Sunday, March 30, 2014

Venom, Vultures, and Rancid Ribs


Had you commuted to work with me each morning this past week, you would have shared the time-lapse experience of watching as vultures reduced a 60kg deer carcass from an anatomical intact road fatality on Sunday to a dancing, disarticulated fragment of ribs by Friday morning.  Courtesy of evolution of microorganisms inside the digestive tract of the American black vulture, Sunday’s bloody abattoir was no more delicacy than Friday’s final rancid ribs.  Given the progression of the week, I was invited to contemplate this theater of consumption and reflect on the meaning I’d find in its presentation. 

My son Zachary is studying herpetology at Christopher Newport University.  During an excursion through the woods behind our house last summer, we discussed the poorly understood evolution of snake digestion.  “Why is it,” I asked, “that certain snakes consume their food alive – albeit envenomed – while others constrict their prey and consume their food dead?”  Having been trained in physiology, I reasoned that there must be some enzymatic explanation for venomous snakes preferring their protein still fresh and oxygenated while constrictors are content to have hypoxic tissue in their diet.  I was disappointed to find that while the nearly 300 species of venomous snakes have been studied with respect to the composition of their neurotoxins and hemotoxins, far less research has differentiated the question I posited while tromping through the forest.  And as I read the few scholarly publications regarding the polyphyletic organisms within the phylogenic superfamily Colubroidea, I was intrigued to find that the same hyaluronidase that melts the wall of the oocyte allowing the sperm fertilize the egg in mammalian reproduction is uniformly found in both neuro and hemotoxic venom.  It turns out that the genesis of mammalian life and agency of reptilian predation share a common goal – dissolving walls that divide and disintegrating barriers to essential, life-giving proteins.

So it is with quite some sobriety that I found myself contemplating the nature of consumption in the guts of snakes and vultures and reflecting on the persistence of both of these animals in cultural iconography over the millennia.  Did our ancestors know more about what was knowable about life, death and their interplay than we do today?  Is that why they pointed us to snakes and vultures in art, religion, poetry, and myth?  Maybe.  Or maybe I’m just juxtaposing unrelated observations to make a point. 

Vultures rely on bacteria within their digestive tract to counteract bacterially produced toxins from Bacillus anthracis and Clostridium botulinum – anthrax and botulism, respectively.  And while we focus on the “how do they eat rancid meat and not get sick like us?” question, we fail to observe that, like snakes, their digestion has been adapted over the arc of evolution to consume with specificity that which is in abundance within their habitat.  The bacterial load with the vulture’s gut and the toxicity of the venom produced say by the Crotalus scutulatus (the venomous pit viper found in the desert Southwestern US) far exceed the amount required for the beneficial toxicity.  In other words, the animal is far more effective in the production of protective proteins to achieve the venomous objective than would be required.  And the reason for this, to say the least, is not understood at present.

But, for a moment, let’s go back to my favorite sentence thus far – the one that ends the second paragraph.  The goal of all of these evolutionary adaptations is to both serve a metabolic mandate for the animal and serve an ecosystem balancing role in the elimination of carrion and prey respectively.  Informative within this reflection is that the consumer has engaged in adaptation to achieve the singular benefit desirable for its engagement within the ecosystem rather than seeking to manipulate the ecosystem to favor its objectives.  And this, ironically, applies both to snake venom, vulture guts, and mammalian reproduction.  Permeability for provisioning life – the enzymatic mandate of hyaluronidases – is not general in its application but rather it is highly focal and specific.  If one were to simply spray these enzymes across the ecosystem, we’d be reduced, quite literally, into a gooey ooze. 

It appears, upon closer inspection, that we could learn a lot from a serpent.  It may be no small coincidence that we’ve developed elaborate social, religious and cultural metaphors to steer clear of what they can teach us.  “Unclean birds” and “serpents” – examples of autogenic consumer adaptation – are relegated to the ick-factor while gluttonous grazing beasts are revered.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think there are a lot of cows and camels that could teach us a lot about life but I’m particularly fascinated by the consumer evolutionary intelligence of vultures and snakes. 

What would our consumer industrial complex look like if we took on some responsibility to modify ourselves to be more suitable consumers in our ecosystem?  Much of what we seek to describe in economic terms are inefficiencies we project upon our ecosystem so that it conforms to our desires.  Much of our associated conflicts arise from the dissonance we impose on a world we want to manifest in our illusory image.  But, in this impulse lies the seed of persistent conflict.  We – now I’m speaking about the whole of humanity – are no more identical in our aspirational consumption than are the 300 different species of venomous snakes.  Some of us like the crunchiness of a paralyzed mouse while others of us prefer the sedate, lifeless piglet.  And the reasons why our preferences differ is, in part, because of the enzymes in our digestion which make one form palatable over another.  With over 2,700 varieties of snakes – only 300 of which adapted to envenomate prey – and with hundreds of Falconiformes – only a subset which feed on carrion – do we really think that we can find a single enzyme of consumption that is common to all of us?  Not a prayer!

So where does this leave us?  Great question.  What I know is that this parable of consumption was my obsession this week.  I do know that it’s serving as another lens through which I’m observing economic systems.  And I know that, at present, this is merely the carcass of the idea which, when fully digested, will look quite a bit different.  Chew wisely!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar at the Federal Reserve


This week’s decision by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the U.S. Federal Reserve to formally ditch an unemployment target as a central mandate for determining interest rates is, in no small way, a metric unto itself.  In the most delusional of days, I could erroneously conclude that enough of the Committee have been reading my blog and countless other rational commentators that they realized the fallacy in a metric that fails to measure what it purports.  For those of you who didn’t read the FOMC Statement this week, Janet Yellen’s nurturing leadership debut was marked with a recognition that the Fed’s “highly accommodative stance” cannot be justified by any empirical economic mandate – like employment or price stability.  What she and the Committee did not state is that the rationalization for her cheap money mandate is justified if its real beneficiaries – monetary trade wars with the rest of the exporting world and massive wealth transfers for those who already have excess – are to continue their wanton recklessness.  What I find refreshing is that the masquerade of public good is being expunged from the FOMC’s illusory raison d’etre and, for the first time in recent memory, we can see that ‘accommodative’ is a shareholder interest alone.

We’re now entering the post-empirical divination phase of the Fed where “readings on financial developments” become the new bedrock for policy.  The new alchemy includes ‘measures’, ‘indicators’, and ‘readings’ – an irrational subjectivity so offensive to a few as to lead one member of the Committee – Narayan Kocherlakota, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis – to complain that such euphemism “weakens the credibility of the Committee’s commitment…” and could “hinder economic activity.” 

I remember my 10th grade train-wreck with reality when my geometry teacher father taught me an important lesson in intersubjective solipsistic dissonance.  He offered to his students the following proposition: Come up with an original and unpublished proof of the Pythagorean Theorem and you get an “A” for the class.  “You can even bring in a pillow and sleep through class,” he promoted at the beginning of the academic year.   Long before Su and Velian published their “spherical proof” (17 years ahead, but who is counting?), I developed a proof using spherical geometry and way more steps than otherwise necessary.  Proudly I dropped my opus on his desk and even more proudly he confirmed that his son had, in fact, achieved the challenge.  What followed, however, was a harsh reality.  The offer of an “A” for the class had an undisclosed exception: “Not if the author of the proof is the son of the teacher.”  And so, for the rest of the year, I had to stay awake, study for exams, and eke out my “A” with the same toil as my fellow students.  My father taught me the important lesson that motivation is productive even if the objective is capriciously subjective.

Now where does a spherical proof of A2 + B2 = C2 and the FOMC Statement merge on this chilly Spring morning just past the flirting ellipse of the precessing equinox?  My answer lies in the more fundamental recognition that confronts the FOMC and us all.  And for my answer I’ll plumb the depths of another timeless geometrical puzzle – the puzzle of Pi.  In 1999 University of Tokyo Professor Yasumasa Kanada and his assistant Daisuke Takahasi performed in 83.5 hours a world record calculation of Pi – you know the one: 3.1415…. – resolved to 206.1 billion digits.  This undertaking smashed the previous record of 50 billion digits and confirmed what the Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, Germans, and others have known for a long time – the circumferential relationship a circle has with its diameter is obsessive and transcendental.  According to Dr. James Grime and others, to understand the geometry of the known universe, we only need to know Pi to 39 digits to “compute the circumference of the entire universe to the accuracy of less than the diameter of a hydrogen atom.”  Like the calculations of my good buddy Pythagoras, descriptive formulae are helpful until considered at the assumptive scale at which point they become audacious and ludicrous.  While we think we know that A2 + B2 = C2 and that ∏ = C/d, we don’t know what they mean and we don’t really have a clue why we can’t find the end of these circular and triadic mysteries. 

When it comes to the FOMC, what we know is that what the Fed was established to do and its public cover-story justification have never been in coherence.  Now, before you cast aspersions on the Fed, a note of caution.  The Fed actually performs the banking purpose for which it was established and, in service to its member institutions, it’s done remarkably well.  Former Chairman Bernanke was quite eloquent in reminding members of Congress – particularly the Tea Party activists – that if they didn’t like what the Fed was doing, they were perfectly within their rights to change its mandate (a challenge that no Congressman or woman was willing to do when they found out who they’d have to contend with if they took on the challenge).  The problem comes when the belief of the function is met with the reality of the dissonance between actuality and projected aspiration.  Justification is no more causal than it is accountable.  Just because you think something ‘should’ do something doesn’t mean that it ‘agrees’ or is even complicit in your shared sense of reality.  Therefore, metrics used to justify an illusion – regardless of their prima facie merits – neither hold an individual nor enterprise to motivation nor account.  Just because something is observable and alleged to be measured doesn’t mean that the observational assumptions or the rules for the metrics are shared. 

Janet and the FOMC get an “A” for an emerging honesty from me this meeting for unmasking what other Fed Chairs have been unwilling to admit.  They’re not in this for the U.S. economy – they’re in it for their shareholders’ interests.  This, for all you cynics out there, is progress.  Now we have an opportunity to have a more enlivened conversation about our misappropriated belief (and blame) on an actor in a system that, while justified using idealist goals, never was organized to serve them.  I’m no more motivated to jump on a Fed-bashing bandwagon than try to resolve Pi another few billion decimals.  And no amount of motivation will seduce me into finding another way to “prove” a theorem constructed to explain an interesting, obvious reality.  No, I found this week’s FOMC a breath of fresh air.  We now admit that metrics are what they’ve always been – an attempt to encode a dogma to manipulate others – and, as a result, one more blow has been struck to the feet of iron alloyed clay!  And with that metaphor, hopefully one or two of you can revel in the tapestry that is my allegory.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Skewed Up in the Real World


Life happens.  Most of the time, the sun rises, we go about what we’re doing, we start some things, finish a few less and randomly bump into unforeseen moments and then, the sun sets.  If you’re reading this blog, there’s a high probability that you’ve got some form of shelter, you’re connected to communication with the outside world, you probably had a few meals in the past few days and, with few exceptions, you’re living in relative peace and tranquility.  Furthermore, there’s a better than even chance that for the majority of your life, this has been your experience.  Infrequently, you’ve been in a car accident, have been evicted from your home, lost your employment, mourned the loss of a dear friend, tasted violence, seen your efforts come to naught, and contracted a fatal disease.

For many of us – dare I say most of the readers of this post – life has been disproportionately good.  In statistical terms, most of us live in a distribution of events and conditions which are like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”  Which is why I find myself so profoundly puzzled by the proclivities I see for people to anticipate “risk”, “crisis” or “loss” when it comes to their financial future.  Most paradoxical is the prevalence of this scarcity-laden fear among those who espouse a commitment to be part of a societal transformation that recognizes a more complete view of value and a more holistic view of engagement with the ecosystem.

Now let’s examine a recent case example of this issue.  I was at a dinner with a wonderful group of friends.  Sitting around the table were individuals working in the fields of finance, aesthetics, education, and public policy.  If you were to ask each of them for an accounting of the past year, you would find an overwhelming majority of them reporting a near perfect record of calamity-free days.  Sure, disappointments here and there but in the fat mean experience, the distribution of good days would be far in excess of the distribution of bad days.  However, ask the same group what would happen, say, if an equity market, banking sector, or business failure would be imminent and these same beneficiaries of excessive abundance immediately project a world in which words like “survival” and “not making it” and “devastating” show up.  Ask the same individuals to describe their experiences in communities around the world with far “less” wealth (defined in their paradigms) and invariably, they’d comment on how inexplicably “happy” “those people are”. 

Now I’ve discussed the illogic of the empirical and statistical schizophrenia of observing the reproducible tacit experience of life and choosing to energize a disproportionate obsession with crisis scenarios in the implicit illusion of devastating models of the future.  While continental Europe gave us the notion of risk being the loss of value in the face of possible success, life demonstrates persistent sustenance in the face of rare and infrequent loss.  In other words, it’s more likely that we’ll have something for which we should be grateful than have something to fear – yet, when looking into the shroud of a scenario-laden future, fear seems to prevail.  Our prophetic skewness is disproportionately negative in a world that is disproportionately positive.  And this is among those who have the most external evidence of abundance.

Now if this were the end of my post, you’d be left with a bit of a thud of the obvious.  But it’s not.  For my entire life, I’ve seen a world that few, if any others can envision.  Not only have I seen possibilities – like mistaking a cactus in the desert for a moose when I was a little boy (because I saw its ears) – but I’ve created enterprises around the world that have actually transformed impossibilities into reality.  I know that the madness of crowds is usually incorrect and, rather than railing against it, I’ve chosen to build vistas from which observation can evidence a reality that is masked by the madness.  I know that life is mostly good and I know that, with a bit of coaxing, even the not-so-good can be made better.  Sometimes, a lot better because it’s been so overlooked and underutilized.  No, what really puzzles me is why those who state a desire to transform or change are most frequently the ones who appeal to objections based on scarcity, risk, and fear (the sinister trinity of incapacity).  “If you take on that company, they could kill you.”  “If you choose to walk away from that project that would compromise your values, your business could go bankrupt.”  “If you engage with the powerful, they’ll corrupt you.”  All warnings that I’ve received from socially enlightened people while never encountering them in actuality and engagement with the parties I’ve been told to fear.

Shellfish exposure, according to the research of Canadians Howse, Gautrin, et al, and others, can lead to considerable allergic reactions in which a person with no previous symptoms can suddenly have anaphylaxis.  You’re going along merrily processing shrimp or crabs and then, suddenly, one day, your chest tightens, you can’t breathe and you think you’re going to die.  Like shellfish allergies, encountering people who insist on planning for adversity in the face of abundant near-certainty, can lead to a cumulative exposure allergy in which a person like me has had one too many of the “what if” scenarios pitched and the chest tightening, constricted breathing gets a bit too much.  Unlike the irreversible shellfish allergy, the scenario-skewness allergy (or SSA, as I like to call it) is entirely reversible.  When you hear dire predictions of grave uncertainties, you can simply walk away, go about your day, and at day’s end, celebrate another wonderful day of mediocre abundance… for which you can be eternally grateful. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Extra Super High Priority


I had the privilege of addressing a diverse group of individuals over the past week.  In Gold Coast Australia, my friend and colleague Christine McDougall invited a group of about 40 to conversation on the nature of human enterprise.  In Chicago, Professor Leo Burke asked me to be a guest lecturer for the Notre Dame University Mendoza School of Business Executive MBA students’ weekend session.  Honoring the promise I made arising from my contempt for professors during my academic training who offered tired lectures on lifeless subject matter in robotic monotony, each presentation was entirely unique.  Different stories, different themes, and different arguments all arriving at the same core message: humanity is in need of an operating paradigm based on abundance rather than scarcity.

Following both presentations, I had the delight of chatting with several in both gatherings regarding the arc of the material covered – time, geography, disciplines – and found myself puzzling over the use of hyperbolic terminology to describe the narrative of my ordinary life.  Now, let me be clear.  I have been fortunate to be exposed to, and interact with, a broad swath of humanity in diverse settings.  I value the experiences I’ve had and the wonderful people who have enriched them in so many instances.  But my life has followed a singular and simple directive – I go where I’m invited and engage fully wherever that is.  This does not constitute an extraordinary, superhuman, transcendent experience but rather an integrated and full experience of life.

Hyperbole in the description of the human experience seems to imply another malignancy in the cancer of the scarcity paradigm.  Think about it.  On the History Channel (yes, I’ve been exposed to the Inflight Entertainment on the Star Alliance network), “ancient astronomical theorists” postulate about the influence of ‘extra’ terrestrial intelligence.  Human potential enthusiasts extol the possibility of ‘super’ human performance.  Religious adherents obsess about ‘transcendence’ to variously motivate or threaten consequence in the moment.  In fact, “After all, he’s / she’s only human” serves as the aphorism to describe behavior unbecoming of societal norms.  Paradoxically, our inspirational and aspirational distractions – retreats, seminars, revivals, etc – which are organized around escaping consensus monotony, seek to regress ‘transcendence’ to a common formula.  “We all” have brokenness, shadows, issues, sin, separation, unresolved conflicts and therefore, “we all” need explanation, adaptation, acceptance, or transformation.  We’re encouraged to marvel at “ancient” megaliths and are asked to ponder “how these extraordinary fetes could have been performed without modern tools?”  Last time I checked, ‘modern’ tools are worthless in cutting and stacking stones the size of school buses with interlocking precision.  It must have been ‘extraterrestrials’!

Now why do I associate hyperbolic expressions of the human experience with scarcity?  The answer is both mathematical and philosophical (which are, in fact, one in the same).  First, the math.  As I’ve addressed in numerous posts before this one, our adherence to regression (the notion that we can isolate metrics that can be placed on probabilistic linear models or can be distributed within a bell curve) is predicated on two fallacies.  First, that we know what is measurable and can in fact measure ‘it’.  Second, that our consent to “the measured” is a reflection of our capacity to fit ‘it’ to normative data.  Neither of these fallacious assumptions are ever tested.  Worse still, they strive to simplify into ‘manageable’ fragmented dimensions that which is complex and essential.  But the bigger issue – the one that reinforces our model of scarcity – is that outliers and the unexplained are measured by their failure to conform to our regressed illusion rather than invited to suggest the vast dimensions for which our metrics serve no descriptive or predictive purpose.  At the frontier of DNA-explained life is 97% “junk DNA”.  At the edge of the vast expanse of the physical sciences is over 95% unexplained “dark matter”.  Our confidence in what is known (less than 5% of our universe) is indicted by the pejorative dismissal of the unknown with terms like “dark” and “junk”.  Which would suggest that it is reasonable to conclude that we’re a long way from fully knowing present reality and even further from any form of transcendence.  We see, as it were, through a glass darkly, and fail to realize that behind all the smudges and the dirt is not reality but the silver we’ve placed to reflect our own illusions back to us. 

Rather than confronting our self-imposed limitations and our own constraints, cleaning the glass and removing the mirrors that we’ve constructed, we coalesce into a huddled horde seeking escape from our own limitations.  All the while, we fail to recognize that fully human ecosystems beckon from all around us but, as they are abundantly unfamiliar, we fail to heed their invitation.  And in the rare instance that we might seek a broader, more unconstrained experience, we huddle into small group experiences and construct elaborate fantasies of the “super” the “extra” and the “trans”. 

I am a mortal (not a “mere” mortal).  I am human (not “super-human”).  In gratitude, I thrive in a universe of opportunities and challenges which alloy my metal and sharpen my blade.  Are there numerous personal attributes in my life that I could refine or purify?  Absolutely.  But even this process – manifest in persistent action – is perfect in its messiness.  After all, perfection – maligned as an aspirational ideal or delegated to the divine – was the Latin concept for complete.  And recognizing the reality of perfection – the completion of all that is required to continually refine, render more elegant, and manifest with greater sensitivity and beauty – we can liberate ourselves from the sirens of superficial, scarce transition and fall into the loving gravitational embrace of ordinary abundance. 

Have a perfectly ordinary day with perfectly ordinary people doing perfectly attainable, amazing things!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Bikinis Anyone?


Sixty years ago today, the world awoke with one less landmass.  On March 1, 1954, the United States detonated a 15 megaton thermonuclear hydrogen bomb in the 'secret' Castle Bravo test.  At about 1,000 times the strength of the bombs used on Japan during the second world war, this test was over 150% more powerful than the nuclear physicists and engineers had anticipated and erased one of the islands in the atoll off the map.  In the years to follow, radiation sickness, death, miscarriages and genetic anomalies were the visible specters that haunted the world and persistent lies, assurances of safety later proven to be erroneous, and secrecy were the more phantasmal and ephemeral legacies.

Four days following the first nuclear test over the islands in 1946, a French mechanical engineer unveiled a new swimming fashion which was named "bikini" in response to the sudden media frenzy over the nuclear test.  Louis Réard clad at 19-year old nude dancer from Casino de Paris - Micheline Bernardini - in 30 square inches of cloth winning the distinction of creating the "smallest bathing suit in the world".  He insisted that, to qualify as a true bikini, the swimsuit material had be sufficiently scarce to easily "pass through a wedding ring".

Two 'accidentally larger than intended' explosions - one gargantuan and one itsy-bitsy - both bear the name of an island in the Pacific that was obliterated by a colossal lack of humanity.  And few people alive today pay the legacy even a passing thought.  While we could be distracted by the bikinis, it's worth considering what both of these legacies say about how we've become the society that is manifesting today.

The Illusory Value of Secret

The reason why the U.S. tested nuclear weapons was to instill fear in those who didn't share our capitalist, consumer-first mandate.  Fearing the specter of communism in which autocrats select economic winners and losers (can anyone say bailouts?) and an intrusive authoritarian state in which the state would senselessly pry into the private lives of its citizens in an effort to manipulate and control them (oops, can anyone say Edward Snowden?), the U.S. decided that it should secretly test a device that would create fall-out across the world jeopardizing populations that we didn't see as human and poisoning  water and land we didn't really wish to foul.  Through the cunning use of code names, we blew our cover across the globe to insure that all knew that we'd stop at nothing to pursue our quality of life which was so superior as to require fear and military strength to promote and defend it.  Through the veil of secrecy, billions of dollars were poured to enrich the secret programs that would serve to propagate our 'values'.  By keeping the project 'secret' we would capture the imagination (and the patronage) of the public who were willingly kept in fear and intrigue.  

Let's face it, a bikini as an article of clothing, doesn't keep much 'secret'.  In point of fact, the strategically placed triangular fabric swatches actually draw attention to the faux modesty they supposedly intend to defend.  By keeping certain anatomical parts 'covered' we maintain the illusion of discretion while in fact promoting their distinction. 

In bombs and bathing suits, the value of 'secret' and 'discretion' is a fallacy.  To the contrary, it is by promoting what you're not supposed to see that the cultural obsession is transacted and consummated.

Sensational Sells

Réard first called his two-piece wonder the Atome, assuming that it would conjure the idea of small.  But when the public went ballistic about the atomic tests, the name 'bikini' was on everyone's lips and, seizing the opportunity, he quickly jumped on the mushrooming phenomenon leading to the name that persists to this day.  

By 1954, the U.S. knew that atomic bombs worked with terrifying effectiveness.  So did the rest of the world.  But it also knew that the public wasn't so sure that these weapons were a good idea.  As a result, continuously upping the tonnage was a wonderful way to increase the funding frenzy required to proliferate ever increasing stockpiles of weapons - weapons whose existence was justified because "the Russians" could do unto us what we were demonstrating we could do to them.

It's amusing that neither the bikini nor the hydrogen bomb's societal effect was fully appreciated at the time of their detonation.  Both of them succeeded by landing on a particular moral paradox - offensive enough to discuss with moral derision but powerful and revealing enough to hold the public's fascination.  And I find this particular dynamic a fascinating study in macabre mercantile genius.  Create an object that society finds objectionable enough to proliferate in conversation but tantalizing enough to empower an aspirational attraction and you're likely to have a commercial bonanza.  The bomb didn't create the military industrial complex nor fuel the Cold War - it merely served as a larger-than-life example of our capacity to enforce our ideology.  The bikini has nothing to do with modesty or morality - it merely lampoons our incapacity to deal with our abject failure to understand eroticism, beauty, and sensuality.  Both of these sensational predations work because they share an implausible, incredulous scale (albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum in size) that sates a particular seductive power.

On this anniversary of the bombs (and bombshells) I wonder if we've progressed much over the past 60 plus years.  When Wolf of Wall Street and Gravity fill theater seats and when we breathlessly watch tired ideological oppression justify senseless suffering from the Ukraine to Syria, I find myself longing for more examples of human-scale, naked, modesty where we're known by what we offer humanity rather than define ourselves by how inhumane we can be.  The Bikini illusion of 60 years ago made a splash on the canvas of humanity's meandering story but it preyed upon the worst of our consensus fears - the fear of the 'other' and the fear of our own desires.  It seems that it would be fitting to mark this moment with a call to transparent living and engagement in which we've got nothing to hide.  The fallout from this idea wouldn't keep us off the beach!