Friday, July 03, 2015

Ironwood Rhubarb #4 (Meme)

Memes--by Howard Campbell

This year, the word "meme" is 39 years old. This is an article about memetics, the study of memes, and thinking about thinking.

Some say that the word meme has grown up stupid. Cynics of memetics say the best thinking about memetics came and went in the 1990s. Today, we generally know that colloquially the word meme is used to mean a picture with text on it. However, this growing awareness of the word does not disparage that the meme, meme, originally meant a single unit of thought, of anything a mind can replicate from another mind, opening up a new field of of exploration into consciousness, the fruits of which we can see today.

Memetics appears to me as an inquiry into our changing system of thinking. However, humans studying memetics is like a fish studying water--we are inquiring into the invisible currents surrounding us.

Meme, as a word, is credited with being coined in 1976 in Richard Dawkins' seminal book *The Selfish Gene.* The word "meme" was intentionally minted by Richard Dawkins years earlier when he was an ornithologist, a studier of birds in an academic setting Dr. Dawkins was a pro in birding, a hobby notorious for competitive amateurs.

Dr. Dawkins was tracking the source of variation in a bird song. When he tracked the migrating birds, he found they summered in New Jersey. There, in the valley of their traditional summering ecosystem, was a new factory, and the rhythm of the machines had been incorporated into this bird call, creating the shift he noticed.

Dr. Dawkins coined the word meme to reflect birds have adopted a specific unit of human intelligence, a unit of cultural reproduction that was traceable and capable of being coded for analysis. 

Meme allowed us to think about thinking in a new way. Thinking about thinking appears to me as similar to drawing about drawing--they both bring to life our own optical illusions. What Dawkins did for thinking appears to me as having many similarities to what MC Escher did for drawing--bringing the medium back around to examine itself and show where a surrealistic reality  gets created, allowing us to see that we are constructing a make-believe in our recreation of the Universe.

Thinking about thinking changes your thinking--or maybe you are doing what many philosophers call thoughting, which is to parrot back memories of people using the word thinking.

Dr. Dawkins saw a new phenomenon and he needed a new word for the phenomenon he saw. He documented a new scientific generalization. Consensus around a new generalization is a big deal in science. I think Dawkins' generalization is a big deal in the evolution of human thought, an echo of Einstein's generalization  of Relativity. I believe Dawkins removed intelligence from something being measured by man to anything a mind replicates, whether conscious or not. I read Dawkins as saying that there is complexity that oozes out, crossing the previously indelible lines of species-ism. This in an important part of our changing mind and evolving zeitgeist

The word meme appears to me as important to thinking as Copernicus' helio-centric model was important to our sense of place in  space. What Copernicus  did for space, Dawkins appears to me as having done for intelligence, showing that humans are not at the center--intelligence is something being measured, our mind is experiencing itself subjectively--we are the imagination of ourselves, crafting ourselves by thinking about ourselves and our interconnected thinking.

I am optimistic because I see more and more humans recognizing our interconnected with all living things, a perspective that the word meme helped open up on Spaceship Earth. I find heartening the words of Donald Kaufman from his movie *The Three.* :"Like cells in a body, we're all interconnected. 'Cept we can't see the body. The way fish can't see the ocean. And so we envy each other. Hurt each other. Hate each other. How silly as that? A heart cell hating a lung cell."

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A Place at the Table

One of the phrases that the religious right used many years ago was that they wanted a place at the table.

I was too tired to hear and see Jerry Falwell when he appeared in Chattanooga for the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Southwide Baptist Fellowship...I had to settle for meeting the parents of the recently deceased Terry Schiavo and their lawyer the day before.

Last night I dreamed that folks in Indiana were establishing the Mickbic Baptist Church in memory of my pastorate at a non-denominational church in 1982 and 1983.

Hey I met Jerry Falwell after he died.  We had a little one on one at 216 Gifford Street in Syracuse NY where I lived in 1972 as a member of the Children of God, dubbed the Storm Troopers of the Jesus Revolution by TIME  magazine.  I talked Jerry listened. I suppose leaders do that sometimes.

Back to my dream.  I was back at Panduit Corporation and greeting some unfamiliar old timers. Apparently one familiar boss had scribbled on a newspaper article about myself--apparently having a church after myself was newsworthy enough to be published for a nation of newspaper readers. There was even a little piece saying "congratulations, Mickbic, from Lenna." She is one female from my childhood that I wished I had established a bond with when we were students growing up in Watkins Glen NY.

In the dream I had just bought a New Era Tag and Label printing press. I wondered if I was to bring it back to be used at Panduit. They probably have a couple of New Era presses in their Costa Rica facility.

One unfamiliar old timer in the dream asked me something [I asked him to speak up due to my hearing loss]--perhaps thinking I had some deep wisdom to draw from that prompted folks in  Indiana to name a church after me.  In real life, my Indiana parishioners  liked a sermon I had preached on forgiveness in  which I  undoubtedly quoted "Father forgive them--they know not what they do."

I had been fired from Panduit on 5-6-91 and I see that 5691 is the last four digits of the phone number of Asheville Transit. I subpoenaed three employees after I was fired, considering it an improper termination.

Oh well, I had my place at the table--with Jerry Falwell,  Lenna, newspaper readers, and Panduit employees. Tomorrow night it might be a more typical printing dream where nothing really goes right. Such is life.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ironwood Rhubarb #3

There Is No Noble Purpose, Only Noble Thought or Deed
(by Jkatian)

A few years ago while we were starving I got to thinking. I had decided years before that my life was ok to sacrifice to save my children. They would be worse off without me but if I could stay alive they would have a chance. Day after day there was no food for me. I ate nothing. Every third or fourth day I'd manage to get a bowl of oatmeal or something into me. Sometimes I went crazy and consumed everything I could find and didn't tell anyone I hadn't shared. I mostly lived on tea.

I tried to get food stamps but the poverty rate had been dropped so low that the fact that we owned a house disqualified us. I spent a lot of time searching for a cheaper place to live. The rents around us were higher than our mortgage. I tried hard to get a good deal on that house and $1000 a month looked good for a family of four. I never did find another better place.

I came to realize there is no noble purpose, only noble thought or deed. The starvation we were dealing with wasn't noble. There's nothing attractive about martyrdom. If I thought I was only being a martyr I would have divorced me immediately. But I couldn't find such scorn, the facts of our life just then were irrefutable. I could only wait and work to make things better.

In fact I was so sick from hunger that I couldn't work. I barely had enough food in me to stay upright. I dreamed of working, if only I could get enough food in me to have the energy to go find another job.  The economy had cancelled my last one, leading to the downward spiral and catch 22.

Today I still watch our youngest working generation deal with these same facts daily. My daughters are on their own now which finally allows me to eat their share. But just like all the 20 year old's they don't get much food. All the kids try to budget for one small meal a day. Often that does not happen. It's so common for people to go several days without eating anything. The toll on their health is permanent, And for some reason these days the situation seems unavoidable.

I do not feel privileged to have stood on the front lines of scant food causing impossible get to work situations and no work causing scant food. The homelessness looks pretty peachy after starving long enough. We did live inside. That was the point, I fought like hell to keep my teenage daughters off the street. Of course there wasn't enough left over for food.

Every day that I survived and we continued to live inside felt like a victory for me. Except it was an idiotic game. If the world were acting right none of it would have to exist at all. There's no nobility in starvation. No nobility in poverty of any kind. I called us broke, never poor. I dealt with the poverty mentality as a child and have never been willing to be poor since. But I did notice that I didn't go into stores Or if I did I just vaguely looked at other people's stuff. None of it was for me. I kept an obliviousness about all the stuff that was around me. Stores, restaurants, fast food joints, I glossed over it all. It wasn't for me. And so I knew that against my better instinct the poverty mentality lived inside me again. Still no nobility to be found there.

But one day as I stared out the back door I realized that I did have a choice. I always had. I could have kept all the food for myself. I could have eaten a full satisfying meal every day, if I didn't share with the other three. And it wasn't because I wanted to be the one to sacrifice. My husband needed enough food to work full time and have energy for that. That was our support. My daughters were growing teenagers who couldn't afford to share. That was the future. They all got so little already. I had no job. There wasn't enough of anything It was only fair that I get to stay alive if possible. In an unfair system that was the best I could do. And so I saw that thought or deed could be noble. Nobility wasn't my intention. But if that's all any of us have at the extremes then, at least I was noble. I searched all I knew to find any noble purpose ever. Nations, wars, disasters. No. All of these might create noble thoughts or deeds but them will never be a noble purpose. Just another extreme situation that should be bypassed by any sane person.




Sunday, May 10, 2015

Haven't Hung Out My Shingle Yet

Mothers' Day 2015 Verse

Four years, four Gyna Colleges,
And then an unlikely twist.
I'm second year med student
Studying to be a gynecologist.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Ironwood Rhubarb #2

I have a friend who is a sailor. Sometimes he takes companions with him,  but frequently he sails alone. He has time to think when he is out there in his boat on the water, and among the things he has thought about is the difference between solitude and loneliness. Solitude, he says, is when you are out on your boat and the wind fills your sails. Loneliness is when the wind dies. It is as good a description as I have ever heard. (Earl K. Holt III, minister emeritus, First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, Missouri)

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Read On (by David Rowe)

Since the beginning of time thoughts have filled our minds and in some cases we have chosen to set them down in some form of medium, going back all the way to the hieroglyphics of the cave dwellers.

Some--though not all--of us choose to delve into these thoughts of others through the activity known as reading. Today numerous distractions such as televisions and computer games tempt but some of us speak to the written word.

A friend once told me that reading was like travelling and in a very literal sense that is true. Reading matter such as travel magazines, road maps, and atlases take us places where otherwise we wouldn't ever go.

For many of us, though, the way to travel is through the imaginary world created by the imagination of the writer of fiction. We are transported into their world; we cheer the triumphs of the hero and applaud the downfall of the villain.

And then there's poetry which today includes not only the traditional but also some of the best written songs--they all urge us to sing, if not outwardly then internally.

And finally there is reality, warts and occasional roses and all. Nonfiction works such as biographies can enlighten, and through quality journalism such as The New York Times we can connect with the world around us.

So my friend, dive into something worthwhile--who knows, you may someday turn into a source.

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A Paean to the Bean
(also by Dave Rowe)

From cold steely gray comes warm washing light
From once empty mug comes sweet swirling sip
From sounds once subdued comes free-flowing jazz
From cold frozen grudges comes a once latent smile
Snikerdoo, Angel Kiss, Double Espresso--some call it coffee
I'll call it life.

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See! I will not forget you....I have carved you on the palm of my hand. (Isaiah 49:15

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Than Ho Delivers (by Mickbic)


[The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.--Mark Russell]

Bill Madigan dipped into some Fred Bonnie short stories while waiting for a plane in Cincinnati. Nothing like his own 1970 short story about an ambassador for Christ sleeping in the best bed in the embassy.

There was no luggage awaiting him in Chattanooga, Must have taken the flight to the rings of Saturn.

The 25th high school reunion near  Rochester NY had gone well. Marcia, the former majorette looked a little lost and forlorn after two marriages gone bad. He would call her sometime in July and tell her some of his own tales of woe.

Bills's luggage arrived from Saturn a few days later at the specialty printing company where Bill was employed.

Bill had first become acquainted with Fred Bonnie's writing through a former sister in law of Fred's. Fred died while on a a book signing tour in 2000. He had just published his only novel, Than Ho Delivers, based in Birmingham. Alabama. No mention of Christ's ambassador sleeping in the embassy or luggage ending up becoming part of the rings of Saturn.



Saturday, April 04, 2015

Newt Gingrich and Rudolph Perz

That night in October 1994 Dan Thorpe was playing his guitar at his dining room table and sharing his reefer and beer with Bill Madigan. At one point Dan said "there is something inside Stone Mountain."

Bill felt like he had been given a mild electrical shock. It was hard to believe that someone else thought the same as he did about Stone Mountain. Harmonic convergence? Was going to the center like going to God, stepping outside of the flow of time and process, getting off the carousel, the Ferris wheel, the spinning planet?

Years later Bill envisioned a baseball stadium inside Stone Mountain with Newt Leroy Gingrich throwing out the first pitch of the 2019 World Series--only it wasn't the 2019 World Series but a make up World Series for the year 1994. No World Series that year due to a player's strike.

1994 was a good year for Newt Gingrich, the Pillsbury Doughboy who offered a Contract with America after spending a little more time in the oven than he wished.

Due to exfoliation, it would probably be difficult to carve a baseball stadium inside Stone Mountain, but then Gingrich once complained that his wife was a Jaguar and what he needed was a Chevrolet.

Rudolph Perz, who created the Pillsbury Doughboy in the 1960s died on Thursday in a Chicago hospital at age 89. He too might have thought he had been in the oven a little longer than he wished. Happens to us all.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Ironwood Rhubarb #1

Rhubarb about Peace, Bacon, and Eggs: How might propaganda cultivate a more just world?
by Howard W.Campbell, III

(editor's note: rhubarb is  slang term for an argument or heated discussion)

"Peace is more profitable."
1622 Propaganda, Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide

Now, in [2015], propaganda is hardly ever a word used to describe human rights, or cultivating a more just world. How might propaganda cultivate a more just world? In 1622, some accountants for Pope Gregory XV took a sideways approach to ending the holy wars. Mathematically, they proved peace is more profitable than waging holy wars Their proof coined the word propaganda, meaning the propagation of ideas that served the Holy Roman Empire.

Arguably, Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide [SCPF] saved millions of lives, and helped cultivate a more just world. It still sucked to be an invaded population who would be tortured if they resisted being ruled. The word propaganda was created in a proposal to kill fewer people, with the financial argument made in mathematics that peace was more profitable than war.

Propaganda said that if you seize the mind, a valuable body will emerge. Prior to propaganda, a population of alternative religionists usually required extermination or enslavement. Orson Scott Card, an author best known for his book Ender's Game, makes a point in his book The Redemption of Christopher Columbus about how slavery lead to human rights in what we now call South America. In something similar to the SCPF, accountants in the roles of priests convinced gods on Earth that slaves were valuable, and he needed them alive, which led to rules of treatment which led to rights. Again, an argument to keep people alive because they have productive value. Today, many say we should keep people alive because we have an immeasurable value, others don't think we're that special, and yet others hold that while we are special, life extension is not necessarily a moral compulsion. From a learned discussion of math and value, emerged a word propaganda, which changed the structure of society, and placed new-found value on education as indoctrination, and delivered us into a new state of thinkism.

Some say propaganda ended the Inquisition. Others will point out that the Inquisition never ended. In 1965, Pope Paul VI rebranded the Office of Inquisition to the Office of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which is active at the time of this publishing.

Some say it took the capitalistic agenda of the United States during World War I to vilify the word propaganda. Can we all agree that the meme "propaganda" is a negatively charged meme? When people point to government persuasion media and call it propaganda, I wish they might more accurately say Bernaysian, from Edward Bernays, the man who wrote the book Propaganda.

When you hear an ad saying " 4 out of 5 doctors recommend . . ." you are hearing the echo of  Edward Bernays' advertising headline: 4 out of 5 doctors recommend a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs. People still say "bacon and eggs" but virtually nobody today remembers the ad for the pork industry. Edward Bernays was a genius at promoting categories, so he often got hired by an industry association, or by the market leader of an industry. If you own the company that sells the greatest quantity of cigarettes, then getting more people to smoke will help you the most because you are the market leader.

In 1948, when this ad ran, folks were already eating eggs for breakfast. Occasionally, folks would eat pork with eggs for special occasions. What Bernays did eloquently was give folks a reason to do something more often that felt like an indulgence, and to make it seem healthy.

Bernays appears to me as a dark, misguided magician, applying sleight-of-mind for man made ends. The "Bacon & Eggs" trick here was a magician's forced choice among doctors. When Bernays surveyed doctors, the survey asked [something like] would you recommend your patients skip breakfast or have a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs? Then he wrote an ad headline: 4 out of 5 doctors recommend a hearty breakfast of bacon an eggs.

The "4 out of 5 doctors" sleight-of-mind  is perceived by some to have cost hundreds of millions of Americans many years off their lives.Looking at the cost of lives appears to me as a process of evaluating what our current mempool is taxing its inhabitants. Arguing for a more life/livingry agenda appears to me as [an application]  of propaganda's persuasiveness in creating positive changes in public health This concept is outlined in 50 Ways To Yes, written by an articulate humanitarian named Dr. Robert Cialdini.

It is because of this that--when in a restaurant you will hear me order eggs and bacon. :-)

[Edited and retyped on February 3, 2015 by Mickbic]