The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Cold, Hard "Math" of it

I am convinced that if there is a conflict between emotional needs/filters and intellectual/objective reality, the capacity to perceive objective reality suffers.   The mechanism would seem to be complicating the subject until there is no longer an objective measurement available to the “common sense” part of the personality.  Oh,’s all too complicated to figure out…

I know that in each of the major arenas, there are very simple (or relatively simple) measures that people who struggle in those arenas often seem to have a difficult time accepting.  These ideas are the bedrock of mastering the “dream” of consensus reality, and any concept of awakening roots quite strongly within them.  Without them, you risk mistaking delusion for “spiritual advancement.”

If you accept the following ideas, which range from the emotional/spiritual (difficult to quantify) to the bedrock of physics and mathematics, my approach to reality will work for you.  If you don’t, it won’t.  And I would suggest you simply consider me deluded.  Seriously.

Pretty simple.   Ultimately, we can’t be certain of what reality is: we may, after all, be nothing but brains in boxes.  But the following notions seem to be internally and externally consistent enough to explain so much of our lives that I find it FAR more useful to accept than reject them.

By the way: I’ve never met a human being who did not struggle in at least one of these areas.  Never.  NOT A SINGLE ONE, myself most certainly included. This is tough, ugly stuff.  We go from the most emotional/least objective to the most mathematical/most capable of individual control.

1) Relationships. The “Beauty-Power” access. The more power a woman desires in a potential mate, the more beauty (however that is measured in her cultural niche) she has to trade for it.  The more beauty a man desires in a potential mate, the more power (however that is measured in his cultural niche) he has to trade for it.

Application: not interested in the people who are attracted to you?   Change your standards: either for the people you are willing to accept, or your own behaviors affecting power and beauty.  If you don’t, it is a recipe for pain.

2) Balancing the budget.   If you spend more money than you make, you go into debt.    You have to control both ends of the money equation, or you are screwed.  Period. If you find yourself reluctant to balance your checkbook, you are probably dealing with pain and delusion  in this arena.  (While this is math, we often have little direct control on exactly when and how we are pain. The time lag between cause and effect can be devastating.  If your career does not position you close to the “money flow” or if excellence does not correlate to amount of remuneration, you will have to employ creative thinking, big time.  And you will have to be ruthless about demanding that the world pay you what you earn...or moving to another arena where you can do so.)

Application: sick of your current financial situation?   Bring in more money and spend less.  Whatever you do, however you have to do it, no one has ever changed their finances in any other way than changing the balance of this equation.

And the most basic arena, the one that requires the least cooperation from other human beings (and if you grasp the difficulty people have here in this arena, the problems in the others become clearer thereby:)

3)   If you take in fewer calories than you burn up, you lose weight.   Sure, “not all calories are equal.”  Sure, emotional, social, physiological, metabolic, and other factors make things harder.  There is no “moral” dimension to the struggle.  Weight is not directly correlative to health.   I don’t believe in “lazy” people.   Health, and injury can make it terrible.  Social pressures are ghastly.      Yes, you can eat and exercise exactly as you did twenty years ago, or before you had that baby or changed that job, and gain weight.  No, it isn’t fair that your friend/neighbor/sister can eat the exact way you do, and still stay skinny.   Yes, it takes seven hours of jogging to burn a single pound of fat.    NO I’M NOT SAYING IT IS EASY.  Sure, if you eat healthier food, you may want to eat less of it, leading to a better physical situation. All of these things are true.  But it is also true that if you take in fewer calories than you burn lose weight.  No exceptions (I’ve actually had people say bizarre things like: “what if you eat rocks?  Rocks have no calories, but you’ll be heavier…”  Can you see the massive avoidance involved in saying something like this?).  All of these things are true.   But if you try to avoid the reality of the first sentence in this paragraph, you will get lost in a vast, twisty maze of   exercise theories, conflicting opinions about nature and nurture, fad diets, and more.   All your roads have to lead to this one reality, OR YOUR EFFORTS WILL NOT WORK.  There is not an animal on this planet whose body disobeys the laws of physics.

Application: find some way to change the balance of the calories you take in and burn up.    Usually, the answer lies in better knowledge, changed behaviors and healed emotions.   Even bariatric surgery just seeks to limit intake.  Everyone who has ever lost weight has found a way to change this balance.   


No, I’m not saying these things are easy. The tangle of damaged emotions around these three issues are killer.  The cavalcade of people and opinions that will distract you from the simplest realities here are legion.    The support for infinite complexity (it’s just too complicated to understand!) are endless.

But if...and I mean IF, you can accept these three ideas, you gain a way to look at your own concepts, your reality map, your beliefs and emotions and actions that will teach you things about yourself most people don’t want to know.  If you accept responsibility in all three arenas at the same time, you have “safety rails” around the most critical aspects of your life, and you will be able to push HARD without damaging yourself, and in the process make real, generative progress toward self-knowledge.

In each of these three the reality is simple.  NOT “EASY”, “SIMPLE”.   If you want to be happy, either change your standards, or change your behaviors, whatever it takes.  If you have a wound in one of these three arenas? Hey, join the human race: you’re like the rest of us. Take a deep breath and re-adjust your grip on the wheel.

But if you have wounds in two or (God forbid!) all three?   You are in trouble.   You are careening down a mountain road, asleep, your inner child screaming in the back-seat for you to WAKE UP, DAMMIT! can simply believe it is all just too complicated. I say it is killingly simple...but HARD and often PAINFUL.  There is a difference.  


1 comment:

Shady_Grady said...

Thanks, Steve!