What is marriage for?

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The  general question subject to our group of fifteen diners was “What is marriage for?” My table of four discussed this for about an hour, and then we had a more general conversation with the whole group about our independent group’s findings. This was a great question, because it sounds so simple, and we all have some experience with the general subject, but when you get into it a complex array of subtleties come up. A good question doesn’t really have a pat answer, but it generates a lot of thought and interesting conversation. Our table group was already in a playful mood, so our flexibility of mind was in good position to come up with plenty of alternate ideas.

At the beginning, I sort of tuned out for a minute to collect my thoughts and wrote a list. Marriage is for the protection of the children, of the family fortune, to create a stable community, to have exclusive claim to my spouse, for community support of our personal commitment, to emphasize our personal honor to one another, to prevent being killed by violated relatives’ honor code, to have reliable sex and affection, for companionship, for money, to give continuity to our personal life, for Darwinian evolutionary survival, for equity of property. We covered all of those subjects when one of our more legally experienced members said, “Marriage is a legal contract for exclusive use of each other’s genitals.” We were all a bit shocked at that statement, but we also recognized and valued the compactness of the definition.

After a while we came back to the role of children in a marriage, and that it was a set of personal obligations and responsibilities between the potential parents to take care of one another so they together would provide a better likelihood of a good life for their children. From this arose the statement and idea that for women the marriage was more about raising the children, and ownership of the family was more important to the man. One woman quoted her mother’s parting words when she departed home for a career, “Don’t forget your duty!” and by that she meant to go forth and have children. An older couple mentioned that their relationship had to be renegotiated several times during their decades together. After the children were out of the house they needed to rediscover one another in a personal relationship that now became based on totally different goals. This apparently wasn’t easy for them or for many other couples.

It became clear as we were working through the various ideas, that this whole subject is vast and complex, and we barely touched on marriage outside of modern America. But we agreed that marriage is an opportunity to explore and live through many of the most meaningful experiences that we as human beings are capable of experiencing. At the end of the general group discussion I got to recite the sonnet, I made for Jenny Lowood’s marriage in Berkeley back in 1992.

The goal of marriage is to raise a child,
A perfect rose to your ideal self.
Upon which every loving eye will smile.
Praise good in him! He’ll be your living elf.

For one that’s praised for good, will become good,
But, no one knows which way he’ll turn from pain.
Thus, mature loving parents know they should
Eulogize, not scold, as the way to train.

This goodly rose you’ll raise need never fade,
But grow into a new born genesis,
That winds its self into a bud-filled braid,
And blossoms forth to fill your life with bliss.

The task is now set; and the course now laid;
There will be much sweat; You will be well paid!

“The goal of marriage.” recitation wasn’t planned, because I didn’t know that was to be the subject of tonight’s discussion, but it was an appropriate finish to the evening.

The goal of marriage is to raise a child, a perfect rose to your ideal self.

A Dictionary of New Epigrams – Silence

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A Dictionary of New Epigrams

Silence

Silence is bliss for those who love themselves, and agony for those who hate themselves.

Just because a person is silent doesn’t mean they are tranquil.

When one’s mind is tranquil and the world is quiet they can perceive the subtle details of their reality.

Your being silent rarely offends other people, and your being noisy rarely pleases them.

Your unspoken helpful thoughts will never help other people, and neither will your unspoken hurtful ones harm them.

Our occasional breaks into silence from the chaos of our world gives us the opportunity to reorient ourselves to our better purposes.

The natural progression is from silence to observation, to pondering, to revelation, to plans, to creations, to actions, to exploitation, to consumption, to pollution, to silence.

When you have no knowledge of a subject there in no need to pontificate upon it, and silence is the better part of wisdom.

Silence is a form of nothingness; it is what surrounds silence that makes it meaningful and lovely.

When in the presence of knowledgeable people, considerable silence on one’s part is a reasonable action.

If you can silence your mind for a while, and then ask yourself what is really important, you will find your way.

When you come to silence in the right way, from tranquility with yourself and contentment with the world, it will speak to you what you need to hear.

Silence can be the perfect expression of balance of the chakras, or it can be death.

The truths of your reality are inevitable if you are quiet enough to perceive them.

A perfect absence of words in silence is easier than a perfect presentation of words.

We don’t need an excuse to remain silent, but we do need a good reason to speak.

Your breaking a silence and delivering an idea breaks the other people’s understanding of whatever it was they were thinking about.

A wise man often sits silently and learns a great deal of wisdom from an arrant fool.

What’s happening to my personal communications?

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I have been having a wonderful time communicating with people lately. I feel emotionally closer and more physically intimate with people than ever before in all my life. That has to be considered strange, because I am now in my count-down to my eightieth birthday – sixty-seven days to go, but who’s counting? … I am. It seems so implausible that I am so old. Some people tell me I act like a high school kid, but I usually make some smart-ass comment like, I’m heading out to high school next year.

Part of what makes my present life work well is that no one has much expectation  of me to perform in any particular way, and I just spontaneously do whatever comes to mind. Life for me has become sort of an ongoing improv event. No one seems to mind me being different than everyone else. I don’t make any particular effort to hide what I believe to curry the favor of whomever I happen to be talking to, so I must give people the appearance of complete transparency.

People know what I think, and that gives them a certain security. When in a group I try to state my ideas as clearly as possible, and hone my ideas to be meaningful. It seems people respond to that in a positive way, because there seems to be a strong trend toward conformity to local society’s mores, and that can feel invisibly confining, but I flow freely without constraint. The several groups I hang out with praise open conversation, but the atheists are different from the spiritualists, and both of those are different from the philosophy group, and they differ greatly from the dog-lovers I hang out with at the park who are closer to ordinary people. That list gives a taste of only some of the diversity I encounter weekly, and I love them all.

Being eighty is wonderfully liberating, if one has cultivated comfortable habits.

Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Intellectuals – Review

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My spouse Debbie has read aloud to me every night for thirty years. Early on it was books such as Darwin’s “The Voyage of the Beagle” and “The Origin of Species“. Our first book was “Bantu Philosophy” by Placide Tempels. Last night we finished my bedtime reading with the completion of Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Intellectuals, by Olsen, Bevilacqua & Hayes, subtitled “Synonyms, Antonyms, & Related Terms Every Smart Person Should Know How to Use”. It has 423 pages of words with their definitions, almost all of which we both knew, and eighteen pages of a tightly spaced alphabetical listings. What made this book exciting reading was the carefully honed usage examples of the two-thousand eight hundred words defined. It is difficult to know if the authors were following in the footsteps of Ambrose Bierce’s “The Devil’s Dictionary“, or alternatively, if they are incredibly stuck-up snoots. Here are a few to whet your appetite:

Chinks in America’s EGALITARIAN armor are not hard to find. Democracy is the fig leaf of elitism. – Florence King

Before Arthur applied to college, his sister offered him a CAVEAT: “Many of us do not consider Columbia to be a true Ivy League school.”

Learn to be  pleased with everything; with wealth, so far as it makes us beneficial to others; with poverty, for not  having much to care for, and with obscurity, for being unenvied. – Plutarch

Many of us maintain a PALLID pallor because we want to make it clear that we do not need to go outdoors unless we so choose.

What’s the point of taking on OPEROSE work when our social connections help us to achieve success with little effort?

Richard RESCINDED his order for a yacht, opting instead to purchase a private aircraft.

The way Emily NATTERS endlessly about her family’s new yacht is revolting to those of us who have owned several yachts over the years.

The SOLIPSISM of some members of the leisure class is distasteful to those of us who, for example, know what our servants need even more than they do.

It’s sad that we, at times, must place LIENS on our servants’ automobiles, but that is why they are the servers and we the “servees.”

The occasional kind comment seems rather enough to keep our servants TRACTABLE.

“We found it a  HERCULEAN effort not to chortle at the outlandish clothing of the nouveau riche attendees of our party,” said Lillian.  “How inappropriate to wear evening attire to an afternoon garden party!”

Conceit is an INSUPERABLE obstacle to all progress. – Ellen Terry

Those who profess to favor freedom and yet DEPRECATE agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. – Frederick Douglass

Michael has made no attempt to GAINSAY the persistent rumors that his family’s fortune rests solely on insider trading.

The TRITE subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, luxury have always seemed to me contemptible. – Albert Einstein

There is no man, however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, EXPUNGE it from his memory. – Marcel Proust

The Tao Teh Ching – #16 – Revealed by Lao Tzu – Rendered by Charles Scamahorn

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16

Reach into your perfect void, and
Attain the essence of tranquility.
All things take their turn to activity.
By this you may know each shall return to its origin.
When flowers bloom in spring, you know
They shall return to Earth from which they grow.

Know the source of your origin;
It is your destiny. For
Returning to the source is the eternal law.
When you go against the eternal law, you provoke disaster.

While you flow with the eternal law, you are enlightened, all-loving, godly
and in tune with nature.
While you flow with the eternal law, you are on the proper path, and
The end of your personal existence
Is not the end of your personal essence.

17

I will never leave you!

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My friend M… was responding to people’s statements of feelings of abandonment, and he did something astonishing. He looked fully at the person expressing that sentiment, and said in an intense, heartfelt way, “I will never leave you!” He is a professional personal counselor, and he said that one of people’s primal dreads is being abandoned. He has personal experience of having been emotionally abandoned by some of his family members. He said abandonment is more pointed than just moving to another city and slowly, over the years, losing contact. It is having someone directly stating that they don’t like you, that they don’t value your company and they don’t want to be in your presence ever again. That’s devastating!

Having endured absolute rejection like that, he thought about abandonment a lot and that he is why he chooses to assure people that he will never leave them. He will be a true friend, and even if there are personal difficulties he will do everything he possibly can to maintain a close relationship. There have been many people come through his life, just as has happened with the rest of us, and many of those people he will never seen again, but he says there is still a bond, and he will be immediately available.

Having expressed those sentiments much better than I have here, he then went around the dozen of us and looking at each person directly he said, “I will never leave you!”

I assure you, that it’s quite an experience having a powerful shaman look you directly in the eye, and say, “I will never leave you!”

 

The 4th tranquility – contentment meditation

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After another conversation about the tranquility – contentment meditation I was exploring the idea of having each person choose their own words to insert into the meditation sequence. The meditation verbal part was to begin with, “In this moment I choose to be tranquil with all that I was before this moment.” Perhaps some people might prefer a synonym, such as: serene, placid, calm, peaceful, quiet, still, silent, soft, gentle, restful, cool, composed collected. And for the contentment with the world external to me, “I choose in this moment to be content with all that is external to me,” with alternate synonyms, such as: contented, satisfied, gratified, pleased, gladdened, comfortable, cozy, snug, easy, restful.

Some of these synonyms drift away from my basic concepts. For example, the word tranquil, and the idea being to move toward tranquility, is like a pond having a disturbance which causes a scurrying of ripples, that as the moments pass exhaust themselves and return to a smooth state with zero energy being wasted in useless activity.

Others might like to explore negative sentiments like: anger, despair, melancholy, but I wouldn’t like to go there. After one of our sessions with a small group of less than a dozen it would be interesting for people to discuss the words they used in their personal meditation and the results they got from consciously meditating on them for a few minutes. It would seem that the experiment would bring them closer to those feelings, and permit the actions associated with them to become easier to perform. Or contrary to that idea, those people meditating on fear, pain, and threatening ideas, would come away with feelings of helplessness and that would in turn generate despair, and frozen inaction. Or simply total freedom to choose your own path.

It might be appropriate to not suggest any words of meditation whatsoever for this exercise, not even the idea that previously we had done tranquility and contentment.

Road mine blast deflector

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I saw a military type vehicle today, and casually noticed its features designed to minimize road mine blasts. The passenger compartment was relatively high off the ground, and had a distinct V shape, and appeared to have an armored floor. The wheels were mounted wide, and were very heavy looking. My thoughts were, there needed to be a deflector mounted closer to the ground to absorb energy and prevent physical materials from flying toward the passenger compartment. An online search soon found on Wikipedia a vehicle similar to the one I saw, identified as a German ATF Dingo.

German combat vehicle Dingo

A German troop transporting combat vehicle named ATV Dingo that has road blast protection features.

A further search found a November 2010 analysis of 2212 Anti-vehicle (AV)mine incidents in Rhodesia comparing how well occupants of various vehicle configurations survived. As that conflict proceeded there were many different adaptations of commercial vehicles intended to enhance survival of the occupants of relatively light vehicles. This ungainly looking type called the Leopard endured a total of 67 road bombs and of the 264 occupants only one died

Leopard road-blast deflecting truck

A blast-deflecting vehicle named the Leopard

The cheap and easy to install improvement for saving soldiers’ lives would be foot wide ski-like skids supported about four inches above the road. They would give about an inch of clearance from the tire all the way around with about a foot or two of material extending toward the occupant compartment. When a blast occurred below a tire the energy and debris would be directed horizontally to the sides and thus away from the people inside.

Steel wraparound skis on military vehicles would deflect road mines’ deadly power.

Fully experience your present moment.

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We are always living in the moment. We have no choice about that simple fact, and when we realize it intellectually we can make some choices about how we are going to relate to our present now, and we can in doing that set the habit into motion as to how we are going to relate to our future moments. It takes a moment of consciousness, an intentional thinking about what our present instant of reality consists of, so it requires a bit of personal effort. Reading about this in books, and listening to speakers promoting their conceptions of your now won’t help you one bit if you don’t do the mental work yourself.

Sometimes there will be various kinds of unpleasant moments in your life, and many people will simply try to suppress those kinds of moments. They pretend that ugliness doesn’t exist, but as your unpleasant feelings arose out of your natural responses to whatever it was that was happening in the moment it is part of you. Therefore it should be accepted as belonging to you and worked through rather than suppressed. Running away from yourself is impossible, and relating to your reality with your conscious responses, rather than your unconscious reactions, will usually bring you to a better outcome.

When a person becomes overcome with any emotion they stop thinking, they react with their lizard brain, they become totally predictable as being in a fight, flight or freeze mode. But, when people are enthusiastic and positive they are capable of thinking and exploring new ideas and new options for behavior. Avoid getting into situations where fear will well up, because it makes your actions rigid.

Before you begin any action commit yourself to an enthusiastic demeanor.

The lesson of Ebola is to prepare an instant information kit.

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“It is vexingly hard to determine what made this Ebola epidemic so much worse than previous episodes: Biology, economics, culture, politics, and chance all play a part in the trajectory of an emerging infection. Previous outbreaks had devastated communities, but those episodes had also been self-limiting and geographically contained within a single or small group of villages.”
That is paragraph three in an article, Breached Ecological Barriers and the Ebola Outbreak by Robert L. Dorit in the American Scientist, Volume 103, page 256. The article goes on to mildly flame the authorities for not getting more deeply involved sooner than they did, but the fact is that the local authorities had sent teams to Meliandou, Guinea, in the first weeks of the outbreak. The problem was that the symptoms of Ebola disease were similar to many of the other tropical diseases, and because they didn’t have the sophisticated laboratory equipment to test for a disease that was never before present in the local area, they simply misdiagnosed it. Once there was a blood sample available and sent to a sophisticated lab in France for examination, it was quickly recognized as Ebola. That was on March 20, 2014, which was only 79 days after the first victim died, and by that time only about 40 others had been infected. That may seem like a lot of sick people, but they were immersed in remote communities in a vast population of 340 million West Africans where there had never been a single recorded case of Ebola.
If on March 21st the critically important information could have been given to the local people telling them exactly what to do with potential Ebola victims the disease would have quickly terminated, because it has a low infection rate. Basically avoid the effluvia of sick and dead people, because those fluids are highly infectious. Contact infectiousness was a serious problem there because the African funeral goodbye ceremonies included touching the dead body. The outbreak might have ended in the village of Meliandou, with the death of 2-year-old Emile on December 28, 2013, or his sister Philomena on January 5, or their mother Sia on January 11, or a friend Fanta on January 11. Unfortunately, Emile’s grandmother Koumba, having seen her two grandchildren and her daughter die, immediately set out from the village to get help for herself, and traveled around to different cities to various hospitals seeking help. She thus became a super spreader, and not just in a single location but in several.
The first cases of Ebola are in the village of Meliandou

The first cases of Ebola Meliandou

WHO – 1st Chain of Transmission of Ebola: MELIANDOU chart showing Emile’s death as December, 28, 2013

In the WHO chart above the bottom two rows of people died in April and that is after the discovery that the disease was Ebola. Thus, if an accurate information campaign had been launched instantly, even these early victims might not have caught the disease and spread it. Also, if the information had been given to hospitals immediately they could have treated the possible Ebola victims with isolation and super cautious treatment. Note that Koumba’s nephew died in Conakry on February 5th, only five weeks after the index case Emile, but that’s a city of a million people and a nine-hour bus ride from Gueckedou.
Among the first dozen people there were several spreaders who had they stayed home and treated their symptoms with basic hydration therapy they might have survived, and not started an epidemic. Here is a link to a post on, A distribution plan for an Ebola home treatment kit and posters. It states that water can pass from the intestine into the body best when the drinking water has a balance of 1 level teaspoon of salt, to 8 level teaspoons of sugar, to a 1 liter of water. The survival rate at home is poor if the person is untreated, but with this simple hydration treatment their survival rate is greatly improved.
What can be done now in preparation for the coming outbreaks of disease is to prepare individual plans for each specific disease, and other problems. These computer-based information packets could be made up as complete and detailed as possible including treatment procedures, email, phone numbers, titles of who needs to be contacted, and the potential radio, TV, web, broadcast statements with commentary and who to best make the commentaries. These information packs could be created in English by the CDC or WHO, but the information should be available on their sites computers and translated into the local languages where the outbreaks of a specific disease might occur. Once done, these ready to print information packets could be sent to the local authorities in seconds, or even long beforehand. If specific information packets, of this type, had been in available when the Ebola outbreak was first identified it might have ended within a month.
What bothered me about the opening statement quoted above, “Biology, economics, culture, politics, and chance all play a part in the trajectory of an emerging infection,” was that those generalizations might be true, but they don’t help solve any problems. My goal is to see problems clearly, and discover effective solutions.

It takes years to create specific vaccines for a new disease and during that time the public should be informed as to what they should do. Creating specific information packets for potential outbreaks of disease, before they happen, would solve predictable problems. The packets could be pre-vetted for accuracy and applicability so they could be instantly available, and immediately published in all appropriate media and languages.

Broadcast specific information on how to prevent a viral disease from spreading by demonstrating how to separate the virus sources from people.

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