Self-deception

“[I]f anyone thinks he is something…he deceives himself.”

– Galatians 6:3 (NET)

Every time I turn around, it seems someone or group is demanding attention and recognition as something special, something the rest of us should treat with deference and homage, acknowledging how important they are.

Because they believe their education, title/position, job, sex (or orientation), politics, religion, wealth, family name, race, where they live, who they know – or any other distinction – makes them special.

As if having a Ph.D., or being a doctor (or priest, or president of a company or even a country), being hetrosexual (or homosexual or transexual), being Republican (or Democrat), being Christian (or Moslim), being a millionaire, being the descendant of a prominent family, being White (or Black, Brown or any other ethnicity), being an American (or any other nationality), have a well known friend (or family member) really is something that really matters, and that if someone is other they are somehow less important.

They deceive themselves.

As do I and you, as well. Because there isn’t one or any one group who is any more special, more important than any other, and no one is less so.

I say, “as do I”, because it’s true, I confess that on an occasion or two I’ve played one or more of the distinctions above, to draw attention to myself and to come across as being someone who should be thought of as important and deserving of respect, or at least more so than someone else. And I say, “you, as well” because you have, haven’t you? Be honest.

Why do we have such a compulsion to be “something”? Why do we need recognition? Is it simply envy, the belief that someone or others have/are what we wish we had/were, and if by some chance we attain it, it’ll make us special, too?

It is probably best illustrated in the biblical story of Eden, where the serpent said that by eating the forbidden fruit we would be like gods (Ge. 3:5). Now, that’s being something. So we ate. But it was a lie and no one should think they’re that important. 

I’m not special. And neither are you. It doesn’t mean a thing as to what we do, who we know or what we know, where we come from, what we believe or anything else.

The Galatians quote above goes on to say, “Let each [of us]…not compare [ourselves] with someone else (v.4)”.

Let’s stop deceiving ourselves that we’re something we’re not, something special.

Now, if we all could just do that, that’d be something!

– Bill

The Virtues of Vodka

“Vodka is just fun water.”

– Anonymous 

I’ve never been one of those people who is health-conscious. I certainly don’t like it when I’m unhealthy, but I’ve never consciously, intentionally, gone out of my way to be healthy, as a lifestyle. When I was in High School, I was athletic (got my varsity letters in swimming, wrestling, and crew) and have played golf my entire adult life (when younger, always walked the course; now, as an older guy, I ride a cart). Actually, to the contrary, I must confess that I’ve always been rather sedentary (love to read and write – difficult to do whilst moving about), enjoy my cigars, and eat whatever I damn well please. Whatever good health I have I subscribe to a general lack of worrying about things and good DNA.

And yet, not long ago I began wondering if some of my more liquid tastes might be more harmful than good, such as my love of coffee (give me a ten cup pot, and in three hours I’ll empty it), and that led me to researching coffee and my posts, “Caffeinate Me” and “Caffeinate Me – A Follow-up”, where I listed all the healthful benefits of that delightful beverage and the apparent genetic basis for my love of it.

In my researching I not only found it the number one consumed beverage in the world, but that other potables (in order of world consumption) that I also enjoy frequently (if not daily) are also healthy, and have also written about them: tea (#2 – “If Not Coffee, Then Tea?”) and beer (#4 – “On Beer and Health”), and found that in partaking of these I may actually be counteracting the negative aspects of my otherwise less-than-healthy lifestyle (you can read those posts to find how).

Wine comes in at #6, and as special and varied as it is, it will be a subject for digression at a later date. For today, I’ll share about the health benefits of a drink I have more than a passing acquaintance with, #7, Vodka.

• Weight Maintenance: Of all the hard liquors, vodka is the better for you, if for no other reason than the “brown” kinds (whiskeys, rum and the like) are much more calorie filled, even when taken straight, not to mention when mixed. And vodka contains absolutely no fats.

• Stress reduction: Reduces stress better than the alcohol-equivalent of red wine. A one-to-five combination of 100-proof vodka and tonic has been proven to lower response to stressors monitored on brain scans.

• Reduced risk of developing hypertension: Recent studies show significant improvement in patients with high blood pressure after receiving small amounts of vodka.

• Cardio-protective: It protects against heart diseases. Vodka has a dilating effect on the arteries which stimulates free flow of blood. Unobstructed flow of blood within the heart components prevents the development of major illnesses such as stroke and cardiac event. It also aids in promoting the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol within the body and prevention of plaque of the arteries and other related complications.

• Lowers high blood pressure: Recent studies have shown significant improvement in patients with high blood pressure after being given small amounts of vodka.

• Anti-inflammation properties: It can also help to treat disorders that bring about inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. Additionally, research has shown that consumption of vodka in moderation can alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. 

• Improved Sleep: Not only will vodka help you to relax, but it can also help you get to sleep more quickly. Vodka has sleep-inducing properties that will make you feel drowsy after a shot or two, and it will calm your brain.

• Aids in digestion: May help to treat common digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.

• Relieves tooth ache: Swishing a little amount of vodka around an aching tooth may be useful, letting some of the vodka get absorbed into the gums to reduce the pain in the infected area until you can get to the dentist.

• Oral hygiene: Vodka combined with cinnamon works as an effective mouthwash and cures bad breath.

In addition to its “interior” benefits to the mind and body, there are some “exterior” benefits, as well:

•  Antiseptic properties: Vodka has antiseptic qualities that really help in preventing the development of infections from instances like animal bite, and can sterilize any wound better than hydrogen peroxide.

And of couse, there is a rash of benefits in folklore that may or may not be true. 

All of which leads to the questions, just what is vodka vis-a-vis other hard liquors in the making, and which is the best vodka? C’mon, now, won’t do everything for you, do a little research on your own!

And finally, the usual disclaimers and cautions: I have no financial interests in said beverage (other than the amount of money I spend in purchasing and consuming); always consume in moderation; I am not an M.D., so consult with yours if you have any medical issues or questions. The information above has been gleaned from many sources and no warranty – explicit or implied – to the verity of the foregoing is confered.

– Bill

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Check out my blog: thoughtsfortoday2016.wordpress.com

Hypocrisy in America Today

“It is hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, or toss out someone in need of my help…do these these things and call myself a Christian, I am a hypocrite.”

– Pope Francis

I am not a Catholic (even though my father’s father was, as was his family for over a thousand years), nor do I belong to any one form of “organized” religion or strictly adhere to all their tenets. But I do believe in the mandate of Jesus, who said we are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, tend to the sick, and warning that to not do these things is to reap punishment (Matthew 25:31-46).

Francis is spot-on, calling a spade a spade and not mincing words. I respect him for that.

In my post, Immigration, I wrote, “Will we continue to welcome immigrants with the Statue of Liberty’s ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses’? Or will we close our borders with walls…and become ‘Fortress America’?”

In my post, Tribes Reduex, I wrote, “Some nations in Europe, and lately the United States, have been voting for leaders or policies that proclaim nationalism, anti-immigrant and religious intolerance…Things I find loathsome and abhorrent. Especially here, in the US, a nation of immigrants…”

Since its inception, we Americans have rooted our social compact in the Judeo-Christian Bible, and we have been blest and the better for it.

We have welcomed and taken in foreigners seeking a better life here. But today there are those among our government – and among those that elected it – who no longer want to allow them in, particularly those from the countries south of us or especially those of a certain religious belief from the Middle East.

Out of fear.

We have endeavored to see to the needs of the poor, the homeless, the sick and the aged – maybe not as well as some other first-world countries, but better than most – through our Welfare, Medicare and Medicaid, and Social Security programs. But today there are those among our government – and among those that elected it – who, instead of endeavoring to do even more or better, would lessen or do away completely with all that we’ve accomplished.

Out of greed.

As Francis has said, some would rather “throw up skyscrapers and shopping centers and strike big real estate deals [and] abandon [others]…excluded and marginalized: without a job, without options, without a way out.”

If things continue to go in the direction we are going, it will be hypocritical to claim we’re a “Christian nation” (“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” – 1 John 3:17).

I am not a prophet, I have no divine revelation, but I do worry about Jesus’ warning about punishment if America reneges on its promises and duty to our fellow man.

– Bill

“I say, what you say, is (fill in the blank).”

“[Post-truth is] a chaotic fog of confusion that leaves observers grappling with stories that are both true and false at the same time. Objective reality is a fleeting shadow that cannot be grasped, and what you believe becomes a function of whom you trust. From here, [it] devolves into mess of “he said, she said” claims and counterclaims; a game of bluff where the main objective… is not to inform or communicate but to undermine.”

– Martin Robbins

As I said in my post of the 10th (“Truth, Post-truth, Fake News, Lies and Opinions”), it’s getting harder and harder to know what or whom to trust, what is true, mostly true, or an out-right lie, or just opinion. I wrote, “Much is being made now over “Fake News”, “Post-truth” and other euphemisms that connote lies. What we are really experiencing might simply be what’s known as “cognitive dissonance”, when facts counter our beliefs.”

But just what is meant by “fake news” and “post-truth”? And how might one try to find the “truth” that might then change what one thinks, one’s beliefs?

Fake news is – as it implies – not true, made-up, intentionally so, it is a lie. And lies can be proven to be lies.

Post-truth is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The “post” doesn’t mean “after, it implies “irrelevant” (as in, “the truth doesn’t matter, what matters is what I believe – and I want you to believe me.”) Since post-truths can contain some truth, it’s difficult to weed out how much is true and how much of it is personal opinion written in such a manner as to influence another’s belief.

An example for discerning truth: Everyone who’s taken a True/False test in school knows that, when responding to a statement, if any single part of the statement is false – no matter how much truth is in the statement – it makes the entire statement false. Statement: “The blood-red Moon rose above the horizon.” True or false: “The color of the Moon is red.” (Have you ever been to the Moon to have first-hand knowledge of it’s true color? Neither have I. We could ask an astronaut that’s actually been there but, unfortunately, they’re all dead now.)

It’s a fact that the Moon rises over the horizon, but if I were blind and had never seen the moon, and two people told me conficting statements of “fact” – the Moon is red/the Moon is yellowish-white – which is telling me the truth? Which one do I trust? If I don’t have any experience with either, then it’s neither, I need to seek out other sources. Of course, there’s no guarantee they’ll be right or honest, but I have to start somewhere. So, I Google it.

Well, it seems the Moon may appear red to the casual observer in one place on Earth, or it’s usual yellowish-white to someone somewhere else on Earth, but that’s due to atmospheric conditions in the first instance and reflected sun light in the latter. The Moon is neither red nor yellowish-white in reality, it is actually grey (based on high resolution color cameras aboard satellites, unaffected by the Earth’s atmosphere). Therefore the answer to the question has to be “false”, and both observers seeking to convince me are wrong regardless of what they saw.

But what of political stuff, that directly impacts our daily lives and what we use to make decisions?

It’s been reported that under Obama’s administration, his advisors were instructed to submit 3-6 single-spaced pages on proposed changes to, or new, policies. The same report stated that Trump wants proposals limited to one single page with lots of graphs and maps. Okay, he’s a visual learner. I can identify, so am I.

[One can wonder how much depth – detailing all pertinent variables, arguments/counter-arguments – could possibly be contained in one page, allowing one to draw an intelligent conclusion on the merits of the proposal, especially if a large part of the page contains graphs and maps (“The Moslim countries are here, here, and there”), resulting in a half-assed policy that didn’t anticipate wide-spread negative political and legal reactions. But let’s leave that aside.]

Suppose it had been reported that, “If you want Trump to understand something, you need to draw him a picture because he can’t understand the written word and he can’t focus on any one thought for any length of time.” Would that be fake news – a lie – or post-truth – part true and maybe with the intent to implant an unfavorable impression of him in your mind?

I don’t know the man, but I’d be inclined to categorize that as perhaps “fake news” (possibly a lie, even though it’s also been reported that he doesn’t read books, only looks at a couple of papers, gets most of what he learns daily from conservative cable news sources, and only wants verbal “briefings” from staff once a week). It’s more probably “post-truth”, in that it contains some truth – Trump likes pictorial/graphic illustrative support of the written word. But the intent of that suppositional message is that Trump is functionally child-like and illiterate and its objective is not to inform or communicate but to undermine Trump as a viable president. (Did you catch my heavy-handed parenthetical above as post-truth commentary that states actual reports with a slanted intent?)

So, where does one go to check out what was actually reported, and how factual is it?

FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com or Snopes.com are where I go when I want the facts about what’s reported in the news or for anything said by a politician. If I don’t get an answer there, I just use my favorite search engine.

(You can look it up, what was actually said about one page with graphs and maps; type into your search bar, “Trump wants policy papers to be one page with graphs and maps”.)

But it still begs the question, “Will you believe what you find?” Everything boils down to whom you trust, are you willing to set aside your preconceived beliefs, will you allow that much of what is political is only partially true and therefore, a lie, intended to misdirect you from the whole truth?

No?

Welcome to the post-truth world.

– Bill

Unforseen Outcomes

“If the original architects of the ‘European dream’ were to wake from their slumber, they would no doubt be turning in their graves at the threats to the Union posed by today’s unparalleled mass migration and surge in home grown terrorism. Luckily for them, it is the nightmare of Europe’s current leaders to ponder the challenges of reinstating national borders, curbing free movement of people, combating extremism, all of which in turn may lead to disintegration of the European Union itself and all that it stands for.”  

– Alex Morritt

The above quote appeared in my very first post (“Immigration”) on my blog here at WordPress last June 27th. That particular post has received alot of readers recently, probably as a result of Trump’s immigration policies and the resulting legal wranglings over it.

The other day I received a comment on that post from the quote’s author, Alex Morritt, a Brit who lives in Central America, an author of (now) four books and whose poetry is included in an anthology.

“Hi William, thankyou for displaying my ‘European Dream’ quote in your post to illustrate some important points. Your decision along with that of many others worldwide inspired me to publish a new book: ‘Lines & Lenses – A Quotographic Collection’ which you can preview here:  http://www.blurb.com/b/7547355-lines-lenses  Happy viewing and Best wishes, Alex.”

If you follow the link, you’ll be able to see an excerpt of it,  “A combination of the author’s inspiring and pithy quotations paired with evocative complementry images, which together highlight some of the more endearing flaws in human nature and the pressing issues of our time.”  (One reviewer, Blog.com)

It’s kinda nice of him, really, to thank me.

Just goes to show that something small, like publicly quoting someone in a blog post, can be even a small part of the start of something bigger.

Ya just can never predict the unforseen outcome of your actions.

– Bill

Truth, Post-truth, Fake News, Lies and Opinions

“The strong belief can make things out of imagination. But that can also make facts as if they were fairy tales.”

― Toba Beta

It’s getting harder and harder to know what – or who – to believe anymore. Is the climate changing because we humans are causing it or making it worse, or is it just a naturally occuring thing? Did Putkin really interfere in the U.S. election to benefit Trump, or is that a sour-grape fantasy of liberals? Are Islamic terrorists attacking the West just because certain passages in their Holly Koran call for Jihad and killing the unbeliever, or is it just in retaliation for our political and military intrusions into their country’s affairs for decades? Do judges really apply the law in accordance with the Constitution, or are they bending it according to their own wants?

But, more importantly, are we being lied to, intentionally, or is it just that we think so?

It’s quite possible that it’s just what we think, what we believe.

Much is being made now over “Fake News”, “Post-truth” and other euphemisms that connote lies. What we are really experiencing might simply be what’s known as “cognitive dissonance”, when facts counter our beliefs.

Cognitive dissonance can occure when you’ve invested in a particular political party or religion, or an economic ideology, or any kind of belief that really matters to you. These become your foundations, the core of who you are, how you define yourself – “I am a Liberal” or “I am a Conservative”, for example.

While truth is objective – something is factual or it isn’t  – how we individually perceive truth is pretty much subjective and is therefore a matter of opinion, not necessarily fact, because it is in our nature that when two or more people agree on anything it must be, therefore, true.

And any counter-evidence that what you think, what you believe, might not be true, threatens your very identity.

Furthermore, studies demonstrate that challenging someone’s beliefs activates the same areas of the brain involved in personal identity and emotional response to that threat.

In fact, studies show that when a belief is strongly held, any attempt to dissuade the holder using facts will cause the person to “double-down” and hold on to their belief even stronger.

So it’s understandable if people get all upset and call each other liars when, in fact, they are not lying, just describing the truth as they believe it to be, and are offended when someone sees that truth differently and dares to present evidence to the contrary.

One or the other may be totally, absolutely wrong, but that doesn’t mean they’re lying.

It’s okay to believe anything a person or group wants. The problem occurrs when one attempts to force acceptance of a belief unsupportable by factual evidence – an opinion – on another. Which results, in the minimum, friendships lost, and at most, war.

President Kennedy once observed, “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic… We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

So what is one to do, when confronted by some other’s statement of “fact” that is at odds with one’s own belief? Do you double-down, hold on to what you believe even more so?

Or, as an intelligent, thoughtful person, do some research to find the truth, to discern fact from fairy tale.

– Bill

The Yin and Yang of Love

“You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.” 

― Jodi Picoult

“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.” 

― Robert Fulghum

We’re all attracted to that person who has confidence, self-assuredness, and an over-all happy and contented outlook. They are so comfortable in their own shoes that we just know they like themselves the way they are.

Even though we know that they can’t be perfect. They have to be weird somehow. Yet, we find it easy to love them.

And it doesn’t have to be romantic love, it can also be true friendship.

The secret, as Fulghum points out, is to find someone whose weirdness is compatable with yours.

The yin and yang thing.

Weird, but true.

It’s the only way to explain love.

And, might I add, there is no shame in loving yourself; as weird as it may sound, I believe a person is incapable of truly accepting and loving someone else unless they love themselves first, even knowing they aren’t perfect. 

I’ve never understood why having a good opinion of yourself, liking – even loving – yourself inspite of your own imperfections is considered a bad thing.

But if you do, people will think you’re weird. 

Thank goodness there are those who will love us anyway.

Ya gotta love them for that.

– Bill