It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go WTF is going on? And of all times, WTF? is presently a totally legit response.
What do I know, actually?
In his brilliant and uncannily prophetic Netflix show End Times Fun, actor and comedian Marc Maron, wrestling with the confusion and turbulence of our times, asks himself: "What do I know, actually? How much do I really know?" His answer goes like this:
If you think about what you really actually know, it's only a few things, like seven things maybe everybody knows. If you actually made a column of things you're pretty sure you know for sure, and then made another column of how you know those things, most of that column is like: "Some guy told me." You know, it's not sourced material, it's just clickbait and hearsay, that's all. Goes into the head, locks onto a feeling, you're like: "That sounds good. I'm gonna tell other people that." And that's how brand marketing works and also fascism, we're finding.
It seems to me this is pretty much how the majority of people decide to buy stuff, choose to vote, and make other consequential choices about their lives. Can we go deeper than superficial clickbait and hearsay, in order to shape well-informed opinions about complex issues, and take actions accordingly? This is the problem of sensemaking, probably one of the most crucial challenges that will define our civilizational course.
Who can we trust?
We're living in wild times, with growing chaos, unrest, and unprecedented uncertainty. Global existential threats feel more real than ever, and civilization breakdown is causing the collapse of consensus reality and familiar frames of reference—both at the individual and collective levels.
How can we find direction and make sense of all of this? Where can we find good sources of true and reliable information to base our sensemaking upon? Given such a vast endeavor, it's always been legitimate to offload some of the cognitive complexity and proxy our sensemaking to experts and authority figures. Sadly, the unsettling fact nowadays is that we can't easily figure out anymore who we can trust. Those who used to be trustworthy experts and institutions—from journalists to academics to politicians—have often compromised their credibility and authority. The trust has been broken. What is also broken is the whole information ecology, severely polluted with disinformation, propaganda, and all kind of fake news. It's a clusterfuck. Good sensemaking is probably as hard as it's ever been.
Where can we start to orient ourselves? Currently, my sensemaking dojo is Rebel Wisdom. Founded by David Fuller and Alexander Breiner, this media platform was set up with the explicit intention of making sense of the world at a deeper level than the mainstream media. This is a space for conversations grounded in authenticity and earnestness, intellectual bravery, and epistemic humility. Independent thinkers share their ideas with a quality of analysis and nuance that are needed for sincere truth-seeking in the extraordinary times we are going through.
To start poking around the content-rich Rebel Wisdom portal, and see if you resonate with these ideas, here are four entry points:
War on Sensemaking, with Daniel Schmachtenberger
A key realization is that the thing we call "news" is mostly propaganda. We are immersed in ongoing and ubiquitous information and narrative warfare, operating mostly below the threshold of our awareness. How can we sort out good signals and true information from noise and distortions? This is sensemaking 101.
Our Pandemic Psychedelic Trip, with Erik Davis
The ongoing pandemic, acting like a "non-specific amplifier," is inescapably bringing to the surface existing issues in our personal psyche, in society, and culture at large. Framing the pandemic as a collective psychedelic experience (or a "spiritual emergence") can offer insights on how to embrace not-knowing and navigate this space of high weirdness as an initiatory experience.
Can Truth Survive Tech? with Tristan Harris
Social media have a dark side: they hijack our nervous systems making us addicts to our newsfeeds, weaponizing our attention in a dangerous game of social and political polarization. We need to figure out ways to regain our individual sovereignty and critical agency.
In Shadow: Where Artists Fear to Tread, with Lubomir Arsov
The arts have the timeless power to shape culture, allowing us to expand our notion and understanding of reality, even awake and nurture a transcendent impulse. Art can help heal our fractured cultural psyche and offer much-needed hope in times of darkness.
From caterpillar to butterfly?
We are living in a liminal space/time, that is both perilous and ripe with possibility. This is not a time for improvised quick fixes and everything-is-going-to-be-alright empty optimism. We're in the midst of an evolutionary shift that might propel us to our next level as a civilization and as a species. Or, equally possible, the experiment of our global civilization might come to an end. At present, nobody knows.
What we do know is that we need to write a completely new operating manual for Spaceship Earth, and we need to do it fast. And this task—as Buckminster Fuller put it more than 50 years ago—"is predominantly metaphysical, for it is how we get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous social behaviors that will avoid extinction."