Sunday, May 5, 2019

Optics of “Truth” – From Constantine to Einstein to FINRA


One hundred years ago this month, a group of astronomers commenced their observational engineering in Sobral, Brazil to prepare for the Total Eclipse of the Sun of May 29, 1919.  Sir F.W. Dyson, FRS, Professor A.S. Eddington, FRS, and Mr. C. Davidson were intent on measuring the “Deflection of Light by the Sun’s Gravitational Field” in an effort to confirm Professor Einstein’s 1911 General Principle of Equivalence which would alter Newton’s “Law” of gravitation.  Enlisting astronomers, scholars, politicians, and clergy from three countries, their results, published in November of 1919, solidified the public’s canonization of Einstein and his world view.

Sixteen hundred ninety-four years ago on May 20, Emperor Constantine convened the ecumenical Council of Nicaea to resolve the official story of what would become “Christianity”.  In a gathering of astronomers, scholars, politicians, and clergy from three countries, he sought to quash deviant narratives that would call into question any version of “truth” other than his approved version.  Among the Council’s task was to resolve the three hundred-year-old questions of which version of accounts of the teachings of Jesus and the commentary of Apostles (notably Paul who ironically had no knowledge of Jesus or his teachings from experience) would be accepted and which were heresy.

Between May 20 and May 29, 2019 I’m engaging in an effort to shed light on an equally occult collection dogmatic beliefs – money.  And as I’m wont to do, I like to learn from successful propaganda campaigns throughout time to see how perspective is codified as “truth”.

I’m fortunate to have been born in a family that included an astronomer (my father) and a linguist (my mother).  While I can claim no expertise approximating either of their life-long learnings, my osmosis exposure to their worlds fueled my inquisition of the two seminal May events listed above.  Without the former, we would not have our current scientific framework and without the latter, we’d have one less reason to separate ourselves from each other based on cosmological and metaphysical dogma.  Ironically, both involved the quadrangulation of men of astronomical, political, scholarly, and ecclesiastical persuasion.

While I won’t do justice to the meticulous records of both events (which I commend to your reading), I found interesting resonance in these two events.
  • 1.      A priori Singular Assumption Supremacy:  In the solar eclipse experiment, scientists postulated that during a total eclipse of the sun, the visible light from stars near the sun would deviate in its path in a manner that would be perceptibly different from the same light from the same stars without the solar mass influencing its passage.  By observing the photographic plates of the exact same stars without the eclipsed sun and those same stars during the eclipse, deviation of light in the X-Y coordinates “should” be quantifiable.  In the Council’s case, the assumption was that hand-scribed copies of texts over a three-hundred-year period across at least three language translations would contain an inerrant consistency.  The gathered scholars would be able, when assembled, to confirm truth by comparing all variations and settling on the negotiated deviation which would constitute the “authentic”.  In both cases affording one variable the capacity to arbitrate all other considered and unconsidered postulates, extrapolated consequence hung on a single argument.
  • 2.      Dismissal of Dissent:  Considerable treatment is given to the optics of the telescopes and lenses used in the solar experiment.  From the nature of mirrors to the precision of lenses to the photographic plates, going into the observation, the scientists knew that their instruments would produce error.  The Oxford and Principe observations demonstrated inconsistencies in the lead up to the eclipse.  Further, while care was taken to consider meteorological conditions, variations for atmospheric differences in the upper atmosphere were unconsidered.  Never mind, the assumption was that, on the day, the standard deviation of the reference would be treated as static and serve as the basis for comparison of true deviation.  Similarly at Nicaea, the known error was the notion of a unitarian divinity (the notion that the Father and Son are co-equal in all respects).  The Arian Controversy had caused a power dispute between Alexandria and Constantinople and (I know this is going to come as a surprise) the Roman emperor wanted his perspective to prevail.  So the triune nature of the godhead became the lens through which everything was filtered.  Oh, and if you didn’t agree, no worries, your perspective was considered…. Oh, no, you were banished and labeled heretic, excommunicated or subject to the sword.
  • 3.      Selectively Objective:  Going into the solar observation, 13 candidate stars were selected for their photographic magnitude (the sufficiency of light to expose to plates) and their proximity to the sun.  Great lengths were taken to explain the rationale for only 7 (61%) being used to confirm the study findings.  While the records of the Council of Nicaea are a bit clouded on the point, it appears that about 78% of the candidate “books of the Bible” (which were not officially concluded in the “canon” until the Council of Rome in 382) were considered as definitive while the remaining set that didn’t substantiate the a priori doctrine were excluded.  In short, in both cases, only that light which confirmed the hypothesis was considered.  All of the rest was rejected.
  • 4.      Infallibility of Consequence:  When the findings of the light experiment were published in November of 1919, the consequence was the effective elevation of Einstein to detriment of Newton.  When the Council of Nicaea arrived at the outcome that was pre-ordained by its convening monarch, Rome and Constantinople were elevated and the Arians were excommunicated.

It was with great interest that I performed a few calculations on the Principe 4” lens plates – the ones that “proved” Einstein’s theory.  One would consider that, if the gravitational effect of the sun was to deflect light, that deflection would be equally altered by: 1) proximity of the sun to the starlight; and, 2) the x-y coordinate shift observed in both right ascension (“longitude”) and declination (“latitude”).  Unfortunately, the calculated deflection (based on Einstein’s theory) and the observed deflection don’t meet either of these presumptions.  The correlation between solar distance and the observed change in right ascension is 0.4 while the effect in declination is 0.36.  In other words, even in the instances of the selected objective, the “effect” wasn’t the reported effect.  Similarly, when one considers only the over 5,000 Greek, 10,000 Latin, and over 9,000 other texts of the canon from 382 until Erasmus’ work in the early 16th century including parchments, fragments, and other copies reproduced by scribes who may or may not have had any experience with the images of the letters they were copying, the textual agreement is somewhere around 40% as well.  This statistic is derived from a simple compound error calculation between literal translation precision, penmanship and reproductive accuracy, to say nothing for the disputed content between the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus which were resolved based on dogma – not literal archaeological evidence.  Ironically “error” exceeds “consistency” in each of these examples.  While the masses are told of “truth” and “laws”, it is heresy to review the inherent error in the “ground truth.”

So whether, on this Sunday, you venerate a divine composite of mysteries, metaphors, myths, and messiahs or whether you are so “enlightened” as to venerate mathematics, mechanics, metrics, and measurable, our collective paradox is that the assumptions upon which both stand are exactly that – assumptions.

For the last four weeks, I’ve been in communications with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) about what is and is not authorized in communications regarding some of our commercial business.  For those unfamiliar with FINRA, their job is to insure that investors receive fair and complete information upon which to make decisions.  FINRA has copious rules upon which they opine to attempt to certify compliance.  However, FINRA never has had to deal with a business like ours.  We have done a number of novel things – quantifying the effect of intangible assets (things that are not recorded on corporate balance sheets) for banks, businesses, governments and investors.  And it turns out that while we have measured many things with a precision not afforded by any other metric, FINRA only has room in its world for things that “fit” their template.  In their effort to achieve “compliance”, they have mandated that we alter or eliminate historical material to make our presence less disruptive.  That’s right, FINRA has explicitly sought to manipulate full, complete, and accurate information rather than adjusting their optics to account for something that challenges the consensus hypothesis.  What’s worse, with a recently completed business partnership with another not-for-profit government recognized organization, we’ve been advised that we may not be able to report the nature and substance of a reality that the whole world will be able to see on a daily basis and associate it to investors’ decision-making information.

In short, FINRA’s actions – like those of Constantine, Erasmus, James I, Eddington, Dyson and Davidson – evidence the operating definition of “truth”.  They define it simply as that which confirms catechisms held by controlling consensus.  If it preserves ideology and the hierarchy dependent on manipulating the masses, it’s “true”.  If it challenges this status quo and disrupts occult power and influence, it’s heresy.

So what can we learn from the 4 Propaganda Pillars?  Well, the answer is simple.  Start by questioning ALL assumptions.  Is it likely that a deity would insist on the penmanship of scribes across three languages and two millennia to convey an oral wisdom and lived experience?  Is it likely that an geocentric observation which takes into account none of the earth’s magnetic, meteorologic, or other effects to say nothing of the unknown kinetics in multiple dimensions that may describe light emitters both near and far forms a universal “law”?  Is it likely that a government agency under the thumb of financial interests will want independent data that competes with incumbent interests represented as true, fair, and balanced?  Of course not.  Second, encourage dissent.  Welcome those who innocently inquire together with those in vehement opposition.  Encourage each party to come to the table with their own insights and welcome discord that remains unresolved yet respectful.  Third, acknowledge subjectivity.  In the case of our business, we explicitly publish our methodology and approach.  We’re not saying it’s “right”.  We’re simply stating our perspective.  And in our case, we’re applying that perspective to information that is public but is unused by financial institutions and regulators.  So we’re even telling people where and how to look at something that is not commonly seen.  And finally, engage with arrogant humility.  What I mean by this is simple.  What we do represents decades of research and scholarship.  The perspective we have is based on ample consideration.  Therefore, the views we share with the world are correctly OUR VIEW.  That DOESN’T MAKE IT RIGHT!  It just makes it us.

Who knows?  With an approach that doesn’t require swords, cruelty, division, and harm, maybe we can form a more profitable union!


Monday, December 31, 2018

Of Great Hunters and the Game

Eighteen years ago today, I was sitting at a much larger computer terminal on New Year’s Eve frantically corresponding with a Managing Director at Banc of America Securities in Palo Alto, California.  Three hours behind me, it mattered little to him that the first New Years of the new millennium would be spent with me negotiating a credit agreement to provide capital to my company to cover the bank’s own reneging on its capital and business commitment weeks earlier.  After all, my midnight would pass and he’d still have three hours before the champagne corks would be launched.  And on that night, I made a promise.  For as long as I ran M·CAM, my last act on the last day of each year would be to write an homage of gratitude to those who, in the preceding year, had made my year wonderful.  I think of this the Incarnation of Gratitude Litany.

As if to test my resolve, my morning this morning included an invitation to be lured back to the table of re-trading against myself and my values.  The difference between now and 18 years ago is a simple one.  It came in my understanding of a moral riddle given to me in the Golden Pagoda (Kinkaku-ji) in Kyoto long ago. 

Impassioned to convey sage wisdom into my life, an aged monk grabbed onto my coat and motioned for me to sit beside him.

“Turn the bamboo for your omikuji,” he said handing me a large bamboo section with a small hole drilled in one side.

I rolled the bamboo and, after a few seconds, turned it to one side allowing a strand of wood to slip out of the hole.  On the strip was a series of kanji characters.  Handing it to the monk, I watched as he took it and melted into an expression of sheer amazement.

“Ah, this omikuji hasn’t been drawn before.  It is very special,” he said as he shuffled over to a wall of tiny cubby holes each containing a miniature scroll.  “We’ve heard about this scroll but I’ve never seen it.  You must listen very carefully as what I have to tell you is very important.”

I sat as he relayed the following story.

A great hunter always provided food for his village.  When he would enter the forest, he would find deer, rabbits or birds, shoot them with his arrows or catch them in his snares and bring them back to the village so that all were provisioned.   In the forest, there was a line.  Before that line, hunting big game was appropriate as it could be carried back to the village without any concern of exhaustion.  Beyond the line, the hunter should only pursue small game as dragging a deer back would require too much effort and, as such, neither he nor the village would benefit.  He and his village thrived.  Then one day, he went into the forest to hunt.  Deep in the forest, he had seen nothing.  No tracks in the snow; no hide, hair, or feather.  And then, standing on the line of demarcation he saw them: a deer and a rabbit.

“You know what to do,” the monk exclaimed.  “You’re the great hunter.”

“What’s the punchline?” I inquired.  “How does this end?”

“Right,” he replied, “You know!”

2018 taught me that I misunderstood hunting as a pursuit.  The reason for my struggle with the omikuji was up until this year, I thought that the hunter had the next move.  His wit, his cunning, his aim, his strength.  But what I learned in 2018 was that the deer and the rabbit were not prey.  They were not provision.  They were seduction into the reflexive illusion of “choice”.  Was the hunter going to be trapped into expending every last bit of energy to haul the deer back?  Was the hunter going to start collecting rabbits and birds for their portability?  Was the hunter going to be wise enough to invite either the deer or the rabbit (and any other woodland creature, for that matter) to follow him back to the village?  Was the hunter wise enough to turn away from the hunt and teach the village to become self-sufficient?  Was the hunter thoughtful enough to realize that he wasn’t provisioning but rather enabling dependency?

So, in keeping with my year end tradition, I honor and celebrate my dear friends Bob Kendall and Amanda Gore who stood with me once more as steadfast, intrepid allies in my mission.  I honor Cody Lloyd for giving me a father’s joy on January 15 of this year when he sent me a letter I will cherish for the rest of my life in which he informed me of his abiding love and passion for my daughter Katie.  I honor my son Zachary for his embrace of living that involved joining the team at M·CAM.  I honor Nicolas Wales for his relentless pace climbing actual and metaphoric hills and inspiring the same in me.  I honor Dex Wheeler, Pam Cole and Dylan Korelich who struggled mightily across the year to help the entire team at M·CAM thrive and achieve unimaginable successes.  I honor community that has formed around the Breathing Enterprise’s Gatherings and the persistent value of family that they have manifest in my life.  I honor my beautiful wife Kim for her persistent, generative passion.  But in this end of 2018, I will, for the first time honor one more person.  Someone who has never featured in any of my gratitude posts over nearly 20 years.  As the sun sets on 2018, I honor my resolute passion to be the very best of humanity!  I honor my unflagging generosity and loyalty.  In short, I honor me.  I’m grateful to finally sit, puzzle solved, and watch the deer and the rabbit make THEIR next move.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

And Then?

I wrote the following 33 years ago...fitting for a day of collapsing confidence in the markets...

The sun rose.  Rising ever so slowly yet rising nonetheless.  As it made its ascent into the vast blue expanse overhead, shadows of dawn were transformed into fully illuminated objects of the day.  All was very quiet, as silent as undersea chasms into which the light of dawn never penetrates.  Nothing moved. All was perfectly tranquil.

Projecting from the rubble below, a network of iron beams - twisted, mangled, and rusted, reached upward as a tree stretches its gnarled limbs from a fissure in the bedrock.  Fragments of glass flashed in the fresh new light.  On the ground, a mixture of steel, glass, plaster, concrete, and asphalt combined to form a landscape never observed before.

The sun rose higher.  The higher it climbed, the warmer the air became.  Still nothing moved.

A bridge support stood in the desolation, land that once bustled with activity.  The bridge, both a functional superstructure and a monument to a concept that those who created the structure  never totally understood, was annihilated, reduced to mere powder.

The sun continued its ascent.

Towering above the bleakness stood geometrically symmetric metal skeletons; wires draped from them like wild grapevines dangling from bare trees in the dead of winter.  Once laden with surges of power, giving vibrancy to their designers, now they hung - powerless - in this realm of desolation.

The sun reached its zenith, thoroughly permeating the silent surroundings.

Partially submerged, yet still conspicuously there, was an enormous metal formation in the shape of a pointed ellipse.  Lying on the floor of an inlet, this colossus was sheltered from all the dangers of the open sea. Chains bound it to proportionately minute supports on land - the chains still insuring against any unwanted movement.  Atop this immense construction, two long narrow tubes pointed menacingly at the sky - daring anything to intrude into this silent, seemingly forbidden territory.  

The sun began its descent.

A spire rose upward, splitting the air.  Upon the pinnacle stood a simple, strikingly prominent figure - an upright bar intersected by a horizontal bar - a cross.  This figure cast an endless shadow across the desolation.  Once this had been a solid firm construction - now fleeting.

The sun sank lower in the sky.

A causeway was clearly delineated on the ground.  This, combined with many other such causeways, converged at one point.  At this point stood a stone.  Along the road stood forsaken buildings once bustling with international commerce; houses empty shells, silent as the stones from and trees from which they were constructed; vehicles, once transporting their owners from one place to another in a seemingly endless cycle.

The sun set casting an orange red hue on the giant stone at the roads' convergence. Upon this stone, a simple inscription read:

"To Whom It May Concern, We Were"


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Happy Twentieth Birthday M·CAM


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the incorporation of M·CAM – the world’s first and only intangible asset qualitative and quantitative underwriter and trader.  At its inception earlier in 1998, the concept of rendering the “intangible” tangible through the marriage of big data and qualitative market algorithms was revolutionary.  Formed the same year that Google was launched, M·CAM’s steady progress towards reforming the manner in which markets measure intangible effects has spanned the globe and left an indelible mark on the capital markets.  Two years ago, M·CAM’s success was memorialized with the launch of the CNBC IQ100 powered by M·CAM – the world’s leading equity index.

There’s no question that our success is due, in large part, to the amazing contribution of the 103 community members who have been part of our company for a time across two decades.  We’ve provided investment returns for many active investors throughout our operation.  And we’ve impacted global markets and government regulators with unprecedented contributions to advancing transparency and accountability.

But on today’s momentous anniversary, there are a few unlikely individuals and organizations that I wish to acknowledge for their contribution to our long march to this moment.

M·CAM’s first credible external investor – Ned Goldstein – transformed our start-up into an enterprise that attracted national attention.  Ms. Fengming Lu opened the State Council of China to us as China was commencing its accession into the World Trade Organization.  And Dr. Pieter Fourie made South Africa our first commercial endeavor at a time when the nascent technology markets were merely whispers in Africa.

M·CAM’s first remarkable public recognition came from Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology and Terry Woodworth who awarded us the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first Innovation Grant for a fintech company in January 1999.  This award put a spotlight on our work at a time when financial engineering was largely relegated to academic institutions.

As he was leaving his post as President Clinton’s Comptroller of Currency for the United States, Eugene Ludwig took time to open up many doors to regulators and government agencies which ultimately included the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), the FDIC, and other important relationships upon which M·CAM built a reputation of incomparable collaboration and success.

SwissRe’s William Hoffman was the first commercial partner to take a reputational and business risk in our early days.  His long days and nights in Zurich led to our first appearance in the Wall Street Journal announcing our partnership in 2000.  Together with the team at Banc of America Securities, SwissRe put M·CAM on the global stage in September 2000.

Bank of New York’s investment research program, coordinated by John Meserve introduced investors to M·CAM’s market research through its Jaywalk and ConvergEx platforms.  In a world where sell-side research was a dime-a-dozen, the Jaywalk team went out on a limb to promote the importance of our work.

Congressman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) put the power of the United States Congress behind our efforts with the U.S. Commerce Department, the United States Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service.

Professor Anil Gupta and the team at the Indian Institute for Management – Ahmedabad and the SRISTI and HoneyBee networks proliferated our Global Innovation Commons work around the world.

Theresa Arek and Alise Stunnenberg took my involvement with the World Bank and brought it to a world of communities that gave rise to the Heritable Innovation Trust and our engagement in landowner rights across the globe.

Alistair Nolan – policy analyst at the OECD – and Carol Corrado – senior advisor at The Conference Board – brought the weight of their academic research to our analytic services offerings.  Together with Tony Clayton – chief economist at the UK Patent Office – and Alan Marco – chief economist at the U.S. Patent Office, the merger of industry and academic expertise drawing on M·CAM’s methodology further solidified our gold-standard collaboration credentials.

Nick Drake, Dan Goldstein, and Jimmy Smith – during their common tenure at TBWA\Chiat\Day did their best to make us cool – nice try guys!

And then there’s the trinity of extraordinary gentlemen – Mr. Joe O’Shea, Mr. Chet Nagle, and Mr. Bob Kendall – who added their wisdom to our navigating the most arduous of challenges and who, when all horizons appeared to be shrouded in impenetrable fogs – kept watch with me and offered the encouragement that kept a steady hand on the helm. 

If you’re reading this post, odds are that you’re also one of the amazing lights that have marked the path to this moment.  For each and every contribution to our collective success, I’m deeply grateful.  And as we consider the coming months and years, my commitment remains to honor all those who stood with me!  As with any success, it is not merely the hand that steers the ship but it’s the conspiracy of hands, winds and waves that makes the journey an epic voyage.  I honor each of you.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Living a Lie


I’m sure you’re with me in the persistence of your rapt fascination with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) measurement of gravitational waves measured in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington and the 1.5-billion-year-old black hole collision from which they originated.  Even more so, I’m sure you sleep better at night knowing that nature (yes, that same thing that allegedly created a cataclysmic shock wave 1.5 billion years ago) obeys the theory proposed by Einstein on general relativity.  Thank heavens.  After all, how disappointed would we all be if we found out that our myopic projection onto nature didn’t follow “our rules”?  Thankfully, the Nobel Committee awarded med/tals to three researchers – Barry Barish, Kip Thorne, and Rainier Weiss – which in the medal’s own atomic composition were the product of the theoretical genesis of the very gold from which their medal was struck!  Au79 – aka gold – is supposedly born of stellar events incapable of being replicated at scale on Earth.  I’m sure you chuckled with the irony that the medal was from metal derived of a cosmic event resulting in the precipitation of gold that was derived from an equally improbable theoretical framework of cosmic proportions to the discovery for which the medal was awarded.

In the months following the measurement of the first gravitational wave, there’s been a plethora of confirmatory measurements.  Imagine that!  We go 1.5 billion years without a ripple and then, boom, waves are popping out all over like acne on a 13-year-old version of my face!  And as we take this step closer to answering the existential question of why matter exists and how it came into being – something that I know keeps me up at night – we’re a few billion dollars and a few years away from confirming Fritz Zwicky’s 1933 postulation of “dark matter” that makes up most of… well, pretty much everything.  And if you’re like me, you can’t wait until 2022 when we finally power up the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile when we get to learn when to set our Mayan calendars for the “Big Rip” which is when the universe is torn asunder by the accelerating pace of the expansion of the universe and all its “dark matter”.

I had the privilege of reading Julius Pretterebner’s The Unifed Theory – Electricity, Magnetism, Gravity, and Mechanics which seeks to unravel the hidden structure of Maxwell’s equations in pursuit of a rational Unified Theory.  I had an interest in this as I’m continuing to entertain myself with the “consciousness” and “discernment” evidenced in playing with magnets and iron filings.  Weaving a tapestry of Newton, Lorenz, Kepler, Faraday, Helmholz, and others, Julius takes us on the journey from geometry to kinetics in a flurry of formulae worthy of Jackson Pollack unleashed with a paint bucket and a blank canvas at the MoMA.  What I find fascinating in the blinding Greek characters is the persistence of separation – distance, time, vacuum, and direction all in the quest to find what makes it all stick together.

Over the years, I’ve encountered people seeking to end relationships, rationalize grief, or justify callous neglect who utter the fatalist epitaph, “I must have been living a lie.”  This refrain of the hard-done-by is the unconsidered product of an illusion projected onto reality lubricated generously by therapists who prey on the wallets of those who seek solace and justification to assuage pain receptors symptomatically triggered by an absence of personal culpability and accountability.  Understanding “WHY” is attempted to be resolved: by becoming remote from the supposed ‘cause’ (distance); after a situation has become irreconcilably destroyed (time); in complete absence of personal responsibility or self-awareness (vacuum); and, with a notion of finitude that must be reified to support a socially sympathetic narrative (direction).  Like colliding black holes, neutron stars, and dark matter, our capacity to apprehend in hindsight the copious and persistent neglect we had for the present addicts us to telling the “WHY” story using variables that science conveniently offers us as “laws” and “unified theories”.

A simple journey through Wikipedia will be helpful for those who don’t read the footnotes of chemistry, physics, and mathematics journals.  Matter, is made up of electromagnetically charged particles.  For convenience, we’ll stick to the generally accepted atomic model of protons, neutrons, and electrons.  The guts of matter (the nuclear core of atoms) is made up of things that don’t seem to totally compute.  Allegedly neutrons beget protons and around this nuclear core, negatively charged electrons orbit in various energy states.  Based on the number of spinning electrons, multiple atoms can bind to form molecules, molecules organize to beget stuff and, presto! We’ve got stuff!  Neutrons are born of stellar formation and destruction.  Our theoretical models have a ticklish problem in that neutrons are supposed to decay pretty quickly – in the matter of a few minutes.  Now hit pause on that thought for a quick reality check.

I’m writing this blog post from 38,000ft above the Pacific Ocean in an aircraft made of aluminum.  How is it, precisely, that neutrons from deep space keep ‘showing up’ in aluminum form to keep this plane in the air?  And how is it that the carbon, phosphate, sodium, potassium, and chlorine which currently allow my fingers to keep typing on my keyboard keep persisting in their form when the average neutron hangs around for less than 15 minutes?  Am I sitting less than 15 minutes away from a supernova, a black hole, or a neutron emitting energy source?  If I was, wouldn’t I be incinerated?

Julius points out the uncomfortable math problem that Kepler eluded to and Newton calculated when they described the Earth’s elliptical orbit of the Sun.  ‘Separate points in space’ don’t exist as physically isolated actors.  While we want to make everything fit into lines-between-points models, that very model is broken in its opening assumption.  Everything is in motion and unlike our mathematical simplistic assumptions is not seeking ‘normal distributions’ or ‘homeostatic balance’.  When one passes a magnet over iron filings, some of the iron filings respond and some don’t.  Pass the same or a different magnet over the ‘unresponsive’ filings and their response changes.  How is it that when presented with a field, some particles respond and some don’t?  How is it that the exact same experimental conditions applied exactly the same way a second time leads to a different response?  Is the iron filing that doesn’t jump in the first instance “living a lie” as some alternative nonferrous substance or is it the case that the field in which its experience the present moment simply not eliciting a response as presented?

One of the most romanticized separation illusions is the inadequately characterized notion relationship loss.  In a recent conversation I had about the concept of grief I suggested that the emotional notion of grief could benefit from re-examination.  In the conversation, I recounted the over 30 years I’ve lived with excruciating pain in my legs following a tremendous accident and multiple ensuing reconstructive surgeries.  Reflexively, I have been bombarded with three decades of the question, Why?  Why do you have to suffer pain every day?  And I join the millions who are sympathetically patronized with Why.  Why did he get cancer?  Why did my child die?  Why did my marriage end?  Why was I abused?  Why, why, why?  And what I’ve come to recognize is that WHY is merely the pretext for symptomatic relief – not for fruitful living!  Oh, you poor dear, you’re in pain… I’ve got an opioid for that.  Oh, you poor dear, you neglected your relationship… I’ve got a therapist who can help you blame someone.  Oh, you poor dear, your loved one died… you can disengage living your life in homage to…WHAT!!!???  Like our billion dollar quest to find out the WHY of the Universe, we play out in miniature the same madness in our own social orbits.  Substance abuse, surrogacy and dependency on prostituted empathy, escape and isolation, reclusiveness all mark the profitable trail of a Unified Theory of disunity.

“What would happen,” I inquired, “if we reconstituted GRIEF into a Gratitude Reminder In Emotional Form?”  Rather than seeing the distance, time, vacuum, and directional illusions that we project, what if we used the dark energy of emotion to animate in impulse of gratitude?

Life spoiler alert!  Around 2033 when we read the news out of Chile that at long last we’ve seen and measured ‘dark energy’ and we confirm that in a few more billion years it’s going to complete the Big Bang cycle by rending our universe asunder, we will have learned nothing.  As long as we chase a non-present projection of an illusory construct on each of our todays so as to render them somehow defective in favor of an ideal condition which we couldn’t imagine given our space-time limited fantasies, we’ll continue in missing what’s in front of us in the moment.

Which brings me to the point.  WHAT’S THE POINT OF LIFE?

Well, thanks for asking.  I’m pretty sure the answer is, there is none.  If by life you mean judging the present as inadequate; obsessing about a linear future as something to which one aspires; a rejection of present relationships for your enculturated definition of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’; and, a determination that through passive aggressive isolation or outright cruelty a judgement will be rendered on the wrongdoer, well then, it’s pointless.

But if we golf clap for the Nobel Prize committee and then go about emancipating ourselves from the illusion of separation, we can:

Realize that one person’s pain is a sensation to heighten our own experience of and gratitude for what is whole and properly functioning;

Realize that one person’s ‘loss’ is an invitation for deepening cherished connections and reinvigorating the social, material, and energetic networks that sustain us;

Recognize that in our unfiltered expression of insights and wisdom, we’re merely resolving for ourselves and others resonant chords which can remind and stimulate wisdom in others; and,

Celebrate that each moment is entangled with all other moments in all other dimensions and thoughtfully engage our field effect in our awareness so as to bend and accommodate the field effects in the experience of others in positive manners.

In short, while my life and your life may have no purpose in isolation, our purposeful living appears to  shape the field of reality and, in so doing makes an indelible mark in the ever present NOW.  No stories; no justifications; no excuses – No Lies.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Who Do You Say That I Am?


Take a moment and try to remember your first conversation using words.  No, really pause and see if you can recall your very first conversation.  And by that, I mean when you knew that you were using language, logic, and your capacity to formulate organized thought with another person.  How long ago was that conversation?  Where did it happen?  Who was around when it happened? 

I think my first memory of a conversation was on March 7, 1970.  I was standing in the Mexican desert in the State of Oaxaca near the town of Mitla.  It was sometime between 11:38am CST and 11:41am CST.  I know that I was proudly proclaiming to anyone who was within earshot something to the effect of “my daddy has a telescope”.  I was about 4 years old.  The day before, I had a staring contest with a cactus that was about my size.  During that week, I had climbed the 75 meters up the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan.  It was during totality of a solar eclipse.  And some mix of all these exceptional experiences fuses in my mind the capacity to recall the artifact of a conversation with remarkable precision.  I remember that there were around 5 people to whom I addressed my comments.  I remember that one of them was a little Mexican girl about my age who was wearing a yellow and orange dress.  I remember a man who was crouched down looking at the pin hole shadow of the eclipse on a board laid out on the ground.  This memory is 48 years old.

Most scholars would suggest that the first record of the recollected (not witnessed) words of Jesus were written somewhere around 57AD.  The appearance of the story of Jesus’ conversation with his disciples recounted in Matthew 16:13-20 was probably originally written around 80-90AD.  Suggesting that anyone could “quote” a recollected conversation received through hearsay across 5 decades is beyond implausible.  Consider your own fallibility in the exercise above.  If you haven’t considered it, redo the exercise and see how memorable YOUR OWN MEMORIES are.  But let’s set that aside for a moment.  That’s not the point.  In Matthew, after a host of acts regarded as unexplained phenomenon by their witnesses, Jesus asks his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  In the story, this question arises in exasperation from his observation that people were trying to figure out who he was after he had fed 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread and 4,000 with 7 loaves of bread.  I’ve yet to hear anyone talk about the appetite of the 4,000 which required so much more bread!  And worse than that, his own disciples were thinking that they were in trouble for not packing a lunch on their boat trip.  For those of you who didn’t grow up with the eschatological obsessions that characterized my childhood, I’ll connect some dots.

According to the Gospels, Jesus spent his life living and explaining values that were an “ideal”.  He didn’t apply titles to his person or his actions.  He simply lived and tried to explain the philosophy behind the “how”.  It was his observers who insisted on titles.  “Messiah”, “Prophet”, “Healer”: all attributes suitable in a moment in the context of what had just transpired but none of them descriptors of his full essence.  And this irritated everybody – especially those in his closest circles.  “It’s hard to explain what you do,” one can imagine them protesting after their last conversation about the guy they were hanging out with.  Was he a carpenter?  Fisherman?  Seafarer?  Water-walker?  Vintner?  Sommelier?  Physician?  Prophet?  Friend?  Revolutionary?  Iconoclast?

The Second Commandment in the 10 Commandments is the prohibition of idols or graven images.  Language generally – and our obsession with classifier nouns specifically – represents the most insidious idolatry of our time.  A label on a person, a group, a movement, an institution and suddenly nuance is replaced with reflexive duality.  Our capacity to see metaphoric coherence in pluralistic expression diminishes with each passing “cause” or “outrage”.  With definition comes dissonance.  Few comedies have matched the comedy of idolatry itself.  Around 726, Emperor Leo III decreed that all images and icons should be removed from churches with all veneration of the same outlawed 4 years later.  Fifty years later (and with the lobbying of those who found veneration quite a profitable venture), the Second Council of Nicaea (or the Seventh Ecumenical Council) reinstated icons and veneration.  Somewhat ironically, Constantine V – who had outlawed veneration of images – had a carve out sanctioning the preservation of images of the emperor!  Funny how that pissed off the folks the Byzantine and Roman churches who saw themselves demoted in favor of the emperor who monopolized the iconography of the day.  On October 13, 787, the council specifically authorized the, “manufacture of sacred vessels, tapestries, vestments to be exhibited on the walls of churches, in homes, and in all conspicuous places, by the roadside and everywhere, to be revered by all who might see them.”  The business of propaganda justified the rejection of Second Commandment.  Oh, and in 1536, John Calvin found himself siding with Leo III and re-banned images in favor of, you guessed it, words.  And this father of the Protestant movement had the decency of burning at the stake those who would challenge his words.

What is it about nouns that leads to murderous obsession, flagrant inhumanity, ostracization, and all manner of destruction of the human family?  I find it amusing that the text in Matthew shares an eerie resemblance to another biblical text – Genesis 2:19.  “Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”  In our common myth, the FIRST thing we do on earth is name stuff!  Seriously?  To be human is to exert dominion by classification?  And when an ideal human is doing some amazing things showing humanity what is possible (against the carnage of the Roman occupation of Palestine), his followers insist on “naming” him at least as the story is told?  Seriously?  Isn’t it funny that the only term Jesus reportedly used to describe himself is “I am”?  That’s right, whether you think of him as divine, deific, inspirational or delusional, the only title embraced by him is the evidence of his being and doing.  Is a giraffe more “giraffe” or “tall spotted, furry, gangly quadruped leaf eater that looks pretty damn funny bending over to take a drink”?

Over the past 45 years, I’ve been plagued by well-meaning people who want to know “what” I am.  Countless branding experts have been brought in or offered their services to package me so that others can “get it”.  “When I look at your company’s website, I don’t “get it”,” I hear with monotonous regularity.  “Do you run and non-profit?”, I’m asked by those who see the work I’ve done in conflict-torn and marginalized communities.  “So you’re an investor,” conclude those who see the work I do in the capital markets.  “Are you a quant?” inquire people mystified by the fact that I developed the world’s leading large cap equity index.  “So you are a doctor?” concluded a group of people who recently saw me attend to the injured and one fatality that died in my hands at a car accident.  “So you’re a futurist,” concluded a friend who saw a video from 2006 in which I detailed the precise cause and consequence of the 2008 global financial crisis.  Speaker, futurist, doctor, polymath, healer, joker, idiot.  One recent commentator on my criticism of the hype around Tesla raged, “Who does this guy think he is?” before suggesting that I should be silenced with a gun.

What’s wrong with, “I am”?

I had an interesting experience in Indiana in the late 80s.  There was a high school athlete who was an exceptional quarterback setting records for yardage and touchdowns with nearly 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in his senior year.  His success attracted the attention of a prominent university where he received a football scholarship.  As the football season was coming to a close, his success as a point guard in basketball pulled him between the snowy fields and the steamy gyms.  And with the playoffs in basketball bleeding into the baseball season, his role as star pitcher called his attention again.  Oh, and he was homecoming king, popular… and resented.  He was too good at too many things.  “You have to focus,” the university coached yelled at him after telling him not to play baseball for a State Championship team.  I watched as this great kid “focused”.  At university, he set records for career touchdowns, all-time total offense and slipped away from basketball and baseball.  In 1993 he was drafted to the NFL where he set the rookie record for attempts, completions and yards.  In each subsequent year, his performance diminished.  Seven years and 4 teams later, this all-around athlete retired.

Did he “need” to focus?  Did he have to “choose”?  Or was it us who couldn’t wrap our head around someone that was just skilled at everything he touched?  Was Rick a great quarterback?  Sure.  But wasn’t there something more?  Wasn’t it the case that he was a master of greatness?  He knew the value of persistence, valued excellence over mediocrity, embraced discipline and effort over entitlement.  And did we all lose the real impact of his genius by a world that made him conform to what we could productize?

History tells us that Joseph was a spoiled brat.  He was a favorite son and rocked some cool threads.  This pissed off his brothers who beat him, stripped him of his coat and sold him as a slave to Potiphar – a jailor in Egypt.  He worked hard, looked amazing and gained the favor and attention of his master (and unfortunately, his master’s wife).  After refusing her advances, she unleashed the venom of sexual harassment and Joseph wound up in prison on death row.  His ability to interpret dreams put him on pharaoh’s radar and he became the originator of history’s first recorded commodity exchange and reserve bank and in so doing, saved the Egyptian population – and his duplicitous family – from 7 years of famine.  What was he?  A brat?  A fashion icon?  A slave?  A general manager?  A fortune teller?  A politician?  A commodities trader?  A Central Banker?  A Governor?  No.  He was.  That’s it.  He just brought his excellent stewardship to each situation and, combined with his integrity and power of analytic discipline, put in motion the culture that once received a young woman on a donkey, a Palestinian carpenter, and their son when they were refugees from a Roman occupation near Bethlehem.  There’s no Jesus without Joseph.  And there’s no Joseph without all the “I ams” that came before them!

In the Ramayana, after proving his devotion to Rama in the epic battles and against the humiliation of the military generals, Hanuman is asked by Lord Rama, “How do you look upon me?”  Hanuman’s triangulated answer is instructive.

“From the perspective of my physical body, I am your faithful servant.

From the perspective of the soul, I am a spark within your eternal Light.

From the perspective of pure truth, you and I, my Lord, are one in the same.”

For those of you who are familiar with the ordinates of Integral Accounting, you will undoubtedly see in this answer the polarities of Alchemy, Eidos, and Gnosis.  From the perspective of matter and energy (commodity), my value is service.  From the standpoint of perception (custom & culture) my shared experience is propagation of light (technology).  And from the knowledge of truth, I have identity with everything in the universe (well-being).

So, who am I?  Well, here’s the paradox:  from which perspective are you asking the question?  Because the answer is that I understand matter and energy and align it to productive service.  I see things in the multi-dimensional contexts and create reproducible ways for others to engage and benefit from these perspectives.  And, thanks to the countless wisdoms to which I’ve been exposed, I finally know that I am.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Addicted to Death...Purdue Pharma and Oxycontin

Purdue Pharmaceuticals has been in the middle of a firestorm of controversy regarding its role in the epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States.  As is often the case, once a case of death-inducing corporate profiteering rises high enough on the public radar, everyone from John Oliver to Stephen Colbert to headline grabbing U.S. Attorneys jump on the bandwagon decrying the evils of the Sackler family.  And let’s face it: Mortimer Sackler and his off-spring knew that they were selling a drug that would lead to addictions.  And recently, they have been awarded a 20 year monopoly on the treatment of the very addictions from which they profited.

In their December 22, 1997 patent filing (U.S. Patent 6,277,384 filed by Robert F. Kaiko and Robert D. Colucci – both of Connecticut - with the assistance of Davidson, Davidson & Kappel LLC based in New York City), they acknowledge the engineering of compounds that are engineered to optimize analgesic effects in human patients that are classifed as “physically dependent addicts“. Navigating through the thorny addiction minefield of all opioids, they stated that “preferably, the amount of naltrexone included in the oral doage form is less positively reinforcing (e.g., less “liked“) to a non-physically dependent opioid addict than a comparable oral dosage form without the antagonist included“.  By 2001, knowledge of opioid abuse and dosage tampering led Purdue’s researchers (working for Euro-Celtique SA – a Luxembourg company) to invent “bittering agents“ to make drug abuse less palatable (U.S. Patent 7,141,250).

Several of Purdue’s early opioid patents were set to expire at the end of 2018.  But courtesy of the United States Patent & Trademark Office and the United States Food & Drug Administration accommodations and complicity in protecting Purdue’s monopoly on death, subtle modifications to the formulation with no substantive new invention have extended the company’s proprietary position until the mid-2020s.  Oxycontin®’s march of death will continue to enrich Purdue years after their addiction engineering plans should have expired.

Purdue’s recently granted patent holds an ominous calculus.  In U.S. Patent 9,907,793, they confidently assert that the public trade-off between abuse and benefit justifies the use of the drugs.  “Especially the physical dependence of patients suffering from pain to opioid analgesics leads to the development of tolerance, meaning that upon extended intake, increasingly higher doses of the pain relieving agent have to be taken by the patient, in order to experience pain relief. The euphoregenic effect of opioid analgesics often leads to the abuse of pain relievers. Drug abuse and psychological dependence are a common phenomenon, especially among teenagers. These dangerous effects are especially caused by the substances with strong analgesic capacity, and can range from undesired habituation to fully developed addiction. However, these substances are legitimately used for medical purposes and medicine cannot do without them.”(emphasis added)

And, a little trip down memory lane – if we can be lucid enough to take that journey – would suggest that the inevitability of opioid use and its associated addiction just comes with the territory.  Since Portuguese sailors started mixing opium and tobacco in the 16th century leading to the economic rise (and fall) of a fair few empires to Frederich Sertuerner’s definition of opium’s active ingredient in 1803, countless mercantile forces have preyed on the addictive properties of opioids.  Merck & Co began its commercial manufacturing of morphine in the 1820s and Britain’s Dr. Alexander Wood started shooting it up in 1843.  At the turn of the most recent millennium, reportedly over 89 million prescriptions were written in the U.S.  And, not surprisingly, Shire Pharmaceutical’s U.S. Patent 7,375,082 notes that “as prescription numbers rise, the number of emergency room visits and deaths from overdose increase correspondingly.”  This was written in 2002!  Get with the program Colbert and Oliver!  The profiteering on this death has been around a lot longer than the satire that now seeks to profit on the evils of the profiteers!

For nearly two decades, medicine has seen over 500 patents issued to address minimizing or preventing opioid addiction and abuse.  But as Dr. Lynn Webster published in Pain Medicine (Vol 10:Supp2, July 2009), “none of these formulations are currently commercially available.”  Ironically, the publication of her paper was brought to you by…, you guessed it… a pharmaceutical company!

Let’s be clear.  Purdue has published in its patent filings its knowledge of addiction and abuse risk for nearly two decades.  With Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Oregon, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota and Florida joining the rush to prosecute Purdue Pharma, several parties may be worth considering as “co-conspirators”.  The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has approved patents that clearly set forth evidence of knowledge of drug abuse.  The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (charged with safe-guarding the public) has supported monopolistic distribution of a harmful substance.  What precisely makes their complicity less odious than that of a bishop covering up sex abuse in the church?  Why is it that we’re allowing agencies of the U.S. government a pass for letting this epidemic get out of control when they’ve directly supported the very company responsible for selling a harmful substance?

Oh, maybe because we like to pretend that we disapprove of the death and carnage associated with drug abuse but our state health care programs, tax authorities, and “health care” companies are enriched by the suffering of millions.

We are not serious about the pain and suffering caused by opioids any more now than we were when we saw our modern political and economic systems hatched in opium dens.  If any of the states or litigating parties want to get to the root of the problem, they’re ignoring the evidence that is publicly available from two U.S. government agencies that have been complicit in making the abuse possible.