Listening improves thinking;
thinking improves reading;
reading improves writing;
writing improves speaking…
An Improvement Loop
Listening improves thinking;
Listening improves thinking;
thinking improves reading;
reading improves writing;
writing improves speaking…
A bed demon under my pillow forces my eyelids open at night so that I can doomscroll on Twitter.
Problem solved? The thing that was bothering you has come and gone like everything else. What’s next on the worry list? Maybe while you’re thinking like this, you could add a few more items – and for every one that goes away you could add three more. Or don’t. Most problems disappear when the thinking about them stops.
What happens when you get everything you think you wanted? Unless you change with the changing circumstance, you will still be in the same mode of lacking, and will still thirst for more.
The universe is both beautiful and horrific. From some higher level, where things don’t matter so much, it might all be viewed as a single magnificently interesting thread of life.
Late last night in the street, a blue illuminated face peered down into the glow and said, “Don’t worry Charlie, whatever’s gonna happen, gonna happen.” Wise words there in the darkness.
Self-discipline is a necessary virtue for any progress. A useful question to ask oneself is: what am I learning?
Live this moment with inner quality.
Being viewed as attractive is attractive. A woman turned on is a turn on.
I do not subscribe to the view that people who do terrible things believe their actions are necessary for a greater good. I think many such people go out of their way to inflict misery and take a perverse pleasure in their power to do so. We often have to endure a high concentration of these people in high places because they have had a lifelong obsession with power and the unyielding desire to wield it over others, with no moral qualms about destroying anyone deemed a threat to their manipulations.
It is fashionable to try to explain wickedness as the result of a series of rational decisions based on a certain set of beliefs, such as by those who perpetrate atrocities in the name of religion, or rulers who commit genocide and other horrors – and in a way it is heartwarming that proponents do not understand the nature of evil or what it does; but they should realise that the subjects of their empathy, underneath often charming facades, think of them as weak dupes to be taken advantage of and abused.
To describe evil-inclined people as ill, and that some were tragically born with a high susceptibility to the disease, is nearer to the truth.
I have no way of knowing what people really think in Russia; but I would take a speculative guess and say something like:
As ever, really it is the majority of people in the middle who hold the power, though they often don’t realise it.
I remember a time, not so long ago, when boredom was a thing; now we are all overstimulated finger flickers. I think people are less happy, generally, and it’s mostly due to how we currently interact with technology, or more precisely, how we are conditioned to behave by the platforms we use.
I’ve monitored how I feel before and after looking at Twitter. Usually, I feel negatively impacted by the descent – because of the stream of whinging antagonisms, generic bot comments, political gaming, crazed self-promotion, and all the other crapness to be waded through. The moments that are interesting or amusing bait me, and keep me addicted to the corrosive slime.
Looking at the feeds from other platforms, such as TikTok, is also an ultimately unfulfilling, hollowing out experience. Social media is an addiction that pours toxins into my psyche; something to be taken in small doses or not at all.
A despicable act is particularly reprehensible when the perpetrators have had every chance to know better. In the 21st century, behaving like barbarians wanting to resurrect the evils of the past is especially vile.
My opinion has long been that Putin is a psychopathic gangster boss with a corrupt state under his brutal control; yet another despot who murdered anyone perceived as a threat, perverted any justice in government institutions, deceived his people, and stole from his country, like all these types of thugs do. My surprise lately is that he has also shown himself to be colossally stupid. He will lose, the only uncertainty is the amount of destruction he will cause the world in his downfall.
I remember once being in a London restaurant with three Russian women (a long story), when one of them proudly told me that her father was an ex-KGB officer, as if it were a laudable signal of status for her family. What shocked me was that it didn’t seem to cross any of their minds that I equate that bunch of killers with the Gestapo; that I think of it as a violent instrument of the depraved monsters in power that subjugated, tortured and murdered so many people. The reality of the fact seemed to be completely inverted by them away from the appropriate emotions of shame and regret.
Russia, after over thirty years since the collapse of the horrific soviet empire, with all its vast natural resources at its disposal, should not have a tiny, rotten economy, with a GDP per head of an impoverished country. Putinland’s main exports have been weapons and the planet-killing fuels extracted from within its own borders; it creates nothing, except the miseries of war.
I’m not interested in your hair, eye or skin colour. I don’t care what type of person you fancy. I don’t care what you identify as or belief system you follow. Just be kind.
Humans came along for the ride at the halfway point between life beginning on earth, about 4 billion years ago, and life ending in another 4 billion years, with the melting of the planet’s surface under an intensifying sun. Science fiction and other human projections are typically set in the myopic near future of at most a few thousand years – well how about an amount that is actually noticeable in the life of earth, say in one billion years?
I’m sitting here under an old oak true, on a bright September afternoon, with my phone at the ready, having told myself to record literally anything that pops into my head. Well the first thought that jumps to the top of the queue isn’t particularly interesting, but here goes…
It is quite an old joke that “it’s er” can sound like “sir” when introducing oneself. So I remember going to some event where I had to sign in at the front desk; I introduced myself as “it’s”, then as the man behind the desk was picking up his pen, I offered the dreaded “er”, before finally saying my name. He had a moment of sardonic glee, then sneered: “Sir Robert Walker, is it?”
I said “not yet” and the man next to him, who had been intently looking down, broke into a laugh – it must have been how I said it rather than what I said. The first man actually grimaced and grumbled to himself, as if annoyed by my response. My interpretation walking away was that he was expecting people to be nervous and this was his welcome, from a raised chair behind a desk within an institution.
I’m thinking of this now more as an observation of how some people engage in this world trying to subdue others. The man would have been a lot happier if he was interested in helping rather than hindering the people he met.
If you are indifferent to other people’s opinions about you:
You don’t need to pretend or hide anything;
You don’t need to worry about impressions or what was said;
You don’t need to conform to rigid or mistuned expectations;
You don’t need to be offended or hurt by words;
There is no need to show-off and chase false, empty priorities;
You break an addiction to the approval of others;
You break free from inhibitions;
You have freedom to be who you are.
Dead shadows dance in the night
yearning for the dawn.
Cold and forgotten walking scars,
drained by decay,
wasted by time,
hungered and blurred,
to a spark ignited,
rising from the ground.
From the last depths,
rays of hope entwine in the sky,
kissing the hills;
breathing new life
and wonders layered in light.
Naked with joy, a new day, a new world is born.
What would have happened if Gandalf had accepted Frodo’s offer of the One Ring?
Gandalf freezes, the shadow of the ring draws his hand nearer; and as the fire skips a beat, the ring falls into Gandalf’s pocket. “I shall keep the ring safe and unused. However if there is just cause to use it, I shall become the guarantor of peace,” announces Gandalf solemnly.
As night draws in, Gandalf looks back over the hills at the tiny flickering lights of the Shire. The wizard whispers to himself: “There is much to do. Much to do.” He notices the weight of his robes and the precious ring within.
Gandalf wanders, ruminating intensely upon the weaknesses of elves and men. He reasons that elves are incapable of comprehending the true power of the Ring, and would foolishly wish to destroy the golden future of Middle-earth. He knows that mere men are too easily corrupted by its power. Gandalf is absolutely resolved: he must keep the Master Ring his own secret, at all costs.
Gandalf sits on the crest of Weathertop. The days pass, the rain falls but Gandalf does not notice; he is lost in matters of deepest consequence. Then out of every corner of the darkness come the cries of The Nine: “The Ring. The Ring!”
Gandalf raises his staff and proclaims: “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor, your master, the Lord of the Ring!”
“The Ring. The Ring!” chant The Nine. As the Ring slides onto Gandalf’s finger, the sky erupts with lightning. “I am the bringer of light,” exclaims Gandalf in triumph.
Gandalf of Many Colours imprisons Saruman the Traitor and unifies elves and men against Sauron, destroying the Dark Lord and his Dark Tower of Mordor. Much rejoicing is had by all. Gandalf announces that there is much more to do – to the consternation of Aragorn, who is executed for treason, with all his followers, kinsfolk and other suspected spies of Elrond.
Gandalf later wears an imperial gown of black and proclaims himself the Lord High God of all Middle-earth. He anoints his Ringwraiths the Lords of Middle-earth, as a temporary edict to ensure order while the new Great Age of Wisdom is being forged. He puts his vast prison camps of heretics and traitors to work, building a bigger more magnificent tower on the ruins of the Dark Tower, called The Great Tower of Unity – as an example of beauty and perfection to all. Gandalf sits at the top of the tower in his golden throne room and ever-watches, ensuring his subjects are forever obeying his great will.
Gandalf is regularly overcome with anger at the disloyalty and ingratitude of his subjects, which necessitates public demonstrations of his great power, much to the amusement of the uruk-hai. Transgressors of the laws of Gandalf are sent to Mordor to learn more of The Way of Gandalf – they are not seen again.
One day, as the Lord High God of all Middle-earth is amusing himself with the antics of his hobbit court jesters, he sips from a chalice of poisoned wine, carefully prepared by his servant Grima Wormtongue. He takes his last gasp as the Ring slips from his withered finger onto the finger of his murderer. The Great Tower of Unity is renamed The Dark Tower.
But Gandalf had foreseen and refused this fate, placing his hope instead on the unnoticed deeds of hobbits. “Will you not take the Ring?” says Frodo. “No!” cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. “With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.” His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. “Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me!”
Imagine if each of your waking thoughts were logged and at the end of the day you read them back.
It would be line after line of the same thoughts pointlessly repeated.
Imagine if this were a person hanging around saying this monologue to you.
Would you be wanting more or would you prefer some peace and quiet?
Galaxies are micro specks in the universe, yet the nearest galaxy to Earth is tens of thousands of light years away. This should make the ego feel silly, and the heart in awe at the unimaginable immensity of it all.
There are five stages in the human expansion story:
To physically visit a planet at the intergalactic stage might be entirely irrelevant to any intelligent species that evolves to such a level to circumvent the speed of light – they may discover something fundamental to the nature of the universe that is completely incomprehensible to us, in our rudimentary stage of development.
The “us” and “them” mentality is the biggest obstacle to overcome. There is only we.
A successful society unlocks all people’s potential for kindness, fulfilment and happiness.
Science fiction presents some baffling themes around causality; for example, the future is the past because events are synchronous in all places at the same time. The current everyday understanding of causality is equally bizarre, however, since a causal chain of events cannot lead back forever, without having a prime initiating point that is outside of these rules.
A fear of loneliness leads to desperate actions initiating pain. Enjoying the peace of solitude is breaking free from this chronic condition; and provides the realisation that if you are already complete in yourself then there is more love in you to share.
Slot-in, copy and repeat, replace yourself, wear-out, then die.
Look down on someone to be a success.
Or change the program.
The first stage of learning is being unconsciously incompetent: you don’t know what you’re not good at because you don’t know what you don’t know. Well-being skills can be learnt. One typical motif is that how you look at anything changes your experience; for example: anxiety can feel like pleasurable excitement, as the body in both mental modes vibrates in a similar state of high energy; or a difficult situation is your challenge to evolve and an opportunity for personal discovery; or peace of mind is your inner state of being, not the possession of external conditions. And so on, all empirically true but under-practiced.
A background script to run
Triggered on recognition event()
The verbal attacker desires to assert their ego over the other.
If you behave outside of current norms, people will often interpret this as either the high status of trendsetting and being above what is usually expected, or low status not fitting in.
Status sensitivity is social madness because every single person is in fact unusual.
A satisfying aspect of being a monarch would have been to have resources instantly directed to your ideas whenever you wanted. Unfortunately it seems in all societies all around the world, these ideas were focused on who they were going to invade next.
Anger. What a silly thing.
Is it of any use? Nope, it unbalances you.
The orcs in the Lord of the Rings are driven by fury and are utterly useless at combat.
Energy from anger is polluted, destructive, counter-productive.
It can be used to instil fear, to incite others and to self-aggrandise – which is why it has been the emotion of choice by demagogues and sociopaths.
It is often learned as the default response to any frustration.
There is often anger at other people for not behaving as it is believed they should.
The reality however is that you have no real idea what has and is happening in the other person’s life you are judging.
The fact is you only ever see a tiny aspect of all the parts in motion.
Challenges are opportunities for insight – the harder the situation the higher the view.
In the world of work, a meeting without creating an output of value is a drain on energy and time. Incessant thinking is the perpetual meeting in the head; and if it is just going over and over the same issues without providing constructive insight, then it is pointless at best, destructive at worst. Outside this room of perpetual thinking is the freedom to notice and enjoy what is happening, instead of what you are imagining.
If you are truly happy, it is impossible to be petty, self-absorbed or unkind. Happiness lives in a much better place.
If you choose to share in the happiness of others, rather than compulsively dwelling on negatives, then you have happiness for free.
I seem to get satisfaction out of pushing myself physically – maybe because in my mind I am subscribing to the motto “no pain, no gain”. A variation on the theme is that anything initially perceived as negative can be viewed as part of a greater improvement process.
The old line with IT is that if you want a problem fixed “turn it off then on again”. The reason is that resetting can untangle mixed-up memory and processes.
The mind if not switched-off will often relentlessly loop on the same set of thoughts, gradually wearing you down, sometimes with its own errors and fictions.
There are exercises that help you apply the IT solution, and they’ve worked for thousands of years.
In history there are countless examples where twisted interpretations of beliefs lead to the justification, or even glorification, of murderous and sadistic tendencies. Such beliefs give a person an identity in opposition to and superiority over other people, who can be condemned and abused from a position of personal righteousness.
True compassion serves as a natural safety valve to corrupted belief, for the overriding question is always: am I alleviating suffering or causing it?
Original thinkers, artists and spiritual figures often had some of their best insights in the wilderness, in periods of solitude, outside of bustling society. Distance from the current melees gives a person a better perspective of the whole picture. More generally, insiders of the throng who are unaware of their predicament are condemned to behave as they think they are supposed to, blind to anything more than the current array of behaviours, even in extreme cases where it is insane.
All human beings are unique.
Uniqueness doesn’t have a category.
Categories confine a life to a label stamped on the head.
Categories are boxed, ordered and under control.
Categories deny humanity.
Demanding how other people think is a type of violent control, asserting oneself over them; seeing the multifaceted world, with endless possibilities, through just one dimension.
The whole song can be better heard by listening – rather than making and amplifying noise. The problem is the insistence on certainty, and building an identity around this, with everyone thinking they are always right. No matter how certain you think you are, even if momentarily touched with lucid insight, you are probably not completely right (yes, including this). There is no shame in not seeing everything or not understanding all the complexities and ramifications of all ends.
A few years ago, out of curiosity and in the hope of encountering some benevolent souls, I went to a Buddhist centre in London. I could see the practical benefit in the exercises being taught and listened to some wisdom words, but was far less impressed with the paradigm of shared beliefs being propagated. There were several comments that jarred me, such as hero-worshipping and speculating in earnest as to who was the greatest recent guru; or the retelling of fantastical cosmologies as a matter of fact. My mind was truly decided, however, when music and singing were attempted: no doubt the purpose was to emote joy, but the result was blank and joyless for me. Nothing close to truth would create art – the expression of the soul – that uninspiring.
At the end, the assembly exited the front door past two Buddhist religioners standing on either side, giving their goodbyes. The first person was everything I had hoped to find there – she clearly just radiated a sense of peace, compassion, joy and love. The second, who from the literature seemed to be the leader of the place, did not have the same effect on me; I had a feeling of disquiet and, to be honest, slight revulsion. I recognised that all too familiar look in his eye, which should not have been there in a person purporting to teach spirituality. Yes I can see you, I thought at the time, before leaving and never going back.
I think that practising the religion is great if it can help a person grow into the state of consciousness of the woman I encountered. More importantly though, the experience lasts in my memory because of the contrast presented to me between the two people: Do I want to be more like the one or the other?
What to do when you have everything?
Invent more problems.
Feel unsatisfied, waiting for an event in the future that never comes.
Fill the void with distractions and medications.
Become increasingly selfish, shallow and self-obsessed.
Worry about losing what you have.
Want what you have to be acknowledged as better than others.
(unless you can break this loop).
A question seems obvious when you have seen the answer.
A skill seems easy when you have practiced its mastery.
Only the time has changed.
If I had the choice now to pick how many years to live, I think I would choose 10,000, although maybe when getting close to the limit I might want another quota. I wouldn’t tick the box for a human eternity, as transience feels fundamental to the nature of life.
The dictionary definition of “atheist”, as a non-believer in God or Gods, isn’t accurate because there seems to be many people who think that the doctrinal teachings of religious institutions are cultural-based anachronisms – and so would be labelled “atheist” for not adhering to definitive religious beliefs about deities – yet believe in some higher spiritual power they cannot define.
There are several belief jumps in this sentence: The universe is a purposeless collection of matter that mindlessly configured itself by chance out of nothing, existing in time with causes and effects that had no beginning. A reasonable-minded adherent might be aware of the glaring uncertainties, but state it is more parsimonious to adopt a materialistic concept of reality than implant a God belief system as an unnecessary additional layer. Yet the certainty with which many proponents preach this position as absolute truth suggests a type of commitment witnessed in religious belief.
An agnostic would state that the ultimate “why” questions are unanswerable, so from a practical perspective we should just be concerned with the “how” questions. The materialist’s objections to agnosticism – based on the burden of proof for God being on the proponent – misses the point to an agnostic who has already ruled-out religious explanations of God, but not higher spiritual meaning and purpose to reality. A particularly zealous materialist might overplay the remit of verifiable facts by stating that opinions about ultimate meaning are irrelevant if they are not scientifically falsifiable – ignoring the fact that their own conceptual model for reality contains unfalsifiable conjecture.
My own instinctive opinion is that I believe religions share the same spiritual root, although the core message was often corrupted by the doctrines and institutions that arose. This is my personal version of “spiritual but not particularly religious”. As I am most familiar with Christianity I can be labelled Christian; however I do adopt a filter and select only what resonates with me, mindful that the scriptures were written and edited by early practitioners of the religion; and that the biblical canon was decided upon by the politics of powerful men in ecumenical councils, rather than being the unadulterated teachings of Christ. Looking back in history, the cruelties that have been perpetrated by professed followers of the religion represent the antithesis of the message of Christ; for real spirituality – the root of Christianity – is always inspired by love, joy, and peace.
Paradox of the day:
It’s in my best interests not to be so self-interested.
The implied current direction for the future is that all the functions of your phone will be migrated directly into your brain. The “screen” will be projected into your vision and options chosen by thoughts.
All vision, sound, thoughts and feelings could be recorded. You could download and replay any recording from your experiences, or indeed from any experience of anyone else. Communication by mindscapes would replace the spoken and written word.
Invented experiences could be created for you to replay or interact with.
Your perception of reality could be changed and selected thought patterns switched off.
Pleasure and pain sensations could be activated on demand.
Your thoughts could interact with an artificial intelligence that calculates the most efficient algorithm for any process you wish to undertake. You could instantly download data and skills; and have immensely augmented cognitive processing speeds.
Your mind could operate any physical body, humanoid or not. As only the brain would need to be maintained, you would potentially have ultra long life.
Of course a totalitarian regime could easily control their population by these means; and an empowered sadist would run amok in all the enslaved minds. Philosophically it makes me wonder what it is to be a human being, but in the realm of practicalities it makes me certain: humans must become worthy of the knowledge we are gaining.
Hateful behaviour provides lessons in how not to be.
There is a greater chance of releasing the magic if not consumed by self-aggrandizement or conforming to other people’s expectations, especially if the current norms are harmful and wrong. Success in transcendent goals is not the same as success in negotiating positions of status in the current society, which of course will change with the relentless passage of time. It just so happens, however, that those people who were motivated mainly by intrinsic value, rather than their individual psychological desires, produced the best long-lasting examples of beauty and creative human potential.
The Romans viewed the Colosseum as the zenith of civilisation, representing the natural order playing out, in tribute to the glory of the Gods. In the arena was unadulterated murder and torture for the entertainment of the baying crowds.
People two thousand years ago are us, just brought-up differently with different beliefs and living under different conditions.
Humanity has mostly now progressed to recognise the depraved evils that were socially accepted in previous times – yet a person of the time would have gone along with the accepted norm, assuming it was right because everyone else said it was right. They were wrong.
Unless you think we are currently at the zenith of civilisation, what are the great injustices of our time that are socially conditioned and accepted as normal justifiable behaviour?
If humans are around for billions of years, then we are currently the early originals.
Maybe we are at the stage where we are just starting to recognize some shapes.
200,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans in the world.
5,500 years ago, the written word begins.
475 years ago, the Scientific Revolution.
250 years ago, the Industrial Revolution.
150 years ago, the Technological Revolution.
70 years ago, digital electronic computers.
29 years ago, the Internet.
13 years ago, Smartphones & Social Media.
Another big changer due (or has already happened).
What will be the timeline in 1 billion years? The future could be completely incomprehensible from where we are now.
I believe that to thrive at being a good human is the purpose, and tend to subscribe to something along the lines that: form ends on death, but time is just a perspective from one vantage point because the past, present and future are really one; all things are a part of each other, connected strands in the great tapestry of life; and maybe there are other dimensions of reality and incalculable vantage points.
Any person has a wide range of emotions and impulses running through them, to lesser or greater degrees. Sometimes, given the right circumstances, grace can be found in the most surprising places; and sometimes ugliness is expressed where beauty usually resides.
Mindfulness is an awareness that enables greater choice over the energies that move you.