Non-Knowing, Humility, & the Middle Way
C-19 bubble-popping, is-ness, narrative warfare, info ecology, & dehumanization
"Do not seek truth; only cease to cherish opinions."
Let me tell you a story of a humbling experience.
We've recently had many powerful conversations within Ouroboros around C-19 and other topics.
Regarding the C-19 stuff, a friend within Ouroboros called me out on being defensive; this is part of what he wrote:
“Notice how defensive your reply was when I merely suggested that documentaries are biased by their nature and should not be taken as objective truth. That should be telling about how deeply you’re clinging to your perception of what is happening right now.
As for me, I’m concerned about propaganda from both sides. I’m noticing a trend where, if the person is saying something that agrees with what you have already decided you believe then people are less likely to scrutinize that source. Someone will spend 20 minutes explaining why you can’t trust the media, the government, or anything for that matter. And then play a video of a floating head that says doctor in the corner and act like it’s gospel.
I’m pretty confident I could put on a white coat, have a name tag pop up with a fake credential and that video would spread around with many people taking it seriously.
Nobody trusts experts, unless they are experts who are going against the majority, then of course they must be telling the truth. They can’t have any agenda of their own except to be noble truth seekers. I think this assumption is dangerous and blinding.
Don’t assume that the “dissenters” are inherently noble and uncontaminated. Why are they able to sneak through the censorship? Maybe they are agents of chaos meant to cause even more confusion and division.
Assuming you know the truth in the middle of one of the most chaotic, confusing, and polarizing moments in our lifetime means you’re opening yourself up to biases and blind spots.
I feel as though your response to what is happening in the world contradicts your own teachings. You feel strongly about what your perceive as the truth and aren’t willing to consider that maybe it’s simply human incompetence that got us here rather than pre-meditated malevolence.
TL;DR: Don’t assume that people going against the mainstream narrative automatically have your best interests in mind. Everyone has their own agenda and their own biases and blind spots. Right know we’re standing in the middle of a tornado and everyone’s trying to guess where the house is going to land, what caused the tornado, is the tornado natural or man-made? And unfortunately we are unable to see the answers while standing in the middle of it. History only seems obvious to us as observers in the present.”
These words helped to ‘pop’ a bubble for me—a distortion-bubble created through over-attachment to my opinions the C-19 situation.
My friend then went on to quote my original essay on C-19 from March of 2020:
“If you think you know what the hell is going on, you’re probably full of shit.”
— Robert Anton Wilson
“Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realise that you are sick;
Then you can move toward health.
The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.”
— Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
A truly peculiar thing about the coronavirus (aka COVID-19) situation is that some of the wisest and most brilliant humans I know…
Wildly disagree about what is happening and what to do.
It’s astounding just how many spectacularly divergent narratives are floating around about what the hell is going on with COVID-19 and the panic surrounding it.
Notice how the mind desperately wants to assert a coherent story or position on what is happening…
The mind craves the (false) sense of security provided by a dogmatic position.
But dogma sabotages Openness, Attunement, Fluid Responsiveness to new data and ever-shifting reality.
So it feels important, right away, to say that most fundamentally, I Do Not Know what is going on.
Not only that, it seems to me that no story constructed by a human mind can possibly contain the full complexity of what is going on.
Not now, not ever.
Clever tactic, to quote my own words in order to undermine my attachment to my position, eh? : )
These words further helped pop a few bubbles for me.
I replied the following:
Thank you man. It takes courage to stand your ground and speak your truth when it challenges the majority view in a group setting like this one. You correctly called me out here. I've noticed in myself a level of defensiveness, polarization, and even radicalization around these issues — and sometimes even a tyrannical desire to silence those who disagree with me. How's that for irony? :)
I appreciate you walking the 'middle way' here and holding up the mirror. You've eloquently made some penetrating points that have helped me see my own bias more clearly — and my willingness to rapidly latch onto data points that support my intuitions/narratives while exercising a far greater degree of skepticism toward data points that support the dominant narrative.
This entire "tornado" as you've called it is truly fertile soil for disorientation; it's chaotic and confusing as hell. You're 100% spot on in pointing that out. Seems it's increasingly easy to get swept up in a narrative and prepared to go to war over it. The stakes feel high. Tensions are high. There are a lot of unknowns. Seems most everyone is afraid—myself included—of some nightmarish scenario, whether that be dying on a ventilator or totalitarian control or whatever it is.
Throughout this whole thing I periodically drop back into not-knowing and ironically that's probably when I feel the most peace and trust. I see in my own words from 2020 that truth that it's the mind that grasps for a narrative in an attempt to feel secure, in an attempt to create a coherent justification for the (unconscious) fear the body feels.
But we don't know. You're right. None of us know. Any statement we can say about the whole thing, and life in general, is on some level true, on some level false, and on another level just totally insufficient, because reality is always way beyond what can be compressed into language's conceptual structures.
It's one hell of a time, man. It opens up compassion for all on Earth right now just to feel into what a confusing, chaotic time it is and how everyone is coping with that in their own ways.
I suppose at this point a lot of it comes down to subjective values. Those who place a higher value on collective solidarity, safety, trust in government/news, and sacrificing for the whole, are gonna tend to feel one way about all this. Those who place a higher value on individual/collective liberty, adventurous living, distrusting authority, and safeguarding against tyranny, are gonna tend to feel another way.
I keep wondering if maybe the trap is in continuing to stare at the whole thing and give it energy and get sucked into it, which just seems to lead to more squabbling and arguing and trying to fight a tsunami with a super soaker.
Seems at the end of the day it still always comes back to the question: "Well, how do you want to live? What do you wanna do? What does it look like to be who you are during this time? What feels beautiful and worthwhile and exciting to you?" In our heart of hearts I don't think any of us would say, "To argue endlessly on the internet."
When I feel into it it just feels like land, nature, community, play, retreats, ceremony, dance, laughter, fun, wholesome food, self-reliance, vibrant well-being, sovereignty, a place to raise our children as we see fit, making art, and perhaps using the internet to share all the learnings and tools in hopes of empowering others to live their dream too, whatever it may be.
Seems I keep returning to just wanting to focus on that vision and on being present with my wife and daughter and our fam/friends and the beauty all around us all the time. And I do a lot of that, but then the ol' polarizing internet phantom-stories seem to come a'knockin' and pull me back into some shit that mostly ends up feeling like a drain of energy; it's hard to really tell at this point whether continued research and sharing on this stuff is even a good use of time, especially considering I may now be too close to it, too personally invested in one narrative, to be able to see much more clearly than the next guy, if ever I could.
Anyway, I won't try to tie too neat a bow on this. I'll sit with it. Thanks again for the courage and calm clarity, J. 🙏🏼💙
Also, shout-out to my wife Tanja for standing up for J's view when we discussed it, and helping me come to these realizations today. I am amazed by your wisdom and clarity, dear. Honored to walk this path together. I love you. :') ❤️
Humility & Is-ness
This exchange was a humbling experience.
It’s not easy to admit that one has become over-attached and has begun engaging in narrative warfare in subtle ways.
Once I saw it clearly, though, I knew I needed to admit my over-attachment and take a step back.
In the following days, dropping back into non-knowing proved highly useful for re-gaining sovereignty and for expanding my perspective.
It also helped me to deeply re-contact the more fundamental reality of is-ness/presence/being-ness that transcends all language and opinion—the substrate that unites us all. I’ll likely share more on this here in the coming days; last night I recorded this video to express some of what is dropping in:
Dehumanization & Our Dysfunctional Information Ecology
The C-19 situation—and the way it fits into our larger earthly situation in 2021—is truly a hyper-object; it can be viewed from endless angles, and it’s too complex for any one mind to comprehend.
This doesn’t mean we should give up on attempting to model and understand what is going on. It does, however, help one to do so with a proper dose of intellectual humility. The issues with C-19 sensemaking also go far beyond its sheer complexity:
With tensions high around the whole situation, it’s incredibly easy to get sucked down biased rabbit holes and to absorb only the info that supports one’s own opinion.
Through repeatedly reinforcing one’s angle on the situation and filtering out anything that contradicts it, one can easily begin to feel that one has ‘seen the light’ and needs to vehemently propagate one’s view and attack/dehumanize the ‘fools’ who disagree.
Charles Eisenstein’s brilliant conclusion to his recent essay series on mob psychology and sacrificial violence, speaks to this point:
“Censorship, disinformation, and propaganda have a crucial ally without which they would never be effective. The ally is mob psychology and the social habit of dehumanization. These tactics work only when we are ready to see others as the propaganda says we should, and don’t try to find out for ourselves by actually listening to them.
It is unsurprising that the tendency to dehumanize others makes us vulnerable to propaganda. When we dehumanize, we are not in truth (since the truth is that each human being is a divine soul, is life itself, is a feeling, thinking subject with a unique experience of the world). When we are not in truth, we are vulnerable to lies.”
Our willingness to dehumanize ‘the other guys’ is a perennial Achilles’ heel that has historically resulted, time and time again, in mob violence and bloodshed.
In combination with a poisoned information ecology—in which media outlets are incentivized to polarize, over-simplify, and obscure ambiguity—our dehumanizing tendency becomes especially dangerous.
Often-faceless online interactions become increasingly nasty, deepening the divisions of our societies and often bubbling over into covert and overt forms of physical violence.
This week, Tanja and I watched this Rebel Wisdom film from 2019 in which Daniel Schmachtenberger brilliantly diagnoses the ills of our civilization’s information ecology:
The film is incredibly illuminating; I can maximally recommend it for anyone wanting to deeply understand why it’s now so difficult to make clear sense of the world, and how to begin practicing wiser sensemaking to increase sovereignty.
It helped me to more deeply understand why the C-19 situation, or any major global catastrophe, is unlikely to be dealt with in a wise fashion in our current civilization. Our information ecology is so warped that it is basically constantly trying to seduce us into poor sensemaking, and it actively makes good sensemaking very difficult.
In Sum: Toward a Solution
There is no easy solution for these issues. The solution entails something like a global awakening/renaissance that catalyzes greater collective intelligence and the emergence/design of wiser foundational systems of governance, economy, media, education, etc. In short: A New Earth.
It’s beyond my scope to go much deeper into this here, though I can say that a wiser civilization begins with you and I asking difficult questions, holding ourselves to a higher standard of sensemaking, and prioritizing our sovereignty, empowerment, and awakening—all of which will enable us to take genuinely honorable, wise, Tao-aligned action in service to the All; and to be generative/helpful nodes in the network of humanity’s collective intelligence.
As always, it is helpful to remember that deep down, “there is no solution because there is no problem.” You can realize this directly in your own experience by engaging it non-conceptually.
Ask: Does any ‘problem’ appear prior to my *idea* that there is a ‘problem’? Or are things simply ‘as they are,’ prior to me imposing an interpretation that says “this is a problem”?
By returning to the pre-conceptual is-ness of this moment, we can root ourselves in presence: the changeless, indivisible substratum of experience—that which is always here. The more we root ourselves in this eternal abode, the more we discover the source of true sovereignty, alignment, compassion, and wisdom—the wisdom that knows that “you are me and I am you,” and “what I do to you, I also do to me.”