Philosophy

There are an unfortunane number of people prone to thinking that they are in on something that everyone else is blind to. You’ve met these people; they’re usually quick to tell you what they know and, more importantly, what you don’t. They will immediately trust the word of anyone aligned with their beliefs, but refute every qualification held by anyone with a differing view. The problem with people who are suceptible to this is that, aided by a little fear, they can be convinced of nearly anything—and some falsehoods, once believed too deeply, can be perpetual.

A vulnerable person desperate for status and meaning will clutch onto the closest belief which makes them feel intelligent and in control. For some, that results in turning to faith. Religion offers the vulnerable a socially acceptable way to become ‘enlighened’: believe, and you get to join the we know something you don’t club. In this way, religion is a kind of conspiracy; it binds tightly those who believe and arms them with infallible premises to dispute with those who don’t. Religions, like all organised conspiracies, generate a cognitive bias which cannot be challenged by the logical standards of truth.

“Science adjusts it views based on what’s observed. Belief is the denial of observation, so that faith can be preserved.”

Tim Minchin

Conspiracy is attractive to vulnerable people because it arms them with an illusionary safety net: they are the ones who see and understand, and those who don’t are wrong by default. They never have to risk the embarrasment of being found out or losing an argument; your disbelief of their premise makes you wrong by default. The visciousness of this thinking is that it self perpetuates; feeling like you’re ‘right’ all the time feels good. So good, that just talking about the conspiracy can become its own form of self-gratification.

The sad result is that these people become insufferable to those who don’t share their delusions. The deeper one falls into conspiratorial thinking (which was meant to increase their status and likability by making them feel wise and in control), the further they isolate themselves from anyone outside of their conspiratorial bubble. For some, this works just fine. There are plenty of people who live entire, happy lives within two degrees of separation from someone who attends their church or mosque. But, in times of doubt, it may prove more difficult for those tricked into believing that malevolant reptillian humanoids walk among us to find meaningful engagement and community.

To return to reality, a conspiratorial thinker would have to accept the observations of the experts they have learned to distrust and denounce. If they wished to reclaim their place in the logical world, they would first have to admit to themselves that the ‘special knowledge’ at the root of their illusion of superiority was a lie; that they have been tricked, deceived and likely exploited by people and sources they have grown to love and trust; that the world might not be out to get them in the ways they feel it is; and that much of the fear they have been publicly projecting might actually reside within.

The problem with illusionary knowledge is that it leads to illusionary superiority. The problem with illusionary superiority is that it isolates you from those not under the spell of your brand of conspiracy; and the problem with that isolation is that, in order to give it up, you have to revoke the comfortable, infallible power you’ve grown dependant on weilding.

Tragically, this is often too painful. Its easier to believe that you’re a misunderstood genius than a delusional fool. Instead, they stay stuck in their unpopable bubbles of delusion, frustrated at the world for not understanding.

Never waste your time arguing with someone who has learned to believe in the things which make them feel good, instead of the things which they can prove. Facts won’t persuade someone to give up superiority which is grounded in illusion. Their knowledge and, in fact, their entire conception truth is not governed by logic or reason—their knowledge is governed by their insecurities.

Intelligent people love being wrong; every time it happens, they get wiser. It’s the foolish who can’t bear it; their fragile egos deny their ability to grow.

We make art about the things we most wish to remember; we externalise them in the best ways we know how.

Great art stays with us because it conveys a fragment of the human experience in such a way that it can be re-framed and re-accessed by others. In that sense, art is an act of sharing; art is collaborative memory.

Art is the core of our culture. We should therefore be prepared to protect our art with the same rigour we would muster to protect our countries; because if we don’t, there won’t be much left to protect.

In his classic book of ancient stratagems, The Art of War, Sun Tzu describes the various ways a wise commander might approach a battle.

Above all, Tzu emphasises that a commander should only initiate a fight when absolutely necessary, and only when the circumstances favour a successful outcome.

If possible, wars should be won without any battle at all; for the threat of battle alone is powerful enough to force surrender in some situations. 

The skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy battles in the field.

Sun Tzu

The way an army positions its leverage is essential to it’s success.

‘It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, surround him; if five to one, attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army in two.’

Sun Tzu

Fortunately, if you’re reading this, it’s unlikely that you’ll be engaging in hand to hand combat in a field any time soon.

Still, Tzu’s elegant logic perforates our modern age in more ways than can be listed.

Strategic adaptation is the core of all success; be it in war, or life.

If to enjoy even an enjoyable present we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.” We have no such assurance. The best predictions are still matters of probability rather than certainty, and to the best of our knowledge every one of us is going to suffer and die. If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.

Alan Watts

Death comes to us all, so it’s nothing worth being too afraid of. One day, it will become as effortless as breathing.

Until that day, planning too far ahead in the finite game of life is a fool’s errand. Milk every day you get for what it’s worth.

The fact that we never know the day we’ll die should riddle us with inspiration, not fear. Each day we get comes with a new opportunity to make the most of it.

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”

– Lucius Seneca

I’m a sucker for a good quote.

I know they can be naff, and I get that the they often only seem poignant because they present broad strokes of wisdom which lack specificity or useful context.

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”

 – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

… However, I genuinely do believe that there’s something special about a little perspective altering nugget of wisdom.

My vague quote poison of choice is stoic philosophers – namely Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Seneca.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

 – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I’ve written about them before, and I’ll likely do it again. So rather than dive too deeply into why I think these are valuable, I’ll leave you to decide whether they belong on a weeties box, on your facebook wall or etched gently on the inside of your skull for future pondering.

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

– Lucius Seneca

If it feels too good to be true, it’s too good to be real.

There’s always a catch and the grass is cut from the same roots.

But that’s okay.

It might not be as good as the person who’s trying to sell it to you says it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Sometimes the things people tell you are life changing are just good enough to change the course of a day.

And a day changed for the better is not insignificant.

Not every deal which is too good to be real is a bad deal.

Just ensure you know what you’re giving away.

Was there a day this week where you went to bed dissatistied with the way you spent it?

How many days was that the case?

If that number is hard to deal with (which at times it most certainly has been for me), one of two things are wrong.

Either the way you’re spending your time isn’t aligned with the stories you want to tell about yourself, or your expectations aren’t in line with what’s reasonable.

This worst is when it’s a combination of the two.

We all deserve to love what we do.

But sometimes loving what we do requires us to work hard at loving it.

We’re at our best when we’re creating.

We create at our best when we’re connected.

We’re most connected when we surround ourselves with brilliant people who care.

And we attract those people by being brilliant ourselves.

Next time you’re wondering what to do, think about what you have to give.

Then give it.

Pursuits are the infinite games we play which involve clear feedback and trackable progress.

Playing slot machines can never be a pursui because there’s no way to get better at it; over time, you’re guaranteed to lose.

However, playing poker could be a pursuit. There are a set of skills involved which can be honed over time with practice.

Pursuits are not habits, but they can involve habitual practice.

Mixed Martial Arts is a pursuit which benefits greatly from a habitual routine.

Pursuits are the goals we set which never end.

They’re the things which over time we wish to master. Which we do for the sake of continuing to do them.

Nobody ever wakes up and realises that they’ve mastered a pursuit.

Mastery is not a destination, it’s a practice.

Peace doesn’t always mean everyone agrees with you or does what you’re comfortable with them doing.

Sometimes peace means walking seperate and opposite paths to those with which your path is incompatible.

It’s the crossing of opposing paths which breeds disdain.

Peace isn’t a lack of disagreement. It’s a lack of conflict.