Posts Tagged ‘possibility’

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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

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 2, 2019

As I have created before, distinctions are crucial in the practice of the philosophical arts.  It is through distinctions that, well, things become distinguished, separated, and even visible.  We see something newly, we gain insight, and we gain access to new realms.

So let’s rapid fire our way this coming month and a bit through some powerful distinctions. And since we’re talking about new possibilities, let’s start with:

There is a distinction, a difference, between a possibility and an expectation.

When we take on and set ourselves to something, we pretty much always have a view, a vision, for how we’d like it to go.  Which is great!  We have an intent, we have a vision, we have invented a (new) possibility.

The problem, though, is that very quickly it can easily shift from how we want it to go into being how it should go.*  “I’m going to go in there, do that, and the result will be all those,” or, “We will visit here on these days and it will be amazing in this way,” or “I will say this to them, and they will say this back, and I’ll get that,” and so on.  And if – or, more likely, when – that narrow outcome doesn’t come to pass, well…

When you have an expectation, and it isn’t met, you are left with disappointment.

But here’s the cool thing.  When you have a possibility, and it isn’t met, you are left with a possibility.

In those moments of ‘not it’ we are left with our vision and intent intact.  Rather than demand a limited outcome we are instead ready to dance with what comes, be like water, and flow towards our vision.

Because the doubly irony of holding tight to an expectation is that we become so fixated on it looking a certain way that we lose out not only on the flexibility to make it happen, but also on all the other opportunities for something equally grand or maybe even grander than we had imagined in the first place.  Locked into an expectation, we’ve reduced the myriad of options and outcomes to only one we will call success and creating a thousand and one ways to lose.

An expectation is a possibility with a built-in disappointment.  When we keep our possibilities from collapsing into expectation we remain free, peaceful, and full of possibilities that grow and grow and beget ever more possibilities.

 

* Which can also just as quickly become more extreme and turn into how it will go…

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 25, 2019

Every philosophical tradition begins with learning to be present.  Learning to be mindful of the current moment.

Even for the Jedi.  As Yoda said of Luke in The Empire Strikes Back:  “All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.”

Being present is learning to be with the way things are.  Truly are.  Learning to distinguish our thoughts and feelings and emotions about events, both now and past, from how the events actually are or were.  Without adding interpretation or story.  And this can be toughVery tough.  Because we are so accustomed to, so familiar with, so entrenched in our automatic assessments that we don’t even realize we are making assessments.  We instantly collapse our conclusions with that which is accurately in front of us in physical reality, and we so with such intensity that we then go through life relating to the conclusion as though it was reality.

We let those instant and automatic conclusions rule us.

Being present is learning to differentiate between what’s so (what’s brutally, actually so) and all our judgement, assessments, stories, and interpretations about what’s so.

Once we can stand there, we gain peace of mind.   Once we can stand there, we can then act from a place of choice and creation that arises from deep within our authentic selves.  Rather than being hemmed in and restricted by the frame of our views we explode the frame to open new realms of possibilities.  Transformation is now in reach.

Every philosophical tradition begins with learning to be present.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 11, 2019

When we interact with someone, we often operate under the unspoken 50/50 rule:  “I’ll do my part, and you do your part.”  Which is also sometimes known as under the name of “It Takes Two To Tango.”

Which is great, right?  I mean, clearly there are (at least) two parties involved, so each should be doing their bit for things to work out.  Except – and you knew this was coming – there’s this thing we do.  Well, a couple of things, but the biggest of them to speak of tonight is the “integrity baseline syndrome.”  Which is fancy name for the effect where we start off in a relationship at 50/50… but then you don’t do/be/handle/etc this thing that I think you should have, so now I’m going to pull back a bit, so we’re at 45/50… which of course means then that you notice I’m not doing/being/handling/etc as much as I should, so you pull back, 45/40, so then I say you’re not efforting enough and pull back to 38/40, and then you… and I… and you… and I… and before you know it we’re both pretty much being 0% responsible for the way the relationship goes.  It’s all eggshells and accusations.

(Of course, not all or even most relationships go that way, but they likely end up with each of us cycling around 25% to 35% or so… which feels fine, normal, and even right because it’s what we’re used to, it’s how relationships always have gone… but it isn’t where it could be.)

The extra kicker about the IBS, which you may have already noticed, is that many of the “you didn’ts” are unspoken by us.  They are never communicated, created, nor checked in on.  So, the transgressions we use to cut our percentage are often involuntary, unexpected, and even unseen.  There’s no explanation for why the other person suddenly seems less invested or active or engaged.  Which both hurts, and then prompts the further pullback, leading to the downward spiral.

The hilarious* thing is that many of these standards and ideals are amazingly arbitrary and trivial.  No, this isn’t about if the person abuses or controls or takes advantage of you, but rather the expectations of what a “person with whom I’m in this kind of relationship with should do” kind of way.  Does it involve gifts?  A certain way they listen to you?  Scheduling?  Activities?  Certain statements they should reiterate with a particular frequency?  There are hundreds of these, and so many of these are deeply individual; we created the expectation of what’s right and proper based on what we saw modelled growing up, both live and in fiction.  We decided it all.

Turns out, the other person may not have decided the same things.  And they have equally weird and specific metrics they’re applying to you!

So here’s the crux:  It’s best to enter into and maintain relationships where each person takes on 100% ownership of how it goes.**  And since you can’t act for another person, it means taking on being 100% responsible for how all of the relationships in your life go.

There’s great joy and power in this.  Extra joy, really, for what’s available in a high-ownership relationship is amazing and so much above what we’re used to as we dabbled around our 25%ness.  And given that forming connections is one of the most meaningful and fulfilling things there are for us human beings, this is super important.

An acquaintance once shared a story about their first Christmas with their, at the time, new boyfriend.  Starting in October they had been going out seeking the most amazing gifts they could think of and discover.  It was great, and they were super excited, hiding the gifts all over their shared place, all ready to surprise come the day of unwrapping.  Until they had a thought.  “Wait, if I’m using all the good hiding spots, where are they hiding their gifts?”  So they, as casually as they could, asked, “Hey, how is your Christmas shopping going?”  “Oh, I don’t buy things.”  And like that, an explosion.  Storming around the house, yelling “you’ve ruined our Christmas,” ready to throw them out, and lots of crying, especially from the boyfriend who wasn’t even sure where this was coming from.

Fortunately, mindfulness was present and so before too long my acquaintance caught then excused themselves for a moment as an interrupt, regained their centre, and returned to conversation.  Through talking, they learned that gift giving just wasn’t part of the boyfriend’s upbringing, both because they never had much money and moreover it wasn’t how they showed love to each other.  It wasn’t part of their world.  “I honestly don’t know how to do it,” he said.  “Would you like to learn?”  A pause to consider.  “Yes. I would.”

That Christmas was wonderful.  And in a delightful “be careful what you wish for” twist to the story, that boyfriend ended up being a MASTER at gift buying, so much so that my acquaintance’s mother prefers the gifts that the boyfriend buys to those from her own child.

100% ownership for how things go.  Disasters avoided, great enlivening relationships available, and the chance for things to be wondrously amazing.

 

* Hilarious in the “man aren’t we humans ever fascinating!” kind of way…

** Again, this is not control; see this post.***

*** Because if it doesn’t go as you’d like it to in order to maintain the relationship, you have the say in how it ends as well, whether it ends or not and whether it ends gracefully or in a train wreck.