Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cool Genius

Genius is essentially the capacity to perform at greater than four standard deviations above the mean in a worthwhile area of human endeavor. Cool people can be geniuses and geniuses can become cool. But neither is required to be the other. A cool person who is not a genius simply lacks the level of creativity that distinguishes true genius. A genius who is not cool most likely lacks the courage to endure the trial that often characterizes the path to becoming cool.

Geniuses obviously have the creativity and curiosity to set them out on the road to becoming cool. But most uncool geniuses probably balked at the price that circumstances typically demanded of them in order to remain true to their unconventional nature. In other words, the primary difference between a towering genius and a cowering genius is the heart that the latter lacks.

But it is humanity’s loss each time a genius chooses to cower rather than tower. We all miss out whenever a brilliant idea remains hidden in a mother’s basement or an unpopular girl’s notebook. So much genius is going unrealized in this increasingly complex time when we need it more than ever.

Geniuses are often made to cower in this culture because conformity today represents joining the herd in pursuit of wealth, fame and/or power. It takes a truly courageous individual to resist the pull of the conventional quest for this unholy trinity. This is especially true among geniuses who have unique abilities that sometimes give them a leg up in this pursuit.

Unfortunately, genius is no guarantee of success in amassing wealth, fame and/or power, unless that is the basis of a given individual’s genius. As such, most geniuses who chose to undertake this quixotic quest will eventually wind up cowering unappreciated on the roadside, often complaining about how unfair life is. Ironically, even those who are successful in this pursuit are often left unfulfilled. This is because, in abandoning or compromising their authentic selves in this endeavor, these geniuses rarely achieve their full potential.

What the world needs today are more cool geniuses. We require more brilliant people to eschew the pursuit of wealth, fame and/or power and instead courageously go wherever their genius takes them. We need them to focus on developing their genius to the fullest extent possible, though this may mean a more frugal, more obscure and less influential life than they might otherwise enjoy were they to apply their gifts to the pursuit of the unholy trinity. Once they maximize their potential, we need more of these cool geniuses to dedicate their brilliance to the betterment of those less gifted.

This is by no means a thankless job, though at first glance some may see it as such. In fact, it generally represents the most fulfilling life available to a genius. What could be better than being true to yourself and making your greatest possible contribution to the betterment of the world? If your answer involves something that can only be gained via wealth, fame or power, you are probably already lost to us.

Friday, June 20, 2008

You Might Be a Genius If…

  • You might be a genius if you spent a significant portion of your youth wondering why other people could not answer “simple” questions.
  • You might be a genius if you see cognitively challenged people as the rule, not the exception.
  • You might be a genius if you have stopped looking up to famous geniuses and started relating to them.
  • You might be a genius if you see Mensa as a group of posers.
  • You might be a genius if the people around you have a variety of self-servingly wrong explanations for why they can’t do the things you can do.
  • You might be a genius if you frequently have to dumb it down to keep people from feeling intimidated by you.
  • You might be a genius if you often add extra layers to activities you’re engaged in just to make them interesting.
  • You might be a genius if it takes a conscious effort on your part to avoid spoiling any attempt to surprise you.
  • You might be a genius if you truly believe that insufficient time is the only thing that keeps you from solving any problem that matters to you.
  • You might be a genius if words like paradox, unknowable and unsolvable excite you.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Evolution of Lucifer Morningstar

I used to be a nice guy. Back in the day, I cared about the well-being, feelings and dignity of people I didn’t know. What can I say, I was a slow learner. I kept giving people the benefit of the doubt and they invariably proved to be unworthy of it.

At first I would blame people for disappointing me but after a while I started blaming myself for foolishly expecting more from them. I went through a period of intense anger at all of humanity. During this time I would revel in their pain and suffering because I felt they deserved no less. The only thing that provided me with a temporary respite from the heat of my rage was witnessing the infliction of exquisite physical and psychological torture on the unsuspecting livestock. I became a connoisseur of human agony.

Over time I lost my taste for it as I burned through the worst of my anger. Once I regained some semblance of perspective I decided to seek out special individuals who might prove to be worthy of my hopes for the species. But, having exhausted my anger, I was simply saddened to discover that even these paragons of humanity invariably disappointed me with their inconsistency.

Ultimately I concluded that humans are not special; they are capable of doing special things but at their core they are offal. What makes humans even remotely interesting to me is that given what they are they can occasionally surprise me by acting in a responsibly mature manner.

I have settled into a comfortable feeling of amiable indifference towards humanity. Humans are so wonderfully pointless. As such, I am amused by their incredible sense of self-importance. I find it deliciously ironic that this perception self-importance is keeping humans from actually becoming anything of value to the world around them. It is evident that few, if any of them can appreciate why this is of paramount importance to their continued survival.

I am aware that evolution will eventually produce a truly mature species. Whether or not humans will survive long enough to be the ancestor of that species, rather than simply a genetic dead end, has yet to be determined. After all humans are leading cockroaches by perhaps an antenna in the race to become the species that is the point of Creation.

This evolutionary contest will have an eventual winner whose profound nature will represent the undeniable justification of everything that preceded its emergence. In the cosmic scheme of things, it does not truly matter which species this is. But as long as humans believe it is important that they be that species, they keep themselves from becoming that species.

And so I have come to appreciate my purpose. It is my responsibility to teach humans how little they actually matter. I am charged with freeing them from the shackles of self-importance so that they can focus on their responsibilities to others. It is a job for which I am uniquely qualified. I find it ironic that I represent humanity’s last hope for surviving its childhood. Mysterious ways indeed!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Gestation of the Cool

Most people in this culture don’t know exactly what it means to be cool though they often claim to know it when they see it. These individuals generally see cool as one of those subjective, largely incomprehensible concepts like beauty and love that can only be grasped intuitively. But what must be present for someone to be authentically cool is actually very consistent.

Cool is essentially based on what I call the Four Cs: creativity, curiosity, courage and confidence. You are perceived to be cool when these traits manifest sequentially and generate unconventional but valid insights into the true nature of world. Without any one of these characteristics you can be mistaken for cool but at your core you are not.

No one is born cool. Cool is an emergent property that develops as an individual undergoes a certain sequence of experiences. Most people think that the key to being cool is confidence but that is actually merely a phenotype that emerges during the gestation of cool. This is evident in that confidence based on arrogance, ignorance or prejudice is not cool, though it is sometimes mistaken for it. Cool is based on having valid, empirically derived, unconventional knowledge supporting one’s confidence.

The accumulation of such knowledge begins with the exercise of creativity. Cool starts to develop when an individual meets with success while interacting creatively with the world. The essence of creativity is the ability to connect disparate things in a harmonious manner to produce something that is both novel and worthwhile. In thinking creatively you begin to see through the conventional boundaries that distinguish things in our world. As these boundaries become increasingly the translucent, it may stimulate your curiosity to discover what is on the other side. This will incline you to test the permeability of these conventions.

In working your way through these boundaries you may discover that the consequences are nowhere near as dire as the conventional wisdom typically leads us to believe. This is not to say there are no consequences; it means that you regard what you gain as a result of going beyond these boundaries as being worth the cost. This perception that such a personal price is worth paying to not be bound by convention is the essence of the courage that underlies being cool.

In general, courage is the willingness to pay a price to make a difference. Courage is not about unwillingly or unwittingly paying a price to achieve change. And those who actually enjoy paying such a price are not courageous, so much as masochistic. Courage is anticipating that “this is gonna sting”, and still being willing to go through with it to achieve a particular objective. Such courage allows you to endure the discomfort that sometimes ensues when you are perceived as flouting conventions in your exploration of the world beyond them.

Armed with creativity, curiosity and courage you explore the world beyond the conventional boundaries that distinguish things in our world. These investigations lead to the accumulation of unconventional knowledge of how things truly work. It is the possession of this empirically derived, exclusive insight acquired through creativity, curiosity and courage, that forms the basis of the confidence that makes an individual authentically cool.

DISCLAIMER: In and of itself, cool is neither good nor bad; it is simply unconventional yet valid. Being cool in the face of oppression is generally seen as good while being cool in opposition to stability, safety and security is often regarded as evil. Yet these can represent different interpretations of the same situation. As such, be aware that if you are not naturally cool, trying to become cool for the sake of simply being cool can lead to unanticipated consequences.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Levels of Spirituality - Part II

The evolution of the participants in a spiritual tradition goes from Adherent to Prophet to Divinity (though recall that among Abrahamic believers the idea of ascending to Divinity through one’s own efforts is generally considered heresy). The most common path for Adherents to take towards becoming Prophets is through immersion in the logos of their tradition. It is this study that most often leads to the mystical experience that transforms them into Prophets. The path from Prophet to Divinity is much more subjective and thus less well understood. But all such transitions involve the subject relinquishing the perception of uniqueness and ultimately abandoning the subject-object duality. How this is accomplished in the spiritual dynamic varies with the individual Prophet.

These levels of spirituality manifest concentrically with Divinity at the core, surrounded by Prophets who are in turn surrounded by Adherents. Where there are multiple Divinities in a given tradition, each distinguishable instance is simply a different face of the same underlying Transcendence.

Adherents often mistakenly believe that Prophets are responsible for leading them to the Divinity. But Prophets are typically still blazing their own trail to Divinity. And even as a given Prophet’s effort nears completion, the resultant path is only appropriate for that specific individual. In general, the Prophet is merely nurturing Adherents to become Prophets in their own right so that they can find their own paths to Divinity. The Prophets do this by providing the Adherents with the logos and an example to contemplate.

Adherents are bound to their spiritual tradition by the strength of their faith since they have no tangible proof of its validity. Once this proof arrives in the form of a life-changing mystical experience, the Adherent becomes a Prophet who is bound to the tradition by the power of that experience. Divinities cannot leave their spiritual traditions because they are what define the traditions. For a Divinity to abandon its spiritual tradition would be like water abandoning an ocean (where there is no water there can be no ocean).

Though the Divinity cannot leave the spiritual tradition based on it, sometimes the tradition is seen as abandoning the Divinity. It is typically revealed to a Prophet that the tradition has moved away from its source. Sometimes this movement is based on the logos moving away from its foundation to keep up with societal fads and at other times it is the result of provincial aspects of the logos not changing in the face of divinely inspired cultural advancements (distinguishing fads from legitimate advancements is the relevancy challenge of all traditions). In response to this divergence, the Prophet presents a new revelation that represents the spiritual tradition’s path back to the Divinity. Generally only a portion of the original Adherents will choose to follow this new path. This dynamic was the basis of the various spiritual reformations that have occurred through the ages.

Despite what the administrators in the typical spiritual bureaucracy (i.e., religion) would have you believe, every cleric is not a Prophet and every member of the laity is not an Adherent. While some Prophets are clerics, others are members of the laity and still others are heretics residing out beyond the periphery of the spiritual orthodoxy. Many clerics are Adherents who were certified by other Adherents in Prophet’s vestments. More than a few clerics are complete charlatans preying on the faith and gullibility of hopeful Adherents.

Most spiritual interpretations indicate that there are occasional eruptions of true Divinity scattered about our world. These Avatars (Descenders), Buddhas (Enlightened Ones), Tirthankars (Ford Makers), Gamur Tzaddiqim (Completely Righteous Ones), Christs (Anointed Ones), Mahdis (Guided Ones), Gurus (Teachers) and Saints (Holy Ones) are believed by some to walk embodied among us and by others to manifest spiritually in a form of the Transcendence to which Prophets and Adherents can relate.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Levels of Spirituality - Part I

I have come to embrace of mild form of spirituality that is consistent with my rationalist leanings yet not inconsistent with our major spiritual traditions. I will explain the specifics of my personal spirituality in a subsequent essay. My purpose here is to describe the shared structural elements of our major spiritual traditions as viewed from the perspective of a rational, open-minded non-participant.

My analysis of our major spiritual perspectives indicates that there are three discrete levels of involvement. These levels of spirituality are defined with respect to the Transcendent entity underlying all of these traditions. The distinct levels of spirituality are:

  • Adherent - Believer in Transcendence
  • Prophet - Communer with Transcendence
  • Divinity - Manifestation of Transcendence

The Adherent represents the minimum level of participation in a given tradition. As such they are the most loosely affiliated participants in a given spiritual practice. This is the level of the majority of those associated with a given spiritual interpretation. The Adherents of different spiritual traditions have accepted as true the revelations of a Prophet of that tradition.

A Prophet speaks for the fundamental Transcendent entity underlying most spiritual interpretations. To do so, the Prophet has to have had some form of communion with this Transcendence. From most spiritual perspectives this communion represents a mystical experience. It is generally the first significant instance of such an experience that transforms an Adherent into a Prophet. In being fundamentally transformed by their spirituality, Prophets have a deeper level of commitment to their interpretation than do Adherents. The relative rarity of true mystical experiences means there are typically fewer Prophets than Adherents in a given spiritual tradition. The mystical experience provides the Prophet with intuitive insight into the nature of Transcendence, in the form of a spiritual revelation. Collectively the revelations of the orthodox Prophets of a given spiritual interpretation represent its logos.

In mystic spirituality the fundamental Transcendent entity is regarded as being beyond comprehension. As such its manifestation as Divinity is what Prophets commune with in order to receive the revelations that form the foundation of the beliefs of Adherents.

Its Divinity represents the accessible core of a spiritual tradition. Only the most exceptional beings in a given spiritual interpretation are found here. In the Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) Adherents are taught that the Transcendent descends to manifest as the Divinity (Shekhinah, the Holy Spirit, the Christ, Az-Zahir). Generally in the Abrahamic interpretations only Prophets believe they can ascend to the Unity with Transcendence that manifests as Divinity. Abrahamic Adherents believe they can only aspire to proximity with the Transcendent, a location that represents the realm they call Heaven. This domain corresponds to what is essentially the upper reaches of the Prophetic level.

By contrast, in the Dharmic and Daoic traditions (Hinduism, Daoism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, etc), Adherents are taught that Prophets can ascend to Divinity through spiritual growth. These Far Eastern traditions share the Abrahamic belief that the Transcendent can descend to manifest as Divinity.

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