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.
To some, this is a ridiculous question steeped in pointless naval gazing. To others, it’s a comedic take on people who ask the ‘big questions’. To others this is a reasonable assessment of what we want to understand. To me, it’s all three at the same time. And maybe that’s the point.
And like most rhetorical questions, I don’t really want to KNOW if I really know what I think I know. Rather, I’m curious about how this questions makes one think a few steps ahead. It’s not about what we know. It’s about the idea that we think we know in the first place. Like, what makes us think we are so awesome that we can understand the very nature of a thing? What makes us think we are so special? Why are we the only living thing on the planet that can ‘know’? Or is that even a logical thought in the first place?
So, yeah, wondering whether we can even really know things is interesting in and of itself. Perhaps even more interesting than the simple question of whether we are right or wrong. Because that’s the nature of knowing, I think. Knowing implies we are correct. And like my buddy Paul Gadola says, we all think we are correct. So knowing is a bit biased to say the least. We ALL think we know. And we often disagree. And modernity has brought, if nothing else, an ever increasing number of potential explanations to things which means the options of knowing what is right are becoming more and more infinite.
In other words, knowing, or being right, is increasingly more impossible. And, more importantly, does it even matter? If there are ‘subjective truths’ (which I believe are really subjective realities, and not truths at all) then REALLY what does it matter? Can’t we all be right? Doesn’t everyone get a trophy?
What follows, then, is my curiosity in the knowing itself. Not whether or not I know. And how did I arrive at that knowing? One of the major assumptions of the Are vs Should Problem is that much of what we think and believe was simply inherited, so why do we connect so much of our identity with this inherited ‘knowledge’?
Moreover, isn’t it the capacity to think we know stuff far more interesting than actually knowing the stuff? Were the ancient Greeks correct to ‘know thyself’? Isn’t that the first step, anyway? How can we know ANYTHING without first understanding how we would even begin to know in the first place?
I was so happy to meet Bernhard Kutzler. I told him we were kindred spirits because we were asking such similar questions. He agreed. He also agreed to interview with me to discuss Curiosity.
My first thoughts about Bernhard were why no one else has heard of him. I still think about why some people become household names and others’ work is lost out in the world of cyberspace. The simple answer is marketing. But that’s not the point of this post. The point I’m trying to make is Bernhard has made several important contributions to the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology, and personal growth. He has published a handful of books. He is an author on Medium and has his own blog.
To entice you to watch this rather long video in it’s entirety I’ll tell you one thing about Bernhard.
He took a THREE AND A HALF YEAR hiatus to live alone and unencumbered by technology. During this time he asked the basic questions like, ‘why am I here’, ‘what is the purpose of life’, and ‘what does it all mean’. Then he wrote two books about it. One is a comprehensive documentation about everything he did during that time. It (Consciousness. It’s Nature, Purpose, and How to Use it) ‘s a heady read, for sure. And maybe a little ‘out there’ in places. The other is a how-to apply what he learned to live your best life (Being Free: Get out of the Box) and is more approachable for most people.
Though this is a long interview, there is a lot of information, knowledge, wisdom, and experience here that will benefit listeners and viewers. I hope you choose to participate.
Bernhard is currently ‘out of the office’ again, surely exploring some amazing questions. I can’t wait to hear about it when he returns.
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.
When I was a teenager I realized I would be working for the rest of my life. This hit me like a ton of bricks. This realization LITERALLY left me feeling like I had fallen out of a tree and couldn’t catch my breath. Though I’d experienced physical pain by this point in my life, fully coming to understand that I was going to have to spend a significant part of my life doing things I didn’t want to do was disturbing.
And it wasn’t so much that I had to WORK. I didn’t mind working. I had my first job at 13 and was gainfully employed when I had this epiphany about work. It was more that a big chunk of MY TIME was spoken for.
I felt like I was seeing my future, and part of it was already planned out. It wasn’t so much about the WORK thing, it was the CHOICE thing. My future was, at least in part, not my CHOICE. And I don’t know why this created so much dissonance. But this was a true blindside. I didn’t see it coming. I felt like I lost my whimsy.
And so that is, in huge part, what led me to explore the Are vs. Should Problem. Why do we struggle between the person we ARE and the person we feel like we SHOULD BE? A big part of this SHOULD is related to having to work and to have a career. A huge part of our youth is being on a path that gets us to that point successfully and to a greater extent than our parents or grandparents. From early on we are chugging along a course related to some place we will be in the future that will steal our time.
And the best we can hope for is to love the career so we are not wasting our time. To sort of ‘double up’ and get paid AND find pleasure in our job.
Well, how many of us got there? How many of us arrived at the place where we can’t BELIEVE we’re getting paid to do what we love? How many of us LOVED spending all that time studying, and interviewing, and kissing up, and missing out. . . . How fun was that?
Sure, some people do find a path they enjoy and a career that fulfills them. But most of us don’t. And this investigation intends to figure out why it happened and how we can change it.
This week I go back to the roots of the Are vs Should Problem.
For me this whole quest began when I was a kid and realized I had made a deal with the devil to blow 2/3 of my day working whatever job I’d be lucky enough to get. Any plans I had to travel, explore, or play were necessarily and all of a sudden pre-regulated by this ‘deal’.
In return I’d get to have the money I’d need to do the traveling, exploring, and playing. Only I couldn’t, because I’d have to work.
Sure, maybe I’d get a week of every year, but that seems like a consolation prize compared to what I had planned.
The beginning of the Are vs. Should Problem is in here. For me. Maybe for you. I made a deal. I lived up to my end of the bargain (mostly). I made the sacrifices. But I don’t feel like it paid off. Robert Johnson at least got some awesome guitar playing skills out of his deal with the devil.
Although now I see I did get something. I got a chance to do it over.
Don Miguel Ruiz, author of many books including ‘The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)‘ uses the term “Domestication” to describe the process by which humans are taught how to live. I have been fascinated by this process, whatever you wish to call it, for as long as I can remember. In fact, I still wonder, often out loud, why no one ever asked whether or not I was agreeing to this social contract. See, we are born into a world that teaches us many things before we even know what’s happening to us.
And a social contract is very much what domestication is like. We are taught so many things. How to eat, how to walk, how to speak, what to believe in, where Santa Claus lives, which religion is best, whether or not skin color matters. . . . The list is infinite. We are TAUGHT these things. Many of these things are opinions, some of them are factual, and very few of them are valuable.
Because some rules are totally important. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don’t spit at people. Don’t eat raw kittens. So, sure, some of the domestication process is good and even fundamentally necessary to a healthy society.
The PROBLEM IS, that much of the domestication process is not only unnecessary, it’s unfair. And in the context of the Are vs. Should Problem, domestication becomes the Should Bully by teaching us what to think, how to act, and what or whom to believe in.
And the WORST part is, much of this domestication occurs before we can consent. We are, in fact, brainwashed at very early ages to follow the rules. Again, some of this is good, but a lot of it is NOT. But it’s ok, IF we understand this and can go back and edit ourselves, or update what we believe, feel, and do as we grow and change.
The lucky ones, usually in our teenage years but often again in mid life, realize we have learned some weird shit. At certain times in our lives we QUESTION our own beliefs. We get CURIOUS about our thoughts. We WONDER who is really making our decisions. If we’re lucky something encourages us to question WHO WE ARE. It is at these times we have a chance to take back our lives, our minds, and our DNA.
This week I share my thoughts about the Domestication process, discuss the damages caused, and provide a warning about our future. Solutions are necessary and urgent. Please follow this series and help me find some.
Last week I introduced a few examples of the Are vs. Should problem. One of the most obvious examples comes up when we think about our careers. When we’re young people ask us what we want to be when we grow up. As adults, many of us wonder what became of those childhood dreams when we find ourselves doing jobs we don’t like. And I’ll argue it’s because we listen more to our Shoulds than to our Ares.
And this isn’t to say that Shoulds are all bad, because I think their intent is honorable. Our shoulds are single-minded in trying to keep us safe. As with our choice of career, the Should wants us to make enough money to take care of ourselves and to ‘be happy’. Unfortunately, the Should is a mosaic of all of the ‘responsible’ voices in our lives telling us what to do, how to think. and how to act in life in an effort to ‘be happy’.
The problem is, the Should isn’t YOU, and it doesn’t really understand what YOU want. The Should wants what ‘the world’ wants. What your teachers, parents, family, friends, and other close relationships want. The Should is modified by the tv we watch and the articles we read on the internet. The Should is deigned to keep the Are at bay, and to push this common agenda at all costs. I’ll talk more about the Are in Part 2 of this miniseries, but for now let’s just say your Are represents the ‘real you’ or your ‘true self’. Or something like that – whereas the Should is partly you, but is comprised of all the voices you hear everyday.
Historically, I think humans connected more with the ‘real you’, or ‘true self’. In other words, we used to listen to the Are more. The emerging problem is, we see a lot of Should in the world today. I’d say more and more people are spending more and more time in their Should than in years past, and humans are losing their Ares in the process.
I think a result of this increasing Should phenomenon is that the Should has become a bully. Rather than being just one of your many parts, the Bully has become the loudest, most feared, and threatening ally in our head. Due to the peaceful nature of our Are, the Should now represents the antithesis to the ‘real you’. The Should berates us, exaggerates reality, and will do anything to keep you from listening to your other parts. But it’s not only that the Should’s voice is becoming louder, it is becoming more and more stifling and homogenous.
The onset of social media, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), and the idea that everyone else is more perfect than you further strengthens our Shoulds. Now our Should aims even higher. To perfection, even, making it impossible to get even close to achieving what the Should would tell us to achieve. To the point where many therapists and counselors suggest we don’t use Should statements at all because this line of thinking sets us up for failure, depression, anxiety, and frustration.
So somehow this Should part of our ‘self’ has gotten way out of hand. The should is taking over who we imagine ourselves to be and creating anxiety, depression, and frustration. It is time to regain control of the voices in our heads by realizing there is a dictator in charge that needs to be checked. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to reconnect with, and listen to, your Are.
Next week I’ll talk about the Are and why it is critical to rediscover yours.
To hear more about the Should side of your self, listen or watch the full Episodes below.
As we move forward trying to discern the gist of the Are vs. Should Problem, I want to describe both the general dilemma and share a few specific examples. Generally speaking, you know you are in the Are vs. Should Problem when you experience discomfort, cognitive dissonance, anxiety, fear, anger, and other uncomfortable emotions. Of course, there could be many causes for these states of mind and it’s ALWAYS hard to identify the cause. It’s like when my kids get sick I always want to know where and when they picked up the virus or bacteria. We are all Sherlock Holmes to some degree and need to know WHY things happen. With the Are vs Should Problem it is difficult because the symptoms are so universal.
On the other hand, it could be that any discomfort, to some degree, is RELATED to the Are vs. Should problem and I make the assumption that this is nearly always the case. Despite the multitude of things that can happen to a human and the variety of reactions we can have, I’ll argue that the cognitive dissonance related to these reactions is in part a result of the struggle between who you ARE and who you think you SHOULD BE.
If you look at the Episodes I have recorded, you will see the Are vs. Should problem at work in many forms. Analysis Paralysis is something we all experience where we can’t make a decision, get anxious, and lose the ability to move forward. To some degree, this is a result of the conflict between what the person we ARE would do, and what society/family/job tells us we SHOULD do. We all experience internal conflict and Doubt about our decisions and what the outcomes will be. This is the essence of the Are vs. Should problem. Similarly, struggles between narcissists and codependents epitomize the ARE and SHOULD extremes between two different people where each person is struggling between extremes of selfishness and caretaking.
Though I can’t yet offer distinct solutions about which voice to listen to, I do know that this struggle is fairly universal. I talk about this in episode about different vs. the same. I think this is because the struggle between these competing personalities (ARE vs. SHOULD) can be isolating and lead us to spend a lot of time ‘in our heads’ and at the very least we need to be aware of how isolating this struggle can be. When we are in our heads, we are feeling more pressure from the SHOULD and need to get more inside our ARE. Think about it, who is the voice in your head most of the time? Who are you talking to? Who are you?? The more in your head you are, the more ‘should’ you are being.
Which person do you want to be? This is where we will be headed in future episodes. This is the type of person you are being – but is it the type of person you want to be?? Who do you REALLY want to be? The are or the should? This dissonance can be mild or critical. This is what the personal inventory is all about, identifying and ranking your traits and prioritizing what to do about it.
In this episode I share a few examples ranging from fairly benign to critically important. Struggles between the ARE and SHOULD can create chronic anxiety, stress, and fear. Do you want to live in a state of anxiety all the time? Our perspectives about gender roles or blue and pink jobs can greatly influence some people’s choices and experiences. Isn’t it important we figure out what matters to us as individuals and each other? Does it really matter if a woman wears pants to work or makes as much money as her male counterparts? Some times it most certainly does matter, and the potential outcomes are disastrous. Other times it might not matter so much. It comes down to the type of society we want to live in and be (see the Dream Bigger Episode) and what rules we think are worth defending, and which ones are not.
The first step, again, is to lay out your Personal Inventory prioritize each item, and decide what matters. This will determine your personal values and beliefs.
In upcoming episodes I will discuss how these personal values lead to society-level norms, rules, and laws. I will start to dissect how the ARE and SHOULD come to be, and ultimately, how learning not to care what people think goes a long way to choosing which voices you want to hear.