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.”

Philosophy Tuesday

“I don’t have to run faster than the bear…

I just have to run faster than you.

While the above is not the actual quote,* it is how I first heard it.  You’ve might have heard some version of it as well.  And through its dark humour it speaks with a kind of seemingly unexplainable profoundness.

Whether there’s any truth to it in the physical realm (whether you live someplace where there are bears or not), the thing is that is does point to how we often relate to certain aspects of our life or of our behaviour.  Especially when it comes to the realms of morality or ethics.  It is quite easy to stop examining ourselves about whether we are living up to our ideals who we profess ourselves to be – including whether we’re being productive or unproductive, whether we are creating possibility or causing harm and hurt, whether we are working towards our common desires or running roughshod over others – and instead begin comparing ourselves to others, with one single metric.  To put in the same context as the above:

“… I just have to be better than you.

The game is no longer mindfulness, or self examination, or creation, or self-actualization.  That all gets short-circuited by the easy way out of comparison.  It’s a way to assuage our guilt.  Comparison smooths over the dissonance and discomfort that comes from stepping over our authentic self and its morals, ethics, ideals, values, and any of the bits that run counter to who we say we are.**

And it does a great job of it!  Inside the Bear game (aka “not as bad as…” game) we don’t gain peace, but it does move aside the confusion and unease and ache, at least temporarily.

But it will only ever be temporary.  Because we’ve got a break in our word, and a break in our world between our authentic self and how we’re being and behaving.

When we recognize the Bear game, we can put it aside.  We can let ourselves see those disconnects so that we can do something about them.  We can take action, do the work, create new clearings to step in to, and align ourselves with who we truly want to be.  We gain access to peace of mind, wonder, connection, and fulfillment, while also creating spaces where we can all flourish.

 

* The original, by Jim Butcher, is not presented as a punchline to a joke, being much more straightforward:  “You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.”  It was meant as encouragement towards perseverance (specifically in becoming a writer) as well as a good reminder to stop focusing on our imperfections and that we don’t need to be perfect or the ultimate best in the world at something to enjoy fulfillment and success.  However, the version I’ve got stuck in my head, with its more pointed nature, is more perfect for delving into the inquiry at hand…

** Unless, of course, who you say you are is a jerk or tyrant or conniver or schemer or the like… in which case, there’s a different conversation that needs to be had to transform that!

Philosophy Tuesday

“In an abusive relationship, your virtues get turned against you: ‘Don’t you want to be patient? And forgiving?’ ‘Isn’t it good to listen?’ ‘Don’t you want to provide for your girl?’ ‘Don’t you want to be faithful?’ ‘If you love someone, you don’t give up on them.’

In an ordinary relationship, those virtues will shine.

With an abuser, you will die waiting for them to be reciprocated.”

Abigail Thorn

 

(I think this is a seriously important thing to learn, get, and remember.  Not only for relationships, though, of course, it is supremely crucial there!  Because it is easy enough to get bamboozled, hoodwinked, and browbeat into thinking that you are not in an abusive relationship.  That the faults are all yours, that you should get your act together, that you’re not good enough, and that if you do anything different you are a bad person.

It is so very much a part of the DARVO play, especially the RVO part.

It is 100% manipulative maliciousness.

Which is where it also crosses over into territories other than relationships:  The same manipulative maliciousness is often brought into discussions or debates.  As we engage in far-reaching conversations about policy, about morality, or about our views on the wider world, whether these conversations happen on the interpersonal or on larger levels/stages it is important to learn, get, remember, and recognize when these same techniques are brought to bear.

It is, naturally, the ultimate in bad faith arguing.  For the vicious manipulator does not care one whit for the values and virtues they are levelling against you and that they are using to accuse you.  They are using them simply as a tool because they know you care.  They are weaponizing your values and virtues.

Again, it is abusive.  They do not hold to those values or virtues.  They are employed only as a technique with which to “win.”  Though, as Abigail notes above, when conversing and discussing with someone acting in good faith, all those virtues and values will shine, and great things can occur; with an abuser, it’s more that everyone loses.)

Philosophy Tuesday

To add to the Opposing Diapoles I mentioned a few months ago, there was another construct I discovered that had been hemming me in:  my Evil Triumvirates.*

Unlike the Diapoles, these weren’t contrarian landmines on either side of me into which I was guaranteed to step on no matter which way down the path I went.  Instead, these were views/truths/realities that worked in unison, albeit surreptitiously.  While, together, they formed a big barrier that affected me in a big way, each also had their own angle or flavour to it.  They were variations on the same barrier, sneaking up from different directions and linking to form an interconnected mega-barrier.

This meant that even if I managed to diminish or even remove one of the barriers, the other two still remained to maintain the constraint.  I remained trapped.

Even more insidiously, they were so splendidly interwoven that even when I removed one of them, the other two’s roots could still nourish whatever fragment that remained, allowing it to regrow and return.  Gah!

Which was pretty vexing!  I’d seen the thing, I’d done the work, I’d moved it to the side… so why wasn’t I freer?  Why was I still tripping up?  Why were my possibilities being stunted?  Why did I keep getting snarled?  Gah, again!

By bringing mindfulness to the fore, I could let it just play out while remaining present in the inquiry, and I began to catch glimpses of the Triumvirates.  I began to see their triple Neapolitan nature, how they operated on me, and of the way they linked together.  How fascinating they were!

I gave them their name.  And with that, I could begin to untangle them.  I could see them for what they were and learn how to complete them and move the barrier to the side while preventing them from recreating each other.

Of course, as with everything else in the art of living, it’s an ongoing project, and new barriers arise all the time. But this is no longer one of my blind spots, and with that comes new freedom, choice, and joy.

 

* Of course, they weren’t evil per se… they just were.  And had an unproductive impact on me.  But, like with the Diapoles, making it fun to say was important, both to keep it present and also to disarm them.   Making them out to be hilariously melodramatic and almost cartoonish evil shadowy figures hanging out near the margins immediately decreased the likelihood of me taking them too gosh darn seriously, which automatically diminished their hold on me.

** And the poorer experience of life that went along with it.  And, also, the lesser results that came from acting within that/those constraint(s)…