Four articles which underscore the sickness that pervades modern society that is far worse than Covid could ever be.
Before I headed out for my run this morning — a blessed moment of 72 degree cool which won’t last but a second- I read this by Jessica Wildfire:
Look. I don’t have 72k followers, but I have most certainly written about this before. However, as I like to tag and quote people who are smarter than I am, there you go. That alone should underscore where I stand on this issue. Much of the time I do not know shit.
Lemme say that again loud and proud:
I DON’T KNOW SHIT.
I’ve got 68 years on this planet, have lived longer, harder and more broadly than most Americans ever will. One thing I have learned and keep right on having pushed in my punkin’ face:
I DON’T KNOW SHIT.
In that lovely contradictory way of simple truths, the fact that I don’t know shit, I KNOW I don’t know shit, and I am willing to paint the universe with the fact that I know I don’t know shit, makes me smart.
When I walk around with an empty cup which is my willingness to learn, my willingness to not know, my willingness to be taught a new things and see things a new way, I am constantly expanding my universe. Those new ideas and ways of being and perspectives have a place to land. Grow. Expand.
When I cannot countenance anything other than the tiny, mean-spirited, barren planet the size of a pea that is my personal perspective, then I am shrieking to the world about my utter ignorance. Worse, I am carrying around a neon tattoo on my head that reads:
I AM DANGEROUSLY STUPID. MIGHT WANT TO KEEP YOUR DISTANCE.
Emotional maturity, of which I have a very small amount and hope to hell I can continue to grow it, means that I can tolerate not knowing. I can tolerate, if not actually enjoy, the uncertainty that is part of how you and I can find some level of mastery in a constantly-changing world. When I can hold my not-knowing out like a lovely landing spot, every so often someone writes an article, I read a book or GASP have an original thought that allows me a new way of seeing.
In fact, true mastery is the willingness to what spiritual teacher G. I.Gurdjieff referred to as “living in the question.” More on that in a sec. Stay with me here.
In 2016, I spent time with the man who knows more about the Amazon Basin than most. I’d gone to his research center, spent time with is Iquitos-born wife, read his book. He told me, this world-renowned expert on the Amazon:
“I know nothing about the Amazon.”
THAT is wisdom. When you and I are humbled in the face of Nature, when the great and vast enormity of what we don’t and cannot possibly ever know, we begin the path of wisdom.
When you and I can STAY in the not-knowing, when you and I can REMAIN suspended in that space between the trapezes, that is mastery.
I’m not there yet, by a long shot, but I sure aspire to it. Because this:
From the article:
It can also help protect against a number of biases, such as confirmation bias. That’s because people who are cognitively flexible are better at recognising potential faults in themselves and using strategies to overcome these faults.
Cognitive flexibility is also associated with higher resilience to negative life events, as well as better quality of life in older individuals. It can even be beneficial in emotional and social cognition: studies have shown that cognitive flexibility has a strong link to the ability to understand the emotions, thoughts and intentions of others.
While Wildfire didn’t specifically call this out, I am. This is precisely what she’s describing, or rather, the lack thereof. People’s utter inability to conceive of any viewpoint but their own, their addiction to a certain way of seeing or being isn’t simply ignorant. It’s dangerous, which is why the Delta variant is killing us off right and left. That’s hardly the only place.
If you read anti-racism writers like Marley K. or Sharon Hurley Hall or Clay Rivers or any of that community which is exploding over on Twitter and Substack, you’ll notice a thread lately where they are calling out how trying to change the mind of an avowed racist is pretty useless:
Well, if “my daddy” taught me that Black folks are inferior, and “my daddy” was always right, as the great George Carlin once said,
“Fuck your daddy.”
Admitting your own biases means admitting that your aunts and uncles are also kinda biased, even if you don’t say that out loud. It reveals flaws and faults in your role models and heroes. Your entire world starts to make a little less sense than before. Most people don’t want to upend their mental schemas, so they just stick with their current beliefs. It’s easier to disagree with someone who doesn’t mean anything to you.
One of the smartest women I ever knew, a serial entrepreneur, a woman who sat on the boards of America’s largest banks, Meg Hansson, who was my mentor for some 33 years, regularly said to me that the smartest three words in her vernacular were “I don’t know.” The next smartest three words were, “Please teach me.”
I am so lucky to have had such people in my life.
It takes a shitload of courage to call out your family for being stupid or racist or wrong. It takes a great deal MORE courage to own your own crap, to call yourself out on bad decisions, actions and opinions. To that, then, please see this:
One of the reasons people double down on very bad decisions (supporting Trump, for example) is that to them, being willing to be wrong is wishy-washy It shows lack of character. Interestingly, that is such a White Male Patriarchal piece of bullshit. True strength comes of the kind of emotional flexibility which allows for multiple truths and multiple ways of being and seeing. THAT is personal power, that is mastery, and that is the kind of brilliance that has absolutely nothing to do with IQ.
Plenty of folks with excellent IQs were and still are QAnon believers. Look, I can’t speak for you, but stupid is stupid is stupid, not matter what your IQ says. Folks who don’t have the moral character to own their shit and make a better choice are part of how we got where we are today.
From The Conversation article:
The opposite of cognitive flexibility is cognitive rigidity, which is found in a number of mental health disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder and autism spectrum disorder.
I find it fascinating that the inability to be mentally, emotionally and intellectually flexible is closely aligned with mental disorders. That makes a hell of a lot of sense to me. Wildfire calls those folks assholes. I might agree, but I would also call them crazy.
ANYONE who would refuse to wear a mask, given what we know, and continue to act with utter impunity in a world where such a decision has dire repercussions for millions of people, is fucking nuts.
Anyone who cannot see that racism is rampant in our society, and that it is fundamentally wrong on all counts and on all levels, is fucking nuts.
I could be wrong. But in this, I science kinda bears me out.
There is hope however. Because this:
Studies have shown the benefits of training cognitive flexibility, for example in children with autism. After training cognitive flexibility, the children showed not only improved performance on cognitive tasks, but also improved social interaction and communication. In addition, cognitive flexibility training has been shown to be beneficial for children without autism and in older adults.
When you and I are convinced of our brilliance, we demonstrate our ignorance. It reminds me of the scene in The Godfather II:
No, Fredo. You ARE stupid. That’s the problem.
Finally, this from Wildfire:
You have to live with the constant possibility that you might be wrong. You have to learn how evaluate information. You have to take other people’s opinions and emotions into consideration. Most importantly, you have to be quiet and think. All things considered, being right does put you at a disadvantage in the short term. It takes a lot more time and energy. It takes maturity and patience. It doesn’t look as confident.(author bolded)
The willingness to not know, to take another viewpoint and hold it as a potential, to acknowledge that there are, indeed, some eight billion different versions of reality in the world right now and ALL of them have a certain validity, is a super power. It does not come easily. Having the courage to consider that someone else might well have a point is the beginning of wisdom. It could end a war, save a marriage, save a country.
But we have to stop behaving like intellectual and emotional infants first.