Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 18, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.  Tonight, a quote:

 

The majority of what exists is arbitrary…

Neither inevitable nor right…

Simply the result of muddle and happenstance.

 

The School of Life

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 11, 2017

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

Our brains have a pretty darn strong us/them detector.  And it’s a fast one too, as in tenth of a second fast.  See someone, or an image of someone, and boom, before we even register there’s a face there that part of our brain has slapped a label on it.  Recent neuroscience research is even able to watch this happen in real time.  Show test subjects a face, see their brain reaction.

Ok, that we split people into us/them groups is not all that surprising.  What might be, though, is that WHAT is pegged as different and other is completely arbitrary.  More than that even;  in fact highly malleable.

Take those same images, the ones shown to the test subjects where their minds were observed categorizing the people in the photos as in/out, us/them, kin/other, and show them a second time, this time with many of the people in the photos wearing a baseball cap of the local popular sports team.  That “other” response… goes away.  Just doesn’t arise.  The first time through:  person gets flagged as other.  Second time through with the hat:  nope, part of my tribe.

That’s fascinating.

Even crazier, the research found that the sensitivity of the detector (ie, make our brains ping “other” more often) can be heightened by simply placing someone in a room with a foul odour in the background.

So easily malleable.

Our brains “otherize” people based on all sorts of things:  skin colour, hair length, gender, body proportions, accents, perceived upbringing, fashion sense, music tastes, choice of operating systems, the list goes on.  And there’s nothing inherent, or even correct about any of it.  So much can set it off.

Which means we can adjust it.  We’re not locked into anything.  No one is.  Baseball caps can change the detector’s response (for or against – put on your rival’s team and watch it swing wildly);  with mindfulness and choice we can do the same.  That to which we do or do not recoil from is under our control.

And even when our detector pings based on one of those hundreds of hidden variables, it’s still just a ping.  It’s no different than the feeling you have right now of a thousand cockroaches and ants crawling all over you and up your arms and into your hair and along the soles of your feet, just from reading this sentence.*  Feelings can be great indicators of something, and so is this.  But they are not a determiner.  That meaning is all up to us.

Our brains continue to hand us these us/them judgments, all the time.  But that is no straightjacket.  It does not doom us to certain actions and reactions.  Rather, we are getting a signal:  to be present, to be mindful, to look around, and to be curious.  There can be gold on them thar other hills.

 

* Sorry for that sensation…

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 4, 2017

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

So, Bono and the Edge played at the Canada 150 celebrations in Ottawa over the weekend, with a nice, stripped down, acoustical rendition of their song, “One.”  Quite lovely.

One of the articles I was reading about the performance noted something I found very interesting about the song.  There’s a lyric in it that many people mishear or misinterpret.  And when it’s pointed out and made clear (as, apparently, the band tries to do whenever they can), it really shifts the nature of the song, to what I think is a much richer place.

What most people hear is:

“we’ve got to carry each other…”

However, the actual lyric is:

“we get to carry each other…”

This single word switch makes quite the difference.  It injects grace into the song.  It shifts the path and creates a different idea of the One.  It creates and even celebrates a Buddhist middle path, Taoist yin yang, straight up Niels Bohr way of saying “yes, we are different in many ways, and we can still come together.”  It removes a notion of obligation in the got, and instead turns it into generosity and possibility in the get.  It’s a One born from acting on our shared human desires and aspirations, our ur-intentions, regardless of the trappings of culture, society, interests, hobbies, romances, tastes, etc.

This get reminds us that we don’t have to really like someone, or want to be their acquaintance and hang out with them, or agree on everything, or be up to the same things in life, or understand everything about them, to still be committed to carrying each other.  To a future that works for us all.

Exquisite.  A melody well worthy of a celebration and worth living into.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 27, 2017

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

If you spend any time within the Happiest Place On Earth*, there’s one for-sure thing:  you will see a lot of very much not happy people.

And for this I don’t mean just upset two year olds who dropped their ice cream.  I mean of all ages, of all cultures, of all types.

Doesn’t matter who or where, we are all the same in this way… we can be most riotously miserable no matter the circumstances.  Even in the midst of lavish surroundings catering to the entire panoply of delight, giddiness, amusement, thrills, savoury, sweet, colourful, surprising, and all manner of enchanted storybooking come to life, even with all that pulling for at the very least a smidge of amusement, we can yet be downright upset, morose, and blah.  Perhaps, even, for the whole day.

How fascinating!

There’s something really great about witnessing this.

For while it may, at first, be distressing that we appear to be so readily thrown towards the dark, even while we stand in the midst of a thousand lights, it isn’t.  For this equally indicates that the reverse is for-sure true:  our circumstances are, quite often, just our circumstances, and even when we are caught visiting the Most Miserable Place on Earth** we can also totally be a very much happy person.

In spite of our circumstances, we have agency.  It is something we can work towards.  We can gain the freedom to be, no matter the circumstances.

We may not always be as happy as a tagline, but also we needn’t suffer.

And when we are in a place full of play, we can jump and squeal and run about and indeed really make ourselves the happiest place to be.

 

* Disneyland, according to their tagline…

** Not sure a theme park with this tagline would be all that popular, really.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 20, 2017

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

Tonight in comic form:

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 13, 2017

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

When I was young, my parents owned a cassette of Tchaikovsky music that led off with none other than the 1812 Overture.  Start the tape, Side A, first thing, there it was.  And I loved it.  I listened to it over, and over, and over again, the full thing, from the opening strings to the final carillons.  I’d get into it,  mock-conducting as the music went by, spinning the story of the music in my head.  I knew it inside out and backwards.

Some years later, I came across a different recording of the 1812th.  I don’t remember if I heard it on the radio or off another cassette, but I do remember instantly knowing one thing:  I didn’t like it.  At all.  It was just so WRONG.  Why were they playing with the wrong tempo here?  And what was with that different instrumentation there?  Who in their right mind would place the emphasis on those particular notes?  Or have the brass take the lead in that passage?  Why change the arrangement like that?

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??

I had so gotten to know a particular version of the piece that it became the “right” version.  It wasn’t even a version, it was just RIGHT.  Normal.  Proper.  Truth.  Reality.  How it should be played.  It’s what sounded best.  It wasn’t judgment, it was self obvious.  This was what the 1812th Overture was.  Everything else was flawed (and so were you for not doing it right).

Soooooo, a bit righteous there.

Of course, at that age, I had not yet learned that classical music – any music, for that matter – was open to so much interpretation and alteration by conductors and musicians and artists.  And, certainly, I was very much not alone in this.

Less immediately obvious, however, is that this very much doesn’t apply only in the realm of music.

Our brains are pattern making machines.  We take what we experience and turn it into reality.  We inherit what we see and hear and experience around us in our culture, family, society, we add to it that which we encounter, decisions we make, events that happen to us, outcomes of our (in)actions, and it all gets wrapped up into a nice little ball that we take with us as we go about our lives.  And whenever something doesn’t match that what’s within that little ball, our feelings come online pretty quick:  dislike, upset, unease, weirded out, disgust.

We get so familiar with something that our feelings quickly reject anything outside of that “norm.” Things can feel bad just because they’re foreign, different, or plain new to us.

Of course, because it’s our feelings, it, well, feels right and truthful to us.  We’re having the correct reaction.  That really is bad.  And wrong.

There is a large pitfall in that immediate, and quick, rejection:

We can miss out on so much because of it.

Architecture, art, music, literature, cuisines, styles, aesthetics, people – a whole world of exquisite beauty and form we can miss out on by being dismissive and moving on.

But even more importantly, it can completely blind us and shut down avenues towards listening to each other, towards compassion, and towards growing a society that benefits us all, with human rights, dignity, and with the growth of love, understanding, and freedom.

It limits who we are and who we can be.

Those other 1812th Overtures I heard weren’t bad.  I just wasn’t used to them.  I’d never experienced them before.  The ick factor was real, yes, but there was no meaning behind it, other than simply ick.  Other than simply that unfamiliarity.  I had to put aside what I knew and expected to listen generously and with curiosity.

And so it continues.  All the time.  Let the feeling be, and go forward to explore.  To get past that first thought and go beyond.

And through that gain access to new realms of possibility, and to glorious new worlds of wonder.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 6, 2017

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

“Breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs, if you let them.  You look back on the worst thing that ever happened in your life, your worst day, you look back now, and your whole life actually gained something from that.  You grew somehow.  In fact, you might now almost half-way be glad that whatever it was happened because you look at what you learned when you lost that job your you didn’t get into that school or you came home to early … you almost with enough time can look back and almost be thankful for the breakdown because if you use them right they can become breakthroughs, and what I am passionate about is that we come through this better, and not bitter.  That’s your challenge.”

— Van Jones (emphasis mine)

Wow.  That last bit especially really hits me.  “Better, not bitter.  That’s your challenge.”  That’s the challenge… because it is so easy, isn’t it?  To get all wrapped up in something and carry it with us like festering garbage?  Walking around with this sense of upset and resentment in ways that really, when we step back and look at it, isn’t doing us any good?  And even quite diminishing our lives?  Even when we do the better part, when we do learn something, adjust something, grow from it… it’s all too easy to “might as well do the bitter part too!”  Only – and this is so easy to see in our friends and colleagues and strangers – bitterness doesn’t really do us any good.  It’s like the definition of resentment:  drinking poison in hopes the other person dies.  It lines the everyday experience of life with poopiness.

Better, not bitter.  That’s our challenge.  To grow, to grow more, to grow yet again, always with freedom and peace of mind, to take our past(s) and tell our story(ies) in ways that empower and enable us all in that which we really want.  To not get hobbled by our past, or more so to not, mostly accidentally, plant a bitter pill and water it and carry it around and show it off and wrap it around ourselves such that it begins to restrict and strangle us and we are so used to it that it all feels normal.

It is an active thing.  To not be bitter.  Or to give the bitterness an expiration date.  We can see, we can prune, and we can very much drop the bitter plant and leave it back in our past, and waltz into the future eager and unbound.

 

The whole interview on City Arts and Lectures was marvelous, a great invitation to compassion and engagement, and to remind us that at our core, we are all very much the same.