I Am From

My son (15) was given a writing assignment this week in his English class. His learning style really shines when a teacher is deeply interested in helping students excel. His teacher “Ms. G” is fully engaged and awesome. This week’s assignment is to write a one page poem called “I Am From” in which the student explores the influences that have molded them into who they are today. This gloating dad thinks Dan’s poem is a work of art, which is why I want to share it with you. Enjoy.

I am from

I am from a white house with a little black gate.

I am from a race associated with bigotry and hate.

I am from influences of a culture against which those of my race discriminate.

I am from a background of people who at the first sign of injustice become irate.

I am from my 8th grade science teacher who I cherished and now through death we commemorate.

I am from the motto don’t hate just evaluate then initiate the plan by which you dominate.

I am from witnessing crimes that the victims did absolutely nothing to instigate.

I am from the belief that nobody controls my life which means I don’t believe in fate.

I am from spirituality but not necessarily structured Christianity.

I am from a failing economy.

I am from autotune which is killing my musicality.

I am from a generation of Tupac and Jay-Z wanna-bes.

I am from a girl to whom I’ve given myself whole heartedly.

I am from wishing I could be like the Jabbawockeez.

I am from finally realizing all I want to be is me.

I am from not understanding women’s psychology.

I am from the influences of Kierkegaard, Rousseau, Pascal and Homer’s Odyssey

I am from somehow always failing to be all I can be.

I am from thankfully not having to deal with the struggle of living in the inner-city.

I am from a Family where education comes first.

I am from influences of Rap music within which I’ve become immersed.

I am from friends who got my back (I hope) when worst comes to worst.

I am from a family who wanted the best from me and even if I failed they never cursed.

I am from a life of privilege and then some.

I am from a life where we have never felt the need to sing we shall overcome.

I am from sweet little nothings like flowers, white clouds and bubble gum.

I am from those mysteries that overflow my inner consciousness and leave me numb.

I am from the belief that everyone is smart in their own way and that no one is truly dumb.

I am from the foolishness of the middle finger or biting thumbs.

I am from the wings of eagles which take me away from my problems in the form of dreams.

I am from the belief that almost nothing in life is as it seems.

I am from wishing that the people in this world were on the same team.

I am from the sweet sensation of whipped cream.

I am from spending everyday wishing someone was a little less mean.

I am from sadness at abortions and all the little lives that will never be seen.

I am from you and you are from me because thanks to Mrs. G in this class we help each other be who we want to be.

Information Ecology

William Gibson (who gave us the term “cyberspace”),  interviewed in TIME Magazine

“My guess has always been that the thing our great-grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we made the distinction between here and the Internet… Here [is being] colonized by what used to be the other place.”

New and emerging technologies are allowing historically repressed creatives to rise and collaborate. While these voices have always been present, pre-virtual “information ecology” kept them marginalized and suppressed. But yesterday’s social platforms are now appearing as structural relics, allowing (for the first time in human history) the latent creative population to flourish. Many said Rousseau’s dream of a true city-state “peoples’ republic” became less plausible as populations grew. They could not have conceived of a global connective network that, when allowed to remain free of state or corporate control, opened new doors of unprecedented global empathy and equality.

“The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”  – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1754

Our “social contract” is being rewritten by the new voices of a virtual world. As Gibson notes, what used to be the “other place” is being transformed into “here and now.” What was once “them” is now us. This seismic shift in social identity will take longer to impact strongly embedded patterns, such as religion. But fundamental global change is moving forward and inevitable.

The TED phenomenon is a prime example of this global flattening. TED’s curator Chris Anderson gave a talk this year at TED Global adding yet another voice to this growing awareness that we are not meant to be separated into ideological ghettos, but forged together in a grand creative enterprise. It’s a good talk and I encourage you to watch it.

Imagine a global communications pool in which all persons can share their thoughts, dreams, faith, best ideas, etc.. in the spirit of Rousseau, the protocol intelligently prioritizes experiences and brings the collective mind into view of all participants. But it’s more than a “view” from a distance. Fundamental inequalities, suffering, and marginalization is brought forward as if experienced in our own household, in our own family. The plight of others becomes our plight. Global horror and injustice becomes our nightmare, as well. But with this, the boundless creativity, resources, and potential of the new collective also becomes our own, so that one day we may say with complete authenticity (quoting Michael Roe) “what’s been done to you feels like it’s been done to me.” And most importantly, we will live and prioritize our lives in accordance with these newly experienced global realities.

ich all persons share their thoughts, dreams, faith, desires, etc.. the communication protocol amasses the collective ideals and dreams and experiences together and brings the collective mind into view of all participants. What we get is a bell curve distribution. The same average ideology we have today in today's dead tree iconography, but on the grandest human scale.

But here's the good news. Most people won't participate at this collective level. Many people will be mostly watching TV, or engaged in some other passive activity. The passives vs. the actives. The creatives vs. the ____________. 

Refined leadership will always be a part of community. But that leadership will move from a small, professional, clergy, CEO-style, stage-centric hierarchy model to a vastly larger, distributed, creative mind - a true collective mind of the amassed creative population working in common resonance, with a common Spiritual center, yet not bound by inherited institutional framework.

The Divine Proportion

Sometime in the mid-80’s, I decided to build a redwood deck in the back of our Mountain View home, just down the street from where Google is today (off Stierlin Road). I had been studying the Golden Mean and was inspired to build a spiral-shaped deck.

As I struggled through the mathematics, I realized it was much harder than I had thought. We needed 3.5″ integrals of linear dimensions on a spiral-curved plane. Wicked hard math. So I called my friend Larry (MIT, Ph.D. Math, Magna Cum Laude). The next day he brought me two pages of calculations which concluded in a formula that translated polar coordinates to linear dimensions relative to the location of boards. Wow. Another friend, Martin, built the structure from the most perfect redwood sticks we had ever seen. Not one knot in the entire deck (ironically, the entire house was built of redwood – back when it was about the same price as Douglas Fir).

We have photos of that deck somewhere around here, but couldn’t find them. Actually, I hadn’t thought about the spiral deck until someone sent me this stunning video animation which captures the mathematical essence of universally perfect spirals:  the golden rectangle – the Fibonacci Series – the Divine Proportion. One part of the animation looks EXACTLY like the deck we designed. Imagine a matrix of exquisite redwood planks forming a spiral that looks just like this (about 6 meters across).

Spiral Deck

Anyway, here’s the visualization from Spanish filmmaker Cristobal Vila. It is under 4 minutes, and very much worth your time.

Over-Leverage / De-Leverage

Timely and fascinating paper by Carmen and Vincent Reinhart at the University of Maryland, which shows convincingly that major economic collapse is almost always preceded by an excessive easing of credit.

Today it’s much harder to borrow and everyone is trying to pay down debt (aka, de-leveraging). The Reinhart’s point out that periods of de-leveraging normally last almost as long as the boom years that preceded them. They show that this most recent period of over-leveraging started somewhere around 1997 and ended in 2007-8. If their thesis is correct, get ready for a protracted de-leveraging period lasting nearly the rest of this decade.


Communication Wants to be Free

From TED’ster David Pogue at today’s New York Times, on Google’s new Gmail Voice Calling service. There will come a day, probably within two generations, when most global-interpersonal communication may be included as part of a common virtual access fee, like a water bill.  Effectively, free.

What Voice Calls from Gmail does is open up another variation, one that strikes even closer to the “free calls from a phone, to a phone” ideal. Now it’s free calls “from a computer, to a phone.”

At the moment, you can’t use this new feature until you download and install a special plug-in for Mac or Windows. But you can’t help wondering: What if Google released an app like that for Android phones, or the iPhone?

Well, I’ll tell you what. At that point, you could, for the first time in history, make unlimited free phone-to-phone calls.

We’re tantalizingly close.

Text Neck

Sometime this year, I want to share with my two blog readers (hi Cynthia!) a strength training program I’ve been doing for about four months. The results are nothing short of remarkable. This is a discipline I can (and likely will) do for the rest of my life. The program is called High Intensity Training, also known as the Super Slow Workout. I became aware of the technique via a book called Body By Science, by Dr. Doug McGuff, an emergency room physician.

Doug blogs here. Normally, he writes about strength training and related topics. Today he wrote about something that really caught my attention, a physiological syndrome called text neck.

Here’s the scoop. Chin up!

“Later we met up with our friend at Moe’s Southwestern Grill near the Clemson University campus. After we got our food I noticed something unusual about the long line of college students who were waiting in the serving line. I was looking at about 10-12 students all standing in a row when I noticed something striking about their body habitus. All of their necks were protruding from their torso at a 45 degree angle. The neck itself was straight, but at the C7-T1 juncture there was just an abrupt forward flexion. This position was evident despite an otherwise upright posture, and it appeared to be a fixed deformity. This positioning did not appear to be well-adapted for anything physiologically useful. The only thing that this appeared to possibly helpful for was text-messaging, staring at a laptop, or playing hand-held video games, and this is what I suspect has resulted in this bizarre anthropologic adaptation. If you take some time to look about, I am sure you can see lots of strange postures that result from forcing our Fred Flintstone bodies into this George Jetson world. I was just shocked to see it so prominently displayed in people so young.”


Everything is possible, and almost nothing is certain (Havel)

“The single planetary civilization to which we all belong confronts us with global challenges. We stand helpless before them because our civilization has essentially globalized only the surface of our lives. But our inner self continues to have a life of its own. And the fewer answers the era of rational knowledge provides to the basic questions of human being, the more deeply it would seem that people, behind its back as it were, cling to the ancient certainties of their tribe… The abyss between the rational and the spiritual, the external and the internal, the objective and the subjective, the technical and the moral, the universal and the unique constantly grows deeper... Politicians at international forums may reiterate a thousand times that the basis of the new world order must be universal respect for human rights, but it will mean nothing as long as this imperative does not derive from the respect of the miracle of Being, the miracle of the universe, the miracle of nature, the miracle of our own existence.

It logically follows that, in today’s multicultural world, the truly reliable path to coexistence, to peaceful coexistence and creative cooperation, must start from what is at the root of all cultures and what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion, convictions, antipathies or sympathies: it must be rooted in self-transcendence.

Transcendence as a hand reached out to those close to us, to foreigners, to the human community, to all living creatures, to nature, to the universe; transcendence as a deeply and joyously experienced need to be in harmony even with what we ourselves are not, what we do not understand, what seems distant from us in time and space, but with which we are nevertheless mysteriously linked because, together with us, all this constitutes a single world. Transcendence as the only real alternative to extinction. The Declaration of Independence, adopted two hundred and eighteen years ago in this building, states that the Creator gave man the right to liberty. It seems man can realize that liberty only if he does not forget the One who endowed him with it.”      – Vaclav Havel, July 4, 1994, Philadelphia, PA, USA accepting the Liberty Medal

Read the entire, probing, timely, deeply relevant speech


Melting Away

Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, try the following expedient:?? recall the face of the poorest and most helpless man you have ever seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him.?? Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore to him control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to?self-rule for the hungry and spiritually starved millions?? Then you will find your doubts and your self melting away.


Last Meal

On death row you celebrate your last night

with your last dinner, your choice, your last craving

to make at least your stomach happy before it stops

craving anything at all. Many choose

simple food: a hamburger, mac and cheese, ice cream.

What might it be for you, my friend?

Duckling Rouenaisse? A roast of unborn lamb?

Washed down with Veuve Cliquot ’59 and old Armagnac?

And how do you know, my friend, that you are not

eating your last meal at this very table now?

Chew slowly. Make sure you take in all the body and the blood

Bill Holm, Chain Letter of the Soul, Selected Poems