The fundamental interconnectedness of all things

Posted: April 27, 2006 at 9:20 pm in people, religion

DocBug wrote up a great post, discussing how he has been trying to “translate” the spiritualistic beliefs of some of his friends “into a form that a philosophically-minded but skeptical materialist like myself can accept.” I think this is a fascinating topic, because I’ve been on a similar journey. The more I learn, the more I find out that I can learn anywhere.

I mentioned this in my review of Carnegie – that when I first read it, it didn’t mean anything to me, but upon revisiting it after having learned many of its lessons the hard way, I really appreciate it. I have a feeling that I will be having similar experiences over and over again in the coming years, as I finally get what is really going on when people are talking about certain things. I’m growing more adept at making the connections, at having a mental framework in place so that I can even process the input. For instance, as I’ve started to care more about management, I’ve noticed that it is _everywhere_. The techniques that I read about in business books are the same techniques that my stage manager friend uses to deal with actors and directors are the same techniques my friends use with their children. People are people, and the techniques by which they are managed are pretty universal. Heck, you can even meta-analyze things like religions to observe the same principles (oh wait, I already did that).

Even things that I completely dismissed when I was younger, I’ve started to catch a glimpse of what they’re trying to express. They express it in frou-frou mystical language that I think is bogus, but the general ideas are sound. There’s a reason that things like religion and spiritualism persist; they serve fundamental human needs. And once I understood that, it became very interesting to start meta-analyzing and deducing what the needs are, how human society benefits from institutions that put certain behavior restrictions in place in the case of religion. They also present fundamental human truths. The language of the Tao Te Ching is a bit obscure, but there’s a lot of wisdom in there.

Another thing that is becoming more interesting to me is the different perspectives people have. We can all see the same set of events and have completely different interpretations. For instance, my recent move to New York. Some would say, “Wow! You’re so lucky that you got that job!” Some would say, “Congratulations! All your hard work paid off!” Some would say “Everything aligned – the universe was trying to tell you something.” Some would say “It’s a sign from God!” Same events, different perspectives. And it’s not even clear that any of them are wrong. I think I like Miles Vorkosigan’s interpretation the best: “Chance favors the prepared and all that. Fortunately for my credit, from the outside most people can’t tell the rapid exploitation of a belatedly recognized opportunity from deep-laid planning.”

Hrm. This isn’t really cohering the way I had hoped it would when I started this. I guess the point I want to leave with is this: I’m starting to edge towards the belief that when I don’t recognize the validity of a perspective, it may not have anything to do with the perspective itself – it may just mean that I am not yet in a position to understand it. It sounds awfully new-agey of me, but there it is. There are lots of perspectives out there, and if I can learn to be more humble, I can stand to benefit from most of them.

6 Responses to “The fundamental interconnectedness of all things”

  1. Seppo Says:

    While I think that it is a good thing to not dismiss a viewpoint out-of-hand, simply because one doesn’t “get it,” is a good thing, there’s also the other extreme, which is, at what point do you say that you have to have some process, some standard by which to discern the validity of a particular view?

    If you say, “Congratulations, all your hard work paid off!” for instance, *what* hard work are you referring to? Bettering oneself? Learning to exploit those opportunities? Making your skill set or personality appealing to the right people at the right time? You could probably make arguments for many of those. There’s probably a certain amount of luck involved, if you believe in such a thing, so you might argue that point, as well. But while “everything aligned,” is one way of describing things, “the universe was trying to tell you something,” requires some examination. What was it? To what end? Why would one choose to describe something in such vague and imprecise language? Do they mean the universe as a sentient entity? Do they mean as an aggregate of all the interactions the universe has undergone, this is its current state, and the culmination of all that has come before? Once you get to, “It’s a sign from God!” then the immediate question becomes, “What is God? Why is he giving you a sign? What does that *mean*?”

    And if you can’t quantify it, examine it, discuss it, at what point do you say, this viewpoint doesn’t pass the test?

    I’m not saying, “It’s a sign from God!” *doesn’t* necessarily pass the test, but the question, once you get to the point where you say, “I might not understand everything,” is what metric do you use to test whether you’re on the right track or not?

  2. Eric Says:

    All good points. So part of the issue here is that I tend to skew heavily towards the skeptical critical side. It’s one of the things I don’t particularly like about myself – that I tend to emphasize the negative, or why things won’t work. And I tend to shut people down too quickly. So I’m trying to consciously make myself at least try to find the positive in what people say, what truth I can glean. I’m so skeptical by nature that trying to swing the pendulum may involve overcompensating. Or something like that.

  3. Eric Nehrlich, Unrepentant Generalist || Option-full technology || June || 2006 Says:

    [...] The fundamental interconnectedness of all things [...]

  4. martin tiny Says:

    les cours DALE CARNEGIE ne trouvent-ils pas de difficultés dans leurs adaptations face à certains concepts ?

  5. Eric Nehrlich, Unrepentant Generalist || Optimization Multiplicity || November || 2006 Says:

    [...] So what are the reasons I have for not being religious? It sounds like a pretty great deal, doesn’t it? Happiness, comfort, community, self-sacrifice – what’s not to like? I think there’s a lot of value in religion, and I’m discovering more all the time. But I can’t get over the idea that faith trumps reason. There are elements of religion that can not be questioned. And I question many many things in life, although not everything. The idea that I’d not be able to change my mind tomorrow, even if I discover something new, really bothers me. But it may be that I’m just a commitment-phobe; in the pursuit of having all options available to me at all times, I end up choosing nothing (this is stolen from David Brooks’s discussion of the bourgeous bohemians’ quest for spiritual fulfillment in Bobos in Paradise, which prompted me to dust off this half-written post and finish it). [...]

  6. Eric Nehrlich, Unrepentant Generalist || Becoming a Technical Leader, by Gerald M. Weinberg || March || 2007 Says:

    [...] The book reminds me of How to Win Friends and Influence People in that the advice is deceptively simple. If I had read this book even five years ago, I think I would have dismissed it as being simplistic and obvious. For instance, Weinberg describes problem-solving leadership as consisting of “understanding the problem”, “managing the flow of ideas”, and “maintaining quality”, which seem like completely generic management strategies. But with experience at several companies and with the examples that Weinberg uses, I can see how breakdowns in these areas will hamstring any project before it even starts. This is an example of how my greater experience lets me find the value in different perspectives. [...]

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