Monthly Archives: September 2009

Rationalizing Chaos

“The organizer goes with the action.  His approach must be free, open-ended, curious, sensitive to any opportunities, any handles to grab on to, even though they involve other issues than those he may have in mind at that particular time.  The organizer should never feel lost because he has no plot, no timetable or definite points of reference …

The major problem in trying to communicate this idea is that it is outside the experience of practically everyone who has been exposed to our alleged education system.  The products of this system have been trained to emphasize order, logic, rational thought, direction, and purpose.  We call it mental discipline and it results in a structured, static, closed, rigid, mental makeup.  Even a phrase such as “being open-minded” becomes just a verbalism.  Happenings that cannot be understood at the time, or don’t fit into the accumulated “educational” pattern, are considered strange, suspect, and to be avoided.  For anyone to understand what anyone else is doing, he has got to understand it in terms of logic, rational decision, and deliberate conscious action.  Therefore, when you try to communicate the whys and wherefores of your actions you are compelled to fabricate these logical, rational, structured reasons to rationalizations.  This is not how it is in real life.” – Saul D. Alinsky in Rules For Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals

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Forecasting the Future

I was on the subway reading this week’s edition of the Economist, when I came across this article.  The technology they describe, “augmented reality” (AR), was so fascinating that I had to learn more once I got back home.  I started to wonder what these technological innovations would allow us to do in the near future.

I immediately started thinking of a world where I put on AR contact lenses and obtain vision similar to that of Arnold Schwartzenegger in Terminator.  As I walk out onto the streets of Manhattan, my new vision enhancers provide little information bubbles of the restaurants and bars I look at, showing me Yelp ratings, which of my friends have been there, etc.  If I want to get to a new part of town, my AR vision would simply guide me in the right direction.  If I become interested in a movie poster on the subway walls, the image recognition in my contact lenses could simply provide me with the reviews and the nearest theater.  The possibilities are endless.

As fun as it is to dream of what the future holds, I didn’t want to get carried away with the high hopes that one day I may own my own pair of AR contact lenses.  When it comes down to it, things rarely end up turning out the way you think they will.  Think about all the countless amount of times you’ve looked into into future, and played out an upcoming event in your head (a vacation, weekend with friends, a date, the start of a new job, etc.) the way you thought it was going to happen.  Once that event finally comes to pass, it rarely if ever goes according to what you pictured.  Sometimes reality is better than what you anticipated, and sometimes its worse, but it’s almost never the exact same as you forecast it to be.

People predict the future all the time, everyday.  It’s fun to think about what could be.  Yet, I think it’s really important to not get too caught up in these forecasts.  Today, I got pretty worked up thinking about how awesome it would be to have all this unfathomable AR technology.  Reality is, the chances of me owning a pair of “Terminator Vision” contact lenses in the near future are pretty slim.  Even if I do get that opportunity, I would imagine the actual product would be quite different than what I anticipated.  I’m not saying it’s worthless to forecast the future, far from it.  I guess what I’m really trying to say is don’t put too much emotion into your predictions, because reality tends to unfold on its own terms.

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Provisional Existence

“A man who could not see the end of his “provisional existence” was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future, in contract to a man in normal life. Therefore the whole structure of his inner life changed; signs of decay set in which we know from other areas of life. The unemployed worker, for example, is in a similar position. His existence has become provisional and in a certain sense he cannot live for the future or aim at a goal. Research work done on unemployed miners has shown that they suffer from a peculiar sort of deformed time–inner time–which is a result of their unemployed state. In camp, a small time unit, a day, for example, filled with hourly tortures and fatigue, appeared endless. A larger time unit, perhaps a week, seemed to pass very quickly.” – Viktor E. Frankl’s

Frankl’s A Man’s Search For Meaning is a fantastic book written by an Austrian psychiatrist who survived several long years in concentration camps during the Holocaust.  He points out in the book, that many people in the camps had their perspective of time warped as a result of not knowing when they would be released from the camps (or if they would be released at all).  Without certainty of the future, they found it difficult to set goals or find the significance in their labor and suffering.  This would ultimately cause many people to give up on their lives, which meant certain death in the conditions they lived under in places like Auschwitz.  Creating a sense of “provisional existence” was one of the most cruel forms of torture committed against the prisoners.

The unemployment rate recently hit 9.7%.  My guess is that there are a lot of people out there experiencing a sense of “provisional existence”, uncertain when they will find a job.  Not knowing the time frame of unemployment makes it difficult to set goals and find purpose and meaning in a daily routine.  Sure, being unemployed is nothing compared to the Holocaust, but it doesn’t always take something so extreme to make someone lose their mind.

If this excerpt has taught me anything, it’s that no matter how dire and hopeless a situation appears at the surface, finding a sense of meaning in even the most insignificant tasks and routines can give a sense of purpose, and can provide enough hope to get through what may appear to be an endless amount of suffering.

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The Suburbs

Paul Graham, a well known venture capitalist and essayist, has an interesting post titled “Why Nerds Are Unpopular“, where he gives his opinion on why nerds find it so hard to fit into the American schools.  Reading through the whole article is well worth your time, but I find the quote below to be most interesting:

If I could go back and give my thirteen year old self some advice, the main thing I’d tell him would be to stick his head up and look around. I didn’t really grasp it at the time, but the whole world we lived in was as fake as a Twinkie. Not just school, but the entire town. Why do people move to suburbia? To have kids! So no wonder it seemed boring and sterile. The whole place was a giant nursery, an artificial town created explicitly for the purpose of breeding children.

Where I grew up, it felt as if there was nowhere to go, and nothing to do. This was no accident. Suburbs are deliberately designed to exclude the outside world, because it contains things that could endanger children.

Having Grown up in a suburb myself, I am surprised I never thought of them in this light.  I’m pretty embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until after I travelled throughout Asia during college that I realized most people in the world DON’T live in suburbs.  Now, being a resident of Manhattan, this realization is becoming even more clear, as I see kids in grade school crossing boroughs on subways by themselves to get to school.

I am grateful for growing up in my suburb, seeing that I benefited from its safe streets, quality schools, etc., but I also happy that I’ve been exposed to life outside of the green grass and subdivisions.  The world is exciting and unpredictable to be stuck inside the walls of the suburbs.

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Commencing Creativeness

Time to experiment with my creative side.  I hope this gets more interesting than a few meaningless posts.  Here goes nothing…

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