The Danger of Drones

In a previous article, we discussed automating our military and some of the possible ominous things that might come about as we turn more and more of our lives over to machines and the small group of people who control them. It is truly terrifying to imagine a nefarious, power hungry organization in control of enough military hardware to kill citizens at will and indiscriminately. We obviously tend to doubt that it will actually come to that, but freedom requires vigilance and these are the kinds of things we have to think about to keep it.

On another facet, one of the things that this brave new world of automation introduces is the risk of further diminishing our ability to maintain privacy in our lives. We have already given up so much in the form of social media and the use of public cameras and software that tracks every bit of information available about us to be sold to big corporations. The odds of maintaining any vestige of privacy at all seems bleak in the face of what technology is pushing these days.

Specifically, we are seeing a push for automated drone deliveries of materials by companies like Amazon, who has already begun the major testing push to get the service started in some areas of the country. On the surface, this sounds like an amazing feat of technology…and it is. However, there is potentially a dark side to this new way of brining goods to our doorsteps: mobile surveillance.

Anyone who watches YouTube on a regular basis is quite aware of the fact that small, portable drones have been used for more than a decade to record those amazing aerial shots we all love to watch. Attaching a camera to these drones was one of the first things that people thought to do when the devices became available, and there is an entire career field out there for professional drone pilots. The demand for high quality overhead footage isn’t going anywhere, and drones are becoming more and more a part of our daily lives.

Where this gets a bit scary is when we consider the fact that there are so many types of small, lightweight cameras out there that can be attached to drones just like the ones that Amazon is using. Imagine delivery drones buzzing around with an array of cameras collecting all sorts of information about people as they zip past us. Regular cameras for navigation, thermal cameras to peek inside houses and get an idea of how many people live in a given place, and facial recognition software to track people as they move about.

If this sounds paranoid to you, you might be right, but sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. We already know that there is a major push by law enforcement to ramp up the use of facial recognition software to track people as they move about, which is a huge threat to the privacy of all citizens. It has been long established that the phone companies have been giving the government data on US citizens for a very long time now. With this sort of precedent, it isn’t really much of stretch to imagine the federal intelligence agencies tapping companies like Amazon to add a few devices to their innocuous looking drones.

The reality is that we live in a world where there are two types of people: those of us who want to be left alone, and those who believe they know better and should be running things. If you are part of the former, you are at a significant disadvantage because we tend to do our own thing while the latter group together to try to wrestle control from the rest of us. They have no regard for what we think is right or wrong, only that they have an agenda and will go to any length to make it happen. If you get trampled in the process, then so be it.

I’m not sure what we can really do about it at this point, other than pointing out the possible dangers involved with moving forward with things like this. The more people are educated, the better the chance we have of banding together and pushing back against the people in the world who believe that they are somehow qualified to tell the rest of us what to do. Fighting it requires behaving in a way that is unnatural to us, but unfortunately freedom isn’t free, as the saying goes.

What do you think about drone deliveries? Is it only an awesome new technology that will add a new convenience to our lives, or is it a threat to our privacy? Are you comfortable with corporately operated drones buzzing around your home? What if we found out the government was using them to spy on us? These are important questions, and if you look a little deeper, they aren’t nearly as crazy as they first sound.

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Your Kids Shouldn’t Have It Better Than You Did

You hear it all the time: “I just want to give my kids a better life than I had.” It’s a noble sentiment and something that is very natural as loving and caring parents looking to bring our children into the future. Our natural instinct is to protect and provide for our offspring every step of the way, and it makes us feel good to give them all the things that we wish that we had when we were growing up.

The problem with this mindset is that it tends to produce weaker people. Part of what makes a generation strong is the struggle it has to endure to survive. It is overcoming obstacles that makes people competent and intelligent and able to solve the problems that life throws at them. When everything is done for us, we become incapable of figuring out how to do things ourselves.

When we look back at “the greatest generation“, we see a group of people whose lives were defined by terrible struggle. They grew up in the Great Depression and then had to cross an ocean to fight great evil in World War II. It wasn’t just the soldiers who had to make sacrifices, either. The public at large had to put life in general on hold to support those who were sent to fight for what was good. This extreme period of time in global history produced a group of people who had struggled enough to gain the strength and discipline necessary to get things done.

Contrast that with the people of today, and the story is very different. Several generations of parent who coddle their children have produced a people who are always asking the question “what’s in it for me?” Children are now raised by people who have never had to struggle a day in their lives and have no real life experience to pass on to them. You can’t give what you don’t have, and generations lacking discipline certainly can’t teach the next one how to be effective.

Of course, like anything else, this doesn’t apply universally. There are plenty of people in the world today who grew up in situations that forced them to mature and figure out how to make their own lives work. They didn’t have parents who could afford to pay for their school or buy them a car or help them get into an apartment. Hard work and disciplined spending was required to make it happen.

The problem is that there just aren’t enough of those people around anymore. While part of the problem may be these “helicopter parents” who hand hold their children through life, we have created third parent in the form of our welfare state. Even if we don’t have coddling parents to prop us up when we fall, we can turn to Big Brother to bail us out when things don’t go our way.

It is the coddling of America that has produced the weak generations we’re seeing today. The longer we continue to believe the idea that we should be giving our kids what we never had, the worse things are going to get. They must earn all of the things they want in life if they are going to truly appreciate it, and the more we give it to them the more we are taking from them in the end. At some point, we have to decide that the best thing we can do is let them earn it the same way it was earned before. Only then can we reverse this trend of weakness.

What do you think about providing for our children? Do we take away too much by trying to give them more? How much is too much? Many times it takes an era of crisis to produce a competent generation, but perhaps we can avoid this by simply choosing to make things hard on our kids from the start. It’s good that we love them, but life is about doing the hard things, and only hard people can do hard things.

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We Want More Positivity and Less Politics

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you have noticed that I try to split my time between covering political issues that are important to me and more broad philosophical or self improvement topics that you can hopefully use to start figuring out things about yourself. As I continue to write and post and monitor traffic to the blog, as modest as it is in this early stage, I have noticed a decided lean toward the self help side of the spectrum. This isn’t particularly surprising, as our political discourse these days tends to be highly negative and self help is almost universally a positive thing.

It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of political narratives and enter into a state of pure hopelessness as we watch the world descend into perceived chaos around us. History has shown us that societies work in cycles, with long periods of peace and success interlaced with explosive bursts of violence and unrest. As we move further into the rest of this decade, we can expect it to only get worse before it gets better.

I myself notice that I tend to gravitate toward news articles, mostly because I want to get a feel for what is going on in the world around me. Nearly all of what I watch when it comes to this kind of thing relates to politics and the things that are happening that will have some sort of effect on the life I want to live. It’s easy to become discouraged and forget to swing back to the more positive side of things.

In a previous article, I mentioned that people tend to label me a pessimist, and in many cases they are probably right. Yet I find hope even when I’m faced with all of the political negativity that our society faces today. There are changes brewing in our nation that seem to be the start of the natural swing of the pendulum away from one side of the spectrum back to the other. The light at the end of the current tunnel is getting closer and closer and we all yearn to step back into the sunshine.

Where I have to start being a bit more observant is starting to shift my attention a bit more away from politics and more onto the side of providing what insight I can into the issues that normal people deal with every day. It seems like there is a massive craving in our society today for anyone to step up and start addressing the massive personal and emotional and discipline issues that the last few generations have never learned to deal with, including mine. As I myself work through these complex problems, I try to post them here so that my readers and get another perspective on whatever problems they are dealing with.

Not being a certified therapist, and apparently having that decidedly pessimistic streak, it would be easy for me to shy away from giving advice to people about the big problems that we all deal with. The reality is that it isn’t a piece of paper that makes one qualified to help others. Life experience is just as valuable as a textbook, and many times it is the individual experience we gain through life that is the most helpful to those who need it most. That’s what makes us truly care about those around us because we went through the same things.

I’m not sure how much I can help in this regard, but it is clear to me that my readers seem to be more interested in the positive, helpful articles than the philosophical and political posts. That doesn’t mean I plan on giving up on putting my point of view out there, but it does mean I want to be open to breaking down more of the issues that will help you more directly. We all yearn for a guide, and while I may not be the absolute most qualified person, it is clear to me that I can at least be helpful to some degree.

To that end, it is my hope that you will take a moment to share something that is important to you, or make a request for an article about an issue that would be helpful to you. Collaboration in this environment is important, and it is clear that most of us are no longer looking for someone to speak into the void without considering the needs of those we are speaking to. We want to feel included, and I can understand that. I don’t expect this to become an “advice column”, but frankly it is up to the readers to decide what they value and it is for me to provide what you need to the best of my ability. One person can only do so much on their own.

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Americans Are the Most Generous People in the World

It’s easy to knock our country for all the silly things it does sometimes. Our modern culture is beset by ridiculous ideologies that try to convince us that we should give up the things that made us great in the first place. Much of the world hates us because of our position at the top and they do everything they can to try to bring us down. It doesn’t help that we don’t really understand international politics and customs well enough to be good representatives when we go abroad.

On the other hand, we need to remember that America overall is still the best country in the world. With our ability to generate so much wealth and prosperity, we usually criticize ourselves as being overly lavish and selfish, but all you have to do is look at the humanitarian work we do around the globe and it resets your view of our country. For example, as India battles a surge in COVID-19 cases, the United States is sending additional supplies to help them overcome this new problem.

It’s been this way from the very beginning. Shortly after winning our independence, we were already providing aid to countries like Venezuela following a devastating earthquake. World War I saw two major initiatives and World War II saw a significant increase in overall spending on assisting other nations. Even during the Cold War the United States provided a great deal of financial and material assistance to various countries.

Today, America sends money and resources around the world in nearly every major situation which calls for it. If there are people in need or a disaster that strikes, America is almost always at the forefront of the efforts to assist. Peacekeepers, volunteers, shipping of food and clothing and other goods are just some of the ways that the United States steps up to provide help in some of the most dire situations we encounter.

It is interesting that we help people who usually have no real connection with us at all. One might think that we would focus only on our own citizens who are directly our responsibility, but year after year we provide assistance to so many people who have no reason to expect it, except that America has established itself as a leader of humanitarian aid across the world. It is true generosity when one gives of themselves with no expectation of anything in return.

As part of my effort to balance my blog with more positive information, I wanted to touch on this amazing fact about Americans in general. When the call comes to help those in need, America has rarely failed to answer. There is a compassion inherent to our society that makes it nearly impossible for us to ignore a call for assistance, especially when the situation involves the suffering of innocent people.

Our future is still a very bright one, and as we continue to grow and become more powerful and wealthy, it is important for us to remember who we are at the core. This hasn’t changed since we signed our Constitution into law more than two hundred years ago, and it will be a very long time before our need to help others fades away. Even though we sometimes get tunnel vision on our own problems, we never forget that there are so many in the world who have it worse than us.

What do you think about American generosity? Have you voted for or participated in a program the provided relief to those in suffering? How often do you think about the positive things that our nation is known for and support those who make it happen? It is much harder to appreciate the hard things than to fixate on our own problems, but if we can remember things like humanitarian aid it becomes much easier to feel great about living in the best country to have ever existed.

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Finding Diamonds in the Rough

In a recent post, I made a point of wanting to balance my writing between criticizing what is wrong in the world with talking about more of the things that are already good and the things we can do to make the world a better place. That can be a very difficult thing to do in today’s social climate, especially with a media who seems bent on hyping up every story in an effort to drive ratings. Still, it is very possible to get a positive outlook on the future if we can find a way to sift through the garbage to find the treasures hidden beneath.

What makes it difficult is that it requires time and effort to scroll through a multitude of negative articles to find one or two that are uplifting. One of the reasons for this is that depending on what your moral code is, what is positive for one person might be negative for another. As a more conservative leaning individual watching a progressive dominated media landscape, it is partially my own bias that makes it hard for me to find positivity.

Still, with a bit of time and searching, it is possible to find information about great things happening in the world even in a heavily biased, agenda based mainstream. For example, Idaho recently passed a bill banning abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which is a great move toward preserving the lives of innocent babies. The Supreme Court is hearing a case that may finally settle the issue of concealed carry of firearms across the nation. It is now believed that nuclear fusion will be a viable energy source as early as 2030, which will radically shift the way we look at energy production.

Like anything worthwhile in the world, the good things require a bit of effort. It’s easy to just look at our newsfeeds and assume a negative attitude, but we need to remember that the information we are being fed has an agenda attached to it. It is not in our best interests to listen to anything without first considering where the information came from and how it applies to our own viewpoints. We are capable of deciding for ourselves how we feel about an issue.

This is important, because even if most of what we read is interpreted as negative, if we can shift our way of looking at these things to recognize that it likely isn’t nearly as bad as it is being portrayed to be, it becomes much easier to shift our overall opinion toward a more positive one. Perhaps it can be as simple as assuming that ten negative articles hold the same value as one positive one. If we treat a positivity news story like a precious jewel, it makes sifting through the rest of it much easier.

The great thing about our modern era of internet communication is that we are getting more and more tailored information delivered to us based on our browsing habits, so as we focus more on positive content, more of that content will be funneled in our direction. Clickbait is a thing in mainstream news as much as anywhere else, and avoiding those articles makes a small difference in the algorithms that decide what to recommend to you. Bypassing such stories and focusing more on positive, upbeat titles will slowly shift what information is being fed to you.

That said, we do have to be careful to not avoid negative information entirely. There are things out there happening in the world that we all need to keep an eye on. Tensions with China, the continued slavery of individuals around the world, piracy in various parts of the world, and continued poverty and starvation are all issues on which we need to stay informed. The critical part is taking in only the negative information that really matters and ignoring the fluff and the lies.

With a careful attitude that is skewed more toward seeing the positive in things, we can slowly push back against a greedy media that just wants you to mindlessly watch their content and fill their pockets. Just as in finding balance in our work, we need to find balance in our intake of information. For now, it will require more work than it really should, but the end result is worth it. Take a bit of time every day to place your own mental filter on the stories you see and start focusing more on the articles that make you feel uplifted.

What do you think about negative news media? How much of it is necessary, and how much of it is just trying desperately to grab your attention? Do you actively practice looking for positive stories? Leave a comment below linking a great news story that makes you feel hopeful about the future. Together we can shift the focus of the nation from pessimism back to the hopeful attitude we used to share.

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American Risk Aversion Is Crippling Society

Something changed in the last couple of generations. We look back on our history at times when we were far more willing to do dangerous things to accomplish what we knew was right. The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars; our nation used to be filled to the brim with people willing to make any sacrifice necessary to stand up for good and fight back evil. This just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

We have become risk averse in general. Most of us are far too dependent on others to make our lives happen. Our work is mostly employment by companies. We live in safe little communities with highly regulated buildings. Our roads are patrolled and our food inspected down to a microscopic level. The adventure that many of us used to seek is replaced by docile little vacations to highly developed, sanitized versions of what they used to be.

This isn’t to say that these measures aren’t good things on their own, but the combined need to remove danger from the equation of our lives is weakening our ability to steel ourselves against the problems of the world we can’t neatly tie up in the little boxes we create for our lives. There are forced in the world that will never bow down to our industriousness, and as we become more and more the robots of modern thought, the rest of the world feels the hunger for progress. Our position at the top is under constant threat, and we no longer have the teeth to fight back.

I can’t claim to be any better. My desire for most of my life is to somehow become self employed, but I’ve never been able to find the courage to jump into anything to see if I could make it work. The excuses were many and varied. I didn’t have enough money. My family needs a steady income. My skillset isn’t up to the task. It has been an endless stream of reasons why it could never work out.

Part of the problem is our public school system. We are brought up in this highly regimented environment that was developed to train factory workers to mindlessly sit and perform tasks for eight hours per day. Teachers try to spark our creativity, but in the end the system is just too tightly wound to allow enough wiggle room for young minds to really flourish. It is difficult to allow minds to wander when you’re tied to a schedule.

Another problem is more personal to me, and that is my eleven years of military service. Public school is certainly controlled, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the level of discipline imparted by serving in the armed forces. This isn’t a bad thing while you’re in, because the ability to follow orders and procedures typically keeps you alive in the most horrible situations imaginable. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well if your desire is to do something more adventurous once you’re out. It sets your mentality in the corporate mindset, which is hardly a free spirited environment.

Mostly, though, it is constantly being told that we need to protect people from their own problems. We have so many laws on the books that we somehow think are going to stop bad people from doing bad things. This is nice in theory, but the reality is that no matter how much we try to wrap probability around our fingers, eventually something bad is going to happen. We spend so much time trying to avoid danger that we miss out on the truly exciting things about life. Society in general is cultivating an attitude of fear instead of the adventure that most of us crave.

I’m not sure how I will personally get out of this mindset. The risk of writing this blog is a small step, I suppose, but unless it takes off in a way that I don’t see yet, it will be a supplementary thing. I have mentioned in the past that I yearn to cruise the world on a sailboat, and that would be the biggest adventure of my life, filled with danger and uncertainty and something amazing over every horizon. It simply requires the will to accept the bad that might come with the good.

As a nation, it is simply a matter of everyone working together to prop each other up. Too many people simply hear an idea that sounds crazy and say as much. If more people supported those who had a different way of thinking, we would be stronger as a society and more willing to do what needs doing. More people would be willing to take risks, and we could stand more firmly as a country against those ideas that threaten us because aren’t crippled by the fear of consequences. Adventure is as much about teamwork as it is about anything else.

How do you feel about taking risks? Have you been fearful of doing anything special because the price of failure seemed too high? What can you do today to further your own goals, or help someone take a step in the right direction? Risk is a part of life whether we like it or not, and you can’t control it. Any idea to the contrary is simply an illusion, so if we have to pay the price anyway, why not go for it?

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Finding Balance in Your Work

It’s easy sometimes to get buried under all the negativity in the world around us. We struggle to get through the day and lose sight of the good things that are still in our lives. Our minds are constantly bombarded with the problems of others and the carelessness of those who are more concerned with their own desires than how what they do might be affecting others. A simple commute to work can many times be a stark example of this.

Where this is truly detrimental is when it comes to your work. I have a day job, but it has been a dead end road from the beginning and no amount of positivity will change that. Where I find this topic applying to my own career is in the writing that I choose to do for this blog. As a political and philosophical thought provoking platform, there are a lot of negative things that I end up going over in an attempt to bring common sense and reason to as many people as possible. It is quite easy to make every article a complaint against modern society. That really isn’t where I want to be.

There are many things that need to be said, and many of those things are going to be negative, but at the same time there needs to be a balance that focuses on the many positive things. No one wants to spend their day mired in articles telling us how doomed the world is, especially when there are so many reasons to be hopeful for the future. Even this blog is an effort in hope, not just that some of the bad trends in our political landscape will be reversed, but also that some of the things I pass on here will be helpful to people who need it.

Many times the situations in our lives are beyond our control, but the one thing that we have control of every moment of the day is our attitude and what we choose to focus our attention on. It can be difficult at times to hold a balance between addressing important issues and wallowing in how bad we see things being. We can’t ignore the problems of the world, because they will just get worse if we don’t do anything about them, but it is critical to keep the proper perspective when rolling up our sleeves to do the hard work.

When it comes to our chosen profession, much of the negativity comes from not seeing the fruit of our labor, especially if we work in a profession that has a lot of negativity associated with it. That might be from a boss or customers or any number of other sources. For this blog, it is mostly the people I find to be crazy or incompetent who stand out as targets for highlighting why things are the way they are. A bit more balance is required.

There have been many posts since I started that focused on more of a self help style of writing, and I hope to continue doing more of that to balance out the political articles that have dominated the list recently. It is important for all of us to have a positive attitude, because no one really responds well to constant criticism and a good attitude can sometimes address a problem far better than pointing out flaws. Many times the problems we have with others is simply resolved with a bit of positivity.

Ultimately, it is up to us to decide our path forward. There might be limiting factors, but we can always push in the right direction regardless of the circumstances. Eventually we will find at least the peace of knowing we did things right, even if we don’t necessarily get the results we were hoping for. Never ignore the things that need to be addressed, but we must always remember to balance the critical nature required to deal with those things with an equally positive mindset to prevent a descent into depression or anger. This can apply to anything in life.

How balanced is your work? Do you spend most of your time dealing with negative people, or struggling to keep a positive mindset? How do you deal with this kind of environment? We can make our lives much less stressful if we can find a way to balance out this kind of dark energy with a lighter side. Happiness and contentment can be as much of a choice as anything else, but it requires a bit of focus and effort to make it happen.

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They Just Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

It’s funny how the topics for this blog pop into my head. Sometimes I already have an idea floating around, but other times my mind is a blank, so I just randomly start looking around on the internet for something that speaks to me and an idea will snap into my head. For this article, it was a headline for the 2021 Oscar winners, and I couldn’t help but laugh inside. Not just for the ridiculous way that the event has been politicized, but also because we live in an era where profit trumps creativity.

I can’t remember the last new movie that truly spoke to me. Sure, there have been movies that were entertaining to watch, but frankly I can barely remember any of the individual moments from any of the Avengers or Transformers or the later Fast and Furious movies. I’ve watched a lot of movies over the course of my life, and there have been really great movies that have stuck with me through the years, as well as really bad movies that were forgotten by the end of the credits. What’s sad about today is that most of the movies we see now as “blockbusters” are at best mediocre.

What bothers me about this isn’t that there are lukewarm movies being made, but that there just don’t seem to be as many instant classics as there used to be. I remember back in the nineties that there were dozens of movies that captivated us and we knew they would stand the test of time. Amazing crime movies like Pulp Fiction or Casino or Goodfellas. Great westerns like Tombstone or Dances With Wolves or Maverick. Gripping suspense movies like The Green Mile or Apollo 13 or The Hunt for Red October. Heart tugging stories like Good Will Hunting or A Few Good Men or Glory. Memorable comedies like My Cousin Vinny or Office Space or Home Alone.

Perhaps the younger crowd will simply look at this list and say it’s because I’m older and just don’t understand the newer generation of movie making. I suppose they could argue that, but I simply can’t think of very many movies from the turn of the century that I look back on and remember anything meaningful from them. Don’t get me wrong…there have been many movies that were worth watching. They killed time and were at least entertaining. But I miss the days when I finished watching a movie and walked away feeling like I invested in a story.

There have been a few movies from the last twenty years that stood out to me. Most recently I watched Last Flag Flying, which had everything I miss from the movies I grew up with. Of course, all of the actors are from that era anyway, so I don’t know if that really counts. Training Day was really good, but again Denzel Washington was big before the 2000s. Gladiator is pretty much the same. As I look back on the most memorable movies after the year 2000, the only ones that stand out to me are those which had actors who got their start back when movies were still good.

Maybe this is all part of the generational black hole I’ve noticed across the board on everything. It feels like the 1990s had the last really good generation in most things. Yes, there are a lot of great people doing great things today, but it just feels like they were far more common back then. I remember so many actors from that time, but I would struggle to name ten great actors who surfaced in the last twenty years. It’s kind of sad.

As I reflect on this, I wonder if this is part of that same problem that most of the last couple of generations has: entitlement. No one has really had to go through anything or work on their craft to ensure their skill is a cut above the rest. Producers seem to be looking for beautiful faces rather than soulful actors. Franchises are based around a concept rather than a story; sexy bodies rather than deep, rich characters. There is no desire in the movie industry for more than just profit.

I mourn the loss of creativity in our movie and television industry. There used to be a time when a production couldn’t get off the ground if the story wasn’t absolutely perfect; when writers struggled to get noticed because the quality of the storylines were difficult to outshine. Today, we get stuck with brain-dead comedies and cookie-cutter romance movies and iteration after iteration of the same action movie. Are they entertaining? Sure, but ultimately they are just for killing a couple of hours. Is that really what we want?

What do you think about the movie industry today? Do you get any value from what you watch, or is that time long past? Is there any hope for the future of our entertainment industry, or is it all spent? There used to be a time I got excited to watch a movie, but these days it’s difficult to risk wasting two hours of my life on lackluster stories. I yearn for a time when the people with great, meaningful stories are placed front and center again, and the profit hungry franchises become a mistake we remember never to repeat again.

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Subjective Suffering and How to Approach It

There is a lot of suffering in the world. In some places it is so tangible that you can objectively state that there can be no comparison to it. Extreme poverty, past genocides and hyper-controlling authoritarian regimes are some examples of suffering in which any reasonable person would agree falls within the realm of true suffering. There are many ways that we can look at this kind of suffering, and many people put a lot of effort into trying to reduce it.

What we don’t typically focus much attention on is the subjective suffering of those who aren’t necessarily having to live in conditions such as those. It can make us feel truly guilty to think badly about our lives when there are so many whose lives are far worse than our own, and most of the time we feel ashamed to complain too loudly when things aren’t the way we think they should be. How can we feel justified complaining when we have it so good compared to much of the world?

The problem with this way of thinking is that suffering is both objective and relative. At the extreme end, there is what we think of as real suffering, and there is no other way to look at it other than with compassion. For those of us who were fortunate enough to be born into a situation where we don’t have to face those problems, suffering is still a very real and harmful thing that we need to learn to deal with.

One of the things that I’ve learned along the way is that we all have certain needs. The types of needs we have change based on how far we have moved up in what is commonly known as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs“. The basic premise is that as we satisfy our more basic, physical needs, there are emotional and spiritual needs that begin to take the place of that which was satisfied. This means that until we reach a place where we have removed all suffering, it doesn’t really matter how much better off we are than others. We still suffer.

This is a difficult concept for many to grasp, especially men. We like to think that we are emotional rocks with no need for anything other than food, sex and sleep, but this just isn’t the case. A human being is a very long checklist of needs. Some of those needs are universal while others are tailored to the unique person that each of us is. This is what we can call subjective suffering.

If we look at the status of human beings like a list, then it becomes easier to understand why so many people who should objectively be much happier tend not to be. We might have more items on our list checked off as compared to people living in horrible conditions, but there are still a multitude of items left on our list that need to be completed before we can stop suffering. It may be that we are not physically suffering, but emotional suffering can be just as damaging.

What does this mean for us? Do we continue ignoring what makes us suffer because we have it better than most? Some would argue this, but they would be wrong. You can’t be your best self when you are suffering. Checking things off that list of needs is a must if you are to continue growing into the person you are meant to be. One cannot help others if they are still dealing with their own problems.

The trick is knowing what those needs are. We fill our heads with various ideas of what we think we need, but it is rare for a person to really figure out what it is they truly need. So many people can’t find the peace they need because they don’t know themselves well enough to understand what their needs are. Much of our lives are spent casting about and trying different things until we find the one that makes us finally able to find contentment. Most people never figure it out, but we must continue trying in the hopes that one day it will finally become clear.

What do you think about relative suffering? Do you struggle with feeling a need for something more? Have you tried different things to figure out what it is? Suffering pushes us forward into new things and it is only through that drive to cast off that feeling that we are able to figure out what life is all about. We should never feel guilty about the suffering we live through, even if it doesn’t seem as bad as what others are dealing with.

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You Don’t Have Anything to Say Until You’ve Lived a Little

At some point in our society, the youth of our nation began taking the stage and pushing forward new ideas that they felt made sense to them. At some point, the elders of our society began allowing this to happen, perhaps thinking that fresh and new ideas were a good thing. This is true to some point, but when taken too far it begins causing some serious problems for the people who tend to know better. Like a burst dam, once the flow begins, it is very difficult to stop.

There used to be a time in the world where elders were respected and listened to. The wisdom of life is a very valuable thing, but it is unfortunately not until you begin truly learning that wisdom yourself that you truly begin to understand that value. The new ideas we have when we are young that sound so great when we don’t know any better become bitter pills later on in life as we look back at what could have been easily avoided if we had learned the lessons from the past.

This is not to say that all new ideas are bad. Our species has moved forward so quickly because of amazing new ideas that propelled us into new realms of science and philosophy. The American form of democracy is a shining example of brave new thoughts that have stood the test of time. But if we really look at the best ideas…the ones that truly last…we see that they rarely come from someone who was barely old enough to have left their parents.

Human beings have a huge capacity for ingenuity, but most of the time that capacity on its own isn’t enough to create something truly wonderful. Almost invariably, there is some sort of struggle involved in the process. There has to be something to be overcome to prompt us to think outside the box and come up with something new. This is where we come up with that ubiquitous axiom “necessity is the mother of all invention”. We come up with things when we need them.

One of the downsides to our modern society that has everything at its fingertips is that there isn’t any real struggle anymore, at least not in the mainstream public. Certainly there are areas of our nation where people live in poverty or have other adverse conditions, but for the most part the average American enjoys a sense of security and prosperity unparalleled in history. We worry about things, but we never have to truly face those heart stopping moments that our ancestors had to deal with. We are safe in our protected little bubbles.

Still, our biology includes as part of its makeup a drive to move forward. It doesn’t matter that most people don’t have any real reason to do anything more than grind through the routine of their lives. There is a primal passion within us that must be satisfied, and we will go to any length to find whatever it is that will satisfy that need to move forward. And to do that we are willing to smash that safe little bubble to pieces for the smallest of chances that the result will turn out better than what we had.

This is where wisdom is supposed to come in. The elders of our society are supposed to pull back on the reins of the young, disciplining them in the ways of the past because the lessons they’ve already learned has shown us that rocking the boat unnecessarily is dangerous and stupid. Many of the “new” ideas have already been tried, and going back to revisit them is simply a waste of time and effort and sometimes lives. We have guides to the future if we can just learn to listen to them.

Unfortunately, the elders of our time have refused to put their foots down, choosing instead to pass the torch before the next generation is ready to take it. They have retired early, seeking the easy life by allowing their children to run free with little or no supervision. The wise among us have stepped out, leaving the idealistic and undisciplined and untested to hold the reins and take us wherever they want to go. With such inept control, the horse will wander wherever it chooses, free from the skilled hands of someone who knows better.

The reality is that new ideas are great and all, but you really do have to live a little before you can really have something to say that actually matters. You have to try things out and learn to fail properly, figuring out along the way what works and what doesn’t. It requires learning to be patient and seeing an issue from all sides before leaping forward into the unknown. This comes not only from living our lives, but learning from the lives of those who came before. It is a gift given to us from the previous generations, learning from both their successes and failures. As the saying goes: “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”.

This message will always fall on deaf ears when it comes to the young. They are full of energy and inspiration and a drive to change things to fit their image of the world. It is on those of us who have lived a while to pull them back, calming them down and getting them to look at the world properly. It’s great to think outside the box, but before you can really do that you need to understand the box. You need to know what in the box is good and what is bad, why they are good or bad, and which of the bad things you can reasonably change. It is only then that you can start really starting to make a positive difference.

The problem is that it can take a lifetime to learn enough about the box to start making a change, and the young simply won’t wait. This is why it is up to those who know better to stop putting up with the impatience of youth and start pulling back on those reins. The chaos only continues as long as the wise among us allow it to. We need to stop being lazy and start speaking out against the clearly bad ideas that our youth is coming up with. We also need to start speaking out against those elders who never had the benefit of being guided by the wise and are continuing to push bad philosophies.

What do you think about the wisdom of those who came before? Do they have lessons we can learn, or should we go our own way? Sometimes new isn’t always better, and learning from the past is an important part of moving into the future. It is up to those who came before to temper the youth so we can find the right balance between what is new and what is good for us.

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