To say that we live in interesting times is something of an understatement. If only it were that simple.
Just in the United States alone, we are dealing with one of the most ludicrous and uncaring Presidential administrations ever. Following ongoing surreal examples of systemic racism and police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement again has picked up steam and there are protests ongoing. (I hope they make some necessary changes happen!) And COVID-19 continues to spread largely unchecked because of any number of foolish and frankly unbelievable reasons.
Some people buy into a couple of conspiracy theories involving all of the above situations. For example, some people are convinced that Trump is actually doing a good job and that the press, scientists, liberals, academics, economists, and just about everyone else on the planet are trying to discredit him.
Another example — some people think Black Lives Matter is a movement out to destroy the fabric of our society. These protests are intended to spur some sort of uprising, destroy police forces, and begin serious anarchy that will destroy the fabric of the nation.
Finally, the pandemic. Some people believe it’s a lie fabricated by the press and Democrats to discredit Trump and the GOP. The virus, they think, is no worse then the flu and everyone is overreacting and being overly dramatic. Mask wearing is the first step in fascism and social control, as are stay-at-home orders.
None of the above are based in reality. Thanks to the hearsay of the internet, privilege, and entitlement, among other issues, people all-too-often ignore or forgo reason.
Yet the simplest solution is usually right.
What is Ockham’s Razor?
I wish more people were familiar with this term. What is it?
Occam’s (or Ockham’s) razor is a principle attributed to the 14th-century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. Ockham was the village in the English county of Surrey where he was born.
The principle states that “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” — Phil Gibbs 1996.
Frequently this is paraphrased as,
“The simplest solution is most likely the right one.”
People conceive of these complex, involved, convoluted notions that defy logic and reason. They are so far counter to the simplest solution that they strain credulity.
And yet, people buy them.
COVID-19, for example. Does anyone realize that for this to be a hoax would take a level of worldwide organization that is clearly impossible? Seriously, ask any professional project manager about the logistics for this to be a thing. It’s not. The pandemic is real, it is deadly, and it’s not a made-up lie to discredit anyone.
The pandemic is a virus like many before it that has spread around the world. While many places have contained the spread or slowed it, the United States continues to follow its useless leaders and let it run wild. Denial of the severity of the problem, no direction for control, and no clear mandate for masks, social distancing, and ongoing politicizing rule the day.
Scientists gain nothing by having us practice distancing and wearing masks. That’s another aspect of various conspiracies with ZERO basis in reality. The simple solution is they want nothing more than to flatten the curve and contain the spread.
These are examples of overcomplications in the grand scheme of things. What about your personal life?
Complexities versus simplicities
In Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, the protagonist is exposed to the practice of Alchemy. He learns that what once was written on a single emerald has evolved into vast tracts, studies, scientific and theoretical explorations, and other complicated approaches to attain the same result.
The protagonist meets a scholar who is deeply rooted in these vast studies, where he examines nature. When they trade places for a time — and the scholar examines nature while the protagonist looks over his studies — neither can quite comprehend the way of the other.
The protagonist finds the scholar’s way interesting, but too complicated. Conversely, the scholar finds the protagonist’s way too simple.
Though they don’t know it, both are seeking the Alchemist. When they find him, the scholar, looking to be his student, is told to take the simple path. Whereas the protagonist’s simple path makes him the Alchemist’s perfect disciple.
I know that many times in my life I have taken a complex approach to something. In the process, I made it far more difficult than it needed to be. In the end, had I just gone for the simple, I would have reached the goal much easier.
People reject simplicity. Why? Because we are taught to analyze this, that, and the other thing without being taught to think critically. We look at both sides of an argument, examine the pros and cons, reject gut feelings for vast studies.
Then we reject simple solutions for complex notions.
The craziest part of this, to me, is how easily people reject the logical and scientific explanation for a more fantastical, complex conspiracy theory. Maybe because the conspiracy seems simpler than the science and logic — despite utterly lacking a basis in reality.
This, FYI, is not to be confused with an argument about faith and belief.
Faith, belief, simplicity, and conspiracy
Let’s face it. Many an atrocity has been committed across history in the name of faith.
Even today, people use their “faith” as an excuse to bully, disempower, deny rights, and hurt people. The bullshit laws allowing denial of birth control by employer-sponsored health care; monies donated to anti LGBTQA+ organizations in the name of “faith;” arguments against interracial marriage being against someone’s “faith;” all of these hurt people based on a claim of a specific belief.
The irony, to me, is that most “faiths” came about to share practices to enrich groups and draw people together. Yet intolerance and hatred have someone overwhelmed and taken control of many.
Faith is meant to be a personal matter. What you believe is what YOU believe, and as such has little to no bearing on others.
This does get problematic, however, when people develop a faith so deep they ignore other options. They get rooted in this belief that anything which challenges it is suspect or automatically anti.
Conspiracy theories like the ideas of a press coup, fake pandemic, and narcissistic liar having more knowledge than doctors, scientists, and other experts are built on this type of faith. You get beliefs built in a vacuum of opinion and artifice to maintain or create a specific narrative counter to the simple, realistic solutions.
What I am saying here is that you have your beliefs, as do I. Are they simple or extremely complicated? More importantly, are they utterly set in stone or open to reevaluation, reinterpretation, and new and different data?
This is why being open to change is so important. It is also why being closed to change has caused any of the popularity and beliefs in these conspiracies.
Change scares people
Every single one of these conspiracies involves change.
Orders to stay at home and wear masks are not tyranny and attempts at government control. They are based on scientific studies to lessen the spread of the virus.
However, mask-wearing — though common in China and other parts of the world — represents a change. What’s more, there is no timeline for how long this change will be in effect.
Black Live Matter protests seek change. An end to systemic racism and militarized police forces for the good of EVERYONE. Some people find the “loss” of their privilege born of the systemic racism unacceptable. Others just can’t wrap their heads around why police forces must no longer be allowed to work above the law they’re intended to enforce.
Do I even have to go into the insanities around Trump, the GOP, and politics?
Change is the only constant in the Universe.
That scares the crap out of most people. They take comfort in expectations and certainties of a thing — and change threatens that.
Rather than see change as progress and potential for bigger and better things, people tend to see it for lack, scarcity, and taking things away. Then, certain so-called leaders use that for their own good to remain in power and/or to amass wealth.
You always have choices when it comes to handling change. In simplest terms, they include, but are not limited to:
· Ignore it. Mostly a neutral thing.
· Resist it. Be angry, annoyed, unhappy, and displeased with change.
· Accept it. It is what it is.
· Fight it. Take a stand against injustice, for example.
· Take charge. Be the change you wish to see.
· Alter it. Work to make it more favorable.
Like most things in life, you have a choice. Mindfulness opens you to that.
Mindfulness and the simplest solutions
The practice of mindfulness puts you in touch with your conscious mind. Your conscious mind is capable of directing your life, here-and-now, where and how you desire.
Mindfulness is the awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. That awareness of what you are thinking, what and how you are feeling, and the intent of what you are doing impacts your reaction to change and just about everything else you can think of.
Being mindful ultimately puts you in touch with yourself. You become empowered to get into your mindset/headspace/psyche. Mindfulness opens you up to you.
When you are more open to yourself and all that is in your head, you are also more open to the outside world. Rather than just absorb ideas, opinions, information, fact, and fiction subconsciously you can decide what, if anything, to do with it.
Thus, you can take the information you get and look at it critically. You are better able to see if it’s a logical, reasonable, simple matter — or a complex one.
That not to say that all things in life are simple. There are many things made up of large complexities of one sort or another. However, mindfulness will let you decide and choose for yourself what is right or wrong in any given matter.
For the most part, Ockham’s Razor is correct. The simplest explanation is the most real. But there is one more matter I want to address here.
The illusion of reality
Albert Einstein said it best,
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
What that means is that how you perceive reality is unique to you. This will get applied to all that you encounter in your life, too.
There IS a collective consciousness that we all live within. It is a framework of acceptance of certain aspects of the world to be largely the same. Within that collective consciousness we form communities, nations, households, families, and so on.
Along this line, one of the most prevalent complex conspiracy theories goes deeper and is much scarier. This is the alternative reality the Trump Administration pushes.
In this reality, you are either FOR or AGAINST Trump. Anything and everything counter to his way of thinking are, as such, against him.
So rather than see Dr. Fauci and his scientific basis of input as valuable, now he’s a political opponent. Dr. Fauci and the majority of the scientific community only wish to make Trump lose the election in November, so they are running with the lie about the dangers of COVID-19.
Nevermind the increase in cases, the rising death toll, or any other actual facts. Trump knows all, for he is apparently a “stable genius” and expert in everything.
The scientific community around the world, the press, liberals, oh — and the 130,000+ dead of the virus — are just part of a conspiracy to discredit Trump? To construct a lie of this magnitude defies logic and reason. The number of people it would take to create, organize, maintain, and keep such a lie going is mind-boggling.
Mindfulness opens you to see how this complicated, surrealist, convoluted “reality” in the face of Ockham’s Razor comes apart.
You cannot change anyone else
Finally, it is imperative to take this into account. You cannot change anyone else.
You can yell all you want. Go ahead and share all the facts and figures available. Share every bit of truth, logic, and reason that you can.
HOWEVER — if they are not open to change, firmly dug-in, and utterly unwilling to bend — you can’t change them.
All you can do is be the best you that you can be. Explore the truth of conspiracy theories versus the simplest solutions via mindfulness. Keep resisting stupidity, keep sharing logic and reason, but don’t give all your energy to anyone else. They won’t change if they are unwilling to.
Applying Ockham’s Razor to life simplifies a great many things. But you can only work this for yourself.
But maybe, when more people see others practicing this, it can have an impact on the collective consciousness and change the world for the better.
I am an optimist. And I do believe that despite the current uncertainty, insanity, and ongoing changes -the world can and will come out for the better on the other side. I’ll continue to do my part to find and share logic and reason and help provide data for others to come to similar logical and reasonable conclusions.
Know that you are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done our thoughts, feelings, and actions matter, as looking at the simplest solution versus complex and often crazy conspiracies.