The Problem with Problems

I think problems are only problems if you don’t have a solution.

If you have a solution, the problem goes away.

All problems are people problems. They begin at an individual level, whether they’re rational problems or not.

The more individuals who believe it’s a problem, the greater consensus arises that it’s a problem. I would say all problems have a solution.

Most problems are misidentified.

The problem isn’t the problem, it’s usually how you think about the problem. Thinking is the problem.

Irrational attachment and misaligned expectations are the source of most problems, if not all problems.

Change happens. Letting go of the past or the old is apart of being adaptable. It’s the essence of evolution and survival. Those who can’t do this suffer.

I think death is not a problem. Or at least, not the way we’ve pathologized death.

I think the fear of death is a greater problem.

Granted, death is an existential problem. The greatest.

But when you come to terms with death, with loss, with finality, I think this is where the mind begins to see possibility and potential in wondrous ways.

Also, reconciling what’s inside our minds (internal expectations) with what we’re perceiving (external impressions).

This is a great source of suffering and problems, which closely relates to our tendency to attach to things, be it tangibles such as material possessions or loved ones, or intangibles, such as belief or identity or ideas/opinions.

What is in our mind is not a perfect representation of the world.

Understanding that dissonance or suffering is not a problem in the world but a problem of perception, within the mind, is a great step to liberation. Listening to our feelings, exploring the contents of our perceptions, being mindful about “what is” vs “what we think it is”.

Stoicism is very helpful in this regard.

A baked turkey is either a delicious meal, or a burnt carcass. A blanket is soft or rough depending on what it’s relative to.

Objective thought is the goal, but it requires distancing the subjective moral evaluations of good or bad.

There is a hierarchy of values built into every culture and individual psychology based on personal experiences relative to given experiences and available perceived options.

Many times the mind cannot escape what’s given, and is hostage to making judgements based on the narrow evaluations available to us via experience and culture.

The ability to be objective and evaluate ideas and experiences on a granular basis, based on basic sense data and natural unbiased observations, allows us to see how everything fits into a bigger picture.

For instance, you have a culture that endorses eye for an eye. This is justice. Perpetuate vengeance. It makes sense if there is limited options available. This is a scarcity mindset.

A better culture would be forgiveness. There is opportunity cost associated with vengeance. The time and energy to seek justice may be more valuable than the justice you seek. Forgive and devote time and energy into building anew, rather than destroying the bad.

Everything just “is”. There is no supreme moral hierarchy that exists. Every culture and mind brings it to reality.

Prior to human civilization, shit lived and died. Countless species lived for hundreds of thousands or millions of years, and died. No one cared. Dust to dust. No moral outrage about justice.

What is good or bad is a human dilemma revolving around what it means to self-preserve.

These are culturally transmitted, and not representative of “what is”.

We’re animals. We respond to pleasure and pain. We respond to our unconscious culturally programmed bias about is good or bad.

Part of cleaving from the herd, or the mob mentality characterizing tribalism and society at large, is learning to disassociate with these biases, and really investigating the contents of these impulsive reactions to perceptions and stimuli.

All pain is not bad.

All pleasure is not good.

The highest ideals, for me, is truth and love.

Truth to see reality or the contents of our perceptions for what is, to align with the present and observe what is in its most natural form, unadulterated by bias and feeling. This involves courage, curiosity, and work.

Love is to see the humanity in all living things, and cultivate that through modeling behaviors that promote collaboration and trust and honesty and compassion.

No man is an island.

Humanity is stronger when its unified. It’s also weaker.

At the end it’s about identifying the right ideals to unify around, to manifest individual flourishing that promotes diversity of thought without fragmented tribalism.

At the end of the day, imagination and creativity is an almost spiritual source of power.

The ability to conceive alternative possibilities is crucial for problem solving, from escaping fixed or scarcity mindset.

There is always more than meets the eye.

You can create the way. Past solutions aren’t always adequate for present problems/challenges.

Faith is also crucial.

Faith that there is possibility beyond current perception.

I used to be skeptical about the word faith, because of religious connotations.

But now I see that it’s absolutely fundamental for creation, for imagining possibilities yet-to-be.

Faith in vision. Faith in something that is yet-to-exist.

Faith is powerful. You don’t need to rationalize forward to an answer. You act toward your goal, learn along the way, and reconstruct rationality with hindsight.

But this isn’t indicative there was an inherent logic along the way.

Logic exists in the mind. It’s a powerful tool. But it is bound by experience and current assumptions.

But I think imagination and creativity are more powerful.

Obviously both are helpful. Logic is more helpful for communication than anything. It allows others to understand.

But a spiritual conviction arising from a creative insight about a yet-to-be possibility may not have a rational narrative. Not until it’s complete.

Most “problems” are a result of a lack of imagination, a lack of faith in alternative possibilities.

Wherever our attention goes, the energy flows.

I actually think emotions are rather simple and primitive.

I think rationalizing emotions make them complex and complicated.

The phenomenal or sensational experience is another matter.

How to adequately conceptualize a phenomenon? What is red? We can perform a series of iterative propositional statements embedded with assumptions to form a logical statement about them, but when you drill into the assumptions it becomes an ad infinitum rabbit hole of semantic interpretation and agreement.

I find most problems arise because of inaccurate or incomplete assumptions.

This is where philosophy is immensely valuable

Learning to question assumptions allows us to expand on our understanding of problems, which allow for reframing

Once the unconscious assumptions are identified and elaborated we can reframe the context of the problem and proceed with employing the powers of reason to navigate to an appropriate solution.

So long as there is change and intemperance, there will be problems, and dissonance.

Reconciling faulty assumptions embedded with outdated and inaccurate representations with the present reality is the key for creative problem solving, and a clearer more peaceful life.

Problems arise when we don’t question the assumptions built into our language.

Our unstated beliefs about the world, which exist unconsciously.

Language makes the mind, but the mind makes language.

Language tends to be fixed. The world is not; it is in constant flux and change. Updating language and the beliefs and assumptions therein is crucial for greeting the world and its challenges in the present, where they can be resolved.

Pitfalls to Growth

The two greatest pitfalls a person can experience: selfishness and dishonesty.

When you are selfish, your energy becomes concentrated into a tangled ball, a concentrated heavy mass that weighs you down, and you get stuck, in the past, in the same feelings and thoughts, and stagnate.

When you are others focused, you become light and porous, your energy radiates, you illuminate, and thoughts and feelings pass through and you can remain in the present moment, ready to embrace new opportunities, and perceive new thoughts and feelings.

Dishonesty is the other pitfall.

When you are dishonest, it’s not with others. It’s with yourself. And it’s the result of shame. Of not valuing yourself. Not seeing your worth. Not believing in your best. The dishonesty is self deception, a reaction to surpress pain. Pain that you are not worthy, that you are defected, that you are not lovable. So to hide the pain, you mask it with untruths, with lies. These are deep. They are trying to protect the most vulnerable aspects of yourself. But this dishonesty or lies creates a fragmented self, an incoherent self, full of conflicts and contradictions and anxieties.

When you are honest about who you are, and believe that you are worthy, that you are worth love and acceptance, that you are beautiful and kind and capable, you can work on yourself. You can see the areas that you struggle with, rather than mask them and hide them. The greatest realization is that you are perfect right now, in the moment. Your being is pure. Your heart is pure. This is true only if you accept it as true right now, in the moment. The past is irrelevant. It doesn’t exist. We only keep it alive by believing in a false narrative about ourselves.

Honesty and truth and love allow healing. They also allow selflessness. They allow you to see honesty and truth and love in others, and allow others to see it in you. This is where real intimacy flourishes.

Stoikos

Embracing the struggle. That’s what separates the good from the great. They do their duty. They do it 100%, even if it’s not their first choice. They rise to the challenge because that’s who they are. They never shirk from responsibility, they accept it humbly, they perform their best no matter what the circumstances, they learn from every experience, they never avoid the present, but greet it with resolve and cheerfulness. I believe only then do circumstances change in our favor. They may not be what we had envisioned, but often times they lead to things better than we could have imagined. The struggle is where growth is. The habit of embracing the struggle, embracing the difficulty is what transforms every situation into something you can master, rather than have it mastering you. We alone are masters of our destiny, the captains of our fate. The right Mindset will attract far greater opportunities.

Reliance

Most people are not themselves. They are a reflection of everyone else, of others, of the world.

Being self-reliant is where it starts. You are the source of your well being. Only you know what is best and right and true for you. There is a spirit within you that needs nurturing, your true self, your authentic self. It knows what’s best. It is primal, it is eternally wise. But you must listen, and practice listening, practice solitude, practice reflecting on what it’s telling you. Trust yourself. Trust that voice. Not what others want from you, or tell you what is best.

To manifest your destiny, your true purpose, you must be wholly yourself, unapologetically authentic and self-reliant, always bending your ear back to that inner voice. There are no answers in the world. Everything we need to flourish and radiate and grow into our full potential and realize our destined fate exists already within us, if only we should look.

Life Might Be

You are in a new place.

It might be awkward and uncomfortable. Lonely and isolating. You may spend countless nights by yourself contemplating if it was the right decision. Wondering what other decisions would have brought you. You may get homesick. Bitter and resentful at your ex, your parents, your friends, that things turned out this way. You may feel lost and confused. You may stop taking care of yourself, stop eating, or eat too much, and sleep all day, to avoid the important things, to avoid the feelings, and painfully greet each day in misery, wondering if it’s ever going to get better, waiting for things to change.

Or you may feel all those things, and then decide this is where you want to be, exactly where you were meant to be, that opportunities are everywhere around you, waiting for you to see them, and you decide to stop waiting for change but to make the change, to be the change, and begin to step outside of your comfort zone, and explore new places with new people and see and think and feel things you never imagined seeing and thinking and feeling before, and they will begin to change you, and this may terrify you, but you decide that this is your life, and you embrace it, all of it, and in the process you begin to blossom and grow into something unimaginably beautiful and strong and resilient, and challenges that once made you shirk become the fuel that lights your path forward… into the life you were always meant to live

The best thing to do

You know what’s the best? Not thinking about anything. Literally being okay with nothing to do or think about. Just sitting there. Or, walking, or driving. But, you’re literally not thinking about anything. You’re just completely free. Just living. No tension. No worries. No cares. You’re just doing nothing, for no reason at all.

Maybe this lasts for 5 minutes, maybe 10, sometimes an hour or two. But it’s nice. No phone. No music. No place to be. No thinking about what’s next, or what else. Just doing nothing. Just chillin. Just relaxing. Your mind expands. It just has this open effect. Where things begin to flow, possibilities begin to open up, new ways of feeling begin to blossom. There’s just this space that occurs. It’s nice. It provides a kind of freedom. It’s just open.

Liberal Arts vs Technical Disciplines

Big reason why liberal arts education is so valuable to future leaders and managers and decision makers. Liberal arts teaches values, and values are the essence of what drives humanity and behavior. Values provide a framework for prioritization— what matters, and what matters most? Whereas technical disciplines teach methods or analysis, crucial for execution once the values have been identified and defined.

Both are crucial for leadership.

However, liberal arts in the mainstream is often denigrated as being useless. How can English or philosophy or sociology or history psychology be of any use? How can I make money? What a waste to learn these things!

I think this thinking is rather impoverished and unimaginative. I think it’s a message for the masses.

Society is comprised of humans, and understanding humanity is a tremendous asset, the greatest asset for leaders or visionaries. What is important? What do people care about? What do people want, need, desire, cherish?

The liberal arts is the bedrock for leadership and management. Technical skills are important, but you can leverage other’s skills. I don’t think it works the same the other way around. Leaders need to know the way, go the way, and show the way.

When being pestered with questions about whether he was ignorant, Henry Ford replied:

”If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”

I think a broad liberal arts education (self taught or formal schooling) becomes increasingly important as you become increasingly responsible for other people.

Children from the wealthiest families overwhelmingly pursue “useless degrees” in the liberal arts. Children from the poorest families overwhelmingly pursue “practical degrees” in technical disciplines. There are obvious exceptions but this is what the data says.

You could conclude that wealthy students have the luxury of having a useless liberal arts degree, but I’m inclined to believe there’s something more here. That those families understand the life importance of a liberal arts education.

And I’m not saying that just because you pursued a technical subject there’s no value. Definitely not the case. It’s just that as you accrue more influence over the life’s of others, technical skills matter less and less. Leading an organization or others is not about your technical understanding, but about your understanding of the human condition, which is crucial for managing others and providing a compelling vision to organize around and strive for.

Psychedelic Transcendence: Spirituality and Materialism in the Modern Age

“Reflecting on my [psychedelic] experience, I find myself agreeing with the eminent Cambridge philosopher, Dr. C. D. Broad, “that we should do well to consider much more seriously than we have hitherto been inclined to do the type of theory which Bergson put forward in connection with memory and sense perception. The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful.” According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages. Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born–the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things. That which, in the language of religion, is called “this world” is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed, and, as it were, petrified by language. The various “other worlds,” with which human beings erratically make contact are so many elements in the totality of the awareness belonging to Mind at Large. Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language. Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of by-pass that circumvents the reducing valve. In others temporary by-passes may be acquired either spontaneously, or as the result of deliberate “spiritual exercises,” or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs. Through these permanent or temporary by-passes there flows, not indeed the perception “of everything that is happening everywhere in the universe” (for the by-pass does not abolish the reducing valve, which still excludes the total content of Mind at Large), but something more than, and above all something different from, the carefully selected utilitarian material which our narrowed, individual minds regard as a complete, or at least sufficient, picture of reality.

In the final stage of egolessness there is an “obscure knowledge” that All is in all–that All is actually each. This is as near, I take it, as a finite mind can ever come to “perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe.”

—Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception

I took LSD today. Always a therapeutic experience. Of course I know better, but I’m always… apprehensive… of the unknown, when I decide to trip. You never know what is in store, what will manifest, for better or worse. But I always know that my fears are irrationalities, and a natural response to the potential loss of control. Fear is the ego’s defense mechanism, a way to retain the illusion of control. The greatest insight is that there is no control, that control is an illusion we create for ourselves and others to pacify our ego’s desire to self-preserve, and when that illusion is gone, there is nothing to fear.

”It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going. Not consciously, of course—for consciously he is engaged in bewailing and cursing a faithless world that recedes further and further into the distance. Rather, it is an unconscious factor which spins the illusions that veil his world. And what is being spun is a cocoon, which in the end will completely envelop him.”

—C.G. Jung, Aion

Jung’s work on the collective unconscious is something I think about whenever I trip, and tap into that state of… oneness. When the doors of perception are made clear.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.

—William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The real pickle is translating spiritual experiences to others without codifying them, which perverts the essence/internal back into the material/external.

We use symbolism and signs to capture the sublimity of spirituality, to point to higher archetypal truths that resonate on a deep level with that unconscious, the collective unconscious, the universal forms governing experience/reality. I’m not necessary saying “truth” exists as something you can point to and possess, but there are patterns that yield insights into the present, which is a wisdom that comes close to truth.

“Truth” is a present condition. Outside of that it’s speculative. Truth is what is, presently, being. Accessing truth is facilitated through meditation, but I also feel it’s facilitated by the seeker, the one who has “faith” that truths are accessible the more present our conscious experience remains, when are are, free from speculation, and open to the now. Acceptance. Faith in embracing whatever is, regardless of our preconceptions, assumptions, conditioned state of being. Freeing the mind from that— via mediation, “prayer”, psychedelics, or any activity that allows the mind to transcend the material pull away from the present— allows being, and accessing the reservoir of universal wisdom.

Practice is crucial, but practice is no substitute for execution. Going through the motions does not substitute progress, or enlightenment. Relying on the preacher for your weekly fill of the unity of being is inadequate, just as relying on people or things for inspiration or guidance. I think there needs to be a self generated, self guided intention to submit to the present state of being, however that manifests. But the habit of relying on external forces or ideas to supplant that intention is where things fall apart.

Maybe.

It’s hard because books are and continue to be a source of incredible wisdom and revelation. But after a long journey of seeking for truth in books, I realized it does not exist there. The best Books and texts are trying to capture “something else”, those higher truths about the human condition, and those that successfully capture that reveal that something else to my mind. But it’s not the power of the text. It’s in the mind’s willingness to draw connections to something else, those higher truths. Every book or person contains a perspective of this something else. Assimilating and synthesizing them all with personal experience occurs when we’re open to that revelation, which requires present being, and tapping into the Mind at Large.

I feel the best teachers, spiritual leaders, understand this, whether they are real or not: Jesus, Socrates, Buddha, whoever else. They didn’t write anything down, and they didn’t follow any dogma. They followed that inner genius, the same that Emerson speaks about in his essay Self-Reliance. They believed to know something is to impress it deep within you, and relying on texts and outside media or teachers causes you to become reliant on them, and a failure to internalize the wisdom and knowledge. They sought to walk the walk, and not worry about talking the talk, and codifying the “right way”.

The gatekeepers of “spiritual enlightenment” say: That’s not how you meditate. That’s not how you pray. That’s how how you show thankfulness. That’s not what mindfulness looks like. Look— do as i say and follow these steps and you will get there. Say your Hail Mary and other prescribed chants. Go to communion. Do the Hajj. Attend temple. Follow this ritualistic curriculum for daily meditation. These routines are what a spiritually minded man does, they say.

But these prescriptions reveal nothing of the heart, of the intention to seek communion with a present state of being, the willingness to shed the ego and access the Mind at Large. This is where the symbolic imagery of sacrifice of crucial— found in all religions. Sacrifice attachments— be willing to give up that which is most sacred— and recognize you are nothing, no one, know nothing, have nothing, that these attachments are illusions, neurosis of the ego, the flesh.

Socrates, regarding writing, or codification of “knowledge”:

”For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.” (Phaedrus 274c-275b)

I feel that technology as a whole is facilitating this decline in spiritual self guided thinking (whatever that means, i.e. willingness to seek “truth/wisdom”), as much as it’s increasing our capacity to accumulate webs of abstract information to build upon, which only serve to veil the mind in the end.

Anyway. I have no idea what I’m saying. These are just intuitions. I’m not a spiritual or enlightened person by any means. I’ve had some profound experiences and that changed the way i think about things, but in the end I’m just a cog in the machinery, squeaking with the rest.

I think it’s hard to judge anyone. Religious folks and philosophers and academics and politicians scientists and everyone is just in this soup together. It’s hard to know where we’re all at on this journey.

I think people like Sam Harris are great. But there is always an irony. We often become what we are most afraid of becoming.

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

—Friedrich W. Nietzsche

Stoicism is hard in practice, but it’s truly the way to approach the world. Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

A man may be convinced in all good faith that he has no religious ideas, but no one can fall so far away from humanity that he no longer has any dominating representation collective.

—C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

The things that come to light brutally in insanity remain hidden in the background in neurosis, but they continue to influence consciousness nonetheless. When, therefore, the analysis penetrates the background of conscious phenomena, it discovers the same archetypal figures that activate the deliriums of psychotics.

—C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Being able to suspend judgement is scary. We want to judge, in our effort to control. Understanding requires a suspension of judgement. It requires being. Just embracing what is, being. Instead of leveraging preconceived ideas to perceive, in an effort to label and control and judge and organize and know, the seeker is open, observing, perceptive, listening, embracing every reaction the percolates and releasing ideas and tensions with equal ease, until there is an honest alignment between the mind the the world. A communion. This is where truth and wisdom seem to be revealed.

But then again I’m a giant contradiction. So there’s that.