Special Thanks Angela Behm Iris Poole Jessi Bennett Cassandra McCollum
There Is No_System is a production of Brian Behm Creative.
What if I told you that you've actually got more than one life to live?
What if I were to tell you that you're going to live several lives?
No, I'm not going to sell you crystals and ask you to get in touch with your past selves. Hmm. That LAST part isn't something I'm going to promise. But, stay with me because it might not look the way you think it will.
I have this theory that even if our consciousness doesn't completely change, we're almost different people at different points in time. Does the current you have the same tastes that 'past-you' had when you were 10? My guess is that your penchant for the umami-bomb that is bacon fried Brussel sprouts isn't something to which past-you had an attraction.
That's one aspect of ten thousand different things. Possibly ten thousand times ten thousand. We can't help but grow and change as we move through life. Even if you decided that you would never change again, you would continue to be impacted by the inputs already around you.
I've had this agreement with my future self that I won't get a tattoo. I've seen some brilliant tattoos throughout my life. A lot of them are designs I could even see myself wearing. But, at one point, I made the realization that I wouldn't have necessarily trusted past me to have made a decision that would have satisfied present-me. I really don't know what future-me will be into. I'm not even sure if he's the type of guy who would want to be friends with me. I would hope that he is.
You might argue that it's indecision on my part. That maybe I just haven't gotten a tattoo because I haven't made up my mind. So I'm open to that possibility. But, on the other hand, I'm also open to the idea that I'm just not that excited about getting a tattoo and that I'm parsing my unenthusiasm with some sort of more profound significance.
We've got a few other data points in our favor of multiple lives as well. In part, we can start with just how weird our entire sense of consciousness is. Did you know that you actually don't see anything? You have convinced yourself that you see: That the thing you look at in front of you is something you're actually seeing. But that's not actually the case. Instead, you're hallucinating using the input from your eyes.
Being the giant computer that it is, your brain takes all of the sensory input and creates something out of it that we believe is reality. This isn't a neuroscience podcast, so we won't go into the specifics, but your brain is sitting in the dark. It can't hear, it can't see, it can't touch, it can't smell. Yet, it can connect to sensors that can. Somehow, and I don't pretend to understand it, we train our brains to translate things to a commonly agreed-upon standard.
I have a point here, but we have to look at what happens when it goes wrong to get to it. There was a book I read by Steve Kotler about flow state through the eyes of extreme athletes. One of the athletes they talked about was a man named Eric Weihenmayer. Eric climbed the Seven Summits. The seven highest mountain peaks in the world. That's impressive for ANYONE, but this dude, Eric, is blind. Well, sort of. Eric sees the world with his tongue.
Paul Bach-y-Rita was the neuroscientist who proposed that the brain was the part of us that was actually seeing, and he thought you could use other stimuli to override the programming. As part of this, he had many experiments and realized that the dense nerve endings on the tongue (tastebuds) and all that spit you keep around was an ideal space to send electrical signals. The brighter the pixel, the more electricity. Over a lot of training and practice. People can start to navigate using this extra bit of info.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQrxj82EIBs (an interview that mentions tongue camera) https://youtu.be/D1ehHIGzmPc video with a person using it for the first time
Would you say that that person is seeing? There's no optic nerve in the tongue, so can we say that they visualize whatever they're experiencing? It's input. It's being translated.
Our memories can be just as weird. For example, our brain thinks of a saved memory the same way it experiences something new, or at least some of the same parts of the brain light up. There are other ways that we consciously realize that it's the past, and we've even got relatively new science about the time circuits of the brain, but, in a way, you're time traveling when you think about the past and imagine the future. Thank your hippocampus for that, by the way.
So, since we're constantly moving into the future, only experiencing the present moment, a minute ago is the same in our ability to 'be there' as five hundred years ago, as is five years from now. Moreover, since most of our cells replace themselves every 7-10 years, we're fundamentally different people every few years when a set of stimuli changes.
It's probably, no; it IS, a bit of a logical leap. I'm not pretending that this is anything other than armchair philosophy, but I think it's useful. If you can get comfortable with the fact that everything is weird, then you can get comfortable with the fact that if we can change the stimulus, we can change the future. I want you to understand that things aren't nearly as clearcut as we'd sometimes like them to be. If you can know that... if you can UNDERSTAND it, on a fundamental level, and comprehend that you have the capacity to change, then maybe you can set yourself up to become something greater than what you already are.
The system says that you're a cog in the machine.
The system says to stay in line.
The system says to do what you're told.
Even the outlying parts of the system tell you that you're not allowed to step out of line if you do step out of line. Do you know how ironic it is for an anarchic punk to challenge someone on their level of punk-ness?
Steven Pressfield, and we'll get back to him and talk about this more in another of these rants; would say that we might speak of that as The Resistance. Not #theresistance. Ironically, they're even more of a part of the system than they think they are. The Resistance is like the conductivity of a wire pushing back against the electrical portion of you that wants to shoot down it. An old-school incandescent light bulb lights up because of Resistance. It's being used for a good there, but it's still physics fighting back against something happening. The wire doesn't want to be conductive. It's stuck in the universe that it lives in, and unless something changes and maybe it's supercooled, it's not going to be anything other than what it is. So it can't help but fight back.
For Pressfield, inertia and the universe are The Resistance keeping you from getting your creation out into the world. Before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I thought the Resistance kept me from focusing. It WAS, in a way, but it was also so much more than that. You know, learning that thing about myself and acting on it was a catalyst that created a different person. It was almost like plugging another sensory input device into my head, or at least a filter.
You can picture two dimensions of reality, can't you? When I say that I experienced that thing, you can imagine a version of me that continued on into the future, not knowing, and the version of me that was able to be influenced by that piece of knowledge and diverged. That's a little different than the first version of multiple lives that I talked about, but in a way, it's not. My reluctance to get a tattoo because I'm not sure how the future me would think about it assumes that there are changes that I can't telegraph into the future.
One of the strategies taught in ADHD circles to get something done uses this model of future and past you for productive means. A core component of the ADHD experience can involve people-pleasing. We'll also need to come back and talk about rejection-sensitive dysphoria, the syndrome behind that, but basically, hyper fear of failure makes someone want to make sure they live up to expectations. So, people talk about treating your future self as someone you want to please. By setting aside that investment or going on a walk, you're doing something nice for the you that's not yet you. Because, to us, at least, at the moment, it's not you. It will be, but it's not.
When you get to the future version of you, you can thank that person in the past, and you can be genuinely grateful for the thing that they did for you. I'm thankful for 'the me' that was willing to learn about my ADHD. I'm thankful for 'the me' that made the decision to leave the production company he'd built his identity out of. That was one of the most complex decisions he ever made, and while he had a picture of the future, he wasn't operating with a complete set of information. I'm also thankful for 'the me' that made the decision to pick up everything and move to Austin, TX, more than a decade ago. And, per our last transmission, the 'me' that got into long-distance cycling. If he hadn't done the Ironman in 2002, there are all sorts of other things that may not have happened.
So, yeah, multiple lives, one life. Different lives, one timeline of experiences. Those lives exist as one microscopic molecule of affairs in a fractalized universe with an infinite amount of complexity in either direction.