Friday, February 9, 2018

A Different Point of View

As we know from the first principle of Huna, there are many different ways to think of anything. In this brief article I am going to explore a different way to think of how we experience life.

According to this point of view, we have direct experience of this world in two ways: through physical senses and emotional feelings.

We probably don't even think twice about the fact that we make contact with the world through our physical senses, because that seems so self evident. With our eyes we see light in the form of color, shade, intensity, contrast, shape, size, and texture; vertical and horizontal distance; movement and patterns. With our ears we hear sound in the form of tone, intensity, harmonics, loudness, dissonance; and blends of frequencies that enable us to recognize individual people, objects, and sound sources. We experience touch in the form of pressure, texture, heat, cold, movement, and more. Taste and smell have their own ranges of physical perception as well. What I am proposing here is that we make a parallel contact with the world through our emotional senses. 

When you experience anything you have both a physical perception and an emotional one.
Some philosophies have used the concept of an "emotional body" to get this idea across, and the idea that we sense emotionally through our aura or energy field is intriguing, but we can instead simply say that you have two sets of senses, or two main ways of perceiving the universe.

In addition to the physical perception of sight, there is an emotional perception of sight that occurs at the same time. It's important to understand that I am not talking about an emotional reaction to what you see, but to an emotional perception that is related to the act of seeing. I'll bring up the subject of reactions a little further on.

To help you understand what I mean, think of it this way: physical seeing produces an image; emotional seeing produces a feeling. To use an example, when you look at a sunset, your physical perceptions include the ones I mentioned in the third paragraph above. At the same time you may have emotional perceptions of beauty, expansion, happiness and the pleasure that comes from a release of tension. So, looking at something produces both an image and feeling feelings about that image. The same would be true for our other senses. Each one would produce a physical perception as well as an emotional perception. And perceptions relate to awareness, not to reactions.

Reactions are separate experiences that occur as a consequence of perception. Of course, when reactions become habitual it is very difficult to make that distinction. However, perception is a characteristic of our senses. Reactions are learned, consciously or unconsciously.

It is possible to simplify our understanding of the physical and emotional reactions themselves by recognizing two categories of reaction for each set. All of the physical reactions can be described as varying degrees of pleasure or pain. All of the emotional reactions can be described as varying degrees of insecurity or confidence.

Recognizing that all your emotional reactions fall into one of these categories can be helpful in dealing with them. Fear, anger, hate, jealousy, anxiety are all expressions of insecurity with their own parallel to physical pain. The body tension that accompanies them is a well-intentioned but poor attempt to regain security. Happiness, joy, true pride, and the sense of accomplishment are all expressions of confidence, which is akin to physical pleasure. The names that are given to emotions based on insecurity or confidence merely reflect the thoughts in our mind at the time.

It is curious that in English we use the verbs "to sense" and "to feel" both physically and emotionally. French is more clear, with sentir used more for physical sensing and both se sentir  and ressentir used for emotional sensing. Hawaiian equivalents are too complicated to go into here.

Staying with English, like many animals we can sense danger, fear, friendliness, confidence, and that mysteriously compelling awareness of what we call charisma.

The main thing to note, to contemplate, and perhaps even do something about, is that, just as we can train our physical senses, so can we train our emotional senses. Further, just as we can develop our physical skills , there is the possibility of developing our emotional skills, as well.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Hula Experience

As an avid observer of life, I find it very interesting to watch people watching hula. Typically, the locals are completely focused on every part of every performance, and the eyes of the malihinis, the visitors, glaze over after three or four dances.

In researching the whys and wherefores (by asking a lot of questions) I have finally concluded that the real problem is one of understanding. Most visitors, and a surprisingly large number of residents, simply don't understand what the hula is all about. So, this article is designed to inform all those who wonder what the fuss is about... what the fuss is about.

First, the word, hula, means "dance" (sorry, guys, it doesn't mean "shake those hips"). Since it's a Hawaiian word, it refers to Hawaiian style dancing, which is usually divided into three types: kahiko, which refers to a more traditional style of dancing with traditional costuming; 'auana, which is a flowing style generally using modern Hawaiian costuming; and hapa haole style, also affectionately called "hotel hula," which may feature coconut bras and blue-spangled faux grass skirts made of plastic.

Let's continue with just a little bit of legend. This is a very simplistic overview to show that not all Hawaiians agree on how the hula started.

On Molokai the story is that hula came to these islands a very long time ago from Tahiti, brought by a man named Laka, assumed to be related to the male god/hero Rata in the South Pacific.

On Kauai the story is that hula came to these islands a very long time ago from Tahiti, but one version says it was a woman named Laka who brought it, and another version says it was brought by a set of twins, male and female, both named Laka.

On the Big Island, the most popular story says that hula was invented right here by a human woman named Hopoe, who taught it to her goddess friend, Hi'iaka, who taught it to her elder sister, Pele. I like this one in particular, because it is a rare legend of a human teaching something to the gods.

Hula as a dance consists of a relatively small number of steps, each with its own name. The dancer also uses a kind of sign language to illustrate the meaning or purpose of the dance. Kahiko hula is typically accompanied by chanting and traditional instruments, like skin and gourd drums, bamboo rattles, and sometimes castanets made of stones. 

'Auana hula is usually accompanied by singing and a band playing guitars and ukuleles. The locals who focus so intently are probably doing so for one of two reasons - or maybe both. First is the skill of the dancers, chanters or singers, and the musicians. The dancers especially are subject to intense scrutiny for the way they place their feet, how they move their bodies, the positioning of their hands, and the direction followed by their eyes. The second reason is the content, and how well it is expressed. 

The content of kahiko dancing is mostly concerned with legends, ancient gods and goddesses, chiefs, and royalty. That of 'auana can be virtually anything, from romance, to gossip, to praise of people and places, to simply telling about a great party, picnic, or adventure someone had. For those who understand Hawaiian, hula is a special treat, because the chanting or singing will most likely include word-play, innuendo, and hidden meanings. 

At competitive events like the Merrie Monarch Festival, the dancing follows a strict pattern, for the benefit of the judges. First, there is the entrance, called kaʻi, which is usually chanted by the dancers; next is the dance itself, and finally there is the exit off stage, called hoʻi, which is a kind of procession accompanied by chanting or singing. If you have an opportunity to see the Merrie Monarch Festival, in person, on television, or on a DVD, don't miss it. There is nothing else like it in the entire world.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Chemistry of Love

I was almost going to call this article "Mechanistic Scientists Strike Again!" However, "The Chemistry of Love" sounds so much better.

Mechanistic science began during the Renaissance in Europe, partly due to an increased interest in actual experiments rather than philosophical and theological discussion, and partly as a reaction against religious restrictions and blind superstition. Out of that came the idea that everything is separate, and that in order to understand the whole of something you have to understand the parts. Another way this is often expressed is that the whole is the sum of its parts.

These ideas led to a further idea that Nature operates like a vast machine, and to an even further idea that, in order to get truly accurate results from an experiment, objectivity was paramount. That is, the observer must distance himself from the experiment, suppressing all feelings and opinions, because they would interfere with the experiment. Eventually, as this form of science became more mechanistic, all emotions, sensations, and non-objective thoughts were considered subjective, and therefore suspect, and were rigorously excluded from experimental consideration. And that brings us to the event that initiated this article.

On February 12, 2009, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald ran an article written by Seth Borenstein titled "Understanding the Science of Romance." Subheadings included "Scientists study brains to unlock the secret of love," and "Brain's regions reveal romance."

Here is a quote from the beginning of the article: "Like any young woman in love, Bianca Aceveda has exchanged valentine hearts with her fiancé. But the New York neuroscientist knows better. The source of love is in the head, not the heart." A few sentences later the statement is made that "love mostly can be understood through brain images, hormones, and genetics."

And what was the source of this conclusion? It appears that when people who claimed to be in love (a subjective decision if there ever was one) were shown photographs of their loved ones, a tiny area in the center of the brain, the ventral tegmental area (VTA) shows activity. This is an area that produces dopamine, a precursor to adrenaline. It also appears that brain scans of people who claim to be broken-hearted show additional activity in the nucleus accumbens, associated with hormones that are associated with addiction. Long-time lovers, instead, show activity in the ventral palladium, an area that produces hormones related to stress reduction, and the raphe nucleus, associated with calming hormones.

People with certain kinds of feelings show activity in certain areas of the brain. That's not surprising, since mind, body, and emotions always interact. The mechanistic interpretation, though, is that the neurotransmitter chemicals and hormones cause the thoughts, feelings, and sensations of love and romance.

One researcher says, "Love works chemically in the brain like a drug addiction." Another one says, "The brokenhearted show more evidence of what I'll call craving. Similar to craving the drug cocaine." The conclusion, derived from these subjective interpretations, is that soon we'll have pills to bring on whatever feelings of love we want to create, or to heal whatever experiences of love are unpleasant.

Here's a subjective opinion of my own. The more we try to ignore the subjective side of love, the less we will ever understand it. That's like trying to understand life by analyzing the chemistry of what is called "living matter," when a definition of that is also subjective.

In fairness, one of the scientists mentioned in the article retains some open-mindedness. He says that, although love might theoretically be stimulated by chemicals, it's better to engage in the behavior that stimulates the chemicals, like hugging, kissing, and intimate contact. And at the end of the article he states, "My wife tells me that flowers work as well. As a scientist it's hard to see how it stimulates the circuits, but I do know they seem to have some effect. And the absence of them seems to have an effect, as well."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Our Destiny

"Destiny" is a word greatly misunderstood and misused. Even good dictionaries describe it as something that is going to happen which you cannot do anything about. However, "destiny" and "destination" both come from the same Latin word meaning "the intending of something for a particular purpose." In other words, destiny is based on intention. When the missionaries tried to translate this word into Hawaiian, the only equivalents they could find were hope (meaning "purpose") and hopena (meaning "consequence").

All destiny, even that of species and whole worlds, is fan-shaped. That is, the future at any instant is a series of probabilities or possibilities of which only certain ones will be physically expressed. One broad probable trend is pointing now to an adventure of epic proportions. Sometime in the not-too-distant future humankind is going to have the capability of leaving this planet for other worlds within and beyond this solar system. Many billions of dollars are being spent right now to ensure that this will happen.

Everyone will not want to go, of course. Some out of fear, some because of limiting beliefs, and others simply because this is still a big and beautiful planet and much good remains to be accomplished here. But many will take up the challenge, much as did emigrating pioneers of past centuries. We are going to have the opportunity of going back to the stars.

Yes, I said back. A great many cultures around the world have legends--or histories--indicating that human beings originated from one or more places beyond this planet, or intermarried with extraterrestrial visitors. Every day archeologists are pushing back the period of our sojourn on earth to the point where it is clear that, as a race, we are far, far older than anyone would have believed possible. It is indeed a feasible theory that we have been to the stars and back many times. And coming up is another such move, at least for some of us--those who choose to go.

There are groups today who believe and claim that gigantic spaceships will land in the near future to carry off the "elect," or those who belong to that particular group and have paid up their dues. These hopefuls are in for a disappointment. We will explore and populate the stars, to be sure, but by our own efforts. No "elder brother" spaceman is going to do it for us.

Many are also waiting for superior beings to land in great spacecraft and take over the administration of the earth for us poor insignificant mortals. Well, I say to you that we are not insignificant and that God's design for us is to stand on our own two feet and work out our problems for ourselves. It is possible that spaceships may land from some other planet (I speak here of public landings), and that they may carry technologically superior beings. But to expect them to take away all of our responsibilities is immature escapism of the worst sort. There is no such thing as a being superior to you, except in gross and temporary physical terms. There is no being closer to God than you, if you would realize it. Any distance is of our own making. No, even though we may subject ourselves to one another from time to time through our own folly or for our own experience, it is not part of the natural order for us to be subject to anyone but our God within.

Now is the time for planning the kinds of societies we will establish on new worlds, and for preparing ourselves and our children for the venture. Our preparation must include physical, psychical, and spiritual refinement. Physical, so that our bodies can withstand whatever stresses we may encounter; psychical, because all our psychic abilities such as telepathy, clairvoyance, healing, etc., will be called into play to assure success; and spiritual, in order to avoid as much as possible the sad results of human greed and exploitation. This adventure belongs to all of us living now, whether or not we shall all be around to witness the actual event. Our own development and experience at this point will aid all the others.

In closing, I ask you to pick some clear night and look deeply at the stars. Open your heart and see if you do not feel a sense, however slight, of longing. And think on the fact that the Hawaiian phrase, holo i Kahiki can mean either "sail to Tahiti" or "travel to outer space."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

On The World As A Dangerous Place

(from a letter to a worried friend)

Let me share this with you before addressing your concerns. I am living on an active volcano. Molten lava is flowing about twenty miles away from my home and there is a crater emitting poisonous gas from a hole where the glow of molten lava can be seen only two miles away. A change of wind could force us to evacuate at any moment, and the lava could erupt anywhere at any time. All of our water must come from rain, which is also dependent on the wind, and it hasn't rained very much for two weeks. Earthquakes happen every day, usually small, but big ones like we had two years ago can happen at any time. Hurricanes pass close to us every year and sometimes land to cause great destruction, like one did in 1982 and another in 1992. Tsunamis also happen once in a while when there are big earthquakes in Japan, Alaska, or California.

Some people here live in constant fear of what might happen, and some people live here happily, knowing what could happen, but not dwelling on that possibility every day.

Another short story: Years ago a friend of mind became obsessed with the possibility of a giant tidal wave hitting the California coast, and he would lecture about it and frighten people out of their wits. Then one day while he was describing to an audience in detail the horror of watching a two-mile high wave coming toward you, I stood up and said, "Right, and while you are watching it you get hit by a car and die before the wave hits." Fortunately our friendship survived my comment, but I had to make the point that the future is unpredictable.

You live in a dangerous place in unique circumstances, but the fact is that every place on earth is potentially dangerous and pain or death can happen in a million different ways at any time and anywhere. And so can pleasure and the joy of living and loving.

Reading the news about problems will not protect you from them, because by the time it's news it's over. Imagining the worst will not protect you from the worst, it will only make you feel worse. Your imagination is your greatest asset, but it can also be your downfall unless you use it properly. You can imagine all the bad things that could happen, or you can imagine all the good things that could happen. That is a choice. You do not have to be a victim of your fears if you will use your imagination to change those fears. After all, the future is just a fantasy. You can't predict it and you can't protect yourself against it. What you can do is to coax it into being a better one with your imagination while you enjoy whatever good the present has to offer.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Myth of Supply and Demand

The subject of this article may seem to be outside of my usual range of topics, but it actually falls within the context of the sixth principle of Huna: "All power comes from within."

Over and over so-called experts attribute the high price of oil, gasoline and many other products and services to "the law of supply and demand." This mythical "law" is often stated in this way: "when supply is low and demand is high, prices rise; and when supply is high and demand is low, prices go down."

The first part of the myth is the claim that there really is such a law and that it's as basic as the law of gravity. The fact is that there is no such thing as a "law" of supply and demand. It's not even a hypothesis or a theory. It is no more than someone's opinion and some people love to use it as a simple excuse for rising prices because it provides an unprovable explanation and makes it sound like it's due to forces beyond our control.

The second part of the myth is the implication that prices rise and prices go down all by themselves, as if a ten cent increase in the price of gasoline overnight was due to gremlins or mysterious "market forces" and everyone woke up and saw the new price with great surprise, including customers, dealers, and producers.

Let's blow that myth out of the water right now. Prices rise because someone--some person or group of persons--raise the price. To make it even more clear, an individual human being--or group of human beings in agreement--decide to charge more for a particular product or service. Or to charge less; that happens, too. And that's all there is to it, folks. No mystery whatsoever. People raise and lower prices.

The important thing to look at is "why do they do it?" When we examine that, we discover that the "law" of supply and demand is even more of a myth.

Prices may be raised by people for several reasons:
a) To cover increased costs of producing a product or service. This may happen because demand for the product or service has grown so strong that the producer has to invest in more goods or services in order to produce enough of his or her own product or service to supply the demand. Examples would be someone increasing the price of gasoline because unions have increased wage levels or because the people in charge of the governments of oil-producing countries have raised the price of their oil. This comes close to the supply and demand model, but the amount of price increase is still decided by people (it is almost never exactly the same as the increased costs for lots of reasons).

b) To cover costs of projected investment in research and development of products and services that don't exist yet, and for which there is naturally no supply and demand. This reason is often used by oil companies and drug companies, among others.

c) To make more profit than is currently being made. This is often described as "charging whatever the market will bear," meaning whatever people are willing to pay. For this to work there has to be sufficient demand for something, but it doesn't matter whether there is a lot of supply or not. Some years ago an oil-company executive was publicly quoted as saying, "We are going to get the American people to pay $4.00 a gallon or more for gasoline." 

This is also seen in products and services that have established a popular brand name that people are willing to pay more for, even though comparable products may be a lot cheaper. Gucci jeans are no better than (and maybe not as good as) Levis. Apple computers are more expensive than PCs because they are Apple computers, not because they are more expensive to make or because there aren't enough of them to go around. Airlines typically raise prices around holidays, not because their costs have gone up, but because enough people want to travel who are willing to pay more.

On the other hand, some people who work for oil-producing governments or diamond companies may decide to arbitrarily restrict the availability of their products even when the supply is abundant, so they can create a false impression of limited supply and fool other people into thinking that the Law of Supply and Demand is working.

d) To hedge their bets in a time of economic and/or political uncertainty. When some people begin to lose confidence in the future, they have a tendency to raise the price of their goods and services "just in case" in order to make as much as possible before everything falls apart. When more and more people start doing this it's usually called "inflation." Again, this has nothing to do with supply and demand.

Prices may also be lowered by people for several reasons:
a) Because the cost of producing good or services has been reduced. Sometimes this happens when sufficient demand inspires and stimulates a search for more efficiency and is not necessarily related to supply.

b) Because the producer wants to expand his or her market. One way to increase demand is by making the product or service more affordable to more people, and it may be done in conjunction with "a)" above. Examples are the early automobile industry and the electronics industry. My first car, a 1937 Chevrolet (used, of course) cost me $40.00. The first laser printer I bought for Aloha International cost $5000.00, and the latest one was about $500.00. Again, This has little to do with supply.

c) Because supply is greater than demand. Producers of goods with too much inventory may lower prices just to get rid of it. Usually this happens when the cost of maintaining the inventory begins to be more than the value of the goods. In terms of services, providers may lower their prices when there is too much competition. On the other hand, in the same market some people will create a brand name and raise their prices in spite of the supply on hand.

d) Because the producer wants to attract customers for other products or services. This is sometimes called selling a "loss leader." The price is purposely lowered on a particular product or service, perhaps at a loss for the producer, for the explicit purpose of creating an opportunity to display more expensive products or services. Special sales or bonus services of all kinds are used in this way, regardless of supply and demand.

e) Because not enough people are willing to pay the price that is being asked, no matter what the supply and demand are. Another economic myth that used to be popular was "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." Sounds good at first, but the hard fact is that it all depends on what you are charging for it. The intrinsic value of goods or services, the perceived value by the producer, the perceived value by the potential customer, and the psychological value of the most the customer is willing to pay may all be very different. If you think your product or service should be worth $1000, even though the cost of producing plus a reasonable percentage of profit makes it worth $200, and your potential customer agrees that it might be worth $500, but isn't willing to spend more than $300 for that type of product or service, you might have to lower your price to make any sales, no matter how many people like the product or how much of it you have.

The long and short of it is this: people raise prices, and people lower prices. And supply or demand may or may not be factors in making their decisions. Prices do not raise or lower themselves.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Destressing Plan

The following is from a response I gave to someone who needed guidance, and I hope many others will be able to use it as well.

"I would sympathize with your plight, but my sympathy isn't going to help you. Below is a simple plan that will get you out of the mess you're in and lead you to a brighter future. It worked for me, and it has worked for thousands of others. However, although it is simple, you may find it extremely difficult. The stronger your motivation to change your life, though, the easier it will be. And note that this plan has one big flaw: it only works if you use it.

Part One - Reduce physical stress.
The Plan: Breathe like a dolphin. Dolphins do not breathe automatically, every breath has to be conscious. The best way to breathe consciously is to put your full attention on something you are holding in your hands as you breathe. Start with one minute out of every hour and work up to five, until doing it frequently is a habit. You may be amazed at how much physical stress this relieves.

Part Two - Reduce emotional stress.
The Plan: Take responsibility for your stress. No one else causes you stress. They never have and they never will. What happens is that someone does something you don't like and you react by stressing with some variation of fear or anger, which affects your body and your mind. Which makes you less healthy and less effective. As long as you blame others for your stress you put yourself in an endless trap. Start by taking responsibility for your reactions, then do something to change those reactions. If Dynamind seems like too much, use TFR - think about what upsets you, feel the reaction, then relax the area of your body where you feel the reaction. Begin with small things and work up slowly to the big ones.

Part Three - Reduce mental stress.
The Plan: Change your expectations. Most people create expectations by remembering negative events from the past and projecting them into the future, which produces confusion, discouragement, and despair. The fact is, the future is wide open and absolutely no one can predict it with certainty. Nevertheless, another fact is that if you expect the worst, you will subconsciously help to bring it about, and if you expect the best you will subconsciously help to bring that about. The problem is not that negative expectations appear; the problem occurs when you dwell on them and treat them as truth, when all they are is fantasy. The best solution is to rigorously change every negative expectation to a positive one as soon as it appears. The positive expectation is also a fantasy - a product of your imagination - but it helps you feel better and helps you prepare for success.

So that's it. Very difficult, I know, but I emphasize again that it works. If you find a better plan, then use that, but if you don't do anything, nothing good will happen."