Philosophy Tuesday

It is often said that “change is hard” but… I’m not really sure that’s the accurate or complete picture.

Instead, I’d say that a good chunk is really about our attachments.*  For when we go to change, we often need to chainsaw our attachments, and that is what can be hard.

Except… that’s not exactly accurate either!  For while it feels like we need to break out the chainsaw, instead, once we realize we have an attachment we can choose to just let it go.  We can choose to stop clinging to it.  Then, even attachments become more facile to let go of!

And in letting go of our attachments, we shift from change resistance to one of flow, where we can begin to dance gracefully within the vortices of life.  All while bringing with us mindfulness and practice to continually watch for automatically falling back into habit (something that, compared to change, is really easy to do), interrupt it, create who we want to be, and act.

 

* The other big chunk is about shame.**

** I might also say our identity, but identity often is a combo of attachments, shame, and habit, not to mention that often what we are trying to ‘change’ is a part of our identity… (though really here it’s more effective through transformation***)

*** Which is what makes transformation so powerful and effective, is that it bypasses these change bits altogether.

 

Philosophy Tuesday

“It’s common for instrumental play to be framed in opposition to fun, that they are ends of a spectrum. This is understandable in no small part because instrumental play tends towards optimization, which can often result in deeply un-fun player behaviors.  This gets extended out to the extreme where play framed around challenge or investment is treated as irrational or somehow less genuine than some hypothetically more “pure”, “innocent”, “unadulterated” version of play unconcerned with doing well.

It’s important to this conversation to establish, firmly, that this is a false dichotomy.  We’re going to spend a lot of time talking about how fun gets optimized out of games, which is why I want to stress that they are not antithetical concepts.  Rather than being in conflict with one another they are instead in tension; there is not an opposed relationship, but there is a complex one.”

Dan Olsen

 

The Folding Ideas channel just released a (most extensive) video on World of Warcraft that isn’t so much about the game but about the sociological constructs and expectations that have arisen around it (and thus in other game communities as well).  It’s fascinating in its own right, and doubly so for me as I used to play WoW.

But the above quote near the beginning of the video really caught my attention.  I’ve spoken a few times before regarding false dichotomies, and how much of things are actually gradients and spectrums.  What Dan adds here is a great observation that just because things aren’t an actual dichotomy doesn’t mean that there’s no interaction between them at all.  There still could be plenty of friction.  And, out of that comes a realization that the very friction that exists between them is what likely pushes us to think that they must therefore be in opposition to each other (when they may not be) and has them be collapsed into a false dichotomy (when likewise they are not binary).*

And still, it’s great to get that it is very much possible for these, and indeed many things, to all be interacting with each other in ways that may cause friction and diminishment if one is not careful.  Tension is a good way to describe their situation, rather than something like conflict, opposition, or something that implies a direct line and zero-sum-game between them.

 

* There’s a great example he gives of an RP guild doing ‘free play’ to organize an in-game charity concert event, certainly something that is outside of the game aspect of the game, and therefore may seem to be some version of contrasting purity of RP free play vs the rigid confines of the game rules and mechanisms for adventuring, getting loot, xp, and the like.  But in creating the charity concert itself also created its own internal rules for winning, in terms of people attending and money raised.  Again, it’s not that these things are binary and antithetical to each other; they are (always?) in a dance.  (The vid, of course, goes into much more detail.)

Toilet Paper Thursday

Nope, that’s not a typo.  We’re talking toilet paper tonight.  Specifically, we’re talking about finishing our business with clear cut forests.  Think of what level of impudent boors we must be to take a glorious tree, the marvelous gift to us from mother nature and the gods above, and all that tree provides… making oxygen, sequestering carbon, fixing nitrogen, distilling water, accruing solar energy as fuel, making complex sugars and food, creating microclimates, providing habitat, material for shelter, changing colors with the seasons, and it self-replicates… take that and knock it down to wipe our asses with it.

Let’s not do that, shall we.  Let’s not be that type of people.

Click above or here for the full report.

Philosophy Tuesday

This weekend I heard a story on This American Life that reminded me of another story I’d also heard on TAL (and also wrote about it here).  The story from this weekend was about a version of the game of telephone (if you’re not familiar with the game, an explanation is below*), except that this was a more full-blown storytelling version of the game, run as a loosening exercise for people about to appear on a podcast.  The first person told this short, concise, real-life story about a romantic relationship of someone in their friend group, it’s unexpected ending, an even more unexpected twist, ending with a quandary for the friend group.  The next week’s guest listened to the story, then told it in turn for the next week’s guest, and so on.

Not unexpectedly, the story changed.  And boy did it change.  But while that it changed was not a surprise, what was most interesting about it is how the story changed.  It got more dichotomous.  It injected villainy and malice.  It amped up the stakes.  On the whole, it became more dramatic, with both a good guy and with a bad guy acting with definite intent.  It became a plot (in both the nefarious plan kind of way and also in the narrative plot of a novel/etc sense of the word).

All of which all but obliterated the complexity, messiness, and humanity (including sadness, misfortune, and chances for empathy) of the story.

Which brought to mind that previous show on TAL where Ira had made the very astute observation, “And I think what that’s about is, I think, when we encounter something inexplicable or mysterious, our imaginations, we are such hacks. You know? We go to the most standard, stock, seen it in 100 TV shows version of what something probably is.”

Yep, it’s our storytelling minds being such hacks, taking something nebulous and turning it concrete, and often in a most nefarious direction.

And it’s important to remember that none of the participants in this game realized they were doing it, nor did they intend to do so!  They had the same sense we all have:  we hear it like it is, we understand it fully, and we disseminate it accurately, and while others may have problems sorting things out and keeping things straight and seeing things properly, or to keep their bias out of it, no, no not me, no, I tell it right.  That might be the sense and experience we share, but it’s one that’s unfortunately caca.  And the more we believe it, the more susceptible to our hack selves we become.

We’re not bad for this, of course.  Storytelling is one of the greatest gifts we have as humans, and is perhaps the thing that makes us human.  The idea is not to stop being storytellers or to become Vulcans.  It’s just a great reminder to us to practice mindfulness and work to expand our awareness of ourselves, and a reminder to practice being present to and with what’s so.  To develop our deep listening skills.  And to pay attention to the story and not just the plot, representing the depths of the situation and of all those within it, including generosity and empathy, embracing complexity, and to be fascinated with the way life sometimes goes.

 

* In case you are not familiar with the game, the simple rules are that you get a group of people, and one person whispers a phrase of some kind to another player.  That player then whispers it to the next player, who does the same to the next player in turn, and so on, until the last player receives the phrase and states it aloud.  Note that no one can ask for the person to repeat it; they must pass it on as best they understood it.  The surprising thing about the game is always just how different the last phrase often is… it can be downright astounding.

Philosophy Tuesday

I heard this interview on NPR recently about a new book that compares Charles Dickens and Prince (the musician).  Which on its face does seem quite odd… but the main tie that the author makes in the interview is regarding their prodigious creative output, for both were art production powerhouses.  And they were able to be so because neither were perfectionists.  In that kind of “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” kind of way, they were so excited to explore and create more that they wanted to finish what they started and move on.

Which, interestingly, also turns out to be a brilliant way to get even better at creating.

Hank Green mentioned once his 80% Rule (which to be clear is very different from the usual and oft quoted 80/20 rule aka the Pareto Principle).  His idea was, when creating works, to pull hard on them until they reach about 80% of how good you think they can be.  Then declare them complete and move onto the next one.

The beauty of this lies within another oft quoted truism:  The first 90% of the work takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% of the work takes the other 90% of the time.  To which I bet many of us have experienced this firsthand… to get something “perfect” ends up taking a huge amount of time.
We may well have produced two, three, or even four works within that same amount of time.  And the kicker is that our growth, our development in our self-expression as an artist, is more dependent on completed works and wrangling things to that 80% level than what we might learn in getting it “perfect.”

So, by being mindful of our perfectionist tendencies and instead aiming ourselves towards the 80% rule, we complete much more work that not only is amazing in its own right (able to touch, move, excite, and inspire others as well as be fulfilling and self-actualizing), but as we complete these works our skill grows and grows, such that soon our 80% is of higher quality than our “perfect” would be if we made each work “perfect.”  Which is pretty darn cool.

 

* I have also used this in my preparations for running RPG games, prepping things to 80% of the level of quality and intricacy that I think they could be and moving on, leaving me mentally fresher and more flexible when running the game, both of which tend to actually make for a better session than if I’d been “perfect!”

Philosophy Tuesday

“What do you define as success?” This a question sometimes gets posed in conversations with people of note or, perhaps somewhat bizarrely, in job interviews.  However, leaving aside the second one especially, and taking it on in a mindfulness context, this can be one of those laser focused questions that cuts through our everyday autopilot to prompt some actual reflection and thinking.

Because when we look at it, we often discover that we’ve never really chosen it for ourselves.  Often, we find we’re just living into the default view and measurements about success and what success is that we inherited from our context (including our upbringing, community, colleagues, etc).  Or if we did choose, we may have accidentally slipped back into those typical contexts after we’d suffered a setback or two while in pursuit of our desires.

So in giving it some reflection and thought, it’s common to notice that what we’ve been pursuing under those default contexts – often some variety of money, and/or status or fame, and/or control and/or some material items and/or some family/social unit or activity – isn’t actually aligned with what we truly want, such as love, connection, peace of mind, fulfillment, joy, excitement, making a difference, aliveness, beauty, gusto, wonder…

And sure, money and the like may provide some pathways towards that which we truly want.  But even beyond the long-held truth that money can’t buy happiness, when we focus on those reductive measures of success like money we can very much forget what we’re actually aiming for.  We get stuck on the default treadmill, aiming for the tool rather than the thing we want to create.  To bring back a quote from an earlier post, “It’s easy to confuse what is important with what is easy to measure.”

Which is also why when we attain those default measures of success, they rarely leave us fulfilled or satisfied.  And, rather nefariously, because we’re absentmindedly stuck on the treadmill pursuing those default measures, we fall into another pitfall of, to quote yet another previous post (one of the earliest!), “I gotta get a bigger hammer!”  In other words, we surmise that if these haven’t brought satisfaction yet (and everyone is saying they should), it must be because we haven’t gotten enough of “it” yet.

So we stay on that treadmill, our eyes firmly off the real prize.

Which brings us back to that laser-guided question we can ask ourselves “What do I define as success?”  With mindfulness and care and creation we get to choose that which will leave us delighted, radiant, and fulfilled.  And then we can align ourselves and our activities towards attaining that, including right-sizing our focus (or whether we choose to engage with them at all) on those default measures of success.

And with this clarity of success, we empower ourselves and those around us towards living the lives we want.

(And if we need a good starting point in designing our measures of success, Ben Zander’s “shining eyes” is a great foundation.)