Archive for the ‘Philosophising’ Category

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 23, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Continuing from last week the conversation about money and value… and expanding this week to get interpersonal.  Let’s look at our relationships and at appreciation.

Just like how we get sucked into the detached space of “pure monetary value” and readily lose sight of what something is personally worth to us, we also very much collapse the idea of compensation (ie, money) with displaying appreciation.

Hank Green mentioned this idea in a recent Vlogbrother’s video:  “John, you are aware of my appreciation deficit theory. It’s this idea that I have, that by turning all transactions into something that can be quantified with money, that we have lost the ability to feel as if there is value that can be transferred that isn’t measured?”

Acknowledgement, gratitude, and connectedness… they all get lost in the same morass of the reductive dollar value.

And so, when we pay someone for something, we think that’s all and good.  They did this thing for me – could be a big thing, could be a small thing, could be a pleasant thing, or it could be a terrible stinky hard thing – and we paid them, then that’s well and done.  That is enough.  We paid them, right?  That should show what it’s “value” is to us, right? *

But that’s compensation, a transaction, a payment to make a living to do a task for us.  It is vital part of the economic engine we work within.  And it should not be confused with appreciation.

It gets weirder when there is no explicit money interaction.

When a friend does something for us, its value may not even register for us, since it didn’t have a dollar value attached to it.

Or maybe we do think about it, but since friends don’t charge friends for things, what to do?  Buy them a gift, which is, effectively a payment by another name?  Mark it in a ledger to do a return good deed later on?  Or simply say thanks and move (awkwardly?) on?

Compensation is a quick transaction.  It takes moments to stuff a few bills across the physical space between two bodies.  It’s also impersonal, valuing something only in comparison to arbitrary figures of an autonomous numbering system.

Appreciation requires presence.  It takes time, contact, and connection to cross the personal spaces between two human beings.  It’s intimate.  And it’s about what the true value of something is.  “What is, deep down, truly, this worth to me?”  And if the answer is “a lot”**, then appreciation is letting the other person know.

“I value you.  Thank you for what you do.  Thank you for what you’ve done.  You have made a difference in my life.  Thank you for being part of my life.”

 

* And the reverse as well.  Our boss gives us a task, and we do it well, and they simply sign our paycheques every week;  is that enough?

** Remembering that people all over and in so many roles are contributors to our lives… as we are to theirs.

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 16, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

A friend of mine participated in a game a couple of years ago that I really find fascinating.  While on the surface the game seems quite simple, underneath, and why I find it so fascinating, the game ultimately was a meditation on the concept of “value.”

The game itself was straightforward:   Each of the players (something like 40 of them) had to select something they had to offer or give.  It could be something physical, like golf clubs or a blender, it could be something they could do, like massage or kung fu lessons, or it could be something both physical and transitory, like a 2 week stay in a timeshare in Maui.  There were no baselines, limits, or restrictions placed on what they could offer.  They just had to offer it.

From that starting point, the next 90 minutes they were to to walk around, talk with each other, and trade offers until – and this is the important part – they all got something they really wanted.

That was it.

And indeed, by the end of the game, each person had something they thoroughly enjoyed and wanted and were excited to have.

The nifty part of the game wasn’t the acquiring, though.  What was nifty was that through the actions and all those acts of exchange it got the players thinking more and more in terms of personal value.  That is, it had them examine and be aware of what was something worth to them – once again here is the important part – completely separate from the or any dollar amount attached to said thing/item/class/event/location/etc.

It had the players confront the degree to which the “absolute/real” $$ amount that was assigned to something had pervaded their thoughts and their choices.  It had them confront how much of themselves they had shoved out of the picture and how much they were letting the pervasive voices of the economic numbers guide the show.

They had to stop thinking only about “am I ‘getting a good deal’ here?” and instead remind themselves who this ultimately was for… and who it always is for, in the end.  “What’s the value to me?” was the question to begin, and continue, asking.  “Do I want this?”

The more time they spent within that space, the more free they were, the more trades went, and thus the outcome of at the end where they found themselves all beaming with excitement.  It didn’t matter if they had, perhaps, exchanged a high-pricetag item for something that might be considered low-pricetag.  What mattered was that they got something that they, themselves, authentically wanted.

We get all kinds of funny weird when it comes to money.  It’s all so easy to strategize and stalk this competitive field and get sucked into this zero-sum game where we absolutely must come out with the highest number value.  We can all to readily slide into a soulless mindset inside of which we so easily end up short changing ourselves.

But that question “what is this really worth to me?” can be such a switcheroo.*  It frees us to value things for ourselves, and allows us to choose where and how to spend those $$s we’ve worked to get in ways that light us up the most.  Without the filter of the so-called true “price” of something, we get the chance to guide ourselves towards what will give us the best experience and quality of our individual lives.

This can unfold even further… more next week.

 

* – This is one of the reasons why I’m so excited about the Kickstarter and Patreon models.  There’s no fixed cost… I can think and then pay exactly what something is worth to me rather than paying “what it is sitting there on the shelf.”  It offer the potential for a nice, unexpected, and hidden philosophical twist on our usual commerce model.  “This is a game/art/widget/etc that I reealllllly want to see in the world, I would be happy to pay $1000 to have it come to fruition.”  Not everyone approaches it this way I’m sure, especially with all the backer levels and extra perks for higher investments.  But it’s there, available (perhaps more so with Patreon than Kickstarter), and just allowing different levels of investment, and the more personal connection to the creators, I think begins to crack open the nut of returning our focus to “what is this worth to me.”

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 9, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

A few years ago*, I wrote about what I termed “The Tyranny of Talent.”  A good (re)-read, and it still rings true for me.  Perhaps even more so now, in that I think it dovetails nicely into my more recently created “Olympic Distinction,” specifically in the area of the arts, hobbies, or other areas of self-expression.  Even more specifically, in the ways that we shut ourselves down from playing in those fields of self-expression.

Briefly, the Tyranny of Talent (ToT) noted that our wonton use of the word talent is problematic on two fronts, the second of which is of import here:  that because talent has the association with innate ability or aptitude, when we see someone performing something with great skill we all too easy can fall into the pitfall of “I wasn’t born with it like you were, so I’ll never get there.”

The thing is, where is “there?”  Is there an Olympic level of performance?  If so… why do we need to be in the Olympics?   Or on stage performing to millions of people?  Or in a prestigious gallery?  Or in a stadium chasing down a championship?  Or a bestseller?

It’s a double whammy we give ourselves.  “I wasn’t gifted with talent, so I’ll never be all that good,” and “I’ve got to be good, because this example here is what people expect/is right/is what it takes to look good/is the only endgame.”

Self-expression is self-expression.  It’s not about making a living (or just making money), it’s not about fame, it’s not about accolades**, it’s not about winning that prize.  It might be about putting something out into the world that you want heard, but it also might not.  At its core, self-expression means something that arises from your authentic self and manifests into the world in a way that lights you up.  It is a way of being and acting that calls to you and you put forth into the world.  An audience may be nice, but it isn’t always necessary.  Dancing alone in your apartment could totally be a self-expression.

I do get there is a dilemma if the self-expression does include sharing with or involve others, especially in this day of the internet.  For that is the most readily available and easy place to share, and many have gotten so used to sharing what they had for lunch that it’s automatic to post that which we want to self-express.  And certain folk on the internet are not always kind to beginners, to non-Olympians.  And it readily bleeds into daily life too.  Take up soccer late in life with little experience, and depending who you play with you may not be treated all that well. ***

Insults, harshness, recriminations, they all can all to easily push us back into the dual contexts of “I’m not talented (and I never will)”**** and “You gotta be an Olympian to do this “right” and/or to show your face” leading to the very logical “Since I’m not talented, I’ll never be an Olympian, and so should never show my face/work.”

There is mindfulness to cultivate here.  To remind ourselves that our self-expression is for us.  We paint because we enjoy painting, we practice kung fu because we enjoy practicing kung fu, we jam out beat poetry and elsewhere because we enjoy jamming.

There doesn’t have to be an end game beyond that. We can share our work within a small circle, we can practice and play only with those who share our unhindered fun, we can send work out into the world anonymously, we can dance in the dark.  We can practice, play, grow, learn, learn some more, and just enjoy the pure joy of the activity.

Does it make us feel alive and fulfilled?

If so, then we’re doing it right.

 

* Already??

** And boy, is the number of likes or accolades or comments ever seductive in its own right.  This too is a whole other inquiry, how we’ve collapsed likes/accolades with “I am loved and worthy of love and belonging.”

*** Why people are this nasty is a whole other interesting inquiry in of itself.  For here, though, it’s quite interesting to consider that the same tyranny and Olympic ennui can manifest itself as harshness to assuage the pain of repressing one’s self-expression…

**** More rightfully put as “I misunderstand how skill and aptitude is developed, and I fear it is magically assigned at birth and I got skipped over so I’m screwed.” ******

****** That’s not to say it will be quick or easy to develop the skill, of course.  We’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and there tends to be a lot more to do in a day now…

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 2, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Our lives are full of inflection points.

Life happens.  Things happen.

When something happens to us, or around us, we get very active.

We make decisions about things.

We make decisions about ourselves, about others, and/or about the world.

These are powerful decisions.

They form statements, certainties,  declarations.

They shape our view of the world and of reality.

In effect, they are reality.

We have little distinction otherwise.  They are the truth.

We therefore act and behave in a way that is fully consistent with that reality.

We touched a hot stove and we got burned: hot stoves are bad to touch.

Now we no longer touch a hot stove, and we’re even cautious around something that looks hot.

That’s pretty clear.  That makes sense.

We made a mistake on an art project as a kid and we didn’t do it right and kids laughed:  we are not good at art.

Now we no longer try to do art, and we avoid being creative.

Hmm.  Less clear.

“I suck at art.”  That’s one possible interpretation.

So we stopped practicing art, we avoided art, we never practiced, we don’t do it.

Today, if we try to create some art, sure enough, we continue to suck at it!

So much proof now…

Blam.  An inflection point that set our course of life.

Yet.

What happened was that we made a mistake.  That happened.  Plain and simple.

Nothing more.  Nothing less.*

That inflection point, however…

That was us.  All us.

Not the mistake.  The inflection was us.

We made the decision.

A decision that influenced our view, our experience, our capabilities, and reality.

“I suck at art.”  That’s one possible interpretation.  But only one of a million possible interpretations.

And for all these years, we’ve been living the decision we ourselves made.

How fascinating!

We can return to that moment and re-evaluate things.  Choose a different interpretation.

We can re-inflect.

We can refresh ourselves back to that point, clear the canvas, and start anew.

We gain freedom.  We can create.

We can transform, build forward, develop abilities, and become who we want to be. **

Let’s play.

 

* And what is a mistake anyway?  Who defined the failure?  In the arts (including life, which is an art), what is really a mistake?  Or error?  Or failure?  Or good?  Or bad?  Who sa(ys)(aid)?

** This does not mean new skills and abilities will miraculously appear***.  It will not wipe out 40 years of not practicing, developing, learning… the work still needs to be done.  But it’s work that now can be done.  The barriers have been removed, the road is now clear.  And, inside of that clarity, the speed at which the skill develops can be fast indeed.

*** And sometimes it will feel as though new abilities have miraculously appeared.  Freed of the constraints the decision and the resulting inflection imposed on your life, inside of that new freedom, new capacities of performance for existing skills get blown wide open.****  The true extent of your skill can fully be expressed.

**** This includes interactions, conflicts, relationships, courage, conversation, perseverance, productivity, excitement, wonder, compassion, empathy, creativity, joy, peace of mind…

 

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Philosophy Tuesday

April 25, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Every now and again,

It’s good to get a little reminder,

To just,

Frankly,

Stop taking ourselves so damn seriously.

 

(as also noted by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander)

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Philosophy Tuesday

April 18, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Reality is what we take to be true.

What we take to be true is what we believe.

What we believe is based upon our perceptions.

What we perceive depends on what we look for.

What we look for depends on what we think.

What we think depends on what we perceive.

What we perceive determines what we believe.

What we believe determines what we take to be true.

What we take to be true is our reality.

Quantum Physicist David Bohm

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Philosophy Tuesday

April 11, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

There’s a distinction that Sifu has brought up a few times in our training I call the “Olympic Distinction”.

Which is to say that at the Olympics, things are decided by the 1/1000 of a second.  That little extra oomph of training and effort often makes all the difference.

In that way it’s not an unfamiliar distinction, and one propagated on countless motivational posters. BUT!  In a very Niels Bohr-ian way, there’s an even more powerful distinction here, especially for those, like me, who can or readily do fall prey to streaks of perfectionism:

“1/1000 only applies at the Olympics.” *

There are many times in life when we can get caught in our own mental traps that drive us to over polished—and ultimately unproductive—excess. We push and prod and try to make perfect and fret and expend time and effort and sweat and oomph and get nervous and distraught and stressed and all riled up and lose sleep and then… either…

never finish the darn thing,

have to cut it short to finish on time thus parts are left ironically underdone,

have to make changes and the extra effort is lost,

or all that extra effort didn’t make a difference in the final result or even in quality.

It’s hard thing to grasp sometimes.  It’s even hard for me to type it out.  It sounds so much like “be sloppy” or “don’t try your hardest” or “everyone else is a fool they won’t notice anyway”, or “cut corners”  or “never improve” or…

But it’s not really that.  It’s a reminder that good enough is still pretty frikken good.  That perfection can be an illusion.  That not everything we participate in is the Olympics.  And above all to be simply present to the cost that comes with perfectionism.

Sometimes that cost is that we don’t even start.  We see the amount of work it would take to reach that level of perfection and we think, “I’m never going to be able to get to an Olympic level to do that, so why bother, it’s not worth even starting.”  And so we abandon all the joy we’d have in the learning, the doing, and losing ourselves deeply in that activity.

We can get trapped on both ends, never starting or never finishing.  We can hinder our enjoyment of the task, and we can hinder our time to enjoy other things as we burn it all into this moment of perfectionism.  And, in the most counterintuitive way possible, it can even hinder the work.

Finding that middle path, and walking it, is where we, and our work, can shine.  We can play full out and avoid the Perils of Perfect(ion).**

And turn out some quite frikken good stuff.

 

* In many ways, this sentiment is also captured in the more common phrase “Perfect is the enemy of good” (or the more original phrase by Voltaire, “Le  mieux est l’ennemi du bien” – “The best is the enemy of good.”)

** Hmmm… Beware the PoP?