Dialogue with the Bad

Got a black eye? Look with your other eye

Got a black eye? Look with your other eye

There comes a day in our live, when we feel overwhelmed, when we feel that we had enough.

  • If you’ve ever been sick,
  • if you’ve ever been tired,
  • if you’ve ever felt that the world is just not fair,

then you know what I’m talking about.

Bad is stronger than Good but we have to take stock of this and we have to put it in perspective by asking ourselves:

“How do we face this Law of human psychology, of evolutionary history:

  • that Bad would be more salient than Good?
  • that Bad would be more deeply processed than Good and so on?”

The first thing to notice here is that we need to work hard to maintain the balance because Bad is (by default) stronger so we need to labor more on the side of Good.

The second thing is to acknowledge that Bad is a form of inertia and ignoring it will not make it disappear. On the Ki-Merging-Path (aikido), we say:

This World is Filled with people who have Lost their Way, who Suffer from Mind-Heart Sickness

世には、道に迷い、心の病に苦しむものが充満している

Let us Use-up All Our Power and Explain what is Right For the People

我が全力を尽くし、人の為に正しきを説こう

Chapter 21: The Way of Explaining

説道

Doing the Right thing represents an active choice to promote Good, but occasionally we have to deliberately engage in a dialogue with that which is Bad.

What is the Bad (for us moderns living comfortable lives)?

It is the Imagined Bad.

Why do we need to imagine the Bad? In order to feel empathy with those who feel Bad:

  • with those who feel sick,
  • with those who feel tired,
  • with those who feel hopeless,
  • with those who feel desperate,
  • with those who feel caught in the system,
  • with those who feel crushed by the system,
  • with those who feel overwhelmed by their situation,
  • with those who feel insignificant in the large scheme of things,
  • with those who feel helpless, in the dark…

We need to engage in this dialogue (with Bad) and this is where poems provide the language so we can curse not each other, but rather all that follows (from Bad).

Post scriptum: Spoken after finding out I’ve made myself redundant in my current workplace and I’ll be unemployed from January 1st, 2016.

New Year resolutions

There are many ways to get to the tree top: One is to let go and fall from the Sky

There are many ways to get to the tree top: One is to let go and fall into the Sky

This is a kaizen proposal about New Year resolutions.

Obviously, when I mention NY resolutions as an English teacher, I do so in the context of saying:

Okay, let’s practice the Future Tense:

I will do something or

I will have done something by [a given time in the future] (if you have a specific deadline).

Now, when you explain what a “resolution” (Decide-the-Mind-Thought 決心 or 決意) means in the English speaking world, you also have to discuss what people actually want to do and how (un)successful they are, even if they don’t happen to have this specific custom of declaring to the world that:

Next year I will drink less vodka. (just an example)

The problem we face when we cannot achieve our goals (stated in this resolution) is usually related to the means or the method.

Usually people don’t blame so much the method, as they blame themselves (or they blame the method and they try another method).

  • If the method is well-tried and tested,
  • If the method seems to work fine for many people,
  • If the method appears to be quite straightforward, quite rational, yet doesn’t yield the desired results in your case,

then people feel guilty (right?).

Imagine you set yourself this goal:

This year I will lose weight (everybody loves dieting these days). This year I will exercise more.

The problem is that, even when we set specific goals, we seem to quickly hit the concrete wall of reality. Why?

This year I will lose weight:

  • How much weight? Let’s say 10 kilograms. Alright.
  • How am I going to do this? I’m going to exercise every day.
  • How much exercise every day? Let’s say, every day I will exercise for 30 minutes. Great.
  • What kind of exercise? Let’s say for 30 minutes I’m going to be running, I will go running or jogging in the park. Great!

Then, the New Year passes and it’s the 1st or 2nd of January and you start implementing your resolution. Remember you’ve decided you were going to run every day and you try to live up to your own expectations.

Now, for one percent of all people (=the successful people), this actually works out.

Maybe you happen to be somebody who is “a man/woman of his/her word”:

  • Somebody who says “I will do this” and they actually do it.
  • Somebody with an “iron will”
  • Somebody who actually manages to run 30 minutes every day, who actually loses 10kg (or even more, if you keep this pace) in a couple of months.

I suppose you will also feel much better psychologically (more exercise = less depression).

Unfortunately, for 99% of all people, for the average Joe, this is not what happens.

The experience of 99% of all people is this:

  • Maybe you manage to run the first day, you probably come back all tired.
  • Next day, you can’t get up and you tell yourself: “Okay, I’ll skip it today”.
  • Next day, you go out, you run for 10 minutes, then you don’t have time anymore because you got up too late, so you have to cut yourself short.
  • Then the next day again, you can’t get up and you skip it…

This continues for some time (which depends from person to person), but after a bit you look back at the last 2-3 weeks of that New Year, during which you said you’d be running every day, and it turns out you did it 5 times, or 3 times, or 2 times, and sometimes it wasn’t even the full 30 minutes you set as a target.

When you set the target days (let’s say 30 days) against the actual record (3 days), you can’t help feeling bad because nearly each day you have to mark as “Failed to do it”: 27 black balls versus 3 white ones.

There goes your motivation out the window. You didn’t do it.

Why did it not work? You decided. In your head it was all clear. You had the time. You could blame the weather, or the busy work schedule, but usually you end up blaming yourself:

I cannot even do what I specifically set out to do. I’m weak.

You are NOT weak. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you need to use a lot of energy to change your approach.

Here’s the kaizen proposal (it starts from another angle):

Do you have any bad habit you’re not happy with? (Let’s leave aside for now the issues you have that triggered the New Year resolution.) Do you have any bad habits you’d like to get rid of?

  • Maybe you can’t help chewing your fingernails.
  • Do you watch too much TV?
  • Do you spend too much time Internet-browsing (4-5-6 hours every day)?
  • Do you play too much on your computer?

What is it that you do in your daily life which you think is not healthy, which is not good and which you’d like to change? Pick one of these habits which you’d like to slowly phase out of your life.

Let’s stay with Internet-browsing because that’s what you’re probably doing right now. So you’re browsing the Internet for information. Some of it may be useful, but most of the time this is a complete waste of time:

You’re reading news about I-don’t-know-what terrorist attack which happened in I-don’t-know-what country.

Why?

Why not?

Right?

This is who we are, the moderns. But you’re not happy about this. How can you change it?

Let’s say you’re doing this now for 5 hours every day and you want to reduce it to maximum 2 hours every day. Great!

That’s the target: Less than 2 hours. (2 hours is okay).

If you meet this target, you don’t have to do anything else.

Mission accomplished.

What if you don’t meet this target? Let’s go back to the New Year resolution of losing weight by exercising (running 30 minutes) every day. Now, every time you exceed by 30 minutes that target of 2 hours of internet browsing, you have to go running for (say) 10 minutes.

So, for each extra 30 minutes of browsing (beyond 2 hours), you need to go running for 10 minutes.

If you meet your target of net-browsing for only 2 hours (or less) each day, then you’ll have more free time to use as you please and you don’t have to do anything. If you can go jogging, that’d be great. If you can’t, that’s OK, spend your time in as useful a manner as possible.

However, if (as I assume from my own experience of struggling with bad habits) you won’t be able to meet the target and you browse the internet for (say) 4 hours, then on that day you’ll have to go running for 40 minutes.

  1. Even if you keep your bad habit, at least now you’ll have the jogging to make you feel (slightly) better.
  2. If you don’t need to go jogging (having kept your browsing to less than 2 hours) at least you’ll have more time.

It’s a win-win situation no matter what.

The key is to start anew every day. Start with a clean slate every day.

  1. In terms of “things I have to do today” you should have a big ZERO at the start of the day.
  2. In terms of “things I have to do less today” you should have a specific target (=less than the usual) to reduce the time you waste by engaging in some undesirable activity (something you want to change).

You decide the numbers. You don’t have to use the numbers I set here. Also, it doesn’t have to be jogging: You can do push-ups, or you could spend more time doing yoga at home. I’m just giving you a rough sketch.

The point is to keep each day free of BAD (=stress and anxiety that you’re somehow failing yourself) and to have something GOOD happening each day, whether

  • you meet your target of jogging or
  • you meet your target of reducing the time you spend engaged in some bad habit.

Try it. Let me know if this improves (changes-into-better) your life. Good luck!

on being a parent

Poo-Panda's song Panda-chan, is it Poo?Panda-chan, can you Poo? Panda-chan, let's change the nappies

Poo-Panda’s song
Panda-chan, is it Poo? Panda-chan, can you Poo? Panda-chan, let’s change the nappies

 

When we talk about what is good (as I did when I said we should try to change towards more Good in this world), we usually do so bypassing the problem of definition.

“What is good” is differently defined by everybody.

We have a word in (as far as we know) every language which means Good, but it does not necessarily point to the same thing(s) and idea(s).

“What is good” for me when I say it (in English) in this part of the world may be very different for somebody who speaks another language in another part of the world.

We don’t have the same idea about what goes into Good.

We don’t agree about what things or ideas can be described as Good.

Nevertheless, we can agree on a couple of things. (Not much, just a couple).

The important thing is that in agreeing (or disagreeing) we are already engaged in a dialogue about “what is good”. We prove ourselves willing to say:

This is what I think is good. Do you agree with me?

Then the other person can reply Yes or No, and the question is

If the other person says No, can we continue the dialogue?

If we could continue the dialogue, that would be Good.

This means that Good in a universal way is “the changeable, modifiable Good”.

A kind of Good which (let us say) can be improved (through dialogue).

I mention this because I wanted to talk about a specific way of improving, which I’ve discovered in myself

  • when I became a parent.
  • when I started to identify myself as the father of a lovely little girl, who brought light into my life…

IMG_2348

Of course, you hear all these anecdotes about how difficult and how stressful it is to attend to all the needs of a child. You hear people saying:

No more sleep, no more free time and so on.

While this is obviously true (and funny), it is more instructive to recognise that

  • when you hear what a huge volume of resources a child demands of the parents
  • you’re actually hearing the parents saying how much they want to attend to the Good of the child, to make the child’s life and experiences in this world Good.

I mean, you could change the diaper of the baby right away, as soon as this becomes necessary,

OR

you could continue to watch TV or play your computer game for another hour and just ignore the baby.

But can you really (do the latter)?

Now,

  1. because of my own definition of “what is good” &
  2. due to my own way of seeing dialogues and potential for improvements everywhere,

at this point I thought that it would be natural (=universally true) to say that

people are improved when they become parents.

I feel that I became a better person when my daughter came into this world.

As parents we can be jolted out of our default inertia (“Can’t be bothered to”) because we feel an urge to do for our children all those

  1. things which you would forego doing for yourself,
  2. things which you would be willing to postpone doing for yourself,
  3. things which you would even resign to go without, for yourself.

Let’s say that you finished eating and you have to do the dishes. Now, if you’re just by yourself, you can say “I’ll do it later”, maybe even postpone it for a day or so.

However, when you’re attending to a child, you cannot help but do that which you know is Good right away.

(This was my experience, even though I now realise with a certain degree of sadness which is very difficult to convey that it is not a universally shared experience).

If I get up in the morning for myself (to write my blog, or to go to work), I do this with a certain reluctance.

However, when I get up in the morning for my daughter, whose experience I want to make the best possible, I do so with an alacrity and an enthusiasm of which I would not have thought myself capable of mustering 1 or 2 years ago.

As a parent,

  • you may feel better about yourself because you appear more generous (you’re giving to another),
  • but you mainly feel better because you know that you’re the sole person responsible for this child’s sense of well-being, for this child’s feeling or experiencing something Good.

You don’t want to take that away. You don’t want to rob your child of that possibility of feeling something Good.

(Especially for somebody like me who does not believe in the possibility of many good things happening in this world.)

I still believe and I still hold that people are improved

  • by the experience of becoming parents,
  • by the experience of taking care of another,
  • by the experience of being put in dialogue at a very basic level, especially before the first words come out.

Is the child laughing or is the child crying?

Is the child smiling or is the child frowning?

Is the child comfortable (=the body feeling something Good) or uncomfortable?

You might ask these same questions of yourself, but for yourself you might be able to delay gratification (as they say in psychology). You might be answering:

I’ll do it later:

I don’t feel comfortable sitting here, but getting up to get a pillow feels like too much just now.

Yet, (I hope) you would not do this when you’re a parent, because for the child you’re (usually) the only person who can make this experience better.

You are there (in a position) to improve, to change into Good, another being’s experience in this world.

This is one situation where you definitely should not take shortcuts.

This is one situation where you definitely feel that you should not be taking shortcuts.

This is one situation where I’m definitely holding anybody up to this standard.

No shortcuts when you are a parent.

To improve the people we bring out into this world.

A for Aboriginal

 

A clip from the first indigenous TV show on ABC-TV 1973

This goes in Folder A for Aboriginal (as in Australian Aboriginal).

There is an interesting thing about how we think / how we thought about the indigenous populations of places (or entire continents) which have been taken over by

  • the Anglos
  • the Spanish
  • the Portuguese
  • the Belgians
  • the French…

The Europeans have been literally painting the map, a map on which we had white areas, and then somebody would paint there a Black guy, a naked black guy (or an “Indian”).

The story is that in 1788, on one day in January, this officer of the First Fleet finds himself in Botany Bay.

What’s the name of the officer? Tench. This man finds himself on the deck of a European ship.

This is at the end of the 18th century, we are in the decade of the French Revolution, a decade away from Napoleon, which shows you the technology level in Europe, as well as the cultural and political climate.

Officer Tench arrives in Botany Bay and he looks upon the natives, whom he calls “the Indians” (so stop making fun of Columbus for thinking that the Native Americans were “Indians”; it’s a common mistake, okay?).

Anyway, this guy Tench looks at the “Indians” and writes that the Governor is there to explain the transfer of land

between the old and the new masters.

That’s the framing. There will be a transfer:

We’re going to own this land.

Maybe you don’t have a concept of property in your language/culture; then it’s too bad for you.

But first we need people who speak our language, we need to find out what these guys are saying, we need to engage in dialogue. Naturally, this is not going to be a dialogue on equal terms.

Now try to imagine how the “civilised” Europeans tried to solve this kind of problem in the 1780s:

They captured people, they caught some Black fellows, the “Indians”, and subjected them to English language lessons.

By the way, a lot of the material I’m citing comes from a chapter in a book titled “Language and Culture in Aboriginal Australia” edited by Michael Walsh and Colin Yallop; this is chapter 3 explaining about the first contact between the White fellow and the Black fellow.

This book is a must-read for any Anglo, or any Asian, or any Eastern European, or any Middle East person who is already living or who is looking forward to migrate to Australia.

Why is it necessary to read this book? Because you’re (going to live) on the land of people who’ve been treated as uncivilized brutes that were to be herded around.

Of course, we cannot apply our current understanding and morality to somebody from 1788, to officer Tench, but let’s look at what the Aboriginal folk thought about the White fellow.

The Aboriginal people were given “beads and toys”, right? The misunderstandings are incredible: We have these Black fellows captured, forced to learn English and then use them as interpreters.

Incidentally, this is (part of) my job description, so if I had lived in this period, then the colour of my skin would guarantee … what?

In Australia, a couple of Black fellows who looked smarter were “shackled”; there were hand cuffs to which a rope was attached, like you’d do with a monkey. They did this to the guy whom they told:

Okay, you’re going to interpret for us now.

Okay, how much do I get paid?

That was not a question you could ask, right? They would give him some food and shelter and that would be it.

That was the treatment and at some point one guy escaped, went back to his mob. Of course there were many, many, many others whose stories we’ll never know. What is interesting is the point of view of the Black fellows, because they feel that

“White fellow soon kill all black fellow. You good fellow, mob no kill you”.

Simply because they don’t understand you, simply because there is no common language. On the other hand, when the Black fellows fight back,

“stock-keeper shoot plenty, mob spear some”.

This is the situation, and not only in Australia, of course.

One of these Black fellows (the interpreters) is taught how to toast, forced to say every time they raise their wine glasses

“To the King!” “To His Grace” “Long live whatever!”

Accordingly, he imagines (pretty justifiably) that’s what the drink is called: The King, which results in the strange linguistic fact (but deeply revealing of the cultural background shared by these two societies which collided with each other) that

in a certain place in Australia an alcoholic drink is still referred to as “the King”.

We are at a point right now where we cannot afford to forget this kind of details, and building on these details we need to decide where we want to go from now. Let’s learn what they say. What they saw in us.

We know the accounts we have, even if you didn’t read any historical records, testimonies of people from that time, you can kind of guess the whole thing because we’re descending from the “modern man, civilised man” stock.

How did it feel on the other end? How did it feel at the other end of this dialogue? If it was bad (and I really hope you will not argue this point), I trust you understand what a huge leap we can now make by simply listening and learning more from the Black fellow.

We’ve captured the Black fellow and subjected him (and her) to our lessons for so long that for many of us this bad habit is very hard to shake.

The idea that the language barrier is surmountable through physical violence, the idea that some are superior to others by virtue of what they look like has been (let’s hope) put to rest with the Declaration of the Rights of Man;

it happened in 1789, around the same time officer Tench is sailing around Botany Bay.

We just need to keep to this path, the kaizen (Change-into-Good 改善) path, and extend our definition of man to include the Black fellow, to include the Red Skins, to include everybody else who is human, like us.

 

Zen: Doing your best

Water and stone, broken by light

Water, trees and stone, all broken by light

 

This is going to be about zen (禅 Meditation), so I’ll put it in the Religion category (folder). Aristotle’s Organon helps us organise stuff.

Do you know the kanji (漢字Chinese-Character) for zen? Do you know its meaning, a couple of combinations?

If you know zazen (座禅 Sitting-Meditation), you might realise that other combinations are possible.

The kanji for zen (禅) would give you one clue; the sound for zen will give you another clue (Sanskrit dhyāna Quiet-Thinking), but if you’re not a Japanese speaker then it doesn’t have the same impact.

Allow me to elaborate on the concept of zen (禅) for average Japanese people, most of them educated in this spirit.

The spirit of zen (禅) means that whatever you do, you’re supposed to do your best (zen-ryoku o tsukushi 全力を尽くし Use-up-All-Power), to concentrate on what you’re doing, while also being aware of what is around you.

However, it doesn’t (necessarily) have the meaning it does in the Western, Hollywood culture, which assigns it only a spiritual dimension.

Of course, it is a spiritual thing; that’s why we have monasteries.

Do you know what the monks do in these zen–Buddhist monasteries in Japan?

They write Sanskrit using kanji (漢字 Chinese-Characters).

Why do they do that? Because, of course, Buddhism came to Japan from India via China, so it comes only in kanji (漢字 Chinese-Characters).

This means that in Japan we have imported not only the meanings, but also some of the sounds, even though nowadays we start with the meanings that can be inferred from the letters (=characters).

For the average Japanese person the spiritual connection is obscured because it is so obvious (to-zen 当然 Right-So) that you have to do your best in whatever you do.

It is a norm, what we would call in the Kantian tradition, a categorical imperative “to do your best”.

Of course, not everybody lives up to this ideal, like in every other society, but it’s there, as a norm.

Now, what is the “best” and how do we define “GOOD”?

How did these zen-Buddhists define the GOOD?

I would say it’s “awareness” (Meaning-Discerning 意識).

We have a couple of common elements across this whole area, from India to China and Japan, in the same manner that we have a Greek-Latin-Aramaic(-Arab-Hebrew) connection for European languages and European philosophy.

That being said, people living on this island seem to have taken Buddhist teachings a step further in emphasising the link with Nature (the famous Zen gardens) much more than

  • in India (where the focus seems to be on the individual human aspect) or
  • in China (where the focus seems to be on the universal human aspect).

My impression is that people living in Japan are often made aware of their surroundings (the environment) as they are jolted back to reality nearly every year.

The March 11 (2011) quake was absolutely terrifying in Tokyo (as we were waiting for the BIG one), but no buildings came down. In one old building, the ceiling came down; that was the only place in Tokyo where people died, these poor guys on whom the ceiling came down.

It was actually in East-North Japan (Tohoku 東北) where the real disaster struck.

In Tokyo it only measured a 5 plus (on the Japanese scale), which means that in Europe half of the buildings would probably collapse; I guess it depends on which part of Europe we’re talking about; in Bucharest, it would be catastrophic because we don’t build with earthquakes in mind.

I was in Tokyo when the Great East-North (Tohoku 東北) earthquake struck and it seemed to bring out the GOOD as people remembered (for a short time) their place in Nature.

It is a safe bet to predict that another earthquake will strike Japan soon and the GOOD will appear again because people try their best in this country.

On this day some people were trying do their jobs so perfectly that they forgot the situation they were in as individuals.

Here’s story for you:

On March 11th 2011, around 2:46 pm, there were some people working on the 12th or 13th floor of a building in Tokyo. Slowly (but gradually growing more severe) everything starts shaking. As a result, the elevators stop automatically and you would probably experience sea sickness from all that motion (plus the adrenaline high). Anyway, things would have been flying around; there would have been broken glass everywhere; there would definitely be dust from the ceiling, snowing down on everybody.

This goes on for almost 2 minutes, and everybody is just looking at each other, terrified:

It’s the biggest earthquake to strike Japan in 1000 years or so.

In all this chaos, when everybody looks at each other without knowing what to do, they hear this person running up the stairs. A man enters the company office, holding a bouquet of roses and he asks, completely out of breath:

“Where is Mr. Yamamoto? I have to deliver these flowers”…

What do we see here? The delivery man’s job is to deliver.

The best the delivery man could do was to take the stairs (no working elevators) and to run up during the 2 minutes of shaking.

He ran up the stairs to do his job, while everybody was too petrified to move.

I don’t know what everybody’s reaction was; I’ve heard about people running down the stairs, especially foreigners and people who were not prepared for this kind of situation.

We (in the factory where I work) didn’t run; we prepare for this kind of situation, so everybody did what they were trained to do. It was like a drill:

  1. Stop the machine
  2. Get away from the machine
  3. Take cover under the desk
  4. (If available) Put on helmets
  5. Wait for the shaking to stop
  6. Evacuate to the ground floor
  7. Do the head-count and see if anybody’s missing
  8. Report if there’s any fire
  9. Send in the fire-fighting team
  10. etc.

Do you want to know how I participated in this? How I brought my kaizen (改善Change-into-Good) into this situation?

Normally, during past drills, we evacuated to the soccer ground, but because the soccer ground could get really muddy, we sometimes skipped this step (you don’t want 600 people to carry mud back into the factory); so we got used to evacuating in front of the building.

During the actual earthquake, after we got out and we were doing the headcount, I realised that we’re standing in front of a 20-storey building and there were some windows which looked like they could fall on top of us because of all the aftershocks (kaizen step 1: Describe what is BAD?)

I thought that we could have a better situation if I communicated this to the team leader, who communicated it to the factory manager who got everybody to move to the soccer ground (even if it was muddy). It took us about 2-3 minutes to achieve this:

In an extreme emergency, a kaizen (Change-into-Good) proposal from a foreigner in Japan  was taken up, analysed, quickly recognised as reasonable, and implemented in 3 minutes by the leader on the spot.

That’s what it means to be open to kaizen, to do the best you can do at that time.

Paralyzed into shuffling through life

Information about the exits: There are no exits ["on this side" if you cannot read Japanese]

Information about the exits: There are no exits [“on this side” if you cannot read Japanese]

There is a strange aspect of modern humans (by which I mean “post WW2 humans”): In democratic societies, in which things have been improved to a point where you’d think

all we have to do now is to continue on this path and gradually make things better

people find themselves paralyzed, stumped as it were, by the sheer weight of an awareness of our mortality not as individuals, but as entire nations.

During the Cold War, this was manifested as the threat of nuclear war. Nowadays, it’s asteroids, or some random epidemic such as Ebola, but the fear is there that

all the work that you might put into making small improvements over a lifetime can come to nothing.

This fear is so pervasive as to make it (semantically) inappropriate to say “it may come to nothing” since we are so sure that it will come to nothing when some entity, some body, some organisation, some microorganism (if we’re talking about a virus), when some physical object in outer space happens to hit us, when the temperatures rise and create extremely severe weather events.

So then, the question becomes “Why bother?”

As long as natural disasters, diseases or wars have tended to be quite small in terms of their impact: 5 people in a town, 10,000 people in a bigger city and so on, when the number of victims stops at that (high number if you live there, but pretty low if you live elsewhere) you can still hope.

However, when the threat is that of complete annihilation, when we’re talking about modern war in a way that is easily imaginable post-Hiroshima, at this point we feel that it is no longer wise to bet on it not happening (hence the incredible appeal enjoyed by end-of-the-world religions/cults/movies/TV series).

So everybody is living from hand to mouth, from today until tomorrow.

In turn, this means that we give up on making the small improvements we could make because we are afraid.

Even now, when the Cold War has ended, we have these small crises which are hyped up as existential crises and their main effect on us is not so much to trigger a certain kind of behaviour (i.e., make us act in a certain manner, such as buying security-related equipment, guns etc.); rather

these very real (albeit inflated) threats serve to block our actions and keep us stuck in the ruts of the path we are currently walking.

This makes any small change-into-Good appear superfluous, out-of-touch with reality, gratuitous in the face of this massive potential for disaster just around the corner.

Here I see a very good explanation for our laziness, our inertia, our inability to change.

It is certainly true that the great majority of people are not doing much. However, this is not because people are by their nature lazy or stupid.

No, this happens because people are paralysed

  • into inaction,
  • into keeping to the path they’re currently walking,
  • into making a circle around the wagons and shooting at anything that seems to threaten the current status.

[Note: By “we” I mean those of us living the good life, the comfortable life. These observations do not apply to those too busy carrying water from the well located 2 km away from the village]

The whole world feels like it may come crushing on our heads at any time, so why buy a helmet?

Why bother with small changes, when it could all end up in a big cloud of smoke?

Some people think that this would result in mass suicide, but that is not what we see because the survival instinct is strong enough in most people to guarantee our ability to continue living and only few would succumb to the anomie feeling, to the feeling of futility of going on with our lives.

Of course, more will succumb in a psychological sense and more will experience depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, self-destructive behaviour and so on.

For many of us the most visible effect is that we’re inhibited from taking action, from attempting small changes in our lives and in the world around us because we’re saving our energy for the big trial ahead which

  • we don’t believe we are likely to survive, but
  • we are certain that the small changes-into-Good (which we could otherwise achieve right now) would definitely not survive.

So that’s why we just keep on shuffling through life and through this world.

Of course, there are some brave or lucky souls who can break through: Those who are fortunate enough to be endowed perhaps with the right genes to display fortitude and resist this onslaught of fear. Fear not of actual things, but rather expressed as a vague feeling that things will turn out really bad (e.g., World War 3).

What is really demoralizing is the knowledge that (as long as this situation continues) things actually get worse as the great mass of people is acting as a huge bundle of inertia, resisting any attempt to change (not because of our intrinsic conservative values, but rather) because

we don’t see any meaning which can be projected into the future other than conserving one’s energy for the real test to come.

This has happened for so many years now that we are actually worse off than if we’d had the psychological makeup of incurable optimists (i.e., people who keep on plunging ahead no matter what).

A minority of people have this personality, this set of traits to press ahead in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but the great majority don’t have it and then we end up being where we are:

in the ruts of a path which is digging itself deeper and deeper into the ground with no horizon to speak of

despite our (very real) potential to achieve improvements, small changes-into-Good, which would take years to materialize, which would require the concerted efforts of millions, especially in the initial stages before this movement gathers momentum.

This is where we are right now, with this kaizen (Change-into-Good 改善) proposal:

We are at a point where we cannot guarantee the momentum, since we don’t have enough mass behind it,

because hope is not as strong a feeling as fear,

because trust is much more risky (in evolutionary terms) than suspicion,

because bad has a much more bigger impact than good.

This is another self-fulfilling prophecy, in the end.

Let’s create a KAIZEN database

 

Kaizen (Change-into-Good) proposals format

Kaizen (Change-into-Good) proposals format

 

 

I’m interested in compiling a kaizen database; this is what I’m currently doing for English language teaching/learning because that’s my field (i.e., linguistics). I think this can be done in many other fields, as I believe

we need a clear method of managing the information we have acquired so far.

The kaizen database provides us with the perfect format to organise information because it presents the information in a way that ensures its practical value.

Now, what is the kaizen database format? I’m not sure if this is the case in all the companies in the world, but in most Japanese companies they have this thing called a kaizen system, which is basically condensed in an Excel spreadsheet. This file is used by employees to submit a kaizen proposal which is then evaluated and (if found worthy) added to the kaizen database.

So I’m interested in realising a (keywords-searchable) database centred on this very basic format, which would

enable people interested in ways of improving their current practices (whatever they are busy doing) to find the knowledge they need.

Imagine how easy it would be to access the information you need if it is organised in ONE place, i.e, one master file where the categories are clearly defined based on specific fields of expertise (are you listening, Google people?). The governing idea should be practicality; the question in the user mind should be:

What kaizen (Change-into-Good) has been tried, tested and proven to work in my field of work / interest?

We need to improve our system of accessing, organising and summarising (in understandable English) the information about kaizen ideas. Maybe we can translate it in other languages at later stages if it proves to be a success.

I think this is where we need to start.

Let me give you an example of kaizen, although the person who came up with this brilliant idea didn’t describe it in these terms. I’m sure you saw this if you’re using Facebook or some other social network media.

Somebody teaching English in Brazil wanted her students to be able to practice speaking with English native speakers and she realised that the need to communicate has to be real on both sides, so she enlisted the help of some retired people in the US.

As a kaizen, it can be summarised  as follows:

  1. Proposal (our  kaizen in a sentence): Improve student speaking skills by enabling communication with English native speakers in retirement homes in the US.
  2. Problem (what do we have now): Students have few opportunities to communicate in English in their own country. Increasing the amount of interaction in English in Brazil using traditional methods is prohibitively expensive.
  3. Method (how can we achieve kaizen): Create an Internet platform of interaction; “The student logs in, chooses a senior who is online and starts talking; [the conversation can be guided or free]; at the end, the conversation goes to a private link … for teacher evaluation”.
  4. Expectations (what do we expect after kaizen): Better speaking skills, more interaction time, increased student motivation, increased sense of self-worth (as educators) for retirees.
  5. Observations (what we measured after kaizen): This is where the teacher evaluation results come in, as well as feedback from all the participants (students, retirees, etc.)
  6. Category: Learning -> Language learning -> Foreign language learning -> Speaking skills -> Real interactions with native speakers -> …
  7. Supporting materials (optional): Drawings, pictures, movies, graphs, tables etc.