Posts Tagged 'connectedness'

Conservation of Energy

conservationofenerty

In physics, the law of energy conservation states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant. It can’t be created or destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another. Our understanding of the universe relies on this principle.

It often (not always) applies to people and relationships, too.

If you escalate (cut off in traffic, angry at the gate agent, frustrated at your boss), you’ve just added (negative) energy to a conversation.

If you escalate (enthusiasm, a hug, encouraging words), you’ve just added (positive) energy to a conversation.

Once the energy is added, it has to go somewhere. Often, the person you’re engaging with throws it right back, or even increases it. The problem with taking offense is that it’s really hard to figure out what to do with it after you’re done using it. Better to just leave it on the table and walk away. Umbrage untaken quietly disappears. A talented, mature person might take your negative energy and de-escalate it, or even swallow it and permit the conversation to calm down or end. But don’t count on it.

You can ‘win’ a conversation by overwhelming your opponent with energy they can’t handle. But of course, they’re not your opponent and you don’t really win. Being aware of the energy you add or take from interactions is a sophisticated technique that radically changes the outcomes of the conversations that fill your day. Add the good stuff, absorb the bad stuff and focus on the outcomes, not the bravado. Winning isn’t the point.

Crystal Palace

crystalpalace

It’s beautiful. Looks fantastic. A great ideal to hold on to.

Thanks to technology, (relative) peace and historic levels of prosperity, we’ve turned our lives into a type of crystal palace, a gleaming edifice that needs to be perfected and polished more than it is appreciated.

We waste energy whining over slight imperfections, while we’re simultaneously losing our ability to engage with situations that might not have outcomes shiny enough or risk-free enough to belong in the palace. By insulating ourselves from perceived risk we spend our days in a prison we’ve built for ourself.

Shiny, but hardly nurturing. And still fragile.

Growth is messy and seems dangerous. Life is messy and inherently somewhat dangerous. When we insist on a guarantee, an ever-increasing standard in everything we measure, and a Hollywood ending, we get none of those.

 

Feedback

Tin can phone on white background

The feedback you’ve been wanting: “You did a great job. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I wouldn’t change a thing. You completely nailed it, it’s fabulous.”

Of course, that’s not feedback, really. It’s applause.

Applause is great. We all need more of it.

But if you want to improve, you should actively seek feedback. And that feedback, if it’s more than just carping, will be constructive. It will clearly and generously lay out ways you can more effectively delight and create a remarkable experience that leads to better things.

If you’re afraid of that feedback, or unwilling to listen, it’s probably not going to arrive as often as you’d like it to. On the other hand, if you embrace it as the gift it can be, you may decide to go looking for it.

Empty criticism and snark does no one any good. But genuine, useful, insightful feedback is a great gift.

Applause is good too.

Organization’s Effects

artguy

If you take a group of people, a subgroup of the larger population, and expose them to focused messages again and again, you will start to change their point of view. If you augment those messages with exposure to other members of the group, the messages will begin to have ever more impact.

We generally tend to align ourselves with those we’re around. We don’t fully understand why. There is a lot of psychology we know, and then other stuff we can’t explain. Yawning, for instance, can be statistically shown to be contagious. It has been studied for years, yet we don’t know why it happens.

Once a group starts to become aligned, and starts acting like a tribe, the messages of the tribe will become self-reinforcing. When someone is born into that tribe, there is a very high probability she will never know the difference. It is simply her common sense about the way the world works.

Programmed.

Happiness, Part xx8, Other People

happinessothersrainumbrella

We’ve already explored happiness topics ranging from drugs to business. Perhaps the most vital, if obvious, piece has only been touched on up to now.

The Portuguese island of Madeira, known most for its excellent wine, is part of a volcanic archipelago that sits in the Atlantic Ocean far off the southwest coast of Portugal. It’s actually closer to northwest Africa, and loosely associated with the Canary Islands as a stopping point for transatlantic journeys.

One small island in the group has such steep cliffs jutting out of the ocean that it actually looks a bit like a cylinder. At the top is a several-acre plateau on which are grown the most prized grapes that go into Madeira wine. On this plateau lives only one large animal: an ox whose job is to plow the field. The only way to the top is a winding and narrow path. There is no way an ox could navigate the path, so when the ox dies, how is it replaced? A baby ox is carried on the back of a worker up the mountain, where it spends the next forty years plowing the field alone. If you are moved by this story, ask yourself why. One ox, alone, in a field on the plateau of a small rock island in the middle of the ocean.

Very little that is positive is solitary. When was the last time you laughed uproariously? The last time you felt indescribable joy? The last time you sensed profound meaning and purpose? The last time you felt enormously proud of an accomplishment? Even without knowing the particulars of these high points of your life, there is one thing I’ll bet they had in common: all of them took place around other people. Simply put, other people is the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up.

Recent research on human evolution points to the importance of positive relationships. Studies of the big social brain, hive emotions, and group selection persuade me that positive relationships are a basic element of well-being.

It’s really pretty simple, except the catch is that nasty tendency we sometimes have to not want to be around people when things aren’t going well. It’s a downward spiral.

The other tricky aspect, is being around the right people. If you spend time with someone who brings you down or causes you stress, even if through no particular fault of his own, then at minimum you need others in your life who provide the type of companionship that makes the rest work. It turns out we’re pretty complicated socially, yet we produce anxiety and ultimately unhappiness because we don’t always set our lives up in a way that takes care of this truth, or honor and act on behalf of the changes we undergo throughout life. When someone connects and makes you feel good, pay attention, as it’s you trying to tell yourself something. Recognizing the importance of that is essential to not just happiness, but to fundamentally taking care of yourself.

 

Coin Sides

leaproadcoin

There are almost always (at least) two perspectives through which any situation can be viewed. Anger and hurt are two sides of the same coin. And…

They all have a degree of double-sided logic to them – an obviousness heavily influenced by perspective and context.

As you can see from the numerous links above, this has been an underlying theme throughout the soon ending timeline of this blog. So much of what I have written about reveals my personal view that what we see is a reflection of who we perceive we are.

Most points I have made along the way could be used to further some agenda I may have, or could just as easily be used to combat it. I have seen and understood this from the beginning, even though some have felt the need to point it out as if I am blind to the underlying implications (I welcome the engagement anyway). Over the next two days I will offer another example in two posts that show an issue from two vantage points. Nothing at all special about them. Pretty mundane actually, but want the readers to see them in that context from the get-go. There is usually a kind of truth that emerges, even though it looks different from the two vantage points.

The point is…we’re going to see and do things according to what makes us feel good. Or the least bad.

It’s entirely subjective, and a part of our programming, so debating over nature or nurture is almost a moot point, because it’s all just a form of programming really.

And even once we realize that, there still seems to be no escape. It is what it is. Or is it?

And this leads to another prevailing theme of this blog (I will spare you the numerous examples). What if we somehow muster the courage to make a leap? To do something so audacious it seems crazy. Then, from the new space of possibilities we created for ourselves as a function of living in the new paradigm, would our perspective change, at least a little bit?

You bet it would.

For the better? Would we be more happy or fulfilled? It’s really the wrong question. The question really should be, will we have learned something in the process that helps us hone in better on what’s right for us?

You bet it would.

And what of the risks? They exist anyway. Most people looking back say they wish they would have risked more, not less. There is some wisdom for you. Besides, you’re not totally alone. There is help around, but yes, in the end it’s pretty much up to you, which is why it takes courage, and the will to get over yourself.

Make the leap.

 

 

 

 

Cloudy

cloudyballandchain

Our moods cloud thinking and judgement. It’s usually somewhat nuanced, but without a doubt we know that certain decisions and reactions are impacted by emotions, which are partially triggered by moods, which are impacted in a variety of ways.

Cloudy days…just don’t feel the same as the bright, sunny days. Our bodies, and ultimately our psyches react to these conditions in ways we don’t fully understand or have control over. Further, moods affect our perception of the relative cloudiness.

It’s possible the tipping point of perception driving an important decision would differ depending on whether it’s cloudy or sunny outside. It has implications into the element of chaos or seeming randomness in everything that happens.

Fascinating how we are cognitively (emotionally…spiritually?) connected to the earth and environment in these ways, and in how much dissonance we produce by ignoring or resisting it.

Is Truth Relative?

truthwoman

It depends on what you mean by “truth.”

There are only about three possible scenarios for how the universe works.

  1. There is an objective reality that exists, but not one human in all of history has ever witnessed it. Everything, EVERYTHING, is processed through the human system of perception. Our perception is our reality. It has been proven time and time again that our perceptions, and therefore the beliefs that stem from them, are faulty. We are easily fooled or tricked into believing things are real or accurate, when they can be shown not to be. We also have tons of evidence that shows similar individuals in similar circumstances perceive things differently. They may resemble reality to some extent, but there are many – perhaps an unknowable number of – flaws or discrepancies between what we see and believe is going on and the way the world “is,” versus the objective reality that may actually exist.
  2. There is no objective reality at all. There is merely the sum of our thoughts and beliefs, and all that we invent therein, which add up to something that seems objectively real to us. Taken to the extreme, this theory goes toward painting us as ‘only’ a consciousness. Seems far-fetched to me, but we have to admit it is possible.
  3. There are many objective realities. Each one existing in its own universe, with its own history and distinctiveness. There is evidence to support that these different universes occupy the same space, but are simply out of phase with each other in a way that allows them to overlap without interacting. In any case, the embodied consciousnesses that occupy each one of those may or may not be able to process their relative realities the way they actually are. Certainly, in the universe where we exist, there is ample evidence to show that we at best perceive a facsimile of our surrounding reality.  See #1.

So, truth? Yeah, my truth and your truth can be a bit different. Or a lot different. The answer to this is almost certainly not knowable by man, at least until maybe we might possibly someday transcend into some other, much more enlightened state.

What do we do about it? Nothing. As far as my perception can tell, we can’t do a bloody thing, and the exercise itself is nearly pointless. We have the lives we have and the perceptions we own that go along with them. That is the reality we must work within. We simply have to do the best we can there, because anything else would appear to defeat any possible purpose or joy in life for us. And it wouldn’t do any good anyway.

But, be mindful of what this normally concrete term really implies. Your truth, no matter how iron-clad it may seem to you, is absolutely faulty (i.e. wrong) in some ways. May we all learn to operate within the humility of that reality. Minimally that means being cautious about what you think, feel, believe, and remember. More profoundly it means questioning it down to the core of who you think you are, and why you are that way. These are extremely tough questions to genuinely grapple with, in part because it’s all tied up in perception and our programming. Any conclusions you may come to are suspect.

Since it’s not really knowable, does that mean that we’re just as well off with whatever makes us feel good? Probably. And that’s awesome for those who don’t get wrapped up in the doubts or can just feel good enough about whatever they believe. Some people are naturally able to hold their beliefs in a way that to them seems nearly iron clad. What is the answer for those who don’t? Modify our beliefs? Yeah, how exactly does one go about that without some satisfying justification (i.e. compelling evidence)?

How do you convince yourself? I asked a qualified friend once if hypnotism works. Her answer (paraphrased): “It can if you believe it.”

Damn.

 

 

 

More Perspective

 

Is perspective something you can have more of?

img_1854

The seventh post ever penned in this blog dates back to a time when it seemed the message could be powerful and clear enough when presented succinctly. It was about perspective. As with this one, and some others, it highlights that seeing things differently is at once something we understand, but don’t always really get. Thus the decisions others make sometimes seem like major head-scratchers to us.

One man’s junk is another’s statement. One man’s friend is another’s enemy, one’s debilitating frustration, another’s challenge, one’s psycho-bitch girlfriend another’s soul-mate, one’s insensitive asshole another’s hope for change and progress, and one man’s moral corruption another’s necessity.

There are very few bad people in the world. There are plenty of people who don’t see and process the world the way you do. How hard is it really to put yourself in another’s shoes and genuinely try to understand their perspective? When the distance between our sensibilities seems far enough apart, the effort wanes because we don’t perceive a compelling need to do it. We have enough people around us who are like us that we feel validated; it rarely even occurs to us that those other weirdos (assholes) are like us in some other, maybe not as easy to identify ways.

We can accept it academically. But add a feeling that they want something of mine, and now it’s a big problem.

Our perception is our reality, until we stop long enough to realize it’s all just perception.

 

Fine Lines

naxidinner-the-power-of-community

A Nazi Christmas dinner in Germany, circa 1940. Looks pretty familiar and comfortable to us, except for the pesky implications of those arm bands. Thus it’s not just a dinner, or a Christmas dinner; it’s a Nazi Christmas dinner.

If you’re standing in line with a stranger, what happens if he’s a few inches taller than you? Probably nothing. There’s nothing to distract, or to cause discomfort. You may make small talk. What if he’s a little shorter than you? Or wearing a sport coat?

What if he’s from another state? Probably nothing to consider…

What if he has really long, gray hair? Or an eye patch?

At some point, most people reach a degree of discomfort. What if he’s over 7 feet tall? Will you mention it? Or if he’s under four feet? What if he’s from a different country? Or a different race or speaking with a significant accent (or, more accurately, an accent that’s different from yours)?

For as long as we’ve been mobile enough to encounter others outside of our tribe, humans have been on alert for the differences that divide us. Then we fixate on those differences, amplifying them, ascribing all sorts of irrelevant behaviors to them. Until, the next thing you know, we start referring to, “those people.” We start boiling them down to generalizations, and even building a narrative for ourselves about them.

It seems as though it’s a lot more productive to look for things in common. Attitudes and expectations. Beliefs in the common good and forward motion. A desire to make something that matters…

Because there’s always more in common than different. We need to start acting as smart as we are.


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