In over your head

In the moment feels like a terrible place to be. Most of us work overtime to get it over with. Search for a way out as quick as possible.

There is an alternative: we can instead turn and face the wind. All storms are temporary and do pass.

In over your head may be where you need to be–the space that can change your life. Don’t rush it.

To be skeptical is to wonder

The skeptic is pursuable. Asking questions and looking for honest answers. Regardless of the outcome. She is willing to change her mind after meeting certain standards and criterium. The skeptic follows the science.

On the other hand, someone living in denial is able to contradict themselves. Believe two things at the same time: what they want to believe and what the consensus is. It’s no wonder why conspiracy theories thrive in our culture today. It isn’t that they didn’t exist before social media. It was just difficult to find someone on the fringe who believes in things only a few understand. Because someone in denial is not looking to change their mind but to solidify it through connection, narration, and emotion.

Nature is neutral

Nature does not judge us. It doesn’t care if you are having a bad day. Nature rains when it rains. It doesn’t decide to, it does it base on environmental factors. The laws of the jungle.

Humans, by contrast, judge everything. We cannot help but point out the odd, the weird, the different, and the inconsistencies of the world.

The biggest broadest of categories is good and evil. For “good” or “evil” is a social construct. A category or box we impose on the world. But it isn’t the actual world. Because again the world doesn’t care.

This is the space humans occupy. The space of reality and abstract. The space of physical/tangible and imaginary. We create and imagine the world things not as they are but as we are. The tension between humans is where the imagined world is not consistent with the real one. The hope is for others to see what you see. And perhaps bend the course we are on.

Policy and priorities

According to the CDC, in the 2019-2020 Flu season, it is estimated that 39 million to 56 million were infected by the illnesses, 410,000 to 740,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 to 62,000 deaths

By contrast, in 2020-2021, it is estimated that 2 million to 5 million were infected by the illnesses, 26,000 to 54,000 hospitalized and 1,500 to 4,500 deaths.

If we were to continue socially distancing during Flu season in the future and keep COVID protocols in place, lives will be spared. But there is a cost. The cost is how much inconvenience the culture is willing to accept to accommodate someone who is vulnerable. We build ramps now for those who are in a wheelchair. We slow down in school zones where kids like to play. We wash our hands before preparing a meal. We don’t double dip in community bowls.

That is remarkable. Now obviously this was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic where social distancing, washing of hands, wearing masks, isolating were all in place. We do all these things because we care. Because the culture functions better when we can agree upon this invisible set of rules. But will we continue to wear masks? Get vaccinated? Boosted? For how long? Has it been long enough? What about the children?

All questions with no easy answers. All questions that the culture will have to decide: What rules do we want to make and what happens when someone breaks them? Is it the state’s responsibility or the markets or communities to enforce these rules?

But I think the key question going forward with COVID is What is the acceptable level of death we are willing to tolerate in our culture?

If that number is zero, we will have to isolate especially as variants continue to sweep through. If that number is millions, we can go back to life before 2020. Or maybe it will be somewhere in the middle. The tug-o-war of individual freedom and protection of the masses will continue. The Flu is something that we have lived for all our lives, we never stop to wonder before 2020 that maybe we should be masking for someone else. The conversation is evolving. What’s next will say more about what we value and prioritize the most.

The policy reflects someone’s agenda.

The Wizard of Oz

There are lots of things in our culture that are fake. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

It’s really intimidating to confront the wizard until Toto pulls back the curtain and it is revealed to the audience that the wizard wasn’t a wizard at all. It’s just some guy pulling on levers making a pyro show.

Of course, magic isn’t real. It’s fake. It’s just a trick. A form of entertainment. Or worst, a way to manipulate people into doing something they don’t want to do. Even Dorthy, in a moment of weakness, when she clearly sees the wizard is just a man admitting that he is pulling a con says, “I don’t believe you.”

Because humans want to believe magic is real. That is the only way magic works.

It’s difficult to believe in magic, once you see how the trick is done. Believing without evidence can be a dangerous path of self-deception to follow.

“I’ll be happy when…”

We live in an era of liberalism. Chasing of the self and individual rights.

“You are special.”

“You can do anything you set your mind to.” (Just do it!)

“Do what makes you happy.”

As a result, we run towards things that bring us pleasure and joy and stay away from the bad feelings.

Except when you survey most parents, they are not actually that happy raising kids on a day-to-day basis. Parents have to deal with temper tantrums, lack of sleep and spilled milk. Yet, most surveys come back and say it is one of the biggest sources of joy in life.

No one likes the steps it takes to climb a mountain, you do it and then reflect on the experience later.

“I’ll be happy when…” is a trap. Happiness is biological, it is environmental, circumstantial, and even financial to a degree. Happiness is measured with comparison. Happiness is a construct. A mindset. An imagination and illusion. In fact, someone in medieval poverty could even be happier than today’s billionaire. It’s certainly possible.

You won’t be happy when you get to the destination. You’ll just create a new goal to follow until the day you die.

So, what is it then that is making you happy? What is it that is going to make you get up in the morning to welcome the day? Because embracing only the pleasures of this world will only get you so far. When you can dance with discomfort, a lot of doors will open up.

Questions you know the answer to

Ever ask a question you already know the answer to?

“How are you doing?”

“Do you need anything?”

“Want to get out of here?”

We actually do this all the time. We really do like being in a position of authority. The world is complex and humans just don’t have the capabilities to completely understand it.

How did we get here in the first place? Frightening to think about when we are talking about it on a scale of 13.5 billion years.

We desperately look for and take comfort in stable objects. We are attracted to them. The amygdala struggles to turn off. So, when we can find ground to put underneath our feet, we take it.

Dare to ask the questions that we have no idea the answer to. Appear incompetent and be okay with what others might say. Chances are they don’t know the answer either and are listening too.

Staying on script

Waking up tomorrow knowing exactly how your day will go, to be able to predict it with extreme accuracy would be a curse.

Yet, many of the choices we make are to seek out this safety net of reliability, predictability, and certainty.

We can’t see the future. No one has a crystal ball. But we can also settle down, fly low, avoid controversy, sit in the back row, slip by with no one noticing, count the days until the weekend, have someone tell us what to do next–and then what?

Well, you might not know for sure what will happen, but you can sort of predict with high accuracy what will happen next:

“Day-to-day” stuff. Nothing exciting. To-do lists.

How many times have your sat down and written out a list of things to do and then watched it disappear as you check them off?

A self prophecy.


Some can claim that they are not fooled by the media but are then sucked in by their Facebook algorithm. That 9/11 was an inside job but were relieved when Osama Bin-Laden was killed. Claim to not be racist but sympathize with anti-Semitic tropes. Believe Princess Diana was murdered but is still alive today.

We are so busy constructing our own realities that we ignore the objective one. All of us. Without exception. We all believe we are rational actors. That each of us is right. And when things don’t work out, we think that external forces must be in play–preserving our egos and natural sense of self.

Here’s the point for today’s lesson: When is the last time you changed your mind about something you hold to be true? When have you been persuadable? Knowing what you know now about something, can you/will you pivot? The things we hold sacred, did you find it yourself or were you taught those things from someone you trusted? Does the scientific community agree with your assessment? If not, why not? Why do scientist believe what they believe?

Legendary screenwriter William Goldman said, “Nobody knows anything.” We are still constantly evolving and learning more each day. What was true yesterday may not be true now. You can go test Newton’s laws of gravity and it held up for a long time until a few holes were discovered. Which then led to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It’s a process of better understanding, not a finish line. For better or worst, we don’t have all the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

Read one book on a subject and you will be above average in understanding a subject. Read 10 and you can be an expert. Read 100 and you can be a world expert. The problem is that most people won’t read more than one book a year after college. That’s it. If you have not read even one book on the topic, how then can you claim to understand how something works?

You can’t.

But no one wants to seem ignorant among their peers. Status roles are in play. So, we have to trust experts. The world is too complicated not to. You can’t possibly be a mechanic, an engineer, a doctor, a microbiologist, a programmer, and the head of IT. The problem is picking the right experts to follow. The good news is they have never been so many to find.

I have found particularly with subjects like history it is more difficult to understand why things happen the more you study. The world is just too vast and complicated. Bigger than anyone us to fully understand. Unexpected things happen. People make emotional, irrational decisions not logical ones. When people claim to know the answer, they simply are dumbing things down because they are looking through the world in one lens.

It’s much easier to believe in a Covid lab leak theory because after all there is a lab conveniently built in Wuhan where it was originally detected. Simple to understand. It’s much more difficult to understand the science of virology and epidemiology. It could take ten years of studying before any of it could make sense. (By the way, Wuhan’s lab was built there precisely because they have had previous outbreaks there, at least that is what they want us to believe, right?)


Imaginary boundaries

Every decision begins because of a constraint. An invisible line, a boundary that we must then decide what to do with.

Some of these constraints can be geographic, biological, economic, medical, social…yet despite the boundaries, humans find a way to create room in these.

Unexpected things happen. “Luck” or “chance” enters the arena.

Boundaries are not the enemy. The lack of vision is.