Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not Just a Hat Rack

Why do we do what we do?

Why do we believe what we believe?

Is it because of peer pressure?

Is it because that is what everyone else is doing?

As a child I was always instructed to use my head for something besides a hat rack.

I was listening to an audiobook from Dave Ramsey, "Total Money Makeover", where he brings up an experiment that was conducted with chimpanzees.

Dave explained that the experiment started with some chimpanzees being placed in a room with a ladder in the center. On top of the ladder was some enticement or treat (I envision bananas). If a chimp decided to climb the ladder the rest of the group was sprayed with water. Eventually, the group would not let any other chimp in the group climb the ladder because they all did not want to be sprayed with water.

The scientists then replaced one of the chimps with a new one, and once the new chimp tried to climb the ladder the group prevented them from doing so until this chimp learned that apparently the group did not want anyone climbing the ladder.

The scientists continue to replace the chimpanzees one at a time until eventually all of the original subjects had been replaced. Even though none of the first group that was sprayed with the water remained, the rest of the chimpanzees continued to prevent any of the new chimps from climbing the ladder.

These chimpanzees were now merely perpetuating something. Even though none of these chimps knew why, but because that is what has always been done.

Dave brings this up to explain why we so blindly think we need to acquire debt. Even though this makes sense, you can also take this a step further to explain why we do so many other things blindly and without fully researching and knowing why we do the things we do. From credit, to religion, to drugs, to how we interact with the opposite sex, or why we all had to go see Avatar. We continue to plod along doing things because that's the way it has always been done.

I heard a similar story while living in North Pole Alaska.

Someone who owned some sled dogs said they had installed sprinklers above the dog runs and had a switch installed in the house. Every time the dogs began barking the owner would flip the switch and soak the dogs to shut them up. Eventually they figured out that barking meant a drenching. When the owner would introduce a new dog into the runs, and it began barking, the other dogs would head for their kennels because they knew what was about to happen to the new guy.

While I'm sharing interesting animal tales, Dave also brought up how they capture monkeys in a country I don't recall the name of. They would place tasty sweet nuts into large jars with skinny necks. The aroma from the nuts would attract the monkeys and they would reach down into the jar to retrieve the nut. Once the monkey grabbed the nut with its fist, its hand became too big to pull out of the neck of the jar. Since the jar was too heavy, the monkey would be trapped from its greed of not wanting to let go of the nut.

What's the take on all of this? First of all, don't blindly follow people without doing your own research as to why you are doing something. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn't make it the correct path for you. Humans are full of mistakes. Some people perpetuate mistakes whether they mean to or not. They're not evil people, they're just ignorant and misguided. Which is what you will be if you follow their lead without knowing why.

Do you remember Jim Jones? People followed him so blindly that they all drank poison-laced Kool-Aid, which is where the common term that is now used to follow someone blindly is called, drinking the Kool-Aid.

Although we are animals, we have larger brains then the rest of the wild kingdom. Let's try using them a bit more often shall we?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Religion - Blind Faith or Wisdom?

A friend of mine asked if I had seen the "Life" series yet. Although I have it on DVR I have not yet started watching it, but I can't wait because the photography in it looks amazing.

He brought up that it was very slanted toward evolution. I mentioned the National Geographic special I watched a few weekends ago about evolution which asked the question, "Was Darwin wrong?"

I told him the Nat Geo show did a great job tackling the three basic things that Darwin brought to light concerning evolution, and in all instances Darwin was correct in his thought process even though in his day he didn't have the full ability to test his theories.

My friend told me that evolution is not real because the Bible does not have any mention of dinosaurs, and that Adam and Eve did not have dinosaurs around or the Bible would have mentioned them.

He went on to explain to me that the dinosaur bones were probably created somewhere else in the universe then brought from pieces of matter when the Earth was created.

Of course, he also pretty much ended the conversation by telling me that he didn't care about the past because he has it on faith what really happened.

Is this truly what religious people all think? Do they completely ignore scientific proof and just base all of their belief system on faith?

Does it occur to these people that the reason the Bible doesn't mention dinosaurs is because when the Bible was written detailed study on our planets natural history was not available, and that the Bible is imperfect because it was written by man, and not through the channeling or influence of a supreme being?

I'm not one to abuse people for their beliefs, but if their belief system does not stand up to scrutiny, what does it say about those who follow its teachings? They need to ask the bigger question such as, "Why does my religion teach that you must have faith and ignore scientific fact?"

Does this make any sense?

I have not ventured into a religious article for some time now, basically because I now have many articles on the subject and it can get tiresome to rehash the same topic over and over again. I just thought this conversation with my friend needed to be brought out.

What are your thoughts on this? What would a better argument be from the religious folks out there other then preferring to ignore the science and relying on faith?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Company You Keep

One thing I stress to my kids is that you must be careful who you choose to associate with.

There are stories upon stories in the news about someone being killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obviously something like this can, and certainly does, happen accidentally. Why increase the odds by hanging out with the wrong crowd.

When I was growing up I stayed clear of wild parties where teens were all getting drunk and acting stupid. These parties never seem to go well. This is the environment that you tend to hear about on the news where a fight broke out and someone got shot or stabbed. Leaving these parties is just as bad, especially if you're riding in a car with someone who has been drinking at the party. To many times friends don't want to tell their friend not to get behind the wheel of their own car. Unfortunately, that could be a fatal mistake.

I enjoy excitement just as much as the next person, but some people can take the adrenaline rush to the extreme.

Extreme sports are cool to watch, and I imagine they are a real thrill to participate in. What you always need to be aware of, is that the more extreme the sport, the closer you are to serious injury or even death.

I've played my share of sports from football to baseball, swimming and water polo, and was even a tournament water skier and took numerous martial arts such as tang su do, jujitsu and taekwondo. Needless-to-say I have also suffered my share of injuries, and although some more extreme sports have intrigued me, I have always held back. It's not that I'm scared. People who know me well can attest that I am not afraid of much, it's more that my brain kicks into high gear and tells me to avoid the things that are on the edge of crazy.

Have you ever watched the show, "Man vs Wild"? Now Bear Grylls is one crazy dude. There is no way on this planet that I would even put myself in a tenth of the positions he does. Even though he has a climbing crew with him, I have seen him come close to ending his life way too many times. Bear is tempting fate, and I am awaiting the day I read about his "once to many" crazy stunt. I bet he'll say that he died doing what he enjoyed, but I have different plans for my future. I don't want to be in a hurry to end my life doing something stupid.

Some of you are probably thinking, "any of us can die tomorrow just walking across the street, or from some medical condition". This is true, but because we're all going to punch out eventually, why would we want to speed up the process? Life is dangerous enough without tempting fate trying to win a Darwin Award.

People who don't drink get killed by drunk drivers. People who are just trying to fit in get killed at parties where fights break out or a drive-by shooting happens. People end up with criminal records because their "friends" committed a crime while they were with them.

It isn't just physical injury or death that you need to be careful of, what about emotional issues?

Negative people can be very damaging to hang out with. For kids it might be friends that constantly talk about hating school, hating their teachers, or hating their parents. This tends to rub off on their friends and breeds problems in other houses from the negative collateral damage. I have seen my daughters attitudes about numerous things be changed rapidly by someone else's loser kid. It's difficult to keep hold of them and reenforce their strengths so that they do not fall completely under the spell of the local turd.

Unfortunately children who grow up with negative parents, or parents with twisted views of society such as racism and other hateful attitudes, have a tough time. Parental influence is strong and difficult to break free.

As difficult as it might be, if you have a friend, or even a family member, who is negative or self-destructive, you need to be strong and steer in another direction from them. You don't have to be mean, just make sure you spend less time with people who do not have the same attitude that you'd like to possess.

Remember, the company you keep will do a lot to define not only who you are, but who you will become.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Path We're On

As you move through life there are opportunities that present themselves. Sometimes these opportunities are within your control, and sometimes they are in the control of others.

If someone else is in control, it feels as though you are merely a spectator in your own life, watching and waiting for the drama to unfold.

At the moment my future lies with the decision of another. Well, one possible future to be sure. I would enjoy discovering where that path would lead, but am just happy to have caught a glimpse of the trail.

Our lives are constantly crisscrossing through different possible branches leading to a variety of futures. Which ones we take are not always chosen by us.

I will be moving quietly through the next few days awaiting my fate.

Will the path you end up on be the right one? There's no way of telling, even when you're traveling along. That's what makes life interesting. Our goal should be to take the path we're on and make the best of it.