Building Pyramids With Buddha

Today I went to a job interview from a Craigslist listing that was a little bit misleading. The post was written as if the position was a conventional job, but once I got there I quickly realized it was in the multi-level marketing format. Better known as a pyramid scheme. Basically, a commissions only sales gig with a push to recruit others so that you became a “manager.” It’s the third MLM scheme I’ve been exposed to. I don’t mind MLM companies so much, but I did mind being lied to. I have also been involved with a couple of educational companies that use a similar model. I’ve learned valuable and powerful distinctions from them, but I have never cared for the push to bring others into the fold.

As I left the interview I realized there is a similarity between MLM companies and how spirituality and religion is sometimes propagated. Especially in online social media. I have often gone into a Facebook group for the first time and been assaulted with comments, and direct messages about what I should be reading, who I should be studying, and what practices I should be doing. Often, the first thing that strikes me as funny is that nearly 90% of the time these well-meaning strangers come at me with books I’ve already read, teachers I’ve already investigated, or practices I’ve already done (or am currently doing.) The second thing that becomes apparent is how convinced they are that they’ve found the best book, teacher, or practice, and how all others are inferior. They don’t usually come out and say that no other method actually works, but it’s fairly obvious between the lines that they believe that to be the case. Many of them also want to occupy the role of, if not a teacher, at least senior student. They offer to take you under their wing, and direct you in the correct way towards “enlightenment”, “liberation”, “realization”, or whatever. The idea that something else might work better for someone else often seems like a foreign concept.

Luckily for me, one of my favorite teachers is Robert Anton Wilson. He has schooled me well in the wisdom of model agnosticism. Of not cleaving blindly to one single model (of spirituality, of religion, of finance planning, or of whatever). There have been occasions where I have forgotten the lesson, and been that ass hat who insists there is a “one true way”, but Uncle Bob is always whispering in my ear and I get back on track eventually.

The best any of us can do is what works best for us. Assuming what works for us will necessarily work for someone else is not only foolhardy, it’s kind of insulting.

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Some But Not All

I have been a student of Robert Anton Wilson’s work for a couple of decades now. I have read all his work, watched all his videos, and listened to all his interviews, most of them more than once. I first came across him when I found the book, “Cosmic Trigger volume 1” on the shelf at Green Apple books in San Francisco. I’ve read that book 14 times now, and I always find some new nugget of wisdom that rocks my world. “Cosmic Trigger”, along with “Prometheus Rising”, form the core of the man’s thought and work. I have taken a great many of Robert’s distinctions and notions on in my life to great effect. I feel that I suffer less, and have more robust relationships with the people in my life than I would have had I not learned from Wilson.

Today I’d like to share a little gem that I got from Robert Anton Wilson which has kept my mind free of cultural boundaries and helps me avoid slipping back into the many mental traps and prisons that life gives us the opportunity to encounter. The gem I am speaking of is the word, “sombunall.” The word sombunall is a short version of the phrase, “Some, but not all.” Primarily this word helps us shield ourselves against becoming convinced of something about an entire class of things in the world without enough evidence. In life, we can often become convinced that we know something conclusively about a given thing in the world, and this colors our perceptions of said phenomenon leaving us blind to other possibilities.

As an example, let’s say you’ve had occasion to hire three plumbers in your life to come to your house on the weekend and fix an emergency issue. Twice they were an hour and a half late. All three charged what seemed to you like an excessive fee, which was mostly for their travel time since the time they spent actually fixing the problem was minimal, and one convinced you to replace your piping with copper tubing which a friend (who knows nothing about plumbing, by the way, later told you was a rip off). All of this combined to give you the opinion, “All plumbers are crooks!” Having met 3 out of all of the plumbers in the world, under conditions of duress, you now “know the truth” about all plumbers. Such a belief becomes a barrier between you and honest dealings with the portion of the world population who are plumbers. Under this habitual, unexamined thought you would react poorly indeed if your daughter brings home her new beau to meet the parents who just happens to be a plumber in training. This sort of situation would be fixed if you had initially thought, “Sombunall plumbers are crooks.” Then when your daughter brought home her fella instead of thinking of him as a crook by default, you could have asked questions about plumbers in general and perhaps discovered someone you could call on the weekend when your pipes burst again.

Think about how different the world might be if Hitler had not been able to sell his line of, “All Jews are evil” because his audience edited the incoming signal to, “Sombunall Jews are evil.” Imagine the difference in anxiety if you ran the internal script, “sombunall dentist visits are painful” instead of, “all dentist visits are painful.”

Sombunall is a more honest take on the world because, just like the simple fact that Hitler never came close to meeting all Jews, none of us get to assess a sample set of phenomenon that comes close to all. Sombunall armors our psyches against pre-judgment and knee-jerk prejudice.

The way to integrate this idea into your life is pretty simple. Say, “sumbunall” internally on occasions when you find yourself reaching for “all.” Also, you can edit any message you receive from the outside world that contains the assertion “all” to its “sombunall” equivalent. Over time this becomes second nature in the very same way that saying “all” became second nature (if, in fact, it did for you.)

The simple little word sombunall will not fix all your problems, but I bet it will fix sombunall.

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Do It Every Day

The things that get to me most, are the most simple. The minimal is what seems to me to work best. I am speaking about ways to work on myself so that I can craft a better me. I often write about habits and distinctions. Our habits are what we default to when dealing with life. Our distinctions are part of what determines what we perceive in our world, and how we interpret information. Distinctions make up our personal paradigm or reality-tunnel. Habits are how we make decisions when we don’t have the luxury, or the attention needed to think things through.

When working on my personal habits and distinctions, I prefer the simple. If I am handed some habit that requires long drawn out explanations, or requires the use of some external tool, I tend to shy away. Not because I think they will be ineffective, but because past experience has taught me they won’t work for me.

I’ve come across a few such tools lately that fit my personal criteria for minimalism. The first is the notion that when making a change in life, or pursuing a passion, it’s best to go 100%. When we go at something 95%, that wiggle room can easily grow over time. Day by day we slip out of the new habit, and into our old ones. Soon enough we can find out that we are only doing the new behavior 90% of the time, then 80%, then 50%, then we throw in the towel without ever realizing we have done so. By going 100% there is no room for compromise. Slippage gets eliminated.

Another idea I’ve come across recently is to do the new thing you are trying to make into a habit for one minute a day. Just one minute. Or, perhaps just one repetition. A friend of mine told me how his wife manages to do yoga every day and has done so for the last two years. She does this despite raising two kids and running her highly successful personal blog. The trick is she does at least one asana (pose) a day. Just that. Most days she manages a bit more, but even if she only has time for one pose between cleaning, bathing the kids, marketing her blog, and the million other things that the mothers of our world go so unsung for, she still gets to say she does yoga every day.

Robert Anton Wilson had a piece of advice that he used to give to people looking to change their reality tunnels. He used to say, “Do it every day.” That combines both of the above concepts. By deciding to do something every day, there is no wiggle room. It’s a 100% thing. You either do it, or you don’t. Also, there is nothing saying how much of said thing you need to do. As long as you do what you said you would do, every day, not matter how much of it you do, you’ve done it.

This year of blogging every day is like that. It’s an all or nothing deal. Even in just the 12 days that I have been doing it so far, I can feel the habit building. There is a pull that starts first thing in the morning to do what I’ve set out to do. It’s not a need or a demand. By deciding to do it every day I have the feeling that it’s something to do as soon as my eyes open up in the morning. I highly recommend it.

Now, I want to be clear that while “do it every day” is magical in its simple effectiveness, it is not magical in the effects it might produce. As Robert Anton Wilson said, “If you play piano every day, you might not ever become the best in the world, but you can become the best in 500 miles.” That’s more than good enough for me!

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