Monday, December 29, 2014

Think Happy

“You are what I think.” B.F. Skinner
B.F. Skinner

B. F. Skinner (1904 – 1990) was a Harvard psychologist who advocated behavioral engineering and thought that people could be controlled through rewards and punishments. Human free will is an illusion, human action the result of genetics and nature. Farewell to free will. 

“Poppycock”, says Popeye, "I yam what I yam and tha's all what I yam." 

Distant memories of Psychology 101 at KU come back to me. Taught by a Turkish professor who regaled us with stories of his own revolutionary days as a student in Turkey; quite appropriate, I thought, for the times. Listen to everyone, I also thought, for they have something to say, but make up your own mind. 

Skinner’s debate still rages on in my head. I like to think, like Popeye, that I am what I think, that I can influence the future with positive thoughts. It is my own form of behavioral reinforcement. 

Make up your own mind. This is what I tell the next generation. It's empowering. 

So I say to you, in 2015 think happy thoughts in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

There comes a time

There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation. W. C. Fields

Not right now and not with this bull, thank you.

No bull

Monday, December 1, 2014

When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.

When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger)
Seneca writes a letter to Lucillus, procurator of Sicily during Nero’s reign, concerning the topic, On the Supreme Good.
The archer must know what he is seeking to hit; then he must aim and control the weapon by his skill. Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.

Chance must necessarily influence over our lives, for we live by chance.But it is the case with certain men, that they do not know that they know certain things. Just as we often search for that which is beside us, so too we are apt to forget that the Supreme Good lies near us. 

Seneca begins his letter to his friend Lucillus with a caution:

[A] vast stretch of sea separates us. Since, the value of advice may depend on the time when it is given, it must necessarily result that by the time my opinion reaches you, the opposite opinion is the better.

Seneca continues:

The nature of the Supreme Good is not described by many words or long-winded discussions. It is pointed out by the forefinger and not parsed with endless dissection… The Supreme Good is that which is honorable.

The task ahead, Seneca proposes is to conquer our emotions.

I fully understand what this task is. It is a thing …I desire it with all my heart. I see that you also have been aroused and are hastening with great zeal towards infinite beauty.

Let us hasten; and only on these terms will life be a boon to us; otherwise, there is a delay … while we busy ourselves with revolting things.

Let us see to it that all time belongs to us. This, however, cannot be unless, first of all, we ourselves belong to us. … When will it be our privilege, after our passions have been subdued and brought under control, to utter the words "I have conquered!"?

Do you ask me who have I conquered? The answer is neither the Persians, nor far-off Medes, nor any warlike race beyond the Dahab (Sinai); not these. Rather greed, ambition, and fear of death have I conquered, that conquered the conquerors of the world.