Sam Harris - Death and the Present Moment

Note: I disagree strongly with Sam Harris' critique of faith and his advocacy for shedding religious wisdom and building a moral code based on reason alone. (Frankly, the "New Atheists" are lightening bugs compared to the lightning delivered by the Great Atheists; Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, and Thomas Payne.) Warning: Only those strong in their faith should tackle the Great Atheists, those giants of the mind, but I submit that intellectual integrity demands meeting Goliath head-on in the open instead of ignoring wisdom delivered by the disciplines of the modern age most "good Christian" sneer are unworthy or poisonous. Personally, I cannot read Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra without concluding his eloquence and intelligence to be gift's from God--Nietzsche's mind was a miracle! If only the scope of his gaze included the miraculous nature of his gifts! Who could declare "God is dead" but an unparalleled genius sent as His messenger but the man whose writings are claimed by Hitler's henchmen as marching orders? Doesn't this sound like the work of Satan, whose greatest trick is masking His gifts with lies? (Nietzsche railed endlessly against the evil he predicted would befall man for permitting faith to perish in idol-minds weakened by fear and ignorance--the Nazis' cauldron.  I think and faithfully believe that men like Nietzsche were sent to challenge, and therefore strengthen, our faith. God is good and loves us, but His mystery confounds us. We want but a cottage, but He plans for us a palace. Our intellect must be worthy of Him. In short: His almighty love inspired the great atheists to suffer darkness in their own minds so that the the faithful would would flourish--dismissal of His challenge is our will, not His. Temptation beckons us toward an "orderly mind" and away from the "chaos" accompanying any great construction. As Lewis put it:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 
― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

As such, I find Sam Harris' thoughts on God worth reading but only for novices--for snarks at the "kid's table."  However, Sam's meditations on mindfulness are unmatched and worthy of numerous readings. I'm grateful for Sam's insights presented as "Death and the Present Moment." As someone who's witnessed at least a dozen undergraduates break down in tears during office hours so far this semester, I'm particularly keen on helping students focus on taking joy in the long college slog. Mindfulness is very fruitful.

Tip 9: Avoid Traps

images wolf trap Wolf Trapping Study.jpg

Avoiding traps

is less costly than getting out of them.

It's easier and less costly to avoid a trap than to escape one. Some traps cost you money, others cost you time, relationships, and/or self-respect--some traps can steal years of our lives or connections of love and respect.

Maybe you've been drinking and become tempted to drive home. (I've heard rumors that some students consume alcohol. Hard to believe, but true.) Maybe you're out with a teammate whose car wreaks of "the reefer" and possibly he's driving dirty, dirty. (Getting into that car is the dumbest move possible. Every year I've seen at least one star athlete lose it all to the reefer trap.*  "But it's not mine! And it's not my car!" Doesn't matter. How can you not know that?)  *It happens at A-State every year. Multiple times last year. Ruined promising careers.  

Maybe you're out with "friends" and your "friend" won't drive you back to campus even though you've clearly indicated a desire to do so. Or maybe you're just stuck somewhere.

Don't mess around, sulk, take chances (on fools), or hope the trap the won't spring on you--nobody expects the trap to spring on them, until it does.

Avoid the trap.

Jonesboro now has Uber service. There are taxi services, too.  If neither option is available, then you can call or text me. (770) 280-7952.   24/7. 

Why me, your professor? First, why not me?

Second, because I'd rather we both feel a little embarrassed/awkward around each other for a few weeks than read your obituary, (or worse) discover you've dropped my class. I cannot teach the dead, or motivate students who've been kicked out for being in the same car with reefer, or inspire someone  suspended for DUI. And protecting people is what I do--if he won't take you home, call me.

I'll get you home safely.

No questions asked, no lectures.  Just a ride home. Oh, you'll owe me. Count on giving major time to some research project or university service or student-led organization. At the very least I'll make you study for your next exam right in front of me until I'm positive you'll earn a perfect score.

But you'll get home safely.  You are not alone.

Survey II

Please complete this survey no later than midnight Monday, August 26. Thank you.

Name *
In your opinion, what is the most significant and pressing issue in the world today? (Define "world" as you see fit; e.g., world, the West, particular nation(s) or region(s), your hometown, community, etc.) Please keep your answer very concise--just a few words at most.
Why did you sign up for this course? (Please be frank and concise.)
What do you hope to gain from taking this course? (Again, be frank and very brief.)
How many hours per week do you anticipate studying for this course?
Do you currently belong to a sorority or fraternity?

Cheating Scandals at Every Schooling Level--BY TEACHERS!


Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. 

Links to interesting articles on cheating, and below find the abstract and link to Levitt's fascinating paper on teacher cheating:

Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating

Levitt, Steven D.,

University of Chicago Department of Economics Publication



We develop an algorithm for detecting teacher cheating that combines information on unexpected test score fluctuations and suspicious patterns of answers for students in a classroom. Using data from the Chicago Public Schools, we estimate that serious cases of teacher or administrator cheating on standardized tests occur in a minimum of 4-5 percent of elementary school classrooms annually. Moreover, the observed frequency of cheating appears to respond strongly to relatively minor changes in incentives. Our results highlight the fact that incentive systems, especially those with bright line rules, often induce behavioral distortions such as cheating. Statistical analysis, however, may provide a means of detecting illicit acts, despite the best attempts of perpetrators to keep them clandestine.

UC Berkeley Permalink:

This is Water

“Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.” 
― David Foster WallaceThis Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

Survey of Mr. Jackson's Economics Students

Please complete this survey. I collect this information for two reasons: First, with more information I can tailor course materials, lectures, and tutoring sessions specifically for you and your fellow students; and, I also use this information to shape future course content and teaching strategies. Second, with this data I might conduct informal research aimed at improving A-State student experiences or formal research for publication purposes. It is very important that you answer all questions as honestly and accurately as possible. Note: All of the information that I collect is stored in password-protected files, which are stored in password-protected folders that are stored on password protected storage devices. Also, note I WILL NEVER SHARE ANY IDENTIFIABLE, SENSITIVE INFORMATION WITH ANYONE. So, please be frank. You don't have to answer any question about any topic that makes you feel uncomfortable. You will not be rewarded or penalized in any way for skipping questions that might seek to elicit information you consider sensitive. 

Thank you very much. I am very grateful you have taken the time to help me do my job better, and thank you for helping make A-State a better university--one you will one day be very proud to call your alma mater.

This survey should take about 30 minutes to complete.

Name *
What do you consider to be your home state?
Are you on any A-State athletics teams? If so, what is your "main" sport?
Do you belong, or do you intend to join, an A-State Club Sports team? If so, what do you consider to be your "main" sport?
Do you play, or intend to play, an A-State intramural sport or activity during the 2017-2018 school year? If so, what is you "main" sport or activity?
Do you currently have a job?
If you have a job, for what reason?
What is the highest level of education you intend to achieve?
If known by you, what is (or was) the highest level of education completed by your mother?
If known by you, what is (or was) the highest level of education completed by your father?
In a typical week in your last year, about how many hours, on average, did you study (outside of class)? (Freshmen can skip this question.)
In a typical week this year (not during exams), about how many hours, on average, do you expect to study (outside of class) for all of your courses?
What overall letter grade average do you expect to receive this semester?
Future Orientation *
Would you agree that you often think about your future goals and what you need to do to achieve them? Please tick a box on the scale, where the value 1 means: ‘always think about the future and plan ahead' and the value 7 means: ‘never think about the future and never plan ahead'.
Study or Cram? *
Would you say you always cram (end up studying just at the last moment before an exam), or that you never do this? Please tick a box on the scale, where the value 1 means: ‘always cram for exams 7 means: ‘never cram’.
My time spent at Arkansas State University has, so far, been challenging:
Indicate the extent to which you agree to the following statement using a 7 point scale, where 1 = fully agree and 7 = fully disagree:
Is this your first year attending Arkansas State University?
What, if any, are your favorite television shows?
What, if any, are your favorite movies?
What, if any, are your favorite internet sites?
What do you intend to do with your life? What are your long term goals?
What objectives do you need to achieve in order to reach your long-term goals? (Best guess is fine.)
Why are you attending college? *
Check all that apply

Why I Am Re-reading "How to Win Friends and Influence People"

Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People is a "how-to guide" for those interested in becoming a good person. My father paid me to read it when I was a teenager, and I've promised to re-read it every few years, but I've never studied Carnegie's wisdom as an adult. I was inspired to study Carnegie seriously by a recent blog post by the FEE's Jeffrey Tucker, who noted his reluctance to reading How to Win Friends and Influence People:

"Everything I thought the book (How to Win Friends..) about turned out to be wrong. This is not about manipulating others. It is about training yourself to be a good person toward others and thereby feel a greater degree of happiness in your own life. What makes the book different is that it starts with a premise: a happy life is about living in harmony and mutual benefit with others.

This book is a logic manual for social engagement, the success or failure of which turns out to profoundly affect your personal happiness."

As a teenager I judged How to Win Friends and Influence People to be the shallow talk of of a "salesman" who was self-centered, vain, and greedy. I realize now that Dale Carnegie's advice is none of these things--I was shallow, not Carnegie. 

Carnegie states in simple terms the principles and practices of being a good person. As a precocious, young 43-year old I'm compelled to admit there's nothing in this book I didn't already know, but I also have to admit that there's a great chasm between what I know about good behavior and how I actually behave. 

Dale Carnegie's guide is helping close that divide.

Adam Smith's Surprising Guide to Happiness

"It's kind of shocking to realize the person known as the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, didn't think the pursuit of wealth was a very good idea," says economist Russ Roberts. "He thought it was corrosive, thought it was bad for you, thought ambition was bad for you, thought the pursuit of fame would destroy your character and your happiness, your serenity, your tranquility."