Nov 232014
 

Who should be in our country, why should they be here, and should we hate those trying to sneak in?

 

There is a lot of talk around immigration now. I won’t pretend to be smart enough to have an educated opinion on the politics of immigration reform. I am convinced, though, that one of the easiest ways to spot people with shallow minds and hateful hearts is to identify their willingness to spew racism or slander against fellow men.

Immigration becomes a challenging problem when it comes to tax law but it is not a tough problem to discern when it comes to being human. Pitting who we perceive as “our group” against another group is essentially modern tribal thinking–practically a contradiction in terms. However, in a society that is globally connected with a 24/7 economy thanks to things like the internet and high-speed transportation, there is no logic to living as if we still belong to separate, ancient, territorial tribes.

The fundamental flaw with tribalism is people today tend to act as if the world actually works the way a childish grade school map in an old textbook looks.

states(bright)

It is easy for us to pretend there is a giant thick bold line that divides each country, state, or space between land and water but there is obviously no actual giant bold-faced wall between land masses. If there was no sign telling you, there would be no way to tell exactly where Michigan ends and Indiana begins as you drive out of one and into the other.
Part of my childhood was spent living on the border of Texas and Mexico and from what I remember there is no way to tell where the sand suddenly stops being American and becomes Mexican. I would struggle to identify which grain of dirt or which blade of grass from the border comes from one country and not the other.

The only borders between countries and the only distinctions between people who exist are the ones we choose to pretend are there. Actual, physical borders exist the same way the Tooth Fairy does… in the minds of small people.

In fact, anywhere we look in the universe, we find the absence of delineation. There is no magic line between the light of the sun and the point where it lands on Earth. There is no border sign where Earth’s atmosphere ends and space itself begins. We are unable to even decide when a rock stops being a rock and starts being a planet as evidenced by the debate over Pluto.

Closer to home, an ocean and beach move seamlessly into one another. There is no wall dividing them. One is merely an extension of the other and they do not pretend to be separate. Only humans have a label called “ocean” and a label called “beach”. The water, land, fish, coral, plants, and salt do not care what they are called and do not see themselves as different things–they live in unity.

Sadly, racism will be something to debate as long we are willing to acknowledge a thing called “race” (whatever that means) that makes one human different from another. The same is true of sexism, theism, and nationalism.

The truth is, there is no one trying to steal your job. You have never met a person from another country out to take your seat at your company. There are people everywhere willing to work and looking for honest opportunity, including you, but they will take what they can get (including you). Holding onto your job and doing it better than others who would be happy to have it is your burden and not something to throw a tantrum about because someone in the media hyped up an imaginary problem for you.

There is no one trying to take over your country (except maybe your government). You don’t know and have never met anyone with a nefarious plan to steal your family, your livelihood, or your flag. Don’t buy into the pretense that there is an immigrant conspiracy coming for you because there is no “other” team here.

Except for Native Americans, we are all here, ultimately, from the families of illegal immigrants. Columbus and other conquerors were not invited to take the land from the indigenous people who were already here.

In my mind, it is hypocritical to pretend to own something that was never ours. Perhaps more to the point, for those who have forgotten third grade Social Studies class, it was there that I first learned the words inscribed on the Statute of Liberty, both as a salute to the American Dream and as reminder of our country’s roots and founding principles. The inscription says:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

These famous lines were from a poem by Emma Lazarus called “The New Colossus” and I can not think of a better example to solve the question of pro or anti-immigration debates. Remember, as with most things, your stand with or against your fellow human beings is a choice and your choice reflects upon who you choose to be for yourself.

Hate people or embrace them. Regardless of political rhetoric or media bias, the fundamental choice is the same.

Choose wisely.

 

 

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Nov 222014
 

 

“You will hear the bird no matter what but you will only catch the melody if you listen.”

Do you have a friend or team member that seems to never know when to stop speaking? You like him but he rambles, repeats, goes off on tangents, shares too many details, or does not pick up on social cues that normally alert others when we are talking too much.

There is one sure way I know of to stop someone who will not stop talking:

listen.

Over-talkers speak so much, I think, because they never feel listened to, so they keep talking to make their point (because what else can they do?). The irony is they are right. Many of us hear but rarely listen. Hearing is a passive action–you can not stop yourself from hearing the world around you, including people speaking to you. You can not will yourself not to hear the clerk at the cash register or the car with the bad muffler across the street or the bird outside your window.

Listening, however, is active. It requires intention. You will hear the bird no matter what but you will only catch the melody if you listen.

Listening is like meditation. To do it properly, you must stop the chatter in your mind and focus only on the present and the sound (or person in front of you). Most people do not listen to what is being said…they listen for their turn to speak.

I know sometimes I find myself so focused on spitting out my witty response to something that I miss the 10 sentences after the one I wanted to comment on. As passive listeners, we tend to wait for a break so we can say what is important to us instead of listening to what is important to the person we are speaking with.

Here is the best tip I can offer to encourage active listening:

Listen without interrupting and listen with the intention of listening–the way you pause to listen to your favorite song, taking in every sound, appreciating it, and letting it fill your mind. It is okay if you are not able to share every clever remark that enters your mind; it is more important you listen to your friend or team-mate in the moment.

The reason some people talk too much is simple: they want to feel listened to. They believe (whether consciously or sub-consciously) no one listens to them. If they realize you are listening intently to every word they say, then I assure you they will suddenly not have as much to say, and you will be able to move on to the next conversation quickly.

Today’s lesson… do not only hear what people say. Listen intently and intentionally and wait patiently without worrying what you will say when they pause. Let them finish. You will be surprised at how much more you will learn and how much time listening saves over hearing.

 

Nov 212014
 

What will happen when we, as a species, conquer Death and Time?

 

In the future (within the next five hundred years), I think we will have mostly solved the problem of dying and maybe the problem of time travel (as most of us think of it).

Can you wrap your mind around a future like that? I have tried to write fiction many times but I am never happy with the result. Nonetheless, I have ideas I think would make interesting concepts. Perhaps a better fiction writer will read this and take a stab at creating a story around some of these ideas (just let me know if you do and give me partial credit, would you?).

Imagine what day-to-day life might look like in five hundred years:

 

  • To be a successful politician, you will not run for office. Instead, you will travel back in time and become a significant historical figure. Then, when you return to the future (present), you will be judged on your results and accomplishments from, say, five hundred years ago.

 

  • Wars will not be fought by armies. Instead, they will be fought by militant forces that travel back in time to stop insurrections or corrupt dictators before they come to power. They will not go back in time to kill someone before they are born. Rather, they will become a significant mentor in the person’s life and lead them a different direction.

 

  • Technology will be created to protect certain moments in our time line to keep from destroying reality altogether. For example, there will have to be a way to ensure time travel remains discovered, along with a way to preserve certain moments of the past, like the invention of space travel, to ensure human survival.

 

  • Time travel will be a great tourist market. Want to visit your Grandfather’s grandmother’s grandfather? No problem. Want to see a real dinosaur? We got you covered. Just sign this insurance form…

 

  • History’s greatest leaders and musicians will be available to keep the world on track. Aristotle will attend a Jimi Hendrix concert. Ayn Rand and Stephen Hawking will meet and fall in love. Albert Einstein and George Washington will lead a peace accord with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Gandhi.

 

  • Because we can live for thousands, maybe millions, of years, and because Time will no longer be relative, and because we will be capable of navigating the universe, many of us will opt out for a while. Some people will grow tired of living and they will choose to sleep for a few thousand years sometimes, to wake up and experience a new reality.

 

  • Time management software will take on a whole new meaning.

 

I don’t know how crazy the future will be but I know the possibilities are limitless. What would your future self, living in a universe without boundaries on success, learning, creativity, or possibility come back and tell your present self? Today’s lesson is simple: you are the potential of limitless potential! Live up to your potential now, before it’s too late… you know, in case it ever is too late.

 

Nov 202014
 

Over time, I think humans will become essentially immortal.
Looking at current trends in technology, it is not a leap to consider humanity may be on the verge of an unprecedented leap forward. We may cure death within the next hundred years. In 300 years, we might even be challenged with what it means to be human when our physical bodies are no longer necessary (and might be a liability).

When that happens, we will be able to travel farther than we can imagine and with unlimited resources and lifespans to throw at the universe’s biggest problems, we could potentially solve issues like being able to travel faster than light. What would that look like? (Well… I suppose it would not look like anything because if we were moving faster than light, we would be unable to see what is ahead!)

If we can beat the barriers imposed by Relativity and move faster than light, we would also have access to purely science fiction technology like time travel.

Consider this: when we look into space, we look into the past. It takes time for the light of other objects to reach our eyes, even someone standing in front of you. Light travels so fast (about 186,000 miles per second!) it seems like you see people and things instantly. Of course, that is not true. It takes time for light to reach your eyes because light has to cross the space between the object you are looking at and you, the same way your body has to cross space to reach the other side of a room.

Bigger spaces require more time for light to cross. When we look at the nearest galaxy to our own (the Andromeda galaxy), we are seeing it as it was about 2 million years ago. The space between our own Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy is so great it took the light, traveling 186,000 miles per second, about 2 million years to reach our telescopes! That means they also see our galaxy as it was 2 million years ago. If someone in the Andromeda galaxy today could see Earth, they would see dinosaurs roaming the planet now. You and I have not even been born!

You do not have to travel to another galaxy to grasp this concept, though. Just think of how we have other time zones on our planet. Some of us appear to be either 3 hours in the future or 3 hours in the past from others. It is not the same, of course, but it is an easier scale to understand.

Because you and I reflect light, too, we can think of our lives as channels on television being broadcast forever, until it reaches the edge of space. We are the ultimate reality TV shows for the universe! That means if you can race faster than the signal (light) of your own life, then theoretically you could be in front of it to be there when it reaches you and you could watch your life again!

If we want to travel backward in time, the trick will be to out race light. This raises more questions than I can possibly explore in a series of posts (or even in a hundred years of blogging about it) but it is a fun thought experiment, and in a few hundred years, it may not be an experiment at all. We may be dealing with the results of that experiment (or we may already be dealing with it!).

Here is the core of today’s lesson: when you think about it… really, truly, quite literally… anything is possible.

 

Nov 192014
 

How long before we become more than human?

 

Think about this: as technology progresses, we will soon be able to upload the human consciousness. Death itself will be something poorly described in old history books.

At first, I think our nigh-immortality will be a result of clever technology, like a combination of WiFi, cloning, and 3-D printing. When you die or your body wears out, you will be downloaded into a new body and can pick up right where you left off.

That may happen while your grandchildren or their grandchildren are still living. I think the last generation of humans who will die (as we know it) are alive on earth now. Within a hundred years, death may be as curable as the measles or polio.

What about three to five hundred years from now, though? What if science continues marching on, with unlimited resources and no loss of knowledge or talent (because death has become a thing of fiction)? How much faster could we free ourselves from the boundaries of earth and colonize other planets, ensuring our survival as a species?

Imagine what space travel could look like when we have the ability to upload our consciousness to a computer? We could travel farther than we have ever perceived. We could upload an astronaut’s conscience and genetic data, send him or her a thousand (or million!) years out of the solar system, and download the genetic and biological information into a freshly created body when he or she arrives at the destination.

Indeed, when we are able to live in cyberspace, why hold onto the relic of the human body at all? How far away are we from living only as energy?

If technology increased to let us ascended our fleshy packaging and live as energy, we could travel the universe at the speed of light. Light is so mysterious. We are only beginning to grasp what it is. For example, one of the great conundrums of light is that it exists as both a particle (stationary) and a wave (in motion) based on whether we are observing it directly. Another mysterious property of  light is nothing is able to outrun it. The speed of light is the hard speed limit set by the universe .

What if light itself is a form of life? What if light is the ultimate result of intelligence, technology, and exploration? Our destiny as creatures of energy may already be in front of us, all the time, everywhere.

If extraterrestrial aliens created technology to reach earth, even from the next nearest solar system, they would be so advanced to us that we would not even recognize them as living things. Just to get here, they would have to figure out the challenge of moving beyond Physics and Flesh. They would have to figure out how to survive for thousands or millions of years while traveling and figure out how to meet or beat the hard speed limit set by the universe.
Here is today’s lesson: maybe one day we will be the aliens… think about that the next time you enjoy a sunny day or turn on a light. Maybe some of that light is not coming from the stars. Maybe it’s them. Or us.