Is it Important to know the sources of Truth? – Henry David Thoreau, Yes and Know

Maybe it has always been this way, but why does it seem so vital to associate an insightful aphorism with a famous person?

“Truth strikes us from behind, and in the dark, as well as from before and in broad day-light.”

Who wrote this? Henry David Thoreau.  Beautiful in its truth and simplicity.  But what if some insignificant playwright put these words on Thoreau’s lips in his play?  Would it be less insightful?

There is a plague of mis-quotations, mis-attributions, and quotation mills, (e.g. brainyquotes.com) who do nothing to verify what people add to their sites.  I see these un-researched and inaccurate quotes used by people of incredible ability because the Internet makes it easy to be wrong and believe you are right.

When I first started seeing these “quotes.” and discovered how few were accurate, I spent months trying to raise the alarm about quotes attributed to Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and other notable historic figures.  Even after blazing the trail to truth, people shrugged and continued their reliance on provably unreliable websites.

One personal experience, before the current craze, happened to me in Colorado, while I was on a month-long “Chautauqua” through the Rocky Mountains.  A friendly lady gave me a bookmarker with a quotation from Henry David Thoreau.  “Many men fish all their lives without ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.”  Very touching and insightful, but a misquote by a writer, Michael Baughman, who wrote it in his book A River Seen Right (Lyons Press, 1995) p. 156.

He apparently paraphrased something Thoreau wrote in his journal, January 26, 1853:

“It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course, it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game, which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay so much stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught.”

I wonder, if today, this aphorism captures our current, self-absorbed culture?  Maybe today, the “fishing” is taking “selfies” and exposing every aspect of people’s experience and perspective on the Internet.  They get noticed but not notorious, or famous, or even infamous.  They become suicidal when virtual phantoms express disdain and scorn.

Everybody seems to be fishing for something, but what do they really want and why?

What they may really want is proof, and acknowledgment that they exist and have a value, and a meaning.  Why do they want it?  Maybe the disintegration of family, neighborhood, community leaves a void they cannot fill.  Maybe this secular dissociation leaves people feeling empty, afraid, and alone.

Could it be that what they really want is what families and churches used to provide:  love and belonging?

The Rise of VARZI  – Virtual Artificial Reality Zombie Intelligence

Our pre-American forbears led lives of subsistence; work all day, every day for enough food to survive; prepare and eat the food; collapse into sleep; awake to the same exhausting challenges.  This work ethic and focus are a major part of what colonists brought to the New World, driven by the chance to own the land they work, hunt and fish the wilds about them, and live free of the crushing burdens of near-slavery as serfs, peasants, and servants.  They could not dream of a time that was not filled with all the efforts of pulling and putting together the pieces of life’s necessities.

Just meeting today’s needs was never enough. They could not afford to face the seasons unprepared. They had to be alert, to anticipate, prepare, learn, and plan for the cycles and dangers of nature; they had to be ready for the seasons, timing, preparing, sowing, harvesting, preserving, and storing of food: crops, fish, game, fruits; cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, clothing, tools, weapons; sickness, injury, childbirth; shelter, stewardship of farm animals, and on, and on.

Except for a few times, when nature did not allow work, people, including children, worked, ate, and slept.  Church was a mandatory break for the work-cycle.  Not only did weekly Sunday services provide “leisure” time for peaceful, renewing, and moral guidance, but it also allowed for physical regeneration through rest; it fostered hygiene and discipline; it fostered family and community “leisure” and play.

This kind of all-absorbing farm life continued for most Americans until technology began its ascent.  Within a dozen decades, we expanded, invented, and produced, new tools, factories, mines, roads, bridges, harbors, waterways, and railroads.  Farmers and ranchers produced enough food to allow them to sell it to non-farmers, who earned the money in towns and cities.

“Money-crops” such as cotton, tobacco, wool, hides, and furs, fed the textile mills, the leather tanneries, and tobacconists; cash was used for things the farmer could not produce easily, such as cloth, dye, needles, pins, shoes, glass, pots, pans, jars, jugs, clocks, medicines, spices, firearms, gunpowder, swords, axes, shovels, scythes, harnesses, chains, hinges, nails, buttons, buckles, candles, lamps, and things we needed then that we no longer remember.

Non-farm work had start and stop times.  Workers arrived at a certain time, worked and ate at certain times, and left at certain times.  That meant the rest of the day was up to the workers to use as they chose.  Holidays became expected days of rest.  Merchants tailored shop hours to worker schedules, which gave them down time as well.

The Great Depression and World War II accelerated three trends:  migration to cities, training in trades, and advanced education.

They also introduced and promoted the first virtual technologies, telephone, phonographs, movies, radio, and television.  Costs, broadcast time and reception areas limited the time people spent talking, listening, and watching.  But the attraction was clearly evident.  People would plan their days and evenings around their favorite news and entertainment programs.  Trips to the movies were considered treats.

The return of prosperity brought expanding demand for all the virtual technologies.  One limit on these technologies was location: phonographs, telephones, radios, movies, and televisions were locations people had to attend to use.  One exception for police and fire fighters:  two-way radios mounted in vehicles.  World War II saw the advent of “walkie-talkies,” the conceptual and technical precursors of modern cellphones.

Car radios, and the transistor radios released the listener from having to find a radio, to having a radio with them

The 1950’s, and 60’s introduced computers to American Business.  Once again, computers were locations, entombed in rarefied environments defended by physical security, and complete ignorance of the general populous.

The 1980’s advent of “personal computers;” which were portable, with some effort.  All that was missing was connecting computers through telephone systems – the Internet, and connecting radios to telephones – cellular phones.  The catalyst for the connectivity we enjoy today was the cellphone, which erased any connection between phones and locations, and made people the locations for telephone numbers.

Televisions were limited by the stations that broadcast in their reception area.  Three major national TV networks evolved, connected by satellite to the world.  Connecting televisions directly to satellites, coaxial cables, and now the Internet, brought us out of “network-tv” into the 24/7 “cable-tv” era.

Once cellphones connected to the Internet and television, where we watch movies, we arrived to today, where the distinctions have almost completely blurred.  Likewise have our senses of reality.

Now, “friends” are not people we know, “social media” is anonymous and often anti-social.  “Gamers” give a whole new meaning to “WoW,” spending days lashed to their computers, dispensing with bathroom breaks, installing Mountain Dew, refrigerators, and cutting pizza delivery slots in their doors.

We already have an entire generation living in basements.  What is next?  Maybe evolution will soon give our species extended narrow thumbs for “Texting,” and dimmer judgement for “Sexting.”  Maybe someday, all our ogling will be “Googling.” Is the “Zombie Apocalypse” upon us with the living “undead?”  I wonder if Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will converge into caskets, from which we never need emerge?  Will we live to see the rise of VARZI?

Independence Every Day – Divorce Virtual Opioids

This is a great time to be alive in America.  The average American has a better life than kings, queens, and pharaohs of the past.  We are safer, live longer, are free to go where we want, and enjoy knowledge and experiences that would have astounded the world only a few decades ago.

One area that is encroaching on our freedom is the enticing addiction to the virtual world to the exclusion of the real, here and now world.  More, and more, I walk through crowds of “zombies” stuck in their phones, tablets, music, and video.  They are not really “here.”  The inattention to life has begun to dominate our culture.  Isolation from “real” family and friends is rapidly wearing down the social skills of our society members.

The siren attraction of the imaginations of others is sapping the development and practice of imagining for ourselves.  Children need that development as they grow up.  What kind of adults, parents, employees will people become if they have no experience of self-creation?  What will our culture become when all we have is “copies” of the excellent ideas generated by a few “imagineers.”

Try doing without the virtual toys and tools you spend so much time with for 24 hours:  No cell phones, tablets, pc’s, internet, cable tv, DVD’s or other electronics.  You will quickly find out what you have been missing, such as talking with your family, reading books, playing musical instruments, inventing things, fixing things, learning things, eating with people who are present and making conversation about your life and the people you love.

We had to fight for our independence as we started this nation.  Now is a good time to exercise total freedom from the seductive draw of virtual opioids.

What Are We Watching? – Peter, Parkinson, Murphy Rule

Parkinson’s Law suggests that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”  The Peter Principle posits, “in any hierarchy people tend to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach the levels of their respective incompetence.” Murphy’s Law states that “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, at exactly the wrong moment.”

All three ideas developed before the current age of exponential, media expansion.  What is so amazing is, that in the age of the Internet, and myriad TV channels, these three principles combine to form a valid hybrid theorem I have dubbed the “Information Extinction Horizon,” (IEH). This new IEH theorem states that, “as media content expands to fill existing bandwidth, it declines logarithmically to inane, bogus levels of incredibility, intellectual value, journalistic validity, and schlock, while simultaneously accelerating from bare facts to all possible interpretive opinions, and providing exactly the wrong information to the wrong people, at the most inopportune time, or, worse yet, no information of discernible value at any time. ” This is a clear refutation of e=mc2.

Major corollaries to the IEH theorem relate to the milieu of internet blogging outlets, social media platforms and any other posts of personal and political natures, including pure invention, and pictures of what one’s dog ate for breakfast (including recipes).

Using Google News as a proof, rate the value and verity of their current page of articles.  In your analysis, include the sub-articles and the number of outlets with different, (apologists use the word “nuanced”) versions of the same reportage.  Notice how the results form nebulae, galaxies, solar systems and planets of personal, political, regional, national, celebrity, and sports-team-loyalty cohorts.

Also notice how futile efforts to filter searches of any topic have become.

Added support to the new hybrid theorem is Parkinson’s Law of Triviality: “members of an organization give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.”  Browsers and search/advertising engines of major internet “organizations” amplify and degrade the value of content at the same time with advertising “pollution.”

For now, we must rely on anecdotal evidence and impressions to support the new theorem, but then, anecdotal is the essence of the theorem to begin with.