What the World (Really) Needs Now

I came across this recently (it’s not my own; source unknown), and I really resonated with it so thought to share it here for possible inclusion in a future Jamcast session. Of course if others have feedback or insights on it, I’d love to see those expressed as well.

I don’t believe our world needs more positivity (per se).

I believe our world needs minds that are equipped to flow with the complexity of life.

Minds that can hold nuance, polarity — and that aren’t afraid to feel & express love (and the full range of emotions).

Minds that can stay grounded, centered and open to the full range of what it means to be human & alive!

Learning to manage complexity is increasingly important. I am reminded of Jordan Greenhall’s take on this, in particular his breakdown on what is wrong with social media. I think he outlines pretty nicely the salient differences between managing complicated vs complex systems.

Learning to fully embrace cognitive diversity is challenging but ironically it helps to (1) have it in the first place in order to (2) manage it better. Creating echo chambers only atrophies our capabilities in this regard. We should endeavor to work in teams with people that are very different from ourselves and especially those that we do not like socially. This last point is important.

I’ve been a big fan of Monty Python since I was a kid. I could recite many of their sketches by heart. It was quite an honor for me to get a chance to work with John Cleese on a film many years ago, a dream come true. I also believed in a fantasy that they had been great friends, enjoyed many laughs and the camaraderie of working together. They had not.

They often wrote separately because they couldn’t stand writing together and would then meet up when necessary to bring it all together (which is why they preferred sketch comedy for so long, and why even their narrative films feel like a bunch of sketches thrown together). They balkanized at times in order to manage their interpersonal conflicts - very reminiscent of The Beatles, I might add.

In fact, it’s amazing that they stuck together for so long when they had so much conflict over the years. But this is precisely my point. They had aligned incentives, a common goal, and they didn’t let their personal problems get in the way of a good thing.

I am a firm believer in team-based problem solving and the benefits that come from having different personalities, different mental skills and perspectives align themselves towards a common goal.

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I agree David; it’s critical to honor contrarian views – indeed to seek them out – so we have more of a holistic sense of a given topic. One of my favorite things to say or to hear is “gee I never thought of it like that”.

I too have been a major Monty Python fan forever, and like you had the honor of working with John Cleese during my Apple years. Curious whether you ever saw The Rutles; such great fun (!). AND, to your point, their approach vis-a-vis working separately and then coming together to collaborate mirrors what happened with the Beatles nearly identically in their creative process, especially in their later years together. Back to our recurring theme of late around aligned incentives and goals.

I’m also a big believer in great minds coming together to address challenges from different viewpoints – no one of us (bright as we may be) houses all insights and perspectives within ourselves. And it would be a pretty lonely, boring world if we did!

To our exchange above, here’s an article on musicians who refuse to work together (and I can think of plenty of other examples); can’t we all just get along?

Wow - talk about bad break-ups! I can’t help but wonder if a lot of the strife stems from entertainment attracting a lot of narcissists together in the same space? The unhinged genius has become a bit of a trope, unfortunately.

On a separate but related tangent, I remember reading about famous artists who suffered from mental health issues in which the author debunked the idea that madness somehow ‘helped’ creativity. Far from it, they were at their least productive when suffering and at their most prolific when healthy.

However, there is an idea that persists that being on the edge of madness can be helpful creatively. I am thinking here of people using psychedelics in the hope that it will bring them there on demand. After reading a Sylvia Plath biography, I got the impression that she attempted suicide while setting up safety nets so that she wouldn’t end up dying (although, her last one didn’t work out that way) because she felt a release of her depression whenever she cheated death and got away with it. That’s an extreme case but makes me wonder if many artists do dangerous and exhilarating things, get into fights and antisocial behavior, in order to find a similar release to recalibrate themselves?

I always admired Robin Williams’ quick mind, especially when he was improvising. It is a terrible irony that he passed from Lewy body dementia. Yet, it also makes me wonder if there was some kind of weird synergy between the two? Something like highly functional autistics whose unusual brain function gives them superpowers.

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Some juicy stuff here David – good insights; puts me in mind of “the ever popular tortured artist effect”. I myself have never done psychedelics or drugs or any kind (especially for mind altering) – but I know plenty of creative folks who have under the pretext of expanding their creative capacity. Having not experienced anything like that myself I can’t say much about it first hand, but lately it seems these therapies are being used to treat depression and other mental health issues. Timothy Leary and his pals appear to have been vindicated (very) posthumously; they were on it!

I’m with you in that in my observation, most of these artists have been the most productive when they’re in a healthy, receptive state – and in fact, some of the best works we can point to creatively have literally flowed through these individuals as if channeled (this applies to many art forms).

I also have a great disdain for narcissism, and unfortunately it’s rampant among successful people both in entertainment and technology in my experience. Fragile egos pumped up by the applause of others seems to fuel it. Worse yet are narcissistic sociopaths who seem to take delight in wounding others in their path. I’ve experienced my share of both, and as a sensitive empath, have even been flattened by a few in my time. Nowadays, my filter is more finely tuned in terms of spotting them early. I do my best to cut them a wide berth when I come across one and deliberately avoid interactions as much as feasible.

It’s funny you bring up Robin Williams; someone I too admired so much. In fact he’s been on my mind quite a bit lately. I watched the documentary on him just a couple of weeks ago in fact. I had the chance to interact with him on a few occasions – and he was friendly, caring, and much quieter and calmer when he was just himself (off-camera). By contrast, it seemed when he was in front of the camera or an audience, his wicked fast mind was cranked to “11” - and that he literally was channeling his amazing talents in real time. It’s something to ponder whether his super-power (quick wit), and how fast he could think, may have contributed to his condition in the end. I think of him often and how much we’re missing without him in the world; his gifts were immense – and he leaves a legacy of lasting impact.

Thank you for the Williams anecdote. Recently, I have learned that many brain degenerative diseases appear decades before they fully manifest. For example, people who suffer from Parkinsons will exhibit highly risky behavior and other patterns of behavior in their youth long before they develop full-blown symptoms. I’m sure we will learn more about the brain as time goes on, so this is a bit of a chicken and egg phenomenon.

I have noticed that many standup comedians and comics are very serious in real life - and I mean really ‘serious’. The last famous comedian I met was practically monotone and morose which took me off guard because he is such a zany performer and a global superstar. I suppose that there are a variety of reasons for this - protection mechanism, antidote to borderline depression, escapism, dealing with trauma, etc. I have a close friend who did standup who definitely developed comedy as a coping mechanism. He truly has a gift for the bizarre.

I love listening to standup because so much of it is about reframing things that we’ve taken for granted and making us see things in an entirely different way. I feel that this is very valuable to society. It can help us get out of a rut, especially when it comes to taking ourselves too seriously.

Juxtaposing two things that haven’t been compared in such a way before and having that lead to laughter is like causing an explosion in the brain. It can rupture ‘givens’ and open up pathways to opportunity. We laugh to find release from the explosion and hopefully open ourselves up just a little bit more, afterwards.

I particularly like satire but am dismayed that it doesn’t have the social impact that I thought it did. It turns out that successful satire doesn’t change society even though that’s usually its aim. This is because successful satire makes both the subject and object of the joke feel that they are both “in on it” - there is no victim of satire. In other words, both sides think the joke is on the other. Therefore, hearts and minds aren’t really changed. Nevertheless, I often engage in satirical and ironic work when dealing with fiction of my own because it is a great catharsis when grappling with the unfairness and arbitrariness of the world!

Speaking of which, I was talking to a friend recently about Kafka’s, “The Castle”. So many things I’ve read about it, as well as some film and theatrical dramatizations that I’ve seen of it, have been so lugubrious. Personally, I think it’s one of the funniest things Kafka’s ever written and the more I read it the more absurdly funny it becomes to me. Just thinking about the scene in which K finally gets an audience with Herr Klamm from the inner sanctum at his room at the Inn and what happens makes me laugh.

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