Category Archives: Personal

A Letter to My Liberal Friends

You’re mostly smart people. Certainly people I respect. I want to share something with you so you can be enlightened and learn something you might not have known before.

I am afraid of the government.

I feel fear when I think about it at any level.

I’m afraid of local government police shooting me because I’m brown. I’m afraid of state government redistributing wealth from the city to the suburbs. I’m afraid of Federal Government mutating into a totalitarian despotic system of destruction.

Why?

Well, size, really. Wouldn’t you be afraid of a ten-thousand pound organism that holds your life in its hands? It would stupid not to be afraid of that organism, in my opinion.

The Federal Government is much, much more than ten thousand pounds.

The Federal Government of the United States employs nearly 3 million people. That’s almost 1 in every 100. Those people are paid by, and subject to their employer.

The Federal Government has a budget of $3.8 Trillion. That’s about 4% of Global GDP.

In contrast, the world’s biggest corporation, Apple, employs more than 47,000 Americans. The tech giant spent nearly $27 Billion on its operating expenses last year.

Does the difference in size register to you? I know you don’t like big corporations. Most of my liberal friends are skeptical about big capitalism and how dangerous it can be. And rightly so! Big things fail in big ways! We should be afraid of big systems that entangle us.

The Federal Government is the world’s biggest human organization, and it is dangerous.

The Founding Fathers knew this. They knew that governments could only be kept in line by an equally dangerous population. It is our ability to wield danger for noble purposes that keeps tyranny and totalitarianism at bay!

Most of you probably don’t wield danger. You probably don’t see the federal government as an existential threat. And truthfully, even with an Orange Dinosaur at the helm, I don’t expect the Federal Government to turn on us in the next couple years.

But power is attractive to all and most attractive to the most dangerous people. I do not want my future children to inherit a powerful system with no power of their own.

One of the most powerful checks we have on governmental power is the check of a heavily armed civilian population. Those 3 million people, do not have a substantive advantage over the 300 million other Americans because some percentage of those 300 million accept the responsibility of wielding danger.

Almost 5 million Americans own AR-15 assault rifles.

Those 5 million are people that stand between us and real governmental tyranny. They are not the only check on the power of the Federal Government. But they are REAL. Everything else is just writing in a book, open to interpretation, misinterpretation, and malevolent manipulation.

It would be irresponsible for us to ban people from owning these assault weapons.

We need people to own those guns. We need every iteration of our government to know that tyranny will come at an incredible cost. Tyranny cannot easily rear its head where the population is armed, dangerous, and high-minded.

I know many of Liberal friends think the worst of their Conservative counterparts. You might think of them as racists, or rednecks, or rich white people with their own interests in mind. And you might be right about a lot of them. But many of them are good, Godly, and gracious people who want nothing more than to live at peace with all. I know these people. I go to Church with these people. They are not racist. But they are armed, and they wield danger so that you and I can be free to speak and worship and do whatever we damn well please!

I feel for the loss of life.

When people are murdered, it is sad. I sympathize with the victims. I understand that a weapons ban would probably have prevented the shooting from happening. Statistically, that is probably true. I would never deny that.

But there has got to be a better way than an assault weapons ban.

It is definitely not arming teachers. 

Duh.

I went to public school. I know arming teachers is a bad idea.

But disarming our civilian population is much worse idea.

That’s because Tyranny is worse than school shootings. The atrocities of the holocaust and the Soviet Union and Maoist China are proof of that.

And yes, I’m aware of all the other countries in the world that do just fine without assault weapons. Those countries are not the good old U-S-of-A. Our government is an order of magnitude bigger and badder than any other government on earth. The right to bear arms, without restriction, is fundamental to our national identity. Without it, we give up western democracy and the republic. We submit ourselves to future tyranny.

That is not a game I want to play.

I don’t own an assault rifle. Most of my conservative friends don’t either. The ones that do are smart, well-trained folks.

In fact, with five million assault rifles out there, I’m kind of surprised shootings are as rare as they are.

Then what is the solution, if not a weapons ban?

I don’t know, honestly.

When I think back to my years of public education, the thing I remember best is that there was almost no Values-Based education. In fact, when a teacher went so far as to convey real values to me I remember being very surprised.

I had a handful of teachers introduce me to nonviolent resistance, Gandhi, and MLK.

Those teachers went against the curriculum to give me something I think we’re all starving for: some kind of moral guidance.

Secular public education seems to be a fundamentally valueless system of indoctrination. They tell you what to do and how to do it but the why is always something base and simple like: so you can go to college and make a lot of money.

Is that what life and education is all about? Going to college and making a lot of money?

I don’t think so. If it was, then the people shooting up schools are probably justified in their rage.

Life is about people. Our consciousness is fundamentally rooted in some divine spark that gives rise to it. We must hold the individual person up in order value human life. They don’t teach you that in a public school

It would be a lot cheaper to teach that individual human life is fundamentally valuable and sacred than to try to take away assault rifles.

I think that schools that teach values first would probably be much safer places. Teachers who teach values might even be forced to actually have some of their own. Instead of being empty vessels, pouring useless information onto an uncaring and unengaged student body.

I’m not saying all teachers are valueless. I am saying that the teachers who taught values are the teachers I remember that impacted me personally.

Real values.

Truth. Justice. Reason. Creativity. Life!

Those are real values. Calculus and Economics are just tools. Values tell you why to use them.

tl;dr: Don’t ban assault rifles because the federal government will become an evil tyranny and don’t give teachers guns but hire teachers who want to teach values first and make sure those values are in alignment with the Judeo-Christian ethic that gave rise to the enlightenment and all of western civilization.

Success

Yesterday I failed to publish an essay.

Today I read: Your First Thought Is Rarely Your Best Thought: Lessons on Thinking.

Then I unsuccessfully tried to dictate an essay on Failure. That, and Jordan Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life, has rendered me figuratively speechless.

Peterson talks about a period of his life where he attempted to objectively observe all of his behaviors. This objective observation showed him that almost everything he said was untrue. He is in the process of arguing that we should attempt a similar exercise and literally gain perspective.

I have been intentionally practicing self-observation for a few years now and the effect has been roughly the same as what Peterson would suggest: Intense self loathing.

Human Beings are Not Perfect.

The limitation is of being is practically strangling each and every one of us. Speaking truth to it is like massaging the soul. We are fallen from Grace and only The Word can bring us home.

Sometimes Peterson gets emotional when talking about Being. And how could he not?

Emotion is part of the process. It’s almost central to it in some important way. Even science is fundamentally meted out by a confluence of emotional decisions by individuals. We are, in some important way like Jonathan Haidt points out, elephants and riders.

Yesterday I painted for the first time in a very long time. I’m looking at the painting now. It isn’t very good. It is my first painting.

Tomorrow if I woke up and painted, that painting might be a little better.

If I painted tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, forever. Then maybe one day I would be as good as Picasso.

Then my first painting wouldn’t seem so bad anymore.

Then my first painting at a slightly saucy work event would be quite good indeed. Many people would like very much to have my first painting.

The painting hasn’t changed. But I have. The painting has become, not a failure, but an Artifact. How fascinating.

Perhaps, my writing must improve, in order for me to be read. If the writing was truly good, many people would read it. What is it now? It is failure. It is practice.

I’ve challenged myself to publish something every day. I was already writing every day so now it’s just the matter of pressing a button. I ought to succeed at this. Today I told my friend Sarah that 22 publications in March would be a success.

I barely edit.

I barely proofread.

I’m just pushing a button.

How hard could this be?

Today I read something that made me angry

I wrote several hundred words in anger and realized it would do noone any good to read it. So I saved the draft and tucked it away.

Here is the thing I read that made me angry:

“JUST AN ASS-BACKWARD TECH COMPANY”: HOW TWITTER LOST THE INTERNET WAR

I was stupid for reading it. But now the damage has been done.

I’d like to talk to the author. To learn more about her argumentation. I can’t say more than that without getting angry.

If anyone knows Maya Kosoff, I’d love to have her on for an episode of Hacker Practice.

For now, I’m going to go breathe.

This is a difficult challenge

I started a daily challenge a couple Thursdays back to try to publish something every day.

I quickly realized that _weekdays_ were more appropriate.

I don’t like to work on Sundays. I try to keep the Sabbath Holy. It’s only by the grace of God that I ever come close to success.

Saturdays I don’t publish because they are so unusual from week to week that it’s hard to fit writing and publishing in.

Writing is hard. You have to know language and psychology to be good at it. Plus you have to have patience. And process.

Process is the hard part for me. I don’t write drafts. That’s probably why no one reads my stuff. Why would you bother reading the unedited extemporaneous writings of a millenial programmer? Half the time I don’t even say anything. This post, for example, is sheer pontification.

I’m just writing for the sake of publishing something.

It’s the way I slay my dragon.

Publishing is scary to me. I don’t know why. It makes me hesitate. Hesitation makes you weak. Doubt will destroy you. This forces me to forget about doubt. There is no doubt. There is simply the word and screen and the dances of  the light.

We’re all just working it out.

Maybe that’s what I’m getting at here.

We’re all just working it out. Smoothing out the edges. Getting the crease just right. Over and over again.

Infinite iterations.

Aiming at what?

Quality. Godliness. Immortality.

Seeking new heavens and new earth. Trying to, somehow, expand the cloud of our consciousness into some untrod realm. Through force of mind.

There’s no end to it.

Well, we know the end to it.

You pick up content, you read it, or skim through it. Then you click a recommended link or switch to a different tab. Your behavioral program is written on the page of existence.

Were you the author?

I don’t know. Sometimes I doubt that I’m the author of my own words. Really, it’s more appropriate to say that my hands wrote the essay.

I didn’t have anything to do with it. I just let it happen. Just made the space. Open the word processor and let the hands do the work. Just keep them moving. Even when I code, really, just keep your hands moving.

I’m trying to put down the Truth into words. This probably sometimes reads like poetry. The poetry is a circumambulation of truth. A walk around the fire. To walk into the fire, would be to get burned. I’m just enjoying it’s warm glow. Watching it’s dancing spokes leap into the night.

Hoping it will strike a wandering eye and help to guide their way.

Commitment and Compulsion

I have a theory.

Most of the things we do are the result of our commitments, or our compulsions.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I wake up at 4am because I’m committed to making the most of my mornings.

I sleep in until 8am because I am compelled by insomnia and laziness.

If I eat a healthy breakfast of greek yogurt and berries, it is because I am committed to a healthy diet. If I eat a bowl of cereal, it’s because I’m compelled to by disadvantageous economics or a sugar addiction.

I go to work because I am committed to paying my bills. I slack off because I am compelled by Facebook and email and every other distraction.

I work out because I’m committed to peak physical performance. I skip leg day because I’m compelled by my ego.

There is almost no grey area.

Commitments are interesting because they are purely personal. You might be committed to a group or a religion. But that group or religion cannot force your commitment. That would then be a compulsion. Like taxes.

Inversely, compulsions are usually externally driven.

I am compelled by carbohydrates. All of them. It’s rough. The wheat plant has evolved to get me hooked. How am I to compete with millions of years of evolution? I can’t. In fact I need a miracle of God’s grace to get over my addiction to carbohydrates.

Commitment is that miracle. We must commit ourselves to good if we are to see good committed unto us. That’s why people commit to giving things up for lent. To see what fruit commitment will bear.

No time.

Between work, the gym, and dance, I had no time to write today.

Or better said, I did not prioritize writing today. I prioritized work, the gym, and dance.

What are you prioritizing? It’s a simple question, because the answer is — inevitably —  what you actually did.

We always have time. The real problem is that we rarely have our priorities in order.

Prioritization is an eternal and universal problem. Time is a gift and only becomes a problem when you’ve used it unwisely.

Sow No Discord

Proverbs 6:16-19 states

16 These six things doth the Lord hate, yea, seven are an abomination unto Him:

17 a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

19 a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Personally, I have struggled with all of these — Pride, deception, violence, depravity, destruction, duplicity and antagonism.

Some are probably more pronounced than others.

If the serpent represents danger in the chaotic unknown, then the serpent is present when discord is sown amongst the brethren. When you “play devil’s advocate” in an adversarial way, you are inviting Satan into the conversation.

You could take it literally or figuratively, the end result would be no different I think.

Words are powerful.

I have a habit of passionately arguing points. The problem with this habit is the “passionate” part. Passion is struggle. Passion is pain. Human interaction doesn’t need to be painful. It ought be comforting, full of grace.

Debate can be had. And it is critical that it be had in the interest of deeper understanding. If debate is had in the interest of mutual understanding, no discord is sown and satan is nowhere in the matter. There is no threat of violence or chaos in the search for truth. That’s because the search for truth is essentially the act of extracting order from chaos and bringing balance into the world.

I’m writing this as a reminder to myself. Speak first to understand. Listen to understand. Seek truth, not prestige or status. Seek understanding and reconciliation. This is the way of Christ, the Buddha, and universal wisdom.

Amen.

Reflecting on 2016: The Ideas that Influenced Me

The most important learning comes in the evolution of our ideas. Good thinkers maintain darwinian belief selection processes. Strong ideas survive debate, scrutiny, and the test of time.

The most important ideas I’ve developed this year include a complex systems theory that provides for inverse utility over time via increased structural overhead. Basically, as a complex system passes peak utility, latent consequences of running the system cause a utility inversion function to emerge.

I’ve also been toying with this idea of a Grand Biological Abstraction. This event happening at present in the relationship between humans and technology.

An abstraction is a symbol that represents a unit of complexity. Every word is an abstraction of deliberate ideas and various connotations. “Car” is an abstraction that represents the sum function of a complex piece of physical machinery with many moving and electric parts.

“Human Being” is an abstraction of a single instance of a biological species. That instance serves as the host ecosystem for a variety of microbial life that could it could not live without nor could the microbes survive without it.

In other words, the sword of biology cuts these species apart, viewing them through different lenses. Reality’s sword is more subtle. The scalpel of nature is more nuanced than the sword of academic and intellectual theorizing.

Furthermore, it is not simply the relationship between humans and our microbiome that traditional biology hacks to pieces. It is the relationship between humans and pets, humans and livestock, humans and their homes, birds and their nests.

In fact, the bird cannot exist without the nest. Nor can the nest exist without the bird. The bird loses feathers and she loses her nest but you would never think that the feathers were not part of the bird.

In other words the category “Bird” abstracts away the concept of “nest”. But the nest is still there, even when you cannot see it. Even if it’s been destroyed. There is a nest soon to be born.

Of course, on human scale, the nest is a metaphor for our own technology. Our clothes and our computers are a part of us. The neural mesh is here Mr. Musk, and it has been for a long time.

The same way wheat manipulated humans into its global propagation. So has artificial intelligence prompted us into her development. Whether it’s the invisible hand of god or the invisible hand of the market. These unique by-products of our existence are no byproducts at all.

They are the fruits of our Grand Biological Abstraction.

Any multicellular organism is an abstraction of it’s parts. Soon human beings meshed with each other via technology will converge into a transcendent new form of life. Others call it the singularity, but in fact I suspect it will be a multiplicity.

Markets diverge, ecologies diverge. The universe is diverging. There is no reason to believe in a “singularity”.

There will, however, be a grand biological abstraction. Our understandings of the individual and the collective will warp immensely as our ability to reproduce and iterate informatically develops. The progression of artificial intelligence and biological technologies will unify many times in countless parallel instances eventually diverging into different protocols of super-life.

This is already evident. Different cars running on different fuels sources with onboard computers that have different operating systems. Each of which has different vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses.

Humans tend to simplify complexity behind abstractions. We think all planes are fundamentally the same. The perform similar functions for us. Their parts seem to appear similar. The underlying physical laws are similar. But in fact, over many instances all of these variables fluctuate with different degrees of volatility. We can rely on physical laws of the universe to be mostly predictable at given scale with very little variance in the single scale. However, no two flights are alike. No two wings are alike. No two airplanes, even manufactured to the same specification are really the same thing.

The act of creation is so singular, and also, so iterative, that we have to be satisfied with a paradox of multiplicity emerging from singularity. Futurism should not end at the Singularity.

Futurism should not end at the singularity.

Other ideas that were important to me this year came from books. I was especially moved by Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The only other authors that earned multiple reads from me this year were Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Dan Ariely, Will Durant, Tim Ferriss, Malcolm Gladwell and perhaps Anders Ericsson.

My day-to-day intellectual curiosity has been largely influenced by Taleb’s discussion on optionality, heuristics, hubris, and uncertainty. My moral and ethical philosophy is heavily weighted toward individual creativity and interpersonal compassionate love. I’m constantly struck by the convergence of ascetic thinking across religions and worldviews. Ascetics from all over the world converge at a sort of supra-humanist solitary enlightenment.

Invoke your own teleological ideal of a Tibetan Monk. Does your stereotypical Tibetan Buddhist Monk differ greatly from your stereotypical Catholic Monk in temperament?

Both sit quietly in contemplation or prayer as a means to achieve salvation or enlightenment. Humility is a central tenet to both. Compassionate love is an elevated quality in both cultures.

You will find the same convergent quality in ascetics from Islamic, Hindu, and Jewish traditions.

Travelling extensively around the world has taught me the universal value of life. I have seen the interconnectedness of things. How the reality in a place informs the outside perspective of it. How the outside conception and the inside reality have some overlap but also much divergence. For example, yes, croissants are delicious in France, but so are the kebaps. By the way, kebaps in France don’t come on a stick, they come in a wrap. And maybe French people are rude to tourists in Paris, but in Nice they are very nice. The red wine is good like you’d expect but the Rosè is transcendent.

Information =/= Truth

Truth is the subset of all information that actually reflects reality. There is discovered information and undiscovered information. Some undiscovered information may not be discoverable.

A lot of discovered information is untrue. All truth is a kind of information. Not all information is truth. Information derived from reality tends to be true. Things can be true in different ways. Fiction can be partially true if the message reflects reality.

We try to verify truthiness using logic. We slice assertions apart and test their component parts. We produce categories within categories to produce immense complexity with deception hidden in every crevice. Perhaps nothing can be 100% true because interpretation can always layer a bit of falseness on any truth and a bit of truth on any lie.

All of these ideas are wholly impractical until they are tested in the real world. Even writing about them solicits various critiques that will hopefully strengthen the core idea. Or break it.

If I can break these ideas that occupy my mind, I can essentially mark them as untrue. Then I can dispose of them. I can talk about them at the dinner table but I really need the best minds in the world to stress-test these concepts.

Or maybe they aren’t really that important.

The problem with examining popular viewpoints and looking for contrarian truth is that a lot of popular beliefs are worthless. As in they don’t have any positive value. It may be that the contrarian truth is also worthless.

Even if I am right about the Grand Biological Abstraction, I gain nothing from it. There is no stock market to bet on the abstraction away from our biology. I will gain no years, accolades, or financial success for espousing such an idea. I will simply be right in a small prediction about the future.

I might make money by betting on political events and business outcomes. I get no physical reward from exposing personal philosophical theorizing. The skin I put into the game is reputational. Not physical or financial.

And truthfully, it’s asymmetrical risk proposition. I can make up an idea. If I’m right, I win happiness and perhaps admiration from others. Maybe some formal business opportunities arise as a result.

If I’m wrong. Nobody cares. Nothing is lost.

These are some of the ideas that I obsessed over in 2016. Since 2017 is the Year of Vulnerability I am sharing them publicly to hopefully have them voraciously ridiculed for some substantive reason that I can later rectify or use as justification for dropping the idea.

Justus: That long-awaited ‘first post’ a.k.a. my personal mission statement

English Soliders During British Raj

(Not sure where I got this picture of two faceless British soliders during the English occupation of India. However, something about it speaks to my sense of accountability. If anyone knows the source please leave a link in the comments.)

I’m not gonna waste your time today. I’ve been meaning to post something on this blog for months and (the late) Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the book that inspired me to act. Covey recommends drafting a personal mission statement, so I have done so. This statement may be amended over the course of my life but as of now it is an accurate portrayal of my goals and motivations in life…

I want to serve the people with honor, integrity, respect, sacrifice, and humility; and in doing so I want to lead them to freedom, prosperity, and peace.

I want to wake up every morning and work hard to achieve my ambitions while inspiring others to do the same.

I want to create art regularly and spread the love of art to others.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends as loving, wise, and benevolent.

I want to maintain habits that will be conducive to peak performance, longevity, and amiability.

And that’s it! Short, simple, and easy to memorize. Certainly I will amend my mission statement as I grow, but I have felt this way for a long time so any changes will be made only after great pre-meditation.

I encourage you all to post links to your own personal mission statements, if you’re comfortable sharing.

I think this is a good way to lay all my cards on the table. If you decide to follow this blog, you will certainly get to know Justus: The Artist, Justus: The Entrepreneur, and Justus: The Friend.

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