Homage to Picasso, Duchamp and Warhol


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The three pictures below were created for a public display on the subject of paper, but they didn’t fit in with what the judges were looking for and were rejected. I liked them so here they are for my friends on the web.

Picasso's name on a blank paper.

Homage to Picasso and his signature on a blank sheet.

A photograph of a framed roll of toilet paper.

Homage to Duchamp and his famous urinal sculpture.

A photograph of a photograph in halftone in bar-code.

Homage to Andy Warhol

For people with a background in 20th-century art these pictures don’t need any commentary, but for those people without that experience any commentary would seem inane.

Duchamp, Warhol and Charles Scamahorn

Duchamp, Warhol and Me in Dudley’s bookstore, Bend, Oregon

None of the people who discussed these pictures with me found them offensive.

A book fell off the shelf


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Winston Churchillized line spacing for easy reading aloud.

As I was standing there at Dudley’s Bookstore, a book fell off the shelf.
 What could I do but stoop and pick it up?
  My reflex was to put it back where it came from.
That response
 comes from my self-training of sixty years
  to instantly do the right thing.
It was a New Year’s resolution
 made in 1968
  when I was studying Gurdjieff’s philosophy.
At that time I was living in Berkeley, California,
 and my closest friends were from the Channing Club.
That is a Unitarian college-age discussion group
 I had been a member of for several years at WSC.
Most of these grad students were reading G’s book
 ”All and Everything
  and participating in a separate discussion group
   where they practiced self-observation.
I decided not to join that second group
 until I had read the book.
That turned out to be a BIG mistake, because
 the book is almost impossible to read.
The author G insists in the introduction that
 you be willing to read the book three times
  or put it down
   right away
    and walk away.
Because my friends spoke so highly of it
 I decided to read it the required three times.
  BIG mistake!
But it was a choice that made a huge impact on my life.
G wrote that we should read the book
 the first time
  like we would read any other book,
  and that we should read it the second time
   out loud,
    like this post is designed to be read.
We should only attempt to understand it
 on the third reading.
The problem was,
 and it would still be a problem for any reader today,
  it is nearly impossible to read the first time.
 I did follow G’s instructions, but
  it took me about six years
   to finish reading it the first time.
It only took about two years
 to read it the second time,
  and two months to read it the third time.
The reason it was so quick and easy
 to read it the third time
  is easy to say
   but impossible for you
    to understand
     without reading it.
The book is a pure comedy on the third reading!
It is filled with sarcasm,
 scorn and pity at the human situation.
It isn’t until the third reading
 that you realize you have been led
  down a path that seems
   perfectly logical and reasonable at first, but
    what is to be learned from
     each of the stories the third time is
      quite different from what was learned
       on the first reading.
On the first reading the people in the stories
 learned valuable life lessons
  and they applied those lessons
   to their daily lives.
On first reading, these lessons are promoted
 as valuable wisdom.
On the third reading, they are understood
 to be the wisdom of
  absolute fools.
Therein lies the comedy
 to be understood in the third reading,
a sardonic comedy, and
 perhaps it could be thought of as
  a cruel comedy.
But one comes out of the whole process
 a sadder and a wiser person
  because you learn to see human foolishness more clearly.
I never did join one of the G self-observation groups.
 but I feel that I am much better off
  for reading All and Everything three times as instructed
   and for not joining a group
It was my habit cultivated long ago
 to instantly do the right thing.
And I reflexively stooped over and
   picked up the book
    and put it back on the shelf.

The Tao Teh Ching – #28 – Revealed by Lao Tzu – Rendered by Charles Scamahorn



When you make visible people’s assertive self, but
Hide and use their passive self,
You become attractive for those people.
When you are attractive for people,
Your virtues will not be drawn away, but will revert, and
Return to the origin.

When you make visible people’s brilliance, but
Hide and use their dullness,
You become a model for those people.
When you are a model for people,
You establish the qualities of correctness;
These revert and are drawn into the void.

When you make visible people’s honor,
But hide and use their shame,
You become a valley for those people.
When you are a valley for people,
You stabilize the virtues
Which are sufficient.

Broadcast and infuse this simplicity into understanding people.
These people become proselytizers and magistrates.
This is how to found an organization that does not go astray.


What action does a baby’s emotion generate in its mother?


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Yesterday I asked the question What emotion should precede action? and considered the idea that all emotions have an evolutionary driving force on the inherited genes because those emotions generated successful actions on average. The idea behind that thought was that it was the adult’s problems that created the emotional expressions, and that is where the driving force was exerted.

Perhaps the primary driving force is not the adult’s successful emotional responses but the infant’s. Before an infant develops the ability to speak, its only forms of purposeful communication with its mother are gross physical expressions and facial expressions.

6 facial emotions

Paul Ekman’s 7 basic emotions are only 6 in infancy.

Of course, the man in the photos above will influence the conversations with his interlocutors and that will be important, and those expressions will be used all of his adult life. But the infant’s facial expressions are a matter of life or death. If the infant fails to create an intimate bond with its caregiver and clearly communicate its needs, it will receive little or no care. If that is valid, then the driving force for the evolution of facial expressions of emotions is with the infant. If it doesn’t succeed in communicating well, it will perish and thus will not give its genetic codes to the future.

With that clarified, it becomes a legitimate question to ask, what emotions do the various infant expressions generate in a caregiver? One of the most compelling actions to a mother is a soulful crying of her baby. That seems obvious, and yet the facial expression of distress is not in Paul Ekman’s basic list of facial emotions. The closest expression would be sadness or fear, but either doesn’t seem as compelling of motherly action as crying out in distress. Sadness and fear are too passive and anger too generalized.

Stated boldly –

The infant must get proper attention with its communications or it will die and thus not leave its genes in the gene pool of human behavior. We are the living result of the infant’s successful communication. 

What emotion should precede action?


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Perhaps different emotions should precede different kinds of actions. The previous posts were concerned about the long-term effects of the emotions preceding a decision point. The general conclusion was that the emotion felt at the time of a major decision would create a continuing bias relative to that future activity. It was suggested that one should be in a positive state of emotion when making a decision. This post will consider the multitude of other emotions and the possibility that evolution has built into our human DNA proper reactions associated with every emotion. It would appear that decisions based in a moment of anger would be counterproductive to long-term relationships, but perhaps one’s DNA would disagree. Perhaps every one of the emotions listed on the chart below has an ideal reaction associated with it based on actual experience of a million generations. Those were the reactions that proved to work best when those emotions arose. But, how could reactions based on a frantic, hysterical, terrified person be ideal for the situation? Perhaps it is.

There are many categorizations of emotions, and here is a visual chart that will give a logical display of the basic ones. I  didn’t find the root source of this often used image.

Basic emotions

A wheel of basic human emotions.

It would seem that the best decisions would be made when a person is in the green zone on this chart. And yet there may be situations where that may not be the best emotion for relating to some specific event. On TV drama shows most of the action concerns various kinds of violations of basic human decency and then comes the storm of emotional reactions and dramatic interactions between the characters.

We humans who are capable of forethought would normally choose decisions made when in the emotional states at the very bottom position on the chart, which could be labeled serene. Perhaps, that is wrong.

Some people claim that we are always in an ideal state for coping with the present moment.


What will be the results of decisions based on disgust?


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The seven basic adult facial emotions as defined by Paul Ekman are Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness, Surprise, and the adult emotion of Contempt, six of which are common to infants. “What will be the results of decisions based on anger?” was posted last week, but all of the emotions will have effects outlasting the moment. To some degree, these later results might be predicted and we can gain some insight on how we might behave by exploring what these effects might be.

6 facial emotions

Paul Ekman’s 7 basic emotions are only 6 in infancy.

When we come to the famous fork in the road and are forced to make a decision, the emotional state we are in when making that decision will affect what comes later. If we are angry when making our choice we will probably continue to be angry with what happens as time passes. It may not matter much what actually happens; our reaction to it will be influenced by the emotion we held when making the original choice.

If our emotion was disgust when making the decision our likely reaction to whatever happens later will be disgust. Probably we will have forgotten what our emotion was when making our decision, and that disgust was our emotion, but no matter which way we go, if our emotion was disgust, no matter what happens, it will be degraded by that original emotion of disgust.

Emotions are flitting through us all the time, and  most of them are neutral and mild, but the ones that affect our future the most are the ones held when we are making critical decisions. When we are feeling emotionally expansive we can look around and check our options and choose the best one. However, when we are feeling depressed we have trouble seeing our options, and we will tend to choose poorly when coming from a negative emotion like disgust. If our future is going to be directed by our emotion at the time of decision it will be in our best interest to be feeling happy. Also, we should come to that decision moment from a time of paying close attention to the true and accurate facts associated with what we are about to do.

If we are about to make an important decision, and notice that we have a negative emotion at the moment, like disgust, we should put off that decision until we are feeling better about it and about our emotions. The same idea applies to other negative emotions, such as fear, sadness or contempt.

Get happy before making an important decision.


Our social groups generate divisive morality.



It seems every time I associate with a new group of people there are new expectations placed on me. Also, as a group holds together for a while, a group identity forms and a political process develops within the group where individual people form closer bonds with some individuals than with others. The expectations are rarely stated, but if you choose to observe them they are easy to see.

Within one of my social groups, there is a stated deprecating of all judgments but especially of social judgments. We are not allowed to proclaim any person as being better than another person in any way. There is a complete flattening of all social value within this group. With this procedure in action, we all get along quite well, even though there are wildly different opinions on almost every subject brought to the floor.

In this group, people will say diametrically opposite things from one another with a complete equanimity of emotion. We all respect each other so much that we anticipate that if there are twenty people in the conversation we expect for there to be twenty different opinions. Every person speaks with a complete expectation that what they say will be accepted and we build upon what is being said.

This form of conversation is rather like the stage technique called improv. The primary principle of that technique is to simply say “yes-and” to every statement your interlocutors make. No matter how absurd their statement is, our responsibility is to agree with them and add some appropriate dialogue and commentary. It is the interlocutor’s responsibility to promote the conversation and not to improve the intellectual quality of the other person’s statement. The assumption is that every statement is perfect as it is and our responses will be perfect too.

That procedure has been a problem for me because I spent fifty years in various groups at Berkeley where everything is challenged and improved upon. The operative attitude is a qualified yes-but, and then a clarification of the errors you so obviously overlooked. That qualifying statement is obviously wrong, of course. It is too generalized or too specific, or missed the point altogether and it too needs clarification, and thus an endless cycle of correcting each other’s mistakes continues. It does occasionally end with an important discovery and a new understanding, but the air is inevitably filled with contention, hopefully, friendly contention.

My point is that social groups seem to create their own laws and conventions automatically. It appears there is an inherited tendency to generate social conventions. This behavior is like the capacity to learn a language, it’s innate. There is a problem because creating these conventions automatically generates an out-group. Those other people are outsiders and automatically, by definition, somehow different and, being different, automatically inferior. That statement is vehemently denied – we are not judgmental! – those people are just different. Separate but equal in every way! But, it seems they protest too loudly!

All men are equal, until they meet.

How to answer the big philosophical questions.


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Do I have free will or not?

Does life have a purpose or not?

Can my actions make a difference or not?

Can I save myself, my family, even humanity or not?

Does it make any difference if I do or do not act?

These types of semi-philosophical questions are deep enough, but they are unanswerable in a way that is philosophically or scientifically verifiable and testable. There needs to be some environmental matrix postulated before we can even begin to make sense of the questions. Unfortunately, the environment and the assumptions based upon them are subject to endless quibbles. Thus any individual in any given situation is compelled to take an infinity of subtleties and compress them into a few comprehensible thoughts so he can take an action. A keen philosopher or scientist will probably not come up with any better solution to a problem, in the moment, than an alert person; a living person is always compelled to act in the moment. There is rarely time for intellectual debate or scientific experiment to offer guidance, and an experienced person will probably be a better companion and guide.

There is a simple and obvious answer to the questions above. We must act as if they are all true. We can, in quiet times when there is nothing important that needs doing, think about those questions, and similar ones too. However, when action is needed and needed immediately all the philosophical argument and scientific experiments and even good advice must be instantly jettisoned. We must immediately act as if we have free will, that our lives do have a purpose, that our actions do make a difference, that we can save ourselves, and our families and humanity too and it does make a difference if I do or do not act.

When it comes to the big questions step forward and participate. Ultimately you are compelled to participate or die.


How to create a Golden Rule for yourself.


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Every person is unique. They have been given unique DNA, uterine environment, birth experience, first month, infancy, childhood, adulthood, maturity, and sagehood. Each of these is modified by the environment they found themselves immersed within. Their physical situation influences everything they were given and their social situation influences everything too. Potentially the most variable things that can influence the person are their own multiple habitual relationships with the many aspects of their personal selves. There are probably many other influences which we never considered, such as the recent discovery, interest, and popularity of the personal internal microbiome. At the present, we don’t know how important that will become, but it may be big.

With so many personal variables that form each individual, it is reasonable that every one of us should have our personal guiding principle – our personal Golden Rule, a basic principle that should be followed to ensure success in general or in a particular activity.

Last year I blogged –  How many Golden Rules are there? Many but there’s one really good one. That post was encouraging people to follow the Golden Rule as stated in the King James Version of the Bible. That post mentions Wikipedia’s link to The Golden Rule where there are about fifty Golden Rules mentioned, and which itself has many links to analysis of the variations. With this blog, I am exploring your option for creating a personal Golden Rule, based on your typical daily level of maturity. And then offering some suggestions on how to further personalize your Golden Rule to help you live a long and fulfilling life.

There is a guiding principle underlying my method for creating your personal Golden Rule, and that is — when you are feeling emotionally alert, exuberant, healthy, and with a clear vision of current facts, use that time to intentionally search through your options for what thoughts and behaviors you could pursue. After an appropriate period of time spent analyzing the situation, choose the behavior that seems to be the most mature.

For example, if you have the opportunity to go skiing, rather than paying to ski down hills for fun, risking personal injury, instead volunteer for the ski patrol and do search and rescue of other skiers in trouble. If your natural emotional condition is adolescent, that is, trying to find one’s self in your society, choosing to have physical fun is childish and a step down because with that motivation it would be a childish behavior for you. However, if you choose to use the same time and skills on the ski patrol that would be an adult behavior because it is socially productive, and might be thought of as work.

It is childish to seek physical pleasure, adolescent to seek personal aggrandizement in your social group, adult to somehow be productive for yourself and associates.

The end value of choosing more mature activities at any stage of life is that you and your friends live longer more fulfilling lives.






What will be the results of decisions based on anger?


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What will be the results of decisions based on the emotions of Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness, Surprise, and the adult emotion of Contempt? Let us consider anger first. The emotion of anger will arise when a person, child or animal is repeatedly frustrated when trying to get something it believes it can obtain. Typically before anger arises repeated attempts to get the desired object consistently resulted in failure even though that same behavior did result, or seemed to result, in success using that same behavior earlier.

Something has gone wrong, but it isn’t known or understood, and the force is too powerful to surpass. A surge of hot energy comes from within the mind, body and face that seeks to overcome the obstacle and gain the goal. It is soon accompanied by feelings of hostility, resentment and soon by revenge, and a desire to strike out and conquer, bring into submission, no matter what the consequences. If that proves impossible to accomplish the next stage is to fall into feelings of envy and revenge, and if that fails to drop into feelings of failure, depression, and despair.

It appears obvious when analyzing the problem in this way that basing decisions about future outcomes with the emotion of anger lurking in the recesses of one’s mind and embedded in one’s decision-making process will bring nasty results. When there is competition with another person over something of perceived value, to form decisions while in an emotional state of anger will cloud one’s ability to analyze the coming situations accurately. When the incoming information is distorted by anger, and the analysis is poor because of resentment, then the decisions cannot be the best possible and the results will not be the best available. We must totally clear our minds and emotions of anger when making decisions.

The world is always a complex place and to let anger influence decisions will inevitably degrade the quality of one’s success.