Friday, October 7, 2022

The Power of Myth

What do Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, and the Buddha all have in common? You might not think very much at first glance, but if we look closer, we see that they are all heroes of their own epic adventures. Looking even closer, we see that these adventures seem to follow a common pattern.

For starters let's write about your first day of High School...

Why did you have to go? Did you have any second thoughts/ not want to go? Did anyone help you that first day? What did it feel like walking onto campus or into that first class? Were there any obstacles you were faced with that day? What was the biggest challenge you dealt with that day? How did you deal with it? What was the reward? How did it feel returning home that day? How did you feel when you woke up and returned to school that second day? What lessons were learned? What people did you meet that day?

Joseph Campbell was a prolific researcher, teacher and writer. Before he passed away Bill Moyer interviewed him in a six part series. Here are the first two episodes (I recommend 1,2,4 and 6)

Watch Episode 2 below and skip to 15:30 where they compare creation stories to get a taste of this program...

Ep 3 (1) Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth | Ep. 3: 'The First Storytellers' - YouTube

Ep 4 (1) Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth | Ep. 4: 'Sacrifice and Bliss' - YouTube

Ep 5 (1) Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth | Ep. 5: 'Love and the Goddess' - YouTube

Ep 6 (1) Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth | Ep. 6: 'Masks of Eternity' - YouTube

The Power of Myth Quotes by Joseph Campbell | Goodreads

45:40 to 49

Joseph Campbell launches into a lengthy blueprint for storytelling, commonly known as the Hero's Journey.

Does that sound dry? Maybe a little. But think of it as the literary equivalent of being handed a skeleton key…because this book unlocks the plot of basically every movie (and most books) ever made.

The Journey consists of a series of specific steps, laid out by Campbell one by one. He sums it all up after he talks about each step—about two-thirds of the way through the book in the chapter helpfully labeled "The Keys"—but we're gonna include an outline right here just to give you a little road map to figuring it all out.

  1. The Call to Adventure
  2. Refusal of the Call
  3. Meeting the Mentor
  4. Crossing the Threshold
  5. Tests
  6. Approaching the Innermost Cave
  7. Ordeal
  8. Reward/Bliss
  9. The Road Back
  10. Resurrection
  11. Master of Two Worlds
Joseph Campbell and Character Archetypes
  • Hero.
  • Mentor.
  • Ally.
  • Herald.
  • Trickster.
  • Shapeshifter.
  • Guardian.
  • Shadow.

With that in your back pocket, let's talk about how Campbell breaks it all down (and down, and down).

He starts out by discussing the notion of the Monomyth…which sounds like the villain from an Avengers movie but is actually the fact that all stories from all cultures are essentially the same, since they try to convey the universal truths of life and the way our living experiences are reflected as part of the larger universe.

Whoa. That's deep.

From there, it's straight into the Hero's Journey, which he divides into three parts: going away, being initiated, and coming back.

First, there's a call to adventure, in which the normal world is threatened and a hero rises who must go on a quest to stop it. Sometimes he or she refuses the call and bad things happen. (Remember Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru? Yeah. Don't stay on that farm, guys.)

Assuming the hero is down with the plan, he or she receives supernatural aid, most notably from the nearest convenient wizard-type. The hero eventually arrives at the first threshold: the place where the world he's known gives way to the unknown. (Dark forests and scary music are usually involved.) As he passes it, he's swallowed up or descends into "the belly of the whale," which is the symbolic center of the universe.

From there, he encounters all kinds of tests and challenges on "The Road of Trials," which kicks off the second part of the Hero's Journey. This climaxes (literally in some cases—bow chicka bow bow) with the meeting of the mother-goddess, who holds the entire universe inside her. (Sometimes things go pear-shaped, and that loving figure becomes a wicked temptress, but not always.)

The hero must atone with his father, or convenient father figure in most cases, which involves claiming the father's place in the world. With the completion of the quest comes the realization that the hero is a part of a larger universe, and understanding that everything within it—good and evil alike—are all part of the same cosmic system.

Again: whoa, that's deep.

The revelation is like a bolt of lightning and he suddenly Gets It on a universe-sharing level. That gives him or her the Ultimate Boon: the thing he or she has been looking for the whole time, and which now he or she understands has been a part of him or her the whole time.

Sometimes, the hero doesn't want to go back home but instead remain with all the snazzy power and enlightenment and possibly epic sex and whatnot. Other times, however, he heads home with all his newfound goodies: either instantly or being pursued by various demons and evil creatures.

Sometimes he needs an outside force to rescue him…but in any case the road back is a lot faster than the road there. Once he returns he exits as a master of two worlds, able to move freely between the mundane and the transcendent, and has the freedom to live in a state of enlightened grace.

Having formally spelled out the Hero's Journey, Campbell finishes his little opus with a discussion of the Cosmogonic Cycle: the creation and destruction of the universe.

We'll say it until we're blue in the face: whoa, that's deep.

It starts out one meaningless empty blob before a god or creative force endows it with shape. It's unified and perfect, but as it's populated with people, the one divides into many, which creates chaos and disorder. Eventually, that leads to a doom or end-of-the-world scenario, which brings the many back into the one and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Campbell closes with a breakdown of several types of successful hero—the tyrant, the lover, the world redeemer, the warrior, and the saint—before discussing the ultimate departure of the hero, and a little bit of hand-wringing that modern society just isn't set up for the kind of meditation that the Hero's Journey is supposed to make easy.

Yeah. Now that you've uploaded all that knowledge into your brainpan, go try applying it to various movies/books/rock operas. This bad boy works pretty much every time.

What was the last action movie you saw....


Birth is the first heroic journey

Myths help us discover who we are and slay the savage dragon of our ego. Follow your bliss.

Heroes do something extraordinary. He or she has given their lives to something bigger or other.

Celtic myth has a hunter follow a deer or other animal into an Uncharted Forest where the animal becomes a fairy queen or other Supernatural entity.

There are three different Beginnings to the quest, The Accidental Hero, the purposeful quest, or being thrown into it like being drafted to the Army.

The hero sacrifices something.

A common myth is the fire Thief. Aboriginal cultures have a myth of birds passing fire between them and that's how the birds got all the different colors. Prometheus is a classic story about stealing fire from the gods.

Early cultures often have myths about killing monsters when man was carving out a wild Savage unshaped world, trying to find a place for himself amongst the wilderness. 

The hero's Quest is evident in the stories of moses, Buddha and Jesus. Jesus receives three Temptations in the desert economic, political and spiritual temptation. Buddha sat in the forest and had the Temptations of lust, fear and social Duty. After a return from the Wilderness they both appointed disciples.

Shamans had visions through the sensation of dying and being Resurrected, truth found in deep dreams and the deprivation found in retreating to the woods.

In the Quran it says do you think you will enter the garden of bliss without going through the trials of those that have come before you.

The quest is ultimately about the transformation of consciousness. Also putting yourself in situations that will evoke a higher character.

When the hero fights the system he can either assimilate and live in it, break the system, or change the system. For instance, Siegfried drinks the blood of the Dragon he has slain and assimilates himself with the dark side.

Live life with a knowledge of Mystery. What is life? What is ticking inside you? Going on the hero's Quest erases anxiety, puts you in accord with inevitables and allows one to see negative and positive, saying no or yes to the serpent.

Oh I can't do that is your dragon and the influence you have on others and your actions can save the world.

Take a look outside your window and all the consciousnesses mingling.

Consciousness can be raised in what you think about, for instance where is money coming from, how is my family doing? Myths exist to raise our Consciousness to a spiritual dimension.

Myths are Clues to the spiritual potentialities of human life.

People in the East have mantras to keep their Consciousness from slipping down or think about a beautiful place. Like the Elephanta caves...

-------------------------     ----------------      -------------------     ----------------------

Summary of the Power of Myths:

In ancient times, before people had science, people had to use myths to make sense of the world around them. For example, the Ancient Greeks had gods representing the sun, moon, and all of the planets. And that is how they explained the movement of celestial bodies in the sky. 

You might think that myths don’t have a place in today’s world. We have scientific evidence to explain everything around us, right? But some might say we need myths more than we ever have. Why? Because myths help us make sense of some of the more elusive truths about life on earth, like why we’re here and what happens after we die. 

In The Power of Myth: From Ancient Myths to Han Soloauthor Joseph Campbell dives into the meanings and origins of all sorts of myths. By comparing myths across cultures, he shows us that myths help us understand universal parts of life such as love and death. As the number of people practicing spirituality has begun to fall in Western cultures, Campbell explains that now more than ever we need myths to help us realize how much we have in common with those around us.  

Here are 3 of the most insightful lessons from this book:

  1. Myths are stories that unite people in communities, identify the beginnings of cultures, and give people a common identity.
  2. As guidelines for community members, legends give a framework for people to think and act.
  3. The power of myth helps us make sense of life, appreciate it, and even prepare to die.

Lesson 1: Myths give people a common identity, unite people within communities, and identify the beginnings of cultures.

Myths play an essential part in defining and preserving a community’s identity. A lot of myths do this by explaining how the beginning of life or a culture began. This helps form a group identity and makes it different from other groups. 

The religious concept some churches believe that they are the “chosen people” comes from myth. People who believe this think that they have been chosen by God and they have the only truth. Religious myths like this foster a connection among group members and act as a boundary separating them from other belief systems. 

Where do myths begin? They tend to revolve around the geographical place from where they emerge. For instance, god is different in different cultures. In some cultures such as the Incas of South America, they believe in the sun god Inti. In Native American tribes, their “first mother” usually centered around vegetation. 

Myths can also change and adapt over time. For instance, when the Spanish brought horses to North America, tribes could more easily hunt buffalo. This resulted in a bigger emphasis on buffalo in their mythology. 

Lesson 2: The legends that society passes down serve as a framework for how to think and act throughout all of life’s major steps.

Another benefit of myths is that they give us a framework for life. They help us comprehend or handle significant life stages like birth, adulthood, and death. Myths can help us take the step from one stage to the next, even when the transition is confusing or scary. 

For example, getting married is a big change in a person’s life. All cultures have marriage myths, usually including something about one person completing another spiritually. This is where we get the metaphors of “other half” and “soul mate.” These refer to the notion that our partner fills a missing part of our soul, giving comfort during this new stage of life. 

Myths can also be abstract, in which case many cultures turn to rituals as concrete ways for people to achieve what is expected of them. In Australian Aboriginal culture, boys drink blood to represent their passage as becoming a man. This is a symbol that they are leaving behind their mother’s milk and they are now hunters. 

In modern day, we don’t lean on ritual as much. But we still do have things like them to help us understand our new roles in society. For example, there is a ritual when enlisting in an army. When new recruits arrive, they take an oath and receive a uniform. At this point, they leave personal desires behind and they are now considered not as an individual but as a member of the armed forces.

Lesson 3: You can make better sense of life, appreciate it more, and prepare for death all thanks to the power of myth.

You’ve probably felt afraid to die at one point or another in your life. Myths can help comfort our fears of this and grapple with our own mortality. Many myths link life and death closely. Have you ever heard a story about someone with a terminal illness who decides to live the last of their life to the fullest? It is facing death that helps them embrace the life they have left. 

In Indonesian culture, some tribes believed a young man should kill a person before he could be allowed to marry and become a father. This belief came from the idea that for a new generation to emerge, the one before needed to die. 

One of the best ways myths have helped people deal with the abruptness of death is by depicting it as just moving on to another stage in life. People in ancient cultures weren’t even afraid of death because of this. To them, it was just a threshold your soul had to travel through to reach another existence. 

This is the reason ancient peoples left gifts on the graves of their deceased loved ones. They believed they needed them in their new life. Through myths, people over the ages have understood and been okay with the fact that death is just a natural part of life, something that can be hard to comprehend without any beliefs.

Sources: shmoop,

Monday, September 26, 2022

Investigative Journalism

The muckrakers were reform-minded journalists, writers, and photographers in the Progressive Era in the United States (1890s–1920s) who claimed to expose corruption and wrongdoing in established institutions, often through sensationalist publications.

1902-03: Ida Tarbell profiles John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company

StandardOil2Standard Oil Refinery No. 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, 1899 (Wikimedia Commons)

The progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a time of social activism as Americans and their president, Theodore Roosevelt, fought corruption and monopolistic practices in government and industry. Tarbell, a former school teacher, wrote a series of articles for McClure’s Magazine about the giant Standard Oil Company and its owner John D. Rockefeller. The series was published in book form in 1904, and in 1911 the U.S. Supreme Court found the company to be in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, causing its breakup. Ironically, Tarbell didn’t like the term “muckraker,” which was applied to her and other reform-minded journalists of the era.

1906: Upton Sinclair exposes conditions in Chicago’s meatpacking plants

jungle2Chicago’s Union stockyards cattle pens c. 1909. (Wikimedia Commons)

Chicago was America’s center of meat processing and packing around the turn of the century in 1900. Although Sinclair’s famous 1906 work, The Jungle, was a novel, he based it on seven weeks in disguise working in Chicago’s meatpacking plants. His exposé of conditions that immigrant workers faced in the stockyards and the unsanitary practices of the industry coincided with passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906. Sinclair later focused on American journalism itself, calling attention in 1920 to the practice of “yellow journalism” in his book The Brass Check.

1953: Murrey Marder dogs Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt

Sen. Joseph McCarthy chats with his attorney Roy Cohn during Senate Subcommittee hearings on the McCarthy-Army dispute. (Wikimedia Commons)

In February 1950, U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy declared that more than 200 Communists were working at the U.S. State Department. After his re-election in 1952, McCarthy conducted a series of hearings on the matter and implicated Army personnel in espionage. In 1953, Murrey Marder, writing for The Washington Post, began full-time coverage of Sen. McCarthy and his hearings. Marder investigated the senator’s accusations against Army personnel stationed at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, finding that the senator’s charges against them were all false. Marder later opened the London bureau of the The Post and, after his retirement, helped create the Nieman Watchdog Project.

1962-64: David Halberstam calls foul on the U.S. military’s rosy Vietnam claims

HalberstamReporters David Halberstam (l) of the New York Times, AP Saigon correspondent Malcolm Brown (c) and Neil Sheehan of UPI chat beside a helicopter in Vietnam. (AP)

In October 1963, President John F. Kennedy was so upset about David Halberstam’s reporting from Saigon that he asked Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, to transfer Halberstam out of Vietnam. Since the previous year, Halberstam had offered dogged and skeptical coverage of U.S. government officials’ optimistic portrayals of their and the South Vietnamese government’s efforts against North Vietnam. “The job of the reporters in Vietnam,” Halberstam wrote in 1965, “was to report the news, whether or not the news was good for America.” In 1964, Halberstam earned a Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam reporting.

1969: Seymour Hersh exposes the My Lai massacre and cover-up

New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh talks on the telephone at his New York Times Washington Bureau office June 14, 1972. (Wally McNamee/CORBIS)

In March 1968, U.S. Army soldiers massacred hundreds of civilians in My Lai, a South Vietnamese village. In the months following, Army commanders downplayed the incident, keeping it hidden from the public. However, due to pressure on the chain-of-command from a soldier in the infantry company involved, Lieutenant William Calley, Jr. was court martialed in September 1969 for his role. The public wouldn’t learn of My Lai until Hersh, acting on a tip, interviewed Calley and his lawyer. Hersh’s story was published by Dispatch, a small news agency with a tiny staff, and then picked up nationally. Calley was the only soldier convicted in relation to the massacre. Hersh won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting.

1971: The Pentagon Papers leaked and published

Daniel Ellsberg (l) talks to reporters outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles on Jan. 17, 1973. His co-defendant Anthony Russo is on the right. (AP Photo/stf)

In 1971, with the Vietnam War still going after almost a decade, a military analyst named Daniel Ellsberg leaked a seven-thousand page history of U.S.-Vietnam relations that had been prepared for internal use by the Pentagon. Lengthy sections of these “Pentagon Papers” were published in The Washington Post and The New York Times, revealing the covert origins of a war that was exceedingly unpopular at home. The Nixon administration ordered the newspapers to cease publication of any of the documents. This led to a Supreme Court case (New York Times Co. v. United States) that eventually ruled in favor of the press.

1972: Woodward and Bernstein expose the Watergate break in

WoodwardBernsteinReutersRichard Nixon departs from the White House, August 9, 1974, after resigning the presidency. (Reuters)

In June 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Complex in Washington, DC. Two young reporters at The Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were intrigued that one of the burglars was on the payroll of President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee and began digging further. Woodward and Bernstein uncovered a series of political crimes and “dirty tricks” that connected the burglary back to the White House. Their reporting led to indictments of 40 administration officials and the eventual resignation of President Nixon. The paper won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for the investigative reporting.

2010: Dana Priest and William Arkin detail secret government organizations

PriestArkinReutersU.S. President George W. Bush (r) and Porter Goss, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), walk to make remarks in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR)

On July 19, 2010, Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin published “Top Secret America,” a series of investigative articles revealing the massive and what they characterized as mismanaged post-9/11 growth of the U.S. intelligence community. The series, benefiting from the work of more than a dozen other journalists at The Post, compiled hundreds of thousands of records over two years, identifying 45 government organizations (1,271 sub-units) and 1,931 private companies engaged in top-secret intelligence work. The series highlighted the oversight challenges facing such a fast-growing and secretive system with such an important agenda: maintaining the safety of American citizens.


Famous “Muckrakers” and their work: • Upton Sinclair- The Jungle (Unsanitary conditions in factories & troubles of immigrants) • Jacob Riis- How the Other Half Lives (Poverty & harsh conditions in cities/child labor) • Lincoln Steffens- The Shame of Cities (Corruption and wrong doings of political bosses) • Frank Norris- The Octopus (How the monopolistic railroad was ruining small farms) • Jane Addams- “Why Women Should Vote” (women’s suffrage and poor living conditions) 

EXCERPT #1- Upton Sinclair- The Jungle

 “It was only when the whole ham was spoiled that it came into the department of Elzbieta. Cut up by the two-thousand-revolutions-a-minute flyers, and mixed with half a ton of other meat, no odor that ever was in a ham could make any difference. There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausage; there would come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected, and that was moldy and white – it would be dosed with borax and glycerin, and dumped into the hoppers, and made over again for home consumption. There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs. There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together to be mixed into the sausage we eat.” 

EXCERPT #2- Jacob Riis- How the Other Half Lives

 “Visiting a tenement is a typical sight. When the summer heats come with their suffering they have meaning more terrible than words can tell. Come over here. Step carefully over this baby--it is a baby, spite of its rags and dirt--under these iron bridges called fire-escapes, but loaded down, despite the incessant watchfulness of the firemen, with broken household goods, with wash-tubs and barrels, over which no man could climb from a fire. No one could escape if fire came. This tenement, holding thousands of poor families huddled together would become a mass grave. But who would notice? This is the refuse of society…”    

EXCERPT #3- Lincoln Steffens- The Shame of Cities

 “The Political Bosses control the whole process of voting, and practice fraud at every stage. The assessor’s list is the voting list, and the assessor is the boss’s man… The assessor pads the list with the names of dead dogs, children, and non-existent persons until he gains the outcome he wants. A victory” What does the passage mean or show? How does it make you feel? Do you think this is fair or right? Why or why not?

 EXCERPT #4- Frank Norris- The Octopus

 “The farmers’ profits were the object of attack from many different quarters. It was a flock of vultures descending upon a common prey (the farmers were the prey to be attacked)-- the commission merchant, the elevator combines, the mixing house ring, the banks, the warehouse men, the laboring man, and above all else… the rail road. The rail road vulture descended upon the farmers and their profits and took nibbles wherever and whenever it could…” 

Excerpt #5- Jane Addams – “Why Women Should Vote” an article in Ladies Home Journal (1910)

 “Public-spirited women who wish to use the ballot, as I know them, do not wish to do the work of men nor to take over men's affairs. They simply want an opportunity to do their own work and to take care of those affairs which naturally and historically belong to women, but which are constantly being overlooked and slighted in our political institutions. In a complex community like the modern city all points of view need to be represented To turn the administration of our civic affairs wholly over to men may mean that the American city will continue to push forward in its commercial and industrial development, and continue to lag behind in those things which make a City healthful and beautiful. After all, woman's traditional function has been to make her dwelling-place both clean and fair.

LA Youth » Investigative journalism

Writing in style of Upton Sinclair's 'The Jungle'

The sign above the mess hall at Longfellow Middle School read 'Free Food', but as the old adage goes there's no such thing as a free lunch. The price for these seemingly complimentary meals was indigestion, high cholesterol, and general queasiness. 

A shill bell ringing induced a Pavlovian response in the great swelling mass of Longfellow's student body. A race ensued and lines of hungry youth coiled around the dimly lit hallways of McClean's most prestigious learning institution. Group A stampeded in, then B, then C, and on and on. Imaginations ran wild of gourmet dishes, hefty portions and sumptuous desserts. However, these hopes were quickly dashed when the menu came into full display. 

Raw undercooked pizza bread, lacking in tomato sauce to cover up the fact, was served up alongside expired chocolate milk, slimy warm, like Jello,. It seemed the worker students were on reduced meat rations, mountains of rice sprinkled with a handful of orange chicken cubes or soggy corndogs, mostly stick.

Workers flicked crumbs from the table as they sat sullenly. The cafeteria smelt of old sweaty dirty laundry, not that of a typical mess hall. Appetites were often checked at the door.

On his way to retreive a clean fork, Wen got lost on his way to the kitchen and wandered into the dank dark cellar where the sausage was made... the horror... the horror....


Friday, August 5, 2022

Psychological Barriers


Are we always aware of our motives?

There are certain ways our brains are wired. 

Hyperbolic discounting: The present is more important than the future. Short term gains over long term survival.

By-standard Effect: Someone else will deal with the problem. Someone call 911 vs. you call 911 - assuming someone else has control of the situation.

The Bystander Effect (Examples + Experiments) - YouTube

Sunk cost fallacy: organization invests time, money and energy into something and doesn't want to let it go.

Normalcy bias: Life is going to continue as we currently know it. Tomorrow is going to be the same as today and yesterday. People hear about emergencies happening in other places but they don't expect it to happen to them, they expect business as usual forever. Causes people to seize up during emergencies or it prevents them to physically and mentally prepare for emergencies in the first place.

There are many studied examples of this, for instance evacuation efforts. When there is a wild fire, earthquakes, hurricanes. One study shows 70% of people suffer from normalcy bias. When the Pompeii volcano exploded, many people stood and watched. During the 9-11 attacks, one study suggested that it took people 6 minutes to react after feeling the plane crash. People stood around and talked, discussed what was going on. But even after being told to evacuate because there was a plane crash, many people refused or sought out other sources of information to confirm what they had heard. People interviewed since the attack reported being told everything was fine, there was no need to panic, they could slowly walk down the stairs, and it would just be a minor inconvenience in their day.

There was a 2001 study that suggested that when people are asked to leave in the anticipation of a disaster, most check with 4 or more sources of information before deciding what to do. Even when they are told the disaster is imminent and they are in immediate danger.

It has been used to described why so many jews refused to leave Germany and Austria under Nazi occupation until it was too late and they didn't have the option to. It can also be used to describe why so many in Ukranian didn't heed the warning about an impending Russian attack. Problems with Normalcy bias can be further complicated with ideas like 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf'. If we think about Ukraine, they had seen this happen before, they had seen Russia build up on the border and nothing happened. This further re-enforces Normalcy Bias. The idea is that bad things don't happen to me. Yet there are cycles throughout history.

Another example, there was a plane crash in 1977 on the runway in Spain. There was heavy fog. One plane didn't follow the directions for takeoff and crashed into another plane that was still taxiing on the runway. Everyone on the plane taking off died instantly in the impact, but for the plane that was taxiing, only one part of the plane was severely damaged, the rest of the plane was fine. However there was a fire that began. Half of the people unbuckled their seat belts, stood up and walked off the plane. The other half stayed on the plane and perished in the fire. And it was said from people who were interviewed that walked off the plane that the people around them just sat in a shocked silence as everything unfolded around them. All they had to do was unbuckle, get up, and walk off the plane. But Normalcy Bias took over, this idea that this isn't really happening, it's not happening to me or that someone else will take care of this, someone will come grab me and tell me what to do.

Confirmation Bias: The tendency to process information by looking for or interpreting information that is consistent with one's existing beliefs. There are two paths for this, assimilation and combination.

Assimilation: The process of using or tranforming the environment so it can be placed in pre-existing cognitive structures. For example: Your driving down the road with a three year old, and the child points at a cow and says 'doggie'. You correct the child by pointing at the cow and saying 'cow''. The child again says 'doggie'. It's the idea that we don't change our perspective or point of view to accommodate more information, we just adapt the information to fit our frame of mind.

Combination: Changing cognitive structures in order to accept something from the environment. People form opinions and then once those opinions are established, people have a difficult time processing information in a rational unbiased way. In other words I'm really only going to hear or accept information that aligns with the opinions I already have.

Let's look at something in the news....

Why is that?

A: It's efficient. We need to be able to process information quickly to protect ourselves from harm. So if every bit of information that came our way, if we were having to put a lot of energy into evaluating it, it wouldn't be super-efficient. Instead it's easier to immediately discount it if it's not in line with what we believe or we accept it. Also it protects our self image. We as people would like to believe that we are intelligent and well informed. So it's a shot to our self esteem if suddenly we are hearing something that proves that we are wrong.

Echo-Chambers: Putting ourselves in a place where we will hear echoed back to us our own beliefs. Huge reason for polarization. Reason we view some people as 'the others'.

What if you considered all tall people smart? Or what about doctors and patients?

Hyper-Normalization: “HyperNormalisation” is a word that was coined by a brilliant Russian historian who was writing about what it was like to live in the last years of the Soviet Union. What he said, which I thought was absolutely fascinating, was that in the 80s everyone from the top to the bottom of Soviet society knew that it wasn’t working, knew that it was corrupt, knew that the bosses were looting the system, know that the politicians had no alternative vision. And they knew that the bosses knew that they knew that. Everyone knew it was fake, but because no one had any alternative vision for a different kind of society, they just accepted this sense of total fakeness as normal. And this historian, Alexei Yurchak, coined the phrase “HyperNormalisation” to describe that feeling.

Well-Informed Futility Syndrome: Basically, the feeling that nothing can be done.

Parable of the starfishes washed up on the shore...

Frog in boiling water...

Emergent properties: Gold, water, pile of sand....

One more,:Survivorship bias....

The fighter jet engineers...

Cats survive higher falls....

They don't make 'em like they used to....


Give it to Me Now! The Power of Hyperbolic Discounting (

Bystander Effect | Psychology Today

Well-Informed Futility Syndrome | Carrie Brown Reilly (

Shades of Green: Well-Informed Futility Syndrome | The Common Sense Canadian

confirmation bias | Definition, Background, History, & Facts | Britannica

Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Constitution, Bill of Rights, & Natural Law

1. What do you know about the Declaration of Independence? Who wrote it? What philosophies did it grow out of?

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads; 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ——

2. What are unalienable, or inalienable rights?

Do people have fundamental rights? Is there a law to nature? Are there certain rights that we have as human beings? What are they?

Natural Law in a nutshell forbids force or fraud to interfere with someone else's natural rights, and is aligned with the Non-Aggression principle. 

Natural Law says our human rights come from the creator. Can someone still have fundamental rights even if they don't believe in God?

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and once said, "my mind is my own God." He also edited the New Testament and created a slim book called 'The Moral Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth", nicknamed the Jefferson Bible. 

Are some natural rights higher than others? For instance if a starving man steals a pie from a shopkeep to feed himself, is his right to live greater than a shopkeep's right to own a pie?

3. Aquinas said, 'Natural Law is like an onion.' What could he have meant?

4. Ever heard of the period of history known as the Enlightenment? Or the philosopher John Locke? John Stuart Mill? Jean-Jacques Rousseau?

Rousseau was quoted as stating, "Man was born free but everywhere he is in chains."

While the philosopher Hobbes said institutions of the state there would be, "No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

4. What were some reasons that the founders wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

What was the Stamp Act?

In a summary, the Stamp Act was part of the Intolerable Acts, where the King treated the Colonists harshly and regarded them as tax cattle, not deserving of representation.

Some smart students at the University of New jersey, which is now Princeton, did some math and figured out it was more expensive to enforce this Act than what was got for monies collected. 

What are some reasons that the King may have continued to enforce it?

6. With treatise like the Declaration of Independence, fiery rhetoric like Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" speech and copious pamphlets distributed asserting Natural Rights; the Colonists fought a Revolution in 1776.

It's the summer of 1787 there's a constitutional convention in Philadelphia. The supreme law of the land was written in secret, much of what we know about it comes from James Madison, the scrivener. It is from James Madison's notes that courts often look when interpreting the Constitution and the Bill of rights, both of which he wrote. Some of the convention took notes, but Madison's are the most complete, released after his death.

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution states,

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

What is the most important word in that sentence? 

(It's a trick question 😏)

Hint: Why does the Amendment use the words 'the people' instead of 'the citizens'?

7. How many Amendments can you remember?

8. We talked about the Stamp Act, which Amendments came from that over reach by the King?

The Constitution was somewhat based on common law that grew out of the Magna Carte in Britain. (Which meant British people living in Britain had more rights than the Colonists.) 

Can you see any reference to Biblical law in the 6th and 8th Amendment?

If Congress repeals the First Amendment, do we still have the right to free speech?

If Alabama repeals the law against murder, can someone be charged for murder?

9. Let's look again at the 9th and 10th Amendment: 

The 9th Amendment says, 

" The enumeration in the constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

What does that mean? Is it like an onion?

10. The 10th Amendment states,

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People."

What is the purpose of the 10th Amendment?

11. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives us the Enumerated Powers, here's a summary of the Federal Government's roles:

To lay and collect taxes; pay debts and borrow money; regulate commerce; coin money; establish post offices; protect patents and copyrights; establish lower courts; declare war; and raise and support an Army and Navy.

Why did the Founding Fathers want a limited Federal Government?

12. Two true stories to illustrate the importance of checks and balances:

President John Adams was afraid that the French would cut off his head like they did Louie the 16th. The requirement to become a citizen was living in America for one year and farming 5 Acres, unless you were French then it took 14 years. In 1798, fearing that a war with France was eminent, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. The ACT said anyone who uses words to characterize the President or Congress or government untruthfully shall face fines or 2 years in jail. This coming from the same generation who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

John Adams was getting fat and his wife knitted him long flowing purple robes, he then attached golden applets to the robe, looking like some purple military royal blob. One day while walking down the street, a congressman from Vermont named Matthew Lions said, " good morning your pomposity," as Adams passed. A week later Lions brings the press with him and this time Adams is walking down the street with his wife when Lions says, "good morning your rotundity."

Under the Alien and Sedition Acts he is tried in Boston even though it happened in Washington (in the Declaration of Independence one of the grievances against the King is being taken to far away lands to await trial) and is convicted. He runs for office from his jail cell and wins. Jefferson is now president and he pardons him and seven others that were charged under this act. Lions is given back his 480 acres of land.

Another story is

No one knows how the War of 1812 started, either Britain and Canada invaded to try to take us back or we invaded Canada and Britain showed up to try and show us our place. Either way it was a mess. There were platoon squirmishes. The White House even burned down.

There was fighting all over the country and in Upper Marlboro Maryland a platoon of British soldiers marches in and captures five American militia men. The British take their guns and holds them hostage and says unless the town surrenders they will be hanged at dawn. The mayor of the town orchestrates the capture of five drunken British soldiers in the middle of the night and announces they will be hanged at dawn.

Mayor Tom Hodges then unarmed and unaccompanied walks into the headquarters of the British platoon and says to the captain "I'll make you a deal..."

The soldiers are freed and months later the war is over. There's a great celebration. Mayor Tom hodges, the Grand Marshal of the ceremony, gives a tremendous speech with big Applause. As he walks off the stage he's met by two officials. One gives him an indictment and the other puts him in shackles.

The mayor is charged with treason and providing Aid and comfort to the enemy during wartime for returning the enemy's soldiers. Two weeks later there's a trial. The judge was the guy who introduced the mayor at the parade, Jury was at the parade, prosecutor was at the parade. The prosecutor stands up and says the indictment comes from washington, we all think the mayor is a good guy, but let's face it he did do what the indictment says, he committed treason.

The defense says the mayor's a great guy, he saved human life. Judge says to the jury I've never said this before, but gentleman we reserved a room in the tavern across the street, after you finished the meal, The Tavern keeper has prepared his best bottle of ale, and after you finish the ale you are too deliberate on the mayor's fate.

The jury Foreman raises his hand and stands and says we don't have to deliberate, we'll take the ale but we've already come to a decision, the verdict is not guilty.

This is the first example and published opinion of jury nullification in American history, a bunch of farmers in Upper Marlboro Maryland saying this is positivism run amok.

That's the good side but here's the bad side, the justice department has a policy with treason (there have only been seven successful prosecutions), the president has to sign off on the trees in charge. Who was the tyrant President who signed it?

Answer, James Madison. 

The scribe who wrote the Constitution in the Bill of Rights

What is the takeaway from these two stories?


1. Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and later edited by the committee of 5; John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. It grew out of an ancient tradition going back to Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas. and ideas of the enlightenment, primarily John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Stuart Mill, and contributors such as Voltaire, Hume, Hobbes, Kant.

2. Block's Law Dictionary defines Inalienable as: Not subject to alienation ; the characteristic of those things which cannot be bought or sold or transferred from one person to another, such as rivers and public highways, and certain personal rights; e. g., liberty. Inalienable rights is defined as: the term given to the fundamental rights accorded to all people.

Natural Law Theory started with Aristotle, a pagan, who said it comes from KNOWLEDGE and EXPERIENCE and it is with our senses that we can tell good from evil when we look at it. Then Augustine, a Roman Catholic Saint, said it is from REVELATION that we know right and wrong, through the teachings of Jesus Christ. After that, Aquinas proposed it was REASON. In order to reason we need to be able to exercise certain freedoms, like the freedom of thought, speech, publication, travel, privacy; rights that couldn't exist if we didn't have the natural law. Aquinas rejects arguments of revelation for reason, it matters not if someone is religious to understand the argument.

The opposite of Natural Law is Positivism, which says as long as the lawmaker follows their own procedure in making laws and it's for the public's good, whatever they write down on paper is law.

3. Like an onion, the more you peel it, the more you find. This concept was explored by Francisco Suarez, Bartolome de Las Casas, Hugo Grotius, Sir William Blackstone. 

4. It was thought during the Enlightenment that human reasoning could discover truths about the world, religion, and politics and could be used to improve the lives of humankind. Skepticism, everything was to be subjected to testing and rational analysis. Religious tolerance and the idea that individuals should be free from coercion in their personal lives and consciences were also Enlightenment ideas.

John Locke believed that the origin of natural law comes from our humanity, the right to develop one's personality, right to self-defense (whether it be robber or tyrant), right to keep government off your property, the right to be left alone; all of these come our humanity. John Stuart Mill strove for truth above all else.

5. The Stamp Act said every letter, book, pamphlet, Financial or legal document was required to have the King's stamp. Had to get it at a British office vendor in town. How did the King and Parliament 3,000 miles away know you had the stamp on every piece of paper in your house? The answer, the Writs of Assistance Act, this piece of legislation permitted British agents to appear before a secret Court in London and the secret Court, which only heard the government side, would issue a general warrant and the general warrant said search wherever you want and seize whatever you find, so it wouldn't be uncommon for a colonist to hear a knock on the door and a polite British gentleman would hand you the general warrant and behind him a slew of British soldiers would rush in ostensibly looking for the stamp. There they might help themselves to alcohol if you couldn't prove you paid the tax on it, help themselves to Furniture if they thought you bought it from the island and you couldn't prove you didn't pay the King his tax on it. They might even help themselves to the house, which is why we have the 3rd Amendment.

The reason that King George III continued to enforce the tax was either he was an idiot or the purpose of the tax was not to generate money, the purpose of the tax could have been to remind the Colonists that the King was still their King and he, through his agents, could set foot in their house and cross their threshold without any suspicion, any probable cause, without any evidence of a crime, just on the basis of a general warrant. The Stamp Act was rescinded a year later,. The secret Court kept meeting until the King was overthrown.

6. There is the idea out there that only 3% of the people living in the Colonies actually fought in the American Revolution. Also it has been said that the Colonies were divided. A third for the war, third against, third indifferent.

The most important word in the First Amendment is "the". Hours were spent arguing over this article. In Madisonian terms this acknowledges the pre-existence of this right. Meaning the Bill of Rights doesn't give you this right, it recognizes that you already have it. The government's job is to protect it.

7.  The Original 10 Amendments summarized:

1st Amendment - think as you wish, develop your personality as you see fit, say what you think, publish what you want, assemble or don't.

2nd Amendment - right to keep and bear arms / right for self defense.

3rd Amendment - your right to keep soldiers off your property during wartime.

4th Amendment - the right to be left alone / the right to privacy.

5th Amendment - being charged for the same crime twice, can't be a witness against yourself, cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. Also public domain.

6th Amendment - right to a speedy and public trial, right to face your accusers, can call witnesses, right to have assistance of counsel for defense.

7th Amendment - right to civil jury trial, right to not be tried twice.

8th Amendment - no excessive bail required, excessive fines imposed, no cruel and unusual punishment.

9th Amendment - "the enumeration in the constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

10th Amendment - "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People."

8. Effects of the STAMP ACT:

Not only can warrants only be issued by judges, not only can It only be issued for probable cause sworn to the judge under oath, but it says the warrant is issued only for person of the house to be searched and thing to be seized. This eradicating general warrants.

9. 9th Amendment says people have other natural rights that are not written down here. Each one of them doesn't have to be written down, because we know them in our hearts. Madison wrote it.

10. Any powers not given to the Federal government are rights reserved to the States.

11. The Statesmen that wrote the Constitution of the Bill of Rights, conceived of America as a republic. Based on natural law, and many of them regarded democracy as potential mob rule.

With positivism you can vote in or out any government you want. Hitler was democratically elected, but there's no backstop of checks and balances on government without a republic.

12. One possible conclusion is power obviously looks different on the outside than from the inside looking out. Checks and balances are important even when applied to the founding fathers.