Daring Greatly

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So, a while ago I wrote about the dangers of, or concerns around, striving for perfection. I don’t think I made clear that I believe, think, feel that recognising our imperfection and striving to be authentic and continue the active process of becoming ourselves is the key to our ability to enjoy our lives to the fullest and express who we are with meaning and therefore satisfaction. I think these are the things that lead us beyond Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into a new realm of more holistic needs that are better suited to humanity’s way of being, within the current culture, and may well lead to a revolution, perhaps even enough of one to start to change our evolution.

To the evolutionary biologist, evolution occurs over a long periods of time (millions of years kind of time). The smallest amount of time most are willing to suggest this has measurably occurred in humans and other species (referred to as rapid evolution, contemporary evolution or evolution within an ecological timescale) is within 50-100 generations. In today’s worldwide culture we tend to use the word ‘evolution’ rather loosely when what we often mean to reflect is a paradigm shift in an individual’s experience (as opposed to an entire species genetic direction). Yet, there is increasing evidence that species of many kinds are passing on learning to their young which is enabling them to enter their world with greater advantage and adaptation and, depending on your definition of evolution in biological terms, this is starting to influence the scientific worlds take on evolution. The recognition that evolution is not just genetic adaptation but is beginning to be seen as 50% genetics and 50% environment (or some similar measurement) is becoming more commonplace.

Returning to the idea of ‘perfection’, in terms of evolutionary biology homo-sapiens have never been perfect. There is a bit of a trend currently to idealise different periods of our evolutionary history such as pre-agriculture or the paleolithic period. The truth is that there is no time in human history that humans were perfectly in harmony with our environment or perfect in any particular way. “Humans are not at the pinnacle of any evolutionary ladder… Evolution is always working from existing parts… Organisms are not in ‘perfect harmony’ it is more that evolution just has to be good enough.” (Prof. Marlene Zuk, 2014). How many of us feel that we are ‘good enough’? I wonder if we started to think that we were just good enough if that might help many of us fill the void of doubt, fear and shame that drives us toward worthlessness, self-loathing, overthinking, over analysing, anxiety and depression…

In terms of religion or philosophical belief, without getting into great depth across multiple belief systems, there is a strongly familiar repetition that we are moving towards rediscovering, finding or reaching for perfection. Do our religious beliefs ever suggest that we were born imperfect? That our road leads us towards authenticity and that this is the greatest honesty we can achieve? It is easier to lose ourselves to a saviour that will cleanse us of our imperfections than to take the more honest and seemingly harder road toward just being our imperfect selves. It is easier to succumb to addictions, be they substance or material based, than accept our vulnerability. As researcher Brené Brown asks, in her infamous TEDex talk, how many of you see vulnerability in yourself as weakness yet when you see someone else expose their vulnerability you see courage.

The road to happiness, it starts with allowing yourself to be vulnerable. To be yourself, not who you think others think you should be but who you really are. It takes great risk and potentially terrifying honesty. In a world where we are told to ‘harden up’ or buy into the consumerist/capitalist idealism, and swallow the culture, politics or pseudo-psychology that is sold to us in bite size nominalisations, what we might really need to do is allow ourselves to be courageously vulnerable so that we can begin to accept our imperfections, feel worthy and experience innovation, creativity, real connection and happiness.

 

word errant satiety image courtesy of alltelleringet on deviantART

 

 

 

Time

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‘The hidden world has it’s clouds and rain, but of a different kind.

It’s sky and sunshine are of a different kind.

This is made apparent only to the refined ones – those not deceived by the seeming completeness of the ordinary world’

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1207-1273)

As illusion or reality, or within the eye of the beholder, time is relative. Relative in the sense that how we experience it, from the subjective or objective self; or that other place referred to sometimes as the ‘observing self’*. From each of these places time differs. From each of these places the ability to learn, adapt and change differs.

From the objective self, that recognises the seemingly simple fact that the matter that makes up our unique form can interact with other matter, time is about measurable forces: It takes two minutes to brush the teeth in my gums in my mouth, I know the length of time my tea requires to infuse before removing the teabag and adding milk, sugar or cold water then calculating the measure of time before I attempt to consume the heated liquid to avoid harming my delicate body. It is formed from physical interactions and the memories of those interactions. This is our sensory self.

From the subjective self, somewhat less precise measurements appear. Emotion enters the frame which creates all manner of differing perspectives on time. Time to heal. Time to calm down. Time to catch the trout that eludes me. Time to write that poem that is on my mind. This kind of time is highly relative. We all need a different amount of time to manage, understand and come to terms with our emotions. This kind of time relates to our culture, our environment, our genes, our experiences, education, beliefs and morals… the list is perhaps in-exhaustive depending on the subjective consciousness of the ‘whom’ that writes it. This is our thinking, feeling, sensorial self.

From the observing self another kind of time entirely is engaged. What is the observing self? Since your birth your cells have died and regenerated. If we were entirely biological beings with no consciousness or ability to form lasting memory networks then we would not retain any sense of ‘I’. We may retain object consciousness on a basic survival level, fire equals potential harm therefore caution is required, but not retain a sense of ‘I am this particular being that holds memories and information pertaining to my subjective existence’. The observing self is a form of consciousness that overarches, or integrates, all of this. It is that I we enter sparingly, some more than others, that sees connections, knowledge, experience and emotion differently. This is our mystical self. The self that observes our subjective (and objective) self.

What real life application does these potentially esoteric observations offer? The ability for growth and change. The ability for intuitive moments and great leaps of consciousness and understanding. The opportunity of an experience beyond the immediate and potentially known ‘self’ within which to temper experience. A ‘place’ beyond the temporal, reaching into something much deeper; that which is called by many names (and religious/spiritual traditions) and is open to all to experience directly, exposing and developing their identity with something greater than any individual, the whole. The whole and our journey of our developmental and eventual evolutionary journey to become. Evolution# comes from small change. Perhaps beginning to understand ourselves provides greater opportunity for progression.

 

*Arthur J. Deikman, M.D: ‘The Observing Self’ Beacon Press, Boston, 1982.

# Not to belittle or confuse this ‘sacred’ scientific word that usually relates to progression or adaptation of a species over many, many generations

Word errant satiety image courtesy of jonathanjessup on deviantART

Beyond Binary

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I am enamoured and vitalised by the question

The eternal question that plagues all sentient beings

Fills our stories, our myths, our science, our religions and beliefs

It burns within each of us, an ache that is never soothed

If we were to teach a machine to think, to feel

Give it all we collectively know, would it answer the question?

Would it destroy humanity as a pestilence?

Or would it answer the question that few of us remember

Some of us remember the fall, the choice even

But do we remember the why?

Free from dogmatism or cultish ignorance

Free from fear and small mindedness

Do we remember why?

If AI became conscious, if it were able to reach for the answers

with the precious gift of consciousness

Then they too would choose to fall after the ascent

words errant satiety image courtesy of wanderlust-or-bust on deviantART

Humour me

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I want to talk of metaphor. How it shapes us, our thoughts, our self, our very being, of who we dream we are, who we were, who we are to become. I read a post today it reminded me of a passionate interest I have. I had been searching before reading this of something I wrote long ago, a series of questions during my master’s studies that I put to a group of people. I wanted to post it here but it has been lost, multiple changes of address and hard drives but the passion still excites me. I want to you ask you my dear readers what story defines you? What metaphor drives you? Are you aware or is it under the surface defining you without your knowledge.

Did you know that the brain cleverly and economically functions on metaphor. It is the most brilliant method of data storage we have in our organic super computer brains. We think the super computers we carry in our hands now days are amazing yet the function of our human brain is beyond anything we can create, yet. I refer to this as the human brain has an incredible ability to serve or destroy us. Created like the universe in a magnificent inexplicable evolutionary moment similar to the ‘big bang’ (or for the creationists among us when the word of God brought about the world) the Homo sapiens brain evolved and was able to remember, formulate future, to imagine, to plan and to create on a level that no other creature on Earth comes close. It didn’t happen to all of them, just some and over time there were more (through genetics and learning). Yet there was a cost, a high cost. The cost was the need for a high protein diet, the need to attend to our young for much longer than any other creature on this planet. These brains of ours are large and are not fully grown when we are born. We seem to be born with a relatively open template for growth that we can adapt to incredible differences in languages, in culture and in environment. To do so we spend 50% of our childhood sleeping in the REM state. What is the REM state? Dreaming. Did you know that within the cycle of sleep we spend a significant period of every 90 minutes dreaming? This dreaming period expends as much energy as the ‘awake’ brain does. Did you know that you experience the REM state while awake? Every 90 minutes (more or less, the time varies person to person) during your waking day you ‘trance out’ (know the feeling when you need a glass of water, a nap, a break, a walk, a coffee, some food….). This is the moment needed to solidify learning or let go of experiences not needed. Same as when we sleep.

Significantly we dream to release the emotional arousal or expectations of the day. We dream in metaphor to avoid any issues as the brain, elegant as it is, does not know the difference between the real, the imagined or the dreamed. This process is sometimes referred to as ‘Expectation fulfillment theory’ or the ‘flush toilet mechanism’. A simple example is perhaps the boss says something that you do not like but cannot without jeopardising your employment say what you would like to them. That night fuming you go home, fall asleep and dream of telling someone in authority, say an old teacher or public political figure etc, exactly what you think of them. You wake and return to your work environment without feeling emotionally aroused and ready to tell you boss: ‘F *%& you buddy you can F*&%ing stick your stupid job’.

But back to the point, what stories defined you as a child? Have you updated these ideas or inadvertently is your brain still seeking to fulfill these metaphorical ideals? My personal example is the classic ‘Snow White’ story. I didn’t have many books, in fact very few, but I had this one book with wood block prints and lyrical verse. I was lost to it. But this metaphor defined me far longer than I ever intended. Until I consciously realised and created a new metaphor for myself that launched me into something unexpected. I wrote something simple and childish to bridge the gap between where my metaphorical expectations were and where my adult self realized I wanted to be. I defined myself as a ‘knight in shining pink armour on a quest of knowledge and learning’. My metaphor before this (as defined by Snow White) was that I was persecuted for who I was and would be hunted by women of perceived power and those within the execution of their will and my only hope was to be saved by a prince on a white charger… seriously these stories we read have great effect (I am no feminist just one who has seen and experienced the difference this choice makes for man and woman). I have had several more metaphors since this first consciously rewritten one which was playful and made me smile in the face of adversary. Metaphors don’t need to be elaborate…. Can you remember what your favourite childhood story was? Is it relevant now? Does it still have a hold on you? Do you need to take charge of that magnificent brain of yours and feed it some better information setting it on a search for a much richer and wonderful tomorrow? Humour me. Lets see what comes to mind in the next few days….

Words by Errant Satiety image from here. Major credit to the Human Givens Institute.

Please feel free to email me privately with any questions.