Tag Archives: creativity

Happiness is Inside-Out


The whole world starts the lens through which we see it. Charles Swindoll once said; “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.” Some of us look for happiness on the outside, some expectation we overlay on our world. While the outside is of some consequence, it it the inside that shapes most of what we see and experience. The same way a seedling must first develop in the darkness of the soil before developing the strength to show itself to the rest of the world, the soil from which our public identity emerges largely determines what we experience. Happiness is an inside-out journey.

The Difference between Fame and Significance

We all make ripples in the sea of history, some more significant, some more noticed. The value of events that shape history, and what we pay attention to, do not necessarily correspond. Fame without substance is fleeting even if it burns hot, but things of merit ripple far beyond the moment the stone splashes the waves of history and sinks beneath the surface. If we must choose between significance and being noticed, the nobler of choices is to cultivate significance with our lives because this is the key difference between a meaningful life and fleeting fame of whatever caliber.

The “I” of the Storm


Our individual state of awareness emerges from an inky darkness. From unawareness we rise on a wave of ideas to forge this nebulous thing we call “I”. As awareness dawns and begins to question, some of us attempt to look back into the dark from which we came – straining to understand that which now rumbles and churns beneath the thinnest verbal veil we so tightly wrap ourselves in. We feign to have emerged from this now treacherous dark to a glorious and permanent light by virtue of our verbal lightning. We smear the opaque mud of imagination on the walls of our delusional shelter by conjuring it from nothing with magic spells named “me”, “myself” and “I”… We construct our fortress with symbolic bricks built on a foundation of vapory abstractions– and use this collective illusion to lay claim to the sanctity of our mystic vision of “I am” with furious passion. We summon the fiercest of combat postures toward anyone or thing, real or imagined, that dares whisper a challenge to our impenetrable house of abstractions. Any hint that might lay bare the vaporous foundations on which the conflicted monuments of our unprincipled principles stand is cause for a fury of verbal spells to buttress our sacred identity.

English: Mountain goat Delusional goat, preten...

A mountain goat deluded to believe it is a monument at the gate.

Rather than face this perhaps unbearable truth – that out of nothing we created us and paradoxically we both are and are not what we believe we are, we instead harvest the notion that we are solid and separate through a delusional act of harpooning the turbulent darkness of cosmic air to form an imaginary wall that separates the dark from the light, the self from the “other”. “Let there be light”, we say, and there is light riding on the winds of our words. If we catch a shadowy glimpse of our impossibly true place – that which is at once no place, and every place – a recognition that we are droplet in an endless sea, and an endless sea in a droplet – if we come face to face with our opaque hold on being, we quickly repulse it with a torrent of comforting verbal spears strategically labeled to reestablish the bonds that falsely define the “I” of the storm… and we remain locked in this fight with fist and feet, apathy and passion, riding the verbal thermals that hold us aloft until we dissolve again into the darkness of the cosmic winds from whence we came and from which… we never really departed.

The Power of One Small Voice


Small structural changes in complex systems like our biological system can have dramatic effects. The complex set of behaviors we broadly call “maternal instincts” is actually driven by tiny hormonal changes. Oxytocin and vasopressin are two of the tiny proteins we call hormones that involved in this particular dramatic behavioral change. This is not the only example of small things affecting large systems. The rabies virus causes dramatic behavioral changes in mammals. In fact this tiny virus actually edits the brain and thinking mechanics of the mammal to hijack the complex biological system in order to reproduce more copies of itself.

The point here is to recognize the real significance of the introduction of certain small structural changes on complex systems. This does not mean to say that all changes are equal. A small bit of sand eaten by a complex mammalian organism is very different in terms of effect than a rabies virus. Not all small changes in complex systems are equally capable to drive large scale behavioral changes. The take away point is that some small changes can and do have a powerful impact.

Let’s look at the collection of behaviors we do to carry out our day and connect this to their potential to impact humanity as a whole. If we apply this simple message to our everyday lives we can begin to see the connective tissue of cause and effect on the whole of humanity. Greeting the clerk at the store, letting someone in on a crowded highway, holding a door for someone or simply smiling cheerfully and greeting someone becomes a powerful unit of change and influence. Understanding how small changes can affect large scale systems can help us see the importance of each moment and our significance in powerfully contributing to something far greater than ourselves. These small changes can affect the way our education systems are geared, whether or not someone will later become a murderer or a leader for the betterment of mankind. It can ultimately affect such things as the way governments relate to each and whether we tackle the tough problems of hunger and poverty. It is important to remember that we should not confuse small with powerless. Each of us has a voice in this massive choir of mankind and the power of one voice should never be underestimated.

The Meaning of Life

Each of us is born a frothy bubbling cauldron of biological soup with a relatively simple array of relationship needs. While this foundational need for specific relationships doesn’t change, the nature of the relationships does. There are a number of notable relationship dependencies we possess at life’s starting gate that don’t necessarily hold as the center of our being as we mature. Using the rear view mirror from adulthood as a point of reference, we can see that as babies, we are unashamed of who we are. We had no desire for status, nor did we care about the status of others. Our satisfaction stemmed from whether or not a nourishing relationship climate was met. Among these essentials were food, water, air and specific social contact. We didn’t feel the need to lay claim to objects. We didn’t feel the need to believe one thing or another or act a certain way in order be accepted. All of these qualities of being say that we were not yet separated. In other words; there was no self or other in many real senses. It didn’t occur to us to reject someone for failing to meet a particular set of ritualized social norms. Abstract notions such as “right” and “wrong” did not exist, only satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Somewhere along the way to maturity we accumulated these other things. What was the currency with which these things were bought into our identity?

What happened to this initial state of being that inspired us to be ashamed of ourselves, pick up the notions of property, authority, good and bad and in some cases to horribly mistreat each other? In simple terms the behaviors we absorb that are destructive to what would otherwise be a fully nourished state of being ride the crest of a wave of “meaning”. In large part we were told who we are by the communications going on in our developmental environment. The same way we suckle the nutrients that built our biological body in the womb, we suckled meaning from our environment that in large part formed what developed into our identity of self. Along with this self-identity we also developed a sense of other. Through this self-other perspective we then navigate through life.

It might not be important to recognize how this natural process of identity formation works if it were not for the fact that some of the meanings we pick up are non-nutritious, in fact; poison. They can hinder or destroy our capacity to realize our full potential. We also have to understand that many of these meanings are not communicated verbally. A mother who treats her child as excess baggage that must be lugged around like an unnecessary weight rarely, if ever sits the child down to give them lessons about their “unworthiness” and how much they interfere with Mama’s plans – or how they should do her a favor and just disappear under the radar as soon as possible. The process of communicating meaning through such things as the level and tone of frustration in a voice and various reactions to mundane circumstance combine to assert and cultivate our identity and our world view as children. We feed on the meaning conveyed through circumstance far more than we gather self-knowledge through words. Words are just a bit of foam on top of a vast emotional sea that holds the lion’s share of influence when it comes to our true identity and to what determines what we experience as life. As a result many of us are lost in an emotional wilderness that lurks out of reach of our verbal selves to see much less understand or influence intentionally.

So here we are as adults scarred by circumstance at the hands of those who were scarred themselves – lost in an identity that we may have never even wrapped a verbal understanding around, much less pondered how to influence. Many of us are riding like leaves the winds of a storm without so much as a wiggle to influence our path on the cultural currents. If we were to explore the reasons for our arrested and detoured development honestly we would find that if there was any blame to be had, that blame would run through people far more than it run to them.

— Okay, so with all this in mind, what, if anything can we do to carve out some kind of intentional path toward a fulfilling experience of life? First; without recognizing that we have the capacity to generate meaning rather than being solely subjects to it, we can do little. The most powerful life changing idea we can grasp is that we can become part of the narrative that defines our life. We do not have to unquestioningly accept the roles thrust on us by the dreary momentum of blind reason.

We also have to recognize that we are each a voice in a larger choir. We are part of a larger community of life which also has the capacity to define and promote meaning. Understanding that we have the capacity to generate our own meaning does not remove us from the strong currents of meaning generated throughout our interconnected body of life. Becoming an author of scripts rather than an actor merely enables us to flex the leaf in the midst of the storm. With this we gain some measure of steering capacity and more importantly, some measure of control over our local identity.

Recognizing that we are part of a larger community also calls us to become intentional to influence this larger arena as well. It means that if we do not engage in the process of actively influencing the entire social body toward a more nourishing relational climate, that we cannot fully realize our individual potential, neither can those we venture to care about. And when we honestly explore the depths of who we are we also discover how false the meaning on which the divisions between us were founded, and we recognize that to love fully we must embrace ourselves fully – and that cannot come without recognizing that we are in this together. The communities of relationships that compose a fully realized biological structure are defined by nourishing and caring for each other – which is the real meaning of life.

Introduction to The Wisdom of Life

I need some honest feedback on a book I am writing called “The Wisdom of Life” The current draft of the Introduction is below. If you are willing to give any feedback I would be very grateful because I am sure it would be better with more insight than my limited self can muster. Thank you.


The Basic Idea

 As biological life forms, we are inseparably dependent on a delicate balance of specific relationships. By biological necessity, our behaviors must include those that cultivate a specific nourishing set of relationships within the greater context of relationships that define reality as a whole. In addition to the relational elements that must be present such as heat, water and oxygen, these elements must be within specific ranges. Too much or too little water is harmful.

A specific balance of interactions both internally and with the external environment is necessary for a nourished and sustained biological state of being. Our harmony or disharmony with these relationships defines what we experience as life. Whether our full potential is realized or the process is diminished or short circuited depends whether or not we meet the full spectrum of our needs.

Using our collective behavior as evidence, it is clear that we undermine and sometimes destroy the delicate balance of relationships we depend on. We do this on individual and community scales — and now with technology as a lever, we are able to behave destructively on a global scale. Understanding why we behave destructively toward ourselves is important — but only to the degree this understanding influences our action toward nourishing our fullest state of satisfaction. Establishing clear vision of our relational needs, understanding where we are in relation to those needs and what we can do to cultivate a nourishing environment is the main point of these ideas.

This collection of ideas is tempered with the recognition that we are altogether an interconnected singular web of life. As influential participants in a common biological relational environment, we affect each other’s experience, whether constructively or destructively. For this reason none of us can be completely fulfilled until we all recognize our need to contribute nourishing value toward each other in the context of the larger community of life. Our status as part of an interdependent whole is the reason this work is being undertaken.

When viewed from a global perspective, our current relationship climate is strained and broken in many ways. Traumatic, predatory and parasitic events are common everyday experiences throughout the relational landscape we call biological life. Even our best case scenario eventually results in our biological body suffocating from some form of disease, trauma and/or imbalances. When these damaging forces reach a critical point, it destroys the unified complement of relationships on which we depend.

The same mixture of nourishing and destructive relationships that characterizes our biological experience is mirrored on our social landscape. Predatory, parasitic and other traumatic events are part of our daily individual and global social experience on personal and community scales. While it can be argued that some things we experience are beyond our control, it is plain that a portion of our experience is driven by behaviors we can influence by our choices. It is the portion of our state of being that is capable of influence through intentional choice and actions that this work will focus on.

While the outward symptoms of self-inflicted chaos in biological, social and other organized structures is often easy to see, the root causes and effective remedies are often not as clear. What are the causal connective tissues that motivate us to behave in ways that are destructive toward our full potential? Why do some of us actively seek out and cultivate relationships that result in poverty and dissatisfaction? Why do we so often express self-limiting behaviors without being aware of our own behavioral complicity? Why do some of us cultivate toxic relationships even after we become aware of our personal complicity? How can we develop the capacity to positively and effectively influence our experience of life? What can we use as a reliable guide to effectively accomplish this? These are the questions and answers about life we will explore here.

With nature and nurture as the lens through which we look at biological life, we can see the factors that influence our experience. Nature in the broadest sense is the womb from which every relationship, biological or otherwise emerges – the rules that govern reality as a whole as well as our local biological climate. Nurture is the relationship between the environment and our biology. In this sense nature and nurture each have distinct characteristics although they are actually facets of the same system.

In simple terms, nature and nurture as a lens is useful to illuminate the relationship between our biological self, and other. We will explore the inseparably intertwined bidirectional relationship between nature and nurture. We will look at how this relationship exchange develops perceptions and response patterns and how these relate to what we experience. We will also look at how we can shape this relational economy so that it influences movement toward our fullest state of satisfaction.

Influencing relationships to cultivate nourishing biological outcomes can only take place if we first have a clear vision of how our natural biological needs relate to the environment. While the capacity for clear vision does not address whether vision is translated to corresponding actions, clear vision is a necessary first step to identify the possibilities. Clear vision is the foundation for effective choice. Developing the necessary and sufficient insight to be able to see the full range of behavioral choices that enable a fulfilling state of being is the focus of this work.

Because deception and ignorance are so tightly bound to an inability to navigate toward intentional and fulfilling states of being, we will explore the ideas we hold and unflinchingly question their validity. This is no small task since deception and ignorance struggle for survival the same way every predator does. They often cooperate on the hunt for reason and chew its flesh to remold it into itself. While the nature of deception and ignorance is predatory, it can only feed on lack of awareness and ideas elevated to the status of truth or diminished to falsehood without reality as the measure of validity. We will compare common conventions in our cultural mindset with reality and in the process, expose and resolve some of the crippling aspects of impaired vision.

The notion of deception may beg the question: If someone is sincere but also deceived, how would they know it? The extremely understated answer is; it is not easy. We will work hard to establish a reasoned approach. The idea here is to examine the scope of human intellectual and behavioral wounds and malnourishment to the degree that it serves as a springboard to do something constructive to address them.

As organized biological structures, our relational dependencies may or may not be supported by our environment. Along with the need for the environment to be of nourishing value, we also have a dependency on certain behaviors we must engage in to satisfy these dependencies. In other words; it is possible to die of thirst in a freshwater lake if we do not behave by drinking the water. Sincere and well intentioned efforts built on faulty vision can still be destructive. Because of this; ignorance and deception is recognized here as agents of poverty and enslavement. In practical terms, our capacity to understand reality is the visionary foundation that must exist to cultivate an intentional and fulfilling experience of life.

The exploration of our nature and potential is done here with a particular emphasis on objective evidence about the nature of reality in general, and biology specifically as a primary guide. This exploration is done with a firm recognition that it involves a certain amount of necessary speculation given the limitations of logic,[1] our senses and our current level of awareness. An attempt to keep the necessary elements of speculation to a minimum and to clearly identify them when they are present has been made.

Because all relationships, including those that define our biology are built on communication, a heavy emphasis on the nature of communication is used here. Communication can bind otherwise separate entities together into an organized coherent whole, or it can destroy unified complementary relationships. This constructive-destructive aspect of communication is true in the language of ideas and between collections of relational entities such as atoms, molecules and cells in our body. Because our current state of being exists in the context of both complementary and chaotic communicative elements, we will explore how to cultivate a relational environment that is complementary with the physical and social communication dependencies that nourish us.

Our biology operates in the context of the relationship climate we both express, and are exposed to. This bidirectional relationship dynamic shapes what we experience as life.[2] This relational climate can be affected by factors both within and beyond our ability to influence. While our ability to influence the total relational climate is limited, the maximum capacity we have to influence our lives can only emerge if we are equipped with both a clear vision of our true needs and the corresponding actions that translate that vision to a reality of being.

In order to effectively cancel out the effects of toxic relational dynamics within our power to influence we must first understand our real biological needs. Since accurate vision and corresponding behaviors is the key to effective results, we will explore the means to both understand and develop our participatory capacity to positively influence our experience. The idea undergirding this approach is to strengthen our capacity to shape our relational environment.

Environmental factors dramatically affect our biology, especially in early developmental periods. Along with inherited traits, environmental queues powerfully influence the development of our physiology and metabolism. Environmental influences can predispose us to certain behaviors and temperament. It also shapes our capacity to perceive and respond on many levels.[3]  In order to make authentic choices from our predisposed biological state, a casual approach is insufficient. We will explore what it takes to develop our both state of awareness and our behavioral disciplines so that we can move with intention toward a chosen state of being while simultaneously recognizing the inherent limits of our capabilities.

Accurate awareness of our true nature is a first and crucial step toward participating in fulfilling behaviors that nourish our highest potential. We cannot move toward fulfillment if we do not understand where it is. Further; holding a deceptive notion of what leads to fulfillment can be as destructive or more than ignorance. A lack of awareness and/or inaccurate awareness is considered here as a source of poverty because of how it can limit or destroy our ability to move toward a more satisfied state of being.

Understand the biological tools with which we perceive how they are influenced by environmental factors can help us influence our experience. Because of this, we will explore the factors that form our capacity to perceive. Because our perceptions do not always agree with our actions, we will also focus on the primary role that behavioral disciplines play in shaping our experience of life.

Among our explorations will be how and why we tend to repeatedly gravitate toward our most familiar behaviors, even when they are destructive.[4] We will see how and why times of stress can increase this tendency toward familiar behaviors without respect to what is nourishing.[5] We will also look at the effects of behavioral momentum on our individual identity and our global identity.

Without clear vision of how and why we behave the way we do the possibilities for change are hidden. Those of us exposed to the influence of toxic relational patterns, especially during early development, must first recognize how these translate into an adult inclination toward repetition of these same relationship dynamics. Discovering this is a great challenge which we will use as the foundation to begin the even greater challenge of changing our behaviors.[6] Because of the deep and powerful effects of environmental influences, establishing nourishing change is recognized here as an extremely difficult task.

We will examine the influences that shape the development of our self-image, culture, and our world view. We will also explore how our verbal reasoning capacities[7] can be an inadequate lens with which to perceive our full “behavioral self” and how this impoverished vision can cripple our ability to realize the possibilities or limit us in destructive ways. We will also explore the nature of behavioral momentum and how it can overcome reason. We will explore what is necessary to heal the broken relationship between sound reason and corresponding behavior.

We will use the relational models in biology as the guide to understand those that are also necessary in a social context. Because social communications are an influential aspect of shaping our experience, we will explore the origins and effects of cultural and institutional entities that contribute to our relational environment. We will also compare the behaviors expressed by communities at many scales using our true needs as the measure of value. For example; we will look at the connective tissue between community behaviors that tolerate or induce wounding and starving and how this generates our own poverty. We will also examine the connective tissue of community on many biological scales in order to clearly see our need to cultivate nourishing relationships at all levels of life.

Because abstract ideas at their best can only present an accurate and understandable map, it is recognized that translating the map into the journey does not come by merely understanding a transformative idea. To experience an idea as a reality of being we must become an authentic embodiment of the actual journey. It is recognized that any positive transition that may come from these ideas will have resulted from the discipline and perseverance of those who both embrace and translate this knowledge to corresponding action. Any credit for improved circumstances as a result of adopting these ideas belongs to those who demonstrate the courage and commitment to act on them.

 [1]For more information on the limitations of logic, look up the term “Münchhausen Trilemma”

 [2]It is sometimes argued that we do not have any participatory capacity; that we are carried solely on the winds of predetermined physical mechanics and therefore, free will is nonexistent. The ideas presented here assume an element of our being is capable of making intentional choices based on clear vision and within the constraints inherent in the structure of reality. For a better understanding of the philosophical debate as to whether or not “free will” exists as part of our being, look up the terms “metaphysical libertarianism” and “hard determinism”. Also look up the terms “compatibilists” and “incompatibilists” which addresses some of the assumptions in these two philosophical points of view. Also read “Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain” by Michael S. Gazzaniga.

 [3]For an example of the connection between environment and biological disposition read “Maternal Antenatal Anxiety and Children’s Behavioural/Emotional problems at 4 years” by Thomas G. O’Connor PhD, Jonathon Heron PhD, Jean Golding, DSc, Michael Beveridge PhD, Vivette Glover, DSc

 [4]For more information on habits in general look up the terms “habit loops” and “long-term potentiation” or read “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.  Also read “The Unbearable Automaticity of Being” by

John A. Bargh and Tanya L. Chartrand. American Psychologist, Vol 54(7), Jul 1999, Pages 462-479.

[5]For more information on how stress relates to behaviors read the research paper from Stanford University called “Pressure and Perverse Flights to Familiarity” by Ab Litt, Taly Reich, Senia Maymin and, Baba Shiv

 [6]For an example of how early development is critically related to behavioral patterns later in life read “Critical Periods During Sensory Development” by Nicoletta Berardia,

Tommaso Pizzorussoa and Lamberto Maffei. Current Opinion in Neurobiology Volume 10, Issue 1, 1 February 2000, Pages 138–145

 [7]For examples of some of the inadequacies of our cognitive reasoning functions to accurately perceive situations, look up the terms “categorical perception” and “cognitive bias”

Life as a Work of Art

0141-MusicOfLife-01Some of us may have acquired a musical instrument at some point during the course of our life. Not all of us who did so made the journey from receiving the instrument to becoming a skillful artist. We may have learned to mimic a few songs, but this is not the same as developing the skills to creatively speak meaningful harmonies. Some of us gave up or lost interest when we discovered how hard it is to practice the disciplines required to realize our full potential. Some of us stopped once we learned to parrot a few songs from our neighbors. Some of us never had the opportunity to connect with a teacher capable of helping us realize our full potential. Some of us rejected the investment in us from our teachers. Whatever the case; instead of a source of harmonious meaningful communication, an instrument can become a symbol of wasted potential. Life is just such an instrument.

We all receive the instrument we call life, but not all of us develop the ability to produce meaningful harmonies with our thoughts and behaviors. Still fewer of us become skilled and creative artists with this living instrument we are endowed with. To develop to our full potential we must practice living in harmony with the nourishing intimacies on which we depend. We must also yield willingly and with passionate commitment to the difficult journey that we know will cultivate many returns. To sacrifice this effort on the altar of diminished effort traps us in a prison of mediocrity, or worse, a mindless parroting of some collection of disharmonies we once witnessed and now mimic.

Some of us grew up in environments with harsh undertones or lax disciplines that crippled our capacity to realize our best self. Some of us, despite this challenging beginning, work to cultivate something in ourselves of much greater merit and meaningful substance than would have otherwise happened if we had we given our silent consent to the strangulating cruelty of mediocrity. It is even harder in some ways for those of us who have had supportive environments. We have had the luxury of coasting with the knowledge that there will always be those to help catch us if and when we fall. In each case becoming our best requires a certain fire from within to forge a meaningful life out of the cauldron of mere existence. It is this persistence that cultivates the highest form of character – that which is intentional and creative – rather than a simple reflection of the other voices in the choir. It is from this crucible of adversity from which the life of a true artist can be forged.

Mental Hoarding and Creativity


Creative people have messy minds. They typically don’t throw things out, so their minds often look like the cluttered living spaces of a hoarder. They accumulate various droplets of information from a wide variety of disciplines that sloshes around in a mental sea. They also play with the currents. They move this sea of ideas the same way the moon moves the ocean currents around the globe. The waves and the foam churn by the shores as the creative mind mixes and remixes them until something novel and useful emerges from the chaos.

How does this hoarding factor relate to creativity? Information in functional silos is trivia. One can collect most or all the known trivia on a particular topic and become an expert, but this is merely a regurgitating process. Imitation is not innovation. For the expert, precision is the operational dynamic. 1 = 1 = 2. Creativity happens when ideas have sex and produce babies. For the creative person, the joining of ideas with different genetic makeups generates novel properties that did not exist before. For the creative person, like biological reproduction: 1 = 1 = 3.