Saturday, October 29, 2016

Passing Ships in the Night

We are a nation of disconnected people. We pass each other on the street without acknowledging one another. We pride ourselves on our Twitter followers and Facebook friends, but those have made our lives more narcissistic at best. We share not to be connected but to be ‘liked’ or ‘retwitted’—such is a nation divided, and “we pass each other with our lights out as ships in the night.”[1]

This ‘culture’ of ours is a disease. A cancer. It creates an experience of loneliness similar to patients in hospitals feel: supposedly there to be healed, but their isolation from the world undermines their will to live. Many people live their lives this way, sharing homes, jobs, and even families with others, but not connecting—a profound seclusion gets in the way and we are each alone.

Confronting this ‘super connected culture of digital send’ we have to begin to listen and ‘receive’ one another; in real places where we are genuinely met and heard. These places are of great importance to us. Being there reminds us of our strength and our value in ways that many other places we may pass through do not. These are holy places, churches, schools, bus stops, funeral homes, etc. They remind us we are each human and together a community; mortal at best but forever in each other’s presence. They give us the strength to grow and eventually help us to transform pain into wisdom that we can pass on.

No more of living and sending disconnected messages of ourselves. It is time to tell stories about who we are and where we call home, time to be connected and live to let live in one another’s world.

______________________________

1.  Achel Naomi Remen, M.D., KITCHEN TABLE WISDOM, A Way of Life, (“We all influence one another. We are part of each other’s reality There is no such thing as passing someone and not acknowledging your moment of connection, not letting others know their effect on you and seeing yours on them. . .”).

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Blockchain for Change?

Blockchain has been tossed around as the next great disruption and THE tech revolution. It has been referred to as a public ledger, an open database, an unhackable consensus platform, and people have gone as far as to claim “all is possible” to change the world with blockchain.

But what exactly is it and why the hype?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Trust and Involve - by Lauren Campbell-Kong

“Tell me, and I will Forget. Show me, and I may Remember. Involve me, and I will Understand.” -Chinese Proverb
Belief and trust is of growing importance in the world of business. Authenticity and transparency are key drivers in client development. Long gone are the days of nickel and diming, as well as developing client reliance on your services or maximizing profit through unethical economics. In an era of social purpose and social enterprise, transparency and activism have combined to create a business equation around fulfillment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Liberty, Unity, and Justice – the rights of communities and a manifestation of the “care economy” in these United States.

When in the course of modern politics, we arrive at a turning point of corrupt politicians and dangerous fanatic representations, we must come together as free and independent thinkers united in our hope for better things. Our promise for progress must be centred around people, as all lives matter; and we must be sensitive to the values of social and environmental justice, as they must be enabled by the fairly elected public servants along side of well-functioning and socially responsible institutions, both equally charged with the province of representing their people well in these times.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Shared Information Economy - a Reframe

McKinsey & Company recently wrote that business innovation involves identifying and dissecting long-held beliefs about how value is created and the reframing these beliefs in order to innovate. One of the most long-held beliefs in business is the concept of exclusivity in ownership. However, the mere suggestion of re-examining intellectual property ownership (e.g., patent)’s role in business is controversial. It often draws criticism and a fear of losing private-sector funding. There is also a lucrative cottage industry of non-market participants (e.g., patent trolls), which likely will impact the conversation.

But any meaningful dialogue about change and business innovation must involve opening information and must involve a closer look at how intellectual properties (e.g., patents) are leveraged in the development process.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

An Open, Sustainable, and Free World – the “dot(Us)” Manifesto

Information is not power. Information far exceeds the possibilities of power. Power is limited to the underlying presumptions of exclusivity: protection or exploitation. Some keen observers do tell us that with great power comes great responsibility, but not many are open minded like that and we have yet to explore the possibilities that come with those great responsibilities.

Power also makes the average person hungry and fearful. It leads our demise because it limits our possibilities in a model of scarcity and hierarchy. While we await for the overman, the philosopher king, we missed our opportunities to do something more productive together—in a common human experience.

So stop saying “information is power.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Diversity and Dialogue – Humanity's Guarantee for a Mutually Enriching and Sustainable Future.

 In 2002, a jointly held UNESCO and UNEP high-level Roundtable report proclaimed cultural diversity

“as a source of innovation, creativity and exchange—is humanity's guarantee for a mutually enriching and sustainable future.” 

This proclamation was made against the backdrop of the then perceived environmental issue: cultural diversity is linked to biodiversity, in a defense against modern developments and indigenous acculturation, leading to rapid decline of knowledge and relationship with their natural environments.

“It is within this background that Indigenous communities have been described as, at one and the same time, victims of environmental degradation and protectors of vulnerable ecosystems (UN 1991: Para. 23).”

In the last decade, others have explored this proclamation in the two other categorical contexts of sustainability, seeing it as

(1) a social justice issue: culturally diverse populations, and often lower incomed, are often at the frontlines of environmental degradations absorbing the impacts, and

(2) an economic bottomline issue: corporate diversity initiatives leading to increased economic performance and profitability. 

But rarely do pundits and academics see the dialogue as a completed circular one. Most are set on seeing this linearly and discretely—contextually independent. Within these independent categorical contexts of sustainability and dialogue, professionals and mangers often take one of two different approaches to sustainability: (1) that organizations have an obligation to do something progressive to address the challenges, or (2) that organizations have the opportunity to change internally and improve to maximize value creation. Not surprisingly, most for-profit organizations take the second path and have developed a body of knowledge around what we refer to today as corporate social responsibility—in a dimensional limit of Me, Me, Me!

But if our Constitutional state is a permissive one, which implies a certain sense of social obligation from private entities, and if corporations are to be treated equally as individuals before the law under the protections of afforded rights, then, not only do the corporations have opportunities to make internal performance improvements within the context of sustainability, but they also have the obligation to facilitate a reciprocal relationship between diversity and dialogue in their communities, marketplaces, and the greater communities in which they thrive to foster sustainable developments for others.

Cultural diversity is a dynamic process and for the corporate sector, it is an entrepreneurial and innovative process. It is not a stagnate deposit of cultural relics to distil best practices. It is an emerging global economic identity still discovering adolescence in the age of We, of Us.

It is in a sense a “reciprocal” relationship (between diversity and dialogue in sustainability), and the “causal link that binds them cannot be severed without jeopardising development’s sustainability.” 

The key to this reciprocal relationship and dialogue is in the investigation of things and in the knowledge exchange—a “continuously flowing and unifying dialogue open to each and every expression of identity.” In the Us context, only in this act of learning and applying can we find cultural diversity really translates to value for sustainability.

“Cultural diversity is more than the fact of cultural difference. It is a value which recognizes that differences in human societies are parts of systems and relationships. Cultural diversity is the value through which differences are mutually related and reciprocally supportive.” 

But the end objective remains an active and communal transition towards positively empowered sustainability.

Something to sit on so to speak. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Aisthanomai - dot(Us)

To perceive is the first of everything. What is this experience, how does it affect me, how can I impact it? Perceiving is believing, and believing is the first step to achieving; so all things starts here.

It is also an aesthetic exercise, not a mere logical one. We often neglect this and prefer a worn logical path void of any feelings. We are taught this way in schools, universities, work places, and society generally. Look where it has gotten Us? We follow instructions, calculate without thinking, and have now come to near a point of no return.

We constructed cognitive dissonance between Us and the world, between mindfully perceiving and ruthlessly calculating, and we chose to ignore the walls between Us.

For fear of the reflective aesthetic attitude we may have, logic was invented to curb the dangerous appetite of anger, of destructions and self-fulfilling apocalyptic prophecies. For fear of social disorder, we constructed and willingly accepted social stratospheres to dumb down the masses. We are thus less willing to challenge the status quo, are risk averse, and are fed media for consumption, stories for private gains, and entertainment to outlet our dispassionate emotions devoid of meaning and purpose.

But there is more to life and our common human experience, isn't there? We want a better world. We know profits and gains has to be measured in multi-dimensions—money isn't the measure of everything. We are inventing and creating new ways to doing economics, to measuring success and happiness, to make money not for making money's sake but to make it to facilitate the living. Most importantly, we know we have to come together on this. It's not just the governments, not just the corporations, not just the do-gooders, but all of Us. It will take the collective, the capitalized: Us!

We have been collectively at this for our entire recorded history, in various forms and fashions. We have labelled it as religion when we are devoted, as philosophy when we are enlightened, renaissance and revolution when we felt the need to do something. Most recently, with the advent of globally connected technologies and the Internet of Everything, we are calling for sustainable changes, zero waste and circular economies, for crowd actions, pulling resources, inventing new structures, gathering strength, Anonymously and unanimously turning the tides. All over the world we are letting a voice be heard: the myopic is no longer the starting point of perceiving. The new globalization is a flatter world connected, a new people without boarders or corporate affiliations; distributed masses living alternative independent arrangements, empowered as individuals, collaborating for common core moral upticks—for Change.

Take down the walls: prosperity is for the collective experience, and progress is not limited to the “either/or” type of thinking. It is expanding to become the “we/together” mentality that will prevail.

Together We stand and contribute in everything we do, in everything we feel. We no longer believe doing good is just an after-thought, that fear is a mere reaction, something we achieve after we have polluted and made millions exploiting others. Doing good is a way of life, a practice of becoming, the Aesthetic of all things: the antithesis of fear and exploitation in that we are embracing our fellow human beings, other living things, on this common planet we all call home. Doing good is a “We” thing, it's an "Us" thing. It's a story told in the digital connected age—an inspiring story. We are remembered not for the self-interests from which we all start, but for the ending in better societies, smarter communities, and finer things in life worth the individual struggles of our daily trials and tribulations.

To perceive is the first of everything. Start perceiving and let's get to a better place together. It's why we are here on this pale blue (dot) planet in the middle of nowhere of this universe, isn't it Us?




 ________________

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Battle Was Never Over.

Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. Defeat brings on worse things than can ever happen in a war. 

It was said that the objective of any war is peace. Hard to believe, peace seems an over-exaggerated illusion these days. There are plenty of psychopaths and criminals bearing arms living among us, fundamentals and fanatics perpetuating hate and violence. Plenty of bad politicians endangering our public discourse, waging war against the lower and middle class. We are left without purpose or focus, just many ways to distract ourselves. Peace has become irrelevant to the masses with their short attention spans lost in a social media global digital age. Hash-tags and meaningless chants: make America great again! Click, like, tweet and share. Chances are we are all sleeping through our problems.

This should raise anxieties. All war veterans remember when drill sergeant tossed the whole platoon's barrack for one person's failure. You remember, that guy who forgot to lock his locker. The rest of that day was spent on cleaning up and doing push-ups. No one wants to be that person—the “blue falcon”—whose locker's content was tossed wildly, along with beds, mattresses, lockers, and anything not attached to the floor. All veterans learned the lesson that day to take their responsibilities seriously, for the sake of others and for the sake of working towards a mission collectively, executed flawlessly. That lesson in some ways help made the utter nonsense of war more tolerable. We trained and prepared, and will be ever ready; we had each other to count on and all those years of miserableness together in places no one would visit for leisure. We all endured, no one wants to be the “blue falcon” and sleep on duty. At war, anything is possible and together we became comfortably ready.

But we aren't in the military anymore and the war is over, or so declared. We have all admittedly gone from Hulk status to Shriek in these past few years. We are complacent. Mercenary pundits are keen to exploit this. They keep our public discourse divided and distracted, perspectives narrow for dramatic effects. The media glamors in supporting role of the greatest deceptions. The sheep herds are left with mute voices and trivialized opinions; sheepdogs fattened and letting wolves run rampant. No one seems to care except for empty slogans: we want change. Do we? Change to what? Are we really so ready to set up internment camps? Lock up the Muslims? Mexicans? Immigrants? Who's next when they run out of people to lock up and scare the public with?

Rest assured the anxieties are real. We are confronted with catastrophic ecological changes threatening our health and our environment. Social and political unrests seem more common these days, terrorism more rampant and saturated, refugees more prominent in local debates. Our market boom and bust cycles are more troublesome, income gaps are widening and our national debt continue to balloon. The rich gets richer and poor gets poorer, but the growing burdens are put on the least able to bear them. The American Dream is fading and “American Exceptionalism” has become a bad thing because the public at its third-grade reading level won't understand what it means. Sad indeed, but happily the masses go back to chants: we want change, tell it like it is, make America great again. So long it is someone else is doing the work to change things, telling us enough to fool us, and make America abundant in guns, celebrities, and politicians behaving badly. In this modern misinformation age, democracy has practically become standardized and commercialized melodrama to fatten people's pockets. Nothing is exceptional anymore, just fabulously corrupt beyond recognition.

We all recognizes the symptoms, but no one has yet to make a decisive diagnosis. We the people remain perfectly susceptible to fear mongering, disconnected from sympathy, dignity, or respect for basic human rights. We tolerate hate more easily and no one talks courage anymore. Conservative values in America are detached from the progressive goals of conservation, controlling corporations, and consumer protection. Conservative values are now synonymously linked to having a closed mind. When minds are closed to compassion, we see the rise of the authoritarian voters perpetuating racist and sexist ideologies. Whatever happened to grace under pressure and the attitude that we collectively can do the right thing? When did we begin to fail our trainings?

Wake up all you veterans.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

- The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution of the United State 

Our Constitution is a permissive one. It presumes natural and inalienable rights retained by individuals independent and free of our governments. This freedom and independence is also an obligation. Someone famous who died young once said “ask what you can do for this country”, well you get the sentiment. Justice, Welfare, Liberty, and Posterity, for all. So do something about it.

As a veteran, I've long stopped wearing my BDUs. I can barely run a few miles when I have time. I get annoyed on Armistice Day when everyone is dressed in red, white and blue obsessively celebrating veterans. I hide indoors on Memorial Day when they fire up their grills. Peace is just lip service paid to bad memories. I no longer fear bullets and I don't hug a M4 to bed. My wife has long cured my nightmares and I snore like a champ sleeping these days. I still don't like crowds and I sit with my back against the wall and eyes on the exits when I can. Pop culture has beautifully saturated my social anxieties with being some kind of hero—PTSD as they affectionately coin the term to admire and neglect me. But PTSD for veterans is reserved for the the entitled, the self-served, the veterans who lie about their experiences because no one who's been to battle suffers post-traumatic anything. You never stop fighting, the battle never ends. There is no post-traumatic anything because what's truly traumatic is happening before my eyes.

So I am awkwardly left in the back of the room dealing with my social anxieties and watching the Constitution I swore to defend spiraling down the drain. The battle is just beginning.











 WeAreLegion

Monday, February 29, 2016

Photo Series - Waiting Spring (Cincinnati)

Texture















Step















 
Mystery


Stand















Alone


Photos by Jin Kong (2016)

(Thanks to my wife, Lauren, for taking me to Mt. Airy Forest on this little adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Moe--the doge--had fun too, but you can tell he's not his younger bouncing self.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Process Innovation and Sustainability

The European Union Official Journal stated in 2006 that promoting research, development and innovation “(R&D&I)” is an important objective to its common interest. Research and Development (R&D) has long been a familiar notion in the market process, but Innovation in particular is a recent phenomenon taking on new meanings.

These days, Innovation is often cited to bridge between scientific discoveries and development of services or products with market success. On one end is the field of diverse knowledge, ranging from the precise motions of a sloth to the possibilities of harnessing anti-matter, put together by clever people who see ways to combine discoveries into a unique pattern resulting in useful products and services; on the other end is the market place of consumers buying up whatever it is that they need or want to perpetuate their beautiful lives. In between is this bridge—Innovation, a long and arduous journey starting from creating market ideas, refining the ideas based on market research, raising capital, getting to market, competing and establishing a new value proposition (or improve on an existing value proposition) to the consumers, and then surviving the consumer trends.

A man can get lost on this bridge. It's a big bridge, and neither end has calm waters. Research dollars are ever shrinking driven by market demands that make no sense. The market place continues to be influenced by the media frenzy for narcissistic attentions. Sharks swarm in both ends and currents are unpredictable. Let's face it, Innovation is no vacation. Take health care for example, once a profession that is purposed to heal the wounded and cure the sick, now reduced to a model of innovation for shareholder value, prolonging diseases, or worse creating new ones. To help mitigate our vulnerabilities when sick or injured, policy makers put regulations in place. But the pharma regulatory environment does little to actually incentivize new and improved cures. Instead, it is focused on fierce competitions, development silos, and contributes more to indirect costs on layers of bureaucratic fat making drugs more expensive and less accessible.

So it is a good thing that we are starting to pay attention to the Innovation process, if our goal is to figure out market improvements towards sustainable goals. In all of our current market madness, there is opportunity to improve our existing market infrastructure and the innovation process to change market and human conditions for the better. In fact, talking Process and Innovation in a single context is putting capitalism to the test and incorporating proper balanced social and environmental mechanisms to strive for sustainable outcomes. Here's our common ground: that we are all after the same thing—a better way of getting science to market with a sense of responsible market choices driving forward R&D and impacting our societies for the sustainable better future, together.

Innovation in this sense is all about process improvement, isn't it? In fact, almost every sovereign nation recognizes this for its people. China for example, is in its New Normal of slower economy (down from the double digits to around 5-6%) hoping to achieve some sort of maturity and deliberation in its new market. It is focused on intellectual capital, service based economy, and Innovation. Here at home, the United States is also seeing a new wave of incubators and accelerators and business, college, and private sector alliances to jump start our local economies focused on Innovation. Worldwide, we are seeing alternative funding mechanisms (e.g., crowdfunding, digital currency, etc) and more transactions driven by the new possibilities of technologies and collaborative efforts to bridge R&D with Innovation. A 2006 EU official journal article defines Innovation as “a process connecting knowledge and technology” exploiting market opportunities for new or improved products and services. Like the EU, other parts of the global community recognizes the importance of a process based approach taking on not just economic bottom lines, but also taking on environmental issues, and social justice issues, to Innovate. In this context, risk is a significant factor to consider when identifying market opportunities. Opportunities not just found in the global climate changes that risk the entire earth's ecosystem, but also in the global social changes that risk the stabilities of global economic and governance developments. If we fail to recognize these risks, we would not identify the opportunities where Process Innovation can make an impact to clean the air and water, eliminate global poverty, and deliver sensible health care solutions. But to recognize those risks means we have to put Research, Development, and Innovation together in a context of sustainable developments (focused on environmental, social, and economic risk mitigations).

Process Innovation and Sustainability are therefore one of the same thing. The former is the infrastructure and the latter its substantive content to a path forward. This is a game where we the players can change the way we play for the better. Innovation is not about the cliché game changers.

Innovation is about the people who would want to change the game – ready players.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A City Squandered Waiting for Spring

國破山河在 城春草木深
感时花溅泪 恨别鸟惊心
                                   - 杜甫《春望》  

A profaned country endures in splendor, a city lost to its deep wild overspring. Flowers do not feel but would shed tears, birds do not hate but know fear in our hearts.
                                   - Du Fu (712-770 AD)《Waiting Spring》 

The city is abandoned. What remain are the mountains still standing, the rivers still flowing. But the city has been lost to the wild growth of weeds and disgruntled trees standing loosely in formation, flowers sprinkled across the scape.

They have no feelings for the city's dismay, yet they shed tears early in the morning when the sun is welcomed through the cracks and broken city walls. Birds alike, know only fear and pontificate little about life, gathered atop roofs and nested in between, scattered as Du walked beneath and amongst them. All are waiting spring, to come, to endure, to pass, as all things come to pass into the next whatever it maybe.

Du had been born to a family of poets and politicians in a era of rebellions and constant flux of ruthless leaders. He claimed the city of Chang'an as his ancestral place, being the dead smack middle of the Middle Kingdom geographically and of high historical significance. Du's mother died soon after he was born. He never knew her. Du was raised by his aunt and had a jealous stepmother. But Du held no resentments and loved his brothers and sisters even thought they were only half the blood-line he was to become. Du, as the Chinese would come to know him through the ages in his poems, is the patron saint of poets and elevated emotions directed for better things. But he knows of little what he is to become as all of us living the moments.

From one to the next as seconds pass, Du like all of us, feels and hates and ponders if he'd be better off as a grass, a tree, a flower, or even a bird – undirected by conscious obsessions and narcissistic empathy towards our common human experience.


Du Fu, the poet and politician, is the beginning of our stories. ...











__________________________

Now, for all you music lovers: something totally awesome.

Friday, February 12, 2016

e-Waste: an Opportunity for Cincinnati to Lead.

E-waste is discarded electronics – the latest and greatest of technology just a few years into their life cycle doomed by the newest upgrades. Our narcissistic need for trendy gadgets has increased the demand and reliance on raw materials, rare earth and precious metals. But our material supply is limited and much of the electronics currently in circulation are not being recycled. The depletion of natural resources itself is bad enough, but the vast amount of e-waste in landfills is also polluting at their worst.

In 2014, one study estimated 41.8 million metric tons of e-waste was generated – “an amount that would fill 1.15 million 18-wheel trucks. Lined up, those trucks would stretch from New York to Tokyo and back.” E-waste is the fastest growing municipal waste in the United States. Globally, the volume of e-waste was expected to rise by 33% between 2012 and 2017. The problem is amplified by illegal dumping into developing countries like China, India, and African countries. E-waste buyers in those places are often unregulated despite stringent laws in place. They extract commodities from e-waste using the most horrendous methods. Their people pay the price with their health and safety, but the world suffers from their poor environmental and social practices.

Enter the responsible e-waste recyclers. Domestic players who process e-waste locally and creating jobs, putting value back into commerce. But the US e-waste industry is no rose garden either. A recent HuffPost article pointed out that industry workers in the U.S. have been documented to have “taken home” contaminants (e.g., lead) to cause health problems in children exposed to the contaminant particles. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does require e-waste recycling facilities to provide protective clothing and respirators to their employees. But the lack of proper training among other things have attributed to detectable health effects. Or, the current protective standards are not sufficient and we need to improve those and reflect the changes in our policies and regulations.

The HuffPost article named a Cincinnati resident impacted by this “take-home” contaminant problem. Cincinnati Children's Hospital made the medical diagnosis. There are other e-waste recyclers in Cincinnati who are part of the responsible business community and are more than happy to hear medical data is now available to help improve our standards and hold accountable our performances. This may very well effect policy changes and put Cincinnati on the map for being the e-waste expert. Cincinnati's health care industry also can lead the world in medical research on this topic, further strengthening Cincinnati's credentials.


Remember: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Did you know Americans dump over $60 million in gold/silver every year in just cell phones. For every 1 million cell phones, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be recovered. 

One estimated the value of e-waste to be worth $52 billion in 2014.

Monday, February 8, 2016

If you must have liberty

On Sustainability, a meta-exercise in the collective human experience.
子曰
不患無位
患所以立
不患莫己知求為可知也

(Do good work, earn respect. - The Analects

Let's start with the “self-premise" – that all human activity are self-interested. This presents an interesting puzzle, doesn't it? How would you reconcile the self-interest with collective drive towards sustainability? How would you set the proverbial Wittgensteinian fly out of the bottle? It is a game we play after all; what are the rules?

There are a few philosophical premises that can serve as a starting point. For example, some believe it is possible to connect passion with work; and from here we begin a pursuit in the self-interested sustainability: that we are happy doing what we do and therefore we are willing to grind the labor for the results. For this premise to work properly on a collective human level, we'd have to ignore human nature such as greed. Our world becomes an endless moment of now perfectly distilled to the best of possible. Greed is irrelevant because all things are simply preordained. This is something Leibniz has well established as a theory long ago and one that a self-disrespecting religious person would gladly accept. The cliché goes, ignorance is bliss after all.

But given the deteriorating political climates around the world these days, it is at least questionable if we are indeed living in the best of all possible worlds. Could this really be the best we must suffer? If not, however, how would we reconcile with the paradoxes of time's arrow?

An imagination unconstrained is an unreliable guide. Leaving theoretical physics (time's arrow quandaries) aside as a constraint (as you are welcome to dispense of the time's arrow arguments at your own pleasure), for the moment let's put some societal constraints around our imagination to the act of “doing good work”—put a context around it so to speak:

What does “doing good work mean?” A notable western legal scholar, Robert M. Cover, once pondered this constrained premise and wrote:

“The rules and principles of justice, the formal institutions of the law, and the conventions of a social order are, indeed, important to that world; they are, however, but a small part of the normative universe that ought to claim our attention. No set of legal institutions or prescriptions exists apart from the narratives that locate it and give it meaning.

For every constitution there is an epic, for each decalogue a scripture. Once understood in the context of the narratives that give it meaning, law becomes not merely a system of rules to be observed, but a world in which we live.” 

The normative world, to Cover, is something that enriches the self-interested world through the rule of law as its means to an end in a better world. In this regard, we are not predestined but we chose to practice civil society, with rules and laws and all that good stuff to ensure the self-premise fits properly into the collective experience. Here, we are able to intelligibly talk about how to connect passion to our work, and we find meaning in the phrase “doing good work.”

Yet, appearance of simplicity can be deceiving. Connecting passion to good work is tremendously difficult. Passions are often abundant and talents can be trained. But translating passion and talent into productive work towards a sustainable end requires a certain guidance of wisdom that comes only from the deep introspections into experiences. Experiences are trials and tribulations, and introspection almost certainly requires patience and fearlessness. Trials and tribulations, well those are the things one must tolerate in life. But more often than not, we have little patience for their introspections in the modern productive public life. The seeds have already been planted. Nothing is left to be grown, and all must be simply tended to as they are required to produce. The agrarian way of life has ended and the industrial and information age has begun. But without the outwardly projected introspection (yes an irony, I know) of the self-premise in growing something, we would not be able to frame the context around the meaning of “doing good work.” Without a context, we cannot conduct and direct our collective discourse. Only a directed collective human experience can help us move towards a sustainable future. We are just not going to stumble on it by accident by ourselves.

But politicians and magicians, corporations alike, are able to manipulate our attention spans into fractions, incoherent, and demand that we be productive and not attempt to grow. We are distracted, by the glitters and glory, by the busyness of life. While connecting passion to work is tremendously difficult and unavoidable, it has become more or less meaningless. Our discourse becomes irrelevant because someone else is setting the rules. We are merely here paying to play. The pursuit of life, liberty, and property carefully disguised as pursuit of happiness. A miserable life it becomes as we assume something else as the normative universe, someone else's normative universe. Where is the liberty in that? How would you explain freewill?

Freewill in society is extrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation is something money can buy and over which power can be exercised. Upon this theory we confer citizenship, credit, and all the other modernly things we come to know as law. There lay the answer to the paradox: in the ages we struggle to find freewill we have completely turned freewill into a right and privilege, not an obligation and responsibility. Duty and loyalty gradually lost their own respective context amongst the heroes of history. Freedom fighters are equivalent to terrorists in the modern sense and it is a dangerous thing. It divides our collective human experience into parts unknown. Terrorist, after all, are cowards. Freedom fighters are heroes and they stand for better things.

As I invoke the ancient Confucius saying in the beginning of this essay:

不患無位
患所以立
不患莫己知求為可知也 

I mean to point out: freedom is the self-recognition earned through one's own responsibility to doing good work in a context of what good work means for others—a unattainable goal but forever perpetuating a harmonious and sustainable society moving forward in time, or so I hope.

If you must have liberty, then take the duty to defend it. 


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cincinnati (updated Feb 1, 2016).

子曰
君子喻於義
小人喻於利 
(The mind of the overman is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the lesser man is conversant with gain. - The Analects)

I've always liked the story of Cincinnatus, the irony of it.

Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was a military man and once Aristocrat. His notorious son cost him his fortune and he lived simply in the Agrarian Spartan ways. Yet his family's sometimes venomous opposition to the legal commons certainly excluded them from the prominence of history. But known for being virtuous for giving up twice his near absolute power to Rome, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus deserves some fundamental respect. Put aside the sins of misdirected political agenda, the intrinsic motivation for civic service to defend one's people transpires civic leadership—qualities our own congressmen and senators lack.

I live in this City. Cincinnati, Ohio. I live in its strange times. Being a combat veteran, I feel a special connection to the story line. At least to the extend that I can pretend the war I fought was for the better of my city and mankind. Like I said in the beginning, I like the story for the irony of it.  

Every time I walk pass the statute of Cincinnatus, I cringe a bit. But then I feel a certain pride of living here: of being just another food-bucket and lacking of any personal ambition. That is very Taoist of you, someone once said. But I don't think it's about being a Taoist. It's more of a relief knowing that I only need to do my part and inspire others to do more. Let karma come around so to speak. If people didn't worry about what they were getting out of it, then they wouldn't mind putting in their whole effort to help one another. Life becomes communal and in harmony. It's kind of like being a medic in war. Healing is my only mission, and the man made rules tells me how and whom I can with my limited capacity. The rest, including my own life, is in the hands of the infantry -- there is a saying in the military, God loves the infantry -- and I trusted.

Cincinnatus is in fact in every culture's story and in each of us. But we have long forgotten them because the competition is fierce and wars made no sense. Selflessness is weakness that others can exploit. Our government does it, businesses do it, we do it to each other. It's illogical to be selfless, but that conclusion hinges on an illusion of the need for competition. What are we competing for, for competition's sake? If so, how do we keep it from being out of control?   

Our society is not build upon populations of perfect individuals. No such thing. Individuals are going to differ and argue because of our own faults. But it is nice to know that we can chose to serve despite such imperfections and aspire to be something better amongst others for a common good. In the end, walking away from power is perhaps the easiest thing to do for Cincinnatus. But choosing to act in the first place and seeing through the work never finished, is perhaps the hardest thing.

Like I said, the irony of it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Reclaim Philosophy.

Philosophy is not a bad thing. It takes on a bad rap. It is not taught in schools any more, so I guess it's just more often misunderstood. As I come to see, it may be one of the reasons why we are faced with a global sustainability crisis. Because we just don't take the time to think anymore. Not that we lack the kind of instructional-thinking, they are common in establishments. But we lack the kind of unhinged and mindful thinking. The kind that poets drink and painters take intravenously. The kind that is looked down upon because it's “too philosophical” but would elevate the pursuit somehow and therefore threatening.

So yes, we neglect to “mind the gap” so to speak. We pride ourselves on being pragmatists after all and philosophy is useless. In our busy lives, we'd much rather embrace religion and let someone else do the thinking for us. Keep the thinkers in their ivory towers.

Yet when preachers preach only to the wealth he is entitled, when matters of personal affairs are more important than spiritual awakening in these establishments of gods, our religions are relegated to being mere tools. Philosophy being the only re-tooling method is all the much more important. Otherwise we are doomed to perpetuate the worst in our enemy's eyes.

St. Elijah's Monastery
Today, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq was reduced to rubble by the Islamic State. I had visited the St. Elijah's Monastery of Mosul on Easter, 2005. It was a memorable experience. The whole day had seemed quiet and peaceful. I long to return one day in the future as a mere tourist, but that is no longer possible. I sat in mourning for a brief moment. To me, “mind the gap” seemed all the more important.

Not being too philosophical is the reason for extremists to be all the more religious. Not being too philosophical is why monopolies are able to be more powerful. Each group has recognized to some extent the power of philosophical minds and are using them to the extent they can for their own perverted interests. The fall of St. Elijah's Monastery resulted from a lack of our philosophical courage to confront religion; the fall of modern civilization results from the same lacking but to confront ourselves.

Reclaim philosophy my friends. Be it for your business, for your church, for your community, for your country, and for this planet we call home. Thinkers and doers are not mutually exclusive. Ivory towers must have doors and stairways down to earth. Thinkers and doers are dependent on one another, in fact symbiotic.

Reclaim philosophy and remain ever vigilante.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reclaim

2016 is for reclaiming societies—by the people in our common pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

Much is at stake and we confront desperate times. Guns and violence are on the rise. Governments endorse them abroad in righteous and popular wars; radical terrorists of all walks of life use them as ways to advance religious and political agendas they know won't pass the common sense muster. Police are ever more incompetent and we are ever more radical in our methods of opposition. While civil law enforcements now have tanks and automatic rifles, we citizens now idolize violent resistance (Guy Fawkes). The rest of the flock of sheep are caught in the middle of a waging war of many sides: private interests, deliberate or indirect censorships, caught amongst the mess because there are profits to be made, fame to be gained, power to be had.

Fame and fortune direct the flow of things and irresponsible politicians take advantage of the situation; we see the uglier side of the human experience: fear, hatred, and all sorts of “-ism's” that we use to identify our self-imposed superiority. We waste time talking bans, exclusions, building walls and justifying wrong-doings with lies.

The public debate is a joke. The punchline is that we actually believe things can be different. All sorts of professionals spend their time turning the conundrum of how to solve the world's problems ignoring the politics. I commend them on their focus and dedication, but like the rest of the herd, I fear they tread dangerous waters. Academics once created terms “sustainability” to encompass what they had hoped for: social, environmental, and economical solutions working in unison. Business professionals coined “social entrepreneurs” to advance the agendas. Yet somewhere along the path everyone got lost to the big ideas, big technologies, big leaps forward. They forget that progress is often made step-by-step, incrementally and purposefully, and must account for all factors of sustainability: environmental protection and conservation, social progress and stability, as well as economic efficiency.[1] Big ideas, big technologies, big leaps forward are rare and are often only recognized after-the-fact. Why do we obsess with them and separate progress from success?

Social entrepreneurship and sustainability are not two different creatures of alien worlds. No, they are one and the same. Civil participation begins there and meaningful passive resistance for change begins with a case for its economics. One has to be productive in society to part-take and enjoy its benefits. The productivity generates economic, environmental, and social value. The exchange of this productivity for social benefits defines the nature of the social contract, from which our national constitutions governs the finer details. We are one human race experiencing one lonely planet. We have to reclaim it from those who have not paid attention to the meaningful path forward.

We are living now,
not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early successes of science,
but in a rather grisly morning-after,
when it has become apparent that
what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimproved or actually deteriorated ends. 
                             - Aldous Huxley (1963)

2016 is the year for reclaiming societies, healing wounds, confronting terrors no matter who or where they are created. One can, after all, idolize Guy Fawkes not for the "Fifth of November" but for the tragedy and betrayal onto those who would stand and hope for better things. Guy Fawkes is a story of tragedy and reminder, not of triumph and success.

Neither violence nor ignorance are the answer, so 2016 is the year for reclaiming our sanity and strength to do battle against the divisions.       


I ask for divine strength 
  to meet the demands of my profession. 
Help me to be the finest medic, 
  both technically and tactically. 
If I am called to the battlefield, 
  give me the courage to conserve our fighting forces 
  by providing medical care to all who are in need.
If I am called to a mission of peace, 
  give me the strength to lead 
  by caring for those who need my assistance. 
Finally, help me to take care of my own 
  spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. 
Teach me to trust in never-failing love.

  - a combat medic's creed.


A student said to his master: "You teach me fighting, but you talk about peace. How do you reconcile the two?"

The master replied: "It is better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war."
_______________________

[1] Take micro-packaging for example: it is sometime touted as a genius of an idea for selling products to the poor and therefore a prime example of social entrepreneurship. But what about the environmental factor of economic and social impacts the micro-packaging can cause? Does it create more jobs locally or shift packaging and labor to other places? Does it create more or less trash for the environment? Or were these types of conversations not often taken in those board rooms where the idea is pitched? Highly likely never even mentioned.