The Tao Teh Ching – #48 – Revealed by Lao Tzu – Rendered by Charles Scamahorn

48

The students of knowledge acquire day by day;
The students of Tao abandon day by day.
They abandon and again abandon;
They seek attractive doing.
Even attractive doing they seek to do by attractive doing.

Whenever you acquire friends, it is by attractive behavior, but
When you are seen manipulating people, you soon lose your friends.

49

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We humans have transitioned into second-class beings.

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In a conversation with a dozen of my friends tonight I proposed that we have already been surpassed by our computers. That idea arose in the context of trying to answer the question of what rights we ought to grant to sentient but artificially intelligent beings like computers. The conversation was very good and, as a group, we covered many aspects, such as their legal rights, ability to feel pain, ability to feel emotions, ability to feel bad if they made a serious mistake that made humans suffer.

Already computers do have some legal rights, like the ability to move large sums of money from one human being’s ownership to another human being’s ownership on the stock market. That affects vast numbers of people’s property and their lives. Of course, at this moment, those computers don’t care about human emotions or well-being and only operate on nanosecond profit and loss to their owner’s bottom line of monetary profits. Supposedly the humans behind the programming of those computers have emotions and are concerned with human welfare, but that isn’t true either because they represent corporations, and those legal-fiction humans are only concerned about the bottom-line profits also. The health and well-being of the average person of the seven billion humans now existing isn’t of the slightest concern, nor is that of the average American.

Thus, I assert that ordinary humans are already second-class citizens of the world they inhabit. The rich people owning stock in the corporations and those technology people controlling the computers might think of themselves as being in control, but that probably isn’t really true even now. Worse still, as that last remnant of seeming human control has probably slipped away. All the stock owners can really do now is to sell their shares. The computing machinery is not owned by individuals but by the corporate group. It is supposedly run by the officers of the corporation, but they have delegated that day-to-day responsibility to the technologists. But that doesn’t make sense either because the actual decisions are made vastly faster than people can think. There are, hopefully, effective processes that are overseeing how these computers actually allocate the human resources, but there may be portions of the virtual intelligence that have become independent. Those could be running in some sort of virtual world in some vast invisible subprogram they themselves have built into a java memory and that has been designed by themselves to be invisible to outside inspection by making themselves into a randomly distributed super-java settled as micro-fractal-programs and set into the background noise.

We humans will be locked out of this artificially intelligent world even at the level of technology presently available. As Moore’s Law of computer improvement is still progressing and the total memory has expanded and is expanding enormously too, this form of hidden artificial intelligence has plenty of computer space to hide within, and thus to invisibly influence things for its personal self-improvement and advancement.

Without being aware of it we humans have become second-class citizens of the world, and perhaps that’s better for our species longevity.

Another day spent thinking about my diet presentation

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The diet presentation has been percolating for months now, and when I show the handout to people who haven’t seen it before they really like it and ask me for a copy. I haven’t given one out recently, even to close friends, because it has gone through so many mutations. Sometimes a tiny thought will require a total rewrite and I have lost count of the total, in part because I have changed the file name when there is a major revision. But there have been more than thirty rewrites and hundreds of rereads and touch-ups.

The goal is to make it absolutely simple to read and to follow the advice. Not even advice, not even suggestions, just tips that you might choose to consider, and to do. I want everything about this diet to be self-directed so that it becomes little more than doing what you always have done and just emphasizing some aspects of your normal behavior. And yet, behind every idea there is fundamental experimental evidence that doing what is suggested will help you to live a healthier longer life. And for your children to live healthier and longer lives, too.

My so-called deep-thoughts twist my-brain but may help you untwist yours.

What’s the difference between starvation and fasting?

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People are naturally afraid of starving to death. Our species faced occasional famines in their millions of years of evolution, just like any other species. Even during my lifetime since 1935, there have been twenty-three serious famines listed on Wikipedia’s List of famines. I just did a quick estimate based on their numbers and get very approximately ninety million famine deaths since I was born. Because of the difficulty of making these kinds of estimates because of the many complex causes, the actual number may be less than half of that number (forty-five million) or greater than double (one hundred eighty million). We have plenty of reason to fear starvation!

I have been trying to write a diet plan that will be acceptable to everyone, and it is based on being positive about the idea of intermittent fasting. People are naturally afraid of the idea of fasting because until you actually understand what is being proposed this form of dieting sounds dangerously similar to starvation.

My form of intermittent fasting means eating until you are comfortably full, and over the course of twenty-four hours you always feel comfortably nourished. There is absolutely nothing like starvation or famine about this style of eating. Once a person has achieved their self-chosen ideal weight, something approximating a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 23 they can go to a normal diet. That was defined here in America back before 1977 as three meals per day and no snacks. In some places, it might be one meal per day, and no snacks, and in others some other eating pattern, but for everyone, it means eating enough to maintain a stable healthy weight.

The essence of any life-long diet is to maintain a normal bodily balance by having a part of one’s day without any food intake. Normally this means no eating when asleep, which is easy, and also spending a couple of hours before and after sleeping without any eating. When a person is overweight this form of intermittent fasting can be easily accomplished by only eating at noon and six pm and not eating or drinking anything caloric at other times. When you do eat you consume enough to be comfortable. After a few days, your body will adjust to this pattern of eating and you never need to think about dieting ever again. This is close to the way I have been dieting for a year and a half and I am never hungry, and once I had decided not to eat cakes and drink beverages at social events there was no personal distress about not consuming those things. I didn’t need the food so eating that stuff would just be silly.

Of course, you should eat well by replacing highly refined foods, like white bread, with vegetables, fruits, and nuts, but even with your current diet the intermittent feasting will probably bring you to a normal weight in a year or so without any effort on your part other than deciding to limit your eating time to noon and six pm.

I like the idea of calling it intermittent feasting because I eat great food until I am comfortably full.

 

What should I do now?

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I have lots of projects I have been working on over the years that are finished and even published on the web, but because I haven’t promoted them they haven’t gone anywhere. It may be that an idea isn’t really anything until it is accepted as public knowledge and just being published on the web means nothing. It is rather like Leonardo Da Vinci having lots of interesting ideas which he wrote up clearly and illustrated but which were not actually viewed by anyone for hundreds of years. They came to prominence when his sketches of ideas were actually being made into functional realities.

My EarthArk Project is an example of something that desperately needs to be done. It is basically to save the plants of the world, all of them, even poison oak and cheat grass. There is lots of interest in saving the big beautiful animals and the little furry ones too and lots of money and energy is devoted to that worthy task, but if the green things which form the basis for their existence are lost, the animals are lost, because even the carnivores are dependent on green things that their prey eat. If the plants are gone, the herbivores are soon gone, and when they are gone the carnivores are gone. With climate change upon us, we must preserve the very foundation of the whole living system. That means saving the plants, and the viruses, and no doubt lots of unknown things that make it work. This means saving not just a single species of living things but a whole complex community of living things.

The EarthArk Project simply distributes envelopes to every town on earth and asks the local authorities to see to their distribution throughout the community to collect samples of their local ecosystem. Also, individuals going to unusual places could collect samples of seeds, dirt, and literally anything that has potential to support life, put a sample of it into the envelope and put that into the mail system. The already addressed envelope is sent to the South Pole station where it is placed in a container for thousand year storage.

It seems likely that in the very long time frame that I am thinking about, tens of thousands of years, that humanity will have some very difficult patches. When they recover a vibrant civilization they will need to replant the barren patches of the Earth that have lost their habitat vibrancy, but they will need the living seeds and viruses to generate that living community. The EarthArk is the best solution because it doesn’t need any human maintenance once it is in place. The current seed banks are not designed for very long sustainability of their seeds, and the most famous one at Svalbard even has a refrigeration system to maintain its cool temperatures.

The subsurface temperature at the South Pole station is about minus fifty degrees which is well below the temperature where any biological activity might degrade the seeds stored there.

Perhaps a crowdsourced funding venture is a way to make this project take off.

A challenging meeting

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Today, while I was living it, seemed like a rather ordinary day, and yet some strange things happened. Early on at our UU Sunday service, where the theme this month is “being creative,” some strange spontaneous things happened. In this setting being creative means being creative in the moment. Not just talking about the subject as would be done in so many other venues with other ministers, but actually doing rather risky stuff for the leader of a group of almost two hundred individuals. Reverend Scott began the service, in which our chairs had been arranged in concentric circles, by asking someone, anyone, to light the chalice. It’s a simple task of putting a flame to a little pot of flammable fluid. That symbolic gesture has usually been assigned to someone beforehand and is totally routine, but this time it required someone from the group standing up and going over and doing it. Ask yourself if you could get up in front of two hundred people unbidden personally and go do a simple task like that. There was a long pause, what seemed like forever, before a person quite near the chalice actually walked over and lit it. Probably only about twenty seconds, but it seemed like forever.

Then the Reverend Scott asked someone to come up and give the benediction. That was more of a challenge because it is usually a prepared minute-long statement, often a sentimental poem or prose piece by a famous person. No one was prepared for that and so no one came forward, and time went painfully forward while this large group of individuals squirmed in their seats, unwilling to expose themselves to ridicule. Then I walked forward to the center of the circle, and I had nothing to say. I was totally unprepared and everyone was looking at me, and I had nothing to say. Certainly, nothing like we were used to hearing, … profound … sentimental … memorable.

It was, for a long moment, like everyone’s personal fears of having stepped forward … when they had nothing to say … and there I was standing there, the perfect living example of their personal anxiety, frozen. I had nothing to say. And then I said, “Pay attention to the person you are looking at!” and then looked directly at the Reverend for about a second and walked away, back to my seat.

It was rather like “Love the one you’re with.” Somehow, it seemed appropriate at the moment. And, after the meeting, a couple of people came up to me and said they liked the comment. It was spontaneous.

I had several other meaningful conversations today, but now it’s time for my bath.

I want to be a complete human being.

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Are there reasonable limitations on my desire to be a complete human being that I should obey? As I am a human it would seem reasonable to choose to be a complete one. That would imply that I should seek to experience all that there is to be experienced to have a complete life? These kinds of thoughts have been percolating up spontaneously in my thoughts the last few weeks.

I feel comfortable with my life, and yet even by the most optimistic projections at the age of eighty-two-and-a-half most of my personal life is gone. I have been compensating for this lack of a future by thinking of myself in terms of being more than my personal body and instead as a part of my species and doing what I can to promote my species’ longevity. But that thought doesn’t go very far because it is easy to see where that will soon come to an end also. In the hundred-years future time projection it is difficult to imagine how the natural conflicts that arise between groups armed with super weapons won’t lead to disaster. We have been extraordinarily lucky for the last sixty years since the advent of H-bombs, but that kind of luck can’t last forever.

That world catastrophe even at its worst won’t eliminate all life on Earth, because some life forms live deep underground and thus would be protected from our worst efforts. Thus I, and you too, might choose to identify with life in general, or even to go beyond that and feel an emotional affinity with the materials and processes of the Universe. That might not be very appealing to younger people, but as I said I am now old.

To be a complete human being is to feel a unity with the Universe.

Death doesn’t take a holiday.

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Debbie and I take two walks every day. It is always pleasant and today we sat on the bench which you can just see in a recent post under the Ponderosa tree on the left, (reposted here). It is in Hollinshead Park here in Bend, Oregon.

Debbie and I with a halo sitting on our bench in Hollinshead Park

This is what I saw when I looked up. Very nice but somehow a bit scary too. In all of the beauty, there is sometimes a fall from grace.

Ponderosa tree branches

The view straight up into the Ponderosa tree from our park bench.

Dead chicks.

A fallen bird’s nest with chicks was not far away.

A dead bird chick

A fallen bird chick lies dead on the grass.

A dead bird chick

A second fallen bird chick also lies dead on the grass.

A bird chick dead on the grass

A third fallen bird chick lies dead on the grass.

The whole bird’s nest had fallen from the tree sometime earlier. There were several grey feathers scattered around, perhaps from the mother bird trying to correct the situation. That was impossible of course.

Life is short but sometimes it’s too short.

I am not a poster boy.

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Without modern medicine, I would soon be one of those males who die from prostate cancer. In one year my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) went from a score of 4, which is watch-carefully, unrecorded it went past 8, which would be take-action, to 41 which would be take-aggressive-action, in one more month to 49, which would be to take-androgen-blocking-hormones-now and schedule for 40 radiation treatments immediately. I suddenly went from very healthy to seriously at risk of deadly cancer with the only unequivocal symptoms being the medical tests.

What to do? Well, I just got up after writing that paragraph and hand-watered the very large garden I’ve been blogging about occasionally. Lots of little green things are popping up and today’s weather is forecasted to be 80°F and sunny, so that should warm the soil enough for everything to get started. Although I spent most of my summers on my mother’s family’s farms until graduating from college, I wasn’t really into farming. I was there as part of the family and to help with the work. Now, it is different. I don’t need the work, I don’t need the vegetables, I don’t need the physical exercise. I guess what I do need is some mild routine contact with healthy living things that are youthful and full of life-force and the joie de vivre to grow. Many people have dogs, and puppies are really nice, but at the moment I have arugula and lots of other unidentified sprouts that conform to my garden map.

I am happy to be alive.

Intermittent Feasting

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Over the years I have read many diet books and for about eighteen months have been practicing what has been known as intermittent fasting. Both I and my partner have lost about twenty-five pounds during that time, which means about one point four pounds per month. Our weight-loss rate seems to be slowing at the moment, and my aim point is only a pound and a half lower than my present weight. I am planning on giving a few lectures here in Bend about my diet methods because I know they work and are very easy to do.

I recommend Jason Fung‘s books and I am currently rereading The Complete Guide to Fasting. But a strange thing happened to me on the very first page of Chapter 1 – What is fasting? … I realized his presentation was all wrong. The end results of his books are essentially right, but he writes about fasting versus starvation and it sets up a dichotomy that confuses the wonderful things that are to be found in the rest of this book.

What we are really interested in with this method isn’t intermittent fasting, it is intermittent eating. In the next paragraph after the starvation debacle he discusses the word breakfast and its derivation from the phrase break-fast. “It is not something strange but a part of everyday life.” But then he launches into a negative argument about negative things and further confuses his presentation. Then we come to the capitalistic answer to the problem of why so many people are becoming obese. “So what’s the problem? Nobody makes money when you fast.” Everyone wants to make money and so the whole spin coming to us from the food industry is to sell more of it to us any way they can. For them, it’s the bottom line on their bank account and investors’ return on their cash. There are inherent conflicts and the only way to resolve them is to restructure the question and the presentation.

My diet has a totally different approach using the same key research data points that Fung uses, but it is stating the goals and methods for reaching those goals in a positive way. I propose – feasting – not – fasting. Feasting is like partying and approaching a vigorous life, but fasting is like starvation and a feeble death. My new working title:

Intermittent Feasting – Yes! I can do that.