“I could be wrong.” I heard my mother say that a hundred times. She didn’t mean it. In fact, my brother told me that he actually remembered one time when she admitted she had been wrong but revisited that confession years later to recant. “Actually, I was right.”
I love my mother, always will, and imagine that she might laugh with us from the Great Beyond as we reference this memory to expose another fatal human flaw: the failure to acknowledge our mistakes.
Socrates dealt with that kind of arrogance by simply asking questions that challenged convictions. That’s how he won every debate because his adversaries always failed to prove that what they felt so certain about was totally and forever true. We could benefit from using the Socratic method today, to question rigid beliefs that have coagulated into intractable positions, institutions, laws and rules that impede progress and frustrate our attempts to confront and solve our most threatening crises. For instance:
Why are fossil fuels the best fuel? How does the profit motive contribute to a fair economy and a healthy environment? How is progress ensured by defending the status quo? And here’s the most disruptive question: “If we weren’t already doing this, why would we choose to do it today?”
Instead of admitting our mistakes and focusing on finding solutions, we defend those mistakes, enshrine them for years, and suffer the consequences. For instance, up until the late 1800’s doctors went straight from autopsy room to delivery room without even changing out of their bloody frocks. Babies and mothers were routinely infected and perished in horrible numbers. Yet the pioneering doctors who realized this deadly problem and advocated a life-saving solution in three words -“wash your hands” - were ridiculed and ignored for decades. How many mothers and babies died because of that arrogant stubbornness?
When we first met, my now wife Tashina introduced me to three paradoxes that expose that kind of flawed thinking:
1. This isn’t it.
2. Something is wrong.
3. I’m not good enough.
Paradoxes are conceptual contradictions, for example:
- Save money by spending it.
- If I know one thing, it's that I know nothing.
- This is the beginning of the end.
This Isn’t It
How often do we object to what’s going on? “This shouldn’t be happening!” Why not? Because we don’t like it, because it doesn’t match our expectations, because we lose something instead of winning.
We could acknowledge that every moment is filled with exactly what is meant to be, that there is always something to learn, that we are never powerless victims, and that we can choose to enjoy what’s happening. Those who adopt this attitude and sustain it no matter what discover a wealth of value in every moment,
The paradox here is that, seen from a larger perspective, the statement is actually true.
This – whatever is happening – isn’t it! What’s happening is the inevitable result of our disconnection from the intelligence of life. Things would have been much different had we been hooked up.
Something is Wrong.
We watch the news to learn about what’s wrong in the world. That’s what the news is. There’s an occasional positive story but that’s the rare exception. This underscores our addiction to the negative. Why? Because the ego thrives on solving problems. Modern society is a make-work system. We create problems and then we solve them. For instance, nuclear power. Here is a seemingly great idea for generating power independent of the natural world. But nuclear waste is a massive problem. Oh good, a problem to solve, to justify my continuing existence, says the clever and industrious ego.
The paradox? Although something is wrong, terribly wrong – for instance, scientists performing gain of function research on viruses to maximize human suffering and death – from another perspective nothing is wrong. What’s happening is happening for reasons we can never know. A story is playing out, scene by scene, some of them are grisly, and it’s all heading towards the optimum ending that Aristotle advocated: surprising andinevitable.
I’m Not Good Enough
Most people feel inadequate, even the super successful. We measure ourselves against others and come up lacking. Sadly, someone somewhere is attempting suicide every minute of every day and 30,000 succeed in America each year. That’s almost 100 Americans a day who end their lives, often because of deeply troubling self-worth issues. It’s no exaggeration to call this an epidemic.
We could lean on some positive thinking sentiments to shore up our own self-esteem but the deep solution lies in facing this paradox: none of us are good enough, not while we sufferin disconnection from our true selves, from the splendid diversity of our relationships, from the wonders of nature, and from source intelligence.
The Love Solution
What’s the Love Solution to all this? We need a different currency of exchange. Money may just turn out to be our worst invention, our greatest mistake, and we may soon be forced to admit it. Money enables us to ignore the power of Love and just buy what we need. Those who have money can easily get more so the gap between rich and poor must increase, as it has, until it reaches catastrophic proportions, which it has, dooming our economy, which could fall apart any day now.
The only true solution is to abandon money as our primary currency. It can remain a useful tool of measurement but we must learn to trade in Love. That begins with analyzing our daily activities and beginning to develop transactions that don’t involve exchanging money. We can loan and borrow tools, trade favors, volunteer help on projects, etc.
Tashina and I have lived this way for years, in what’s known as the gift economy. Roughly half of our monthly transactions are accomplished without money changing hands. Generous, no-strings-attached giving is contagious. One good deed inspires another. And no-one keeps track.
We’ve been wrong about so many things but it’s easy to be right about this one. Just look for opportunities to give. And then enjoy receiving what comes back. It soon becomes as easy and natural as breathing.
Next week, Part Three: Where’s Mary?