Posts Tagged ‘Heroism’

Oh The Places You’ll Go

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

I really enjoy this book. Those beautiful, surreal landscapes have really stuck with me.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.


You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…
for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike.
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Princess Mononoke – The World of the Dead

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

April 11th, 2010

A long time ago…

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

March 14th, 2010
I was a much bigger Star Wars fan before the continuity collapsed under its own weight, but I still get chills from the scene of Luke Skywalker looking out over the desert at the twin sunset. I gathered a few Star Wars soundtracks over the years, partly hoping for this song; little surprise I finally get it from YouTube.
I love to look backwards in time and think of how a younger me would react, if I told him all the things he was going to do, and how much he’s going to change. (Of course I wouldn’t actually try that, knowing that I apparently failed to do it.) I like the same thing on a larger scale: going back in time and having our society explain things to the society of several hundred years ago. Like Tony Robbins has said, we tend to overestimate what we can do in a year but underestimate what we can do in a decade. Steady change compounded over time can have a huge effect, as all readers are assuredly aware. I had a lot of generally unreasonable shorter term expectations and plans that didn’t pan out, but the total change since a few years ago would make my head spin. Looking back I seem childish, petty, and much less capable. Hopefully I can say the same thing a few years from now.
Dropping into fiction for a moment, what does Luke expect as he stands there in that sunset, gazing out at those suns? On some nowhere little planet, working on some remote moisture farm, how much could he anticipate everything to follow? Who would he meet, what friends would he make, what would they teach him? What strange situations will he encounter, what distant worlds would he find himself on? What adventures would he be a part of? What kind of impact would he make? What tragedies would he face and what triumphs would he accomplish? How would he grow, who would he become, and what would he become capable of? This little world in which he’s lived all his years, how long will it persist, and years down the line, how normal will that sort of life still seem to him? But he can’t know any of that, and he’s got to go back inside and clean droids.
So how about us?

Might as well throw this in too:
LUKE: I can’t get involved! I’ve got work to do! It’s not that I like
the Empire. I hate it! But there’s nothing I can do about it right
now. It’s such a long way from here.

BEN: You must do what you feel is right, of course.


Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

February 21st, 2010
A lot of people probably know DragonForce, among other things they’re featured with the hardest song on a Guitar Hero game. Wikipedia say’s they’re power metal, though a lot of people like them and don’t seem to like other power metal, myself included. The best way I can describe them is as ridiculously over-the-top, which is intentional and tongue-in-cheek on their part. Most of their songs are fairly similar, and tend to use a limited vocabulary focused on sword, warrior, storm, soul, stand, pain, ride, dragon, etc. Personally this just means it doesn’t really matter which song I listen to,  and I can expect the same enjoyable experience.
My experiences first hearing DragonForce followed successive stages. First I thought they were just ridiculous and out of touch, though I admired their guitar skill. Then I thought they were really funny. I still think they’re funny and ridiculous, but after going through those stages they became incredibely fantastic. I have a tentative hypothesis that enjoying them intensely becomes much more likely after first laughing at them. Perhaps simultaneously laughing about the music is signalling that one doesn’t take this that seriously, and allows one to enjoy more comfortably. I have an old fondness for fantasy and related imagery, so that might contribute as well.
I’m posting about them now as I remembered how extremely motivating they can be. I find them especially helpful when facing difficulties; comparing my own personal difficulties to their ridiculous lyrics both makes me smile and lends an invigorating, epic air to my struggles. Admittedly few people are actually working right now to prevent the extinction of humanity, and chipping in on that effort is fairly epic on it’s own. I refer more to laughing and becoming enthused when listening to them and thinking of my small, day-to-day challenges.
Give them a try and see what you think. Some very well known pieces are “Fury of the Storm” and “Through the Fire and the Flames”. In their main vein, “Black Winter Night” and “Operation Ground and Pound” are some I was just listening to, and something slightly different. My personal favorites though are the two quieter pieces I have, partially just because they stand out. I’ll include ”Dawn Over a New World” here, the other is “Starfire”.

Human Step

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

December 5th, 2009

If we pull this off, it’s really going to be a great story.
(I’m referring to the challenge of surviving to – and building – a positive future)

Aubrey de Gray, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and Peter Thiel on Changing the World

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

November 3rd, 2009
While I’m confident that most of my readership also follows Michael Anissimov’s Accelerating Future blog, his posted video of a panel from the Singularity 2009 conference is so relevant to the topics of Normal Human Heroes that it would be criminal not to include it here. Really great discussion from some of the de facto leaders of the most critical and under appreciated fields.

Changing the World Panel — Singularity Summit 2009 — Peter Thiel, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Aubrey de Grey from Singularity Institute on Vimeo.

Thinking of starting a band?

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

October 7th, 2009
For Humanity’s sake, this may be the time!

From Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure:
Rufus: Well you can start by signing this for my kids.
(Holds out a CD of Wyld Stallyns music.)
Ted: Why?
Rufus: They’re big fans of yours.
Ted: What?
Rufus: Everyone is. Wyld Stallyns music is the foundation for our whole society.
Bill & Ted: No way.
Rufus: Yes way. In fact, I believe you were there. The futuristic place with the domes?
Bill: And the totally excellent music.
Ted: They totally worshipped us there, Rufus.
Rufus: I know. That’s why I was sent to make sure you passed your History report. If you guys were separated it would have been disastrous for life as we know it. You see, eventually your music will help put an end to war and poverty. It will align the planets and bring them into universal harmony. Allowing meaningful contact with all forms of life. From extra terrestrials to common household pets. And, it’s excellent for dancing.
(If you’d like to hear the full song and are into that sort of thing [I am], you can find it here. Great if you need some cheering-up from contemplating existential risk all day.)


Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

September 17th, 2009
Riding the bus this morning we were stopped at one corner for a bit, and there was a woman there waiting for another line. She was dressed very simply in a work uniform, with her hair back, and a 2 or 3 year old son in her arms. He was looking about, squinting and seeming a little irritated with the sunlight. She seemed in that quiet early-morning mood, and though she gave off a strong impression of intelligence and maturity I got the feeling the child was unplanned, perhaps had when she was still a teenager. I’d also guess she was single, and I started to think about life and outcomes we may never have wished for but that we come to live with. Then, as he was looking with confusion at the bus or something else, she came out of her reverie and with great warmth and easy affection, kissed him on the cheek.

Normal Human Heroes

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

August 11th, 2009 (See the About page above for more information on the underlying ideas of this blog.)
If there is anything to the majority of transhumanist claims, we are at an exceptionally interesting point in history. As technological progress accelerates, radical changes in the fabric of human life seem possible within our lifetimes. Negligible senescence, full immersion virtual reality, better minds and bodies, and neuroengineered gradients of bliss all might be possible. So might the death of the nearly 7 billion people on Earth, technological domination of a world totalitarianism, and futures in which humankind is alive but exists as something we would never have rationally chosen to become. Whether our future resembles utopia, a planetary graveyard or prison, or something in between depends on our actions as a society.  Despite how bizarre it sounds to say it, it may be that all of our lives, the human race, the world, and perhaps even the galaxy are at stake. This sounds like a comic book job for Superman.
And yet not surprisingly, Superman is nowhere to be found. Calls for Batman and Spiderman have likewise turned up nothing but some movies and books. For better or worse, we live in a world without Jedis. Even futures posthumans rely on us to enable their existence, and we cannot expect cyborgs Major Kusanagi and Batou to solve our problems; JC Denton is likewise out. There is no Neo.
All we are left with is us. We don’t have superhuman fighting skills and research departments on call to invent slick gadgets. We are neither mystical wizards nor beings from another dimension, we haven’t fallen into nuclear reactors and gained godlike powers, and getting angry doesn’t give us golden hair and a thousand times our usual strength. Sadly, artistic license doesn’t allow us to get shot 20 times and straggle home. And despite desires to the contrary, we don’t yet have the technology to enable perfect memories, orders-of-magnitude faster thought, or 30 minute sprints on single gulps of air.
What we do have are foibles, eccentricities, and fixations. We have imperfections and disabilities, irrational modes of thought and poor calibration. We’re dragged down by fear and self-doubt and insecurities. We’re given to rash and ineffective violence, and to thinking in tribalistic, us-versus-them mindsets. We shake and we cry and we bleed, we get sick and we get disparaged and we get depressed. We don’t even know if we can make any difference.
And yet I think there is reason for hope that we can. History is full of examples of “ordinary humans” rising to face challenges that seemed beyond them. Abraham Lincoln once said “We are now on the brink of destruction. It appears to me that even the Almighty is against us. I can hardly see a ray of hope.” Yet his efforts were ultimately successful. And regardless of what the future may hold we are still the most powerful and intelligent creatures on this planet, and are likely to remain so for several years. Unless you believe in a god, there is no entity more able to step forward. If you could choose only one being to apply itself to these issues, it would be a human being.
Even now we can improve ourselves to become people better equipped for navigating our future. We can notice and account for our weaknesses when going forward, even as we work to reduce them. We can become more rational and better calibrated. We can manage our fears, keep our doubts well matched to reality, and face our insecurities. We can hold ourselves back from intuitive but damaging violent action, and force ourselves to remain open to new ideas, even those we most dislike, in order to best know reality and the course we ought to take. We can realize that our enemies are human error and human hatred, not human beings. And we can cultivate and maintain healthy bodies and minds, to keep us around and at our most effective.
Our actions that we take now, today and in the coming years, may determine whether humanity is a funny little short-lived oddity or the seed of a humane and joyous starfaring civilization. All that has gone before and all that will come after may rest on our shoulders. Of course it’s true it might not, maybe we’re even ”fated” to destruction or paradise, and then maybe we should just say to hell with the chance to save 6.7 billion lives, to help bring about lifetimes of potentially thousands of years and better lives for all humankind and other creatures. A person is free to throw up their hands at the task and concentrate on having the most fun they can now. But there’s some chance that what you do will matter, even if just by allowing a few more lives access to a “posthuman utopia”. And if we ever get to such a pleasant place, which life would you be more proud to have lead?
Please, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t leave the future up to unfeeling trends and social phenomena. Allow yourself to be the very best you can be, allow yourself to be great. And yes, save the world.

Comic by Ryan Armand. Click the picture for his comic, it’s pretty cool. Thanks to uionioph for filling me in on the author.