100 billion neurons

It’s amazing to think about the fact that there are as many neurons in our brain as there are stars in the galaxy. 100 billion neurons transmitting information, serving as a link between our inner galaxy (the network of information inside us) and our external galaxy (the network of historical organic creation).

If what’s inside us is a mirror for what’s outside us, we’re lucky to have so many options.

Despite the fact that 100 billion neurons exist in our brain, its ability to categorize, delineate, decipher, extrapolate, and protect, is also essential to the ways we figure out what the hell is going on all around us.

Every day we know more about the nature of our brains and the nature of space, I’m just blown away by what we’ve been given to work with.

We have the bandwidth. We have the resources. We have the people.

Our mind’s tendency to reduce and distill is powerful. Let’s just make sure we’re not taking the easy way out. Simple solutions are romantic, and there’s a whole range of stuff we shouldn’t overthink. Even so, we know when we’re employing cognitive or emotional shortcuts, especially in areas where we know we have room to grow.

100 billion neurons of discernment, and all we really have to do is ask ourselves.

100 billion neurons to hit the pause button and listen, so that when our reflection reaches our lips, it’s inclusive of the truth.

Preset: busy

It feels like a version of talking about the weather. But there’s a social game going on too…

“I’ve got a lot going on, and I have stuff to show up for, and things are going well for me, and I’m legit, and I’m, and I’m … “

Without me even saying it explicitly, you see the game going on there. As an extension of that interaction, most everyone we talk to is “crazy busy”, “slammed”, “up against it”, or even “fucked.”

It seems like a hell of a preset: busy.

What happens when we’re rushing, over scheduling, showing up late, canceling appointments, rescheduling them, etc etc?? In my experience, it tends to mean that reactivity is the general state of things.

When we reject the cult of busy, we at least have the chance to reclaim our preset, and choose a different story to tell ourselves about time and the way we show up.

When we say we’re busy, we’re really just justifying ourselves in a space. The thing is, busy often infects our ability to ever be in a place fully. We can still achieve without being busy. We could just be…

… effective.

… potent.

… inspired.

… focused.

…READY.

More more more

For a capitalist economy to be considered healthy, it always has to be growing.

More more more.

Even a hedonist like me has to acknowledge that the doctrine of “more more more” is not only a bizarre way to measure success, it’s also unsustainable on a personal level.

Capitalist economies need to grow, but we don’t really need more resources or things just because the calendar flipped over.

The reality is that capitalism (not mercantilism) without proper social investment is the most tantalizing of races to the bottom. Nations like Norway are a perfect example of ways to use economies as a springboard for education, infrastructure, and better systems, not just higher GDP.

I’m not ragging on commerce, but I am saying that our system relies on our merciless consumption.

What’s good for America’s economy is not necessarily good for us or our families, and that disconnect is more evident now than ever.

GDP means nothing to our households or communities.

And more doesn’t mean more if we’re being real about what we need. It means too much.

Perspective isn’t fact

For those of us who are passionate, energetic, opinionated, motivated, or confident, it can be easy to give way to the seduction of our own guitar solo.

After all, we’re sure of our opinions and have worked out a great bit of logic to support what we think to be an inscrutable position. Despite our ‘water tight’ rationale, it’s important to always be at least somewhat buffered by curious verification of our own motives or perspectives.

Am I setting up a straw man? Am I mischaracterizing? Do I have extra incentive to come out on one side of this debate? Have I rounded a corner when coming to conclusions?

Unfortunately for our ego’s, perspective isn’t fact.

Once we’re realistic about the degree to which our beliefs or opinions aren’t supported by facts, I venture to say we’ll do a better job of:

  1. Being sure to read & research more to find the facts that support an informed stance, and
  2. Having the types of conversations that bridge gaps instead of dig them deeper.

If we’re open to data, less sure of ourselves, and focused on our blindspots as much as the blindspots of those we converse with, perhaps we’ll rebuild our ability to empathize and find more productive common ground.

Once we’ve told ourselves we own a monopoly on truth, the slope is already too slippery.

Addendum to Selfish Altruism

My dear friend Matt Leathwood sent me this response to my Selfish Altruism post:

‘Does anyone do anything for free? Doing something for someone else makes most of us feel good about ourselves….. The pay off is the apparent altruism. It’s the true sign of goodness when we do things for other people without the bells and whistles of praise…. Silent givers are indeed kings amongst men.’

Touche, Matt! What’s interesting is the role habit plays in all this as well. If we get on a roll of being altruistic, perhaps it becomes our default and we can, without ego, make that our life’s preset.

But more so than FREE, like Matt says, it’s about doing good because it’s good, not because you will be praised for it. We can all do a lot worse than feeling good about doing good.

If praise for altruism makes altruism your default setting, we’ll all take it over the alternative.

P.s. If you ever have a thought, critique, idea, or contribution, after reading my posts – hit reply! Hell, I might even share it with everyone else!

Selfish altruism

Sometimes I wonder if my altruism is selfish, and whether or not that matters.

In a very basic way, I believe most of us lean toward one of the following worldviews:

  1. Life is hard and it’s important to keep people out so they don’t screw you, or
  2. By giving we receive way more than we ever could have hoped for.

I put the word ‘selfish’ next to the word ‘altruism’, mostly to get your attention. But there is indeed a volley happening between the way we view the world and the way the world vibrates with or against us.

If you think people will be trouble, they are.

If you think people will help you be more than you ever could alone, they will.

In that sense, altruism isn’t actually selfish, but it is self-replicating and exponential. I can attest that I’ve found altruism or an emphasis on giving, to be the most personally beneficial factor in my life (that I’m in full control of).

For those of us who know that everything is going to be OK, we have the luxury of being able to focus on the positive ripples we can make, as opposed to clawing for our slice.

Since selfish altruism is really just altruism, I say we risk it.

Equal rights, no qualifier

The thing about saying we believe in equal rights is that there can’t be any qualifiers.

That’s the nature of equality. For it to truly exist, we can’t bend on the premise. I hate to be fundamentalist about anything, but I don’t see equal rights as something we can compromise on.

There can’t be exceptions, fine print, or motor mouthed radio disclaimers in the last 2 seconds of the ad. There can’t be caveats, exemptions, addenda, waivers, extenuating circumstances, but’s, or garbled explanations.

In a country with so much lofty rhetoric about equality for all, it’s especially important that we not mince words.

As I dive into Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo williams after hearing her speak a few weekends ago at Camp GLP, I’m reminded just how much work we have to do when it comes to living out our ideals.

There’s no reason for recalcitrance, but we do have a long road ahead.

One thing we can’t do, is abide the shuffling of feet, defensive rationalizations, or inaction.

As Americans existing in the present, we all need to be part of this conversation… especially when it becomes uncomfortable.

Adult novice

Being an adult novice is a space a lot of us rarely can sit in without some discomfort. For some reason, the older we get, the more we tend to shutter in the face of attempting to acquire new experiences or skills.

Why the hell is that?

Perhaps it’s about our inner insecure child shuttering in the face of uncertainty, or our creative intuition getting clobbered by criticism we received from some awful, cynical adult.

As I taught my string art workshop at Camp GLP this past weekend, I remembered that creating space for adults to be novices is an important piece of expanding our comfort zones and reclaiming our ability to learn new things, be creative, and not give a fuck about the result.

This is a reminder to actively seek out the experience of being a novice. It’s also a reminder to be more focused on the experience than the result.

Jump right in.

Being honest about bias

Oh, bias. Such a maligned issue, yet so relevant, all of the time.

Ok, so let’s see here… journalists aren’t allowed to be biased, in fact saying someone is biased is one of the ways many people go about indicting.

“I think you’re only telling one side of the story, and I probably totally disagree with you.”

It’s odd that being unbiased is the goal, either ideologically or rhetorically, especially since we’d all admit it’s inescapable.

If we acknowledge that we all have our own biases regardless of how enlightened we might happen to be, then lets move the marker.

We’re biased.

Now that we can admit it, all we have to do is be honest that we have it. Incorporating that knowledge into our communication is the next, and most important step.

Easier to say than do, but oh so worth it.

Charlottesville

What happened in Charlottesville over the weekend proves that the notion of existing in a post-racial America is a complete fantasy. The “I don’t see skin color” version of public policy mixed with a talking point that helps back away from the cultural and social work we really need to do.

I’ve been sick to my stomach watching footage of the riots and that car mowing down our fellow people.

It’s made me so angry that I feel a rush of primal, testosterone-laced adrenaline that reverts to physicality, and wants to pummel those whose ideas I find disgusting and fucked up.

My mind quickly comes back to violence and it’s true nature. It’s never a solution. It never ends anything. It merely accelerates the eye for an eye approach. It’s made me think just how radical nonviolence really is. It’s sooooo hard to do. To remain truly nonviolent in communication and action is no easy feat, especially when directed at our perceived enemies.

The thing is, nonviolence destabilizes the entire back and forth that violence perpetuates. It knocks it off its axis. Calling for LOVE for those who desire the annihilation of anyone that doesn’t look like them is the hardest test.

Can we truly love our racist brothers and sisters out of their fundamentalist lens? Do we have the stomach for it?

I don’t know if we can and I don’t know if we do.

I also don’t know if violent retaliation does anything more than temporarily suppress those notions, as opposed to changing them.

I just don’t know.