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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


November 22nd, 2018

Anyone who is presented with a question such as “would you like it if you were a more effective communicator?” would answer in the affirmative.


And yet, just as with much human behavior, our words do not reflect our actions and efforts.   We clearly do not act in our best interest during a vast amount of the time we have the opportunity to do so.


Where is the disconnect? 


One way of looking at this may be that such people who claim to desire progress forward don’t realize that they are currently moving backward. And that all previous attempts to make progress have been a step forward while failing to realize that such a step was made while moving backwards at a much faster rate.


Visually, this is like taking a step north while on a train that is speeding south, and not realizing one is on such a train. Becoming frustrated when the realization that indeed no progress north has been made has to do with a lack of perspective, it would not be a genuine assessment of effort, because a step north was indeed made. 


If one fails to realize the reality of the train, all such small and inconsistent attempts at progress will contribute to the phenomenon known as ‘Learned Helplessness’.  In this visual analogy it’s one thing to try and take a step north.  It’s quite another to see the train by zooming out, figure out how to slow it down, then turn it around and get it going again in the right direction. 



There is a vast difference between wanting to change and figuring out how to change. 


The decision is clearly not at all like the decision to pick up a cup of coffee and take a sip.  We think such an act and our arm and hand act accordingly with the quickest and most elusive of mental twitches.  But to become a better communicator?  The decision is not succeeded by some quick mental twitch that makes it so. 


It’s curious to wonder if the mythology of the Genie was created out of the confusion this disconnect creates. 


The brain figures out very early that it can achieve a high degree of control over it’s immediate surroundings by using the hands to move things, and the feet to carry the body around, and these changes are nearly instantaneous.  Want coffee?  The mug is at your lips before we even realize we were thinking about wanting coffee.


The mental distance of such an action and the actual time between such decisions and their successful execution are infinitesimally miniscule.  Whereas the mental distance and actual time between the decision to become wealthy or become a better communicator, and the successful execution of such a decision is truly gargantuan, and in most cases a few failed attempts can create emotions that make this distance infinite. 


The quantum leap from understanding reality on the first task (taking a sip of coffee) to understanding reality on the second task (becoming wealthy or becoming a better communicator) is so perplexing and taxing that it might have given rise to an imaginary form of reality where there is no gargantuan distance between such decisions and tasks, that no quantum leap is required.  Such an imaginary form of reality where the decision to pick up a cup of coffee and its execution is equivalent in terms of time and effort to the decision to be wealthy or becoming a better communicator.  We are all acquainted with this reality because we can imagine alternative versions of our past and present and we can project desirable versions of the future in our mind’s eye.  This is how we achieve progress: by imagining something better and working towards it.  But we can become more focused on this succulent vision than reality itself, which in turn may undermine our efforts to achieve this vision since we spend so much time away from reality.


It is perhaps even more interesting considering Julian Jaynes theory of the Bicameral Mind, which wonders if the origin of God and gods is that people assumed the voice they heard in their head was such a god, and they as mere mortals existed to listen.  Oh the irony.


Indeed every day people ask their own variety of genie for things they can’t get as easily as a sip of coffee, whether it be wealth, or a better body or the ideal spouse.   Case and point: no one with functioning arms and a mouth and a cup of coffee prays for a sip of coffee.  .  . they just take the damn sip of coffee. 


But wealth, health and happiness?  The distance between wishing for these things and achieving these things seems supernaturally vast. 


Hence, the deployment of supernatural tactics. 


And yet few would disagree that a better, more accurate interpretation of reality can lead to better informed actions that one may take, which in turn raises the probability of achieving one’s goals. 


More thinking and –particularly- DOING  is usually what is needed.


Not daydreaming.


Actionable thoughts that can manipulate our physical reality.


The time and resources to clearly think through new strategies is often very difficult to come by, never mind the time and resources to implement all these new thoughts but such is part of the difficulty that creates that vast space between taking a sip of coffee and inventing the concept of a Genie.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 221: Coffee and Genies

Tinkered Thinking

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