The Strangest Secret: Why You Should Run Away

why you should run awayOne of the more instructive experiences of my life occurred when was when I was a teenager, barely sixteen years old.

My dad, whom I had previously considered to be incredibly over-protective, put me on a cross-country bus and sent me, alone, to visit my grandmother, some two thousand miles away.

For two straight days I was on my own, surrounded by people I had never met, in places I’d never been, and thrown into situations that I could never have expected. The experience did something to me: I learned about a strange world and how to get along in it, alone, with no one to run to.

The benefits I felt from this trip didn’t have to do with traveling. This wasn’t about getting from point A to point B – this was about wandering through the unknown. And that was an idea that rather bothered me.

During my youth, there was a common idea that moving around was a bad thing. You were supposed to stay in your place unless you had a good reason to do otherwise. People who moved around were considered suspicious and even dangerous. The benefit that I felt from wandering clashed with what I had been taught.

When I returned home from this journey, I returned to the regular American distractions of sports, school, and all the other shiny objects that grab at young people’s minds. But I never forgot the strange feeling that stuck with me from that journey.

Sometime later, I came across a passage in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona:

I rather would entreat you to see the wonders of the world abroad, than,
living dully, sluggardized at home, wear out your youth in shapeless idleness.

That wasn’t precisely what I had felt on my adventure, but it was close. It would be some years before I would travel seriously, but I decided right then and there that I would make it my life’s goal to see the world.

That experience, which I’ve come to call The Strangest Secret, is not unlike Earl Nightingale’s message of the same name. Both concepts lead to a rich and fulfilling life.

Defining the Strangest Secret

At some point after I finished school, my intellectual curiosity bloomed and I began reading in earnest. And as I did, I found out that other people had discovered value in wandering, much like I had. Soon enough I discovered that I had only seen half of the picture – the actual virtue I had felt was about much more than wandering.

Eventually, as my mind matured through study and experience, I began to understand what this strange virtue really was. And then, to my deep surprise, I began to find this odd virtue – commonly considered to be an undesirable trait in my youth – was present in the lives of the greatest men and women of all time.

The first people I found it in were the great spiritual leaders: Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, the Apostles and Confucius. I found it fascinating that all of them partook of the same ritual.

Later I found more religious leaders that had done the same thing: Martin Luther, Jan Hus, Thomas Aquinas, and others.

Over time I learned that the world’s great philosophers and poets had also been initiated into this strange rite; people like Diogenes, Pythagoras, Sappho, Cicero, and the great John Locke.

The great men that shaped Western Civilization also shared in it: Peter Abelard (the founder of modern learning), John of Salisbury (who defined the rule of law), Stephan Langton (the author of Magna Carta), Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and others.

If you keep looking, you even find that many of the world’s greatest authors, musicians and inventors make the same list: Victor Hugo, Daniel Defoe, Frederic Chopin, Leo Tolstoy, John Dos Passos, George Orwell, Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla.

Exactly what is this transforming, empowering and strange secret? It is this: The virtue of running away.

“Running Away” as a Path to an Exceptional Life

If you were raised at all like I was, the idea that running away is a virtue will trouble you. I’m sorry about that, but when you find one thing that the greatest men and women of history have in common, you might want to examine it, regardless of how it makes you feel.

None of us lives entirely by ourselves (nor should we), but living with others inevitably leads to a web of expectations imposed upon us, a web that quickly engulfs every aspect of our lives. These people aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong; this is simply what happens among groups of people: they learn to expect things of you, and you learn to expect things of them.

But this web of expectations also locks us in place, and because of it, we too-easily come to see ourselves as playing a certain type of role in life. And this is what the great men and women broke out of. Do you remember how many times Jesus criticized people for being “hypocrites”? What he really called these people was actors – as in playing a role on a stage.

Separation frees us from the roles we’ve grown accustomed to. By running away, you strip off the accumulations of your lifetime and find yourself underneath.

Break Away from the “Web of Expectations”

I’m not telling you to abandon your family, of course; obligations to spouses and children are not things to be tossed aside. But I am telling you that at some point in your personal development, breaking away from your web of expectations is critical. If Moses and Buddha and Abelard and Sappho and Franklin couldn’t release their talents without it, you probably won’t either.

Beside, once you get over the terror of it, you’ll be forever glad that you did. You will reclaim the real you from the expectations – even demands – of the people who have surrounded you. And in time, even those people will probably be glad you ran away. They’ll more than likely freak out at first, but if you come back a better person, they may get to like him or her better than the old, fits-our-expectations you.

I have a friend I’ll call Pete, who desperately wanted to expand his life, but just wasn’t getting any traction. After multiple frustrations, he decided to move himself and his young family – for an indefinite time – from the American Midwest to a small town in the southern US… somewhere entirely different and a thousand miles distant. He contacted an acquaintance at the destination, and asked for some help finding arrangements. He and his wife took a brief scouting trip, and they just moved, without even a clear job offer.

Years later, my friend recounted that it was a frightening adventure, but that without it he never would have clarified his understanding of himself – too much of what he had been doing and thinking was intertwined with the desires and opinions of others. He needed to be someplace where, in the words of an old bluesman, he was “nuthin’ to nobody.” And within a few years the man’s life had indeed changed, and very much to the better.

Somehow, sometime, you need to face the world as “nuthin’ to nobody,” and re-assess who you are.

Maybe the idea of running away still troubles you. If so, that will be your issue to work through – I can’t do it for you and I wouldn’t try. All I am telling you is that there is something very important here, something of pivotal importance to the best men and women of history. What you do with it is your choice.

What places do you want to see in your lifetime?

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

“The Strangest Secret: Why You Should Run Away” was originally published at EarlyToRise.com

Boiling Frogs, Sheep and Lemmings…

boiling frogsPeople who accept and welcome change are always frustrated by those who oppose and condemn it. Somewhat understandably, they tend to make unattractive comparisons between the stasis people and dumb animals, such as calling them lemmings, sheep or, boiling frogs. And while these comparisons may not be without some basis, they are less than useful.

After all, if you call someone a lemming, they are not likely to consider your arguments very warmly. Instead, they will reflexively and vigorously defend their current position. So, fitting or not, animal comparisons don’t help much.

It is also true that such comparisons are often untrue. Ostriches, for example, do not hide their heads in the sand. The image is evocative, but it is fictional.

One such image that has become popular in our time is that of the boiling frog. You must have encountered it by now. The story goes that if you drop a frog in boiling water, he will immediately jump out of it. But, if you put him in a pan of water and raise the temperature slowly, he will stay where he is and eventually boil to death. Then, it is said that some people act like the slowly boiling frog.

Leaving behind the question of utility (is calling someone a boiling frog helpful?), the next question is this:

Is it really true that a real frog will let itself boil to death if cooked slowly enough?

How Fast do Boiling Frogs Boil?

Several European scientists in the late 1800s did experiments to answer this question, which did show that with a slow enough temperature rise, a frog will stay in a pot and die of heat. Some modern scientists have vehemently claimed that this is false, but I’ve not been able to find any more proof than “I’m a famous biologist and I say so.” So, while further experiments would be necessary to close the debate (and I certainly don’t want to do them), the weight of experiment says that the boiling frog story is true.

Just for the record, here are a few of the details:

In 1872, an experimenter by the name of Heinzmann demonstrated that a frog would not attempt to escape if seated in water that was heated slowly enough. Heinzmann heated his frogs at a rate of less than 0.2°C per minute to get this effect. His work was replicated and verified in 1875 by a man named Fratscher. The author of a psychology text in 1897, Edward Scripture, says that “in one experiment the temperature was raised at a rate of 0.002°C per second, and the frog was found dead at the end of 2.5 hours without having moved.”

One experiment to the contrary was done by a man named Goltz, who raised the temperature of the water at 3.8°C per minute, during which the frogs attempted to escape.

In 1888, a professor at MIT named William Thompson Sedgwick commented on these experimental results:

The truth appears to be that if the heating be sufficiently gradual, no reflex movements will be produced even in the normal frog; if it be more rapid, yet take place at such a rate as to be fairly called “gradual,” it will not secure the repose of the normal frog under any circumstances.

The comment on “the normal frog” is a response to still other experiments, performed on altered frogs. I have not mentioned those experiments above.

Modern authorities have disputed the boiling frog theory with comments such as “If a frog had a means of getting out, it certainly would get out,” and “The legend is entirely incorrect!” They have not, however, produced experimental results; instead, they quote theoretical maximums. (Which end up not contradicting the 1872 and 1875 experiments, though it seems that no one bothered to check those numbers.)

Remember that experiment always trumps authority. Here’s how the great physicist Richard Feynman explained it:

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.

Of Frogs and Humans

A frog fails to jump out of hot water when the change in temperature fails to reach what is called a reflex response level. If the change in its surroundings is too slow, no response is triggered.

A similar effect shows up in humans when slow changes lead to no response in them. For whatever reasons, they have trained themselves not to respond, and they don’t.

For example, a very gradual rise in government tyrannycombined with no reference to an independent standard – generates zero response in many people. Then, because humans are intelligent, they understand that to respond after putting it off would contradict their previous choices and set themselves up to be shamed. So, such people tend to defend their position and to numb themselves as required with television, booze and drugs.

The reference to an outside standard mentioned above is important. If people judge themselves only by other people and the norms in their area, and if they’ve been trained that morality doesn’t matter, they will go along with the crowd quite readily. On the other hand, if they can refer to a separate set of ideas and other ways of deciding, they are often able to stand up to tyranny and say, “this is wrong.”

Scarily enough, people who stay inside of one frame of reference, and who experience slow change, can be brought to accept horrible things without rebellion. Indeed, the boiling frog metaphor, no matter how disturbing, sometimes seems to be the right one for the world we live in.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Personal and Online Privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?

Personal and Online Privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?We’ve all heard the insulting, tyrannical cliché about privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?

The comeback, if not that it would fall on deaf ears, should be this: Because I value myself.

The real value of privacy is not because it allows us to hide things, it’s that privacy allows us to develop independently – according to our own natures.

In other words, privacy is an essential tool for personal development.

Privacy is a positive good, not merely a tool for hiding things.

Deconstructing the Cliché

Before we get to the core of this issue, we really should deconstruct this dirty slogan we opened with. Consider the implications of the words if you have nothing to hide:

  • First of all, it is an accusation and an insult, implying that you are engaging in evil.
  • Secondly, it is a threat to turn you in to the authorities.
  • Thirdly, it implies that the entity you are hiding from is supremely righteous and morally superior.

Fundamentally, this slogan is a weapon. It is used to intimidate and confuse you; to force you to bow down to authority; to be as cowardly and compliant as the person using it.

The users of such slogans are angry that you are showing them up in courage. They want you to be in the center of the enforcer’s gun-sites, just like they are.

Now, as to the party that these people think we shouldn’t be hiding from… do they mean governments? If so, they are slandering themselves, since they almost certainly complain about governments endlessly.

The idea that a government is somehow morally superior to us is ridiculous. By any objective standard they are far worse than an average working guy. Pretending that our overlords are righteous is a superstition of the basest kind.

Privacy and Self-Development

Let me start with a quote from a French author whose name escapes me at the moment:

Everything from without informs man that he is nothing. All within tells him that he is everything.

It so happens that one of the better psychologists of our time is a friend of mine. He says that up to half of what we are, we owe to the previous choices we’ve made. (The other factors being heredity and environment.) But, whatever the numbers, choice is the only factor we can do anything about

The truth is that our choices form us. They make us what we are.

What we are next year will be a reflection of the choices we make today. But, choices that are imposed on us from outside – edicts, intimidations, fears, manipulations – work against our healthy development.

People wouldn’t go through the work of imposing choices if those people would make the same choices naturally. Only if you want people to choose against nature do you try to push them in a particular direction.

So, the pre-packaged choices that are thrust upon us daily are not working in our interests, they are working in someone else’s interests. Are we really to think that such choices are best for us?

To develop ourselves healthfully, we must develop ourselves by ourselves, without outside pressures.

The less we are able to choose freely, the less we are really ourselves, and the more we become what other people want us to be.

The positive value of privacy is that it stands between us and manipulative outside forces.

Privacy allows us to grow according to our own natures, not according to the demands of a collective.

Privacy is a tool for becoming what we authentically are.

The Hedge of Anonymity

Anonymity allows us to develop our interactions with the outside world in healthy ways, rather than in manipulated ways.

We have all been intimidated by fear of what others might say. This has stopped us from doing and saying many things, and that wasn’t good for us. Intimidation is clearly an enemy. Anonymity protects us from this enemy by removing any way for consequences to come back to us.

Anonymity allows people to put their ideas into a public square while insulated from shame. So what if some of those thoughts are not good? Once spoken in the public square, they can be tried, analyzed and improved. It is profitable for us that this should occur more, rather than less.

Forget the stories of anonymous people being nasty – those comprise a tiny fraction of the whole and are used for the sake of fear and manipulation. (Humans massively over-respond to fear.)

If You Have Nothing To Hide…

I hide things because I wish to develop in my own way, not in the ways that manipulators wish me to develop. Anyone who says that this is wrong is also telling me that I was born to be a slave.

Only those things that are reliably private are protected from the modern world’s ambient environment of intimidation. It is in those environments that we can develop in our own ways, without obstruction and opposition.

Conditions of privacy or anonymity are almost the only conditions that allow for healthy development.

I think we can all agree that prayer has long been used in personal development. So perhaps Jesus had some of this in mind when he said:

When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.

But if the sloganeers are right, Jesus was a bad man, hiding his evil deeds from morally superior overlords. They would have slapped him with their nasty little slogan, just like they do us:

So, Jesus, why do you need to pray in secret, if you have nothing to hide?

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Credit: This article was inspired by a paper circulating in the darknet called The Treasure of Privacy.

[“Personal and Online Privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?” was originally published on LewRockwell.com]