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Seeing Things Anew

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

With water tanks on your roof or subterranean cisterns you might not be aware that there are periods of time when the city's water-mains go dry. This happens almost every day here in San Antonio. I know because one of my patio spigots is connected to the street. Between 9am and 9pm most days it is dry.

For me it's a minor inconvenience, only noticed when I go to water my garden. I open the spigot and nothing comes out or maybe just a couple of small spurts of water punctuated by a few short gasps of air under pressure. Closing it down, I walk over to the other spigot, that draws its water from a tank, and I carry on. Hose in hand, I then consider for a moment the difficulty that no running water during the daylight hours causes for the poor in town.

Besides my patio garden I have some succulents and cacti rooftop, a few plants in the earth (I pried up the cobbles) in front of my house and three potted plants inside. Having watered the patio garden shortly after rising today, I remembered after breakfast to tend to the rest.

My girlfriend says that puddled water on the tiles stains the floor. I'm happy not to notice that. The floor and the room, I am told, are the oldest in San Antonio, the structure originally housing the caretaker of the church, a stone's throw away.

Performing a final scan as I exit the room, my rapid glance, passing over plants and puddles, took in a shape on the floor that registered, in that quick instant, as a key. That's how I saw it.

I'm not the best housekeeper, but keys have a certain importance that made me, watering pot in hand, stop in the doorway, turn and look again. Whereupon the "key" revealed itself to be a fragment of leaf, torn off, no doubt, by the dogs of last night's dinner guest in their excitement when they spotted my cat looking in through his entry hole.

Jordan Peterson calls this low-resolution perception. We look or think quickly and get a general impression. Normally, this fitting-things-into-our-previously-established-categories is good enough: "That's a key." Normally, there is no need to waste time contemplating the ordinary: "Put the watering pot down and go onto the next task." But occasionally we need to look at, or think about, things more carefully, with a higher-resolution: "What is a key doing on the floor? Where does that key belong? I will be looking for it later."

With everything that there is to think about, it's no wonder that we make use of this low-resolution perception, that we rely on our preconceptions, our memory of life. Peterson, who, whatever you think about his other ideas, is an expert in his field of psychology, informs us that psychedelic drugs interfere with this low-resolution mode. These mind-expanding substances override this reliance on memory and stereotype, and make us look at things anew, as if we were a child seeing them for the first time.

Overcoming the conditioned mind is also the goal of the practice of Zen. To see the thing as it is, with an unprejudiced spirit, is the better part of spiritual liberation. An open mind is enlightenment.

Of course, independent, high-resolution thinking takes a lot of effort. In the short run it seems, and often in fact is, easier to just fall back upon our prejudice and stereotypes. This low-resolution thinking is usually good enough. Dealing with things quickly has survival value.

But particularly when we are not feeling enlightened, exactly when we are having problems with reality, is the time to think more deeply and broadly, to turn up the resolution. All the discord in US society calls for a more open, unprejudiced vision.

Unfortunately, we are encouraged in the opposite direction. As I was discussing with last night's dinner guest, we are reinforced in our shallow thinking by the influencers of mainstream and social media. These "pudits" gain more influence (better ratings) and make independent thinking harder by hiding from us opinions contrary to those we hold. Fox started it, but MSNBC and CNN quickly and enviously followed suit.

When they asked Diogenes why, in the daytime, he was carrying a lit lantern though the agora, the chief public space, of Athens, he replied, "I am looking for an honest man." Things haven't changed that much. Paradoxically with so much more information available to us we are less well-informed. With all our greater connectivity, we are communicating, in any deep sense of the word, less.

I don't believe the solution lies with the Democrats or the Republicans, not with politics, not with government at all: "That government is best which governs least." - Thoreau. I believe the solution is healthier individuals.

Jordan Peterson tells us that the meaning in an individual's life, and the fate of the world, depends on the individual acting nobly, morally. (I've selected a seven-minute section of the following video. I strongly advise skipping the Q&A that follow.)

The National Institutes of Health tells us what we knew all along, namely that harsh, unpredictable childhood environments lead to bad outcomes. Healthy, wealthy communities produce healthy families. Healthier families produce healthier individuals, produce a healthier society.

That's why I've spent years of my life (and a good part of the very small fortune that I once had) working to develop Lokkal, the Digital Town Square, a local social network. Starting here in San Miguel, Lokkal strengthens community and provides an alternative, more humane internet experience.

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Lokkal

Imagine (if you are old enough to remember) the old telephone Yellow Pages. Lokkal is that community resource, but in a robust 21st century, digital form with lots of added features.

Add hashtags, descriptive key words or phrases, to all your content (profile, pages, events, individual posts, forum entries) and when other people search for those hashtags (here in SMA), then they find your content.

If your deli cares about sour pickles enough to choose the hashtag #sourpickles, then users who care about sour pickles can find your deli

We've been working on Lokkal for thousands of hours and I've invested thousands of dollars. After getting my money back, I hope to give it as a gift to humanity like Tim Berners-Lee did with his invention, the World Wide Web. The chief way of keeping Lokkal incorrupt is to free it from commercial interests.

The health of society as a whole depends on the health of local communities.

Helping an individual is noble. Helping the community helps all individuals.

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If you would like to help, to make donations, invest, or learn more, please, email at the address below.

I can also reward you with free tickets, restaurant meals, and other goods and services once the pandemic is over. Thank you.

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