Monday, September 16, 2019

Seeking purpose in life

The Artdog Quote(s) of the Week

In Friday's post I made the point that people won't fare very well if they have no purpose in life. But where and how can they find such purpose? For your consideration, I offer a very short discussion, in the form of somewhat-dueling quotes.

Pardon, Your Holiness, but that seems a bit short on practical details. Could you please elaborate? How do we get to happiness as the purpose in our lives from where we are today?

That's a bit clearer, thanks. But not everyone agrees with His Holiness's original point that "The purpose of our lives is to be happy." Here's a counterargument from Leo Rosten:

Rosten, a noted writer, humorist, and observer of the world, had an outlook very much in tune with many of the creative people I've known. For him and for many others of us, our purpose in life consists of more than just being happy. It's even more than just making others happy. We want "to have made some difference" that we lived at all. How future generations will realize that purpose in life remains to be seen.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to PictureQuotes for the first Dalai Lama quote, and for turning me on to the second one, although their coverup of the credit line irked me (the image originated from an entity called One Voice, whose online presence apparently has ended. It was reposted by "Raya" on Forsti's Soup and has since spread from there). 
Finally, I want to thank Pass it On and for the Leo Rosten quote image. Please note that the background image for the Pass it On/Rosten quote conveys a message of its own, if you recognize it.

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818), Caspar David Friedrich
Art history buffs among my readers will have recognized it as one of the masterpieces of 19th Century European Romanticism. The painting is Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) by Caspar David Friedrich - The photographic reproduction was done by Cybershot800i. (Diff), Public Domain, and is available courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Friday, September 13, 2019

What is the future of work?

Normally in September my Quotes of the Week (and some of my most popular Images of Interest) have focused on work. But increasingly in my part of the world there is a sense of massive change in progress. Work as we have known it seems to be going away or fundamentally changing. We may well ask what is the future of work?

Will workplaces of the future look like the bridge of a starship? Maybe not.
Where are we now?
We live in a current economy of low unemployment. But there's not much sense of prosperity or well-being in the circles where I travel--and I'm not alone.

Wages are mostly stagnant. Income disparity is growing. Even more than globalization, robots are taking more of the "gold standard" manufacturing jobs that used to be the backbone of the middle class.

We're at a moment of change. So, then, what is the future of work?

People have to do something with their time. And very few of them are willing to spend their lives just idly partying away till they die. That might appeal for a while (longer to some than others, no doubt), but after all is said and done, most people actually do want a purpose in life. Many find that purpose in their work.

Beware of too much idealism
But what if the future of work turns out to mean fewer and fewer jobs? Where do people find purpose in life? Many people believe that society must place a higher value on the work that robots and AI can't do.

But human-interaction jobs, hands-on caregiving and individual interactions, as well as many types of creative work, have long been undervalued in our culture. These are in what is called the service sector. Is that the future of work?

Habits change slowly. What has been valued and prioritized in the past will by sheer mental habit tend to be valued and prioritized well into the future. The future of work may well include more "service sector" jobs and "gig work." But will that somehow translate into well-paying jobs, even though it has seldom done so in the past?

Certainly there are entertainment superstars (standouts in sports, music, etc.) in the service sector who rake in massive profits, but they're the rare exceptions. Highly skilled tech workers who can manage whole factories full of robots also will number relatively few, out of the general population. They're the outliers.

Humans may be doing things that only humans can do, but current trends seem to indicate many won't be making middle class incomes doing them. Doubt my analysis? Quick check: how many wealthy early childhood education teachers do you know?

What, then, is the future of work?
It's likely going to be a development of several forces, not all of which are anticipated yet. A 2014 canvass of experts in related fields by The Pew Research Center yielded slightly more positive predictions than negative, but the responses were almost 50-50. Everyone agrees it will be different.

Optimists suggest maybe more of us will be able to find interesting, creative work--or, at least, suffer fewer physical hazards and less boredom. Some policymakers warn that government will need to build in "guardrails" to help us develop a human-friendly workplace in the future. Some, like Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, favor a guaranteed minimum income to offset jobs lost to automation.

Whatever directions the workplace evolves, it's clear we should be having the conversation now. We all need to have a say, regarding what is the future of work.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Edicia for the futuristic looking command center image; to The Pew Research Center, for the quote from Stowe Boyd; to Futurist Gerd, for the "brain illustration" image on the future of jobs, work, and education; to Rasumussen College for the "What Can You Do with an Early Childhood Education Degree?" image; and to Jonathan Lockwood Huie's website and Dream this Day for his advice about building the future.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Perspective on 9/11

Where were you on 9/11? Nearly everyone who lived through it remembers that day. It marked us as a country, and it has affected those too young to personally remember (some of whom are now serving in Afghanistan). It changed life in American in several important ways. But, eighteen years out, it's possible to get a new perspective on 9/11.

Comparisons with Pearl Harbor
In some ways, as others have pointed out, it was another generation's Pearl Harbor. The Dec. 7, 1941 attack by the Japanese on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii cost 2,403 innocent lives. Each led the United States from peacetime into a costly war.

Both also led the nation into a periods of greater racism and xenophobia. 

Consider the widespread anti-Japanese racism (as well as Italian and German slurs and suspicion), and the Japanese internment camps of World War II.

Consider the development of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the repudiation of Muslim refugees, and President Trump's efforts to initiate a "Muslim ban" and ramp up deportations while denying asylum seekers entry.

The aircraft carrier Arizona was sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and was never raised. (National Archive)

The 9/11 attacks, almost exactly 60 years later in 2001 at the World Trade Center's twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a field near Shanksville, PA, killed a total of 2,996 people (plus more later, as first responders and others who had labored in the aftermath developed cancer and other health issues that slowly killed them).

Comparisons with Oklahoma City
However, to offer another perspective on 9/11, I invite you to consider a different terrorist attack, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, which killed 168 people and wounded more than 680. Until 9/11, it was the deadliest terrorist attack on record in the United States, and remains the most deadly domestic terror attack.

Here's a view of the Oklahoma City National Memorial at night. Each chair represents a person who died. (CNHI News Service/Kyle Phillips/Norman Transcript)

NOTE: This analysis appears not to include attacks on civilian non-combatants between Native Americans and European-descended US citizens from the beginning of the Republic (and before), such as the Ft. Mims Massacre in Alabama in 1813 (400-500 settlers killed), the Battle of Tallushatchee, also in 1813 in Tennessee (approx. 300 Creeks killed), and a depressingly long list of others. One of the last, the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, with 130-250 Sioux men, women, and children killed, also exceeded the Oklahoma City death toll if you accept the higher end of the estimates.

My point in this post, however, is that 9/11 changed many things about how we live our lives, what freedoms and privacy we are required to give up, and increased suspicion of "outsider/others" in our country, as the Oklahoma City bombing did not. Yet we could argue there have been relatively free of foreign or foreign-inspired terrorism since 9/11.

Domestic terror is on the rise, however. The threat we must face now comes from within. Will we gain perspective on 9/11? Will we see this new landscape? Or will we continue to imagine we see Al Qaeda in the shadows, and ignore the terrorists among us?

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to IBIE for posting the Adobe Stock image of the 9/11 Memorial spotlights at night; to Wikimedia Commons and the National Archive for providing a good file of the public domain U.S.S. Arizona photo from the Pearl Harbor attack; and to the Enid News & Eagle for the photo from CNHI News Service/Kyle Phillips/Norman Transcript, for the photo of the Oklahoma City National Memorial at night.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

What is Charlie's role?

Anyone who's followed my Facebook Author Page in recent weeks is aware that I've been working really hard to finish A Bone to Pick, the second novel in the XK9 "Bones" Trilogy. I went on a writing retreat August 23-26, and made huge strides--but I still haven't quite finished yet. My goal was to finish by September 1, and I'm so close! But still working.

The new book starts right after What's Bred in the Bone ends. Rex, Shady, and the Pack are back, along with all their friends and allies. But the new book also focuses on Rex's partner Charlie's struggles--and the answer to the question, "What is Charlie's role?"

I hope it's not too much of a spoiler to say that Charlie received traumatic injuries in a space dock accident, directly followed by the "explosive micro-deconstruction" of the spaceship Izgubil, near the beginning of  What's Bred in the Bone. He was out of the picture, in the hospital, during most of Rex's adventures in the first book.

Rex's normal partner, Charlie Morgan, couldn't play much of a role in What's Bred in the Bone. He was gravely injured, and in the hospital. Occasionally, by necessity, Rex teamed up with Lead Special Agent Shiva "Shiv" Shimon,  as seen in this detail from the cover art, © 2019 by Jody A. Lee
Although some reviewers have been puzzled or annoyed that he wasn't a big factor in the first book, his absence was the catalyst for a lot of Rex's growth. Rex couldn't stand back and let Charlie handle things, because Charlie wasn't there. Rex had to step up and handle things on his own.

An early concept image of Charlie and Rex,
by artist Jeff Porter.
But now Charlie's out of re-gen, awake, and recovering. What is Charlie's role? Has Rex moved on? Is Charlie now irrelevant? Bringing Charlie's story into the ongoing mystery has given me a chance to explore issues such as post-traumatic stress, depression, and the healing power of having animals (including sapient ones) and supportive humans in one's life. These are issues that are not only relevant to Charlie and the story--they're relevant to many contemporary lives.

Originally conceived as a single book, the Izgubil mystery won't fully unfold until the end of the third XK9 "Bones" book, Bone of Contention. But I hope readers will discover a full story arc and an interesting tale in A Bone to Pick. Publication date is scheduled for next May, from Weird Sisters Publishing LLC.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Jody A. Lee, my cover artist for What's Bred in the Bone, and to Jeff Porter (better known for his game illustrations), for the developmental image of Rex and Charlie. You both have been a pleasure to work with!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Happy Paryushan Parva

Today (at least, by some calendars) culminates Paryushana, the most holy festival of the year for Jains. It is a time for seeking a deeper level of spiritual intensity, through seeking forgiveness, prayer, meditation, and fasting. In honor of the holiday, Happy Paryushan Parva!

I have been seeking  greater understanding about participants in many major world religions during the latter part of this summer. I steadfastly believe that only through reaching out and learning about each other can we become truly respectful through greater understanding.

Das Lakshana (Paryushana) celebrations, Jain Center of America, New York City (photo by Aayush18/Wikimedia Commons)

On this blog, that effort begins by offering greetings to worshipers of other faiths, for as many  major holidays as I can learn about in time to post about them. Building bridges of greater understanding is my key goal. One of the joys of this "holidays" project is that it gives me an opportunity to learn how marvelously varied we humans are--and also how consistent.

In our varied ways, we dig deep for greater spiritual understanding and expression. For Paryushana, as explained by Dhirendra Kumar, the Paryushan Parva is "celebrated annually for self-purification and upliftment," and it "encourages Jains to observe the ten universal supreme virtues in daily life."

And every holiday includes some means of reaching out to others--to fellow believers, to families, to friends. One favorite way is through gatherings and special meals. Here's a sampling of Paryushan recipes, in case you'd like to explore them.

Foods for Paryushan Parva
I'm grateful for a new opportunity to learn about Paryushan Parva today, and I beg forgiveness if I got things wrong. Happy Paryushan Parva!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Millenium Post's article by Dhirendra Kumar, for the basic art I used for my greeting graphic. I adapted it and added the greeting in Adobe Illustrator. Many thanks also to Aayush18 and Wikimedia Commons, for the photo of the celebrations at the Jain Center of America in New York City, NY. Please note the photo is by Aayush18 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. And finally I am grateful to the Times of India for its article that shares recipes appropriate to the holiday, and also contributed the photo of the food. I feel deep appreciation to all of you! And I wish you a happy Paryushan Parva!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Accomplishments of the Labor Movement

Holiday Greetings!

I've spent the past several weeks laboring with intense focus to complete a full, finished draft of A Bone to Pick, the second novel in the XK9 "Bones" Trilogy. (The first book, What's Bred in the Bone, is now available. But pausing from our labors to consider the accomplishments of the labor movement is a big part of the point of Labor Day in the United States.

What are the accomplishments of the labor movement? The list is pretty long, and these freedoms--many of which we now take for granted--were not easily won. It's worth a closer look to consider what ideas, values and privileges established we owe to organized labor.

A list from The Hartmann Report itemizes several categories of accomplishments.

Equity and Social Justice
The labor movement achieved the end of child labor, the right to form unions, and the rights of public sector workers to unionize. Unions supported the passage of the Civil Rights Acts and Title VII Prohibition of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and also passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Family Medical Leave Act.

Things we take for granted
Among the accomplishments of the labor movement are things we today would consider essential.  But never forget that each of them had to be fought for. There was a time when they were not considered to be rights at all. I'm talking about the idea of weekends, the establishment of the 8-hour work week, and also the idea of paying extra for overtime (some of our bosses still haven't gotten that memo, but many have). Likewise, the idea that sick leave, paid vacations, and days off on holidays are rights originated with the labor movement.

Rights that are slipping away, if we're not careful
We may have established a guaranteed minimum wage, but is it a living wage? Low-wage workers currently often have to work several jobs to support themselves and their families, thanks to convoluted arguments that obfuscate and justify unfair practices that have led to growing levels of income inequality.

Pensions are another area of growing uncertainty. Winning pensions for workers was a major accomplishment of the labor movement, but under-funded and poorly-performing pension funds are becoming a national crisis. A related issue, the idea of sick leave, paid vacations, and days off on holidays are rights is eroding away in the gig economy.

And then there's employer-provided health care--another whole can of worms that I'll leave for another day.

IMAGE CREDIT: Many thanks to 123RF for this Labor Day greeting graphic.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Women do not owe you

The Artdog Image of Interest

August is a month when many students start back to school--many in new schools. I'm dedicating my Images of Interest for the next several weeks to a reminder that as young girls grow into young women, whether they're in public or private schools or in college, they often are subject to gender-based street harassment--catcalls, comments on their looks, etc. They don't need this grief, but all too many experience it.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Women do not owe you their time or conversation.

This month's Images of Interest are dedicated to those maturing girls and young women, as a reminder that we adults in the community have a responsibility to call out harassment wherever it manifests. I am deeply grateful to artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, whose whose work I featured last March.

In this month of Back to School and Women's Equality day, I'm delighted to share more of her "Stop Telling Women to Smile" public art project.

IMAGE: Many thanks to artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and her "Stop Telling Women to Smilepublic art project, and to Katherine Brooks's Huffington Post article, for this image.