Monday, July 30, 2007

Trans-evaluation of love and friendship

(an exercise in writing)

Justin Zijlstra headshot by Justin Zijlstra

These are the necessary virtues:

  1. The capacity to move autonomously and behave with the utmost care,
  2. To be able to either tolerate or accept the will sublimated through your physicality,
  3. To know how to create and prioritize thinking to create space in the mind,
  4. To experience rivalry in friendship without sympathy, but not without empathy for one another.

Love for someone else is for me a dangerously elusive concept, but it does not seem to be so illusive according to the standards of many people or even by a higher ethos these days. Who is predisposed and who circumvents his own tendencies? Why does one laugh at the wise man as though he had been a satyr?

I only want to answer -- only even want to ask -- what is reasonable. Some anchors are useful and therefore should only be questioned when it is necessary.

Love for ones self is only possible when one is fully integrated with others. One can experience this in a sensual awareness when one listens to music sometimes. Then when thinking about some of the highest moments that are the moments of height and wither (or the withering heights), one needs to ask oneself why these feelings are experienced. Some introspection may lead to historical reflection, of course. But that is not my task. I'm here primarily as a first person reflection. Yes. I define myself to be such.

The psyche and psychosomatic pathologies are ways discomforting to ones self. One must not become burdened down with them but be aware of the signals. One is often in the position to misforgive one another on lapses and slips that can upon reflection be seen as conscious mistakes. Robust personalities compensate for this, weaker or less observing personalities or youngsters don't recognize what is going on.

Love for me is the full acceptance through all its paradoxes of the body and therefore the self.

One can love another by being dependent but the highest kind of relations are those where each sees in the other's eyes at each moment the existence of those virtues identified at the beginning of this article. One party to the relationship does not have one kind of urges, while the other has another. We want to find progressively deeper layers of ourselves, which is only possible with a kind of fearlessness. One does not want to suffocate parts of himself by installing schemata (morals/ideals/idols) on the psyche, these schemata have sluggishly been developed throughout the ages, only for the lazy. Understanding these deeper layers eventually comes down to listening to the body itself. Once these underlying facets of our individual selves are recognized many of our frustrations will be lost and one finally becomes integrated.

There is a synergistic rivalry derived from mutual passion. The highest relations are those where you intellectually see each other move but the moments in dialogue including silences stop time altogether. This requires mutual understanding of a kind similar to "knowing each other" obviously but also a recognition of how each of your minds handle silences. Thought experiment: "What will your mind do if there is silence and most importantly what associations will you have? Do you think you can figure out the reasons for these associations?" A deeper question is: "Which feelings accompany these associations?"

Tension recognized creates, but creation does not eradicate the tension.

Art is the result of recalling what one senses.

Rivalry makes great minds enjoy life and little minds crawl and smother.

Introjections in to my experience is the consumption of behaviour of others which you don't always comprehend but unconsciously see as useful, you'll recognize the behaviour and then the post decision will be if it is eventually good or not to your constitution.

Real friendship is something temporary often and permanently in rare circumstances. Real friendship for me is fruitful friendship and not the cultural imperative of "behaving as a friend".

Congenial friends are to be created by each other. One can create and optimize environments, if you know your behaviour deeply you'll recognize these words. If not, you're either alone without friends, culturally biased and thus blinded or you don't have a sense for the things written above. I suppose you should either reread in adagio or andante and integrate or do something else and come back later when you do recognize. But then I don't mind being read as a satyr, I write for the ones who do understand, you are the surplus.

The ultimate question for me regarding this all is. Why can't I behave just purely and autonomously, why do I unconsciously sometimes have an inner public? Sometimes subtle anxiety prevails as when taking a glass of water, for example, I experience a subtle turmoil, which gives me insight in retrospect. This insight is a sight of Maya or The Veil of behaviour. Which leads me to the last part:

Last words on effective writing.

I often see rationalisations in writings. Effective writing is fiercely recognizing what you experience mentally.

For the glass of water this would have meant that I possibly hid something from myself initially and possibly but not exclusively from the other person.



Memoir of a Non-Irish Non-Jew book cover
Memoir of a Non-Irish Non-Jew, 99 pages (paperback $999,999.99) by Richard May
What is our identity, if we awaken in the moment?
Memoir of a non-Irish non-Jew isn't about being Irish and Jewish or non-Irish and non-Jewish. It is about the chase of tracking down one's ancestral origins, whatever they may be, and the delightfully quirky unexpected discoveries that await you along the way, no matter what your family origins. "You are a link in the chain of your blood. Be proud of it, it is an honor to be this link," G. I. Gurdjieff. But it's also about learning not to identify with the achievements and failing of one's ancestors or even with one's own carefully crafted persona. "What do I have in common with the Jews? I don't even have anything in common with myself, " Franz Kafka. Who are we? Remembering with awareness of various levels of irony the response of Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who brought Buddhism from India to China, to King Wu's question, "Who are you?" — "I don't know"! What is our identity, if we awaken in the moment from the stories of our lives and the dreams of our culture?

Paradise Emporium cover
Paradise Emporium -- a collection, 247 pages - $9.48
by CL Frost
This newly released collection by a versatile, highly skilled writer and artist includes short stories in the science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and speculative genres. Among these is the short story from which the collection derives its title as well as many fine poems and a huge assortment of visual artistry that also covers a wide variety of genres.

Brian Schwartz back cover
World of Villages: A Six-Year Journey Through Africa and Asia, 499 pages - out of print, but used copies are readily available at very reasonable prices.
by Brian Schwartz.
The author traveled with, and stayed among, the native villagers everywhere he traveled throughout Africa, Asia, and Indonesia getting to know the strange behaviors of strange peoples.
Published in 1986 by Random House ISBN: 0517558157
Also published as Travels Through the Third World by Macmillan ISBN: 0283992123
Brian Schwartz also wrote China Off the Beaten Track - How to do it on your own, published by St. Martin's Press ©1983 Library of Congress # 82-61428. Copies of this book are also readily available.

Aberrations of Relativity cover
Aberrations of Relativity, 201 pages - $15.00
by Fred Vaughan
This is a collection of articles that emphasize one the most observable aspects of relative motion, i. e., aberration effects. There are many informative diagrams and illustrations with many new insights. What the author calls "observational relativity" is defined in this book as a possible alternative to Einstein's special theory.
The reader will gain valuable insights into all aspects of relativity including why Einstein considered it necessary to embrace time dilation and length contraction in his special theory, and why that might very well not have been necessary.
The book is written for the intelligent (maybe very intelligent) layman, with little in the way of advanced mathematics required to fully comprehend the discussions.

In Proust's Footsteps, 99 pages (hardcover $22.40)
by Maria Claudia Faverio
"In Proust's Footsteps" is Maria's fifth poetry book after "Entropy", "Behind the Mask", "Metaphors instead of Formulas", and her "Selected Poems" collection. Maria is a committed, award-winning poet whose books are highly recommended by the Poetic Genius Society. Maria is also the current editor for poetry and prose of the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry.

Learn about this talented Australian author, poet, and artist as well as her many creations of prose, poetry, classical music CDs, puzzle books, fairy tales, and artistic images at the following site:

NATAN, 108 pages - $13.69
by Albert Frank and Muriel Hustin
Nath is a genius, Tanguy an idiot. Any such extremes disturb people. In recognition of this fact, a pharmaceutical corporation is undertaking experiment with a new drug, ?normality pills?, that would move them both toward the norm. It is decided to put them in contact using e-mail exchanges. Those responsible for the experiment will monitor the exchanges. So a deep friendship evolves between two individuals who normally would never have even met. Their dialogue is moving right up to the terrifying conclusion. One of the themes of the narrative is the loneliness of the extremes.

Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher To Atheist, 342 pages - $25.00
by Dan Barker
After 19 years of evangelical preaching, missionizing, evangelism and Christian songwriting, Dan Barker "threw out the bathwater and discovered there is no baby there." Barker describes the intellectual and psychological struggle required to move from fundamentalism to freethought. Sections on biblical morality, the historicity of Jesus, bible contradictions, the unbelievable resurrection, and much more. This book is an arsenal for skeptics and a direct challenge to believers.

The Magic of Ed Rehmus, 192 pages - $15.00
by Ed Rehmus (edited by Fred Vaughan)
This collection of creations by Edward Rehmus includes essays, artwork, poetry, linguistic studies, comics, and puzzles. The style of Ed Rehmus' prose is reminiscent of H. L. Mencken in his hay day. As a friend said of Ed in eulogy, "He went for the bones of what he was considering and the stormy winds could make off with the sails if that was a consequence!" On his own behalf Ed had said, "What indolence and what prodigality to trust to usage that which ought always to be spontaneous, creative and conscious: speech!" - regular price.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One of the Greatest Modern Composers: Stravinsky

Frank Luger headshot by Frank Luger

When I was in my pre-teens, my parents had arranged for me to take piano lessons. I was not particularly good at it, except for manual dexterity; but I had little ear for music, and even less patience for learning the delicate technicalities. It took about six months of ‘torture’ before my training was abandoned as hopeless. However, during that time, my private tutor, who was no lesser personage than Gabriella Bartók, the niece of the world-famous composer Béla Bartók, had often admonished me and tried to motivate me by insisting that I should aim at nothing less than excellence. She used to cite the examples of famous Hungarian musical geniuses, such as Liszt, Kodály, and Bartók; and, since this was already during the Stalinist times, for political ‘correctness’ she also cited such great names as Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, and very often, Stravinsky.

She had never met the other three Russians, but she had trained for a while with Igor Fedorovich Stravinsky (1882-1971) in her youth; and so she was in position to tell me many stories, even amusing anecdotes. Now, it has been a generation (30 years) that Stravinsky died (Gabriella Bartók died even earlier, due to breast cancer, if I remember correctly); therefore, as a bit of commemoration, let me relate what I recall of her Stravinsky stories, interlaced, spiced, and completed with actual historical details.

While vacationing in Heidelberg, Germany, on a hot Summer afternoon in 1902, Rimsky-Korsakov was approached by a 20-year old law student from the University of St-Petersburg (later renamed Leningrad, now back to its old name). Introducing himself as the son of one of Russia’s foremost opera stars, the youth begged the composer to listen to a piece he had recently written and to tell him whether or not it showed any of the talent necessary for a career in music. Taken by surprise by the young man’s insistence but being delighted with his evident enthusiasm for music, Rimsky-Korsakov agreed to a hearing. The student played the piano for about half an hour, then respectfully awaited the ’verdict’ of the already famous composer.

“Young man, your music is quite nice,” Rimsky-Korsakov reportedly told him; “but in all fairness to you, I would suggest that you continue with your law studies. However, should your interest in music remain, you might perhaps enroll in some formal courses in counterpoint and harmony. Then, maybe, you will come back and play for me again and I will be able to give you a more favorable assessment.”

His hopes dashed for the moment, the crestfallen Stravinsky took the advice and returned to his law books. Music, however, soon gained the upper hand again. Writing a piano sonata, a year later he called on Rimsky-Korsakov a second time. The composer greeted him warmly and listened to his music intently, apparently impressed with what he was hearing. Occasionally he asked Stravinsky to repeat a specific passage, nodding and keeping time to the music when it was played. Then came the second verdict:

“You asked me once before if you had any ability whatsoever and I told you to continue with your law studies. I’ve just changed my mind. You are wasting your talents with law. Come to me tomorrow morning- early, mind you- and we will begin your training in serious instrumentation.”

In later years Stravinsky was to recall, the weeks and months he spent with Rimsky-Korsakov were among the happiest in his life. As a teacher, the composer was merciless. He drove his young apprentice and drove him very hard. Anything short of perfection brought down his wrath. Perfection, itself, he dismissed with scarcely a word of praise. “A man’s music,” Rimsky-Korsakov used to explain, “should always be perfect, so why should we applaud something that is so basic to successful composing.”

Prompted by such admonishings, late in 1907 Stravinsky completed his first large work, the “Symphony in E-flat major.” Performed in St-Petersburg on January 22, 1908, it instantly met with critical acclaim. A second work finished soon afterward and named “Le Faune et la bergère” (Fauna and the shepherdess) did not fare as well, but it did prove to be more than sufficient to bolster Stravinsky’s rising stature in the world of music.

Galvanized into action, confident as he had never been before, tireless in his work, Stravinsky threw himself into his music. Secretly, he began to compose a new orchestral work, which he hoped to present as a gift to Rimsky-Korsakov upon the forthcoming marriage of the master’s daughter. Called “Fireworks”, it was finished just a week before the wedding. Delighted with his surprise, Stravinsky packed up his score and shipped it off to his revered master. However, by some irony of fate, Rimsky-Korsakov was never to see it. On the day that it arrived, he died. One of the world’s greatest composers had passed on and for Igor Stravinsky, the loss was a terrible blow. Friend, teacher, and colleague, Rimsky-Korsakov had been the young composer’s guide and inspiration.

Presented in St-Petersburg, “Fireworks” exerted a profound influence on the future of the rising composer. In the audience, the night of its debut, was Serge Diaghilev, soon to become famous as the mastermind behind the magnificent ‘Ballet Russe’ [Russian Ballet, later almost synonymous with ‘Bolshoi’ even though ‘Bolshoi’ was the name of the largest (as it means “big” or “great” in Russian) and most elegant theater in Moscow during and after Stalin]. Hearing Stravinsky’s music, Diaghilev invited the composer to orchestrate two Chopin pieces for a forthcoming ballet performance. Stravinsky did, and the results were so outstanding that he was commissioned to undertake a major work revolving around an old Russian myth- the tale of the Fire-Bird.

It took Stravinsky nearly a year to complete his task, but at last, on June 25, 1910, “L’Oiseau de Feu” or “The Fire-Bird”, was presented at the Paris Opera. The audience went wild with delight. Stravinsky was given an incredible ovation. Debussy, hearing the score, rose at the conclusion of the ballet and hurled himself into Stravinsky’s arms. Gabriel Pierne, who conducted that evening, later declared, “The Fire-Bird” is music such as I have never heard before. The world will not soon forget it. Mark my words. Igor Stravinsky will someday help free the musical thought of today and lead it in new directions.” And so it proved. “The Fire-Bird” established Stravinsky’s reputation and carried his name to music lovers around the globe. Elated with his triumph, the composer immediately plunged into a new work. Titled “Petrouchka”, it was first seen in Paris in 1911. To ensure its success, Diaghilev had seen to it that Nijinsky and Karsavina were the ballet’s principal dancers, that the finest supporting cast to be found anywhere was on hand, and that the settings were of unmatched beauty.

Paris received “Petrouchka” with even more enthusiasm than that attending the debut of “The Fire-Bird”. The city’s newspapers, next morning, hailed Stravinsky as a personage of music equal in stature to France’s beloved Claude Debussy. And Debussy himself declared, “That man injects a vital force into music that will carry him- and music- very far”.

Following “Petrouchka” came “The Rite of Spring”, a ballet which perhaps evoked one of the most fantastic exhibitions in the history of music. Presented on May 29, 1913, rarely has a composition ever carried its audience away so completely. Even for Igor Stravinsky, “The Rite of Spring” marked a monumental turning point in his career. His success established, the piece shook the musical world to its very roots and made him one of the most loved or most despised, most defended or most maligned figures in the history of his art. In rapid succession, he proceeded to compose such works as the opera-oratorio “Oedipus Rex”; the ballet “Apollon Musagete”; the suite “Pulcinella”; and the ballet “L’Histoire de Soldat” (Soldier’s History).

Visiting the United States for the first time in 1925, Stravinsky was much impressed with what he saw. Musical America, on the other hand, was just as impressed with what it saw in him and welcomed the composer with open arms. The various tours on which he embarked in the years that followed were all highly successful, so much so, as a matter of fact, that when Stravinsky completed his ballet “Jeu de Cartes” (Card Game) , he decided it would be given its premiere in New York. Presented in 1937; the audience proved to be every bit as enthusiastic as the Parisian groups that had greeted the ballets “The Fire-Bird” and “Petrouchka”. With the onset of World War II, Stravinsky abandoned his home in the outskirts of Paris. Traveling to the United States and eventually settling in California, be became a naturalized American citizen and plunged back into his work. His major American works have included the magnificent opera “Rake’s Progress”; the ballet “Orpheus”; and the controversial “symphony in Three Movements”.

This is where I should stop the storytelling, because my own musical training had stopped in the mid-1950’s. Stravinsky had lived and produced until his death in 1971, but I know nothing of his late period in life. At any rate, it is generally recognized that already in the mid-1950’s he was acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest modern composers. Igor Fedorovich Stravinsky had achieved his aims while he was still alive, regardless of difficulties; and thus had been successful in avoiding merely posthumous recognition, the lamentable fate of many great artists.


Why Take the Fifth?

" No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

... "'defence' of Lie's behaviour by referring to the close relationship between genius and madness really created a generally accepted explanation which has survived up to the present. By this act of 'defence' Klein did his old friend an incredible injustice."1

Fred Vaughan headshot by Fred Vaughan

We all know what it means to "take the fifth". It ain't good!

There have been many attempts to reduce the number, modify the structure, and alter the phraseology of Euclid's postulates, but it has been found that for plane projective geometry they are by and large very sound as initially presented. However, there seems to have been little effort to determine whether there might be a different postulate more appropriate that the fifth for modification to provide compatibility with the formalism of relativity and our current view of the universe.

That one of Euclid's postulates upon which he based The Elements of his geometry might be flawed, or worse yet, unnecessary is, of course, an integral part of present day establishmentarian mathematics and physics. The Fifth Postulate, that through any point only one line can be drawn parallel to any other has been unanimously selected as the culpable postulate invalidated by the current understanding of relativity and cosmology at larger scales of our universe.

Long before that mathematicians began exploring alternative geometrical possibilities deriving from the elimination of this assumption after repeatedly failing to reduce it to a provable theorem. This was before there was any inkling that we might actually live in such an alternative universe.2 Gauss actually attempted measurements employing light signals to determine based on such empirical evidence whether that might be the case, however. But with the advent of Einstein's relativity, bold conjectures of a combined spacetime exhibiting strange geometrical properties have been totally accepted by the scientific community, so that alternative-fifth-postulate-geometries thrive; notwithstanding this feeding frenzy on the Fifth, Postulate convincing evidence that another of Euclid's postulates is invalid continues to be denied.

Relativity provides the analytic work of pioneering mathematicians a context of immediate relevance and it should not be surprising that their work would have been re-evaluated with renewed interest. These former discoveries concerning viable geometries not requiring Euclid's Fifth Postulate revitalized mathematical physics.

One must note that even in the general theory of relativity, physical experiments are always considered as being conducted within locally-Lorentz reference frames. What this means is that even though an observer may experience wild gyrations of acceleration due to gravitation or his own rocket engines, at each moment in time it is only his instantaneous velocity relative to what is being observed that is pertinent to the geometry of his current observations. This is where one must begin if the objective is to map observations between oneself and other observers in relative motion. So the Lorentz geometry of special relativity would seem to be the local geometry of choice. This has been thought to involve a flat spacetime, but it is hardly without distortion as the author has discussed elsewhere. In particular relativistic aberration distorts the directions of objects in one frame of reference relative to where those objects are to be seen in the other. The coordinate axes of the other observer are not immune to this distortion

Let us look at Euclid's five postulates and attempt to determine for ourselves which one seems most likely to be at odds with such observational inferences made from Lorentz reference frames. Here are all five postulates3:

  1. Only one straight line can be drawn between any two points.
  2. A finite straight line can be extended indefinitely.
  3. Only one circle of a given radius can be centered at a given point.
  4. Through a point at a distance from a given line there is only one line that can be drawn through the point that is perpendicular to the given line.
  5. Through a point at a distance from a given line there is only one line that can be drawn that is parallel to the given line. 4

In lieu of the apparent directional distortions of the three perpendiculars that constitute the spatial axes of Lorentz reference frames of various observers in relative motion, one can but wonder why there has been this preoccupation with the Fifth Postulate anyway? What we have found is that each of all possible coincident observers with unique relative velocities would witness all other observers' perpendicular directions to be misaligned with regard to their own. Parallel lines of sight in one frame of reference would remain parallel for the others although they would in concert be pointing off in other directions.

So it seems self-evident that to make sense of the coordination of the geometrical observations and constructions between relatively moving observers, we must reject the Fourth Postulate! It seems to the author that we may even need a new theory of perpendiculars. But his elder sister did nickname him "Perpendicular" — Perpy for short — so maybe such stigmata warps ones sense of geometrical rectitude.

On that charge I think I will claim my Fifth Amendment right.

1 Written by Marius Lie's friend and collaborator Friedrich Engel at his death. The quote is provided gratuitously as being of possible interest to this audience.

2 Robert Bonola, Non-Euclidean Geometry, Dover, New York (1955), originally published 1914. Supplements within this book contain "The Theory of Parallels" by Nicholas Lobachevski, and "The Science of Absolute Space" by John Bolyai. The book also provides a context for the pioneering efforts of such names as Gerolamo Saccheri (1667-1733), Johann Lambert (1728-1777), Adrien Legendre (1752-1833), Wolfgang Bolyai (1775-1856), Friedrich Wachter (1792-1817), Bernhard Thibaut (1776-1832), Karl Gauss (1777-1855, Ferdinand Schweikart (1780-1859), Franz Taurinus (1794-1874), Nicholas Lobachevski (1793-1856), John Bolyai (1802-1860), B. Riemann (1826-1866), Ludwig Helmholtz (1821-1894), and Marius Lie (1842-1899).

3 This version involves only a slight rephrasing of those given by Sir Thomas Heath in The Elements of Euclid. Changes parallel Playfair's rephrasing of the Fifth Postulate.

4 In 1795, John Playfair (1748-1819) offered an alternative version of the originally translated postulate involving interior angles, which was: That if a straight line falling on two straight lines makes the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the straight lines, if produced indefinitely, will meet on that side on which the angles are less that two right angles. This alternative version, of course, gives rise to the identical geometry of Euclid. It is Playfair's version of the Fifth Postulate that most often appears in discussions


Monday, July 23, 2007

Practice Your Profession

Carle P. Graffunder headshot by Carle P. Graffunder

This is a story I dreamed last night — as much as I can remember.

In my dream I wanted to become a medical doctor. The dream probably came about because I had been considering the years' long unremitting and debilitating pain of a close friend. During the course of the day I had had conversations about pain with two nurses and, independently, with my friend's primary care physician and medical insurance company. So perhaps it was the attendance on these that allowed the dream to become expressed.

The dream centered on a written examination that, if passed, would grant me my medical degree and a license to practice. When, in the dream, the examination paper, a rather copious document, was returned to me, there was a mark on the left quadrant of the page in the margin. It read "42." I took note of the scribbled number with some apprehension. I did not at once grasp the significance of those figures. Then I noticed that they referred to Part One of the exam. That part of the exam took up about two-thirds of the first page. The remainder of the sheet referred to the rest of the exam; in that margin was written "43."

Drawing on my previous experience with grading, I had assumed at first that my grade was "42" for the entire exam, a mark that meant "failure." My spirits, however, perked up when I saw a second score; for I began to add the two scores together. My elation was immediately dashed. A total score of "85," although adequate to pass, was hardly acceptable to me since it indicated a score that was not in the range of "best." That, in turn, meant I could count myself as hardly a notch above "mediocre" as a student. Furthermore, from such knowledge, I could predict that I would be not much more than an "average" doctor, perhaps even "good" but by no stretch of the imagination one of the "best." Chagrined, downcast, and embarrassed, I was inwardly ashamed.

Out of my vision, I gradually became aware in my dream that my major professor who was also my mentor was approaching me. I turned slightly to find him at my elbow. "This is so humiliating," I told him. He looked slowly into my eyes and said, "Someone will always surpass you in one thing or another. Your grade is better than 95 per cent of those who took the test and better than 99 per cent of all practicing MD's. Your job from now on will be to learn the difference between honest ignorance and flim-flam. Take your degree and your license and practice your profession!"

I think the dream was an expression of deep intuition. In my waking life I had given my best for a very long time to find a way to lessen my friend's excruciating pain. I strongly felt the discouragement of failure to do that. But my profound self was letting me know that attempts to penetrate ignorance, even though unsuccessful, are more to be honored than pretense.


Basic Notions of Mathematical Proofs

Frank Luger headshot by Frank Luger

Elementary mathematical proofs rest upon the basic principles of mathematical logic, which in turn are direct applications of classical Aristotelian logic to mathematics. Classical logic was used in Euclid’s Elements, on which all traditional geometry and mathematics was built, using propositional logic or the logic of propositions. The essence of propositional logic was laid down in the three famous “Laws of Thought” by Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.), namely the Law of Identity (A = A), the Law of Non-Contradiction (A never equals non-A), and the Law of Excluded Middle (either A or non-A). They can also be expressed in symbolic logic as: if p, then p (p implies p by the Law of Identity); not both p and not-p [~(p and ~p), by the Law of Non-Contradiction, where the tilde ~ means negation]; and either p V ~p by the Law of Excluded Middle, where V means exclusive “or”. These ‘Laws of Thought’ have remained essentially unchanged ever since. In propositional logic, these basic principles take the following form (the Law of Identity is so basic that it is taken for granted, so it isn’t even mentioned): First Principle: Law of the Excluded Middle (for any proposition, p, the proposition, “either p or not-p” is true; Second Principle: Law of Contradiction (for any proposition, p, the proposition “p and not-p” is false); and the Third Principle: Law of Transitivity of Implication (for any propositions, p, q, r, the proposition, “if p implies q and q implies r, then p implies r,” is true. By definition, a general proposition is a proposition expressible in one of the following forms for a specific designation of x and y: (a) All x’s are y’s. (b) No x’s are y’s. (c) Some x’s are y’s. (d) Some x’s are not y’s. Propositions are many times stated in the form of hypotheses and conclusions. But one must be careful, because the conclusion being true provides no information in itself about the truth or falsity of the hypothesis.

There are certain relationships between implications involving the same two statements or their negatives that occur sufficiently often to make special terminology helpful, as follows. For a given implication, “p implies q”, or “if p then q” or “p only if q” is evident from what has been said above. The converse is the implication, “q implies p”, or “if q then p”, or “q only if p”’ while the inverse is the implication, “not-p implies not-q”, or “if not-p then not-q”, or “not-p only if not-q”. Finally, the contrapositive is the implication, “not-q implies not-p”, or “if not-q then not-p”, or “not-q only if not-p”. It is noteworthy that a given implication and its contrapositive are logically equivalent. The concept of logical equivalence applies in general to pairs of propositional forms. We say that two propositional forms are logically equivalent, provided they have the same set of meaningful values and the same set of truth values; that is, each has the same true-false classification as the other for all possible choices of the variables. For a true implication, “if p then q”, where p and q are propositional forms, p is said to be a sufficient condition for q, and q is said to be a necessary condition for p; i.e. q necessarily follows from p.

The purpose of the foregoings was introductory “warm-up” to enable us to apply logical principles to finding and proving new mathematical results. Mathematics is an abstract science in the sense that it consists of a system of undefined terms about which certain statements are assigned a true classification (these are the axioms and the postulates), which, together with basic defined terms, are used to develop additional propositions. These in turn, are then shown to be true or false according to the rules of logic that have so far been considered (such true propositions being called theorems).

Many of the new results in such a system are proved by direct methods that involve primary applications of the Law of Transitivity for Implications mentioned above.

However, indirect methods of proof are also used frequently, both in mathematical developments and in everyday reasoning, with compelling, even necessarily true results. When a child asks, “Has Daddy gone to work?” and Mother answers, “See if the car is in the garage,” it is likely that the thought pattern involves, “If Daddy has gone to work, then the car is gone.” When the child finds the car in the garage, he concludes, “If the car has not gone, then Daddy has not gone to work,” thus utilizing the contrapositive to arrive at a “No” answer to his original question.

Direct proofs both in their forward (reasoning from premises to conclusion) and backward (reasoning from conclusion to premises) varieties are quite straightforward, and as such, need not be treated here. However, while a direct proof may often be given where an indirect method is employed, the latter is often clearer, more forceful, and shorter. This is such an important phase of reasoning that it will be worthwhile to consider a general analysis and some further examples. There are essentially two forms in which indirect reasoning may appear, frequently interchangeably.

Form I of Indirect Reasoning consists of proving the contrapositive and thereby the desired implication. To show “p implies q” is true, we show that “not-q implies not-p” is true. For example, we assume simple properties of integers, also the definition that a prime number is a positive integer which is divisible by no other integers than itself and 1.

Proposition: If an integer greater than 2 is prime then it is an odd number.

Proof: (1) If an integer greater than 2 is not odd, it is even, by definition.
(2) If an integer greater than 2 is even, it is divisible by 2, by definition.
(3) If an integer greater than 2 is divisible by 2, it is not prime.
(4) Hence, if an integer greater than 2 is not odd, it is not prime, by the Transitive Property of Implications (vide supra).
(5) Therefore, if an integer greater than 2 is prime, then it is an odd number, since step 4 states the truth of the contrapositive.


Form II of Indirect Reasoning essentially follows the pattern:
(a) To prove true: p implies q, where p has a true classification.
(b) Show: p and not-q imply r, where r is known to be false.
(c) A false conclusion indicates a false hypothesis; hence, not-q is false.
(d) Not-q being false shows that q is true. This is the desired result.

For example, assume the usual terminology of plane geometry and the proposition, “From a point not on a straight line, one perpendicular, and only one, can be drawn to the line. Prove the
Proposition: Two straight lines in the same plane perpendicular to the same line are parallel.

Notation: Let L be the given line through distinct points A and C, with AB perpendicular to L at A and CD perpendicular to L at C.

Restatement: If AB and CD are each perpendicular to L, then AB and CD are parallel.

Proof: Assume p: AB is perpendicular to L and CD is perpendicular to L, and not-q: AB and CD are not parallel.
(1) AB and CD not parallel imply that AB and CD intersect in a unique point P, by definition of parallel lines.
(2) AB and CD are distinct lines through point P not on L, both perpendicular to L, by hypothesis p.
(3) This is false by the proposition quoted for reference.
(4) Hence, not-q is false, since a false conclusion requires a false hypothesis in a true implication.
(5) Therefore, AB and CD are parallel (q is true).


Indirect methods of reasoning are sometimes called “proof by contradiction” (or reductio ad absurdum) due to the property of arriving at the negative, or contradiction, of a known true proposition. By virtue of the Laws of Thought cited above, (self) contradictions are absurd, and may therefore be safely discarded.

When the deductive aspect of inquiry, which has been emphasized above, is applied to mathematics or to other scientific fields, it frequently is preceded by an inductive aspect. The latter is concerned with the search for facts or information by observation and experimental procedure. Once the available facts have been assimilated, the scientist proceeds by induction to the formulation of a hypothesis or premise of a general nature to explain the particular facts observed and the relationships among them. The deductive aspect involves logical reasoning leading from this hypothesis to new statements or principles, which then may be checked against the facts already available. This use of inductive and deductive procedures to complement, reinforce, and check each other in the formulation of scientific knowledge comprises the main part of what is called the scientific method.

Note: Q.E.D. is a standard abbreviation from Latin, Quod Erat Demonstrandum (That which was to be Proved); but in the case of as yet unproven theorems, it reads Quod Est Demonstrandum (That which is to be Proved).

This is the Latin rendering of the original Greek phrases with which Euclid used to finish or start his proofs, and both of these have become habitual expressions in the classical mathematical literature of most countries.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Maybe God is faking it too?

Richard May headshot by Richard May

At least you apparently exist. But I see a lot of people faking it. They're a little nervous sometimes that they may not exist or have a life. They constantly talk on cell phones and play with electronic gizmos when in public. And, of course, smoke cigarettes, fiddle with matches and lighters, and text message. If you're smoking you're really doing something, like people in TV commercials, so you must exist! You can't just sit there and take in the scenes, bathing in the impressions. Someone might notice that you have no shadow.

People who are beginning to suspect that they don't exist like to eat outside, where they can be seen by others, who may exist, it is thought. Please someone look at the tattoos on my Volvo, my unique identity, confirm my existence for me. As you walk by them they look to see if you have noticed them. I never look. They can look at me not noticing them. At least I don't claim to exist. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!



Thursday, July 19, 2007

Taking the Conversation Back

Kay Vaughan headshot by Kay Vaughan

This article was originally an e-mail response to an Urban Legend that was forwarded to me. The sender obviously thought it was a true account of a court proceeding. After checking it out on, it was found to be an Urban Legend. Here it is:

Subject: Wise Judge

In Florida , an atheist became incensed over the preparation of Easter and Passover holidays. He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had no holiday to celebrate. The case was brought before a wise judge. After listening to the long passionate presentation by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared "Case Dismissed."

The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, "Your Honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances. Jews have Passover, Yom Kppur and Hanukkah......yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays."

The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said "Obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate, his own atheists' holiday!"

The lawyer pompously said, "Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists. Just when might that holiday be, your Honor?"

The judge said, "Well it comes every year on exactly the same date.....April 1st! Since our calendar sets April 1st as 'April Fools Day,' consider that Psalm 14:1and Psalm 53:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by scripture he is a fool, thus April 1st is his holiday!"

Pray that some day our courts will be full of these kinds of judges.....maybe then, we can put God back where He everything we do.....

Way to go, Judge!

Here is my response verbatim:

Okay, dear XXXX, you asked for it!

As you can see from what I've included below, the article you forwarded is an Urban Legend, a joke or a lie, depending on whether you believe it or not. I often wonder why religious people tend to turn to "Urban Legends" or lies to get their point of view across. I believe it's because they have based their whole life on an "Urban Legend" or a fairy tale.

In the article the judge is suppose to have quoted some verses in Psalms. Psalms was written by various people at various times, but the verses they quoted were written around 1000 B. C. At that time in our history, people believed that the world was flat. Furthermore the God of the Old Testament was cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.

Did you know that there are 400,000 versions of the New Testament? Our culture has chosen to prefer the King James Version which is not the most authentic.

In their wisdom our founding fathers wrote the constitution in a way that religion is suppose to be kept out of our courts. They knew what it was like to be controlled by a government based on religion and they had fled from that. Everyone knows about all the people in history that have been massacred because of religion and still are being murdered because of religion.

Here are some quotes from Thomas Jefferson: "To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise . . .without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.

And another one: "Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

This quote if from James Madison: "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

And from James Adams: "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." He also said, "As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?"

Did you know that five of our Supreme Court justices are Roman Catholics? My dad thought the pope was responsible for putting Kennedy, a Democrat, in as president. I wonder what he would of thought of our Supreme Court? The funny part is that they were all put in by Republicans. I wonder what he would have thought about that?

This is the origin of Christmas:

December 25 was a significant date for various early cultures. The ancient Babylonians believed the son of the queen of heaven was born on December 25. The Egyptians celebrated the birth of the son of the fertility goddess Isis on the same date, while ancient Arabs contended that the moon was born on December 24.

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a feast named for Saturn, god of agriculture, on December 21, the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. They believed the shortest day of the year was the birthday of the sun. The Roman emperor Constantine was a member of the sun-cult before converting to Christianity in 312.

Some scholars suspect that Christians chose to celebrate Christ's birth on December 25 to make it easier to convert the pagan tribes. Referring to Jesus as the “light of the world” also fit with existing pagan beliefs about the birth of the sun. The ancient “return of the sun” philosophy had been replaced by the “coming of the son” message of Christianity.

The origins of Easter:

Christians celebrate Easter to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some aspects of modern Easter celebrations, however, pre-date Christianity.

Ancient Spring Goddess

According to the Venerable Bede, Easter derives its name from Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. A month corresponding to April had been named "Eostremonat," or Eostre's month, leading to "Easter" becoming applied to the Christian holiday that usually took place within it. Prior to that, the holiday had been called Pasch (Passover), which remains its name in most non-English languages.

It seems probable that around the second century A.D., Christian missionaries seeking to convert the tribes of northern Europe noticed that the Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus roughly coincided with the Teutonic springtime celebrations, which emphasized the triumph of life over death. Christian Easter gradually absorbed the traditional symbols.

As far as April fools day goes, the origin is unclear.

On the lighter side, this is what Mark Twain said about April 1st: "April 1st: This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three-hundred and sixty-four.

Pertinent Parts of the Snopes Report on This Urban Legend:

Origins: This item, which began its Internet life in 2003, is another politics-cum-humor item which has prompted numerous "Is this real?" inquiries from readers, even though it is presented in a standard joke format: no specific details, a somewhat farcical set-up, and a punchline pay-off. It's clearly a fictional humor piece, not a literal account of an actual court case. Indeed, in substance it mirrors this item, which was unambiguously circulated as a joke on a humor mailing list in 2002:

An atheist complained to a friend, "Christians have their special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter; and Jewish folks celebrate their holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur. EVERY religion has its holidays. But we atheists," he said, "have no recognized national holidays. It's unfair discrimination."

His friend replied, "Well...Why don't you celebrate April first?"

This humor piece utilizes a fantasy court case with exaggerated elements to make its point. The "godless" representative for the plaintiffs is not presented as bringing any legitimate constitutional issue before the court; he's simply complaining that Jews and Christians have religious holidays while atheists have none. (What sort of injunctive relief he might be seeking isn't specified — does he expect the judge to issue a Grinch-like restraining order prohibiting any celebration of Christmas whatsoever?) The "wise" jurist's hands may be bound by the law, but not so his heart. He doesn't even need to hear from the defense — as soon as the plaintiffs are done presenting their arguments, he summarily dismisses their case and brands them "fools" to boot. In this drama the atheists have gone to the legal well once too often, and this time they get the worst of it.

Sometimes the clearest view of what a text like this one is all about comes from those who take inspiration from it, through their voicing of what they perceive as its message. For example, these trailing comments added by unknown forwarders who identified with the piece (and presumably mistook it for a summary of a real court case) speak directly to its nature:



Way to go, Judge!

The power of illustrative anecdotes often lies not in how well they present reality, but in how well they reflect the core beliefs of their audience.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Some Negative Aspects of Chess Programs

Albert Frank Headshot by Albert Frank

In my previous articles "Computers, chess and A.I.", I have presented some dramatically positive aspects of the best chess software programs concerning a quasi human understanding of the chess positions. Today, on the contrary, I'm going to present some extremely negative aspects, especially concerning the defence of a position.

A "fortress" is a pieces' configuration against which the challenger is unable to do anything, despite a huge material superiority, and that involves a draw.

I will present and comment three fortresses. A beginner, or a weak player, will easily understand all of them.

These three configurations have been analysed for five hours by the following strong chess programs: Rybka (the best chess software existing that can be run on a PC), Fritz (which won a match by 6/4 against the world champion Valdimir Kramnik), and Hiarcs on a 3 GHz PC, with 1 GB of RAM.

All the three softwares continued going round in circles indefinitely, giving a winning evaluation to the side which has the material superiority, without realizing that it was impossible to gain a victory.

We can then make the statement that they didn't display any sign of "intelligence".

Fortress 1: White to move

Fortress 1 chess diagram

It's one of the simplest known fortresses: White, if not in check, will move back-and-forth with his rook from f3 to h3; if he is in check, he will move the king, protecting the g3 pawn. Even a very weak chess player will understand this without difficulty.

We must notice that if this position is given to the Shredder chess software, it will immediately be recognized as a draw, because all the positions with a maximum of 6 pieces are recorded ("hard force").

Fortress 2: Black to move

Fortress 2 chess diagram

This more complex fortress is comprised exclusively of pawns.

How could Black progress?

- The King has no entry into the white position;

- If they push forward their pawn a to a5 and then a4, White will answer by b4;

If they push forward their pawn b to b4, White will answer by a4.

-As long as their rook stays on the h column, The white king will go back and forth between g1 and g2; if their rook goes to the f or g columns, the white king will go back and forth between f2 and g2; if their rook goes to the e column, the white king will go back and forth between f1 and f2.

No progression is possible, and the game will be a draw.

While the position of the fortress 1 was quite simple and let us hope for an eventual solution by the computer without having to resort to a "hard force", the fortress 2 seems to be too difficult for any of such expectation.

Nevertheless even a weak player understands quite easily why Black can not do anything.

Fortress 3: Black to move

Fortress 3 chess diagram

Here is another type of fortress.

The black king has no available square and the h5 pawn is blocked by the king.

Black can only move with his queen: if she stays on the first line, between a1 and d1 or in f1, White answers g3 to mate, winning the game. If he goes on e1, the following move is also g3+, and if he goes on g1 or h1, the white king captures the queen, and Black is stalemated (impossible to make a legal move, and the game is draw). If Black's queen leaves the first line, for example if the queen takes control of the diagonal b8-h2, White will operate back-and-forth with their king between g1 and h1.

Once again, chess programs persist in giving a noticeable advantage to the black position.

A possible improvement concerning these wrong evaluations could be the following:

Add to the program a condition such as "if no improvement is reached after twenty moves - analyse deepness - or in other words if the evaluation function, which will be very positive in the beginning (due to the material advantage), stays unchanged, then tackle the position analysis in another way.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fragile theatre

Maria Claudia Faverio headshot by Maria Claudia Faverio

When night steps down
and wild flowers recede
into the blessed calm of oblivion
like a hand forsaking desire, -
pallid under the cracked moon
shot with hints of blue,
the world resembles a pastoral
alien to tension of light
and gods
drunk with distillation of thunder.

Shakes of leaves abate,
the unattainable perfection of thought
relaxes into the breathless peace
of void of mind,
whose positivity consists
in the negation of the will.

Impartial to things of stone
losing their stoniness
in the black stringency of night,
images dwell in the untextured air
like replicas of reality,
and yet the real imitation
is reality,
not the images.

At the edge of night,
the fragile theatre of life
crumbles to dust of light
and dark,
embracing each other
like Chinese symbols
uncaged into being.

Dawn at North Wollongong Beach
Dawn at North Wollongong Beach painting by Maria Claudia Faverio


Monday, July 16, 2007

The Selfish Shellfish

by Frank Luger

Frank Luger in Montreal

Once upon a time in a deep blue sea
In a bay of beauty that’s rare to see
Among a myriad colorful shellfish
There lived an oyster- resentful, selfish…

He thought he was just an ugly scallop
Of course he got wallop after wallop
Imitating the majestic lobsters
Irritating the domestic oysters…

Fed up with mockery he could not stand
He tried to burrow deep into the sand
Until near-suffocation forced him back
Onto his usual self-torture track…

Then he tried to run away but failed
Thus with painful self-disgust he ailed
So much that his shell remained tightly shut
All his life lacking pride with which to strut.

Tho' a grain of sand bothered him inside
And his neighbors kept on chiding outside
He stubbornly refused to be of use
And preferred to clam up without excuse.

He knew that wasting life is a sad crime
And that selfishness gave him a bad time
Yet he kept wallowing in self-pity
While dreaming about his divine city.

Slowly washing ashore he dreamed away
But one day he awoke to a sunray
The radiant heat of which meant his death
Unless he repented with his last breath.

His grain of sand, grown into a tumor
Suddenly cracked his dry shell and humor;
There burst forth a pearl such as never seen
To delight God forever with brilliant sheen.


Friday, July 13, 2007

The Senecan Ramble

Ron Penner headshot by Ron Penner

Let us, for a moment, seriously consider the Senecan ramble; it flourished for a period in English literature, especially in essays, so it must have much to recommend itself. I have guessed -- merely guessed -- that some may not write because they feel that they ought to write about only one subject at a time with internal consistency throughout. I would hope to be among the last to denigrate this, but why should not a Senecan ramble -- a series of loosely connected insights and/or observations with no central theme be equally valued if the quality of thought therein were of equal value with more tightly organized writing? As one would go for a walk in the country and comment upon what one saw with no predetermined plan in mind, so one could gather together the treasured insights of a month into a ramble for the edification of us all. And as this is about the Senecan ramble, I intend herein to ramble. (One will notice little connection between the first paragraph and the second.)

One poem that I have always remembered and ever shall is "The Soul and Body of John Brown" by Muriel Rukeyser, subtitled, "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!" from the book of Joel. The poem, in a most profound way, attempts to recapture to experience of a nation in the summer of 1940, still dazed by the Depression and bewilderingly trying to face a future of awesome responsibilities and global effort, of massive deaths and sufferings. The poem, which I highly recommend, is a highly complex interweaving of strands and a magnificent ramble! I will quote one stanza which, in its own way, sums up the entire poem and which I have always regarded as one of the most evocative and memorable in all of the English literature encountered in a lifetime.

"White landscapes emphasize his nakedness
reflected in countries of naked who shiver and stare at fires,
their backs to the face that unrolls new worlds around them.
--They go down the valleys. They shamble in the streets.
Blind to the sun-storming image echoed in their eyes.
--They dread the surface of their victim life,
lying helpless and savage in shade parks,
asking the towers only what beggars dare:
food, fire, water, and air."

We need not shamble, but we can ramble.



Thursday, July 12, 2007

Our Pfizer

Richard May headshot by Richard May

Our Pfizer who art in Heaven,
hallowed be Thy trade name.
Thy market share come,
Thy will be done,
in research journals as it is in doctors' offices.
Give us this day our SSRI dose,
and forgive us our generics,
as we forgive those with a healthy lifestyle.
Lead us not into remission,
but deliver us from unpatentables.



Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Peace Institute of the Rockies Mission and Programs

Carole Fotino headshot by Carole Fotino

Related articles:
Strategic Decision Making Program
Institutionalized, Inclusive Grievance Pathways (IIGPs)
Costing Latent Conflict
Soldiers Against War

The Peace Institute of the Rockies works on the front end of peace.

We work to alter the way that nations interact, to generate sustainable development and to create grievance pathways at all levels because, those three things together equals peace. Few organizations work on the “front end” of peace, strengthening the social institutions that create alternatives to violence. It was killing me though, scenes like Darfur – each little hand, each little face. Helping one at a time was bailing a precious, sinking canoe with an eyedropper, it never stopped refilling. What we will need for our planet’s valuable cargo is stronger canoes because in the time it takes to build one school or help one orphan, a single foreign policy decision made from an erroneous premise can create 60,000 new orphans or refugees.

The Three Ingredients

So we need three things. We need to make foreign policy decisions differently, from a different premise and one that includes more of the actual costs, leading to an alteration in the way nations interact. We need sustainable development which, to be sustainable includes closing the wealth gap and increasing wealth spreading while decreasing the non-sustainable development result of wealth pooling. And we need to create pathways for grievances at all levels – institutionalized, inclusive grievance pathways – in order to have a peaceful, nonviolent way to hear and resolve grievances. After all, how can we hope for peace before we have a way to get it, to get nonviolent change?

A Different Premise

At The Peace Institute, we work with U.S. decision makers, increasing the accuracy of cost/benefit data used in foreign policy selection by including longterm “latent conflict” costs (please see attached.) The State Department is already a fan of this program that needs to be fully developed, saying it comes, importantly, from different assumptions outside the status quo, from a different premise about the way that nations interact which differs from the premise that has generated the less than maximally successful outcomes they have witnessed. We also are talking with them about altering the guidelines at the State Department that have self-interest defined erroneously in terms denying the realities of mutual self-interest.

Starting with a different premise, and including more of the costs, leads to decisions made differently and to an alteration in the way that nations interact.

Our work has been presented at The Hague as promising new work, has been nominated for the Breakthrough Award and is seen by a leading U.S. foreign policy academician as having “quite dramatic possibilities.”

If you are interested in supporting any of these programs that are enough different to make a difference, contact for more information.

Sustainable Wealth Spreading & Grievance Pathways

In addition to the Costing Latent Conflict – Strategic Decision Making program mentioned above, The Peace Institute of the Rockies also does original work on the following front end subtopics of the three categories integral to peace.

Again, the three categories that must interweave to create peace are:

  1. New foreign policy decision making premise and cost data
  2. Sustainable development including wealth gap closures,
    (this could be called Sustainable Wealth Spreading,) and
  3. Institutionalized, Inclusive Grievance Pathways at all levels

The subtopic programs under these headings are:

  • Terrorism: Co-optability Reduction & Human Security,
  • Grievance Pathways – Alternative to Autonomy?
    Sri Lanka, Basques, Palestinians, W. Sahara, Chechnya, E.Timor, Ogaden Nation
  • Soldiers Against War - SAW
  • International Law & Supranational Authority vs Regionalism or Hegemony,
  • 192 + 1 The Project to Challenge Unilateralism
  • Non-Violent Movements,
  • Transitional Economies & Conflict, and Peace & the Extractive Sector,
  • Post-Conflict Conditions as Predictive Indicator of Future Violence,
  • Spoilers – Groups vested in the status quo
  • Mindful Conflict – Ridding negotiations of Negative Attribution, Value Judgment, & Narrative Build Up


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tropical Beach Party

Jolanda Dubbeldam by Jolanda Dubbeldam

It is one of those very rare moments where I am entirely conscious of simply being where I am, finding in my core an enormous quiet only gently touched by the sensations floating around me. I have always loved early mornings. Sitting in this wicker chair with a perfect view of the wide white sandy beach, it must be low tide, and the small brightly painted wooden fishing boats working their way across the crystal blue sea. A slight salty breeze strokes my face, no hint yet of the sweaty heat that will follow in just a few hours. Behind my back, waiters start putting out dishes and chatting in low tones and foreign sounds as they prepare breakfast for the tourists who are starting to rouse themselves from deep sweat-drenched sleep. The occasional rumbling laugh, contagious, making me grin, too.

Breakfast smells begin to float out to the veranda. Bacon and eggs, toast, fried tomatoes, all food I normally do not start my day with but that make my mouth water now. The screech of metal chairs scraping across the cement floor as well-scrubbed and sun-screened people wearing cheery tropical outfits sit down at the little white tables. I, too, find a table. I place my order with the friendly waiter, focusing hard though hopefully inconspicuously as I try to understand his English, which seems somehow to have many more syllables than my own.

As the restaurant fills, one by one the little monkeys start to appear and settle down a dozen or so yards away from the open sliding doors to the veranda. It is as if they, too, have read the warnings posted in every room:

Please, do not feed the Monkeys.
Remember always that these are Wild Animals.
Please, do not smile.
Showing teeth can be seen as aggressive behavior.

The large group near the doors, easily pegged as Americans by their vocal and noisily expressed enjoyments, also see that the furry friends have arrived. Maybe they missed the signs, because they immediately start providing happy, toothy commentary.

“Aren’t they just adorable?”

“Makes you want to take one home with you.”

“That little one there is just so cute!”

But then suddenly, one of the American women who has not been participating in her friends' general merriment, but was staring with concentration at one of the animals, cries out, “Look, look, that big one in the back is holding something blue. Can you see it? I think its Sarah’s handbag. Remember, with all those beads? She was carrying it a few nights ago to the dance?”

Disconcerted mumbles ripple through the group. Heads start to swivel in search of Sarah. Where is she? No one has seen her this morning, or even since the dance three days ago. Finally, a burly man steps up onto a chair and lets out a yell, and all eyes turn to him in sudden silence. "Could I have everyone's attention please? We're looking for someone from our travel group, her name is Sarah. Tall gal, red hair, wears glasses, about my age. She seems to be missing. Has anyone seen her recently?"

Nobody has, and now the worried ripple spreads to the other guests. Their always present awareness of the foreignness of the country outside of the hotel grounds explodes into panic. Tourists, aren’t they always considered easy pickings? Who knows what might have happened to Sarah, a robbery, kidnapping, maybe she's been hurt? Quickly small search parties form: back to the rooms, the swimming pool, the TV room, the gym. It seems nobody has considered the beach, so I slip on my sandals and head outside. The fishing boats are out on the sparkling water like before, but besides that it is still quiet. To the left, a few early morning walkers, a man carrying his young daughter on his shoulders, a woman walking besides them, tickling the child’s foot. Some teenagers throwing a beach ball across the waves. No red hair, no middle-age either. To the right, nothing. The beach ends quite abruptly at the low black cliffs and large rocks that close off the bay. Or wait, did something move over there? I try to see, squinting my eyes against the glare. Yes, there is some movement over there. I’ll have to get closer to see what it is. I walk across the sand, trying to stick to the hardened layers, but it is tiring progress. I wish I had grabbed a hat, the heat bearing down on my head and shoulders is becoming increasingly unpleasant. Terrible thirst drying out my mouth.

As I get closer, I finally see what caught my eye. It is a group of monkeys clustered closely together, agitated, chattering, baring their teeth excitedly. What in the world are they doing? I hesitate, remembering the warnings: these are wild animals. Suddenly I see a single monkey running along the top of the cliff, yelping softly. He seems to be carrying something - is that a pair of glasses? The monkeys are unaware of or uninterested in my presence, their attention focused on the center of the group, so I take a few more steps towards them, hesitating. I really don’t dare get any closer. I scan the area quickly, looking for inspiration, and decide to climb up a nearby rock.

I struggle to the top and crouch, carefully turning to face the animals. Now I have a clear view. I can see. I can see locks of red hair. Scraps of blue silk. And blood. There is so much blood. I turn my head to the side and retch as I am swallowed by nausea, careful not to make too much noise, keeping my teeth covered.

bared teeth monkey


Monday, July 09, 2007

The Meaning of Life

Brian Schwartz headshot by Brian Schwartz

The meaning of life

Someone sent me a link to a lecture given by an existential psychologist. He believes that the angst that follows us throughout life is caused by the basic problems life presents: lack of meaning; isolation and the impossibility of communion; the inevitable presence of that uninvited guest, death. He spoke of a dog, so happy to be thrown a stick, for, during the time it takes him to retrieve the stick, the chase gives his life purpose. I'm still waiting, he said, for God to throw me my stick. (

Now as it happens, I think about these things a lot, often at Crawpappy's Bar when I'm not distracted by girls. Sometimes they mix. More than one bewildered female has heard me exclaim, "Oh if only God would just tell me what to do!!!" Michalah, who knows the sort of things I think about, came up to me on Friday and said, "I love your guts."

And yet, it's better not to think too much In the main I try to be like Alyosha, who after all is the hero of "The Brothers Karamazov" He was not one for grand ideology; his brother Ivan was the man for that. But when he encountered another human being, he did his best to make that person's life better, no matter the cost to himself. And he did this by instinct, without thinking, or reasoning, or wondering why.

If you are immersed in the joy of others, you can feel the miracle of their being wash over you, and for that moment you are truly immortal.

Third of July

One of my mom's nurses lives on a farm about fifty miles east of Tulsa. You drive along back roads and byways to get there. "The street is named after her!" I cried when we drove out there last year. And indeed a signpost by the road bore her name. "It's not named after me, it's my husband's grandfather", she said. Her family has been in the area a long time. Just beyond her farm, the road wound past the old brown Mennonite church that serves the region. Most of the people there are Mennonite or Amish.

Once a year, in early July, Liz, the nurse, drives about seventy miles to the small farm community of Porter, where she picks a bushel of a variety of peaches, called Red Haven, which grow only there. A delicious peach, redolent of the robust perfume of life. She makes those peaches into pies, with a light ethereal cream sauce and a crust as subtle as an epiphany. Lots of heavy existential metaphors there, but it's easy to write like that when you taste her pie. We wait for those pies all year long.

Yesterday she cooked dinner. Sort of a Fourth of July meal, a day early, and starring the pie. She got up at sunrise, put on rubber boots -- that endless rain which has hit eastern Oklahoma has turned the land into marsh and mud -- and trudged out to the farm. She dug up a lot of potatoes, picked some cucumbers. She got corn from a neighbor. A nearby farmer had just killed a cow, so she bought a few steaks. At our house, she peeled and boiled the potatoes and then seared the edges in a pan. She boiled the corn. The cucumber got sliced and served with a creamy yogurt-like dressing that a German grandmother had taught her to make. The steaks went on the grill. We ate and ate until we bust and then we ate the pie. It was a lovely meal, a family meal, a meal not unlike what a family would have had on a good day a hundred years ago and more. Everything on the table came from her farm, and the neighbors' To a city boy, those rich explosive flavors were a revelation. "You could never get a meal like that in New York," I told her. Yes, we have some of the finest cooking schools, and chefs, and restaurants in New York. But that food didn't come from a fine cooking school or chef. It came from generations and generations of family meals, carefully cultivated and lovingly prepared. It came from an American farm.

Fourth of July

I don't think I've written about Cathe before, though she's been one of my Mom's nurses for quite some time. Yesterday her family came over to help us celebrate the Fourth of July. Now it's only because of a happy accident that she had that family at all. (No, not the kind of accident you think.) Back in the '70s she was liberated, a feminist, and didn't think much of women who spent their life raising a brood of kids. And then one day she and her boyfriend got to talking with a Mormon missionary. She probably wasn't too impressed with the knowledge that Kolob is the planet closest to God, and she certainly wasn't thrilled to learn that the Book of Mormon forbade sloe gin fizz and margaritas and all those delightful fun drinks she'd find at raucous weekend bars. Still, they prayed to God and asked Him to show them some sign if that was the right path. That night each of them had an ineffable experience, a sort of joyous (and indescribable) epiphany that convinced them beyond doubt that the church of Latter Day Saints was indeed right for them. And so they became Mormons, and faithfully practise its tenets, though if there is some passage in the Book of Mormon suggesting that women should be meek and subservient, Cathe forgot those verses soon after reading them.

And so Ed and Cathe raised seven children. One more than the Brady Bunch. Cathe also found time to become a nurse, and helped a lot of people along the way, which is how we came to know her. Four of the kids got married after college, moved away, started families of their own. We follow their lives vicariously. One of them, Brianna, became a track star in college, and Cathe went to California to see her compete in national events. About a year later, Brianna had twins, and I still remember the frantic phone calls when the twins entered the world a few weeks ahead of their scheduled appearance. Cathe went out to California again to help Brianna deal with the very energetic duo, who seem to take turns bawling and raising ruckuses.

So that left three of the kids still living at home, one a college graduate, one just graduated high school and already taking college courses for advanced placement, one a high school junior already taking her ACTs. And it was they who visited yesterday. Cathe always says they are picky eaters so we fixed hamburgers and hot dogs -- no kid will turn that down. Susanna, the youngest, is fascinated with Japan and anime -- last month Cathe took her to an anime convention in Dallas where ten thousand teenagers spent the entire night roaming through a big hotel and convention center wearing the costumes of their favorite anime characters -- so I put an Ukiyo-e print by Hiroshige on my computer screen. The kids didn't talk much to me, they mostly interacted with each other, and had a great time. We played a card game that was mostly an excuse to giggle and have fun. Betty the neighbor won! No one could believe it.

Well that was our Fourth of July. And I began writing this as a companion piece to my Third of July description of an all-American meal. But I now realize it's really a companion piece to my essay on the meaning of life. That existential psychologist who wrote that life for most people is solitary and without meaning said that he sometimes plays the game of trying in his head to list people to fill tables at a dinner party: the table of introverts, the table of overachievers, etc. He wrote that the only table that he just cannot fill is the table reserved for people who have led good, rich meaningful lives, people who are happy with their life. If he knew Cathe and Ed and her seven kids, he could set nine more places at that table.