Individualism: The Me Paradigm

Has the value we’ve place on individualism actually made us less happy and view the world with more contempt?

Has this value actually made us more isolated and brought forth a bounty of depression, anxiety and suicides?

Has this value divided our relationships, our family and our communities?

Has this value been a contributor to all the polarization that we’ve been seeing in our country?

His this value made us indifferent to those around us because it is all about me, the individual? “Fuck you! Do you know what you did to me?”

Has this value caused us to place excessive emphasis on feelings/our own feelings?

Has this value eroded other values such as free speech?

Is it this value that has been caused the breakdown of the more wholesome societal  norms?

Is it even ok for me to even question such a thing without being branded and labeled as some sort of collective extremist?

Probabilistic States (updated@3:12 pm)

Ok, I really need some help here with this thought.

Yesterday I was thinking what is a probability? Do probabilities really exist? The famous slit experiment shows that light is both a wave and a partial and the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics says that it will remain in a probabilistic state until its observed, which is what the slit experiment verifies. Schrodinger’s thought experiment points to the paradox of this to reality (Schrodinger’s cat). Something is not in a probabilistic state, it is either is or isn’t. I know these are excessively simple explanations and if you want to learn more hop on youtube or a good book on the subject is: The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

I need some help with this thought, so I see both views as correct. Life cannot exist in a state that has happened but our current moment is the state of completion. If this probabilistic state did not exist everything would be over, period. It would be this “on” followed by an intimidate “off”. To me it seems unfathomable how quickly the entire birth and death of of our universe would occur. The entire process would be over the exact moment it began, liken it to never existing. So we open the box and the cat is alive (or dead for the more morbid:) ) it cannot exist in a probabilistic: something either is or isn’t but there is a cat and we are here. Let me try one more illustration, as I am driving I will either turn left or go straight (going right isn’t an option) now this is undetermined until I do, or make up my mind and before then it is impossible to know what will occur. We can make very accurate educated guess using the latest scientific equipment and our understanding in human behavior but in the end it either is or isn’t, it happens or it doesn’t. There isn’t such a thing as probably turning after or as it occurs. Where does this state exist then? We know it does from personal experience and through scientific observation.

Let us shrink the moment I made up my mind to turn to the smallest moment of time our measly minds can comprehend, I believe this illustration points to something. I am thinking it points to consciousness itself the ‘now’ as it occurs, or the slightest moment before it occurs. This space seems so small. So small in fact that it seems to both exist and not exist simultaneously. Our consciousness is this slightest moment or bridge between or maybe, in other words, our consciousness is the probabilistic state itself (the thing we call life) but we can only see the completed state. I’m not quite sure how else to explain it which is why I need some help. So I wouldn’t mind ideas to help formulate this thought (perhaps this really is an old thought and has been discussed many times before) or you can tell me how whacked I am.

To Know and To Not Do

Yesterday my wife, son and I went downtown to this little art/car show. We invited my mom, and she never declines an opportunity to go, go, go! As we were out my mom was complaining about her knee, and I reminded her, with a smile, that she knew we were going to be out walking around. She said, “I know and I’m sorry for complaining. It’s not really my knee. I’ve just had a bunch of frustrating things on my mind the past week.”

We began talking and my mom was concerned about (I will call this person Ab) Ab and there current situation in life. She said, “I just don’t understand why Ab just can’t get it.”
I then quoted one of my favorite quotes, “To know and to not do is to not really know.” by Stephen Covey.  We then spoke about all various programs they have undergone, counselings, and books read. We chatted for awhile about the different type of knowledge one can posses, and also touched on how Ab’s life has has been in a disarray for some time. It was a nice afternoon.

This morning I was thinking about our conversation, Ab, and the to know and not do quote. I think this quote is correct but I approached it from a different angle. This is the new angle: To know and to not do is to not have developed the habit. This is more of an Aristotelian approach/thought.

We are in an age of information. We can access the most profound wisdom known to mankind. However, this information is actually pointless. This information changes nothing. We merely reflect the habits we cultivate in our life. A lot of the time we let life, people, culture, norms, and our inner impulses cultivate us. We are the pin ball inside the machine destined to get launched by whatever we rub up against. Thus, as time passes, a gap emerges  between what we know and what we do and inverse for those that practice intentionally.

Build new habits. Sounds easy enough. Often we confuse excitement with habit but the moment the newness wears off we are left standing  with all the old urges, impulses, feelings and habits we spent a lifetime cultivating, a lot of the time unknowingly. This new building habits business isn’t as easy as the books like to tell us its. Those of us who have tired to “start anew” know the strength of our old ways.

Solution? I don’t really have one but I can share how I starting practicing mindfulness 3 years ago. How can I remember to be mindful when I’m not mindful, I thought. For my first couple of weeks I tried this mindfulness stuff but I was usually lost for the whole day before I’d remember to be mindful. I wanted to step my game up so I downloaded an application (insight timer) so I could have a reminder bell. For the first year of my practice I set a bell to chime every 10 minutes, I am not laying and I do know this is sort of extreme. 99 percent people thought I was weird, and may people would say things like, “what the hell is that noise?”, “Is that you dinging all the time?” “Oh my god, that is so annoying!”

But, hey, nothing changes if nothing changes. This is what I will continue to say to Ab and the advice I would give to anyone looking to change. There is research, and I know for my practice, that thoughts, feelings, emotions, urges only last 90 seconds (I never timed but I know they arise and fade quickly) if you do not “feed the beast”. So your only 90 seconds away from to reinforcing your new habit and slowly cultivating over the years will change many things.

Below is a book I read about 3 years ago that I really enjoyed. The link is for an amazonsmile which gives a small percentage of the purchase to a charity at no cost to you. In this case it is a local food bank called Harry Chapin Food Bank.

The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

Freewill?

We have freewill do we? Who is the one thinking our thoughts? Is freewill a continued state of giving unintentional attention to the thoughts that arise and then getting lost in them? Is freewill impulsively acting out however we feel? Wait, did I choose to feel this way at this moment and think this thought? Is freewill blaming others for making us feel this way? How can they make me feel this way if I am free?

Today is the day of change I declare! I act on my own accord and with complete autonomy. Wait, why did I just do that, again?

Who Are We Fighting?

Where do thoughts come from? Where do they originate? Do these questions even make sense? Is there really such thing as a beginning? Depending what we are looking for, I think our answers to such questions change relative to our perspective. Delving into these questions from some paradigms can produces fruitless answers. My formal education on the fields discussed below are limited; I only possess a natural curiosity that I like to tease. My finite knowledge comes from reading and pondering for which my ignorance to the ultimate depth and complexity of these questions will most certainly show.

Have you ever examined the intricacy of a trees root system? Or studied the interconnection of our entire ecosystem? Or tried to understand the neuroanatomy of our brains? Or our genome? We, as a species, are beginning to understand that life and its inner workings are not a simple linear trajectory. For example, before we mapped the human genome we thought, at least publicly, that upon completion we would know the specificity of each gene. In large, 14 years after the mapping we are still befuddled by the complexity of the whole workings of each gene. We are learning of a deep entanglement and a highly interdependent nature of the genes. Another such example, is our depth of understanding our brains neuroanatomy and which regions are responsible for distinct behaviors. Thus, we now know viewing the brain in an itemized way does not capture the workings wholly. As we continue our search for more knowledge and deepening our understanding in all areas of life from the individual parts and structures to grasping quantum mechanics we are become more aware of the vast entanglement and interdependent nature of reality. The paradigm from which we view reality greatly impacts the way we feel and see our external worlds.

As we saunter through life it seems that a lot of the time we view, with certainty, that a thought comes from an unambiguous location. It come from me, I was it’s originator. My feelings too come from specific locations. We think I too come from a specific location. In the case of anger and other emotions it comes from “them” or other people make us feel this way. In some ways there are some hints of truth to these thoughts and statements, but the view is usually to narrowly focused and it’s similar in saying certain genes only express certain properties, or that the rain comes from clouds, or that this distinct spot in the brain is responsible for hatred, envy, love, or compassion. We know such isolated views are wrong in a lot of contexts.

Think of a giant piece of grafting paper. If we mark one intersection and zoom in on that spot it will seem to only be a linear projection, either horizontal or vertical. However, if we zoom out we see a vast web and if we start to learn to view reality from this view a direct and independent origin doesn’t make sense: all of life is vastly entangled.

My point
Our thought, feeling, emotions and even “the self” is entangled and interdependent with external reality beyond comprehension. Ever aspect of your being is just as much “out there” as you feel as it is in you. If we are not aware of our natural tendencies and view our reality through the prism of the narrow view and one that is linear our thoughts, our actions, and our reasoning’s traps us, blinds us, and keeps us locked in a tiny sphere of reality. We end up seeing everything as an enemy and something we must fight and destroy. Our history books are rich of such examples. This belief is one of the main causes for hatred, anger, frustration, selfishness, greed, envy, and so forth. In this narrow view are a living in an idealistic world of our own making forever enslaved.  Just as written language is not natural but emerges from higher order thus taking intentionality for it emergence, so to is the view of interdependence. It take effort, intentionality and must be cultivated. With this view it is no longer a world of enemies, hatred, greed and selfishness but only a world in which people are stuck in our ancestors view of reality and in this world it is easy to relate and show compassion.

If anyone actually makes it this far I’d love to hear your thoughts, views and opinions so please share.

 

 

What Is Emptiness And Why It Can Change The Way We See Reality

A little under two years ago I underwent a journey of change but when I reflect and try and recall the moment it began it becomes almost impossible to locate. How about you? Can you recall a major life changing moment in your life? Can you truly pinpoint the day/moment? Think about it for a second, can that idea that brought about change really stand independent and be pinned down? When I really start to examine and look for that moment closely it begins to become unstable and shifts further into the past and every other direction. I think, “Oh, actually this happened first.” I then quickly realize it was preceded by an early event, and I am going to speculate that if you look hard it will become increasingly difficult to pin down your moment.

So what is emptiness anyway? You may vaguely recall hearing it tossed around in old kung-fu movies, or maybe you heard the term no self. Emptiness is lacking an intrinsic independent self, or in other words no “I” can be located, no self. If you think think there is an independent self I will ask you to locate it. Where is it? Where is this “I” that we so often speak of? Point to it. Your brain? What region in your brain does it reside? Can your brain operate completely independent? Is it your whole body then? Can you live completely independent (in a space of nothingness)? What about aspects that allow you to live, like air? So maybe this “I” is the air, but Co2 is converted to O2 by our trees, which live because the soil, water, sun and a wide variety of other ecological and biological factors, and on it goes.

If you sit down and ponder emptiness for a moment it really is easy to see and understand intellectually. What begins to emerge is a vast interdependence. Seeing that you cannot live independently; seeing zero degrees of separation between us and everything else; seeing that “I” becomes blurred; seeing that there really is no self and when you try and locate it (the self) it shifts upon examination.

All our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and our very being are not really ours if you look at it through the lens emptiness. Our feelings belong to our ancestors that have been passed down through the generations. The feelings and emotions we carry are their feelings and emotions; we carry their torch. Our thoughts and ideas are formulated by tens of thousands of factors, some internal but most are external factors. Just ponder that for a moment… Again, this is very easy to see and understand intellectually but merely knowing this for a moment here and there will not really change anything. What will alter your life and create change is practice seeing permanently through this paradigm. I enjoy seeing life this way as I know I am not simply believing something that may or may not be true. I can validate this paradigm with direct personal experience. As you begin practicing and begin see the world through this lens more and more you will have more love, compassion, understanding, empathy, feelings of well being, connectedness, be slower to anger, and a variety of other wholesome attributes arise naturally (don’t expect permanent changes overnight).

A couple of ways to start practicing.

  • Start every morning out with 5 minutes of analytical meditation (purposeful concentration)
  • While driving contemplate on the roads while driving: think about absolutely everything that is involved in making the roads: city planning, engineering (blacktop and cement are inventions too), man hours to make and maintain the roads.
  • Contemplate while eating about the entire process of having this food in your house: from seed to home.
  • Walk in nature and contemplate on your breath and everything involved with providing you oxygen: trees, soil, bug, insects, water, sun, seeds, storms, and so on.
  • Have a mindfulness bell chime , every hour, half-hour, or less. Upon the chime contemplate on emptiness.