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Life's waters - Books and blog by Peter M. Hunt - Page 8

Effortless proficiency

Increasingly effective use of cognition is essentially proportional to effort until thought travels to the hidden back side of reasoning’s circle where effort mysteriously vanishes. What seconds earlier took tremendous concentration and effort suddenly flows with unimpeded focus even while the complexity of the task increases significantly.

Or, does this phenomenon occur exactly because the task’s level of difficulty increases significantly?

Few of us are fortunate enough to have experienced this remarkable transition point where ultra-performance becomes second nature and automatic. Fewer still are able to call upon this extreme level of alert acuity and skill at will.

The central control for this nirvana of effectiveness is no doubt buried deep in the psyche as some sort of evolved survival response.

For most of us living in the confusion of post-modern society (well, I never left, at any rate), this apex of proficiency is usually arrived at through a sharply defined medium that allows for a quick and predictable break through. Incredibly intense meditation might get one there, or a dangerous task, hobby, or job where the operator in question is both well experienced and under extreme pressure to perform at the highest possible level.

Professional athletes are often ultra-performers, but—in my opinion—serve as simplistic, one-dimensional cartoons of the greater meaning and potential that this learned skill has to offer. Playing a game for money, fame, and/or a superficial sense of glory offers little or no lasting reward, again, in my opinion.

It’s not enough to just perform at the level of effortless proficiency to truly understand and leverage the power of this state. Other parameters must be satisfied:
• the activity must require extraordinary personal risk;
• the challenge must be an individual’s choice; and
• the endeavor must be accomplished for a greater good.

I’ve been both fortunate and cursed with catching brief glimpses of this higher state, and these few instances have left me floundering for a way to replicate the experience’s essence. Each of my personal incidents have occurred flying in the Navy, largely due to the third requirement that the endeavor be accomplished for a greater good.

While I’ve had very close calls diving, the ensuing heightened awareness was strictly due to a desire for self-preservation; only my life was at stake. Performance was raised, but not nearly to the same level for me as when flying off the aircraft carrier.

In Naval Aviation, “mission” is everything, not letting down your buddies is a close second, and somewhere in distant third is one’s life. Put the three together and it’s amazing what the body and mind can do making high “G” turns at 480 knots, 200 feet above the ground in the fog, with several thousand folks trying to kill you with bullets and missiles.

To be able to transfer this “in the zone” flight perfection to an on demand talent that transcends any task might just be our next evolutionary leap forward. Or it might just be the outline of a bad war story. I would love to know the reflections, thoughts, and experiences of others on this subject.

Cheers,

Pete

A quick note regarding Peter Hunt’s professional credentials:

I am not a formally trained scientist or philosopher. I do, however, visit a neurologist every three months, and I did stay at a Holiday Inn Select after drinking too much one evening in the not too distant past.

 

No need to panic

The Internet was out this morning. So was the phone and cable. Only in these exceedingly rare moments of blissful disconnection (once the initial panic subsides) do I seem able to connect with the only person that matters, or at least the first person that should matter–me.

Without an occasional, honest attempt at self-reflection, it’s easy to automatically lead in reality what self-reflection consistently points to as the most probable reality: a pathetic life of utter incoherence.

Personally, speaking in this moment of blissful disconnection (albeit a forced labor of inner peace as I glance down at the Internet connection icon—again), I’m not too concerned about the incoherent part. What could I possibly do to introduce a common line of understanding or meaning to mankind, aside from becoming another Sunday morning for-profit prophet? It’s the pathetic thing that worries me.

What if I flail in my efforts (images of a panicked drowning)? What if I rock-steady plod down the dead-wrong path? Both seem pathetic, but not nearly as pathetic as the third recurring nightmare: what if I give up trying?

Trying what, one would surely ask (and don’t call me Shirley)?

Even though I know deep down that my “quest” (images of Monty Python’s Life of Brian aside) is extraordinarily unlikely to yield any lasting life altering principles, paradoxically, that has nothing to do with trying. How will I learn more of what I don’t know that I don’t know if I don’t at least keep trying?

And so, the well-worn path toward perceived enlightenment spider-webs with exponential incoherence into utter confusion. Pathetic.

Thank God (or Tony Robbins, whatever); the Internet icon stops me cold from spiraling further into pathetic incoherence (maybe…). Time to quit wasting time and get on with the day, you know, to get cracking at giving “it” a try: after all, it’s the manly (and womanly) thing to do.

Note
Please be advised that this was written earlier and the internet, phone, and cable are all operational. There is no need to panic.

Keeping it real

Have you ever attempted to count the number of times over the course of a day when asked, “How are you?”

I haven’t yet, but I think I will tomorrow. Why?

Most everyone rely on a canned response to this nicety of civilized interaction. For example, you walk into a store and are greeted full on with a loud and courteous:

“Good morning! How are you today?”

To which most would reply, “Fine! And you?”

“Fine” is the coward’s answer.

It is commonly assumed that the depth of the question is non-existent. It is not really a question at all, but an acknowledgement of a daily mind-numbing convention that should shame us all in our superficiality.

I was fortunate enough to have this truism of an uncaring life identified to me as a child, and I’ve tried to adhere to my father’s simple advice to counter this bad habit:

“If you ask someone how they are,” my father would demand of my shaping morality, “then look into their eyes and mean it.”

If you don’t mean it, then don’t ask the question, my Dad would go on to say.

Again, if you are going to ask, then mean it. If not, then a simple “Good morning” should accomplish your goal.

And my advice: ask the question sincerely and wait for the answer.

A daily societal ritual has developed into a formula for isolation: the sequestration of honest emotion into silos, and the abrogation of any attempt at a truly sophisticated and connected (i.e. meaningful) conversation.

It is the ultimate small talk, and small talk is for small people.

(Although there are those who propose by their actions that small talk is the most noble of gases. I would suggest that the lightness of the noble gas helium should be forsaken for the greater weight and warming power of the noble gas argon. Helium provides for the cheap thrill; argon is a choice of comfort and security.

Breathing more helium may give a diver a clear head with which to plan one’s battle, but the properties of argon simply keep a diver warm. At the end of the day, spiritual warmth is what matters most; that is, if you are willing to share.)

To continue in dishonesty is a waste of life’s offer – not promise – of time and the squandering of one of life’s few opportunities to connect with a stranger. And it should make us all angry with ourselves for playing the game.

And it is not a little thing.

When the perceived world no longer expects an honest or heartfelt answer to a simple question, that is not being polite; that is being rude in a manner that coarsens the heart and turns our daily lives into a pointless video game.

And we all have the opportunity to change this travesty of omission virtually every day. Take a chance tomorrow; live a little, please listen to strangers. Take a chance and care.

If you are indeed sincere, I guarantee that you will be surprised and even inspired by the answers of you fellow spirit-beings.

Cheers,
Peter