The Power of a Paradigm Shift

Mind your paradigms.

It’s incredible the degree to which our behaviors are unconscious and totally determined by belief structures we don’t question or even consciously notice.

Paradigms are the lens through which we view the world.

But how can you notice a lens?

You probably can’t. But you can notice the places where it’s smudged or cracked.

Failure to achieve desired results are the clearest sign of a limiting, broken paradigm. Our unconscious minds want us to keep a limited paradigm. Our DNA wants to follow the path of least resistance, conserve energy, and reproduce. Nothing more.

In many ways, the basic drives of our DNA are sociopathic. They don’t care about charity, kindness, love, except in so far as they get us the things we need for survival and reproduction.

But our consciousness can rise above all that, and set a paradigm that beats the default behaviors assigned to us by our selfish DNA.

This is a choice we are presented with. A difficult choice, and a choice it takes effort even to perceive. But it is clear that everyone falls somewhere on a spectrum of paradigms, ranging from that of a Murderer to that of a Saint.

The former has fallen into a downward spiral, falling farther and farther down into a paradigm where all that matters is the immediate fulfillment of impulsive drives.

The latter forgoes immediate fulfillment in exchange for a continued commitment to the bettering of their environment, often at the expense of their own pleasure and profit.

Few of us exist at either of those two poles, but rather somewhere in the middle. We often swing wildly between moments of great joy and generosity and animalistic hunger or self-obsession. Take notice of what triggers these swings. It will be to your benefit, and the benefit of others to elevate your paradigm. So many of the problems we face are self-generated, due to a limited and unsustainable set of beliefs about what we need and what the Universe owes us.

It owes you nothing.

You owe it everything.

But luckily, if you are a microcosm of a system, anything that is to the benefit of the system, is a benefit to you.

Pragmatic Morality

Far too often it seems that our actions done in order to please another only increase their distaste for us, whilst those done in an attempt to distance oneself from another only further increase their attraction.

Why do we pursue what runs, and shrink away from what reaches out?

Because we unconsciously assume that what needs us must be somehow lacking, and what evades us must necessarily possess something we lack.

Or perhaps it’s derived from our ancient instinct to chase whatever runs and run from whatever chases. Such is the plight of an intelligent omnivore.

Such is the plight of an intelligent omnivore.

But to fully conscious, self-aware creatures, are millions of years of evolutionary selection really any excuse for cruelty?

As usual, the real question is not in how the problem arises, but rather in how the problem is solved.

By default, we solve this problem in one of two ways:

By treating everyone like an undesirable, or by acting as though everyone has something to offer us.

The latter, though morally appealing, is not a sustainable strategy. Many people you encounter will threaten you and through various means and for countless reasons attempt to make your life worse.

The solution is in a reciprocal morality; by offering others the exact amount of respect and compassion that they offer us, we can avoid being taken advantage of whilst also helping those who are deserving of help.

But for those people who are truly evil, how do we avoid stooping to their level?

I suppose that is the most basic question in regards to a pragmatic morality.

How low are you willing to follow the people around you?

If you encounter someone who betrays, does that give you license to act in kind?

That lower limit is incredibly difficult to determine, and it becomes more difficult the eviler the enemy.

World War II essentially drove all the opposing world powers to act as though there was no lower limit, that all acts of evil were made acceptable by the actions of the opposing side.

What is your lowest limit of acceptable conduct?

Where does self-defense begin and end?

Is it better to behave as though everyone around you was evil, whilst assuming they’re inherently good, or behave as though they’re good whilst assuming they’re inherently evil?

And perhaps the most important question of all:

From whom and by what process have you determined the answers to these questions?

Few possess clear and conscious answers to these questions, but to act in the world we obviously must have some pragmatic morality.

Watch your behavior, and the unconscious system will reveal itself.

I’ve never met a person whose system wasn’t in need of some reform.

Truth is Order

Truth is the only stable organizational principle.

It is the equivalent of “nature” in the realm of ideas, in so far as “nature” can be defined as what selects for survival and reproduction of biological entities.

The truth is what can be arrived at by differed peoples across time and space, and that does not change according to the beliefs of the preceptor.

“But matter itself is directly affected by measurement at the quantum level!”

Indeed, but isn’t that statement itself an expression of conclusions based on repeatable, measurable phenomena? Isn’t our understanding of quantum mechanics still contingent on Truth, even if only as a measure of contrast?

We are disinclined to place importance on objective truth to the exact degree that such a value system would erode our current mode of existence.

The Truth is destructive of all that does not adhere to it. Perhaps a healthy fear of tyranny is what averts our eyes from those facts and phenomena that would cause us pain and direct us to change.

So often, our relationship to the world is rendered toxic by a pathological definition of truth:

That Truth is whatever our individual mind possesses.

Such a definition is so flimsy that it either makes our behavior disorganized and chaotic or else our identities so rigid that we stagnate because any change would imply our previous presumption of the Truth was completely false, and thus contradict the very principle our definition of Truth is founded upon.

The Truth is not something you inflict on other people. If it must be inflicted, enforced, propagandized, it is likely not the truth.

Because if it were true, why would force be required to make it manifest in the world?

Productivity vs. Chaos

Productive use of one’s time is perhaps the primary goal of adult life in our society, yet we find it more difficult than ever to define what productivity actually is. 

Often we act under the assumption that productivity is simply whatever makes us feel productive, though that sort of circular logic fails in that its efficacy is not measured by way of an external result.

It seems to me the simplest, most helpful definition is:

Activities can be regarded as productive in so far that they bring about the desired result.

So is productivity than our true North, the thing by which our lives should be organized?

The answer to that question is contingent on your own trust of the human mind’s ability to determine what is actually worth pursuing.

If the desired results are destructive, can the activities that led to them be considered productive?

Alas, it seems we’ve fallen into a semantic game. The truth of the matter is, your own awareness is all that you can know to exist, and the only thing by which all else is measured. If you cannot trust your rational mind, you trust nothing at all.

Results are generated by right behaviors, and right behaviors are determined by analysis of previous results, which in turn are the data by which we can design systems to achieve desired results.

Easier said than done, though we may still take comfort that paths to success can be defined so simply.

Systems thinking may be our best defense against the chaotic world around us, and the disordered states of mind that arise as our ego scrambles to protect itself.

 

 

The Persistence of Memory

Memories are weak materials in the process by which we construct our personalities.

If you wanted to construct a castle to withstand seige, would you use bricks of ice?

Would you build on shifting ground?

Better to let the ice melt and use the water for idle entertainent.

Memory would be a fine material indeed if we could trust ourselves to derive reasonable, self affirming meaning from the past. Unfortunatley, the process of evolution has rendered us excellent recollectors of the terrible, and it is usually by fear and pain that the past holds precenence in our minds.

We must be careful not to become hoarders of the past.

And just like those who hoard physical objects, the process of accumulation begins innocently enough. We keep happy memories as if they were trophies and diplomas hung up on the wall, there for us to glance at when the chaos becomes unbearable and say “Yes. Thats me!” Other memories we keep because we believe they might be useful. That there might be meaning and experience left to gain from them.  Like old newspapers, they sit inside us unread, outdated, and collecting dust.

I read a story once about a hoarder who became trapped in her house, the stacks of newspaper having grown so high and so plentiful.

Theres a reason newspapers are sold for profit one day, and used to pack meat the next.

Their utility is in relevancy and timeliness.

But we cherish the old memories anyway, either addicted to our own victimhood and in need of reaffirmation of that identity, or else hoping for the sad, strange high that nostalgia gives.

In strange contradiction to our tendency to best remember particularly sharp instances of pain or fear, in remembering periods that make up a category of many consecutive memories, we look back fondly on what in the moment was misery.

High School is a common nostalgia trap. Our minds somehow trick us into believing the structure and order enforced by the institution were somehow the bedrock of a kind of constrained freedom more rewarding than anything we experience in adulthood.

All of this stands in perverse contrast to the rather self evident principle by which all good lives are organized:

That the future be an improvement on the present through our actions in the now.

Of course, to create a better future, you will say we must reflect upon our mistakes in the past.

Yes.

But once you’ve read the newspaper, for gods sake throw it away.

 

Self Acceptance vs. Self Improvement

How can one balance self acceptance with self improvement?

Our egos tell us that without focusing on our faults and shortcomings, improvements to our character can never be made.

But that depressing conclusion is only valid when we forget an incredibly important distinction:

 

We wield direct control only over our behavior, not over our thought process. Trying to stamp out every unwanted thought is as hopeless as fighting Hydra; as soon as one head is cut off, another appears. It’s a hopeless, frustrating, self-defeating battle.

Attempting to fight off an emotion as it arises is akin to time travel, because to truly prevent an emotion, you would have to eliminate the pre-existing mental conditions that allowed the emotion to arise. But we aren’t time travelers. Our awareness exists only in the present moment. When the emotion is there, its there. Every moment we spend wrestling with it only strengthens and lengthens its life span.

But as rational adults, we have a responsibility, a right, and a moral imperative to control our own behavior. A thought or a feeling that impels us to hurt someone need not be acted out. We’ve all felt that before, and by some method prevented ourselves from enacting the emotion. It is this capacity to regulate what internal conditions are expressed in the external world that “self improvement” helps us to cultivate. Through that ability to control our own actions, we create conditions that help us to experience favorable emotions and healthy thought patterns.

This combination of behavioral regulation with the improvement of external conditions acts upon the principle of compounding interest. As one gets better, the other in turns improves by a greater degree, and so on until incredible, almost unthinkable things are achieved.

Accept what your mind is at the present moment. No fight against yourself can ever end in victory. Only by right action can external conditions improve, an only by observance of external conditions can right actions be defined.

As for the internal…

Observe the good thoughts and the bad. Watch what frightens you as well as what gives you hope.

What is the difference between them?

Where do they go once you’ve already thought them?

And if you’re the one observing, who do those thoughts belong to?