Getting Into the Right Relationship With the Phrase Right Relationship

Hey beautiful people,

A quick note regarding my philosophical coaching practice: I will be continuing the practice for the months of June and July, but with a lighter load, e.g. one session per day, and I will then be taking the month of August off. 

If I continue doing this coaching thing in September, the practice may go somewhat private, as I am cultivating a good set of regular conversational partners, and they will be receiving booking priority. If you have not booked a session with me yet, and were curious about doing so, now would be the time. You can book me in, and the rest of the current coaches at The Stoa, here: 

thestoa.ca/coaches

A few updates about our wisdom gym: the Glass Bead Game will be put on pause for the summer, it may return, perhaps with a different structure. As well, the Live Journaling sessions are still going on (at least to July 1st), but have been renamed to Collective Journaling. 

I highly recommend checking these Collective Journaling sessions out, as a really lovely “community of practice” has already formed around journalling things to one's self, or “ta eis heauton.”

Tomorrow’s events:

  • Collective Journaling w/ Peter Limberg. Daily @ 8:00 AM ET. Patreon event. 90 mins.

  • The Virtue of Surrender w/ Alanja Forsberg. June 2nd @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here. 60 mins. 

  • Health Index: A Hypothetical Index to Assess the Health of a Society w/ Daniel Schmachtenberger. June 2nd @ 6:00 PM ET. Patreon event. 60 mins.

An event to (maybe) get excited about:

  • The Psychological Pitfalls of Engaging With X-Risks and Civilization Redesign w/ Daniel Schmachtenberger. June 9th @ 6:00 PM ET. Patreon event. 60 mins.

The meta-crisis and existential risks (x-risks) have been a consistent theme here at The Stoa, hence it is going to be quite a treat for us Stoans to hear our friend Daniel Schmachtenberger discuss the common psychological pitfalls that occur when people address these issues.

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June 1st, 2021

I am feeling the need to journal privately again, as some raw and messy stuff needs to be processed. I probably will not be posting here daily now, and the posts may become sporadic again.

I will still be journaling daily with fellow Stoans though, every morning at 8 AM ET. I have renamed the journaling sessions to “Collective Journaling,” as that name feels much better than “Live Journaling,” and it now matches “Collective Presencing,” the intrasubjective practice that has been the heartbeat of The Stoa. 

We've got a nice little journaling crew with us. I am journaling with them now. This is a great way to stay accountable and consistent with journaling. Together we are writing about what is most alive, and for check-ins, we put in the Zoom chat a word or sentence of what we are going to write about. 

It is nice getting a sense of what is most alive for people, and it feels good knowing that people are silently philosophizing together. Journaling is my favorite part of the day. Nothing beats sitting down with an espresso by my side, and dope songs playing in my ear, while writing what wants to be written. I often hit flow state when writing these journals, which is a nice state to be in, especially while I am with “the others.”

My check-in with the Stoans today was this: getting into the right relationship with the phrase right relationship. I mention this phrase a lot in these journals and in my philosophical coaching practice. I also mentioned the phrase in my recent Interintellect salon, as a part of my definition for Stoicism, which I defined as:

A super sexy "philosophy as a way of life" that when embodied, encourages one to live in accordance with nature (or be in the right relationship with reality).

I was being playful throughout the presentation, hence why the definition above is super sexy, but most Modern Stoics would agree with most of the elements of my definition. The “philosophy as a way of life” phrase is of course from Pierre Hadot, who viewed Stoicism as a philosophy as a way of life. 

Hadot was such a boss at dunking on academic philosophers, and he called them “artists of reason,” which he contrasted with ancient philosophers, who he saw as “artists of life,” which is exactly the kind of artist I want to become. 

The embodied word in my definition of Stoicism is a nod to my favorite quote from Epictetus: Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it. Modern Stoics do not really talk about embodiment, and I want that to change, because embodiment is the thing that makes a philosophy a way of life. 

The climax of the definition is the “live in accordance with nature” phrase, which I am not a huge fan of, given that the word nature has an antiquated vibe about it, and can be misunderstood by people first coming across Stoicism. I prefer the “right relationship with reality” phrase myself, which I first heard Jordan Hall say to John Vervaeke in one of their hyperconversations

During my Stoicism presentation at Interintellect, when my definition of Stoicism flashed across the screen, somebody in the chat wrote the following:

The word “right” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. 

Yeah, it is doing a lot of heavy lifting. It is unavoidable though, as the more axiomatic you get in a philosophical system, some words are just fated to do more heavy lifting than others. One can easily be an artist of reason here, get their infinite regress on, and gadfly the shit out of the “right relationship” phrasing in a bad faith way. 

That is fine, but most people who hear this phrase do vibe with it, as there is something intuitively gripping about it. I do sense it would be good to flesh out some principles regarding the phrase, in order to get into the right relationship with it. Here is the first crack at some principles of being in the right relationship …

Getting into the right relationship with reality will be bespoke for each person.

Getting into the right relationship with reality is about having the right focus of what to get into the right relationship with. 

Getting into the right relationship with one thing in reality will help you get into the right relationship with everything in reality.

Getting into the right relationship with reality is really about getting into a better relationship with reality. 

I will unpack each principle below …

Getting into the right relationship with reality will be bespoke for each person.

Depending on your reality tunnel, you might not be vibing with the word reality here, and I am cool if people want to swap the word out and replace it with a word such as nature or God, or maybe something like “all that is.”

I actually really like using Nick Land’s term of GNON here. This term means “the God of Nature Or Nature,” and he introduced the term to unify theistic and atheistic factions within the neo-reactionary movement. The idea here is this: despite whether you believe reality is God’s doing or not, the same laws apply. 

It was a brilliant philosophical move, and I do think the term can be repurposed away from the rest of the neo-reactionary philosophical architecture. If some strategic memetic distance is preferred though, perhaps a similar term can be created to house many words that gesture towards “all that is.”

Regardless of the word you prefer to use, the idea of this principle is this: your journey to get into the right relationship with reality will have to be bespoke, which means tailor-made, and the tailor here is probably you.

Of course, there might be some best practices here, such as finding your “second father” or “second mother,” finding “the others,” and getting a sense of the metapattern or deep code of reality. But really, getting into the right relationship with reality is going to look pretty different for each person, especially while we are playing “Game In-Between.”

There are deep patterns in play of course, but everyone’s story, challenges, circumstances, and interests are so different, and these differences need to be honoured, and I find the best thing that honors them is doing philosophy as a way of life. 

The first cardinal virtue—wisdom, practical reasoning, prudence, phronesis, or whatever word you want to use, has basically been my answer for a bespoke undertaking towards getting into the right relationship with reality.

This is basically what my philosophical coaching practice, as well as Andrew Taggart’s practice, is in service towards. This is also why Andrew and I are in active talks about sparking up a wisdom commons, which is something I sense the world needs.

Getting into the right relationship with reality is about having the right focus of what to get into the right relationship with.

This focus thing seems like a big challenge for most people, myself included. I would break this principle down into at least three types of focus: the object of focus, the timing of focus, and the desire of focus. 

The object of focus is quite an important thing to spend some time with. The level of abstraction of the object of focus, along with the felt sense it contains, are all things to take into consideration. As an example, focusing on getting into the right relationship with food is going to be different than focusing on getting into the right relationship with the body.

While there is obvious overlap here, and both are great things to get into the right relationship with, the latter opens up many more things to consider than the former. Not only food is a consideration with the latter, but also sleep, physical fitness, and perhaps things like being in nature and body acceptance.

Maybe all of those things would be good to focus on right now, but as Ken Wilber likes to say: do not be spiritually greedy. Besides, maybe simply focusing on food, which is often not a simple thing to focus on, is the wisest thing for one to be focusing on for now. 

We can be creative here as well, so the word or phrasing not only emotionally pings, but also conceptually affords all things you reasonably think you should focus on. I was listening to this interview from Conor McGregor, and he was imploring that one just needs to get the simple things done to afford greater things to unfold. 

I really liked his phrasing for one of the simple things he recommends for us to get into the right relationship with: things you put in your mouth. 

This not only expands the focus of what the word food affords, as now things like water, supplements, and drugs are included here, but it also adds a more punk rock feel, at least for me, which makes me more inspired to get into the right relationship with it.

Hence being playful with the object is important, and engaging in the appropriate boundary work and boundary play is needed. Again, the bespoke nature of philosophizing helps with figuring this out.

The timing of focus is one of the important facets of the right focus, too. Yeah, there are so many fucking good things to focus on, but the order of operation is not always going to be obvious, and nor it is wise to do too much at the same time. This classic proverb holds true here: If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.

It is hard enough to chase one rabbit, and most people are overcompensating and are attempting to chase twenty rabbits. My general suggestion here is this: relax, fam, and remember our favorite oxymoronic adage: festina lente, or make haste slowly. We cannot focus on everything that is good to get into the right relationship with all at once, nor should we.

The desire of focus is the other thing to get a sensitivity towards. Getting a sense of one’s first-order desires and second-order desires is a really good thing. The philosopher Harry Frankfurt is the one who introduced this lovely distinction, and here are the definitions: 

A first-order desire is a desire to do or not do something, or to have or not have something. A second-order desire is a desire to have a desire to do or not do something, or to have or not have something.

A silly example: I have a first-order desire to eat some “organic” gummy bears Camille just purchased, but I have a second-order desire not to eat them. 

Frankfurt also writes about something called "effective desires.” Just because you have a desire, does not mean the desire will be effectively acted upon. “Resistance” can be a hell of a thing, but sometimes it might be a heavenly thing, because what you desire and feel resistance towards doing may be a sign that it is not the right thing for you to be doing. 

You may have a strong desire towards getting into the right relationship with something, but that does not mean that should be the thing you attempt to get into the right relationship with. Sometimes it should be though, because desire is indeed great fuel, and sometimes it is best to lean into focusing on something you have great fuel for. 

Once again, applying philosophy to our lives is what helps tease all of this stuff out. Philosophy is the thing that helps untangle any desire conflicts that currently exist. 

Getting into the right relationship with one thing in reality will help you get into the right relationship with everything in reality.

If the project is to get into the right relationship with reality, then we’ll have to get into the right relationship with all the things in our reality, such as our interpersonal relationships, our emotional landscape, and our models of reality. 

Getting into the right relationship with one of the “objects” of reality, at the right time, with the right desire, affords us the chance of getting into the right relationship with everything else. A simple example:

If one is in the wrong relationship with their social media intake, and is engaged in mindless zombie scrolling, then that time is being taken away from getting into the right relationship with other important relationships in one’s life, such as one’s RL (aka “real life”) relationships, or the relationship with their body (via working out or being in nature), or the daemon (via doing something creative in front of others).

If one can get into the right relationship with their social media intake however, then perhaps multiple existential openings can occur, and a newfound chance of right relating with other things may be on the horizon. 

Getting into the right relationship with reality is really about getting into a better relationship with reality. 

This one is important, and perhaps this is where it gets paradoxical, or shows the limits of the “right relationship” languaging, or perhaps language in general. Beyond the broad categorical binary of right or wrong relationship, I do not see being in the right relationship with something as a binary thing, but more as a spectrum thing. 

I just made up the below “right relationship” spectrum as an example, but I suggest making up your own …

Perfect relationship

Terrific relationship

Good relationship

Good enough relationship

Bad relationship 

Terrible relationship

Irredeemable relationship 

I do not think “perfect” or “irredeemable” relationships are even a thing most of the time, but this is what people who have the cognitive distortion of “all-or-nothing thinking” tend to oscillate between. All-or-nothing thinking is the term from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to describe a mode of thinking that makes one think (and feel) that they are either an absolute rockstar or absolute loser. If one is being real with reality though, aka in the right relationship with it, neither of those things are true. 

As a default heuristic, most things we are currently in a bad relationship with we just need to be in a “good enough” relationship with. I like how Marty Neumeier phrased rule #31 in his 46 Rules of Genius: shore up your weaknesses. As Marty writes: 

You don’t need the skills of an orator to be a thought leader—just original ideas and the courage to deliver them from a podium. You don’t need the drawing skills of a Leonardo da Vinci to be a great painter—just a grasp of aesthetics and a vision for the next big thing in art history. The idea is to neutralize your weaknesses so your strengths can operate unfettered.

We do not need to be terrific at most things, and sometimes it might be the right relational move to stay in a bad relationship with something, because our focus needs to be somewhere else. 

All this being said, I will end this entry with the following invitation: wherever we are in our relationship with reality, let us “amor fati” hard, which is to say, love thy fate hard, so we can accept exactly where we are in our relationships.

When this move is made, the right relationship is near.

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