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)…

Philosophy Tuesday

It’s rather remarkable how adaptive we (as human beings) are.  I’m not speaking only about our geographic reach, as expansive as that is.  I mean just about anything and everything.  All so quickly, things, situations, systems, dynamics, societies, and etc all begin to feel normal.   And not just normal, but everlasting, intrinsic, and even right.  Like that’s how its supposed to be.  And like how there’s no way it could be any other way.

It’s reality.

Which, of course, is caca.  If there’s one thing for certain, it is that things change.**  We are always, ongoingly, creating ourselves, creating our communities, creating our systems, and creating our culture.  When we get lost in that feel of normalcy, that’s when we can get stuck creating the same thing over and over and over again.  Perhaps inadvertently doing so, but the effect is the same.  Inside the rut, possibility is greatly stifled.

That said, again of course, it’s not bad that we are so adaptive!  It’s great that we don’t smell the sewer after a few minutes.  Or that the lake stops feeling cold after jumping in.  Or that great shifts soon feel much less disruptive.***  But, like just about everything else that comes with being human, there are aspects of it that are empowering, and aspects that are disempowering and even destructive.

By remembering this great capacity of ours we can remain mindful to see where we’re letting something slide.  Where we’re giving things that are harmful, or don’t work work, or aren’t right or just or equitable or verdant, or anything of that sort, giving them the automatic pass and thinking “well, it’s just how it is.”  Or, worse, getting caught up in it all and doubling down on it.

Here’s where we can step out of the adaptiveness ruse.  Nothing is inherent.  Nothing is intractable.  We hold the agency for ourselves and who we are being, for our relationships, and with the communities and societies we ongoingly build.

 

*  From the frigid arctic to the intense deserts, all without the use of what we consider “modern and necessary technology” – which is a whole avenue of exploration in of itself!  But to quip shortly about it here, we have done a lot and even thrived with just our wits and less fragility… AND that’s just it, isn’t it?  It’s the same main thrust of this post:  we’ve become accustomed to and thus adapted to a very narrow temperature range, and anything outside of those bounds feels like death.

** Not always for the ‘better’, which is another reason why this feeling of normalcy can be so deleterious, for it will allow the ‘little’ normals to become ‘big’ normals very quickly, and if those little normals are not great, then the effects and harm also spread and become widespread.

*** To whit was how, in short order, the way of working, remembering my mask, new ways of communicating, and etc all due to the pandemic started to feel most normal.

Philosophy Tuesday

“Some of the thoughts you have inside your head aren’t even yours…”

Abigail Thorn

(A great reminder about how much of our world view, our reality (which we experience as capital-R Reality), is formed by inherited contexts, picked up through osmosis because that’s just what’s “normal“.  Our brains are amazing pattern-making machines and are always reading between the lines and determining what’s “true “and what’s “real”.  And what we’re immersed in we tend to become and believe.  And thus, we thought it out all the time.

But it isn’t ours.  We didn’t create it.  We didn’t examine it.  We didn’t even realize there was anything to examine — so seamless was our automatic adoption that it seems to come fully formed, as real as the hand in front of our face.

Except it isn’t real, in the way gravity or rocks or water are.  It’s just a context.  And because of that we can examine it, reflect on it, meditate on it, and bring mindfulness to it.

If it’s useful, we can keep it.

If it’s not useful, or productive, or nurturing, or empowers us and those around us, we can put those thoughts and views and beings aside, and, in that clearing, create new possibilites.)

Philosophy Tuesday

“Vermeer celebrated real people.  Doing ordinary things.  He offered the radical idea that you didn’t have to be special, or important, or magical, or legendary to be worth being painted or thought about or remembered.

So it turns out there are two ways of explaining history.  We can be like the early Romans and invent these magical, wonderous, brilliant people who gave everything to us.

Or, we can be like Vermeer.  A bunch of ordinary, everyday people built Stonehenge just by working together and putting time and effort into it.  A bunch of ordinary people make video games by working together very hard for hours and days and years to make it.  A bunch of regular, ordinary people built Rome over the span of a very long time, contributing to what would later be remembered as the exploits of one man.

This way is no where near as magical as we like to imagine put our worlds together.

The truth is often very mundane.

But maybe that’s OK.”

hbomberguy

(from a totally fascinating documentary about the arcade game Dragon’s Lair!)

Philosophy Tuesday

It was just one of those days where I woke up being annoyed.

I didn’t know why, or about what, yet I was.  Grrrr.  Wrong side of the bed and all that.*  Just farking annoyed.

But it was a Saturday, and I wasn’t going to waste it or have it be ruined by being annoyed!  So I didn’t let myself be.  I ignored it.  I pushed it aside.  I resisted it.  When it welled up and I got growly, I growled it back down.

Soon after dinner, though, it was getting old.  A whole day of this!  What the heck?  So I swore and told myself, “Fine, you want to be annoyed?  Then go ahead, be annoyed!”

And in that moment, the annoyance completely, utterly, lifted and disappeared.

Then I got really upset!  “Come on … I’m finally ready to be annoyed and now I can’t be?  Gah!”

With the annoyance gone, though, that passed pretty quickly and I could only laugh.  I was so odd!  And as I sat in that oddness I got something for myself, that whole thing was a great example of the adage:

“Resistance equals persistence.“

I’d spent the whole day resisting the annoyance – I don’t want to be, it shouldn’t be, this is stupid, there’s no reason for it, not gonna let it get to me, etc. etc…  Yet to do that I had to keep creating the annoyance in order to have something to resist against.**

But when I listened to it, got present to it (in a mindfulness way), and let it be for what it was (I’m feeling annoyed) and what it wasn’t (everything else), then it disappeared.  Like I’d flipped a switch.  Being heard and known, it ceased to be.

And I had a most lovely evening after that.

 

* Though, at the time, I was living in a place where there was really only one way to get out of my bed, so…

**And it’s good to note too that I also didn’t just succumb or surrender to it.  That’s not the same as being present to it.

Philosophy Tuesday

When told by a violinist that a difficult passage in the concerto was virtually unplayable, Stravinsky is supposed to have said: “I don’t want the sound of someone playing this passage, I want the sound of someone trying to play it!

— as recounted within The Art of Possibility


“It’s seductive to stand outside the arena and think: I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive.

But the truth is, that never happens.

And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that’s not what we want to see.

We want you to go in.

We want to see courage.

We want to be with you and across from you trying to play it.

And we just want, for you, for ourselves, for the people we care about, and for us all, to dare greatly.”

— Adapted from the words of Brené Brown

Philosophy Tuesday

I used to think of myself as a pretty introspective person.  An earlier website of mine even had a section on it titled Miscellaneous Debris, into which I wrote longish dissertations that were intended as introspective.

To which, of a fashion, I guess they kind of were, for they plotted out in detail that which I was witnessing externally and noticing internally.  But – and this is the key – they were decidedly limited in what they saw and, hence, limited in their actual introspection:  I could only see what I already knew to see.

I could only witness, react to, and ponder on the already known truths that comprised reality as I perceived it.  I hadn’t yet learned that key little piece of information… no, that’s not strong enough, because of course I knew it but only within that realm/domain of knowledge and thus I hadn’t yet gotten it (or groked it) in that way that allows for profound awareness of it…. and so I hadn’t yet gotten that key revelation that my view was nothing more than a view, entirely created by me, and shaped by the views I already had and the truths I already knew.

My ability to reflect was limited as I had not yet been exposed to, and taught, how to be present, nor had I been walked through the process to begin to glimpse the heart of ontology and explore the being part of human being.  And, even more so, to begin to glimpse and get present to the, quite remarkable, frameworks that made up the frameworks that supported the frameworks of those views and truths.  To reveal what I term the fundamental operating system of being human.

Without that revelation, all I could see and comment on and be so aware of (and even arrogant about) was the results of the frameworks, without ever realizing just how far down the rabbit hole could go.

It was the intensive workshops I took and, even more importantly, the coaching afterwards that allowed my perception and experience to open up and blow through into these new realms.  It was only by discovering how circular and shallow my awareness had been, and how righteous hit had been, that allowed my practice to begin.

And through that, allow me to gain a deeper understanding of what introspection really is:  the being willing to go beyond and to see the gnarly bits underneath;  to be willing to give up the automatic, already, always present to see what’s actually there; to engage in thinking instead of thoughting; and, ultimately, to give up what we already know for what’s possible.