Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

10.08.2015

Discovering Mark Manson

I just came across one of Mark Manson's articles today and liked it enough I wanted to know more about him, and the more I found the more I liked.  I'm not so interested in his dating material (though I like what he had to say in the bit I saw) and have to admit to being a bit turned off by the fact that he started off as a dating guru, but I skimmed some of his more recent thoughts on wider topics and really enjoyed what he had to say.  Here's what I liked in my skimming:


From THE SOLUTION TO ALL OF YOUR LIFE’S PROBLEMS
STEP 1: CHOOSE A SET OF BELIEFS THAT CANNOT BE EASILY PROVEN OR DISPROVEN

STEP 2: PRE-EMPTIVELY INVALIDATE ALL CRITICISM OR QUESTIONING

STEP 3: FIND YOUR PEOPLE

STEP 4: CREATE AN “US VS THEM” MENTALITY

STEP 5: PROMISE HEAVEN, DELIVER HELL

STEP 6: PROFIT

This may all make you laugh. It may make you cry. It may make you want to beat me over the head with a tire iron. But the sad thing is that nothing that I have described in this article so far is particularly extraordinary or uncommon. It happens all the time. It’s happening right now.

We’re humans. We all need to buy into belief systems on complete faith. We all need to feel some form of an “us vs them” mentality. We all want to believe that eternal happiness, salvation, utopia, enlightenment or whatever can be achieved in our lifetime. And we all have this unnerving feeling that everything we love and appreciate will one day collapse and be taken from us. . . .

Enlightenment thinkers such as Locke and Voltaire believed that, as humans, the only way to combat our inherently cultish nature was to exercise our use of reason in wide scale decision-making, and that tolerance, pluralism, and inclusion were inherently better values than the alternatives.

It’s upon these ideas that pretty much the entire modern world was founded and they have survived, despite the fact that they are consistently attacked both from within and without their own societies. . . .

The only real way out of our own self-hatred and self-destructive nature is not declaring how right we are, but rather in accepting how wrong we are. It comes in questioning those base instincts, those knee-jerk judgments. It comes in the courage to question our most closely-held beliefs and fight against the tyranny of our own certainty.

And paradoxically, it’s out of this new uncertainty that the rays of self-acceptance shine through.

From 5 THINGS THAT SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN EVERY SCHOOL
1. PERSONAL FINANCE

This financial illiteracy is actually a really big problem. Because, see, if you have a society full of people buying a bunch of crap they can’t afford, retiring with no savings, getting sick and not being able to afford health care — well, that screws all of us in a major way. . . .

2. RELATIONSHIPS

Curriculum Would Include: Communicating your feelings without blaming or judging each other; how to spot manipulative behavior and cut it off; personal boundaries and not being a pushover; honest discussions about sexuality and how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to love; “Fuck Yes” consent and how the experiences of men and women differ. . . .

Many things make for a happy life, but few things have as much influence and impact as our relationships do. Learning how to not stumble through them like a drunken asshole and how to exercise some conscious control of how you express your emotions and intimacy is possibly the most life-changing skill set I’ve ever come across.

Because we’re not just talking about how to get wifey’d and have sexy time. We’re talking about capital-R Relationships: how to be a good friend, how to not treat your family like dog shit, how to deal with conflict at work, how to take responsibility for your own emotions and problems and neuroses without dragging the rest of the world down with you.

As humans, we are fundamentally social animals. We don’t exist in a vacuum. We can’t. Our social bonds make up the fabric of our life. The question is: are yours made of smooth silk or cheap polyester? . . .

3. LOGIC AND REASONING

Why It’s Important: The point is, we’re making these logical fallacies all the time. And often in subtle ways that go unnoticed by us. And often regarding important decisions and beliefs that have life-or-death consequences. They creep up in political campaigns (X is good at making money; governments need to make money; therefore X will be good at government), civil rights issues, moral and ethical decisions (Bob lies to me, therefore I should be able to lie to Bob), dealing with personal conflicts, and so on.

These logical fallacies then infiltrate our lives by causing us to make dumb decisions. Dumb decisions about our health, our relationships, our career, pretty much everything. . . .

4. SELF-AWARENESS

Why It’s Important: A high degree of self-awareness has been found in research to benefit, well, just about everything. People who develop meta-cognition skills are better planners, more disciplined, more focused, more attuned to their emotions, better decision-makers, and better able to foresee potential problems ahead. . . .

5. SKEPTICISM

Curriculum Would Include: Why everything we believe is most likely wrong to some degree; why our memories are completely unreliable; how fields as seemingly sturdy as mathematics and physics are full of unresolvable uncertainty; how we’re all terrible judges of both what made us happy/unhappy in the past and what will make us happy/unhappy in the future; how the most important events in history are always those that are least predictable; how it’s certainty and rigidness of belief that leads to evil and violence, not the opposite; that much of what passes for scientific knowledge today is based on research that has repeatedly failed to be replicated or verified; and so on.

Why It’s Important: Pretty much anything good in life comes from uncertainty or a state of not knowing. Uncertainty is what drives you to become curious, to learn, to test new ideas, to communicate your intentions to others. It’s what keeps you humble. It helps you accept whatever comes along. It allows you to see others without unfair judgments and biases.

Pretty much anything bad in life comes from certainty: complacency, arrogance, bigotry and unfair prejudice. People don’t get together and form religious cults and then drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid because they’re uncertain about something. They do it because they’re certain. Governments don’t starve and murder millions of their own citizens because of uncertainty. They do it because of certainty. People don’t fall into deep depression, obsessively stalk their ex, or shoot up a school because they’re uncertain about themselves. They do it because they’re certain. . . . 

From IN THE FUTURE, OUR ATTENTION WILL BE SOLD
The scarcity in our world is no longer knowledge. There’s an abundance of knowledge, just as there’s an abundance of labor and an abundance of land.

No, the new scarcity in the internet age is attention. Since there is a surplus of information, more information flowing through our society than any of us could ever hope to process or understand, the new bottleneck on our economy is attention. We now live in an attention-based economy.

This is why today we are each bombarded with over 3,000 advertising messages per day. This is why these advertisements get zanier and more nonsensical — like the Geico gecko or the Old Spice guy — because the goal of advertisements is no longer information but simply attention. . . .

This is why politics is becoming less about actual policies and more about dramatic actions designed to draw either positive or negative attention to various actors and political parties. . . .

Social networks are the business model of the attention economy. They are wholly dependent on eyeballs and clicks to make all of their revenue. To do this, they design algorithms that show you the most interesting and attention-grabbing information available in your social network. If your newsfeed was full of the boring and drab day-to-day stuff, you’d stop looking at it. So instead, Facebook shows you the most extreme occurrences in your social network for the simple reason that the extreme events draw the most attention.

This has drastic effects not only on our perceptions of society as a whole, but also on how we perceive our personal lives. . . .

The problem is that the attention economy makes it economical to spread one’s attention across eight different interests and 23 different friends each day. And because we’re all spreading our attention so thin, many of us are losing the all-important life skill of focus.

Focus is what generates long-term success. Focus leads to deeper and more meaningful relationships. Focus determines how well we can improve at something. Yet our current economy is constantly providing incentive away from focus and towards — whoa, did you see that video of the guy on the motorcycle who landed on the car? That was crazy! . . .

Limitless access to knowledge brings limitless opportunity. But only to those who learn to manage the new currency: their attention. In the new economy, the most valuable asset you can accumulate may not be money, may not be wealth, may not even be knowledge, but rather, the ability to control your own attention, and to focus.

Because until you are able to limit your attention, until you are able to turn away, at will, from all of the shiny things and nipple slips, until you are able to consciously choose what has value to you and what does not, you and I and everyone else will continue to be served up garbage indefinitely. And it will not get better, it will get worse.

In the future, your attention will be sold. And it may be that the only people able to capitalize, are the people that can control their own.

And, from the one that got me started, HOW WE ALL MISS THE POINT ON SCHOOL SHOOTINGS
Despite what media outlets would later claim, Eric Harris was not the victim of bullying any more than other students, he was not a goth or a member of the “Trench Coat Mafia.” Eric was a straight-A student. He read Nietzsche and Hemingway for fun. He had friends and girlfriends. He was charming and funny and had a disarming smile.

But Eric also understood people. And because he understood people, he changed everything. . . .

All of the explanations were later discovered to be untrue. The event truly seemed inexplicable. And because it was inexplicable the media and the viewers couldn’t let it go. Books were written. Memorials were built and ceremonies filled out. Eric Harris got his death wish: “Columbine” was a household name. . . .

School shootings only account for 4% of all mass shootings and yet they dominate the news media and get the entire country talking about them for weeks on end. . . .

Their killing sprees are specifically targeted to generate the most fear and uncertainty from the public, because the more fear and uncertainty they generate, the more attention they get. They then use all of the attention as a platform to promote themselves or whatever complaints they may have against society. It’s the Columbine formula. It works. And as Eric Harris pointed out in his journal, it’s not about the guns. It’s about the television. The films. The fame. The revolution. . . .

For a country that is so single-mindedly obsessed with terrorism, it’s jaw-dropping that almost nobody recognizes that school shooters use the exact same strategies to disseminate fear and their twisted agendas throughout society. Terrorists use violence and mass media coverage to promote political or religious beliefs; school shooters use violence and mass media coverage to promote their personal grievances and glorification. . . .

When we think of terrorists, we think of some alien “other” — the bearded, turbaned man hiding in some cave on the other side of the world. Because he’s so distant and different, we let him eat at our imagination — he could be anywhere, ready to strike at any moment, hiding in behind every bush, planting a bomb on every bus or plane. We clog our airports and blast warnings through our public buildings for some imagined bogeyman who is never actually present.

By contrast, we fail to spot shooter after shooter because they are so close to us and so much like us. We miss them because they are our neighbors, our classmates, our friends or even our family members. They are right in front of our noses and we ignore them for a whole host of trivial reasons. Maybe they’re too weird, or awkward, or they’re a loser. We don’t want to talk to them. We put our blinders on and pretend that they’re not miserable, we pretend that they didn’t just have that awkward outburst, we pretend they didn’t just make a joke about killing their own parents. . . .

Gun control gets the headlines. Mental health care gets the headlines. Violence and video games and misogyny and internet forums and atheism — the list is endless at this point.

Here’s what doesn’t get the headlines: Empathy. Listening to those around you. Even if you don’t like them very much. We have come to live in a culture where it’s taboo or unacceptable to simply check in with people emotionally and offer some empathy and understanding. I’m not saying this would magically fix all gun violence. I’m just saying that all of these things — the lack of gun laws, the lack of health care, the inability to have basic conversations with friends and neighbors about what’s going on with them, these are all extensions of a callous and self-absorbed culture that lacks any real empathy.

Despite being relevant and important discussions, the glamorous headlines are ultimately distractions — they just feed into the carnage and the attention and the fame the killer desired. They are distractions from what is right in front of you and me and the victims of tomorrow’s shooting: people who need help. And while we’re all fighting over whose pet cause is more right and more true and more noble, there’s likely another young man out there, maybe suicidally depressed, maybe paranoid and delusional, maybe a psychopath, and he’s researching guns and bombs and mapping out schools and recording videos and thinking every day about the anger and hate he feels for this world.

And no one is paying attention to him.

I'm now following Mark Manson on Facebook and hope to keep reading him.

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