Epistemic Status: Having one’s fill
The third circle took place at Luna Labs. After the second circle, the decision was made to bring in a professional. The New York rationalist group, together with several others in the Luna orbit, gathered at quite the swanky little space to form another group of about twenty. This time, one of the most experienced out there would be leading us. She did not lack for confidence.
As an introduction, the rules are again explained and we went around saying what we were reading lately. Speak your personal truth, no speculation, ask if you’re curious, stay in the moment, everything for connection and all that.
We began with a series of paired exercises. We stare into each others’ eyes. We say things we are feeling or sensing, and what we feel the other person is feeling, and what we feel about that and how accurate it was. We share about what our biggest problems are, and how we feel about that.
It illustrates a different mode of thinking, of what to pay attention to. It was interesting, engaging and quite pleasant.
It also demonstrated how easy it is to fool your brain into thinking you’re making a deep connection with someone, that there’s suddenly definitely a thing there, simply by holding eye contact with someone and paying attention to each other. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an actual connection with my partner. I think there was, she’s been to our Friday night dinners before, I like her a lot and I hope we get to be good friends. Despite that, it was obvious the circumstances were tricking my brain’s heuristics in ways I had to keep reminding myself to disregard.
Yet another way for saying the unfiltered thoughts on your mind is tricky, also impossible.
What was odd was that these exercises took up an hour and a half, leaving only half an hour for the actual circle. Seemed disproportionate. We’d come for the thing. Was it so far out of our reach we needed this much prep?
Finally, the main event began, under active facilitation. Everyone was tentative. People expressed things, and reactions, and so on, made good faith efforts. Many said nothing, doubtless feeling awkward, also there were twenty to thirty people. Too many.
On some levels, it was clearly working. It felt like insight was generated about people, their perspectives, how they think, what they felt. I didn’t feel connection with anyone, but did feel like I was getting new data worth processing. As an evening, I’ll take that. That’s not bad.
The most interesting moment was when I realized how it worked. Give people prompts they’re not used to, things that seem meaningful. Have them notice what they haven’t noticed, and get their raw interpretations. The things they’re trying to tell themselves. See what resonates. Explore that. Assume what you feel is truth, figure out what that implies. Believe in thine placebo.
The cold read, the astrological sign, the tarot deck. Done right, without deception.
Thus does the facilitator facilitate. Exude supreme confidence and faith. Push on that which reinforces the narrative.
And believe that the only truth, is your feelings, your reactions. Your truth. There is no The Truth.
These things are useful! Finding a well-designed one, that goes good places, with a minimum of a woo tax, could be excellent. So this cuts both ways.
After I’d had that aha moment above, came another.
Someone had reacted to a reaction by making a point, then collapsing back into their chair with arms somewhat outstretched.
They were asked, why did they take that action? Why that movement?
(Assume it means something. Pick at it. Let associations run.)
The person wasn’t sure. A speculation was offered, that this was body language symbolizing hostility. Or something similar.
That didn’t strike me as true. I offered that to me, it seemed like they had needed to say their peace, then having finished, they relaxed back satisfied, as if to say, ‘and now I’m done.’
Person responds that both explanations sounded true. Which is scary. At most one of them is true! If these both sound true, what else would sound true? How many true-sounding explanations were there? Could one be so easily fooled?
The moderator responded (I don’t remember exact wording, so this may be a paraphrase): Isn’t it wonderful how many true explanations we’re finding?
Or rather, yes it’s quite interesting how many explanations sound true, and it’s wonderful to get new insight like that. But you know they aren’t true, right?
Except, no. I don’t think she does.
So I spoke my truth, as per rules. I noticed that I’d heard a statement that seemed to imply that things that felt true when said, were true, even when they said that which was not. And that this seemed very opposed to the previous speaker’s view, as well as mine.
When you notice a fundamental difference about the nature of truth and reality, and you’re seeking insight, you might want to look over there.
Her response was to say that the thread this suggested ‘didn’t feel like it had the best energy’ so she was going to proceed another way.
Ah. Right then.