I had something approaching a moment of clarity whilst watching this video of some angry Floridians speaking out against a vote to make masks mandatory.
On the one hand, there’s a temptation to just laugh stuff like this off. It’s tempting to dismiss the people in it as fringe lunatics whose opinion doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of us reasonable folk.
But videos like this expose a very human tendency to put aside reason when we’re captured by an idea. It shows how easy it is to go completely off the rails when a bad idea happens to resonate with us. We’re all susceptible to this. This attachment to an idea, and the willingness to follow it down whatever rabbit hole it leads, is the cognitive error behind every form of extremism afflicting the world today.
To see this problem clearly, and more importantly to begin addressing it, we need to stop thinking about this disease only in terms if its various symptoms. Racism, homophobia, sexism, religion fanaticism. These aren’t separate problems. They’re different symptoms of a disease known as the failure of reasoning. It’s what happens when our feelings are powerful enough that we stop caring about whether they make sense.
I’m not trying to say that feelings don’t matter. It’s feeling that point us towards problems, it’s feelings that make us care enough that we want to do something about this problems. But feelings aren’t enough, we need to think clearly. It may be our feelings which inspire us to address a situation, but it’s the ability to put them to one side that allows us to find solutions.
Political correctness feels like a no-brainer to its advocates, and it would be really great if it was. But sadly this confidence, and the tendency towards absolutism to which it tends inevitably cause more problems than solutions. As Stephen Fry points out:
I’m standing next to someone with whom I have…differences in terms of politics and all sorts of other things, precisely because I think all this has got to stop. This rage, resentment, hostility, intolerance. Above all, this “with us or against us” certainty.
Regardless of which side of the debate you stand, you’ll almost certainly be able to point to the rage, resentment, hostility and intolerance of “the other side” as evidence of their misguidedness. But even if you’re right, this isn’t an end point. The day has to come where we choose to stand beside those with whom we disagree and talk to them. The language we use is secondary to the fact that we speak.
June 25, 2020 12:25 pm - Steve Peters
Look, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be having conversations. In fact, I very strongly believe we need to be having more. Discourse is sorely lacking in today’s climate of outrage and tribalism. So maybe I’m being unreasonable for asking for more. It just feels like so many of the so-called conversations we’re having are…continue reading on Medium…
A lovely piece by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits on getting started with a meditation practice and the benefits of doing so:
Lots of people think meditation is about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. It’s not. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. We all do. Our brains are thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and practice some more when your mind wanders.
June 24, 2020 7:51 am - Steve Peters
Sometimes you’ll be walking down the street and another person will be walking towards you, and you’ll kind of get in each other’s way. How you deal with this type of situation says a lot about you. It can go a few different ways. Sometimes, due to logistical factors, or the age or manoeuvrability of…continue reading on Medium…
I’ve read a great many things on the subject of lessons that can be learned from mindful practices, but this piece by Marley Flueger is easily one of my favourites:
The secret of yoga isn’t in the deepest backbend. It’s not in the perfect downward dog. There’s no secret in the longest-held “ohm.” The secret of yoga is in the things you teach yourself through repeated visits to your mat. It’s the practice of uncovering the wisdom of your soul.
Here are a few lessons you can learn if you show up and listen closely…
June 23, 2020 5:54 pm - Steve Peters
What do you want to do now? Think about that question for a moment. What’s the first thing that pops into your head? If the answer is; read this article, I’d be very surprised, yet that’s what you’re doing. I’m willing to bet this isn’t the first time that the thing you want to do…continue reading on Medium…
Clear, simple advice from Marianne Hayes on developing and maintaining a meditation practice. Particularly enjoyed this part about how meditation doesn’t need to be narrowly defined:
Chances are, you already meditate and aren’t even aware of it. My husband, a marathon runner, swears up and down that meditating isn’t his thing. But when I ask why he loves running, his answer is that it gives his mind a break. The rhythm of his feet hitting the pavement, his breath going in and out, the natural beauty he observes during a good run—all of it works in tandem to silence his thoughts and allow him to just be.