Category Archives: Classic Bill

What Is the Meaning of Life? – Revisited

Updated July 9, 2021

When I was younger, I would ask this question whenever anyone, even a tour guide in a museum, asked me if I had any more questions.

The greatest thing you'll ever learn

Internally, it’s the question I asked myself multiple times a day all my life until I felt sure of the answer, which occurred sometime in my 30s.

The underlying question is “What is the meaning of ‘meaning’ in this context?”

The intent of the question is to understand what life is, what its purpose is (if any), what the universe is, what its purpose is (if any), why we are here, who we are, how we are to behave, what our relation is to one another, is there a God, and why are we compelled to consider any of this as relevant or meaningful to the second-to-second management of our personal business of existence.

One alternative to asking and answering this question to one’s own satisfaction is to go about life happily without caring about the question (which could be a Zen-like answer in itself, essentially filing the question away into the “Overthinking” file). Another alternative is to consider life meaningless, which many existentialists did in the last century.

Other than an intuition I had at age 12 that “I am God and so is everyone else”, which I tucked away as an interesting but unexplained aberration, the meaninglessness of life was my own position for the first 30-odd years of life. Around age 20, as I studied philosophy, I put reasoning around this earlier intuition, deciding that one took positions like this based solely on aesthetic preference, since knowability of the answer to What Is the Meaning of Life? was apparently beyond our scope.

In my 30s I had some unusual experiences that also reminded me of similar experiences in my childhood, at which point I felt as I do now — a very strong conviction that I actually know the answer.

The way I see it, all that exists is a single consciousness of such great computing power as to know everything that goes on within itself instantaneously at all times (though God or the One Self is above time). Since we don’t share this omniscience, God gets to play our roles with more drama and excitement. So the meaning of life must be to realize and enjoy this game as our true Original Self does, and thereby re-merge into the Original Consciousness.

I talk about this theory more in my book You Are The Universe: Imagine That.

From a practical standpoint, life becomes most meaningful for us to the extent that we realize our own unique gifts; we love doing the things inspired by those talents; we develop a life plan around sharing these things with others, and then we go forward with that plan without being attached to the outcome.

We then have a Purpose, a Mission, which satisfies the thinking mind of our own meaningfulness. Just as I go into meetings with awareness of my preferred outcomes, I set them aside at the last minute so I can go with the meeting flow, taking the standpoint of simply trying to help out everyone else in the meeting as best I can. Pragmatically and empirically, this appears to work best in balancing out the complexities of life as well.

So “What is the meaning of Life?” Enjoying it, loving it, loving all, and helping others to do the same.

“The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return.”
— “Nature Boy”, by Nat King Cole

Pragmatically, one’s philosophy of life – i.e., one’s values – will tend to lead to the most rewarding outcomes, to the degree that it does not contain seeds of negativity. For example, if our worldview includes the tendency to sit in judgment of other people, this will create situations of unhappiness for ourselves in the long run. This realization is why Jesus said “Judge not, lest ye be judged”.

The founders of the great religions were, at minimum, seers, visionaries, who grasped the way things work in life, and shared these observations to help others.

The Perennial Philosophy is the synthesis of all this wisdom.

Game Theory leads one to recognize that in the game of life, one is always making bets. If one is betting that the universe is benevolent not accidental, one will live a happier, more fulfilling life. Pragmatically, that is the bet to make, according to Game Theory, whether or not the universe is an accident in reality.

At this time of great crisis in the world, what we all really need the most is the spirit of cooperation and sharing.

Ideologies we have become attached to, groups we have become identified with down to the core of our being, the deification of competition as a perfect Good, the Marxist dialectical materialist love affair with contradiction, mindless devotion to an authoritarian leader, lazy subscription to ideas of others rather than one’s own contemplation of personal empirical experience, are baggage which must be left behind in a deep mind cleanse and reset that is open to new learning from attentive worldly experience, the scientific method applied to life, rising up above the pettiness of one’s own robotical negativity to embrace higher states of being which come with pure unclouded observation as if seeing everything for the first time.

I propose that if you are not yet in that state, to allow it a try. If we all do it starting now, events will unfold that will take us away from the spiral of doom now seemingly at our doorstep.

Love,

Bill

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See Through the Things That Still Manipulate You

Created October 30, 2020

You know what I mean. You’ve already conquered many of the things that used to push your buttons. Now maybe they can still get your goat from time to time when they catch you suddenly off guard while you are dealing with something else, or when you are just totally exhausted.

When I was 9 years old I refused to learn long division. Whenever the subject came up I became uneasy and defensive. My mind shrank in its capabilities because of the negative emotional tone I became trapped in.

When I was 12 years old I refused to wear glasses. It upset me whenever I was forced to put them on.

I’m sure the things you were vulnerable to as a child were silly like mine, and you’ve put them all away as I have mine.

Yet even as adults there are things that still can disturb our mental emotional tranquility. They somehow grab us and take over our minds and emotions. We are suddenly afraid or angry or simply not having a good time all of a sudden.

The next time that happens to you, observe it as a scientist would. What was it that took away your good mood? Why did you let it? What inside of you was the traitor? What fixated attachment do you have – perhaps to some image of yourself – that made you vulnerable being taken over as it by a spell?

Politics is one thing that can do it.

Modern Internet and all the other media we have now, is another thing that can do it.

These things can get to me if I learn about something happening which I wish I could fix, and I realize the enormity of the thing, and my own relative helplessness to come to the rescue. The frustration at not being able to do enough to help is still capable of disturbing my mental emotional tranquility sometimes. At most times I can turn it off like an alarm clock by contemplating what I can do, whether it will have much of an effect or not, and then doing it, without getting hung up on what the outcome might be.

We have to be able to rise above politics. In American Pragmatic Idealism there is a pantheon of ideals we hold high, some of which are more important to the conserving side of our natures, and some of which are more important to the progressing side of our natures, but all Americans want all of these things:

REPUBLICANS

DEMOCRATS

FREEDOM

EQUALITY

INDEPENDENCE

JUSTICE

FRUGALITY

BENEVOLENCE

DEMAND WHAT YOU DESERVE

PEACE

STOICISM

SELF IMPROVEMENT

 

People employed in government can be expected to be above average in being motivated by Power. This is not necessarily a bad thing if it causes us to have enough people interested in governance so the rest of us don’t have to spend more time on that than we individually feel like. We each have to devote some time to governance because that’s the nature of the deal in a democracy.

But Power as we all know can corrupt. And the lust for power can cause people to become manipulative and to use today’s incredibly powerful media to force a foothold in our private mental emotional space. These messages from both sides will tend to exaggerate the dangers of letting the other side win, and will tend to push us into warring camps. This is intentional or unintentional or both, but that is irrelevant, because one way or the other, it is happening. Only we can learn to be strong enough to prevent our own mental invasion by manipulative and maddening stimuli and memes.

We have a good thing going here. First, life itself. Second, this magically beautiful and awe-inspiring planet we all love. Third, love itself. The list goes on. It includes science. It includes America, and more generally, the notion of Democracy. The governance of the Universe which evidently loves us, wanted us to have all these good things.

We have to shake off the willies and get in touch with our own gratitude for the good thing we all have here all around us. We have to keep it going, and make it better where we can, without blaming or being unkind to one another.

Superman, the comic book character launched in 1939, through his writers, coined the phrase “Truth, Beauty, and The American Way”, just in time for WWII. Those were Superman’s ideals, his motivations, even though he didn’t come from America, he came from Krypton.

Many 18-year old GIs dying on the battlefield probably held the phrase in their hearts to keep themselves fighting to the last.

Truth is mentioned first of the three Superman ideals. Who is lying more to us, and who is lying less? Even if we cynically assume they are all lying to us (which I do not), we should at least be able to make a careful judgment call, citing specific evidence to ourself, as to who is probably lying more to us and who is probably lying less to us.

It’s time for you to vote, if you haven’t already done so. Voting is not only our right it’s our duty. If we do nothing else in the social compact we made with our country, that’s the one thing we must do, at least for presidential elections. Stand up and be counted. Take responsibility. Be a leader. Be true to yourself. What do YOU stand for? To not vote is to state that you stand for nothing. Nihilism. Disrespect for life.

If you’re being prevented from voting by BS rules, it’s up to you to find the way to overcome that BS. The Universe will help you if you put out the effort, and you will vote.

Hold your heart steady. Be able to go on if whoever you vote for, the other folks win. Keep in mind the long view of America. Its checks and balances were carefully worked out and there’s a good chance no matter who is in charge of the various houses of government here, the system itself will protect us. Moreover, have confidence in the strength of the good. Not only in America but around the world. Don’t write off the billions of good people we’ve got on this planet.

The center is where we all pull together. When we don’t hold the center, things can get out of hand.

May the center hold.

Best to all, and God Bless America.

Bill

A Song for Today https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NqszdLiJxg

 

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The Role of Feelings in Decision Making

Updated August 7, 2020

During this time it’s easy to harbor negative feelings almost continuously, but it only makes things worse for ourselves and our loved ones. Negative feelings not only bring us down, medical evidence shows they also weaken our immune system, making us more prone to disease, and they distract our cognitive concentration, thereby reducing our effectiveness. This is also a time in which consistently making clearheaded decisions is more important than ever before, to protect those we love including ourselves.

Bad feelings can also serve a positive function — as an alarm system to quickly get us to pay attention to a problem. Ironically, if bad feelings continue unabated while we are grappling with a problem on a rational level, it will take longer to solve the problem because we are stuck in a cycle of negativity. Most of us have experienced this cycle.

Are you more driven by thoughts or feelings

Are we generally more driven by our feelings than by our thoughts?

Freud established that thoughts are more likely to be rationalized in support of feelings, rather than our being able to use our thoughts to control our feelings. And yet, how valuable it is to be able to do just that — to have the mental self-discipline to focus our thoughts effectively even when our feelings are in an uproar?

Feelings are urges that arise within us, within our minds and within our bodies. Feelings are experiences, states of consciousness resulting from our motivations, sentiments, preferences or desires. These terms all really mean the same thing: what we value, what we want, what we are trying to get, what we want to avoid.

Feelings are how we respond internally to outer and inner events, based on what we are trying to get and avoid, and how current events can help or threaten our desired outcomes.

We feel positive if current events appear to favor our targeted outcomes, and we feel negative if events seem to be heading away from what we want to have happen.

Positive feelings are valued universally. There’s no argument: we all like them, and would like to have more of them!

Generally speaking, feelings are also a manifestation of our motivations colliding with the external world. What would we feel if we had no motivations?

You can discover this by meditating. While there are many meditation techniques, all of them have a mind/gut mirror effect of showing us what our motivations really are, where they have gotten us, and why we have each of our experiences. Through practicing meditation we can achieve this objectivity, turning off certain motivations at least for the moment and seeing what that feels like. What visions of future possibilities arise now that X motivation is gone?

The perspective we gain through meditation can give us a unique vantage point on our feelings and our motivations. Meditation helps us consider deeply our own feelings and their consequences in the world. It also generates positive feelings, so it’s good for our overall health and well-being. Practicing meditation and becoming aware of the role our feelings and motivations play in our lives allows us to better understand the value of both in our decision making process.

My best to all,

Bill

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Let’s work together to reunite America.

Updated July 31, 2020

Let’s agree that this is a mission worthy of our collective focus and best efforts. In the current confusion and fear, armed groups are forming, some to defend against a coup d’etat in November, some to assist it, and others with widely varying notions. One Civil War was enough. As in a good marriage that winds up on rough seas, it’s worth it to work toward repair rather than dissolution. We’ve got a good thing going here. Awesome people set it up for us and we’ve built it up into the hope of the world, many of us have died for it, we owe it all of them to bring us back together.

There is rich value in our dynamic differences

Our individual and largescale best move would be to first acknowledge the feelings and disparity that exists on so many issues we are facing, and then seek new creative ways to formulate compromise concepts and action programs that can bring all of us together to effect authentic change.  If we just begin the dialogue together and quickly wind down the negativity, we can pull together toward creativity and compromise.

Creativity is one thing that has still been missing on the real issues at hand. Mostly we hear variations on ancient themes, not inspiring new ideas. Exactly the opposite of what is needed. Look at the world around us — it is full of amazing surprises in technology, lifestyles, and new ideas in every field except politics when it comes to some of the most serious societal issues that we face. The American people want creativity in public policy and in healing the serious societal riffs that still fester. Here’s just one example to illustrate my point: https://www.billharveyconsulting.com/pdf/Schooling-in-Pandemic.pdf?d4

We all need to retrain ourselves to think, stripping away everything and starting from fresh sheets of paper or blank screens, reinventing anew. Let’s think the unthinkable. Pour out ideas without regard for taking credit, resolving to work together as one team, for the greater good. We have real challenges, and we must together devise the real new solutions that lie just beyond barriers of our own making. We are in need of leaders, those who will propose new, positive and healing solutions as we move forward.

There is rich value in our dynamic differences. Respect for those whose views or backgrounds differ from our own is the mother from which invention of new creative re-bonding ideas springs. Lack of such respect is an infertile ground for creativity and healing. If we open ourselves up and consider other’s perspectives, there can be real inspiration in our own creative ideas that might succeed in bringing us together. Let’s all share in the creative process and bubble up grassroots ideas for leaders to build upon.

In this spirit of America, let’s all step up to heal the rifts that divide us with ideas that can solve the challenges the human race has created for itself.

We invite you to embrace healing in your own life so that it may radiate out — as from pebbles rippling in a vast pond.

My Best to All!

Bill

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The Hardest Game Worth Playing

Originally posted June 23, 2015

Happiness is the meaning of life

Staying happy in every moment is the hardest game worth playing. Maybe a million years from now, or even in a couple of hundred thousand years, it will not be so.

But we can’t wait.

We need to develop methods and tools to advance ourselves mentally and emotionally that far into the future, now. The actual survival of the human race may well be at stake, but more importantly, our own individual happiness — yours and mine, and that of the people we love and those around us — is at stake for sure.

Happiness cannot remain up the trail somewhere, an elusive thing we are working toward. That’s an outdated idea. It’s time for the new idea. Happiness now, in every moment. Now. And now. And now. Happiness all the time, internally controlled, internally generated, by an act of will. Infernally difficult but we cannot abandon this game, believing it’s just too difficult and out of our reach. Now is the time to face it — fight it — and win. And keep winning, because the game is not won once but continuously. That’s what makes it so hard.

As you go through your day, keep coming back to your birthright to be happy, right now, and use your focus, your will, and your creativity to bring about your happiness each moment. Let inner impulses float downstream if they are not conducive to your happiness in this moment. Allow such unhelpful thoughts and feelings to occur, and then watch them float away without holding onto them.

An impulse to be unhappy is one such feeling. The typical reaction is to get stuck in it. Instead, practice allowing that unhappy impulse to float away. Perhaps as it goes you might realize where it came from, or not. But you can choose not to listen to it, obey it, or be taken over by it. It was just a thought, you can let it go.

Take notes on stuff you let float away if you feel it is worth coming back to later, but let it go in the moment. This is remarkably conducive to Flow state. There is a perceptible drag on Flow state caused by looking backward at the supposed imperfections of what you did a moment ago. In martial arts, one is trained to not gloat or sulk over one’s own last (good or bad) move. It’s a good practice for all of us. Let go of everything downstream of this moment, now.

In some version of this universe, it’s natural to be happy doing whatever we are doing at the moment, or not doing anything but just being. By an act of will and focus we can indeed learn practices that allow us some degree of control over our mental and emotional state.*

Keep working at this most difficult and most vital game, become conscious of it, keep coming back to these practices.

Beyond our own individual lives, I feel we all have a duty to posterity to spread awareness of how consciousness works, and how to make it work better. We need to start using and teaching methods such as “float downstream” in the upbringing of our children, in school curricula at all levels, and in our workplaces. That’s our mission and this blog is one of our means to that end.

My best to all,

Bill

*Chemical imbalances at the root of e.g. clinical depression need to be treated properly, and we are not suggesting we can “think away” such imbalances.

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Are you balancing activity and stillness?

Updated July 17, 2020

If we are always pushing toward our goals, we are inadvertently setting ourselves back from reaching them. I know that many of you are nowadays in back to back Zooms almost all day, which means that in the remaining time you are besieged by emails, texts, calls, Linked-In, and actual deadline work on top of all that. The opportunity to take a breather and let your mind relax can wind up being postponed until evening. That isn’t conducive to optimal performance.

There is a stage in the creative process in which it is wise to turn away from the challenge and do other things, for it is during this turned-away phase that the Aha! moment comes.

not creating may be essential to creativity

Certain batteries get recharged when we take ourselves temporarily off the wheel that is always driving us. This can happen when we are entertained — on our screen devices, reading, watching stage or other performances, spectator sports, vacations, making love, being with family and/or friends.

The subtlest batteries, however, only get recharged when we are alone with ourselves. This can take the form of sitting meditation but it doesn’t have to. We can be alone in nature, alone at home, alone on an airplane, anywhere. As long as we are not working down the TO DO list, there is a greater chance that we will slip into the Observer state (the precursor to Flow state) effortlessly.

[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”raised” width=”auto” height=”auto” background_color=”#dbd4fe” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#3a2b89″ inside_shadow=”false” outside_shadow=”false” ]To help bring on Observer state — a mindset in which you are able to simultaneously observe and analyze your emotional reactions to situations somewhat impassively — this works for me:

  • Look more closely at the place from which thoughts/feelings arise.
  • Don’t add to what you observe inwardly/outwardly, i.e. stop interpreting everything.
[/dropshadowbox]

If we spend too much time doing, our conscious mind will block the functioning of our subconscious mind, and we’ll interfere with the stream of consciousness. If we spend too much time not doing, we will under-actualize our own goals. The movement associated with creative energy is a good thing, but stillness in body and mind is also valuable.

Balancing movement and stillness is optimal for maximizing effectiveness toward all our goals in life for love, creativity, and ultimately spiritual fullness, intuitively knowing and feeling connected with all beings and all things.

Strive to achieve the right balance between times spent doing versus time spent not doing.

L’chaim! (Hebrew toast “to life”)

Best to all,

Bill

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