Re: Extropian Optimism

Ira Brodsky (
Sat, 16 Nov 1996 17:45:26 -0600

Nadi writes:

>I agreed with your post , some form of D.O is included
>in well thought out philosophies (dragging in Carlos
>Casteneda confused me a bit because from what
>I have heard from Casteneda people, there is a
>mysticism and magic, something about hidden doors,
>reality not being real, and energy leaks throughout the
>body- ie: a whole lot of mumbo jumbo that I could
>hardly follow; - )

Hmmm. It's been nearly 20 years since I read Castaneda. It seemed obvious
to me at the time that stuff was not intended to be taken literally. I
guess I'm not that surprised other people took it literally, though.

I think of Carlos Castaneda as industrial-strength est. Unfortunately,
that's what I needed at the time. The message I got wasn't "reality isn't
real" -- it was more like "your perceptions of reality aren't reality."
Nothing mystical about that.

As I recall, the first book was an entertaining but somewhat tedious
description of drug-induced hallucinations. The lesson I derived from that
was very simple: chemicals can change your perceptions. Therefore, don't
always be so certain things are exactly as they appear to you. Your body
produces and regulates its own set of chemicals.

The other thing I remember is the Mexican indian (Don Juan?) teaching
Carlos to learn to control his dreams and even his waking thoughts. With
practice, I learned to see my own hand in my dreams. I also learned to
stop analyzing situations that just required *doing*. The lesson I learned
was that you can acquire what previously seemed like mystical powers, if
only you abandon the belief that reality is exactly as you perceive it.
Actually, I turned this around, and used it to get other people to perceive
*me* differently. Same principle; no mysticism.

>>>Most people miss those opportunities because they err on the side of
>Here I agree with the premise... but...
>The thing I would change: is say, rather than skepticism,
>"err on the side of *pessimism* " OR err by
>"beating one's self up".

Very good point.

>Skepticism and optimism work REALLY well together.
>A good dose of both and one will avoid many pitfalls.

You have just taught an old dog a new trick...

>The true skeptic is open minded. I know that cynics and
>skeptics look much the same, but it is a totally different
>mind set ; )

But cynics often like to masquerade as skeptics.

Oh well, back to real reality. <g>

Ira Brodsky
Datacomm Research Company
Wilmette, Illinois