Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 23

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Friday April 11, 2008 (concept, awareness)

Awareness 14 continues from April 10
It always amazes me that the process of personal growth never stops. Perhaps there is the pre-requisite that you must allow it to happen, even if that means deliberately stepping out off your comfort zone.
Looking back, now just in my 70s, I can recognise small life transitions that have occurred about every ten years or so. But in a general sense I know that I have to date lived through three distinct phases in my life and just recently have entered my 4th one. Will this be the final one ? Probably, but one never knows.

I imagine that every one can experience these phases in their life provided one's awareness is open to it. I am a very emotional person easily stirred, especially where it concerns my freedom or my feelings. So be aware that I may have experienced the various phase transitions perhaps stronger than a more evenly balanced person would. Timing of the phase transitions too may of course vary from person to person.
The four life phases as I see them are :

  1. Physical Growth Phase : from age 0 - 20 years
    A period of physical and mental growth of the body.
    A new human being is being formed.
    We are child selfish and have emotionally erratic mood swings, crying, burst of anger, etc.

  2. Reproduction Phase : age 20 to early 40s
    You find a serious girl- (or boy-) friend, get married, have children and look after them.
    You are still selfish but not just for yourself but for the wider circle of your family.
    Partly from necessity you are very materialistic during this period.
    Emotionally you have stabilised somewhat and have become idealistic, polarised, black versus white.

  3. Creative Phase : from early 40s to 70 years
    This phase can start, like in my own case, with a Big Bang, the mid life crisis. The materialistic and reproductive phase is over, what the hell do I do now ?
    A time of self discovery and self expressions begins, and you become creative usually in a form of art
    Emotionally you shed your idealistic ways, you have learned and observed and have become pragmatic
    Selfishness too has (hopefully) reduced, you focus more on giving, contributing to others.

  4. Reflective Phase : from age 70 years
    Upon entering your 70s something definitely changes, for you can suddenly see in the distance the exit door from life. How far away is it ? You don't know, but it is bloody well there somewhere !
    At this stage you probably know yourself pretty well. I for one am content with my past life. Looking back on it, I see it as a colourful Impressionist painting with which I am well pleased.

    So what is up next ? I find I focus more on the world and Universe around me, to understand and appreciate what is there and how I fit in. A period of reflection, consolidation perhaps.
    Emotionally you have simmered down now to the point that you (at least at times) can be impartial and wise.
    Selfishness too has receded even further and you allow yourself to be more generous to others. You try to leave behind something of value to humanity and the world at large.
Here is a Diagram of the four Life Phases as I see them :
Phases of Life

I have presented these ideas of course from a man's perspective and experiences. Women are emotionally so totally different that perhaps for them there are differences I can not perceive. So keep that in mind.
Having said that however I can clearly see that my daughter Babette now in her early 40s, has definitely entered the Creative Phase. She is a very busy woman, Vice President of an International company and in charge of two Colleges in Australia. Despite that she suddenly started last year to write novels. Every evening, after returning home from a long day at work, she is at her writing desk, often writing until deep into the night. It is good to see.

As far as my belief is concerned I was a Christian of sorts in my Growth Phase, but then quickly moved away from a traditional religion to a vague believe in a God and a hereafter. This gradually and almost subconsciously changed into finding myself an agnostic. This was perhaps the case because in my Creative Phase the focus was very much on myself.   But then, suddenly on entering the Reflective Phase I became a convinced atheist almost overnight.
Awareness continues on April 13

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Saturday April 12, 2008 (diary)

with Paul at the Tracy Village Club, Darwin Once again a lovely sunny day, but quite warm. After my usual Teriyaki chicken and Sushi lunch I head off to Virginia, collect my mail, then go onto Andrew and Kim Page's 'Mango farm'. I have a chat with them and arrange with Andrew to drop me off at the Airport on Tuesday. I may park my van here while I am in Germany which is great.
I also have a cup of coffee and chat with David and Bev Jones who like me are staying with the Pages every dry season. I brought them a CD with all the photos I took last year of building the Page's new house and we have a look at these on Bev's computer. I very much like their new caravan and would not mind having one like this myself. Very spacious and comfortable inside with lots of storage space.

The farm has improved so much over the wet with thick grass now established everywhere. Andrew has grouted all the tiles in the new house and a final coat of paint is being applied to the outside, every body helping out.
Back in Darwin my host Paul and I have dinner at the Tracy Village Club, but make sure we are back in time for the weekly Doc Martin episode on ABC TV. This is the last one I am going to see for a while.

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Sunday April 13, 2008 (concept, awareness, genes, memes)

Awareness 15 continues from April 11
Sports car in Altenahr Before I go on first another metaphor for the nature of genes.
Think about the development of the car, from the early Vintage models to the present day high tech computerised models. Development has been gradual and progressive over the past, what ? 100 years or so. But not every new model was a total make over, far from it.
Perhaps one year a new ignition system was developed, the next model the braking system was improved. After that perhaps a new type of carburetor was invented and installed. In other words the evolution of the car took place by means of numerous small steps through the improvements and inventions of the various individual components. In hind sight you might say : "Geeh, that particular carburetor was a successful one. It was used for over 40 years without a single modification."

This is exactly how the evolution of DNA takes place. Individual genes (small DNA segments) may last over numerous generations provided they continue to be useful and as long as there is no better alternative gene to replace it. Note that in above metaphor a gene is comparable with the design of say a carburetor, it is not the actual carburetor itself.   Also a gene (like a carburetor design) has no foresight. Only in retrospect after numerous generations can we say : "That gene has been very persistent and useful".

However it helps to think as if genes do have foresight, as this makes it easier to understand their evolutionary development trends. Dawkins uses this approach throughout his book ("The Selfish Gene"), including its very title. A gene is not selfish, only when seen in hindsight its effect makes it seem to be so. So I will do the same here.

Now on with the real issue I want to discuss today.
Up until about 500 years ago (or perhaps until even more recent than that) the life expectancy of a human being was around 40 years. Now look at my Diagram of the four Phases of Life I presented the other day.
Isn't that interesting !!   The 40 year life span covers exactly the first two Phases of Life, the Growth Phase and the Reproductive Phase.
This is of course exactly where the " self interest" of genes lies. It is important for them that a human body growth to its full physical maturity, so that it then can reproduce and by doing so ensures the continued propagation of the genes. Phases of Life

What happens after that is of little interest to the gene pool and the human body sure feels the effect of that. Its strength starts to decline, female fertility soon stops altogether. The man cans still do his bit, be it at a somewhat more modest pace, for who knows he may mate up with a younger female again. But further down the track it is (at least physically) all down hill in every way.
Over the past few hundred years however things have changed dramatically. As a result of much improved lifestyles for every body, plus better nutrition, effective countermeasures against various plagues and illnesses and an overall improved health system, the human life expectancy has steadily increased, and has now for developed countries reached into the 80s, about double the length of what it was originally.
This has opened up a incredible window of opportunity for further human development. This time this development is not focused on the body, but instead on the mind, allowing us to live through two additional Life Phases, the Creative Phase and the Reflective Phase.

Genes appear to "have no quarrel with that". In fact to the contrary, they seem to actively support this long life development, as the present evolution process of the human species is highly focused on further development of the brain, which (according to modern biologists) is proceeding at well above average evolution pace !

This leads me to the following conclusion, as illustrated by the Diagram below.
For the first two phases of our life we largely follow the "selfish" instructions of our genes (the initial replicator). We grow up, we marry and we raise children. The genes are happy and we are now allowed to do "our own thing" during the next two phases of our life.
Phases of Life, genes and memes

The time has therefore arrived to focus on the effect of the second replicator, the memes. We absorb and perhaps extend or modify existing memes (ideas, thoughts, art works, etc.) and we produce new ones. We discover who we are, express ourselves in creative ways and reflect on the world and Universe around us and how we fit in.

I sense in the writing of some authors an "us and them" attitude. "They" are the "replicators with all the control", "we" are the obedient survival vehicles (Dawkins' "survival machines"). This was perhaps initially very true indeed.
But the whole direction of evolution, especially of the human species, is moving into the direction of a fully co-operative approach between genes, memes and us their carriers and nurturing hosts. After all, why this strong trend towards better brains ? Surely it is aiming to allow us more control over the direction of modern evolution trends into the future.

Finally, how do I, as a professed atheist see my role in this scenario ?
I, like you, and like everybody else, am the effect of a unique genes combination. I am like a one only hand made unique piece of art, never to be repeated or copied again. But each successive generation my genes contribution will half. So after just a few generations there will be little of it left.
The memes I create on the other hand have the potential to live on for a long time. Especially with the modern technology, like Internet, CDs etc., much of what I try to contribute to the world has the possibility to last. If it proves to be good enough, and I am quite confident it is, it may survive for quite a long time. That is more than enough for me to live and to hope for.

Awareness continues on April 14

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Monday April 14, 2008 (diary, concept, awareness, evolution)

With Jeroen and Lisa Last nigh I went out with Jeroen and Lisa for a quiet dinner. We went to the Darwin Airport Resort. The place is nicely appointed. Unfortunately the food was not up to that standard, overpriced and rather mediocre. Service too was terrible. One has to try these things out, some work out some don't. But we did have a very pleasant evening anyway, and finished off the night with a couple of single malts (scotch, NO ice) on Jeroen and Lisa's lovely balcony at home.
By far the best food to be had in Darwin are from the family run stalls either in Casuarina, the Galleria in town, Stokes Hill Wharf, or from any of the weekly markets. Some of the Clubs (Ski Club, Darwin Sailing Club, Tracy Village) have good food for reasonable prices too. However most resort hotels and other pretentious up market food outlets are rather poor I have found over the years.

Awareness 16 continues from April 13
We are all very familiar with the early growth stages of a new born baby. I have forgotten the exact sequence of events, but the main stages include :

  1. crawling around on all fours
  2. trying to get up and after some practice walk the first few steps
  3. grasping a spoon and managing to use it for eating
  4. learning the first few words
  5. gradually widening the circle of awareness

Now, did it ever occur to you that these small milestones are exactly the same as the progressive development stages of the early human species ?

  1. our earliest "ancestors" lived in the trees and walked around on all fours
  2. they then descended to the ground and started to walk upright on two legs
  3. they started to pick up and grasp an implement like a stick, perhaps using it to dig food from the earth
  4. they gradually communicated with one another through more complex patterns of speech
  5. and they widened their awareness ever farther beyond their immediate sphere of interest

In other words, the familiar and natural progress of a new born baby (representing the Growth Phase on the Diagram below) mimics the early development of our species, but within a millions of times reduced time span, like a very fast speed up film.
So I ask myself, if our Growth Phase of life imitates the early development of our species, can we turn the comparison the other way around ? Can the rest of the Diagram, covering the life of an individual, be used to predict further evolution of the human species ? I find this a most intriguing and attractive idea.
Let us assume that this is true, then where, as human species, are we now in our development ?
Phases of Life, genes and memes

I firmly believe that the human species is right now somewhere in the middle of the second Life Phase, the Reproductive Phase. We live in a hugely materialistic world, literally everything is judged and decided by the "bottom line". On a small scale too, we are still very selfish, greedy and money is the main consideration of almost all decisions we make. In other words we are still very much under the control of the "selfish" gene.
True we are trying to improve, help our fellow man, the underdeveloped countries, the suppressed. But it is only in its very early stages. We have moved forward these past 500 years or so, but still have a long way to go.

What is required to move forward in our development towards the two Meme Phases (on above Diagram), away from selfishness and to direct our lives and actions on the basis altruism, goodness and help towards our fellow man ?   I believe two essential and most important steps are :

  1. Firstly the greater spread of education and improvement of living standards.   Most in the underdeveloped world are still illiterate and live in appalling conditions. No improvement of their understanding and awareness is possible without that.

  2. Secondly it is necessary to leave behind us the old religions which are based on concepts and indoctrinations derived from our ignorant past. This too is holding us back from positive development.
Only when these two goals are being accomplished (I believe) are we firmly on a path of positive evolution and enlightenment. How long will this take ? My guess is anywhere between 500 to 1,000 years. If we manage that without self destruction and within such time frame we have done well as a species.

I have hurried these last few Awareness sections through to have them out off the way before my travel. More thoughts on these will no doubt follow in due course. My entries from now on may appear at somewhat irregular intervals with two or more days uploaded at the same time, depending on where I am during my travels.
Awareness continues on April 28

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Tuesday April 15, 2008 (diary, travel)

With Angelika and Margie on flight to Singapore I get up early to do my packing, then say goodbye to my host Paul and drive to the Mango farm. Everybody there is hard at work, painting the outside of the house and cleaning tiles inside.
In time Andrew drives me to the Airport. Once on board with Jetstar to Singapore I have a chance to practise my German with two German ladies (Angelica and Margie, both sing in a choir) returning home after 8 weeks in Australia. The food and beverages are free on the flight and we have several drinks together.

After landing at Singapore Airport Terminal 1 I am first directed to the Lufthansa Transit desk in Terminal 2. All I need to do there is show my baggage ticket and they will pick it up for me. It is a hell of a long walk to Terminal 2 as I can't spot the Skyrail to it (my mistake). Once there they tell me they can't pick up my suitcase as they have no agreement with Jetstar to do so. A real pain in the neck,

  1. for I have to go all the way back to Terminal 1 (this time by Skyrail thanks goodness)
  2. go through Customs
  3. pick up my bag
  4. back to check in point at Terminal 2
  5. check in with Lufthansa
  6. then back through Customs again
  7. and at long last into the Airport
  8. where I find the Silver Kris Lounge for 1st Class and Business Class travelers.
The moral of the story is that Singapore Airport is not user friendly to transit travelers from Budget Airlines. I will never do that again!!

After a few hours rest in one of the two Silver Kris Lounges I quickly recover my strength with a few Tiger Lager beers and even a Cinzano Rosso. There are about 30 computers with online access in this lounge alone and I pick up my emails.
Eventually we board the Lufthansa Jumbo jet. 1st Class passengers are accommodated on the Upper deck, while Business travelers are below, right in front of the plane. I am accommodated on the first row right in the nose of the plane. I am most surprised by the number of Business Class travelers on the plane, I estimate at least 80, maybe even 100.

The cabin staff are older than the usual young ladies, two guys in fact and one middle aged lady. They do what is required, but not an single thing more. Not very impressive. The food is fine, the drinks are OK, but the service does definitely not stack up in my book. In the middle of the night we get into some turbulence and are advised to fasten our seat belts. The Captain also directs the Cabin crew to check all passengers for this, but his command, I observe, is totally ignored!

Trying to sleep My seat appears comfortable, but needs to be operated by 8 separate buttons, which require a Uni degree for operating them properly. In the end I get the chair into a fully stretched narrow bed, slightly inclined downward but with hard sides which are painful during the night.
My neighbour complains that these are the most uncomfortable Business Class seats he has ever travelled in (he does not manage to operate the buttons correctly - and there is no staff in site to help him!!). The flight is good however and takes only 12 hours to Frankfurt.
All in all my money was well spend on Business Class. The special lounges on the Airports with free food, drinks, computers, clean toilets and showers are great too, but next time I will fly with another Airline for sure.

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