The Seven Sages of Ancient Greece – line 133

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Line 133 – “Use life as an opportunity” could catch your eye as it did mine. It is such an open-ended statement it could mean almost anything. What is life? Is it my life or Jennifer Doudna’s CRISPR life? This Berkeley professor is using life in a whole new way. Her discovery of how to manipulate DNA will surely transform life as we know it into something wholly new. If we were around in a thousand years, possibly even a hundred, we would be astonished. No one knows the implications of total control of living DNA.

But the tagline comes from two and a half thousand years ago, from the maxims attributed to the Seven Sages of Greece. They were pre-Socratic thinkers. Not quite what we would now call philosophers but more like generalized practical problem solvers. They were still close enough to what is known as the original PIE people who carried variations of their language from England to India. They were the Proto-Indo-Europeans who spread over the known world from north of the Black Sea. They must have had something going for them besides the horses they had domesticated and advanced farming techniques to have been so successful.

Perhaps it was an ethical system provided by some slightly earlier form of the sayings attributed to the Seven Sages. Whatever it was that made them successful, at the expense of others, they certainly did use life as an opportunity.

When I was thinking about that idea it was more personalized, and yet I am using the entire Seven Sages list of sayings in my current rendition of Love Our Life. So the intent of that idea is already spreading far beyond my personal needs. With modern technology whizzing along into new voids and the society derived from those strange new devices changing our human relationship with everything it becomes obvious that there is only one thing that can be said … we are dropping into an unknowable void. Hopefully, it isn’t like dropping into a black hole that will rip us apart into our constituent subatomic particles, or maybe it will. It is impossible to know. Perhaps we should not care. Perhaps it is one of those things the Greek Stoics spoke of as being beyond our control or even influence and therefore beyond our care or even interest. Like the French existentialists, we are compelled to create our own personal system of value.

Use life as an opportunity to be lived right now, but to an unknowable end.

The Seven Sages of Ancient Greece – line 73

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The Seven Sages found the essence of Stoic thought centuries before it was refined into what we now understand to be stoicism. I like the idea behind line 73, which seems to be to “Enjoy what is easy and natural.” I say seems to be because to put modern words into people’s ideas from 2,500 years ago is presumptuous. And yet, we must proceed in the moment with what we have.

The more famous line from that distant time is “Know thyself.” It seems to be a moving and sensitive thought but it is hard to do and fundamentally unnatural. People have been sitting around for a couple of thousand years now studying every nuance of themselves from their topmost hair through the centermost center of their navel and onto the tippiest of the tip of their toe, and what do they have to report that doesn’t strike the normally sane person as useless nonsense?

However, “Enjoy what is easy and natural” is easy to do and is as natural as eating, pooping, having sex and sleeping. No problem, it’s that easy! And, if you are having a problem with any of those basic natural functions it’s time to reconsider all the time spent on knowing one’s esoteric self and get back to appreciating one’s natural self.

I have interpreted the 147 wisdoms of the Seven Sages as action terms for living a healthy life embedded in a vibrant society which is functioning in harmony with what the world has made available.

It is easy and natural walking along the path to the Way.

The Seven Sages of Ancient Greece – line 18

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I have been considering using the 147 lines from the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece in the current form of my book aspiration Love Our Life. Line number eighteen — “18. Respect the inevitable” — struck me as an idea that would have appealed to the Stoics. It was written about 550 BC and thus would have been centuries before the Stoics were well launched by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. That was 600 years before Epictetus, who brought Stoicism to its apex of purity. Also, Stoicism was the motivating ethic during the Pax Romana and during the reign of the Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius. That hundred-year period is considered by many scholars as the most peaceful years ever enjoyed by the European civilization.

18. Respect the inevitable” seems like a strange thing to put at the core of one’s  book and personal philosophy, and yet when I set my thoughts on that idea and its implications it gives me a feeling of contentment. That word contentment made it to the current back cover of the book, which today reverted to the earlier title Love Our Life. The front cover still has the words Health and Happiness instead of health and contentment as seen on the back cover, but because of the progression from the front happiness with its momentary emotional qualities to the idea of contentment with its long-lasting glowing qualities, contentment feels better to me on the back.

The buffing of the feeling of the words on the cover feels complete and I have been working on the many pre-existing essays to bring them into a coherent style. That style is intended to be super simple and I may even run it through a Simplified English translator to achieve that simplicity. This book is intended for everyone.

The title “Love Our Life” feels more inclusive than “Love Your Life.”

Gastrophysics – The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence

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As background research for my book Love Your Life, I read Gastrophysics – The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence. This isn’t a book about dieting in the usual sense of losing weight but rather about how to enjoy eating. It’s about much more than the simple act of putting food in your mouth, chewing and swallowing. In part, it’s about what restaurateurs can do to make that experience as pleasurable as possible, or in some venues as memorable as possible and damn the shallow definitions of pleasure. “The aim nowadays is to prepare the best-tasting food possible and to complement that with the most immersive and engaging multisensory stimulation ‘off the plate’ as well.”

Spence traces the historical roots for that approach to the table experience of the Italian artistic group of the 1930s known as the Futurists. It was “conducted” by Filippo Marinetti, who introduced natural sound backgrounds, big fans blowing wind across the table, perfumed dishes, textured clothing for your companions to stroke while eating, perhaps with some loud Wagnerian opera engulfing the party. Probably naked girls strutting about with leopards. Who knows? The weirder the better!

This book explores the science that is trying to discover the statistical specifics behind what makes our eating experiences memorable. Would fur-covered dishes and silverware be appealing or repulsive? Would a trout be more appreciated placed vertically or horizontally across the plate? Neither. A diagonal from lower left to upper right is preferred by most people.

The primary aim of the book, which is aimed at the top chefs, is to explore how to create the most robust memories possible. People have great difficulty in remembering the taste of the culinary experience, but they can remember the weird things surrounding those experiences and that helps them to remember how much they enjoyed the food.

Because I am writing a book that is based in part on food and because it has such an impact on human social interactions, his points about memorability are important for me to consider when designing the book. It is to be a strange little book more in the tradition of Epictetus than Spence. No! On second thought, it is a blend of these extremely opposite styles of people and of living. And yet, strangely enough, almost identical. Epictetus was a slave in the infamous Roman Emperor Nero’s court and no doubt personally observed amazing activities that Spence would applaud as his ideal. Spence is promoting strange and extraordinarily expensive dinners and that is exactly what Nero was reveling in, and Epictetus was participating too, in his own way. Read my rendition of Epictetus. He based his theory of Stoicism, without much doubt, on what he had observed in Nero’s personal life of extraordinary luxury.

Spence is heading toward what Epictetus had experienced and was rejecting.

Love Your Life – diary

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My “Love Your Life” book is still in an evolutionary flux. I created a beautiful cover, 58 saves so far, and the first few pages of spreads that looked great and were proofread to be correct. I was happy with every one of them while making up the final-looking presentation for my critics but after I had shown a finished copy to them for review, I saw obvious things that need reworking. Each of the presentations looked better on the bookstore shelf than any book there, at least to my eye. My goals are a little different because this book is being designed to reach millions of people. It must, therefore, be distinctive and easily remembered.

When I put it on the bookstore wall with hundreds of other books facing out, this one is more visible and visually memorable. When it is lying on a coffee-shop table, it begs for a passerby to ask about the owner’s progress with the program. When it is opened to any two-page spread it presents a problem in a clear and positive way on the left-side page and a way of coping with that problem on the right-side page.

There are challenges in describing problems in a positive way, and writing in negative terms may sound stronger but it forms a bad mood for presenting the new positive way of coping. Probably every problem has positive qualities about it and when the negative aspects are discussed it brings out the combativeness in the reader. That might be a successful approach when making a movie because it stimulates emotions,  but it seems to be counterproductive when writing a book intended to help billions of people with actual problems.

I am intending to be kinder to other people than I am to myself. That intention doesn’t always maintain its prominence in my actions when I am distracted by the natural flow of things. But, when writing a book and having it critiqued by several friends, there is enough time and the opportunity to stand back and be more in control of myself and my reactions. When a person frowns or stumbles while reading a word in the text, I pay close attention and try, with them, to figure out what it was at the core of their problem.

It is said that successful products are the result of market testing and it would appear that is what I am doing by showing this book to different people. Artists generally dislike showing unfinished works to people, but in this case the process has helped me get the core ideas that will be beneficial to the readers.

Evolution is a messy process, but it continues to make things that work.

Clockwork Purple – Pungent

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Clockwork Purple writers’ group meeting August 14, 2017

Book chosen by me – Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence

Joanna: page 21, Aingale: line 8 – the prompt is read.

Alexa, set the timer for 47 minutes.


Unless they pick something really pungent

I was living on a 30-foot cabin cruiser docked in the Berkeley Marina with my two dogs. Tiger, a blond 30-pound terrier mix, and Monkey, his black 20-pound daughter. We had been living there for two years and had a pleasant routine of going up to the campus coffee shops about six in the evening and hanging out with my friends until closing time. Generally, that meant midnight at the Mediteranneum Cafe and usually standing in front of it for another half hour, there on the 2400 block of Telegraph Avenue. These details mean nothing now in Bend, Oregon, in the year 2017, but back in the 1960s that exact spot was the center of the world in so many ways.

That exact spot would be remembered by many people whose names you still know almost six decades later. The names of the rich and famous I should leave out of this little story. They must be left out because they created companies that are listed in the Fortune top 500 and I might get into deep trouble for mentioning their colorful past.

But those of us Medheads who became known as criminals are fair game to talk about. For example, the media said last week, to the horror of the public, that Charlie Manson might be let out of prison soon. It is hard to know where he might go back to after so many years in prison, but that spot was one where he spent a lot of time before murdering Sharon Tate, my high school Junior Prom Queen, back in Richland, Washington. As far as I know, I never talked to Charlie or his girls. They were usually sitting across the street at the bookstore where the sidewalk was a little wider. But otherwise, the street was usually empty after midnight. It was so empty that occasionally deer would come down from the hills and walk by, heading to the local residents’ gardens.

Another of the infamous ones was Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. I didn’t know him either, but several of my friends knew him well. At a garden party last year I asked my decades-long friend, whose name I must omit because he is still in the math department at the University, why he didn’t notice Ted and turn him in? Ted was so weird! His rather disturbing answer, “Everyone in the math department is weird. Ted fit right in.”

Julia Vinograd, who is still the official Berkeley Poet Laureate, was often in attendance at our midnight conversations. Her many books of poetry aren’t bad enough to put her in with the criminals, but she and I spent many hours talking with the math professor and Marty Horowitz, who did do prison time as an accessory to murder.

After these midnight conversations, which were often attended by my dogs Tiger and Monkey, we would drive a couple of miles down University Avenue, across the US 80 freeway, and across the half mile field to the Marina. We always stopped along the road at that huge field and ran around for a half an hour before going to the boat to sleep. It was a grand time for me and for them too, as it was dead center in the great metropolis surrounding San Francisco Bay. We had our own huge private field to play in. Several times after an extraordinary conversation up on Telegraph Avenue, Tiger or Monkey would find something dead out in the field, but unless they pick something really pungent up and brought it back to me they considered it just an ordinary fun walk. Sometimes there were truly special things they found. No human bodies, although there have been some out there, it turned out. One beautiful night Monkey brought back some exquisite Brie cheese and insisted I take some. She kept getting in my face and panting in absolute delight. Her really pungent breath is infinitely memorable forty-seven years later as a great event of my life.

The Cafe Med conversations were great, but that gift from Monkey beats them all. Thank you, Monkey.

What is an ideal BMI (Body Mass Index)?

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..BMI … 23.41 … 25
Height
4’6″  …  97.1 … 103.7
4’7″  … 100.7 … 107.6
4’8″  … 104.4 … 111.5
4’9″  … 108.2 … 115.6
4’10” … 112.0 … 119.7
4’11” … 115.8 … 123.8
5’0″  … 119.9 … 128.0
5’1″  … 123.9 … 132.3
5’2″  … 128.0 … 136.7
5’3″  … 132.2 … 141.2
5’4″  … 136.4 … 145.6
5’5″  … 140.7 … 150.3
5’6″  … 145.1 … 155.0
5’7″  … 149.5 … 159.7
5’8″  … 154.0 … 165.0
5’9″  … 158.5 … 164.5
5’10” … 163.2 … 174.3
5’11” … 167.9 … 179.3
6’0″  … 172.6 … 184.4
6’1″  … 177.5 … 189.5
6’2″  … 182.3 … 194.8
6’3″  … 187.3 … 200.0
6’4″  … 192.4 … 205.4
6’5″  … 197.4 … 210.9
6’6″  … 202.6 … 216.4

The BMI (Body Mass Index) isn’t a very good measure of life expectancy but it is the only scientifically tracked method at present. Even with that data available, there isn’t much agreement on what an ideal BMI should be. The official literature says that we as individuals should strive to be below BMI 25 but just how much below isn’t clearly defined. Another obvious question is at what age is the supposed below 25 recommendation applicable? Is life expectancy of a twenty-five-year-old best at BMI 30 or is that a good BMI for an eighty-year-old?
What about height and BMI relationship to life expectancy at various ages? Furthermore, does the data derived from white males near the average height of five foot nine inches have any validity for those at five feet three inches or six feet three inches? Probably those BMI figures are meaningless for seeking an ideal BMI at those modest differences of height, gender, race, and national location.
I hesitate to say my taking the time to calculate the height to weight BMI, seen above, to a high precision was meaningless, but I was seeking an ideal body weight for myself.
What is the ideal BMI/body weight for an eighty-two-year-old white American male who once was five foot nine but is now five foot eight? Do I use my youthful height or my geriatric height for the calculation? When a male is young there are far greater threats to his existence than a point or two on his BMI but at age eighty-two I presently have excellent blood pressure, and so with good basic life expectancy, it makes sense to adjust my weight to the ideal.
My weight this morning was 166.6 which is slightly above the CDC recommendation of below BMI 25 because by my calculation above I must be below 165.0. I have been doing the daily intermittent-fasting technique for seven months and have consistently lost two pounds per month. At that rate, I can go on down to 154.0 in six months. But, should I? That weight is based on the BMI of 23.41 which was the statistically derived bottom of a life expectancy curve. The curve is almost flat for several pounds at that BMI level but how was that data created?
Getting the BMI on a large number of eighty-two-year-olds and following them until their deaths would give a reasonable estimate. That information is probably derivable from existing data banks because the Veterans Administration has been routinely taking height and weight on their patients for years. They would have accurate BMI data and death statistics.
There must be a personal ideal weight for every individual.

Life is easy if you do the right things.

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Washington Post today had an article on alcoholism based on a study in JAMA Psychiatry. (Published online August 9, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2161). It is a sad report on the rapid increase in alcoholism in the United States. I find this to be a very sad report because the causes of alcoholism were shown in the Grant Study of the Harvard students of the late 1930s followed to the present. It would not be as serious a problem if the public was simply given the widely available information of what to do and what to avoid. It is a called a disease because it has an effect on the body and mind, but it is a very slow disease to acquire.

What has been published and promoted is that people with strong loving parents and loving social relationships in their adult lives live happier, healthier, wiser, and wealthier lives. That information was recently published in the Harvard Gazette, and it would appear to be blazingly obvious. The problem with publishing that Pollyanna information is that it doesn’t confront in a helpful way the agonizing social problems facing most people.

One of the major findings of the Grant Study was that alcoholism takes several years, generally over a decade, to become chronic and severe to the point of seriously interfering with a user’s life. Drinking for pleasure doesn’t lead to alcoholism because after a couple of drinks another one doesn’t lead to more pleasure and numbs the social interaction and so the person stops drinking.

What does lead to alcoholism is drinking to suppress anxiety and pain, and that numbing effect doesn’t come until several more drinks have been consumed. Furthermore, the drinks don’t solve the problems; they only numb the feelings resulting from the problems, which continue and grow worse. That requires more drinking, leading to a general worsening of the problems, which requires more drinking. If these simple facts were clearly stated and promoted to college-age drinkers many of them would avoid drinking for momentary relief and long-term failure. I have promoted the slogan that if it were common knowledge would save many lives:

Drink for pleasure not for pain.

I suspect the same line of reasoning would apply to the current opioid epidemic.

Take drugs for pleasure, not for pain.

When the drugs are no longer giving pleasure, stop taking them.

I did a public reading from Clockwork Purple

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Today was the official launch of Clockwork Purple and five of us gave a public reading of one story each. I was asked to read my story based on the prompt “Just who will you be?” (page 133) That was a story I wrote just after reading about Winston Churchill’s method of presenting his orations. There is a photograph that I had seen of one of his famous speeches, and it was written in a poetic format. His reason for doing that spacing style was that it made it easier for him to pace his speaking pattern.

I posted that story on September 12, 2016. “Just who will you be?” It has the poetic formatting, whereas the style of spacing was stripped away for the paper publication. I read the story from the book and at the conclusion people clapped, and later a few said they enjoyed the story. If I ever read that story again in public I am going to read it from the original poetic formatting. I just now read it, in the quiet of my writing room, and it flowed much better than when reading it from the book.

I did have some trouble reading into the microphone. I have a soft voice, so it is necessary to get within an inch of that thing for me to be properly amplified. A further complication was that the light for reading was directly above my head and the mic cast a strong shadow onto the book I was reading from. I didn’t feel uncomfortable reading to the group and sometimes the flow was very pleasant. I need to get more public experience, not because Clockwork Purple will ever become a great success, but because I am writing Love Your Life with the intent that it will reach a very large audience so it may become necessary for me to develop at least a modicum of that skill.

I enjoyed reading “Just who will you be.”

I’m not a perfectionist but I like some things to be right.

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I’m not a perfectionist but do I want my book Love Your Life to be right! It is important that it be right if it is going to reach the audience it must reach if it is to help them to cope with their problems. I have spent a lot of time on the cover and the first few pages because it is important to find the right tone. The book is intended to give some ideas on how to cope with a problem and then give some workable suggestions. The thrust is about previewing a problem from a safe distance where one can practice the coping methods and have some success with creating a workable habit before confronting the real problem. This isn’t new and I doubt if anything in this book will be new, but it is intended to put a way of doing the necessary actions into practice.

I have attended a lot of group discussions on various human problems and it seems most people have a basic understanding of what they want to do and give examples of what they do to accomplish these ordinary things. It all seems so reasonable and logical and doable, and then you look at the results of their efforts and see a considerable contradiction and obvious shortfall. I hesitate to say failure but the level of success, when compared to the powerful-sounding convictions of the rhetoric, is pitiful.

I don’t condemn these people for their shortfall, nor do I pity them; I just attempt to observe the reality of their situation and try to find a workable solution and present my idea of a solution in such a way that it can at least be understood and tried. It is an attempt to —

Treat others better than I treat myself.