In a conversation with a longtime friend, I just sent an email message that was fairly clear on some points I’ve been thinking about, so I’m reposting part of it here, ending with an unusual reference.

I’m currently into Buddhist practice and a related qigongish practice, and while many people who aren’t into those things mistakenly believe they’re “religious” or “spiritual,” they’re really just practices about understanding mind and self. In Buddhism we talk about emptiness, the realization that there’s no permanent real self. I heard a Buddhist say the other day something about not believing your thoughts. I think that’s really key to getting straight. We identify with thoughts in our heads as though they were real objects with weight and permanence, and it just ain’t so. The voices in your head aren’t necessarily your friends, and often it’s better to ignore them. I thought about all this when I read your paragraph above about identity and opportunity. I think it’s important to get behind your identity and realize there’s nobody behind the curtain. It’s a hard realization and it takes work. It leads to a real opening, potentially, though.

Truth, power, justice, framing, global warming etc. are just concepts and aren’t real things, and it can be helpful on some level to realize this. You do have to come back to a level where they’re treated as real – but there’s creativity in understanding that they’re not real things that are beyond your reach, but concepts that you’re co-creating with everyone else – that can be asserted, diverted, hacked, etc. They’re only real in a kind of mental consensus that we have about them.

Our politicians are more focused on politics and power – concepts, not realities – and they’re not so much into focusing on what’s real. What are the markets of the future and what skills do we require to be competitive and have viable economies? My business partner and I have been saying that we’re moving away from economies where you make money by extracting resources, applying labor to produce products, and tossing whatever’s not used as waste – to economies where knowledge substitutes for labor and heavy equipment, and where we engineer to extract as much as possible from any resource. Knowledge and social capital become as valuable as, or more valuable than, finance capital. We’ve wanted to study this more and write about it more, but we’re working on our social media consulting business, where we have deep knowledge and understanding. However we see that social media is relevant to sustainability economy, so we’re moving in the right direction no matter what.

Around 1966 or 67, Bert Rafelson and Jack Nicholson made a film called “Head” starring the Monkees (Nicholson was the screenwriter). There’s a scene in that film, where the Monkees stumble into a steambath where a Maharishi-like yogi is sitting, and he says this:

We were speaking of belief; beliefs and conditioning. All belief possibly could be said to be the result of some conditioning. Thus, the study of history is simply the study of one belief system deposing another, and so on and so on and so on… A psychologically tested belief of our time is that the central nervous system, which feeds its impulses directly to the brain, conscious and subconscious, is unable to discern between the real, and the vividly imagined experience. If there is a difference, and most of us believe there is -am I being clear? For to examine these concepts requires tremendous energy and discipline. To experience the now, without preconception or beliefs, to allow the unknown to occur and to occur, requires clarity. And where there is clarity there is no choice. And where there is choice, there is misery. And why should anyone listen to me? Why should I speak, since I know nothing?

Author: Jon Lebkowsky

Co-wrangler of Plutopia News Network, cohost Radio Free Plutopia. Podcaster, writer, dharma observer, enzyme. Former editor/publisher, FringeWare Review; associate editor at bOING bOING and Factsheet Five; writer at Mondo 2000, 21C, Wired, Whole Earth Review, Austin Chronicle; sub-editor at Millennium Whole Earth Catalog; blogger at Worldchanging. Digital culture maven, podcaster, writer, dharma observer, enzyme. On The WELL, Cohost of VC (virtual communities), Media, and Civil War (.ind) conferences.

2 thoughts on “Heads”

  1. People don’t often share this kind of stuff, especially as it regards politics and business, because without a meditation practice it just seems strange or confusing. Here is a great quote from John Tarrant, a Zen teacher with a good bit of wisdom in this area. This was part of an interview in “Inquiring Mind,” a publication for the Insight Buddhist community. Don’t miss the last line. Memorize it!
    “Zen people talk about emptiness because when you awaken, the maps that hold your beliefs are suddenly gone. You also notice that new maps appear in the mind, even without encouragement from you. And as new maps appear, you can take them as provisional… The Zen task is to open to the gates of the world beyond our prejudices. Like the Buddha, we can step away from everything we are certain about. I think this possibility is the best contribution we can make to healing the flaws in consciousness and helping the world. Unkindness comes out of certainty; when we throw out certainty, we have the bare reality of consciousness, and another name for that is love.” Truly!!

  2. I’m honored that you found your way to my blog! Thanks for the great quote – I’m working it right now…!

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