Although this meandering, informal essay I’m about to sit down and write will be American-centric, its main points will nonetheless be universal. And I’m inspired to write this because things get extra loony every four years in the U.S.; 2016 is one of those extra loony years. In this essay, I’m going to talk about level confusion and fragility. And the reason I want to explore this topic is because it is all too easy to get sucked in by level confusion if one isn’t careful.
Level confusion is essentially the activity of trying to spiritualize the world. Level confusion is when one tries to apply spiritual principles that should be applied solely to the mind to the world instead. I define spiritual as the ideals of the mind stemming from the nondual source of mind.
Level confusion is something I consistently find frustrating about people in general, especially the spiritual community. Level confusion tries to spiritualize the ego world instead of undo it. I understand materialist atheists being adamant about trying to spiritualize the world, since in their mind the world is all there is. But I hold spiritual people to a higher standard, especially A Course in Miracles people. But A Course in Miracles people certainly aren’t immune to level confusion. A basic rule one would be wise to follow is: apply ACIM to the mind only!
Since 2016 is a presidential election year here in the United States and events like Brexit have been in the news, level confusion has been on my mind a lot lately. Politics is a great example of level confusion in action. In many ways, politics is the delusional pursuit of legislating the world to be more spiritual. And, of course, different people have different ideas as to what legislation would be more spiritual. The reality is that there is not only nothing spiritual about politics, but furthermore politics isn’t even something that is ethical and moral.
Let me begin with a little lesson on ethics and morality. Ethics and morality are not spiritual. Ethics and morality, when used properly, are merely an essential code of behavior that when followed help things go much more smoothly and peacefully in human society–side-stepping things like murder, torture, theft, rape, and slavery.
When it comes to ethics and morality, their purest and truest form is expressed in the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, the golden rule is basically: Do What Thou Wilt–But be ready to accept the consequences! However, a more precise way of stating the golden rule is: All direct human interaction must be voluntary and without force unless one wants to be subject to force. Add to that the principle that humans are the owners of their bodies and thus the owners of their direct actions, including the fruits of their labors, and you have the basis of true ethics and morality. To try to come up with ethics and morality that violate those basic principles is to revert to force and thus things like murder, torture, rape, and slavery, all of which are really just forms of theft, are back on the table. Murder is theft of life. Torture is theft of comfort. Rape is theft of sexual discretion. Slavery is theft of labor.
In that sense, government is inherently unethical and immoral because it is compulsory. Being compulsory, government is prone to theft in all theft’s forms. Sure, governments advertise themselves as apparatuses for preventing such travesties as murder and theft, but in practice things aren’t so cut and dry. Therefore, once a person advocates government, regardless of its form, that person has thrown the basics of ethics and morality out the door in favor of a compromised mess.
Now, of course, to most people government’s inherent violation of the golden rule isn’t all that important. Most people never even think about such things. To most people government is a given and therefore approach it as a given. But I don’t see government that way. Before I really got into spirituality I was mostly interested in philosophy. Around the time of the first election I could have voted in, I had started thinking philosophically. Therefore, I concluded that I had no interest in voting. I had determined that government was a game that couldn’t even be played without violating basic ethics. Ever since, I’ve identified myself as a voluntaryist when is comes to politics. Identifying as a voluntaryist is an ethical stance, it is by no means a spiritual stance. Because I keep spirituality in the mind where it works.
A main reason that ACIM is my chosen path, besides its commitment to nonduality, is that it is self-study and based on mind, not behavior. I personally shun things that try to control behavior, other than the golden rule: all direct human interaction must be voluntary and without force. That’s about it. That’s the only emphasis I put on behavior. That’s the only rule us humans really need to get along with each other without hurting and killing each other. Every rule beyond that is pretty much just a way to avoid the golden rule.
As a political atheist, the left and right, republicans and democrats are the same to me. Therefore, I don’t get suckered into taking sides. When it comes to the left/right republicans/democrats, both sides believe themselves to be the good guys and therefore both sides want to impose/force their will on the other side. Both sides are blind to how inherently unethical they are in their pursuit of force. In the grand scheme of things, the republicans and democrats exist simply so each side can blame the other for the country’s ills and in the meantime maintain the status quo, which in contemporary America is corporatism: socialism in bed with capitalism: big government (dems) and big corporations (reps). If either side had complete power, that side would quickly run the country into the ground in its own unique way for many reasons, but mostly because both sides take a very top-down approach to too many things (more on that subject later). With both sides instead competing, the country is run into the ground more slowly by thwarting the other side’s attempts at things like top-down control.
In practicing true forgiveness, I’ve long made a point, when it comes to politics, to always try to understand why each side thinks/feels the way it thinks/feels. That’s how I keep out of the projection trap. If you only listen to the democrats, the republicans look like monstrous, hopeless idiots. And if you only listen to the republicans, the democrats look like monstrous, hopeless idiots. But each side has their reasons for advocating what they advocate and that’s because they have different objectives and fears. And when you are neutral like I am, you can see the logic behind their differing objectives and fears without just dismissing them to defend your own headspace.
As part of the political divide, people are always trying to enforce how dumb their opponents are. There are even constant flows of studies trying to quantify the average I.Q. of republicans versus democrats. The reality is that democrats tend to average an only slight I.Q. advantage over republicans. However, in studies that lump libertarians with republicans, republicans beat democrats. For that reason, libertarians are only used when the people doing such studies are republican leaning lol. So, statistically the true intellectuals are most often found in the people who affiliate with libertarian. Nonetheless, just about everyone knows that most so-called intellectuals are left-wingers; yet it’s not because they are actually so smart; it’s because their jobs often depend on justifying left-wing ideology. Many of the jobs that are considered intellectual, like scientist and professor, rely on left-wing ideology for funding. Consequently, things like college education usually mean being indoctrinated into left-wing thinking. So, it is true when left-wingers accuse right-wingers of being anti-intellectual. Since many intellectuals embrace leftism as a survival strategy, right-wingers are indeed against them lol.
Since the left right divide is a subjective delusion from which I make sure to keep a safe distance, I make sure to entertain how each side tends to see the world. Take this image I found online as an example.
When it comes to cooperation and helping people, this is how left-wingers tend to see the world.
When it comes to cooperation and helping people, this is how right-wingers tend to see the world. They zoom out to the bigger picture and thus become more skeptical the bigger the scale.
Both sides are correct depending on scale and time. And in a saner world people would be free to voluntarily choose the ways they help each other. That way individuals would be able to pick the times and scales with which they are comfortable in terms of risk assessment. The martyrs could destroy themselves without destroying other people too.
Those pictures are examples of how applying the ideals of the mind to try to spiritualize the world work in practice. In practice, spiritualizing the world eventually leads to martyrdom. If you want to be loving, generous, and kind, then focus on doing so where it counts: the mind. Don’t waste your energy where it doesn’t count: the world. The world follows the mind, not the other way around. If you are being raped, aim for the balls and if you do so without guilt you’ll be doing so forgivingly. If you are playing basketball, block the opponent’s shot, steal the ball, get as many baskets as possible, and if you do so without guilt you’ll be doing so forgivingly. If you are in trouble with the law, don’t admit any guilt and make their job easy.
So, in other words, do what works on the level of the world, not what works on the level of the mind. Because a lot of what works spiritually on the level of the mind is what on the level of the world is called martyrdom. Martyrdom is just a glorified form of suicide. Life in the world is entropic disequilibrium with one’s environment. Life in the mind is equilibrium with all mind. They are different rule systems. Thou shall not kill. But what do you do if it is you or the other guy? Killing oneself through martyrdom is just another form of killing. Even if most people are never in a life or death situation like that, we all eventually find ourselves in damned if you do and damned if you don’t situations of some kind. Don’t feel guilty about making decisions in a world where all worldly decisions are ultimately decisions for illusion. Don’t level confuse.
If your heart is kind you’ll be kind and that is great. But just because you live in a time and place of relative stability and abundance where it is easy to be kind doesn’t mean you are some great spiritual master. Outsourcing the ugly side of the world to people like police and military to keep our bubbles stable doesn’t mean we aren’t benefiting from and thus facilitating blood and violence. Even basic stuff like tax collection requires an apparatus with which to threaten force and exercise it when people resist. If the system all fell apart one day, people would quickly be forced off their high horses and thus forced to get their own hands dirty. In that sense, much of the so-called spirituality and civility of people in contemporary society is just a kind of fantasy born of not being directly in contact with the blood and violence that stirs behind the facade of stability. Displaying spirituality in terms of behavior is a luxury that has nothing to do with actual spirituality. Actual spirituality is a mind thing.
What would be better, one world government or a world of 7 billion governments? One world government is the last number of governments I’d pick. Think of a group you don’t like politically. Now imagine that group having control of the entire world. That’s the nightmare one world government would allow. On one level, a unified world under one government sounds like a wonderful, spiritual world. But such an idea is a perfect example of level confusion. The level confused mind would say, “reality is oneness and so we should strive for one world government.” But the world is not heaven and to try to make it heaven won’t ever work. If humans suddenly became egoless, they wouldn’t be here anymore. In that sense, everything we all do in the world is ego. When we try to define things we do in the world as non-ego and spiritual, that’s when level confusion starts to take hold. Seek oneness in the mind, not the world. Oneness in the world is literal death (an entropic homogeneous soup). Oneness in the mind is the end of ego and thus the end of material existence.
There is a book titled Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I like Nassim Nicholas Taleb a lot and I like that book a lot because the overall concept it describes is very useful…especially for people who want to escape the level confusion trap. Taleb is just as bad as the next guy at predicting the future, but he’s very good at showing how to embrace the ego world: unpredictability/disorder/stress.
Antifragile things thrive on things like unpredictability. Something that is fragile is very prone to disorder and stress, like a box of wine glasses. Something that is robust is very prone to stability, like a stainless steel ingot. Something that is antifragile thrives on stress, like your muscles. If you sit in a chair all day with little movement your muscles will start to atrophy. But if you expose your muscles to various activities that push your muscles to their limit, they will adapt and get stronger. Yes, muscles are still prone to too much stress (entropy), but lack of stress is not good for muscles either. Stressing muscles makes muscles more robust while stressing makes a box of wine glasses less robust.
On the level of the mind, oneness is perfectly robust (it has perfect stability). True forgiveness is antifragile (it has infinitely more upside than downside). And projection/separation is fragile (it has way more downside than upside).
On the level of the world, oneness is centrality and is fragile. Competition is antifragile. And cooperation is robust. Cooperation preserves the status quo. Competition is decentralized and makes things better through trial and error. And centrality eventually falls apart due to spreading failures across the whole system.
When it comes to government, the more centralized and big the government is the more fragile it is. That’s because centrality in government reduces competition and failures are spread throughout the whole system. The more governments there are, the more decentralized they are; the more decentralized they are, the more they have to compete with one another; the more they have to compete with one another, the more experimentation there is; and the more experimentation there is, the more valuable failures and triumphs are since they can be rejected or adopted by other governments.
Big governments encourage war, small governments encourage commerce. Decentralization of government means the fragility is at the level of small, individual governments and thus the system as a whole is antifragile. If government was sought in an antifragile manner (decentralization), it would quickly evolve beyond being a monopoly on force in society. Government would instead likely be replaced by the technology of the information age with things like reliable reputation databases to keep people in line and civil with each other without centralized coercion. My hope is that people will start to wise up and abandon centrality in favor of decentralization so the transition beyond traditional government coercion can happen sooner and with less pain than later.
In this picture, an average person uneducated in antifragility would see these people sawing up the boat to make their own boats and see something like selfishness. People educated in antifragility would see these people sawing up the boat to make their own boats as smart. After all, the Titanic wouldn’t have sunk and no one would have died if it was made of fifty smaller boats connected together.
The fact that who is president of the United States is such a big focus bodes poorly for the country’s long-term sustainability; it’s a symptom of fragility. Overall, I don’t want any president period, especially not one for 319 million people. It is safe to say that the federal government of the U.S. will collapse eventually (most likely financially). And that will be a good thing since strength is bottom-up not top-down. When the collapse will happen and how it will be reorganized is anyone’s guess, but once it starts to happen it will happen fast. The only economist I trust when it comes to predictions, Martin Armstrong, sees 2032 as a potential focus date. A lot of people are very fragile to government though and therefore have a vested interest in keeping it alive. For instance, a lot of people are employed by government and receive government benefits. I personally have spent many years doing what I can to become as antifragile to government as possible. So, my whole stance on government is from an abnormally antifragile perspective. Therefore, I want government to fall apart organically and eventually be so decentralized that every individual is eventually his or her own government.
Just think, who is the president of Switzerland? Who knows and who cares? Because Switzerland is a bottom-up system instead of a top-down system. As Nassim Taleb puts it:
The most stable country in the history of mankind, and probably the most boring, by the way, is Switzerland. It’s not even a city-state environment; it’s a municipal state. Most decisions are made at the local level, which allows for distributed errors that don’t adversely affect the wider system. Meanwhile, people want a united Europe, more alignment, and look at the problems. The solution is right in the middle of Europe — Switzerland. It’s not united! It doesn’t have a Brussels! It doesn’t need one.
The problem with the world is not that it isn’t spiritual enough. Spirituality is a personal mind thing after all and the world can’t be spiritual in and of itself anyway. Instead, the problem with the world is that people won’t stop trying to spiritualize it! The world is a different place than the mind since it is an attempt to be out of the mind. There is nothing in this universe that is truly robust. To find the robust go in your mind to God. Centrality is certainly not robust. Centrality is a superficial parody of robustness that quickly proves its fragility when eventually put to the test. The chaos and disorder is where to find that which is most robust in this universe. Unfortunately, most people stuck in the level confusion trap who want to spiritualize the world want stuff that is in practice very fragile. Remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions lol. Antifragility supports the truth of that notion.
We cooperate only when we find that which is sufficiently robust in this universe. And we find what is robust through competition: trial and error. Competition is not spiritual and it isn’t supposed to be. But in this universe of blind ego, it is what works. People don’t fight over robust things. Robust things are what have proven to work and thus have a sufficient level of objectivity. We do however fight over fragile, subjective things like centralized power in government. We fight because, despite thousands of years of trial and error, government has not become robust and it hasn’t facilitated robust things. We all know that government can get out of control and become very repressive and destructive; it has done it time and time again throughout history. Yet, the stubborn attempt to make what can never really work work persists. In that sense, government is only antifragile to the extent there are many governments. The common denominator among governments that has made the concept of government robust enough to survive is the simple notion that societies need some laws/rules. The closer those laws/rules have been to the simplicity of the golden rule, the more antifragile the resulting society has been.
Anyway, technically I could write a whole book on this general subject of level confusion and fragility, but I think I have gotten the basic point across: practice spirituality in the mind, because practicing spirituality in the world is a fool’s errand that when taken to its extreme just leads to martyrdom. There’s no spiritual political position anymore than there is a spiritual diet. Spirituality is what goes on in your mind, period. When you take it out of your mind, it’s just another ego distraction. There are ways of doing things in the world that work better than others relative to specific objectives, but there is no direct correlation between what those things are and spirituality. In fact, in many cases what works in mind and what works in the world are opposites. Even the golden rule of “all direct human interaction must be voluntary and without force,” is not spiritual. It’s a rule that keeps people from killing, hurting, and stealing from each other, but that doesn’t mean if you follow that rule others will too. Since true forgiveness is antifragile, a world that doesn’t follow that golden rule is actually more spiritual since it provides more forgiveness opportunities.
(By the way, A Course in Miracles is quite antifragile due to it being now in the public domain. That makes it hard for anyone to control and centralize. That reduces the chances of ACIM becoming dominated by any particular wrong interpretation. In the big picture, ACIM was probably centrally controlled just long enough to plant the right seed.)
Don’t be a sucker (martyr) when it comes to attempts to spiritualize the world. The mind is the only thing that can be spiritualized, by using it to choose spirit. And to further emphasize how ill informed level confusion is in trying to spiritualize the world, I’ll leave you with a series of useful quotes from Nassim Taleb.
There are three categories of things: Fragile things that break, like the financial system; robust things that don’t break easily but don’t improve, like the Brooklyn Bridge; and my new category, “antifragile” things that gain strength from stressors and get stronger from failure, like evolution. The fundamental problem in foreign policy is that people shoot for stability rather than antifragility.
We need smaller, more decentralized government. On paper, it might appear much more efficient to be large — to have economies of scale. But in reality, it’s much more efficient to be small. An elephant is vastly more efficient, metabolically, than a mouse. It’s the same for a megacity as opposed to a village. But an elephant can break a leg very easily, whereas you can toss a mouse out of a window and it’ll be fine. Size makes you fragile.
The European Union is a horrible, stupid project. The idea that unification would create an economy that could compete with China and be more like the United States is pure garbage. What ruined China, throughout history, is the top-down state. What made Europe great was the diversity: political and economic. Having the same currency, the euro, was a terrible idea. It encouraged everyone to borrow to the hilt.
The U.S. government should have no deficit. There’s way too much debt. It is inexcusable when you have the highest standards of living in the nation’s history! When you get rich, you should have less debt. There’s a vicious element to borrowing when you’re very rich, and having a deficit is an extremely dangerous game.
Q: What’s your view of the “new atheists”, people such as Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris?
A: They’re charlatans. But see the contradiction: people are skeptical about God, yet gullible when it comes to the stock market.
Religion is a prime example of the ‘antifragile’. Time is the ultimate stressor; yet, religion continues to survive, even thrive. If religion has endured for this long, it probably encodes a bunch of practices that – even if we can’t see the point of some of them – are likely to be right in some way.
I have a negative approach to democracy. I think it should be primarily a mechanism by which people can remove a bad leader.
What we are seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think…and 5) who to vote for. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, microeconomic papers wrong 40% of the time, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons. Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats wanting to run our lives aren’t even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. I have shown that most of what Cass-Sunstein-Richard Thaler types call “rational” or “irrational” comes from misunderstanding of probability theory.
There were theories when I was a child about class warfare and struggles by innocent individuals against powerful monster-corporations capable of swallowing the world. Anyone with intellectual hunger was fed these theories, which were inherited from the Marxist belief that the tools of exploitation were self-feeding, that the powerful would grow more and more powerful, furthering the unfairness of the system. But one had only to look around to see that these large corporate monsters dropped like flies. Take a cross section of the dominant corporations at any particular time; many of them will be out of business a few decades later, while firms nobody ever heard of will have popped onto the scene from some garage in California or from some college dorm. Consider the following sobering statistic. Of the five hundred largest U.S. companies in 1957, only seventy-four were still part of that select group, the Standard and Poor’s 500, forty years later. Only a few had disappeared in mergers; the rest either shrank or went bust.
Interestingly, almost all these large corporations were located in the most capitalist country on earth, the United States. The more socialist a country’s orientation, the easier it was for the large corporate monsters to stick around. Why did capitalism (and not socialism) destroy these ogres? In other words, if you leave companies alone, they tend to get eaten up. Those in favor of economic freedom claim that beastly and greedy corporations pose no threat because competition keeps them in check. What I saw at the Wharton School convinced me that the real reason includes a large share of something else: chance. But when people discuss chance (which they rarely do), they usually only look at their own luck. The luck of others counts greatly. Another corporation may luck out thanks to a blockbuster product and displace the current winners. Capitalism is, among other things, the revitalization of the world thanks to the opportunity to be lucky. Luck is the grand equalizer, because almost everyone can benefit from it. The socialist governments protected their monsters and, by doing so, killed potential newcomers in the womb.
“The imagination of the genius vastly surpasses his intellect; the intellect of the academic vastly surpasses his imagination.”
“In social policy, when we provide a safety net, it should be designed to help people take more entrepreneurial risks, not to turn them into dependents. This doesn’t mean that we should be callous to the underprivileged.”
“Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing.”
“I suspect the I.Q., SAT, and school grades are tests designed by nerds so they can get high scores in order to call each other intelligent…Smart and wise people who score low on IQ tests, or patently intellectually defective ones, like the former U.S. president George W. Bush, who score high on them (130), are testing the test and not the reverse.”
“The problem of knowledge is that there are many more books on birds written by ornithologists than books on birds written by birds and books on ornithologists written by birds.”
“Suckers think that you cure greed with money, addiction with substances, expert problems with experts, banking with bankers, economics with economists, and debt crises with debt spending.”
“Paul Krugman is a danger to society! The definition of a robust society: where Paul Krugman could exist without harming others.”
“Just as no monkey is as good-looking as the ugliest of humans, no academic is worthier than the worst of the creators.”
“They agree that chess training only improves chess skills but disagree that classroom training (almost) only improves classroom skills.”
“Education makes the wise slightly wiser, but it makes the fool vastly more dangerous.”
“Nation-states like war; city-states like commerce; families like stability; and individuals like entertainment.”
“You can tell how poor someone feels by the number of times he references “money” in his conversation.”
“The left holds that because markets are stupid models should be smart; the right believes that because models are stupid markets should be smart. Alas, it never hit both sides that both markets and models are very stupid.”
“A good book gets better on the second reading. A great book on the third. Any book not worth rereading isn’t worth reading.”