“Dinner and Deception” with Moby

dinner-nothingnessFor you humble bloggers, may I suggest a simple 4-course meal experience. You will be opening four browsers:

  • Keeping this browser open — it is #1.
  • In browser #2 open Moby’s theme to Borne Identity, “Extreme Ways” and start playing it over and over and over.
  • In browser #3 open this short Aug. 22 NYT article by Edward Frame, “Dinner and Deception”: a brilliant journey from the eyes of a server of the super rich in a top-end NYC restaurant — and recall my link yesterday to self-deception and fine wine — like the $1000 1990 Krug in the article.  Oh, and the reason for the music is that Frame, the author, tell us that the Bourne Identity theme song above helped him on his job — so let’s join him there.
  • For dessert, after reading and listening above, open browser #4 with this mesmerizing video of Moby’s “Everloving” and play it while you read the rest of this post and write in the comments.

Below are some tantalizing quotes for Frame’s amazing article. Juxtaposed to the quotes, [in purple brackets], are words from Moby’s song.  See if you can resonate with the pairings like I did.

  • … repetitive work, however “estranged” in some abstract or theoretical sense, could be incredibly affirming. … There was no reflection , now question of what my job required of me, and I could indulge, for hours, in the straight forward immediacy of action. [“I had to close down everything, I had to close down my mind.”]
  • … our job wasn’t just serving food, it was playing a part, and we did it with a degree of self-conscious irony that our bosses seemed incapable of. [“extreme places I have gone but never seen any light.”]. 
  • You experience a special rush when your job is to project an aura of warmth and hospitality while maintaining an almost clinical emotional distance. It’s the thrill of the con.  [“I would stand in line for this”]
  • Guests wanted to believe the make-believe; they wanted to believe everything was perfect. [“extreme ways that help me, help me out late at night”]
  • The nightly grotesquerie was almost exciting. [“then it fell apart”]
  • “I’m going to go turn the music up,” [“I closed my eyes and closed myself”]

Conclusion:

I won’t clutter this post with a conclusion.  More important are your experience and thoughts — so please share. And thank you for joining us in this humble meal.

End of Post

Notes:  Pic Credit from the NYT article, chords to Extreme Ways, and see my post on “Life is a Game“.

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Self-Deceit: Wine & Break-ups

Break_upNothing is more clear to me than that we not only deceive others, but we unabashedly deceive ourselves. One of the clearest areas of self-deceit can be heard when someone describes why they have broken-up with a lover or left a spouse. Untangling the truth in these stories is very difficult. In fact, I am not sure “fact” is something that can be found. Instead, there are immense complex interactions with the homogenizing of false stories of participants who reduce this chaos to sound-bytes to comfort themselves or seek approval from others. Meanwhile each person involved is very sure their version is insightful and accurate.

Self-deceit is wonderful human skill.

wine-snobReasonably Speaking posted a talk by Dan Sperber — one of the proponents of reason being an evolved skill primarily geared not to solve problems, but to deceive others and often ourselves. Then, VOX has a great video illustrating how wine drinkers deceive themselves. And for comic relief, Mother Jones author, Ben Dreyfuss, pokes hilarious fun at wine drinkers pushing them to a higher calling: booze.

________________________________________

Tough challenge to readers:

Tell us one story about how you fooled yourself. But make sure you don’t use the story to poke fun at others.

Pic Credits: wine Snob, break-up 1, break-up 2

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Expecting Perfection: Medicine

Metaphors in medicine today succeed and fail when they equate sensations with symptoms. At some point doctors and patients could think of an orderly existence as being devoid of unpleasantness—discomfort began to imply disarray, and disarray to imply disease. So both started carving out slivers of life and calling them something else, quarantining them because they seemed threatening and out of place. And the situation is no better in alternative medicine, wherein the emphasis on wellness rather than lack of illness gives way to attributing unpleasantness to the hygiene of the food supply or the products in our homes. In that context, what touches or enters the body is believed to cause unwellness by upsetting a natural state of perpetual harmony.

— from The Lancet, 22 August 2015: Metaphors and medically unexplained symptoms by Eben Schwartz.

I once practiced “alternative” medicine and now practice “orthodox” medicine — both are guilty of the above charge. Heck, I am guilty of it. According to David Chapman’s 4 confused stances, Eternalism expects control, craves for certainty and for understanding — nebulosity is anathema to Eternalism. In Medicine, our neurosis can be fed by our Eternalism tendencies. Read the article and David’s writings for more.

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4 Confused Stances: Buddhism

Stances_Complete_v3Buddhism DiagramThe Buddha, or certainly those who penned his supposed words were critical of mistaken thinking. The Buddhist scriptures don’t hesitate to tell us how other philosophies/religions are wrong. Unlike the “we are all cool, we are all one, don’t judge” New Age Buddhism that floats around Hollywood, Buddhists can be critically discerning. (see McMahan’s book).

To the right is my diagram of classical (Theravada) Buddhist dharma/teachings — click the pic to enlarge. One Main Teaching is The 8-fold Path and one of those 8 desired qualities is “Right Understanding”.  Though in much of Western Buddhism you will see emphasis on holding all views lightly and being peaceful and kind, the Buddhist scriptures are full of criticisms of wrong views (wrong stances).

David Chapman describes a Buddhist delineation four mistaken stances which I have tried to illustrate above. See David’s post on “The Big Three Stance Combinations” for more details.

On the bottom of my diagram are the “confused stances” which are mixes of Eternalism vs. Nihilism and of Monism vs. Dualism.  Note that Nihilistic Monism is a rare stance so that there are practically only the Big Three confused stances. The center of the confused stances symbolizes those who are uncommitted to a particular fixed stance.  The only virtue of this uncommitted stance is that for some, this position allows one to more clearly see the “4th Option” of Meaningness — the “Complete Stance” which allows all these possibilities.
The “Complete Stance” is then seen to contain all possibilities without a fixed quality — it is thought of as a spacious stance (thus the dotted borders in contrast to the thick borders of the confused stances).  The “Confused Stances” are just locked-down, fixations on aspects of the “Complete Stance”.

For contrasts of these stances, see David’s chart here.

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David Chapman: Meaningness

David Chapman

David Chapman

This page is an index for my posts related to the writings of David Chapman.  I first became familiar with David Chapman in 2010 when he commented on this blog which led me to his writings (see below).   Since then I have had many private e-mail communications and some skyping.  David is an amazing thinker — thus this index.

David has a MIT PhD in computer science, became a engineer business-man and then sold his business which freed him up to do his rich, fun, brilliant writings.

David is a mind-explorer and has found a home/vehicle, of sorts, in a form of Buddhism: Tibetan Nyingma Tantric Dzogchen Buddhism (a lot of qualifiers, eh?).  But David is a philosopher/scientist who just happens to benefit from a teacher in that tradition and his hyperlinked book “Meaningness” gives us many of his Buddhist influenced insights stripped of religiosity and cultural-centric jargon.

David’s Writings

Some of my posts related to David’s Writings

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“ample time in which to change a world”

Fifty years is ample time in which to change a world and its people almost beyond recognition.  All that are required for the task are a sound knowledge of social engineering, a clear sight of the intended goal — and power.
— Chptr 6, “Childhood’s End  by Arthur C. Clarke  (1917-2008) (wiki)

arthur_C_ClarkeClarke’s book is one of my favorite science-fiction stories — a short book with great writing and an amazing plot.  I am rereading it after some thirty years.  The book was written in 1953–the year before I was born–and like many of Clarke’s books, speaks of technologies in our grasp today but barely imaginable back then.  Clarke was a unique genius.

As I read this quote this morning, I thought of my times in China and the contrasts between the Mainland and Taiwan. 

China’s civil war ended in 1949 with the Nationalist capitalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek fleeing to Taiwan with 2 million refugees.  Redolent of the process of evolution through geographic isolation, here too, this seeded the beginning of the evolution of two different Chinese cultures.

Taking several month holidays from my home in Japan, I first visited Taiwan around 1984 and then visiten the Mainland in about 1984.  The contrast was huge.  Though both these nations had politically oppressive regimes — where dissent was not tolerated — Taiwan had a prosperous, industrious and polite culture unlike the homeland in the Mainland China.

Through that experience I discovered that it took only two familial generations to completely change a culture.  Culture is a tenuous fluxing thing.  Culture is not homogenous and it is unstable.  And the communists had destroyed much of the beauty of the Chinese culture from only a few decades ago, with the remnants however clearly visible in Taiwan.  [see my post: “Does Culture exist“]

I was then again spent went to both Mainland China and Taiwan in 1996 for a little more than a year — 15 years after my first visits.  The transformations had continued in all their complexity.  Though the mainland had gained much more personal freedom, the scars of the communist social engineering and power remained.

I’m not sure of Clarke’s political positions or if he was foreseeing historical futures in this novel as he was scientific futures, but the quote left me reflecting and wondering.

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Stealing vs. Exploring: Conversations Styles

2 Conversation StylesWhat type of conversation style do you use? Stealing or Exploring ?  When talking with someone, what is your primary way of responding to their conversation?

Stealing:

“Stealing” is when your conversation partner says something, but then you find something in your own life that relates to their words and change the conversation to tell your own story.  Your partner does the same.  Each steals the conversation into their own arena. For example:

Partner:  I went to New York City this weekend — it was great!

You: Oh, I went to NYC 2 years ago, we had a great meal in China Town

Partner:  My friend lived in China for three years and has learned to cook superb Chinese dishes.

You: My sister was so good at cooking that she gave up her teaching position, graduated from a Culinary school and now has her own restaurant.

Partner:  My God, speaking of starting your own business, I am still working on my plans for opening that Yoga school.

Exploring:

When your partner says something, you pursue her/his conversation by asking a few questions to really understand or explore what they are trying to share.  Keep the conversation in their arena for a while.  For example:

Partner: We went to New York this weekend — it was great!

You: What are some of the places you visited?

Partner:  We visited my son’s sound studio in the Bronx first.

You: Oh my gosh, I didn’t know you son did that sort of work.  How long has he done it?

Partner:  For about 3 years now — he specializes in recording Jazz artists.c

You:  Does he play instruments himself?

Partner:  He is a drummer and often accompanies some of the artists.

You: That is amazing.  Did your son then show you some more places in town?

Most conversations are, of course, a mix of these two styles but my experience is that most conversations use the Stealing Style 90% of the time:  each person grabs the conversation into their own court and only occasionally asks a follow-up question.  These people are not really listening, but waiting to get on about themselves.  No one really explores their conversation partner to any depth.  Even when people do go into the Exploring Style, they rarely go more that 2 to 3 questions deep in the exploration before they get into self-talk.

Even when I was in High School, I was cynical about people’s superficial conversations and that was only amplified when, in 11th grade, I read “Ego Speak: Why No One Listens to You” by Edmond Addeo and Robert Burger.  I just found the book on-line and will be re-reading it to see if I am impressed again and maybe share it with my son.  I do wager that Conversation Stealing is mentioned in the book as one of the biggest types of Ego Speak.

Am I Biased?

Wait, what if I am being snobbish in my judgement of the “Stealing Style” conversations.  Here are some self-doubt what-if’s:

  • What if instead of “Stealing Style” I less-pejoratively called it “Sharing Style” — would that change your perception?
  • What if the people in the conversation don’t want to be explored too deeply?
  • What if the listener doesn’t want to be perceived as nosey or pushy?
  • What if the “Sharing Style” is more like a fun ping-pong game to some people.  Maybe they aesthetically prefer that style.
  • What if the “Sharing Style” is less threatening and more interesting to most people?

Valorizing Temperaments

So you can see in this post that I am resisting (a bit) valorizing my own temperament.  I highly value Exploring Style conversations, but I think that may be largely temperament.  In this post I talked about the danger of valorizing the Skepticism temperament.  I am trying to be skeptical of my conversation tendency but not too skeptical.  In this post, I discuss “The Juggernaut of Habit”, and here I am questioning my habit of conversation.  So, please introspect in the comments on your conversation temperament and habits.

Question to Readers:  What percentages of styles do you use most commonly?

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