Thursday, November 29, 2012

Every Man an Adam

Beautiful, but filled with pitfalls and danger.
Imagine yourself in a wilderness of solitude. High rocky mountain peaks jut up from the rolling valley surrounding you. High overhead--above the towering tree tops--you hear the eerie squawk of birds engaged in battle against each other. Below, somewhere nearby, you hear growls, gnashing, shrieks of pain. In the distance, a dark treacherous storm thunders directly toward you. You have nothing to protect yourself besides whatever you can find or fashion from nature. What do you, the person reading this post, do? Where will you make shelter? How do you plan to feed yourself? What is your plan for avoiding being devoured yourself?

John Locke
In true Lockean fashion, to get to heart of this scenario, lets boil it down to the basic elements. Rather than looking at mankind as a whole, we will narrow our focus to the individual... one man, alone in nature. If the man is to survive, he must be self-sufficient and a critical-thinker who sees a problem and is able to devise a solution. This man can rely on no one. No infrastructure has been created. No one else (at this point) is around with whom to interact. How does this solitary individual (you, if you are still picturing yourself in this scenario) keep from going insane? After all, no one wants to be like Rousseau from LOST, right?

Day in, day out what does this first man do? Build, hunt and gather? Perhaps he also studies the wildlife around him. Does he develop any interest in music or visual representations of the world of his experiences?

*  *  *  *  *

FAST FORWARD: This Adam has encountered a woman (Don't worry... the post "Every Woman an Eve" is forthcoming). As the only two humans around, 'Adam' and 'Eve' are naturally drawn to each other. They are both curious of and attracted to each other.

Getting to know each other's personality and strengths, the two of them conclude they work well as a team. Adam, or you in this setting, is now responsible to protect himself and the woman he loves. Adam not only loves Eve, he cherishes her and respects her for her compassion, her tenderness, her beauty and countless other strengths and traits that make her who she is.

However, with a new social development, Adam now has to double most of the efforts he put into survival before they had met. He now hunts for two. The couple requires additional space in their shelter. The clothing they wear to protect against the elements must now come in two sizes. To put it simply, Adam now has real responsibilities.

Of course this is just the beginning. Eventually, Adam and Eve have offspring. With each new mouth comes the need for another ration of food. Behind every mouth is the heart and soul of a new, rational living creature. Adam and Eve become role models and teachers. Inherent in who they are as humans, Adam and Eve desire very much to nurture and mold their children into productive and healthy people...

*  *  *  *  *

Lets tie this thing all together now. Hopefully, there is an obvious application to each of our modern day lives. As men, husbands, fathers and citizens, are we capable of adequately providing for our own livelihood and the well being of our families? If we didn't have all the previous generations' work to build on, would we be able to survive? Do we have the curiosity that fuels ingenuity? If faced with a roadblock of some sort, can we, human men nearly in 2013, assess the problem and design a reliable and effective solution? Or will the obstacle inhibit our forward progress?

Baroque Oboe
Hopefully it isn't too late for us as a whole or as 
individuals. Perhaps we all need to make time to develop some basic engineering skills. Possibly, we can set aside time to develop auxiliary talents, like learning to play a musical instrument (I like the ukulele and the oboe). In our busy lives, I wonder if forcing time for periodic intellectual stimulation will make us stronger men and better people to be around. The best question may be: If you are not the man you wish to be, what steps must you take to become that man

As you work to that end, you will be a better example to your children, your co-workers, your neighbors, but more importantly you will demonstrate to yourself and your loved ones that you can set goals and achieve them. And by so doing, you will have bettered your world to that degree. Men, be an Adam and exercise the basic virtues of self-sufficiency and curiosity/critical thinking. Don't leave yours or your family's welfare up to others. Be the bread-winner. Be, in tandem with your wife, the first and best source of education and training for your children. It will make them stronger and happier.

 DISCLAIMER: Although Biblical names are used in this piece, they do not represent the actual Adam and Eve, but the theoretical first woman and first man in an abstract parallel.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Best Way to Improve a Society

A society is just like any other object or entity made up of smaller components. Electronics, automobiles, instruments, college courses and even cuisine are judged on the quality of their parts. Better ingredients lead to better finished goods. 

In sports, the team with better players is typically the more successful team. However, the stronger team is not always the victor. As we move from machines to people, many other factors impact the outcome. Individuals can have an off day when their best performance is required, leading to disappointment on the field. 

Similarly, a team can be victorious with seemingly less-skilled players. This is often attributed to spirit, home-field advantage or luck. A team can also have a unique style of play that gives them an advantage. Solid, effective teamwork will often overcome the individual combined performances of star players on an opposing team.

So it is with a society. A community can either be strengthened by improving its components, or by strengthening the bonds of its existing parts. To this end, the virtuous thing to do is for society's components, us as individuals, to find ways to improve ourselves. That means acquiring a new skill, developing an existing talent, or seeking more education. It is good for the individual citizen and his or her family to be a proficient contributor to society. As we improve ourselves, set the example of self-betterment in our neighborhoods, rec centers, offices and throughout our communities, the torch will successfully be passed to neighbors and colleagues. The result?  A stronger culture, with stronger families, harder workers and an ever more virtuous citizenry.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birth, observation, curiosity, critical thinking, learning, critical thinking, applying, critical thinkging, mastering...

Early in the 21st Century, it is clear that critical thinking is a trait too few possess. A dramatic number of people are born, grow old going through the motions, and along the way, mindlessly gather information in 10 second soundbites, from 140-character shorthand or via quick blips on Facebook. Most of which is carelessly constructed by acquaintances with the sole purpose of getting 'likes' and gaining a perceived popularity among one's online social media circles. Some of the most poignant thoughts are posted in a digitally framed image consisting of a solid color background with a retro sketch, doodled beside a single sentence phrase describing some trending aspect of society.

Common type of image that gets re-posted countless times on social media networks.

The general acceptance of this type of information occurs throughout every facet of life. At work, at school, at church and in politics, without any deliberate effort, we as humans accept what we hear and what we read the same, whether it is true or false. The curiosity that has pushed our species to build science and civilization, send us to the surface of the moon and create amazing amounts of new technology is missing. Curiosity, and by extension, critical thinking is largely void in our world.

Take, for example, the recent political debates in America. A healthy portion of the population believed that if one party's candidate were to prevail in the election, the uteruses (uteri?) of all women in the country would be at risk. They would be removed or harmed in some way. Partisans at various events and conventions directly cited this belief as a reason to support said candidate's opponent. It was their firm belief that women's health and well-being would be sacrificed on the executive branch's altar. Think about that for a minute. Voting against a candidate because he would put the health of women today and in the future at risk. Sounds like a good reason to vote against someone, right?

Only problem with it is the premise is incorrect. The real debate was whether tax dollars should be used for contraception or if birth control and related products should be the responsibility of the individual desiring to use them. The individuals who believed one man's electoral success could stifle the advancement of women's rights never asked the 'hows' or the 'whys'. How would one individual's policies jeopardize women's health? How could he or she implement the harmful policies? Why would he or she want to bring about policies detrimental to the health of half the country? Now throw in a 'what' question: What has he or she written, said or done that indicates he or she holds destructive points of view? Now try a 'who' question: Who was my source for the information upon which I am basing my resolute belief?

Now back to the 'why' questions: Why did the source not permit me to hear the statement in context? Why does the source want me to hear this message? What is the background and reliability of my source? (And perhaps: Why is the YouTube video so poorly spliced?)

Bottom line is that there was no evidence that any of the candidates in the 2012 elections tried to harm anyone's health. If there had been sincere, human nature-based curiosity, a different conclusion would have been reached. The thinking individuals would most certainly follow the curiosity with study and thought. Through critical thinking it would have been clear to a reasonable, honest thinker that the notion of one candidate's triumph leading to a 'turning back of the clock' some 40 years would have been ridiculous (and Constitutionally impossible). 

We live in an age where tweets, Facebook posts, texts and emails are our source of information. As we glance from one headline or story to the next, we absorb it all, but we fail to discern the quality of the information and the qualifications of the source. Essentially, human beings in the early 21st Century have outsourced their critical thinking to ambitious propagandizers and social media circles.