Author Archives: JJonas

Killing Off Our Foundations

Sometimes I worry that humanity is killing off variants in our species that have actually made the success of our species possible. Variants that thrive on going slower, being more contemplative, engaging in activities that don’t look glamorous or desirable on social media, but make up the steady foundation of human evolution. Having a steady (read ‘boring’) foundation is essential for any living system, and in Western society we’ve made life so difficult for that foundation to thrive, even within ourselves. We exalt the Type-A personalities in our culture – those driven, focused individuals that are always hustling, always one step ahead – and we allow them to take up a lot of space in our social landscapes. 

Type-A personalities are never satisfied, never content. Like an addict, they are always searching for their next project, their next conquest, their next hundred followers, their next million dollars. And there is a significant argument to be made that this discontent is good for humanity – after all, these individuals are our explorers, and help push progress forward. 

But, while innovators sit at upper levels of the pyramid, there wouldn’t even be a pyramid without much wider and populated foundations. The slower variants cannot keep up with our Type-A personalities, and because of that we are losing the foundations that have allowed us to thrive until this point in our evolution.

Forgive Survival

Special attention. Financial support. Housing security. Food. Child care. Transportation. Authority, guidance or direction. Social connections. Employment. 

These are all forms of support that abusers will offer as a way of controlling people. The more usefulness or value an abuser has, the less likely people will call out their abuse and hold them accountable. This is why victims stay with their abusers, and why people allow abusers to continue operating within their community – because they are providing enough usefulness, value or reinforcement, that to hold them accountable or kick them out would also mean losing the value that they bring. The only way to oust an abuser is to offer more (and easier) value than they do. 

If you are not offering what the abuser is offering – or better – then you will never have the power to oust the abuser. Do not blame or question victims for staying unless you are willing to support them in the ways that the abuser does, because you will lose.

State Your Disclaimers

Take a moment to consider your disclaimers. These are communications to other people regarding what is ok with you and what is not, what you’re willing to change about yourself and what is fundamental to your well-being, what is non-negotiable and what is up for discussion. Disclaimers can be considered cautionary statements to anyone who wants to participate in your life, to make them aware of the social contract they are entering into. Disclaimers can cover a wide variety of subjects from the amount of alone time you need to how frequently you travel for work to family obligations to dietary restrictions. At the most basic level, disclaimers are a statement of “X is part of my life, and is not going to change”, and can help the people in our lives to better understand and adapt to our needs (if they so choose). 

Fresh Baked Bread

A clean sheet of paper; a clear, empty room; a fresh, inexperienced mind; pristine, wild land; a youthful body, untouched by age or injury or disease. 

Do you remember your first kiss? Your first serious injury? Your first taste of alcohol? The sound of your child’s first laughter? 

Once we have an experience, the details of that experience are added to our already-existing mental map of reality. Some experiences, such as eating a piece of fresh baked bread, have already been etched onto our mental map hundreds (or even thousands) of times. We have a variety of details from different experiences that we file under “eating fresh baked bread” – what it smells like, tastes like, sounds like and so on. It is a very known experience, with little room for possibility or imagination. 

Other experiences are relatively unknown to us, because we have not had a direct experience ourselves, but we still have the stories shared by other people. As an example, most of us have heard about astronauts living in outer space, and so we have some understanding of what that is like even though we have not lived there ourselves. We already have a mental map – albeit a crude, incomplete map – of what living in space feels like, sounds like, smells like. And this type of vicarious mapping occurs throughout our lives, with stories of our family’s and friends’ experiences; descriptions found in books, blogs, vlogs, movies or other art mediums; corporate and pharmaceutical advertisements; political propaganda; religious indoctrination. These are second-hand (sometimes more) accounts that become part of our own mental map. 

The work of finding joy, possibility and imagination lies in the practice of recognizing that experience is just a map. It can be redrawn.