Uncategorized

I Have Strong Opinions

Even in my embrace of ambiguity or possibly because of my quest for uncertainty, I have strong opinions loosely held. My position on the environment, economics, politics, family dynamics would lean center left on a traditional spectrum, mostly. My views on some other social issues are muddled and huddled in the middle and on some other issues, especially around justice, I lean into the right.

When I am talking about conservation with most of my friends and colleagues, we congregate around science, ecology, greening, and personal responsibility. The confirmation bias of my huddle is strong, and so I try to venture into the territory of other camps and hear what and why they understand and believe. My belief that we are living through unprecedented climate change and that our actions are the most significant contributor was formed by research, reflection, conversation, and personal observation but I hold my conclusions loosely enough to enter into dialogue with others. (Dialogue is the process of sharing ideas, opinions, viewpoints, and facts so everyone is heard and we can all leave having learned something.) Sometimes the nudge is less quantitative than qualitative, sometimes the shift is more about trust, and mostly we all come closer to understanding what the other is thinking.
Over the past four years, I have moved from a self-described recovering post-modern fundamentalist to a fully outed atheist. The move was painful intellectually, and I needed to break down some significant brick walls to get ready to build a different foundation. I still honor people of faith and will participate in the traditions intellectually as a show of support, and they have come to see that I believe lots of the same things as them, without the overarching narrative of God and salvation.
When I am open to the possibility that what I believe or understand may not be entirely accurate or correct, I allow space for the as yet unimagined (my brain hasn’t yet imagined it). I can’t arrive at that Eureka Moment if I remain stubbornly locked in my own prison of certainty.
Have you taken a certainty break this week? Are you actively exploring something that doesn’t fit with your biases? I am sure that the thought of shaking your foundation sounds a bit overwhelming and crazy, but I encourage you to give it a try.

B

Uncategorized

Who Are You?

Are you optimistic, pessimistic, neutralistic? Is the world abundant, scarce or three bears just right? Is your view of the world about how you perceive the truth, your disposition, and/or your experiences? I can find myself feeling ‘hell-in-a-handbasket’ like my father, my grandfather and I am sure on occasion my grandchildren or I can deliberately expect and demand a different perspective from myself and different results from the world. My tendencies are a matter of wiring and if I don’t want to continue wallowing in self-pity I can undertake to rewire my brain to observe the magic, beauty, and mystery alongside the tragedy, hatred and vitriol.

For me, it begins with morning meditation. I use a guided application called “Simple Habits” and practice is the first activity I schedule after my feet hit the floor. It isn’t a spiritual exercise as much as a consciousness and mindfulness kick start. This morning’s meditation was about gratitude for discomfort and how the aches and pains I feel physically and emotionally are likely my body and brain attempting to protect me from additional harm. Without feeling the twinge in my left Achille’s tendon, I might run until something snaps. If I didn’t feel anxious, I might jump off the next cliff without some measure of investigation and reflection. If I didn’t feel regret for not saying something to a loved one in a time of trouble, I might become callous and distant.
I don’t have any chronic conditions that cause me distress do I am not sure how someone could feel grateful for that kind of infliction but I encourage you to take a moment to understand and appreciate your stress, aches, or anxiety. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in it and don’t just accept the situation if there are options to improve or dissipate them.

My tactics for reframing are ecological, entertaining, and explicit. If I want to change my patterns, thoughts or actions I need to be aware of the surroundings that I find myself in and the surroundings that fit with how I see the changed self I want to become. In order to be more grateful, I can’t be surrounded by ungrateful or selfish people. I need to be surrounded by light, love, and learning. I can’t continue doing the same things in the same places in the same way that brought me to the valley of distrust and disappointment. For the circumstances to change, I need to change my where and how and who. Escaping from stinking thinking is essential. It means that there are people in my life today that can’t be in my life tomorrow. There are places I need to stop going and actions that I must stop undertaking. We all have a preferred or imagined ecology that fulfills more of our aspirations and unfortunately, it won’t manifest itself. We need to seek it out through our actions.

I can be shallow and unfocused and unless the change process is fun, I know that I might retreat to the depths that I am trying to escape. Fun need not be onerous or expensive. Meeting with uplifting people for an activity, a meeting, a coffee, a walk will put a smile on my face even when or because the conversation is an adventure. I met with three friends this morning for ninety minutes and we ranged across the sublime and inane to the profound and debatable. We laughed, we shared, we disagreed and we hugged. We expressed our gratitude for each other and the time spent and booked another gathering for a month from now. I left inspired, thankful and challenged. The stimulus of camaraderie and conversation caused neurons to fire against my hippocampus and began nurturing new pathways.

My final tactic; explicit is really an e word for intentional. ( I love alliteration so much that I always trying to catch it in my lists – ecological, entertaining, and explicit). In my worldview, nothing happens organically. Or nothing will predictably happen without intention. I must invest my resources and time in creating a V2.0 or V11.5 of me and I need to be vested in the outcome.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” ~ Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

Make Today Remarkable, by choice,

Bob

Uncategorized

Wide or Narrow

The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out. ~ JRR Tolkien

Start wide, expand further, and never look back. ~Arnold Schwarzenegger

Let’s not be narrow, nasty, and negative. ~ TS  Eliot

There is in true beauty, as in courage, something which narrow souls cannot dare to admire. ~ William Congreve

Certainty narrows, curiosity widens. ~ Bob McInnis

We live in a world of unparalleled possibilities yet more often than not we rely on the tried and true heuristics that worked yesterday and on all our yesterdays. Fear, laziness, complacency or ignorance convince us that there is ‘nothing new in this world’ that is worth exploring, worth trying, worth learning. In my not so humble opinion, there is everything new in this world, and I can soak it up, synthesize it, reflect on it and then reflect the as yet unimagined creation to those willing to see it.

My youngest grandson loves binoculars. At three, he prefers to look through them backward from how I use them. He ‘likes things far away’ better than close up. I have tried them both ways at his insistence and realize that I see more clearly having seen the tree and seen the leaves. Simply by adding one perspective widened my view of and appreciation for the world. If I had continued to bring things close, I wouldn’t have seen the forest.

When I read Robert Sapolsky, YH Harari, and Ali Bryan over the last few months, my perspective widened. When I investigated and booked a trek, my world became wider. (and when we climb the Via Feratta, it broadens). By looking at the world differently, we see a different world. When we read or listen to a new voice, our understanding gets broader. If I go somewhere and do something for the first time my experience of life is deeper.

I can be a creature of habit and choose to live narrowly, or I can opt for richness and surprise. Mediocrity lives and thrives in habitual practice, routine observations and rigid, echo chamber ideas.

This week, let’s explore getting wider and broader.
B

The Cultural Curiosity Daily will be a hodgepodge on some days and a treatise on others. If you are entertained, provoked, inspired, edified or angered by any of it you can respond with comments and as always you can ‘buy me a coffee.

Uncategorized

Support and Disappointment

In my not so humble opinion, relationships are complicated, exhilarating and require dedication and commitment. There is a theory that we basket our relationships into four categories; intimate, personal, social and public. I hold one person in my intimate basket, dozens in my personal, hundreds in my social and thousands in public. At the widest point, my commitment and dedication are lowest and so is the exhilaration and complexity.
Those in my personal basket are people who I care about; I care enough that when I am making a decision, I consider how my actions will impact them. We remain connected through an undocumented and unaudited reciprocity. We support each other; we listen for opportunities to offer sincere feedback, and we extend grace to each other when we screw up. It is hard to acknowledge and own the mishaps (maybe it is in all cases), but if I am open to accepting culpability,  the relationship remains authentic. If I am ducking for cover and denying involvement, the relationship is eroded.

In my intimate relationship that has survived and flourished for 43 years. All of the above is encapsulated; complicated, exhilarating, supportive, dedicated, grace and committed. But I believe that the reason that we have continued to work hard every day to live happily ever after is because we don’t want to disappoint each other. I have disappointed her and been disappointed, but I know that each day I ask myself “if I do this would it disappoint her?” 99.5% of the time the answer is “no” and 99.9% of the time when the answer is “yes,” I don’t make that choice.

My relationships are my responsibility, and I take seriously the role that continues to evolve and hold those close to me to a high standard.

Are your relationships healthy and reciprocal? Do you care and demonstrate that you care in equal measure? Are you willing and ready to step up and move to the next level?

Make Today Remarkable, for someone close  to you,

B

The Cultural Curiosity Daily will be a hodgepodge on some days and a treatise on others. If you are entertained, provoked, inspired, edified or angered by any of it you can respond with comments and as always you can ‘buy me a coffee.

Uncategorized

Even When I Don’t Want To

Being considerate, caring and compassionate shouldn’t be optional. Regardless of how I feel, what the situation is, or who is involved, I should strive for the three big C’s.

It seems paradoxical that I can be inconsiderate of people that I have never met and people who are closest to my heart. Neither are acceptable. When I encounter someone, for the first time, that challenges me, offends me, or rubs me the wrong way I feel justified in any rudeness or callousness that pours out of me. I am not justified in treating them badly regardless of the circumstances. Rudeness begets negativity, and I am always in the position to decide to break the cycle.  As I reflect on the times that I haven’t considered someone else, there are far too many times that the object of my derision is the person or people who mean the most to me. I take them for granted; I raise my voice; I cut them off; I can be mean-spirited. Is this because I feel safe that my outburst will be forgiven?
There is a huge segment of my social and public spheres that have never seen that side of me.  I see them once a month, once a year or in specific situations. I treat them with respect even when I challenge them. We disagree without animosity. Is the reduced familiarity a factor? I don’t know how they will react, so I am on better behavior? Am I consciously deciding to treat them as I want to be treated even when I may want to lash out? Can I consistently decide to be respectful to everyone? I think it is possible. I know people who are always sincere, interested and ethical (I don’t live in their skin so my impression may not be accurate).
It is my responsibility to choose to be respectful. To decide to be compassionate. To opt for consideration, especially when I feel challenged.

I am going to observe my tendencies and alter my approach as needed over the next month. Would you benefit from a wee modification?

Make Today Remarkable, for someone else,

Bob

Uncategorized

Normal

If you are reading this post, you likely live in a world where abundance exists, and possibilities abound. In the Information Era, we should have the desire, opportunity, and curiosity to break free from the mediocrity of normalcy. But many of us cave into the pressure of believing without investigating, saying without examining and doing without agreeing. The blandness of social channels exemplifies how truly unremarkable our lives can be when we chug along with the crowd. The backlash of trolls and the general churlishness of the global gossip network reinforces the bounded rationality of normal. Breaking out of the square mold takes courage, commitment, and curiosity but the reward of becoming unbound is that you get to sing your own song to your own beat without worrying about the naysayers and critics. In fact, once you gain some distance from the mob, their resentment becomes part of the motivation to continue.

When we live within the circle of sameness, we miss all the as yet unimagined. The remarkable accidents don’t have time or space to change our trajectory.The status quo seems okay, and we begin measuring excitement and joy on a scale with an extremely low bar. If the path is void of unplanned adventure, we plod along as if on Prozac with ups and no downs. Flatlining should only happen after we are dead.

Living a life less conventional is a choice that you can start at any age. As with most things it would be great if you could take one big step and become a curious adventurer but there are years of conforming and pressure to be ‘a good girl’ from a peanut gallery that wants you to toe the line, so they don’t need to consider how small they are living their lives.

The disposition to go along can be gradually shifted towards nonconformity and even contrarianism by taking one small step at a time. If you intentionally do something, anything, differently today than you did it yesterday, you are moving towards a healthier mental state. If you plan to take an action that will be seen as unconventional and even accept that you may initially be embarrassed, then your courage will be rewarded. When you understand that the social conventions and long-standing acceptance of unwritten rules is just a shared fiction that can and should be challenged, you have altered your journey.

If you tend to think of yourself first, then try to consider how your choices impact those around you. If you are more altruistic, then lean towards self-interest for a couple of decisions. If you favor a healthy lunch, then shake it up with something decadent.
Is your bookshelf full of nonfiction because it will improve your work performance, then try a month of nothing but fiction to improve your imagination.
Once you establish a comfort level in challenging your norms, you can venture into the area of debating and commenting on the opinions and ‘values’ of the amorphous blob. Values are in quotes because values are usually deeply considered and held views and beliefs but much of what I hear and see is just an aping of what has come to be called common sense.

The big takeaway and action I hope you get from reading through to the end are that you can be remarkable and lead a big life, but it needs to be on your terms, with your goals, your tactics, and your passion. Don’t let someone, anyone dictate your path or force you to hide who you are and what you believe from the world. We not only need differences but we should celebrate those who dare to present themselves uniquely. We should celebrate you, who you are and who you can be.

Make Today Remarkable in the most exciting and outrageous way,

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncategorized · Uncertainty

Learning Curiousity

Am I a slow learner? Am I in the too old to teach a new trick category? Do I continue to expect a different result from the same process? Am I unwilling to consider possibilities that don’t confirm what I already hold to be true? Yes, yes and yes but not as often as I was three years ago and not as often as I was three months ago. I am getting better at listening and observing. I have improved my willingness and ability to embrace strategies, tactics, and practices that don’t guarantee an expected and preferred outcome. I am able to say ” let’s give it a try and see what we learn.”

It’s not easy being curious but inquisitiveness has it’s own rewards too. Accepting that what you are doing, in this moment, is the best use of your time and the actions you are taking will give you the best bang for your buck is the easier road. It is more difficult to question the status quo, make an inquiry that doesn’t have a ready-made answer or just do what ‘we have always done’. It seems impossible to lift our heads and see how the world has changed since we started and see if what we have been doing has made an impact on what we are trying to achieve.

Learning isn’t a random activity. I conceded that we can acquire experience by happenstance but curiousity requires intention (non-randomness). I have gained information in moments of chaos but recognize that I ascribed the result post experience and missed a genuine window to learning something as yet unimagined because I hadn’t set out to intentionally absorb, digest and regurgitate. We can commit to being observant, reflective, questioning, and accept knowledge lightly without grasping it to our chest and pretending it is sacred.We then actively search for confirmation and actively pursue misunderstanding so that our delusions don’t disolve.

I am a self-confessed impatient imperfectionist with and extreme action bias. This leaves me jumping to conclusions and off bridges before I spend time hearing the options and then making an informed decision. My stubbornness and self-importance present as unreasonable pride and can limit my willingness to explore. Some days I believe I am the most accommodating and interested person that I know and on the next day, I am self-assured, self-righteous and self-centered. I can constantly convince myself that I understand how the world works without applying any rigor or testing to the thesis. I can smile and nod with self-satisfaction when nothing out of the ordinary or nothing I couldn’t have predicted occur. It would seem, after some thought, that the results are a function of the conditions and preconditions that I established rather than some sacred or scientific rule. The same results are a function of the same blind routine rather than the best and only impact that is/was possible.

If I consider and then change the starting parameters I can reasonably expect that the process and ends will be different. Even if I am pleased with the way things went, isn’t it incumbent on me to see how I may improve the results?
As always, when I write in the first person I could as easily be using second or third. Are you a slow learner? Are we in the too old to teach a new trick category? Do you continue to expect a different result from the same process? Are we unwilling to consider possibilities that don’t confirm what we already hold to be true?

Embrace some ambiguity today. Test a new ‘off the wall’ thesis. Be bold and go where you have never gone before.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
~ Walt Disney

Curiousity is the lust of the mind ~ Thomas Hobbes

Science means constantly walking a tightrope between blind faith and curiosity; between expertise and creativity; between bias and openness; between experience and epiphany; between ambition and passion; and between arrogance and conviction – in short, between an old today and a new tomorrow.
~ Heinrich Rohrer
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
~ Albert Einstein
Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. – Zora Neale Hurston

Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
e. e. cummings

My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.
Mario Testino

As I get older, the more I stay focused on the acceptance of myself and others, and choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear.
Tracee Ellis Ross

 

Make Today Remarkably Curious,

B