Philosophy Tuesday

Knowledge is great.*  And informational learning super useful.  It lets us do all sorts of really great things.  Without it we can’t tie our shoelaces, we can’t cook up a great meal, we can’t learn the rules of the road, we can’t invent smartphones, we can’t fly to the moon, and so on.  Great stuff, that.

But there are certain parts of our lives where knowledge makes absolutely no difference.

As in, knowing how to lose weight, and losing weight, are two totally different things.

Likewise, knowing that being nervous doesn’t help, and then not being nervous, are worlds apart.

Or knowing how to ride a bike, and being able to ride a bike, also are two completely separate.

And it doesn’t matter how much we learn about them.  All the diets and the physics and the methods and the theories and the techniques and the tricks and the nuts and bolts and yet… there is that gap.  The gap that – frustratingly – cannot be filled – though we may try and try and try – by gaining more knowledge.

And this becomes especially true in those areas of life that are the most meaningful to us and that dig into the really big questions like, “How can I open myself fully?”  “How can I feel comfortable in my own skin?”  “How can I be confident?”  “How can I love and be loved?”  “How can I be fulfilled?”  “How can I gain peace of mind?”  “Or just peace?  Detox from stress?  Freedom from worry?”  “How can I be present and happy and full of vitality?”

All of the areas of life that are truly important to us.  That really matter to us.

Here is where transformational learning comes in.  The realm of ontological philosophy that gets at the root operating system of what it means to be a human being, a deep inquiry into that “being” part of human being.  Rather than give more knowledge and ideas, this kind of learning gets out of the way what’s in the way of us being powerful with what we’ve already got, both in the realm of what we know** but, more importantly, in the realms that gain us access to answering those big and meaningful questions.

Mindfulness, philosophy, ontology, Socratic inquiry, they’re all pathways into transformational learning and all hugely important in being able to integrate every glorious thing that make up our human beingness, from our emotions to our logic to our feelings to our physicality to our creativity to our expressions to our very presence of being and the wonderful dance between all of those and all that surrounds us, day in, and day out.

It is the path of self-cultivation that can lead us to the clearest views, greatest performance, and the highest delights of living.

 

* And as a geek, knowing things forms a big part of my identity…

** Which is one of the unexpectedly exciting results about transformation, that not only is the daily experience of life so much grander but holy cow does performance shoot up immensely at the same time!  Instantly get way better in just about everything (and without having worked on it).   Crazy weird, but undeniably cool.

Philosophy Tuesday

There’s an additional side to the quasi-Shakespearian quote,

“Resentment is a fire that burns with more light than heat.”

And it’s an important side!  And a side we rarely think about or engage with, despite, perhaps paradoxically, the impact it has on us.  Sure, as we spoke about already, we can look at the quote through the lens of being productive and what leads to better outcomes.  But the other side of it is what smacks us in the face every day: our experience of life within.

Because resentment, bitterness, malice, harshness, nastiness… well, turns out being in those states is just not pleasant.  For sure, we may get that little charge that comes from being righteous*, but overall?  It’s not great.

And it can be very hard to notice that!  Just as we cease to notice how cold the lake is after we’ve been swimming in it for a few minutes, the lousy experience of the moments spent in resentment and spite and anger just becomes the water we’re swimming in when we do it more and more, day in and day out.

Doubly unfortunate is that, when this becomes the water level we float on, even great moments are dampened.  When our baseline is a 1 or a 2, even an amazing +4 event only registers as a 6.  And the reverse is worse, for a terrible -4 event really sends us into the negative doldrums.  And when things are the status quo?  Well, we and our experience float along at that not-all-that-pleasant-or-nice-feeling of a 1 or a 2.

That lowly experience becomes invisible to such a degree that when we are able to give up those harsh, automatic, already, always, consistent ways of being and begin breaking out of it/them for the first time, many (myself included!) describe the feeling in this manner: “Suddenly I felt good in a way I didn’t even know was missing.  Or that even existed.  Or that was even possible.”

Best of all, when we stop draining our lake with resentment et al, and as we begin to float along at a 7 or 8, those +4 events push us high into the lovely double digits.  And those terrible -4 moments?**  Amusingly they can’t even push us down to the level of our previous baseline.

When we bring mindfulness to our practice and give up (as in consciously, willingly, workingly, and ongoingly) our resentment and harshness, we gain access not only to a newfound effectiveness in what we authentically desire, but also to an enhanced experience of life where we can rise up, shine with vitality, experience joy, experience love and relatedness, soar high, and set forth with gusto.

 

* Something that, as a recovering righteousoholic, I am well familiar with…

** Which, nicely, with practice in mindfulness and equanimity, what used to be a -4 event may only register as a -2 event, further keeping our experience from crashing down.  Which, triply nicely, also allows us to be more effective in resolving it more quickly!

Philosophy Tuesday

While our group classes and gatherings have been completely kaiboshed during these unusual times, I’ve continued to Kung Fu it up in my backyard (including weapons and all).  It has been a pleasantly productive time, with growth and new avenues opening to explore and with a wonderful handful of delicious insights.

But there’s an interesting thing about insights:

You never know when they will show up.

You can’t plan for them.  You can’t predict them.  And you can’t force them.  All you can do is go out, practice, practice, and practice some more.

And, of course, that means to practice with intent.  Be the force that is pulling for it.  Create the conditions for it to show up.  Lay the foundation and do the digging and look inside and be mindful and keep looking for what’s missing, what’s next, make the adjustment… and then put it into practice, practice, and practice some more.

Until, without any preamble, there it is.  Something new arises!  An insight, an epiphany, a shift, a transformation.  It might be accompanied with an “Ohhhh,” or a “That’s interesting, what’s that?” or maybe it’s so grand the skies part and the angels sing.  Whether it’s low key or a glorious emergence, it’s nevertheless unmistakable.

And it’s yours forever, to move forward into the world with that new understanding, new vision, and new ability, and to enjoy all that comes and flows freely from it.  All the while, being ready to lay the groundwork and to continue practicing, practicing, and practicing some more towards the next one.

This is the veracity of Kung Fu, as it is the veracity of any art or skill or ability, including the realms of philosophical transformation and even that of societal shifts.

It is also a counter to resignation and capitulation, taking solace in that uncertainty.  It rarely looks like somethings progressing until it moves.  And then it does.  And it’s glorious and totally worth it for the great days ahead.

Philosophy Tuesday

It wasn’t long ago that I was again mentioning this… but it’s very much worth a revisit right now:

For one:  We often (as in, nearly always) talk about “the economy” in the same way we talk about gravity, as some fundamental physical and organizing force in the universe that we have no choice but to follow its laws.  Yet, from the grandest galaxies to the humble quarks that form all matter, the economy is not present.

For two:  Therefore, the economy is nothing but our invention.

For three:  We invented the economy to serve us.  Not the other way around.

For four:  In other words, money is all pretend.  People are real.

For five: “When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character.  This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor.  But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw.  Stigmatize those who let people die, not those that struggle to live.”  — Sarah Kendzior  [To which I add, especially those who do so to enrich themselves.]

For six:  Continuing from the above, our belief about meritocracy has some serious downsides.  Namely that when we believe so much that things are, currently, truly, meritocratic, then it becomes easy to moralize and demonize people.  Especially since things are, currently, absolutely not very high on the meritocratic scale, especially when it comes to wealth and wellbeing, and even if things were, chance and happenstance play so much a role (compounding into the future) that it is still highly erroneous to ascribe saintliness or rottenness or slothness based on that metric.

For seven: If a system isn’t working for creating what we want in the future, then – remembering that we are the authors of it – we ought to alter the system.

For eight:  If we do think the system is working correctly, then say out loud how it operates in reality and what its results are, to be sure that it does indeed match our rhetoric.  If it does not, then we have a break in authenticity.

For nine:  We are the authors.   We often forget, and we often abdicate our role, but we are.  When we participate, when we create, when we make our presence and our mark known, when we work to building a community and the ideals we say we stand for, then we are mighty.

Philosophy Tuesday

Einstein is reported to have been very much enamoured with compound interest.  While it is unlikely that he – despite the memes floating around – ever proffered any highly quotable declaration on the subject, compound interest is quite a potent thing.  When the growth of something builds upon its previous growth, which then builds further upon that growth in turn, the results pile on real fast.

So it goes not only in the world of finance and savings accounts but also when it comes to all realms of self-cultivation, and in several ways.  For starters, as we develop our mindfulness and work to create clearings from old (and usually unintended) patterns, views, and straightjacketed ways of being, it becomes easier to do more of the same.  With less crud in the way we move more quickly, discover insights more quickly, and develop ourselves more quickly, further compounding our skills in mindfulness and in the arts of living and being in the world.

Even greater are the specific, measurable, as lived results that, as we create those clearings and unleash our agency, power, freedom, self-expression, and peace of mind, naturally show up in our lives.  All those things that we want build up on themselves, creating a compounding train of ever greater results and ever more of what we want.  And when something goes awry – for that is inevitable – we’ve got both the mental/spiritual clarity as well as a nice foundation upon which to remain mindful and thus able to deal with it with proper equanimity and while never denying our humanity.

And humanity is the pinnacle of this compounding greatness.  For just as easily as we can see how the positives in our lives can and do compound, we can easily recognize, get present to, and be willing to confront that negatives can also do the same.  A bad break here can all to readily lead to further bad breaks and downward spirals.  It may have happened in our lives, it may be happening now, but even more than that, it can happen to any of us.  And with that realization we can forestall our judgement about ourselves and, especially, about others.  When we see people down on their luck or struggling or acting out of sorts, who knows what paths were compounded from years ago?  Who knows their starting place?  Who knows what compounded itself downward?  And the same goes in the other direction too.  A single break or a position of privilege quickly pushes these two realms apart.  Neither our nor any one else’s position on the economic/social/etc ladder is ever a pure reflection of either morality or worthiness.

With this in mind we get to synthesize and compound all of the above, taking agency and working on self-cultivation to build ourselves and our lives (and the lives of those around us) while never losing sight that chance and happenstance is never far away, influencing outcomes and ready to put a thumb on the scale.

When we look at our designs for ourselves and the world and when we look at what we want to create and leave behind, we can ask “what do I want to compound?” and go from there.