Fitting In or Freedom?

In this blog I have tried to point at the prevalence of assumption and preconception, raised a few taboo things and maybe demonstrated what might be deemed as socially inappropriate behaviour. I have made drug references and highlighted kudos obsession and snobbery, inter alia. No doubt were I working for an august institution someone would have had a word with me about my on-line behaviour. It is very simple. Insofar as I can tell I cannot be myself, express myself and fit in. Too many noses would be out of joint. I could kowtow and shut the fuck up, maybe be a good little boy but a part of me would die.

I cannot both be free and fit in. There is no possible both-and here.

I am a wasted resource. Even if people wanted what I have to offer, they do not want it and me, how I am. They would want me to fit in and comply with social conditioning. I don’t see this is as a drama myself. I am clear in my thinking. I understand the price of my relative freedom.

If you want to be free you need to understand this, you cannot be a fully socially integrated being and a free being. Because full social integration implies lack of freedom. You can be socially integrated and have some freedom, but it will be limited.

I can and do behave in public in a manner which does not look so very different from anyone else. I pay taxes, break virtually no laws and do not inflict myself on others, I make very few demands. My mind however is not with the hive or the heard. It left a long time ago. You can judge for yourself whether I am a loony-tune or not.

The crux, in my view, of so many things, is letting go of both-and thinking. In other words, deciding.

This is the $64,000 question:

Which appeals to me more, belonging or freedom?

Only you can answer it, for yourself.

What is Important to You?

If you read this blog there is a theme in it broadly along the lines of “having to decide” and “deciding”. This notion of letting go of both-and thinking is not palatable to many because they want it all and they want it now. People like to have their cake and eat it. Failing to prioritise leads to loss and how we set those priorities, if indeed we are so bold, can vary. What seems important one day is not so important later. Maybe we want a nice house, maybe we want to beat that bastard Smith at some game or other, maybe we want more sex, maybe we want kudos. Perhaps we want a family, to belong, a tribe. As a rule of thumb people are beset by immediacy thinking and do not look longer-term, the myopia of immediacy can neglect on-going implications. That must have drunken shag can be very consequential.

Here is a little exercise:

Make a list of what is important to you and then rank that list into a kind of league table of importance. Attach reasons and justifications for your choices.

Now that you have done your bullshit, public relations, show-and-tell list. Make another list, only this time, make it about the things that are really important to you.

Too Many Criteria?

This may come across as something of a rant, who knows, let’s see how it develops.

I believe that there is an over obsession with criteria these days. There are criteria for this, criteria for that, criteria for romantic partnerships, criteria for houses, criteria for school syllabuses, criteria for which is the best coffee shop, criteria for the best mobile ‘phone and there are even criteria of criteria. Now if you read this blog you will know by now that I am not a fan of league tables. They too are used as criteria. I have in the past been asked by people about choice of university and if people should rely on criteria, I say no. Go to the university, see how it feels and imagine yourself there one cold February morning, skint and with a hangover. Does it still work for you? The differential in quality of education may not vary as much as the purveyors of league tables might have us believe.

Criteria are causal of forms, either on-line forms or in rare instances, paper ones. Forms do not encompass and on the basis of data input to forms decisions are made sometimes in refence to a criteria grid. Why all these criteria? Well it is because people have to defend and justify their decisions. This suggests that people don’t like to decide for themselves and have to have pre-determined guidance on how to make decisions. It is all very fixed and rigid.

For me personally if I am exploring something and find that a form or a pro-forma needs filling in, in >90% of the cases, I just bin it and move onto something else. There is a whole section of the workforce whose job it is to look at forms and compare them to some criteria grid to decide if something advances or not. There is one up-side to criteria, it puts food on the table in some houses. Now my dislike of forms need not concern overmuch, I am just one individual. There may be a whole swathe of people out there who share my dislike of forms. Who can tell? Because even if there was a form designed to test this, they would not fill it in. Such a magnificent survey would not sample the very thing it was developed to sample. Nowadays there is a tendency for people to ask for feedback on just about everything. One of the favourite questions is; “would you recommend X to a friend?” I have to be honest, the answer is always no. Not because the service or whatever is shit but because I am socially isolated and introverted. Sometime there is a little box for an explanation, and I say this in these. I say that I am Billy-no-mates, so I tend not to chat about this kind of stuff. Now we get products advertised which say 70% of 102 people would recommend X. It is daft, stupid, and misleading.

But we tend to rely on these fatuous surveys and dodgy criteria.

If you are seeking funding, there are vast forms that need filled in. This is a part of the employment initiative previously mentioned. Someone has to design these forms, code them up, run a beta and then launch. Someone else has extract the data and make some groovy graphs.

There are innumerable armies of gate-keepers who rely on criteria. These are an impediment in many cases. First you have to convince the gatekeeper on the moat, then the gatekeeper at the door to the castle, then the gatekeeper at the inner wall, next the gatekeeper at the keep and then the bouncer on the door into the main hall. So, in addition to the form and criteria employment initiative there is a whole new industry sector of gate keepers.

The thing about criteria is that they can stop exploration. I only want to learn that which rigorously meets the pre-set criteria and exactly so. This is my criterion for learning. I need to know what that learning will guarantee in terms of outcomes before I engage.

Do you get my drift?

Anyway, here are some questions:

How keen am I as an individual on criteria?

What are the criteria for my keenness?

Have I ever lost out on something because of my criteria fixation?

Our Own Worst Enemies?

We can be undone by our own “cleverness” because this leads us often into undue complexity and overthinking. Some of our “bright ideas” are not so bright but once we have committed to them, there is a tendency to persist even after they start to look a bit silly. There is a weird stubbornness about; “I have started so I’ll finish”. We want it all and are beset by both and thinking. Which can on occasion lead directly to neither. Because of our fear of missing out we may over commit and spread ourselves too thinly. {Not that I would ever do such a stupid thing 😉.} It comes down to making at least a few decisions and learning to say NO. Whether you believe it or not, NO is a magical word. Sometimes we simply have to let go and walk away from a situation which is past redemption. But this can be difficult to do and so we let things drag on.

It is my observation that people prefer to give advice more than to take it. Even if the advice they give to others applies to the giver. We have the fat doctor or nurse encouraging us to lose weight. And I get loads of advice, sometimes from complete strangers in the street, about stopping smoking. To date I haven’t smacked one, though I might one day just to see what happens. There is a reverse psychology associated with advice, people might do the exact opposite just to give you the bird. Over the years I have pretty much stopped giving in-person advice because it is unwelcome unless solicited. What I have hinted at here is the shoot the messenger mentality. In most of us there is at least some “I know best” tendency which cannot be universally true. We, because of this mentality, immediately jettison things which we could learn or benefit from.

I’ll hazard a guess that most prefer complexity over simplicity, if it is complex then it must be wise. Yet complexity and clarity are not the same. It is possible that simplicity might just be wiser than complexity, at least in some cases. But clarity, the cold light of day, can be uncomfortable, there is no room to argue the toss. It is simple and clear, end of.

Having cued this up

Is it remotely possible that I have the smallest tendency to unnecessarily over complicate things a little?

Why am I afraid of clarity?

Is it because clarity often points directly at a pending decision?

Despite the hordes of enemies already out there could it be that I am my own worst enemy?

Those Difficult Situations

Which is better keeping all your options open or making decisions and acting upon them?

It has been my observation that trying to keep all your options open, using both-and thinking, can generate a whole bunch of problems. For example, you might start dating both Sally and Jane, unsure as to whom you like the best, you try to continue and may even start to lie. Before long you have an incoming shit storm of considerable magnitude. In sitting on the fence, you cause three people problems. If you choose Jane over Sally, then you may piss Sally off, but she can get on with her life. Maybe later you find that you don’t like Jane after all and have a few regrets. You will not have created an almighty mess in the process.

The longer one puts off a decision in a difficult situation the more difficult that situation can become, not always but often. OK so in MBTI terms I have just demonstrated that I am a “J” type and not a “P” type. I have used MBTI in numerous workshops down the years and this J / P dimension is the one that causes the most friction in relationships. Many “P” types have said to me that they are more fluid by keeping options open, I would counter that you generate more options by making decisions and doing so quickly. Better to fail quickly than to be stymied by endless planning blight, wishful thinking and prevarication.

I’ll hazard a guess that many difficult situations arise out of failure to decide. If you put off deciding, decisions can be made for you because one option takes itself out of the equation whilst you are busy dithering. I suspect that I am at the decisive end of the prevaricating – deciding spectrum. And this can freak people out.

Off course one can come to premature decisions. For example, prejudice is a form of premature decision made usually with a lack of reliable input data. One can make decisions when angry, sad or drunk. Sometimes the morning after a bad decision can be quite difficult.

My own personal experience is that making decisions, deciding, relieves tension and frees things up. Even if others don’t like your decision at least there is some movement. People do not enjoy being decisive. You can’t teach people to be decisive, all you can suggest is that maybe they might give it a go and see how it works out. With each decision, hopefully, confidence grows, and less time is wasted.

What do you think?

Which is better keeping all your options open or making decisions and acting upon them?

Decision & Spirituality

At first pass these two words may not appear to sit well next to each other. This is because to many “spirituality” is a vague notion, maybe to be talked about after a few spliffs or when comparing New Age CVs with others. “Hey man, I went on this retreat with guru X for ten days. It was like in the depths of the jungle in Borneo bro’. I really got in touch with my primal.” A lot of people talk about spirituality. I am not sure that the term is well defined. It is very easy to get an add on, to life. One can buy some incense, some candles and read books from the mind, body and wallet section of the bookstore. There are many none too discerning people out there and this spirituality market is a business for some. In the sixties and seventies maybe you might join an ashram or a cult. More recently there used to be a lot of New Age shops here in the UK where you could buy a dragon or a book on witchcraft. For whatever reason their number has dropped, yet they still exist in “spiritual” places, like cathedral towns. They generally have gone out of business. One can still shop for retreats, on-line. Those associated with established practices tend to have longer longevity. But even going on one of these won’t fix things. It might start things or give a boost to motivation.

My own experience has been that as a “scientist” I am viewed with suspicion at such events. But I am probably more open minded than say, your average hippie. There is a slight prejudice against the likes of me.

Decision is an important part of spirituality. There is a need to decide what is true, and what works for you and your temperament. If one is simply shopping around so as to build a New Age CV, then don’t kid yourself. Somewhere there will be stuff that resonates. If it is any good it is likely to challenge your thinking and be uncomfortable from time to time. One has to decide if one wants to be free and decide how far one is prepared to go. Now I don’t think sticking swords through your cheeks is for everyone, it might be impressive. But is that freedom? For some guru yoga is very helpful. It only goes so far. If you are to be free then you cannot depend upon another being to do it for you. You have to decide to do it for yourself. Guru yoga may well be a stepping stone, but it isn’t the destination. In fact, a good guru will be only too pleased when you stand by yourself.

On the road towards freedom, there will be decision after decision after decision. This does not sound like sitting under a tree. But if you think about it a little you will see that decision is important. You will have to decide how you use your time, what your mind focuses on, with whom you associate and discern the validity and applicability of what you encounter. It can’t all be true. Sitting on the fence can give you a nasty dose of splinters.

If you notice a while back I started to talk about purpose. Now we have purpose and decision, it is starting to sound a little like a business development course. If your purpose it to achieve liberation, then you have to decide to do it. There is little point in being vague and wishy washy about it.

This ability to decide does not come easy. There is more social acceptance for indecisiveness than for decision. People like the drama of vacillation. Decide means to choose between, sometimes cut things out. It is a knife word or a sword word. Cut the crap if you like. Choose between the wheat and the chaff. With decision comes responsibility. Wow another non-hippie word! I am not having ago at hippies…guess why?

Being able to decide is to claim your own personal power or knowledge. It is a faculty well worth developing. And with many decisions comes test, a test of resolve, a test of commitment etc..

So, I’ll make a hypothesis;

Being able to decide is one of the keys to liberation.    

You can decide for yourself if this is true or not.