Visibility: Unlimited

How we define things creates a framework for life to unfold.
We must remember that life in itself is a game we play by a certain set of rules.
Rules that are no different than baseball, basketball, or football.

However, these rules are invented – they can be changed.

The assumptions we have about success, happiness, family, love, death – they are all invented.
The question is, are they invented by you or have you merely inherited the inventions of others?
We have the opportunity to change the rules that govern our behavior.
We have the opportunity to change the implicit assumptions that serve as the foundation of the mental maps of our lives.
The opportunity to change the assumptions that undermine our desire to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.
Again, the assumptions we have about success, happiness, family, love, death – they are all invented.
The question is, are they invented by you or have you merely inherited the inventions of others?
Inherited assumptions often cloud our vision.
They are easy to acquire, so easy in fact we hardly notice that we have acquired them or the impact they have on our decision making.
However, that which we easily attain usually comes with profound trade-offs.
In this case, inherited assumptions create uncertainty and discomfort.
Questioning and forming our own assumptions takes time.
It is a process that never ends.
It is hard and the process can evoke uncertainty and discomfort.
However, the discomfort and uncertainty are only temporary.
Once we learn to see our vision becomes unlimited.
It encompasses everything.
It frees us.

Belief: The Un-faith

In the English language Belief and Faith have largely come to mean the same thing.

However, the difference between the two is rather nuanced and the simplification, in the name of efficiency and speed of use, as usual, has led us astray and muddied the distinct and profound difference between the two terms, which paradoxically are in fact opposites.

Belief is the insistence that the truth is what one would wish it to be.

Believers open their mind to the truth, on the condition that it fits in with their preconceived thoughts and wishes – think about it, when was the last time you acknowledged that a strongly held belief was no longer true?

We believe because it makes us feel secure.

It gives our lives the perception of value and meaning.

It is fixed.

It makes little room for truths that conflict with the things we believe and hold sacred.

We can only believe what we have already known – preconceived and imagined.

 

Faith, on the other hand, is the exact opposite.

Faith is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be.

People with faith have no preconceptions.

They plunge into the unknown.

They let go.

 

We believe because it comes naturally.

It’s cultivated by the system at large.

A cultivated yearning to always desire.

A yearning to focus on the future and the past – ignoring the present.

A desire to grasp at any sense of meaning we can find in our lives and to hold on to it and keep it for one’s own.

We have been fooled into believing.

The belief that if we earned a few more dollars we would be a bit happier.

The belief that if we went to a slightly more prestigious college we could be a bit more successful.

The belief that we need to consume more and always.

The belief that life is something to be taken by the horns and made the most of.

However, you can’t grasp onto life.

It simply isn’t possible.

Just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket.

If you try to capture running water in a bucket, you will always be disappointed.

Water does not run in a bucket.

To have running water you must let go of it.

The same is true of life.

To have faith is to let go – to discover the ultimate reality of life.

We enter this world as babies – open, curious, a thirst for figuring out how the world works and a desire to understand reality.

However, this phase, for most of us, is brief.

We quickly abandon faith, openness to reality and instead, let our minds harden into doctrine.

Set in our ways, we walk around with a construct of how the world works and naively convincing ourselves that we know what is fact and what is fiction.

The truth is that we don’t know.

Faith is being comfortable with not knowing.

Seeing the world as it is.

For you cannot see the sky through a window by merely painting the window blue.

To believe is to have unfaith, as faith is not clinging – it is letting go.

 

What’s Your Status?

The game of life, if you choose to play, is one of status.
For most of us, our daily decisions aren’t life or death.
We make very few decisions that will influence or impact our immediate survival in the truest sense of the word.
Instead, our decisions are largely focused on optimizing and improving our perceived status in the world.
Ultimately, the exchange of status roles drives human behavior.

There are three core frameworks that most decisions or actions are driven by:
1. A desire to change one’s status
2. A desire to maintain one’s status
3. A desire to reinforce one’s status

Changing One’s Status
A desire to change one’s status can be seen in some of our most basic everyday decisions:
Driving a BMW
Wearing a ring from Tiffany’s
Carrying a Louis Vuitton bag
Wearing Lululemon clothing
Buying vs. Renting a home

Maintaining One’s Status
The best example of how our desire to maintain our status manifests is social media. Social media is purely an exercise in seeking status confirmation.
We go there to check-in and scroll through the lives of our “friends”. As we scroll, we are quickly, often subconsciously, making mental comparisons between what we see on our screens and our personal lives.
When we feel like our “friends” are having more fun or doing cooler things – we respond by posting our own message or image that shows that we too live an awesome, fun, and exciting life.
When they are doing something that we approve of or is something that “people like us” do – we like it.
And the cycle continues.
The positive feedback loop is strong.

Reinforcing Status
Status is so powerful because people naturally adopt the roles that they are given by society.
An excellent example of this is the famous Standford Prison Experiment, in which Dr. Zimbardo set out to investigate how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life. To study the roles people play in prison situations, Zimbardo converted a basement of the Stanford University psychology building into a mock prison. He advertised asking for volunteers to participate in a study of the psychological effects of prison life, more than 70 applicants answered the ad. Selected participants were randomly assigned to either the role of prisoner or guard in a simulated prison environment. Prisoners were treated like every other criminal, being arrested at their own homes, without warning, and taken to the local police station. All guards were dressed in identical uniforms and they carried a whistle around their neck and a billy club borrowed from the police.Within a very short time, both guards and prisoners were settled into their new roles, with the guards adopting theirs quickly and easily. Within hours of beginning the experiment some guards began to harass prisoners. At 2:30 A.M. prisoners were awakened from sleep by blasting whistles for the first of many “counts. The prisoners soon adopted prisoner-like behavior too. They talked about prison issues a great deal of the time. They ‘told tales’ on each other to the guards. They started taking the prison rules very seriously, as though they were there for the prisoners’ benefit and infringement would spell disaster for all of them. As the prisoners became more dependent, the guards became more derisive towards them. They held the prisoners in contempt and let the prisoners know it. As the guards’ contempt for them grew, the prisoners became more submissive. As the prisoners became more submissive, the guards became more aggressive and assertive. They demanded ever greater obedience from the prisoners. The prisoners were dependent on the guards for everything so they tried to find ways to please the guards, such as telling tales of fellow prisoners.

The “prisoners” even started referring to themselves by the inmate number they were given at the start of the experiment. Ultimately, Zimbardos experiment concluded that people will readily conform to the social roles they are expected to play.

Another simpler, everyday example:

Consider the typical American wedding.
In New York, the average wedding costs $80,000. This is a huge chunk of discretionary income. Money spent on venues, on flowers, on five, six or seven-piece bands—where did this come from?
The obeisance of the bridesmaids in their matching outfits…
None of this is something people go out and do when they want to have a good time.
It’s done because people like us do things like this.
And it’s about a momentary affirmation of status — status within a very small circle of friends and family.

Or consider, why do people vote against their best interest?
They have been so ingrained in taking direction and playing the status role that they have been given that they are willing to accept what authority tells them to do.

Why do we go through the theatrics of TSA at the airport?
Safety?
Not really, it’s much more of an exercise of status.
An exercise that allows the TSA worker to reinforce the status that has been granted to them by the government.
They play the role well.

How are coaches of sports teams able to demand and receive the respect that they do?
Status.

Status is powerful.

A few questions:

Who / what forces in society dictate what you do?
Dictate where you eat, shop, the neighborhood you live in, the car you drive, where and how you invest your money, the school that you choose to send your kids to, the books you read, the shows you what on TV?
What roles are you playing?
What status are you optimizing for?
Who are you putting down in the process of elevating yourself?
What are you ignoring due to your narrow focus?
What are you doing to maintain your status in the community?

We actively do things to each other (and to ourselves) to hinder social mobility, and we’ve been doing it for generations.
People like where they are in the hierarchy – people may argue about it and may wrestle with it, but ultimately people accept where they are in the hierarchy and they adapt those roles.

Status roles drive human behavior.

Once you see this, you may not be able to unsee it.

A Case of Boiling Frog Syndrome

If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately try to jump out.
Yet, if you place a frog in room temperature water, and gradually turn up the temperature, something very interesting occurs:
Instead of jumping out, once the water gets too hot, the frog will do nothing as the temperature rises from 70 to 80, to 90 degrees.
In fact, the frog will show every sign of enjoying himself.
As the temperature gradually increases, the frog becomes groggier and groggier, until he is unable to climb out of the pot – though there is nothing restraining him.
The frog will simply continue to sit there and boil (Watch here)

At times, it feels like our culture is in a similar pot.
The temperature gradually increasing, both literally and figuratively.
Yet, we continue to sit here, as if nothing were happening.
We too, pretending that we are enjoying ourselves.

Why does this happen?

Frogs internal apparatus for sensing threats to survival is geared toward sudden and drastic changes in their environment.
Our culture is influenced by a similar system: the primary threats to our survival come not from sudden events but from slow gradual processes:

the arms race
environmental decay
the erosion of public education
inequality
chronic health ailments

Yet, we sit in the pot and act as if these things aren’t occurring and refuse to dedicate the attention and resources needed to find solutions to the complex challenges we face.

This is driven by our fixation on events and the influence of the well-worn narrative.
We get distracted by the “news” or events that are short-term in nature.
This is largely a result of our evolutionary programming.
In our caveman days, it wasn’t vital for our survival to have the ability to contemplate the cosmos.
Instead, it was more important to see the saber-toothed tiger over our left shoulder and react quickly.

However, our paradigm has shifted – today, contemplating the cosmos, our impact on the environment, inequality, access and the affordability of health care are each vital to the survival of our culture.
Unfortunately, currently, we often fail to focus on the big picture.
Instead, we are more interested in events – just as when we were cavemen and cave-women.
The news we consume.
Our social media habits.
Our unhealthy TV consumption.
And many others, work together to reinforce our short-term, event-driven focus.

If we don’t shift our perspective we will never possess the ability to solve the chronic problems our culture faces.
Thinking that is dominated by the short term, can only merely, at best, predict an event before it occurs allowing one to merely react optimally.
Without long-term thinking, we will never cultivate the ability to create.
The ability to create long-term solutions or the infrastructure to address obesity, global warming, or inequality.

Focusing on events and solving the problems of the day is easy and it gives us the illusion of feeling accomplished.
However, it is just that – an illusion.
To create the world we want to live in, a world with a little less suffering, a little less destruction, and a little less evil will take a long-term perspective.
We must learn to see.

Learn to slow down our frantic pace, step back from our social media activity and the news of the day and start to pay attention to the subtle as well as the dramatic.
The path is harder but the rewards are real.

Be a Weed

Weeds grow strong.
Weeds grow wherever they please.
Weeds are hard to kill.
You pull them out, and they grow back – time and time again.
Weeds come in all shapes and sizes.
Weeds can prosper in nearly any environment.

Weeds are independent thinkers:

Jeff Bezos
Warren Buffet
Karl Benz
Marting Luther King, Jr.
Johannes Gutenberg
Seth Godin
Noam Chomsky
Dr. Phil Valentine
Yuval Noah Harari
Alan Watts
Joseph Campbell
Ray Dalio
Alain de Botton
Lewis Hyde

To name a few.

What do these individuals have in common?
Each of them are weeds in societies garden of ignorance.
They refuse to let popular opinion govern their decisions.
They consider the facts, as they are currently known, and make a decision. When the facts change, they are willing to change their point of view to meet the current dimensions of reality.

Our culture needs more weeds.
Weeds are natures support corps and are vital to a healthy universe.
They are a reaction to the myriad of deficiencies in our culture.

Most importantly, weeds perform a vital job in our ecosystem: they quickly establish, protect, and restore the humanity that has been left exposed by natural and human-caused disturbances.

Be a Weed.