We Are Buddha

In my interpretation, the Sangha is the community of people who help you towards Enlightenment, the Dharma are the natural laws of the universe that you need to abide by and pay attention to in order to achieve Enlightenment, and the Buddha is the ultimate model of the Enlightened individual living in the context of Samsara.  All three are needed in order to achieve Enlightenment in any realm, form, or time.  Once Enlightenment has been achieved by an individual, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth ceases for that individual.  There is no further need, reason, cause, or ability for that individual to suffer any further in Samsara.  What remains from that individual is their Buddha essence, which continues to be present and pervade the entirety of the universe, known, unknown, knowable, and unknowable.  In this sense, the Buddha has never left our existence, even though Siddharta has ceased to be reborn.  We are Buddhas are underneath the filth of suffering.  Greed (attachment), ignorance (willful or otherwise), and carelessness (lack of compassion) are intrinsic in Samsara.  Yet beneath that is a wondrous presence that is common to us all.  We can either acknowledge our own faults, peel away at the interstellar gunk that clouds our minds and hearts, and become that which we are, or we can be lazy, indoctrinated into one of the causes of suffering, and ultimately fail to realize a lasting bliss which characterizes peace of mind, wisdom, awareness, and compassion.

It should be noted that Buddhism is the one way that I can think of that enables one to achieve Buddhahood conscientiously and deliberately.  All other religions, philosophies, and ways of life either will get you to better rebirths or to Enlightenment through happenstance and the accumulation of past deeds from many many many different lifetimes.  This is similar to how the scientific method is the one way to understand and comprehend the universe beyond the thoughts in your head, which enables one to achieve real results for better or for worse on this plane of existence.  All other methods with working with the world may only make you and others feel temporarily better without actually making you better or may allow you to succeed by chance and chance alone.  It is the difference between self-medication and substance abuse and taking substances with a medicinal purpose, intent, and under verification from well-versed and knowledgeable clinicians who have made a correct diagnosis of the causes of your suffering.  One may help.  But it will only help by chance, be not as effective as other methods, or else, do more harm to your well-being than good.  The other may likewise have mistakes inflicted upon you.  You can still suffer at the hands of even a competent doctor, just as you can suffer at your own hands or an incompetent doctor.  But, this other way is what will more likely lead you to being cured of what’s actually afflicting you.  The choice is up to you, especially when it comes to you making a choice to put a deliberate, consistent, and sustained effort into making it work.

Only you can liberate yourself from Samsara or make a way out of the suffering that you may presently be in.  The essence of the Buddhas, the laws and conditions of the Dharma, and the presence of the Sangha, regardless of the forms or ways that you perceive them are always going to be there to help and will always be present as soon as you think about them.  That is the power of Buddhism and the essence of Buddhist philosophy.  It is not the gods or even God who will save us and yourself.  It is always ultimately going to be up to you to make the world and yourself better.  It is you who ultimately fails to accomplish this goal when you neglect the natural laws and conditions of the universe.  It is you who ultimately fails when you lack the care, compassion, or wisdom to make things be better for yourself.

I’m sorry that I don’t have happier news to give you.  I wish that I could have a magical being to enable us to all be Enlightened and cease to be reborn permanently in this universe.  I wish I had such a being for myself, actually, to make it so I would never ever have to come back to Samsara again.  But, unfortunately, that is not the case.  I am here with you because I made a choice to be here, even in the most subconscious of senses.  I came here because I either did something inanely stupid and wrong, or was motivated by an honest, if foolish choice to help all other beings achieve Enlightenment before myself, not realizing that the only way I can be of help to others is to help myself and, paradoxically, let them go and enable them to figure it out for themselves in their own right and in their own ways.  I’m not sure whether my exhaustion is from being too old of a soul, being too immature of a soul, or simply being not entirely healthy on what ultimately is a physical level.  In any case, I’ll simply abide until my time is come.  What else is there to do?

Enjoy.

Of Ants and Humans

Ants, like human beings, have a limited capacity to know, comprehend, accept, and work with their social and ecological environments.  However, there must be something built into the ants’ brains that enable them to have some kind of pro-sociability with ants from the same colony in order to enable and facilitate communication and production amongst the ants for survival and well-being.  Without this pro-sociability and willingness to engage with and help other ants, the ant colony would not likely be able to survive, let alone to potentially thrive in its given context.

Humans have more of an ability to know their environments and their social and ecological conditions than ants do.  Yet there seems to be at present a strain of “broken” or “confused” human beings who don’t or won’t get their individual places within the ecological and social contexts.  These people, who are likely to have brains that are less inclined to sociability, wisdom, and awareness of common reality, populate our  societies and are able to wield influence within our societies through either the democratic processes or through the monopolization of positions of relative power and influence in our societies.  When people with this anti-social, unwise, and delusional brains get into these places of power or wield significant influence in our societies, they tend to wreak havoc on themselves and on others in the long term in spite of them believing that they’re doing the correct things correctly.  I wonder if ants at one point had to likewise evolve beyond their own anti-social and/or non-perceiving cousins within their own colonies to achieve the degree of success that they have on this planet and within their own colonies.  I wonder if we, as a younger species, are likewise going to evolve around these anti-social, unwise, and non-perceiving people or whether we’re going to be destroyed by them in the grand scheme of things.

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Evidence-Based Policy-Making

I truly believe that the conservatives, the Libertarians, and the neoliberals are all based poorly in terms of how they look at the world and, thus, are rendered inferior at governing relative to governing practices and techniques based in evidence.  This is not to say that evidence-based policy making is always going to be correct in its conclusions.  There is a lot of data that needs to be collected and sorted through in order to infer accurate understandings of how things work on the social, economic, and environmental levels.  However, what makes evidence-based policy superior to anything the ideologues can come up with is its willingness to admit mistakes, reverse direction, and change course to do something that is actually healthier and more appropriate for the society in question.  Mistakes are going to be made, like the ideologues.  The difference is that the mistakes of evidence-based governing are considered learning opportunities and not failures or things to be ignored in favor of pure belief and faith.  Initially, evidence-based governing may be no different than ideologically based governing, in terms of its statistical success rate.  However, with time and data, things can be improved and will be improved if the people leading the governing actually do a good job at it.  Evidence-based governing is an insanely difficult process, as one has to correctly define the data that is needed, gather it in appropriate and effective manners, and interpret the results honestly and accurately.  However, I don’t know of a better way of doing governing, in spite of the difficulty and problems that it always will have.  I won’t sell you all short about it, but, it’s probably going to be in the long term better than ideologically based systems and logics of governing.  If only humans had the ability or the sense to implement this system and logic of governing in actual halls of power.

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A (Basic) Theoretical Walkthrough of the Economy

The economy actually seems to be composed of fairly simple processes and flows.  The initial capital stock is produced through labor and energy, which then adds value to the raw materials and leads to a diversification of the economy, and gets reinvested in the initial capital stock.  There can be positive shocks (such as technology that saves on labor or energy costs and increases the amount of labor and energy that can be added to the system within the constraints of natural law and conditions) or there can be negative shocks (such as poor weather/climate/environmental conditions, or over speculation and over extension of capital without value being added).  In order to have a robust, highly complex, and large economy, it is likely better to have income dispersed throughout the population to enable everyone in the society to have access and participate in the markets.  This creates a democratizes the economy and society, as well as bring on the Internet of Goods and Services that allows people to innovate, experiment, or spend in the economy on more valuable goods and services.  This has to be enabled and enforced through legislation, just as any institution in the market requires legislation and enforcement in order to produce and perpetuate social institutions in our societies.  This being said, there is likely a diminishing marginal return on wealth that varies from person to person (some people produce more wealth back than others and everyone can only do so much with the wealth that they have, in spite of the quantities that they may possess).  To this end, there are likely maximum amounts of wealth that are valuable to the economy per person or family, even if it would be better for some people to control more of the wealth than others to a limited extent.

The government’s role in the economy can then add value to the economy by creating and sustaining certain economic, social, and environmental conditions through law, law enforcement, and the investment in services and goods that the private investors in the regular market economy would not do voluntarily or in good quality.  As such, while it’s an opportunity cost between government spending and private investment (there is no free lunch), there is some degree of government spending on certain programs and projects in certain and general conditions that does add benefit to the society and the economy that would not be created in laissez-faire market conditions.  Overall, the economy is going to grow perpetually provided that the activities and people in the economy do not bring on negative shocks through their actions, no negative shocks occur in general that are beyond  our control, and  within the constraints of technology, demand, and physics that is present in our universe.  There is likely to be periods where the marginal growth rate slows down due to the size of the pie growing in proportion to the rate at which it Is growing and/or due to the temporary lack of new demand and innovation in the economy.

This is before we get into notions of what the economy grows into and  how the economy affects the societ(ies) in which it is embedded.  This then becomes a normative question of taste and desire, rather than a question of a description of facts and functions. The point of this exercise is to talk through the processes of the economy in simple terms.  The actual activity in the economy is quite dynamic, just as weather patterns are in nature.  However, to my mind (and, it is my mind only until it is confirmed or denied by empirical investigation), these are the processes by which the economy grows or shrinks in actuality.  Hopefully this may help others develop models to test relative to actual real world data rather than leaving us to rely on untested, untestable, or potentially incorrect theories about how the economy works.

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Possible Common Traits of “Golden Age” Periods in Human History

To my mind there are commonalities amongst periods of sustained “growth and benefit” which we can characterize as “Golden Ages” in human history.  The list is as follows:

1) Innovation based on human needs and evidence based effects on the collective whole, not just for the individual’s absolute gain. 2) Responsive governance within society to the needs of the general public in favor of the general public, rather than the handful of people who actually hold and make the choices in a given society.  3) The enabling, if not, enforcement of wealth to flow to the general public such that people can still become rich individually, but not outside of the social bounds of the rest of the people who produce wealth.  4) Obedience to lower, bottom-up laws, conditions, and needs with top-down enabling this bottom-up directed growth in a coordinated and mediated manner.  5) A healthy respect for nature and the environments in which we find ourselves.  6) Adaptation of, rather than conservation or preservation of ideals in the face of evidence and practical results. 7) A healthy but not foolish respect for all other societies and peoples living on the planet with us.

From my (sketchy) knowledge of the history of the more positive times in humanity (such as Ancient Egypt, the golden ages of China, al-Andalus and the Islamic Golden Age, the Serenissima of Venice, the American 20th century, etc) these are common social, political, economic, and environmental traits that characterize these high points.  Failure to adhere to any combination of these seven generally resulted in the long term decay and collapse of those who failed to abide by these natural laws and principles which enable societies to survive and maybe thrive and flourish.  Governing groups need to respect and actually love in a non-grasping manner their people, the environment, and other societies in order to prevent wars, resolve conflicts peacefully, and coordinate domestically and internationally to resolve common internal and external problems through the sharing of knowledge, awareness, and practices, working to produce better societies internally first, and then working in concert with each other on the international level next.

I’m specifically talking about a massive top-down coordination amongst governments on all levels with a focus on bottom-up results, which then should cause adaptation and alterations on the top-down level again in an on-going dialogue between the governed and all levels of government, from the international level down to the smallest local unit that is possible in the given domestic society in order to produce a happier, healthier, more sustainable, and more resilient society that can survive, adapt, and grow with any and all shocks that are likely to happen.  I want a society that can proactively persevere anything the universe may throw at it and avoid the pitfalls that it itself can create for itself through its lack of knowledge, wisdom, compassion, understanding or acceptance of facts.  These seven, to my knowledge and awareness, are the groundwork traits that a society’s people and governing body must practice within themselves in order to create that happier, healthier, more sustainable, and more resilient society.  We cannot afford to continue to do the same things as we’ve done in the past and expect different results, especially as conditions continue to change on their own and by our own actions.  We can either live in this happier, healthier, more sustainable, and more resilient society, or we can live in the same  way we’ve done in the past and continue to be at severe risk of obliteration by our own hands or some other unknown force in the universe.  Relaxation is not an option, I’m afraid to say, nor should we be lackadaisical about our condition as a species or a society.  That’s a sure way to get oneself and ones’ people killed and rendered unable to recover in the long and short term.  The choice is up to each of you.

This is what I can tell at present based upon my understanding and knowledge of the past and how things work in the present.  We can either grow up from a world of ideologies and embrace evidence with a bias towards facts and the truth.  Or, we can continue to wallow in our narrow vision of humanity and ourselves, and cease to be a problem in the universe.  The choice is up to each of you as to whether you are more apart of the solution or the problem.  What are you going to do?

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Emergence, self-organization and network efficiency in gigantic termite-nest-networks build using simple rules

Termites, like many social insects, build nests of complex architecture. These constructions have been proposed to optimize different structural features. Here we describe the nest network of the termite Nasutitermes ephratae, which is among the largest nest-network reported for termites and show that it optimizes diverse parameters defining the network architecture. The network structure avoids multiple crossing of galleries and minimizes the overlap of foraging territories. Thus, these termites are able to minimize the number of galleries they build, while maximizing the foraging area available at the nest mounds. We present a simple computer algorithm that reproduces the basics characteristics of this termite nest network, showing that simple rules can produce complex architectural designs efficiently.

Emergence, self-organization and network efficiency in gigantic termite-nest-networks build using simple rules
Diego Griffon, Carmen Andara, Klaus Jaffe

http://arxiv.org/abs/1506.01487 ;

Sourced through Scoop.it from: arxiv.org

Confucius observed that when humans follow a particular, internalized code and logic, the need for the top-down command and control forms of social organization disappear, allowing for much more effective and efficient bottom-up systems of organization to arise.  In other words, laws from on high levels of government should be simple, basic, and in accordance with the present natural laws and conditions of bottom-up organization.  Imagine a border collie moving sheep in a particular direction.  It guides the system by moving them in the general direction that the farmer needs while simply correcting and focusing on those sheep who stray from the flock or begin to pull the flock in undesirable directions.  Each society probably uses different strategies depending upon their own internal logic and “state of propriety”.

In the United States, it seems that we get extremely focused on the details and what was past rather than consider the general principles behind the laws, which are reflective of our actual values and stable desires as a nation.  We need to refer back to the principles and deeper meaning of the Constitution and not get so hung up about what is or isn’t actually written in the Constitution.  It’s this intuitive base level of understanding where the logic of our society is and how we are doing that is relative to that common direction we all share as Americans that is more likely to help us.  The details of which sheep are going where is insignificant relative to the big picture of what direction are the sheep as a flock headed and which ones are pulling us in those unhealthy directions.  Sadly, Americans prefer to look at the sheep rather than the flock at their own expense.  That’s probably how we got so many highly detailed laws and rules that are contradictory or counter to our base principles and values.  Silly society.  Silly people.

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Leadership 101

Leadership is, as far as I can tell, mostly about being polite, relatively humble, giving credit where credit is due to others, and enabling and encouraging others to voluntarily go above and beyond at the tasks that they’re given.  It is also having the sense and will to effectively and appropriately correct for missteps and mistakes along the way.  It is not yelling or necessarily being loud. It is not being able to do what you want when you want, as most Americans seem to believe.  It requires consistency.  It is not being a follower at all, but being able to empathize with followers (really, being able to empathize with other people in general).  It’s really a job for nice people who aren’t willing to accept sub-par performance in appropriate fashions and are willing to exercise their authority if they have it.  It’s not a job for the capricious, the stupid, the cocky, or the rude.  Americans seem to just respond to loudness and unsubstantiated forms of confidence, at least at younger mental ages.  It will own you if you don’t own it, and those who get owned by it are not actually true or effective leaders in my estimation.

All of this is taken from my own perspective and experience as a Cadet Platoon Commander (age 14) and Cadet Supply Officer (age 15).  Leadership is, in my estimation, one of the most difficult and temperament specific jobs that’s out there.  It’s also different across cultures and societies and doing it effectively requires that you alter your tactics depending upon the people or person that you’re working with.  To those who do it well, the rewards are in the job itself (although they would also be the first to recognize the financial value that is behind their skills).  It’s partially learned, partially innate in the person; not everyone by virtue of their nature, experiences, and interpretations of their experiences are qualified or going to be good leaders.  Some people don’t want to be leaders, and voluntarily choose the second, third, or lowest possible role in the social hierarchy.

As for me?  I think I can be an effective leader in my own right.  The only challenge that I would likely face is the natural learning curve that comes with any job and the need to work essentially with people specifically.  People are the leaders’ job, the peoples’ jobs are their own tasks.  That would, eventually, drain me over time rather than keep me energized.

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Concerning Economic Value and Growth

Value, in terms of economic and financial growth, can only be created in a society up to a certain point.  I believe that the aggregate demand function for a society is, in fact, nonlinear just as everyone’s individual demand curves for goods and services may also be nonlinear.  I believe that they start off going up exponentially.  But I also believe that, as the diminishing marginal utility kicks in, the curve evens out or maybe goes down, possibly spiking back upward at a certain point (depending upon the good or service in question).  It makes sense to say that demand may shift from goods, as people come to a limit of the amount of stuff that they can want, and moves into service and services, as people demand the already excellent products delivered in a more effective and customer friendly format.  As such, the market will slow down in growth, unless costs can be cut in production (this may be rendered moot, as we’ll need to pay people from the profits to have demand if there is a permanent loss of jobs), or unless new technology and methods of production can be explored and invented.  This can create a cycling of products as goods become obsolete and new ones come into being.  However, and this is critical, people need to be able to spend, innovate, and buy the new products and services, in addition to have enough savings to sustain themselves through shocks and retirement.  As such, we have a dynamic flow happening in the market where growth will naturally even off, bound by technological limits and the environmental resources needed to support.  This carrying capacity is about as close to a macroeconomic equilibrium as we will likely get.  It will be highly sensitive to external and internal shocks, and there will be periods of oscillating around the carrying capacity as people see that there’s no more room for money production, divest in the economy, and then cycle back up as they find that there is room for “growth” again.

It should be pointed out that this is not absolutely likely to happen, especially if wealth is more equitably distributed and more agents have a greater capacity to innovate, spend, invest, and save in the market economy.  By democratizing the economy through wealth redistribution, many other goods, services, and innovations may happen which can destabilize the existing social, political, economic, and environmental systems.  This can be a bad thing, in the sense that we get destructive goods, services, and innovations which hang around and wreak havoc in our societies and environments.  It can also be a good thing as we get new products, services, and innovations which are more healthful and helpful to us.  It will be critical to link peoples’ costs and benefits to themselves as individuals, in order to ensure that they select those goods, services, and innovations which are healthful to society.  Should that not be possible, the government may have to intervene in the market to encourage people to avoid negatively affective products and services and take up positively affective ones.  The goal is to preserve the actual (not perceived) health and well-being of society for the individuals’ who live in society’s sake.  Anything short of that leads to problems in the society and for the government in question who would, accidentally or purposefully, harm the society and the people who live in the society.

Therefore, we are left with a picture of a dynamic, flowing economy with multiple possible and highly fragile equillibria.  Some of these quillibria states are more beneficial for the society and for all the individuals in the society than others.  It is the government, through its power to create and enforce laws in the society, who determines the legal and social environment in which the market comes into being.  The environment also has a powerful check on market growth in terms of its size, nature, and composition.

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Common Features of Social Collapse

The important thing to remember about our economy, is that it is a nonlinear system.  It does not go up automatically, and what is a positive trend today can be a sharply negative trend in the near future when there are underlying fragilities and weaknesses in the overall social system.  The United States actually seems to have very weak governing institutions.  Its legislatures and executive bodies are unable to operate without the blessing of a few outside and unaccountable power brokers and funders who are not accountable to the public’s needs and have demonstrated no care or concern for the overall well-being and health of the public and the environment.  The judiciary is appointed by these weak institutions, and are therefore, tainted with the unhealthy biases towards personal private profit at the expense of overall social, individual, and environmental health and well-being.

A common thread of societal failure are these institutional weaknesses in the political field.  Losing legitimacy, lacking authority and agency, and genuinely not caring or knowing about the health and well-being of the society as a whole are all signs of severe weakness that the American system has been displaying for a number of decades at this point.  A sufficiently powerful government that is able to assert itself over the powerful few, working on behalf of the general public is preferable to any kind of government.  Powerful governments that don’t work effectively or at all on behalf of the public are obviously not good for the government or the society.  Weak governments, regardless of whom they are working for aren’t good either, because they leave a vacuum for the private elite to set up shop and take over society and make the powerful sub-government that is unaccountable to and disinterested in anyone but its small self that actually rules.  When the government doesn’t have sufficient power, it just gets taken up by those who can afford it.  That’s what Americans don’t seem to get, and why they’re being played the saps by the CEOs and shareholders in the guise of Libertarianism and conservatism.

Therefore, we need a new system of government entirely which is transparent, able to be held accountable often and effectively by all citizens for all citizens by peaceful methods, and independent of the powerful private concerns that are already present.  It’s only an idiot group of people who would rig a democratic system in their relative favor at the expense of other people.  That’s precisely what we have in the United States and how we are more likely to fail in the long term (which becomes the short term all too soon).  Enjoy your fun.

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A multifaceted program causes lasting progress for the very poor: Evidence from six countries

Source: www.sciencemag.org

Don’t ever tell me that poverty is a condition that will always be around or is something that laissez-faire economics will take care of.  Quite frankly, it’s lazy thinking and unfeeling to view a challenge such as poverty or extreme poverty as a feature of human society that has a place in such global abundance or that doing nothing will solve the problem.  Furthermore, I am willing to hypothesize that these efforts to relieve poverty, using time, energy, and resources from the production of wealth in our societies will not come at a great expense to that production of wealth and may, in fact, balance out or exceed on its returns for the overall global economy, especially with more consumption, increased savings to protect against shocks, and if it is done in an environmentally sound and sustainable way.  It’s science, but it’s not rocket science.  Enjoy!

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