Is it possible for all of us to become givers—no takers at all?

—by Roger Abrantes

 

Bird Mouse Alturism

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all gave without expecting anything in return? What a beautiful world we would have. At one time or another, most of us have embraced such thoughts. But is it possible at all? Is it possible for all of us to become givers—no takers at all?

An evolutionary biologist will tell you right away that it is not possible. Every behavioral strategy, when adopted by everyone in a group, is vulnerable to any variation or mutation that will carry a slight advantage. Were we all to become givers, we would be at the mercy of the first taker that would show up. More takers would follow for if it works for one, it works for others as well.

All relationships are a trade, a “give and take.” How much we give and how much we take depends on the benefits and costs involved. The goal is to come out of any trade with gain. Occasional deficits are acceptable as long as the overall balance stays on the plus side. That is the law of life. We spend energy to gain energy, to keep alive. Sometimes, we need to plan long-termed. There are both benefits and costs that we do not incur immediately. The law is still the same: the balance must end up on the positive side or life will end.

Apart from our dream of a better world full of unselfish givers, it looks at first sight like taking and not giving is the most profitable strategy. The problem is that we cannot all be takers. Takers can’t take from takers, they can only take from givers. Thus, it would appear that the givers would always be at a loss, but that is not the case. Givers receive from other givers, and they don’t spend energy fighting with takers. On the other side, takers spend energy when facing other takers without gaining anything. While giver/giver allows both to come out on the plus side of the balance, taker/taker always comes out with a deficit.

Givers and takers keep each other at bay. The ideal number for each, so that there is stability, depends solely on the value of benefits and costs.

To analyze how different strategies influence one another, the evolutionary biologist strips the strategies to their core and assigns some values to the variables, i.e. benefits and costs.

Let’s assume that when a taker meets a taker, they benefit nothing and spend much energy. When a giver meets another giver, they both give and take equally, and they spend some energy (they have both benefits and costs). When a taker meets a giver, the taker benefits 100%, and the giver spends energy (costs). We set the value of benefits and costs as follows:

  • benefit (b) 20 (conferred by the givers to anyone)
  • cost (c) -5 (the cost of giving)
  • taker/taker cost (e) -50 (this is the energy takers spend when fighting one another to take without giving).

Let’s now calculate the percentage of takers and givers necessary to achieve an equilibrium so that both strategies give the same profit.

The proportion of takers = t
The proportion of givers (g) = (1-t)
The average payoff for a giver (g) is G = ct + (b+c)(1-t)
The average payoff for a taker (t) is T = et + b(1-t)
There is an equilibrium (stability) when G=T.

 

Strategy Opponent’s strategy
Takers Givers
Takers e b
Givers c b+c

 

Example 1—With the above values for benefits and costs, 10% takers and 90% givers gives both a profit of 13 and there is stability. If the cost of takers fighting one another decreases, then it pays off (for more individuals) to become a taker.

Example 2—The figures in example 1 seem to suggest that takers should avoid one another as much as possible. Let’s say they do it in three out of four times. Then, and still with the same values, the number of takers can rise to 40%, and we still have an equilibrium, i.e. an ESS (Evolutionarily Stable Strategy). However, the profit will be less for both givers and takers, namely 7—more takers equals less profit for all.

That is a good example of what happens in our capitalistic human societies dominated by the idea of taking more and more. Takers take all they can but end up poorer than if they took less. The capitalistic instinct says, “take more,” but a more rational approach would clearly show that taking less would amount to profiting more. The strategy of taking maximally works only for a limited time. In the end, it backfires (depression, recession, etc.) because it upsets the balance between the available strategies, which, by then, have become evolutionarily unstable.

Example 3—Encounters between takers ar very expensive. What if takers would avoid takers all the time? In this case, the number of takers can rise up to 80%. Beyond that the strategies become evolutionarily unstable. The interesting is that even thought there would be stability with such a high number of takers, both takers and givers would come at a loss of -1. That is not at all a healthy strategy for any individual, let alone a group. It’s the sign of a society in decay. It’s what happens in a group, which is dominated by greed and selfishness.

Example 4—Since our wish is a world full of givers let us see how we can maximize the number of givers. We need to change the values for benefits and costs. Let’s decrease the cost of giving and increase the costs incurred by takers when fighting one another.

  • benefit (b) 20 (remains the same)
  • cost (c) -1 (lower cost than above)
  • taker/taker cost (e) -100 (much higher cost than above)

With these values, we can reach a maximum of 99% givers versus 1% takers. Both will have a profit equal to 18.80. Note that this the highest achieved profit in all our simulations.

The only variables that reduce the number of takers are the cost (e) and the probability of facing another taker. If we keep the values of benefits and costs the same as initially (b=20, c=-5) the costs of the struggle between two takers must rise to -500 for the strategies to be evolutionarily stable. The profit, then, would be 14.80 instead of 18.80.

These are artificial figures we use to analyze the necessary conditions for an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy to emerge. We may question the unlikeliness of the costs of an interaction to rise as high as we have set the taker/taker encounters. And yet, conflicts between male Northern elephant seals, Mirounga angustirostris, often end with a critical injury or the death of one of the parties. The costs are high, but so are the benefits: in Northern elephant seals, fewer than 5% of the males are responsible for 50% or more of the copulations. A red deer stag, Cervus elaphus, has about a 25% chance to be injured permanently from fighting (like in our example 2).

Also interesting is that the value of the benefits does not change the proportion of takers versus givers, only the profit. For example, with b=40, the profit is 34.60 (versus 18.80 and 14.80 for the other values for benefits in the examples). The values we used are all fictive, but it doesn’t matter. They show us the trends created by increasing or decreasing a variable. To evaluate real situations, we can use realistic figures inasmuch as we can get them. We can assign values to benefits and costs according to gain or loss of calories, body weight, number of progeny, available mating partners, fitness or even quality of life (if we find a reliable way to measure it).

The conclusion is that there will always be givers and takers—or that any strategy needs a counterpart to form an ESS. We can influence the trend of adopting one or the other strategy with the benefits and costs involved, but we can’t eliminate either one completely—and this is the universal law of life. In other words: every mountain has a sunny and a shady side.

 

My Last Love Letter—We Love Too Much and We Love Nothing

— by Roger Abrantes

 

Sunflower field

 

These days we seem to love a lot. We love food, clothes, iPhones, dogs, cats, horses, houses, cars, hairstyles, tunes, movies, apps, sushi, coca-cola and much, much more. We also love our spouses, partners, kids, family, and friends. Everything goes together in the same pot. In short, we love everything and nothing, too quickly and too easily—but what comes easily goes just as easily.

I still remember when we reserved the word “love” for only the very, very special. It appears that either we have devalued the meaning of “love,” (as swiftly as we do with a currency when it reflects our poor financial resolutions), or that we simply don’t know what love is.

We seem to be terribly confused about love. Maybe, it is this dark age of ideological decay and disillusion, in which we live, that compels us to beg for and crave love. It prompts us to see love everywhere and to mistake it for what it is not, namely passion, infatuation, obsession. Though, as far as I’m concerned (and, of course, you may disagree), love is none of the above. Love is, in its essence, incompatible with passion.

We regard the love between two lovers as the epitome of love itself. Our literature and movie industry give us plenty of examples thereof. We are flooded by thousands of love songs and romantic movies. And yet, despite the fact we depict this romanticized love as the pinnacle of our aspirations, it often turns sour and gives way to despair and tragedy. The “forever clause” love promises, often falls painfully short. The USA has a divorce rate of 53%, which equates to one divorce every six seconds (with 73% of third marriages ending the same way). Italy has the highest rate of unhappily married women: 52%. These figures alone beg the question: do we know what love is?

The problem, as is often the case, is how we define (or do not define) the concepts our mind uses to think. If feelings and emotions influence our thoughts, so do thoughts leave their mark on our feelings and emotions—and ultimately on who we are.

When we fall in love, we aim for completion: an escape route from the crushing feeling of loneliness entrapping us, from our deficiencies. Do we fall in love with the other person or with the enhanced image of ourselves in our lover? That is a pertinent question for, as I see it, to begin a deeper relationship simply to escape our shortcomings and satisfy our needs is extremely selfish and disrespectful to both parties. It will not bring us peace and harmony either, both inherent parts of love. We love best when our need to see our loved ones happy exceeds any need we may have of them.

Falling in love is not love. It is an infatuation, a passion, a very strong feeling of excitement and anticipation. It hurts so bad that it must be good, or so we think. Anger and sexual desire are equally strong feelings of excitement and anticipation, yet I doubt anyone would regard them as love. “Making love” is a misleading term used to describe sex. You don’t need to love the one you make love to, and you can love someone to whom you don’t make love. In other words, “making love” is just a romanticized way to describe sex or a subtle way to distinguish between casual sex and sex with someone for whom we care.

The confusion results from the fact that passion and love are similarly strong attractions to one person. The fire of passion gets its oxygen from our unsatisfied needs. It comes with many strings attached. It is highly conditional. “I love you, you make me feel a better person,” “You’re mine, I love you,” “I need you, I love you.” Passions rise and fall like a rollercoaster and often at the same speed. They depend on how the other person treats us and how we perceive ourselves in the relationship. Passions are full of doubt and questions: “Do you still love me?,” “What can I do so you keep loving me?” Passions are strong, often irrational attachments to the object, which generates them.

The essence of love, or at least as I understand it, is a far cry from the essence of passion. True love (not to be confused with falling in love or making love) is unconditional, no strings attached, no expectations. I scratch your back, and I don’t necessarily expect you to scratch mine. True love is to want the other person to be happy, irrespective of what it makes us. That does not imply that if we love someone, we must accept and endure disrespectful treatment. I can love someone and genuinely wish that person to be happy—and contribute to it, no strings attached—though not at the cost of being miserable. There is no contradiction in saying, “I love you, I want you unconditionally to be happy, but it’s not right for me to live the way you want.” True love can only grow and thrive in freedom. We cannot entrap love, for if we do, we kill it. True love is a free bird that we can’t cage. All we can do is to rejoice seeing it fly around freely, being fully aware that one day it may not come back, and contemplating that prospect with no trace of fear.

All relationships are a trade—a give and take. Passions survive if there’s a balance between the two. We keep (consciously or unconsciously) accurate accounts on what we give and what we take. Love also requires balance though not depending on particular give and takes. We give what we can, and we are grateful for what our loved one offers us.

Passions wane if we don’t get what we need. Love does not because it does not depend on our needs. Passions are selfish, calculated and manipulating. Love is not. In our times, what most resembles true love is probably our love for our children. We want them to be happy, and we give without expecting anything in return. Still, many parents sacrifice the happiness of their kids for what it makes them, compelling them to follow determined paths. That is not love, but merely a selfish projection of one’s ego and shortcomings. One thing is teaching to the best of our knowledge; another thing is to impose our norms and to project our ambitions onto our children’s lives.

“If I don’t get what I need, I walk away”—that’s passion. “You took away from me something I needed, and I didn’t walk away on you”—that’s love.

Passions are by nature unreliable. They ignite as easily as fuel, are as volatile as fire, and are dangerously unstable. Crimes of passion are, alas, too frequent. Passions are a poor foundation for true love, peace, and happiness. Being in love feels great as long as it lasts, and we can certainly enjoy it as long as we are well aware that it will end one day and that it may hurt. Being in love is an infatuation and, as with all obsessions, it is capricious and shallow.

We fall in love for many reasons, but mostly out of some degree of desperation, either because we feel lonely, we have an immense craving for affection or the need to be re-affirmed. We see ourselves through the eyes of the person with whom we fall in love. We identify ourselves with a picture, a fata morgana. To define ourselves by means of anything but who we are (that is, what we think, we feel and we do) is inviting suffering to bed. It is like having a beautiful dream, but all dreams come to an abrupt end for we will we wake up eventually. Deep inside, lovers know that. Clinched in a profound embrace, they look into each other’s eyes and whisper, “I want to stop time, to keep this moment frozen forever.” It is the realization that it will end one day that makes it hurt so badly. What makes us suffer is the inevitable loss of the illusion, to which we cling in vain, pinning on it all our hopes for happiness. When it’s over, we feel we have lost love, but we haven’t really lost it, for we never had it in the first place. What we had was an illusion, as we failed to realize that we can only find our peace and create our happiness from within and through our own thoughts and actions. Nobody, not even a lover, can give it to us.

True love is completely different in essence and manifestation. We cannot lose what is real, only what is an illusion. Therefore, true love does not leave scars when we lose it because we can never lose what is real. When the free bird flies away, we don’t lose it because it was never ours, and we never claimed it. What is ours forever and is true is the pleasure of seeing it fly freely and wish that it will fare well. Passions live in anticipation, love in what is real.

Love is fragile and, like a bonsai, we must nurse it and take good care of it. A bonsai requires a reliable measure of water, light, and temperature, not when we have the time for it or feel like doing it, but when the bonsai needs it. We need to take care of it every day no matter how busy we are with other chores. Love requires a reliable dose of dedication, unselfishness, and affection, not when we have the time or the need to give it, but when the other person misses it. A bonsai grows into a beautiful little tree we can rejoice in if we treat it correctly. Its strength and imperceptible growth fills our heart with joy for we have given without expecting anything in return—for what can a little bonsai give us but joy? Equally, love flourishes and enriches our lives if we take good care of it without keeping account of what we get back. The happiness of our loved one will fill our hearts with joy—and what can happiness give us but happiness?

Are you ready for love? Nurse a bonsai for five years. If you can, the chances are you are ready for love. “There’s no remedy for love than to love more,” Henry Thoreau wrote. I’d say, “There’s no remedy for love than to love right.”

Loving is not an apparition. It is the process of having the courage of facing our weakness and turn it into strength. The moment we expose our vulnerability to another person, we face our egos, desires, demons and illusions. If it is the right person, we may challenge ourselves toward creating an open-minded and genuinely honest relationship—one marked by a pure, unselfish, and unconditional love. Only then, an everlasting connection may emerge between two wholesome individuals who don’t depend on one another but willingly and lovingly give and take in mutual support.

You know true love when you gaze into the eyes of your loved one, and you catch a glimpse of a new world, an unconditional promise of freedom from the boundaries of your confined self, the ultimate journey into the timeless and the boundless—reasoning and being, giving and taking seamlessly merged—like tears in the rain.

 

_____

References
Thubten Chodron (2013) Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Living with Wisdom and Compassion. Snow Lion.
Dalai Lama XIV (1998) The Art Of Happiness: A Handbook For Living, Simon & Schuster Audio.
Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano (Leonard Price) (2013) “Nothing Higher to Live For: A Buddhist View of Romantic Love” Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 2 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/price/bl124.html .
Sunada Takagi (2009) Love, sex, and non-attachment http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/love-sex-and-non-attachment).
Henry Thoreau, Journal, July 25, 1839.
Divorce rates around the world at https://v2lawblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/divorce-rates-around-the-world/.
Italy has the lowest percentage of happily married couples at https://v2lawblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/divorce-rates-around-the-world/.

The Final Walk

My walk home from the pier is one of life’s small pleasures. It’s normally a 20-minute stroll, but it can often take up to an hour or sometimes even two, as I have to stop and chat with everybody on the way, from merchants to people I know by sight, or even complete strangers. This is the Thai way and the way of my village in Southern Thailand where everybody smiles and talks to you.

Old dog

Bombom was old and tired, ready for his final walk to the temple.

The weather is nearly always hot and sunny, between 29º and 38ºC (85º and 100º F), Today it’s exactly 32º C according to my diving computer. Of course it rains during the rainy season, but only for an hour or two and everything soon dries off, leaving a sense of freshness and the smell of wet soil in the air. Sometimes it rains cats and dogs, turning the streets in the village into small rivers, but everyone takes it in their stride and, with shoes off and pants rolled up, life continues (literally) with a smile.
After having completed three dives, one of them in a strong surge, I’m starving as usual. These days, in my ageing youth, my job in Thailand is marine biology environmental management, which, basically, means I dive, sometimes with students, sometimes without, take pictures of the fish and corals I see, and then write a report—yes, I call that a job! I stop at one of those remarkable street vendors on the main street to grab something to eat. ‘Street food’ is so cheap and so good that it doesn’t make any sense to go home and cook.

Buddhist Monk and Dog.

Buddhist Monk and Dog (image by John Lander).

My favorite ‘restaurant’ (it looks more like an open garage) is a family business, like most small businesses in Thailand. The owners live there too. They have a TV and a bed for the kids in the back—that is, behind the four tables for the guests. It’s all on view for all to see. Of course, you don’t want to isolate the kids in a room by themselves. Children (and dogs) are an inherent part of Thai life; you see them everywhere. They are allowed to do whatever they want, are seldom scolded or yelled at and, amazingly enough, they are pretty well-behaved. It puzzles me how they manage it, especially when I think of some of our little brats in the West, both human, and canine. I am yet to discover their secret, but I guess it has something to do with the fact they are part of every aspect of daily life from the day they are born; they are perfectly integrated with no artificially constructed, designated kids-zones. The same goes for the dogs, they belong there like anyone else: no fuss, no extra attention, no special treatment one way or another.

“Sawasdee kha khoon Logel,” Phee Mali greets me with a big smile when she sees me.

Phee means big sister and Mali means Jasmine, which is her name. I’m Logel because Thais are always on first name terms. Last names are a relatively new invention imposed on them by the government in response to the growth of the nation and a more modern society. The telephone directory is ordered by first names. King Rama VI introduced the practice of surnames in 1920 and he personally invented names for about 500 families. All Thais have nicknames. You call your friends by their nicknames and sometimes you don’t even know their real name! I’m Logel because most Thais can’t pronounce the ‘r’ sound, not even in their own language and, surprisingly enough, they do have ‘r’ in Thai.

Dog in Temple

Thais often take the dogs to the local temple so they can die in peace, in the company of the monks, near Buddha.

“You OK, you see beautiful fish today?” Phee Mali asks me in ‘Tenglish’—or Thai English, which is a language in its own right, most charming and highly addictive. Before long and without even noticing it, you begin speaking Tenglish. I speak a mixture of Thai and Tenglish with the locals. As my Thai improves, I speak more Thai and less Tenglish, but Thai is difficult as it is a tone language. The tone with which you pronounce a word changes its meaning and sometimes dramatically so. There are words I consistently mispronounce which has the Thais in fits of laughter, either because I talk utter nonsense, or I say something naughty. They love it when it’s the latter. They even encourage me to say something they know I can’t pronounce just to amuse themselves. It’s all good-hearted and good fun, with no disrespect intended. On the contrary, I get preferential treatment because I speak Thai. I’ll transcribe below some of our conversations in English, directly translated from the Thai words, in order to give my readers a feel for it.

“Yes,” I answer, “I saw beautiful fish and corals. Thale (sea) Andaman very good.”

“Oh you so black!” she exclaims with furrowed brows and a smile. ‘Black’ actually means either tanned or sun burnt, as the case may be. Thai women don’t like to be sun tanned. They like white, as they say, and they become very worried when they see someone with what in the West we call a healthy, attractive tan.

“You hung’y ‘ight, gwai teeaw moo pet mak ‘ight?” Phee Mali asks me laughing. She knows just what’s on my mind—I love a hot, spicy gwai teeaw moo, especially after a hard day’s work. It’s a soup, containing noodles and pork, chicken or shrimp, with everything else imaginable thrown in. It even comes with a side plate of fresh vegetables that you tear into pieces with your fingers and add to the soup as you please. You season it all yourself with dry chili, fresh chili, chili sauce, fish sauce, soy, pepper, salt, and a bit of sugar (yes sugar, try it and you’ll see why I love it). It’s delicious I can assure you, and healthy too.

I eat my gwai teeaw moo and sip down my iced green tea, no sugar. The sun will set in about half an hour; it always goes down at the same time here, seven degrees north of the equator. No rain today. I relish life in Paradise!

“Tao thale sa baay dee mai.” The kids come running to ask me about the fish and especially the sea turtle, their favorite—which is a good opportunity for me to practice my Thai language. They call me Lung Logel (Uncle Roger), in deference to my age. Then, it’s the dogs’ turn to say hi—in Doggish, one language I do know, no accent and spoken the same on every continent.

Thai Child wai.

The wai is the Thai greeting when you raise both hands together to your chin. It still strikes me as the most beautiful greeting I’ve ever seen.

I see Ae on the other side of the street (Ae is a funny name deriving from the Thai peekaboo game). I know her and her family. Her father works on one of the boats I regularly sail with on my diving tours. I often help him dock the boat when we arrive at the pier in less than perfect weather and we sometimes have a beer together after having secured the boat, unloaded, etc. Ae is squatting beside her dog, one of those Thai dogs that looks the same as every other. Village dogs in Thailand all look alike, as if they were a particular breed, the product of random breeding throughout the years. I call them ‘default dogs.’

“Ae sad, right?’ I ask the kids.

“Oh, dog Ae old already, tomorrow father of Ae bring dog to go temple,” Chang Lek (Little Elephant is his name) replies.

I finish my meal and go over to talk to Ae, still squatting beside her dog and petting him. I can see Bombom is old and tired. He’s a good, friendly dog. He can often be seen strolling around the village, quietly surveying the neighborhood. He’s always incredibly dusty despite Ae and her mother painstakingly and frequently bathing him. When I approach them, he barely raises his head. He gives me that affable, resigned look of his.

“Sawasdee khrap, Ae.”

“Sawasdee kha,” she says to me and hastens to wai to me. The wai is the Thai greeting when you raise both hands together to your chin. It still strikes me as the most beautiful greeting I’ve ever seen.

“Bombom is old, right?” I ask her.

“Yessir.”

“Bombom already had happy life. You are good friend of Bombom.”

“Yessir,” she says gently.

“Bombom likes you very much,” I say, lost for words.

“Tomorrow Mom and Dad bring Bombom to go to temple,” she replies and I see a big tear roll down her left cheek.

“Yes. I know,” I tell her. Again lost for words, I add “Ae, I go across the street to buy ice cream for us to sit here eating ice cream and talking to Bombom. You like that?”

“Yessir, thank you so much sir,” she says and manages to give me a lovely smile. “Bombom likes ice cream so much,” she adds and her eyes are now full of thick, sorrowful, young tears.

In Thai culture and beliefs, all living beings under the sun deserve the same respect. Species is of no relevance. They love their pets and when they are old and dying, some Thais take them to the local temple so they can die in peace, in the company of the monks, near Buddha. That’s why there are always many dogs around the temples, which sometimes is a real problem. The temples are poor. A monk owns only seven articles. The villagers cook for them (and the dogs) in the morning before going to work.

Sawasdee khrap,

ชีวิตที่ดี

R~

19 Things You Can Do To Be Happy Today

— by Roger Abrantes

 

Sea-maldives

 

 

Happiness is for most people the ultimate state of well-being, characterized by emotions of intense joy. Being the globetrotter I am, I have witnessed happiness and unhappiness in many shapes and forms.

Trying to isolate the common factors that contribute to people being either happy or unhappy, I soon discovered that it had nothing to do with wealth or material goods. It strikes me every time I land in wealthy Europe or the USA directly from Africa or South-East Asia, to see so many cranky faces in an environment seemingly so rich in resources.

I’ve shared many happy moments with happy people, a thatched roof above our heads, poor cover from the monsoon rain, a handful of sticky rice, spicy chili sauce and fresh water as our only indulgences; and I’ve shared many unhappy moments with unhappy people in luxury penthouses with champagne and caviar ad libitum.

I realize I may have learned a thing or two about happiness. Then again, I’ve been fortunate enough to have travelled far and wide—from the Tibetan heights and the rice paddies of the Mekong to the smoky soys of Bangkok and the razzmatazz of the streets of Manhattan; and most of all for having had such a great variety of excellent teachers, from the most reputable Nobel prize winner, to the most unlikely Nepalese tailor.

I am indeed immensely grateful to the great minds of my academic teachers, as well as to all the unlikely teachers with whom, by a twist of fortune, I have shared a moment in time and space: the monk in Ubonratchathani, the aged busker in Paris, the south-Andaman fisherman, the child in Chalong crying over her dying dog, the Morogoro thief who broke into my house, the bar-girl in Cha-Am who told me her life story, the Iranian taxi driver in downtown San Francisco, the bum in the West Village, the old man selling oranges on the road to Tomar, the villagers in the Uruguru, the Nepalese tailor in Bhubaneswar, the gardener in the Allgäu, and many more. I carry their wisdom in my mind and their kindness in my heart. As amazing as it might sound to you, the animals with which I have been privileged to share a moment of my life have also contributed a great deal to what I’ve learned about life and happiness: Petrine the dog, Katarina the cat, Indie the horse and Anders the duck.

And so, in my ageing youth, I break the sound principle I’ve adopted of never giving advice without being asked—because I think it would be too selfish not to share with you what I’ve learned. My reticence until now has not been because I don’t believe in my own medicine, but because mine is not necessarily yours, and yours will be your own and no one else’s—a point I’d like you to bear in mind.

The 19 points below give you the main factors I identified as crucial to finding happiness. They are good enough for me, but then again, I might be too unambitious—for less than happiness is enough to make me happy.

These 19 points are what life has taught me, and the teachings of the excellent teachers I have met—all of which I’ve put into words—words that cease to be mine as soon as I’ve written them. Once you have read them, they belong to you, do with them what you will.

 

  1. Make happiness your goal. You can only be happy if you want to be happy. It’s a choice you make. Start a great day with a great statement, “Good Morning World, here I come, and it’s a beautiful day!” Say it aloud, share it. Should you by misfortune find yourself in the company of a killjoy (party-pooper, wowser), re-affirm your intent with a smile: “I want, I can and I will make it a great day!” It doesn’t matter whether it is cold or hot, raining or snowing, sunny or windy, whether you’re living in a luxury suite or a tiny 40 m2 (430 sq. feet) hut, whether the breakfast waiting for you is a full buffet or simply a handful of sticky rice and chili sauce. You are alive, and you are going to be happy because you want to be happy.
  1. Focus on what matters. Nothing is perfect, but less than perfect is better than good in most situations. Save your perfectionism for the few occasions when it matters. You should have reasonable control over safety issues and not endanger yourself or those you’re responsible for, but for the rest, play it by ear. Shove petty concerns aside right away. Each new day provides you with the opportunity to create great experiences. If you didn’t experience anything particularly overwhelming today, be happy with less than that, or at least be happy that you didn’t get sick; and if you got sick, you didn’t die—so why be cranky? There are so many variables in life that you can’t expect to control them all. Get your priorities right. Don’t spend your whole life working too hard just to acquire futile commodities, whilst letting life and love pass you by without you even noticing.
  1. Seize the day. We spend one-third of our life sleeping, one-third complaining about what has happened and one-third worried about what will happen next. There’s beauty everywhere, day or night, no matter where you are: the mountain peak, the rushing of the sea’s tides, the wind in the corn fields, the buzz in the city, the shifting shadows in the backyard, the crickets chirping in the night. Grab the moment, enjoy your journey toward your goal and travel well, for the destinations are seldom what we dreamt of—but if the journey is good, who cares? Live, love and laugh now.
  1. Live without judging. We might be the only species with the tendency to classify everything as ‘like,’ ‘don’t like.’ The world is not out there for you to like or not like. Pleasant and upsetting go hand in hand. Be critical of what pleases you and tolerant of what upsets you: the former may be a pitfall and the latter an opportunity. Loosen up. Take it as it comes.
  1. Don’t worry, be happy. You only have a problem when there is a discrepancy between a situation and a realistic expectation of yours. All the rest is just whinging. If your expectation is realistic, do something about it. If it isn’t, stop complaining; it’s a waste of energy. There are two kinds of problems: those you can solve and those you cannot. If you can solve them, there’s no reason to worry, just do it; and if you cannot solve them, there’s nothing to worry about —just wait and see what happens.
  1. Don’t fall into false dichotomies. The single most damaging belief is that everything is one-sidedly good or bad, right or wrong. Situations are seldom either/or—you have more options. Think out of the box. If a situation exceeds your knowledge or experience, don’t hesitate in asking someone more knowledgeable or experienced for advice. It is always prudent to get a second and a third opinion.
  1. Forget blame and anger and be fair to yourself. Apportioning blame, be it to others or yourself, has no practical function. Your anger punishes you more than it will ever punish anyone else. Blaming and getting angry are time and energy wasters. Don’t allow negative thoughts to control you. You are what you do, and you do what you think. Keep smiling! Do you commit mistakes? So what, we all do! Some mistakes are pointless, not worth a thought, only a smile and an “oh, silly me!” Others are more important because they have more serious consequences; consider them as a learning opportunity. Some mistakes are inevitable, and there is no reason to feel bad about them. Sometimes, you have to take chances.
  1. Don’t try to change other people. Don’t try to save the world. You can’t change others.  Be happy with and thankful for what others can give you. You might not get if you ask and you might well get if you don’t. If your way is the best strategy, it will spread. If not, be grateful for variation. All you can do is do what you find right. Others will follow your example, or not, as they see fit. Do your piece, set an example and don’t worry anymore about it.
  1. Respect, and you shall be respected. From a tiny worm to a fellow human, respect all life independently of species, race, sex, beliefs and other accidental characteristics. Treat others as ends, not means. Don’t speak badly of others; you can criticize a point of view, but not a person. Don’t gossip: others’ lives are none of your concern. Spend your energy to focus on your own life. Disrespect and harshness will bite you back sooner or later. Respect and kindness will repay you with dividends.
  1. Be open-minded and critical. Mostly we see what we think and feel, seldom do we see what we are looking at. Open up. That which might appear incontrovertibly true to you is probably a product of cultural imprinting and social conditioning. Don’t fear change. Be versatile. Question everything and never take anything for granted. Chuckle at the serious and reflect on the amusing; both are amusingly serious and seriously amusing. Keep a good balance between being skeptical and open-minded.
  1. Believe in yourself. Open-mindedness and critical thinking are your map and compass on your journey to knowledge and happiness, but without desire, as without a canteen, you won’t get anywhere. If you’re set on a goal in which you truly believe, plan, revise and implement; then, do it again if necessary. Enjoy the little steps forward and don’t be knocked down by temporary setbacks. Make a plan of action for any goal you have, and for each step, set a realistic criterion for success. Then, go for it and believe that you can make it. Doubting is the first step to defeat. What then if you fail? Well, tough luck then, sometimes it doesn’t work, but that shouldn’t prevent you from going for it again next time around.
  1. Act now—don’t feel bad. The best way to deal with the past is to smile, the present to live it, the future to create it. If you’re unhappy with any particular aspect of your life, do something to change it. Feeling bad and guilty doesn’t help anyone—it doesn’t help you or your loved ones. To be happy, you must not like the person you think you should be, but the person you are. Be the person you want to be now, not tomorrow, for time is what you never have enough of when you realize how much you have wasted.
  1. Daydream. Your daydreams are your engine, your safety valve, your source of inspiration and your energy booster. It doesn’t matter if only a tiny percentage of your dreams become reality or are even realistic. As long as you distinguish between reality and daydreams, give yourself a break every once in a while and dream your wildest fantasies.
  1. Live your life. You spend very little time with most of the people you meet, significantly more with family and close friends, but you live your whole life with yourself. So, why care about what other people think about you, when you probably won’t see them again or will only ever see them sporadically? As long as you respect others and don’t bother them, you have the right to live your life any way you like, and you don’t need to excuse yourself. If they like you, fine. If they don’t, it’s not your problem.
  1. Keep your self-respect—no excuses. It’s OK to make mistakes, to fail, but it’s not OK to hide behind bad excuses and justifications and to blame others. Have the courage to admit to yourself when you fail and, if it upsets you too much, correct it, so you don’t fail next time. Your courage to admit your mistakes boosts your self-respect and the respect of others.
  1. Untie yourself—don’t depend on anyone. You are responsible for your life and happiness. You can’t rely on other people to give it to you. Your loved ones play an important part in your happiness, but they are not responsible for your happiness—you are.
  1. Take care of yourself. It’s so obvious and yet so many forget it: poor health can spoil all the best intentions for happiness. Do physical and mental exercise every day, eat the right diet. Take care of your body and your mind will brighten up.
  1. Love and live your passion. If you’re going to fall in love, do it properly. Half measures don’t work here. Either you do it fully or don’t do it at all. Most people love the idea of love but are too afraid of committing themselves fully to their passion. Yes, the magic might go away one day, but that shouldn’t prevent you from giving it your all. Yes, it may hurt when it’s over, but that shouldn’t hold you back while it lasts, for while it does, it gives you overwhelming courage and opens the gates of unimaginable worlds. Don’t fall in love with the first or the best, just because everyone seems to have someone, or because you feel lonely. Live your full passion only with someone who truly inspires you, who widens your horizons, who compels you to go beyond the confines of your own self. Don’t allow society, norms and pettiness to decide about your love passions. Ethnicity, language, age, social status and other such characteristics are all utterly irrelevant when it comes to love. Always be honest with yourself and your lover. The moment you are not, you have killed it. Just go for it fully and honestly, no fears, no regrets, and enjoy every single heartbeat.
  1. Follow your heart. No matter what you do, follow your heart. You might need to endure some temporary pain to reach a goal, but if life in general is constantly a pain, then it’s about time you stop and think about changing it. Don’t try to become someone, just be the one you want to be. Life is a countdown, every moment counts, don’t waste it.

Be happy!

R~

 

Dramatic second day Guinea Pig Camp

Dog and Guinea Pig.
Guinea pig and dog sharing a bonding moment (photo by Mark Taylor of http://www.marktaylorphotography.com).

 

So many lessons to learnGuinea pig camps are intense. In the morning, one of the little ones was almost unconscious. At first, I thought he was dead. Guinea pigs are fragile and when they get sick, usually, it goes quickly downhill and there’s not much we can do about it. I notified everybody that he would probably die so no one would be shocked by it, and proceeded to give him emergency care: warmth, orange juice and rest. I also gave him a few “flakes” of cucumber and carrot, and he ate them, which was a good sign.

Danielle, of the team where he belonged, monitored his progress closely. Surprisingly enough, he improved rapidly, and, at noon, he seemed to have recovered. At 2 pm, he was working, going the full course of obstacles and learning the indication behavior “paw on cube” he will need to point out the target scent when we get to that step today.

I dubbed him ลูกปุย (Lūk puy). I have this habit of naming the Guinea pigs in Thai. His name means “fluffy baby” or “fluffy ball.” ปุย is a common nickname for Thai girls, but I don’t think he cares too much about that.

Here is ลูกปุย showing his newly acquired “paw on cube” skill.

 

 

Less than perfect is… perfect, seemed to be a lesson to learn from Michaels team. His teammates are rookies, but dedicated and positive ones, and Michael is an excellent team leader. Everybody commits mistakes and, naturally, rookies error more often than experienced trainers. In order to progress, we must evaluate our POA (plan of action), analyze our mistakes and correct them—but that’s it, no more, period. Alas, I see many trainers getting too upset when things don’t go the way they want, which ends up working against their best intentions. Not so in Michael’s team, they took it cool and at the end of the day both their piggies were running the whole course and showing the indication behavior they should just perfectly.

To bring it all into perspective (see my blogs from yesterday and the day before), a little emotion and stress are necessary to learn and to achieve success—and too much defeats the purpose.

It’s all a question of balance. Amazing, isn’t it, what little creatures like the Guinea pigs can help us realize? Then again, there are lessons to learn everywhere if we care to watch and to listen. The difficult part in doing it, is that we have, if only for a moment, to forget ourselves, be aware that we are not the center of the universe even though it may appear to be so for us. Not easy, but doable and extremely gratifying, if you ask me.

Life is beautiful.

 

The 20 principles Cover EN"The 20 Principles All Animal Trainers Must Know" for only EUR 59.
Course and book by ethologist Roger Abrantes (book available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish). Study online at your own pace. Follow your passion and earn a certificate.
Click here to read more and enroll.

 

Recipe for answering questions and enjoy life

Recipe Answering Questions

 

Today, my friends, I would like to give you the recipe I use to answer your questions. Feel free to use it as you please.

When you ask about a topic that is well researched, it’s easy. I check the relevant literature, weight arguments, come up with a conclusion and answer you.

On the other hand, when your question is about a subject-matter not so extensively studied, I have to think more carefully. Your question may be difficult to answer for different reasons. Maybe it depends too much on definitions that are unclear. Perhaps, a plausible answer builds upon how we measure evidence. Sometimes, your question is too broad.

Whenever I face questions like those, I stick to my home-made recipe, the one I give you here, one inspired to me by the great masters.

Composing my answer, I have to be overly prudent, for disagreement and controversy befall so readily—the nemesis of the writer sitting on my shoulder—no matter which words one chooses, someone can and will misinterpret them.

Finally, allow me to remind you, we do not always have bullet-proof explanations to everything, in which case suspending judgement seems to me the wisest approach.

Then again, we don’t need to have all answers in order to be able to contemplate life with wonder and to enjoy it fully.

 

ChildAndDog

Nós queremos protegê-los, que precisam mais, as nossas crianças e os nossos animais. nós queremos continuar a oferecer o "conhecimento para todos, em qualquer lugar", com cursos grátis e blogs. Junte-se a nós, compre "Cães e crianças" pelo preço de um café e um bolo. Ajude-nos a ajudar.

The Evolution of Life in 60 Seconds

 

Today, I have this little movie for you showing the evolution of life in 60 seconds. It puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it?

I’m still fascinated by this amazing logarithm “the survival of the fittest.” As Daniel Dennett writes, “I say if I could give a prize to the single best idea anybody ever had, I’d give it to Darwin—ahead of Newton, ahead of Einstein, ahead of everybody else. Why?  Because Darwin’s idea put together the two biggest worlds, the world of mechanism and material, and physical causes on the one hand (the lifeless world of matter) and the world of meaning, and purpose, and goals.”

 

Mount Rinjani, Indonesia.

Simulations of the volcano hypothesis were able to create organic molecules. Life could have originated in a ‘warm little pond’ in similar ways. (From “Evolution” by Roger Abrantes. Picture: Mount Rinjani, Indonesia by Oliver Spalt.)

 

Let me quote from my own little book “Evolution“:

“When we say that natural selection favors the fittest, we do not mean the one and only champion, but the fitter (or best-fitted) in the population. How fit they will have to be, depends on the environmental circumstances. In times of food abundance, more individuals will be fit enough to survive and play another round. In times of famine and scarce resources, maybe only the champions will have a chance. In any case, the algorithm ‘the fittest’ is always at work.

Most objections to the theory of evolution by natural selection fail to realize the function of time. Given enough time, whenever there is variation, natural selection will come up with all imaginable forms of life, always the fittest for the given environment and period.”

It’s all so simple. For example, I know beyond any reasonable doubt that you, my friends reading these lines right now, have all had fit ancestors. How do I know that? I’ll leave that one for you to figure out.

Keep smiling!

 

ChildAndDog

Nós queremos protegê-los, que precisam mais, as nossas crianças e os nossos animais. nós queremos continuar a oferecer o "conhecimento para todos, em qualquer lugar", com cursos grátis e blogs. Junte-se a nós, compre "Cães e crianças" pelo preço de um café e um bolo. Ajude-nos a ajudar.

He Told Me a Story of Freedom and Eternity, of Togetherness and Solitude

Wolf eyes.

 

I don’t have preferences. Life fascinates me and I’ve been a student of life as long as I can remember. I don’t have a favorite animal as such. I have enjoyed equally the many days (and nights) I’ve spent studying dogs as those I’ve spent studying horses, ducks, bees, sea-horses or wolves. All have taught me invaluable lessons that I carry with me, within me.

I favor none, yet one comes closer to my heart than any other. For reasons still unknown to me, perhaps well kept in my millennial inheritance, this one animal talks to me in a way none other does. It’s been a love story since the moment I, still a boy, first met him in the forests on my natal mountains. I wasn’t afraid though I should be, for they—the adults—had told me scary stories about this bloodthirsty and merciless beast. He looked at me with his deep eyes, and for a moment we stood still, barely daring to breathe and break the magic—as if time had ended and we were mere memories of an era bygone. We looked at one another for a moment barely, one which remains imprinted in my memory, one that made me what I am. I have no idea what my eyes told him, but his told me a story of freedom and eternity, of togetherness and solitude. I went home with my secret, and a strange, warm and good feeling like when you made a new friend, I reckoned, for I didn’t know, then, how it felt to be in love. I never told my parents, my grandparents or anyone. I knew he was in danger and you don’t betray a friend, do you?

A few days later, maybe more, there was some commotion in the village. I went down with my grand-daddy to find out what all the fuss was about. Laying on the ground, dirty and bloody, there he was. A farmer had shot him, my friend, the wolf. His eyes were open and tranquil. They had lost that spark I guess is the gift of life, but they talked to me nonetheless. For a while, I listened, until my grand-daddy grabbed my hand and led me away. I listened to my friend the wolf’s stories, stories I carry with me, within me, and made me what I am.

 

RAA and Wolf

I listened to my friend the wolf’s stories, stories I carry with me, within me, and made me what I am. (Photo by Monty Sloan from Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana, USA.)

 

"Ethology" by Roger Abrantes

If animal behavior fascinates you, you will enjoy "Ethology—The Study of Animal Behavior in the Natural Environment," the book and course by ethologist Roger Abrantes.
Enrolling for this course puts you in direct contact with the author to whom you can pose any question while you complete your coursework. Click here to read more and enroll.

“Life of Pi” — Read the Book, Watch the Movie

I read Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” many years ago. I took the book to bed, my intention being to read 10-12 pages before falling asleep. This was one of the few books I’ve read from one end to the other in one go. I went to sleep at five in the morning.

The other day, I revisited “Life of Pi,” not the book from 2001, but the movie from 2012 directed by Ang Lee with screenplay by David Magee.

The movie gets my five stars. It’s a near perfect screenplay adaptation of a book. It misses a bit of the first part of the book that would be too cumbersome to render in pictures anyway, but it presents the second part magnificently. It’s a beautiful 3D movie, a thrilling adventure, an experience for afterthought—you can take it as you wish.

“Life of Pi,” book and movie, is not intrusive, does not force you to think or accept anything in particular. It leaves you with your freedom to draw your conclusions, or ask your questions, as the case may be.

Take a break, read the book and savor it. Yann Martel succeeded in writing a book that you want to read word by word, not by paragraphs.

Life Of Pi Movie

The following quotations indicate “Part.Chapter.Paragraph.”

“Just beyond the ticket booth Father had painted on a wall in bright red letters the question: DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO? An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were so many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror.” (1.8.4)

The most dangerous animal in the zoo is the human being maybe because of the relationship of danger with unpredictable evil.

“Rank determines whom it can associate with and how; where and when it can eat; where it can rest; where it can drink; and so on. Until it knows its rank for certain, the animal lives a life of unbearable anarchy. It remains nervous, jumpy, dangerous. Luckily for the circus trainer, decisions about social rank among higher animals are not always based on brute force.” (1.13.3)

Here, Pi is (between lines) talking more about human relationships than human-animal relationships, one suspects. He’s also thinking about how to train Richard Parker.  Throughout his misery, Pi comes to see cleverness and willpower as two remarkable human skills, but the question is, do not these skills also bring about evil?

“There are many examples of animals coming to surprising living arrangements. All are instances of that animal equivalent of anthropomorphism: zoomorphism, where an animal takes a human being, or another animal, to be one of its kind.” (1.32.1)

Zoomorphism (in a way, the opposite of anthropomorphism) means that animals treat another species (almost) like their own. Our dogs are great zoomorphists.  This is more philosophical that it may seem and definitely more obscure in the movie than in the book, which, as I’ve mentioned, is more elaborated in its first pre-boat part. One suspects that Pi is talking about his own struggle: Pi the Hindu, Pi the Muslim, and Pi the Christian all in one and the same Pi, not only tolerating one another but living in harmony.

I leave you with one last quote without any comment. Read the book, watch the movie.

“I had to tame him. It was at that moment that I realized this necessity. It was not a question of him or me, but of him and me.” (2.57.8)

As always, I wish you a great day.

 

"Ethology" by Roger Abrantes

If animal behavior fascinates you, you will enjoy "Ethology—The Study of Animal Behavior in the Natural Environment," the book and course by ethologist Roger Abrantes.
Enrolling for this course puts you in direct contact with the author to whom you can pose any question while you complete your coursework. Click here to read more and enroll.

 

Time for Those You Love

My blog, today, is short, just to share with you some questions that appear to me the more pertinent, the older I get.

We spend one third of our lives turning in our sleep, one third dwelling on the past, and one third worrying about the future. Think about it: you are probably worrying right now about something that you can’t do anything about or that you can resolve in due time, crying about something that can’t cry back.

Life is a countdown, every moment counts, don’t waste it. Take time off and spend it with those you love—no worries, no schedules, no deadlines. All the rest can wait, the world will continue spinning round and the sun will rise again, I assure you. Do it now, for time is what you never have enough of when you realize how much you have wasted.

And so, as ways to setting a good example, I took a day off and went sailing with my wife Parichart, my sister Nor and my son Daniel. It wasn’t really planned. It was more a “let’s go and sail.” We grabbed some supplies and to the sea we went—and we spent a delightful day as four spoiled and naughty kids cutting class and giggling the day away—and that, my friends, it what life is all about.

Sailing into the sunset.

Time is what we never have enough of when we realize how much we have wasted (Picture by Elias Vidal).