Other Perspectives #94: The Dangers of Fairness

1041-op-relax-and-succeed-im-human-so-dont-be-meanYou put an “X” through that?!

Yeah. Mean of me wasn’t it? They even used little kid handwriting to make it look more vulnerable and still I X’d it out. Tough luck kid. That’s a dangerous idea to give a you.

This is the first new Other Perspectives for the first time in a long time, but I have to. I learned by doing this series that a lot of people learned a tremendous amount about why they were struggling as adults. They began realising the dangerous ideas in our culture are often not the dark ones, they’re the light ones. They’re the big lies that get told to kids and those kids grow into adults who spend their entire lives upset that those particular lies didn’t come true.

1041-op-relax-and-succeed-dont-worry-about-the-peopleThose are the lies about being nice, taking turns, being fair, responsible, ethical–it doesn’t matter: still lies. Every kid finds their own version of those things, because like everyone’s principles for life, it includes a lot of real-life exceptions that need to be added to the parent’s rules in order to maintain the order the parent claimed existed. They need to add those exceptions because they need ways to figure out how to handle when someone else doesn’t match the behaviours they were taught were correct.

How this translates is that the kid/person tries to be nice to everyone they can, but if someone isn’t nice to them then the deal their parents said would exist is obviously not in operation. If that’s the case then the kid will no longer feel like they have to be nice either. The other person was mean first. After all, you have to be fair.

If we make fair important then it’s okay if you have to forego a responsibility to get your revenge, because you’re making sure that fair thing gets resolved. Then later you and your friends and family can discuss how unethical the other person was. And therein we circle the squares of our family subcultures.

1041-op-relax-and-succeed-human-kind-be-bothWhat got sold to the kid was a code of conduct. The parents defined both good and successful behaviour and the kid was told to live by both. But they’re instantly stressed because before they can even get to Grade One they’re learning that people don’t do what they’re supposed to do. People live based off how they feel. And the best way to keep them feeling good is actually to allow the idea of reciprocity develop.

Reciprocity was what we were attempting to codify and when we created the behaviour codes that shape our societies. But using the word fairness for reciprocity was a terrible idea. To say societies aim for those ideals is fine, but if we teach kids to expect fairness and suggest to them that something is wrong when things aren’t fair, that’s literally teaching them how to be unhappy the rest of their lives because their view of how they want the world to work will never line up with how it is.

Fairness is the quality of making a judgment without any kind of human, personal, or emotional content. Even when robots do that it makes us upset because it’s not taking into account the desire for reciprocity. The word is actually derived from the idea of beauty or attractiveness, so it’s a shallow, ego-based word.

1041-op-relax-and-succeed-if-someone-is-too-tiredReciprocity on the other hand has its origins in French, extending from a term meaning, to move backwards and forwards. Give and take. That still leaves room for people to give too little and take too much, but fairness doesn’t. Fairness is egotistical and rigid. It wants to live in all moments equally, whereas reciprocity is happy with just flexing to fit the moment where it’s needed.

Don’t tell little Jennifer that another kid is a bad kid because they teased your her, because little Jennifer’s going to do that some day too and then she’ll feel like a bad person. Explain that just like she does, some kids have very bad days before they get to school and those kids have a lot of pain in them that will come out during the day. Then little Jennifer can be taught to be compassionate to the unreasonable people because that’s what will make them more reasonable, not a demand that they be fair when they already feel they are down. We don’t save the world by keeping the happy people happy, we need to get the sad people happy.

It’s natural to want to protect a kid. But think about protecting the adult they’ll be too. Because teaching them to try to bend the world to the shape you claimed it was is a life of hell. But learning to manage the world as it really is can lead to a heavenly life, even if it’s spent dealing with plenty of unfairness.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Disposable Life

989-relax-and-succeed-no-amount-of-security-is-worth-the-sufferingThe Paralympics are currently on. I actually liked when they were called the Special Olympics because to me it is notable and special when someone can do something with less than everyone else needs to do it, as was evidenced in this post from earlier in the year.  I’m not being nice to anyone by being impressed by all that, I’m deep-down inspired by what other human beings can show me we’re capable of.

This brings up the question of what moves us forward in life? At these Paralympics I see smiles and achievements and connections to teams and respect for competitors and lots of physical health and travel and excitement, and none of these things are contained in our limbs. Just as the blind know happiness, the deaf have heard grief. The experiences in our consciousness are what life is made of. Your body is what delivers you to the situations where those experiences take place.

The people who repeatedly choose negative experiences don’t recognise their choices. Once when I was living in Australia I met a very religious man. He was kind in the sense that he was very keen to warn me about all of the potential dangers in the world but those fears had made him extremely angry all the time.

989-relax-and-succeed-worrying-does-not-empty-tomorrowRather than be happy about his wife’s uncle building them a beautiful playhouse for the kids, he worried they would get up to no good in it and so he tore the door off and placed the playhouse right outside the back door of the main house. The kids naturally sought privacy so they mostly just stored things in it. They were only allowed to see religious films and read religious books. They never went out and only mixed with people from their church who were similarly cloistered.

This unfortunately turned the kids into huge outsiders at their school. They were teased for not being aware of anything really modern and they were afraid to participate in anything. They had however seen their father get angry a lot so they were both good at having hot, fast tempers. When they weren’t upset they were mostly depressed because they had no example of what joy or fun looked like. Their parents rarely spoke.

I was fully aware the wife was addicted to TV and profoundly unhappy to the point of abusing prescription drugs. The kids lives grew progressively worse as they matured and sought greater freedom of choice and their angry father soon had them on prescription drugs too. And yet it’s important to note, they had inherited money so they had no need to even work, and everyone was healthy other than emotionally. They could have travelled anywhere but chose to go nowhere.

989-relax-and-succeed-someone-is-happySo this is important: how is someone who lost their legs prior to a huge accomplishment crying at hearing their anthem played while they’re on a podium when this entire family is drugged and miserable and they have everything going for them? Because life doesn’t happen outside of us it happens inside of us.

The miserable family built a rigid idea of doing the right thing and they’re killing themselves contorting themselves into that preconceived shape. Meanwhile the happy group continue to be bold or even got bolder about life and they chased huge dreams. There are no dreams in that Australian family. There are only fears. While one group creates dangers to hide from the other group creates new space within themselves to allow for more expansion. One life goes up, the other goes down. The choice is always ours.

Will you make the most of what you have or will you hide from life? Because you’ll make that choice each moment of each day, and whether you like it or not, your lifetime is made of what you choose most.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #108

909 FD Relax and Succeed - How long to napThere are a lot of people whose lives would be greatly improved if only they had the ability to function outside of social convention. I routinely see people tortured by the gap between their instructions and their sense of reality.

Bosses tell us not to eat when we’re hungry, despite having sensations of thirst we let a university tell us how much to water to drink, parents need permission from a Principal for their kid to be accepted as sick, adults sleep-deprive themselves to solve problems for work, and people will actually defer going to the bathroom to help meet a deadline. Not trusting our nature is leading to a sick and stressed society.

Bosses, universities, authorities, clocks and bathrooms are all inventions of thought. None of these things exist in the natural world and they only exist if people believe in them. You can cooperate with all of those things to assist you in relating to others, but to be a slave to them is to kill your humanity. It’s okay to eat when you’re hungry, to take a break when you need to, and definitely to sleep when you’re tired.

909 FD Relax and Succeed - Paper cut outPrince died yesterday. He was only 57 so it caught people off guard. What made Prince, or David Bowie or any other person truly great? They ignored the rules. They ignored what was considered acceptable and instead they showed us what was was inside them.

Prince wore the outfits that other people dream of wearing but don’t because they’re afraid of being judged. He danced in front of people the way others dance when they’re alone. And he sang his songs with volume and heart because he believed they belonged in the world without anyone else saying so. We could all use a bit more of Prince’s boldness in our lives.

And how did Prince react to adversity? When he was told it was pouring rain for one of the biggest shows of his life, Prince’s reaction was: “Can you make it rain harder?” And then he went out and ignored what everyone else would do and he blew everyone away. This is what freedom looks like:

Documentary on Prince at the Superbowl

 

So stop letting the world tell you how to be and start being yourself in this world. Don’t be a slave to society. Life is precious. Live accordingly.

Have a great weekend everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Elements of Ego

874 Relax and Succeed - Tree of lifeThere will be ideas within you that you will mistake or misunderstand as being you. These are those central foundations on which your values rest. Maybe it’s fairness, maybe it’s fighting for underdogs, maybe it’s being a pacifist or a rescuing cop or soldier. Whatever that identity is it will have its advantages and disadvantages and those will adjust as the times around you do.

Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak suddenly found they were no longer nerdy computer geniuses–instead the times had turned them into some of the wealthiest and most powerful people anywhere. Suddenly their geeky knowledge was very important to all of us. Yet give us one giant solar storm that wipes out any electronics on Earth and they suddenly might find themselves as terrible farmers and hunters in need of a tremendous amount of favours.

There is no way to be a permanent success. Even the concept of success is entirely open to interpretation. A business manager might idolize the abstract brilliance of a clever banker or accountant and yet that same person could be seen as a dangerous villain by a large percentage of the same nation. There are no real crooks–there are only people who do not feel that the same rules that apply to others apply to them. Rules live in our head. So does the Law, but the law has muscle that can lock you behind bars if it disagrees with your thinking (although it still has zero power to change that thinking.)

874 Relax and Succeed - A society is definedSociety is essentially a set of rules. How to drive, talk, act, eat, meet, leave etc. etc. Societies are fictitious guidelines about how we will all interact. Politeness, honesty, kindness, fairness etc. etc. are all agreements we’re making about how we’ll act in the future. But as I’ve discussed before, you’re only ever alive now so your promises regarding the future will rely more on your sense of duty to your ego than anything else.

The aggressiveness of your defence of yourself will depend on your dedication to your belief of the idea of you. The more certainty you require in life the more pain you will endure. Everyone likes to think of themselves as open-minded but only the most peaceful people truly are. You will find hints at your need for this kind of stability just by looking closely at yourself.

Societies are formed by each culture based on what it collectively values most–hence the law, mathematics, and sciences will be shared by developed societies around the world (e.g. The Rule of Law). At the same time some customs will be exclusively national, or even quasi-continental like bowing in Asia to illustrate status or shaking hands in the countries that used to carry swords.

874 Relax and Succeed - The only limitationsCollective cultures can clash directly with the societies they try and function in. For instance, most of the hyper-localized community of Wall Street was fine with breaking society’s rules as long as most people were making lots of material gains, and no one really even looked until their beliefs clashed too much with the average person’s ability to live in alignment with them.

Start to know who you are by finding the broad strokes. You grew up in a few key societies: your times, your nation, your region, your city, your neighbourhood and even your family. Let’s start with the times and your nation: what is the current zeitgeist (the spirit of the times) of the Earth? What is the current zeitgeist of your nation? What’s first? For instance, the times currently include more fear than previously, but some nations will change their values to suit their fears and others feel that values set in calmer times should be trusted and that it’s fears that must be controlled. Where do you live and what is that place’s priorities?

Find out how you see yourself in the largest possible sense. Even two similar people can have quite different views on how to act upon their beliefs based on the nation they live in. So they might tilt toward the collective like Japan or they can tilt toward the individualism of the US, but in both places there will be people who personally tilt every direction. Societies are like averages.

874 Relax and Succeed - When the winds of change blowStereotypes simply emerge from the most common collective choices and while they’re potentially at the core of every war they can also be relatively useful tools. As always, it depends on how they’re used. So what are the spirit of your times? What is your nation famous for and do you agree with that or despise it?

Find yourself. Learn what these silent preferences are. Because they are far more powerful than can imagine. They can literally change the taste of food, they can create words other cultures don’t have or need, and they will certainly choose different sorts of governments and wars.

Start this week with your nation. Know yourself as a simple exercise in seeing how subtly your choices have been shaped in a way where you believe them to be yours when in fact they were simply what was taught and modeled to you. Find yourself. We’ll hone that as the week progresses. This is an important exercise. Have a great day everyone!

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

Finding Yourself

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #2

In my lifetime I am pleased to say that I have played a part in inspiring a great many people to go on significant travel adventures. As anyone who’s gone on such a trip knows, these often constitute one of the most important experiences in the shaping of who we ultimately become.

663 Relax and Succeed - In all affairsOvercoming challenges builds confidence and strength and seeing how other cultures handle various situations exposes your own culture to be a choice rather than a fait accompli. This frees people and opens their minds. I am very pleased to say I currently have two friends traipsing around the world on my suggestion and it’s been absolutely thrilling re-living my own travels through them.

There are vacationers, holidayers, travellers and trekkers. The first two groups stick to tours and lodgings that remind them of home. The latter two seek exactly the opposite of home and they’re the ones that are truly travelling as opposed to sight-seeing. Every traveller knows that strange sensation of getting out into the streets after a long haul flight. There’s this wonderfully surreal feeling of, wait a second… wasn’t I just there and now I’m here?!?!

A change like that always seems so curious to your brain at first. It’s aware the entire culture has shifted. Every face looks different. Maybe they drive on the other side of the road and the food all smells different. I’ll never forget eating turkey with peach sauce in a restaurant in Budapest only hours after I had been playing with my band back in Edmonton. That’s still my most memorable changeover. That shock to the brain is a very cool feeling that I’ve always enjoyed. I know I’m building new pathways in my brain by being exposed to these differences.

839 Relax and Succeed - If you want somethingAs you travel your own assumptions about the world and yourself get stripped away. How you use a payphone. How you sit when you eat. What you eat at what times of day. How you use a toilet. How introverted or intelligent or rich you seem to other people. All this stuff changes and as it does it exposes to you that your culture doesn’t do it the right way, your culture is literally made out of the way that it does things.

There can be many cultures within one country—you can get a recipe for some authentic Italian cooking from someone in northern Italy and it will look nothing like the authentic Italian cooking from a different family in southern Italy–or even just across the street. What we call “tradition” is really just a habit passed from one generation to the next.

You also realize that food is just a word. It can be applied to all kinds of things that you’ve never traditionally thought of as food. Like monkey brains. But then, to devout Hindus you eating beef is pretty grim. In Europe you can order tongue or tail in restaurants. Watermelon juice is common in Asia whereas Black and Logan Berry is often served in Eastern Europe. North Americans buy special food for their dogs. The entire world has habits that its culture has taught it and so many times people are seen to be wrong if they exist outside of those habits, but these are just ways of being. And there’s no reason they can’t all comfortably co-exist.

663 Relax and Succeed - Go find yourself firstWhether you’re a traveller or not, take a look around your life at the assumptions that you make. Look at how you have a list of acceptable things to eat for breakfast. The fence in your head that is created by the definitions you were taught is precisely what the Buddha meant when he talked about seeing through the illusion. You can have a giant cinnamon bun or a hunk of sausage or chili for breakfast if you want. You’re an adult. You can run with scissors. But so much of your life has been dictated to you by what you’ve been taught to think. Seeing past these limitations is what allows people to become fully themselves. And in being fully themselves, they can finally truly see others.

Whether you go on a big trip or not make sure you challenge your own assumptions. Build a life that suits you rather than pointlessly struggling to become someone that suits a pre-ordained life. That isn’t your life. That’s the chalk outline of a life. You can be much bigger than that. The only thing that’s stopping you is an ephemeral wall of thought. As the composer Roger Waters said, it’s time to tear down the wall.

Love you all.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.