Adaptation

Repost from October 9, 2015. 

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

–Eric Hoffer

Ah yes, variations on the first rule of evolution – we adapt or we die.

Eric Hoffer passed away at 80 in 1983, and was the source of many, beautifully simple, quotes. He was a philosopher, and a working man, who wrote what he intuited based on the world he lived in. His most famous work, “True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements” (1951), was an attempt to address the whys & hows of totalitarian governments, particularly Hitler and Stalin. I think he was onto something when laying out his argument for the psychology of how they take root and grow. Part of that mass psychology, in his view, is that people who are disaffected and feel threatened by their world, are those that more readily accept the hand of the dictator, because they like the promise of ‘better’ times, the promise of future more like the one they’d envisioned. The more threatened they feel by the status quo, the more likely they are to embrace a radical change. Unfortunately, I fear that we may be witnessing that type of disaffection among some segments of the populace now. Be very careful what you wish for.

I’d not thought about this particular quote in a while. But I think there are many people these days who would do well to heed the words, so maybe they should be dusted off. The majority of my saved quotes are meant to be inspirational in some form or other, but this one is more of an affirmation for me. I do believe that all humans have a remarkable capacity for adaptation – when they choose to engage it. Change & growth run together – stagnation is not a natural human state.

For me, the message in this particular quote is clear – we have to keep learning, and growing, in order to cope with a constantly changing world. Given much of his writing, he likely meant it a bit more literally, but even at its most literal, the meaning is still essentially the same.When confronted with a change in circumstance, it is we that have to change to adapt to it. It doesn’t matter how well you understand how things were, you have to develop an understanding of how they are. To those who are continually fighting to bring back some imaginary ‘good old days’, there is undeniably a lesson in this. Unfortunately, they are the ones least likely to heed the advice.

In a similar spirit, I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes, and rules for living, from Heraclitus:

“There is nothing permanent except change”

Photo of Bridal Veil Falls and Water Wheel – Idaho Springs, Colorado, Judy 2017

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On storms and other disasters

As we head into a weekend after a couple of days worth of relentlessly bad news, it seems hard to relax. Burmese refugees overwhelming Bangladesh, a severe earthquake (8.1) in Mexico with a hurricane (Katia) bearing down on the other side of the country, islands pretty much wiped out as a record-breaking category 5 hurricane (Irma) barreled over them – now a 4, expected to be a 5 again when it hits the Florida Keys, which are under a mandatory evacuation order that many have ignored, and slams into the Florida peninsula, with another Atlantic hurricane (Jose) strengthened to a category 4 too close behind Irma for comfort – particularly for the islands that lost so much when Irma came through. Much like when Harvey hit Texas, impacting family and friends, it is hard to watch and not be able to do anything to fix it.

For my friends and coworkers in Florida – please stay safe. Much is uncertain about Irma, but its size and force are not in question, and southern Florida will take the hardest mainland hit.  If it runs its currently projected course, I hope things do not get too bad for friends, family, and coworkers in central and north Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. I know that some of you in coastal areas, and barrier islands, have already evacuated – hopefully it will turn out to be an unnecessary precaution. But I also recall Camille in 1969, a storm that stayed cohesive, and managed to renew its strength when it crossed over land and back over water.

Ironic, perhaps, that today happens to be the 117th anniversary of the Galveston hurricane in 1900 that killed as many as 12,000 people – fortunately humans learned and adapted from tragedies, and built better structures, and learned how to forecast storms, and to prepare better, and now the loss of life has lessened significantly. But any loss of life in a storm is too much – and for those that think they can ride out this storm – don’t. It simply is not worth the gamble. You have choices now that people really didn’t have in 1900. Choose wisely.

To recall the not very cheery, but highly practical, words of Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

And above all – stay safe.

Pax.

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Quotes – September 5, 2017 – reminders

“I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another, for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.”

— Thomas Jefferson, 1799

Just something to keep in mind.

Jefferson image borrowed from history.com

We’re 3 years old!

 

“I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading: It vexes me to choose another guide.”

–Emily Brontë

It’s very hard for me to believe, but Time for my thoughts passed its third birthday  this past Friday (& yes, I did miss it – I’m terrible with anniversaries). It was September 1, 2014 when I published my first post. It wasn’t particularly interesting or profound, but there it was – written & sent out into the ether for someone to see. Of course, the initial someone was my elder daughter, who said she could hear my voice in her head while she was reading and found it disconcerting. For my part – that was great news. I’d quite literally found my voice! Which is good – it’s much easier for me to write that way. She says she still can, and it still is disconcerting, so if nothing else, I’ve managed to stay true to myself & made the blog’s chosen name more meaningful. Even if I’m keeping my voice in my daughter’s head from halfway around the globe.

I’ve continued to learn over the past year, and, as usual, some things I’ve chosen to disregard, others I’ve incorporated. I’ve gained a surprising number of new followers, and I’ve most likely lost a few more, too, but it would be strange if I didn’t. Some of the bloggers I had been interacting with are no longer blogging, which is unfortunate, but we all need to go where our own paths take us. I’ve never expected a huge following, and to me, my current number is pretty huge considering the fact that my blog is really all about me – Time for my thoughts pretty much spells it out – and I’m not a high-volume blogger (too many competing priorities). I, admittedly, like to see the numbers rise, and am a bit disappointed on a day that has no views, although most days do manage to have one or two. I don’t publish every day simply because I don’t want to make the time – I have a fairly demanding job, a part-time volunteer job, a retired spouse, a teenager still at home, other projects, and a need to make sure that whatever I’m writing is accurate (poorly proofread, perhaps, but accurate), and now we’re also trying to get our house finally ready to sell, and sifting through our post-sale option. My family copes well with my assorted writing endeavors, but it’s nice to have some family time sometimes, too. And some downtime for me occasionally is also helpful.

My current posting schedule still works for me most weeks, so I’ll stick with it for now. Sometimes it isn’t easy to stick to a schedule (and days like this my posts are written quite late), but out of all that I learned in Blogging U that first year, I think it may be the most important. I’ve come to realize that nonfiction works best for me in a blog, so I’ll continue to trudge down that path – although reality lately has often been stranger than fiction. I’m a poor planner, and am not likely to change, so most things that I write will continue to be written on the fly. I do plan to continue with the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion posts each month most months – even though it is no longer following a formal schedule, I still think it’s a wonderful idea, and pushing myself to focus on compassion once a month helps me stay balanced during the rest of the month. I’ll continue to keep those posts close to the 20th just to make sure that I really get the posts written (deadlines: sometimes I really need them).

I’m still wary of social networking. I still have no clue what Google+ is for, so its pretty much exclusively for Time for my thoughts, I’ve recently become a bit more active on Twitter – but 140 characters are hard to work with,  my only Facebook account is my personal one – and one of the reasons I started the blog was to be able to expand on my views somewhere not in Facebook. If I ever find the energy to become a power blogger, I’ll reconsider Facebook. But I am still thinking about grabbing the timeformythoughts URL since it’s still available and I’m still blogging. If anyone has any suggestions/comments/experiences to share about that, they would be much appreciated.

Thank you for reading and, especially, for  continuing to share your thoughts with me, as I continue on my journey down my own path, and I hope to never forget this wise advice from Albert Einstein:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Photo take July 4, 2017 from the Walkway Over The Hudson.

 

Labor Day – what we shouldn’t forget

“In regards to the price of commodities, the rise of wages operates as simple interest does, the rise of profit operates like compound interest. Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”  — Adam Smith

Today marks the start of the Labor Day weekend here in the US. This coming Monday is the first Monday in September, a day officially designated in the United States as Labor Day since 1894, although the day had been celebrated in several states since the mid-1880’s. Similar to the holiday celebrated in much of the rest of the world on May 1, the United States Department of Labor website defined the day as “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

With the annual end of the summer school holidays, it, like many other holidays, has become an excuse for Back to School sales (& yes, I will help my daughter shop for school supplies this weekend), end-of-summer parties, and similar activities and events that we enjoy whenever a national holiday gives us time off from work – and a three-day weekend to boot. Which is all good – we should be able to take advantage of our own breaks from work. But, perhaps those of us fortunate enough to have steady full-time jobs – blue or white collar – should also pause to think a bit about how we got where we are – with five day work weeks, paid vacation and sick time, corporate health plans, workplace safety requirements, etc. We are here now, able to enjoy a day dedicated to the contributions of labor because of the contributions of labor. And of the collective bargaining power formed when labor organized into unions. Yes, some unions were corrupted, some unions abused their bargaining power (and may have contributed to the downfall of their employers).

But those really were the exceptions, not the rule, most unions did, and still do, want what is best for their members – and sometimes that includes giving things up to keep jobs. Yet, throughout organized labor’s history, there has been much vilification of unions – businesses, like manufacturing and construction, which rely heavily on union labor, will argue that they can’t afford to employ union workers, or that they can only afford them with drastic cuts to what the workers need to live and support their families. Corporations have cheerfully blamed unions, all or in part, for their own failures (see Hostess and the US auto industry for example) – because then the public buys into the notion that unions are inherently bad. And then they, in turn, support politicians (who generally have a vested interest in keeping their business sponsors happy) who will push through “right to work” laws, and will actually move, as Tennessee did with Volkwagen, to stop an auto manufaturer from opening a plant unless they agree to keep the unions at bay.

“Right to Work”, now a law in 26 states, is a particularly disturbing form of union busting because it sounds, on the surface, so sensible. Very simply, under right to work laws, no one can be compelled to join a union or to pay union dues. In many cases, unions had, in fact, reached agreements with companies that required the collection of union dues, even from non-union workers, for the expenses involved in union negotiations. This was done because, under federal law, unions must provide protections to all employees covered under a contract even when those employees are not union members. The right to work laws effectively reduce the ability of the unions to gain ground in negotiations over time, and several recent studies have confirmed that workers in right to work states tend to have lower wages and fewer benefits than similar workers in neighboring non-right to work states.

More and more manufacturing has moved to other, less expensive, less well regulated, countries; and the service sector has also seen more ‘help desk’ type of jobs move in a similar fashion. Under the umbrella of building a global workforce, many other jobs – such as technology and financial services – are also seeing their US workforce shrink, as the foreign workforce continues to grow. Corporate greed, not the intransigence of unions, is the reason. The need to deliver increasing amount of profits to shareholders, has put profit over people. It is another sign of capitalism run amok.

We should all remember, as we enjoy our holiday this weekend that the memes are right – we should thank a union. Even those of us that have never worked a union job have benefitted from what they accomplished for all workers.

Have a peaceful weekend.

 

Tuesday’s Quotes – August 29, 2017 – Truth

“I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather do I fear to lose truth by this pretension to possess it already wholly.” — William James

And that pretty well sums it up.

Of course, James was writing about his religious views at the time, and was explaining why he rejects dogmatic thinking, but I find this portion of the discussion to be applicable to pretty much any topic (and echoed much later in Camus’ quote “If absolute truth belongs to anyone in this world, it certainly does not belong to the man or party that claims to possess it.”). Of course, James, in addition to being a psychologist, and physician, was also well-regarded as a philosopher of the Pragmatic school – as a pragmatist that majored in psych, how could I not find value in his much of his writing?

Image of William James borrowed from Wikipedia.