Chaos, Complexity, Uncertainty and Control

I have found the study of chaos and uncertainty to be fascinating, especially as it regards human behavior, perception and decision making.  Chaos and complexity, or even the perception of them, have profound influence on the way we think and the decisions we make.  As I reflect on my life and judgments, I see how chaos can help to radically refine previously held assumptions and quickly narrow priorities.  It can also bewilder and paralyze.  Complexity can be equally difficult to consider.  I know that some of my worst decisions resulted in a failure to adequately contemplate every conceivable outcome from a decision.  In fact, that’s probably impossible to do, which ought to require an increased abundance of prudence in decision making, particularly where the risks and costs of failure are both high, or even if it is only the latter.  That rare event with catastrophic events shouldn’t be discounted.

It is interesting to me also, from a societal standpoint, how groups of people respond to these things.  Beyond chaos and complexity is the uncertainty of future (or even present) realities.  What we believe to be true about ourselves and others is usually wrong.  We tend to overstate our own strengths and others’ weaknesses.  This inability to accurately evaluate reality should frighten us and greatly undermine our confidence in making decisions.

After a few years on ‘sabbatical’, dealing with a rather closed society well-suited to extensive study and observation, and a great deal of ‘free’ time to reflect, I have reached … Read the rest

Limbo Is Real

It used to be believed by Catholics that a place existed where souls who were destined for heaven but were prevented from the beatific vision remained, awaiting Christ’s Ascension, or in the case of those guilty only of original sin,  for some sort of divine indulgence (presumed).  Like so many other traditions of the Catholic Church this belief has been abandoned by laity and cleric alike.  But limbo IS real.  I live in limbo right now.

It is a component of the criminal “justice” system that when a convict is finished with the imposed sentence he will remain in a period of limbo for a period of time, in my case, three years.  The convict is no longer incarcerated, but is still subject to the full weight of the federal government.  Not that every living person isn’t already, but in a more particular way.  It is a quirk of the system that although I have retained my first amendment rights, and thus, I may write this post, and for the time being, practice my faith publicly, I have lost my 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th amendment rights.  For the 99% of you unfamiliar with the Bill of Rights and other constitutional amendments, here’s a link.

In brief, because of my conviction for mail and securities fraud, I may not posses a firearm (or even be in close proximity to one, lest I be deemed to have potential control over it), I may not refuse any search, reasonable … Read the rest

Now I Can Speak

On my first day in federal prison, I was offered sex, drugs, alcohol and a cell phone, but it would be months before I had the opportunity to see a Catholic priest.

I had already spent nearly a year in a county jail, waiting to be sentenced and shipped to a federal prison, sharing a 15’x18’ concrete cell with 12 violent, career criminals, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  During that 11 months, I believe I saw a Catholic priest on three occasions.  It might have been four, but it’s tough to remember those kinds of details when so much of that time was spent in adrenaline fueled survival mode, a bag of batteries in a sock in one hand for defense and a sharpened toothbrush in the other.  The Priest, pastor of the local Catholic church, came after tiring of my mother’s calls begging for him to visit me.  Or perhaps it was her prayers and not calls that were efficacious.

I was glad to see him.  His liturgy was not exactly the Missa Cantata I had frequented with my family prior to my arrest, but he brought with him forgiveness and compassion-as rare in prison as in the world.

Over the course of my 40 months in federal custody, Catholic services were rare.  In contrast, evangelical protestants had frequent-as often as daily-services.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Nation of Islam were also very active, both in their evangelization and their activities.  It was not at all … Read the rest