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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.

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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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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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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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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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5 facts about the minimum wage: Pew Research

While the idea of raising the minimum wage is broadly popular, efforts to do so at the national level have stalled. We gathered key facts looking at the issue. While the idea of raising the minimum wage is broadly popular, efforts to do so at the national level have stalled repeatedly in Congress, leading advocates to focus more of their efforts on cities and states. A Pew Research Center survey from January 2014 found clear partisan differences in support for raising the minimum wage: Overall, 73% of people favored an increase in the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour, mirroring a Democratic-backed proposal that failed to move ahead in Congress last year. But while large majorities of Democrats (90%) and independents (71%) said they favored such an increase, Republicans were more evenly split (53% in favor and 43% opposed).Here are five facts about the minimum wage and the people who earn it

Source: www.pewresearch.org

It is, quite honestly, criminal that we permit so many people live on so little so that a few people can have so much more than they can ever hope to spend in a lifetime.  These people are people too, and they are entitled, as human beings and American citizens, to live and have the ability to thrive and pursue happiness as well.  What good comes for those who take so much while delivering so little in return for the rest of us by comparison to the labor and potential contributions of these tens of millions of people?

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Data Mining Reveals a Global Link Between Corruption and Wealth

Social scientists have never understood why some countries are more corrupt than others. But the first study that links corruption with wealth could help change that.

Source: www.technologyreview.com

The question then becomes whether wealth, or the lack thereof, is a cause of corruption or wealth is caused by a lack of corruption.  It makes sense in my mind that a lack of corruption leads to increased potential to make wealth because the appropriate use of resources (ie, using resources for their stated purposes) and the honesty that underlies that point could, in my view, make for more wealth than the dishonest methods and inappropriate usage of public funds would.  We could hypothetically run simulations to test which one is the case, similar to the Sugarscape experiments.  On the other hand, a lack of resources may incentivize those who don’t have much to take more from the public resources and use them for private uses (ie, what I call the Jean Valjean effect).  More experimentation should be done to tease this out.  Perhaps by knowing what they’re giving up by having corruption, the officials will be more circumspect about how they live off and take from the public till.

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A Theoretical Organizational Framework, Logic, and Ethic for Governments

The science of policy-making, governance, and politicking from the perspective of improving, enhancing, and maintaining power structures all stem from the science, principles, practices, and ethics of good medicine from the perspective of benefitting all patients.  Policy-making and governance are the technical, scientific parts of it.  Advisors, staff, and researchers are like the specialists, surgeons, and medical researchers who develop the techniques full time; potentially great at what they do and at operating technically, but sometimes not so great at the bedside manner which is important in communicating medical treatments and policies to and for the general public.  Politicians and those who work with the public need to be more like the family doctor or the general practitioner; trained and aware of the science and limitations and able to do experimental treatments sometimes, but ultimately owing a lot of advice and knowledge to the researchers and technical specialists.  The communication processes with the public and with people in the public is an art.  It can be practiced and taught; but not all will be great at it due to personality, temperament, or preference.

The politicians are the ones who need to be able to synthesize all of the research and knowledge and practices of every field of medicine in order to come up with an accurate, general, and overall picture of societal, economic, and environmental health in order to make the day to day management choices over the governing agencies and the social body that is human society.  Advisors, researchers, and staff help fill in the technical cracks in their knowledge, awareness, and function, creating a detailed yet holistic synthesis of information for the politicians to do.  All members of the government and the governing and research bodies are interdependent on one another and on the health and well-being of the society that is in their technical charge.  Any failure in the society that can be addressed by government is ultimately a reflection of the failures within the government.  Any failure in the society that the government cannot get at due to a matter of political choice and preference on the part of the society is a fault of the society.  These can possibly be remedied by the government through its policy and choice making systems in given moments and over time, especially as the benefits and costs are made more known to the public.  There is also the fact that there are diverse “correct” answers in policy making depending upon the given situation that a planet, international region, country, intra-country region, state, intrastate region, or locality may be in that does no harm to others or to themselves and enables the given area to thrive due to its favorable circumstances and choices.  All of these layers must work together and communicate with one another freely, openly, and honestly in order to ensure optimal functionality in the long term, both within governmental organizations and across social organizations and people.  Otherwise, we get less effective and efficient policy-making and governance in our social world and across societies, which ultimately costs lives, well-being, health, quality of life, resources, energy, and effort for disappointing or negative returns.

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