Thursday, November 14, 2013

Anomalies: keys to the emerging paradigm

Marginalizing anomalies ensure that we remain stuck, hung up, suspended.

In the process of learning and observing, we will necessarily come upon anomalies—elements of experience and observation that don’t fit our current working hypothesis. Anomalies show up in academic studies as all of the data that don’t fit the expectations of the experiment or study. 

Anomalies show up in advertisements for legal drugs as disclaimers as to “side” effects. A drug has effects. A particular drug has effects the pharmaceutical company wants to market and make money on and it has effects that will make it less likely that the company will make a lot of money. It is this second group that they call “side” effects. They wish to marginalize these effects, to make them less important, to say they don’t matter. These are anomalies that don’t fit their making-money-hand-over-fist-no-matter-what-it-does-to-people paradigm.

Over time, anomalies grow in number and importance. At some point, our working paradigm will require that these anomalies be dealt with. Honesty and humility require that we keep an eye toward the anomalies, to those data that do not currently fit our working hypothesis; for, in those anomalies are answers for questions that we currently have, are in the process of formulating, or have yet to formulate.

Marginalizing anomalies ensures that we will remain exactly where we are. As long as we maintain our hypotheses despite growing evidence that change is needed, we ensure that our hypothesis will go from being a working hypothesis to an ineffectual one.

The mind likes clean, crisp lines, but the fact is, experience is full of data that doesn't fit our current conceptions.

When we go from having a working hypothesis to believing that what we have is absolute truth, we ensure that what we now hold to be true will at some point result in alienation of ourselves, both from the truth and from living effectively. We ensure a growing sense that we are light and all the rest of the world is wrong. We ensure that it will require “faith” in the edicts of an outside source, acquiescence to an external authority—text, institution, or deity. We ensure that what we want to call the “truth” is nothing more than an oppressive paradigm that likely does very little good in the lives of its adherents. We ensure that our only hope is the arrival of information that mercilessly (or mercifully, from a certain perspective) levels our machinations.

The Tower Card from the Thoth Deck -- signifies the abrupt arrival of paradigm-shifting information.

In a deck of Tarot card, The Tower Card, one of the Major Arcana, reveals that upheaval is coming. This disruption is in the form of realizing that all that one has believed is wrong, flawed, misguided, or just plain credulous. The Tower Card invites us to look at our view of the world, our view of ourselves and be open to change as we come into deeper and more expansive perspectives of all that is.

A spiritual journey is a road to transformation, one of a thousand and one paradigm shifts that get us closer and closer to knowing our Authentic Self and where we fit in the universe. To embark upon a spiritual journey is to adopt the notion that what I currently hold to be truth is nothing more than a working hypothesis. If we are honest and humble, we soften the blow of those times foretold by the Tower Card, when all of the anomalies we’ve been holding at bay crash in and require that we modulate our hypothesis. If we are open, we come to find a deeper, wider, more expansive sense of what is true, and maximize our relationship to that expanding reality.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Empty Headed--A Good Place to Start

All that we know is not all that much in light of what is possible to know.

For anyone embarking upon a spiritual journey, one of your greatest assets is the ability to know within yourself that you can’t possibility know all that there is to know, that even that which you know and feel is true beyond any question, might very well be shown at some point in time to be somewhere along the continuum from misinformed to flat-out ridiculous. In some respects, I would call the disposition to hold all that we know in a kind of permanent flux, humility. Not humility in the self-effacing sense, but in the sense that I never have a reason to assert the parameters of my current working hypothesis as anything more than a working hypothesis, certainly not the absolute truth.

I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “If everything you believed was completely false, how would you know?” In fact, we believe what we believe because we have formulated a working hypothesis. If that hypothesis didn’t work for us personally, it wouldn’t be our working hypothesis. We would have a different working hypothesis. As far as my own personal history is concerned, and my response to that personal history, my working hypothesis is true.

Anyone else living my life with the exact same experiences would experience my life differently than I have experienced it. 

Hypothetically, we could postulate that anyone else living my life under the exact circumstances and having the exact same experiences would very likely come up with a different, even if similar working hypothesis. But I want to say that it wouldn’t be all that similar. This is a part of being human. We have unique, subjective experiences no matter how “common” and “average” those experiences may be.

This is why it is not as easy as we might assume to prove guilt in a courtroom with many witnesses . Subjective observations of and responses to experiences are as varied as the number of people there to observe them. And certain predispositions, such as the race and the attire of a person, or that a person has tattoos, or looks like the uncle that used to mock my early attempts to play the guitar, evokes prejudice and other patterned responses to data that taint and color subjective experience far more than is commonly expected or accepted.

"I humbly empty myself of all I think I know."

Openness to the idea that we might not know everything that can be known, especially of those matters which we may consider ourselves expert, is the hallmark of wisdom. The best way to arrive at the truth is to take into consideration all that might be said about whatever we are considering. Whom do we respect more, a judge who has a position in a bureaucracy, who doles out decisions based on “the law,” or a wise man who takes all things into consideration, listens to all sides, and approaches the truth, not as something that can be absolutely established, but as the nearest approximation we might make on all that we know? For me personally, I’d prefer the wise man to help me make decisions about what is right and fair.