Monday, January 16, 2017

The Person is the Message

Marshall McLuhan coined the popular phrase The Medium is the Message to convey the idea it is impossible to separate the form of a medium from its content. While this mantra is often used to covey the power that media has in its messages, McLuhan understood medium in the broad sense: in that, any object that transmits can have a subtle impact on its final cause (purpose).

When we see how our values and norms have changed just through recent advances in technology, it should be self-evident that there are serious implications of the medium in our day to day lives. Heck, I almost bump into someone everyday who can't look up from their phone while they're walking. And every so often, I'm the schmuck.

So if the medium has such a strong influence, why should this be any different for persons? I was recently listening to the On Being podcast, where David Brooks makes this astute observation...
I was once writing in a newspaper column. I was griping about how hard it was to get people to be good by my lectures to them in my classroom, and I got an email from a guy named Dave Jolly who is a veterinarian in Oregon. He said, “What a wise person says is the least of that which he gives. What gets communicated is the small gestures and the whole totality of their being, that is to say the small gestures of kindness, of grace, of honesty, of hard truth-telling.” And then he says, “Never forget the message is the person.” And those words rang in — because we deal in the words all the time, but those sentences, “What a wise person says is the least of that which he gives,” and, “The message is the person,” struck me as profoundly true.
We seem to forget this, and place too much focus on the words that inspire us. When true inspiration comes from the people we meet in our lives that exemplify a way of being. 

Maybe our utilitarian-focused culture doesn't have the moral language to articulate this or often lacks the subtlety to truly see it. But when I come across such a person, it's all there in its preciousness.

*          *          *

On another note, it's so nice when I can keep a thread going around a particular idea. In fact, I believe this whole blog is one huge thread around an idea that isn't very particular at all. It all depends how you view it, but there is always some underlying coherence that I'm aiming at.

So we took on the atheists in a recent blog, and that was fun enough that I'd like to do it some more. What spurred me on is this fantastic post by Matthew Becklo on Why Does the World Exist? Becklo riffs off Jim Holt's book with the same name, and summarizes the metaphysical speculations from many academic thought leaders as to why us instead of no-thing.

Since most of these folks interviewed are clearly atheists/agnostics, none of them point to Spirit for the answer while at the same time giving some fairly unverifiable theories. The only exception is author John Updike, who takes a leap a faith that God made the world in play. Updike was probably Holt's attempt to get away from the academy to find an answer that was more fully human. Sadly, Updike died the following year.

In the end, Holt receives no satisfying answer to his existential quest. It is only when he receives news of his mother's death in the middle of writing his book that he brought back to the humanity and humility of it all.

In Blecko's review of this, he takes it a step further and mentions that Jean-Luc Marion, Director of Philosophy at Sorbonne, should have also been interviewed. Marion has done extensive work on how first philosophy should come from phenomenology, or the appearance of things, rather than metaphysics. His work builds on this notion of giveness: in what shows itself first, gives itself. (Coincidentally, I am currently reading a book by Marion, along with a friend and philosopher-in-training, so I am planning to blog more about Marion down the road.)

Blecko soulfully notes that, As Marion argues, and as Holt's own account of his mother's death reveals, the knowledge of love—an image of the same love "that moves the sun and other stars"—must finally go beyond what analytic knowledge can subdue. Love's logic transcends formal logic—it even, in Marion's framework, transcends Being—and total love, not total explanation, is what Christianity is finally about.

This brings us full circle, because Christianity has always said the Person is the Message (word made flesh). Why would God bother to become one other than for the purposes that we could become Him?

And to become Him, in essence, is total love.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Truly Happy Atheist — An Oxymoron

We start the beginning of the year at the same place where we ended the year. Why should a calendar year matter when you're on the eternal cosmic timeline? I suppose we need markers to take inventory, but I am more compelled to see what's around the corner so I can build on that inventory.

I last left off on Spitzer and his idea of PED happiness. It all sounds nice, but I was wondering if a God-loving being can be anymore happier than some God-denying one? I know some religious people that I wouldn't want to have a coffee with, and I do have some atheistic friends that are quite a joy to be around. So if Spitzer is correct, then PED happiness can only come from someone truly called to Spirit.

I was reading Robert Barron's recent blog about the rapid rise of the irreligious. He discusses how those who deny the transcendent lose any sense of haste and fall into the "whatever" mindset. Moreover, without Spirit, there is little to be amazed, enchanted, or astonished by. You are locked in a world that serves you and your desire to control it. To counter this, Barron suggests that those who are tempted to move into secularism, I say, don’t float on the lazy lake; rather, go in haste! Don’t settle for something less than astonishment; be amazed! Don’t fall into spiritual amnesia; treasure!

Bob also touched upon to absurdness of atheism and its adherence to man for fulfillment. First, quoting Pope Francis: Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires. Bob then says, You might say that desire becomes intrinsically dis-ordered, being that it is no longer ordered to its proper object -- the only object that can possibly satisfy a desire that is literally infinite. And I suppose the infinite is the essence of pervasiveness, endurance, and depth. More PED, less dread.

Recollecting his time away from God, Bob notes, I'm trying to think back to what motivated me during my atheistic phase. Hmm. A mixture of things: superiority, to be sure. Although "annoyed" by believers, there was a kind of perverse joy involved in skewering them with atheistic arguments to which they had no answer.” Been there, done that. Spiritual pride is bad enough, but manly pride is just stupid!

But then again atheists can't seem to answer some significant questions also: like what happened before the big bang?; or why do we have these superfluous transcendental desires that don't placate evolutionary biology?; or even how my subjective experience of consciousness manifests from my limited grey matter? But all this argumentation also reaps little joy. Who cares if I'm right? I'd rather be True.

Certainly there are atheists that have strong, moral character and can live a life with dignity and purpose. Dennis Prager notes that these individuals (in the Western world, at least) have simply adopted the values bequeathed by centuries of Judeo-Christian values. They are living on what one author called cutflower ethics. So these flowers can survive for a certain amount of time, until they don't. And if we don't nurture what we reap, it will all go to shite eventually.

Back to Spitzer. He notes that Jesus saw that correcting our outer lives is hopeless without first attending to the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and interior dispositions giving rise to them. Even if we could force ourselves to be on our best behavior, but felt nothing except stoic indifference, contempt for "inferiors", and anger toward "incompetents", our behavior wouldn't mean very much, because our interior attitude would undermine it. The atheist can only go so far, because no finite desire would impel him/her to have their hearts be moved enough to transform their lives the way Jesus was pointing to.

If you could not cultivate a rich inner life towards Spirit, then there would always be a limit to your happiness. The atheist is always living in a small, conditional universe, while the only way to unlimited happiness is desire for the infinite. 

We can't do it alone, because we're never alone.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Only True Happiness Pill: PED (not PEZ)

No, you can't get true happiness from this...
PEZ may immediately gratify an appetite for something sweet, but little else. Ultimately, we can only find true happiness from PED. PED stands for Pervasive, Enduring, and Deep, and it's these qualities that can only come about by aligning ourselves with activities that satiate our more significant desires. When the effects of our activities move us beyond the self, that is said to be pervasive; when the effects of our activities are lasting, that is said to be enduring; and when we use our higher faculties to engage in particular activities, that is said to bring in depth.

Earlier this year I read Part 2 of Robert Spitzer's quartet, and now I am embarking on Part 1: Finding True Happiness. I suppose my approach is non-linear in the way Truth is non-linear. You have to go where the heart sings sometimes, so this book felt right in the moment. 

Spitzer's desire model resonates with me, in that, we all have desires, but not all desires are equal. My desire to watch the Walking Dead is not the same as my desire to spend time with good friends which is not the same as my desire to get closer to Divinity. Spitzer categorizes these into four levels:
      • Instinctual desires (level 1)
      • Ego-comparative desires (level 2)
      • Contributive desires (level 3)
      • Transcendental-spiritual desires (level 4)
While there may be hierarchical approach to these desires and their ability to make us more PED happy, it should be noted that pursuit of a higher level should not preclude the lower level (can you say spiritual bypassing?). Nor should a higher level be conflated with a lower level (can you say spiritual pride?).

So while we don't want to negate the first three levels, there is something significant about level 4 that most folks never consider. Level Four happiness arises out of three dimensions of God’s interior call: (1) our five transcendental desires for perfect and unconditional truth, love, goodness, beauty, and being (home), (2) our awareness of the numinous and the sacred, and (3) an interior relationship with a transcendent personal Being, which is so fundamental that ignoring it can lead to cosmic emptiness, alienation, loneliness, and guilt.

And it's this cosmic dread that creates these existential crises in those of us that fortunate enough to have them. Think of it as God's way of provoking us to search for our true purpose, instead of settling for the finite and conditional things in life. 

Sartre, Camus, and the rest of the existential gang were on to something, but they didn't take it far enough. Instead of pushing against our existential crisis with egoic defiance, we can receptively meet it with a surrender to something more PED-like. This calls us beyond the personal to the post-personal, which is still us and so much more.

Spitzer again: “If we take the evidence of human transcendentality seriously, we will see the inadequacies of the first three kinds of happiness, for they can never ultimately satisfy us. Without the fourth kind of happiness, we will underlive our lives, undervalue ourselves and others, and underestimate our full destiny and call.

Not that we all need a cosmic kick in the arse, but I suppose my stubborn mind did. And I needed several repeatable lessons too. Now, there's the question as to we enter more deeply into the transcendent domain and integrate PED happiness into one's life. Spitzer gets into the need for a spiritual community, contemplation, philosophical and theological inquiry, and service to others. But it all starts with a leap of faith. 

This choice means acting on the call we have received, which can be done by participating in a church community, seeking a deep understanding of spiritual wisdom and God’s self-revelation, entering into a life of prayer, trying to live according to God’s goodness, and helping others to see their true dignity and destiny. When we act on our choice to enter into a life of transcendence, God will invite us to experience Him in ever deeper ways. He will also provide grace, guidance, protection, and inspiration on our journey with Him so that we will be able to reach our most pervasive, enduring, and deep purpose in life, reach new depths of authentic empathy and love, constructively contend with suffering, help others to cope with suffering, and at the end of our lives leave a legacy of transcendent, eternal, and loving goodness. (Spitzer)

Well said. Now that's a wrap for 2016. Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Who Turned Down the Entropy?

For those of you that got through high school physics may know something about of our fundamental, physical laws. Without these laws, we'd be screwed big time! So thank God they're in place. But let's not get into who made the laws just yet.

There is one law that would seem to work against us: the dreaded second law of thermodynamics. It says that entropy (or disorder) always increases over time in an isolated system. And that all physical systems will eventually become completely run down and incapable of physical activity. Yet, the cosmos doesn't seem run down at all and has done a pretty good job countering all that entropy. I mean, we've got sexy galaxies, some cool planets, and even lots of crazy life on this one! So the caveat may be that our cosmos is not an isolated system after all. And if it isn't closed, is there something guiding from behind the scenes to create order?

Sir Fred Hoyle once remarked, A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.

But we don't want shun all questions to the answer of God just yet. That would be rude to our skeptical readers. It seems to me there is still an interesting, rational theory that can explain order in the cosmos. 

Kevin Kelly, who leans towards secular explanations, came up with a clever term for this decreasing entropy: exotropy. He says, The multibillion-year rise of exotropy—as it flings up stable molecules, solar systems, a planetary atmosphere, life, mind, and the technium—can be restated as the slow accumulation of ordered information. Or rather, the slow ordering of accumulated information.

So information may be where it's at (along with those turtles all the way down). For many years we believed the material universe to be made of matter and energy. And now some scientists are willing to concede that information may be behind it all. I suppose this is one way to get esoteric, without losing your academic credentials.

By its very nature, the informational dimension of any thriving system is going to be dynamic and unpredictable. It is also how systems change and grow: including physical, biological, and economic ones, etc. In other words, entropy creates something new, but requires exotropy to integrate all the new information in the system. 

George Gildner says, All information is surprise; only surprise qualifies as information. This is the fundamental axiom of information theory. Information is the change between what we knew before the transmission and what we know after it.

If we take this from the macrocosm down to the microcosm, this “surprise” depends exclusively on human agency because creativity comes from people, not from systems, who are part of systems. It is indicated by the idea of something new that defies prediction because that only works in closed systems. If a system is closed, it cannot experience the “surprise,” that infusion of new information that contributes to its survival and growth.

This is how creativity can create value through individuals willing to take risks investing their capital, prowess, and labor. Through this effort, new information is brought into light that others can't see or do. Gilder notes that this can fail when it violates a key principle of information theory: It subordinates a higher and more complex level of activity — the creation of value — to a lower level, its measurement and exchange.

This is the beauty of creativity via human agency, in that like the flow of information within a cable line, we can hone in on a signal from all the noise. Yet, our creative endeavors also require a stabilizing, grounding force, like the cable line itself. As Gilder notes, in our civilization this includes moral codes, constitutional restraints, personal disciplines, educational integrity, predictable laws, reliable courts, stable money, trustworthy finance, strong families, dependable defense, and police powers. 

And so a key principle of information theory is that it takes a low-entropy carrier to bear high-entropy creations.

So dude, who did turn down the entropy?...

Monday, December 12, 2016

If You've Got the Freedom, I've Got the Truth

I've been thinking about the convergence of freedom and Truth lately, and how one without the other just doesn't work. If you don't have freedom, then you can't choose to discover and align with Truth, and if you don't have Truth, then your freedom is just baseless chaos. 

I mean when people say it's a free country, what does that really mean? Some would say pretty much anything except yelling fire in a theater (which will definitely show you what chaos looks like pretty quickly). 

The Founding Fathers professed freedom, but it seemed to me it was always a means for some ends. In other words, we created a country that offered freedom from tyranny, but that wasn't the whole point. I do recall something about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness too. And liberty is essentially ordered freedom. 

As Bob said, Like any other form of freedom, it cannot merely be "freedom from." If it isn't simultaneously freedom for, then it is worthless. It equates to nihilism, or freedom to be absurd (which is no freedom at all).

So in a world of too many choices, freedom alone has little value. We can only give a free life significance when we align with Truth. And that alignment will always require a commitment of some sort. Think of the deep satisfaction a couple has when they have been married for many years, and can reflect on all their trials and tribulations together through the commitment they made to each other. If each of them were free to do what they wanted, the results certainly would not be the same. 

So in the bigger picture, we are all on a metaphysical adventure that our deeper nature yearns to align with. Some may deny this or marginalize it, but it's right in front of our noses. Yet, in our feeling-inspired culture, most would find this as stifling: you mean I can't do what I feel like doing? 

The irony is commitment to Truth gives you more freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the things in life that are unimportant and frivolous. It hones your attention and focus, directing you toward what is most effective at making you healthy and happy. Commitment to Truth also makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more? And it allows you to focus intently on what's important and achieve a greater degree of life satisfaction than you otherwise would.

The paradox of choice is less is more, but we just need to affirm that the more is what we want. And what is the more? Possible answers: (a) fame, fortune, and your own YouTube channel; (b) salvation, liberation, evolution and love; or (c) frozen yogurt.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Onion Peels

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. — G.K. Chesterton

Some of us love maps. Sometimes it's a guy thing, because I suppose it feeds our desire to explore. Or maybe we are just not relational enough to ask for good direction. But a decent map can lay out the gist of a heroic journey to get some where we are not.

I am not designed to be a Shackleton, exploring stormy, unknown seas, or an Elon Musk, who is ready to fly off to Mars. I am more an explorer of the interiors. That doesn't mean I've always been good at it. I've gone off the path too many times to count (which is always part of the ultimate path). But the intention never leaves. I am steadfast, so a good map hopefully can only help.

Consider all the map-makers I've been attracted to: Ken Wilber, Daniel P. Brown, A.H. Almaas, the Tibetans. These folks recognize the territory is primary, but if there's a map to address it, I'm sure they would say theirs is the best. My latest favorite map comes from Ric Weinman, who I recently came across in an interview on BatGap. His book takes on the path to awakening, unveiling all the layers of the self (which I liken to onion peeling, and I do love my peels). 

There are some nice tidbits in the book. Let's see what I highlighted...

From an awakening perspective, life is simply the opportunity for the Source of All to experience its own potentiality. [Thank God for that! We need to be liberated toward a telos.]

Awakening does not fulfill the self but rather deletes it from the picture. [Yes, but something remains which is the True Self.]

People live in their heads because the ego uses its mental story about itself as a support for its existence. They also live in their heads as a defense against feeling overwhelmed by their emotions and to defend against the experience of simply being open to life as it is. [Tell me about it! I always thought I wasn't that emotional, but the truth was I used my ruminations to run away from them.]

Yet the general rule is that the more of you that disappears, the more your partner will like it. [See the irony here. Unless your relationship is based on ego-dependency.]

I once heard Wayne Liquorman (an awake teacher) say that awakening was like the relief of taking a pebble out of an old, well-worn shoe. The problem is we all think we’re going to get a new pair of shoes. [Mistakenly so, we often think awakening will make us a new me.]

So, freedom has nothing in it that the ego desires. What the ego wants is transcendence and expansion into a higher state of security and power. That’s why the idea of ascension is so popular. [Ascension is just the expansion of a self that is still a self.]

Yet I have noticed one very consistent initial response to Basic Awakening: the experience simply has nothing to do with whatever was expected. [Yup, best to look into the unknown.]

The awareness that you lost your awakeness is actually the awakeness itself making itself known. [Just remembering is awakening.]

The Map can only describe the levels of awakening, not the degree to which it has been incorporated into one’s life. Someone who has not awakened deeply but is more fully living from their awakening may seem more awake than the person who has gone deeper but allowed it to move more into the background. [I love this excerpt. It made me think of all the people I've come across who have higher attainments, but are still arseholes. It all comes down to intention.]

If you can find where laughter comes from you will find Divinity. [Another quote I love! Humor releases us to Source.]

So, you do have free will, but the person you experience yourself to be doesn’t. [Yup. We're not that free if it's all that conditioning that is reacting.]

Fixating harder on something that is known won’t open the door to the unknown. [Another great quote!]

Here’s an extra little trick: think of the source of the mind as existing in the heart. [Ahh, the cave of the Heart. Makes me smile.]

Consciousness has the quality of emptiness. If you think of light as having a quality of fullness and the shadows it creates as having a quality of emptiness, then this aligns with awareness and consciousness: awareness has a quality of fullness, and consciousness, the ‘shadow’ of awareness, feels empty. [I like this distinction between consciousness and awareness.]

You might think that losing the sense of the personal would make you more emotionally cold and impersonal. It turns out this isn’t true. In general, the deeper your awakening goes, the more ‘real’ you become, the more you become what you really are. So you become more open, more present, more heartful. You will have more detachment as well, but the detachment created from the awakening will have no walls— it is open space. [Some Buddhists get mixed up in this detachment, where they are not truly available. It's just a state of repose and not true awakening.]

Because we want to hold onto our awakening, there will be a tendency to turn our awake space into an image that we can then hold in consciousness. In addition, we want to be that awake space, so we will identify with that image. That turns what you are into an image in consciousness. Be on the alert for this, and remember that whenever you become something, you have moved into illusion. Only in being nothing does the everything you are reveal itself, and it reveals itself to no one. [A good reminder!]

My only guidance for learning to live from this level of awakening is to distinguish what you are from what you keep becoming and what you experience. Then keep dropping into what you are. [A pith instruction we can always use.]

Overall, Ric's book was a delightful read. I don't know why some teachers resonate more than others with me, but I always appreciate a fresh perspective to the path!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Popping Bubbles

This past week, Saturday Night Live, had a quite funny, yet poignant mock advertisement for The Bubble...
After a wild and crazy election season, I know we are all taking inventory of our political fragmentation. I was not as surprised that Trump won the election as many of my peers, but I was surprised as to how surprised they were that he did win.

Several years ago I read Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010 to better understand the shifting patterns in American working/upper class culture. It was not as obvious to me at the time, as I assumed like everyone else that the general working class was always slanted toward more traditional Democratic values (the one exception being the Reagan years where there was a slight counter shift). But in respects to Murray's work, which compared the two communities of Belmont, MA and Fishtown, PA, there is a different story as to an increasing divergence that begun to emerge for several decades between the college-educated elite living in the super-zips (a la bubble) from those with little education, eking out a meager living in more rural areas. Much of this points to economic shifts, but Murray highlights more the cultural underpinnings that created this mess.

One Amazon reviewer says, in 1960 Fishtown was a very Catholic neighborhood in which the men worked, the women stayed home, and the kids went to Catholic school. My ex-wife was one of them. What they considered to be social problems were excess drinking, quite a bit of it, fistfights and a bit of philandering. Young people, however, knew what was expected of them. They got married, before or after becoming pregnant, and provided families for kids. It was a moral expectation that was generally observed. People had responsibilities and took them seriously. They did not accept welfare, they answered the call when they were drafted, and they participated in church and civic organizations. Fishtown in 2010 is a very different place. People simply don't feel an obligation to either work or get married. There are many never married people, and many out of wedlock children. A lot of the guys are just bums - don't work, don't want to work, don't want to get married, and waste their time watching television. An inordinately large number have figured how to game the system by qualifying for Social Security disability. Their attitude is that work is for chumps. Quite a few of them have drinking and drug problems, but Murray does not consider these disabilities to be nearly as important as the lack of any of the four foundations in their lives. No more religion, no social connections with the community, either no marriage or an unsatisfactory marriage, and no vocation.

Yet in Belmont, the picture is quite different. Murray claims that the state of affairs in Belmont is much better. People work hard, get married, stay married, are resolutely and obsessively concerned with their children, and are involved in community. More than that, counter-intuitively, they are more involved in church than are the people remaining in Fishtown. They may not believe the dogmas, but they understand the social value of belonging. What has changed in Belmont is the conviction that the set of virtues they practice really ought to be preached. Belmont now believes totally in moral relativism. If somebody else doesn't want to remain married to his kids' mother, doesn't want to work, or spends all of his money on drink and drugs and all of his time watching TV, they're not going to be judgmental. That's somebody else's life.

Murray sums it up best when he says, the hollow elite is as dysfunctional in its way as the new lower class is in its way. Personally and as families, its members are successful. But they have abdicated their responsibility to set and promulgate standards. The most powerful and successful members of their class increasingly trade on the perks of their privileged positions without regard to the seemliness of that behavior. The members of the new upper class are active politically, but when it comes to using their positions to help sustain the republic in day-to-day life, they are AWOL. 

Where once there was a time when people of any class admired the upper classes in America, now there is little to admire as having an ideology of non-judgmentalism does little to help a working class with a decaying moral and social fabric. Such frustration could only lead to the desire for a outside statesman with strong convictions that could rattle the current system to its core.

Moreover, the new upper class non-judgmental stance is not without its hypocrisy, as there is a contempt the bleeds from the top-down. Locked into their value-laden bubble, they can't even relate to working class America anymore. Murray showcases this through a quiz in his book... 
  1. Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American neighborhood in which the majority of your fifty nearest neighbors probably did not have college degrees?  
  2. Did you grow up in a family in which the chief breadwinner was not in a managerial job or a high-prestige profession?
  3. Have you ever walked on a factory floor?
  4. Have you ever held a job that caused something to hurt at the end of the day?
  5. Have you ever had a close friend who was an evangelical Christian?
  6. Do you now have a close friend with whom you have strong and wide-ranging political disagreements?
  7. Have you ever had a close friend who could seldom get better than Cs in high school even if he or she tried hard?
  8. During the last month, have you voluntarily hung out with people who were smoking cigarettes?
  9. During the last five years, have you gone fishing?
  10. How many times in the last year have you eaten at one of the following restaurant chains? (Applebee’s, Waffle House, Denny’s, IHOP, Chili’s, Outback Steakhouse, Ruby Tuesday, T.G.I. Friday’s, Ponderosa Steakhouse)
  11. In secondary school, did you letter in anything?
  12. Have you ever participated in a parade not involving global warming, a war protest, or gay rights?
  13. Since leaving school, have you ever worn a uniform?
  14. Have you ever ridden on a long-distance bus (e.g., Greyhound,Trailways) or hitchhiked for a trip of fifty miles or more?
  15. Have you ever watched an Oprah, Dr. Phil, or Judge Judy show all the way through?
So I was able to answer yes most of these only because I grew in a working class town in southern Maine. However, in my current living situation, I would have failed this miserably. And I never cared to fish and I never worn a uniform. C'est la vie, in a bubble.