Balance over Acquisition

In 2007 I woke up. I remember the exact moment. I was driving to work on a 100 mile commute and was stuck in traffic. The weight of mortgage debt and a crashing real estate market is what shook me from a deep sleep induced by a version of The American Dream.

Since then I’ve been processing, like an old CPU on limited RAM, but I think I’ve come up with a few answers. Not surprisingly the tiny house movement has been a strong force in shifting my thinking.

The American Dream is a convoluted thing, kind of like Christmas. At one time Christmas was about celebrating the birth of Christ, and for some people it might still be that. But for most Americans it’s about celebrating consumerism. The American Dream used to be about earning the freedom to make your own way and succeed – but now many people seem to think they are entitled to a lavish lifestyle built on debt.

The source of the transmutation stems from our prioritization of acquisition over all other things, especially balance. When people make acquisition their top priority they may become rich or terribly indebted, but they miss out on many more important things in life.

They also put themselves and their community at risk. Imagine if everyone busied themselves with acquiring all they could, and few focused on finding a true balance between themselves, the people around them, and the natural environment. Wouldn’t that society as a whole eventually fail?

Native Americans have many stories about greed and how it destroys. The wisdom in stories like these should not be overlooked because they are some of the only windows into our past that teaches what it truly means to live sustainably. Balance, giving, generosity, fairness are values these ancient and long-lived cultures held dear.

Other teachers of the harsh reality of greed can be in historic accounts of civilization collapse. The pattern seems to be that a civilization collapses when people collectively exceed their support system. Collapse also seems to come suddenly due to an environmental or human-made calamity.

Today we live in such a situation, and I think that’s the key motivator for war. It’s clear as day that the U.S. Government wants a global war to protect American National Security. In other words, they know our civilization is overextended and loosing its support system. Evidence of this is everywhere.

  • Economic Stimulus – The Federal Reserve’s economic policies of low interest rates and quantitative easing show that the U.S. Dollar needs propping up.
  • The constant drums for war from Washington D.C. and the funding of destabilization around the world create more wars.
  • The division forming between East & West.
  • The drive to centralize power, as opposed to decentralizing, shows a tightening fist of control.
  • Estimates that 1/3 of Americans are on some sort of financial assistance.

While many people focus on the symptoms, but I’ve learned to target the cause, which is how I landed on this whole Balance over Acquisition thing.

If we value balance over acquisition we still can find ways of making a living and making dreams come true, but we carefully maintain an equilibrium so as not to get too reliant on one thing. In other words, we adopt a diverse set of top priorities that we work to maintain in balance.

These could be things like family, work, education, travel/exploring, health, community participation, and so on. Many people already do this, although I’d argue to make things work in our society we all have to put the acquisition of money ahead of other things more often than we’d like.

If we extend this kind of thinking to our natural environment, resources, and consumption we then become a more stable part of our larger community. If the majority of people adopt balance over acquisition we build a stronger more lasting society.

But it would not be built to grow as fast as a society build on acquisition – which is what we’ve all become so accustomed to. Fossil fuels and technology have turned a little bit of greed into an enormous war machine capable of consuming vast resources. But it’s not built to last. It’s built to grow exponentially.

So when it runs low of fuel, like we are at this very moment, those best at acquiring pull out all the stops to avoid seeing all they have built disappear. This is the real reason for this coming war.

What to Do?

I’ve just described the problem, a solution, but no bridge to get there. Unfortunately I don’t think Americans want to wake-up, and can’t imagine the world moving at a slower pace. So attempting to wake people up is a bit of a challenge. A war would wake them up, but would refocus their attention on the need to acquire more to save their acquisition paradigm.

When this happens, it’s going to be a huge mess, and probably a dangerous time to be alive. If you are awake and open minded enough to consider that our civilization is overextended and fragile, consider building a bridge.

If some sort of collapse occurs many people will succumb to the torrent simply due to their unwillingness to see what is before their eyes. Others will react violently and grab what they can. Or maybe the current paradigm will continue through successful war after successful war.

In any event, your open mind and ability to adapt will be your guide through all challenges that come.


Visualizing Exponential Growth

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made some recent statements about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Here are some highlights:

  • Exponentially growing epidemic  – “The number of cases is doubling every three weeks.”
  • Systems overloaded – “The disease is destroying health systems. More people are now dying in Liberia from treatable ailments and common medical conditions than from Ebola.”
  • Supply chains failing – “Inflation and food prices are rising. Transport and social services are being disrupted.”
  • Local government systems failing – “The leaders of the affected countries have asked the United Nations to coordinate the global response.”

The chart above shows what the number of cases doubling every three weeks looks like. This is not a prediction, just simple math. The CDC is predicting 500,000 cases by the end of January – now you can see how that math works if something doesn’t stop this epidemic.

Today we’ve got just over 5000 cases of Ebola on record. If the Secretary-General’s math is right, then by mid-April 2015 we could see over 5,000,000 cases unless something happens that shuts down the exponential growth rate.

More Important Than The Math

It’s also important to point out that Ebola is not causing the destabilizing of West Africa. It’s the fear of Ebola that’s causing all the other impacts to supply chains and rule of law.

But hope can being order too. Maybe the UN can bring some hope with their efforts too and help avert exponential increases in fear.

Those of us living in unaffected areas might want to take note of this factor too. Hope can be more powerful than fear and give us the strength to ride through any storm. So take the opportunity now and build some hope by educating yourself and preparing for the possibility of destabilization.

Propaganda in the Time of Social Media

[Update: YouTube removed the video I had linked to. Probably a good thing, since it helps decapitate (pun intended) the ability of IS/ISIS/ISIL to spread propaganda.]

Fascinating turn of events. The Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL) is trying to turn the propaganda war in their favor. Now that they have America’s attention – gained via what many think are fake beheading videos – they are preparing to tell their side of the story. This is the first video of a series to be released.

Like the telling of all stories, we should take these with a grain of salt – but not miss this truly unique moment in time. A relatively small organization – the Islamic State – can now send its message to a world wide audience via social media. What will be most interesting is how effectively they are able to control the narrative and the response from western governments.

My gut tells me this propaganda effort will be successful in further destabilizing the west and may contribute to the catalyst for war.

But the tone of this video hints at another motive – one that contradicts the beheading videos. The reasonable tone set forth in the video seems directed at appealing to logic and deep desire to know the truth. In other words, it looks like it’s a campaign intended to gain the support for withdrawing western militaries from the Middle East.

Up until now I’ve suspected that they want the U.S. to bomb them because it will only intensify their local recruiting efforts. But if the American public’s support for war could be undermined, the Islamic State many benefit from a two-sided propaganda campaign.

  1. More anti-war sentiment in the West would make it harder for western powers to destroy the Islamic State militarily.
  2. More anti-American sentiment in the Middle East would make it easier to recruit people to join their Caliphate.

In other words – a delicate propaganda balance delivered via social media. An amazing feat if they can pull it off. But no propaganda yields positive results.

If the Islamic State chooses to hold-off on any attacks on American soil it would help them maintain their balance and achieve their goal of establishing a Caliphate. This would be a short-term win-win for Americans – because they don’t have to experience the bloodshed first hand. But in the long-term the reality still stands that the people of the Islamic State hate Americans for the imperialistic nature of our government and foreign policy. So the creation of a Caliphate in the east might be a far greater threat to the people of the west in the long run.

What to do?

  • Watch, listen, digest, keep your head strait. We’re about to witness some of the most amazing propaganda humanity has ever seen, delivered at the speed of light to your mobile phone.
  • Prepare for destabilization – it’s more on-the-table than ever before. We are at war.

This Short-term Earthquake Uptick Predicted – It’s the Sun

The folks at Susupicious0bservers have found a significant correlation between activity on the Sun and earthquakes. They can’t predict the location of earthquakes but when the Sun shows certain activity (i.e.: coronal holes facing Earth) statistically the earthquakes start popping off.

In a nutshell, the theory is that there’s a strong electromagnetic connection between the Sun and Earth and it affects the climate, earthquakes, probably lots of stuff. So earthquakes are not random events – they are likely caused by the Sun. Seems logical to me since the Earth and Sun are gigantic spinning magnets.

Farther down the rabbit hole may be the true cause of climate change – the Sun, not carbon. Don’t get me wrong, pollution is bad and we should knock it off but it’s not causing the weird weather.

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Alternate Explanation for Extreme Weather

I like the logic the fellow at Suspicious0bservers presents. Here’s what I make of it all.

Climate change is not entirely manmade. Pollution is all bad, but it’s not the whole story. Space weather is changing in our solar system. My guess is that we’re simply passing through a particularly tough spot of the normal cycle.

Picture a big clock with gears – now follow the spinning. The earth orbits the sun, our solar system orbits Sirius, and we all transit above and below the galactic equator as we travel around the galactic center. So as we spin around we encounter fluctuations in regular patterns as we travel through space. We can see some of these in patterns in Earth’s geologic record – like ice ages, solar activity, and so on.




(Solar Activity Events source) (400 Years of Sunspot Observations)

Some other facts:

  • Our atmosphere is shrinking due to low solar activity.
  • Earth’s magnetic field is weakening.
  • The polar caps are melting.
  • Weather is shifting.
  • Precipitation and heat records are being made regularly.

So what to do?

  • Expect more of the same and know that humanity survives these changes.
  • Expect the powers-that-be to continue to use other explanations.
  • Expect conspiracy theorists to completely muddy the facts.
  • Build a more resilient life & prepare for the unexpected.

Just my two cents – for what it’s worth.

Do What You Love

This is good advice for teaching us to support our children’s strengths but also our own strengths. When we do what we love and we do our best we succeed and thrive without the need for competition or taking anything from others. It’s kind of like how it works in nature, everything doing what it was meant to do and doing it perfectly.

Environmental Sustainability = Economic Sustainability

Truth be told, if any piece of a system is sustainable it has a natural sustaining effect on the other parts. By sustainable I mean the true definition of the word, the capacity to endure. This can be applied to any system, natural or human-made.

For example, if we build a civilization that is dependent on non-renewable energy sources, we’ve built a unsustainable civilization, one that cannot endure. The same is true of business. A business built on top of an uncertain foundation might benefit from rapid growth while that foundation holds but when it fails, watch the greedy bastards that set it up jump off like rats leaving a sinking ship, before it sinks.

This is actually the main reason all the dominos in our economic game fell in sequence. When a big one drops, (like home values), other segments that were dependent on unsustainable resources, (like borrowed capital), saw their foundations crumble. Since so many small businesses were built on the foundation of borrowed home equity, we naturally saw the failure of many small businesses when the home value bubble burst.

I was surprised to see corporate giant AT&T running ahead with a renewable energy program. This shows how they must understand how environmental sustainability will help to ensure their economic sustainability. They will be keeping their networks alive with solar power.

It would be nice to see more regular folks embrace this business strategy and apply it to their own lives. Imagine how sustainable our civilization would be if we were all a bit more self-reliant.

Could Modern Humans be Suffering from a Form of Zoochosis?

We took Katie to the Sacramento Zoo this past weekend and while we had a good time, I came back with the general impression that we’re doing a terrible disservice to the animals there. Seeing the Orangutan, which translates from Malay to man of the forest, really pushed me over the top and convinced me that detaining animals for out amusement is really terribly wrong.

The Orangutan seemed more like a primitive early human to me than what one might call an animal. Later I read about a condition called Zoochosis that surfaces in animals kept in captivity. For some species the trauma caused by captivity is more obvious through their behavior but I suspect all animals in captivity suffer from some level of Zoochosis. This seems logical at least.

Humans in Voluntary Captivity

Then I began to noodle over my own captivity provided by our society. Everyday I sit incented to work at this desk in the captivity of my home office. The captivity is voluntary to a degree since my bills would not get paid if I left my desk. Since I want to live in society I must conform to a certain set of activities in order to maintain the protection this societal cage provides.

Then my thinking moves out to the other people in society and the unnatural environment we’ve constructed and wonder the same thing. Could we all be clinging to the imaginary bars of our cages wishing subconsciously that they would disappear, while at the same time working hard to maintain the system that makes them very real?

Waking Up

This would explain my own fascination with the freedom tiny houses represent and their growing popularity with the general public. When times are good and we’re well-fed our cage bars seem more like comforting protection than a trap. When times are tough the bars feel as if they close-in on us increasing the pressure and stress we feel.

Everyone reacts differently to stress. I think I’ve been observing two common reactions from humans in captivity. Some cling to the system and wish things improve so they can go back to their happiness inside the cage, so they keep up their normal routines as best they can. Others freak out a bit and work to escape as they realize the cage is really a trap, and begin to reject the system and attempt to reinvent it in another form.


The trouble with all of us animals, in and out of the zoo, is that our cages are part of a much bigger world. If the zoo animal escapes it will be recaptured or killed, depending on the danger it represents. If we escape and reject our society we are subject to living a dramatically different life or jailed, depending on the danger we represent.

So we’re all very much stuck in a catch-22 unless the entire system changes. I bet this is why there are so many people wishing-for and preparing-for civilization collapse. They’ve collapsed under the weight of society and their stress reaction is to see things that may or may not be there. Or you could look at from their perspective and say they’ve woken up to the lie the cage represents and see the looming systemic failure approaching.

In Search of Solutions

I’m always in search of ways to have my cake and eat it too, which may also be a problem because I’ll tend to cling to the old while seeking the new. For example extreme downsizing seems more and more like the right direction to move in but it’s just a smaller version of the societal cage we all live in now. But it also might be a point along the path to finding real freedom.

I’m also really beginning to believe that seeking a natural modern human environment might need to be part of my ultimate goal. I’m not sure what this is exactly, but I suspect it involves other like-minded people living tribally (for lack of a better word).

This last statement of course suggests a step backwards but I don’t know if that is really a requirement. We have definitely gone too far, but I doubt if going back to how we lived 10,000 years ago is the answer. It must be something in between.

So now you can clearly see that I think too much… or that I’m suffering from Zoochosis. LOL

True Motivator – Our Quest for Mastery, Purpose, and Self-Direction

I first spotted this on The Tiny Life. It’s a presentation by RSA Animate that explains what really motivates people.

In a nutshell it explains why punishment and reward are not a good motivators for people with jobs that require cognitive skills. It all boils down to the human quest for mastery (of a skill or subject), self direction, and purpose. In other words we do things because we like feeling good about what we’re doing.

Money (reward) only enters the motivation equation when it reaches a level that frees people from financial stress, giving them the opportunity to feel masterful, self directed, and  purposeful.

It also explains why open source communities are so successful and why companies that provide ‘free time’ for innovation are so successful.