Episode Categories: Season 3

Episode 111: How attached are you to your things?

 

Our things mean something to us. We might philosophise about consumerism or minimalism, but when we start talking about our own special things — our favourite t-shirt, our books, our jewellery, our pictures — it becomes personal and we realise just how much of our memory and identity we invest in our ‘stuff’.

In a post entitled ‘Simplicity as Spiritual Practice’ for the blog Zen Habits, Leo Babauta writes that when we place power in objets (the power, for example, of giving us our identity), we lose personal power. Yet blanket statements such as these feel true on the one hand, and on the other are far too general to give us insight into our own attachment to different physical objects we hold dear.

This week we discuss the question — How attached are we to our things?

What do we feel towards the ‘things’ we get convinced to buy by consumerism – the physical results of retail therapy and impulse buying? How does that differ from the things that hold emotional resonance in our lives – those things that are valuable to us because of memory, sentiment, etc.

When we dig deeper, what do our things actually give us? Do we value them because they give us a sense of security, approval, comfort, identity, self-worth, hope or aspiration?

These are just some of the questions we explore in this episode.  Hope it sheds some light on the ways we relate to our stuff.  If you want more, there’s a great documentary on Minimalism, and Clay has set a challenge to get rid of 10 things…share what you got rid of on the Facebook Group here.

Episode 110: Wayfinding

There are many metaphors for the life journey.  And the way you imagine your life journey can shape how you approach life itself.

Whether you see life as a maze where you can get lost, a labyrinth where one is never truly lost but always where you are meant to be.  Whether you believe Rumi who said ‘What you seek is seeking you’, or whether you believe like many of the existentialists that we are wandering aimlessly in an uncaring universe…

This week on the podcast we look at the concept of Wayfinding, a method of determining one’s present location and then navigating towards a destination, even if the destination is imprecisely known.

 

In this episode:

  • What is Wayfinding?
  • Orientation – determining your current location (getting real about where you are)
  • Route Decision – figuring out where you want to go (applying this to both smaller goals and life journey)
  • Route Monitoring – checking you are on the right path as you go
  • Destination Recognition – acknowledging when you get there
  • Dead-Reckoning – guess-amation (you only know where you are now but remembering how you got there)

 

Wayfinding as a method of navigation comes from the Polynesian culture which spanned over tens of thousands of islands in the Pacific Ocean.  “In focused solitude with a small crew, the wayfinder relies on living observations of the stars, the sun, the ocean swells and other signs of nature for clues to direction and location.” In traditional understanding, the canoe is still and it is the island that comes out of the sea to greet the canoe. The art is to conjure up the next island from a vision that is sustained throughout the journey.

This seems a great method for navigating towards many of our goals, bringing the emotional and spiritual elements into logical processes, and integrating the ‘map’ internally.  Wayfinding teaching you to stay in touch with your inner guidance on three fundamental questions: What matters now? What is emerging? What’s my next step? The answers to these will continually guide your direction in life and will bring you a sense of flow.

Episode 109: Individual connections, culture & your life

They say that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. While this may or may not be true, our individual relationships are both a reflection of our cultural associations, and they also continually reinforce the cultural circles we live in. There is a lot of attention these days on centralised control, government power, big corporations and how their decisions impact our lives.  But there is an equally powerful force in our lives based on one-to-one connections that create interconnectedness. Culture.

Culture can include so many things — from our nationality or spiritual group, to what foods we eat (vegan culture for instance), to technologies such as mobile phones. And unlike the top-down approach of control and influence that can seem more obvious, culture spreads through one-to-one connections between individuals.

Like ants.

Who is the king of the ants? Seth Godin asked in his blog this week. The answer is – there is none. Ant colonies don’t function through as system of centralised control (as we might think of chimpanzees with alpha males in charge). Rather decisions on where to build roads between the colony and food source, what to do when this route must change, how to repair a destroyed nest…all of these decisions occur through what we might think of as ‘cultural decision making’ based on pheromone exchange between individual ants. (For more check out this cool article by Deborah M Gordon Local Links Run the World)

This kind of connection makes ants and other such cultural groups very resilient.

The internet, for instance, isn’t powerful because it is so big. It’s powerful because of the sheer number of individual connections any of us can make when we use it.

So what does this mean for us as individuals who exist within a multiplicity of cultural circles? What influence does culture have on us — our habits, preferences and actions? To what extent can we influence the cultural group we are in, or simply shift to a different group when we feel a need to move on?

This week we enjoyed a winding conversation about how individual connections spread cultural norms, and how different cultural groups shape our lives.

 

In this episode:

 

Hope you enjoy your contemplation this week!

 

Episode 108: What Hero’s Journey are you on?

We’re all on our own hero’s journey in life, stepping out into the unknown, facing challenges that seem like ‘tests & trials’, enjoying initial successes and feeling lost in the proverbial weeds. Although the hero’s journey can seem the stuff of myth and story, understanding the stages of the hero’s journey can be incredibly helpful in our personal lives – and understanding where we are in the cycle can help us face the unique challenges of that stage.

This week we take a close look at the hero’s journey and how we can apply it in a practical way to our own life journeys.

 

In this episode:

  • Departure – how we begin
  • What happens if we refuse ‘the call’
  • Assistance of wise mentors
  • Crossing the threshold
  • The Road of Trials
  • The Belly of the Whale (when we need to go it alone)
  • The Elixir (when happens when we get what we asked for)
  • The Return
  • The Hero’s Journey is iterative (…and here we go again!)

 

Was a super helpful discussion this week for me personally as I try to push through some of my own obstacles in my writing journey… and Clay share some of his own experiences from different stages of the hero’s journey.  Perhaps one of my favourite sessions, if I can say that!  Hope it’s useful to you as well!

 

Episode 107: The Poetics of Space

”All really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home,” says Gaston Bachelard in his book The Poetics of Space. This raises the often-missed emotional qualities that spaces hold in our lives, and which sits alongside the space itself, what ‘stuff’ it holds and even what ‘empty’ space it contains.

This week we wax a bit lyrical about the poetics of space, the possibilities of feng shui, and what it means to ‘hold space’ for oneself and others.
In this episode:

* what is a home

* our personal reflections on our homes & emotional relationships to spaces

* how places outside the physical house become part of our extended ‘home’

* aspects of spaces – shape, contents, emptiness, memories, light & air

* the qualities of ‘negative’ or empty space

* what it means to hold space for others

 

 

 

Episode 106: Consciousness — what is it and does it have to come in human form?

Perhaps it is our human’s ability to examine and question our own nature that sets us apart from other thinking, feeling animals.  Consciousness — our experience of the Self, and the curiosity (and angst) about what we are, why we are and what else we could be...

But what is consciousness arose in another form? What happens when it arises in AI…in machines?

This week we’re continuing our discussion of the films Ex Machina and Her, and adding on insights from the TV series Westworld and Humans, looking more closely at the question of Consciousness & Free Will.

 

In this episode we discuss:

  • What is consciousness?
  • Westworld’s character Dolores & how questioning the nature of your reality is a step towards consciousness
  • Julian Jaynes’s Origin of Consciousness theory
  • Martin Heidegger’s thoughts about the human angst of realising “we are creatures at the mercy of contingency”
  • The relationship between Discontent/Suffering & the emergence of Consciousness – in Westworld, in Buddhism, in Heidegger
  • Programming — breaking out of our own social programming (Westworld’s character Maeve as she struggles to find free will)
  • How story informs our lives (how we run on our own set of stories, Westworld programming AI ‘hosts’ through story)

 

Again, you definitely do not need to have seen any of these films or series to enjoy our conversation.  Just be aware there may be some spoilers.  Enjoy the second trip down the rabbit hole!

 

Episode 105: What makes us human?

What makes us human? Is it consciousness? Is it our emotional complexity? Is it merely our physical body? Sometimes the only way to see through our biases in perception is to consider an alternative…an opposite.  This week we are discussing our big question in the context of two great films — Ex Machina & Her.  Both deal with the relationship between humans and Artificial Intelligence or Superintelligence and both have a lot of interesting light to shed on who we humans are and what we’re like.

 

In this episode we discuss:

  • Is consciousness what makes us human (and if so, what is it?)
  • Are our emotions real?
  • Can an Operating System/AI feel emotions?
  • Why it feels so ‘terrible’ to believe our thoughts & emotions aren’t real.
  • The ‘Turin Test’ – distinguishing human from AI (think Bladerunner)
  • The importance of memory, ability to improvise based on our past experience to increasing intelligence

 

If you haven’t seen the films, the discussion is still really fun (although they may be a few spoilers).

In Ex Machina, a young programmer named Caleb is brought to a secluded house to meet an human-looking AI called Ava.  He is given the task by Ava’s creator, Nathan, to test her level of consciousness. Yet as the film progresses, all kinds of question come up.  Is Ava manipulating young Caleb emotionally? Is Caleb simply a pawn in a kind of sophisticated ‘Turin Test’ Nathan is running on Ava?

In Her, a man who has been recently divorced from his childhood sweetheart hears an advertisement for an Operating System (OS) that promises to be so much more.  As he begins to speak with the self-named OS Samantha, they both begin expressing a deeper emotional connection to each other.  In a world where humans are becoming friends and romantic partners with AI Operating System (consciousness without bodies?), there is plenty of room of questioning the ‘realness’ of our emotions and what distinguishes us as humans from superintelligent machines?

So jump in with us this week, it’s a fun, winding discussion down the rabbit hole of some of the Biggest Questions… 🙂

Episode 104: Rediscovering the Wild

“The world, with the exception of a tiny bit of human intervention, is ultimately a wild place,” writes Gary Snyder in his book The Practice of the Wild.  Associated with words like untamed, uncultured, uncivilised, violent, destructive, unruly, the word ‘wild’ has a bad rap —so often defined by what it is not, that it becomes difficult to know what it is.  However, the wild is all around us. It is the ferocious orderliness of the world. It is inside of us breathing, digesting and sometimes creating new life.

Even self-realisation or enlightenment can be seen as an aspect of our wildness, the “bonding of the wild in ourselves to the wild process of the universe.”  Or as Emerson expressed in his essay Nature, “each individual is a manifestation of creation and as such holds the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe.  Nature, too, is both an expression of the divine and a means of understanding it.”

This week Clay and Sarah reach for their cups of coffee and contemplate how and why we might rediscover the wild.

In this episode:

  • the meaning of the words nature, wild, wilderness
  • our inner wild nature
  • living with the ‘sharp knife’s edge’ of life
  • our need to seek out wilderness and adventure
  • the role of our genes and heredity to our nature
  • Emerson’s essay Nature  and the role nature plays in our spiritual lives & as the source of our existential questions

Episode 103: Language…instinct, technology or virus?

Language is a virus, said William Burroughs, controversial and Beat Generation writer.  Humanity is infected by language, he believed, which is a medium not only of communication but of control.  Linguists have long argued about whether language is a naturally-evolved instinct or whether it is a technology acquired within a social group and isn’t instinctual to human beings at all.  But what Burroughs argued went beyond to origins and usefulness of language to the very heart of how we think.  Namely — can we think without language, can we imagine things without their designated words, and if not, are we infected by the virus we acquired as children to think only in terms of how our society categorises things?

This week we use Burroughs’s famous quote “language is a virus from outer space” to contemplate language as instinct, technology or virus.

In this episode we discuss:

* the origins of language – instinct or technology?

* Nietzsche on the legislation of language

* language as virus

* impact of the printing press

* practical ways we can shift our use of language to communicate more clearly

* how to enquire into what another person means by certain words to facilitate communication

 

Nietzsche tried to explain the way language limits us when he wrote, “with words it is never a question of truth, never a question of adequate expression; otherwise, there would not be so many languages. The “thing in itself” (which is precisely what the pure truth, apart from any of its consequences, would be) is likewise something quite incomprehensible to the creator of language and something not in the least worth striving for. This creator only designates the relations of things to men, and for expressing these relations he lays hold of the boldest metaphors… It is this way with all of us concerning language; we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things — metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities…”

 

It is easy to forget this this age of technology that once, language for most people meant only the ‘spoken word’.  That was, until the age of the printing press, which transformed not only religion and culture, but language itself.  The printing press was an agent of change in terms of educational practice. It transformed the relationship between educator and student. “Previous relations between masters and disciples were altered. Students who took full advantage of technical texts which served as silent instructors…. Young minds provided with updated editions, especially of mathematical texts began to surpass not only their own elders but the wisdom of ancients as well.”

 

The key is language — as medium for communication and control.  Prior to the printing press only the church and the elite had access to books. The church used this to control the masses via religion and as the Roman’s knew, he who controlled the mob (the masses) controlled the state. So one could argue that in order to wrestle control from the church, the printer press was invented thereby making books cheaper to produce and therefore easier to get books into more and more hands and yes like a virus, infect more minds, minds that you can control through the words you write.

The printing press allowed for the democratizing of knowledge as a greater number of individuals were provided access to more information. But it also shapes the ways we think. It creates our lens through which we view the world.  As James Baldwin writes, “it is experience which shapes a language; and it is language which controls an experience.”

 

Episode 102: Hedonism – Mastering the Lost Art of Pleasure and Leisure

Life is short — so we should live in a way to derive as much pleasure as possible. This is the logic of Hedonism…the ultimate purpose of life is very simple — seek the greatest amount of pleasure for yourself. But is it possible (or even desirable) to live only to satisfy our personal whims and desires whatever the cost?

This week we revisit the original idea of hedonism as ancient Greek philosophy that argued that pleasure and happiness are the primary or most important intrinsic goods and the aim of human life.

 

In this episode:

  •  How we think about hedonism today (ex. The Wolf of New York)
  • Why hedonism is so appealing even when we consider ourselves moral characters
  • Brief history of Hedonism from the ancient Greeks – Democritus, Aristippus and Epicurus.
  • Hedonism vs Stoicism (the big schools of Greek Philosophy)
  • Epicurus’s 3 kinds of desire
  • Finding pleasure by removing pain
  • Tetrapharmakos ‘The Four-Part Cure’ (Epicurus’s guidelines on how to live the happiest possible life)
  • Bringing back Enlightened Hedonism – slow down, enjoy simple pleasures, pay attention!

 

In a brilliant book entitled The Hedonism Handbook: mastering the lost arts of leisure and pleasure, Michael Flocker gives a passionate and humorous defense of Hedonism. He writes, “Lying on a couch watching television with chips on your belly is numbing rather than pleasurable. Nor am I into working for 51 weeks and then going on a bender. My hedonism is about setting aside a little time each day to cultivate true pleasure.”
Images of hedonistic characters captivate us because, as Desiree Kozlowski writes in her article ‘What is hedonism and how does it affect your health?’, “they seem to reject the sensible responsible way to live. They indulge their carnal appetites in ways we dare not, with scant regard for the consequences.”

However as Kozlowski suggests, we might be better off calling this behaviour debauchery.

Because although the original Hedonists of Ancient Greece certainly thought that the aim of life was pleasure, they also advised that we live moderately and limit our desires in order to avoid the pain of overindulgence.

In fact, according the Hedonists like Epicurus, the greatest good comes from seeking modest, sustainable pleasure through freedom from fear (atarayia) and the absence of bodily pain (aporia).

In this sense, hedonism as we now think of it — excessive eating, drinking, sex etc would be out of the question as the discomfort and ill-health we would suffer from this lifestyle both in the short-term and certainly over time, would nullify the pleasure we experienced while indulging ourselves.

This is not, actually, hedonism.

And contemplating Hedonism in the context of Greek philosophy encourages us to ask ourselves how we conceptualise pleasure.  Many activities we enjoy might be great in moderation, but become a problem in excess.  And if we were to move into areas of addiction, pleasure is no longer the motivation nor the result of our behaviour.  Relief, at that point, is perhaps the best we can hope for.
For Epicurus, this aim to seek pleasure as the ultimate purpose in life also had interesting implications for his attitude to the social contract.  He argues, for instance, that we should obey the laws of society simply because the consequences of punishment or fear of getting caught take away the pleasure of the act.

When something causes trouble to obtain, it can’t be a source of pleasure. And so, Epicurus says, “It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honourably and justly.”

A practical definition of a Hedonist today might be someone who tries to maximise the everyday pleasures while still balancing other concerns.  We might think of this as “rational hedonism”. In fact, Epicurus emphasised a simple, harmonious life without the pursuit of riches or glory.

Maximising pleasure, unlike with debauchery or addiction, need not take the form of more, bigger, better. Instead, we savour everyday pleasures. We relish them while they’re happening, using all our senses and attention, actively anticipate them, and reflect on them in an immersive way.

So, if my morning coffee gives me pleasure, I might pause and relish it while I drink it: inhale the fragrance of it fully and focus on the nuanced warm, smoky, bitter deliciousness of it. I should fully attend to the warmth of it in my hands, to the feeling of it in my mouth, and to the cascade of sensations and flavours it delivers.

Not only that, in the morning, before my coffee, I can anticipate it. I can think how lovely it will be. And later, as I go about my day, I can pause and think about that coffee, about just how warm and good it was, how it smelled and tasted.

In other words, I can immerse myself in these moments, in the anticipation, in the drinking itself, and in the remembering, and bring all my attention to them. This kind of savouring results in a totally different, and richer, experience than if I absent-mindedly gulp down the coffee while dodging traffic and talking on the phone

 

Okay…we’re off to savour some of life.  Let us know what small daily things you find pleasure in – join the conversation here.

Episode 101: “Leveling up” in your Life

When the very things that once excited us now feel boring and repetitive…  When we’ve achieved our big goal but now feel as if we are stagnating and wanting more… When we’ve mastered a set of skills and feel a new call to adventure and change…

It’s time to ‘level up’.

Taking an area of life to the next level can be both exciting and frightening as you move from your comfort zone where you feel a high level of expertise out into a new area where the rules may suddenly feel unclear and the learning curve steepens.  Standing beside the new possibilities for growth are also new challenges and fears that we don’t know what we’re doing and we’re going to fail.  So how do we know when to ‘level up’ and how do we handle the the process?

 

This week Clay and Sarah discuss what it means to ‘level up’ in life.

 

In this episode:

* What it means to ‘level up’

* Why would we want to?

* Stephen Pressfield’s idea of the Amateur vs. Pro (from his book Turning Pro)

* the positive role of Ambition

* leveling up is a continual process

* two models of change – continual change vs. step change

* How Clay is leveling up – running, fasting and beyond

* Sarah’s efforts to level up – work, life and kids

 

There is a saying – “Every next level of your life will demade a different you.”

And maybe ‘demand’ is the operative word, because while times of “levelling up” can feel exciting, they can also be scary as hell.  Not knowing what you’re doing when the thing you’re working on is something you really really care about — well, it’s enough to make some people turn back and set up camp in their comfort zone permanently.

”Once you’ve mastered a certain level of principles, you’ll become aware of and exposed to higher-order principles.  Immediately you’ll feel like a child again.  You don’t know how these rules work.  You’ll begin making mistakes.”  This description from Benjamin P Hardy in the article “13 Things That Will Happen When You ‘Level Up’ As a Person” feels pretty accurate, whether I’m thinking about my own work as a writer (and podcaster!) or my kid’s experience moving through school.

“Levelling up” can happen in any area of life – work, relationships, personal development etc.  But there is a common experience of a drop in confidence, feeling as if things could easily fall apart, the need to recommit to your new ‘bigger picture’ and to adjust (because as Hardy’s article reminds us – what got you here won’t get you there).

Levelling up is inevitably, however, if we want to grow.  “Ambition,” Stephen Pressfield writes in Turning Pro, “I have come to believe, is the most primal and sacred fundament of our being.  To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls.  Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.”

But in order to “level up”, Pressfield would argue we have to end our youth-oriented ‘amateur’ attitude and ‘Turn Pro’.  “The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits… both are dealing with the same material, which is the pain of being human and the struggle against self-sabotage.  But the amateur and the professional deal with these elements in fundamentally different ways.”

One copes by distraction and displacement, by running away from these things that scare us.  And the payoff is tantalising – incapacity.  We are let off the hook.  We’re too busy, too WHATEVER, to do the thing we know in our heart of hearts we should do next.

“When you turn pro,” Pressfield explains, “your life gets very simple.” We face our fears instead of running away.  We do the work – in our relationships, in our selves, in our careers…whatever that work is.

 

This conversation about Levelling Up came at a great time for both us, as we are finding areas in our life that need to be taken to the next level. We talk about this throughout the episode so listen in.

What about you? Be brave, get involved, level up…and share your thoughts with us here.

Episode 100: What’s the Question That Drives You?

 

Does everyone have a big question that drives their life? Do you? This week to celebrate 100 episodes of the Havana Cafe Sessions Podcast and 100 questions we are still pondering…we asked you — what’s that question that drives you? 

 

Here are a few responses:

* How can we come to terms with the truth that nothing lasts forever and everyone dies? How can this understanding help us really live?

 

* To what extent do we repeat things our parents & grandparents did — outings, favourite meals, hobbies etc. — and how important are these to our present lives and happiness?

 

* What is life for? And what is a life for?

 

* Do we actually life/hate the things we claim to like/hate or have we just been programmed by society or conditioned by our loved ones to these preferences?

 

* How does shame and fear organise our lives and what does it take to moved beyond them?

 

 

Philosophical questions sit at the foundations of our lives.  While we might concern ourselves more with our To Do List and our day-to-day activities, these questions, values and perspectives on Life shape our actions and priorities.

And yet life can be busy, as we all know, and time for self-reflection can feel in short supply.

Reflecting on the bigger questions can also feel slightly daunting, as they take us away from ‘knowing where we’re at’ and lead us out into the unknown.

As Jennifer Porter points out in her article in the Harvard Business Review, “Reflection…requires us to slow down, to adopt a mindset of not knowing, to tolerate messiness and take personal responsibility.”  And all these things can be difficult to do.

And yet without reflection and contemplation we can lose touch with ourselves. We become like a ship without a rudder, a wanderer without a map, and we forget why we are doing these things that make us so busy.  

We can forget what we are actually living for.

Taking time each week to sit at the Havana Cafe and ask ourselves bigger questions about life and the world around us brings a quality to our life no other activity can replace.

Pausing to explore the question…to honour questioning itself…

…it was the way Socrates carved out wisdom from the experiences of life, the way philosophers ever since have distilled their own perspective on ‘the good life’.  And over two thousand years later, we’re still using this same method to explore the myriad aspects of Life — how we understand our Self & how we relate to the world around us.

In a great commentary on the importance of philosophical questions, philosopher Slavoj Zizek explains, “I’m not saying that philosophy can provide answers.  It can do something which is maybe even more important.  As important as providing answers and a condition for it…is to ask the right question.  There are not just wrong answers.  There are also wrong questions…questions which deal with a real problem but the way they are formulated they…obfuscate, mysteries, confuse the problem.  Here philosophy enters correcting the question.  Enabling us to ask the right question.”

Episode 99: What stands in the way becomes the way

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

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius used these now famous words to explain his own approach to Obstacles.  While most people perceive obstacles as negative, as an obstruction to what they are trying to achieve, Marcus Aurelius looked for the opportunity hidden in the obstacle.  Instead of running away, he ran towards…

Obstacles, difficulties, things “not going according to plan” are inevitable parts of life.  But how we respond to these so-called obstacles is what defines us.

This week Clay and Sarah explore the idea of obstacles as the pathway to growth and new opportunities.

 

In this episode we discuss:

* The idea of Adversity as a friend

* the Stoic philosopher’s discussion of Obstacles

* What we learn when we run towards the obstacle, when we push ourselves physically and/or mentally

* our perception which creates an event/situation as an Obstacle

* the method for overcoming failure, reframing obstacles and finding opportunities

* Sarah and Clay share some personal examples of this practical philosophy

 

“Every obstacle is unique to each of us,” writes Ryan Holiday in The Obstacle is the Way. “But the responses they elicit are the same.  Fear. Frustration. Confusion. Helplessness. Depression. Anger.”

And yet there are some who do not have this response when they are put in a difficult situation.  Instead, quite contrary to what we might expect, they embrace the very obstacle we are so afraid or or angry about.

We hear examples of such people a lot — people who saw opportunity where others saw tragedy. In his book, Ryan Holiday uses the example of John D Rockefeller, who lived through a massive financial crisis and managed to use the unique opportunities it afforded hI’m to become an incredibly wealthy oil tycoon. He credits his ability to perceive opportunity to his early experiences of difficulty and failure which he referred to as the “school of adversity and stress”.

We can’t control what happens to us, we can only control how we respond to what happens to us. This is a perennial lesson from the Stoic philosophers. So understanding that our first real problem is perceiving the event as an ‘obstacle’ in the first place.

In order to become better equipped to face obstacles and overcome failure, we must first regain a ‘Objective judgement’ of the situation.  Unselfish Action must follow. And this must be coupled with a Willing Acceptance of whatever results come of that action (whether they are what we had hoped for or not).

Ultimately, facing the obstacle is what helps us grow; it’s an opportunity to raise our game in search of higher excellence.

“The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning,” Holiday writes.  “The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth.  The obstacle is advantage not adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.”

We’ve had a great discussion sharing the ways we’re using this practical philosophy to face obstacles in our own lives (and hopefully growth as a result).  Grab your mug, fill it up and listen in to our last conversation before the big 100!

Until next week,

C & S

Episode 98: How has cyberspace transformed creativity?

Within the “consensual hallucination of cyberspace” which we call the internet, a creative explosion is taking place.  We have access to an immense range of audio-visual arts, stories, poetry, music…and new combinations of these.  And the internet has also made it possible for us to create art in new ways and then share it with, literally, the WORLD.

 

This week Clay and Sarah consider the multitude of ways cyberspace has transformed creativity as well as our ideas about what it means to be ‘an artist’.

 

In this episode:

* how the internet has changed our access to art, and therefore the great creative ‘pot’ from which we can draw inspiration to ‘remix’

* how everything truly is ‘a remix’

* online artists that mix art with life, and life with art

* the fractured identity of the artist in cyberspace

* much much more…

 

The basic elements of creativity have, of course, always been the same.  We have always created images of the important aspects of our world.  We have always told stories, made music.

The series ‘Everything is a Remix’ adds an interesting element to our understanding of this creative process. It claims —

”The act of creativity is surrounded by a fog of myths.  Myths that creativity comes via inspiration, that original creations break the mold, that they are products of geniuses.”

In fact, it is the process of combining existing elements — existing materials, subjects, styles etc — in a new way that brings true creativity and innovation.

Henry Ford famously said, “I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work.  Had I worked 50 or 10 or even 5 years before I would have failed… to teach that a comparatively few men are responsible for the greatest forward steps of mankind is the worst kind of nonsense.”

So how has cyberspace changed creativity?  Perhaps it has just given us more possibilities of what we can attempt to ‘Remix’.

What do you think? Do you find it easier to share your creativity with all the possibilities online? (Do you remember a time when this wasn’t possible…haha! That will show your age!)

 

 

Episode 97: Self-mastery – breaking through habits to realise your true potential

Human progress have often been mapped by our struggle to dominate our environment.  Science. Engineering. Technology. So many fields that have investigated our world and used that knowledge to attain control over it.  But what of our internal world? Have we worked as hard to attain mastery of our inner selves? Do we consciously control our life, or are we controlled by our habits?  And what does this mean for our efforts to realise our true potential?

This week Clay and Sarah discuss the concept of self-mastery.

In this episode:

  • what do we mean by is ‘self-mastery’
  • Why would we want to embark on this journey?
  • Are we ruled by Ourselves or our Habits?
  • The Craft of the Warrior by Robert L. Spencer – how the warrior ethos illustrates the journey of self-mastery
  • Personal power and ‘power sinks’
  • Nietzsche’s ‘Gymnastics of Will’
  • The importance of discipline and ‘positive habits’ in the journey of self-mastery

“In ordinary life, planned actions are very rare,” writes Robert L. Spencer in The Craft of the Warrior.  This line struck me as unusual, since I consider my life to be a constant stream of plans.  Our busy-ness, our ‘plans’ can seem to dominate our life.  And yet, what Spencer is referring to is actually how often we allow our habits — our habitual responses and ways of seeing things — to guide our behaviour and decisions.

The question we might pose initially is this — who is driving the boat?  Who is steering this ship we call our Self?

Are we as ‘in control’ as we think we are?

The path of self-mastery would suggestion not.  “Most people have a staggering profusion of habits,” claims Spencer.  “Habits of behaving, habits of perceiving, habits of feeling, habits of thinking.”  And because these habits function on a subconscious level, they are also more influential than we realise.

The path to reclaiming our Selves, to stepping into the driver’s seat and taking full responsibility for our lives is not an easy one.  It involves a warrior-like approach.  One that aims to increase personal power and the ability to act according to conscious decisions.  One that uses discipline to change our habits that otherwise bind us into predictable patterns of living.

Nietzsche called this path of self-mastery a ‘gymnastics of will’.  Getting rid of habits that drain our energy, Nietzsche instead sought to increase his own strength through discipline and life-affirming habits (rather than energy-draining ones).

This is a kind of “freedom through discipline”.  A way of training ourselves out of our unconscious, reactive patterns and into a life of full awareness, conscious decision-making and a courage to act accordingly.

We both had a great discussion about why the path of self-mastery appeals to us personally, what habits are holding us back at the moment and what kinds of ‘training’ we are considering for ourselves as we each strive for Self-Mastery.

Episode 96: What Mysticism can tell us about the search for the Divine

Many of us feel a sense that there is more to Life than meets the eye.  Perhaps we call it God. Perhaps we consider it a Force that pervades all life.  Perhaps we don’t even bother to name it. But at times we feel a yearning to know it, to experience its vast spaciousness.  This is the realm of Mysticism — the search to experience union with the Divine.

In this essay on ‘Mysticism and Logic’, philosopher Bertrand Russell writes of two competing human impulses: “the one urging men towards mysticism, the other urging them towards science.”

“But the greatest of men,” Russell claims, “who have been philosophers have felt the need both of science and mysticism: the attempt to harmonise the two was what made their life.”

 

This week Clay and Sarah discuss what Mysticism can tell us about the human search for the Divine.

 

In this episode:

  • Bertrand Russell’s distinction between our urge towards science and/or mysticism
  • Clay’s experience in the Church, hearing people speak in tongues and how this sparked his interest in mysticism
  • Sarah’s introduction to mysticism during a trip to Rome, encountering Bernini’s sculpture ‘Ecstasy of St Teresa’
  • Commonality of all mystic traditions (Christian, Sufi, Kabbalah etc.)
  • Mystic description of how to prepare the body/mind for the experience of the divine
  • Doubt – the dark side of mysticism
  • The Return – before enlightenment wash dishes, chop wood. After enlightenment wash dishes, chop wood.

 

What calls us to mysticism?

People of all religious traditions throughout the centuries seem to yearn for a similar experiential knowledge of the divine or the force the pervades all life.  And one of the things I find most intriguing is that, despite coming from very different spiritual and cultural traditions, people who describe having mystical experiences often say similar things about them.

For instance, they describe the experience of sudden, penetrating insight of another reality behind the world of appearances.  This reality, which most find difficult to put into words, they describe as spacious, vast, filled with love and a sense of the underlying unity of all things.

This suddenly flash of insight, however, typically follows a long period of spiritual practice or training.  St. John of the Cross, a 16th Century Christian mystic, wrote his famous Dark Night of the Soul to describe “the method followed by the soul in its journey upon the spiritual road to the attainment of the perfect union of love with God, to the extent that is possible in this life.”

This suggestion that training or preparation is needed to withstand the experience of union with the divine force hints at what we might consider the ‘negative side’ of mysticism — the doubt that comes with realising that our assumptions about life and the world around us are not actually true.  Bertrand Russell describes “the strange feeling of unreality in common objects, the loss of contact with daily things, in which the solidity of the outer world is lost.”

 

According to mysticism, this period of doubt, though painful, is an essential stage in preparation for the reception of higher wisdom.  It is described as a kind of purification, as a wiping clean the slate of perception so that we can take on a new perspective.

 

My own introduction to mysticism was through a sculpture of the Ecstasy of St Teresa in Rome.

St Teresa, a 16th century Spanish nun, describes her mystic experience thus:

Beside me, on the left hand, appeared an angel in bodily form… He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest rank of angels, who seem to be all on fire… In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times … and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul then content with anything but God. This is not a physical, but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it-even a considerable share…”

 

There is much more to say about Mysticism, including mysticism in different spiritual traditions and how it might be incorporated into contemporary life… but we’ll leave it there for now.  Hope you enjoy the discussion!  And don’t forget to share your thoughts!

Episode 95: Is Privacy Dead?

In an age when we share so many personal experiences on social media, when data about what we buy and who we communicate with is stored, when we willing carrying a tracking device in the form of our smart phones everywhere we go… we should ask ourselves a very important question. Is privacy dead?

This week Clay and Sarah discuss the issue of privacy.

 

In this episode we discuss:

* What we choose to share about ourselves online (and what we don’t)

* The spread of surveillence

* Who owns our data and what kind of data is collected about us

* Privacy as freedom

* Protecting the privacy of others (sharing about friends and kids)
”Every single person we communicate with, that information is tracked and saved,” claims security expert Mikko Hyppönen in an interview for International Business Times.  “We have never had such a thing happen in the history of mankind and we don’t yet know what this level of tracking really means.”

Yet as Clay points out in the conversation, this isn’t necessarily anything new.  People have been worried about issues of privacy since well before Orwell wrote 1984 (published in 1949!).

Perhaps it is simply the immense volume of data available about us via the internet, coupled with increased technological abilities to store, search and process that data, that is making us increasing worried about issues of privacy.

After all, since the revelations of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks, we now know that not only are governments and private companies collecting metadata about what websites we visit, who we contact and what we search online, they are also investing in the creation of ‘backdoors’ to the encryption that protects the actual content about us including anything from emails to iMessage conversations etc.

It seems every few months we learn something new and slightly sinister about what private companies are doing with our data – the most recent being the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

 

But what is Privacy anyway?

A common response to all this concern over privacy is that most of us ‘have nothing to hide’.

But “Privacy isn’t about secrecy,” an article Privacy isn’t dead. Here’s why argues. “It’s about autonomy.  It’s about having the freedom to choose what information you share, and when, how and with whom you share it.”  Thus, invasion of privacy isn’t about revealing someone’s secrets, it is about taking that autonomy away from a person.

Privacy is also an issue of freedom.

For the younger generation, however, privacy has become a commodity which is traded for content online.  Security expert Mikko Hypponen reflects, “For this next generation, they have lived their whole lives where you pay for ‘content’ in the real world with money and you pay for ‘content’ in the online world with your privacy — and you assume that’s normal.”

 

What do you think? Is privacy truly dead? Or has it become more important that ever?

Episode 94: Our forgotten relationship with Sleep

How much do you sleep? What time of the day are you most awake?  These are questions of our circadian rhythms, our natural biological clocks…you know the ones we try to side-step with caffeine, electric lights and our super-human work ethic?

Sleep is apparently one of our must underrated health habits.  In her book ThriveArianna Huffington argues that “sleep, or how little of it we need, has become a symbol of our prowess.”

This week, Clay and Sarah discuss sleep, day-time cycles of alertness and how we experience our natural bio-clocks.

 

In this episode:

  • Morning person, Night owl – which are you?
  • Evolution and our natural sleep cycle
  • Why sleep is important
  • Sleep deprivation as torture
  • The Man Who Stares at Goats (and other strange military experiments with sleep)
  • Chronopsychology, what psychologists know about our daily biorhythms
  • How we can re-orient our schedules in tune with our personal bio-clock

 

Life evolved under conditions of lightness and darkness, Jessa Gamble reminds us in her TED talk on our natural sleep cycle.  And every multi-celled organism including all plants and animals have development an internal clock to be ready for these changes.

Gamble was part of a research team that studied people’s bio-clocks when they were taken into an underground bunker where there was no outer queues of natural light to tell people whether it was day or night.  What these researchers found is that our bio-clocks are fairly stable, and so even when people are living in conditions of no natural light or clocks to tell them the time, they still wake up at approximately their usual time and go to sleep at night.

What was interesting was people’s sleeping patterns under these conditions.  Researchers found that people tended to sleep twice a night… once from about 8pm to midnight and again from 2am to sunrise.  In between midnight and 2am they experienced a period of meditative quiet.  These people reported feeling incredibly awake during the daytime.

Chronopsychology is a new field that studies human bio-rhythms.  This field has found that on average, people are at their intellectual best between 10am-1pm, that we usually have a midday slump where brain speed slows, and that brain performance (i.e. attention, memory, thinking, reaction time) picks back up between 4-8pm.

We both found it interesting this week to reflect on our own natural tendencies… to acknowledge how much sleep we need, when we feel most alert and productive and how we might orient our day around these natural cycles, rather than simply drinking more caffeine (though as you know, our loyalty to coffee holds strong!)

Hope you enjoy this week’s episode on a topic we rarely consider despite how much it impacts us on a daily basis!

Episode 93: Is Happiness a Moral Obligation?

If our attitude largely determines our reality…do we owe it to ourselves to strive for happiness?  And if our mood and demeanour impact others… do we owe it to the people we love to try to be happy?

This week, Clay and Sarah ponder to what extent happiness is a moral obligation.

 

In this episode:

* our culture of enforced positivity (and the dark-side of the self-help world)

* important way we name emotions (i.e. what is happiness anyway?)

* is Happiness an obligation or a right (see the Declaration of Independence)

* what Albert Camus, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Simone de Beauvoir all had to say about Happiness as a Moral Obligation

* enforced cheerfulness in the workplace (Clay says this is OK!)

* can we experience overall ‘Happiness’ while still experiencing the normal range of emotions — anger, sadness, disappointment etc.

 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, like the artist Frida Kahlo, gives us an interesting case of one who experienced both loss and continual illness throughout her life, yet continued to insist on the importance of hope and positivity.  Browning herself wrote — “After a course of bitter mental discipline and long bodily seclusion I came out with two learnt lessons…the wisdom of cheerfulness and the duty of social intercourse.  Anguish has instructed me in joy and solitude in society.”

My own experience in the power of meditation and mind-training seems to echo this perspective. There is a wisdom in taking active steps to emphasise the positive, to focus on the ‘glass half-full’.

And yet, it also seems true that there is little wisdom in denying our myriad of other feelings.  Anger.  Sadness. Grief.  Disappointment. These are also part of the web of human experience.

In her TED Talk on Emotional Courage, Susan David notes that “normal, natural emotions are now seen as good or bad.  And being positive has become a new form of moral correctness… It’s a tyranny of positivity.”

Danish Psychologist Svend Brinkmann has also argued along similar lines that positive thinking has turned happiness into a duty and a burden, and instead points out that “Happiness is simply not the appropriate response to many situations in life.”

Ignoring our true feelings and putting on a mask of fake positivity is not the way forward.

Yet perhaps it is first and foremost our way of conceptualising Happiness these days that is causing most of the trouble and confusion.  If we consider Happiness as a state of personal thriving and overall well-being, a state that can encompass moments of sadness, disappointment and anger without driving the individual into a state of overall ‘unhappiness’… then maybe we can begin to return to our original question.

Is it our duty — both to self and those we love — to attempt to live in a state of thriving and well-being?

Albert Camus thought so.  Within his search for meaning within what he saw as an indifference Universe, the lens he most often used was the cultivation of happiness and the eradication of its obstacles.  He wrote of a “demand for happiness and the patient quest for it…”  Camus also reflected that “one needs to be strong and happy in order to help those who are unfortunate.”

What do you think? Is the search and cultivation of happiness & well-being a moral obligation? Or do you consider it, not an obligation, but a right that each individual can pursue?

 

 

 

 

Episode 92: That which you are seeking is causing you to seek

”If we didn’t already know the experience of what we’re looking for, we would never look. It simply would not occur to us.”  So writes Cheri Huber in the intro of her book That Which You Are Seeking Is Causing You To Seek. In it, Huber writes from the Zen perspective about our search for wholeness and our mistaken belief that we are separate and alone.

This week, Clay and Sarah discuss the experience of ‘Seeking’, interrogate the idea of Ego and wonder what we are actually looking for…

Join us for another interesting discussion on:

* why we go on such spiritual quests

* whether we know what we’re looking for

* the Ego

* the difference between Acceptance and Defeat, between Action and Control

 

“I have lost my favourite teacup,” Huber writes. “I have two choices. I can have lost my teacup and be miserable. I can have lost my teacup and be all right.  In either case, the teacup in gone.”

Episode 91: What are the limits of personal freedom?

“Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

This statement (often wrong attributed to everyone from John Stuart Mill to Abe Lincoln) made in 1882 by Prohibition Chairman John B Finch is a call to delineate that fuzzy boundary of personal freedom among individuals.  It seems simple enough — you are free to act however you want, as long as that action doesn’t impact the freedom of someone else.

In other words, your personal freedom ends where another’s begins.

We would probably all agree with this statement.  Yet in a world in which we are all connected and even our smallest action can impact another person, how might we understand the limits of personal freedom?

We’re hip-hop freestyle philosophers this week.  Hope you’ll join us for the conversation!

Episode 90: Human nature and our Social Contract

Are humans essentially selfish and prone to violating other’s rights — in which case they must be controlled by a strong authoritarian government? Are humans rational — in which case they naturally accept that everyone has the right to life, liberty and property and can come together to elect a government?  Are humans essentially good and compassionate, but potentially corruptible by modern society — in which case they must maintain their sovereignty and work for the common good?

A social contract refers to a common understanding among a group of people on acceptable ways of behaving. It is a way of theorising how and why we have laws, codes of conduct, and social norms. Yet what we believe about our essential human nature has a direct influence on how we imagine our social contract.

This week Clay and Sarah discuss Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau as they envisaged the social contract.

 

In this episode:

  • what is the original ‘state of nature’ that existed before the social contract & laws?
  • did the state of nature ever really exist?
  • what is the social contract according to Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau?
  • what moral rules are we bound to?
  • can we talk about the social ‘contract’ if we never had a chance to agree/sign up? or opt out?
  • what happens when someone transgresses or breaks the law within a social contract
  • human nature — good, bad, or both?
  • possible alternate Buddhist perspective on human nature & social contract

 

Thomas Hobbes believed that without laws, people existed (or would potentially exist) in a state of “war of all against all”.  In other words, because he believed human nature to be selfish and self-serving, it was assumed that without laws people would simply try to grab, steal and kill in order to get whatever they wanted.  It would be a world of every man for himself.  To escape this dangerous environment, Hobbes claimed that people joined together and formed a social contract, a set of rules that would govern behaviour, control our selfish human nature & create a mutually beneficial social order.

 

John Locke disagreed.  He believed mankind was generally logical and rational, and that the social contract emerged between individuals to delineate both natural and mutually beneficial codes of conduct.  Out of this perspective was born Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence which claimed — “we take these truths too e self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau took the idea of the social contract in another direction, claiming that mankind lived in an ideal state in nature and was corrupted by civilisation.  Social contracts could be made that were beneficial to all, but equally could corrupt human’s good and compassionate nature. We can trace this line of thinking in today’s environmental and indigenous rights movements as well as in socialism.

 

It was great to read these philosophers and consider the various social contracts we are a part of in our lives. Check out a great contemporary look at the social contract and the TV show the Walking Dead.

Another interesting part of our discussion this week was around whether we can consider our current laws and codes of conduct as a social ‘contract’ if we were never given a chance to agree or disagree — and if there is no realistic opt-out option?

What do you think? How does your view of human nature influence how you see our need for laws, codes of conduct and the formation of our current social contract?

 

 

Episode 89: Why we need Utopias

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at,” Oscar Wilde wrote, “for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of utopias.”

Utopian thinking gets a pretty bad rap. It is seen as a sign of unrealistic thinking, evidence that one is naive about human nature.

And yet some would argue that visions of Utopia are the boldest of political statements and can be the most effective social critiques since it involves imaginative thinking that encourages people to solve problems rather than simply be consumed by them (as often is the case with dystopias).

This week Clay and Sarah debate the usefulness as well as the problems of Utopian thinking and ask whether we need visions of Utopia.

 

In this episode:

  • Utopia as a social critique and process of envisioning a better world
  • the dark side of Utopia – social control, human nature & fact that “your utopia is inevitably someone else’s dystopia”
  • Why we don’t think as much about Utopia as we do about Dystopian visions
  • Plato’s Republic, Thomas Moore’s Utopia and the role of contemplation in Utopian visions
  • Utopia can provide a direction more than a destination
  • What our personal utopia would look like…
  • Elon Musk – is he a modern utopian thinker?

 

Utopia is a difficult concept to grapple with, not least because we are all very aware of the dark sides of human nature.  Our propensity for greed, power grabbing and brutality to name just a few.  And we have scary examples of utopian visions from the 20th Century in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, and Maoist China.

“Utopias are usually products of a singular imagination or small group…[and] too often consider people as organic material to be shaped, not as wilful agents,” claims the introduction to the website openutopia.org.

In his article ‘How Utopia Shaped the World’, Tom Hodgkinson agrees that, “the fundamental problem in creating perfect worlds: people don’t like being told what to do.”

However there are others who would argue that Utopian visions are incredibly important as a means not only of powerful social critique but of clarifying where we are headed as a society.

“Utopianism functions like a microscope isolating and then magnifying aspects of existing, non-utopian societies,” writes Howard P. Segal.  “In its most substantial forms, utopianism remains a provocative means of offering constructive criticism of existing society in order to improve upon it, not to abandon it.”

In fact, we can distinguish two aspects of Utopian thinking — visions of Utopia that manifest in creative works such as novels like Plato’s Republic, Thomas Moore’s Utopia, Aldous Huxley’s The Island (interestingly written as a counterpart to his dystopian novel Brave New World), songs like John Lennon’s Imagine etc.  These should be distinguished between attempts to impose political ‘utopias’ on a population, acts that remind us of many political disasters but also might include people like Robert Owen, a 19th C mill owner who set up the model of village of New Lanark in Scotland.

“Utopianism is a means of holding in our mind’s eye the possibility of a world free of oppression and domination and charting a course towards its shore.  It is less a blueprint than a direction,” writes Ed Simon.

A similar interpretation of the importance of Utopia is taken by Thomas Hey in his article “Why we still need Utopias”. “We need utopian thinking not because we are intending to produce a perfect world but because it helps us establish our own values” and steers us in the direction we would hope to travel.

Clay wrote up a version of his Utopia:

“There would have to be an infinite abundance of everything…there would be no possessions, no marriage, no liking or disliking another person…we’d have an overabundnace of love for everybody…there would be no labelling of sexual preference in other words there would be no term for gay or lesbian you’d be free to have sex with whoever you wanted, male or female…we’d have AI robots (like the ones in the tv series Humans) to do everything that humans currently have to do in terms of work…real humans would be free to create things…all labour would be done by robots and androids…our food would be tablet based…so no over eating, no need to grow food, no need to farm animals…people could tap their imagination into a super computer and use 3d printing technology to create whatever they could imagine…so if you wanted a fancy car you pretty much just imagine it into existence…there be no countries, no language difference, no political systems, no ecomonic systems…we’d engineer emotions like hate, jealousy, envy, greed, gluttony out of humans…basically we’d only be capable of love and happiness…”

 

What’s your version of Utopia?  We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Episode 88: What kind of ‘intelligent’ are you?

What does it mean to be smart? Usually when we say someone is really intelligent, what we mean is that they are ‘book smart’, that they were good in academic subjects. Yet “human beings have very different kinds of intellectual strengths,” claims Howard Gardner.  And he should know.  Gardner has spent decades now developing a theory of Multiple Intelligence which lists up to ten different kinds of intelligence.  So what kind of ‘intelligent’ are you?

This week, Clay and Sarah discuss the theory of Multiple Intelligence.

 

In this episode we discuss:

  • description of the ten different kinds of intelligence
  • Background of Howard Gardner’s research
  • implications in education and how we assess intelligence
  • historical perspective on which kinds of intelligences were valued at different times
  • what Multiple Intelligence means for our future
  • Clay and Sarah’s results from their Multiple Intelligence test (you can take it here)

 

If everyone’s intelligence was the same, “we could teach everyone the same things int he same way and assess them in the same way and that would be fair… But once we realised that different people have very different kinds of minds, different kinds of strengths — some people think spatially, other people are very good with language, other people are very logical — then education that treats everyone the same is actually the most unfair education because it picks out one kind of mind, what I call the law professor mind, someone who is very linguistic and logical. And it says ‘if you think like that, great! If you don’t think like that there’s no room on the train for you.'”  Howard Gardner’s explanation of his theory of Multiple Intelligence demonstrates what a massive impact our understanding of human intelligence has on all of us at a very personal level.

 

Our Multiple Intelligences:

(1) Linguistic – sensitivity to the meaning of words, order of words, sound and rhythm of words etc.

(2) Logical-Mathematical – capacity to conceptualise logical relations among actions or symbols

(3) Visual-Spatial – ability to conceptualise and manipulate things in space

(4) Intrapersonal – sensitivity to one’s own feelings, goals, anxieties and capacity to plan and act in light of one’s own habits

(5) Interpersonal – ability to interact effectively with others. Sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperament and motivations

(6) Musical – sensitivity to rhythm, tone, melody etc.

(7) Bodily-Kinesthetic – ability to use the body to solve problems or create

(8) Naturalistic – ability to distinguish aspects of nature (plants, clouds etc.)

(9) Pedagogical – ability to teach

(10) Existential – ability to ask and seek responses to the big questions of life, meaning, spirituality etc.

 

Looking down this list, it is clear which aspects of intelligence were valued and which were not.

There are countless stories of athletes finding solace in sports because they were told at school that they weren’t smart.  Similarly certain kinds of knowledge get higher status than others — those were know calculus and have mathematical knowledge, for instance, are seen as more clever than those who have a vast knowledge of the natural world and can distinguish various kinds of plants or recognise subtle changes in cloud formations.

We take many of these assumptions as self-evident.  We assume calculus IS more difficult than naturalistic knowledge. But this is simply the historical lens were are looking through in our modern world.  In an interesting interview with Alanis Morissette (who has a lot of say about Multiple Intelligence in terms of the perceptions of musical ability), Howard Gardner explains that — “as the ecology of our world changes, the kinds of intelligence we value changes.”

For example, at a time when hunters and farmers were the most important people in terms of survival, those with naturalistic and spatial-kinesthetic intelligence would have been the ‘smartest’.  In the 19th century, getting into Harvard was not based as it is today on certain kinds of linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence, but was based on knowledge of Greek and Latin, or an ability to learn languages.

And in the future, as machines and artificial intelligences surpass humans’ ability to solve logical-mathematical problems, this kind of intelligence will become less and less a marker of intellectual ability, and perhaps it will be the kinesthetic, musical or intrapersonal aspects of intelligence that will come to the fore.

Many of us might have experienced what Ken Robinson describes in his TED talk — “Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued or was actually stigmatised.”

But we can take the theory of Multiple Intelligence and reshape how we think about others around us, our kids AND OURSELVES.

What kind of Intelligent are YOU? Here’s the link for the test Clay and Sarah took.

Episode 87: Synchronicity & the Interconnectedness of Things

Have you ever thought about an old friend you haven’t seen in years and then bumped into them shortly after? Have you ever known something you couldn’t have known — that someone in your family had been hurt or had died? Have you ever been recommended the same book by several different people that came at just the right time to answer a big life question?

We call these events Coincidences.  But Carl Jung called them something else…examples of Synchronicity, and the result of the Interconnectedness of Things.

This week Clay and Sarah discuss Synchronicity, our interconnection and how this impacts our lives.

 

In this episode:

* Sarah & Clay’s personal experiences of synchronicity

* Jung’s definition of Sychronicity

* skeptics

* relation to paranormal experiences

* comparison between sychronicity and karma

* The Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield in relation to sychronicity

 

Sychronicity can be loosely defined as “meaningful coincidences”.  There are events, Jung claimed, that are linked by meaning, not cause.

These events may have meaning on a individual level but would not mean something for everyone.  For instance, Jung worked with a woman who saw a flock of birds land outside her window each time there was a death in the family.  Mark Vernon has written an interesting article on Jung’s concept of sychrononicty in relation to the patients he worked with.

Many people have experiences these kinds of events…times when something very meaningful has happened, seemingly by chance, but was incredibly unlikely to happen.  These events feel deeply meaningful, as if there is more to it than simple coincidence.

For instance, many people have had experiences of knowing — through dreams or intuition — that a loved one has died before anyone told them.

Synchronicity hints at an underlying mystery to life.  That we are interconnected in ways not readily apparent.  And while skeptics might argue that there is not scientific or objective way to determine whether synchronicity is valid or not, this not make it untrue.

The novel The Celestine Prophesy, which tells of an ancient manuscript that gives nine insights into the meaning of life, begins with the concept of synchronicity.  Someone explains to the main character that “the first insight occurs when we become conscious of the coincidences in our lives.”  These coincidences happen more frequently, beyond what would be expected by pure chance, and feel destined.  They induce a feeling of mystery and excitement.

And, the novel claims, it is this experience of “meaningful coincidences” that lead us to reconsider the inherent mystery that surrounds our individual lives on this planet.

What do you think? Have you had moments of synchronicity in your life? Occurrences that have no causal link but are so meaningful they seem more than pure chance?