SOTT FOCUS: Stoicism, Materialism and the Search for Divinity

Confined indoors due to the coronavirus and the lockdowns, I had a lot of time to think, to read and to watch videos on YouTube. I'd like to take you on a little journey, to show you what I found and what I learned, and how I think that all this connects to what is happening in the world today. Covid-19 has sent people into a frenzy. Despite the low mortality, a lot of people fear for their lives. There is a big disconnect between the actual numbers of deaths and the fear of death that this crisis has elicited in people. There seem to be a number of reasons for that. First and most obvious is the relentless pounding of the populace with images of apocalyptic scenarios. Switch on the television, and you will be flooded 24 hours per...

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SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Father Joseph Azize Interview: Gurdjieff’s Legacy and the ‘New Work’

Few scholars and writers in the world today have the experience and in-depth knowledge that Father Joseph Azize has of G.I. Gurdjieff's Fourth Way work. In this new interview with the author of Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation and Exercises, we explore a range of issues : Have students and organizations based on Gurdjieff's work watered down and distorted what the great teacher wrote and instructed? At what point do ideas - in an attempt to make them more "accessible" - lose their power and potency altogether? And by contrast, what does it look like when integrity is maintained? This week on MindMatters we discuss these issues as well as some more of the specially designed exercises Gurdjieff prescribed for his pupils that we began to explore with Fr. Azize in our first interview. Looking specifically at the mystic's "Second Assisting" and...

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The need to belong, not facts, is what draws people to Black Lives Matter

People often think of peer pressure as something teenagers experience. In fact, peer pressure is just as prevalent among adults. It's the reason ideas spread like wildfire. People jump on board with what everyone else is doing or thinking for one simple reason: They want to belong. Have you ever wondered how Adolf Hitler managed to convince so many people to commit evil acts? Or how cult leaders such as Charles Manson or David Koresh could get so many people to do what they told them to do and to believe what they told them to believe? The need to belong is just that fierce and strong, particularly for vulnerable folks who feel lonely or misunderstood. It's happening right now with the Black Lives Matter movement. It's not about the fact that black lives matter, with which no sane person...

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BEST OF THE WEB: Narcissists, psychopaths, and manipulators are more likely to engage in ‘virtuous victim signaling’ – study

New study links virtue signaling to "Dark Triad" traits. Being accused of "virtue signaling" might sound nice to the uninitiated, but spend much time on social media and you know that it's actually an accusation of insincerity. Virtue signalers are, essentially, phonies and showoffs — folks who adopt opinions and postures solely to garner praise and sympathy or whose good deeds are tainted by their need for everyone to see just how good they are. Combined with a culture that says only victimhood confers a right to comment on certain issues, it's a big factor in online pile-ons and one that certainly contributes to social media platforms being such a bummer sometimes. So: Here's some fun new research looking at "the consequences and predictors of emitting signals of victimhood and virtue," published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology....

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How does aging shape our narrative identity?

It's not just our flesh and bones that change as we get older. In 2010, Dan McAdams wrote a biography about George W. Bush analyzing the former American president using the tools of personality psychology. It was, in his own words, a flop. "I probably had three readers," McAdams laughs. But an editor from The Atlantic happened to read it, and asked McAdams to write a similar piece analyzing Donald Trump. It was a hit, attracting 3.5 million readers. "So something good came out of it," McAdams tells me. He used the case in class. And, he explains, he has always been interested in politics anyways. "I'm kind of a political junkie going back into the '60s. That's my autobiographical reasoning." Autobiographical reasoning gets far more sophisticated as you age. By autobiographical reasoning, McAdams means finding and attaching meaning using...

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