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The Scipionic Circle 75: The Future of This Newsletter, Six Mind-Expanding Concepts, and Embracing Challenges
"When you spend your energy trying to maintain the extremes, nothing goes forward. You get stuck in a rut. The more extreme you are, the less forward movement there is."
Welcome to another issue of The Scipionic Circle - I hope you find something of value.
An Update on the Future of This Publication
In Issue 12 of this newsletter, we discussed Hermann Ebbinghaus' Forgetting Curve, which paints a rather grim reality. Within just one day, we forget nearly 70% of the information we've absorbed from a book. Fast-forward a month, and this forgetfulness climbs to 80%. If we're lucky, we retain just 20% of the knowledge initially gained.
The Forgetting Curve brought home a truth I'd been wrestling with for a long time: it's not just about reading a book; it's about what you do afterward. For years, I grappled with a growing pile of book highlights stored on my computer, without a clear path for their practical implementation.
Over time, I've shifted my focus towards maximizing the knowledge I glean from each book, rather than the quantity of books I read. This means I'm diving into fewer books, but aiming to extract as much value as possible. A crucial part of this process involves crafting comprehensive notes that encapsulate each book's key ideas. This isn't merely a summary, but rather explicit elucidations of the core principles, written assertively to reinforce their importance. Now when I close a book, I feel assured that I've mined its transformative insights and wrung every last drop of wisdom from its pages.
I want to share these 'Compendiums,' as I've affectionately dubbed them, with you.
To start, the newsletter you're currently receiving will remain free—forever, with no changes there. However, for those interested in further supporting this publication and accessing the Compendiums, I'm offering a second, premium tier. To be clear, The Scipionic Circle will remain free and available to everyone. This new tier is an addition, providing access to extra content for those who opt-in.
There is a seven-day free trial available, allowing you to access the first Compendium to familiarize yourself with its format. I will upload a new one every Sunday, starting on the 9th of July.
But enough preamble, let's dive into today's issue.
Food for Thought
I. Understanding the Tao: The Balance of Extremes
“First you have to realize that since everything has its yin and yang, everything has its own balance point. It is the harmony of all these balance points, woven together, that forms the Tao. This overall balance maintains its equilibrium as it moves through time and space. Its power is phenomenal. If you want to imagine the power of the Tao, examine how much energy is wasted swinging sideways. Suppose you want to go from point A to point B, but instead of walking there directly, you move from side to side like a sine wave. That would take a long time, and you would waste a lot of energy. In other words, it’s not efficient to oscillate around the path. To be efficient, you must center all of your energies on the path. If you do this, the energies that used to be wasted swinging sideways will get pulled into the center. This concentration of energies is used to accomplish the given task much more efficiently. This is the power of the Tao. When you stop swinging between the opposites you’ll find that you have far more energy than you ever imagined. That which takes somebody else hours will take you minutes. That which wears out other people will draw very little of your energy. That’s the difference between struggling with the opposites versus staying centered in order to get something done.
“Let’s take the example of a chain-smoker. He always has a cigarette in his mouth, and he’s constantly lighting up another. A meaningful percentage of his life is involved in smoking. He’s buying cigarettes, lighting cigarettes, and smoking cigarettes. He’s also very busy trying to find places where he’s allowed to smoke. And since he doesn’t like having to go outside to light up, he’s joining the committees in favor of allowing smoking in public places. Notice how much of his energy is going into smoking. Now imagine that he decides to quit—not a single cigarette anymore. If a year later you ask him what he did last year, he will tell you that he quit smoking. That was his life for the past year. First he tried the chewing gum, but that didn’t really help. Then he tried the patch. When that didn’t work, he moved on to hypnotherapy. Because the pendulum was so far to one extreme with his smoking, it had to swing to the opposite extreme in order for him to stop smoking. Both extremes were a tremendous waste of time, energy, and effort that could have gone into more productive aspects of his life.
“When you spend your energy trying to maintain the extremes, nothing goes forward. You get stuck in a rut. The more extreme you are, the less forward movement there is. You carve a groove and you get stuck in it. Then there’s no energy moving you in the Tao; it’s all being spent serving the extremes. The Way is in the middle because that’s the place where the energies are balanced."— From The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer.
II. Six Mind-Expanding Concepts: A Journey into the Power of Thought and Perception
“Solomon's Paradox: We're better at solving other people's problems than our own, because detachment yields objectivity. But Kross et al. (2014) found viewing oneself in the 3rd person yields the same detachment, so when trying to help yourself, imagine you're helping a friend.”
“Cromwell's Rule: Science is never settled, and certainty is the death of thought. Therefore, unless judging a self-evident statement (e.g. 2+2=4), always leave room for doubt in every assumption. Instead of thinking in certainties, think in probabilities: not ‘that is the case’ but ‘that is likely the case’.”
“Bonhoeffer's Theory of Stupidity: Evil can be guarded against. Stupidity cannot. And the world's few evil people have little power without the help of the world's many stupid people. Therefore, stupidity is a far greater threat than evil.”
“Galloway’s Razor: Research suggests people enjoy possessions less than they expected, and they enjoy experiences more than they expected. In the end, people value what they did much more than what they owned. So choose adventures over luxury items.”
“Epistemic Luck: You know that if you’d lived in a different place or time, read different books, had different friends, you’d have different beliefs. And yet, you’re convinced that your current beliefs are correct. So, are you wrong, or the luckiest person ever?”
“Bat-and-Ball Problem: A bat and ball cost $1.10 total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? If you guessed $0.10, wrong! It’s $0.05. You missed the ‘more than the ball’. When we react instinctively, we react to a simplification of reality.” — From 40 Mind-Expanding Concepts by Gurwinder Bhogal.
III. Embracing Your Thorn: How Problems Can Act as Agents for Personal Growth
"We normally attempt to solve our inner disturbances by protecting ourselves. Real transformation begins when you embrace your problems as agents for growth.
"Imagine that you have a thorn in your arm that directly touches a nerve. When the thorn is touched, it’s very painful. Because it hurts so much, the thorn is a serious problem. It’s difficult to sleep because you roll over on it. It’s hard to get close to people because they might touch it. It makes your daily life very difficult. You can’t even go for a walk in the woods because you might brush the thorn against the branches. This thorn is a constant source of disturbance, and to solve the problem you only have two choices. The first choice is to look at your situation and decide that since it’s so disturbing when things touch the thorn, you need to make sure nothing touches it. The second choice is to decide that since it’s so disturbing when things touch the thorn, you need to take it out. Believe it or not, the effects of the choice you make will determine the course of the rest of your life. This is one of the core-level, structural decisions that lay the foundation for your future.
“Let’s begin with the first choice and explore how it will affect your life. If you decide you have to keep things from touching the thorn, then that becomes the work of a lifetime. If you want to go for a walk in the woods, you’ll have to thin out the branches to make sure you don’t brush against them. Since you often roll over and touch the thorn when you sleep, you’ll have to find a solution for that as well. Perhaps you could design an apparatus that acts as a protective device. If you really put a lot of energy into it and your solution seemed to work, you would think that you had solved your problem. You’d say, ‘I can sleep now. And guess what? I got to go on TV to give a testimonial. Anybody who has the thorn problem can get my protective device, and I even get paid royalties.’ So now you’ve got a whole life built around this thorn, and you’re proud of it. You keep the woods thinned out, and you wear the apparatus to bed at night.
“But now you have a new problem—you fell in love. This is a problem because in your situation, it’s hard to even hug. Nobody can touch you because they might touch the thorn. So you design another kind of device that allows closeness amongst people without actually touching. Eventually you decide you want total mobility without having to worry about the thorn anymore. So you make a full-time device that doesn’t have to be unstrapped at night or changed over for hugging and other daily activities. But it’s heavy. So you put wheels on it, control it with hydraulics, and install collision sensors. It’s actually quite an impressive device. Of course, you had to change the doors in the house so that the protective apparatus could get through. But at least now you can live your life. You can go to work, go to sleep, and get close to people. So you announce to everyone, ‘I have solved my problem. I am a free being. I can go anywhere I want. I can do anything I want. This thorn used to run my life. Now it doesn’t run anything.’
“The truth is, the thorn completely runs your entire life. It affects all your decisions, including where you go, whom you’re comfortable with, and who’s comfortable with you. It determines where you’re allowed to work, what house you can live in, and what kind of bed you can sleep on at night. When it’s all said and done, that thorn is running every aspect of your life. It turns out that the life of protecting yourself from your problem becomes a perfect reflection of the problem itself. You didn’t solve anything. If you don’t solve the root cause of the problem, but instead, attempt to protect yourself from the problem, it ends up running your life. You end up so psychologically fixated on the problem that you can’t see the forest for the trees. You actually feel that because you’ve minimized the pain of the problem, you’ve solved the problem. But it is not solved. All you did was devote your life to avoiding it. It is now the center of your universe. It’s all there is."— From The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer.
Quotes to Ponder
I. Lucius Annaeus Seneca on living life with excellence:
“Life is like a play: it's not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.”
II. Mark Twain on the swiftness of falsehoods:
“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Thank you for reading,