#ThoughtExperiment – ‘Intellectual Consumerism’ OR how being ‘well read’ doesn’t necessarily count for anything

Disclaimer: you are more than enough

One for my fellow bookworms and knowledge junkies…

Considering the times you live in
You’ve been able to take in far more, and far ‘better’ information than the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Jesus, Buddha, Pythagoras, Einstein (etc.)
You’ve been able to read more ‘great’ books
(…and maybe more ‘not great’ books)
You’ve been able to access nearly unlimited culture and art through the wonders of the information superhighway
Learn about almost anything you want
Look up more information than you could ever consume for your entire life.

On an intellectual or philosophical level
You have not necessarily made ‘better use’ of this information than these people.
(…though I probably don’t know you and even if I did, this would *not* be a judgement on how you have chosen to spend your entirely unique existence).

What I am getting at here is this:
Perhaps reading more is not the solution,
Nor reading better
(…both of which can be seen as a type of intellectual consumerism also predicated on the idea of you not being enough).

Perhaps the solution is what you make of this information
These books you read
Conversations you have
Artworks you scrutinise.

black and white art photo
Photo by BarbaraALane (Pixabay)

After all, what you think about
Will determine what you do
And thus the trajectory of your life.

Could you find alleviation for the human condition
Standing in a check out line?
Or utter profundity in an episode of Jersey Shaw?
Maybe – I’m sure some people have
Was it Bodhidharma who found enlightenment staring at a wall?
(…no sacred books, 7 day meditation retreats, dogma, gurus or online bootcamps required).

Ensuring that you expose yourself to the ‘right’ stuff is relatively easy
So, I suppose the question is how do you make ‘more’ of what you are exposed to?
That I don’t know.
This is the big mystery.

Of course, it doesn’t matter anyway, unless you want it to.

#ThoughtExperiment – The Tall Monkeys / 06.03.17

Imagine a group of monkeys in an enclosure…

They are all dressed in costumes of varying appearance and quality

The enclosure is full of possessions

These possessions are distributed unequally


Some monkeys have managed to acquire more elaborate costumes and more possessions than others

When you look at the monkeys

Perhaps you admire the monkey’s craftiness or strength,

Evident in the means it used to acquire more possessions

(…or perhaps you don’t?)

But in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a monkey with more things than the other monkeys

And maybe next week another monkey will have taken some of these things away from it

You do not judge one with more possessions as any ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than any of the others

(…do you?)

black and white monkey photo
Photo by warriorwoman531

No, if you were to make such a judgement

You would try to do this by a glimpse into its character

…insofar as you can get to know the character of an ape by observing it for a few minutes through the glass or bars of an enclosure.

Don’t underestimate anyone


Don’t overestimate anyone

Because in many ways,

We’re not so different from these monkeys

Though we do have slightly cooler stuff and more sophisticated explanations of the status quo.

Cover Photo by wwarby

#Idea – The economy will keep growing until it can’t anymore

I am clearly not an economist but hear me out for the next 10 lines or so:
Our current economic model
(…that is to say, the way in which our global economy operates)
Bases its pursuit of infinite growth
On a planet of finite resources
Do you know what else pursues infinite growth with the constraint of finite resources?
And you know what happens with cancer given enough time?
It either goes away
Or kills its host

Photo by Vincepal

#ThoughtExperiment – Your assumptions and how to use them

First, it helps to be aware that you have assumptions
(…we all do, I assume?)
And probably that you make more assumptions than you think you do
(…we all do, I assume?)

Next – to consider the importance of your assumptions:
They are necessary to simplify
This particularly complex universe in which we all find ourselves

Think about it –
Imagine not being sure that gravity will work today
Or that night will follow day
Or that you need food to survive
It’d be difficult.

So, there are certain things that it helps to think you’re ‘sure’ of
(…I assume)

But, remember:
There are probably less things to be sure of than you think
(…like we said: complex universe, complex world, right?)
Such assumptions often get in the way….
Of learning something new
Or examining something deeply
Seeing more of what something is
(…and not what you think something is)

Assumptions can get in the way of your thinking through things
And certain assumptions lead you to bad places
Bad thinking and what comes with it
Closed minds in places of power
Closing doors on other people,
Which, by extension, holds us all back

suffering photo
Photo by Björn Bechstein

More terrible examples include prejudice and hatred: racism, homophobia, sexism, war, genocide – the list goes on
From assumptions about ‘other’ people being ‘bad’
Or consider the various idiotic decisions that you didn’t ‘think through’ at the time
Things you just assumed would work, or happen
…and didn’t
And that ended up costing you in one way or another
(…and we’ve all been there, I assume?)

Yeah, assumptions can be bad.
But, like everything, it’s not all bad – and usually a matter of degree
Like we said, maybe not best to doubt the sunrise.

Moderation is a mostly recurrent theme in our universe.

So, what follows?
Perhaps try to notice where you apply your assumptions
(…it is certainly not always obvious)
Think of it as ‘epistemological troubleshooting’
A way to make better informed decisions about everything
And by extension, live a better life

Enquire more
Question more
Question others
Most especially: question yourself

Every now and then, ask yourself:
“How possible is it that this thing that I think is true
And consider:
What makes you so sure that you’re right about anything, anyway?
(…or everything?)
Do you like to be ‘right’ about things?
If so, why?

shouting photo
Photo by cotaro70s

If in doubt of your ‘wrongness’,
Remember how complex this universe is
And that many human assumptions are, and have been

Remember that you have been wrong before
And you will be wrong again
(…even if selective memory has erased many such instances from your recall)

Perhaps remember that old cliche: most all of us assumed that the earth was once flat
Until it wasn’t

Consider what to ‘save’ your assumptions for
Start to doubt the nature of certain things and you will perhaps become a little insane. Or a lot insane.

You can also verify stuff:
“how much evidence do I have…
…for this thing that I believe to be right
…actually being right?”

Perhaps try to catch some of those assumptions when you make them
…even though you’re always making them
(and that’s OK)

Someone once said
”When you assume you make an ass out of u and me”

And, do remember
No matter how hard you try
(…assuming you try)
You will never be free of your assumptions


Notice where you make assumptions
Challenge them
Perhaps see things differently…

smiling dog photo
Photo by csaba peterdi

#ThoughtExperiment – Talking to kids about the alternative to ‘self’

The Self tries to assert itself into various things:

Body, self concept, social class
It cannot just ‘be’ these things in isolation.
No, it has to take a dualistic position – ‘us and them’. It likes ‘in group’ and an ‘out group’ – something to associate with and something to take a position against

From as soon as you are born
You are taught an identity – given a name and things to identify with
You are a certain race
From a certain place
Of a certain religion
And you inherit many of the attributes and biases associated with this group
To take a metaphor from computing:
A bunch of programmes automatically bundled into the cultural operating system installed in your mind
‘Epistemological bloatware’
These group categories ‘install’ certain frameworks which help to dictate how you think, and by extension, how you live.

Like most things, it’s not all good, and it’s not all bad
But this mode of thinking is probably responsible for the majority of the inter-human suffering
Dehumanisation of other humans and the subsequent loss of empathy that comes with it
For example;
If you saw ‘the Jew’ as a fellow human being who wants love, and to avoid suffering
And who had a mother who loved him
You would perhaps not be so quick to put him in a concentration camp
Examples of such dehumanisation are, sadly plentiful and stretch back as long as human history
No worth covering them here

concentration camp photo
Photo by dalecruse

What would happen if you taught your kids that they are human.
‘Just’ human.
And that everything else they are is ‘external’
Things that they can consciously choose (or NOT choose) to associate with
That they are not defined by where they were born, who they were born to, what they do, or any such attribute?
What happens then?

Alternatively/additionally, gradually introduce some ego breaking ideas to the curriculum…

Teach them that they are, perhaps
The universe observing itself
A human/being
Having a statistically improbable human existence
(inb4 “the probability of something that has already happened is 1″…)
And interacting with other such beings experiencing much the same thing.
That there aren’t really words or concepts to properly encompass it all
(…though we could use words like ‘miraculous’ and ‘ridiculous’)

And yet
Most everybody around you may know this on a logical level
(…in the sense that they’d agree we’re apes on a spinning ball of rock, etc)
And yet
Has not considered this could be the state of things
The subject is not even open to discussion

But why isn’t the subject not open to discussion?
I think because there is too much ‘Self’ in this world
And not enough ‘Spirit’

And so, life goes on…

city photo
Photo by luca.sartoni

#ThoughtExperiment – ‘Healthy competition’ vs ‘working together’ (on a global scale)

Question: Are we going to be collaborators or competitors in the creation of the future?

Answer: Probably both

It appears that, unlike the ants, we cannot all just work together in one collective (and when you consider ant hives occasionally going to war, neither can the ants).

Caveat: …well, maybe we can’t yet.

Still, when you take a larger scale view of humanity, cohesion and progress do emerge from competition (i.e financial market dynamics, scientific advancements driven by warfare). But the process of achieving such cohesion through competition still leads to stuff like genocides in the name of nationality, and the ongoing annihilation of ecosystems in the name of profit.

And obviously we can’t seem to exist in a state of total anarchy / ‘all vs all’ (even the systems that anarchists advocate are not ‘true’ anarchy)

So we get a (possibly false dichotomy of) ‘healthy competition’ vs ‘working together’.

corporation black and white photo
Photo by Eduard V. Kurganov

The question follows: is there an optimal ‘middle ground’ between the two, and how do we determine it? Some kind of ideal group dynamic in humanity?

Is there some optimal number of human establishments in competition required to keep humanity progressing? And an optimal form of competition?

If so, how do we determine this?

If not, what is the alternative? Continuing on, raping our planet and killing each other in the name of tribe and personal gain? Appointing a perfect and neutral reasoning machine to make all the decisions? Some kind of raising of global consciousness in which the people and the power brokers see the bigger collective picture?

Cover Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

#ThoughtExperiment – The body is a prison you will one day escape

What if we’re lonely because we feel like we are trapped in these bodies and these experiences?
And what we really want to do is reach out and share our experiences and consciousness with these other bodies.
These other people.
To merge.

And there are some occasional and sublime moments when we do.

But mostly we can’t, because there’s the hard boundary of our experience and our ‘individual realities’. Our egos.
Which get right in the way of those we want to be boundless and unified.
Right in the way when we just want to reconnect to Source, the Other and the ‘oceanic experience’
And maybe when our bodies die we are finally boundless. Finally reconnected?
Like droplets returning to a river?
I dunno. Beats the idea of eternal blackness.
But maybe they are the same thing…

Photo by Broo_am (Andy B)