Candyman Sweet Candyman: Victim as Monster

Candyman Sweet Candyman: Victim as Monster

 

We just scored TONY “CANDYMAN” TODD as a guest in January’s THE SUNKEN PLACE class, so things are exploding.  Today we’ll be talking about the heart of horror on LIVE! With Tananarive and Steve.

 

All art stems from core emotions like fear and love, and when you see it and feel it, you can appreciate, teach, and create art more honestly, as well as have the emotional power to practice and refine your craft.  So whether you are a fan, a writer, film-maker or teacher, JOIN US today at 4pm Pacific.

 

Here are links for my page:

https://www.facebook.com/steven.barnes.7127

 

For Tananarive’s Page:

https://www.facebook.com/tananarivedue

 

And for the “Lifewriting” page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/lifewrite/

 

See you then!

Steve

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Don’t cheat someone you love

You can begin your growth/healing process from the root up.  This means to take actions in the real world designed to move away from pain and toward pleasure. In the process you will learn everything you need as you move from child to adult, and from sleeping to waking.

 

Or: you can start with your heart, love yourself, and begin to extend that love and compassion to others. Either works fine.

 

What doesn’t work is to create a mental map of the world before you have actually experienced it, and then warp your perceptions and memories to reinforce the map, rather than allowing your map to adjust as you learn.   Here there be dragons.   This is the danger of people who think they know things they don’t know: know about religions they’ve never practiced, people they barely know, places they’ve never been.   IMO ESPECIALLY if their beliefs include a sense of differential worth.  There is nothing more common than a child’s belief that his mommy is the prettiest, daddy is the strongest, doggy is the best.

 

A very clear sign of “sleeping child” mentality.  Dangerous when found in a supposedly functioning adult.  To do this, the following “tweaks” to your morning ritual:

  1. Take responsibility for your actions and emotions.
  2. A presumption of equality means you lose any sense of superiority. But you gain the capacity to believe you are as good as anyone in the world. If THEY did it, YOU can do it.   Almost inevitably, people who think others are better than them also think they are better than others.    You can heal this at either end

 

 

Again, almost inevitably, people will “accidentally” not bring body, mind, and emotions all together at the same time.    It is fascinating how that works, but be very careful.     Remember, again, the pieces:

  1. WHILE MOVING (walking, running, rebounding, Tai Chi, etc)
  2. Chant aloud the following M.A.G.I.C. formula piecds
  3. Incantations of Gratitude for past and present blessings (for instance: “I’m so grateful for the people who love and support me. “)
  4. Incantations of Intention (“I am promoted to department head by December 31, 2018”)
  5. Incantations of Action (“I  make five networking calls every day.   Identify and contact one new ally or role model every day”)
  6. Incantations of Conviction (for instance: “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better” and “All I need is within me now”)

 

 

About five minutes on each piece for a 20-minute session.  Adjust up or down to collapse or expand your time.

 

 

If you do this, for at least THIS period of time, you are actually being all you can be. The pretender voices in your head can say this is nonsense, but since you are actually doing something positive (the movement) you know that voice is lying…and that is the beginning of something special.

 

Don’t cheat someone you love.

 

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities

My latest story, MOZART ON THE KALAHARI is in the book, Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures.  It is a co-production between Arizona State University and NASA.     http://csi.asu.edu/books/vvev,   features links to the book in various formats, full-resolution versions of the beautiful illustrations, and more.

Formats: The book is available for free in PDF, and in EPUB and MOBI (for Kindle e-readers) e-book formats. We also have a print-on-demand book available for $20.09, plus sales tax and shipping, from the online retailer Blurb. (That price only covers printing costs—no profit to ASU or the editors.) Links to all of those are on the book page.

I’m super proud to have been asked to be a part of this…and I think you’ll enjoy everything about it!

 

The Sacred In The Mundane

A beautiful article on the spiritual lessons in the most universal of human experiences: death.

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/12/7/16690024/buddhism-health-care-death-mindfulness-spirituality

##

Twenty-five years ago when my father was dying of cancer, I was horrified by the degree to which it withered and ate him alive.  I could feel how strongly I wanted to turn away, not take in the sight of it.

 

Then I remembered something a Native American friend of mine had said. That his grandfather had told him that death is a friend. That Life is afraid of losing you, will lie to you, try to get you to fall asleep and pretend time isn’t passing, or that you can live a life so small that Death will not notice you.

 

Death, on the other hand, knows that no matter how long you live, eventually you will come to him.  Spend eternity with him. And therefore wants you to be as interesting as you can be, as wise and experienced and COMPLETE as a human being as you can be.  Will therefore be the very best of advisors.

 

And grasped that this terrible sight, of a man I knew so much less than I had wished, who had sung onstage with Nat “King” Cole and Louis Prima, and appeared on radio, stage, television and film…this handsome man who was rotting away until he looked like the Crypt Keeper, was offering me the very last gift he had to offer.

 

You see…he was dying well. He was still my father. Still had the same sense of humor, the same clarity, the same love for me in his eyes.

 

My mother had died in terror, incomplete, unfinished, resentful of a world that had denied her her full humanity because of a smattering of the “wrong” blood.  It was sad to watch, and all I could do was be there and be sure she knew I was finished, and needed nothing more from her, that her work was done…and that I loved her.

 

My Dad and I had dealt with our relationship, and were clean.  All I could do was help him in any way I could.  Offer what grace I could.  And in exchange he gave me the little man that sits on my left shoulder, whispering not just  “Momento Mori” but reminding me to love, and be strong, and speak truth, and help someone, anyone, every day.

 

What is the syntax of consciousness?

 

SLEEPING CHILD > SLEEPING ADULT > AWAKENED ADULT > INTERMITTENT NON-DUALISTIC AWARENESS > SUSTAINED NON-DUALISTIC AWARENESS>  ?

 

 

The question mark represents those states beyond ordinary language, the territory of “enlightenment” and ego extinction.  The last “useful” state (in general) is the “Awakened Adult” state.  Any activity in which you ask “Who am I?”  and “what is true?” is an activity that inclines toward awakening.

 

Writing can be as powerful a tool for this as meditation. So can the martial arts. So can loving your family.

 

But let’s focus on writing.

  1. In creating a character, ask if that character is behaving like a real human being. Have you felt, experienced or witnessed people believing/feeling this way?  (“Who am I?”)  Every character is another opportunity to make a statement about what you think human beings are or are not. And if you don’t’ have a solid opinion, every story is another opportunity to explore various ideas about what we are: why we say and do what we do. Why we do evil or kindnesses.   What we really want and need. Whether we are shaped more by essence or existence.  If you don’t consciously make choices, you will make them unconsciously. There is no way to avoid it.
  2. In plotting your story, remember that plot is the way the universe responds to the actions of your characters.  The ethical structure of the universe.  “What is true?”    Does life reward us for our labors?  Is it fair?  Unfair?   Is the human world better or worse than the natural world? The same?   Is there meaning to the world?  Yes?  No?   If not, are human beings committing folly to care about anything at all?

 

Again, if you don’t take conscious control of these things, you will default to your unconscious beliefs and tendencies.

 

Sleeping Writer > Awakened Writer

 

An awakening writer asks these questions consciously. An awakened writer has answered those questions for themselves, and expresses what they have found in their work.   Structures stories as an argumentation: “this is what humans are.  This is what reality is.”

 

Either is better than abdicating your responsibility to question, to study, to live, to observe, to test.   And when you have tested a notion in your own life, to build your conclusions into your work, trusting that your readers are intelligent enough to decide for themselves. Your job is to present life as you see it, have lived it, fear it is or wish it could be.

 

Do this, going deeply into your experience and emotions, leaving your love of life and flirting with the territory o death, knowing that you will one day enter that realm, that there is no obfuscation or cleverness that will save you, that that avoidance itself is early death because you are avoiding the very emotions and perceptions that make life intense and beautiful, make love the only thing that makes the entire experience meaningful.

 

All of the talent and skill you are looking for in your work comes from embracing this duality, looking directly at the apparent contradiction.   A rose, in the midst of a battlefield.  Beauty, arising from the greatest uglinesss.

 

Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear, and pain, and discipline.  And love.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewritingpremium.com

Be the hero in your own journey

 

A student who recently sold her first story also got a painful rejection just a few days later.   It HURTS, and boy, am I glad she reached out and shared her pain!

 

Let’s peek under the hood of the Lifewriting System, the thread of meaning and purpose baked into everything I do.

 

The Hero is Confronted with a challenge: To become a successful, published writer.

Rejection of the challenge: If you are not currently published, there may well be emotional or strategic blocks between you and that goal.

Acceptance of the challenge: at some point, you simply DECIDE you are going to do it.  DECIDE you are absolutely committed to doing it.  If you know WHAT you want, and WHY you want it, the only question is: “what daily/weekly/monthly steps do I take that will take me to my goal efficiently and effectively, in alignment with my childhood dreams and deepest wisdom?”

Road of trials:   A sentence a day, 1-4 stories a month. Submit until published.  Don’t re-write except to editorial request.   Read 10X what you write.  Repeat 100X.    This path has NEVER failed.  To this date, not a single person who has walked the path has failed to publish. People either stop trying…or they win.

ALLIES AND POWERS:  Boys and girls, I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that I don’t believe in talent. I believe in hard work, and honesty, and willingness to take rejection.  The bad news is that it is going to take everything you’ve got.  There is no where to hide. You can’t just say: ‘I didn’t have what it took.  I didn’t have the talent”.  Wouldn’t that be comforting?  No.  The truth is that you have to get a specific skill set to the level of “unconscious competence” and that different people take different periods of time to get there.  Some seem to have it “naturally” but usually, when people “get there” faster than you, you’ll discover they had resources you didn’t have, were practicing when you were sleeping or partying, or had pre-existing skill sets that transferred over.  You have to give up anything except “IF ITS TO BE, ITS UP TO ME.”   Give me a student with that belief pattern, and I’ll get them there, guaranteed.

CONFRONT EVIL–DEFEAT.   Isn’t it clear?  You CANNOT change your life without going through an ego death.   That means that even success is frightening. And failure is 100 times worse.  There is a part of your head that is searching for ANY evidence that you cannot, will not, should not. And rejection slips fit the bill.  “See?  You didn’t have it!  Why bother trying!”

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL.  This is the moment that it feels as if you just don’t have it, and quitting is the only sensible course.  IT NEVER COMPLETELY GOES AWAY.  You must develop the wisdom to understand the cycle, so that you can see and feel and recognize this one coming a mile away, and know how to disrupt it when it arrives.

FAITH is the antidote for fear.  Also GRATITUDE and LOVE.   The “Morning Ritual” is breaking this pattern every single day. This is why so few people will really do it.  They are committed to “trying” rather than “being”.  “Being” the new person means the death  of the old.  “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

CONFRONT EVIL–SUCCEED.   IF you take the previous steps, and have defined “victory” in a way that you can find others who have succeeded starting from where you are, you will reach your goal.  The “Lifewriting” path is one such approach

THE STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER.  When you find a “critical path” to success, TEACH OTHERS.  This is how the human race moves forward. Billions of us try to move away from pain, toward pleasure. Some approaches work better than others. We teach and share them, and when others try them, those that help the most people are taught again, and again, and the social equivalent of a “neurological groove” digs in deeper. Stops being a mystery, so that we can move on to the next thing.

 

 

This pattern can be applied to ANYTHING you want to do in life. The beautiful thing about writing is that you can apply it not only to the plot of your story, but the process of writing it, and the life that you live overall. This enables you to connect the inner and outer worlds of your writing, accelerating your progress.

 

Really is amazing.

 

But then…so are you.

 

 

Write with Passion!

Steve

www.sunkenplaceclass.com

The Basic Three

The goal is to balance several aspects: child/parent/grandparent, male/female are essential human aspects.   Black/white is less essential in a pure sense, but critical to understand American society, or to live within it if you are impacted or interested in racial issues.

 

I got seriously knocked off balance in the first two (child/parent/grandparent, male/female) when we were in Atlanta.   I couldn’t figure out what to do to get myself back together, until a coach reminded me of the Morning Ritual.

 

I began to perform it again, making the aspects clearer and stronger. I TRIED to stop, could feel my pretender voices chiming in and trying to rip my morning pattern apart.   But bullied, cajoled, rewarded, punished, and forced my way through.  Day after day.

 

And after seven days?

  1. I was accomplishing more with less stress
  2. Was happier all day
  3. Had more energy
  4. Was better with my family
  5. Was able to tap into my sense of optimism AT WILL.

 

It was wonderful.  Just seven days.

 

So here are the ways to balance these first aspects, in order of importance.

 

  1. Five Minute Miracle.  Sixty second breathing breaks, one every three hours.  CRITICAL unless already integrated at unconscious competence.
  2. Morning Ritual.  5-20 minutes of motion, focus, and emotional flooding, every morning.
  3. Ancient Child.   Balancing child/parent/grandparent, male/female, and if desired black/white.

 

The “Morning Ritual” needs to be explained again and again, at least in part because if you have a major wound, you will find it VERY difficult to do it for even seven days in a row. Everything in the world will rise up to stop you. This makes it a diagnostic.

 

The three components are:

  1. Physical motion (I use Tai Chi),
  2. Affirmations SPOKEN ALOUD WHILE MOVING
  3. Mental focus on gratitude, faith, and your goals.

 

In a fifteen minute session that would be five minutes on gratitude, five on future goals, five on your faith that you have all the ability you need to achieve it.  To go a little deeper, you are moving your body, focusing your mind, and accessing positive memories and emotions using the M.A.G.I.C. formula (Magic = Action X Gratitude, X Intention, X Conviction).   Miss ANY one of those basic aspects, and your formula equals ZERO.

 

For that 5-20 minutes, move as powerfully as possible, speak as positively as possible, hold your body language AS IF you believed even if every voice in your head is screaming that this is bullshit.

 

IF you can do this for seven days, you will begin to lock it in.  Every day.  Any time you feel your emotions shift toward the negative, you have about two minutes to do your breathing and get it back.

 

Let’s just leave it at this piece for now.  Any questions?

 

IF YOU ARE NOT DOING THE 5MM,  THE MORNING RITUAL,  AND THE ANCIENT CHILD,  YOU ARE NOT DOING THE PROGRAM.   DON’T SCREW YOURSELF OVER BY DOING A PART OF IT AND THEN SAYING: “SEE?  IT DOESN’T WORK!” While you MAY only need one of the three, together they are like hitting yourself with a nuclear bomb.  Of peace, of course.  Ahem.

 

 

Steven Barnes

www.fiveminutelifehacks.com

Complexity and connection

http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/04/us/south-carolina-ex-officer-sentencing-walter-scott/index.html

 

We don’t know what will happen in this case, yet, but fingers crossed.  All my life, I’ve known of these cases, and the denial was rampant before the Rodney King event, which was the first major case I remember caught on video.  Within days, the push back claiming that there was secret footage showing how scared the officers were of him were flowing.  I noticed which side of the political spectrum those claims came from. The same side that denied multiple other cases, and claimed that protestors half-crazed with fear and grief were enacting political theater.

 

Fine.  You have that right. But don’t pretend you didn’t say it.

 

I see cell phones and body cameras as being a serious value. Why?  Because it is glaringly obvious that people don’t want to believe this is happening.  They have an INVESTMENT in disbelief.   And will edit and delete and isolate instances, and in the few cases where someone gets caught out, will claim it was one bad egg.

 

Sometimes, they will blame police training, or “racist cops”.   I understand.

 

My position: the cops are no worse than the society from which they are chosen. That on some level these events express the unspoken desires of the community that breeds, selects, trains, and punishes or rewards them.  Unspoken, often unconscious desires.

 

  1. If you don’t believe in human equality, it is fear of “the monkey’s taking over the zoo.”
  2. If you do believe in human equality but come from a place of fear, not love, you are concerned with vengeance for centuries of theft and oppression.  “If they’re like us, they’ll want revenge”.
  3. If you believe in human equality, and come from love, you know you can join hands with others of the same temperament, and that together we will get past this, and heal.

 

The cameras will win because we can’t see ourselves shooting down unarmed people running away.  THAT’S NOT WHO WE ARE.  I doubt I have anyone on my friend’s list who would approve of such a thing, and if there is…you are a sick sad human being, and I pity you.  You need healing.

 

Since I know that these events take place, and I know that no one wants to believe, I conclude that there is a critical mass of evidence that it is happening that will create change.  That most are not snakes or monsters…but just asleep. That even if you don’t want me taking your job, or marrying your daughter or living next door…shooting me in the back while unarmed is a bridge too far.

 

How many will have to die?  I don’t know. It won’t end in my lifetime, but I’m seeing more rapid change than I ever expected to see.  And it terrifies the snakes.    Our political landscape is a result of that fear, make no mistake.

 

Body cams and Iphones, man.     Fifteen years ago, I was in Tanzania, and saw Masaii warriors herding their cattle, leaning on their spears, standing on one leg, talking into their cell phones. I knew then that all would be fine. That my belief in human nature says that we can trust communication to help us open our hearts to each other.

 

And I feel terrible for the people so panicked right now, so certain America is flowing down the drain.   I’ve got news for you: there’s nothing new going on.  I’ve seen worse in my lifetime, and knew we’d get through it, as I do now.

 

Why? Because I don’t think the average person is stupid or evil. I think we do stupid, evil things when we are frightened, and we are frightened when are ignorant or asleep, dreaming of a world that never was, and forced to awaken by demographic shifts, political upheavals, or inconvenient video.

 

No, in general there is no “them” who are these terrible, powerful, alien, conspiratorial monsters.  There are monsters, but they can accomplish little by themselves: they need the snakes, but more than anything they need you to sleep. And to hallucinate that your neighbors are evil, and to ignore the paleness in your own hearts and say “it’s them.”

 

No.  It’s us.

 

  1. Love yourself enough to both commit to protecting yourself, and forgiving yourself for your own flaws and fears and transgressions.
  2. Love one other person enough to begin to see that there is no “other”. There are only different versions of the same human needs and drives, the same soul having different human experiences.
  3. Understand history enough to see the spirals of increasing complexity and connection…and the persistent forces screaming and pulling in opposite directions, each demonizing the other. You can’t fight the future, and you can’t deny the past.
  4. Find your tribe. Comfort the people you can communicate with, build a warm and comforting place, and protect it from snakes and monsters.   Attract those who are ready to awaken, stop fighting with the others except to directly protect your tribe.
  5. Win, with integrity.   Love and fear compete for the same place in your heart.  Only fight for things that you love, and never or ego or status.  Only survival.   Don’t play games, and give opponents room to back down with honor, especially if they are ready to awaken and admit they were wrong.

 

 

America is wrong about the oppression.  It has existed for centuries.  It is not a special human evil: human beings are trapped between being animals and angels.  We are pulled by both drives.  Both have their uses and abuses.  Stay awake.

 

I believe that awakening is the answer.  If it weren’t, people wouldn’t fight so hard to stay asleep.

The Power of Love

The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships–beginning with your connection to your own heart. Shame-filled people project their guilt onto others. Those who don’t treasure themselves treat their bodies like garbage bags. Those who don’t think they are lovable have contempt and mistrust for anyone who loves them. People who have lost contact with their childlike wonder cannot access their creativity, and those who have sacrificed their dreams for money or relationship security lose their capacity to believe in love and happiness.

I give human beings enough respect to believe that the painful, non-optimal, self-destructive patterns in their lives are, regardless of how it seems from the outside, still representative of the very best people can do with their current resources, their best attempt to avoid pain and find pleasure. Understand their internal rules, their beliefs about the world, their self-image, their positive and negative emotional associations.

Milton Erickson, Abraham Maslow and six thousand years of yogic psychology all basically agree that what most people want is to grow to maturity, be self-supporting, have healthy bodies they themselves would find attractive, find healthy joyous sexual expression in alignment with their morality and values, find loving relationships, raise healthy families, find self-expression, grow old with dignity and die at peace.

It was said to me that there are two ways to approach the nurturing of a complete human spirit: from the physical “up” to the emotional, mental and spiritual. Or from the emotions “outwards” to all of the other characteristics necessary to sustain a relationship with another healthy adult human being: physical, sexual, mental, emotional, etc. Either works. I have a preference for “emotions out” although “body up” works great too. The one thing that doesn’t work is “head down”–the creation of mental maps unconnected to actual experience, then attempting to shape the world and twist perceptions to match your concepts. The consequences of this can be an absolute nightmare.

So of all the ways to approach humanity, preparing yourself to have a healthy, passionate, loving relationship with another adult human being has the advantages of being generative (leading to global change), maturing, a serious reality check (human adult partners are not children or pets.) Living with another human being to whom you are committed is probably the hardest, most worthwhile “ordinary” human experience. And preparing yourself to have such a relationship, and be worthy of the kind of partner who makes your heart AND mind AND body sing is 100% worthwhile even if you live on a desert island.

Just something to think about…

-Steve Barnes

What was the last movie that taught you something?

“All That Jazz”  may be the last film that ever taught me.   Perhaps.   The story of a man addicted to sex, drugs, and musical theater (line stolen from the great Robert McKee) I walked out of the movie stunned, realizing that that could be my story if I was not very careful.  I decided that very day that the secret to success was obsession, but obsession creates imbalance, and imbalance destroys and denies you the chance to enjoy your success.

 

So I decided to become obsessive about being balanced.  Ka-ching.  One of those “cubic inches of opportunity” I’ve had in my life. Everyone gets them.   The challenge is recognizing and implementing their implications.

 

 

The Way that can be named is not the true Way.  But…by looking at some of the structures and vectors discovered or designed by some of the best, wisest and most successful human beings who have ever walked the planet, as well as the combined wisdom of the tribal elders, we can glimpse it.  Cannot put it into words, no–that would be asking too much of language.  It will not bear the weight.

 

I like to look at a story from multiple directions.  Each new perspective teaches something different about the story, but the story is not the perspectives or structures.   I can look at it from plot, character, poetics, thematics.  In my head, on index cards, in an outline, as a synopsis, written, oral, visualized, played in my head like music, as a short story, a novel, a movie script.   Every different perspective tells me something different. But the story is always the story. It is like looking in on a fireplace from different windows, through a keyhole, through an open door.   Each perspective is different. The fire is the same, and you have to actually burn to understand its essence.

 

The martial arts are the same way.  I can discuss them culturally, psychologically, philosophically.  In terms of anatomy, physics, strategy, tactics, integrative lifestyle, practical application, sport, fitness, self-defense, all-out combat, mathematics, and more. Each perspective offers up different information.  But the thing is the thing.

 

The experience of life is the same.    You have to burn to understand it. And when you do, “you” are not there. “The thing” is there.  This is much the same as sex.  If you can remember your name while you’re orgasming, it wasn’t good sex.  The subject-object relationship must break down, labels disappear.    People who think that labeling things is the same as understanding them are missing it.

 

But if I break my life down into those components: Body, Mind, Spirit.  Child, parent, grandparent.  Male and female.  Black and white.   Each tells me something different. And while my monkey mind is busy thinking about it, the Truth can slip through the cracks.     They are useful tools, useful distractions, useful lies.

 

I think the problems of life are like rocks in a white-water rafting trip. They obstruct and constrict the flow of water, and make the ride wild.

 

The truth always lies between.    People get stuck in the rocks.   Fear the rocks.    Shrink your ego and float past the obstructions.

 

Come on in: the water’s fine.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.fiveminutelifehacks.com

 

(P.S.–what was the last movie that really taught you something, and what did it teach?)

 

On experience, understanding, and making rapid decisions.

 

The mental short cuts I use are not 100% foolproof or fail-safe.  They are intended to increase the speed of decision making, which leads to getting more information. You then sort that information and adjust.  Information is sorted by asking “is it useful” and “is it true?”  As much as possible is applied to real-world scenarios like relationship, peace of mind, success, health, and so forth.

 

To that end, looking at a potential role model, mentor, or ally and judging them by those standards is one such “snapshot.”   There is no doubt that there are poor people with financial insight.   Divorced or solitary people with insight into relationships.   Horribly unfit people with insight into fitness.

 

But if you grant that, but put most of your time and emphasis on listening to those  who have achieved the goals you seek, it is my experience that you  move MUCH faster in life than if you weigh everyone’s opinions equally.

 

Lots of ignorant people talk a good game.  If you know a better way to sort quickly, use it, and show me your results.  If they are better than mine, I’ll seriously consider doing it your way.

 

The Dunning-Kruger  effect refers to the problem of low-cognition people not being able to recognize that they are not…smart.   I’m not sure there is a word for the same phenomenon regarding ignorance, and if there is, please inform me, and I apologize in advance.

 

But the expression “he who knows not and knows not that he knows not” applies here. And I’ve seen this endless times when people (including myself) get their information second or third hand rather than through direct experience buttressed by study and thought.  Without the direct experience, they have no way of knowing if the information gathered second-hand is accurate.  It might make sense, but that doesn’t mean it is true without practical experience and experimentation.

 

What arenas have I seen this in?  Civilians thinking they understand the military.   Non-martial artists thinking they understand the arts.  Men or women with disastrous relationship histories thinking they understand each other.  White people who know few or no black people thinking they understand America’s racial issues, or how black people feel.   Poor people thinking they understand rich people.   Straights thinking they understand gays.  Christians thinking they understand religions they’ve only heard about from other Christians.  Americans who have never traveled thinking they understand the world.  People who have never studied science or medicine thinking “common  sense” is more accurate than field research and academic discipline across the board.  And on and on.

 

In some cases, extraordinary cases…they might actually be right. There are extraordinary individuals with amazing intellect who actually do seem to have breakthrough insight without study or experience.

 

But most people aren’t that.   Further, the person with less experience and education in a given discipline or arena who insists that you should respect their expertise is, frankly, usually wrong.  Not always. But it is the way to bet.

 

The internet connects billions of people together and we have rapid, fleeting contact with them.  Some are saints.   Some are lying monsters.

 

Most, I think, are honest. But I know for a fact that I have been terribly wrong about things, that I assumed that I knew about things because I’d read about them or heard people I trusted talking about them, without having had the experience to know whether those sources were correct.  I extend the same caution I now feel for my own thoughts to others.

 

It has always irritated people that I judge their competence in an arena with the “snapshot” of their results or history.  I understand that.   But frankly, if I am competent in an arena, and someone I don’t know well doesn’t accept my expertise, I’m not terribly irritated.  Irritation is a form or anger, which is fear.   If I KNOW that I know what I know, why do I care what someone else thinks?

 

I am more likely to be irritated if I am unsure of my knowledge, and wish others to agree with me so that I won’t doubt myself.  And frankly, this is what I think happens when I decline to accept the expertise of people who have not studied or experienced to the same degree I have.

 

And I would be perfectly happy to live in a world in which everyone judged everyone on that basis.   Respect the person?  Yes.  Respect their opinion? Sure.  But on a sliding scale.   If they have less data than me, they’d better be smarter than me, or have put more time and energy crunching that data.  Otherwise…nope.

 

Anyone can convince themselves that their arguments are sound.  Idiots can do that, as well as geniuses.   I make a clear statement: I evaluate the quality of your arguments not by their internal consistency, but whether they are both internally and externally consistent.  They must mesh with reality.   You must have the actual experience to ground it, otherwise you might have absorbed the WRONG library of books on the subject.

 

Of course some, perhaps many, will disagree with this approach.  I wish you well, and will be interested in your results.  But your protestations and arguments fall on deaf ears.

 

Namaste,

Steve