Saturday, May 28, 2011

Post No 164c: Whose Life Is It Anyway?


© 2009 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Back in 2009, we generated two posts around graduation time, You’ve Got to Find What You Love, a speech by Apple’s Steve Jobs, and P.J. O’Rourke’s Unconventional Advice. Both were directed toward our target audience, college students. We suggested some things for them to consider looking down the road.

We try to stimulate thought amongst our young citizens, when their worldviews are still malleable. Yesterday, a couple of us participated in a brainstorming session for a non-profit organization about which we previously wrote.

B.E.S.T. addresses issues affecting at-risk young men. We highlighted the efforts of its founder as an example of how private citizens can do something meaningful for their communities and society.

Before the meeting, we bounced around ideas. We recalled that we Baby Boomers had such idealistic goals. We were going to change the world, right all wrongs, speak the truth (which would set us free), and do nothing but good, positive things in life.

In addition, we planned to transform the world, perhaps through astral projection or Transcendental Meditation, to a “kinder, gentler” place. One of us recalled pledging to become a brain surgeon following JFK’s death.

It didn’t exactly turn out that way. It’s been said that life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans. If anything, we’ve been surprised at how many Boomers have transitioned from card-carrying liberals (and committed to “living off the fatta’ the lan”, like Lennie in Of Mice and Men), to hard core conservatives. (Why have so few traveled the opposite road?)

When P.J. O’Rourke was asked about his transformation from liberal to conservative, he blamed it on his daughter. Upon realizing she was vulnerable, and a potential target of all sorts of nasty forces, he resolved to protect her, at any cost.)

We know hundreds of business people, accountants, engineers, investment bankers, lawyers, and doctors, who abandoned those dreams and principles. We lived comfortably, and did little that we can identify in pursuit of those principles, other than occasional pro bono work.

(A prominent activist in speaking to a professional group once lamented that some of the best and brightest were in the audience, and members of a profession whose primary goal was making money for themselves and their corporate clients.)

Last week, we heard a report suggesting that today’s youth are possibly skipping the self-delusion phase. Far fewer minors, when asked, expressed interest in pursuing goals which might also “give back to the community.”

We’re not sure what to do with that. Virtually every generation seems to think those succeeding will go to hell in a hand basket. After 13,000 years, we still have faith in humankind’s ability to adapt, use our bigger brains, and “be guided by the better angels of our nature.”

We heard 2 stories recently. The first involved a Sudanese woman, who is facing fairly severe punishment. She and some other women committed a crime - wearing trousers in public. Some immediately pled guilty, and only received 10 lashes.

The remaining subject chose to go to trial. She faces a possible $100 fine and 40 lashes. She’s not a professional activist, and had some UN position which would have allowed her to side-step the charges.

Instead, she chose to resign, and waive her immunity.

The other story revolved around the mayor of Kandahar, Afghanistan, one of the more violent cities on Earth. He enjoyed a comfortable, middle class existence in Washington, D.C. for 25 years, until he was motivated to return to his native country and “make a difference.”

He put himself at risk, and returned to the heart of the violence. He said we’re all going to die from something one day, be it cancer, a heart attack, or a car accident. He questioned whether there was any real difference between dying from violence doing something in which you believed, and dying from one of the other causes.

That caused us to pause.

While a 25 year old might see lots of differences, those of us 55 and beyond might reflect on what we’ve done, and whether we’ve made a ”real” contribution.

The Logistician and his best friend were sitting at a side walk cafĂ© in the Copacabana in the late 1990s, reflecting on what, if anything, they had accomplished... and whether it had been of any benefit to anyone beyond themselves. They had always hoped to able to say that they did something more than “raise a good family.”

The founder of the at-risk male youth non-profit, the Sudanese lady, and the mayor of Kandahar might be better examples of those we should hold up as role models in our society, than the folks to whom we usually direct our plaudits.

Whose life is it anyway? We might all consider making it more than just our own.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Post No. 164b: Re-Posting of "Why Men Cheat - The Definitive Explanation"

© 2008 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

The Logistician, previously with the Institute and now on sabbatical in Brazil, was effectively run out of the country because of his generation of the following article in 2008. Consequently, we do not frequently make reference to its subject matter.

However, as we have often said, if there are any “common sense” principles to be derived from our posts, they ought to have continuing relevance, no matter how applied. This week, the application applies to former California governor, and soon to be actor again, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who admitted to fathering a child with a household employee years ago. Fear of unpopularity should not dictate our delving into controversial issues.

However, keep in mind that the Logistician generated this, and not anyone currently affiliated with the Institute.



As a general proposition, we are not in the business of justifying or condemning any type of human behavior. More particularly, we are not apologists for philandering men. We are more focused on the avoidance of destructive and detrimental conduct in relationships by better understanding the dynamics in operation.

There are four significant factors that come into play when a man cheats sexually on his female significant other, those being:

(1) opportunity;

(2) physical proximity and juxtaposition;

(3) physiological “blood flow;” and

(4) relative absence of significant offending characteristics and presence.

We shall address each one separately. Later in this piece, we will also discuss:

(5) the basic underlying problems with heterosexual relationships in modern, post-industrial societies; and

(6) what responsible couples can do to minimize the probability of being traumatized by a sexual affair hiccup.

Opportunity: There are some simple mathematical and probabilistic principles in operation here. The more access to and contact with other people one has, the more opportunities for straying there will be. The larger the town or community, the higher the probability that the man will meet women to whom he will be attracted in some form or fashion.

Locking him up in a cage and smothering him is not the answer. Understanding what is at play is. One needs to understand the “inner game of relationships.”

There is a long time friend of ours who used to say, upon hearing initial news reports, that to determine whether a public figure actually strayed, all one had to do was to “look at the babe.” From his perspective, he simply needed to see a picture or video of the alleged co-conspirator.

Many of us have had the experience of meeting what might be termed as “professional babes,” capable of accomplishing anything to which they put their minds. In big cities like Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, Rio, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, they are found in abundance. However, the probability of finding them next door in a town of 5,000 residents is very low. Anyone fitting that bill has already found their way to Los Angeles, New York, or some other big city where opportunities abound.

You see them on television and the big screen every day. (We acknowledge that Sen. Edwards’ co-conspirator was not exactly Hollywood talent, but it's not all about talent.)

Some of their detractors will refer to them as “gold diggers.” They are a force with which to be reckoned. There is nothing of the female persuasion more potentially seductive than a bright, beautiful, and physically attractive woman who leaves her native country, starts traveling around the world alone during her teens, learns to speak different tongues as she progresses, and who then educates herself and gains a patina of sophistication and a sharp wit.

What she puts out is no different that the venom that many an animal secretes to paralyze its prey. This is not to say that women are predators who pursue men; however, there is interplay at work here folks. Many a woman has communicated a message in a non-verbal fashion to the effect, “Hey, check out some of this,” and many a man has responded upon being wounded, “She ought to be illegal.”

This is not to suggest that every woman has similar motivations; it is just to explain that such a turbo-charged force operating on all 24 cylinders can generally win the race, especially against tortoises. In a heterosexual context, you juxtapose one of these women beside a mere mortal man, and you’ve got a problem, especially if the man has money, power, or worse yet, both.

By the way, a woman with lots of talent in other areas, and who may not be particularly beautiful, can compensate for the alleged deficiencies in the beauty arena. As one of our friends once said, “You’ve got to see the ‘show’ before you are truly able to criticize the ‘cost’ and risks associated with the transaction.”

There are other circumstantial factors that come into play, such as the probability of getting noticed, the number of other co-workers in the vicinity, the attention being paid to the potentially wayward couple by others in the vicinity, the opportunity to sneak away from the crowd unnoticed, and on and on.

One must also consider the fact that powerful men, once they become powerful and especially when they become rich, attract and draw an exponentially expanding crowd of female admirers. As they begin to appreciate their newfound power, more opportunities are realized. Former President William Jefferson Clinton was once asked why he did what he did with Monica Lewinsky. His answer was about as honest as they come, “Because I could.”

Proximity: All other forces being equal, the closer, and closer, and closer an attractive, appealing woman gets to a man, the higher the probability of straying. A man needs to take responsibility and learn how to avoid looking at an attractive woman, avoid traveling through her department, avoid going out to lunch with her alone, avoid having her in his office alone, and most importantly, avoid closing the door once she enters his office or work place alone.

Have you ever noticed how when two people gradually start closing the spatial gap between them, the sexual tension level rises and they stop talking coherently and logically?

It’s about proximity. You place the right dress, hair style, attitude, perfume, and such together, and things start happening. Milan Kundera (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milan_Kundera), the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unbearable_Lightness_of_Being) might refer to it as “serendipity,” whereas Jung (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung) might refer to it as “synchronicity.” The suggestion that one woman is able to access and enhance her resources in terms of drawing a man to her, and that no other woman can accomplish a similar feat, is sheer science fiction.

Proximity also explains why a seemingly unattractive woman can end up in sexual relationship with a man who seemingly “could do better.” Once again, proximity rules, as does our next factor.

Blood Flow: There is another item of science fiction, or what might be more appropriately termed “sheer folly,” which often comes into play when people misunderstand and underestimate this sex thing. It’s called Nature. Nature rules, and ultimately over the long haul.

Predicting or stopping a tsunami or earthquake? Yeah…. We as humans believe that we can conquer Nature, and on occasion we manage to do so - temporarily. However, at the end of the day, Nature rules. It is fair wiser for us as humans to figure out how to step aside and avoid Nature’s wrath, or simply avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For men, sex is about blood flow. No blood flow, no sex. That’s what all of this prescription male enhancement junk is about. Quite frankly, any man being straight with you will tell you that having an erection longer than seven minutes is problematic, and presents all sorts of potentially negative ramifications.

Men are hard wired to be aroused, and momentarily distracted by women. Every aspect of our physical being is determined by hard-wiring, accompanied by some electro-chemical impulse. Everything. We often advise our female friends who are mothers of teenage boys that it is all about “blood flow.”

Women can not imagine how a man can have an instantaneous erection due to blood flow, upon observing a desirable woman. You can’t explain this to someone who is not similarly physically hard-wired. Men also can not explain the indiscriminate nature of that force upon being stimulated.

It has nothing to do with logic. It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with character. It’s bigger than men are.

That does not mean that there are no ways to prevent a distraction. It just means that once all of the forces are in operation, and the circumstances are “conducive,” there is a very high probability that the event will occur. We can virtually guarantee that, given the proper circumstances, any of the “professional, gold digging babes,” to whom we previously referred, could sway the vast majority of bright, successful, responsible, and even religious men to stray.

References to the little brain taking over from the big brain are a little off base. What takes over is that portion of the big brain that drives the little brain below. Take the time to look at any of the science or nature programs dealing with the human brain, and the portions of the brain which come into play during certain activity, especially when survival is necessary.

Sex is about survival of the species. Sex is about procreation. Sex is about perpetuation of the species. It’s not about “I love you, and you love me.” That’s just pure hogwash, and if you believe that, you’re playing a game with yourself. Sex and the sex drive existed long before religion and moral authority decided to categorize it and define it.

(By the way, penetration is highly overrated. In theory, what a man is biologically hard-wired to do is to find a female to allow him to transmit his sperm, deliver that sperm effectively and efficiently, and then back off and move on to more important and logical pursuits. It’s the nature of the beast.)

When a man is one nanosecond away from insertion, he’s not thinking about his wife, loved one, or significant other. He may have been fifteen or twenty minutes prior thereto. But if all of the intervening hurdles have been negotiated, the probability of distraction increases exponentially. (By the way, the Discovery Channel periodically airs a beautiful piece on the Biology of Sex. It is well worth viewing.)

Have you ever noticed the absence of any academicians and scientists discussing marital infidelity on the news shows? Sure, you might occasionally see one dealing with the aftermath, and the negative ramifications, of which there are many. However, how can one solve or address a problem without fully recognizing the underlying causes?

One can not deny the influence of the human brain on human conduct. Check out history and see what happens to humans when they get desperate and are trying to survive. The portion of the brain that makes them behave like animals kicks in. Laura Schaefer is the author of Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor: The Best and the Worst of Personal Ads of All Time(http://books.google.com/books?id=lKd34O9ZBCoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22Man+with+Farm+Seeks+Woman+with+Tractor%22&ei=k7K1SPKOF6fujAHasP07&sig=ACfU3U0Evxd0pKpZjdXduXX0VrtlsiDj5A#PPP7,M1). Although a comedic look at relationships, she does include some scientific evidence in her work to support her position that the male brain is a man’s largest sex organ:

“In males of several species, including humans, the preoptic area hypothalamus is greater in volume, in cross-sectional area and in the number of cells. In men, this area is more than two times larger than in women, and it contains twice as many cells. And what, say you, does this have to do with the horizontal mambo? Plenty. This area of the hypothalamus is in charge of mating behavior….This small structure connects to the pituitary gland, which releases sex hormones. So if your [boyfriend] wants to get intimate all the time and you feel like Ms. Low Desire, remember: You’re just experiencing normal, brain-based differences.”

Relative Absence of Offending Characteristics, and Presence: This too is all about hard-wiring. Every single human sense comes into play in the sexual act. It’s visual, tactile, auditory, olfactory, and on and on. It’s everything at play all at the same time. That’s why no one factor necessarily cuts the event short, unless it is overwhelming or acting in concert with another offensive factor. It’s like a coalition breakdown in the Israeli Knesset (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knesset).

The human body, controlled by the brain, is an amazing mechanism. We are hard-wired to avoid things that are dangerous, whether it be the heat of a fire, or the incredible stench of rotting tissue. The body naturally reacts. As a woman approaches, if the man continues to engage her in the approach, and if no offending characteristic or characteristics are so significant to make him come to his senses quickly, he is done for. If she repulses him, and even a beautiful woman can do this, the event is short-circuited, and the man shakes his head and returns to his senses.

As a general proposition, what men want in life is peace and comfort from a partner, not physical stimulation and intensity. They want to be backed up, not worked up. Support and team work are the keys.

A wise man once said that a man should never marry the woman with whom he has the best sex, or who he thinks is the most beautiful. Simply put, he won’t get anything done in life. He won’t be able to get out of the bed and go to work the next day. Come Monday morning, he’ll show up late and all sorts of negative crap will flow therefrom.

(By the way, this is barbershop confession material. Barbershops did a disservice to men when they started allowing female barbers to practice their trade in the same space. In the interest of equal treatment, perhaps there should be two sections in barbershops, one co-educational, and the other just for men.)

Basic Underlying Problems with Heterosexual Relationships in Modern Post-Industrial Societies

For a broader discussion of the how men and women fail to note the ways in which hard-wiring affects their interaction with one another, you are invited to re-examine an earlier article, Post No. 11 entitled, “The Human Hard Wiring Conundrum (Are We Truly a Higher Form of Animal)” (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008_05_01_archive.html ). The bottom line is that modern day men and women hook up for too many selfish and personal reasons, and forget the evolutionary and historical issues centered on survival. Heterosexual relationships are supposed to be about teamwork, and the exponential matrix of capabilities flowing from the pairing of two beings with different skills and ways of viewing the world to enhance the probability of survival, not dancing through the clouds in pretty clothes to pretty music.

That’s not to say that we haven’t done our fair share of dancing…. However, it’s a little difficult to bitch about one’s current state of affairs, if one does not take responsibility for one’s choices in life.

Probably the best line about love which we have heard is that “love is not two people staring into the eyes of one another, but rather both of them staring in the same direction together at the same time focused on the same goal.” To further complicate matters, if a relationship is primarily sexually based, the decrease in the stimulation and intensity will occur about as quickly as the increase, if not faster.

When men and women in modern post-industrial society finally realize that there are issues in society larger and more significant than themselves, their children, and the physical structures in which they live (and of relevance to the subject of this article, where a man places his weenie), then we will have made some progress as a society.

When couples feel that their relationship is about to disintegrate, they should consider jointly volunteering their time to an organization such as the AIDS Foundation, or a non-profit searching for the cure for Alzheimer’s disease. That’ll place things into perspective.

What Responsible Couples Can Do to Minimize the Probability of Being Traumatized by a Sexual Affair Hiccup

A man is not a dog, or a creep, or a jerk at the point of penetration alone. The disappointment felt by the woman, and the negative ramifications associated with the conduct are the result of a totality of conduct, each upon being viewed separately, might be considered small and perhaps even benign, but potentially problematic when taken together, especially in rapid succession.

So how does the Institute for Applied Common Sense, a body which advocates taking full and complete responsibility for one’s conduct, suggest that couple approach this potentially debilitating event? There’s a story which we often tell during our seminars which sets up the stage.

It’s Riverside, California several years ago. The clubs are closed and two teenage girls have been out partying. One of the girls has difficulty raising her cousin, and consequently calls 911. The authorities arrive to find the other teenager slumped in a stupor behind the wheel of the car after 2 am, but with a weapon in her lap.

At some point, there is some movement which suggests to the officers that their lives might be threatened. Shortly thereafter, in excess of 42 bullets have been spent shooting at the little girl. Of course, all of the civil rights advocates immediately starting yelling excessive force and police brutality.

However, we viewed the situation differently. We asked, “What were you doing there in that condition in the first place.” One committing an irresponsible act can’t exactly control the response of his loved ones, or expect the response to be one acceptable to the actor. So what you do, as Barney Fife would say, is to “nip it in the bud” early on in the sequence of events. Here’s what we suggest.

1. Do some reading in scientific and biological journals about human conduct and the brain. Watch the Discovery Channel, or National Geographic, or the Learning Channel for shows which explore such subject matter. Read some books discussing the latest research on the brain garnered from recent advances in brain scan research.

2. Recognize and respect Nature for what it is.

3. Immediately after you have that intense, passionate, out of control sexual experience early on in your relationship, have a conversation with your partner about the realm of possibilities as reflected in this article. Although we seriously doubt the conversation will take place prior to rolling on the kitchen floor, freaking out after the man has had the affair with the other woman is a tad bit untimely. So this is a compromise.

4. Perhaps most significantly, center your lives and the relationship, before kids are conceived or at least born, on something or some purpose that is bigger than you, your children, the physical home in which you live, and your personal possessions. When we discussed the generation of this article, The Laughingman responded as follows:

“While I admit that his wife’s cancer status is a complicating factor, on the larger issue, Mr. Edwards did nothing more than what Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Martin Luther King did some years ago, and I suspect for the same reason. What’s interesting is how so many people denigrate their wives for doing the Tammy Wynette, and standing by their men. There is actually something to admire about these heroic women who share the ideals of their spouses, and put aside their natural inclination to seek revenge, which would amount to throwing the babies out with the bath water. Here, here to those who can endure personal disappointment and embarrassment in the public eye, in the pursuit of bigger goals.”

5. Women should recognize that men primarily want peace. Men should recognize that women primarily want a sense of security, including knowing that they are special and number one.

6. Women should recognize that there is always another woman out there with comparable, even though qualitatively different, sexual and physical “talent.” In the same way that a woman manages to attract her husband, another woman can do the same. Consequently, there needs to be something unique and which makes a woman a keeper other than pure sex, as great as that may be perceived in the short term.

7. Continue to engage and stimulate each other intellectually - every single day. (There is perhaps nothing more depressing than to see a couple sitting at a table and not engaging in any type of conversation. We take that back, there is: when the non-communication is taking place in front of their children.)

8. Reduce sex, and particularly penetration, to the lowest point possible on your relationship priority scale. (Well, maybe during the week on school nights.)

We hope this helps. We realize that there is a lot of thinking required to absorb this. However, we can guarantee that there is very little thinking going on when the man is about to betray his woman’s trust and enter the twilight zone.

© 2008 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense


P.S. For those of you who managed to read this far, you may be interested in the follow-up posts to the original article, which were necessary to calm the storm which developed. The first is entitled, Addendum to Why Men Cheat, and the second is I Can’t Believe You Did That; Now That You Have….

Friday, May 6, 2011

Post No. 164a: Re-Posting of "Who Cares If It's Torture?"


© 2009 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Earlier this week, Osama bin Laden was killed. By mid-week, various factions started debating whether our "enhanced interrogation techniques" played a significant role in locating the terrorist mastermind. We generated the following piece back in April 2009, and thought that a re-visit might be appropriate.


On most news issues, we don’t have an opinion.

At least, not immediately. We like to think stuff through.

In the case of this “torture” or “enhanced interrogation” debate, we definitely do not have an opinion.

Yet.

We don’t have enough concrete, credible evidence to competently form an opinion.

More importantly, we do not have first hand information.

Plus, it’s become difficult to decipher the “truth” from the media outlets.

At this point, affixing a label, to the purported conduct, may actually be little more than an academic exercise.

However, we do have some “observations.”

Many of our citizens feel that the methods employed were appropriate.

There is also a substantial segment which feels that they were not, at least for a civilized society.

Some apparently feel that the tactics worked, fulfilled a valuable function, and thus were “necessary,” whereas others disagree.

Yet, despite all of the dissection, few have really focused on the crux of the matter: Whether we are willing to embrace a “by any means necessary” philosophy to address a perceived threat.

This obviously is one amorphous, value-laden, context-driven, ball of Play Doh, moving like a Slinky down the Capitol steps.

There is nothing more unsettling to humans than the thought that we are capable of going to a place we consider unthinkable, although perhaps necessary. (Practice and frequency change all of that.)

It’s mentally akin to shooting a human for the 1st time, whether an intruder, or enemy soldier.

The reality is that at some point on the continuum, we’d all be willing to commit the ultimate act, or darn close to it, if we thought it “necessary,” and that the interests protected were significant enough.

Part of the problem is that it doesn’t matter whether something is actually a threat, but rather whether people think it is a threat, and reasonable people will differ on that.

All three Institute Fellows, the Optimizer, the Laughingman, and the Logistician, served in the armed forces during the Vietnam Conflict Era. Each learned to use weapons which kill, if necessary.

And efficiently.

We appreciate the concept of evil, and the concept of the “enemy.’

And yet, we’d all probably be far less likely to use torture, however defined, than 98% of you who have never served.

On the other hand, if we decided that it was necessary, we’d be at the front of the line, in the first 2%, to do it, efficiently, like Arnold, and move the freak on, with little yapping….

The History Channel and PBS recently aired programs documenting the inhuman treatment of Allied POWs in the South Pacific by the Japanese during WWII. Subsequently, we saw a discussion of the psychology of revenge.

Once it was clear that the Americans had won, and began to take Japanese POWs, our forces did some pretty despicable things. A U.S. journalist captured some of this on film. It was suppressed for years, and only recently disclosed.

We didn’t want the world to know that Americans could “go there.”

We need occasional reminding that fear can bring out the absolute freak in us.

And anger is frequently intertwined with fear.

Today, we witnessed the baptism of a young infant. Observing the congregation, we noted the serenity associated with that event.

All of us take on that glazed look when dealing with infants. We’re reminded of an era of innocence, when worries are nonexistent, and someone else has the responsibility of caring for us.

It’s a space to which many yearn to return - unrealistically.

Jack Nicholson reminded us, in “A Few Good Men,” that some force ensures that those of us on the home front, including that infant, sleep in peace and comfort through the night. (Funny that film should have taken place at Guantanamo.)

When we perceive a threat (especially one difficult to define and frame) is about to invade our zone of serenity, our willingness to “go there” becomes less objectionable.

We’re all located in different cars on the train that is the continuum as we approach that point.

That being said, perhaps we can do without labeling it torture or some other euphemism.

Perhaps no prosecutions, bloodletting, or rolling of heads.

We well understand the PR issues, and this desire to convey that America is the Mt. Everest of “high moral ground.”

However, that we live in a society capable of public introspection may be just good enough, for now, especially with other issues on our plate.

It’s what helps form the “collective conscience” that all societies need, but do not have.

The reality is that at the end of the day, all of us care.

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

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