Essay

Ignorance May Be Bliss…

but ignorance of how ignorant we are may be causing much of our conflict…

I just read an interesting article about the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It describes a common form of confirmation bias in which it isn’t so much what we don’t know that is the problem, but the overestimation of what we think we do know that is… That made an incredible amount of sense to me.

Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of confirmation bias to one extent or another. I know I am. Whether it’s in our perceptive bias (selective perception that primarily notices what we expect to find), our cognitive bias (more readily accepting as “fact” what we already believe to be true), or emotional bias (interpreting events to fit our current mood), we all shape reality according to pre-conceived notions. It’s simply how we are constructed. Our brains make connections based on connections already established; if it fits, it sticks. But what happens when you don’t know that you don’t know something? Worse yet, you don’t actually know something you think you do?!

Chaos rules…

How many others here have found themselves (recently!) shaking their head in bewilderment at something someone else said or did? I don’t mean simple confusion, or disbelief, but a deep-down, profound sense of wtf?! I can hear your thoughts here as clearly as my own, that moment when your inner dialogue sounds like this:

“Really?! Like seriously?! You didn’t just [say/do] that, did you?!”

The actions of the person we are interacting with are simply incomprehensible to us! We cannot even imagine…

THAT moment is a Dunning-Kruger moment… Either the person we are dealing with is downright delusional about reality, or we are. Either way, someone truly doesn’t grasp their own ignorance about the matter at hand.

I know I’m guilty of being on both sides of that equation. I recently heard myself “lecturing” my co-workers about something I strongly believed to be true. I sensed the resistance of at least one in the room, though she chose not to challenge me. The others all radiated validation my way, except one who chose to question my biases. It was then I heard myself admit, “of course, these are all just my opinion; there is no logical reason for you to accept them as anything else. I know I sound like I know what I’m talking about, but that’s just the confidence with which I express all my viewpoints you hear. I could be wrong. And if you can show me where I’m wrong, I’m more than willing to listen…”

The conversation moved on to other things after that. But that memory stuck with me. “Arrogance” is a word often used to describe me, and I can’t honestly deny it, though I would prefer to mute it. More like confident in my intelligence, my ability to grasp both abstract and actual “truths,” and make reasonable, sensible connections between them. But I understand that my basic premises may be wrong, that my intellectual bias may be leading me astray, that I may not have my “facts” straight at all. But to have to add that qualification to every “point” I make in a discussion makes any such debate cumbersome at best, pointless at worst. For how can we “learn” anything, if every sentence we utter begins with “I may not know what I’m talking about, but…”

Much better, in my opinion, to have someone challenge my assertions, point out where I’ve led myself astray. If your facts, reason, logic, or bias makes more sense after questioning, then I have no problem adjusting my point of view to be more in alignment with yours; I am quite capable of admitting I am “wrong” and you are “right.”

But if no one ever challenges me…? Or if those who do have nothing more to offer than insults and insistence on their own point of view, regardless of any contradictions or alternative ideas I might challenge them with…?

Then no true exchange of views, no “learning,” is possible. Right? Or am I missing something obvious here? Lol!

I’m not sure what the solution might be. I’m not even sure a solution exists! I can’t actually think for someone else, any more than I can make decisions about what might be best for them. But I can better discipline myself, and my own thought patterns. And I think it’s time to make a conscious effort to do so.

So, for a time anyway, I’m going to make a effort to add those annoying, cumbersome qualifiers to any discussion I have about “reality.” Maybe I won’t say them out loud all the time (since some already resent the number of words I use to express my point of view – lol!), but to myself, at least. While conversing with these people who make me want to tear my hair out in frustration, I will continuously repeat the mantra:

Ignorance may be bliss, but ignorance of my ignorance is not going to exacerbate this!

Or, in simpler, less verbiose terms…

I could be wrong here…

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Reflections

The Shadow…

With the passing of the eclipse, the Shadow takes center stage…  What does your Shadow Self bring to the scene?

For me it is an understanding, hard to accept, one steeped in what I would have formerly named “negativity.”  Now I call it “reality.”  My reality.  My understanding.  My Shadow at work in the world I live…

Not everyone is worth saving, Lisa, and no one (other than yourself) is your responsibility…

Harsh words, I know, but true for me nonetheless.  And I had to follow my heart (my bleeding liberal, loving heart), to a distant place to find that truth within…

This past weekend I travelled to the Serpent Mound in southern Ohio to view the eclipse.  I wasn’t sure why I was there, but I knew I needed to be there.  Something terrible and tragic once occurred there (in my personal karmic history), and I was finally ready to face it.  But nothing in the work I’ve done prior prepared me for what I would discover during this pilgrimmage.  The “answers” I sought, the forgiveness I craved, was not a destination at all, but a journey.  Every moment of that experience counted, and momentum built, until the eclipse itself merely punctuated it.  Three days later the “truth” I uncovered begins to sink in…

People are… horrible!

Not everyone, of course; I recognize that.  But the vast majority of us are so focused upon ourselves that we cannot truly embrace others.  We cannot grasp our “true” place in the universe.  Even those “spiritually enlightened and evolved” ones I once counted as family are not free of destructive self-delusion.  I watched them desecrating sacred ground in pursuit of their enlightenment, each believing themselves to be an exception to the rules, because they were special or had “good” intentions.  Each displayed a shocking (to me) lack of respect, even when asked to “correct” their behavior.  “No, it’s ok,” they’d say in all sincerity.  “I’m just meditating here.  I’m not harming anything.”

Define “harm,” I’d think to myself…

I became unbearable to be around, as this “truth” started to seep out with my Shadow’s growing presence; so much so that my travelling companions needed to point it out.  “This isn’t really like you, to be so negative.  What’s going on with you?”

Indeed…

But I think it is me now.  At least for a while.  And it isn’t just me, either…

Since I’ve returned home, I’ve discovered other “always positive” folk taking “negative” stances.  A friend who manages to keep a light burning, no matter how many storms she encounters, telling me, “I’ve had enough, Lisa.  I’m too tired to care anymore.”  A fellow blogger I admire and follow, in part for her “silver lining” philosophy, saying, “Enough already!  I’m done playing by the rules of expectation!”  And myself writing poetry I don’t bother publishing because it adds nothing of value to the discussion; merely pointing out that “innocence” and “willful ignorance” are closer kin than I thought…

So, no…  I have no words of “hope” to say today.  I have no real faith in humanity today.  I believe we are on our own journeys now, more so than ever, and that we will find a way to evolve individually, or perish through our self-destructive efforts with the vast majority.  And I’m ok with that today.

There is power in the Shadow, but no true morality.  How you choose to direct that power is entirely up to you.  I wish you well on your journeys across the dark side of the moon, and genuinely look forward to meeting some of you again, when we reach the “other side”…

 

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Essay, Reflections

The Ethics of Writing – A Personal Dilemma…

When should I write?  What should I write about?  What part of my writing “belongs” to the public who may read the words, and what part belongs solely to me?  Who decides when or what I should write?

These are some of the questions plaguing me today…

I know that I have not been consistent lately in keeping up with this blog.  Nor have I been able to keep up with other blogs I regularly follow.  I have my reasons, of course, and my excuses, but today I’m looking a little deeper into the why’s and wherefore’s…

It’s been said by many that a “real” writer (author) writes every day, inspired or not.  I don’t disagree with that sentiment on principle, but feel it applies more directly to those who wish to get/be published, than to those of us writing only for personal reasons.  Lately, though, I’ve received several gentle nudges from people questioning my silence.  Some were quite moving (a fellow blogger wrote a tribute poem for me).  Some were kind of wistful (“I miss reading your blog entries.”).  Some were suggestive (“you should write about that!”).  And others were damn straightforward (“I really wish you’d write more.  You should be writing, Lisa; it’s what you were born to do!”).

All of them share common characteristics – well intentioned, motivating, loving and honest.  All make me want to write more.  But the internal screen remains blank…

It’s not that I don’t have things to say, even, because I talk plenty in conversation.  I read voraciously.  I opine endlessly.  And I seek answers in words to questions not yet posed by my conscious mind; my journal is full of them. Yet I do not commit any to this forum, in spite of the many partial drafts in my draft folder, or the finished pieces. (NOTE: Even this entry has sat in my draft folder for about a week now.)  I couldn’t quite bring myself to publish.  Why?

No simple answers, I think, and yet not overly complicated, either.  I was warned late last year to keep my words to myself, to not attempt to influence people, as we had moved into a pivotal era of human evolution.  Each person needs to decide for themselves where they stand, and what matters most to them, and it was important for me to step back and let that happen.  Thinking about that now makes me wonder, because it assumes I have some influence, where perhaps I have none.  So is this whole silence thing merely an ego trip for me?

I’ve been warned that failure to maintain a regular publication schedule here will cost me followers, as people get bored and frustrated with waiting.  I counter that argument by reminding my friends that I got into blogging not for the followers, but because I wanted a forum to connect with like-minded Others.  But the truth is, I’m still picking up stray followers, even when I’m not publishing anything at all, which leads me to question the significance of followers at all…

I mean, no offense to anyone here, but the truth (I believe) is that most of my “followers” are not so much following me, as they are buying into that blogging rule that “to get followers, you have to be a follower.”  I recognized that early on, and since I didn’t come here to build up a huge site, I have been careful to only follow those blogs I am genuinely interested in reading.  And I am grateful for many I have met here at WordPress, even carrying some of those connections over to other social media platforms.  But the bottom line is, I don’t think any of my followers are truly harmed by my prolonged silence.  Or so I tell myself, at least…

I find myself remembering my ghostwriting days, when I would receive a small fee for writing someone else’s book, and I would get no credit or rights to the published work.  It worked as a source of occasional income, but it was fraught with its own ethical pitfalls.

In most cases, I never met the “actual” author, and I preferred it that way, really.  I would simply receive a packet of information, a synopsis of what the work should be about, and a deadline.  It was my job to sort, organize, draft and edit the manuscript, then later make whatever changes the author or publisher needed.  Not difficult, until I encountered (what to me seemed) glaring errors in data collection or conclusions.  Then I had to make a choice: write what the author wanted (even though I strongly disagreed), try to convince the publisher to convince the author to revisit the data, or simply alter it myself, and hope for the best.  I tried all three at different times, but it was the first and last that proved the most significant for me in terms of learning.

In the first scenario, I found I couldn’t live with myself comfortably after sending out knowingly flawed work, even though my name and reputation were nowhere near the published product.  Even now, that bitterness taints my tongue everytime I think of that particular book.  In the third scenario, I learned a lot about what I now call multi-dimensional writing – a situation where particular words and/or grammatical structure are used to convey different meanings depending upon the readers’ preconceived biases and expectations.  In other words, I would carefully construct the text (using connotative and denotative meanings, word order, idiom and specialized jargon) to present data that the author would recognize as their “own,” while allowing others, like me, to interpret differently.  It is a skill I still use today; anytime you encounter an oddly phrased bit that makes you want to reread it, you’ve likely found an example of this.

Why does any of this matter?

Because a dear friend of mine recently discovered “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, and brought it to my attention.  (NOTE: This title has now crossed my path three times since I wrote this, from three separate, unconnected in space, sources.)  I read this book back in the late 1990’s, though I didn’t remember much about it other than the first Agreement: Be impeccable with your Word.

But she had the audio version, and really wanted to share it with me, so we went for a long drive and listened to it.  (We actually were going somewhere, not just driving around to listen to the CD.  Lol!)  Once I heard the words again, I realized how deeply I had been impacted by them originally, as everytime we paused to discuss, we would find our words repeated in the next section.  It was uncanny how much of what I practice and believe, especially about language and writing, is reflected in the words of that book!  It is a source I highly recommend to any writers out there who wonder about the impact of their work…

And suddenly I better understood my recent restrictions on writing anything at all; if our words truly do influence our environment, as I believe they do, then using them carefully and sparingly in times of great conflict makes sense.  And maybe it’s not even about whether or not I reach or influence you, but rather about how I influence my self!  Because I am not immune to my own influence, you know; the more frequent and convicted my words, the more likely I am to believe them, and act accordingly.  It’s a self-determining path, and I have strong convictions these days…

But I “needed” to remain open to possibilities that had not yet occurred to me.  And I could not do that if I was busy convincing myself of what I already believed.  So silence called to me…  And I listened.

Of course, it didn’t help that my usual “channels” for gathering information were clogged with unwanted information.  Every time I tried to meditate, or lately sleep, I was assaulted with disturbing and/or terrifying imagery; “lost” strangers, animals suffering and dying, the Earth moaning under inconceivable destructive pressures, snipers taking aim at people, and most recently, babies being tortured.  I couldn’t concentrate enough to get beyond the images, so the “source” of my creativity dried up…

But that is finally shifting, as more positive images begin to take root in my subconscious mind and heart.  I am emerging from my long silence with more detachment, less need for meeting expectations, and a greater desire to write sparingly about what matters most to me.

Consider yourselves warned… 😉

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