Aliens May Not Exist

We live in an amazing time. Within your lifetime we may no longer be dependent upon fossil fuels. By 2040 we’ll be driving electric cars or something even more magnificent. Tankers and cruise ships with futuristic batteries and entrepreneurs farming the plastics in the ocean for profit. Someday, in the not too distant future, they will know how to move your consciousness into something permanent and that generation will get to live forever. The capacity for humans to grow beyond biological dependence will afford opportunities for knowledge that confound the imagination. If we can survive the 2100’s there is a decent possibility that we will possess the technology to populate our galaxy. We’re planning to send people to Mars, right now. Global warming may kill us all but if it doesn’t, it appears that we are only at the beginning of what humankind may be capable.

It is entirely possible, though not popular to admit, that we are entirely alone in the universe. Scientists postulate that it takes just over 3 billion years to develop sentient life, and the universe is far older than that. Why is it so quiet out there? With 70 sextillion suns in the universe we should be swimming in Klingons by now. In a universe that is over 13 billion years old there has been ample opportunity for distant planets in distant galaxies to develop to the level where they can send out a message that we should be able to hear. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the recent technological advances in fields like astronomy are staggering. Science can now look at the beginning of the universe. Think about that for a moment.

And the news just gets worse. While most of us would like to believe in a Star Trek Federation, some very smart people have realized that enough time has passed that any civilization which may have developed in the distant past on other planets may be dead by now, if they existed at all. At the other end of the spectrum is the notion that life did exist, but it’s done by now. As hard as it is to imagine, there are solar systems much older than ours and countless fruitful planets could have invented gingsu knives literally billions of years ago. Billions. Logically we must assume that all games must end, and even a successful planet that started even a few hundred thousand years before ours would potentially, based on what we know about how stupid thinking beings can be, have blown themselves to that alien lizard hell a thousand times over. We’re not even mentioning the hundreds and thousands of happy accidents that randomly kept the idea of evolutionary growth alive in spite of seemingly impossible odds.

Imagine the technology we will possess in 100,000 years. You can’t. Think how far we have come since the Renaissance. We are alien gods to the people of the 14th Century; one look at your iPhone and good teeth would be enough to have you burned at the stake for most of our recent history. It is entirely apparent that we are only at the very beginning of human potential, we’re still the hillbilly predecessors in the eventual story of the growth of our species.

In over 13 billion years, it has been postulated, life should have evolved to the level where someone out there could hear or see us – somewhere among those hundred billion stars (and that’s just this insignificant galaxy). Any civilization that has even a few tens of thousands of years head-start could be smart enough to develop technology beyond our imagination. We may not survive the next hundred years if we can’t get those damn corporations and governments to take their heads out of their asses, can you imagine the opportunities for self-destruction we will have in the next couple hundred thousands of years? Can you envisage the potential for self-destruction we will experience in the next five hundred thousand years?

So tell me again, why can’t we find any signs of life out there?

I’m not even mentioning the apocalyptic fears around how such an advanced society would feel about a new upstart in their neighbourhood. Don’t even go there. If this twitches your geek muscles just google Fermi Paradox.

We seem, all over again, to be on the edge of incredible technological advancement. People who are alive right now could have grandchildren from Mars. We still have no idea how the Big Bang works or whether or not dark matter and dark energy even exists. How are photons in two places at one time? Are there really 11 dimensions of existence? How does something start out of nothing? Did Michael Jackson really not see that he looked super creepy and weird? So many unanswered mysteries still await us. Constraints such as the limitations of travel based on the speed of light, or our current understandings of Newtonian and Einsteinian physics, may someday seem quaint and archaic, products of a pre-enlightened understanding of reality and science.

So it may not be that monumental of a stretch to say that we probably don’t yet have all the answers. While it is tempting to believe that we are the absolute pinnacle of human evolution, it may be worth remembering that every generation before us absolutely believed they understood how the world worked and what mattered in life. Priests and prophets and generations of ignorants were convinced that what they believed was the undeniable truth. They were certain.

Just for fun, let’s rip apart the notion of Atheism. One could argue that the belief that there is no possibility for anything beyond one’s limited understanding of reality (and meaning of life) is in and of itself limiting, predicated upon the fragile notion that we are even remotely capable of understanding the depth of the human experience at this early stage of creative evolution. Atheism is predicated on certainty and certainty could be, and don’t hurt me here, a little naive at this juncture.

Putting aside the limiting definition that “this is all there is or can ever be” allows me to leave room for wonder. Perhaps there is something out there beyond my understanding and some day another Einstein will help us understand life on an entirely different plain. Words like faith and fairytale definitions of eternity become possibilities, not because there is any rational proof right now, but based on the fact that we have not yet learned everything there is to learn. Certainty based on our current understanding of physics and reality may just be a touch premature.

And who knows, there might even be aliens.

Leave No Path Untaken

“Sleep my little baby-oh
Sleep until you waken
When you wake you’ll see the world
If I’m not mistaken…

Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure…

Face your life
Its pain,
Its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken.”
Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Most people aren’t really sure what they are getting themselves into, when they come talk with someone like me. What we do at that coffee shop, or while walking by the river, has little in common with what happens on television or Netflix. You are not Tony Soprano and I am not that horrible psychiatrist who sucked at counselling and committed ethical violations on an episodal level. You won’t spend the whole time complaining, and I am intrusive when it comes to the nitty gritty details. I get paid to act as a professional and you can go home and talk to your cat for hours about your medical problems or how much that person makes you mad at work. People want ideas and conversation and help, that’s why they make the appointment. Most counsellors are sedentary by nature and I am a screaming ball of ADHD and philosophy and other words that they offer at universities for those who don’t really want to earn much money or get their teeth cleaned on a regular basis.

Most of my clients have tried it their way, and life has a way of humbling the most stubborn of us every once in a while. I have written extensively about this topic and you can read about it here, here, here, or here. Moving forward in your life is usually more complicated in the real world, and we rarely get to live on Saturn or have a robot maid like on The Jetsons. Life is hard and they don’t post the rules on a website, and lets be honest, I usually did things the hard way because I’m naive and idealistic and not as self-aware as I thought at the time. For the love of god, don’t write your treatise in your 20’s. We shouldn’t have to review the reasons, this one is rock solid. I am startled at how dumb I was when I was 25. I’m not telling your story, I’m just speaking to those of us who have had to admit that we didn’t know what the crap we were talking about and some of those opinions we yelled so loudly, back when we knew everything, were utterly moronic.

At the risk of becoming a Hallmark Card, it really is true that most of us don’t live at our potential. I’m not talking about you.

I am working on another project or two with a few friends, and there is this feeling (and if you’ve had it you know what I’m talking about) at the beginning of a new adventure that is cocaine for me. The entire entertainment industry seems designed solely for the purpose of providing adventures which allow us to live lives in ways and places not connected to my grinding job or upset partner. We are neurologically wired for novelty. This has a profound impact on everything from our relationships to our addictions to our sexual satisfaction. I go to movies to be alive, but maybe it’s just me. When I am inside a great audiobook or an old fashioned paperback it triggers parts of my brain which include those yummy juices bouncing around in my neurons. Unlike many, I am blessed with primarily pleasant dreams, and I may be a child inside, but under countless moons I have been a secret agent or kung fu legend or somewhere warm drinking foofy drinks on a beach. I do this for a living and I know what living in a fantastical dream state suggests. The real world blows when it does.

Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure…

Face your life
Its pain,
Its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken.

Here’s to you making that trip to Europe. A good one on those of ya who have decided to go back to school, or go on a road trip, or start to sculpture; just for the joy of getting your hands muddy. It is very easy to learn to play the bass… poorly. My wife just brought a 300 ton piano into our house, and her relentless pursuit of something that hard is inspiring (she doesn’t read my writing so I won’t get credit for that). In The Graveyard Book, Nobody Owens grew up in a graveyard, was adopted by ghosts, and mentored by a vampirish thing and a Hound Of God. With his life in danger, he was forced to spend the majority of his childhood playing with dead people, a witch, several nasty goblins, with only one friend who had a pulse and almost killed him, by accident of course. Those words, face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken, reminded Bod that his life was among the living, not the departed. It was his turn to have experiences and see oceans and taste coffee in faraway lands.

And how’s that working out for you?

That sounds so tiring, he said partly in jest. Life is ridiculously busy, and my freaking phone is becoming an addiction, and I dream of going to Kitts or a Balkan State or a castle in Scotland; but right now I’d settle for another hot day to float in my Canadian Tire pool. Everywhere I look, people complain about the pace of life in the 21st Century and the noise, noise, noise. It’s only 95 days until Christmas. See what I did there?

The good book says, without hope the people perish. Philosophers create theories to describe the meaning of life. Existential Psychoanalysis plays with creating meaning from meaning, or something nerdish like that. As Victor Frankl said, the person who has the why can bear almost any how. That sounds like a cheeseball meme until you find out the dude was in Auschwitz. Having a reason for staying alive another year is a powerful thing. Words like meaning and purpose, dreams, and hope, are powerful aphrodisiacs. Having that why makes this crappy how worth living.

…leave no path untaken.

Learn Like Sherlock

The BBC breakout hit Sherlock is perhaps one of the most famous television series in the world. A relative unknown, Benedict Cumberbatch has become a worldwide sociopathic genius heart-throb. One of the attractions of the show is the filming and presentation. When you watch Sherlock you are transported into his mind, you see what he is thinking; it’s very fascinating. He has an incredible brain, an eidetic memory, and he’s super weird.

Sherlock uses a technique he is famous for called a mind palace or a memory palace. The Mind Palace is a place where genius’s store memories so they can recall anything with library-like precision. At the end of the last series, it was literally mind palace vs. mind palace as two super geniuses tried to outsmart each other. This memory technique allows the user to remember seemingly endless lists or events or details which escape the rest of us.

I can teach you how to have a mind palace in 30 minutes of soft labor. True story.

We are into our ninth month of Mental Wellness Curriculum and we continue to do this because the leaders of this thing are a bunch of dreamers and idealists who really think that we can make a difference in people’s lives by using martial arts to build better people. Wiser people. We started this year talking about the most famous month of curriculum we ever put out called, “Becoming A Lifelong Learner”. We invited people to learn along with us and together we would try to find meaning for our lives and learn how to live a healthier, more whole, futures. Over the months we have shared stories and talked about important things. This month we want to get very practical. This month we want to help with some tools that work, tools you can use.

So this week we invite you to learn how to learn better. One very practical way you can improve your life drastically is by remembering more stuff. Our counseling team can tell you that learning how to become a better thinker, a smarter and more interested person, really changes your forever.

Here’s the easy way. Darren Brown is a world-famous illusionist who made a guest appearance on Sherlock in the episode where Sherlock jumps off the roof (spoiler alert). He has a three-part podcast/book with only three chapters called Tricks Of The Mind. In this minibook he teaches you, in 30-minute segments, how to understand magic, memory, and hypnosis. The book is brilliant. In thirty minutes you will know how hypnosis and illusion works, why people are gullible and prone to believe in unusual things, the basics of magic and a few cool tricks, and last but not least – how to build your own Memory Palace.

I have a Mind Palace. It is literally my house in Mission. I have recreated my house in my mind and Darren Brown taught me how to put things around my place so my brain can remember them. My mailbox is my first trigger. In my mind I open my mailbox and there is a bunch of vegetables inside. I must remember to pick up vegetables when I get to Safeway. Next, I open the door and that triggers another little silly picture in my brain involving a door knob and a slab of meat. Don’t even go there. Sherlock’s Memory Palace is a cheesy way to learn how to remember 35 things on your grocery list or where you put your car keys. People who can remember more will learn faster, retain more of the important stuff, and that skill leaks over into their lives every day.

So learn how to have your own Memory Palace. There are plenty of places online willing to teach you in about twenty minutes. I also use the Link System as a party favorite with friends, or when I want to remember six or seven things real fast. Learning how to learn faster is an incredibly important skill for everyone.