Earning your White Belt in Mixed Mental Arts

“Wake up Neo. The Matrix has you.”

If it hasn’t been said yet, welcome to the dojo. You are here for a reason. You may not yet know what that reason is, but your arrival is no accident. Perhaps you are searching for something. Perhaps there is something you’ve lost, something you think you have found. Perhaps you seek an answer.

Whatever the reason, we welcome you. At the Mixed Mental Arts dojo, we are looking for answers to “…the question that drives us…it’s the question that brought you here.”

“What is the Matrix?”

Fortunately, (or unfortunately) it is not a computer simulation that we are all hooked into in order to provide energy for robots. We won’t be unplugged, become #woke, wear black trench coats and perform stop-motion Kung Fu in a war against the machines.

However, we do live in a Matrix of sorts. It is a mental Matrix and it is very real. Once we realize its existence, we can disconnect from it and do our best to try to fight against it. In order to do this, we will have to learn to practice mental Kung Fu because the war we are fighting is a war of ideas. It is the ultimate war to save humanity.

If you like, you are welcome to wear a black trench coat.

Just as Morpheus gave Neo the choice between two pills, you must now make a choice of your own. You can take the blue pill and the story ends; you hit the back button on your browser and believe whatever you want to believe. Or you can take the red pill, enter the Mixed Mental Arts dojo and see just how deep this rabbit hole goes. (Our Red Pill has nothing to do with the Men’s Rights movement, though we do support men, rights and movements. Punctuation matters!)

Good, we’re glad you’re still here. Take a deep breath because you are about to be shown your Matrix. What we are about to say will not be easy to hear.

YOU ARE IN A CULT.

Don’t worry. It’s not just you. We are all members of our own Cargo Cult.

The term “cargo cult” rises out of the Papua New Guinea area during WWII. The natives were mystified when giant metal birds appeared in the sky above their villages and started landing on their island. The war planes brought with them all kinds of goods and cargo, the likes of which the natives had never seen. Having no awareness of what airplanes even were, the locals saw their arrival as a gift from the heavens. In an effort to procure more goods, they created bamboo replicas of planes and control towers in the belief that this would attract more supplies.

The point of this story isn’t that the natives were primitive; to us that seems obvious. The point is that they saw the world in a way that was limited by their culture. The natives thrived and survived in a culture that couldn’t conceptualize an airplane, so when one arrived, they did what seemed logical. From our world view this may seem silly because we understand airplane mechanics, however, if there is an alien race watching us right now that comprehends time travel, they may see us as primitive for flying around in fuel burning airplanes.

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.”
-Anais Nin

So the reality we see isn’t reality at all. What we perceive is distorted through the lens of our culture, this is our Matrix. No one sees the world as it really is. We are all members of some sort of Cargo Cult. This realization leads to two things:

AND…

In social psychology, the human tendency to think that we see the world in an objective, rational way is called Naïve Realism. It’s the belief that we see the world as it really is, that others will agree with our views if given the same information, and if they disagree they are somehow ignorant or biased.

Does this sound like anyone you know?

“We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but
nature exposed to our method of questioning.”
Werner Heisenberg

The problem with Naïve Realism is it perpetuates tribalism. It creates ‘us against them’, the good guys vs. the bad guys. It’s detrimental to a global society.

“If I could nominate one candidate for “biggest obstacle to world peace and social harmony,” it would be naive realism because it is so easily ratcheted up from the individual to the group level: My group is right because we see things as they are. Those who disagree are obviously biased by their religion, their ideology, or their self-interest. Naive realism gives us a world full of good and evil, and this brings us to the most disturbing implication of the sages’ advice about hypocrisy: Good and evil do not exist outside of our beliefs about them.”
-Jonathan Haidt

We have identified two enemies in this war of ideas: Cargo Cults and Naïve Realism. In order to fight these enemies we must first learn to see them in ourselves. We must begin to recognize our own naïve realism and to identify our own cultural blind spots. In short, we must learn to realize when we are the ones building bamboo airplanes.

Here in the MMA dojo we are on a journey to develop a more realistic world view by overcoming our cultural biases. We are forging a path to self-discovery.

This is the white belt of Mixed Mental Arts.

• Have you realized that your culture is the lens through which you see the world, and that it profoundly affects everything you think, say, and do?
• Have you recognized that naïve realism impacts the way you think about yourself and others?
• Are you ready to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes?

If you have answered yes to these questions and are ready to explore their impact on your daily life then you are ready to put it on.

Wear it in good health and welcome to Mixed Mental Arts.

7 Comments

  1. Robert Anthony Spakovskis Reply

    Examples of me earning my white
    • Have you realized that your culture is the lens through which you see the world, and that it profoundly affects everything you think, say, and do?
    I am a scientist and thought atheism is the only true way to be. Religions are stupid and people who follow them are stupid by extension. WRONG! What I needed to adjust is that FUNDAMENTALISTS are stupid and the be a fundamental (i.e. extremist) atheist is just the pot calling the kettle black. Know I take what they are saying on-board. All the religions preach essentially the same thing. In the wise words of Bill and Ted ‘Be excellent to each other’. You can be religious and be a scientist. Both are the pursuit of the answers to life. One relies on evidence, the other relies on faith. Faith can mean so many things to so many people, but if it allows you to be open minded and (if you’re that way inclined) do better science, what does it matter?

    • Have you recognized that naïve realism impacts the way you think about yourself and others?
    Brexit debates here in the UK. I am a remainer (remoaner to some). All my friends are remainers. So, I went out of my way to join FB groups of pro-brexit groups. Discussed brexit with an open mind (and was nearly convinced at one point) with many more brexiteers than remainers. I wanted to be challenged on my ideas and perceptions.

    • Are you ready to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes?
    I’ve saved your seat at the tea-party. We’re expecting someone but he’s late. I’m pretty sure there is room for you too.

    Do I feel I have achieved the white belt? I like to think so. My new outlook on life is to keep achieving the white belt.

    What do I need to work on? Being happy with ideas and concepts I don’t fully understand. Half-finished jigsaw puzzles if you will.

  2. Dave Burns Reply

    Have you realized that your culture is the lens through which you see the world, and that it profoundly affects everything you think, say, and do?
    Yes, but only a the intellectual level.

    • Have you recognized that naïve realism impacts the way you think about yourself and others?
    Yes, but not sure what to do about it. I’ve been trying to make a list of assumptions and things I take for granted.

    • Are you ready to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes?
    Sure. Sounds like fun.

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