Angry Floridians Claim Covid-19 Masks Are The Work Of The Devil.

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.

Now More Than Ever.

Continuing the theme of political correctness, Zadie Smith’s wonderful short story about a society at the logical conclusion of “Cancel culture” feels worryingly prescient.

"The first step towards self knowledge is being able to laugh at yourself."
Is Political Correctness A Force For Good?

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.

Meditation for beginners.

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.

All of this is practice

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…

Seriously, do yourself a favour and read the whole thing.

What do you want to do now?

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…
What is stoicism?

Despite being a wonderfully practical philosophy, stoicism is often wrongly believed to be about simply gritting our teeth and enduring whatever comes our way. But this isn’t quite right.

In the video above, Ryan Holiday provides a nice primer on what the philosophy is, what it has to offer, and how it helps all kinds of people navigate the difficulties of life.

The 3 things that helped me finally stick with meditation.

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.

For my husband, running is a form of meditation.