Dance in the Elevator, Dare to be Happy

Context: “Dare to be happy” were the words gifted to me by a V.I.P. in my life. Our conversation on happiness reminds me of recent shows I’ve watched, from Billions (Showtime) to Sex Education (Netflix) to Devil Wears Prada (Fox), hence this post on happiness was born. May we all kick start 2020 with happy vibes! 🙂

Let’s Dance with Ben Kim

For those who follow the US TV show Billions, I highly recommend checking out Ben Kim’s (hilarious and stunning) elevator dance scene (a.k.a. “public self-initiated humiliation”) in Season 3 Episode 10. Here is a clip:

Ben Kim’s hilarious elevator dance scene in “Billions” Season 3 Episode 10

For those who raise an eyebrow and go: “What is Billions?” I’d recommend giving the Billions show a shot – probably a good match for those who are looking for a smoothie blending together entrepreneurial vibes from Silicon Valley, juicy backstabbing from House of Cards, and legal heat from The Good Wife.

Back to the Ben Kim dance scene – I love it! Not to mention the clip on its own is funny, but also bear in mind that this is a very out-of-character move for Ben Kim. He is the type of person who wants to duck down rather than stand out, who prefers to sit downstairs with regular staff rather than sit upstairs in the C-suite, who aims to survive rather than thrive. His self-remark at his annual compensation review meeting with Axe is a vivid reflection of his personality:

I should not throw out the first number (of bonus that I would want to get), because I have a tendency to undervalue myself.

Ben Kim to Bobby Axelrod, Billions Season 3 (see clip here)

Ben Kim is the “good old guy” who feels happy at getting a new title while keeping the old salary. This pretty much sums up the trait that makes him stand out – and ironically, it is precisely the desire of him to not stand out.

You may pause here and ask: if Ben Kim is such a shy person who has trouble standing up for himself, where on earth did he garner the courage to dance (and strip his shirt off) in a lift with his big boss and complete strangers?

Answer: per the advice of Wendy Rhoades, the “spiritual animal” of Axe Capital, to step out of his comfort zone and have a voice of his own. (Though Wendy did try and failed to warn Ben Kim not to ruin the elevator ride with Axe and the fund’s potential investors.)

The elevator dance scene was a turning point for Ben Kim – afterwards, when Axe confronted him with a sharp: “What the hell was that?” Ben Kim, unlike his usual tongue-tied self when dealing with higher authorities, found the courage to spit out an investment idea he has held under his belt for a long time:

After spitting the investment idea out and receiving Axe’s pat on the shoulder, Ben Kim breathes a sigh of relief and is finally happy. He is happy because he has allowed himself to be happy by allowing himself to say what he wants to say – and this is no small feat for Ben Kim: a short while back, he had trouble peeing in the toilet after his half-fleshed out idea was challenged.

For Ben Kim, the question to ask is not: “Do you want to be happy?”
A better question to ask is: “Do you allow yourself to be happy?”
In other words: Do you dare to be happy?

Do You Dare to be Happy?

We tend to think of happiness as a wish beyond our control, when it could be and can be an option of our choice. We tend to think of happiness as an elusive goal to seize around us, when it could be and can be an inner state right within us. To borrow the words of the Bible to fit this context: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The question is not: can we be happy?
The question is: why can’t we be happy?

The question is not: why doesn’t this (thing or person) make us happy?
The question is: why don’t we allow ourselves to be happy?

Hence the ask is not about wanting to be happy, but about daring to be happy: Do we dare to dance in the elevator like Ben Kim? Do we dare to be crazy in the eyes of others and crazily happy in the eyes of ourselves? Do we dare to strip free of our shirt (metaphorically) alongside the weight of caring too much about how others look at us?

Ironically, in a sense the ask is about whether we truly want to be happy – because if we truly, desperately, seriously want to be happy with all our heart, then we would dare to be happy. Then we would overcome each and every single fear. Then we would say “go to hell” to any doubt, any worry, any fear. Then we would care about and only care about our happiness, because we want it so much.

If we truly want something badly enough, we would not hesitate to go for it. The “dare” would hardly be a hard choice – it would be natural step we take without hesitation. Ben Kim wanted to prove to Wendy – and ultimately to himself – that he could have an independent voice that he is daring to dance half-naked in the elevator.

It’s Not Crazy to be A Little Crazy

I’m a big fan of the song “Crazy” by Alanis M. as featured in the movie Devil Wears Prada. Quoting the lyrics:

But we’re never gonna survive, unless
We get a little crazy
No we’re never gonna survive, unless
We are a little crazy
– – –
In a sky full of people,
Only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?

“In a sky full of people, only some want to fly. Isn’t that crazy?” I love this sentence – what is crazy is not that some people want to fly, but that so few people want to. What is crazy is not that some people day-dream, but that so few people do.

Where is the fun in life if we never get crazy? If we never experience something in life that we did not already predict? If we never dare to be happy and go against the inertia of “life as yesterday”?

Last but not least, I share the MTV of “Crazy” with you – may (a healthy dose of) crazy vibes bring us happy vibes! Cheers to a happy 2020 where we dare to be happy, dare to be crazy, and dare to be free! 😀

Choose or risk forever surrendering your peace – Why Having Your Own Philosophy Matters

Speak now, or forever hold your peace” could be traced back to the Christian wedding ceremony, where the audience is given the last chance to voice any objections to the marriage. It is one example where it is important to have an opinion and defend it – or else risk surrendering it forever.

Similarly, when it comes to philosophy of life, everyone needs to have their own version of philosophy – we either choose how to think for ourselves now, or risk forever surrendering our peace by letting others choose for us, by letitng others decide what is right or wrong, what makes life worth living, what our course of action should be.

To Swim or Not to Swim, That is the Question

That IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives.

Hunter S. Thompson’s Letter on Finding Your Purpose and Living a Meaningful Life

Almost everything we do is a choice between floating (i.e., default to the curent of others) vs. swimming (i.e., chart our own course). Only those with a philosophy of life of their own knows how to swim.

Thomson goes on to say: “And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Taking a step back, not everyone realizes we are in the water in the first place. There is a joke of two fish swimming along and running into a third fish, which asks them: “Morning, how’s the water?” The two fish stare at each other and ask blankly: “What the hell is water?”

David Foster Wallace’s comment in his 2005 commencement speech “This is Water” is very to the point:

“The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. […] in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.”

Wallace goes on to say “the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre” is that “a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about ‘teaching you how to think.’

Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about ‘the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.’

Ayn Rand on Why Having A Philosophy Of Your Own Matters

As Ayn Rand puts it, everyone has a philosophy of some sorts: “As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation.

In other words, we all have a philosophy whether we consciously acknowledge it or not – the choice we have is whether this philosophy is chosen by ourselves thanks to our mind (“swim”), or chosen for us dictated by others (“float”):

The men who are not interested in philosophy absorb its principles from the cultural atmosphere around them—from schools, colleges, books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television, etc. Who sets the tone of a culture? A small handful of men: the philosophers. Others follow their lead, either by conviction or by default.”

How to Decide Where to Swim Towards?

Choosing a philosophy for ourselves could be harder than it seems. Charlie Munger shares his tip on how to avoid the trap of unclear thinking & decision-making:

I have what I call an ‘iron prescription’ that helps me keep sane when I drift toward preferring one intense ideology over another. I feel that I’m not entitled to have an opinion unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people who are in opposition. I think that I’m qualified to speak only when I’ve reached that state.

Charlie Munger

Hunter Thompson shares his advice on how to lead a meaningful life:

A man has to BE something; he has to matter.
*
As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. […] In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important.”

The World ALWAYS Makes Sense

When was the last time you felt like this boy:

(Disclaimer: I like square roots. I think maths is awesome.)

We have all had our fair share of saying / hearing the likes of:

  • “This doesn’t make sense.”
  • “I wish it made more sense.”
  • “How can I make sense of this thing?”
  • “Nothing makes sense!”
  • ….you get the idea

Here is the good news: (A) The world always makes sense. As every good news feels lonely without its companion – the bad news – bear in mind that when you feel something doesn’t make sense, (B) what is not making sense is your model of the world.

Note to logical hygiene freaks: Some of you may immediately challenge – “Hey but what you said does not make sense! If both statements (A) & (B) hold, then the logical conclusion is (C) your “model of the world” is exterior to (not part of) “the world,” which is self-defeating if the world encompasses every living organism – your brain (and by extension, your mind) is part of the world.

Fair enough, 5 bonus points if that matters. And now we move on. And yes, I am saying regardless of whether the challenge makes sense or not, I am moving on as if it doesn’t. 🙂

If statements (A) and (B) sound abstract, you may find this analogy below helpful:

Here is what a cylinder looks like in different contexts:

  • 3D environment: cylinder
  • 2D projection: square / circle depending on the angle of projection

In the 2D world, which is a one-dimensional reduction of the cylinder, we could say that both the square & the circle are “true ‘slices’ of the reality of the cylinder; neither alone give a clear sense of the higher dimensional shape’s reality.” This is inevitable because “they are reducing the reality (without realizing it) to a view that simply can not adequately contain it.

How should we deal with the seemingly contradiction of square vs. circle? I think Daniel Schmachtenberger nailed it:

The problem of course is in the reductionism. There is no 2D slice of a 3D object that gives a real sense of what it is. Neither is any 2D negotiation of slices going to yield something in 3D. The cylinder is not somewhere between the two reductionistic views: 50% circle, 50% rectangle… It is 100% of both descriptions…which are only mutually exclusive and paradoxical if they are trying to be reconciled in the same plane, which is the essential mistake.
*
In the higher dimensional reality the object (cylinder) actually lives in, the simultaneous full truth of both partial descriptions (square & circle) is obvious and non-paradoxical…as is the seamless way they fit together as parts of a congruent whole.

Daniel Schmachtenberger, Higher Dimensional Thinking, the End of Paradox, and a More Adequate Understanding of Reality

Blog recommendation: I highly recommend Daniel’s blog Civilization Emerging for some mind-opening posts. In addition, check out his recommended readings on various topics.

To conclude: when we think the world doesn’t make sense, what doesn’t make sense is our interpretation of it – it could that we are futilely trying to find a 2D explanation that 100% fits a 3D problem, which means we inevitably end up with (i) a paradox that cannot be reconciled and / or (ii) a puzzle that cannot be explained, and (iii) a messed-up mind. Note that I used “and / or” vs. “and” – because (iii) is a “gift” that you are 100% guaranteed to get.

To end with a sentence that I hope makes sense: It’s never too late to make sense of how we are making sense of the world, which always makes sense when analyzed under the model that makes the best sense.

Secret to Longevity: Make Frequent “Quantum Jumps” to New Reality-Matrices

Disclaimers: (1) This post may mess with your mind, and (2) this post is intended to mess up your mind. #smirk#

Cultural conditioning, in every tribe, is a process of gradually narrowing your tunnel-reality. The way to stay young (comparatively; until the longevity pill is discovered) is to make a quantum jump every so often and land yourself in a new reality-matrix.

Robert Anton Wilson, Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati

“Reality” is Messed Up!

I mean the word “reality” itself is a messed-up word that is misleading about the reality it intends to convey (pun intended). 😉

In the crazy – and/or – magical – and/or – daring – and/or -neurotic – and/or -creepy- and/or – [insert-your-adjective(s) of choice] book (more like mind-bender), Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati, Robert Wilson thinks it is a misleading pity that “reality” is (a) a noun, and (b) in singular form.

“Reality” (more like realities) is / are “always plural and mutable“. Forget about a single source of truth. Forget about realizing reality. We could each construct our own ‘reality,’ but there is no such thing as THE REALITY that we could all arrive at.

Consider the “conventional wisdom” that seeing is believing:

“We perceive an orange as really orange, whereas it is actually blue, the orange light being the light bouncing off the real fruit. And, everywhere we look, we imagine solid objects, but science only finds a web of dancing energy.”

“The orange has the orange color” is a statement that describes your mental projection (identified image, conscious recognition) of “a web of dancing energy”:

“All of our perceptions have gone through myriads of neural processes in the brain before they appear to our consciousness. At the point of conscious recognition, the identified image is organized into a three-dimensional hologram which we project outside ourselves and call ‘reality’.”

The next time you hear yourself say: “The reality is…” Catch yourself. It is more accurate to say: “My model of the reality is…” The map is not the territory. The menu is not the meal. The model of reality is not the reality itself – if it even exists in the first place. This line of thinking is known as the Copenhagen Interpretation, or “model agnosticism”.

As an extension of the “model agnoticism,” there are two principles / rules of the game:

  1. The principle of neurological relativism by Timothy Leary: “No two people ever report exactly the same signals.
  2. The way to “double your practical intelligence” according to Robert Wilson: “Try to receive as many signals as possible from other humans, however wrong-headed their reality-map may seem” and avoid the “habit of screening out all human signals not immediately compatible with our own favorite reality-map.”

Reality (and all behavior) is a Giant Game?

According to the Morgenstern-von Neumann game theoretic model, “most human transactions can be analyzed mathematically by treating them as if they were games”, and personality could be analyzed as “a group process defined by rules of interpersonal politics”.

If you are wondering WTH that really means, consider the application of model by Timothy Leary, a psychologic best known for his exploration of psychedelics:

What are the players actually doing in space-time? […] What are the rules of the game? How many strikes before you’re out? Who makes the rules? Who can change the rules? These are the important questions.

Timothy Leary

Leary developed a seven-dimensional game model to analyze all behavior, with respect to:

  1. Roles being played;
  2. Rules tacitly accepted (by all payers);
  3. Strategies for winning;
  4. Goals of the game;
  5. Language of the game (and the semantic world-view implied);
  6. Characteristic space-time locations, and
  7. Characteristic movements in space-time.

As Leary said: “If you can’t describe those seven dimensions of a group’s behavior, you don’t understand their game. Most so-called ‘neurosis’ is best analyzed as somebody programmed to play football wandering around in a baseball field. If he thinks football is the only game in the universe, the other players will seem perverse or crazy to him; if they think baseball is the only game, he’ll seem crazy to them.”

As of such, in the eyes of Leary, most psychological terminology are “pre-scientific” and “vague.” He thinks it makes much more sense to analyze it like a game.

Is Discordianism (the Cosmic Giggle Factor) the Best Way to View Reality?

So far it sounds a bit depressing – “reality” is / are messed up, “reality” is a complicated game with seven dimensions, and “THE reality” may be forever beyond our grasp (if it even exists).

You may feel your mind exploding. What is the best way to view reality?

One approach is Discordianism, invented by Thornley & Gregory Hill in the 1950s, dubbed as the first true “true religion.” Discordianism worships the Greek goddess of chaos & confusion, Eris:

Discordianism is the religion or belief in which chaos is thought to be as important as order…in contrast with most religions, which idealize harmony and order.

Discordia Wiki
“Sacred Chao” – the symbol of Discordianism

In the words of Wilson, the first law of Discordianism is: “Convictions cause convicts.” In other words, “whatever you believe imprisons you,” “”belief is the death of intelligence,” and “the more certitude one assumes, the less there is to think about.”

Some view Discordianism as a parody religion, but Wilson makes the case to take it more seriously:

“I saw Discordianism as the Cosmic Giggle Factor, introducing so many alternative paranoias that everybody could pick a favorite, if they were inclined that way. I also hoped that some less gullible souls, overwhelmed by this embarrassment of riches, might see through the whole paranoia game and decide to mutate to a wider, funnier, more hopeful reality-map.”

Wilson hopes Discordianism would persuade more people to “make a quantum jump” to a “new reality-matrix”, different from the narrow tunnel-reality that culture has conditioned them into.

To sum up, the biggest takeaway from Wilson’s book is probably this:

Our models of “reality” are very small and tidy, the universe of experience is huge and untidy, and no model can ever include all the huge untidiness perceived by uncensored consciousness.

Robert Anton Wilson, Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati

What are things that blew your mind about how you view reality? Leave a comment or write to me at fullybookedclub.blog@gmail.com!

The Best Relationship Advice: “When People Tell You Who They Are, Believe Them”

The golden rule for relationships – any type of relationships – is encapsulated in 9 words: “When people tell you who they are, believe them.”

Such are the words of wisdom shared by Dr. Maya Angelou in a conversation with Oprah Winfrey. Oprah added onto what Dr. Angelou said: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. Don’t wait until the 29th time. When a man doesn’t call you back the first time, when you are mistreated the first time, when someone shows you lack of integrity or dishonesty the first time, know that this will be followed many many other times, that will some point in life come back to haunt or hurt you.

Here is a great story to illustrate this Golden Rule for Relationships. In the memoir Educated, Tara Westover shared her struggles living with her abusive brother Shawn. A brother who called her a whore. Broke her toe. Dragged her on the floor. Pushed her head into the toilet.

Tara recalled the day when she was assaulted again by Shawn:

That night, with a heavily wrapped wrist (hurt by Shawn), I scratch out a journal entry. I ask myself questions. Why didn’t he stop when I begged him? It was like getting beaten by a zombie…like he couldn’t hear me.

Educated, memoir by Tara Westover

Tara struggled to find an explanation for Shawn’s abusive behavior:

I began to reason with myself…I decide that if I had asked (him to stop hurting me) differently, been more calm, he would have stopped. I write this until I believe it, which doesn’t take long because I want to believe it. It’s comforting to think the defect is mine, because that means it is under my power.

Educated, memoir by Tara Westover

Such is the paradox of fabricating an excuse to explain why someone mistreated us: on one hand, excuses serve as a painkiller – by telling lying to ourselves that he/she is neither crazy nor hurting us on purpose, by telling pretending to ourselves that he/she still cares about us, we numb the pain with a false sense of control. We feel as if we could not control what happened to us in the past, we could at least control how we feel about it at present – even at the cost of ignoring the discrepancies between reality and our perception of it.

On the other hand, the excuses we fabricate are the deadliest poison that kills our self-esteem, the tightest chains that defines our slavery. The excuses are the reasons we stay, even though we would like to be treated better. Because somehow we tricked ourselves into believing the pain of staying & withering a little every day is better than the pain of leaving & tearing apart. We think we are hiding in a safe haven by staying, but in reality we are digging our own graves by not leaving.

As Tara continued to reflect and replay the assault scene in her head, she had a sudden revelation:

His expression is unforgettable: not anger or rage. There is no fury in it. Only pleasure, unperturbed. Then a part of me understands, even as I begin to argue against it, that my humiliation was the cause of that pleasure. It was not an accident or side effect. It was the objective.

This half-knowledge works in me like a kind of possession, and for a few minutes I’m taken over by it. I rise from my bed, retrieve my journal, and do something I have never done before: I write what happened. I do not use vague, shadowy language, as I have done in other entries; I do not hide behind hints and suggestion. I write what I remember.

Educated, memoir by Tara Westover

And here comes my favorite part of Tara’s reflection. She wrote in her journal: “It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you...He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.” The illusion of empowerment brought by our excuses always dies down. In its place, at its core, is the erosive power that feeds on our self-esteem.

It is not easy. It is damn hard to walk away from the people you love and care about. But to get the relationships we deserve, we must abide by the 9-word rule: “When people tell you who they are, believe them.” Believe that they are not who you think they are (or would want them to be). Believe that they are not meant for you, nor compatible with your identity. Believe that leaving is an easier & better option than you imagine it to be.

It is the truth – truth of the world, truth with ourselves – that always sets us free.

I end with this quote by Dr. Maya Angelou:

When a person says to you that “I’m mean” or “I’m selfish” or “I’m unkind” or “I’m crazy” – believe them. They know themselves better than you do.

Dr. Maya Angelou

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The Tastiest Pizza is often the Messiest One

Splitting a city into residential, commercial and business zones is like throwing dough, cheese and pepperoni into the different compartments of a bento box and calling it a pizza.” In this article, Uber product manager Florent Crivello write about what he calls the “efficiency-destroying magic of tidying up”.

Florent shares this picture that he calls “an urban planner’s dream pizza” – I bet it’s not what you have in mind as your perfect pizza:

The word chaos has a negative connotation in most contexts. In fact, the Oxford dictionary defines chaotic as “in a state of complete confusion and disorder“. Chaos tends to stir up emotions of being lost, not knowing what to do.

When we are at a loss of what to do, more often than not it is because we do not truly understand. The flip side of that is, in the words of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “To understand is to know what to do.”

This was echoed in Florent’s article:

If outsiders complain, but people living inside the system seem happy with it, it probably means that the chaos is serving them right, and that it’s just foreign eyes who are unable to perceive its underlying order.

The Efficiency-Destroying Magic of Tidying Up, by Florent Crivello

It is tempting to equate a lack of order (or at least lack of what we perceive to be order) with a lack of value or quality, which justifies a need for intervention. This is not ill-advised in some cases, with the emergency of rule of law as a case in point. A complete lack of any legal order in a community threatens the safety of its members.

In contrast, some corrections of chaos could produce outcomes that go against our wishes instead of in their favor. Apart from the pizza example above (I assume 99.9999% of the population prefers a ‘messy’ pizza where the ingredients are mixed instead of separated), another example is the free market vs. central planning: a “chaotic” free market is magically more efficient than central planning, in terms of the total sum of outputs produced. Of course, free market is not without its limitations – which is a separate topic.

The point here is: the presence of chaos does not automatically equate a need for correction. If chaos should warrant anything, it should warrant a drive to understand the underlying order, the “invisible hand”, the hidden structure that are yet elusive to our foreign eyes.

Resisting the urge to “correct” chaos may not be that easy. As Brian Arthur, pioneer of complexity theory & complexity science, mentioned in an interview, subjects such as economics seek “equilibrium, a place of statis (stability) and simplicity”. In a sense, equilibrium is (perceived to be) at the opposite side of chaos.

Brian Arthur points out what seems to be in equilibrium could be different from what is actually in equilibrium – this depends on how macroscopic vs. microscopic our view is. For example, the sun seems to be in equilibrium when we look up at it in the sky – it is a beautiful sphere held in place by gravitational forces. Yet, the sun close up is full of plasma bursts – what you could call “chaotic” reactions.

Instead of viewing chaos & equilibrium as opposing concepts, we could view them as relative concepts instead. Instead of being either chaotic or in equilibrium, an object could be both – depending on the context & our level of understanding.

So give chaos some credit – just as the tastiest pizza is not the orderliest one, the best scenario may not necessarily be the most organized one. The next time you find yourself anxious about a chaotic environment? Think about how delicious that bite of pizza littered with messy toppings is – then sit back & relax.

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“All models are wrong, but some are useful”: Man’s Journey to Make Sense of the World

All models are wrong, but some are useful.

George Edward Pelham Box, British statistician

This quote by a British statistician is, arguably, not limited to describing statistical models. Every thought we have shapes our map (mental model) of the territory (how the world works).

An article on the rationalist blog Less Wrong believes the “abstract concept of ‘truth” is better thought of as “the general idea of a map-territory correspondence“.

The map is not the territory” is a core mental model:

The map of reality is not reality…If a map were to represent the territory with perfect fidelity, it would no longer be a reduction and thus would no longer be useful to us.

Farnam Street blog, “The Map Is Not the Territory

This is the paradoxical takeaway: the flaw & value of the map both lie in it being a reduction of reality. On one hand, every reduction is a conscious decision to be imprecise – some information is inevitably lost. On the other hand, compression is what makes it of use to us: focusing on what is the most important (or per the 80/20 rule, focus on the 20% that yields 80% value) allows us to maximize the value density of information we have, i.e., think of it as value per “unit storage space” of information.

I could not attribute the source of this – but someone said: the world always makes sense. If you think something “does not make sense”, what really does not make sense is your model of the world.

For those who are into rationality & critical thinking, I highly recommend this fanfiction: Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality – after all, what could be a more fun way to learn about something than mixing it with magic? 🙂

Here is a quote from the fiction: “I ask the fundamental question of rationality: Why do you believe what you believe? What do you think you know and how do you think you know it?

As the author wrote in another post: “We need the word ‘rational‘ in order to talk about cognitive algorithms or mental processes with the property ‘systematically increases map-territory correspondence‘(epistemic rationality) or ‘systematically finds a better path to goals‘ (instrumental rationality).

Striving to be rational means striving to improve map-territory correspondence, while acknowledging we could aim to be less wrong but never completely right. This recipe of curiosity plus humility combo is what powers us to build a model that is inevitably wrong, but hopefully helpful.

Enjoyed reading this? Apart from publishing articles on this blog, I also send out a newsletter with original content and curated ideas. Subscribe here or view past issues here. Stay tuned for more articles in the “Big Idea” series!

Heal With Herbs & Honey

Context: I attended a workshop on herbs & honey in Hong Kong this week, featuring Peggie Zih, a certified nutritionist & herbalist from Zenses in Health. Special thanks to The Hive co-working space for hosting. In the post below, I share some key takeaways below, supplemented by secondary research.

What honey should I buy?

Peggie recommends going for raw honey, which could be defined as honey in its original state taken from beehives. A more technical definition is:

Raw honey also contains bee pollen and bee propolis, which is a sticky, glue-like substance bees use to hold their hive together.

What are the health benefits of raw honey?” Medical News Today

How does raw honey differ from ‘regular’ honey? The latter goes through additional processing, including pasteurization, “a process that destroys the yeast found in honey by applying high heat. This helps extend the shelf life and makes it smoother.” (Healthline)

So take note – the next time you go shopping for honey in a store, don’t pick the jar with the smoothest texture. Instead, embrace raw honey that may not have the clearest color, but is free from commercial processing and preserves nutrients better.

What are the benefits of raw honey?

Raw honey provides benefits including:

  • Antioxidant effects
  • Antibacterial and helpful for cleansing wounds
  • Contains vitamins & minerals
  • Cough relief
  • Helps with digestion and eases diarrhea

What are watch-outs for taking raw honey?

Peggie mentions infants less than 1 year old should not be fed raw honey, as their digestive system is not mature enough to properly break down & absorb raw honey. The Center for Food Safety of HK Government recommends something similar:

Honey including raw honey can contain the spore forming bacterium, Clostridium botulinum, that causes intestinal botulism (also called infant botulism). Intestinal botulism mainly affects children less than one year old. Early symptom is constipation, followed by lethargy, difficulties in feeding, generalised muscle weakness and weak cry.

The Risks of Eating Raw Honey“, The Center for Food Safety of the HK Government

What are some herbal honey combos?

Here are some recipes for mixing organic herbs with honey to create tasty drinks as raised by Peggie:

  • Digestion: cinnamon
  • Digestion: fennel seeds (could add some chamomile flowers)
  • Cooling in summertime: hibiscus & rose
  • Calming: catnip, chamomile & lemon balm

Peggie also recommends sourcing organic herbs for health benefits.

What are some health tips you have come across? I’d love to hear from you! Reach me at fullybookedclub.blog@gmail.com or on LinkedIn.

Enjoyed reading this? Apart from publishing articles on this blog, I also send out a newsletter with original content and curated ideas. Subscribe here or view past issues here. Stay tuned for more articles in the “Big Idea” series!

[Big Ideas 003] Role of Museums in Education & Science vs. Religion

Context: This article is part of the Big Ideas series, where I synthesize takeaways from interviews by Discovery Magazine with the world’s best experts in multiple disciplines. This series is inspired by Peter Kaufman’s take on the multidisciplinary approach to thinking. Peter spent 6 months reading 140+ of these interviews, and came out knowing “every single big idea from every single domain of science”. I wrote more about Peter’s insightful ideas in this article.

Credit: Special thanks to ValueInvestingWorld for compiling the interviews in a single PDF here.

Former Head of Chicago’s Field Museum John McCarter

John McCarter is the CEO & president of the Chicago Field Museum. He “oversees the work of 200 scientists” on diverse research topics from protecting endangered tropical environments, to molecular evolution. He is also “one of the leading critics of the intelligent design movement (that argues life is created by an intelligent cause, or God)” and “an outspoken proponent of teaching modern evolutionary theory to all students.” Read the original interview in the May 2006 issue of Discover magazine here.

Why it’s hard to sustain kids’ interest in science

McCarter thinks there are two challenges to science education:

First, “kids get turned off to science at some point—fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade —when science is perceived as too hard and too complicated.” He proposes counteracting the problem “by telling stories”:

We try to make the museum experience telling enough that it becomes a conversation with families over the dinner table two nights later.

John McCarter

Second, it’s hard to attract or sustain attention amidst the “competition for time” in the digital age:

Two comedians with light talk on CBS and NBC had 80 percent of the market in that time slot…yet only 2 percent of the population is listening to NPR (National Public Radio). I think institutions like this don’t have a crack at people’s attention and time, so you have to be really good at delivering messages or explaining controversies in a way that sticks in people’s minds.

John McCarter

Museums in the science vs. religion debate

Shortly before the interview with McCarter took place, the Chicago Field Museum launched an exhibit – Evolving Planet – in March 2006. It showcased the 4-billion-year evolutionary journey of life on Earth.

McCarter shares the Evolving Planet exhibit was motivated by a dissatisfaction with current exhibits on evolution “constructed in such a way that visitors rushed through to get to the dinosaurs”.

Yet, he was also challenged on whether this exhibit was intended to promote the evolutionary perspective (that he is a strong advocate of):

Interviewer
What is the harm in telling the other story (of religious narrative)?
* * *
John McCarter
I don’t think there is any harm, as long as it is not posed as a scientific alternative to the story of evolution.

McCarter believes religion itself has undergone a shift:

The mainstream theological community is already way beyond the literal interpretation of the biblical accounts of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden and seven days of creation. Instead, they are saying that those are wonderful stories, created 2,000 years ago by people who were trying to explain their world, not that they are scientific fact.

John McCarter

For McCarter, the key issues in theology worth focusing our attention on are “applied morality of behavior and guidance”.

McCarter shares that the population that visit museums are skewed to have a higher % of those who subscribe to the evolution theory (instead of religious explanations on intelligent creation). He cites ~50% of the US public accepts the evolution theory, but this number has grown to 75% amidst museum-goers.

“And for those people who don’t accept it (evolution theory), the exhibit may enable the families to have a discussion about what their 15-year-old saw and how that fits into the overall faith of the family. We are not against religion. We are very supportive of religions and religious institutions. Much of this museum is a celebration of the impact of religion on cultures. But we do that in anthropology. We don’t do that in paleontology.”

Museum as a powerful storytelling platform

I particularly like this Q&A snippet in the interview:

Interviewer
It seems museums have switched from being repositories of artifacts and information and history to being advocates for a specific viewpoint?
* * *
John McCarter
I don’t think I’d call it advocacy…I call it storytelling…You would see an object, but there was no contextual story around that object. What we are doing now is using the artifacts to tell a story.

Museums don’t just lay out facts – they use facts to present a story, a narrative. Museums could be another powerful form of storytelling or propaganda.

Stay tuned for more articles in the “Big Idea” series! And please share interesting “big ideas” by reaching me at fullybookedclub.blog@gmail.com or on LinkedIn.

Enjoyed reading this? Apart from publishing articles on this blog, I also send out a newsletter with original content and curated ideas. Subscribe here or view past issues here. Stay tuned for more articles in the “Big Idea” series!

Reach Union in Sound & Energy Centers: On Nada Yoga and Chatra

Context: I tried Nada Yoga meditation for the first time and enjoyed the mindful experience it brought. The teacher guided us to tap into the 7 Chakra (energy centers) in the body via sound. I researched on the basics of Nada Yoga, shared below.

Share an interest in yoga or mindfulness? I’d love to hear from you – reach me at fullybookedclub.blog@gmail.com or on LinkedIn.

Nāda yoga (नादयोग) is an ancient Indian metaphysical system.
It is equally a philosophical system, a medicine, and a form of yoga.

Wikipedia

Nada Yoga: Unify the Individual Mind & Cosmic Consciousness via Sound

“Nada” stands for sound (vibrations) and “yoga” for union. Put together, Nada Yoga refers to “the union of the individual mind with cosmic consciousness through the flow of sounds”:

When the river of consciousness is impeded by the ego, Nada or special sounds can remove the obstruction, allowing the river of individual consciousness to unite with its source, the ocean of pure consciousness.

…Space is connected with the ear, and the ear is the receptacle to sound…sound is the primal experience of all in comparison to smell, taste, vision and touch. It is also the most accurate and more precise than the others.

What is Nada Yoga? – The Sacred Sound on the Nada Yoga Blog

Nada (sound) could be grouped into inner vs. outer music

Nada (sound) comes from:

  • Anahata = inner music, i.e., our own sound vibrations. Anahata is considered to be (a) inseparable from the self, i.e., I cannot share my Anahata with someone else, and (b) sacred – with the potential to hep individuals open their Chakras, i.e., energy centers. Chakra is introduced in more detail below. Nada Yoga believes we receive Anahata not from our ears, but from the anahata chakra – this is also explained below.
  • Ahata = outer music. We receive Ahata via the sensory organ of the ear.

The aim of Nada Yoga practice is to help us better listen to and receive Anahata, our inner music – the music that carries “spiritual weight”.

Inner music is mentioned as the key to achieving Enlightenment in some Buddhist literature

In the Shurangama Sutra, a buddhist sutra, it is recorded that the Buddha gave praise to Avalokitesvara, who claims to have been enlightened by his inner music:

All the Brothers in this Great Assembly…should reverse your outward perception of hearing and listen inwardly for the perfectly unified and intrinsic sound of your own Mind-Essence, for as soon as you have attained perfect accommodation, you will have attained to Supreme Enlightenment.

The Buddah’s praise of Avalokitesvara

Chakras: Energy Centers Vital to Harmony of the Body

To understand Chakra, we need to go back to a medieval-era theory of human life that originated in India. This theory believes that there are two dimensions of human life – the physical body (mass) and the subtle body (energy).

The subtle body is thought to be made up of nadi (energy channels) that are interconnected by chakras (energy centers / nodes). There are different claims as to how many chakras each person has – below I introduce the popular 7-chakra system, which is also taught during the meditation practice I attended.

1. Root Chakra (Muladhara, “Root”): Trust

Located at: base of spine

When open, we feel: grounded, secure, stable

Lotus: Red with 4 petals

2. Spleen or Sacral Chakra (Swadhisthana, “Where the Self is Established”): Creativity, Sexuality

Located at: lower abdomen

When open, we feel: creative, pleased, high sexual energy

Lotus: Orange with 6 petals

3. Navel or Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura: “Jewel City”): Power

Located at: upper abdomen

When open, we feel: high self-esteem & confidence

Lotus: Yellow with 10 petals

4. Heart Chakra (Anahata, “Unstruck”): Love, Healing

Located at: center of chest

When open, we feel: full of love, peaceful

Lotus: Green with 12 petals

5. Throat Chakra (Visuddha, “Purest”): Expression, Communication

Located at: throat

When open, we feel: expressive, articulate, keen to communicate

Lotus: Blue with 16 petals

6. Third-Eye or Brow Chakra (Ajna, “Command”): Intuition, Awareness

Located at: middle of forehead

When open, we feel: imaginative, intelligent

Lotus: Indigo with 2 petals

7. Crown Chakra (Sahasrara, “Thousand-Petaled)”: Spirituality

Located at: crown of our head

When open, we feel: connected to a higher consciousness

Lotus: Violet with 1,000 petals

Linking back to the spiritual theory introduced at the beginning, the first three Chakras are the Chakras of Matter, the last three are the Chakras of Spirit, and the middle one (Heart Chakra) is the connection in between.

Nada Yoga practice aims to help us unblock the chakras to achieve better harmony and spiritual enlightenment.

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