Enlightened Conflict

have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss

October 13th, 2017

red shoes_adventure_by_zvaella

 

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“We all have one foot in a fairytale, and the other in the abyss.”

 

—–

Paulo Coelho

 

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My anger at the world coils inside of me.

It’s a directionless seething, there’s no name or face to aim at.”

 

————–

Claire Zorn

 

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Well.

 

color outside the linesLife demands us to draw a lot of lines.

 

And more often than we would like to admit … it demands we place one foot on one side of a line and the other foot on the other side of the line.

 

That may not sound … well … right.

Or maybe the best thing to do.

It may even sound like I am suggesting you ‘straddle the fence.’

 

This isn’t straddling … this is about being grounded or balancing oneself.

 

If you don’t place one foot solidly on either side, you can be quite easily consumed by the extremes of Life which are, more often than not, found on only one side of a line.

 

If you don’t place one foot solidly on either side, you can be quite easily consumed by others who seek to consume what you may think you don’t really care that much about <but you should … and actually do when you care to think about t enough>.

 

If you don’t you can be quite easily … well … consumed.

 

I guess what I am saying is that Life demands you pragmatically be active in drawing some lines so that you have some sense of when you are getting too … well … “too”. So you can have some sense of … well … where to actually place your feet that is meaningful.

 

Maybe what I am saying is that many of us have no problem ‘making a stand’ but if you really aren’t sure where your line is then it is quite possible you aren’t really sure you are taking your stand in the right place.

 

Maybe think of it this way.

 

It’s kind of like making sure you have things in perspective when you take a stand.

 

It’s kind of like demanding realistic hope.

It’s kind of like demanding some hopeful despair.

It’s kind of like demanding you believe in some fairytales and some abyss-like darkness.

 

It’s kind of like demanding lines for yourself so you can deal with the lines Life is going to demand of you.

 

Look.

 

I don’t really believe there are angry people … they just have so much anger within themselves that their line is drawn differently than others.

 

I don’t really believe there are dreamers … they just have so much imagination within themselves that their line is drawn differently than others.

 

But here’s the deal.

 

You have to draw some lines.

 

draw your lines and choose your side moralThere has to be some reality to ground some imagination.

 

There has to be some truth to ground some questioning.

 

There has to be some principles to ground some rebelliousness.

 

There has to be some fairytaleishness <I made up that word> to balance out some of the inevitable abyss.

 

You do have to have one foot somewhere other than where your other foot resides.

 

I know.

I know.

 

That sounds a little of whack from conventional wisdom because far more often you hear “both feet on the ground” and shit like that.

 

But if you have two feet on the line … well … you have chosen to stand on a thin balance beam and will teeter your entire life. That is tiring & dangerous.

But if you have two feet on one side … well … you have chosen a life of fairytales … or a life in the abyss.

 

All that said.

 

Yes.

 

There are times you draw a line and make a choice to shift both feet solidly onto one side. I would suggest this is a situational decision and not a “living Life” type decision.

 

That is right and that is wrong.

That is good and that is bad.

That is normal and that is not normal.

 

Those are most likely the moments in which Life says “now, in this time and place, here is the line … on which side to you choose to stand?”

I would suggest sometimes we fuck this up by confusing a ‘Life one foot here & one foot there’ decision and a contextual situational decision. What I mean is that in that time and place you may try and keep your fairy tale foot in place and your abyss foot in place … and mistakenly take on a different type of decision demanding a different type of line.

 

That would be a bad decision.empty shoes

 

In that time. in that place. In that moment.

 

You shift your feet.

 

Sigh.

 

I never suggested lines were easy. Just that Life demands we draw a lot of lines. I would suggest that if you do not draw some lines you will find yourself lost in anger coiled within, or maybe constantly living a less than fairy tale life dreaming it all away, or stuck in some dark abyss seeing no way out.

 

Yeah … lines come in pretty handy at times. Pretty handy in managing Life. I can tell you <for sure> that lines can be pretty handy at helping you decide when something should end … and something should start.

big secrets make small people

September 20th, 2017

 

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“Community is the fact that we work toward the same goal, that we accept our respective roles in order to reach it.

 

Values is the fact we trust each other.

 

And, culture?

 

Culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit. That matters because most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.”

 

—-

Fredrick Backman

 

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“You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”

 

—–

Colin Powell

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Well.

 

secrets we all haveThe relationship between secrets and culture and community is one which is fraught with contradictions, conflict and humanness.

 

I imagine this conflict is driven by the natural chafing between self-interest and community <I have called this community individualism & Enlightened Individualism in the past>.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

We talk a lot about community and team and all of that good stuff. And we talk about it with good intentions. The problem is that true community demands some sacrifice.

 

Therein lies our big secrets.

 

On occasion we decide self-interest is more important than sacrifice.

 

Uhm.

 

This is a version of ‘what you can get away with.’

 

That phrase sounds horribly horrible. It suggests nefarious type behavior. But the truth of it is most of us see what we can get away with on some very personal day-to-day less-than-nefarious type stuff.

 

We cut some corners.

We maybe don’t tell people how we truly feel <or who we truly are>.

We steal some post-it notes.

 

These are our little secrets.

 

We may even have some bigger personal secrets that we decide are just not things we want to share <these are not nefarious … just personal>.

 

 

Regardless.

 

secret own control hide

 

For many of us … our behavior arcs toward what we can get away with. That doesn’t mean it is completely unethical, or some abhorrent behavior, just that while norms set a ‘median’ standard guideline Life is constantly suggesting ‘but this one time you can get away with doing this.”

 

The problem resides with the friction between culture & community and self.

 

What I mean by that is the stronger & more powerful the cultural community norm is the bigger your secret becomes if you avoid the norms.

 

This secret takes on exponential size if you start believing that the norms that are good for you are good … and the ones that don’t match up with what you believe is your self-interest are bad.

 

You only accept the existence of the formal and informal cultural norm structure that constitutes accepted community construct … only as long as that suits your purposes.

Your big secret, therefore, doesn’t have to do with your own behavior but rather in your non-belief ,if not overall disdain> for the community norms.

 

This leads me to hate.

 

hate everythingWhy hate?

 

When you decide to see what you can get away with you have to mentally divide community into “we” and “they.” And in doing so you make ‘we’ good <which suggests what you can get away with is on the side of good> and you make ‘they’ bad.

 

This is a simplistic tactic for attempting to carry the burden of a big secret.

 

Hate is simple.

 

Hate can be an incredibly powerful empowering emotion.

 

Why?

 

In this scenario, using hate, the world becomes much easier to understand and less confusing, in the scheme of things, if you divide everything into friends & enemies, good & evil, right & wrong and a basic we & they.

 

This helps us because the world is strewn with conflict. Not just physical war but of ideas, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. Cultures, communities and classes are bombarded with conflict after conflict. And maybe because of the sheer amount of conflict one of the first things we do is pick sides. We choose a side to stand on because … well … it is easier. It is easier than thinking or, even more difficult, trying to hold parts of two ideas which appear in conflict in our heads at the same time.

 

And once we have chosen a side we then go out and seek some information, or ‘facts’, to confirm not only what we believe but the side we have chosen – this permits us to maintain the status quo and chug along with Life as ‘normal.’

 

Oh.

 

The last thing we do is demonize, or dehumanize, the other side. We diminish them. Make them, their thoughts & ideas, lesser than.

....... making "they" smaller ........

……. making “they” smaller ……..

 

I would suggest this all just makes you smaller as a person <carrying around a big secret>.

 

Big secrets make small people … yeah … unfortunately all of us become smaller with a big secret.

 

 

And this smallness is compounded by the unfortunate fact that you become even smaller when ‘we’ are the people who others HAVE to keep big secrets from … because they believe, and know, we cannot handle them <or don’t believe in them>.

 

All secrets carry a weight to them.

 

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“To agree to keep a secret is to assume a burden.”

Sam Harris

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In fact … I could argue that all knowledge is a burden. It carries a weight of responsibility with regard to what you do with it … how you act because you have it … as well as how you think about you, and others, with it.

 

Having accepted knowledge you have made an agreement with it. I tend to small to big secrets life people communitybelieve we don’t think about this. We accept knowledge as … well … maybe like income earned – disposable income in fact. We worked for it, we earned it and it is now ours to spend as we choose.

 

But knowledge is actually more like freedom. It is an unalienable right but it is also a privilege … and therefore one assumes a responsibility to it.

 

Uhm.

 

And with responsibility comes burden. Which almost sounds odd in that something with ‘free’ in it also carries such a heavy burden.

Maybe I should just suggest that nothing really comes for free … everything has something attached to it.

 

Knowledge?

 

Responsibility … the burden of responsibility. And that is a weight you carry … one which can be as light or as heavy as you make it. But. It is a weight nonetheless. One which you learn to carry well or carry poorly.

 

Knowledge tests our ability … and our character … with regard to how well we can carry this weight. It tests how strong we are .. once again … in ability an character.

 

Having said that <and most likely having a number of people feeling a little unconfutable thinking about knowledge that way>.

 

Secrets are a completely different level of a knowledge burden.

And secrets are tricky.

 

Some are thrust upon you … unwanted but yet yours nonetheless.

 

Some are gifted you … carefully shared by someone who believes the weight it carries is too much for themselves … alone.

 

Some are just yours … built by you and carried by you.

 

But regardless of how you assume the responsibility of a secret … it is also basement of my brain secret meetingknowledge. And therefore it also carries a burden … a responsibility … and a weight.

 

I don’t have the scale to weigh them but my guess is that a knowledge secret exponentially weighs more than a traditional knowledge.

 

I also don’t have any research but I also tend to believe, just like extra physical weight, as soon as we start feeling the extra weight of a secret … we seek to shed it.

 

Therein lies the true test of character.

Therein lies how big secrets can make small people.

 

All knowledge tests you. Secrets test you even more.

 

Knowledge, and secrets, take a strength of self to carry its weight.

The weight of responsibility of having the knowledge, the weight of freedom knowledge typically gives us … and the weight of character that knowledge either makes you bigger or makes you smaller.

 

Whew.

That is a lot of extra weight we have accepted by taking on these secrets.

 

And this is where I bring in good … as in good people doing good things … as in good versus almost good.

 

That sometimes very thin line can make a massive difference in life. That sometimes very thin line can decide whether your secret makes you bigger or smaller.

 

Look.

 

If you are clever enough, even if you embrace community, you can get away with a shitload of stuff. But cleverness does not eliminate the fact you gain a bigger secret burden with every action.

 

And you know what?

 

The “community” knows we struggle with this a individuals. In fact it has even intent help flaws self bestcreated some ‘auxiliary precautions’ to help us avoid unnecessary secrets.

 

Huh?

 

This is James Madison’s Federalist Paper #51 or “if men were angels” argument:

 

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If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

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We are no angels as people.

 

Secrets bear that truth out.

 

And … well … we all carry secrets.

outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count

September 13th, 2017

 

vague definition unclear indistinct

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“The world is not as simple as we like to make it out to be. The outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count.

Nothing is really truly black or white and bad can be a disguise for good or beauty … and vice versa without one necessarily excluding the other.

 

Someone can both love and betray the object of its love … without diminishing the reality of the true feelings and value.

 

Life is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting where all frontiers are artificial where at any moment everything can either end only to begin again … or finish suddenly forever … like an unexpected blow from an axe.

 

Where the only absolute, coherent, indisputable and definitive reality … is death. We have such little time when you look at Life … a tiny lightning flash between two eternal nights.

 

Everything has to do with everything else.

 

Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.”

 

—–

Arturo Perez Revarte

 

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Vague sucks.

 

outline vague certain uncertaintyAnd, yet, I would argue the majority of people only really have some vague outline of how the world works, or how effective or ineffective a leader is, or even only have a vague outline of any specific relationship between cause & affect.

 

This vaguery exists because it takes a lot of work to parse the details, and the appropriate details, and the ‘right’ details to make the outlines less vague and more tangible.

 

Is this work valuable ? Sure.

 

Is this work necessary to increase some certainty in Life? Sure.

 

But the majority of people have shit to do <other than this type of work>. That is neither good nor bad … it just is what it is.

 

A lot of pseudo intellectuals and smartish pundits bitch & moan and gnash their teeth over this but they would lead a significantly less stressful life if they just accepted it.

 

What this means is that in this ‘vague outline’ people inevitably create a vague/semi solid outline belief. From there they look around on occasion and question that outline. The questions raised either support the vague outline or raise doubts and … well … more questions.

 

All the while this is happening more information barrages the vague outline. In this barrage is a confusing mix of real, fake and quasi truths. All these confusing things do in the people’s minds is, contrary to belief, not confuse but rather make the person more dismissive of the incoming confusion and steadier in whatever vague outline they may have constructed.

 

Once again.

This is neither good nor bad … it just is what it is.

 

A lot of pseudo intellectuals and smartish pundits bitch & moan and gnash their teeth over this but they would lead a significantly less stressful life if they just accepted it.

 

Ah.

 

But at some point the questions gain some gravitas. This can happen several ways but let me point out two:

 

  • The questions themselves coalesce into some easy to understand ‘blob’ from which people who have a vague outline decide … my vague outline is wrong <or sucks>. Let’s say that this is the point at which the doubts and questions begin to outweigh the beliefs that created the vague outline.

 

 

  • Someone weaves a narrative using the doubts & questions into a relatively succinct, believable and non-hyperbolic driven framing of an outline which people look at, scratch their heads, go “hmmmmmmmmm …” and decide this new vague outline will replace the one they had in place. Oh. To be clear. This narrative must not only use the doubts & questions to dissolve the current vague outline but must also offer an alternative vague outline <outlines need to be replaced not simply destroyed>.

 

 

The first never happens fast enough to people who just cannot understand how and why some people have decided to live with some vague outline <that just seems ‘not really a smart outline’ to them>.

 

The second is not as easy as it appears. It isn’t as easy because problems are rarely as clear as we would like them to be and a narrative never lives without the context of all the barrage of real, fake and quasi truths impacting and denting and solidifying a vague outline that already exists. Or someone weaves a  great narrative to destroy but forgets to offer an alternative.

 

In other words … everything has to do with everything else.

 

I imagine I have two points today.

 

 

First.big-decisions-stress-uncertainty

 

We humans have come to accept a certain amount of uncertainty with regard to our lives and our decisions. This uncertainty is also built into the vague outlines we tend to construct for ourselves. What this means is that the construct of our beliefs and thoughts and ideas may be certain to us and, yet, its silhouette accommodates some uncertainty.

 

I began today by unequivocally stating that vague sucks. And I believe 99% of people would agree that it sucks. but in today’s world the majority of people have enough shit to do that they slot their thinking thoughts time. in one slot they place unequivocal certainty type thoughts. In another slot they place the “I will always be uncertain about this shit and thank God there is someone else at some higher pay grade than I who can be certain about it.” and, lastly, we slot all the shit in which we have formed some vague outline which accommodates a certain degree of uncertainty.

 

My point here is we tend to make this a binary discussion where the reality lies in a more complex mix of vagueness & clarity, certainty & uncertainty.

 

Second.

 

uncertainty-principle-here-thereCertainty, in and of itself, has degrees … it is not a simple black or white binary.

 

People can have vague outlines AND have questions with regard to their outlines … and not want to ditch the outline. “How can you still believe that?” may be one of the most misguided and unenlightened questions that has ever existed.  It completely misses the point in that it assumes ignorance, stupidity or some negative trait in order to hold on to some vague outline regardless of doubts.

A vague outline is a choice.

No more and no less.

We question choices all the time and, yet, remain with the original choice despite some fairly extensive doubts.

I say this because that said … it is silly to point out doubts and questions as a reason to ditch a vague outline. My easiest example is President Trump. His followers have a vague outline of what they like and believe about him. We scrutinize them for doubts and questions and when they share them we immediately pounce and suggest “then how can you still believe in your vague outline!?!” <usually said with a slight overall disbelief & wonder>.

Within their lives of doing shit that is important to them they created a vague outline of who and what Trump is, or isn’t, and … well … uncertainty was built into their certainty. The moment they will begin to disbelieve their vague outline is when the uncertainty overpowers the certainty. Until then … we should stop acting confused that someone believes what they believe.

 

Anyway.

 

I love the quote I opened with even though I hate vague. The truth is that we all live with some vague outlines albeit your vague outline may actually be one of my non-vague outlines, and vice versa. And when they are in conflict then … restless spirit fly vaguewell … there is conflict.

 

All that said … while vague sucks there is a reason we do it … and this reason is not stupid, nor unenlightened nor ignorant.

It is just damn practical to have some vague outlines.

 

 

Life is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting.

 

 

Life is restless.

Our vague outlines need to accommodate some of its restlessness. Not recognizing that is either naive or foolish.

 

humans can do it so quietly

September 5th, 2017

Finding the white space

 

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“The worst thing about falling to pieces is that humans can do it so quietly.”

 

inkskinned tumblr

 

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“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”

 

——

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Well.

 

Stark.

 

That is what I felt when I put these two quotes together for the first time.

stark horizon life view

Starkly absent of cynicism, pessimism or optimism.

 

Just stark.

 

Stripped of any hues of Life.

 

That’s what I felt.

 

Shit.

 

I then sat back and said “whew, if I felt that … imagine how someone feels who actually writes these things.”

 

And maybe that is my point.

 

Most of us can only imagine how it feels.

 

Most of us, at our worst, get only a glimpse of this starkness.

 

And even then our stark is most likely not this stark.

 

 

Now … what I do know that humans can fall to pieces incredibly quietly.

 

I do know that starkness is difficult to express to someone who has never seen fill-emptiness-empty-with-various-thingsstarkness.

 

I do know that there are most likely more people who, on the outside, are holding their shit together so well that most of us don’t even think to offer a ‘are you doing okay’ question.

 

I do know these are the people who so quietly are falling apart.

 

So here’s the deal.

 

Falling apart is falling apart. What I mean by that is everything, and I mean everything, that falls apart makes some sound. You just have to listen closely enough to hear it.

 

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No, now you’ve got me interested, I want to know

 

exactly what seems wrong to you, how something could

 

seem wrong to you. In what way do things get to be wrong?

 

——

John Ashbery

 

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You have to listen closely for the sound one makes when they fall to pieces noise silencequietly.

 

For there is a sound.

 

It may be just a whisper of a sound. You may even confuse it for the rustle of falling leaves.

 

But.

 

Quietly or not … as the pieces fall apart they make a sound.

 

You just have to listen closely.

 

This gets even trickier. Let me go back to my ‘stark’ opening. If you have never truly experienced stark, it is difficult to see this kind of starkness.

Sure.

You may get a sense of ‘something wrong’ but far too often we skate along the superficial surface of ‘something wrong’ assuming lack of depth or “not any starker than we have ever seen” and … well … we miss the true starkness.

 

My point?

What may sound like the rustle of some dead leaves on the ground may actually be the sound of some starkness we cannot even imagine.

 

By the way … what differentiates humans from other species isn’t opposable thumbs or the size of our brains … but rather compassion and an interest in humans – interest as in doing better, being better and jut … well … a better life <and helping people be better if they are not>.

 

While, of course, we want it to be better for ourselves we don’t want it to suck for others. And we certainly don’t want anyone to have such a stark existence that their Life retains no color or, worse, no hope.

 

The difficulty in fulfilling this inner innate characteristic is the outer irate characteristic of Life. It is always angrily demanding you to focus on it … and not the other humans occupying Life.

 

Look.

 

I am not suggesting running around listening to everyone’s whispers looking to save everyone.

 

I would suggest that the two quotes I used reminded me that saving a human … life whispers listen closelyjust one … can sometimes be enough.

 

Just listen closely.

 

Humans can fall to pieces so quietly. And no human, even someone we really do not like much, deserves to have such a stark existence that … well … they can only stare blankly at a Life falling apart.

 

Enlightened Conflict