Stretching Your BS Meter
The bullshit meter is important. It keeps us safe.
When some guy walks up to you on the street and asks if you want a swig from his bottle in a paper bag, saying that it’s “totally chill, nothing to worry about”, you do not take a swig, because your bullshit meter goes off. When someone tells you that if you jump off of a particular cliff at exactly midnight, you will have shown your faith in the tundra god and will be granted enlightenment, your bullshit meter goes off. When a “very professional person” tells you that all you need to do to become a millionaire in 6 weeks is to pay them $3000, your bullshit meter goes off.
In these types of sketchy situations, you recognize that what you are being told is almost certainly not grounded in reality and that making decisions based on this new information will likely lead to negative consequences. The bullshit meter is our natural counterbalance to the childlike naivety that allows us to think Santa Claus really does come down our chimney and eat our cookies.
The bullshit meter learns what is and what isn’t bullshit by sorting things, one by one, into either category. Starting on the day you are born, your mind is curiously probing the edges of what it understands as reality. You see a seagull fly, but you do not see pigs fly, you see rabbits run, but you do not see tables run, and thus you begin to understand how the world works.
The problem with the bullshit meter is that as we get older, it becomes a little too locked into how things tend to work, and cuts us off from seeing possibilities that were never there before.
The story that Nassim Taleb’s book “The Black Swan” is named after gets at this idea perfectly. There used to be an old saying to the effect of “that’s as rare as a black swan”, which basically suggested that something was impossible because the people using the phrase were under the impression that black swans did not exist.
Funny enough, this saying took on a new meaning in 1697, when Dutch explorers went to Australia and happened to find actual black swans. Nowadays, when people bring up the idea of black swans, they are referring to an event that could not or cannot be predicted.
Our bullshit meter tells us that certain things simply cannot happen because they never have, despite the fact that humans are consistently proven wrong about what we believe to be possible.
The world we hope to create.
We know that our vision—paradise on Earth—can be alienating. For most people, it’s similar to the idea of a black swan pre-1697. They think it is impossible because there is no reason to believe otherwise. For billions of people, it is easier to think of paradise before the dawn of civilization or after death, when making it happen is out of our control. The idea that paradise is attainable by our own hands, through our own decisions and actions, seems to set off pretty much everyone’s bullshit meters.
Maybe it should. Maybe we are all doomed to live in the shitstorm that is currently happening—the meaningless 9-5, the abject poverty, the climate change, the hate and indifference that seem to run our society. Maybe there is no way out.
Of course, if we believe there is no way out, we are pretty fucking unlikely to find a way out.
One thing we have come to believe through all of the work we have done creating Real Hedonism is this: as long as you think it is impossible to create paradise, you will not act in a way that supports the creation of paradise.
Therefore, the first step to creating paradise on Earth is to convince yourself that it is possible.
The world you hope to create
This process of convincing yourself does not require some grand reality shattering breakthrough. It isn’t about receiving your first universal basic income check, spending the day meditating in the forest after eating some mushrooms or seeing solar energy use surpass fossil fuels. Thankfully, it is much easier.
Convincing yourself that paradise on Earth is possible is all about the process of continually reminding yourself that you were wrong about things you once thought were impossible. It is about remembering that humans have been wrong about our understanding of things for the entire time we have existed. We once thought that the world was flat, that Earth was the center of the universe, that giving women Thalidomide was good for pregnancy (it actually caused infants to be born without limbs), and that cigarettes were good for us.
The point is to ground yourself in the reality that we are wrong all the time about really important things. Ground yourself in the reality that understanding exactly how something could happen is not a prerequisite to it happening. Stretch your bullshit meter enough for paradise to be possible.
We invite you to find ways to consensually step out of the boundaries that society calls reality, and see how it changes your beliefs about what the world can be.
Go to a protest march and see thousands of people in the streets and realize, in your body, that politics aren’t just about gridlocked politicians. Go to the mall with friends and sneak confidence boosting notes into pants pockets (on the shelves, not on people’s bodies y’all), and realize that there can be a little more magic if you are willing to create it. These small things don’t save the world today, and they may not change anyone else’s mind about anything, but little by little, they help you show yourself that the world doesn’t have to be exactly as it is. It could be better.