthy and can sometimes even attack and destroy the other microbes. Corruption should not, probably cannot, kill capitalism because capitalism itself can kill corruption.

This is kind of my version of Schumpeter’s though on creative destruction.

This is a simple thought … and I am going to leave it quickly to move on to the larger attitudinal issue.





-          Cynicism of external factorsso it goes humor and hope

Perversion aside … if our perception is that the system is rigged by the perverted … we become cynical. Lose optimism. Question hope. Maybe even get angry at the perverts <sorry … couldn’t resists>.

I’m not suggesting the American ideal is not a good <or great> one or that all Americans are wasteful and clueless or that every shred of what makes America great has evaporated.

Today’s United States has a  solid core of the good and possibility and hope. And I say that despite the fact people have become quite cynical. And it is a deep cynicism. What I mean by that is that we have become cynical with regard to what it is to be America <which includes, but is not solely, capitalism>.


I mention cynicism because it is relevant.

It is relevant because it corrodes the ideal.

It is relevant because it affects <either directly or indirectly> how we behave in tandem with our virtues <moral compass … ethics>.


Adam Smith noted that free markets, in order to function well, depend upon the virtue of their participants. It is a fact that cynicism and distrust engendered by ‘the perverted’ only creates inefficient transactions and costs <including oversight expenses trying to reel the perverted in> to levels that can paralyze a marketplace. Additionally this perversion inevitably focuses on the phenomenon of “putting profits before people.”


This can be manifested in a variety of ways:

-          taking imprudent and excessive risks with other people’s money

-          selling products and services that harm people, families, and society

-          engaging in outright fraud


Today it seems like we are suffering from all of the above.


So this perversion of capitalism is really all about morality.


refinding risk human spiritAs noted earlier, Adam Smith, understood the link between markets and morality. He did not believe that a successful economy could arise from the raw, unbridled pursuit of self-interest. He maintained that self-interest could fuel a successful economy only if it were narrowed by the constraints of traditional morality.


 <Please note … we have seen this moral challenge before. A moral disintegration preceded the great depression. The stock market crash of 1929, and the ensuing Depression, was precipitated by the roaring ’20s which was a prosperous decade was marked by materialism and moral laxity – in society and in business.>




While I could wax poetically about moral laxity I will instead focus on ‘hedonistic adaptation’ and the title of this article … indulgence or overindulgence.


Despite the fact we Americans see ourselves as a generally optimistic and happy group of people … whenever research is done … despite our relatively prosperous lives … we are pretty unhappy people compared to other countries.




That means despite what I would consider a relatively bloated sometimes greedy perspective of life we are unhappy.



That is something to ponder.

No big government or little government or anything to do with government … this simply suggests that America may be a mess but we the people put us into this mess.


We either contributed or sat complicit, sipping Starbucks coffee <which I am doing at the moment>, buying too much stuff, wasting energy, time and resources … complaining but doing nothing about it and claiming we were powerless to do anything about it.


Pay attention.

We shape the world.

We have big brains <bigger than a pea> and opposable thumbs.

We tend to make fancy stuff.

We like to make stuff, touch stuff and smell stuff.

It is perfectly natural to like the stuff we make.


We like to indulge in our stuff.


Interestingly, to provide perspective … different cultures think, and act, differently.


I read somewhere that nomads like stuff but have no sense that they should accumulate.

In Genghis Khan’s culture, it was much more important to give things away than keep them.

The Norse had a similar tradition.


I think those values have to do not only with generosity, but as a sign that the giver is not ruled by the objects he/she owns.


America is the opposite.

We are a society of indulgers and accumulators.


<please note that I am not suggesting we should become a country of nomads>




Actually I believe author Tiffany Madison says it well:


“I believe the world is divided in three groups: givers, takers and the few that can balance both impulses. If you are a giver, it is wise to define your boundaries because takers will take what you allow them to; all givers must learn to protect that about themselves or eventually, there is nothing left to give.” - Tiffany Madison




We have an overall driving mindset of takers these days.


Take or be taken attitude.


And while we are now rich beyond belief <in terms of what is available to all of us 24 hours a day> we are seduced by the urge to acquire … and acquire more … and indulge <when the opportunity arises>.

Sociologically we are driven by the ‘hedonistic adaptation’ impulse.


I don’t have anything against wanting more than what you have.

And I certainly understand the psychology of ‘once you have something not only do you not want to not have it anymore … but you want more <or the next step up>’.

I understand Hedonistic Adaptation sociologically.


But while I understand it … I don’t have to like it.


We just can’t seem to stop wanting more and there never seems to be enough stuff … we just don’t seem to find the boundaries <or the balance>.


I am not suggesting this is not difficult.

Money leads to lifestyle upgrades.

Once you achieve the income you desired … well … you go back to desiring more.


-        the next level of ‘more’

Oddly <and somewhat disturbingly> … this desire for ‘more’ has created an entire economy around ‘how we look to others around us.’

Whether we like to admit to or not … how we look, or appear to look, to others important to appear to drives our behavior <to a large extent … certainly not 100% in most people>.


This has created an incredibly odd <and slightly disturbing> currency of ‘doing good behavior.’



‘Doing good’ is becoming a personal wealth currency.


What do I mean”?


I am donating “x”.

I am volunteering here.

Therefore I have earned ‘value.’


Maybe the most troubling example of this is how businesses recognize this and are jumping on board by developing environmental programs, family things, positive team work seminars or anything that generates some currency that they can mentally <if not tangibly> put on a balance sheet as proof of relative wealth.

<note: I hate this trend>


Whew. Indulgence. Overindulgence. Accumulation.


Why do we do it?

Here’s what I think.

Actually three reasons:


hugh mindset universeOne is family <how we are being brought up within a dynamic capitalistic society>.



Two is the evolving relationship between preference and value.



Third is we are putting a higher importance on rational & pragmatic characteristics <in school, in life, in business>.



Let me go into detail.


-          family in a prosperous country


The underlying dynamics of behavior reside in the conflict between a culture of individualism <I can do anything> and the economy. In that context relative value and revealed preferences actually determine the behavior of individual parents and family.


What I suggest is that family is more affected by these two things than policies, such as welfare or divorce income distribution or even the increased employment of women.


Individualism creates a climate in which responsibility to others and the context of duty to others are diminished. This individualism grows out of the young peoples’ interface with the market economy and their ability to produce and to consume for themselves. I believe that these changes are due to the increasing legitimacy of self-interest as a criterion for decisions as opposed to the interests of a larger context.

This need not be interpreted in the narrowest sense of selfishness but rather in the context of competing values, such as personal freedom, development, and empowerment values that we hold as important as our family roles.


The needs of our market economy define individual as producers. As a result occupational roles take priority over family roles. We see the consequences of this priority. The parent who works extra hours at the office, rather than the one who knocks off at four to take the child to softball practice, is the one who will get the pay raise the next time around.  And maybe more importantly this attitude <and behavior> is brought into the family context as ‘the price you pay to be successful.’


Like it or not … there is a strong relationship between the market economy’s need for us to behave as if we were not tied in obligatory ways to others and our cultural emphasis on individualism.


Simplistically … success is being defined by individual criteria rather than group context … even at the expense of family. This drives overall context for attitudes and behavior.



Next.indulge enough taste


-          relative value and revealed preferences



The perspectives of relative value and revealed preferences may be the biggest cultural issue future generations will face <because the current older generation has a very skewed perspective>.


Revealed preference is a term from the economists for which there are fancy equations which basically mean “actions speak louder than words.”

If we were interested in whether Americans preferred to invest in home remodeling over taking vacations, holding prices constant, we would quite simple look at whether over time they invested more of their available resources in home remodeling than in vacations.


The notion of relative value offers insight from revealed preferences.

We can value something very much.

We can even value it more than we used to and still value it less relative to some other competing good, if our value on that competing good increased more rapidly.



We can still prefer something … and we may even prefer it more so than in the past … but its relative value has decreased versus competing preferences.


-          note: <… in the business world this is often reflected in what is called a conjoint analysis … which if you have ever had to present the findings from one of these studies I can guarantee your head will have exploded – mine did>


This is where the emphasis on the consumption need comes in.

For example … young people seem unable to ‘afford’ marriage these days.

Does that mean that their life styles would be worse than say if they were in the 50′s or 60′s if they married? Nope.

It simply means that they think that they need more now than then they did then in order to marry.


In addition … the values of independence and the realization of individual goals and self-definition are also factors in evaluating preference versus value.


The bad news is that a consequence of these competing values noted in studies is a corresponding decreased willingness to make long-term commitments. This unwillingness to make long-term commitments impacts economically and socially. The values of personal freedom, development, and empowerment reduce the relative attractiveness of the obligatory nature of any decision is impacted. And by ‘any decision’ I will remind everyone of the blurred lines between home and business … because lack of long term commitment bleeds into business decision making and vision and … well … you get the point.



-          rational and pragmatic


Simplistically … I think we are becoming too rational and pragmatic.

We are creating a society dictated by reason and proof <not knowledge> and therefore discount activities that cultivate and nurture the human character and inevitably values <and how much value we put on values>.


It seems day in and day out what isn’t ‘real’ or provable is discarded. This means that all the things that struggle to show proof or is just an intangible ‘real’ bites the dust.

To be real it must have this proof … which in these examples means it must have consensus or collaboration … or what I call ‘group proof.’


Why do I care?
This means we have a tendency to ignore dreams, visions, and crazy ideas that come out of the nowhere. Creativity has, and has always had, an irrational aspect.


Same with dreams.indulging addiction


Human imagination and creativity is incredible, powerful and healthy.

To toss it out with everything else that is unproven or irrational impoverishes our moral compass <and value structure>. Within this vacuum we seek to fill the emptiness with the tangible … the stuff … the provable to those around us.

Sadly we inevitably flatten humanity by becoming so rational and pragmatic.


This pragmatism leads to …

- We want to be a little less crazy <take chances> with ourselves and each other.

- We want to understand and control any irrational or un-understandable behavior.

- We desire predictable behavior <mostly under the guise of “we don’t have time to waste”>.



I get it. I get what we were striving for … happiness through efficiency <or lack of wasted energy and hope>. But we have thrown out parts of what makes our lives rich by being so overly rational <and materialistic>.




In the end.

Indulging, overindulging, what we deserve … decadence?


All important words to think about … but in the end it comes down to optimism versus despair.


It was Leszek Kolakowski that said “civilizations cannot live in despair.”


Despite the fact we are accumulating stuff and being pragmatic and rational … we still feel some despair with what is happening around us.

And in that situation … we seek to find an optimistic interpretation in the despair itself.


We seek to see that something good comes from the bad.


We seek learning from the failures of the system.


Or even … why should we despair just because we have stopped stalking what is just a fantasy <the intangible hopes & dreams>?


That is the battle in today’s mind.

And, frankly, it is a hopeful battle … hopeful in that we still remain at our core ‘good’ and desire to seek that which is good.


This is a battle of what exactly is ‘right.’


Right or maybe ‘what we deserve’ is becoming fuzzy in our heads.


As someone wrote:

We are simply identifying the inefficient or that which we identify as unlikely to help us meet our end objectives and prune them like dead branches assuming the remainder is healthy and productive and will assist us in getting to where we want to go.


If we continue to do that … culture, like a tree, will die.


More importantly … culturally I believe we have lost the definition of indulgence, decadence and overindulgence.

We have lost the boundaries surrounding accumulation.

Hedonistic adaptation or not … we simply think of accumulation.


Accumulation of anything and everything.never miss what you


Therein lies our issue to be discussed.


Accumulation. Solve how we think about that <attitudinally and behaviorwise> and then we can discuss what is overindulgence or decadence.


I imagine we all need to simply get a grip on “quod satis est” <what is enough>.

deciding what you want to be

April 23rd, 2010

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.

Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s CatcherInTheRye-1around – nobody big, I mean – except me.

And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.

What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.

That’s all I do all day.

I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”


J.D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye)



I have noted earlier on my site I loved the book “Catcher in the Rye”.


And many argue it’s out of touch with today’s world.

I say they are silly <if not wrong>.



This quote from Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorites as proof.



For is not every parent a catcher in the rye?



Is not every teacher a catcher in the rye?



Is not every good business leader a catcher in the rye?



Some of us choose to be the catcher.

Some of us, like me, love the responsibility and embraces being a catcher in the rye in business.





A little part of me dies a little when I miss someone who mistakenly goes off the edge of that crazy cliff. catcher-in-the-rye


But, on the other hand, I become a better person for everyone I get to steer clear of the crazy cliff.



There are some of us who don’t really sign up to be the catcher and yet are put in that role.

Many parents are that way.


Not because they didn’t want to be but rather before you have a child it’s a little difficult to understand that crazy cliff is always there and you always have to keep at least a little eye on it.

That is one reason I respect great parents.



And then teachers.

Some begin a career as a teacher because they just love to teach. But as time goes on they realize a part of their responsibility is to watch those in the fields of rye to insure those who wander to close to the cliff that they at least know someone is paying attention <and parents should recognize that teachers fulfill that role sometimes>.



And then there are business leaders who go, go go.

Always forward focused.


And yet, over time, they realize to be the best leader a part of their role is to see the crazy cliff and catch people before they go over.





Maybe I’m nuts for seeing all this in the catcher in the rye but that is what I see.


And maybe that’s why I loved the book even when I was young.


A part of me wanted to be the catcher in the rye.


I am sure some guidance counselor would have had me put in some institution if I had answered “be a catcher in the rye” when asked “so what do you want to be.”


best day of my life



Now that I am here, i.e., no longer that young?



Being the catcher in the rye may be the best job in the world.

intellect & ignorance: learning & boundaries (or ‘enlightened ignorance’)

April 14th, 2010



“Sureness will always elude you. The detective will always circle around what he wants, never seeing it whole. We do not go on despite this. We go on because of it.”

Claire DeWitt







Every once in awhile you find someone has articulated something you have been trying to say so clearly you just shake your head and say “I wish I had written that.”



Let me note that this happens more than every once in awhile with me … but different post for a different day.





Everyone pretty much knows that overcoming ignorance is my thing <I always hesitate to use the ‘soapbox’ word so it’s ‘thing’ here>.



In fact … I was tempted to call this post “enlightened Ignorance” <because I love contradictions>.



That said … I found a guy <Jim McGee on Future Tense blog> who has actually not only thought about learning & ignorance as much as I have but has created some nifty diagrams which better articulate the whole “learning and ignorance” dynamics thing <plus … the diagrams look like something I would have scribbled on a piece of paper so maybe that is another reason I like them>.


What Jim did was to articulate this idea of “boundaries of ignorance” and “circles of knowledge” in a really interesting way.


The foundational idea is that by expanding the circle of knowledge you are simultaneously expanding the boundaries of ignorance. In other words, the more things you learn, the more things you become aware you don’t know.


Now that, my friends, is an awesomely simple concept.



The thinking.

In the beginning of your knowledge gathering life <probably think mainly children> ignorance always outpaces knowledge and learning.



This is just one of the places where I believe people like you and I can make a difference <with this first diagram and young people>.


Oh. Let me be clear.

By ‘people like you and I’ I mean older people with more experience and a better understanding of how expansive true knowledge can be.


Why do I say this?


Because this circle diagram concept means that gaining knowledge can be frustrating.


Frustrating in that every time you learn something … ignorance still lies outside your existing knowledge base. And this translates into a state of being perpetually dissatisfied <or the glass is never completely full with knowledge> which obviously can be either encouraging or discouraging with a person’s attitude to continue learning.



This diagram also makes you think about the role of schools <and do they help or hinder or minimize or maximize>.


Schools fulfill their role in this process by focusing attention on the inside of the circle and keeping youth carefully inside the boundaries. What I mean by that is the credentialing system of education looks backward at what you are supposed to have learned in its testing and measurement of success.


I imagine the good news is that a good school environment helps keep you from falling off the edge into material you are unable to understand or appreciate <and in the process hopefully limiting a type of discouragement>.


In addition.

A huge purpose of schools is to introduce students <of any age> to appropriate vocabulary in a logical order … so you can progressively move on to additional learning.

For example … it’s difficult to skip to more complex physics until you have basic physics understanding. It is difficult to read Tolkein if you haven’t mastered Dr. Suess.



The danger, or maybe better said, the potential limitations of formal schooling <even when well done> is too much focus on what you already know.


In other words, if a person <or child> isn’t pushed out to the boundaries, opportunities become limited for significant new learning.

This thought gets compounded by the fact today’s schooling tends to overly protect students from failure and, therefore, from opportunities for deeper learning.



Therefore. Learning and attacking ignorance <and the boundaries of teaching and caringignorance> is a place where parents and outsiders <beyond teachers> can make a HUGE difference.



I do believe as we get older we come to appreciate, or at least understand, the importance of failure in real learning.

This is important learning beyond educational building blocks and assists in ongoing career development activity and personal intellectual growth.


We need to insure children don’t get discouraged with two things:



(1) slow paced learning as they learn necessary foundational elements <they get discouraged because their curiosity never gets sated>


(2) failure to learn everything <they get discouraged because by remaining in the ‘ignorance zone,’ despite having invested energy in knowledge gathering to actually get in that zone, they never feel a satisfaction of ‘something completed’>.



With that thought we get to Jim’s second diagram where the circle of knowledge has inconsistent edges/boundaries.LumpyCircleOfKnowledge-



When I saw this diagram I thought it perfectly reflected not only how people expand their learning knowledge outside a school construct but also my own personal challenge when it comes to increasing knowledge and ignorance.


The problem I have personally always had … is I run the risk of collecting information book by book and article by article and with each one my point of view slightly sways in the direction of what I read.


I imagine, upon reflection, over time I have gained a better understanding of my own learning flaws and I tend to treat each piece of new learning as simply a breakthrough in my ignorance and I start gathering information around that particular piece of learning to round out my thought and point of views instead of solely being invested in the ‘breakthrough thought.’




All that said.


Assuming I could actually create a diagram without help from someone who knows how to build diagrams, my personal third diagram would probably be the rounding out of some of the points above.

In other words, the spike is the initial breakthrough which inevitably leads to a curiosity driven rounding out of fuller understanding and knowledge.



Beyond that rounding out I would imagine there is an inevitable new ‘spike’ somewhere else assuming I had read or heard something that piqued my curiosity. Therefore, and I believe this is the neatest thought, this is a perpetual process with spikes and rounding out but in the end the circle just keeps getting bigger and bigger.



Jim makes a great point in his blog … you become more expert and informed on certain topics at the expense of others. The well rounded circle that might have characterized the end of classic education system will be replaced with the profile of an expert (or increased passion on a topic) in some particular domain and therefore you will never end up with a perfect circle but rather an ellipse or some wacky trapezoid (or something).

I would also suggest that, say at the end of high school, a teen will have the first diagram and one spike out (I am making a generalization but you get my thought). Most kids have some passion that they become comfortable with and expand their knowledge to a point that they are pushing the ignorance boundary out on that topic.



Before I leave that thought.


I believe every kid is passionate about something. And I believe it is up to us adults to find it <not the kid>.



Once again I do believe we more experienced <older> people have a responsibility here.


It is a tricky challenge … but we should be encouraging other “spikes” in the boundary <note: I hesitate to call it rounding out because if you believe this diagram – as I do – we are seeking to look to create the sharp salient effect on the circle and then round out the salient>.


As noted earlier we adults are in a balancing act role of encouraging and managing inevitable discouragement <because of the never ending aspect of curiosity>.

We need to think about this. Really think about this.

While it is a fascinating thought process that if we do not take time to think about we are likely to mismanage.



better than yesterdayIn the end? We need to recognize that our smallest actions can make a big impact.

And that is a responsibility.





Do I believe there should be tools, techniques and specific tactics to take advantage of this “boundary of ignorance” and guide ongoing learning?

Shit. I don’t know. I am not an education expert.


I am sure someone can come up with some voodoo technique that gets people to enhance their knowledge base.



For me the success lies within the understanding of the process.


For when people understand these diagrams and this thought process I believe we are on our way to success. For, as I noted with the first diagram, the issue sometimes comes down to discouragement/encouragement. In our current world people are very focused on “attaining a goal” and what this “boundary of ignorance” suggests is you can never attain the goal.


The cheese gets moved every time you get close to getting it.


Maybe the trick is to make learning become visible so you recognize the next step is to further cluster more learning around something that interested you <and encouraging that gathering/clustering>. But. I am not sure how to do that.





Here is what I do know <or believe> from this:


-          School systems are built to create a rounded foundational learning and accumulate enough knowledge to “attack” ignorance as you get older.

That is good. And it probably pays for parents and influential people in kid’s lives to understand this. And encourage kids because there is a high risk they will sometimes get frustrated with the basics and want more.



-          In general … learning is discouraging <that is a big thought we need to wrap our heads around>. Until maybe you attain Albert Einstein status on quantum physics you can never reach your goal. Or maybe better said you are always reaching for something and finding out there is something more to reach for. In people’s formative thinking/learning years it is helpful to remember this.



-          Personal understanding is important.

I recognized pretty early on my learning challenge. Each book contained a thought that could drive my newest “thinking” or point of view. I discovered a way to deal with it. Do I still fall into the trap?


Who doesn’t fall in love with a well articulated logical idea on occasion?

Am I trapped for long? Nope.


I know now to seek out additional learning on thoughts to round off the spikes.



-          Single topic pushing out versus multiple topics pushing out.

There is no formula.

I know for a fact my own parents were scared shitless that when I picked up a science fiction book, and then another, and then another, that all I was going to read and learn about was that.

But then I would find something else and then that would be my new eternal focus.



Eternal until the next interesting factoid smacked me in the head.


Other people push out on multiple topics at the same time.

The only thing I know for sure? Encouragement.


I don’t like the way my own parents encouraged my curiosity <it was a negative approach … “you shouldn’t just read about this .. you know there are other interesting things in the world”> … but, regardless, the intent was good.

Go get more.


More is good.question everything






Maybe that’s the bottom line to this thought.


More is good.


More learning begets more enlightened ignorance.

Question everything. Even your own knowledge.





In this case, oddly enough, maybe I am suggesting ignorance is good.

Good in that the more you don’t know makes you want to know more.





Maybe it’s the more you know makes you want to know more.



I say “Up with ignorance!”

Enlightened Conflict