Cool info really great more on method please

Im not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s an election going on. Seems like a pretty dull affair, to be honest. Not much to discuss. In a country that is the shining example for governmental efficiency and democratic representation for the rest of the world, I expect nothing but continued solidarity between political parties, not to mention widespread approval of the country’s leadership. So…

…congratulations New Zealand! 

You did it, kiwis. As usual, you were so functional and reasonable that we almost forgot you were there at all. Kia ora. 

All right, who’s next? Let’s see—*checks notes*—Ah, yes, the United States. Okay, this one should be pretty straightfor— 

(10 minutes later…) 

“Holy fucking Christ. Make it stop! MAKE IT STAHP!!!”

*Crawls under the bed sobbing*

If you were to ask anyone in the US, it feels as though something imperceptible is either broken or is in the process of breaking. This brokenness gets blamed on a lot of things. People on the left predictably blame Trump, his incompetence, and his complete lack of ethics. People on the right generally point to the growing movement of “woke” social justice activists, their revolutionary rhetoric, and complete lack of sanity. Both make strong points. 

Yet, I believe something more fundamental and worrying is happening. Fundamental, because I believe it’s driving the radicalization and hostility on both sides of the political spectrum. Worrying, because I don’t see how it gets resolved by any single election result. 

You would never guess by looking at the news headlines, but the American people by and large agree on most issues. Three-quarters believe the government should expand its coverage of health care. Two-thirds believe there should be stricter gun laws. 79% think abortion should be legal. 76% support investing more in education. A staggering 96% support infrastructure improvements. 75% say it’s somewhat/very important to promote more racial and ethnic diversity. 76% say racism continues to be a big problem. Two-thirds see China as a threat and 83% believe the US should remain the world’s major military power. 

Yet, despite all of this agreement, polarization between the two major parties is at an all-time high. 

This polarization is that ineffable-yet-fundamentally-broken “something” that I think we all feel. Despite most of the country being in accord on its biggest issues—the politicians and media continue to escalate their incessant squabbling to a fever pitch that is now beginning to justify violence. In a recent survey, roughly one-third of both Republican and Democrat supporters said that if their party loses next week, they believe that violence would be justified. 

Clearly, there is a major disconnect going on between perception and reality. The question is “Why?” 

The Story of Institutional Decay

In 2014, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote an essay titled, “America in Decay.” In political science, institutional decay occurs when governments and other important organizations cease to respond adequately to the population’s needs. The causes of decay can be both malicious—rampant corruption, dickhead leaders, etc.—or they can be benign—i.e., the institutions can simply become rigid and fail to adapt to new realities. 

Fukuyama, after tracing the history of American institutions and their incentive structures over the past 200 years, came to a downright depressing conclusion. I will quote him at length and hope he doesn’t sue me (my italics): 

“The U.S. political system has decayed over time because its traditional system of checks and balances has deepened and become increasingly rigid. In an environment of sharp political polarization, this decentralized system is less and less able to represent majority interests and gives excessive representation to the views of interest groups and activist organizations that collectively do not add up to a sovereign American people.

[…]

[T]he United States is trapped by its political institutions. Because Americans distrust government, they are generally unwilling to delegate to it the authority to make decisions, as happens in other democracies. Instead, Congress mandates complex rules that reduce the government’s autonomy and cause decision-making to be slow and expensive. The government then doesn’t perform well, which confirms people’s lack of trust in it. Under these circumstances, they are reluctant to pay higher taxes, which they feel the government will simply waste. But without appropriate resources, the government can’t function properly, again creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What Fukuyama describes is a kind of downward spiral of political dysfunction. Crappy institutions generate crappier outcomes, which then generate resentment and distrust and polarization within the population, which generates worse leaders and worse policies and weaker institutions, and down the shit-spiral we all go. 

In their book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, economists Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson describe these institutional spirals as self-reinforcing in both directions. Countries with well-performing institutions generate economic growth and trust within the population. This then generates more support and solidarity in government, which then generates better leaders and better policies, which then creates more economic growth and social trust and so on. Run that cycle enough times and you get New Zealand. Run the cycle in the other direction long enough and you get Afghanistan. 

Most developed, western nations are spiralling upward and have been since World War II. The United States, Fukuyama argues, is in many ways, no longer spiralling up, but beginning to spiral down. What’s worse, he concludes depressingly that we are unlikely to summon the courage and political capital to reverse these trends ourselves. Instead, it will require some sort of cataclysmic event to wake the country from its gridlock and stupor. He writes: 

“The depressing bottom line is that given how self-reinforcing the country’s political malaise is, and how unlikely the prospects for constructive incremental reform are, the decay of American politics will probably continue until some external shock comes along to catalyze a true reform coalition and galvanize it into action.”

Government is Best which Governs Boring

What’s perhaps most frustrating is that the American people do not even seem to be aware of these dynamics taking place under their feet. We’re too busy fighting the people we mostly agree with. 

Last week, I wrote an article about the Law of Unintended Consequences—how scary-looking bullshit often distracts us from highly abstract, slow-moving, but very real, dangers. The American obsession with 24-hour news and day-to-day hit pieces about Facebook ads and random laptops left in Delaware repair shops is a perfect example of this. We are participating in a slow-moving car crash, yet everyone is too busy passionately arguing about what’s on the radio to look up and take heed. 

That’s because the business of driving and steering well (i.e., good governance) is a dull and quotidian affair. It doesn’t grab headlines. And it shouldn’t inspire millions to take the streets. In the absence of a long history and binding heritage, I worry that the American addiction to entertainment has become our Achilles’ Heel. Our politics resemble Wrestlemania more than they do actual governance. Red vs Blue has become the new national pastime—a never-ending resolution-free Super Bowl. 

Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “Government is best which governs least.” Instead, I submit that “Government is best which governs boring.” If changes in the tax code seem scandalous or thrilling—you’re doing it wrong. If healthcare policy has you more upset than the last season of Game of Thrones—you’re doing it wrong. If a new finance regulation has you up in arms and ready to take to the streets—you’re doing it wrong.  

By the time you read this, I will have already voted for Biden. Not because I’m particularly enthusiastic about the guy or enthusiastic about a system that consistently produces two bad options every four years. But rather, because there is nothing enthusiastic about him. He’s boring. And unlike Trump, he’s willing to do boring things, like listen to scientists and experts, like sit through the complexities of policymaking, like respect the opposition’s humanity. 

He conjures less of an emotional reaction. And in this day and age, I submit that this is a good thing. 

Note: This originally appeared as a Mindf*ck Monday Newsletter. You can sign up to receive it each Monday morning. It’s free, and usually not about politics.

Anything about self-improvement is so important

The Opportunity in Adversity

By Eckhart Tolle

Life unfolds between the polarities of order and chaos. It is important at this time to recognize these two fundamental opposites, without which the world could not even be. Another word for disorder is “adversity.” When it becomes more extreme, we might call it “chaos.”

We would prefer, of course, to have order in our lives, which means to have things going well. We would like relative harmony in our lives. Yet, that very often is marred by the eruption of some form of disorder. And, usually, we resent that—we get angry, or despondent, or sad.

Disorder comes in many, many forms, big and small. When disorder comes it usually creates a kind of havoc in our lives, accompanied by strong underlying beliefs. “There’s something very wrong, this should not be happening, maybe God is against me,” and so on. Again, we need to understand that disorder, or adversity, is inevitable and is an essential part of a higher order.

 From a higher perspective, a higher level, the existence of order and disorder, or order and chaos, is a necessary part of the evolution of life.

 Many people have found that they experience a deepening, or a deeper sense of self or beingness, immediately after and as a result of having endured a period of disorder or chaos. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul,” a term from medieval Christianity used to describe the mental breakdown that many mystics experienced prior to awakening spiritually. There was an eruption of disorder, of destruction. Then, out of that, a deeper realization arose.

 And although that can be very painful, the strange thing is, it’s precisely there that many humans experience a transcendence. A strange fact is that it almost never happens that people awaken spiritually while they’re in their comfort zone. Or that they become deeper as human beings, which would be a partial awakening. It almost never happens. The place where the evolutionary shift happens, or the evolutionary leap, is usually the experience of disorder in a person’s life.

And so your life then moves between order and disorder. You have both, and they’re both necessary. There’s no guarantee that when disorder erupts this will bring about an awakening or a deepening, but there’s always the possibility. It is an opportunity, but often, it is missed.

 So here we are at this time, and our mission is the same: to align with the present moment, with whatever is happening here and now. The upheaval that we’re experiencing at the present time probably will not be the last upheaval that’s going to come on a collective level. However, it is an opportunity—because although this is a time for upheavals, it is also a time for awakening. The two go together. Just as in an individual life, you need adversity to awaken. It’s an opportunity but not a guarantee. And so what looks tragic and unpleasant on a conventional level is actually perfectly fine and as it should be on a higher level; it would not be happening otherwise. It’s all part of the awakening of human beings and of planetary awakening.

To learn more about Eckhart’s teachings on Conscious Manifestation, click here.

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The post The Opportunity in Adversity appeared first on Eckhart Tolle | Official Site – Spiritual Teachings and Tools For Personal Growth and Happiness.

Anything related to this is important

Im not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s an election going on. Seems like a pretty dull affair, to be honest. Not much to discuss. In a country that is the shining example for governmental efficiency and democratic representation for the rest of the world, I expect nothing but continued solidarity between political parties, not to mention widespread approval of the country’s leadership. So…

…congratulations New Zealand! 

You did it, kiwis. As usual, you were so functional and reasonable that we almost forgot you were there at all. Kia ora. 

All right, who’s next? Let’s see—*checks notes*—Ah, yes, the United States. Okay, this one should be pretty straightfor— 

(10 minutes later…) 

“Holy fucking Christ. Make it stop! MAKE IT STAHP!!!”

*Crawls under the bed sobbing*

If you were to ask anyone in the US, it feels as though something imperceptible is either broken or is in the process of breaking. This brokenness gets blamed on a lot of things. People on the left predictably blame Trump, his incompetence, and his complete lack of ethics. People on the right generally point to the growing movement of “woke” social justice activists, their revolutionary rhetoric, and complete lack of sanity. Both make strong points. 

Yet, I believe something more fundamental and worrying is happening. Fundamental, because I believe it’s driving the radicalization and hostility on both sides of the political spectrum. Worrying, because I don’t see how it gets resolved by any single election result. 

You would never guess by looking at the news headlines, but the American people by and large agree on most issues. Three-quarters believe the government should expand its coverage of health care. Two-thirds believe there should be stricter gun laws. 79% think abortion should be legal. 76% support investing more in education. A staggering 96% support infrastructure improvements. 75% say it’s somewhat/very important to promote more racial and ethnic diversity. 76% say racism continues to be a big problem. Two-thirds see China as a threat and 83% believe the US should remain the world’s major military power. 

Yet, despite all of this agreement, polarization between the two major parties is at an all-time high. 

This polarization is that ineffable-yet-fundamentally-broken “something” that I think we all feel. Despite most of the country being in accord on its biggest issues—the politicians and media continue to escalate their incessant squabbling to a fever pitch that is now beginning to justify violence. In a recent survey, roughly one-third of both Republican and Democrat supporters said that if their party loses next week, they believe that violence would be justified. 

Clearly, there is a major disconnect going on between perception and reality. The question is “Why?” 

The Story of Institutional Decay

In 2014, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote an essay titled, “America in Decay.” In political science, institutional decay occurs when governments and other important organizations cease to respond adequately to the population’s needs. The causes of decay can be both malicious—rampant corruption, dickhead leaders, etc.—or they can be benign—i.e., the institutions can simply become rigid and fail to adapt to new realities. 

Fukuyama, after tracing the history of American institutions and their incentive structures over the past 200 years, came to a downright depressing conclusion. I will quote him at length and hope he doesn’t sue me (my italics): 

“The U.S. political system has decayed over time because its traditional system of checks and balances has deepened and become increasingly rigid. In an environment of sharp political polarization, this decentralized system is less and less able to represent majority interests and gives excessive representation to the views of interest groups and activist organizations that collectively do not add up to a sovereign American people.

[…]

[T]he United States is trapped by its political institutions. Because Americans distrust government, they are generally unwilling to delegate to it the authority to make decisions, as happens in other democracies. Instead, Congress mandates complex rules that reduce the government’s autonomy and cause decision-making to be slow and expensive. The government then doesn’t perform well, which confirms people’s lack of trust in it. Under these circumstances, they are reluctant to pay higher taxes, which they feel the government will simply waste. But without appropriate resources, the government can’t function properly, again creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What Fukuyama describes is a kind of downward spiral of political dysfunction. Crappy institutions generate crappier outcomes, which then generate resentment and distrust and polarization within the population, which generates worse leaders and worse policies and weaker institutions, and down the shit-spiral we all go. 

In their book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, economists Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson describe these institutional spirals as self-reinforcing in both directions. Countries with well-performing institutions generate economic growth and trust within the population. This then generates more support and solidarity in government, which then generates better leaders and better policies, which then creates more economic growth and social trust and so on. Run that cycle enough times and you get New Zealand. Run the cycle in the other direction long enough and you get Afghanistan. 

Most developed, western nations are spiralling upward and have been since World War II. The United States, Fukuyama argues, is in many ways, no longer spiralling up, but beginning to spiral down. What’s worse, he concludes depressingly that we are unlikely to summon the courage and political capital to reverse these trends ourselves. Instead, it will require some sort of cataclysmic event to wake the country from its gridlock and stupor. He writes: 

“The depressing bottom line is that given how self-reinforcing the country’s political malaise is, and how unlikely the prospects for constructive incremental reform are, the decay of American politics will probably continue until some external shock comes along to catalyze a true reform coalition and galvanize it into action.”

Government is Best which Governs Boring

What’s perhaps most frustrating is that the American people do not even seem to be aware of these dynamics taking place under their feet. We’re too busy fighting the people we mostly agree with. 

Last week, I wrote an article about the Law of Unintended Consequences—how scary-looking bullshit often distracts us from highly abstract, slow-moving, but very real, dangers. The American obsession with 24-hour news and day-to-day hit pieces about Facebook ads and random laptops left in Delaware repair shops is a perfect example of this. We are participating in a slow-moving car crash, yet everyone is too busy passionately arguing about what’s on the radio to look up and take heed. 

That’s because the business of driving and steering well (i.e., good governance) is a dull and quotidian affair. It doesn’t grab headlines. And it shouldn’t inspire millions to take the streets. In the absence of a long history and binding heritage, I worry that the American addiction to entertainment has become our Achilles’ Heel. Our politics resemble Wrestlemania more than they do actual governance. Red vs Blue has become the new national pastime—a never-ending resolution-free Super Bowl. 

Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “Government is best which governs least.” Instead, I submit that “Government is best which governs boring.” If changes in the tax code seem scandalous or thrilling—you’re doing it wrong. If healthcare policy has you more upset than the last season of Game of Thrones—you’re doing it wrong. If a new finance regulation has you up in arms and ready to take to the streets—you’re doing it wrong.  

By the time you read this, I will have already voted for Biden. Not because I’m particularly enthusiastic about the guy or enthusiastic about a system that consistently produces two bad options every four years. But rather, because there is nothing enthusiastic about him. He’s boring. And unlike Trump, he’s willing to do boring things, like listen to scientists and experts, like sit through the complexities of policymaking, like respect the opposition’s humanity. 

He conjures less of an emotional reaction. And in this day and age, I submit that this is a good thing. 

Note: This originally appeared as a Mindf*ck Monday Newsletter. You can sign up to receive it each Monday morning. It’s free, and usually not about politics.

anyone else love self-improvement as much as i do

By Leo Babauta

One of the biggest obstacles to sticking with a habit change, a new system, a goal or long-term project … is that we get disrupted.

Something interrupts our progress — we skip a workout day or two — and then some programming in our brains turns that into a message of how we’re not good enough, we can’t do it, we should just give up.

This stops so many people from making long-term progress.

It stops us from simply starting again.

This is because most of us don’t realize the power and magic of a Fresh Start.

A Fresh Start is when we get to start anew, with a blank slate. It’s waking up to a brand new morning, with a day we get to use however we want.

When we miss a few days of meditation, or eat junk for a week because of various celebrations, or fall off from writing our book … instead of making that to mean that this whole thing is a waste of time or that we somehow suck … we can look at it as a Fresh Start.

I’m not simply reframing things to “be positive.” There’s a lot of power available to us in a Fresh Start that we miss out on.

A Fresh Start is magical:

  • We can see the habit or project with fresh eyes, as if we’d never seen it before, and bring a sense of wonder and curiosity to what we’re doing
  • There’s a sacredness to letting everything go from the past and just showing up in a new moment
  • We can learn something from the past failure or disruption, and use this new start as a way to get better at that difficulty, armed with this new information, so that every Fresh Start becomes a new opportunity to learn, grow, get better at something
  • We get to reinvent ourselves, reinvent what we’re taking on, reinvent what we want to make our lives to be
  • We can recommit, and remind ourselves of why we’re committed to this

This is all missed when we ignore the magic and power of a Fresh Start!

The beautiful thing is that a Fresh Start is available to us not only when we get disrupted or stumble … but in every moment. Every day. Every new meditation or workout or work session. Every new meeting with someone, every new conversation.

Every new breath.

More posts on method please who agrees?

By Leo Babauta

One of the biggest obstacles to sticking with a habit change, a new system, a goal or long-term project … is that we get disrupted.

Something interrupts our progress — we skip a workout day or two — and then some programming in our brains turns that into a message of how we’re not good enough, we can’t do it, we should just give up.

This stops so many people from making long-term progress.

It stops us from simply starting again.

This is because most of us don’t realize the power and magic of a Fresh Start.

A Fresh Start is when we get to start anew, with a blank slate. It’s waking up to a brand new morning, with a day we get to use however we want.

When we miss a few days of meditation, or eat junk for a week because of various celebrations, or fall off from writing our book … instead of making that to mean that this whole thing is a waste of time or that we somehow suck … we can look at it as a Fresh Start.

I’m not simply reframing things to “be positive.” There’s a lot of power available to us in a Fresh Start that we miss out on.

A Fresh Start is magical:

  • We can see the habit or project with fresh eyes, as if we’d never seen it before, and bring a sense of wonder and curiosity to what we’re doing
  • There’s a sacredness to letting everything go from the past and just showing up in a new moment
  • We can learn something from the past failure or disruption, and use this new start as a way to get better at that difficulty, armed with this new information, so that every Fresh Start becomes a new opportunity to learn, grow, get better at something
  • We get to reinvent ourselves, reinvent what we’re taking on, reinvent what we want to make our lives to be
  • We can recommit, and remind ourselves of why we’re committed to this

This is all missed when we ignore the magic and power of a Fresh Start!

The beautiful thing is that a Fresh Start is available to us not only when we get disrupted or stumble … but in every moment. Every day. Every new meditation or workout or work session. Every new meeting with someone, every new conversation.

Every new breath.