Saturday, March 28, 2009

Does Truth Exist?

Tweet It!
Have a listen to a political debate, eliminate the spin and make sense of what's left.

All truth is contextual. Change the context and the meaning also irrevocable morphs. One of the greatest delusions we inflict upon ourselves, is the presumption that there is a universal truth about anything. Yet we can literally lay down our lives in defense of an illusory ideal.

Changing context, fashionably labeled a paradigm shift, used to be referred to as walking in someones else's shoes in order to understand them. Still the myth perpetuates, the belief that we can really grasp any "truth" other than that filtered through our perception lens.

The degree to which an idea fits our quirky beliefs and value systems determines the label we give it. Fact or fiction, right or wrong. As we only have loosely shared life experiences, our perceptions will differ accordingly.

Which eventually brings me to an observation. In a world where beliefs define our actions, regardless of their veracity, we need to buy into the illusion of truth to avoid inertia. We must boldly follow our instincts and create our reality

Occasionally it is interesting to step back and notice the myths that abound, and take stock of the absurdity of some of our intransigent beliefs.

Danbisa Moya is a Zambian Global Economist, who's written a hugely confronting, paradigm shifting book, with an appropriately enigmatic title 'Dead Aid'. The premise being that the estimated $1 Trillion (how many zero's are there in a trillion?) in Aid directed to Africa over the last 50 years has been counter productive. She contends, from the perspective of an African, that it is a myth that aid actually works. Some of her arguments are compelling and not within the scope of this brief blog. But she notes how aid fosters corruption, lack of government accountability, and rather than being a band aid solution, is part of the problem.

Like all things there will be counter 'truths' It is however confronting to have a sudden perspective shift. Does this mean that Bono and Sir Bob, and the millions of genuine contributors are building a house of sand? Is the very real relief that is innoculating and tangibly helping millions in effect perpetuating an inter-generational poverty cycle that is ensnaring hundreds of millions. This a 'truth' not worth contemplating.

What do we do? Do we follow the creed of the ultra right wing anarchists? Embrace only the moment, to hell with consequences, and pursue the immediate goal of the tribe, to hell with the rest of the world? Or more hopefully do we accept that life's a myth and all progress is moving from one myth to a more sophisticated myth in the hope that good intentions bear some fruit.

Less controversial is the 'truth' about the multi-billion dollar Vitamin industry. What could be more harmless than the pursuit of better health through dosing up on a few daily Vitamins. Yet again, more and more actual scientific research is debunking the 'truth' that most vitamins offer much more than placebo benefits. In fact if the dollars spent on vitamins were spent in other areas of health care, such as Yoga or Gym, Pilates, fresh fruit, an hour at a spa perhaps then real benefits may emerge. Do we really want to know this? It's uncomfortable to question what we 'know'
The Flat Earth Society view of life supports the Status Quo. Which is very comfortable thank you very much.

Finally. There have been whisperings for some years now, generally believed to from the mouths of the fringe weirdo, nut jobs, that pre-stretching for sport is largely useless, and perhaps counter productive. Nonsense i say. The benefits of Stretching is an absolute truth. Or not. Looks like another myth i'm afraid. Recent research while contending that warming up muscles before explosive activity is useful in preventing injury, is also debunking the merits of those excruciating groin and hamstring routines we all loved so well.

Embrace your delusions I say. Next year, Smoking will be found to be good for you, Heroin will be on the pharmaceutical benefits list, and your wife will announce that she wished you'd stay longer at the pub.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Who needs Role Models?

Tweet It!
Remember your comic book heroes? Batman, Superman, Modesty Blaise, Andy Capp et al. As time progressed perhaps you evolved to Bart Simpson, or Homer, SpongeBob Square Pants or any number of quirky seriously flawed characters!

As you outgrew your childhood heroes the vacuum was filled perhaps with sporting gods to replace the war heroes of parents and grandparents. Remember a time when these Parents and Grandparents were the Role models for future generations. Reinforcing Nationalistic Pride and cultural values of yesteryear. What happened?

When and how did Brittany, 50 Cent, Eminem and Oprah step in to fill the breach? The cult of celebrity is at it's zenith.

Ambition lives on, yet it's a tad disconcerting that achievement is becoming increasingly rated on a continuum measures cultural status and fame. The higher you rate on this Totem Pole the closer you are to that highly prized goal that is, celebrity.

15 minutes of fame? 30 seconds will do. Whatever it takes. Contribution, altruism, sainthood, martyrdom, are a waste of time and energy unless visibly conspicuous. Let's get on the latest "reality" show. Let's get noticed. It's not about winning. It's about being outrageous, controversial, obnoxious. Noticed. That's the game.

The greatest fear of this generation sub-set, of broadband connected, social media savvy celebrity wannabees is, invisibility.

Who needs Role Models? What service do they offer? Are they in fact the glue that bonds disparate communities? If we have shared populist heroes, with millions of our cyber-peers, that must mean we're relevant by extension.

Imagine if our Role Models were not simply manifested by default. Imagine if we were inspired, motivated and uplifted by the works, actions and philosophies of non celebrity characters, and we started to model their beliefs, and attract their energy and results in to our own lives. I guess that would be a life designed by choice rather than default. What a concept. Old fashionably labeled self actualisation.

But who doesn't want to belong? Who doesn't want a 100,000 Twitter, Facebook, My space, Squidoo followers to validate our lives? Can't do that by drifting too far from the herd, might be labeled a black sheep, or worse, become anonymous!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rubik's cube!

Tweet It!

Mar 15, 2009, Rubik's Cube!

In 1983 a young man, let's call him Graham Parker, as not coincidentally is his real name, walks in to a store and buys a Rubik's Cube.

Wait for the punch line. 26 years later, after serious wrist and back problems due to the pursuit of solving the puzzle, announces triumphantly to the world, via every media outlet imaginable, that he's solved the puzzle.

Triumph? Success over adversity implies surmounting all manner of obstacles, persisting a la Winston Churchill "never, ever give up"

It's a common mantra by sensible people of the world that there's no such thing as get rich quick. Which is patently untrue. People Win Lotto, Inherit, Steal, Share price quadruples, social networking site sells for squillions. More accurately it's extremely rare, more rare than getting run over by a truck in the pursuit of dream!

Which brings me back to the now "famous" for 15 minutes, Mr Parker. undoubtedly he has achieved his goal, which is probably of great relief to his body and sanity. Not wishing to denigrate the achievement, I am perplexed by his Strategy.

Setting and achieving goals, really does make the world go around, but progress would be incredibly ponderous, if every go-getter decided to re-invent the wheel before embarking on their journey.

Shared knowledge is what allows progress to be exponential in its growth. Some mathematician has worked out the number of permutations involved in randomly stumbling on the Rubik solution. 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 (~= 4.32 * 1019). In less simple terms that's roughly Four multiplied by Ten to the power of Nineteen, and then some!

There's more than a couple of "players" on the planet of average intelligence that have completed the puzzle in about a minute. They of course use a different strategy to the above maligned random approach.

Who's ever tried to put together the most simple piece of furniture from Ikea with complete disregard for the instructions, only to see the light after much swearing and shouting? Generally doesn't take 26 years to see the light.

How's your strategy currently working out for you? It's comforting to know that information has never been more accessible, thanks Google, Twitter et al. Yet how many of us still drive around in circles without a map with smug misplaced confidence in our ability to reach our destination?... Eventually

Twitter me or check me out at cheers Kiaran Finn

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tweet It!

Crisis what Crisis?

Remember the band Supertramp? They sang "Crisis what Crisis?" the Logical Song and Breakfast in America to name but a few big hits from the early '80's.

How apt is that song today? Everywhere you look, there's another story of crisis. More specifically the Global Economic Crisis.

As this label gets tired, the headlines adapt. Emergency! Catastrophe! Disaster! Meltdown! Climax. Recession! Depression!

We're at a juncture, tipping point. crossroads. What does it all mean? Should we go back to bed for a couple of years until it all blows over?

Yet I'm wary of buying into labels that define my life expectations. Someone you know, is currently enjoying possibly the best day of their life. Someone else (unlikely to be the same individual) is alas enduring the worst day of their life.

-Unless the mother-in-law has just driven off a cliff in his new Ferrari!

The above experience in fact mirrors the experiences of tens of millions of individuals on the planet. Crisis therefore is contextual. If unemployment reaches 10% this is so much more evocative and sellable by the media than the multitude of experiences by the 90% that are employed.

Should we not empathise with the victims of this Global Economic Crisis therefore?

That's our choice of course but whether we should partake in a global wallowing in doom and gloom as the media would have us indulge is not my cup of tea at all.

"Always look on the bright side of life" as the irreverent Monty Python would have us do, is perhaps a tad facetious, but not entirely ludicrous. Misery feeds misery as the older relatives mumbled knowingly has truth to it.

There's a bunch of elite individuals in Doha/Switzerland (about 2000 in fact representing 91 nations) currently discussing solutions to our "key economic concerns" bureaucratic speak for the mess we're in right now. Issues include Poverty, the Environment, Globalisation and the dangers of protectionism. Not a bad agenda for four days of discussion.

After the networking experience is over one wonders what solutions will emerge or whether this global elite (this is after all invitation only) will merely re-label our current crisis to fit the expectations of our palette.

What's going to be on your menu this year? Your best ever year or otherwise? Me? I'd like to feel I can create my own positive expectations of achievement, you too I hope.

Tweet It!

A Weighty Issue

Is there a more emotive topic regarding self concept than weight. More specifically ideal body weight?

There is a media driven obsession with defining the ideal body, actually the obsession is the selling of magazines.books, TV shows and so forth.

There seems to be a bizarre attraction-repulsion with modeling ourselves on the image of pseudo celebrities that we don't even admire, yet feel compelled to measure up against.

A dose of emotion, inspiration, adversity and voyeurism, contributes to the ongoing success of shows such as The Biggest Loser.

The massive contradiction within Western societies' attraction to the ideal self as epitomised by the latest red carpet spokesperson is how abject our failure to measure up actually is.

These role models that so inspire us to join the gym, enroll in pilates and spurn the nightly glass or bottle of wine, lurch from bulimia to anorexia as often as they change lovers.

Who wants to be a Super Model? Is there a show that better taps into the vicarious desires of mothers and daughters. There but for the grace of god...genetics, obsessive dieting, egocentricity, and psychological well being, go I.

This obsessive compulsive nature that strives for neo-perfection as defined by the media, is destined to end in a valley of tears and broken dreams.

What life partner wants to measure up to the perfect being. Waif thin, joyless, competitive and judgmental of their peers. We live in a world that is coming to accept child obesity as normal, yet there has never been more money spent on diet programs, gym memberships, and ab-machines!

The contradiction is stark. Everybody wants to go to heaven, yet nobody wants to die. A lifestyle that is out of kilter with health cannot be balanced out with the latest fad diet.

Check out all the great fad diets. of recent history. Atkins, South Beach, Cabbage Soup, Zone, Grapefruit and Beverley Hills to name a few. How many real disciples do these diets still have?

Expediency explains the illogical viral like spread of these diets. We want quick and easy, immediate results, and we want it now.

Look at anyone in great shape in their 60's or 70's and you see someone who besides being blessed with decent genetics and a touch of willpower, also embraces a lifestyle of exercise, moderation, and little excess with a joie de vivre.

Meanwhile the rat race Sex in the City Wanna Be's will eventually find it all too hard and default to worn out, can't be bothered old age before their time.

It's not that hard. A little structured exercise. 4 or 5 moderate portion meals per day, preferably grilled. Some form of destress activity. A little perspective and a sense of humour may just be the dose of medicine that keeps the Dr away.

Tweet It!

What's the BIG Secret?

A few years ago there was a tipping point in the personal development pop psychology publishing world. The release of Rhonda Byrne's book "The Secret" with more than a little help from Oprah created a feeding frenzy of interest, discussion and almost religious zeal in extolling its message.

There were echoes of the Blair Witch Project. You just had to investigate, what all the fuss was about.

Yep, it was all about the magic of hype and uncovering THE SECRET. Secrets sell.For those of you that remember the early 80,s "Who Shot JR?" was a cultural phenomenom with no apparent logic.

Which brings me belatedly to my point. Why are we consumers so seduced again and again by the promise of witheld answers, that we are willing to part with much hard earned coin and emotional energy for THE ANSWER?

The success of any soap opera is dependent on the producers never answering a question, without posing at least another even more vexing question.

Weight Loss; 2 acquaintances of mine, recently shocked me, with separate stories of how they managed to lose upwards of 40 Kilos!

What was their secret? Well here's the thing, and don't tell anyone in the weight loss industry! It's not the strategy, the pills, the laxatives, the self flagellation. It's not the new Ab Master, Home Gym. The key to their independent success was... Tune in next week, only kidding.

The key to both successes was the strength of their DECISION.

Bob(not real name) made a real decision after a family intervention. No threats or tears simply family concern triggered an emotional response that was life changing.

Rick woke up one morning looked in the mirror and just decided. Personal responsibility and making a real decision triggered actions and motivation never found in a supplement or diet book.

Thirty years ago my father an 80 cigarette a day smoker also made a decision, with no fan fare, to stop smoking. No patch, self talk, nicotine gum, or promises, just a real decsion.

Real decisions foster immense motivation to act. Rhonda Byrne's book, tells us that we attract into our lives that which we think about. Sorry if I've spoiled the plot. The packaging is so much more enticing than the answer.

What's the slogan? Just do it!