Conventional Wisdom Yields Convention

I woke up today and checked Facebook like I often do and to my dismay, I was disgusted by people gloating over voting for Hillary. It was quite obvious to me that they had not done their homework at arriving at their decision.  Not long after that, I came across a video of a well-known documentary producer who used to support Bernie Sanders but now supports Hillary Clinton talking about the atrocities occurring at Standing Rock and all over the country.  He was decrying the neo-liberal agenda, never making the connection that this agenda is currently represented by none other than Hillary Clinton.  After viewing these various posts, my mood soured as anger arose to the surface of my being.  At that moment I realized that I am sick of the intellectual arrogance and hypocrisy of liberals who are against the neo-liberal agenda, but continue to vote for neo-liberals, while shaming us progressives for actually voting for progressives like Jill Stein!  My anger arose because of the stupidity that I witnessed this morning and other times this past year and beyond.  It is totally insane when people vote against what they value over and over again!  It is as if we are a country that worships willful ignorance.

When I started to think about all of the people out there casting votes out of ignorance, these thoughts came to me: If you don’t take voting seriously, please don’t vote.  If you are going to vote for the wrong reasons, you are likely going to help make things worse.  If you are voting just to feel good, you’ll likely be contributing to suffering.  If you are voting to say that you helped make history, stay home and contribute to making a direct difference in your family’s or your friends’ lives, instead.  If you are voting to keep Trump or Hillary out of office, don’t bother.  Your lack of vision is only going to contribute to the maintenance of the conventional way of doing things which, if you haven’t noticed, is destroying the planet.  Stop voting for the wrong reasons!  If you are not questioning your motivation for voting, you are part of the problems we face.

To vote out of ignorance does nothing but help the moneyed interests, who spend a hefty sum in order to promote their agenda. In my lifetime, I have seen so many good ideas and candidates go down in defeat because people buy into the fear tactics of the status quo.  As a result, we exemplify the adage that if you do the same thing over and over again but expect different results, you are crazy.  This is most notably demonstrated by the people who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, but then went on to support Hillary Clinton, once she “defeated” Bernie (Don’t get me started on how she cheated her way to the nomination).  Bernie was incredibly popular because people desperately wanted the change he advocated.  Yet once their hero succumbed to the establishment, where did all these supporters go?  Some understood what the Bernie movement was all about and moved over to support the most prominent progressive left, Jill Stein.  Others, though, supported Hillary out of blind allegiance to Bernie’s endorsement of her or blind allegiance to “conventional wisdom” (i.e., the idea that only two candidates have a “realistic” chance to win).

Those who believe that only the Democratic or Republican candidates have a chance to win obviously have not done any research to discover that there are actually four candidates (including Jill Stein and Gary Johnson) who are on enough state ballots in which they can win enough electoral votes to become president (There’s four additional candidates who could win enough electoral votes, but only if they win states in which they are write-in candidates). If you don’t know what I am talking about in this paragraph, look it up!

Berners who are voting for Clinton because Bernie said to do so are either following the cult of personality or else they are being intellectually lazy by ignoring the fact that Hillary is against most of what Bernie fought for. In either case, their actions only promote the establishment, resulting in the further destruction of our society and planet.

In light of what I have witnessed this past year, I am amazed that some people are unwilling to acknowledge that we have a social-political-economic system mired in corruption! This means that every piece of information that you receive needs to be scrutinized with a fine tooth comb because it could be propaganda.  Just because you read an article does not mean that it is true.  Just because you watched a video does not mean it is true.  Just because a government official said something does not mean that it is true.  Just because you submitted your ballot does not mean your vote will be counted.  Just because you registered to vote does not mean you will be given a ballot.  Yet, I see people relying on the word of “authorities” instead of applying simple logic to arrive at conclusions; I see people citing questionable sources of information as proof that a piece of propaganda is true.

While it is difficult if not impossible to research every piece of information that comes your way, through the research that you do perform, you can gradually get a sense of what sources of information are consistently reliable and which are not. For instance, I have found that Wikileaks has a very good track record of providing reliable information.  That doesn’t mean I blindly believe everything they put out, but it does mean that I can use its information in conjunction with my own research to come up with pretty solid (though never 100%) conclusions.

Research takes time and effort, though. We all have busy lives, of course.  Nevertheless, if you take voting seriously, you will find the time to do the necessary research.  If you don’t take voting seriously, please don’t vote!  I know this goes against the mantra we were taught since we were young.  The establishment has always encouraged people to vote.  The more people that vote, the more legitimate are the results of an election, after all.  But if you are in power, isn’t it risky to encourage people to vote when they might vote you out of office?  Yes!  That’s why the powers that be perform (gasp!) election fraud in various forms to reduce if not eliminate that risk.  We the people cooperate with this fraud through our laziness:  not employing critical thinking and not doing any research.  Therefore, an easy and effective way to rig elections is simply to use the media to promote establishment candidates while suppressing the promotion of revolutionary candidates.  In our laziness we rely on pundits to do our thinking for us and provide news that is “relevant.”  The establishment media’s job is to get the electorate to focus on a single issue or two (of the establishment’s picking) so that they will vote in a more predictable fashion.

But voting for candidates based on their positions on issues is flawed. While a candidate can promote a certain platform or agenda, nobody has all the answers to the problems we face, nor can anybody anticipate all the problems that we may face.  So how do we choose the best candidate given so much uncertainty?  The answer is to vote for the person with the best character.  It behooves each of us to vote for candidates with the most integrity and who stand for principles that benefit us all.  While character is reflected in where a candidate stands on issues, it is not enough to just look at political positions.  It is more important to understand what motivates candidates because this understanding will give us a good idea how they will act in office when faced with unforeseen circumstances and opportunities.  If someone has a history of being trustworthy, he will most likely act in a trustworthy manner while in office.  If a person has a history of being deceitful or greedy, then these characteristics will likely be revealed if he is elected.

So, when we have poll after poll indicating that the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are the least liked in history, why on Earth would people vote for them when it is clear that they have problems with their character? What does it say about a voter’s character when he votes for somebody that he can’t stand (especially when there is a more suitable alternative)?  At best, it shows that the voter is not employing critical thought.  At worst, it says that the voter has no integrity when it comes to voting.  Is it any wonder then that we have corruption in government?

Government will always reflect its constituency. If we want an ethical government, then we each must act with integrity in everything we do, including voting for the candidates that match our deeply held values, regardless of how those around us vote.  If we don’t live authentically, we are supporting and encouraging continued corruption in government!  It’s really that simple.  Acting ethically is not always easy, though.  It takes effort.  If you are consistently following the crowd, you will not likely act with integrity because the mob mentality is usually reactive as it caters to our selfish interests.  Ethical action, on the other hand, requires being consciously aware of more than yourself.  It is not done in order to look good.  Ethical action is done for its own sake, which inevitably results in the betterment of all.

So I beg of you, look at your own motivation for deciding who to vote for. Make sure your motivation is to enhance this world.  Ask yourself which decision will benefit the world the most if that decision is victorious on Election Day and vote that way.  Remember, we don’t need people to vote.  We need people to apply critical thinking and vote with integrity so that we have a government full of people with integrity that will beneficially serve their constituents and contribute to the well-being of the world at large!

The Mystery of a Reality beyond Imagination

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people use the word “ridiculous” to describe an idea that another has expressed. Sometimes, instead of using the word “ridiculous,” I might hear the more polite “I’m just keeping it real.”  It doesn’t matter what word or expression is used, the insult is the same.  I say insult because the person reacting to the “crazy” idea is displaying a disrespectful arrogance toward the person who is promoting the idea, as if the reactor knows more about reality than the idea’s promoter.  It doesn’t matter how nice the reactor is trying to be.  It doesn’t matter if the reactor is trying to help the promoter.  It doesn’t matter what the reactor’s intentions are at all.  An insult is an insult.  The question is does the promoter accept the insult?  I hope not!

As a promoter of various ideas myself, I have been the recipient of unsolicited critical feedback numerous times. So, I am sensitive to this interpersonal dynamic.  As a result, I do my best not to knock other people’s ideas that I deem to be problematic unless they ask for my input.  I think I am successful in this endeavor because I am aware of a difference between opinion and reality.  The former is built upon beliefs, mindsets and interpretations, whereas the latter is really beyond the comprehension of any individual.

Yes, I said it. Reality is beyond the comprehension of any individual! Not even science has a monopoly on reality.  The best science can offer is theories to explain observable facts.  The more that people test a theory and obtain results that verify it, the more it may be accepted as reality.  But we should never forget that theories are always vulnerable to be invalidated.  Therefore, the best we humans can do when trying to describe reality is give our own interpretation of what we observe.

So if we can never totally comprehend reality, what does that imply? For starters, it means that each of us has a lifetime of exploration before us that is limited only by our imagination!  How many times have we seen marvelous inventions built upon inconceivable technologies?  Would we continue to experience progress or have a totally different lifestyle from our ancestors if we collectively accepted the belief that we understand reality in total?  Hardly!

Of course, there have been numerous instances of people who claim that they do have it all figured out: From advocates of religions and philosophies to the scientifically inclined.  Sooner or later, though, proponents of any model of reality have to come to terms with the limitations of their model.  I am reminded of the famous quotation from the end of the nineteenth century, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  Some paradigms are not easily dropped, though.  Science’s embrace of materialism is one example and any of the major religions of the world are other examples.  This resistance to let go of concepts that no longer serve us suggests to me that we humans have a deep insecurity that demands that we be able to control our world so that it does not surprise us to the point of annihilation.  This need to control encourages us to play head games with ourselves in order to justify our feeling of victimization by a world we don’t fully understand despite our claims to the contrary.

By desperately clinging to our beliefs, we deprive ourselves of the liberation that the mystery of life can provide. It starts with asking questions–constantly.  If you don’t question your world, you will never know your world; if you don’t question yourself, you will never know yourself.  Nothing is sacred, and yet, questioning is the most sacred of acts!  When we ask questions in our exploration of experience, we discover that we are gods in the sense that we literally create our own reality!  Again, our creative powers are limited only by our imaginations.  If you cannot imagine that the world is spherical, then of course, you will experience it as flat and will not likely challenge your horizons.  On the other hand, those who do challenge their horizons will find that their horizons have no end.  By way of their imaginations, the adventurous see the invisible and do the impossible!

So whenever I hear anyone say that any particular idea is ridiculous or that the idea is not realistic, a red flag is raised. I take this as a signal to either confront the person who is spewing their limiting beliefs or simply remove myself from their company.  After all, I don’t want my ideas polluted with someone else’s limiting beliefs!  If they want to live in their little prison of a world, that is their right.  As for me, I choose to live freely in my experience of reality.  For in seeing reality as an incomprehensible mystery, I embrace this mystery in order to continually learn about myself and my world and create a reality beyond imagination!

Those Who Know Are Ignorant; Those Who Don’t Know Are Wise

I have been in intellectual conflict with many people in my life and sometimes it can be downright frustrating! I have noticed in all my interactions with others that people are reasoning from one of two perspectives:  reasoning based on knowledge or reasoning based on wisdom.

The culture in which I was raised (the United States) seems to be a culture that predominantly values reasoning based on knowledge. We see this in law, science, engineering and religion.  In law, we demand definitive knowledge and facts in order to determine if we should convict or acquit.  In science and engineering, knowledge and facts determine what is and is not possible.  In religion, the knowledge of accepted interpretations of scripture determines what is right and what is wrong.

The other form of reasoning is from a place of wisdom. This viewpoint is aware of facts, but it is also aware of a bigger picture.  Choices have consequences because the bigger picture reveals a connection between all of life.  This is the compassion perspective that is not quick to judge (unlike reasoning based on knowledge), nor is it quick to apply knowledge without forethought.  Above all, it does not blindly accept the written word at face value.  Reasoning based on wisdom is a totally different way of thinking from what traditional western culture normally employs.

Yet, two different ways of thinking are not required in order to have a debate with another. I have found that heated disputes occur when at least one party reasons based on knowledge.  I think that this has to do with an underlying craving to be “right.”  After all, to be right is to be loved and accepted…or so the belief goes.  Because a person reasoning from knowledge feels separate from his adversary, he need only concern himself with making his case so that the other will “see the light” and support and love him.  It does not matter so much how he wins the argument.  What does matter is that he wins the argument because if he doesn’t, he is deemed “wrong” and loses out on the ultimate prize–love and acceptance.

Winning and losing as well as being right or wrong are meaningless to those who reason from a place of wisdom. When you are connected to the person with whom you are engaged in discussion, why on earth would you want to defeat that person?  If you are aware of a bigger picture, how could you claim that you are right and the other person is wrong when rightness and wrongness is a simple matter of perspective?  As a result, when two participants are reasoning from wisdom, both recognize their connection to each other and therefore, quarrels do not occur.  This does not mean that differences do not exist and resolutions are always arrived at.  Sometimes solutions require time as each side slowly assimilates what has been learned during the interaction with each other.  Those who are wise recognize the power of being uncertain and are quite comfortable in not knowing.

Not knowing, in this sense, is different from being ignorant. One displays ignorance when interacting with another when one is paying no attention to some aspect of what is being discussed or its context, be it the bigger picture or the background of the other person.  Not knowing, on the other hand, is being uncertain, and interestingly opens one up to possibilities that tend to be missed by those who are certain in their knowledge.  If you are certain that a person is guilty of a crime, why bother gathering facts at the scene of the crime?  If you are certain that a certain technology is harmless, why bother testing it?  If you are certain of the meaning of a sacred text, why not simply follow it to the letter without further study and contemplation?  It is obvious that deep down, we all know that nothing is black and white and that mistakes and misunderstandings do occur and that solutions beyond our current imaginations are possible.  Thus, we all have a part of us that is wise, if only we allow ourselves to listen to it regularly!

Having the ability to act wisely does not guarantee a life free of troubles. We must put this wisdom to use regularly.  Otherwise, we open ourselves to be manipulated by others in a way that can be summarized by the following:

The easiest people to fool are those who know; the hardest people to fool are those who don’t know.

This is true because some of what we think of as facts or truth is not facts or truth at all, but merely theories or accepted beliefs. As long as people fail to recognize that a particular idea is just a belief or a theory, they can easily be led through a line of reasoning that convinces them to conclude that what would otherwise be seen as false is true and what would otherwise be seen as true is false!  On the other hand, when you acknowledge that don’t know something, you open yourself up to seeing things from a fresh perspective, untarnished by collective biases and nefarious manipulative techniques.

A person free from manipulation is a person free to be authentic and free to truly enhance the world we live in. In writing this article, I am reminded of verse 71 of the Dao De JingHere is my current translation of it:

One who knows what he does not know is a superior man.
One who does not know what he knows is sick.
If one truly consents to be sick of being sick, this is the reason he is not sick.
If a saintly person is not sick, it is because he is sick of being sick; this is the reason he is not sick.