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Live Long and Better

Oct. 30, 2022

by Dr. David Fialk, Editor / Publisher

For those of us who don't have the willpower to eat right and exercise regularly, it's good to know that there are three other factors that make for a healthier, longer life. These are: immersion in nature, a belief in a higher order and a sense of belonging.

Immersion in Nature

It's not surprising that going to the park or beach or spending time gardening is good for your well-being. But connecting with the natural world can be more broadly understood by considering its opposite, being divorced from reality. Strangely enough, watching the clouds from my rooftop keeps my feet on the ground.

That first autumn, when I had my place up in Vermont, off in the woods, we cut a dozen tall trees. Then, when the snows came, we hired a man with work horses to come drag the trees to the house site, where, in the spring, a sawyer would come, set up his mill and cut the trees into boards from which we would build my house.

I posted a photo of the horses, fine-looking animals, hitched up, skidding out the trees. Someone commented on the post, "Free the horses." I wrote back, "You live in the city, don't you?" They responded, "Yes. Why does that matter?" I expounded: "If you 'free' those horses, they are going to go straight back to their barn. They like to pull. They were bred for it."

In the city you can be as weird as you want, adopting fantastic attitudes, posing as whatever you imagine yourself to be, treating others poorly. But in the country, although you can get pretty grumpy, you can't be an outright jerk because, sooner or later, you will need help from your neighbors. Nor can you blithely ignore the real-life parameters of the physical world. If your car breaks down on a winter's night, and you've forgotten your mittens, you're in trouble.

Nature has a way of keeping you honest. If you live in an entirely man-made environment uncritically absorbing what Big Media, Big Pharma and Big Government tell you, then you have more to worry about than frost-bitten fingers.

Belief in a Higher Order

The question comes down to this, is the universe intelligent or dumb? Is everything random, or is there an order behind it all?

A higher order might refer to a Sunday-school God. But the term would also have to include the mind-stuff that physics now postulates as a cosmic force (along with gravity, electromagnetism and the nuclear forces). Such postulate is made because it is easier to get blood from a stone than it is to get something as wonderful as consciousness from dead matter.

Not that long ago, scientists expected that, as a work in progress, the world ought to contain a lot of unfinished stuff: evolutionary dead ends, transitional forms, imperfect engineering. They conceived of the world as a messy workshop. Some projects would be finished. But many would be partially complete or completely abandoned. And even the "finished" items would still be suboptimal, in rough form.

They also believed that living things were simple. Darwin, with his very low-power microscope, had no idea of the complexity of the cell. He still believed in spontaneous generation, that life was regularly just popping into being from lifeless matter; the way fruit flies seem to spring to life on the bananas you bring home from the corner market, or mold sprouts on bread.

But the scientist could not have been more wrong. There is nothing unfinished or simple about the world. Everything, and I mean everything, is optimally engineered and extraordinarily complex. There is no junk in the workshop.

The simplest living thing, a type of bacteria, has over 100 proteins. And each protein has hundreds of amino acids, all in a highly specific sequence, which themselves need to be in a highly complicated, branched, folded and bunched, arrangement. Then this simplest bacterium also has a membrane, a marvel of engineering, with a highly sophisticated proton pump that pulls in nutrients and ejects waste.


a protein
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Nor is this elegant complexity reserved only for living systems. The physical systems of the Earth, atmosphere, water, metals, and fire itself, are wondrous in their design and efficiency. And everyone, including the arch atheist Christopher Hitchens, admits that the universe appears to have been designed.

Mathematicians expected the same messy workshop in the equations underpinning existence. Instead, what they have uncovered are formulas of stunning economy and efficiency. Mathematicians are in love with the physics of the universe.

Materialism, the working paradigm of science, is a system of thought holding that the universe is dumb and blind. It insists that everything is the result of mechanical forces randomly interacting on dead matter. Of course, today, all these Materialists make use of immaterial, intelligent fields of energy every time they use their cellphone. Then, gravity, electromagnetism and the nuclear forces are also not material.

So, this is the dichotomy; randomness versus order, nothingness versus purpose. Obviously, it is bad for your peace of mind and well-being to insist that everything: Beethoven, love, your consciousness, is just the result of a random series of accidents. Minimally, it is anxiety producing to believe that the whole world arose from only the unintelligent errors of blind molecules bumping into each other. Contrarily, on many levels, it is better for your well-being, to believe that there is some cosmic mind-stuff predisposing everything towards order. Maybe it is not your Sunday school God, but, when you believe that there is sense and purpose, you live better and longer.

Belonging

We survived as a species because I tended the fire and watched over you while you slept, and then you did the same for me. To encourage this social cooperation our brain rewards us with the feel-good hormone dopamine when we bond with someone. We feel better when someone is listening. Lacking anything interesting to say, we prattle on inanely, just for the sensation that someone is listening, that we are part of a band.

This system worked pretty well until the internet came along and started exploiting our need to belong. The algorithm, the Artificial Intelligence, the AI, feeds us news and opinions with which we already agree, excluding contrary points of view. This "Hurray for our side" makes us feel that we belong.

But this manufactured sense of belonging comes at a high price to society as a whole. The lack of exposure to contrary points of view, combined with the sense that everything is a crisis, demonizes those who do not share our opinions or our sense of urgency. At least it brands them as benighted. And because everything is presented as an emergency, an existential crisis (racism, climate, elections, Ukraine, Covid...), there is no time for reasonable, considered discussion.

The antidote to this divisive tribalism, this artificial sense of belonging, is an authentic experience of community. Here in San Miguel, we have a lot this. Our vibrant street life offers us casual engagement each time we step out our door. Benevolent associations provide us with meaningful connections to the community. Our physical proximity facilitates common experience, highlighting that which we hold in common.

My Lokkal project brings local community to the internet. I've created a local social network. You might say that I am Mark Zuckerberg, but just for San Miguel. A digital town square, the Yellow Pages robustly reborn for the 21st century, facilitating communication in our city, Lokkal offers genuine community online. But unlike Zuckerberg's Facebook, Lokkal is non-commercial, functioning as a public utility, with all profits returned to the community. Without the need to maximize shareholders profits, to endlessly engage and addict our users, Lokkal provides a sane, healthy internet experience.

Help us build the community. Get involved. Join and start posting. Make a page about chocolate in San Miguel or shoe stores or flowers, dogs, hats, the work of your favorite artist or non-profit... Help organize our community or just post random stuff. You'll live longer and better.

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Dr. David, believing that we find meaning most readily in communal relationship, presents Lokkal, the social network, the prettiest, most-efficient way to see San Miguel online.

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Discover Lokkal:
Watch the two-minute video below.
Then, just below that, scroll down SMA's Community Wall.
Intro / Mission

Wall


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