Making Sense of Chaos, Meaninglessness, Disorientation

The question of what our lives mean causes us all to pause. In my continuing quest to understand, besides my work and talking with colleagues, I read Chaos: Making a New Science ©2008 by James Gleick.

by James Gleick

I thought understanding more about Chaos would help because it espouses to make universal laws about complex behavior. It also helped me understand that many things we take as fact, such as when the comet will next pass or the when the next eclipse will occur, is only a prediction, not statements of fact. It also explained, research scientist are not innovators but problem solvers under NORMAL conditions. These solutions do not account for outcomes when things are not as expected.

Chaos is a new way of seeing that requires one to renounce much of the past. This was refreshing, since many things we used to believe were wrong. (See Undoing Project book by Michael Lewis and related posts Undoing Needed because Mental Illusions Impact Us, More Undoing: A Beneficial Drug Policy, To Improve: “Undoing” Needed to Create Better!) Overall, Chaos is in search for understanding deterministic disorder. Yes, the whole idea is disorienting.

Chaos is about dynamical or changing nonlinear systems which are counterintuitive. It is said to have developed because more and more scientists felt reductionism, which is the compartmentalization of science, or the studying of isolated parts rather than the whole, was an impediment to their work.

The book explains that work in chaos has changed our view. While we had thought simple systems behave in simple ways, and complex behavior implied complex causes; now scientists know simple systems give rise to complex behavior and complex systems give rise to simple behavior. Thus counterintuitive. They also explain, “Life sucks order our of a sea of disorder”. In other words, we make life work by causing order, for the short term. Reading this Chaos book answered many questions, however, like when I got my PhD, it ended up raising many more questions then it answered.

We all want life to mean something, however that depends on the time and scale we consider. If consideration is for 1 day or 100,000 years, that means our actions have meaning or they do not. This conversation about meaning and life is one I have had with many colleagues I respect, such as Don Ardell. In our discussion of his new proposed Law of Wellness, he shared this good 5 minute presentation he did for Ignite Tampa 2015 about Life, Meaning and Meaninglessness:

While I agree with all he says, I thought the emphasis should be adjusted toward what we can do to make meaning and purpose now, in the short term to give our lives direction and purpose. Recently I also watched/listened to a TED conversation with astrophysicist Katie Mack about the origins of the universe that turned out to be relevant but caused even more disorientation. If you are interested, you can see/listen to it at TED: The Mind-Bending Reality of the Universe.

She also shared a poem she wrote in 2019, Disorientation: A Science Poem by Katie Mack. I found this counterintuitive stanza relevant:

…I want you to believe that the universe is a vast, random, uncaring place, in which our species, our world, has absolutely no significance. And I want you to believe that the only response is to make our own beauty and meaning and to share it while we can…

Katie Mack

I personally want to have a positive impact on the world, which can be seen as selfless. However I want to do that so I can feel good about myself, which is selfish. I also aim to create positive pervasive and reciprocal interactions so they are synergistic.

My reasoning suggests to me, we should all attempt to engage in Selfish, Selfless, Synergistic interactions (#SelfishSelflessSynergy) to generate comprehensive improvements that benefit everyone and everything. What do you think? Please share…

PS – I also came across this note by 9/11/2021 note by Seth Godin that I think captures these ideals:

Seth’s Blog: From Seth Godin

We are not astronomers

Unlike most of the sciences, astronomy is always done at a distance. You can see the stars, but you can’t do anything about them. Sometimes the media would like us to believe that we’re all astronomers, simply passive witnesses in a world out of our control. Sometimes the media would like us to believe that we’re all astronomers, simply passive witnesses in a world out of our control. But the world is never out of our influence. Remembrance, connection, possibility, invention, empathy, insight, correction, care and justice are all up to us. We not only observe, but we make changes happen. Our participation (or apathy) leads to a different future. The ocean is made of drops. And the drops are up to us. Who else is going to care enough to make an impact?

SEPTEMBER 11, 2021

Please share your thoughts, and most importantly, please engage in #SelfishSelfessSynergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

BeWell’r,

Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

#SelfishSelflessSynergy

Please share your thoughts and questions below.
Contact me: BeWellr@gmail.com

Its All Meaningless! Here is How to Create Meaning!

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
― Viktor E. Frankl

Nothing means anything unless we decide it does. Think about it, only when we decide something has meaning does it. If we decide it does not have meaning, it becomes irrelevant. Research discusses who we look for self justification. In technical terms this can be referred to as confirmation bias. That is we seek information or pay mind to information that supports our beliefs and ignore information that suggests otherwise. It is what we do to make life livable because life is difficult. Without meaning and predictability in life, it makes life more difficult.

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Meaning is a human construct and meaning is a figment of our imagination, according to David McRaney in “You are Not So Smart”.  He explains that we use the Texas Sharp Shooter Fallacy, or artificially construct patterns in randomness. The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy is if we had a barn wall with random shots all over the wall, we would draw a bullseye around a cluster of shot holes to create the impression we were had good marksmanship. This is an example of paying attention only to what could be meaningful, the signal, and ignoring the noise, all the other shots. He details how we do this regularly in mind and through life to find meaning.

However, as he says, this helps make life more livable. If we also connect it to our values and paneugenesis, the practice of generating comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits, it is about more than us. We also must remember, what we do affects everything else. We also know as shown previously, what we think does change our physiological reaction as demonstrated by Dr. Alia Crum’s work here.

Of course the big question is what does it all mean or does it mean anything? In a short 5 minute presentation, Don Ardell explains why life is meaningless. While he argues there is no meaning, it seems he also suggests we create meaning.

This is well supported by science. If this is so, shouldn’t we then endeavor to create all good by generating comprehensive improvements through interactions from which everyone and everything benefits? Doing so will help us create data that supports our belief we have a purposeful meaning and that makes us feel good about ourselves and others feel better too – Yea.

Feeling good about yourself leads to positive ripples. As Dan Ariely and others have shown, the emotional state we have going into an interaction determines the result of that interaction. Going into an interaction with positive emotions creates more beneficial interactions than if we go in with negative emotions. Feeling good about ourselves, by contributing to the common good will create positive feedback loop that keeps paying it forward. Even if life is meaningless, at least we made an effort to create meaningful experiences in our life.

My recommendation, if you want your life to mean something good, work to generate comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits. A way to do this is to use the 7C’s – Accept the Challenge, Have Courage, Make a Commitment, Develop Competence, Create Connections, Provide Contributions and Build on those Consequences for continuous and never ending improvement. If you are interested, more detailed 7 C discussion is available here.

To reinforce these ideals, Maria Konnikova explained in her interesting book, The Biggest Bluff: How I learned to Pay Attention, master myself and win” ©2020

Chance is just chance – it is neither good, nor bad, nor persona until we supply it with meaning. 

Enjoy Don Ardell’s 5 minute talk: Life is Meaningless

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Making a Better Tomorrow

Yovai Harari (in TED Presentation below) explains that humans became the dominant creature on the planet because of our ability to imagine and collaborate about a better tomorrow. Through the presentation he also helps us understand that our world was first just a fictional creation toward which we all agreed to work. After all, simple green pieces of paper (American) or what we call money is only worth something because we agree. In most ways, agreeing that money has value has enabled us to enjoy a significantly higher quality of life than would be possible otherwise.

I bring your attention to this topic because to me this means we must imagine and dream up and “Operationalize our Idealized World” and then work to promote this picture. For a better world to become a reality we will have to engage in massive collaboration. While this seems daunting, it is possible and to make it possible if all can see how they will be better. This means we will need to imagine a better reality that encourages, nurtures, supports and reinforces interactions from which everyone and everything benefits. Creating this world will mean we must build in ways to continually reinforce or recognize these actions. When actions that help others are reinforced it gives meaning to actions, we feel good. When we see we help, we have a purpose and impact on creating a desired world – Purpose is Powerful and this will encourage us to do more. If you are interested, throughout this post I have linked related past posts on related ideas.

I look forward to collaborating with you to generating comprehensive benefits by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

We Choose Why Things Happen

So often I hear people remark, “Everything Happens for a reason!” as if it were pre-determined that things would happen. If that is so, it takes away meaning from most of our actions since we would therefore have no influence.

As Israel Zangill said,

Take from me the hope that I can change the future and you will send me mad.

Yes everything does happen for a reason but it is the reason that we decide. As William Shakespeare proclaimed.

Nothing is either good or bad, thinking makes it so.

This idea has a special meaning for me as a survivor of a tragic car accident where the driver and other 2 passengers were killed and I was left in a coma and temporarily paralyzed on the right side of my body. Was there really a pre-determined reason 3 young adults should be killed in an accident? As a 17 year old, after months and years of recovery I was left with the difficult question, why I am still here but my friends are not? What made it even more difficult were the caring friends peppering me with the idea that I was saved for a reason.

I had trouble with that idea because if there was such a thing as a higher power, why would 3 people have to be killed to send me that message. As Jonathan Haidt shared, a contradiction in religion is that the almighty cannot be “all powerful, all knowing, and all good”, something has to give. I was able to forge my meaning on life with the help of the wonderful little book by Harold Kushner, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People“. Notice the title is not – WHY bad things happen, just when. For those of you left with these crushing questions, I strongly recommend a read of Kushner’s book.

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To create the life we want and to generate interactions so everyone and everything benefits, it seems we must move forth with purpose and meaning. Purpose and meaning is something my difficult times encouraged me to seek and it is something I continue to strive for in all I do. Life is messy and unexpected  so when things do not work out as planned as often happens. Meaning has helped me and may help anyone move forward toward the goal of a better day and life for all. In these travels, it seems helpful to “forge meaning”, as Andrew Solomon explains in this TED talk. Enjoy.

 

 

In other words, we choose what things mean and it is in doing this that we can give our life value.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!