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Holding on to “bad” ideas limits our world and reduces our understanding

About 20 million years ago (a million more, a million less) our distant ancestors were unable to distinguish between red and green, a disadvantageous situation when one must decide whether or not a certain fruit is ripe enough to eat. In fact, the evolution of vision was very slow, and it took millions of years to see green.

On the other hand, closer in time, the Greek philosopher Aristotle reasoned about 2,400 years ago (plus year, minus year) not only that the earth was at the center of the universe, but that the universe had a diameter of about 20 miles measured from the surface of the earth. In fact, it was said that with a sufficiently long ladder one could reach the end of the universe.

And this month (day more, day less) it was announced that the ALMA radio telescope in Atacama, Chile, managed to photograph the collision of two stars, the most luminous explosion ever photographed that emits in just 10 seconds as much energy as the energy that would be emitted by the sun in ten billion years. It is good to know that we are 9 billion years away from those stars.

But why do we share these stories, seemingly so dissimilar? Because each one of them contains an important lesson for each of us and it is the lesson of not clinging to certain ideas that have the unpleasant consequence of reducing our understanding and limiting our world.

The story about the evolution of vision (see A Clear Molecular View of How Human Color Vision Evolved, Science Daily, Dec. 18, 2014) reminds us that things weren't always the way they are today. Believing that humans always saw what we now see is incorrect. Assuming that what we do today is what has always been done is also wrong.

The story about Aristotle and the size of the universe (see the article The Ever Increasing Size of the Known Universe on ClassicHistory.net) makes it clear that placing ourselves at the center of the universe (either from a spatial point of view or from a psychological perspective) reduces our universe and leads us to wrong conclusions about reality.

In fact, shortly after Aristotle, Eratosthenes calculated the size of the earth to within 1%, and Aristarchus determined the distance from the earth to the moon quite accurately, concluding that the universe was so large that if our earth could be seen from the nearest star, "the orbit of the earth would be only a point".

And the third story, about the fact that in just 10 seconds the collision of two stars produces as much energy as the sun in ten billion years makes us see the futility of clinging to the illusion that we, humans, are the best or the most powerful in the entire universe.

Things constantly change. For example, life flows, planets and galaxies move, and the universe expands. In that context, we are neither the center, nor the pinnacle, nor the main attraction. 

Wanting to be first is worthless if you also want to be the only one

Recently, on my way home, I was driving down a busy highway where a group of trucks were blocking the two available lanes. But that didn't stop a “rushing” driver from getting up close behind my vehicle and, in addition to his rude gestures, trying to pass, even though there was nowhere to do so.

Finally, after many miles of traveling at relatively low speeds, one of the large trucks was able to change lanes, thus creating enough space for me to change lanes as well, and consequently for the reckless driver behind me to move away at very high speed.

Clearly, the man in the other car cared about only one thing: passing all the other vehicles and getting the hell out of there. For that reckless driver, the other drivers, or simply the others, are, as Sartre would say, “hell”.

If all other people disappeared and their vehicles with them, then the road would be empty and the reckless driver could drive as fast as he wanted for as long as he wanted because, under those conditions, he would not only be the fastest, but also the only one.

But that paradise with no others in sight will be short lived and it would become a hell because, if hell is the others when they are present, that hell is even more palpable when all the others are absent.

Let us suppose for a moment that, thanks to a miracle or an unexpected intervention of the universe, the irresponsible driver manages to fulfill his desire to be the only one on the road and, therefore, does not face any obstacles to his desire to drive at high speed. nor should you interact with other drivers.

If that happened, that driver would have the entire road to himself, but for how long? Suppose that, for some reason, a tree fell on the road, or a truck was impaled on the asphalt, blocking all lanes. Without "others" to remove the obstacles, the obstinate driver will be able to do little.

And what happens when your vehicle runs out of fuel and there is no one to help you fill up? In fact, there will be no one bringing gasoline to the gas station. Nor will there be anyone supplying supermarkets or providing medical assistance in hospitals.

The key idea of these examples is that, as much as we do not like the others, we cannot live without them. Without "others" in our lives we would not even have been born nor would we have survived all those years in which we totally depend on someone to take care of us precisely to survive.

The “others” are “hell” because without the others none of us would exist. Believing that we can get rid of others and continue to exist is a dangerous fantasy typical of the most dangerous level of narcissism that leads to the insolence of believing oneself the best, the fastest and the only one. We are the others.

We don't always go where we are sure we are going

According to a recent report, Jim Metcalfe, a businessman in the United Kingdom, did what he had done so many times before: he got on a train in Glasgow at midnight to travel for about five hours and, therefore, waking up in London at down. And, as he always does, once inside the train, Metcalfe fell asleep.

At 5:30 a.m., Metcalfe woke up ready for his day at work in London, but something wasn't right. Almost immediately, a representative from the railway company informed him that the train was still in Glasgow. In fact, the train hadn't moved an inch. Due to problems on the tracks, the trip had been cancelled.

According to the same media report, the representative told Metcalfe that they tried to wake him up during the night, but because he was so sound asleep, they couldn't. Therefore, they decided to let him sleep, although there was always someone watching of him to avoid any inconvenience.

The trip was canceled after Metcalfe and many other passengers were already on the train. But apparently Metcalfe was the only one to fall asleep without being woken up. Therefore, to his astonishment, although, upon waking up, he thought that he had already reached his destination, he was still at the starting point.

Metcalfe's situation serves as an illustration of the situation in which many people find themselves, not on a train journey, but in the journey of life: they fall "asleep" (although they are "awake") and, although they assume that they are progressing towards their goal, they always remain in the same place.

In the journey of life, contrary to what happened to Metcalfe, rarely does someone stay by our side to take care of us while we "sleep" and for as long as needed until we "wake up" and become aware of our situation, that is, until we stop deluding ourselves into believing that we are "progressing."

Many of us, like the UK businessman, decided to go from “here” (wherever that “here” is) to “there” (wherever that “there” is), trusting that once we get “there” we will start a new life. But we don't realize that we haven't really advanced an inch. We remain the same as before, without any changes in our thoughts, ideas, hearts, minds, emotions, or attitudes.

We start dreaming about changing and improving our lives by changing places (or jobs, or partners), but we are sound asleep. Therefore, we let something (the train) or someone (the boss, the spouse, or whoever) to "take" us to our destination. And then one day and by miracle, we wake up only to realize that we are still where we always were.

Our “dream”, far from being an invitation to action and personal transformation, was (and perhaps still is) just an expression of laziness and self-deception. Life is an energy that constantly flows. Therefore, you cannot live life sitting and sleeping, hoping to get to a destination that unfortunately you will never reach, unless you truly begin your journey.

What elements of our imagination exist in reality?

A recent essay explains that imaginary numbers are, in fact, very real. According to the publication, new advances in physics show that the so-called imaginary numbers "describe the hidden aspect of nature."

The article was written by Karmela Padavic-Callaghan, a science journalist, and appeared on the Aeon.com site. In the case of imaginary numbers, that is, those with a negative square root, it was thought that it was just something mathematical. However, scientists found that these imaginary numbers have a "physical signatures."

In other words, what was previously thought to be just a figment of the imagination (albeit in the context of an exact science like mathematics), now, after three independent experiments done in December 2021 and January 2022 in universities in China, Austria, and the United States, it is proven to be something very real.

The interested reader should find and read the mentioned article if he/she wants an accessible, but scientific, description of the subject, something that we obviously cannot provide here. But the fact that imaginary numbers are real (they are part of the wave function of light) invites the question: what other elements of our imagination exist in reality?

For example, if I think of a unicorn or a green Martian with antennae, I can without a doubt say that this "unicorn" and this "Martian" exist in my imagination, in my mind, without any expectation that one day, when crossing the street, I will meet them. Something similar happened with imaginary numbers: it was not anticipated to see them in real life. But there they are.

Therefore, what element that we assume exists only in our mind or in our imagination also exists in fact in reality, that is, in nature, but we have not yet discovered it? (When I speak of "discovery" I am not referring only to scientific experiments since knowledge is not reduced to scientific knowledge alone.)

Are the crazy images of our dreams (whether in our sleep or daydreams) part of some reality as real as the reality around us, but to which we do not yet have access?

And what about those ideas, feelings, insights, and abrupt bursts of creativity that seem to come out of nowhere and be sustained by nothing? Would they also be something as real as the imaginary numbers are now, but we don't know it yet, perhaps because we haven't yet reached a sufficient level of maturation to know?

And one more question: are the “imaginary” friends that so many boys and girls say they have something more than just the result of the feverish imagination of children? The subject is discussed in the episode "Imaginary Friend" of Star Trek: The New Generation (season 5, episode 22, 1992).

It is probable that we still do not even understand what imagination truly is and, therefore, we do not understand the reality of the imaginary. As Albert Einstein said in his book Cosmic Religion (1931), "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

Respecting life includes respecting the cycles of life

They recently interviewed an elderly Spanish man and asked him if he did not feel sad because, after 45 years, he had to leave his job of taking care of the bulls that run in the world-famous San Fermín Festival, in Pamplona, on July 7 every year. The veteran worker immediately replied, "No."

Then he explained: "If you don't respect life, life won't respect you," adding that "life has its cycles" and that when one doesn't accept those cycles is when one stops respecting life. In his case, respecting life meant recognizing and accepting that his 45-year cycle of caring for the Pamplona bulls was coming to an end. Therefore, he said, he was not sad.

Let's be honest: many of us, perhaps even the vast majority, lack the wisdom expressed so clearly by the Spanish worker. In other words, we do not want or cannot recognize the cycles of life and nature. We believe that we can control what is certainly out of our control.

For this reason, we are left in a precarious psychological and emotional situation that, at best, is expressed as sadness and mourning, but which, in many cases, is expressed as an insistence on perpetuating and repeating a cycle that has already been closed, but we didn't want to close it. In this second attitude, we refuse to grow, mature, and assume our own responsibilities.

For example, many people get stuck in adolescence when they reach the point of transition from adolescence to adulthood. Regardless of the chronological age they reach, psychologically they remain dependent on their parents or on the real or fictitious figure that replaces the parents in their minds.

Other people refuse to accept that the cycle of "the best years" of youth is over and, when the gray hairs and wrinkles begin, they use all kinds of elements and procedures to hide their true age, something equivalent to trying to cover the sun with one hand This lack of respect for life generates from amusing confusion to serious and irreparable problems.

Why don't we recognize the cycles of life and nature? For two reasons. First. we live in the context of a linear, mechanical, and chronological time, a psychologically empty time, where each minute is the same as the previous one and where time is simply something that is exchanged for work or rest.

Second, for that reason, we no longer understand life as life or nature as nature. For example, we see how the seasons pass, but we do not see their impact on us. In fact, we see nature as "resources", but not as a life cycle.

For their part, the ancients lived respecting the cycles because they lived within a cyclical time in which they recognized that there were times when one cycle closed, and another began. They called it (in Greek) kairos, that is, the wisdom of recognizing the proper moments and opportunities to act or not to act. Technology separated us (but not all) from kairos. 

We cannot enter the new future with the preparation acquired in the past

I recently read the story of a young couple who, to escape the Texas heat, decided to travel a few hours to southern Colorado and camp near a lake in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Shortly after finishing setting up their tent, the couple had to be rescued because neither he nor she was prepared for the situation.

According to reports in the local media, the couple decided to use a common tent, without a double roof and without adequate thermal protection for the low temperatures in the high mountains of Colorado. In addition, they had little water and almost no food. And they didn't have a change of dry clothes to change into.

One of the many sudden rains in the area put them in serious trouble. So, they decided to call the emergency number and asked to be rescued. But the operation was delayed precisely because of the rain, which caused for the rescue team to travel three hours on dirt roads and trails, now transformed into mud, to reach the couple.

When the rescuers arrived at the indicated place, the couple already suffered not only from hunger and thirst, but also from hypothermia. It took another three hours to get them down the mountain and to a hospital, where they eventually recovered.

Someone asked them how it was possible that they had gone to an isolated campsite at a significant altitude without adequate preparation and without the necessary elements for that activity. According to reports, the man would have said: "Because we thought that everything here was the same as in Texas."

This young couple made one of the oldest and most widespread mistakes in the history of human thought: assuming (wrongly) that what one knows is exactly the same everywhere else, and therefore what one already knows can be applied. in the other places.

Put another way, if it's hot in Texas and everything I know is related to Texas, then it must be hot in Colorado too because Colorado must be equal to Texas. (Please let the reader replace the two names mentioned with two other names more suitable for your context).

It seems ridiculous for someone to believe that he or she can generalize what he or she knows to the whole world simply because that is what he or she knows so far. But that is precisely what we do when we think of the future as if the future were a perpetual repetition of the past or a mere extension of the present.

Preparing for the future from what we already know and assuming what we know in the present will serve us in the future is as ridiculous and risky as leaving the heat of Texas and traveling to a cold Colorado mountain believing that the two places are the same or very similar.

But the future is neither continuity of the present nor repetition of the past, but an expansion of consciousness towards new and previously unthought possibilities and opportunities.

Psychological and spiritual needs are just as important as physical needs


I recently learned of the existence of a small statue carved about 40,000 years ago and known as the Lion Man, found in 1939 in a cave in southern Germany and considered to be the oldest sculpture ever found so far. I mention the topic because I found it interesting to know the meaning of the statuette.

According to experts, the statue, about 30 centimeters high (one feet), was carved from ivory from the tusk of a mammoth. The unknown artist (Male? Female?) needed almost 400 hours of work to complete the work, a creation in which reality and the supernatural merge in such an exquisite way that even today, 40 millennia later, it continues to captivate us.

It should be obvious that while the artist carved the statue, the other people of his/her community continued with the tasks of obtaining food, defending themselves from dangerous animals, cleaning the cave, maintaining the fire, and caring for and protecting the little ones.

Why, then, was the creator (he or she) of the statue allowed to continue with his work that, from a certain point of view, contributed little for the material benefit of his community?

According to the experts (and this is what struck me deeply), while some dedicated themselves to providing for the material needs of the group, the artist provided for the emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs.

Although the exact use of the statuette (if it had one) is unknown, there is consensus that the Lion-Man represents a connection between humans and nature and simultaneously represented the connection between humans and the supernatural. It is very likely that the statue was associated with some story or myth (understood as a story that gives meaning and direction to life).

In other words, 40,000 years ago, during the Ice Age (the real Ice Age, not the one depicted in the movies) a group of humans (probably not the only ones nor the first) understood that the spiritual world is by least as important as the physical world and, therefore, he had no problem having an "unproductive" artist in his midst.

Stated even more clearly, those distant ancestors of ours (“ours” because they were already human beings like us) knew something that we have forgotten, that despite all their value, material possessions are worth little or nothing if one forgets to the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimension of life.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published his well-known pyramid of human needs, ranging from physical needs to the need to feel appreciated. Maslow later added another level, that of self-actualization and transcendence, something that Ice Age humans seem to have already known and practiced.

And they also knew another teaching, shared a couple of millennia ago by a well-known teacher: it is no use gaining the whole world and losing your soul. I wonder, then, if we, postmodern humanity, are not the true “cavemen”, while those we irreverently called “caveman” were truly and fully human. What other lessons will they still share with us?  

If we think of the future, then we also think of the negative future

I recently learned (too bad I didn't learn it sooner) that when we think of a better future, we simultaneously and inevitably think of the worse possible future. In other words, the more we focus on a bright future, the more we cannot avoid thinking about a dark future. Both futures are inseparable and to think of one is to think always of the other one.

This approach makes sense because, as Carl Jung already explained, in our everyday lives, every time we think, we cannot avoid thinking about the negative aspects of our lives and thoughts, which Jung characterized as "shadow", whose negativity consists in many cases in that those aspects have not yet been integrated into our life but are kept repressed or ignored.

From another point of view, the closeness of the positive future to the negative future makes sense because the future is not the day after today (that is, the future should not be confused with the chronological tomorrow), but rather the future is an expansion of the consciousness in which consciousness becomes aware of possibilities not yet explored.

Obviously, becoming aware of possibilities not yet explored means becoming aware that the current state of our life is not the only possible one and, therefore, that what we currently see as something undoubtedly positive may not be really positive, and what we reject as something negative, it may not be that negative. 

In other words, the expansion of consciousness (be it through studies, meditation, life experiences or whatever) includes becoming aware of the "negative" aspects of our life, the "shadow" that Jung spoke of, and simultaneously and for that very reason, we become aware of our true potential and of our possibilities and opportunities.

Therefore, focusing only on an Edenic or heavenly vision of the future is just as wrong as preparing only for the greatest dystopia imaginable because, after all, you cannot think of heaven without thinking of hell, nor of life apart from death or light apart from darkness. These are elements that, like the poles of a magnet, go together.

But do not think that we are proposing yet another version of static dualism. We are talking about a constant dynamic movement of self-exploration and exploration of the universe (that is, possibilities not yet explored) that at each moment lead to myriads of psychological, emotional, and cognitive adjustments that, for that very reason, give rise to the aforementioned “shadow”.

In this context, there are those who only see the positive in the future and there are those who only see the negative in the future. And, from a certain perspective, both are right. But there is a key difference. It has been said that the pessimist is always correct, but it is the optimist who generates changes and transformations.

We are not talking about irresponsible optimism or defeatist pessimism, but about an integral transformation of our being based on a new level of consciousness, where even the “dark energy” is properly integrated. 

 

We should never assume who the other person is or brag to “conquer” that person

I recently read the story of a man who decided to accompany a friend to a bar when he found out that the friend's girlfriend was coming with a friend. Already in the bar, the man in question had a lively and promising conversation with the woman he had just met, until the man discovered, too late for him, the inexcusable mistake he had made.

It turns out that in addition to the opportunity to meet someone, the man had agreed to go to the bar with his friend to celebrate that this man had found a new job as a software developer, a permanent job in his area of expertise. which would generate a very good income for him.

Therefore, during the conversation with his new friend, this man repeated several times that he had a new job and that he would earn a lot of money. And he said, also several times, that he would work as a software developer, but he didn’t explain his job because it would be “very difficult” for her to understand it.

After several hours and a few drinks, it was time to say goodbye. The man then asked the name of his new friend. She gave it to him and added “I'm on Facebook. Find me there".

The man went to Facebook and found that the woman he had been talking to in the bar for all those hours and to whom he had told that she would never understand computer programs was in fact the founder and president of the company that had just hired him.

The man never showed up for the new job. He shared his story as a warning and an example of being very careful not to assume anything about anyone.

The warning is valid. Many times, we focus excessively on the impact we want to have on the other person, without really thinking, much less feeling, the other person. And that excess, bordering on madness, of seeking to “impress” or “conquer” the other prevents us from seeing how ridiculously we are acting until the results are unfortunate and irreversible.

In this context, it could be said that a key element of treating our neighbor as “another like me”, or, if you prefer, treating the other as we would like to be treated, is not to diminish the value of the other person, much less believe that we are superiors because of our knowledge or income. Even if we have a strong academic background and strong finances, that doesn't make us superior.

In short, if we only see the other as “other”, but never seeing ourselves in the other, be it in all its goodness or in all its monstrosity, that is, if we only see ourselves all the time and regardless of the circumstances, sooner or later the time will come when we ourselves, by our words or actions, will destroy that little narcissistic world of fantasy in which we believe we are insurmountable and invincible.

Accumulated dirt deprives us of seeing the bright colors of life

For decades, and possibly centuries, art experts and historians debated why Michelangelo would have used muted colors in his unique paintings in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, given that Michelangelo himself used vivid colors in other paintings. of his paintings and works, as did many of his contemporaries.

Then, already in our time (decade of 1990), a group of expert restorers convened by the Vatican began the slow task of cleaning the paintings in the Sistine Chapel and, as a result, it was found that Michelangelo had used bright colors for his paintings. However, the grime accumulated by the passage of time had overshadowed those colors.

In other words, the whole debate about dull colors in Michelangelo's paintings was based on looking at the dirt on the paintings, but never at the paintings themselves. And none of the answers and proposals offered during that debate (from the presumed negative state of mind of a distinguished artist to the difficulties of the task) was, in fact, true.

It has been said on numerous occasions that whoever asks the wrong questions in the best of cases does not receive any answers, but in most cases, he/she receives wrong answers that lead to the cycle of wrong questions repeating itself

That is precisely what happened to art experts and historians who wondered why Michelangelo had used dull colors, when the real question was why the bright colors in Michelangelo's works had faded.

And that is precisely what all of us do every day: we look at the dirt that society has been accumulating above everything we see and experience and, therefore, we do not see the colors of life. So, we ask the wrong questions, and therefore, we reach the wrong conclusions that lead us to more mistakes.

Meanwhile, covered and hidden by social dirt (whatever you want to call it), our true creative genius, our capacity for colorful expression, remains unseen and unchallenged. We only look at the surface, but we do not see the reality.

That "dirt" is everything that we have accumulated in our minds and in our hearts that prevents us from seeing reality. It can be said that, on the one hand, we do not see this dirt. and, on the other hand, we believe that this dirt is reality.

What you might call an “existential dirt” arises from adhering to a certain belief, dogma, creed, tradition, or ideology so much that the only thing we see is what we adhere to, but not what is behind it. And, unlike what happened in the Sistine Chapel, we never remove that "dirt" from our lives. Therefore, we never shine or see the brightness of life.

Even worse, we project that society onto everything and everyone around us, accusing “them” of being opaque, when we are the opaque ones. Because we are so used to only see dirt and grime around us, we superimposed on even the most vivid colors of life. It’s time to start the cleaning process.

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