Posts Tagged ‘possibility’

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Philosophy Tuesday

September 17, 2019

There was a story I heard some years ago about Australia*, and drought.  In that there had been this stretch of years of quite severe drought.  Things were tough, many faced hardship, and it just went on, and on, and on.  Until they found an interesting way to end the drought:  they introduced legislation that said it was not a drought.

Which, admittedly, at first sounds like the ultimate in shenanigans:  It’s a drought, it’s physical, you can’t just paper law it away!  But once you let it sink in, you get that what they were saying was simply this:  “This is not a drought.  This is [the new] NORMAL.”  They weren’t tying to legislate the physical universe.  They were recreating their relationship with said universe.  They were being present and reforming their realities:  “We have been operating under a fantasy, that there is, and should be, more water available to us.  But that is not so.  This is what there is.  Let us now act accordingly.”

And boom, from then on, rather than creating systems, building things, and living life as one might in a water rich place, and then trying desperately to do with less and suffering all the way, they instead could design, create, build, and live in ways that handled, managed, and used the water that was there in reality to its fullest.  They could treat water with the respect it needed.**

We can do the same thing in our lives.  We may have feelings, upsets, barriers, insecurities, and places where we experience failure that keep showing up, causing hindrance and hardship.  And we keep thinking – hoping – that one day it or they will end.  Because that’s how it should be. ***

Yet, there it is, remaining, as persistent as that drought.  And so we can declare for ourselves The [New] Normal, giving us a baseline from which we can stop resisting.  We can let what is be, and in so doing gain freedom.  We stop being controlled by it and instead gain the space to say “Ok, here’s what’s so.  What’s possible?  What’s next?”

From that new frame and with peace of mind we begin our new path, leading us to greener pastures and worlds of abundance.

 

* To which I will be upfront and state that I cannot be sure I’m remembering it right or the interpretation I heard about it was right… and reading the Australian Department of Agriculture’s webpage on drought policy is not entirely helping me determine if it is accurate or not.  The action that took place in 2008 during the National Review of Drought Policy could be it:  “The review found that drought conditions in Australia were likely to occur more often and be more severe. It also recommended that drought assistance programs be restructured to help farmers prepare for drought rather than waiting until they are in crisis to offer assistance.”  That said, whatever the specifics are what I took from the story (as expounded above) is still entirely relevant, and powerful as an entryway to and for transformation.

** And I would say deserved.

*** And it’s not to say those areas can’t be transformed; they most certainly can be.  But sometimes the very attachment we have to it not being there is what gets in the way of us transforming it and allowing it to disappear.

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Wonder Wednesday

September 11, 2019

What a powerhouse of a song.  I’ve long loved its oomph, its emotion, and I love how interpretable it is to so many people.  For me it is full of perseverance, verve, and possibility, the choice to take what’s so and to continually strive forward with peace, passion and gusto.  Freddie Mercury had an amazing vocal range and it’s used here to great effect, especially in the tail end as he begins singing in mildly low tones about the butterfly and continuing to build and build, flying ever upward to reach into the stratosphere in the final chorus.  Love it.

What’s even more amazing is the story behind the recording – Freddie was quite ill by that point and could barely walk, and Brian May was unsure if Freddie would be able to sing such a dynamic and difficult piece.  But Freddie just stood up, said “I’ll fucking do it darling” and proceeded to nail (nay, totally kill) it in one take.  Absolutely extraordinary.

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Philosophy Tuesday

September 10, 2019

“Fortune favors the prepared, dahhling.”

So says the inimitable Edna Mode.  And, on the whole, it’s a statement I very much subscribe to.  It is not enough to want something, or hope for something – we, quite likely, need to work for it.  Learning, creating, rehearsing, adapting, overcoming our barriers and then building the path step by step.  And when something goes awry, as things invariably seem to do, being prepared gives us the wherewithal to right the ship and get things back on course to what we want.

But in that quote, and similar ones like “Fortune favors the bold,” there’s something we often miss.  And it’s that second word: “Favors.”  It’s not guarantees, it’s not promises, it’s not even “agrees to help you.”    It’s favors.  Chance (and/or luck) always remains a factor.  A big factor.  And while being prepared can increase our chances, it’s still remains a roll of the dice.*

When we acknowledge and own that, we gain freedom.  We can be kinder and gentler to ourselves.  We can put aside our assessments of where we are versus where we wanted (or “should”) be, especially in comparison to others.  We can avoid sentencing ourselves to being a failure, and carry forth under that shame.**

More importantly, we can also judge others with greater grace and generosity.  We can set aside our dismissals and opinions on their lives and all the reasons why things aren’t going well for them, and we can forego all the ways we might treat them harshly because of it, be it shunning, punishing, ridiculing, or anything of the like. **

Even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and even a mouse sized setback or unexpected hindrance can spiral into another, and another, and another.  To be fortunate requires fortune to favor us, and that is never a certain thing.   Living into that context brings with it peace of mind, connection, and opens possibility, freeing us to pursue and to support each other in pursuing those things that call to us deeply.

 

*  Which is something many a tabletop gamer can relate to.  It doesn’t matter if you have +12 to hit… you may still miss.  And then there was the time where the DM, at the end of the campaign, after so many sessions, with the ultimate and final roll about to be made, and after long and theatrical preamble, told the player, “Look, basically just don’t roll a 1.”  By the very fact I’m using this as an example for how fortune can fail us, you and I both know I don’t need to describe what happened next…

** At the same time there is the flip side.  For ourselves, there is humility – acknowledging our fortune and that sometimes privilege gave us a boost – and not becoming conceited and hubristic.  When looking at others, we can remember that those who have accomplished much (or acquired a lot of wealth) are not necessarily or inherently better people, worthy of worship and imitation.

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Philosophy Tuesday

August 27, 2019

“Here’s the thing: neither one of those facets of Campbell cancel the other one out. Just as it’s not true that any amount of good deeds done for some people can repair the harms he visited on others; it’s also true that none of those harms cancel out the kindnesses he did for the people he was kind to.

Life is not a ledger. Your sins can’t be paid off through good deeds. Your good deeds are not cancelled by your sins. Your sins and your good deeds live alongside one another. They coexist in superposition.

You (and I) can (and should) atone for our misdeeds. We can (and should) apologize for them to the people we’ve wronged. We should do those things, not because they will erase our misdeeds, but because the only thing worse than being really wrong is not learning to be better.”

Cory Doctorow  (emphasis theirs)

 

(Lots of good stuff in that quote.  The layer that’s really caught my attention is how we often all to easily get caught into paying attention to an equation game and trying to maintain and/or balance this supposed ledger rather than the important part: apologizing and learning.  Apologies are immensely powerful, for everyone involved, including the one apologizing.  Apology is what creates the clearing for both learning and for reconciliation and reconnection.  It is what “erases” things.

It is exhausting, both mentally and soul-ly, to have to constantly maintain track of everyone’s score (based on our judgements), and even more so, of our own scores.  “Did I do a thing to erase that thing I think I did bad with the other week?  But then they did this other thing that I think is bad, which therefore reduces the thing I did, and then I also gave them that, and really that should cancel this other thing out, so I think I’m at a +1 right now, which gives me the right to expect this….”

Foregoing the binary mindset of good/bad, and the relative levels thereof, are what allows for mindfulness, apology, transformation, love, and peace of mind.)

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 30, 2019

Especially in the realm of “problem solving” or “invention” or “towards a more perfect”, there is a distinction, a difference, between doing something less bad and doing something that is a good.

This can be a tricky thing to wrap our brains around.  Because certainly fixing something has to be good, right?

Well, yes/no.  It’s similar to the conversation around efficiency.  Often when we see something that produces something we want, yet has these drawbacks*, we fixate on those drawbacks and limit our plan of attack to reducing them.  It is evolutionary design and problem solving.  “If I can get it to emit 10% less toxics, then that’s better!”

So we work, and work some more, and boom, we’ve gotten something that produces 15% less badness.  Hooray!  We dance, and celebrate, and then miss the point that the thing/system/machine/process/etc is still producing plenty of badness.  Badness is still there.

We also often forget that nothing is inherent.  Just because something is a certain way, doesn’t mean it is meant to be that way.

Instead, we can return to the primordial.  Design from first principles.  Create with intention.  And invent something that delivers a good on all fronts.  Something that not only produces what we want but may even produce extra of the things we’d want.

This is how we get a house built in the harsh desert that don’t just use 10, 15, or even 30% less energy for air conditioning by making it more ‘efficient’, making it less bad.  From our glorious spirited wellspring, we craft and get a house that, through good design, uses 100% less energy for AC even in the hottest of days, while at the same time being a more gorgeous house to live in.

This is revolutionary or primordial design.  It is not less bad.  It is a good.

When we cut ourselves, we put on a bandage.  Emergency problem solving is going to be limited in that way.  And we should absolutely do it!  Bleeding is no good.  But if we cut ourselves continually in the same manner, getting or creating better bandages is not the best way forward.  The less bad way still ends up hurting.

Returning to the source to chart a new course lets us avoid the knife and create many a good thing along the way.

 

 

* Which in of itself can take work to become aware and present that there are drawbacks, and even then to get over resisting or downplaying or ignoring the drawbacks because we get caught up in a false dichotomy that says we have to abandon the thing** entirely to avoid the drawback.

** We can also get caught up in the notion that the thing is the best, or even only, way to deliver that result.  The only way to have fun.  The only way to generate income.  The best way to transport our bodies.  By coming again from the primordial, designing by intention, we often create something that is not only a good instead of less bad, but the end result/product is even better than it was before, a better we never knew or could imagine existed, and would never had seen had we stuck with the same old, just less bad.

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 23, 2019

There is a distinction, a difference, between being skeptical, and being cynical.

And yes, it is very easy to collapse the two.  However, while the former can definitively slide to morph into the other, they are not the same.

Being skeptical is engaging our thinking muscles as we engage with life.  Indeed, the roots of the word comes from a Greek word meaning “questioning” or “thoughtful”.  It is to enter situations with trust and empathy and listening while keeping our awareness peaked and mindfulness engaged.  We seek to learn and to see clearly.*

Cynicism is to enter into situations already believing the worst of someone or something.  Rather than being open to truth and truths, the cynic knows the truth, and it is the cold, hard, truth.  And in that world there is no engagement, and no need for thinking muscles – there’s no point.  The truth is already known.

Being skeptical is to keep an open mind (for we can be, and it is very powerful to be, skeptical of our own reasons and views**).  We can balance our levels of skepticism with our levels of connection and trust.  We can be deliberate and whole (not falling into the depths of Descartes-ism) in our choices.  Skepticism walks along the middle path.

Cynicism has already shut the door, believing the worst of people or of outcomes.  It is immediate.  In the realm of cynicism there is no possibility; only, at best, survival.

 

* It likely goes without saying being skeptical takes work insofar as maintaining a practice of mindfulness takes work.  Cynicism is very easy, quick, and can even feel safe, even as it boxes one in to narrower and narrower confines, and where one’s baseline experience of life becomes most unpleasant.

** The very underpinning of a transformation is the shift to a new view that seems unfathomable and darn right unreasonable under our old view.  It is a jump to a new you.

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 16, 2019

Distinction month continues…

There is a distinction, a difference, between complimenting someone, and acknowledging someone.

Complimenting someone is saying something nice to, or about, them.  It is a polite expression of praise or admiration.  It often is also in rather vague or even impersonal terms, and often focused on the giver rather than the recipient.

Acknowledgement is far more personal.  It expresses definite gratitude and appreciation, and, above all else, it explicitly demonstrates that you noticed and are present to the person you are acknowledging.

The best way to learn this distinction?  Be acknowledged.  The feeling we get when we are acknowledged is worlds apart from the typical compliment.  Inside of acknowledgement we know we are seen, valued, related.  Compliments roll off our backs in the next moment.  Acknowledgement sticks.

As a very simple example:

“That was a great job, thank you,” is a compliment.

“Thank you for producing such an excellent report.  I know it was something new for you, and I acknowledge you for being willing to take up the challenge and learn quickly.  Thank you for your dedication and for putting in extra to complete this,” is an acknowledgement.

Even in such a simple example, there is acknowledgement of the work, the person’s spirit, their courage, and their potential sacrifice.  There’s nothing rote about it, nothing insincere, nothing detached or depersonalized.  It’s personal and affirming.

Want to get good at acknowledging?  Ask people what they want to be acknowledged for.  And then acknowledge them for it.  It may sound a bit odd, but I guarantee you that, given a chance, people have no problem knowing what they’d like to be acknowledged for and even though they just told you it still is amazing for them when you do so.  And vice versa.

As always, there’s nothing wrong with compliments per se.  Acknowledgement is simply more powerful.  It is more involved (as it requires being present) and so it is why when we intend to acknowledge we often instead blat out a compliment.  But with a bit of practice it becomes not only easy, but powerful for the acknowledger as much as it is for the acknowledged.

Inside of acknowledgement, we are all present to our connectedness, our humanity, and to who we are.

 

* This all also dovetails nicely within the concept of Presence not Praise