Table of Contents


Orthodoxy. Rules are abstractions. At best, a rule is abstracted from something that worked once, a real solution to a long forgotten problem that will never happen again in exactly the same way. Each moment is unique. A solution that worked before may be a terrible choice now because the whole world has changed in the meantime. Everything in the world is changing all the time but most of those instantaneous changes are imperceptible. Most rules aren't even that. They never were solutions. They were simply made up by someone desperately eager to assert control, to be in charge of what other people can and cannot do. Like religious rules. Rules don't get made up by the mythological visionaries religions were supposedly founded by. They're made up by middle managers. Religious functionaries who move in quickly to take advantage of the devotion and gullibility of people who worship the myth to further their own small minded agenda. Religious rules are mostly mental crap based on nothing but simmering resentment, a desire to punish people for their perceived wrongdoing.

Drugs and rules. I spent far too much of my life being ruly, a slave to other people's rules. It hounds me to this day. I wasn't ruly as a kid. Most kids aren't. But I stayed unruly on the deepest level after most of my cohort buckled down into ruliness. I didn't care what other kids were doing in junior high. I was fat and unpopular and I had a blast being by myself doing the things I loved. I was stubbornly unruly. Ruliness overtook me in Kenya. It came from the unlikeliest of sources, marijuana. Smoking dope kicked my brain into overdrive and cut me off from spontaneous meditation. I became a ruly stoner and later a ruly drunk. I had to give up drugs before I could become unruly again. Drugs are so drearily conventional.

Tribalism. The pandemic has exposed some of the deep tribal animosities that govern how people react and relate. The rules I revere reflect my tribe. Tribe is now more visible to others. Trump fostered this visibility. Social media are free of organized peer review and intelligent consensus, or any sense of responsibility for that matter. That has made them immensely valuable to the anti-scientific and anti-intellectual tribes. But never before did we have a leader openly contemptuous of science, culture and learning. It was a revelation and a field day for social media idiots. The Biden administration has pulled the covers back over the tribal divides, to some degree, but we all still see them. People have discovered that dear friends and family members aren't in the right tribe. We'll all be feeling the fallout from that the rest of our lives. Thanks to my dad and a good education I grew up a member of the scientific tribe. In the past I even suffered from scientism, the mistaken belief that science has all the answers. My life forced me to acknowledge the profound limitations of science as a tool for living. It's the only good tool for understanding the world but it's a lousy tool for creating a good life. It can't address any of the most important things, like love, meaning, life satisfaction, wisdom, truth because none of those exist. They have no mass, no wavelength. They can't be measured. They're not subject to scientific consensus. The selective misuse of science by all sides in the covid kerfuffle has made me even more cynical about all the tribes involved, including the one I grew up in. I detest tribalism and other such mental projections.

Coping is a losing proposition. Life sucks and then you die. For many it sucks right from the beginning. Others have good years, good decades even. But age catches up with everyone. Everyone dies. There are two answers to this: coping and the spiritual quest. Coping is vastly more popular. The two main coping strategies are drugs and distractions. Alcohol wins the popularity contest when it comes to drugs for coping with how bad life sucks. Some claim that you can get away with moderate alcohol use. There's unconvincing evidence that a little alcohol may have health benefits. It's unconvincing because it doesn't follow people through whole lives. Nobody would pay for that research. Nobody wants to know. Distractions are widely available and becoming moreso thanks to the Internet and wireless connectivity. Now people can live in uninterrupted distraction. None of that makes life suck any less. Drugs and distractions are just ways of hiding out from the truth, burying your head in the sand. Only the spiritual quest offers a real answer. Only the spiritual quest makes life keep getting better with age, not worse. I'm just this year finishing up my 60s, by far the best decade yet. I am so looking forward to whatever comes next. The best example I have so far of the value of the spiritual quest in answering how badly life sucks is that it has transformed the pandemic from an extraordinary misery into an extraordinary opportunity for me to make progress with love.