Over-involvement in the future must be our most maladaptive trait. Back in the 1970’s in Ojai, when Jiddu Krishnamurti drew enormous crowds to his extemporaneous talks, he touched on the liberation that comes from releasing the pointless hold on the future.1 Do you want to know what my secret is? You see, I don’t mind what happens. Jiddu Krishnamurti Lecture, Ojai,California, USA; late 1970's That’s it. Of all the teachings from the broad wisdom traditions, his one secret was not minding what happens.
Reading Oliver Burkeman’s last advice column in decade-long series in The Guardian, I was struck by his advice on the imposter syndrome: The solution to imposter syndrome is to see that you are one…Humanity is divided into two: on the one hand, those who are improvising their way through life, patching solutions together and putting out fires as they go, but deluding themselves otherwise; and on the other, those doing exactly the same, except that they know it.
2018 is my year of experiments (Why? TL;DR: New Year’s resolutions are over-rated and have a high failure rate. Anyone can run an experiment for a month.) My first experiment (No news for a month) is nearly done and I’ll declare it a success. Background The round-the-clock sensational news cycle exists in large part to create wealth for the already-too-wealthy. Little of it is actionable, leaving us at the same time both outraged and impotent.
New Year’s resolution time is at hand. But not for me; at least not in a traditional sense. I was inspired by David Cain’s experiments. In short, he conducts monthly experiments in self-improvement. The idea of an experiment is appealing in ways that a resolution is not. A resolution presumes an outcome and relies only on the long application of will to see it through. An experiment on the other hand, makes only a conjecture about the outcome and can be conducted for a shorter period.
“The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates This year I decided to take a different approach to making New Year’s resolutions. Although many people make resolutions, less than 10% regard themselves as successful at achieving them. I decided to overhaul the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Rather than committing to an entire year of change, I set up a schedule of 12 mini-resolutions in the form of experiments.
You might be the subject of political pandering if: 1. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are the main tricks in the politician’s kit. A politician who never tires of scapegoating a feared group, or a feared outcome is undoubtedly pandering. Or a demagogue. Or both. Whether it’s Mexicans, or Jews, or Muslims, or gay people, they never seem to stop talking about why you should be afraid of someone or something.
The U.S. has become well-rehearsed in its response to mass shootings. An event. The pondering over terrorism vs. generalized craziness. The outpouring of prayers and support. Then the internet outrage. And more internet outrage. More meme pictures about guns and love. More color-your-profile picture trends. Empty scripted responses from pious politicians. A week or two, then back to our regularly scheduled programming. News flash: this isn’t getting better.
One of the most striking features of the GOP front-runner is his special fondness for conspiracy theories. From the (non-existent) connection between vaccines and autism to the “real culprits” behind 9/11, he shows the typical clustered endorsement of multiple conspiracy theories. The question about whether this a form of pandering or a genuinely held set of perspectives is interesting, though barely relevant. In the former case, the abandonment of reason to achieve a political goal is an egregious fault.