Hey there folks!
Gonna keep it short and sweet this week––but wanted to share a couple of things.
First––just wrapped a really fun interview with two-time Red Bull King of the Air kiteboard champion Jesse Richman (pw: ACTAIb33p!). He’s an awesome dude, and after winning the contest at age 21, then breaking both his legs on his follow up effort, he just capped his crown this year in Cape Town––with his new wife and baby girl on the beach. His is as clean a case study of pursuing a life of Flow as you can imagine. Listen to learn how he found the balance between hustle (dryland conditioning, heat practice, trick mastery) and Flow (playing in the ocean, spending time with his young family).
Like Percival in the Grail Legend, he found the Grail Castle (i.e. winning the biggest contest in the world as a kid) only to get cast out and have to spend nearly a decade earning his way back (second crown). From unconscious competence, all the way through conscious incompetence, and full circle back to the podium. Only when he was willing to let it all go, did he get it all back.
Now, as you may have noticed, things have ticked up a couple of notches in the meme-o-sphere into flat out batshit crazy (that’s a statistical term if you’re unfamiliar). You might have heard about/watched that new “documentary” Plandemic. In a bizarre turn of events, we happen to know Mikki Willis (the director and interviewer) fairly well––as his crew shot a short film of Flow Genome Project teaching at Esalen (which if you play backwards at 1.5 X speed, reveals that we are actually an Illuminati training front for the Templars ;).
Since then, his editorial tastes have strangely skewed towards plumbing the deepest of rabbit holes, and judging by the viral uptake of this latest piece, so have millions of people around the world. You can check here for a solid overview of what is making this current crisis so utterly bewildering to so many.
And here for an actual data driven analysis of how that particular Plandemic film made its way through the recesses of the ‘net.
It’s interesting to note how our information ecology is super jacked up right now, and everyone from well-intentioned seekers of “truth” to chaos-inducing state and non-state actors are all, to borrow a phrase from the philosopher Steve Bannon “flooding the zone with shit.”
But that’s not what we’re exploring today.
What we’re exploring today sits at the intersection of neuroscience and psychology––namely, why are we all so suddenly susceptible to such enormous amounts of hogwash???
To be sure––there are all the geopolitical actors, tech platform algorithms, fringe conspiracy theorists, etc. jacking things up almightily––but these seeds are landing in extra especially fertile soil in our minds right now––and here’s why.
Our little amygdalas, oxytocin and dopamine.
Given that we’ve been locked in our houses and glued to our seats for the past two months, it’s fair to say that our amygdalas––our threat detection systems––have been on super high alert. It really has mattered what’s going on in other countries, other states, even other counties––so our impulse to stay on top of every breaking news item, every hot-take, every “expert opinion” has skyrocketed.
In the olden days––we would’ve been listening to the jungle drums, smoke signals and village gossip––now it’s morphed into Facebook and Instagram posts, YouTube binge watches and Whatsapp groups. We’re all desperate to get a handle on what might save us or kill us.
Each time we listen to that amygdala alarm clock and find something that Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky calls “salient”––meaning it might make us or break us––we get a strong squirt of dopamine. Even if the news is shitty, it perversely feels good to have found it. Plug that like, or click or view into Big Tech optimization algorithms, and we’re off on the ride of our lives.
But a funny thing happens when we get too much dopamine in our systems...
We succumb to Apophenia.
It's the tendency to perceive patterns and meaning between otherwise unconnected events and facts.
It shows up in early onset schizophrenia and...you guessed it, in conspiracy theorists.
That’s not all. Especially when we’re all cooped up, separated from each other, unable to hug, kiss, and hang with our friends and family––our oxytocin levels plummet. This leaves us less trusting, more suspicious and prone to paranoia.
In the paper Oxytocin, Dopamine, and the Amygdala: A Neurofunctional Model of Social Cognitive Deficits in Schizophrenia, they lay it out:
“It is hypothesized that aberrant interactions between dopaminergic reward systems, a dysfunctional amygdala, and the neurohormone oxytocin engender a neural milieu that improperly assigns emotional salience to environmental stimuli. This deficit in turn results in aberrant social cognition that may ultimately lead to misguided social responses, from withdrawal and isolation to suspicion and paranoia”
So what to do about all of this “aberrant social cognition” (that’s the street term for ‘batshit crazy’)?
Well, not entirely sure at this point, other than to say...
That’s it for this week folks––just had a rad day in the wave park surfing with some great friends and my son (the waves were all evenly spaced six feet apart so don’t worry ;)
Hope you now have some fascinating cocktail party conversation for you next Zoom Quarantini sesh.
When the subject of conspiracy theories comes up (and it will)...you’ll have your Big Thinky guns a-blazing.
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