Philosophy Tuesday

“… a lot of people think or believe or know they are being – but that’s thinking or believing or knowing, not being… almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to be.  Why?  Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you are being a lot of other people,  but the moment you are being, you’re nobody-but-yourself.”

—  e.e. cummings

Philosophy Tuesday

We have many ways of determining, and testing, “what is real.”  Or, more fully, “what is reality.”  We use these, mostly unconscious, tests to shape our world view.  Which in turn shapes who we are being and even how we experience life, leading to our behaviours and reactions.

One of these tests, and perhaps one of the most hidden of them all, is the one of agreement reality.

As social creatures, we are very much in tune with what’s being expressed around us by our current groups, and how people respond to what we profess and do.  Get acceptance and agreement, and that reinforces our reality.  Find dissonance or disagreement, and it creates impetus to review, re-evaluate, and shift.  So the more agreement we get to our reality and how we express it, the more real it becomes.

This is why the common concept of an echo chamber is such an insidious thing.  The circular yes-ing and concurring between those within creates a massive agreement reality that can become all encompassing, especially given enough time.

And then… enter the internet.  One of the wonders of the ‘net is that we can find and connect with all sorts of people of all stripes from all over, almost all to easily.  The problem and pitfall of the ‘net is that we can find and connect with all sorts of people of all stripes from all over, and in this case, it really is all to easy.  Anyone who has a particular view (and reality) can find at least a few more who share that view.  Therefore incomplete, inaccurate, harmful, malice driven, and similar views can easily gain agreement reality traction.

Worse, this is further aided by the underlying website algorithms that are designed solely to drive us towards that which it thinks we will engage with.*  It does not know, nor care, whether what it’s bringing together is bountiful or baneful.  It just sends everyone that way.**  Which means those with the thinnest of realities can be brought together to form an agreement reality.

There isn’t really a conclusion here; this is more of a jumping off point.  To becoming aware, and mindful, about this reality test both in ourselves and in others.  To exploring it as lens on our disunity and of our isolation.  And as a foundation a of how we engage, of what we press for, and of how we can break cycles.

 

* This is even to the level that a search engine will, even if you visit it in private mode so you are a blank slate, use your IP address to pre-determine what it thinks you will want to see.  It is pre-shaping the agreement reality for you….

** And, worse, in the interest of engagement (and therefore our revenue-generating attention) it increases the intensity of the content it is directing towards.

Philosophy Tuesday

I heard something on the Freakonomics podcast the other week that was fascinating and added a whole new dimension to something in a way I’d never considered (or would even be likely to consider).  It had to do with the notion of individuality at the level of society, ie, whether a particular society was, as a whole, more or less individualistic.  While I’d always envisioned the gradient between (and let’s for the moment not get hung up on these specific terms) individualist and conformist, individualist has it’s own gradient: vertical and horizontal individualism.

In a horizontally individualistic society, people are encouraged to define themselves, seek independence, be expressed, value privacy, and be creative.

In a vertically individualistic society, the above is true, but (and this is the big but), they are very competitive in their individualism.

Huh!

In the vertical societies, it isn’t just seeing other people as individuals, it’s about seeing them as individuals with whom we are in competition with.  Though, it’s likely more accurate to say that it is about seeing them as individuals with whom we have to be in competition with.  It isn’t “hey, this is me”, it’s “hey, this is me, and this is what makes me superior to you.”*

Which is fascinating!  And opens up new avenues of exploration and mindfulness.  As a hidden context it would shape our experience and views and behaviour in all sorts of ways.**  Just to start, it would seem that the constant comparing and jockeying for position would create an equal and continual sense of instability and insecurity… the game is always on, and we have to be ready to play it at any time.

I always love getting a new lens and angle to see both new things and see things newly.  I’m know there’s plenty more to discover, and I’m keen on what will open up and what I’ll see out of exploring this distinction.  Even more so for the barriers I can put aside towards greater connection and peace of mind.

 

* Right down to the practice of religion, which, given the tenets of certain religions, is rather contrary…

** As this is a societal distinction, there are also some strong outcomes across the society, where the more vertical individualistic the society is, the more inequity and hardship there is, and the poorer the commons.

Philosophy Tuesday

File this one as an expansion of “Yesterday’s Transformation is Today’s Ego Trip.”  Because while philosophy and ontological concepts and insights can create great openings and oodles of possibility for us and those around us, when our identities and world views are challenged, these critical tools can also be repurposed.  Rather than being mindful and doing the work and practice to remove our blind spots and barriers using our transformational knowledge, our calculating selves can instead pull a switcharoo and instead wield them as a weapon against that which challenges our world views and “truths.”

It’s paradoxical, perhaps, but the very same transformational knowledge is used instead to try and annihilate the incoming information, and it does so in the most efficient way possible:  by tying into our unrivaled capacity to be dismissive.

We turn our deep philosophical understanding (and groking) into dismissal missiles.

It’s foolproof, really.  With our smugness and certainty into our awareness of these concepts, we can brush away any incoming flak as just others falling for those traps.  “Yes, yes, it’s not us who has the blind spot; it’s clearly them.” *

As it turns out, no.  Anytime we’re engaging dismissiveness we’re not being mindful, present, or engaging with what’s so.  We’re not being aware and sage; we’re being resistant. And, in a way, we’re not even there – our authentic self is not in the driver’s seat.

We can learn the feeling of when we’re being smug, we can learn the feeling of when we’re hooked by something, and when we notice that rise we can learn to let it be and to engage our mindfulness.  What is it?  What’s so right now?  What might we need to let in?  In those moments we can then engage with our wholeheartedness and self, avoid arming our dismissal missiles, and explore what’s possible.

 

* The one I see most often is once people begin to understand the concept of Cognitive Dissonance (understand, not necessarily get or grok it).  Maybe it’s because CD is widely disseminated and easy to come across, and so by default it is most prevalent, but it otherwise seems especially prominent as a tool to shut down and dismiss someone else.  And then be used by that same originator over and over and over and over… (and I’ve never seen someone stop, realize, and say, “Wow, there’s so much CD going on, I wonder where I’m being susceptible to and falling prey to it?”)

Philosophy Tuesday

This question of maturity, so intimately tied to forgiveness, is the subject of another of [David] Whyte’s short essays. Echoing Anaïs Nin’s assertion that maturity is a matter of “unifying” and “integrating,” he writes:

“MATURITY is the ability to live fully and equally in multiple contexts; most especially, the ability, despite our grief and losses, to courageously inhabit the past the present and the future all at once. The wisdom that comes from maturity is recognized through a disciplined refusal to choose between or isolate three powerful dynamics that form human identity: what has happened, what is happening now and what is about to occur.

Immaturity is shown by making false choices: living only in the past, or only in the present, or only in the future, or even, living only two out of the three.

Maturity is not a static arrived platform, where life is viewed from a calm, untouched oasis of wisdom, but a living elemental frontier between what has happened, what is happening now and the consequences of that past and present; first imagined and then lived into the waiting future.

Maturity calls us to risk ourselves as much as immaturity, but for a bigger picture, a larger horizon; for a powerfully generous outward incarnation of our inward qualities and not for gains that make us smaller, even in the winning.”

Maturity, Whyte seems to suggest, becomes a kind of arrival at a sense of enoughness — a willingness to enact what Kurt Vonnegut considered one of the great human virtues: the ability to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” Whyte writes:

“Maturity beckons also, asking us to be larger, more fluid, more elemental, less cornered, less unilateral, a living conversational intuition between the inherited story, the one we are privileged to inhabit and the one, if we are large enough and broad enough, moveable enough and even, here enough, just, astonishingly, about to occur.”

Excerpt from an article on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova

 

Philosophy Tuesday

“A company’s purpose is to make money.”

We need, I strongly assert, to stop saying/repeating this.  Because it is false.

Which I think, deep down, we all know.  But it’s weird, ‘cuz it kinda feels true, doesn’t it?  It’s a classic example of both a “false opposite” and an “adjacent mistruth” operating in harmony:  A company that continually loses money isn’t going to be in business for very long* – that’s the true part.  The false opposite is that a company has to make loads of profit to remain in business.  Similarly, to avoid losing money, a company has to think about its cash flow.  Which is fair, but the adjacent mistruth that arises is that therefore the company must think about, and almost only about, maximizing its profit at every turn.  Put those two together and it has got the veneer of veracity.  One that is further burnished by repetition.  We hear this phrase over and over so often that it feels true just through recurrence and agreement.

And boom, there it is.  We get companies that do just that, and we, perhaps unwittingly, encourage it.

However, despite this truthiness it is a falsehood.

A company’s purpose is to produce a good or service that is of value to the community while earning those who provide that good or service a decent living.

That’s it.  That’s what a company ought to be aimed towards.

If a company is in business for 50 years and breaks even every single year while providing a solid living for its employees, it’s doing great.  It may not be “crushing the competition” or “growing by leaps and bounds” or “earning a 50% profit” or “making it’s owner insanely rich” or “producing amazing shareholder value.”  But it’s been around for 50 years, providing something worthwhile that has it stay around for 50 years, all the while with employees living mighty fine lives.

A company need not overcharge its customers so it can pocket the difference.  Or underpay and overwork its employees to pocket the difference.  Or offset costs into the community to pocket the difference.  Or harm the environment to pocket the difference.  Or make detrimental and injurious products to pocket the difference.  It need not impoverish us all, fleecing us to further line the pockets of a select few.

Companies are about people making vital and fun and really nifty stuff for each other so that we can all live and thrive together.

And that’s what we need to be saying.

 

* Usually – companies/rackets like Uber notwithstanding.

Philosophy Tuesday

We humans get good at stuff.

The problem is that we get really good at it.

 

Sometimes too good.

 

Which then often ends up causing imbalances and more.

 

Our greatness/efficiency becomes unproductive,

Leading us away from creating what we want,

And even causing harm.

 

It’s up to us to get real good at knowing when we’ve gotten too good,

And recognize when we’ve gotten such strong tunnel vision

That our abilities have led us astray.

 

Dial it back a notch,

And watch everything blossom from there.

Philosophy Tuesday

“The Art of Communication.”  Though it’s a common enough phrase, I don’t think we often give it its due.  We don’t value it for what it’s really saying.

And the reason we often ignore it is simple:  because we’re always communicating.  We communicate hundreds of times every day.  And because we’re doing it all the time, we settle into the view that it’s just a thing that we do.  A thing that we can do.  A thing that’s natural.  Ultimately, a thing we even think we’re GOOD at.  And if there is any problem, it’s gotta be their fault.  *

Ah, hubris.

What that familiarity hides is that communication is hard.  That it is, very much, an art.  And as such it is a skill at which we can work on and develop and can always do better at.

Further, that it’s an art also points to the fact that there’s no one way to do it – quite the contrary, there are not only many ways to do it, but many ways we need to do it, for every situation, and every person we’re communicating with, is a different canvas.  Just because we may have it down with one person or group, doesn’t mean we’ve figured it out.

Heck, even within that group things can shift and before we know it we’re back to misunderstandingville.

It’s all an art, something we can practice and develop and forever grow.  And when we’re engaged with it we can bring our listening and mindfulness to it so that we can dance in the moment to create and communicate.

Because, at the end of it all, we want to share, we want to be heard, we want to be understood, and we want to connect.

 

* One of my favourite expressions/examples of all times regarding this is this XKCD comic I spoke about here, for which the caption says “Anyone who says they are great at communicating but “people are bad at listening” is confused at how communication works.”