The Toxic Truth About Tattoos

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The tattoo trend started 20 years ago in America and Europe, and it has become  a worldwide obsession. Thankfully, I’ve never gotten a tattoo and after reading this study I am happy I never did. If you are thinking about getting a tattoo,  you may not even be aware that there are many health dangers to receiving a tattoo.

The Toxic Truth About Tattoos

  • Tattoo inks contain a myriad of heavy metals. Red tattoo inks often contain mercury, and tattoos pierce the skin leaving the ink permanently embedded. FDA has not approved any tattoo pigments for injection into the skin. Tattoo parlors are regulated by the state and city, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require manufacturers to release their ink’s ingredients; doing so could supposedly give away trade secrets. The lack of regulation is slightly unnerving considering that 36 percent of people ages 18-25 have tattoos, as do 40 percent of those 26-40 years old. That means approximately 45 million Americans have been inked, and one-third of those did so because it makes them feel “sexy.”
  • Many pigments used in tattoo inks are industrial-grade colors suitable for printer ink or automobile paint. The FDA’s website warns about tattoo ink possibly causing infections, allergic reactions, keloids (formation of a scar), granulomas (inflammation) and potential complications while receiving MRIs.
  • The carrier solution used in tattoo inks contains harmful substances such as denatured alcohols, methanol, antifreeze, detergents, formaldehyde and toxic aldehydes.
  • What’s more, the review found eight cases of malignant melanoma on the site of the tattoo. “Tattoo inks may contain carcinogens, but it’s unclear whether the reported cases of skin cancer are associated with tattoos or occurred coincidentally,” says Dr. Bäumler, whose study noted that this number is few in comparison to the many people who have tattoos. (In fact, 24% of the population is inked.)
  • An alarming research study recently published by Dr. Bob Haley and Dr. Paul Fischer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas uncovered that the “innocent” commercial tattoo may be the number one distributor of hepatitis C. The study was published in the journal Medicine(Haley RW, Fischer RP, Commercial tattooing as a potentially source of hepatitis C infection, Medicine, March 2000;80:134-151). Dr. Haley, a preventative medicine specialist and a former Center for Disease Control (CDC) infection control official, is exceptionally knowledgeable to prepare the study. Dr. Haley concludes, “We found that commercially acquired tattoos accounted for more than twice as many hepatitis C infections as injection-drug use. This means it may have been the largest single contributor to the nationwide epidemic of this form of hepatitis.”


Depopulation Test Run? 75% Of Children Who Received Vaccines In Mexican Town Now Dead Or Hospitalized.

Vaccine producers have crossed every line imaginable – and they don’t even care. It’s rather frightening, especially because of what just happened in a small town in Mexico. Was it a depopulation test run?

The big pharma, the government, and every other official will tell you that you’re crazy for questioning the authenticity of these vaccines. However, you’re not the only one and it’s time for the rest of the world to open their eyes up! Vaccines today are filled with toxic ingredients such thimerosal or formaldehyde. They cause serious adverse side effects, cancer, and sometimes even death!

 A small town in Mexico has just received some alarming results from the vaccinations. In La pimiento, Mexico two babies have died and 37 other children have been rushed to the hospital due to serious effects from the vaccinations.
“…14 children are in serious condition, 22 are stable and one is in critical condition,” the Chiapas Health Secretariat said in a statement via

Administered by the Mexican Social Security Institute, only 52 children were vaccinated. However, over 75% of them are either dead or being hospitalized. Many people are calling this the start of a new era because they truly believe it was a test run for depopulation.

 It certainly is a terrifying thought to, as vaccines are a huge epidemic right now. No matter how much the government lies about it, the truth always seems to come to the surface. People are going crazy over it too. However, many people dismiss it as a conspiracy theory; you might want to think about the 37 children that are deathly sick or already dead because of this vaccine. They aren’t the only ones either.

The vaccines were intended to protect the kids from tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and rotavirus.At least, that is what they were told. Vaccine denialism is rampant across the entire world, but there is a rising awareness on these dangerous vaccinations. I mean, kids are literally dying! What is it going to take to convince the people we are telling the truth! Everyone should know not to trust politicians, so why are we trusting them with the lives of our children?

According to Natural News:









As the CDC openly admits, vaccines are still intentionally formulated with mercury, aluminum, MSG and formaldehyde. Some vaccines even use ingredients derived from aborted human fetal tissue. Last year, a CDC scientist blew the whistle on the CDC committing scientific fraudto cover up links between vaccines and autism in young African-American males.


There is much evidence out there that proves that vaccines are not only pointless, but they are causing worse issues than preventing. For example, in 2010 there was a huge mumps outbreak in Orthodox Jewish Communities in the US. The teenagers were vaccinated, however, over 97% of them got the mumps. In what world is it okay for a vaccine to cause what it is supposed to prevent?

The bottom line is, never trust the vaccine industry! There job is not to make you healthy, it is to make you sick. When will people learn? How many people have to die, before people begin to realize that the government does not have your best interest at heart?


There are many natural ingredients that are proven to boost your immune system and your overall health. Vaccines are essentially the start of an Era of depopulation. You should be afraid, not gonna lie. However, all we have to do is stand up! Say no to vaccines and depopulation! They’re two of the same thing – one just seems less harmless…


US scientists launch world’s biggest solar geoengineering study.

Research programme will send aerosol injections into the earth’s upper atmosphere to study the risks and benefits of a future solar tech-fix for climate change

 The sun from space
Scientists say the planet could be covered with a solar shield for as little as $10bn a year. 

The $20m (£16m) Harvard University project will launch within weeks and aims to establish whether the technology can safely simulate the atmospheric cooling effects of a volcanic eruption, if a last ditch bid to halt climate change is one day needed.

Scientists hope to complete two small-scale dispersals of first water and then calcium carbonate particles by 2022. Future tests could involve seeding the sky with aluminium oxide – or even diamonds.

Janos Pasztor, Ban Ki-moon’s assistant climate chief at the UN who now leads ageoengineering governance initiative, said that the Harvard scientists would only disperse minimal amounts of compounds in their tests, under strict university controls.

“The real issue here is something much more challenging,” he said “What does moving experimentation from the lab into the atmosphere mean for the overall path towards eventual deployment?”

Geoengineering advocates stress that any attempt at a solar tech fix is years away and should be viewed as a compliment to – not a substitute for – aggressive emissions reductions action.

But the Harvard team, in a promotional video for the project, suggest a redirection of one percent of current climate mitigation funds to geoengineering research, and argue that the planet could be covered with a solar shield for as little as $10bn a year.

Kevin Trenberth, a lead author for the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, said that despair at sluggish climate action, and the rise of Donald Trump were feeding the current tech trend.

“But solar geoengineering is not the answer,” he said. “Cutting incoming solar radiation affects the weather and hydrological cycle. It promotes drought. It destabilizes things and could cause wars. The side effects are many and our models are just not good enough to predict the outcomes”

Natural alterations to the earth’s radiation balance can be short-lasting, but terrifying. A 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption lowered global temperatures by 0.5C, while the Mount Tambora eruption in 1815 triggered Europe’s ‘year without a summer’, bringing crop failure, famine and disease.

A Met Office study in 2013 said that the dispersal of fine particles in the stratosphere could precipitate a calamitous drought across North Africa.

Frank Keutsch, the Harvard atmospheric sciences professor leading the experiment, said that the deployment of a solar geoengineering system was “a terrifying prospect” that he hoped would never have to be considered. “At the same time, we should never choose ignorance over knowledge in a situation like this,” he said.

“If you put heat into the stratosphere, it may change how much water gets transported from the troposphere to the stratosphere, and the question is how much are you [creating] a domino effect with all kinds of consequences? What we can do to quantify this is to start with lab studies and try to understand the relevant properties of these aerosols.”

Stratospheric controlled perturbation experiments (SCoPEX) are seen as “critical” to this process and the first is planned to spray water molecules into the stratosphere to create a 1km long and 100m wide icy plume, which can be studied by a manoeuvrable flight balloon.

If lab tests are positive, the experiment would then be replicated with a limestone compound which the researchers believe will neither absorb solar or terrestrial radiation, nor deplete the ozone layer.

Bill Gates and other foundations are substantially funding the project, and aerospace companies are thought to be taking a business interest in the technology’s potential.

The programmme’s launch will follow a major conference involving more than 100 scientists, which begins in Washington DC today.

Solar geoengineering’s journey from the fringes of climate science to its mainstream will be sealed at a prestigious Gordon research conference in July, featuring senior figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Oxford University.

Pasztor says that most scientific observers now see the window to a 1.5C warmed world as “practically gone” and notes that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will continue rising for many decades after the planet has reached a ‘net zero emissions’ point planned for mid-late century.

But critics of solar radiation management approach this as a call to redouble mitigation efforts and guard against the elevation of a questionable Plan B.

“It is appropriate that we spend money on solar geoengineering research,” said Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “But we also have to aim for 2C with climate mitigation and act as though geoengineering doesn’t work, because it probably won’t.”


It’s Official: Sky Will Be Sprayed in Geoengineering “Experiment,” Blocking Sun for Climate Change ·

It’s official: the US government’s partners in academia are going to openly spray us. It’s a move toward a future where they openly spray the skies to supposedly fight climate change.

Harvard scientist David Keith and his partner are going to spray the sky with aluminum oxide and other chemicals to “experiment” with geoengineering: solar radiation management (SRM) as they call it, to block out the sun.

They want to block out the sun to supposedly combat climate change, but the well documented history of weather modification for military purposes suggests there are other motives.

According to MIT’s Technology Review:

“A pair of Harvard climate scientists are preparing small-scale atmospheric experiments that could offer insights into the feasibility and risks of deliberately altering the climate to ease global warming.

They would be among the earliest official geoengineering-related experiments conducted outside of a controlled laboratory or computer model, underscoring the growing sense of urgency among scientists to begin seriously studying the possibility as the threat of climate change mounts.

 Sometime next year, Harvard professors David Keith and Frank Keutsch hope to launch a high-altitude balloon, tethered to a gondola equipped with propellers and sensors, from a site in Tucson, Arizona. After initial engineering tests, the “StratoCruiser” would spray a fine mist of materials such as sulfur dioxide, alumina, or calcium carbonate into the stratosphere. The sensors would then measure the reflectivity of the particles, the degree to which they disperse or coalesce, and the way they interact with other compounds in the atmosphere.”

According to the Guardian:

“US scientists are set to send aerosol injections 20km up into the earth’s stratosphere in the world’s biggest solar geoengineering programme to date, to study the potential of a future tech-fix for global warming.

The $20m (£16m) Harvard University project will launch within weeks and aims to establish whether the technology can safely simulate the atmospheric cooling effects of a volcanic eruption, if a last ditch bid to halt climate change is one day needed.”

This comes after a United Nations “geoengineering governance initiative” was launched, and the Carnegie Council announced the launch of a “Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative.” This comes after CIA director John Brennan proposed they spray the skies and do “solar radiation management” (SRM) to fight climate change in 2016.

Some powerful forces are pushing very hard for the ability to spray the skies with aluminum, to modify the weather and set a precedent where they can spray anything on us.

This precedent where we can’t identify what is sprayed on us could usher in a new era of chemical or biowarfare against citizens.

As victims of the US’ long history with experimenting on citizens can attest to, this is a serious possibility. Just research the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, the spraying of San Fransisco inOperation Sea Spray, ect.

The forces pushing for spraying are not a mystery, and they’ve been at work on geoengineering for decades.

They are found at military industrial complex affiliated institutions such as MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Harvard, MITRE Corporation, Raytheon, and others. If you want to know what “the system” is, it’s MIT. They are an academic limb of the military industrial complex.

Half a century of progress toward modifying the weather for military purposes (and to create a global warming false alarm to justify it) coming out of MIT and similiar entities was well documented in Peter A. Kirby’s book “Chemtrails Exposed: A New Manhattan Project.” Or, you could read his even more recent article on the topic. Or, you could listen to an interview with Peter Kirby about all of this.

However, the truth is geoengineering is obviously already happening in the US and around the world: just look up at the sky. Those giant high altitude “chemtrails” that turn into haze in the sky and persist all day are active geoengineering efforts before they disclose it and take it to an even further level.

So what these people are really trying to do, is normalize geoengineering in the public’s perception.

David Keith is a pawn putting on a show of “experiments” for geoengineering, experiments that seem fairly redundant if you know how far the technology of geoengineering has been developed. Then they can say “we tested it and it’s safe,” and they will spray us much worse than they already are.

Speaking from experience being in every major region of the US and one region of Australia in 2016 and 2017, I can tell you California, particularly central and northern California has it possibly the worst right now.

In California, they spray heavy, and the dry air seems to let the material fall down on people so badly you can smell it, and in some areas (like Sacramento, California) the material they spray can make you instantly sick.

They sprayed Sacramento with a plastic smelling, sharp, irritating aerosol in late 2016. They seemed to use two distinct kinds of spray: the first from about January 2016- August 2016 smelled starchy, powdery, kind of ashy and metallic like aluminum. The smell fills the air and the house if windows are left open.

It’s unmistakable that the spraying is what you smell: the smell always comes right after they spray, and you can watch it fall down.

Then in August, the smell changed distinctly to a sharp, plastic, static electric type of smell and it was much worse.

The worse plasticky spray pierces through closed windows unlike the other kind, and is carried by the rain, as if they spray into rain clouds.

The rain used to wash away the smell of chemtrails in my experience, but it actually carries the new plastic smelling spray straight through the walls of your house when it rains. It makes you wonder about what we will be subject to in the future, experiencing that, trying to shut the chemtrails out of the house.

We just can’t let this go further. They are already spraying, and they want little opposition to spraying much harder. Who knows what other interests they have in spraying: it seems they want to set a precedent. The US would probably like to direct rain systems, give some areas drought (Iran) and give some areas water.

Some power players would probably like us to all be poisoned with aluminum. Nanoparticles of aluminum, what they have been known to spray, can make people docile and confused like someone with Alzheimer’s. Aluminum is detrimental to our health, comparable to mercury.

So we have to push back as hard as we can, no matter how exhausted we are, the people who see what’s happening and have the gall to stand up.

In conclusion, this is from an article about the Carnegie Council’s recent steps toward geoengineering:

“If we don’t protest their proposal to spray the skies now, in 20 years we’ll be living in an aluminum poisoned nightmare where questioning the health of geoengineering the weather, hazing out the sun to combat climate change, will be as taboo as being critical of vaccines.

 We cannot allow geoengineering to become normalized in the public consciousness.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Guide to Becoming Übermensch

In Nietzsche’s most popular book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he described what would become one of his most memorable theories—that of the Übermensch.

In English versions of the work of Nietzsche, “Übermensch” is translated as “Superman” or “Overman”. The term “Superman” has adopted many connotations as a result of the comic book hero in popular culture, so for most scholars today, “Overman” is the more suitable term.

“Overman” refers to Nietzsche’s conception of a person who has literally overcome himself/herself and transcended all external influence. In essence, an Overman is an extraordinary person who has superseded the human condition and reached a liberated state of free play and creativity.

nietzshceokaayyyyThis state can be seen as the state of the pure and also universal individual—an utterly differentiated person unencumbered by the influence of society and other people, who is in harmony with the deep-down, creative, amoral (interestingly, Nietzsche’s feeling that existence is, at root, amoral is shared by the original incarnations of Taoism and Zen Buddhism) spirit of existence. This person creates their own values and dances through the game of life to the tune of their own soul-stuff.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche models three “spiritual” metamorphoses that must be undergone for the individual to reach the state of Overman. These transformations are rather prescriptive in nature, and thus can be seen as a sort of guide to becoming Overman, or liberating one’s spirit.

It should be noted, however, that Nietzsche also felt that becoming an Overman would be incredibly f***ing difficult. A task of the century fit for only the most exceptional people in his famous Master-Slave morality formulation. Nonetheless, I’ve found his Overman metamorphoses to be both useful and tantalizing concepts. Let’s examine them more closely:

Metamorphosis #1: The Camel

The first metamorphosis described by Nietzsche is that of the camel. Of this, he writes:

“What is difficult? asks the spirit that would bear much, and kneels down like a camel wanting to be well loaded. What is most difficult, O heroes, asks the spirit that would bear much, that I may take it upon myself and exult in my strength?”

After this passage, Nietzsche goes on to list several items that may be considered among the most difficult or trying of life’s possible experiences. He indicates that the camel must invite these burdens. For example, he writes, “Or is it this: loving those who despise us and offering a hand to the ghost that would frighten us?”

Nietzsche suggests that before one can become Overman, one must first bear a great many burdens. One must battle with fear, love, truth, death, confusion, thirst for knowledge, and all of the other aspects of human existence. The camel embraces these challenges in the name of duty and nobility. Put another way, the camel does not attempt to evade life or distract itself from it. It countenances life directly and navigates its difficulties, but it does so more so out of a sense of obligation to its society or moral doctrine than anything else. In doing so, the camel is humbled and strengthened. Only through suffering these challenges does the camel gain the strength and resilience necessary to attain the next spiritual metamorphosis.

Metamorphosis #2: The Lion

Nietzsche goes on to describe how the camel ultimately enters “the loneliest desert” before becoming a lion. The lonely desert metaphor can be interpreted as follows: The camel has sought out and invited the struggles that life has to offer. In doing so, it has become alienated to a certain extent. It has become different from others and from the society that produced it; it finds itself questioning existence, both its worth and the value of its pursuits.

The desert can be seen as a place of existential crisis, where the camel ponders whether or not any universal laws or virtues exist to guide it and give it purpose. For Nietzsche, such universal virtues and absolute purpose do not exist. The camel is forced to confront this possibility, and thus, the camel must become a lion. Nietzsche writes:

“Here the spirit becomes a lion who would conquer his freedom and be master in his own desert. Here he seeks out his last master: he wants to fight him and his last god; for ultimate victory he wants to fight with the great dragon. Who is the great dragon whom the spirit will no longer call lord and god? “Thou shalt” is the name of the great dragon. But the spirit of the lion says, “I will.” “Thou shalt” lies in his way, sparkling like gold, an animal covered with scales; and on every scale shines a golden “thou shalt.” My brothers, why is there a need in the spirit for the lion? Why is not the beast of burden, which renounces and is reverent, enough? To create new values—that even the lion cannot do; but the creation of freedom for oneself for new creation—that is within the power of the lion. The creation of freedom for oneself and a sacred “No” even to duty—for that, my brothers, the lion is needed. To assume the right to new values—that is the most terrifying assumption for a reverent spirit that would bear much.”

When the camel discovers that universal truth and virtue may be non-existent, it has two choices: it can reject life as meaningless and probably commit suicide, or it can claim its own freedom and create its own meaning and virtue. To become Overman, the camel must obviously do the latter; it must ascend. To do this, the camel must destroy the largest barrier to true freedom: the duty and virtue imposed by tradition and society. This is what Nietzsche’s great dragon symbolizes. It is everyone and everything that would tell one how to live one’s life. The camel had been a slave to the dragon, inviting life’s challenges but always living in accordance with the values imposed upon it from without.

The camel must reject this dragon of tradition and commands, but it cannot in its current, duty-loving form. Thus, it must become a lion. Its trials have allowed it to attain sufficient strength. The lion symbolizes courage, tenacity, disillusionment, and even rage. Only in this state is the spirit able to deliver the “sacred ‘No.’” The “sacred ‘No’” represents the utter rejection of external control and all traditional values. Everything imposed by other individuals, society, churches, governments, families, and all forms of propaganda must be denied in a colossal, IDGAF-esque roar.

That is not to say that the lion must ultimately believe that all virtues and values imposed by such entities are malignant. Indeed, they could be useful and worthy. However, their rejection is necessary because they come from an external authority and are masquerading as something absolute. The Overman rejects all absolutes and must will his world entirely from within; thus, he must create his own values on his own terms.

Metamorphosis #3: The Child

After the lion has delivered the “sacred ‘No,’” the spirit must yet make one more transformation to become Overman. The spirit must become a child. Nietzsche writes:

“But say, my brothers, what can the child do that even the lion could not do? Why must the preying lion still become a child? The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred “Yes.” For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred “Yes” is needed: the spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers his own world.”

So, Nietzsche holds that the lion must again transform in order to forget. The spirit has undergone much duress and turmoil in its transformations, but it must cleanse its mind of the past. In delivering a “sacred “Yes””, the child affirms the day, affirms uncertainty, and affirms the flux of life. The child becomes a self-propelled wheel, in harmony with its fate and with the currents of existence that run through it. The child elects to roll with life, dance and play with it, to be fully and unabashedly what it is. (One of Nietzsche’s favorite mantras, from Pindar, was “Become what you are.”)

Ultimately, for Nietzsche, pure creation arises from this state of play. When one can achieve a child-like state—a self immersed in the instant, pulsing with wonder and playfulness, in-tune with its own deep-down truth—then one can abide his truest will, create his own values, and thus create his own reality. In undergoing this final metamorphosis, the spirit overcomes itself, conquers its world, and reaches the state of Overman. The spirit achieves liberation.


There are certainly compelling objections to Nietzsche’s Overman theory and his nihilistic views about morality. If universally “good” values do not exist and one is free to create one’s own, what is there to keep one from determining that heinous acts—murder, rape, torture, etc.—are justified? Nietzsche was well-aware of this possibility and even predicted that his ideas would be used as justification for various atrocities. He was right: some speculate that his ideas were influential in Nazi ideology, and in 1924 two wealthy University of Chicago students who had been influenced by Nietzsche’s Overman theory murdered a 14-year-old boy.

The important thing to note here is that Nietzsche was, like most philosophers, a voracious truth-seeker. The objection in the preceding paragraph arises from a sort of utilitarian, consequentialist reading of Nietzsche (i.e. a reading from the perspective that we should act in such a way that our actions will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people). But, for Nietzsche, this objection would have been yet another example of mankind attempting to impose arbitrary moral standards onto a universe in which none objectively exist. Nietzsche was less interested in the imaginary moral constructs mankind might use to reduce suffering and more interested in discovering the truth of existence.

While this might strike you as a reason to think Nietzsche was a scoundrel, I credit the man for not compromising his ideals simply because they were unpopular. Plus he went insane trying to save a horse from being beaten and spent the last decade of his life in a rather wretched condition, so maybe we ought to give him a break and acknowledge that he did, at least, possess a fair share of compassion. He was an audacious, unflinching thinker, and that’s why he earned a permanent place in the logo of Refine The Mind. That’s not to say that I agree with all of his views; I agree with his doggedness. I don’t think the fact that the Overman could end up a hideous person requires us to dismiss the theory.

Furthermore, we have little reason to believe that the hypothetical Overman would not will compassionate values, and in fact, there is a certain argument for thinking it’s quite likely that he or she would. It’s possible to see Nietzsche’s “child”—a playful being in-touch with its deep-down nature—as uncannily similar to a realized Taoist or Zen Buddhist. There is a Zen saying—“Nothing is left to you at this moment but to have a good laugh.”—that is meant to refer to the moment after one has attained satori (or, “enlightenment”) that would seem equally appropriate if applied to the moment one has attained “child” status. In Zen and Taoism, as in Nietzsche’s work, when one has seen through all baggage imposed from without, one is able to affirm existence as a kind of game and to blossom colorfully with the great unfolding of things, organic as a daffodil, individuated but also one with the whole roadshow. In the Zen and Taoist traditions, when one reaches this state of liberation, one naturally discovers compassion for all sentient beings—not as a moral law, but as a natural outgrowth of the insight that all beings are “cut from the same cloth”, as it were. I like to think that the true Overman would share this realization, but Nietzsche doesn’t explicitly say so. If this is a distortion of Nietzsche, call it my Overman 2.0.

Even if we dismiss Nietzsche’s theory of the Overman as an unattainable idealization, we can still glean from it a few significant ideas: that undergoing a fair share of pain, struggle, disillusionment, and trepidation may well be a necessary prelude to a more liberated state; that the deepest sort of freedom to which we can aspire involves a kind of transcendence of external influences; that becoming a pure individual in this world requires tremendous courage and tenacity; and that our ultimate aim should be to affirm life and to dance with it, to play and create as children.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” 

Friedrich Nietzsche


On Carl Sagan & Feeling Hopeless About the State of the World

Reflections on the “cosmic perspective” and what to remember when feeling powerless to change the world.

I finally started watching the new Cosmos series the other day. You know, the remake of Carl Sagan’s classic 1980s science documentary-show? The one about science and the universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson as intergalactic guide? Yeah, that one.

I’m a little late to the game, I know. The showed aired way back in March, but I don’t watch a whole lot of television. However, as a big fan of Carl Sagan and of the original Cosmos, I was aflutter with science-happy when a friend of mine said he had the series on his computer and we ought to watch it.

We’ve watched the first few episodes the past couple days, and I gotta say—this shit is tremendous. The computer-generated galaxies, pulsars, black holes, supernovas, and Earth-stuffs are stunningly gorgeous. The storytelling and animation used to convey the history of science are delightful. And although deGrasse Tyson cannot and should not attempt to replicate Carl Sagan’s ineffable charm, he nonetheless has an affable gravitas about him which both endears and commands attention. Let’s be honest: he’s kind of a badass.

Cosmic Perspective

While admiring the breathtaking-yet-still-educational awesomeness of Cosmos, I couldn’t help but reflect upon what Carl Sagan called the “cosmic perspective”. Sagan had this idea that our scientific understanding of the unfathomable vastness—like, really, so huge and so old our small brains literally cannot conceive of one drop in the cosmic super-sea—of spacetime could alter our collective consciousness down here on Earth:

“Everyone one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”

Carl Sagan

Photo of Earth from 3.7 billion miles away, taken by NASA Voyager. Photo Credit: Public Domain.

Photo of Earth from 3.7 billion miles away, taken by NASA Voyager. 

Sagan’s famous ‘Pale Blue Dot‘ commentary was all about seeing Earth from the “cosmic perspective”. Gazing upon the above image, Sagan was inspired to wax lyrical about the folly of human conceit. I’ve included this speech elsewhere on Refine The Mind previously, but I’m including it again because, well, this is one of those timeless jewels of language that everyone in the world should read or listen to monthly:

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Look at this picture of the Earth, Carl says. Look at us, friends. We’re a crumb, a speck, a pixel! Every one of us is sitting on that almost-invisible chip of nothing. Hell, everyone you’ve ever known or heard of lived on that chip of nothing—drifting through space, enveloped on all sides by an inestimable black. It’s just us down there. Us. No one is listening to our cries. No one is waiting to save us. We continue to misunderstand, hate, attack, torture, and murder one another in our petty human squabbles. We imagine ourselves to be more important than our neighbors, more important than the Earth. We deceive ourselves. We share this planet; and the Earth, at least for now, is all we have. Cherish the rock! Preserve what lives there! Be decent to one another!

Out of Order

It seems like such a simple message, and while watching Cosmos, mesmerized by the wonders of science, I felt a kind of melancholy longing—a wish that it could really just be so simple. In my imagination, I see all of us on this world suddenly pausing what we’re doing, looking at the stars, pondering the expansive mysteries of the galaxy, and saying, “Wow, I guess we could’ve just chilled out all along. Killing each other for all those years was pretty f***ing stupid. Let’s, like, agree not to do that anymore and work together and shit.”

Terribly idealistic, I know, I know. There are political and economic and geographic and ideological and biological and cultural forces down here on Earth that make it damn hard for the human race to stop perpetually roundhouse kicking itself in the face. But I can dream, I guess. Plenty of us manage it, after all—manage to be basically courteous humans who don’t kill or rape or otherwise maliciously inflict suffering on others. But collectively, we keep failing. Almost 20 years after Carl Sagan’s death, it seems like large segments of the world have yet to glimpse the “cosmic perspective”.

Sailing the Ocean by Latyip. Photo Credit: Wiki Commons.

Sailing the Ocean by Latyip. 

The Internet is currently flooded with opinions on what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri in the US, my home country. Yet another black teen has been murdered by a white police officer with little to no explanation, and the event has caused ongoing unrest—protesting, rioting, etc.—in the city of Ferguson. Police have responded aggressively to the protesting, using rubber bullets and tear gas on protestors, and this has catalyzed a national debate on the militarization of police. All in all, the situation is chaotic, saddening, and devoid of easy solutions. Racially motivated shootings (not to mention school shootings and other instances of gun violence) continue to occur with disturbing frequency in the US.

And let’s not forget that swaths of innocent children and civilians continue to be murdered elsewhere in the world—Gaza, Tel Aviv, Baghdad, Libya, Syria, etc. In the past year, numerous political conflicts worldwide have developed or intensified. Meanwhile, economic inequality is growing, education systems are broken, prisons abuse rather than rehabilitate, and the global climate is changing for the worse. It’s 2014, and the world seems pretty messed up. (I’m not usually this depressing, I promise.) If you’re one to meditate on how we could change it all, you might be paralyzed with a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. There’s so much out of order. How can we begin to try to make it better?


This quandary absorbed me during and after watching Cosmos—a sense that our predicament is too large, that I have no hope of making a meaningful difference. Maybe you’ve felt this way too—frustrated, afraid, angry at the problems of the world. It’s easy to slip into this sort of negativity, but it’s hardly productive or healthy. Mostly it convinces us that doom is imminent and that we shouldn’t do anything. After a couple days, I remembered this and a few other important things.

Perhaps the most important thing I remembered (in this situation and others) is that I am just one human with my own issues and shortcomings. It is not within my power to solve all of the world’s problems, and that’s okay. It is a fallacy to impose inadequacy onto natural boundaries that we do not choose for ourselves. I needed to recognize my limitations, but also appreciate what I can and do contribute. I write, teach, create, donate, get better at recycling, try to be kind.

There are numerous ways to help make the world better, numerous routes of activism, to be sure. I remembered that there are countless others like me working in various ways to tackle the world’s problems, that I am not alone. I also happened to read the 2014 Gates Foundation Letter yesterday, and this further demonstrated to me, empirically, that so many people care about bettering the world, and that we have made astonishing strides toward ending global poverty and health crises—the most devastating killers of humanity—in the past 50 years alone. I don’t know if we will ever overcome many of our challenges, but the fact that it is we who are trying—a collective effort—makes me feel less immobilized, motivates me to get up and do something like write this article.

I also remembered that I cannot and should not dedicate every waking moment to thinking about and trying to change the world’s problems. To do so would be foolish, as life hardly seems worth the trouble if we never detach from the endless drama and just enjoy itI remembered that the human race has always had problems and always will. If we are without problems, we create some; such is the tragicomic nature of our existence, it seems. Who am I to deem this situation “bad” or “shitty” in 2014 when the universe has been unfolding for aeons and will doubtlessly outlive the human race and its finite imagination? Perhaps the universe knows better than my this-or-that labeling.

A deep breath was in order, as well as a pause. I needed to sit down and focus on the basics—the fundamentals of being a not-sinister human. I actually just needed to remember to always start with those sage words of Carl Sagan’s. I needed to remember that if each of us were to take his sentiments to heart, the world would see a remarkable transformation. Considering that truth inspired me to write this, as a reminder to myself and to all of you. As with all of human history, this era has its wonders and its atrocities. This polarity may well be unavoidable, but in an effort to reduce the gunk, let’s try to hold onto the cosmic perspective, to imprint Sagan’s words on our soul-stuff:

“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”


Power, Noise, & Meaning in the Internet Multiverse

“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.”

Jean Baudrillard

I think an interesting and fruitful metaphor for the Internet is this: a man-made multiverse of information, intellect, and imagination. I say “multiverse” for no reason apart from it being more fun and mysterious and futuristic-sounding; “universe” could be inserted just the same.

By G.E. Mont. Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

Internet Multiverse

Internet: a space of incomprehensible vastness and possibility populated with objects ranging from diminutive subatomic particles (bits) to sprawling superclusters of galaxies (Google). Bits, kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes of data respectively comprise everything from quarks to atoms to molecules to elements to compounds. The proverbial quantum world, or ground of being, is composed of web servers, PCs, smartphones, and the related hardware and electronics that bring the whole shebang to life before our eyes. Without this hardwired ground of being, there’s no roadshow.

A website is, at the very least, a tiny planet with a population of one—its creator. You can imagine web-entities ranging from humble planets to colossal superclusters. Certain media giants—Gawker, Vice, HuffPo, New York Times, Buzzfeed, etc.—are, for better or worse, solar systems or galaxies. Top-of-the-top web-entities—Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.—are clusters or superclusters of galaxies. You can imagine web-entities growing in size and power in proportion to the number of visitors/users they receive per week or month. Number of visitors/users, though not perfect, is a satisfactory starting point for considering Internet-power.


Web-entities can be seen as existing on a spectrum of power—i.e. an entity’s ability to affect, change, and/or shape the collective consciousness of the Internet, directly (through its own content) or indirectly (by influencing the architecture of user content (interface design, software, upload guidelines, etc.) on itself and other planets, controlling major modes of transportation from one planet to another (search engines, link-sharing platforms), controlling major modes of communication between people (email, social networking, etc.).

You might notice that the latter sort of power—the indirect kind—is the sort harnessed by most of the largest entities in the multiverse. Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Reddit, and other web-behemoths control the architecture, building codes, modes of transportation, and modes of communication for an enormous segment of the multiverse’s planets and people. They also have millions or billions of users who have created planets (profiles, accounts, channels, blogs) within them. Thus, they transcend mere planet or solar system status to become galaxies, clusters, and perhaps even superclusters of galaxies with inestimable reach and power. They’re like clusters of galaxies with ultra-advanced civilizations living in them.


As a more concrete example of Internet-power, consider the sorta-recent Facebook scandal in which it came to light that the company had intentionally manipulated the emotions of some 600,000 users. It didn’t do this directly, by creating a blog post or video or something like that, but indirectly, by mediating the content that appeared on users’ feeds so as to display more emotionally provocative items. This is one of the more egregious examples in recent memory of a web-giant flexing its muscles, but it happens more subtly all the time. Facebook’s algorithms constantly monitor your activity on the site and tailor your newsfeed accordingly, attempting to show you more of what interests you. If 75% of your use of the web is through Facebook, the company is having a tremendous influence on what you’re able to see, explore, and absorb in the multiverse (especially if you don’t use social media deliberately).

One more example: when YouTube was subsumed into Google, Google deleted hundreds, if not thousands, of channels and provided little to no explanation. Some of these channels had hundreds of videos and thousands of subscribers. These YouTube-planets had been painstakingly erected by people for years, and in a flash, they were obliterated. This illustrates the massive force of indirect power—of controlling the very fabric on which other planets are dependent. If I decide to build a planet in someone else’s galaxy, I’m granting that someone the right to snuff me out. It’s easy to see how some Orwellian shit could go down if a number of these companies suddenly decided to try to influence multiverse-consciousness in subtle, sinister ways.

Luckily, that doesn’t seem to have happened yet (the Facebook experiment is unsettling, though). For now, the giants seem generally to provide a roughly equal playing field for smaller planets to compete for user attention (though there are certainly tricks to courting the algorithmic hearts of search engines and social networks). It’s good business for them to do so, after all. The more competition, the more likely the user will find a better product/experience, be more satisfied, and continue to allow a given web-behemoth to help them navigate the multiverse.

Information Market

This free competition of content can be thought of as an information market within the multiverse—a kind of natural selection in which artifacts of intellect or imagination thrive or die based on their capacity to propagate in the collective consciousness. Certain content catches on and spreads, and planets gain market share/influence, while other content fades, goes extinct. In this information market, anything goes; any effective tactic for content-propagation will be utilized; and anything for which there is a demand will exist. People spend entire careers researching and conducting experiments to determine how to manufacture content that propagates exponentially in the collective consciousness. These people are called marketers and advertisers.

Much could be said about the science of constructing viral content, but I’m not going to say much of it here. I will say, though, that publications of various kinds have long understood that mass appeal correlates directly with catering to the widest audience, exploiting the most universal (and usually shallow) human interests. This is why newspaper and magazine articles are written, on average, at an eighth-grade reading level (because a typical person reads at an eighth-grade level). And more germanely, this is why websites like Buzzfeed and its countless imitators exist. These websites have realized that certain types of content—skimmable, sexed-up, shocking, cute, mindlessly pleasurable—appeal to the widest segment of humans in the multiverse. Topping the charts of viral potential, perhaps, is meme-content—bite-size bits of content that appeal to our love of instant gratification and ever-decreasing attention spans.

Critical Mass

There are more than one billion web-entities currently, and most of them are minuscule planets, having received a few thousand visitors or less. These planets are small and obscure, but they are nonetheless a part of the dynamic, interconnected whole and have some influence on the territory and the populace, however minor.

But as web-planets receive more visitors, shares, and backlinks, they become larger, take on more gravity, enter the radar of more of Internet civilization, and have more potential for further growth. At a certain point, they reach a sort of critical mass (say, 10,000+ visitors per month) at which they will likely continue to receive a steady flow of traffic regardless of what they do, until they disintegrate (e.g. they stop paying for web hosting, apocalypse happens, etc.).

Of course, 10,000 viewers/readers/listeners per month is still pretty small relative to the millions enjoyed by the top 20,000 or so planets, but 10,000 still seems significant. Imagine reaching 10,000 people per month prior to the Internet: you would have needed to be famous, in most cases. But in the Internet multiverse, everyone is telepathic and can teleport—thus making communication and travel between web-entities instantaneous. That is, the Internet removes communication barriers (space, time, need for qualifications), giving far more people than ever an opportunity to gain power in the multiverse (or world). Twenty-seven months ago, this web-planet was built, in part because of my rising understanding of the potential of the Internet as a tool for increasing one’s influence in the world. Now this humble land has received 500,000+ visitors and receives another 30,000-40,000 each month.

Is All Content Created Equal?

Let’s speculate that the top one million web-entities (0.1% of total) have reached the 10,000-visitors-per-month critical mass. These web-entities enjoy a theoretically perpetual influence on the consciousness of the Internet multiverse. Upon consideration, a question arises: Okay, 10,000 people per month = perpetual influence, sure, but can all content be said to “influence” equally? Presumably not. To actually create some reliable metric of Internet-power, you would have to somehow measure the influence-potential of various content. For example, one would imagine that the influence-potential of a cute cat video for 10,000 viewers ≠ the influence-potential of a moving David Foster Wallace short story for an audience of the same size. The latter might alter the course of someone’s life, while it’s difficult to imagine the former doing so. But is that cause for calling the DFW story more powerful? Maybe.

At the very least it is self-evident that the two items would possess decidedly different types of influence-potential. The former’s influence-potential might reside in its ability to delight but also to shorten attention spans and to increase the mind’s propensity for short-lived, vapid entertainment. The latter’s power might be to fracture and expand being, stir empathy, lengthen attention spans, and increase the mind’s propensity for longer-form, thought-provoking, rich, meaningful, or educational content. “Influence” is simply an ambiguous word and would also always depend on audience demographics (a short story can hardly influence an illiterate person) and countless other variables that we haven’t considered. To call one sort of content inherently more valuable or influential than another might be to make an arbitrary moral evaluation (though as humans, that’s one of our specialties). This problematizes the idea of measuring Internet-power, and that’s sans any discussion about measuring the indirect kind.

Noise vs. Meaning

Nonetheless, I have an intuitive sense (and I’d wager you do too) of a distinction. In the ‘cat video vs. DFW story’ example, I think the two items are representative of a dichotomy of Internet content that I’ll call ‘Noise vs. Meaning’.

Noise is in one ear and out the other, usually short in duration, “guilty pleasure” content, shallowly delightful or deliberately provocative, complains without purpose, cookie-cutter, easily replaceable. The majority of planets and messages in the multiverse consist of noise.

Meaning, by contrast, penetrates and probes more deeply, requires sustained attention, is attuned to global issues, suggests transformation or further study, is purposeful, justifies its criticisms, contains the mark or voice of a unique creator, and/or is somehow special. Meaning is more rare in the multiverse, just as it is increasingly rare in the world.

Content is probably not always (or usually) exclusively noise or meaning—I imagine more of a spectrum in which there is a sizable middle ground for content that contains elements of both extremes. In fact, in my experience, meaningful content has a much better chance of spreading if it incorporates elements of noise-content—i.e. eye-catching presentation, attention-grabbing headlines, even meme-format. Quotations, for example, are meme-like, bite-size bits of content, but can nonetheless be potently meaningful. This is why I share philosophical aphorisms, passages of literature, and bits of poetry on Facebook and Twitter; and why this site has sections for quotes, images, and videos.

Meaning Void

As the philosopher Jean Baudrillard points out in the quote with which I opened this piece, at the present historical moment we seem to be awash in noise—hollow information and distraction—and lacking in meaning. He was referring to society in general, but the Internet multiverse, being a kind of microcosm or reflection of society, is likewise aptly described. Noise is the norm, whereas meaning must be sought out or stumbled upon, even though it is the stuff that ultimately strikes us as nourishing, enriching, worthwhile.

There is, of course, an element of subjectivity in this distinction, but think for yourself about the ‘Noise vs. Meaning’ theory of online content, and I imagine your conceptions of “noise” and “meaning” won’t be far from my own. In 2014, I suspect that it’s self-evident to most Internet-people that the multiverse is an ocean of bullshit spotted with islands of real value.

Course Correction

A logical question then: Should we try to make and spread meaning in the multiverse? Some might argue that the Internet is inevitably a reflection of our collective nature and that to decry the over-saturation of vapid noise online is to deny the fact that we humans simply like dumb jokes, pointless ranting, sex, and banal listicles. I don’t disagree, and I actually cherish the diversity of the web and its infinite concentration of content that appeals to our oh-so-human propensity for futile arm-waving and I-want-it-now hedonism.

But a couple things to consider: One, noise-content may result in a sense of meaninglessness—endless fail-compilations distract from rather than satiate my deeper curiosities and will to belonging, purpose, and self-expression. Two, the planet is, like, dying and stuff—noise-content seems to exclusively distract from environmental destruction, ongoing war and genocide, and other issues. So increasing meaning in the Internet multiverse could, theoretically, allow people to fulfill deeper human needs and contribute to the collective transformation and awareness-raising that is necessary to reduce suffering and live more sustainably in the biosphere (two ideals generally considered worthwhile by most people).

Two Methods

So maybe increasing meaning would be radical and groovy and other life-affirming hippie-slang-terms. There are three obvious basic methods for doing that: build meaningful web-entities/content, visit/absorb meaningful web-entities/content, spread the word about meaningful web-entities/content. When you create, seek out, and share more probing, humane, educational, globally-conscious content online, you’re casting a vote for an Internet multiverse and a planet Earth with more understanding and more people who give a shit about something.

And that doesn’t have to mean “boring” content. In an article on online education I mentioned a plethora of examples of online interactive media that “reside at a Venn-diagram-esque intersection of entertainment and learning”. So, you know, explore the multiverse’s far reaches and bring back the good stuff—that’s what I’m advocating. A few places to start: No Excuse ListAeon MagazineCrash CourseExistential Comics, Brain Pickings, certain corners of Reddit, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Beacon, Wikipedia, this site, this site’s library, etc.

Re-imagining Internet

I like cute animals as much as the next guy, but I don’t want to spend my life staring at their digital likenesses in lieu of engaging the mystery of being and the present condition of the world. Terence McKenna once said the following of the Internet:

“The way in which [the internet] will dissolve boundaries is by making us transparent. To each other. I mean, I can imagine a child of the future, we all bring home our drawings to stick on refrigerators, and things like that—in the future we won’t stick them on refrigerators, we will stick them in our website. And everything will go into our website. And by the time we’re 25, or something, our website will be the size of the American Museum of Natural History. And you can wander through it. And as a gesture of intimacy you can invite someone else to wander through it. Well that’s who you are—it’s your imagination. And, I think, in a sense, I’ve said, at times, that: The cultural enterprise is an effort to turn ourselves inside out. We want to put the body into the imagination, and we want the imagination to replace the laws of physics.”

I adore this passage, but I’m inclined to wonder: what kinds of drawings have we wound up sticking on our proverbial refrigerators? Are we being transparent in sharing the complex, oft-unsexy, mysterious reality of our existences? Are we expressing ourselves creatively and sharing enriching, educational artifacts? Are we building a museum that would actually be worth visiting? Or are we mostly sharing selfies and food-pics, complaining about our favorite sports teams, and looking at everyone else’s selfies and food-pics and complaints about sports teams?

Marinate on these questions, and perhaps you’ll decide, like me, to build, absorb, and share content that seems more meaningful, compassionate, educational, thought-provoking, artistic, and/or humanistically/existentially illuminating. There is more to be said on a number of the topics I’ve raised in this post, and I will try to expand on these ideas in future essays. For now, I’ll let you get back to building and/or wandering through the multiverse.


6 Destructive Ideas Perpetuated in Western Culture

Since the day you emerged into this bizarre, sparkling universe, you’ve been conditioned to think in certain ways.

And that’s damn wonderful a lot of the time. It’s arguably a blessing that our minds learn to auto-dismiss certain notions—like, say, walking off of that cliff or stabbing Uncle Melvin with a butter knife—and auto-accept others.

But it’s also problematic. Because, well, our minds are gullible—sufficiently gullible, at least, to spend the first decade or seven of our lives unconsciously internalizing the dominant ways of thinking of our culture.

From our earliest years, we are surrounded by the worldviews of our parents, our education systems, our economic systems, our governments, our media, our religious institutions, and myriad other sources of foundational values and ideas. Depending on one’s culture, this situation eventually results in significant suffering, as we’ll see. And arguably this would not be the case if, at a young age, we were instructed to view all of these sources as reliant on fallible, human ideologies, but this is almost never the case.

Unknown Title, Ewa Gorals. Photo Credit: Wiki Commons
Incentives for Claiming to Know the “Truth”

At least in the United States, my home country, most of these entities are portrayed, or portray themselves, as possessing and delivering the capital-T Truth. The media often portrays itself as a “No Spin Zone” and delivers only firm, declarative statements; the government purports to understand what is most beneficial “for the people”; religion has access to the “word of God”; schools teach “the facts”; mama “knows best,” etc. All of this contributes to a sense that those before us figured everything out, that we need not ask questions. The “Truth” has already been filed away.

There are strong incentives, for both individuals and institutions, to claim to hold or to genuinely believe they hold a monopoly on the “Truth.” One of those incentives is to protect themselves, their fellow citizens, and their loved ones from the unknown, or the unknowable. As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote:

“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’
Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.”

Culture is like an operating system that provides default answers to all of life’s questions to protect us from the inevitable insecurity and anxiety that arise when we admit that we know very little about what is actually going on—about what we are, why we’re here, what we should do, etc. I would not be so bold as to suggest that this is never a good thing. Culture can aid us, I think, by providing stabilizing structure where none would otherwise exist. And some cultural values are surely worthy, human-friendly ones. However, in emphasizing a specific set of values, most cultures (particularly dominator cultures) seem to become dogmatic—i.e. seem to reach a point where they do not recognize other ways of seeing and thinking and living than their own predominant prescriptions. For anyone curious about the truth of our condition or about alternative modi operandi, this can become an absurdly limiting and oppressive state of affairs.

Another incentive for sources to claim to possess the “Truth” has to do with rhetoric, persuasion. In an age of expert opinions and fifty million channels of information, the “Truth” gets people to listen. And everyone wants an audience, wants to propagate their worldview for its own sake or for other ends. Convincing people to do and believe what you want them to do and believe is supremely dependent on presenting yourself or your organization as wise, enlightened, certain.

No One Has the Answers

But, as you are hopefully aware, the “Truth” changes, depending on who you ask. It differs wildly from continent to continent, culture to culture, institution to institution, family to family, individual to individual. There are infinite variations on the “Truth.”

It may follow that truth is utterly subjective, but I’ll save the nihilism discussion for another day. What’s imperative to realize, here and now, is that one culture’s truth is another culture’s fiction; and to consider, furthermore, that much of what has been presented to you as “True” might be an agenda-driven house of cards—a collection of misguided, propagandistic faux-facts, some of which lead to despair if left unchallenged.

I don’t mean to pull a wide-eyed “What if I told you?” stunt à la the Matrix Morpheus meme. This is just food for thought, and again, this is not to say that culturally inherited perspectives and structures can never be useful, meaningful, life-stabilizing, social-cohesion mechanisms. I think they often are. But I humbly submit to you that an idea of inconceivable purchase—especially in terms of un-learning certain insidious culturally inherited worldviews—is the idea that no one has the answers. If we’re honest (which might be a good idea sometimes), every person, every culture, and every institution tells a story, and everyone’s story is, at root, relative to their point of view and way of life. Including mine, so don’t take me too seriously.

When you start to think in this way, you become much more curious and critical. You begin to take personal responsibility for separating the strawberries from the smegma—for deciding which ideas are worthwhile and which are malignant. Presuming you see value in this undertaking, let me suggest to you (in cute, easily processable listicle-blurbs) that the following six ideas—ideas prevalent in (though not exclusive to) the West—are at best unsound and at worst, utterly destructive.

Idea #1: Uncertainty can and should be eliminated from existence.

“Only mystery allows us to live, only mystery.”

— Federico García Lorca

From our earliest years of schooling, there is a rhetoric of certainty wafting in the air, a notion of control over knowledge and over events. Year after year, the system has already determined what’s best for us: first grade to second grade to third grade, et al. Life has an order, an obvious trajectory. Schools, experts, and scientists seem, conveniently, to have “the facts”—everything we need to know about the universe and everything we need to know to “succeed” (slippery linguistic sign, that one).

By the time we’re 15 or 16, we’re well-aware of a traditional life-path narrative in which people go to college, find a nice job, work their way up in the world, get married, have kids, buy a house, settle down, retire, die. At the same time, we’re beginning to be bombarded with terms like “career path,” “next step,” “plan your future,” etc. etc., all of which serve to further cement in us the notion that it is desirable and possible to “figure out” our lives, to schedule them down to the smallest detail, to eliminateuncertainty.

Eventually, though, this narrative breaks down. We eat some strange fungi or get fired or read too much philosophy or break our pelvis or miss a flight or gaze too long at the stars or our dog dies, and it becomes (perhaps distressingly) clear that things are not so certain. Existence forever evades compartmentalization, and countless events, both micro and macro in scale, occur despite our expectations otherwise. Innumerable questions defy our understanding. Our efforts to impose certainty and control onto the universe are attempts to avoid countenancing the inevitable fear that comes with acknowledging our own physical and perceptual limitations.

This fear seems to cause many people to need certainty—to insist that they or someone else (priests, scientists, etc.) understands How Things Are in some kind of absolute way. I see this as tragic. It’s as if these people want to take kaleidoscopic, inscrutable, inarticulable existence and put it in some kind of hermetically sealed canister in order to feel proud that it’s been contained and dissected thoroughly. From my perspective, this attitude eliminates or severely paralyzes one’s ability to really see the living mysterythat surrounds us all the time and to feel what is, I think, the greatest of feelings—profound astonishment and awe at the fact of one’s own existence.

Ultimately, we cannot escape the unknown. It will eventually return to engulf, torment, and cripple us if we have long suppressed it. For some time, I’ve aimed to adopt an attitude I dub “dancing with uncertainty.” Rather than feeling that I need to know anything, I have aimed to embrace that I am immersed in and inseparable from a colossal, mysterious unfolding of being and don’t really know what will occur tomorrow, let alone in five years. I admit that I don’t understand this whole “life” thing, and from that admission emerges humility, wonder, curiosity, and an openness to novelty and possibility. I heed the poet Rilke’s words: “Live the questions.

Idea #2: You deserve to feel great all the time, and you can.

“This is Bob. Bob is doing well. Very well indeed. That’s because not long ago with just a quick phone call Bob realized that he could have something better in his life.”

You may have recognized the above ad-copy as that of Enzyte, “Natural Male Enhancement,” and were unwittingly prompted to imagine “Bob,” that disturbingly perky boner-boosting poster boy and his eerily exaggerated inhuman perma-smile. “Bob” is a prime (if a bit extreme) example of an archetype that is widely propagated by advertisers, self-help “gurus,” and the hokey, think-positive people who you unfollowed on Facebook for incessantly posting “Just Be Happy Now” memes.

The archetype is that of the ever-smiling person—the complete and totally realized human who has discovered happiness and now just feels so damn good that they can hardly stand it. In a culture that places an inestimable premium on individual happiness, it’s comforting to believe that such an ideal can be realized. It’s also quite lucrative to sell people an image of themselves attaining the ideal.

But beneath the glamorous, ever-grinning archetype is a serpentine subtextual message, a message that can quite literally make you feel as if something is terribly wrong with you. The message is that happiness consists in never feeling depressed, lonely, scared, anxious, or downright shitty. That if we just buy the product or adopt the right mentality, perpetual Best Days Ever are within reach. But is such a vision really tenable or the substance of agenda-driven fantasy? My vote: the latter.

Perhaps “happiness,” if the word means anything at all, means accepting whatever circumstances or emotions arise. To be human is to experience a vast spectrum of emotion, and there will always be an ebb and flow. Remembering to approach all happenings with an attitude of “this too shall pass” is more valuable than a warehouse full of consumer quick-fixes.

Furthermore, as many a thinker has argued, our pain can be an essential catalyst toward resilience, self-knowledge, and compassion. Friedrich Nietzsche famously stated, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Viktor Frankl, a renowned psychotherapist and Holocaust survivor, thought that in our suffering we could discover profound meaning. Dostoyevsky, Schopenhauer, Rilke, and other writers, poets, and philosophers have likewise held deep convictions about the metamorphoses and purposes to be found in misery. So, in sum, if you feel like hell, chill. You’re human. Be with those feelings; see what they might mean to you and know that they’re temporary.

Idea #3: You should be afraid.

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. […] This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”

— Terence McKenna

In numerous ways, society implicitly communicates to us that the world is a harsh and frightening place. As mentioned above, we’re implored to meticulously design our future, to plan the “secure” career—the sure bet, the foolproof strategy. Risky, bold, or unpopular decisions are thus necessarily presented to us as avoidable traps. Caution is portrayed as the only way to ensure success. Anything that thousands or millions of other people aren’t already doing is likely to be met with unease from our parents, counselors, coaches, and advisors.

Moreover, the entirety of the outside world becomes something to fear if one invests in mass-media narratives (something all too easy to do, consciously or unconsciously). Every other news story is a sexual assault or homicide or bombing or school shooting or shocking accident. The news is over-saturated with exceptionally enraging, fear-inducing, and unsettling stories. This pattern communicates an inaccurate image of a world where death and danger lurk in every shadowed alley. That’s not to say that there isn’t a whole lot of frankly fucked up garbage happening in this world. There is, and we should keep our wits about us, have compassion for all, and care about helping to develop more effective systems and a sense of global solidarity.

But the point is that the media skews our perception, exaggerating stories for shock value and subtly conditioning us to expect highly improbable events to affect us. We’re taught to look out at the world and see tragedies rather than possibilities. This situation and other sources of fear become further reasons to take the cautious life-path that is advertised to us in schools and acted out all around us by the majority of citizens.

But when fear dictates our lives, we almost inevitably avoid things that beckon to us. Often times, the things that you really want to do—the stand-up comedy bit, the backpacking trip abroad, the music project, etc.—are petrifying. God forbid, we might not get the result we want or be laughed at by other people. This fear prevents most of us from “doing our thing”—i.e. expressing ourselves openly and honestly in our lives/actions, flowing intelligently with our nature. I have my fair share of fears and anxieties, but I refuse to be reduced and controlled by them—I let them be and try always to do the personally meaningful things that arise organically within me. To invoke Vonnegut once more: “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

Idea #4: The products can fix you.

“It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.”

— David Foster Wallace

The subtext of 99% of advertising for consumer products is this: You’re inadequate, ugly, uncool, no fun, average, predictable, prudish, and inessential, but our product can fix you. As Wallace points out in the above quote, advertisements are designed to foster in us a sense of anxiety about some aspect of our lives, to give us a sense that something is missing, but that the emptiness can be dispelled “for just $19.95!.”

This is the rhetoric of consumerist culture, and goddammit it is effective. I mean, look around you. People are working endless hours, week after week, year after year, just to throw it all away on a TV with imperceptibly higher resolution, an upgrade for their perfectly functional cell phone, silicone body parts and liposuction, a new wardrobe that won’t be “stylish” by next year, janky and extraneous gadgetry, plastic fruit, lawn ornaments, ShamWows, skin creams, throw pillows, diet pills, and infinite other bits of trivial bullshit.

The obvious point is that if any of this rubbish actually rectified the void that people try so desperately to remove from their lives, they’d stop buying. But they don’t—because making a purchase is simple and addictive and because the jolt of relief and satisfaction that arises from purchasing is fleeting as it is liberating. Rather than being any sort of real solution, consumption is merely a cyclic distraction. No amount of external accumulation can resolve internal issues and conflicts. These things require time, reflection, introspection, and a willingness to countenance unsexy truths about ourselves/life. It’s no surprise that most people try to escape this oft-uncomfortable work.

Idea #5: There are “good” people and there are “bad” people.

We all remember hearing things like “Be a good girl, Wilma.” or “Don’t be a naughty little boy, Sigmund.” From a young age, we were introduced to a set of ethical rules—rules which determined whether a person was “good” or “bad.” Most of the stories we grew up with, whether in the form of movies or books, contained morally unambiguous characters—that is, heroes and villains, the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

Furthermore, those of us who were indoctrinated into certain Western religious institutions were taught that the species Homo sapiens is inherently sinful, and that some “good” people go to a Heaven while other “bad” people burn for eternity in Hell. In the US, at least, criminals are typically viewed not as fallible humans who made a mistake, but as irrevocably evil men who deserve decades-long prison sentences or capital punishment, rather than a second chance or rehabilitation.

This dichotomy of “good” and “bad” is firmly established in Western culture. It burrows deep into our fundamental conception of the world, generating guilt, shame, and doubt regarding our actions. I don’t deny that people are shitheads at times. Some of us do downright hideous things, and all of us make regrettable errors and end up hurting ourselves and other people we would rather not have hurt. The problem with a cultural dichotomy of “good” and “bad” is that it suggests to us that any one ephemeral mistake could have lifelong consequences, could prove that we are just downright “bad” people.

Though I personally feel we should hold ourselves largely accountable for our actions (while viewing ourselves and others with compassion), we must recognize that numerous factors beyond our control contribute to our mental state and impulses at any given time. As humans, it is a given that we will falter at some point. “The deck is stacked against us,” I often say. We will fuck up, but we will also do generous, loving things. These two poles arise mutually within us, and one allows us to experience the other, and vice versa. We are neither purely “good” nor purely “bad.” Kahlil Gibran knew this when he wrote:

“You are good in countless ways, and you
are not evil when you are not good,
You are only loitering and sluggard.
Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness
to the turtles.”

Judging someone else to be a “bad” person is an exercise in subtle self-aggrandizement, and conversely, dwelling in excessive guilt or shame over our mistakes is entirely counterproductive. As Albert Ellis once pointed out, the most effective way to express remorse for our actions is to acknowledge that what we did was misguided and then to focus on doing better now—in the moment we can still influence.

The other thing to consider is that both “good” and “bad” might be wholly native to the human experience and not objectively real. Existence may well be amoral, as Zen, Taoism, and other schools of thought suggest. This is one of those arguably unanswerable questions I mentioned earlier. Either way, I take the position that a basic moral compass—something as simple as compassion deriving from a recognition of mutual suffering—is an indispensable component of a meaningful human life. I humbly submit that we ought to aim for kindness and understanding, remembering that all people are human, just like us.

Idea #6: You are better than “them.”

We humans naturally form our identities by contrasting ourselves with that which appears different from us. We call ourselves “artists” or “athletes” because not every person is creatively expressive or adept at sports. If everyone was, the terms “artist” and “athlete” would lose their meaning and simply be subsumed into our “human” identity—the identity we form by contrasting our physiology with that of other animals. Curiously, all of our individual identities and even our collective “human” identity are rendered illusory when we examine ourselves at the atomic or subatomic level—at this fundamental level, everything is the same—but most of us don’t focus on this most of the time. Which is okay, because it’s fun and interesting to lose oneself in the game of human identity and social existence, wherein distinctions between people are indispensable for order and civil behavior. But I digress.

Groups—distinct parcels of people often set in opposition to one another—provide an ideal opportunity for the sorts of contrasts that we rely on for a sense of identity. For this reason and others, we in the Western world endlessly divide ourselves into in-groups and out-groups. We’re jocks, hipsters, nerds, feminists, Vikings fans, environmentalists, atheists, Republicans, stoners, frat guys, bikers, vegetarians, transcendental idealists, et al.

Unfortunately, this group-based social dynamic is a slippery slope to narcissism and animosity. A healthy amount of pride in a given community identity can silently morph into an elitist sense of superiority and a desire to spite relevant out-groups or people generally who are not “in the club.” These types of attitudes have historically been and remain a mainstay in religious organizations, political parties, races, and social classes, as well as in countless other niche-groups such as the “popular” kids in a high school or a segment of health enthusiasts on the Internet or NRA members or all of the professors in a given department at a university.

Ironically, if it weren’t for all of the people that are different from you or I, we would be rendered indistinguishable from one another, retain no shape to call our own, and the whole game of human identity would be kaput. As I said above, we create our identities by contrasting ourselves with that which we are not, so maybe we ought to be thankful for those unlike us. On a deeper level, we might realize that our personal differences are illusory and temporary. We invent endless differences in an ongoing game of human drama when, at root, we are all members of the same species living on a tiny rock in a mysterious void. Beyond that, we’re all sentient beings. And beyond that, we’re all star-stuff, energy, subatomic particles.

Deciding that “we” are better than “them” has been a fatal error throughout human history leading to innumerable wars, genocides, and other unspeakable acts of brutality. We ought to aim to define ourselves first and foremost as the same fundamental stuff in an unknowable existence and realize that everything else is a little human game that we’re playing.

In sum, beware of dysfunctional cultural operating systems. Cool? Cool.

I’ll leave you with this passage—which echoes my introductory sentiments and distills the crux of this piece—from the philosopher Robert Anton Wilson:

“It’s important to abolish the unconscious dogmatism that makes people think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world. My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything. If one can only see things according to one’s own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind. It’s only possible to see people when one is able to see the world as others see it.”


MealSquares: A New Era of Healthy Fast Food?


The fast-paced nature of modern society has lead to an increase in fast food and, thus, an increase in obesity. MealSquares is trying to fix this problem by revolutionizing the very nature of fast food.


It’s no great secret that the United States has a bit of a problem with obesity. Some 78 million adults and some 13 million children in the U.S. face obesity. And sadly, America isn’t alone. A number of countries have similar problems when it comes to healthy nutrition; it seems to come part and parcel with our modern industrial way of living.

Increasingly, individuals aren’t sitting down for a meal, but grabbing a Big Mac or McChicken sandwich as they jet off to (yet another) meeting or event. We need fast food to complement our fast paced lifestyle. But just in case you didn’t know, fast food isn’t exactly healthy.

That’s where MealSquares comes in.


Image credit: MealSquares

MealSquares, simply put, is an all-in-one meal for someone on the go. And unlike some other meal replacement options, it isn’t loaded with tons of added sugar. As the company’s website asserts, it has “more protein per calorie than a Big Mac, less sugar than a banana.”

In this respect, MealSquares stands apart from some other brands.

For example, as MealSquare’s co-founder John Maxwell states, “despite pretending to be a healthy snack, a chocolate chip Clif Bar actually has slightly more sugar on a per-calorie basis than a Hershey’s bar with almonds in it.” To clarify, Clif Bar states that their product is “wholesome, organic ingredients. Performance nutrition.” However, it is ultimately billed as an energy bar—something to give you a boost of energy with a boost of sugar.

This is not what MealSquares is. It’s not an ‘energy bar’ but a ‘meal bar.’

To that end, it is meant to be a “nutritionally complete meal replacement.” Maxwell summarizes, stating, “You have all your healthy options, and you have all your fast options, and there really aren’t that many things that are healthy and fast. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

He continues by clarifying exactly what it meant by the term “nutritionally complete:” “MealSquares doesn’t just improve on Clif Bar by cutting down on sugar….five MealSquares a day gets you 100% of all your daily recommended vitamins and minerals, through a carefully chosen combination of whole food ingredients.”

That said, Maxwell is quick to clarify that MealSquares isn’t meant to entirely replace your current diet. Indeed, he notes that there are a number of things about nutrition that scientists don’t quite understand yet, stating, “there are a lot of indicators that we don’t have completely figured out.”

To that end, you shouldn’t throw out the bread and dairy just yet.

MealSquares nutritional information.
MealSquares nutritional information.

“MealSquares is engineered so that you can subsist off of nothing but MealSquares; however, our official recommendation is that you don’t do that.” Romeo Stevens, an independent health researcher and MealSquare’s co-founder, adds. He continues, “it’s the difference between thinking in terms of ‘what is the optimal human diet’ versus ‘an improvement on your current diet’….Soylent presented themselves as the optimal diet, and that’s a hard position. You’re always going to be falling short of that mythical optimum, because we [nutritional scientists] don’t even 100% understand it.”

Thus, it is about replacing poor quality meals with something higher quality. Not living entirely off of the product. And indeed, the human body is absurdly complex. To date, nothing about our biology is understood 100%. So it is about improving where you can, not finding some ultimate answer to the perfect diet.

To Sum: Only have 5 minutes to grab lunch? Then maybe try a MealSquare instead of that large McDonald’s fries. Going hiking for the day or have a super long plane flight? Throw a few MealSquares in your bag to keep you going, but don’t make them your entire bread and butter (pun intended).


When MealSquares arrived, the first thing that I noticed was that the things seem to be super-vacuum sealed, which is rather handy, I suppose. Since there is no excess air, it means less space will be taken up in your bag (and if you are going for a hike or plan on carrying one in your bag as you rush about for work, every centimeter of space matters).

MealSquares. KellyChow
MealSquares. Image Credit: KellyChow

Unfortunately, it looked a little like a shrink-wrapped CD, and as we all know, CDs are notoriously tedious to open. So I grabbed my trusty scissors and went to slice in. However, I realized that most of the people eating MealSquares likely wouldn’t have scissors handy. So I put them down and tried to open the bag with my hands.

Tada! It opened with a light tug [Edit: Maxwell adds that the final product will have different packaging, so no worries in this regard either way].

The bread smells rather like banana bread (I like banana bread, so that’s a good thing). The company tells you that it is best warmed up in microwave, as the bread is a little dry. They also suggest adding butter or Nutella or something to moisten it. But who has a microwave when hiking and such? Probably no one. So I tried it cold and plain.

It was actually pretty good. It’s probably not something that I will ever crave (like nachos, or what-have-you), but it tastes like a good, thick bread. A little reminiscent of banana bread, but much heartier.

Anyways, they are right, it is a bit dry. So I tried it warmed up with some butter, and it was likewise quite pleasant. Want to give them a try yourself? You are in luck. They are currently in Beta testing, and they are looking for feedback.


The Answer to Nuclear Waste Storage and Transportation Could Be Metal Foam


Researchers from North Carolina State University discovered that composite metal foams (CMFs) are significantly more effective at insulating against high heat than the conventional metals and alloys such as steel.


Humans have a long history of working with metals, from the first metalworkers who made steel to the scientists who make higher-quality metal alloys and play with metal-based structures. Now, thanks to a new innovation from North Carolina University, we can add metal foams to this ever-growing list.

Researchers discovered that composite metal foams (CMFs) are significantly more effective at insulating against high heat than the conventional metals and alloys, such as steel. CMF consists of metallic hollow spheres—made of materials such as carbon steel, stainless steel, or titanium—embedded in a metallic matrix made of steel, aluminum, or metallic alloys.

There are two ways to make these babies. One is by casting a low melting point material, such as aluminum, around hollow spheres made of a material with a higher melting point, such as steel.
The other method is to bake the matrix powder around prefabricated hollow spheres. This creates CMFs such as steel hollow spheres in a steel matrix.

In the tests conducted during the research, the scientists exposed samples of steel-steel CMF to a fire for 30 minutes on one side, and checked to see how long it would take for the heat to reach the opposite side. It took eight minutes for the CMF to reach 800°C, while steel of the same thickness took only four. The researchers also checked the rate of expansion of the CMF when exposed to fire, which was 80 percent less than bulk steel.


CMF has also proven that it is not just a better heat insulator, but a better overall material. These results showed CMF is especially promising for use in storing and transporting nuclear material, hazardous materials, explosives, and other heat-sensitive materials, as well as for space exploration. CMF also shows promise in BioMed, proving to be a lightweight alternative to rigid implants such as titanium.

“We already knew the CMFs are light-weight materials with outstanding high-velocity impact resistance, and effective radiation shielding, now we know that it can withstand high heat,” saysAfsaneh Rabiei, a corresponding author of a paper on the work.

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