Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom helps people realize their unique importance. Using my knowledge of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, my experience with therapy, coaching, somatic healing, and personal growth I create products to help you discover, develop, and express the elements of your identity critical to your health and your contribution to our world. My goal is to research, develop, and disseminate these materials so that every individual can reconnect with their uniqueness, realize their passion and purpose, and live the life they were born to live.
Since the Big Bang, the universe has been changing. Changing forms. Changing states. Changing composition.
All around us, change is driving the universe. The Earth. Our behavior. The seasons. . . .
Yet, many of us resist change. We don’t like it. It messes up our scheduling. We OBSESS about predicting the future. The popularity of the Weather Channel is a great example. We believe we can predict the future and CONTROL change. Or even omit it altogether from reality.
Seriously, sometimes I wonder if that’s the state of nature we are shooting for. To have every day be as predictable as the last. The literal Groundhog Day of life. And on the one hand, it’s easy to see how comforting that predictability would be, but also how COMPLETELY BORING life would become.
And I get it. We resist change because it ISN’T predictable. And that makes us feel unsafe. And feeling unsafe is scary and sad. So we are afraid. So we want the fear to go away. So we attempt to CONTROL, and remove change from the world.
But that is literally insane. It is as asinine as removing oxygen from the atmosphere. Not only is it impossible, it would kill us. And I’m afraid the path toward minimal change will similarly cause our demise.
In fact, I believe our resistance to change is somehow related to (or the cause of!) many of our human problems.
In this Episode I continue exploring why change is bad, and further develop my hypothesis about how change is related to the Are vs Should Problem.
I’ve been talking a lot about how change is a FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENT OF LIFE. Biological entities have DNA which builds our bodies and defines our unique abilities and deficiencies. But more than that, DNA is the mechanism that perpetuates and propels species through TIME by allowing adaptation to changing environmental conditions. The universe is always changing and anything wishing to persist needs a way of dealing with those changes. Biological things, like humans, have DNA to do that very job.
Another key assumption is that DNA is how we navigate that change – as individuals and as a species.
And my point in Episodes 61 and 62 is to point out a HUGE problem currently plaguing the human race:
We are currently RESISTING change, rather than embracing it.
And, I’ll argue, THIS is a major contributor to MOST of human problems.
From world hunger, to climate change, to our obsession with war. . . . it’s all about NOT understanding the need to change. To react. To modify. It’s literally in our nature. And when you fight your nature, you’re going to lose.
Full Episode coming Friday right here at KEW. Please subscribe to the KEW podcast and/or to my YouTube channel, and follow this blog for updates. You can also check out KEW on Medium.com.
In the next few videos I focus on CHANGE. I have covered changing old beliefs, changing the way you think, changing your habits. But it wasn’t until Episode 47: Changing Behavior Changes Beliefs that I actually started to realize how critical CHANGE is.
Change is the key. The main element. The obvious, yet hidden mechanism of life.
One of my chief assumptions is that we we are vehicles for, or at least highly influenced by, our DNA.
The Universe is constantly changing. It’s been well established by multiple branches of science. I’m going to assume most of us accept that tenet. I will further argue that the fact that things will change is one of the few things we can predict about the future. And we can look to the past and see things were different before. So we know that wherever we are today is likely to change. How it will change is hard to say, but we spend a lot of time trying to figure that out.
An unpredictable future is more dangerous than one that is known. Yet we WANT to know what’s coming up so that we can prepare. Will it rain today? Do I need a jacket? Will the weather be good while we’re at the beach? Will my retirement accounts be worth anything when I need them?
So, in essence, the world/universe/environment in which we live is going to change through time. Ok. Got it. So, in order to live in this world/universe/environment we probably need a mechanism to deal with change.
A crystal ball might seem like the most useful tool, but if you think about it, that only helps the individual. Sure, if we could predict how much Bitcoin would be worth next week we could make a lot of money. Or if we could know how many avalanches would occur in a certain area we would know where NOT to build a ski resort. Those things are helpful, but they only really increase the fitness of single individuals. And in the long run, biology is more interested in the whole than the parts. Because we are all connected, after all.
DNA is an ideal molecule to facilitate generational changes in individuals through time by allowing for responses to extrinsic environmental changes. In other words, DNA gives individuals the capacity to REACT to environmental changes at a rate commensurate with the changes themselves. Individuals can react, reproductive success is affected, and the environment selects for fitness in future generations. Species persist.
But I’ve talked a lot about that in other Episodes.
The conundrum I talk about in Episode 61 and 62 is how humans seem to resist change. In the past 200 years or so, it seems that human evolution has entered a period of minimal change. We have established cultural norms and rules that select for ‘sameness’ and predictability in individual behavior. In some ways this makes sense for behavior management as the Earth gets more crowded, but I worry about superficial and short-term changes trickling up to affect our general opinion about change.
Because change isn’t going away. We can never control it all. Control is an illusion, anyway, and we will never control the weather or the economy. We can depart Earth to inhabit Mars, but we will eventually have the same problems we have here.
I am concerned that our resistance to change in our daily lives is going to reduce our ability to evolve and persist as a species in the long term. In the short term, we will lose creativity and diversity of ideas and intellect, which will in turn stifle our ability to navigate the future. In the face of change we need creativity and diversity, not sameness and conformity.
I hope you enjoy this miniseries about change. More next week.
This week I’ll continue to drive this point home. Change is a NATURAL element in all biological systems. Our very nature is dependent on and affected by constant and continuous change. The abiotic environment of the universe is constantly changing as matter and energy change forms. Luckily for us, we have DNA that facilitates adjustments to respond to these changes and life can persist through time.
Understanding and dealing with the Are vs Should Problem is contingent upon change. To the extend that we RESIST change, we must learn to accept it and deal with it. Luckily, it is a PART of us and has been for millions of years. All we have to do is remember. And I’ll add that it is ESSENTIAL to remember, if we want to succeed as a species.
Seriously. The path we are currently on where we minimize and try to avoid change, reward conformity, and value the continuing status quo is causing many of the problems we face. By embracing change we can solve these problems, improve our lives, and advance the human race. That will be much of what I’ll discuss in upcoming episodes.
“We went from modifying our behavior to suit the Earth, to modifying the Earth to suit our behavior”
I’m sure I didn’t make that phrase up, but it does describe what I think is a critical flaw in human evolution. Starting maybe 12,000 years ago, we changed the way we live. In the beginning, the alterations to our ways of living were subtle and had mostly beneficial consequences. In the past few hundred years, however, things really started taking off. The industrial revolution. Interchangeable parts and mass production. Severe capitalism and wealth accumulation. For lots of reasons outside my comprehension, humans ‘ramped up’ the shift toward modifying the Earth to suit our needs. And we also changed our needs quite a bit.
My background in Evolutionary Biology gives me keen insight into the interaction between individuals and their environment. I accept Natural Selection as the best model we have to describe this back-and-forth process. Individuals enter the world with slightly different characteristics, and these differences have a differential ‘fit’ with the environment. This fitness differential translates to reproductive success, and the DNA associated with fit individuals is passed on to future generations. This describes a natural interaction of individuals and the environments in which they live.
When individuals figure out how to ‘game the system‘, the process changes. Humans learned how to ‘trick’ the environment by modifying elements to increase ‘fitness’. We invented medicine to help us live longer. We created machines to rapidly exhaust natural resources. And all of this seemed well and good until it didn’t.
In his seminal, “The Tragedy of the Commons“, Garritt Hardin talks about how humans mistakenly assumed we would be unable to exhaust the Earths’ resources. We thought the abundant food, water, space, and fuel on planet Earth could never run out. Until they all did.
The idea that we can modify the Earth to suit our needs without any negative consequences is similarly short-sighted. And that’s what Unnatural Selection is all about.
In this second part of the Bully vs your DNA miniseries I describe the DNA part. I will make the argument here, which is a fundamental element of my future work on the Are vs Should Problem, that it is our birthright to express our DNA as fully as possible. I hope you enjoy.
For many years I have heard things like, ‘Follow your passion!’ or, ‘if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life!’. And while I want to love these sentiments, I can’t get passed the ‘woo-woo’ or idealistic nature of the message. Can we really just do what we want? Is that somehow the secret to life? Is being happy really a function of having a job you love?
Now, the old Chris was incredibly cynical (see Episode 28: Doubt and Episode 25: I Suck At. . ) but I am trying very hard to be less so. In fact, I’m starting to see my cynicism as an opportunity for growth. And one of the obstacles I am tackling is this idea that following your passion (or following your ARE) is a worthwhile endeavor that isn’t necessarily sprinkled with rainbows OR unicorns.
So I asked the question as to whether there was any evidence that supports the basic human need of ‘being ourselves’ or ‘following our dreams’ or ‘being our Are’. I came up with what I consider to be hard evidence supporting a ‘follow your dream’ approach to life rather than a ‘put your head down and grind it out’ methodology. An Are vs a Should approach, if you will.
See, as an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, I studied a lot about DNA, evolution, natural selection, and the basic machinery available to all animals through time. I believe we understand how these things work inasmuch DNA is a genotypic (i.e., small scale internal biology) expression of sexual reproduction in a species that is expressed phenotypically (i.e., the outside appearance of that animal offspring) AND provides the basic instructions for living out that individuals’ life. So that individuals’ DNA is a result of reproduction, which rearranges the DNA of each parent to form a new ‘set of instructions’ for the individual offspring. THEN, that offspring, with their unique DNA instructions, lives in its’ environment. During the individuals life, it will express the DNA physically, emotionally, sexually, and all the other ways DNA can be expressed as it is translated from a script to a tissue or action or skill.
That’s a lot, and could be a book in itself, but the key here is that the DNA inside our cells is EXPRESSED outside in the world. This is the ARE. When we are in our Are, we are expressing our unique instructions into the world. We are reading the instruction manual the came with us, and only us, and to whatever degree we are then embracing, in the case of the Are, or denying, in the case of the Should, that uniqueness.
In short, I see the complete and total phenotypic expression, the realization, of our unique DNA as a fundamental goal of life. I’m not saying this is a requirement of being human, more like an opportunity. I see this as sort of a challenge that needs to be examined for evidence rather than an edict or, God forbid, rule.
I think it would be totally cool to take a subset of humans and prescribe to them three sets of treatments in an experiment. One group listens to everything they’re told. They embrace a lifestyle of the Should. They follow all the rules their parents, families, and politicians tell them to. They get the right job, the right partner, etc. The second group ‘follows their hearts’. Members in this treatment group ask themselves what they want and feel when making important life decisions, and try to stick to their inner voice when navigating their lives. The last group is the control, and they just sort of do whatever works without thought about Should vs Are. In fact, they should be sequestered from any talk about the Are vs Should problem.
And then we’d check in with these folks at maybe 18, 30, 45, and 65 to see how they feel about their lives and decisions. My hypothesis would be that the Are group is more fulfilled, calmer, less anxious, and more satisfied with their lives. I would also posit that the control and Should groups are not that different from each other as we seem to be on a trajectory where our knee jerk decision-making is more Should than Are nowadays.
Regardless of ever completing said experiment, I think it is entirely worthwhile to consider the amazing history of your unique DNA. Your DNA exists because your ancestors survived all of the natural selection filters to reproduce and create offspring. Those are all huge evolutionary wins. Each of those transactions, and all of the isolated behaviors during those individuals’ lifetimes, multiply to become what is now you. Part of me wonders to what degree we owe it to our ancestors to fully express the DNA they subconsciously worked so hard to guarantee.
To me, the idea that our DNA contains an historic message about how we can live our individual lives is encouraging. I am encouraged to listen more to my Are and try to suppress my Should. The idea that this may be biologically important reduces my fear that listening to my Are is going to cause me discomfort. The DNA is the Are idea gives me courage to resist the Shoulds in my life and more openly express my Are. If these ideas can help others do that then it is a good tool.
In the second installment of this miniseries within the Are vs Should problem, I talk about the Are side of the equation. Whereas the Should part of us is an amalgamation of society’s worst elements, the Are part of us is uniquely US.
I can’t wait for you to see this episode because in it I fully integrate my scientific training with my psychological and spiritual healing journey.
See, for years I wrestled with the idea that we should ‘follow our dreams’ and ‘live our passion’. I got to the point where I found it incredibly irritating to hear these suggestions, because it seemed so impossible to actually do so. I was living in the world of the Should, trying my best to follow all the right steps that would guarantee me happiness.
Well, I followed the right steps and found myself more confused than ever.
So I had to revisit the idea of purpose, and wonder if I had chosen the wrong path.
Using my unique science and therapy Knowledge and Experience, I make the argument that following our purpose isn’t that far-fetched an idea, and that doing so might actually have millions of years of support in being the preferred method to live ones life.
Yes, this week I argue that your purpose is determined by your DNA, and that realizing this not only minimizes the human struggle, it does justice to your ancestors and our evolutionary history.
The Are vs. Should problem is unfolding before our eyes right here at KEW, on YouTube, and your favorite podcast server. The next step for me, and hopefully you will find this helpful, is to lay out the philosophical personalities of the Are and Should elements of ourselves. To me, the Should part can best be described as a bully, and the Are part best described as your DNA.
Bullies get their way.
Bullies continue to push your buttons to hurt you.
Bullies prey on our greatest weaknesses.
The Are, then, is your ‘real self’ and, to me, can best be describes, at the deepest level, by your personal DNA.
The Are is the unique you.
The Should is a big bully trying to make you into something else.
In this first of two Episodes, I’ll go in deep to characterize the Should Bully and how incredibly pervasive this personality has become in today’s society.
Full Episode, in podcast and video forms, coming right here this Friday.
As y’all may know, I have always felt a little different. Like an outsider. People in the 80s may have called me a ‘nonconformist’. But as an adult I have learned that many people feel this way, at least some of the time. And, like I say in Episode 20: We all feel different (But we’re all the same), we all suffer from the imposter syndrome or feeling like we’re out of place. It’s universal.
Part of this, I think, is because we are ‘supposed’ to be different. The entire purpose of our DNA is to enable each individual human differentially equipped to respond to our changing environmental conditions. This, in short, provides the machinery for our species to persist through time. Things change, so we are equipped to change. Then, of course, the environmental conditions will select which traits (the unique stuff) work in the future, and unfortunately which ones do not.
The problem, then, isn’t that we are all unique. IN FACT, it’s the solution. The solution to our problems. So I’m wondering (and continuing to explore as part of a larger project) whether we are creating problems by not embracing our uniqueness. See, the pressures we feel that lead us to believe we are different are UNNATURAL. The world, society, our peers, our jobs, they are all imposing Unnatural selective forces that attempt to make us the same. Conformity rules in society.
Maybe that’s going a bit too far for this introductory episode, but hopefully you see the bigger picture.
I believe we need to stop trying so hard to conform, and instead take a long hard look at who we really are. If we can develop the aspects of our personalities that make us unique, think of what we can accomplish.