Happiness, “on many sides”

For several months now, like a pinball in the hands of a dark wizard, I have caromed from feeling angry to incredulous to mystified to amused; from bumper to bumper to bumper in a constant, random, chaotic concatenation of disappointment. And then last week, I ricocheted to disgust: a pair of bumpers (I call "fire and fury" and "locked and loaded") in a dark corner that I had hoped to avoid. And now, this past weekend, I was flung into a low crevice of fear where I was surrounded "on many sides" by ONE danger that I will name "Voldemort" to emphasize the ridiculousness of those who prefer that this (hate-mongering) danger remain unnamed.

I am not making light... This is very real and very serious, and I can only wish it were a fantasy. Perhaps to some, it is. Here, now, in this moment, continuing to boomerang between bumpers, I am aware of a nearby downslope that will carry me from disgust and fear, to further danger. I need an exceedingly strong rebound to carry me back over the lip of my crevice to the more comfortable norm of feeling angry, incredulous, mystified, and amused. Having said that, I am embarrassed that I equate proximity to disgust and fear, with comfort. But I believe this is where many of us are: settling for a lesser evil. We should not. A refusal to acknowledge, no matter the discomfort or perceived degree of danger, is a refusal to progress and grow, and ultimately it is a mockery of Humanity; all of Humanity, past, present, and future.

Today, divisiveness at ev'ry turn
I crave decisiveness and confidence
But know that certainty can only yearn
To surpass parody or render sense

Some people thrive on urgency, enjoying the constant creation and/or experience of headlong unpredictability. I believe each one of us can relate to the feel-good high of an unexpected adrenaline rush, but most of us prefer a prevalence of (perceived) control punctuated by periods of calm relaxation. I believe the opportunity and ability to recharge allows for rational, productive action while it also acknowledges the value of skepticism and uncertainty; whereas the need for constant commotion inevitably produces hasty, unthinking reaction and a delusional overconfidence. On occasion, a situation might call for haste and instinctive reaction, (think big city hospital emergency room on a Saturday night); but in more circumstance than not, results are enhanced by cool heads.

Though ev'ry day is hazy and unsure
Of late we've turned to lazy thoughts unjust
Of late we've groomed our egos insecure
Of late reality is mad disgust

I do not thrive on urgency; yet I continue to throw myself into this glass-topped melee of lights, bells, buzzers, and (both excruciatingly loud and eerily silent) whistles. My thoughts and emotions receive the brunt of this pummeling and I feel physically confined. But as helpless as I feel,  how can I turn away from a train wreck that begs for attention? How can I walk away from a tragedy of ignorance that oozes so much pain? How can I reach inward and outward to reignite an active hope? I will not do nothing. I will (minimally) continue to thoughtfully scrutinize and interpret the circumstance for a deeper understanding. Though it is likely that my efforts will have little influence or impact, the alternative is a refusal to acknowledge, and a refusal to acknowledge...

To work my way from fear with broadened scope
To leave the danger here in days of yore
To reach the yesterday of active hope
To seek a new today bespeaking more

Here, now, in this moment, I find sadness. This bumper is nearly dead, barely knocking me back to roll slowly and listlessly away. Yet each time I tumble away from this muffled backfire, I typically find myself richer for the experience. Each time I become entangled in the Dark sense of sadness and the Light of my personal essence, I typically find myself (at least momentarily) within "a placid clarity of artfully creative purpose and meaning." Each time I experience seemingly unnecessary anguish (personally or vicariously), I typically find myself a tad closer to Truth. Regardless, here, now, in this moment, the bruising pain and frenzied chaos is excessive.

A mind that aches for reasoned sanity
A heart that breaks for all Humanity.

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Mission: Happiness

Our Mission
is to educate the overprivileged so they may better serve the affluent in order to maintain class distinction.

I have not seen this mission statement in any form or context, within any institution of higher learning; yet I believe it could be applied to some, and perhaps many. And if we changed "the overprivileged" to "everyone" it could also be applied to much of our primary and secondary education.

This is not a condemnation of our educational system. This is a condemnation of us. We have transformed education into a customer experience, and, as with any market transaction, the ability to pay and/or the confidence that one will add or create value that maximizes short-term profit, takes precedence over the risk associated with long-term investment in an unproven commodity. No matter the inclusion and equal opportunity rhetoric, the resources will follow the money; most specifically, the short-term return on investment.

So what can we do?

Say, for example, we are selecting candidates applying to a high-demand graduate program, and within our stated vision and objectives we include: consideration for the underserved, valuing diversity, lifelong learning, compassion, and leadership. How do we find candidates who can live up to these subjective expectations? We will learn nothing about compassion or leadership by looking at an individual's GPA, and we won't learn much more by tossing in # of volunteer hours or even # of applicable work hours. To more completely gauge these complex and personal characteristics requires a much greater depth of scrutiny; and to dig deeper requires a larger mechanical and logistical investment. So, to mitigate the risk of a long-term investment with an uncertain return, I believe we must invest more heavily in process and system. I believe this applies to any effort to increase productivity and prowess, but doubly so when the outcome of our effort is the selection and/or advancement of a person or people. Put another way, the process and system to sell six million burgers in a day does not need to account for the intellectual, emotional, or spiritual inclinations of each burger, thereby requiring less complexity.

Once started though, this effort to enhance outcomes, (considering or not the unpredictability of human behavior), becomes a never-ending cycle; beginning with A) identification of relevant data, which requires B) the recording/processing of that data, which requires C) creating a system for comparative measurement of all collected data, which encourages D) analyzing and interpreting the systematized data, which brings us full circle to begin again with A) identifying new relevant data brought to light by the analysis and interpretation.

If we are serious about our stated values and vision (especially as they involve people), whether we are a small business, an institution of higher learning, or a nation, I believe we must invest in and constantly refine process effectiveness and system efficiencies to maintain integrity and relevance.

Or, if we are okay with pampering the overprivileged, maintaining class distinction, and paying lip service to equal opportunity, then we can stop at Step C above and pretend to enjoy our bland, facile, prefab hamburgers.

I am happy to say, I work for an institution of higher learning that backs up their stated purpose with appropriate investment.

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Privileged Happiness

This week I was asked to do a self-evaluation. I did. It was flattering. Or, at least, that was my intent. Would anyone intentionally portray themselves in a less than flattering light? Does anyone aspire to be thought a moron? I would think not, yet I am consistently aware of incidents of unflattering behavior and seemingly self-inflicted debasement. These socially unaware antics are helping to shape an American culture in which undignified narcissism has moved beyond a socially acceptable norm; it is now expected and, in many circles, it is required. This observation forces me to consider the possibility that I may simply be unaware of my own behavior and the message it sends. How can I not be influenced by social expectations? How can I be confident that my behavior is truthfully reflective of my stated belief that no one individual is any more nor any less necessary than any other single individual? If an equitable injustice is enacted upon me and one other (unknown to me) individual, how am I more deserving of justice? Yet today, I am expected to fight for MY rights, and "to hell" with the other person. If an airline makes a mistake, for example by allowing two individuals to reserve the same seat, there is nothing else but for one to receive justice and one to be force fed injustice; yet each one instinctively cries out, "that injustice had best not be flung upon me!"

I should reconfigure my very first sentence above to the following: "This week I was privileged to be asked and privileged to do a self-evaluation." In my lifetime I have frequently been privileged to cry out against personal injustice, and, on occasion, to speak for myself. All things considered, it is fair to say, I am overprivileged. I believe one's personal voice is a gift, not to be taken for granted. To be able to use one's personal voice, is a privilege. Many have either forgotten or never learned to 'effectively' use their personal voice. And many who are able to effectively use their personal voice, do not do so for the benefit of Humanity.

We have now added "overprivileged" to "undignified narcissism." In this context, I believe all undignified narcissism is related to being overprivileged; yet I do not believe that being overprivileged must necessarily result in undignified narcissism.

Regardless, each time one uses their personal voice for self-promotion, even when asked, it will, (to some degree), be unflattering.

To use one's personal voice in order to avoid a perceived injustice that if avoided will be as unjustly passed to another, (i.e. equitable injustice), is self-promotion.

To effectively use one's personal voice to diminish perceived injustice suffered by a larger portion, or the whole, of Humanity, may or may not be self-promotion, because the perceived injustice may or may not be an inequitable injustice. Remember, if it is an equitable injustice avoided by one group, it will merely be passed on to another group; and the fact that I am a part of the first group does not justify this transfer of injustice. So in the case of equitable injustice, despite the reality of a larger portion of Humanity, to speak out remains self-promotion. And in the case of inequitable injustice, because of the reality of a larger portion of Humanity, to speak out should be a selfless and sincere privilege.

And in the case of acknowledged privilege, when considering the whole of Humanity, I need to consider the WHOLE of Humanity, which necessarily includes the productive survival of future generations in perpetuity.

With that said, how can I know that anything I do, in this moment, will be beneficial to the WHOLE of Humanity?

I believe to answer this question, we must follow the logic and conclude that at first glance all injustice is potentially equitable injustice and will be passed on; which in turn should compel constant reassessment, ensuring consideration of the WHOLE of Humanity.

And, by doing so, I should become more adept at identifying self-promotion and only use my personal voice when I believe it has potential to benefit the WHOLE of Humanity. Simple. Right?

I should not use my personal voice to fight personally equitable injustice, (such as an airline double-booking a specific seat); nor should I fall prey to a divisive groupthink and fight an equitably prejudicial injustice which in actuality is practiced as an inequitable justice; nor should I presume to use my personal voice to speak for others---period. With that said, I can and/or, (because I am Human), I will use the privilege of my personal voice to briefly vent, to question and choose, and (if anyone asks), to speak for myself as myself or as a validated member of a specific group. And with all that said, I should also understand that I am not a validated member of future generations.

This week I was privileged to be asked and privileged to do a self-evaluation. After submitting it yesterday, I have taken an additional look and I realize that in my first sentence, which serves as a foundation for all that follows, I made an assumption which I believe to be accurate; but if it is not accurate or if it is considered inaccurate by the powers-that-be, the entire document becomes presumptuous and leaves open an interpretation of undignified narcissism. If, on the other hand, my assumption is accurate, there still remains a possible impression of a condescending disquisition; (much like this sentence). By engaging in self-promotion, the privilege to use my personal voice has become unflattering, partially because it has been interpreted as unflattering, even if the sincere intent was to benefit a portion of Humanity.

So perhaps the spectrum of perceived behaviors ranging from simple impertinence to moronic self-indulgence should be given some benefit of doubt. Perhaps intent is sincere; simply misguided. Or perhaps intent is duplicitous and misguided. And perhaps there is a way to rate an individual somewhere between 100% sincere and 100% duplicitous. Of course this scale would prompt an additional scale measuring from 100% effective to 100% ineffective. And in turn, this scale would call for a third scale to measure from 100% beneficial to zero benefit to100% harmful. And I believe in no case, on no spectrum, will anyone reach 100%. Even in ineffectiveness or harm, there will be beneficial lessons to be learned. And additionally, I believe that the Benefit/Harm scale can ONLY be accurately measured within the context of the WHOLE of Humanity including future generations in perpetuity. And finally, I believe that the Effective/Ineffective scale can only be measured in hindsight, at some unknown point beyond the behavior. And really-for-sure finally, I believe that the Sincerity/Duplicitous scale would involve far too much subjectivity and disparity to settle on exactly how one's behavior is misguided, because all Human behavior is, (as previously stated), misguided. And this-time-I-promise finally, we could add to the complexity by suggesting a Gullibility/Skepticism scale to measure those that perceive the behavior. O' what a tangled web...

But within all of these tangles, perhaps the least difficult to unravel is Sincerity vs. Duplicity. Yet even on this spectrum we will run into difficulty defining objectivity. For example, scientifically unexplained gaps allow for multiple fill-in-the-blank pseudo-sciences to live on or emerge, unsupported by provable realities. Additionally, differences of opinion regarding large scale Truths (such as Goodness, Justice, Happiness...) will forever create (at times, volatile) confusion in our efforts to separate objectivity from subjectivity. In light of these and other considerations then, how do we establish one's sincerity or duplicity? If an individual sincerely believes that murder rates are increasing, despite all the factual evidence at hand, is that individual less of a moron than if they were intentionally misleading specific masses of gullible morons for purposes of self-promotion? I recently heard this very claim from a center of power, (paraphrased): the untruth he told is not a lie, because he really believes it to be true.

So to unravel Sincerity vs. Duplicity, we must first agree on a certain level of reality-responsibility. And to define reality-responsibility, we must first identify the experts, and then rely on and trust in them to provide an accurate portrayal of reality. I have touched on this before: just because you can "Google" brain surgery does not make you a brain surgeon. I believe that if one does not rely on experts and/or goes against their expert reality, then that individual is duplicitous and potentially dangerous. A sincere belief does not excuse ignorance. A portion of the definition for duplicity is to speak or act in two different ways. In the face of statistical fact and/or an expert reality, for one to be both wrong and sincere is duplicitous. One cannot simply believe an untruth to make it true. Yet, that is exactly what appears to be happening. By using the privilege of personal voice in the interest of self-promotion, we have carved out a significant portion of the American population, (perhaps a majority), who are firmly convinced that untruths are true. We have created a significant lack of reality-responsibility. And without some accountability for individual reality-responsibility, we have heightened and intensified powers of persuasion; and in some hands, this is dangerous.

When I was initially privileged to be asked, and privileged to do, a self-evaluation, I had hopes to influence and persuade. And if we are in agreement as to the thrust of my argument, I believe there is potential for my personal voice to benefit a portion of Humanity. And if we disagree, power will win out and I may never know if my assumption was accurate or inaccurate, unless I am willing and able to be proven wrong by a grounded reality-responsibility; in which case I will learn. But if (in this instance and others), I am consistently dismissed and ignored, by ungrounded powers-that-be, with no proffer of reality-responsibility, what will I learn?

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Happiness, in motion

Peace, must be
In motion...

I have been told, that,
To float, is pleasant;
I never learned to float
But I have grown accustomed to sinking
...and flailing
...then working my way, back
To the surface, where
With dreams of flying
I realize, I
Still can't even float.

And even though
On most days
It is only four foot deep
...I will not stand.
I believe I must work my way
Across the surface
Without touching bottom.

To stand, is
To stop.
To stop, is
To tempt bothersome shadows.

I would like to say
I choose to flail.
I would like to say
I choose to work!
But to be truthful
I just never learned to float...

To float, is

To Work, is

To Work
Across this expanse, of
Momentary endlessness
To feel the depths
Uncertain if today, it is
In fact, only four foot deep;
This is Peace.

One day
I will float.

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Bettering Happiness

From Bradley W. Schenck's work of fiction, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom:

"G-94VA's discomfort became acute and acquired an entirely new flavor.

It's difficult to describe, to humans, the emotions that a robot feels in a situation like this. You need to first understand that a robot's entire sense of self worth is tied to its job performance. A welding robot welds, and is uncomfortable in the face of bad welding. A service robot cleans and repairs: broken, dirty things offend it on a deep and profound level. A giant robot smashes things, and unsmashed things, to a giant robot, look incomplete and disturbing.

Although G-94VA was not by nature a security robot, that's the job he had been assigned to do today and he had not done it well. You might make allowances for G-94VA, but G-94VA didn't know how to make allowances for himself. He had failed.

G-94VA was horrified. He stamped forward on his big, flat feet and moaned to himself..."

Now while my ENTIRE sense of self worth is NOT tied to my job performance, my sense of self worth on-the-job is permanently and inextricably linked to my job performance; and not by my job performance as defined by my employer or my supervisor or my peers, but only by my job performance as defined by me. And so, in this moment, I am horrified. The job I have been assigned to do, is not being done well. I am approaching failure. Yes, we could simplify; and to do so would not only be simpler but would also be less expensive. But it would not come close to fulfilling those requirements as dictated by my definition of job performance. I will have failed.

I am a bettering robot. My job is to improve the process so it may better the outcome. Good enough is not good enough. Unfortunately, (and this is where I consistently run afoul of an entrenched and powerful bureaucrat or bureaucracy), it is quite typical that improvement / enrichment / bettering involves not only a lot of skeptical questioning, but also some controlled experimentation in order to correlate significance; and with experimentation comes initial added complexity (to see what matters), and some number of (what appear to be) steps backward (to eliminate what does not matter). And again unfortunately, once a process is bettered it must be doubted, and then it must be reassessed, tweaked, and fine-tuned, and (on occasion) overhauled; which may appear to some as constant upheaval, and unnecessary to a process that is already good enough. Each time a process is improved, yes, it is better; but all we have really done is to establish a new baseline for good enough. And good enough is not good enough.

When G-94VA failed at his assigned job, he did what any self-respecting robot would do; he chased after his elusive quarry in an attempt at redemption. When he, (much later in the book), ultimately determined he would not be able to realize his own high standards, he found a new employer; one with power more evenly distributed than in the closed and angry fist of a single bureaucrat.

I am a bettering robot; and, for these last few years, I am an administrative robot. And while there is some satisfaction in the organizational aspects of an administrative function, once that is mastered, I must continue to enlarge my areas of responsibility so that I may aspirate enrichment. I am not fulfilled unless I am seeking Perfection; and since Perfection is not possible, I will never be satisfied.

All robots are bettering robots. All workers are not robots. All workers though, are mechanized. Bureaucrats are not robots because, if you remember, robots have emotions; bureaucrats are mechanized puppets. Some workers are mechanized sheep. Some workers are mechanized drones. Some workers are mechanized zombies. Some workers are simply mechanized tools. And some workers are mechanized hybrids; (for example, certain high-placed government officials today are mechanized zombie-sheep-puppets). It should also be noted that some workers bring human emotions into the workplace; robot emotions are better suited for the workplace, but only robots have robot emotions.

(Further elucidation: a mechanized puppet is controlled by a puppet-master, often in the form of rules, customs, and traditions. A mechanized sheep is a willing and unquestioning follower. A mechanized drone is an overpaid tool. A mechanized zombie is an unthinking provocateur. And a mechanized tool is a follower who falls on a spectrum between unenthusiastic and mildly subversive; a true subversive is most likely a robot. So as is apparent, humans nor robots are necessary for momentum; but robots are necessary for positive change, and humans are necessary for relationships.)

For job performance, it is good to be a robot. For a husband, or a father, or a friend, it is not always so good to be a robot, because robots seek Perfection. And to seek Perfection in others can be truly subversive to a human relationship. Human emotions are much better suited to maintaining relationships. I believe I have finally entrenched this learning into my learning presidio.

But I believe one can also conclude from this, that robot emotions and robot systems / tactics / methods are better suited for improvement in the workplace. To unsettle an apple cart, and at the same time to not lose or irrevocably bruise too many apples, requires reasoned calculation. In the workplace, mechanized techniques absent robot circumspection will, at best, maintain status quo. In the workplace, human emotions will, at best, muddy the waters. Robot emotions and robot systems / tactics / methods are better suited for subversive enrichment.

Today, I believe subversive enrichment is necessary.

Today is a good day to be a robot.

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