Sunday, September 21, 2014

More Media for Libertarians

(started keeping track in 12/15)

The Shop Around the Corner: "I just want an average girl." Because being average is the ideal. And let's not forget the proper time to ask for a raise is when you need more money to get married. Otherwise you are a nice guy and work for ten years without a raise because you don't need it...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"I don't like you" says Anders

Anders, almost 3, is playing with Devonna, his new babysitter. I come out of my room and Anders sees me. He runs to me and says, "Mama, I don't like Devonna."

Devonna feels hurt and starts to remind Anders of all the fun they have had together this morning. I tell Devonna that what Anders meant to say is that he has suddenly realized that he misses his mom and he would rather play with his mom right now than Devonna. I confirm with Anders that this is true.

Many kids, when they are done playing with someone, will say something like, "You're stupid." Anders has never heard name-calling so he used an "I" statement instead. (This made me happy!) Either way, it all goes back to NVC, to listening to one another and respecting each other's feelings instead of trying to defend ourselves or convince someone he doesn't feel what he says he does.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What Anders Pretends

Anders plays a lot of pretend games. They are a little different from the pretend games other almost 3-year-olds play since he has never been exposed to fantasy. There are no dragons or superheroes in his head; all of his games have to do with the life he has lived.

Here are some the games he plays:

-He pours water in various cups into the bathtub and talks about how dangerous these things are and how no one should touch them. (This is from his experiences taking care of our pool with his Papa, adding chlorine and whatnot.)

-He pretends that he needs to build a water system. This involves making a long shopping list for home depot and getting all his tools organized. He generally builds the system out of string.

-He pretends that he has a good dog who is always looking for food. (This is from Boo, Robs dog, who lived with us for a little while and became Anders bff and then moved to New York. Anders misses him a lot.)

-He packs his suitcase and says goodbye to everyone and tells us about the trip he is going on.

-He pretends he is a scorpion that stings people. (This is from our weekly encounters with scorpions in Nicaragua. No one was ever stung but we talked about it a lot! We also watched some documentaries on scorpions afterward.)

-He pretends to be a mama bear getting food--fish--for her cubs. He also pretends to be a cub who has lost his mama. (From the Disney documentary on bears that we watched on the plane--and now watch once a month or so.)

-He pretends to call his friends or that his friends are coming over. He likes to invite them inside.

-He pretends to do the dishes, he spends hours making beds, and organizing drawers (though he is not competent in any of these tasks, these are definitely games not actual help for me for example, it may be more accurate to say that he spends a lot of time unmaking beds while discussing how one makes a bed.)

-He pretends that he has a baby boy to take care of who often wants a bath or to go to bed. 

-He pretends that he is a baby who can't walk or talk yet and needs to be cuddled and taken care of.

Here are some things he has babbled to himself:

"I went on an airplane. I catched my propeller airplane. It was on the ground and it landed and I caught it and my friends caught another one and flew with me."

[While playing with his trains and animals.] "Train to carry a pig not the donkey. No donkey. I gunna take a ride with donkey. No horsey. Horsey sad. No room for goat. A little bit of room." [He rearranges the train car so they can all fit.] "Soooo happy! I wanna play cars and trucks? Are you sure or nope?" [Then he makes car noises.]

Scenes with my Toddler

Anders is 2 years 7-8 months in these stories.

Scene 1:

Anders: Mama! Look at the spider! Come see!

[Mama comes to see what Anders is looking at.]

Mama: Oh, I see it. That spider has a small body and very long legs.
Anders: Yeah. He needs to trim his legs.

Scene 2:

I am working in my office. I hear Anders go into the bathroom, singing to himself the whole way: "I need to poop. Gotta poop. Got poop in my butt. Gotta poop in the toilet. Now I need to wipe my butt. Now need to shower. Taking a shower. Gotta clean my butt!"

I peek into the bathroom to see if what is going on is real or a game--it is a game. Anders is fully clothed in the shower, just practicing life.

Scene 3:

Mama: Let's go to the Indian restaurant and get dinner
Anders: Nooooo, that's not fun.
Mama: What about if we just pick up the food and take it home?
Anders: No. They're closed
Mama: Really?
Anders: We have ice cream for you.
Mama: Ooooh. You want to have ice cream for dinner! Okay, well, I really want Indian food. How about we have Indian food and ice cream? Then we can both get our needs met.
Anders: Yeah.... maybe later.
Mama: We can go to the Indian restaurant later? Like in 5 minutes or 20 minutes?
Anders: 5 minutes.
Mama: Sounds great!

Scene 4

It is the 4th of July. We are at a party. We have been there since 6pm having a great time hanging out and now it is around 8pm. Music goes on--very loud music.

Anders: That's loud.
Mama:  Yeah it is! It's going to get louder now. Soon, there will be more people here and fireworks. Anders: I'm ready to go home.
Mama: Okay, let's go.

[Mama and Anders get in their car and drive home. When they pull up at their house fireworks are going off! They are not very far away from their house and they are in three directions. Anders looks terrified.]

Anders: I'm scared! Hold me!

[Mama holds Anders while she opens the car door.]

Anders: Close the door! Close for loooong time. Don't open the door.
Mama: Oooh, because when I open the door it's louder.

[Mama holds Anders for a while. They watch fireworks from the car. Anders loves them but is also very scared.]

Mama: I have an idea! Let's call Papa!

[Anders and Mama call Papa. He comes outside to join them in the car. After ten or so more minutes watching fireworks in the car and having a wonderful time, the family heads inside. As soon as we are inside, the noises of the fireworks no longer bother Anders at all.]

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Are You Afraid Homeschooling Will Make Your Kid Weird?

Answers to some questions I was recently emailed in regards to nonreligious homeschooling:

Home-schooling is great in theory, but aren't you afraid your child will end up weird?

The reason some home-schooled kids seem weird to other kids is that they spend more time socializing with adults than children i.e. they get along better with adults. Which means they will get along with their peers just fine--once their peers are adults. The adults I know who were homeschooled as children--who I thought were weird when I was a kid--do not seem weird to me now. And vice versa, my adult friends who seem a little weird to me now, were not homeschooled as kids.

Which is to say: homeschooled kids don't end up weird. And people who are going to end up weird, are not "fixed" by going to school.

Aren't you afraid your child will be weird (as a child)?

First, what is "weird" about homeschooled children? I knew quite a few homeschoolers when I was a kid and, like I said above, I did think they were weird. They were all extremely different from one another i.e. they were weird in their own ways, but thinking about it now, what made them weird to child-me was how authentic they were: they weren't afraid to like really random things, they were very honest, and very themselves. No one had taught them about not being themselves and playing a socially acceptable role and liking only socially acceptable things.

They also got along way too well with my parents. As a kid, that bugged me. As an adult all I can think is, "Children who get along great with adults sound great!"

Second, is it truly horrible to be considered "weird" as a kid by the other kids? It's probably more horrible to be "weird" and at school than to be "weird" and at home. I was a "weird" kid. But I wasn't home schooled. I went to pubic school but I was being raised by hippies out in the hills. I had no access to most "normal" foods, or radio, or television.

On Facebook the other day a friend of mine noted that she had to rent Frozen for her child so he could understand how to play with his friends. My parents would never have done that. I was the kid who never saw those movies, who never quite got the game, the joke, what people were talking about or why certain things were considered cool. I was always an outsider studying my peers. But as a kid, I never concluded that I was the one who was "weird." I thought the other kids were weird.

When I was a senior in college, Netflix and my laptop enabled me to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sex and the City, and Friends. It was a revelation. Everything that had never made sense to me about my peers in high school and college suddenly made sense--why my girlfriends talked about school and sex the way they did, why my friends thought friendship meant sitting around making fun of one another.

I am really glad that I watched these shows later and understood how they influenced my friends. Rather than shaping me, watching them (and any television I watch today) feels more like an anthropological study than anything else. I love that.

Which is to say: I am not afraid of my son being his authentic self instead of playing roles he learns in school and on television.

Aren't you afraid regular Americans will think your child is weird?

What is this desperate need for approval from this imagined judge who doesn't actually exist? Who is this "regular American" running around telling people if they are normal or weird?

How many friends do you need? How many people have to like you for you to love your life? Do other people's judgements of you matter at all if you like yourself? Would you do business with someone if you liked their product, but thought they were a little weird? Does being weird stop you from having an amazing life? If people meet my son and think he is weird--what will that do? What's the problem? What is it stopping him from achieving? What needs will it prevent him from meeting?

The three "weird" home schooled girls I knew as a kid grew up, found jobs, and are all married now. They married men who went to public school. Two of them have kids. They are functional members of society. The two I interviewed before writing this piece both plan to home school their own kids.

Assuming your child does end up weird, do you think he will resent being weird?

In order to resent being weird, my child has to look out at regular Americans and think they are super cool and wish he were more like them. I have a hard time imagining that happening. 

Or he has to think that being weird or different is bad in some way. Which is not how it went for me at all--if you don't watch television, you don't know that being weird is bad. You don't know that you are supposed to be deeply ashamed of being different or unpopular. You miss that memo. For example, when I was in 10th grade a girl made fun of me by saying that she was "Tommy Hilfiger", her other friend was "Calvin Klein" and I was "Kmart." What passed through my mind when she called me Kmart was not shame but confusion, "No. No. I shop at Walmart. They don't have a Kmart where I live," I said. She was confused for a minute and then she said, "No, I just mean your clothes are cheap," and I said, "What?! Walmart is so expensive!" Because I normally shopped at Goodwill. 

Like me, neither of the women I interviewed for this piece thought she was weird when she was a kid. Weird kids don't necessarily conclude that they are weird. They often conclude the opposite--that you are weird.

That being said: If my son was feeling unhappy about something, I would always try to help him solve the problem.

Don't you think your child would rather go to school?

LOL. Ummmmmm.... no.

That being said, from what I have read about homeschooling, I expect that at some point Anders will ask to go to school. I expect him to go and flee in horror in less than three months. This is what I have read is the norm among most home unschooling families.

Don't you think your child, once he is an adult who realizes he is weird, will wish he had gone to school?

No, because he won't be weird any more by the time he is an adult. And also--

I went to school. I graduated valedictorian from my elementary, junior, and senior high schools and did very well at Wesleyan University. I memorized everything I was supposed to. I jumped through every hoop. And I enjoyed the experience a little. But, looking back, I think they were a total waste of my time, damaging to my intrinsic motivation, and my authentic self. 

School, until I knew what I wanted to do, was fine. I didn't mind it that much. But when I was thirteen and fell in love with the stage and decided that is what I wanted to do with my life, being told to wait ten years was torture. At the time, I didn't mind all that much. So much life seemed to stretch before me I thought, "Sure, I can learn all these other things for ten years to make my parents happy." When I was 22 and finally free, it hit me that: I was ten years behind children who had had the support of their parents in pursing their dreams, I was $40,000 in student-loan debt and needed to get on the work-treadmill to pay that off, my fertility would drop 50% in 8 short years so if I wanted to have kids I would have to climb my career ladder impossibly fast or not have kids or accept the risks of having them later. My father told me the other day his only dream for his kids was that they went to college and didn't ask for money afterward. That was how he defined "successful parenting." No wonder he couldn't see me, the child in front of him, no wonder he couldn't help me meet my needs to create a life I wanted. He was just doing what it took to be a "Good Parent."

In The Case Against Adolescence and Escape from Childhood I learned that historically most people started their first business between the ages of 12 to 22. If you keep a child in school until they are 22, they are more likely to be an employee than an entrepreneur. I learned that we reach our peak of energy and brain performance between the ages of 13 and 16. I learned that most revolutionaries are 16-22. If you keep kids busy and distracted in school until they are 22, there will be a lower likelihood of political unrest.

I am not going to home-unschool my son and push him to have a career at the age of 13. I am going to listen to Anders and support him, to take him, and his dreams seriously.

If your child child did want to go to school, would you support him?

Would you support your child doing crack?

Like I said above, I expect my son to go to school and I expect him to not stay all that long. If he announced that he loved school and wanted to go forever I would ask what he loved about it and see if he could get those needs met in a way that would meet my needs as well. But I don't use force on my son and I don't plan to.

Moreover, I will always make every effort to see the person in front of me and listen.

What do you think are the disadvantages to being homeschooled?

Learning in a group can be easier and more fun than learning by yourself--but there are endless classes and camps for kids these days, especially in Los Angeles so I am not overly concerned about this.

I am a little concerned about the selection of kids that will be available for Anders to have as friends. However, I am insanely happy with the selection of adults Anders already considers his friends and since home schoolers tend to make friends with adults and get along better with their parents--I'm not overly concerned about this either.

My husband and I are very different from "regular Americans." It is frustrating at times to be so different from most of the rest of society. But in order to fit in, we would have to feed our bodies poison every day. We would have to think poisonous things and do poisonous things to others. We often joke that if we had it to over again we would take the blue pill but as time goes on we're finding our people and creating quite a life for ourselves. I am pretty excited about the path that we are on and I am unconvinced that mainstreamers are actually happier and less lonely than we are.

The main disadvantage I can see is for me, not my son. I am still trying to figure out how to "bring my son to life with me" rather than make my son my life. That is very hard to do in the time and place that I currently live. Ideas are welcome!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review - Happiness by Darrin McMahon

To be clear, I loved this book. Couldn’t put it down. But it was really annoying to read because the author:
1. has obviously not read Joseph Campbell or Ayn Rand and any book analyizing happiness from Every Different Perspective Ever that hasn’t read those authors is just sloppy.
2. tried way too hard to see something that wasn’t really there. It is clear to me by reading his exerpts that most of the thinkers he quotes thought very clearly and thoroughly about happiness—there was much less "development over time" than he claims there is. His book contradicts itself in this way, claiming there was a new development in the concept of happiness when I could turn back 200 pages and see that, nope, actually that had been around for a long time, like happy endings to stories. No dude, they were not invented in the 1800’s, off the top of my head—Shakespeare?
3. His writing style killed me. He was full of random methaphors that pulled me out of his book like, “Strong black coffee to clear the head of an evenings wine, his work served as a sobering reminder of the ancient wisdom of the Christian Fall.” Why he feels the need to express such a simple idea in this way is beyond me! There are whole paragraphs dedicated to “setting the mood” that just destroyed this book: “There may have been an occasional cough as Lequinio took his place at the pulpit, the scratch of a workman’s boots, perhaps, side-long glances, the rustling of clothes…” WHAT??? Just friggin give me the quote!!! Even more annoying was when he spent twenty pages telling the life story of everyone he wanted to quote. If their life story was relevant that would have been great. But it wasn’t. This book could have been 150 pages and would have been so much more focused and clear! Author needs to read The Elements of Style.

Famous ideas about happiness (but keep in mind these thinkers were not nearly as one-sided as these summaries make it seem):
-Ancient Greece: Any happiness anyone experiences is a miracle since as all life is tragic, happiness is pure luck, we are victims of fate
-Aristotle: The goal is to be happy in this life, here and now.
-Plato: Happiness is the ideal that does not exist, Heaven
-Epicurus: Pleasure is the goal (though keep in mind pleasure is defined by him as minimizing pain by living a simple life in the country)
-Stoics: Just be happy, whatever your circumstances, just decide to be happy and be happy *note this is like today's Positive Psychology movement!
-Zeno: Learn to not desire anything and then you will be happy
-Dark Ages: Bear the pain of life now and be rewarded in Heaven—the only possible happiness is suffering now so that you can be happy in death, embrace suffering, suffering IS happiness!
-Aquinas: happiness is the process of fully realizing ourselves, happiness is the hope of Heaven, i.e. the hope of happiness
-Martin Luther: heaven and hell are actually psychological places, omg God wants us to be happy!
-Renaissance: Good people are happy. Bad people are unhappy. You’d better be happy or we know you’re bad
-Rousseau: intellectual people can’t be happy, only dumb people, the only happiness is trying to make other people happy i.e. self-sacrifice, people can be forced to be happy if we control their needs, let us create a new man and a new nature! Then we will be happy
-The Romantics: happiness is god, have you noticed how happy kids are? Let’s be like them! Be one with the world. No ego! Savages are happy too!
-Schopenhauer: Art is the only happiess i.e. the escape we feel when contemplating art i.e. not actually being alive is the only happiness
-Kant: Plato and Renaissance repeat—our duty in this life is to act in a way that renders us worthy of happiness, only good boys and girls get to be happy!
-Locke and the Libertarians: One must assume responsibility of being happy for onself
-Mill (and Rand if the author had read her): Happiness cannot be the goal, an emotion cannot be the goal, rather, happiness is what happens when you are pursuing your goals, you cannot “catch” an emotion, the minute you focus on them they are gone, liberty trumps happiness
-Industrialists: wealth is happiness
-Marx: work is happiness (similar to stoics, learning to love what you have to do anyway)
-Nietzsche: self-esteem is happiness. And power.
-Freud: unhappiness is life. The only goal is to eliminate gratuitous suffering (like Schopenhauer) And stop being delusional and preaching about happiness. You may find satisfaction in life from being loved.
-Modern Science: happiness is genetic, you have no control over it, so if you are not happy you should take drugs
-The Author's Conclusion: The idea that we can find happiness is a modern invention, as are the feelings of failure when we do not succeed. “On the whole the momentum of modern culture has been in the direction of earthly content, accompanied by a steady expanding sense of perogative, entitlement, means, and due… God was happiness, happiness has since become our god… And happiness, we might say, has proved a taskmaster as hard, at times, as the God it has sought to replace.”

Other Notes
-What the intellectuals write about and leave for posterity often does not reflect reality for the masses.
-Since Ancient Greece man has been writing an endless stream of self-help books. I mean endless.
-Aristotle believed that only those who were wealthy enough to have leisure, education, and indepence could be happy. Only those who have organized their lives so as to escape its ordinary conditions (of slaving away for survival) can be happy. I am inclined to agree!
-Many people throughout history have idealized simple country life as a happier life
-Commies seeking to level the playing field (how can anyone be happy if he is jealous of his neighbor?!) have been around forever too
-Great Schopenhaur quote: Accordingly optimism is not only a false but also a pernicious doctrine, for it presents life as a desirable state and man’s happiness as its aim and object. Starting from this, everyone belives he has the most legitimate claim to happiness and enjoyment. If, as usually happens, these do not fall to his lot, he belives that he suffers an injustice, in fact, that he misses the whole point of existence; whereas it is far more correct to regard work, privation, misery, and suffering crowned by death, as the aim and object of life.”

Book Review - Original Mind by Dee Joy Coulter

This book should be called: How Buddhist Standard Americans Think About Brain Science. Coulter really turns me off in the beginning, starting her book with a classic mystic-tell, “Either you will get what I am saying or you are not spiritually evolved enough to do so,” therefore excusing herself from having to be actually convincing our say anything rational and making it so anyone who doesn’t like her book is automatically “wrong”. Classic religious move and not appreciated. Luckily I have enough self-esteem to be able to find her book lacking rather than myself not mystic enough.... That being said, it is always interesting to read about how someone else sees the world. Though, again, annoying when they act as if that is the only way to see the world.

Very few things in this book were useful—most was mystic crap. Not sure why she felt like she had to turn this book into a self-help book. I am fascinated by how reading changes the brain and how hunter-gatherers think, but rather than explore those things she accepts different metaphysical realities and then just moves on from there. If she had started with an objective reality and then explored the differences in perception, this book would have been more effective and a lot more interesting! Instead she just sounds like a crazy new-ager telling me I will understand if I just believe hard enough. Instead of trying to convince me that ghosts exist and native peoples can see them, how about we discuss what might be going on in the native’s brain when they think they see ghosts? We see different parts of the elephant—that doesn’t change the elephant! Reality stays the same. Ugh just kills me.

Some interesting tidbits—but I have a hard time trusting anything in this book as it is very Standard American for me (rocking babies to sleep, terrible twos, rewards and punishments, all these things that anyone who knows anything about children does not advocate):
-Doctors used to be trained to recognize some diseases by smell, no longer. Dogs can detect cancer with 99% accuracy—can I please have that instead of mammograms?
-A good time to teach kids to swim is before 6 months or after age 4.
-Sickle cell anemia had a great evolutionary purpose! Bet there are more diseases like that. (And exactly why I often consider living in the climate my body was actually evolved to live in rather than Los Angeles!) --The transcripts of discussions with natives trying to get them to categorize was fascinating! I would like to read more of those! Seems like school trains us to see similarities where as native peoples see differences. This would make sense—we are exposed to sooooo much we grasp for ways to group the information to make it easier—similarities. In a simpler world where you don't travel more than 100 miles over the course of your life, you would focus a lot more on differences. You are not overwhelmed with information trying to find similarities, rather, you differentiate. But this is my conclusion, no one would get that from her book where she just tries to help us accept a different reality.
-She makes the claim that reading makes us more future-oriented whereas not reading makes us more present-oriented. She doesn’t explain why enough or even convince me there really is some cause and effect going on but what an interesting idea!
-She claims that natives think in pictures and I think in words but… I think I think in pictures so… that doesn’t really make sense to me.
-She says that when children can predict outcomes and plan and have a measure of control, their magical thinking fades—so I would say tiny babies? Since that’s exactly what those little scientists do from the minute they are born? She says 7 year olds….
-She says reading in groups out loud was a great way for all of us to learn to read. I beg to differ. I recall being absolutely tortured by having to listen to my peers read. I do get it that they benefited from hearing me read; I don’t see how there was anything in it for me.
-Can’t stand it when people advocate controlling others as a way to a better world (which she does).
-Can’t stand it when people talk about children and adults as if adults have lots of self-control rather than a lot of addictions and strong abilities to repress. Moreover, I can't stand it when people talk about self-control as if it is a good thing. I think it is actually a concept that does not exist if a person has healthy psychology, but that I will have to write an entire lecture on.
-Loved the anecdote about the scientists who cured the malnutrition of a village by finding the healthiest people in the village and seeing what they were doing differently (they were eating some foods that no one else was eating that turned out to be life-savinly nutritious. Exactly the same thing Weston A Price did, except that these scientists were commended and heralded as heroes and Price was deemed “not a real scientist” and a "quack". Most likely because what he learned threatened the medical establishment and what these scientists did didn't.
-Coulter would benefit majorly from studying NonViolent Communication, Austrian Economics, Magda Gerber, Joseph Campbell, and Ayn Rand. If you are thinking of reading this book, make sure you are well-versed in the above or you will not be able to see through Coulter's crap.