State Of The Ramble

Unlike Roark, with whom the author seemed to identify, Rand received all the benefits of an upper middle-class education, mooched off her relatives to set herself up in the United States, and enjoyed the support of a veritable army of influential conservative and libertarian intellectuals and elites who championed her work.


I am on day two of being sick.

It’s been a little odd since my current job doesn’t pay sick days. So at a job where I do have sick days, I’d be okay with being sick but since that isn’t so, I have  tremendous guilt over being sick and not going in to work.

This voice nags at me, it says “get the money get the money.

I respond “but I’m sick, what about my body?

And it goes “What about poverty? You don’t have a back-up plan do you? You’re poor!

Me: “WTF voice in the back of my head.

Is this what it means to have Catholic guilt? I wouldn’t know so I’m asking. I do have Father’s guilt though.

Father’s guilt is the idea that nothing you do is correct. Ever. If you are sick, you should’ve been sick differently or taken a bunch of drugs and gone to work anyway “cuz no one is going to take care of you” or some such “advice” like so.

Or if I did go to work, “you should’ve stayed home.” Yes my father is a ginormous tool. A ginormous, emotionally yo-yo of a tool, like any emotional unstable human. And he just happens (to like?) to use his position to inflict pain when he feels threatened. And the threats usually come whenever he feels his child is acting like an independent person. Sometimes I wonder if he has Borderline Personality Disorder.

But I still feel guilty for not working, even though being sick in the workplace is a crappy thing to do.


“Live with integrity, respect the rights of other people, and follow your own bliss.” Nathaniel Branden

Speaking of crap, some crappy article on HuffPo about Ayn Rand taking Social Security and Medicare came out recently. I hate Ayn Rand, her absolutism is appalling to someone like me. I believe in balance. Balance is rarely absolute, it’s always a little of this and a little of that and so on and so on.

Absolutism is divisive, good and bad, right and wrong…feh.  And it requires a person to live in a type of certainty that can be inflexible in real world practice. There is right for now and wrong for then.  Right and wrong is something we need to constantly devote brain cycles to. Not just rely on the belief of one person. That one person can be wrong. Case in point, read about my father and my mother and anyone who lives on stereotypes, which are absolutes. For example, “if Eds talks like this then she must be some lefty liberal.” EHNT, WRONG ANSWER.

Same thing goes for stereotyping people who gossip. EHNT, WRONG ANSWER. You know who you are.

The funny thing was that Rand, when she knew that she would most likely have to take benefits, decided to soften her stance about taking benefits. Which is on par for the witch. (I’m talking about her falling out with Nathaniel Branden btw.) It’s the “I don’t need to be understanding until it works out to my favor.”  It’s “saving face.” The problem is, if you never got yourself in a corner like that in the first place, you may have never had to save face. But at the end of the day, it almost doesn’t matter. Telling a Rand lover that she has faults is like telling a child that wrestling is fake.

(And what was the political social reason behind Social Security and Medicare? Was it for the exact reason Ayn had to use the money? Hmmm hmmm? Anyhow.)

I stand by my statement “Ayn Rand is the McDonald’s of reasoning.” There are just better writers who talk about being an individual without demonizing other people or entities.

Her absolutism seems to inspire people to live by the sword.. wait I’ll let this Buddhist fable explain that statement and my dismay with Rand’s way of being.

The Cakkavatti Siihanaada Sutta describes a state in which the king ignores his religious advisers and does not give wealth to the poor. Poverty becomes widespread and, in its wake, follow theft, murder, immorality in various forms, and communal breakdown. The culmination is a “sword period” in which men and women look upon one another as animals and cut one another with swords. In this sutta, lack of compassion for the poor leads to the disintegration of society. Lack of social and economic justice leads to disaster. In contrast, the ideal Buddhist model for society, as deduced from the texts, would be one in which exploitation in any part of its structure is not tolerated. Such a society would be rooted in compassion. Compassion is its prerequisite.

That’s right. I got Buddha in my corner, can you argue with religious belief? No? Didn’t think so. SCK IT! (FYI, you can read the Cakkavatti Sutta on the Access To Insight website.) Ok ok in all seriousness, a Buddhist should not be divisive in their speech and telling someone to “suck it” is pretty divisive but still, “Dharma-gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.” I’m imperfect, I know that. I have a ton of gates I have to enter, correct speech is one of them.

9:10 pm Eds


Speaking of assumptions, which is what Rand did, my parents did, and people who live by stereotypes do. Why don’t people have assumptive fail-safes?

Just a little something in your mind that allows to be like “whoops I made a mistake” and you do no harm to yourself cuz you knew all along you could be wrong and the person who you were wrong about doesn’t become offended because they see that you know you made a mistake and they don’t have to fight with you over an assumption you made about them.

We can’t get rid of assumptions all the way because assumptions are what make relationships special. When our friends, parents, and significant others make the correct assumptions about us, we feel special and honored. (Like even when they are right about us having a shtfit over something silly.) When we/you/I assume correctly it’s like saying “you mean something to me.” Someone took the time to watch us and figure out something we may need or like or whatever.

But assuming is a double-edged sword, cuz when we do it wrong and especially do it wrong in a conflict, holy crap. So why don’t more people just have an assumptive fail-safe? It’s just a little mental space you devote to any ideal you have that says, “I think I am right, but I could be wrong. And I’m open to and okay with being wrong… if i am.”

But perhaps this simple concept requires too many resources like, time to think about issues thoughtfully, a deviation from a person’s routine which complicates simplicity, plus if this a social deviation we can cause anxiety for ourselves cuz we may no longer be considered normal.


This has lead me to the Dunning–Kruger effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to appreciate their mistakes.[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence. Competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. “Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”

Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

  1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
  2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
  3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
  4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.


So concludes this State of the Ramble.

“I wish I could talk in Technicolor” LSD In The 50s

A mental health video of a housewife from the 50s on LSD is being passed around on the Internets right now. I couldn’t put my finger on what was so spectacular about the video until a friend wrote this:

Seeing someone with absolutely no context or expectations for this experience is fascinating.

I agree Joe, I agree.

Watch the clip.

I Am Such An Apologist


Wikipedia just blew my mind.

I was spending time on article research, when I landed on the page Apologetics.

What spurned this research was a neat and humorous article, although I couldn’t see the humor initially, that was in The New Yorker, August 2010. The article is called Apologia and written by Jeffery Frank. The article relates a reasoned debate the protagonist is having with themselves or someone else about whether to accept or not accept an apology.

(If you are a reader of this blog, you understand why an article about apologies caught my eye. If not, read Apologies 101, Doing It Wrong, Mindfully, Apologies 101: Don’ts, or just do a search on this site, keyword: Apology.)

In English usage, apology has taken on the meaning “to plea for forgiveness for an accepted wrong doing.” But that wasn’t the original meaning…

According to the Wikipedia page, apologetics is “the discipline of defending a position (usually religious) through the systematic use of reason” and the word apology is derived from the same Greek root apologetics comes from.

So here is this article about a protagonist in apologia about an apology.

And suddenly, the story has taken on a new twist. Very clever New Yorker and Jeffery Frank.

The beginning of the article is what pulled me in.

I was glad to be offered the apology—and about time, too—but I was far from ready to accept it. Not that it was a bad apology, but it never quite rose to the level I’d expected, and so I declined. Then, a day or two later, the apology was resubmitted and I was asked again if I would accept. Perhaps, I said, but not in that form.

The passage set me off because for the last years I’ve been finding my voice on my limits, boundaries, etc. I guess I’ve been, depending on your point of view, blessed or sheltered since most of the people in my social circle have their emotional/mental shit together enough that crazy bullshit doesn’t happen.

I don’t have friends (at least not that I know of) who are constant drama or live their lives as if they are in a midday soap opera. But some people, oh my God, some people just don’t understand the concept of  “no drama.” Everyday of their life is like a song of woe about how someone did them wrong, or this person is going to do them wrong, or this person is so envious of them, or emotional manipulative b.s. designed to persuade you to some end goal they have designed for you.

“Oh all my friends left me”

What wasn’t said, was that you were a complete jackass to your friends, either talking shit about them to others to boost your ego, or flaking on your word, or not even being aware enough to see your friend was in pain and needed a friend, not to be a caretaker to your feelings of low self-worth.

I just never knew about these types of people and because I never knew, I never had to learn how to be “hey fuck off with that attitude/behavior bullshit” and I never have had to hear such half-assed apologies that were basically given as breezily as a child who apologizes because they know it will get them off the hook easily or an apology is given, but even then, the writing on the wall is “it’s your fault.”

So I related to the idea of hearing an apology but not being able to accept it.  That is the essence of Apologia, even though the reasoning is to an extreme measure. But despite going to that place, the article ends with a statement I truly understand.

I’m sorry that I feel this way, but it’s not something for which I could ever apologize, even were an apology called for.

And that is a sentiment I truly relate to.

Speaking of quotes, my friend just passed another awesome quote to me, also from The New Yorker.

Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.

Read more

What’s That Chant

Chanting is weird. Even weirder when it’s related to religion. However I am a true believer in that sometimes we must put aside our ideas and judgments, especially if those concepts keep us from seeing the big picture. And so I do the chant below when I go to lecture at Zen temple.

I am explaining this because of the post I had up that featured a video lecture  from San Francisco Zen Center. You can hear the crowd chant some thing. It’s this thing.

Once I read the words of the chant, I didn’t mind saying it so much. It’s not like it’s some devotion to the mystic law of life, so whateves.

In a nutshell, before lecture I vow to keep my mind open to the ideas that are being taught and to test them to see if they are truthful for me. There’s also a reminder that this can be a super-hard thing to do all the time so like try to be okay with not always succeeding.

After lecture,  there are many people with delusions and I will try to save them. There are so many delusions (see The Othello Error) but I’ll work to end them.  There are so many ideas in  Dharma that it’s crazy, but I’ll try to learn them all. And the last line…. Buddha is awesome, I’ll try to be awesome like him. At least that’s how I see the chants. You may see it differently and that’s okay too.

Before lecture:

Mujo jin jin mi myo no ho wa
Hayaku sen man go ni mo ai-o koto katashi
Ware ima ken-mon shi ju-ji suru koto o etari
Negawakuwa nyorai no shin-jitsu-gi o geshi tatematsuran

An unsurpassed, penetrating, and perfect Dharma
Is rarely met with, even in a hundred thousand million kalpas
Having it to see and listen to, to remember and accept
I vow to taste the truth of the Tathagata’s words

After lecture

May our intention equally extend
To every being and place
With the true merit of Buddha’s Way

Shu-jo mu-hen sei-gan-do
Bon-no mu-jin sei-gan-dan
Ho-mon mu-ryo sei-gan-gaku
Butsu-do mu-jo sei-gan-jo

Beings are numberless, I vow to save them
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them
Dharma-gates are boundless, I vow to enter them
Buddha’s Way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it

The Othello Error

Lately, I’ve been reading the book Telling Lies by author Paul Ekman. Ekman’s books have been on my reading list for awhile, ever since I realized his life’s work in emotion and non-verbal communication is the inspiration for the Fox television show Lie to Me (starring Tim Ross).

As I read the book, one of the concepts Ekman coined for the mistakes lie catchers may make when trying to evaluate if someone is lying made me think of the recent lecture (Dharma Talk w/Q&A: Abbot Myogen Steve Stücky at SF Zen Center) I received at the Zen temple I go to sometimes. The lecture talked about a lot of things but the things that stuck out in my mind were words about self-fulfilling prophecies, acting with certain biases, and letting go of certainties. (Really, if you have at least an hour of time to kill, take a listen to it.)

The concept is called the Othello Error. The error occurs when “a lie catcher fails to consider a truthful person who is under stress may appear to be lying.” Reading this now, it may not be the error that caught my attention but the attitude that can fuel this error.

(If you aren’t familiar with the play Othello, read up.)

The scene begins with Othello accusing Desdemona of loving Cassio and telling her to confess since he will kill her anyway. Desdemona asks that Cassio be called upon to testify on her innocence. Othello tells Desdemona that he had Cassio killed. At this point, Desdemona realizes that she will be unable to prove her innocence and she will be killed by Othello.

Othello: Out, strumpet! Weep’st thou for him to my face?
Desdemona: O, banish me, my lord, but kill me not!
Othello: Down, strumpet!

From the book:

Othello interprets Desdemona’s fear and distress as a reaction to the news of her alleged lover’s death, confirming his belief in her infidelity. Othello fails to realize that if Desdemona is innocent she might still show these very same emotions: distress and despair that Othello disbelieves her and that her last hope to prove her innocence is gone now that Othello had Cassio killed, and fear that he will now kill her. Desdemona wept for her life, for her predicament, for Othello’s lack of trust, not for the death of her lover.

Othello’s error is also an example of how preconceptions can bias a lie catcher’s judgments. Othello is convinced before his scene that Desdemona is unfaithful. Othello ignores alternative explanations of Desdemona’s behavior, not considering that her emotions are not proof one way or the other. Othello seeks to confirm, not to test his belief that Desdemona is unfaithful….preconceptions often distort judgment, causing a lie catcher to disregard ideas, possibilities, or facts that don’t fit what he already thinks. This happens even when the lie catcher suffers from his preconceived belief. Othello is tortured by his belief that Desdemona lies, but that does not cause him to lean over in the opposite direction, seeking to vindicate her. He interprets Desdemona’s behavior in a way that will confirm what he least wants to be so, in a way that is most painful to him.

So I guess what really caught me is how having certainties all the time; be it optimism, pessimism, stereotypes, basically ideas about everything, can put us askew.

And I feel like the answer to this error is “not always so.” In the lecture (Dharma Talk w/Q&A: Abbot Myogen Steve Stücky at SF Zen Center), the Abbot said that in a response to having certainties.

Not always so.

It’s the concept that something everything can be, “not always so.”

“So this idea, I have about …, it’s not always so. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.”

And I think that creates the space in which one can, with their eyes wide open, choose to follow a certainty or choose “not always so.”  And that’s cool.

12/30/2010 — This reminds me of that article that said challenging your assumptions improves brain functioning.