Football Destroys Brains

“The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains,” renowned sports announcer Bob Costas said. And that statement, it seems, ended Mr. Costas’s career with NBC Sports.

Your grandmother was ahead of her time in this regard, Vera. She refused to allow her sons (your dad and uncle) to play football because of the bodily harm the game can inflict. Now, we’re seeing more and more parents come to the same conclusion, and football, if current trends continue, may become a game primarily for the lower class, where the prospect of financial rewards seems to carry more weight or, possibly, the prospect of injury seems less concerning.

Not surprisingly, more and more empty seats are appearing in college football stadiums on Saturday afternoons, and it’s not unusual to see NFL stadiums half empty. One wonders whether football will go the way of boxing given enough time.

As someone who’s been knocked unconscious and experienced the aftereffects of a major concussion, I have a hard time understanding why people would want to put themselves at risk for recurrent incidents and permanent brain damage. I have a harder time understanding, given what we now know, why parents allow their kids to take these risks. Yet I also recall it was your grandmother and not me who imposed the prohibition on football, which leads me to conclude some of us are slow to come to terms with the reality of the situation.

Of course, there are risks in most activities, even something as simple as driving to school or work. We can’t live our lives with all risks removed. Each of us must decide which risks are acceptable and which ones are not.

When it comes to football, it seems the tide has turned.

The Wealthy Are Seriously Misjudging the Situation

This memo from one of the most revered icons of the investment world, Howard Marks, is typical of the public clamoring from the wealthiest elites in the face of rising populism from the Left. Mr. Marks, who has freely given sage advice over the years, benefiting many a budding investor, decries proposals from the Left that would impinge upon owners’ rights to run their companies as they see fit. This is typical of the elites’ response to rising populism, the diminishing share of profits going to labor, and the resulting gross disparity in income and wealth–in short, to what many consider gross unfairness and injustice.

I actually agree with much if not most of what Mr. Marks writes and do believe the risks from proposed solutions that would prove to be counterproductive are significant if not outright dire. What I object to, however, are the tactics of the elite, and what I am most concerned about is their obliviousness.

The tactics are to criticize and warn while ignoring or dismissing the problem out of hand. There are exceptions of course, but they are rare. To this point, the elite routinely dismiss the warnings of their more prescient members such as Ray Dalio.

In former times, when things got bad enough, the wealthy, powerful elite had to worry about insurrection and revolution. But today no one takes the threat of guillotines seriously. Today, serfs in western democracies have other options, the power to vote to be precise. And history shows they can be pushed quite far before becoming immune to manipulation by propaganda and threats; indeed, modern humans can be cowed fairly easily. We are a passive bunch.

The last time American serfs threatened to overturn the established order was during the Great Depression. The country was fortunate enough then to have a leader as astute and wise as Franklin Roosevelt. He understood the threat and headed it off. Social Security was born. Jobs programs were enacted. The role of the federal government was fundamentally transformed.

Roosevelt understood that unfettered capitalism was unworkable over the long term. I suspect Mr. Marks understands that as well, but after reading his memo I can’t be sure. Even if he does, it seems doubtful many of his fellow billionaires and multimillionaires get it. They seem to have been lulled into thinking their positions were secure since the guillotines have been dismantled and are no longer a response available to the masses.

Of course, if things got bad enough, they might be surprised at how quickly things could be reassembled, but we’re probably a long ways from that. What’s more likely is a political response that could strike at the heart of the elite: their balance sheets.

Which could be problematic, for some of the so-called “solutions” being proposed by the politicos on the Left would end up hurting the people they are designed to help, of that I am sure. But of course that’s not the real objective in most cases anyway. The real objective is to win an election and claim power.

It would be nice if Mr. Marks and a substantial number of other elites would do something other than complain and warn; it would be nice if they proposed and implemented solutions. But that would mean giving something up, and as of yet that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. So the power of the Left swells. And the risks increase.

To  be fair, in a parenthetical near the end of this memo, Mr. Marks concedes there is room for increases in tax rates. He cites the fact that today’s top rate of 37 percent is one of the lowest in the 106-year history of the U.S. income tax (thanks, of course, to Mr. Trump and the Republicans in Congress). But it was a mere parenthetical. And there is no evidence Mr. Marks is exhibiting any leadership in addressing the issues. He’s apparently content with writing memos.

My fear is that the wealthy are seriously misjudging the situation and that a global backlash may be unleashed which does more harm than good, to just about everyone. Of course, there are never only losers; there are always some winners, no matter how much the sands shift.

It’s time, I suspect, to be particularly attentive to ensure that, even if you can’t be a winner after this has played out, your losses will not be crippling.

Known Bodily Imperfections

I have a physical today. The first one in quite a while. The first one with my new doctor. It may be my last one.

I thought I’d try to make it easy on my doc. After all, I’m all for efficiency. So instead of forcing him to ask me a bunch of questions, I prepared a document listing everything I thought might be pertinent. I titled the document Known Bodily Imperfections.

I tried to be comprehensive. But I’m not sure it was the best approach. I ended up with a list of 10. For heaven’s sake, 10!!! Should I go to Red Alert?

I tried to eliminate some items to get the list down to where it jived with my self-perception or dreams (see image). But I couldn’t. Not if I was going to be honest with myself. Or my doctor. So I’m sticking with 10. How f**king depressing.

I then categorized the imperfections between things I can do something about and things I can’t. The bad back I inherited from my father is an example of the latter (particularly painful of late). Thanks dad. The good news is, I don’t feel guilty about it. The bad news is, there’s nothing I can do to change it (although I can try to manage it). Obviously, it makes sense to focus on the things I can change or influence materially.

A few things aren’t easy calls. Should I have another surgery to have the plate removed from my shoulder or put up with the discomfort and intermittent pain? I’m sure the surgeon would vote for surgery (cha-ching, cha-ching), but I’m not so eager. Surgery entails risks. Other things are easier calls but harder to implement. Weight reduction is a classic example.

I also scanned the list to see how many of the items were age related. I count six. As I see it, the alternative is a premature death. I’ll put up with the six.

The process got me to thinking whether I would have done anything different if I could live life over. The answer is “yes, of course.” At least four of the imperfections could have been avoided or alleviated with better choices. That leaves six of 10 for which I bear no responsibility. There, I feel better already.

Finally, it occurred to me this was a list of known conditions. But the doc most likely will do a clinical exam, including the dreaded prostate exam. (I’m pretty sure he won’t take my word for it that it’s fine.)

Undoubtedly, he’ll also order some blood tests. What if he finds something else — knowledge that will transform a condition from an unknown to a known?

Too bad. My list isn’t going to be any longer than 10, so there’s no room for anything additional unless I can knock off one or more of the items from my list of knowns.

Which makes me wonder, why am I having this physical?


You Can Kiss Those Frozen Ponds Goodbye, and That’s Not All

When I was a kid in south-central Pennsylvania, we skated every winter. On ponds. If you want to skate in central Indiana today (nearly an identical climate to south-central Pennsylvania), you have to go to The Ice at Center Green, a refrigerated outdoor rink in Carmel, just a short walk from our house.

I mention this because we’re about to get blasted by a mass of frigid Arctic air. The high tomorrow is forecasted to be below zero.

Our ignoramus president has already cited the plunging Midwest temperatures as proof that global warming is a farce. I wish people weren’t sucked into his vortex of stupidity, but it seems many are. Oh, well, I suppose humans have always been evidence-resistant.

The evidence, of course, is compelling. The planet is warming. One can debate to what extent this warming is caused by human activity. But you can’t contend the climate hasn’t changed . . . unless you’re living in your Trump bubble, that is.

Some people say we’re now living in a post-truth era. Everyone gets to make up their own reality. There isn’t anything that’s universally accepted as being true. Everything that opposes your view can be dismissed as fake.

That may be the case. It certainly seems that way at times.

Meanwhile, I notice that you can’t go out on the ponds around here. I can see that the ice around the edges is razor thin.

I can also read that, from 1950 to 2000, there were 45 days with actual temperatures below -35 degrees Fahrenheit in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and that this century, there have only been two.

So it’s up to me, whether I want to fabricate my own reality or at least try to observe as much of reality as is possible for us humans to discern.

At first blush, this seems ridiculous, for don’t all of us think we’re seeing and interacting with reality?

I suppose we do. And that’s one of the biggest illusions of all.

Envy-Inducing Instagram

Naval Ravikant, an active Twitter user who uses Periscope, was asked last night why he doesn’t use Instagram Live. He replied, “I never want to open Instagram.”

“I don’t want to live in a world of photos.”

“Instagram seems like a big world of ‘look at me.’ Envy inducing.”

It’s just one man’s perspective. But based on what I’ve read about the significant negative impact of social media on people, especially our youth, it’s a perspective worth considering.

P.S. Withdrawing from Facebook was a life-enhancing move for me. Just one man’s perspective.

We’re Shrinking!

The world is having fewer babies. Consequently, populations are starting to contract.

It appears two of the main reasons people are having fewer kids are:

  1. The high cost of rearing them, including exorbitant college costs (made worse, in part, by public policies that prioritize old people over children); and
  2. The adverse impact childbirth can have on a mother’s career and career prospects.

Are all the major countries on the way to becoming Japan, where more adult diapers are sold than baby diapers?

If so, what are the implications for our economies and societies?

Leaving the Desert with These Thoughts

I did not take home with me any new goals or resolutions. But I did leave the desert with some thoughts — “things I think” — some of which are new, some of which are simply clearer or less contingent than they were before my time alone in the desert. Here are a few:

  • It’s not enough. I’m not enough. Those are my demons. That’s not new; I knew that before going to the desert. I also knew, from what I see in the world around me, those demons are everywhere; they are not mine alone. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Demons can be defeated. But I’m realizing they cannot be defeated with knowledge or willpower. They can be defeated only by removing the false ideas that protect and nourish them. And by wresting control of thoughts from them. Through awareness. Acceptance. Truth (reality). Seizing control of my mind.
  • The meaning I sought does not exist. The meaning that is available is that which I create; or perhaps more accurately, allow to be created.
  • Nothing is dependent upon anything eternal; nothing and no one outside of me needs to change. The world cannot be fixed. But I can change. And with that change, the sun can be brighter; the sky, bluer. Yet I cannot seek change or try to will it because such efforts would fail; they always have. If change is to come, it will come with awareness and mindfulness. And perhaps from things and in ways I don’t and never will fully understand.
  • Removal of the things that distort the lens through which I see and experience life — the barriers and obstructions, the false ideas, illusions, delusions, and unrealistic expectations — is essential. Deconstruction. Removal. Awareness. This I can do.
  • Finding and being mindful of the root causes of suffering is essential. Suffering should be considered an alarm; it should alert me to distortions in my lens.
  • Cede power to no one. Nor to any idea, action, or delusion. Care not about what anyone else thinks. About anything. But care about the person.
  • Be totally truthful in all things. Don’t lie (not even little white lies or lies intended to spare someone else’s feelings). Similarly, welcome the truthfulness of others; take no offense or hurt. Take no offense at their lies either, for surely many will come. They know not what they do.
  • Do not complain. It distorts the lens and misleads me into thinking my well-being is dependent upon something or someone.
  • Do not think about what I don’t have or what I haven’t done or achieved. If I think it matters, look up (when the moon is new and where there is little or no light pollution).
  • Desire nothing. Expect nothing. Instead of asking, why me? Ask, why not me?
  • Relish the gifts and wonder. They are everywhere. If I fail to see them, it is not because they aren’t there; it is because my lens is cloudy.
  • Be still. My mind needs time without distractions — not only external ones, but also (and more especially) the internal ones. Meditate. Return to the desert if necessary. Or to other places of solitude.
  • Be mindful and present, no matter how trivial or insignificant the activity or interaction seems.
  • Observe myself, too. I am not my thoughts. Step outside of my mind. Refuse to be hostage to my thoughts.

In sum:

Peace, contentment, happiness, and meaning lie in wait within; our natural state is happiness and contentment. They are mine provided I do not allow any illusion, fear, or belief to hold them hostage. Free them. But seek not these things; rather, focus on ridding myself of the things that obscure and imprison them.

Those were some my thoughts. As I departed …

the desert.

(See these prior posts for more on my time in the desert. Leaving and Days One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven.)

Self-Inflicted Wounds

I don’t give a f**k. About the debate over the wall. It’s up to our elected officials to decide how to protect our borders. That’s their job. If they’re not smart enough to handle it, then we’ve elected the wrong people. I try to vote for people who are smart and wise enough to handle tough issues. I’ve probably made some mistakes along the way. That’s life. (At least I haven’t made as big a mistake as 63 million of my fellow Americans made in 2016.)

In any case, here we are. Self-inflicted wounds. Irreversible damage to the economy. Unnecessary economic pain and adverse impact on countless people and businesses. Just because our president thinks it’s OK to shut down our government. Unless he gets his way.

This is so incredibly stupid. Normally, I’m bothered by gross stupidity. But this time around I’m not bothered as much as I used to be. I’m not sure it’s a good thing. But as I said, this time around I really don’t give a f**k.

I’ve been working at it. To be less bothered by that which I can’t control, that is. Which is a good thing.

I’ve also been working at trying not to view things as either good or bad. But to simply accept them for what they are. Which is a good thing. I think.

To be fair, it’s easy not to be overly bothered by the current situation because I’m not directly affected by it.

If you are impacted by the shutdown (or extremely troubled by it) and feel the need to do something about it, then I’d suggest the following: Continue reading