On Morality – 2

The human plight of fragmented reality is the same circumstance as a severely tangled 100 foot extension cord. ”Is this really just one cord?” and “Finally, I found both ends but the cord reaches only 11 feet.” To solve fragmented reality, the entanglement must be addressed one tangle at a time and starting at the beginning of the extension cord.

In his book Mark Boyle forces himself to abandon money and industrial inventions. He was looking for the beginning of the cord – just him and Mother Nature. Mariner repeats Boyle’s description of a shift in his reality:

“. . . surprisingly, over time I found my reasons slowly change. They now have less to do with saving the world, and much more to do with savoring the world. The world needs savoring.”

An event that triggered his angst about reality today was a change in the Oxford Junior Dictionary, 2007 edition. The current publication deleted the following list of words:

Acorn, alder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow.

In their place the dictionary added:

Attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voicemail.

This action by the dictionary seemed contemporary and pragmatic but also troubled Boyle. Part of his preparation for living without the Internet was to stop googling modern dictionaries. Instead he obtained an ‘every word ever spoken’ dictionary published in 1785. He claims his understanding of words and the size of his vocabulary has improved. The speed of communication was dictating the speed of change rather than the existential experiences that normally modify reality. All the words deleted from the junior dictionary still exist and have contemporary meaning.

The ‘hurry up do it this way’ impact of machines, computers and communications is well documented. Mark Boyle’s key to successfully adjusting reality/morality is to slow down – really, really slow down; slow down more! To this purpose Boyle committed himself to writing his book longhand with a pencil. He discovered that his bad handwriting improved when he made himself write slowly – writing fast (like a computer) was the cause of his terrible handwriting. Citing mariner’s metaphor, Mark was untangling his extension cord, one tangle at a time.

Very few people have the opportunity or the motivation to live Boyle’s three-year adjustment to improve his perception of reality. There must be another way to examine and adjust one’s own reality.

Giving thought to untangling tangles, a suggestion from a psychologist’s treatise about the self [sorry but the name is long forgotten] suggested that there are four zones of emotional awareness: (1) within one and a half feet around the body is called the ‘intimate’ zone. (2) within ten feet is the ‘interactive’ zone. (3) within 30 feet is the ‘recognition’ zone and (4) beyond 30 feet to infinity is the ‘inactive’ zone. These distances aren’t for detailed mapping but suggest a change in emotional expectation. For example, three situations mariner used in the last post, McDonalds, supermarket and smartphone all occur in the interactive zone. Boyle’s three-year experiment was an attempt to reorder his intimate and interactive realities.

At the time he read the treatise, mariner would test it by seeing a co-worker or friend coming toward him. When they were beyond the recognition zone, say 40 feet, mariner would shout out a greeting by name. It was amazing how many were caught off guard and did not know how to respond until they were closer. Another test was when, in a normal conversation, he stood within the intimate zone of the person. It was obvious that the person was uncomfortable.

Society’s tangles are caused when one is expected to respond within various zones with information or actions that don’t belong in those zones. A classic example is when an individual is exposed to a situation that alters the reality of their recognition zone but should remain in their inactive zone – perhaps Donald saying the election was rigged without proving it. Being in the wrong zone disturbs the subconscious which has license to adjust reality even under false pretenses – hence the formation of a tangle.

Confusing emotional awareness for ulterior, unrecognized motives is the great sin of the Internet. The subconscious doesn’t need actual facts to adjust reality. Therefore not wearing masks in a pandemic because irrelevant information about government takeover and personalized inferences like voter fraud are combined and target the interactive mind– that is, information that belongs in one zone pops up in the wrong zone. If new information causes alarm, verify it based on the reality and morality of more intimate zones.

Repair does indeed require slowing down. Slow down to the point that the first zone, intimacy, is in order. Use the morality of the intimate zone to measure the morality of experiences in the interactive zone. Use the reality of intimacy and interactive morality to measure the value of the recognition zone. Finally use the proven morality of the first three zones to consider the importance and verity of the inactive zone. Much slower than letting Google give you the answer in one second. Being exposed to hate mail when your interactive reality says there’s no reason to hate is just one example.

There is another expression that fits this process: Lead with your heart.


Ancient Mariner

On Morality

Back in August mariner wrote about Mark Boyle, an economist who decided to live without money for three years. A quote from the August post is repeated below:

“. . . surprisingly, over time I found my reasons slowly change. They now have less to do with saving the world, and much more to do with savoring the world. The world needs savoring.”

Boyle’s change in mindset from fixing what is broken to preferring an existential experience has lingered in mariner’s mind. Boyle’s primary point in the book is that the farther the distance between genuine reality and manufactured reality, the more human judgment becomes dysfunctional.

Is Boyle’s philosophical assumption the reason for 7 billion humans around the planet to simultaneously experience political imbalance, diminishing natural resources and an unstable atmosphere?  Do the political and religious trappings of religion prevent savoring the spiritual core of faith?

Mariner is sensitive to Boyle’s assumption on four occasions:

  • Ordering a meal from a kiosk in McDonalds instead of experiencing a very brief subconscious gratification from interpersonal engagement.
  • Similarly, in the supermarket having to be one’s own cashier eliminates brief conversations that engage human awareness and even enjoy a shared accomplishment of the task at hand.
  • Watching individuals of all ages avoid human contact at meals, family time, taking breaks at work and even interacting with the dog they are walking. Why? Smartphone.
  • Institutions of religion – particularly Christianity – behaving in grotesque ways that are in direct violation of Jesus’ mandate to love others by personal commitment.

Even the wonderful experience of purchasing online diminishes the need to do human things like walk, talk, make real-time-on-the-spot decisions, experience the weather, and identify with nature. Avoiding these small experiences denies exercising judgment in existential circumstances – Boyle’s point is that our unpracticed, hands-on judgment becomes warped; our individual liaison with reality is not properly understood.

Mark Boyle’s ‘savory’ experience was his daily connection with an undisturbed Mother Earth devoid of any intrusions by the industrial and technological revolutions. Not having to see the world through steam engines, computers or mechanized destruction of the habitat enabled him to see how ethics and morality are derived from intimacy with one’s surroundings. The purity and simplicity of Boyle’s experience with nature allowed a moral attitude to develop between him and his environment.

The insight is that presumed reality bears presumed morality. As we sit in comfortable chairs at a dinner setting and eat pigs we haven’t watched spend their entire lives in tortuously small cages, our morality about eating pigs is indifferent to a reality we do not know. Building dams on salmon rivers produces massive amounts of electricity for millions of people but having no awareness of salmon reality, there is no moral compunction to deal with the salmon’s world. Consequently, salmon is an endangered species.

On the other hand, the Native American Hupa tribe has a direct relationship with salmon and is aware of the stress on the species. The tribe leads the fight to save the salmon. Their reality shapes their morality.

Agreeing with Boyle, mariner’s assumption also is drawn from a popular college text, ‘Situation Ethics’ published in 1988 by Joseph Fletcher.  Fletcher suggests that certain acts – such as lying, premarital sex, adultery, or even murder–might be morally right, depending on the circumstances. Hotly debated on television, in magazines and newspapers, in churches, and in the classroom, Fletcher’s provocative thesis remains a powerful force in contemporary discussions of morality.

In other words, presumed reality bears presumed morality. Is the world’s problem that we don’t have a common reality? For example, as resources grow scarcer and oligarchs grow wealthier, does that represent two different realities, therefore two different moralities? Does a meta creature have the same reality as a homeless person? Do coral reefs have a different reality than a person driving a car?

Ancient Mariner

Good ol’ USA

Remember when: Companies paid a guaranteed 100% retirement? Or employees had the right to negotiate salaries? Remember unions? The economists say there is a shortage of workers. Bull chips – there is a shortage of salary and benefits. Here’s another one:

Data: Center for Economic and Policy Research. Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios

Ancient Mariner

Have your hobby?

First, some feedback on the walking post: you may have read in fitness magazines about doing a warmup routine; the same goes for ‘hitting your stride’ in walking and running. Give your body time to shift into overdrive. Breathing is something to gauge as well; walk or run only as fast as your athletic condition allows without losing your breath completely. The more frequently you walk or run the more of a jock you will become! Remember Forrest Gump?

Today’s topic:

How is the reader doing with finding a hobby and displacing reality by becoming totally engrossed in that hobby? If the reader hasn’t pursued this idea, find it quickly; things seem not to be getting better. Here are some suggestions for hobbies that will engross:

֎ You know in your heart that your home is at risk from tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding or fire. An engrossing hobby today is finding somewhere else to live.

֎ You are dependent on prescriptions. Solve the answer to the puzzle half the nation must solve: avoid the doughnut hole.

֎ For readers that like abstract thinking, is there inflation or is there recession? Further, develop a solution for how your bank savings will support your lifestyle at 4 cents interest for each $1,000 every 30 days.

֎ For the car buffs, buy an all-electric vehicle within the next twelve months and drive 3,000 miles in any direction – totally engrossing.

֎ Invest in cryptocurrency.

Join an aggressive organization whose cause is to form a new nation. Choose autocracy or democracy or try racism or misogyny or immigration or join a housing association.

֎ Become a green advocate and actively try to shut down the fossil fuel industry, or the chemical waste industry or the lumber industry or climate change itself. All are engrossing.

Mariner has chosen gardening.

Ancient Mariner


Mariner has not had much physical exercise for the last two weeks because he had a houseful of guests. Today he decided he better start walking to the Post Office again because he felt aches and pains all over, that is, stiffness, muscle complaints and loss of gumption.

So he walked to the Post Office – a  brisk 10 minute walk each way. While walking he felt no unusual discomfort; true, he wouldn’t make the Olympic team but generally, it was a pleasant experience – until he arrived back at the house. Exhaustion set in and general malaise. The next hour or so he simply sat in his chair.

He is reminded of a post he wrote some time ago that suggested walking or running was good for a human. This is because when walking or running, the brainstem takes over bodily functions in such a way that the functions of the body (blood pressure, breathing, circulation, etc.) focus on sustaining the needs of walking or running. Only afterward are deficiencies dealt with.

Anthropologists have identified this deference to walking and running as a survival trait during the days in the Rift Valley and the Serengeti in Africa. In those times, we didn’t have houses, cars, roads, chairs, grocery stores or telephones. Survival meant chasing down food that often ran faster than humans.

What transpired in evolution was that the brain adapted a way to sustain walking and running – sort of putting the body in overdrive. This included perspiration and adapting various body functions so that sustained running and walking received maximum support.

What is fascinating is that the brainstem, one of oldest parts of the brain, still retains an on-off switch that switches on only when we walk or run. When the switch is on, the entire chemistry of the body gets a workout.

Mariner is sorry that the early humans didn’t have a chair to flop into when it was over.

Ancient Mariner

About monarchy

All the news, of course, is about the death and burial of Queen Elizabeth and what King Charles will do differently. England was organized into a nation officially in 927 CE, the point being that in comparison, the US today is but a teenager. Since 927, England conquered Scotland, signed the historic Magna Carta in 1215, was the primary colonizer of North America beginning with Jamestown in 1606, was the world leader in the age of colonialism during the 18th and 19th centuries and, as the calendar approaches the 20th century, formed a multinational union and shared global leadership with the United States.

Since its inception, the United States has switched national leadership 46 times, having only politically based Presidents, not neutralized Kings. As we are witnessing today, this teenager is having trouble holding things together.

The United States does not have an apolitical monarchy. Does a royal family that is noted for dogs, horses, interesting marriages and fancy parades have a role in the stability of the English State?

Perhaps there is more than meets the eye. Watching from this side of the pond, it seems the general population shares affection for the Monarchy despite their personal political differences and serious economic hardships.

Remember Rosie the Riveter? Rosie was a symbol of “We can do it” at a time when US industries did not have enough men to meet the demands for military production. Rosie had a positive aura that brought the nation together during a difficult time. Is this what the Monarchy provides – a sense of common unity that sits above the derisive issues of life and politics?

In mariner’s life time there is only one brief moment when the President may have represented a unifying role. Remember Camelot? He was assassinated.

Short of establishing an apolitical family of its own, what could the United States do to generate national unity? What cause is as great and threatening as World War II? The pandemic, serious as it was, didn’t coalesce the nation. Maybe it might be global warming – that would be a world war with a tough opponent. Could that unify the US?

Maybe it’s a shame that the Founding Fathers didn’t set up an apolitical family. The Fathers did attempt something similar in granting religious freedom but they forgot to castrate it.

Ancient Mariner

Jesus versus tribal instinct

A film, available for viewing on PBS cable or online called ‘Hacking the Mind’, presents an experiment with 4 and 5 year-old children. Presented simply as a game, one child at a time is asked what color tee shirt they would like to wear. There are two options – orange or blue. The child picks one and then is presented with a series of drawings each showing two children, one in orange and one in blue. A simple situation is represented in the drawings.

The test giver asks each child independently to interpret the drawings. Without exception, the child in the chosen color can do no wrong and the child in the unchosen color can do no right – even when it’s the same drawing with colors reversed.

The point is made by the interviewer afterward that this is an embedded defense mechanism. Tribal behavior is in our genes. There is safety in belonging to a protective group.

In pre-industrial times large families survived more easily than small families. Large families could garner more resources for survival. In early Japanese history an army’s subdivision frequently was a collection of families. In mariner’s lingo, biologically humans are intelligent chimpanzees – inheriting the same tribal instincts and survival chemistry.

It is hard for tribal humans to abide by Jesus’s mandate to love all others before self. In other words, the self is discounted and sacrifices itself to the wellbeing of those in different color shirts – not a relatively protected situation.

So Christians build fortresses called churches; indoctrination into the tribe requires a purifying ceremony called baptism (AKA changing the shirt color); social prejudices are part and parcel of religious practices. Humans can’t help this natural, in-the-genes behavior. Not exactly what Jesus wanted.

But this doesn’t discount the value of faith, morality, and interpersonal bonding. In today’s overpopulated world with its emphasis on personal achievement above tribal obligations and economies that disrupt large family assimilation leaving nuclear families scrambling, every compassionate gesture is sorely needed.

Ancient Mariner

Marching on to Meta

GPT-3, is an AI program, can write essays, op-eds, tweets, and dad jokes. It will change how we think about creativity. Who is “we”? Doesn’t Alexi deal with this kind of stuff? Leave me alone so I can get back to my opiates.

There is an unreconciled circumstance when AI becomes judge and jury in our society: prejudice. Not necessarily the headline gathering prejudices like racism and misogyny but prejudices we don’t know we have. For example, app programmers working for financial firms may include biased code that is beneficial to finance firms just as a matter of business rather than allowing a fair integration with societal mores.

Several studies already are in that show existing government programs arrive at different decisions based on assets, neighborhoods and cultural differences. To wit: roads and the Interstate system always have chosen less expensive neighborhoods to build the highways. Government policies also are prejudiced by NIMBY politics (Not In My Backyard). And finally, urban development regulations allow venture capitalists to buy up inexpensive land inhabited for many generations by unique subcultures.

How will AI make sensitive, on-the-edge decisions? Mariner spent enough years in the automated data world to know that more than enough data will be available; it’s the analog formulas where the rubber meets the road.

Today, cultural change is in the hands of the owners – the citizens. As everyone has learned, change is nasty, confusing and final expectations are unknown. Computerized data, no matter how hard it tries, cannot emulate values in a topsy-turvy world – unless humans surrender reality to the Matrix.

Ancient Mariner

The art of subconscious reasoning

Mariner has a pet phrase he often uses in the humid summers of Iowa: “I’m sweating like a fish!” On rare occasions a listener may come back with “Fish don’t sweat!”

“Of course they do” he responds, “where do you think the oceans came from?” As the listener pauses in confusion, mariner continues his argument: “And now there’s global warming and the fish are sweating too much. That’s why the oceans are rising.”

It all makes sense, doesn’t it? No facts needed, no historical dependencies, no social accountability. Not only does it make sense, there is no blame to be assumed.

Lest the reader become ‘holier than thou’ everyone thinks this way to some degree or another. Subconscious reasoning is the source of prejudice of every kind, even simple opinions and is the cause of every abusive behavior.

There is skill involved, though. The more central to one’s life and anxieties, the more elaborate the narrative becomes – and more denial of reality. This is how an attractive young lady can be a Trumpist. When given Donald’s illegal and immoral behaviors by a journalist, she is able to say, “I don’t care.”

Because internal, often unknown thoughts frequently are promoted by the cerebellum, the brain becomes very obedient to its opinions because the cerebellum’s job is to survive. Survival is important internally, of course, but externally as well when social integration or other threats occur – hence subconscious reasoning.

Perhaps this explains the Supreme Court’s reasoning.

Ancient Mariner



With all the social confusion, with the growing menace of global warming, with all the corruptness in politics, a giant walks among us: Goliath, AKA super large monopolistic corporations.

It isn’t just the communication sector (Big Data) with Google, Meta, Apple, Microsoft and a large number of software companies providing cloud and internet services. It is also the retail sector with super conglomerates like Amazon, Walmart, Costco and Walgreen.

Endless examples abound: show business has Disney, butchering has Tyson and Hormel; news has CBS and NBC.

Anti-trust laws have not been properly enforced for decades. Corporations buy potential competitors when those companies still are small. Marketing companies do the same thing in different retail markets.

There are two things to be concerned about. The first has been obvious for many years: monopolization diminishes competition thereby controlling market prices and availability of alternatives.

The second is a new issue available since the internet was invented: government policy intervention. For example, does anyone know who will set health policy when Amazon owns one of the largest hospital corporations in the US? How about a wanky space engineer owning Twitter – one of the most used communication channels in the country. Who will set regulations? Zuckerberg already has proven that if a corporation is large enough, the government has a hard time getting its arms around it.

One could almost say “Huge monopolies are like city or county governments.” Counterarguments may claim that global supply chains require large monopolies; not true (what happened during the pandemic when too few manufacturers caused failure?) Another counterargument is the international nature of business today; not true (The EU has imposed $million+ fines for not complying with privacy and false information regulations and impeding free trade.)

Whenever the US government can get its act together, two things will make or break the nation: fix taxes and break up monopolies. It can be done. Remember Ma Bell and Standard Oil?

Ancient Mariner