Learning from GOT

I have just finished watching the seventh season of Game of Thrones. At the same time I have been listening to the Dr Jordan B. Peterson podcast.

In his podcast Dr Peterson talks about the psychological significance of the Biblical stories. For me this has been a redemptive process. I grew up reading the Bible and learning all about these stories, but in recent times I have not been able to go near them; unable to get past them as inaccurate representations of our scientific history.

In drawing out the psychological truths in these stories, Dr Peterson breaths life into stories that have been dead to me. I feel that all that time learning about those stories has not been wasted. That I can apply these truths to my life in a meaningful and useful way.

Some of these themes that come out in this podcast include:

  • being truthful no matter what I think the consequences may be
  • confronting the dragon - the thing that I am most scared of and want to avoid
  • imagining the very best thing I could do with my life, and aiming for it
  • being humble and open to making small corrections in my chosen direction along the way
  • bringing order to chaos, but not so much order that it is tyrannical

In watching GOT it has given me another way of seeing these themes in action. 

Jon Snow, like his Father before him, is honest to the point of self-harm. He sees that in difficult times, knowing that we can trust what the other is saying is of utmost importance and benefit to us all. He sees the highest good - confront the chaos of the dead - and aims for it rather than shirks away from it.

Every direction that Tyrion Lannister recommends for his party seems to talk them to the most evil place they can go. But it is in confronting this evil that they are able to master it and take away some gold.

I am enjoying watching this show, and other Hero myth based stories, because of their entertainment value and also because of how they inspire me to live well in my day to day. To be honest. To act as nobly as I can. To confront evil when I see it. To move towards the thing I fear.

Patience

There are moments when I am simply waiting. I want something to happen so badly. I want somebody to reply to my text message. I want hear that the projects I have been working on are progressing. That something is happening. I am moving towards my goals.

Tonight is one of those nights. And as I sit here, impatiently, I start to wonder what I am actually wanting. Is it simply for somebody to tell me that things are okay? That my plans are coming to pass? Or is is loneliness? That I want to feel part of something, and like somebody is listening to what I have to say?

I don't think either of those two desires are necessarily bad, and I think I am looking for both of them. I want to move steadily towards my goals. And I want to share the journey with others, and have them respond when I reach out to them.

There is something else I can be at times like this. In not hearing from them, in not getting some feedback that I am moving towards my goals, nothing in my life is actually different tonight. My goals are not going to progress. I will hear from these people in time. It is patient that I can be. It is simply being in this moment, and not doing, that I can be.

Doing nothing can be such a hard thing. Wisdom is knowing when to act, and doing it, and when to be patient, and pause.

Tonight, for me, it is time to pause.

One of those Saturday nights

I thought I had done so well. I was organised: had a mate lined up; had bought tickets for a band I had been trying to see for months; and it had all fallen on the Saturday night of my week without the kids.

Saturday morning I check my Facebook messages, and another friend is inviting me to an event that night. It is something I want to go to. It is a one off. I know I will have my mind blown. I will meet some amazing new people. Do I cancel on my friend?

I decide not to cancel. I decide that the incremental growth of a friendship is more important than one night of buzz.

The day goes on. I am not at my best...it has been a week of strange news and uneven flows, and I had a late night on Friday night.

The afternoon arrives. Right when I am at the peak of my anticipation about seeing my friend and the band, he calls - can't make it. Too much work on and too stressed. I am deflated. Not only am I now unable to see him, or the band, but it is past the 10am deadline to RSVP for the other event.

I stew and brood for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. What a fuck-up.

Thankfully, despite my tendency to want to dull the pain by watching TV, I managed to go to bed at 9pm. It has not been the best day of my life, but at least I can set myself up for a good day tomorrow by getting a good night's sleep.

I sleep well, and wake feeling much better. The demons of loneliness from the night before have not completely gone, but I feel clearer and stronger, like I may be able to deal with it a little bit better.

Susceptibility to externalities

After a day of ego blows the day before, it was fascinating to reflect on my response yesterday. I gravitated towards creating things, and showing people what I had created in order to get positive feedback, and help me feel better again.

One of the things I created was a soccer goal for my kids, combining two other soccer goals that were falling apart to make one that was perfect for our purposes. The act of creating was soothing. Able to look at something I had put together from other, discarded, things was satisfying. Showing it to others gave me a buzz.

I did some similar things with a spreadsheet I had created at work: refining, revelling, showing. And with some sales I made of the breath mints.

I am taking some good and not so good points in reflecting on this. The good is that in acting despite how I feel, particularly in creating or refining something, I feel empowered and alive and taking responsibility for my plight. This is so good in helping me move through a tricky patch.

The not so good is the desire for and boost I get from external feedback. In itself there is nothing wrong with it, it can be a great way of validating that I have created something useful. However if I become dependant upon the feedback to get me out of a tricky patch, then I am simply finding the other end of the spectrum of where I was: having my feelings dictated by externalities.

Externalities can be a good guide, but I don't want them to be my driving force. This I want to come from within.

The moment after loss

I tell myself that this is going to open up space for something else. But still, in this moment, it is all to easy to wonder and worry about where my income is going to come from.

I tell myself that I have got through downs like this in the past, and survived, and even thrived. But in this moment, it seems second nature to think that this is the way I am always going to feel from now on.

I tell myself that it was not really about me, that it was circumstance and timing. But my critical minds wants to get its two cents in and tell me that I could have done more, been more, tried harder.

If there is one thing the past two and half years have not been, its dull. I reflect on this time, and draw strength from what I am capable of absorbing, standing up to, getting back up from. I am strong and can handle so much more than I thought.

So today, despite the nagging voices from the dark places, I choose to go on, to enter the confusion and uncertainty, and to create and make as well as I know how.

 

The position of our species

Homo sapiens, the species I am part of, current sits at the apex of life on earth, and perhaps the universe. Or that is what I believe and that is how it looks from where I sit.

It has not always been the case. In cosmic timescales, it was a blink ago that we were roaming the plains, fighting for our survival with many other mammals. Now we sit above them all, and our attention has turned to how well we can live, as opposed to just try to live by any means we could.

Other animals have become tools for us to harness in our quest to live as well as we can. Their existence goes on, but is impacted by the value we place on our existence over theirs.

A book called Homo Deus has challenged my thinking about my place in the hierarchy of species. The main reason for this is that it is under threat. Not so much from human induced climate change, but from technological progress. We may be super-seeded before we are made extinct. 

My minds wonders about how Homo sapiens will cope with no longer being at the top. How our existence will change. How we will be treated by that which super-seeds us.

The questions in my head are: Are we a stepping stone to something great than us? What is the best contribution our species can make? How can we live well now for the benefit of all life on this planet, and serve those species and beings that are to come over the coming centuries?

Too much going on

There are too many things in my life right now. Podcast. Job. Start-up. Kids. Speaking gigs. 

The problem is I enjoy them all, and think they are all important things for me to be doing right now. It is the season for all of them.

There are consequences though. The first is my social life - I do not have the space or energy to invest in relationships like I want to. The second is creative energy - once again, I don't have the space and energy to reflect and draw my creativity out. The third is presence - as I am putting more into each day, my base level of stress seems to rise and I check my phone more, rush more from place to place.

What to do? Is this just a season in my life? Can I make the space and energy I need? I want to connect and create and be present.

As a start, here are some things to do that will create some more space and energy in my life:

1) Outsource: the editing of my podcast sucks out my energy and time. I can outsource this

2) Reduce living costs: I have some regular expenses in my life that I can reduce, which would also reduce my stress

3) Say no: there are somethings, some catchups that are not quite right for me. In saying no to them I say yes to space and energy for creativity, friendships, and presence.

Its too repetitive

I grew up in a reasonably conservative religious household. One of the things that was taboo was any music on FM radio. Rock music, as we called it.

I kept asking my mum why we weren't allowed to listen to it; why she didn't like it. The best she could come up with, perhaps because she couldn't think of a good reason herself, was that it was too repetitive. 

Thanks to that unjustifiable reason, for years I would critique music based on this criteria alone.

I can only imagine what similar moments of cloudy insight I am imparting to my kids!

 

Alignment and flow

I have been wondering for a few months about where to live. There were a few things I wanted: outdoor space for my kids; low rent; and close to school and work.

I have found a place to live that meets the first two criteria, but not the last two. I am going to move there in a little while as it feels like the right time and place. It feels like moving their is going with the flow and is aligned with what I want to do.

I am curious to see what happens with the other two criteria, being close to school and work. Will I end up moving again soon? Will the school and work move closer to where I live? Will I no longer care about being close to work and school?

One move at a time. The next move will take care of itself.

The Grand Final

Today is Grand Final day in Melbourne. It's not my week with the boys, and right now I am missing them. I really enjoy watching the games with them, but this year it hasn't worked out.

It seem like I have heaps of other options for watching it - pubs, parties, gatherings, solo. I even had the opportunity to attend it live.

But I have been trying to work out what I actually need today. And I have decided, and feel great about, spending the day with one of my mates, at his house, watching the game.

It's the right setting for how I feel right now. It's what I need.

Mutants

There is something about the idea of mutants that pricks my curiosity. I watched X-Men last night, and it always prompts me to think about my own anthropocentricity. 

I eat meat. I treat animals as lesser beings than I treat myself.

And how would my beliefs change if a new species evolved, or mutated, from my own? One that was more conscious, more powerful. Would I consider it unjust if I was treated by them the same way I treat 'lesser' beings right now?

I don't think I am ready for the answers yet. But there is definitely something there to stay curious about.

Articulation

In having a break from writing this blog for a month, I have noticed a few of things.

The first is that I become less articulate about ideas, thoughts and feelings that I have. Writing about an idea each day helps me to understand it better, and to convey it better to others.

The second is about the reason I am writing it. I want to write about what it is like to be here now. About what I am feeling, experiencing, pondering, at this moment. I do this because I want to reflect on this; because I want others who might happen to read this to feel a bit better about their experience of being where they are in each moment; and I also do it because I want to one day go back and flick through some of these memories.

The third thing I have noticed is how much more difficult it is to be creative when working full-time. I started a full-time job about 2 months ago, and since then producing creative output has become much more of an effort. This is one of the reasons why I have taken a break from the blog, because I have put my creative efforts into continuing my podcast.

My intention is to build writing a blog post into my mourning ritual. It is beneficial to me, and I hope to others as well, and I want to keep doing it.

The essentials

I can always tell when I have had a particularly tough week as I tend not to write on this blog.

Last week was tougher for a number of reasons; I think this time of year may be difficult for me for a number of years to come.

At times like this I remind myself to get back to basics: eat well, go to bed early, continue to exercise, be with people that are uplifting, and cancel any non-essential meetings. 

What is natural

A favourite lecturer of mine once asked why we are surprised about anything we find humans doing - because anything we find them doing is only natural.

It is culture that inhibits, applying imaginary boundaries to what is natural. Sometimes this is beneficial, sometimes this is harmful, often what is perceived as beneficial and harmful will change over time.

We have basic biological needs and constraints. Anything outside of this we have the ability to create, shape and give meaning to.

The only way is through

Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Have to go through it.

There is no going back. As humans we cannot go back to being foragers. As individuals we cannot go back to being kids or teenagers or our twenties. When times were good. When we didn't have pressures. The time of nostalgia.

The only way is through whatever situation we have created, creating something better as we go, hopeful that we, our communities, and our planet will be better once we get to the other side.

Stories we tell

How important is it to get to the truth? Is it even possible when thinking about memories and events that happened in the past? Do I need to ensure that people who I feel have wronged me accept my side of the story, my truth?

I see that this is mostly a useless exercise. We all believe what we want to believe. We all make what we will of our own memories. We all tell ourselves stories that we can live with. Most of the time this means not confronting the truth about ourselves, giving ourselves something palatable to digest.

While it pricks my sense of justice when I get a hint that I am being played out as a villain in a story I'm pretty sure I was the victim, it does not seem to do much good 'controlling the message' or making sure my point of view is heard.

For one thing, I am probably doing the same thing, or have done the same thing. For another, I think that consequences tend to take care of themselves. No need for me to enforce them for others.

Much better I spend that time thinking about the stories I am telling myself, both the usefulness and the honesty of them. I will speak up and tell my story. But I cannot control what other people do with it.

The trouble with internally evaluated success

I want the success of my life to be determined by me. By how well I have lived according to my personal quest: connection; conversation; consciousness; wellbeing; context awareness; creation; contribution; curation.

According to these measures it is really only me who can decide if I am tracking to this or not. I like the idea of this. I want to live this way.

I run into trouble when I simultaneously want others to recognise that I am successful as well, and when I start to want the things that will show people that I am really making it now. Things like clothes, cars, houses, being well known, excess money.

I want to have it both ways, to be successful in my quest, and the have others envious of me because of the external trappings of that success. This is particularly true when I think about those I believe have slighted me: I will show them, I tell myself.

The truth that is sinking in, of course, is that in following my quest and being successful in it, it may not look like success to anybody around me. In fact, it may look like failure. Like I have no money, no external ornaments, not being all that well known.

This can be hard to swallow. I want to be adored and follow my quest. And perhaps I will. But more likely I think, I will be joyfully invisible.

Luxuries spawn obligations

One of history's few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.  -- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

I am loving every page of Sapiens, and this is one quote among many that ring true.

It challenges me to live with less, because I will actually have more freedom and less obligations the less I am able to live with.

Harari talks about our foraging ancestors, and how they would work for about four hours per day and then spend the rest of the time with their tribe. That feels about right to me. I want to work for four hours a day, and then spend the rest of the time with those I love most, or reading a book, or taking care of myself.

While this will mean I have less luxury items in my life, it will bring me closer to who I naturally am and the life I want to live.