Charles Manson was Right?
At least some of the time. Hell, even most of the time.
If your only touchpoint with ol’ Charlie was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a little backstory may be in order.
Go back all the way to ‘73 and check out Manson the original documentary that used all archival footage of the actual family in action at the Spahn Ranch. It won the Palmes d’Or at Cannes and got nominated for an Oscar too. I had to watch it in college for a course on terrorism, and I was expecting it to be a catalog of crazy.
Except it wasn’t.
It was (mostly) beautiful. Blonde haired naked hippies smoking weed, swimming in the river, strumming on guitars. Laughing, singing, playing, tripping, making love. The Age of Aquarius in technicolor.
And throughout, varying Family members and Charlie offered up their frame of the world.
“You’re really just living out the life scripts your parents gave you––go to school, get a job, move to the suburbs. It’s all a big factory churning out perfect little plastic people”
“You’re not really and truly free until you’re willing to let go of all your stories and just BE in the moment.”
“Everything you thought was the point of life, turns out not to be the point of life. It’s only your hangups that are holding you back. You’ve got to love women, love men, love everyone, without hangups, to ever be able to truly love yourself.”
Cis-Hetero Challenging. But check.
“We’re so much more than our bodies, man. We existed before we were born and we’re gonna keep on existing for millions and billions of years after we’re gone. If you zoom out far enough, there’s no difference really between life and death.”
So far, so good. All of those comments are straightforwardly insightful and largely true. Especially as an entire generation was extricating themselves from the conformity of the Fifties and exploring expanded consciousness, those insights could’ve been shared by anyone in the counterculture.
Even that last one––there’s no difference really between life and death. Could’ve been uttered on the banks of the Ganges by a living saint. Kinda sounds like the sorta thing that Nazarene fella might’ve said too. Except it wasn’t. Charlie Manson said it. And the consequences of those blurred lines led to murder, mayhem and infamy. That’s what made that movie so freaky.
So Charles Manson was right 90% of the time! It was only that last 10% where things got squirrely. And when you’re all loved up, tripped out, sexed up, fuzzed out, and your boundaries are squishy, you better be extra vigilant about which side of the ledger those final details land on. You can’t give up on discernment, even when you’d swear you can see the finish line from where you stand.
What does that have to do with the here and now? Well, a whole bunch of people seem to be getting soft in the head these days––high amygdala and dopamine activity, low oxytocin––crazy newsfeeds, and wild ass conspiracy narratives ricocheting around––all make it incredibly hard to keep our bearings.
But not get lost we must!
Last week we wrote what we thought was a simple and fun “here’s the neuroscience behind conspiracy thinking” newsletter, and it ended up getting more responses than anything else we’d written this year. About 30% were of the variety “THANK YOU, this is a breath of fresh air!” But a stunning 70% were along the lines of “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON...followed by insistent invitations to look into everything from QAnon to chemtrails to vaxxing to the WHO and Bill “060606” Gates.”
We’re getting perilously close to a Manson situation here, where even valedictorians, football captains and homecoming queens are getting snookered into overheated thinking and rash actions. And like that drinking game Two Truths and a Lie, it’s all about teasing apart the untrue from the truthy, in real time.
Because more and more these days, we’re going from playing the game of contrast, to one of context.
Searching for contrast is the most deeply rooted game in the universe. Either/or. Up/down. Wave/particle. Life/death. Food/foe. Fight/flight. Us/them. From electrons spin to single celled organisms, to world wars––we have oriented around identifying binaries. One or the other. With us or against us.
Aristotle, back in the day, called it the problem of “the Excluded Middle”––which meant that when everything gets crammed into either black or white, you miss all the shades of gray. You gain certainty at the expense of accuracy.
That works really well for simple problems, but it’s a crap way to parse nuance. And it’s exactly the wrong tool for the job of solving wicked problems like we’re facing. And those wicked problems could be anything from “are there really machine elves in hyperspace?” (as a wild study at Johns Hopkins is trying to answer) to “what’s really going on with this whole virus thing?”
So we’d offer up a simple three step process for making sense of the post-conventional. And it involves a few folks you might have heard of––Blaise Pascal, William of Occam, and Thomas Bayes.
Pascal famously said he chose to believe in God not because he was a pious man, but just in case when he died he ended up at the Pearly Gates with a lot to answer for. Better, thought Pascal, to hedge his bets on the off chance that eternal damnation was on the table.
So in our world, better to consider global vaxx new world order conspiracies, or global climate collapse, or deep state hijacks just in case they turn out to be true.
If given the option between a wildly complex shaggy dog story where a million stars all have to line up for the thing to be true (looking at you QAnon), you should heavily bias towards the simplest available explanation.
Like...there really could be aliens hovering off the coast of La Jolla beaming the codes for Free Energy generators to us, or we were on some really good drugs last night and we imagined that shit.
Or, if Bill Gates, for example, really really wanted to take over the world, wouldn’t he have just put a backdoor in Windows 95 and ran the table from there? Does it make sense he would take the long and winding road of over a decade of public health and philanthropy, give away piles of money, precipitate a global epidemic, and then make his evil play with vaccines and tagging? (not to say he couldn’t, just to say it’s a higher burden of proof)
And because it’s never just that simple...
This is the awesome insight that in complex multi-variable problems, you can’t ever come to a tight, definitive answer. But what you can do is ID all the x-factors, and then update them dynamically over time to constantly refine and improve your sense making.
So is Covid worse than or the same as the Flu? Was it engineered? Are we incurring more collateral suffering from lockdown than we’re preventing? Do supposed good actors have bad intent? Are international agencies in the tank for hidden interests? Are cheap and available solutions being suppressed to promote big for-profit options?
Hard sayin’ not knowin’. From here. For now.
But that doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to build our maps, track the variables, and update as we learn more. Don’t get out too far over our skis, no matter how tempting false certainty might be.
This kind of sense-making matters because we are increasingly in the terrain “where the sidewalk ends.”
We have to get better at keeping our bearings fast. And whether that’s the psychedelic renaissance, breathwork, and the rush into altered states, or existential risk and the future of humanity––we have to upgrade our filters to be able to hold more volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Without collapsing the Excluded Middle, without lunging for the false comfort of certainty at the expense of accuracy.
As Plato once wrote above the door to the original Academy––“Let no one ignorant of mathematics enter here!”
So hope that this model helps you sort through more of the mayhem we’re all living through these days. Whether we’re trying to get a handle on non-ordinary states, or nation states, whether vaccinations or hallucinations, it’s key that we upgrade our software to match the hard problems. We don’t have a singular position on any of this stuff, and are actually deep into parsing a ton of conflicting and confusing data ourselves. But we do hold to the simple fact that the final 10% of our sense making matters profoundly, and that we have to maintain as much focus and rigor coming to those final conclusions, as we do in asking our initial questions.
Otherwise, it’s Helter Skelter, back to the top of the slide.
Jamie and the FGP team
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