Personal Development

Humans on Autopilot

Planes have had autopilot for a few decades now. Cars are just now starting to get it. Some people think we should skip the assisted-human-driving that’s creeping in now and remove humans from the car-piloting process entirely as soon as we can.

And all of that is mostly irrelevant to my topic. What is relevant is that most of us humans, most of the time, are doing things in the same basic way we did them before and getting the same sort of results we’ve always been a little disappointed by. But we keep doing things that way nonetheless.

We’re on autopilot. One of the more interesting ideas about planes is that mostly-automated plane flight is the worst of all worlds. The reason: human pilots who are habituated to computer control will be out of practice and fumble when put back into control of the plane when a human-intervention-required emergency occurs.

This basic mechanic applies to less life-threatening scenarios too. If you suddenly decide to go to a new restaurant for eggs in the morning, you’ll probably feel a bit flustered and disoriented the first time. The same is true when you try to exercise for the first time in a while. Or when you try to have a conversation with the friend or neighbor you’d been benignly neglecting.

There are good things about living your life on autopilot. If you had to consciously think through every action and reaction you completed, you’d be a dead human. Not only would a lion or hippopotamus likely have killed you, but you probably wouldn’t have been able to keep yourself fed if they didn’t. By using autopilot for less-complicated tasks, we leave ourselves space to work on the really mind-bending ones.

The issue is that, as with human pilots, as we get older we tend to get more complacent and let autopilot drive more things. This is part of an old complaint I had about “flow traps,” and it’s also one of the reasons so many older humans are moderately dissatisfied all the time.

What’s necessary to get away from the seemingly chronic problems that haunt your life — those forty pounds you can’t shake, that relationship you wish you had but don’t, that bank account that just always seems to be a little emptier than you wish — is to turn off the autopilot that you might not even recognize is driving you back to that same places all the time.

It’s easier and more convenient to glide along guided by your autopilot — those same decision-making processes and decided truths about yourself you laid down days or decades ago — than it is to take control and fly to some place new or in some way new. But real change comes when you turn off your autopilot. You have the override, you just need to remember to use it sometimes. Keep your skills sharp.

Practical Philosophy

Your Body is a Resonance Chamber

Emotions are powerful. You love so much you think you’ll die without them. You hate so much you’re ready to resort to physical violence. You want something so bad that you’ll go to insane lengths to get it. You’re so scared you’re physically shaking with muscles tense in a situation where there is no physical escape.

At their root, emotions are mental processes. Thoughts. And yet we can find them in our body too. I feel love in my chest. I feel fear in my stomach. What’s going on with that?

Emotions are thoughts that, for evolutionary reasons, it was valuable to amplify. They’re thoughts that creatures over the history of life on our planet have done better when they took seriously and acted on quickly.

A caveman who idly thought “I’m scared of that lion” was a lot more likely to die than one who felt intensely the fear of that predator. A creature that casually feels the sting of the hatred engendered by being slighted by a rival is a lot less likely to outcompete that rival than one that feels it sharply.

Today, though, these resonant intensifications of certain thoughts tend to be out of proportion to their value. Most people, thankfully, don’t have to compete nearly as violently to succeed. Don’t need to be quite as scared as it served them to be when mortal danger was around every corner.

So, as I explored around anger, there’s a use to our emotions but they’re too primitive and dangerous for us to let them drive. Evolution’s not the most exact tool, and calibrations take thousands if not millions of years. So we’re prone to be too angry, too jealous, and too fearful.

Understanding emotions in this way doesn’t make them go away. Unfortunately, knowing how emotions work doesn’t give us the ability to just turn them off. Working skillfully with emotions is a life-long process. But knowing does help. It helps us know when and why we’ll get value from overriding the crude guidance of our emotions. Helps us know better when to take the bull by the horns. To feel the fear and do it anyway.

Personal Development

Armored Against Intimacy

In life, we inevitably get hurt. Maybe the hurts are big, or maybe they’re small. But anything from a small social slight to violence inflicted upon us hurts. And so naturally, as much as we can, we’ll try to protect ourselves. Put on some armor so we can’t get hurt that way again.

And armor can do us a great deal of good. In the worst possible situations, there really is no better course for you to follow than armoring up. It’s the obvious way to cope. And even where you have a better ability to cope — where you’re not in mortal danger but at risk of a bruised ego — you’ll still probably get meaningful benefit from some armor.

So this kind of psychological armor is hugely beneficial in the short term. It keeps us safe, it protects us, and may by extension protect others. If your way of dealing with your anger at someone used to be physical violence, an armoring device where you instead just shut down or flee is an unquestionable improvement.

But armor blocks intimacy. And makes it hard for us to reach our full potential as self-aware, useful, complete, and kind human beings. When you head out to the world in a suit of chainmail, the closest you’ll ever get to those you’re helping is “not very.”

For a long time, my armor was a steadfast silence. For fear of being judged, or gossiped about, or seen as weak or dumb, I’d just not say anything. Ever. To anyone. About anything.

I’m exaggerating a bit, but I rarely divulged more than the bare minimum about me to anyone. So people who tried found me quite frustrating to talk to. But it worked, in a matter of seeing it. That coping strategy did protect me from some gossip that might have happened. But it also blocked a lot of relationships in my life from ever reaching past the most superficial level. Or existing at all.

Armor’s a useful thing. But it’s also isolating. The knight inside all his layers of metal is rather safe, but he’s not going to be known, loved, or more than superficially cared for by anyone that way. So when you can, you must learn to drop the armor. Or to let it aside, even just a little, so that so that a deeper relationship becomes possible. It’s not easy, but it’s the way you grow.

Armor keeps you safe, but it also keeps you small. Just as those plates and chainmail keep the world out, they keep you from growing in size and strength. They keep you constrained, and afraid. They’ve got a time and place, but they lock you off from the real depth of life and relationships. So as much as you can, when you can, let them go.


“I’m Not Afraid of the Dark”

Dark has an interesting place in human experience. Many children’s first and most enduring fear is of darkness. I, to this day, get a little spooked in completely or unexpectedly dark places.

Mythically and metaphorically, though, darkness is a lot more than just the absence of light. Darkness is a synonym for the unknown. For the things that we’d rather hide away in places where no one can see them. For the things we’re ashamed of and scared of and feel bad for and wish were different.

In Josh Ritter’s song “Long Shadows”, you’ll find the lyrics:

Every time that they start
I’ll be right here with you
I’m not afraid of the dark

One of the big blockers in communication and understanding is that we are scared to talk honestly and openly. We’re scared that other people in our life will be scared off by our darkness — be it a past action we regret, a thought we have a lot but never act upon, whatever — that we close down and cut off the conversation and journey of mutual understanding.

Unconditional love is not easy, but when really achieved I think it contains one really important trait that most lesser kinds of love do not: a cofindence in the loved person that the lover will “be right here with you, … not afraid of the dark.”

Communicating that kind of love is not something you can do in sentence, or a day, or even probably a year. It’s the kind of thing that takes a lot of time. People are aware of the gaps between what people say and what they really mean. And so we have to, to communicate something as big and monumental as a fearless steadfastness in our love, demonstrate it regularly and repeatedly. Then, and only then, is the receiver likely to slowly warm to its truth. That “I’ll be right here with you, I’m not afraid of the dark.”

Practical Philosophy

What Good is Anger?

Hearing someone lash out in anger, near me but not at me, often makes me contemplate the foolish impotence of anger in modern life. Anger is a very intense feeling, and it’s so common there must be something to recommend it. But I often struggle to find that benefit.

The Downsides of Anger

The most potent and sure thing about anger is that it’s spurred on by a feeling of sharp intense pain. I think of it a bit like a hot coal, surely burning someone. And who’s it definitely burning? The person possessing the anger.

Now it may be the case that an angry person is able to successfully transfer some of that seering pain onto someone else. Surely there are many stories of the weak being made to suffer the anger of the powerful — whether that be through wars between peoples, or the prototypical angry father lashing out at his helpless wife or children. But even in those circumstances, there’s scant evidence to support the idea that the initially angry person is made less angry by having spread their frustration around.

Aside from the obviously problematic transference of anger, it’s got another really bad quality: the angry mind is off-balance; a roiling cauldron of unreason that’s ready to do stupid things. How many dumb choices throughout history were made because someone was angry? When anger made it impossible to reason correctly? Almost certainly too many to count.

So, what good is there to be found in anger?

There are a couple upsides to anger. The most potent is probably evolutionary: anger is a clear and animalistic corrective to slights to an individual. Imagine a pack of monkeys where the most powerful male has dispropiatate breeding rights to all the females in the group. If he doesn’t get angry when his dominance is threatened, he’s likely to not be dominant for long. And so he’d have fewer offspring than those males more jealous in the protection of their role and power.

That sways me: anger is an effective low-intelligence impulse to beneficial social competition throughout the history of life. It also, in a more subtle but not trivial way, impels even meaningful correctives to problems of injustice in modern societies. While we idealize the struggle against British rule of India, for civil rights in the USA, or against apartheid in South Africa as rooted in a deep sense of love for justice, we’re being foolish to pretend that all three of those moments weren’t fueled by righteous anger.

But in those three movements, there is the paradox of anger in modern human society. Those movements are remembered fondly by people on both sides of them not because of the righteous anger or impulse to violence that started them. The troubled and largely unsuccessful history of the America’s militant Black Power movement (and specifically the Black Panther Party whose manifesto you see above) — rooted more deeply and completely in righteous anger than its predecessor — makes clear that while anger is an effective impulse to create action, it’s not a very successful way to fight systemic injustice in the long term.

The Strategic Use of Anger

The civil rights movements that are most fondly remembered on all sides — from those in power, and those fighting that power — were not violent or overtly angry. They were quiet and slow and deliberate. They thus allowed the powerful space for learning and understanding the scale of the injustice. They allowed the oppressors a period for growth (or culture-driven democratic replacement), and made space to cultivate wide understanding of complex ideas like love, justice, and forgiveness.

Anger’s use, then, is in sensing and finding the places where wrongs are being committed, and being sharply aware of them. Anger’s risk is that it convinces us that it knows the most effective response to that wrong. And if history shows us one thing, it’s that the violent and angry response, even if justified by the facts, is unlikely to lead to meaningful stable change in the long term.


The Vulnerability of Kindness

Vulnerability is scary.

Whether you’re a wildebeest parching your thirst from a possibly-crocodile-infested pond or a person sitting in a room about to tell someone a truth that you’ve hidden for a while, it’s frightening stuff. Your heart races. Your skin shines. Your muscles tense. Your voice shakes.

The truth of a situation is naked. Vulnerable. Exposed. We spend most of our life trying our best to avoid situations where we must admit the truth, see the truth, or otherwise open ourselves up to things that scare us.

But we run from vulnerability to our peril. There is fundamentally no way out of situations that require vulnerability. We are vulnerable creatures, each one of us fundamentally unable to create the world we want alone. Something will always be different than we’d choose — whether it’s sickness, weakness, or an urgent need for help. We simply are not omnipotent.

We can try to escape this reality, but only by fleeing into vices that distract our mind from it. You can get drunk. Get high. Get distracted. Get fat. Get conceited. Get selfish. Get mean. Get quiet. Get isolated. But none of those gets rid of the vulnerability that caused you to seek escape. They only mask it.

Kindness is about saying things people may read as weak, or stupid, or weird. About doing things without any guarantee you’ll receive anything in return.

Coping strategies put a rug over over the hole of vulnerability. It superficially seems we’ve rid the area of that unsightly hole, but someday when we’re not careful that hole will catch us. And then we’ll be at the bottom of a hole with a huge rug and anything else that rug brought down with us. We’ll be stymied down there in the hole, wrestling with all that stuff before we can even think about how we can get out.

Kindness is hard. And it is fundamentally about vulnerability. About laying yourself open, if only the smallest bit, so that someone else can accept that opening. Kindness is about saying things people may read as weak, or stupid, or weird. About doing things without any guarantee you’ll receive anything in return. You simply cannot do those things while you’re scared of being vulnerable.

Opening to vulnerability requires tremendous awareness. It requires you to escape the invulnerable bubble of your regular stories and patterns and actually sit there and keep going as your pulse quickens, your mind races, and you want anything to not have to go through with this thing. But you do it, not because it’s easy but because it’s important.

There is, to my knowledge, no quick shortcut to empowering brave vulnerability. You must try and you must feel the horror and you must, sometimes, feel stupid and foolish for having made the effort.

But sometimes you will also feel stupid and foolish for having found the effort so hard, because no catastrophe befalls you. And sometimes great things come from the effort. And as those experiences accumulate, you get more comfortable. You’re better able to be open and fully present and kind in the world. It’s hard work, but I’m not sure any work is more worthy.


How Fear Blocks Action

We’ve all got it: a list of things we hope to do. In some ways it’s a great thing to have. We can carry around this list and it gives us hope of a future brighter than today. When we finally write that novel, or make that movie, or start that business or painting, then we’ll really show the world. Then the world will turn around and pay attention.

And so we keep these ideas for future actions locked up deep inside our heads. You keep a few of them so they’ll be there when you’re feeling down. “This job sucks, but when I finally write the Great American novel, my life will be so much better and different.” So long as you keep the idea inside, you can always seek solace in the certainty that you’ll someday do this great thing and the world will finally give you the rewards you so richly deserve.

The single best piece of culture on this phenomenon, by far, is this episode of The Show with Ze Frank about “Brain Crack”. Sensitive viewer should be aware the video includes a fair amount of profanity. All viewers should know that there are fair number of irrelevant inside jokes.

The video is just a masterful clarification of the concept, its problem, and the solution. I should stop writing, because I feel that I probably won’t say of this better than Ze’s seven-year old video does. I’m afraid I’m wasting your time.

And fear, as the title says, is what this is about. You’re so afraid of this brilliant idea of yours working out — or failing to work out — in exactly the way you picture it, so you never really do the thing. Fear stifles action. Fear — of success, of failure, of doing the work, whatever — is a devastatingly powerful impediment to progress.

There is a very real possibility that the project, or life-change, or whatever you’re dreaming about will land in the world with a heavy wet thud.

So what do you do? We practice, slowly but surely, getting intimate with fear. We try to trust that while this project may not succeed spectacularly, it also will not be our end if it fails. We push through our doubts, and accept that this idea, no idea really, is going to change the world.

Unlike the somewhat concrete and physical projects you’re probably dreaming of accomplishing, your idea has no weight. It doesn’t even have an existence outside your head. It has no impact on the world, and no real likelihood of having an impact while it remains only an idea.

There is a very real possibility that the project, or life-change, or whatever you’re dreaming about will land in the world with a heavy wet thud. And you’ll undeniably and reasonably be disappointed. But the effort of trying to make this brilliant idea real — at least so long as your idea isn’t a life-threatening stunt of some kind that doctors would strongly discourage — is guarunteed not to kill you.

In fact, for most failures the world just doesn’t notice. So do it. Do it now. Your first failure to make the thing that’s so perfect and beautiful in your head will be at least three times as valuable to both you and the world as the idea of it in your head. Because even if the world totally ignores what you make, you’ll have it, the concrete product you can show history, and a lesson learned about one particular way in which this idea will not successfully change the world.

trust carved into wall

Decreasing Fear by Increasing Trust

The thing about fear is that you feel it. Every part of your body is animated when you’re afraid. There’s a sound reason for this: you’re probably scared because you’re in danger. You’re probably in danger because something bigger, stronger, or more powerful than you is threatening. And in the face of this threat you’d probably benefit from being ready to fight or flee. So fear is there for you: tensing your muscles, putting everything on high alert.

And then you walk up and ask the girl, “Wanna go out on Friday?”

The evolutionary usefulness of fear is pretty easy to understand. The absurdity of most of the places it manifests in the modern world is also pretty easy to understand. But one of the core things I know is that the fact that such a gap exists doesn’t mean that we are able to get past the irrationality we know exists in the current situation.

When you trust that things will work out, whether in your life, or your afterlife, or the world that you leave behind, it’s much easier for you to face down fear.

One of the harder things about rational handling of fear is that we don’t really have a good handle on what to do with fear. It’s a really dominant biological sensation that gets in our way and makes it hard to do a lot of things. But it’s also so dominant that the best answer we typically have is to “power through”. And there’s clearly some usefulness in that “feel the fear and do it anyway” school. The intellectual gap is best handled in the present moment by not letting the biological response determine your action.

But I think there’s a more powerful, if slower, way to cope with fear: trust. This can feel a little out there, but I really do think there’s nothing more powerful as an antidote to fear than having faith and trust in something. How many Christian martyrs do you count, made strong by their faith God? How many activists do we admire who went on fearlessly because of their trust in the worthiness and purity of their cause?

When you trust that things will work out, whether in your life, or your afterlife, or the world that you leave behind, it’s much easier for you to face down fear. To know that your cause is worthy, that your actions are just, that you’re on the right side of the truth. With these on your side you can do things that astonish the rest of us, sitting worried about how we’ll pay the bills and where we’ll ever find the love we desire (but don’t necessarily feel we deserve).

Cultivating trust, though, isn’t easy. It’s a scary thing, to take the leap of faith that while this girl will turn down your request for drinks she won’t chastise you for asking. It’s scary to believe that while your boss doesn’t necessarily think you’re ready for a promotion just yet, she really does want to do what’s best for you. It’s sometimes hard to have the strength to believe that threatening-seeming actions of people may be their best attempt to deal with their fear. That your nonviolent resistance will convince the indifferent world of your humanity and right to be treated fairly.

This faith isn’t free, and it has its hazards. But if you’re looking to diminish the fear you feel in your life, starting to cultivate a trust in the things that make you afraid is almost certainly a great place to start. Can’t do that? Trust in something bigger than the thing you’re scared of and don’t yet have the ability to trust.

Think through the fear, feel into into it, make an effort to feel that trust. Offer that thing you’re scared of a bit of trust that it’s not as bad as you fear. Progress is likely to be slow: we make indiscernible amounts of progress in each attempt. But small changes add up, and  eventually you may be able to do the things that scare you without that slightest race of your heart.

picture of fear graffito

Moving Beyond the Fear Mindset

In a contemplative mood last night, I made a few tweets about fear:

Most things we don’t accomplish in life have one root cause: fear. We fear failure, success, humiliation, poverty, etc so much we don’t try.

Most cruelty is a reaction to fear. Few harsh actions come from a place that isn’t afraid of the vulnerability of openness.

Exposing yourself to the world completely: your fears, your dreams, your accomplishments, your abilities requires incomprehensible strength.

People depend completely on each other but fear each other so much they get very little done.

So to put it mildly, fear was on my mind. The story I’d tell about why is as follows: I’ve made a number of quite positive changes in my life in the last few years—lost 70 pounds, got promoted, started a business, began exercising regularly, changed jobs—and I was contemplating what the biggest reason for them was. What I came to for each and every one was that I’d gotten past the fear and insecurity that had previously stopped me.

And as I saw Alain de Botton tweet soon after all of my tweets, part of the reason for the changes was that I’d started to be more afraid of not doing anything than of making the changes I have.

In her research Dweck has found two basic ways of relating to the problems that we face as we move about the world.

But there was another, more fundamental reason for the shift in my life and it was based on Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. Dweck’s spent most of her career studying why some people are more resilient and successful than others. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her phrase it this way, but in my reading her answer comes down to fear.

In her research Dweck has found two basic ways of relating to the problems that we face as we move about the world. The “fixed mindset” grows out of the belief that our abilities to accomplish things are essentially capped: when we fail to do something it is because we’re just not capable of doing that kind of thing. This contrasts with the “growth mindset”, which takes failure to do a complex math problem, for example, in stride as a part of the learning process. In the growth mindset, my current inability to do this problem means I can now learn how to do it, not—as the “fixed mindset” might have it—that I’m an idiot who’s bad at math.

Personally, I’ve lived most of my life with the “fixed mindset”—from early on I was tagged as a “gifted” (read: smart) child, which tends to lead in Dweck model to the fixed mindset. Praising someone for being smart, she points out, gives them a sense of possessing a fixed thing of worth—their intelligence—that they then will tend to protect jealously. If you want to praise a child for something they’ve done, focus on effort and learning, she encourages.

When my self-appraisal is strongly tied to my ability to project intelligence and mastery, I will avoid situations in which there is a risk I’ll look stupid or inept.

And learning about and understanding the foolishness of the “fixed mindset” way of relating to the problems you face has made such a profound difference in my life I’d find it hard to understate. I’ve become much more willing to fail and much less wedded in my mind to the value of my intelligence. (Beyond reading Dweck’s book, it’s worth mentioning that part of the shift was a result of the world making it increasingly clear to me that idle intelligence has essentially no value.)

The fear that drives the “fixed mindset” is a primal one. When my self-appraisal is strongly tied to my ability to project intelligence and mastery, I will avoid situations in which there is a risk I’ll look stupid or inept. The way this manifested, for me, was an increasing specialization in things of very little worth to the world at which I was relatively skilled. Trivia games were a favorite of mine; business—a giant area about which I knew nearly nothing—was not.

As an ego defense mechanism I’d essentially come to the conclusion that the things I wasn’t good at were things I’d never be good at. I hunkered down and really built a tightly-bound identity around what I perceived to be my strengths. I was an overweight, inactive, introverted person who knew a lot and read a lot and was pretty much set, thank you very much. I’m stated this a bit like it was something I rationally and thoughtfully decided to do. It really progressed unconsciously, through many small decisions. I had just slowly chosen for myself that kind of life.

Seeing the whole constellation of consequences that came out of this simple dichotomy of mindsets Dweck presented, I was a bit humbled and embarrassed. So much of who I was could be traced back to this simple fear that I’d look dumb. Realizing a truth like that about yourself is the first step to change. It allows you to begin to see, intercept, and change the thoughts and fears that you define yourself by.

To get grandiose, the “breakthrough” I’ve made that’s changed my life in uncountable small ways is to realize that my fears—of looking stupid, of saying the wrong things, of asking for help—were the single biggest obstacle between who I was and who I really wanted to be. It’s not been easy to move through them—and they do still get in my way—but I’ve made tremendous progress by understanding, naming, and working with the fears I feel about the things I know I really should be doing.

(Photo from wilderdom on Flickr)


Deep Honesty and Machismo

I think that one of the hardest things in the world is to be honest. We all give lip-service to the value of honesty. We all like to think that we don’t lie and that therefore we’re being honest. But there’s a large difference between being honest and refraining from lying. One of the clearest examples of the point is what I think of as the “confrontational masculine style”.

Socialized as we are, men are not to demonstrate weakness. To say that you’re uncertain of the situation you find yourself in and worrying about how you appear is honest, but the “confrontational masculine style” doesn’t allow such displays of “weakness”. So instead we see gestures of fight: threatening words, looks, lunges–caricatures of what society has taught is proper.

Confronted with disorienting facts or opinions, men aren’t trained to say “That’s interesting. I’d never thought of that.” A man will, instead, tend to get angry and accuse the cause of his disorientation of trying to get everyone riled up or pick a fight. Whether or not this impulse rises to the level of physical violence depends a lot on social context.

Similar arguments occur on the John’s Hopkins campus and in the tough parts of Baltimore made famous by The Wire, but the methods and outcomes can be vastly different. At the prestigious university, a man who feels so entitled will stake his claim on a woman by spreading the knowledge through a social sphere large and norm-enfocing enough to protect his reputation from any threat. On streets without law enforcers, a man will likely resort to punches, if not a knife or gun, if he feels that his claim on a woman is inadequately respected.

In either context, what’s missing is honesty. It’s honest to say “I feel threatened by the amount of time you spend hanging out with that guy.” It’s honest to say “Your questions are making me feel angry.” What happens is that we yell, we start fights, and we blame other people.

Fundamental to these dysfunctions is a dishonesty to ourselves. Not only are we unable to express these emotions and feelings to others, but we frequently fail to even articulate them for ourselves. We–males especially, but perhaps the whole culture–are not fluent in the language of emotions. We don’t always know the words that match up to our internal state. They try, when we’re young, to teach us this stuff, but many of us aren’t really educated about until much much later. Some of us never really get it.

It’s so much more common and visible for “I feel hurt” to be expressed as “You’ve hurt me”, or even “You’ve hurt me and now I’m angry”, that we can be given some leniency for thinking the second reading is correct. But this second expression fails to accurately identify the situation as it is first encountered. The personal feeling of hurt is always more primary and accurate than the assigning of blame for that emotion. But more importantly, the second makes it natural to expand into the third, which brings with it a whole new set of emotions which only inflame a situation.

Honesty is hard because of all the ways and reasons–strength, machismo, fear–we’ve learned to favor dishonesty. Dishonestly allows for a pleasing clarity. A nice certainty that I have no responsibility for the current situation because the world is refusing to comply with the way it’s meant to be. Dishonesty allows us to play the easy game, projecting our emotions outward so we can move on from them. But it’s very limiting.

Honesty is hard, scary, and worthy of the energy it takes to find. Honesty is the fundamental basis for all useful knowledge. Deep honesty is the basis for wisdom. Almost everything I find admirable in the world is rooted in this deep difficult honesty. And the fight to live in that deep difficult honestly is probably the most important goal I have on a daily basis.