The Multiverse

I’ve become an insurance agent. If I had my way, things would be very different. There would be no need for insurance – neither health insurance, nor life insurance. There would be some forms of property insurance, but that wouldn’t involve money. It would involve privilege and rights. It’s a long story. But I don’t mind sharing it. Do you have a moment?

Well, if you are interested in insurance as privilege, click here. That’ll take care of that. But to get to what drives me, I’ve got to start at the beginning. The drift of it all begins with the question of what is wrong with everything.

I’m serious. What is wrong with everything?

We don’t know the small, the large, the young or the old. Could pure reason explain it better?

You might think I’m asking a rhetorical question, but I am serious. And on a metaphysical level, I’m being literal – what is wrong with everything? And …

… what is everything to begin with? The particle physicists can’t even tell you what quarks are made of. The cosmologists don’t know how big or old the Universe is. How can we delve into what is wrong with everything if we don’t know what everything is?

We might also ask why everything is. Why?

As a philosopher, I think the answer to this second question provides the key to the first. The purpose of everything is the maximization of awesomeness. This is not just a catchy phrase. It is the actual reason. If you want to follow my reasoning and see how I came up with this answer, subscribe to Season One of my Podcast. I’m 100% serious.

So that takes care of that.

If you follow those links, you’ll see that I’ve covered a lot of ground I won’t have to repeat here. Let’s start with that context. Assume for a minute I’m right. If so, then the why question leads us to other big questions. Is what concerns us on a daily basis fufilling our purpose? If we are here to maximize awesomeness, then how? If your life is just, “blah” and “getting by” then does it concern you at all that you may have been missing out on something wonderful? Why is your answer not the maximization of your awesomeness?!

What if everything was very different? Imagine, for instance, if we had always lived in an incentivized asynalogonomy, rather than in the constant tension between capitalist and socialist dystopias. (Click here if you don’t know what that means).

There are better ways to deal with economic problems than plagues and wars. Just sayin’

If only more people knew about the HAND System. (Refer to the above link if you don’t know what the HAND System is). I believe that in the Multiverse, there are many Universes that incorporate the HAND System. I believe there are a vast number of worlds that aren’t nearly this dysfuntional. I’m presently in the insurance business because this world doesn’t know anything about the HAND System. They don’t know that it would fix this world much better than insurance ever could. People don’t know. So I have to settle for the insurance business.

I know that all sounds strange. I’m a little geeky, I know, but I’m not so other-worldly. In fact, I’m perfectly normal and safe to be around – just a little different than what you’re used to. And I can be practical. I may not be of this world, but I live as though I’m really in it. My philosophy holds that this world is at least partially real, even if it seems to be falling apart. Belief in the Multiverse as a product of Maximized Awesomeness does not make a person so other-worldly that they can be no earthly good. I see it as my mission to make this world a little less bad for people, if I can.

Other worldly leadership?

The Ghost Machine was another example of an attempt I made to maximize the good, as I knew how, given what I knew and thought I might be able. As with all of my business ventures, I started with the belief that it wouldn’t necessarily take money to make money. I still haven’t given up on that thought but I’m reminded daily of how pollyannic the concept is. I so much wanted that to be true. I had very little money. If I wanted to be in business for myslef, it would have to be true.

My father hadn’t wanted me to go into business for myself. He knew I wanted to have a positive impact in this world, one that required some entrepreneurial courage, but he wanted me to keep the good government job I had. He said that all the people he knew who’d gone into business for themselves had sacrificed a life without worry. Taking risks could rob a person of their time and of their health. He tried to spare me. He meant well. And I know he was right.

Dad spoke from his personal pain. He had lived in a very different world. It started well enough. He had inherited a fortune from his own father. He started out with a great career in textiles his Dad, my Pop Pop, Charles Carvin, Sr. had taught him. Dad became a marketing man in the textile industry. Even before his Allied Chemical days, he was doing commercials for Chemstrand. If you followed the Netflix series Madmen, you may have caught some of the flavor of my father. He had a trophy wife in Rye. He took the same train from Mamaroneck to Grand Central Station and back every day. “Draper” was even the name of one of his peer VPs at Allied.

One of Dad’s Chemstrand Commercials – images of home

I hope you enjoyed that video. Please watch it. See what I mean by “flavor”? And if you are really astute, you may have found the word, “Cumuloft” familiar too. Well, I should tell you that I was no more than one or two years old when the above commercial was made. Dad’s move to Allied’s Caprolan from Chemstrand was in 1962 and there was no more talk of any Cumuloft after that, if there ever was any in my presence. Assuming it wasn’t just a coincidence, somehow the term “Cumuloft” appears to have managed to stick in my young brain for forty years or so before I incorporated it into the Ghost Machine. The Cumuloft was the Ghost Machine’s “cloud” security storage system. Then one day, I decided to check to see if “Cumuloft” was a word I could trademark. The Internet didn’t show me anything at the turn of the Millennium, as I was developing the Ghost Machine’s blue prints. I only encountered my own father’s commercial, well after that search. I wonder what else is stored in my head without my knowledge. I don’t think we found this video until about 2016. Development of the mobile app started in 2011.

But I digress. Thinking about Dad can make my mind wander. I was talking to you about the insurance business. Specifically, I was thinking about how a person like me, who’s head is happier in the clouds, could possibly take interest in solving the problems inherant in dystopian economic systems. Insurance is a help. I was telling you it was the best I could do. At least it helps some people in this world. I’m sure there are many Universes much like this one where it comes in handy.

And I was telling you about the Ghost Machine. Like the insurance business, it would have put a bandaid on socio-capitalism. The idea was to create a fun way for people to make money. This world can be a very dull and even cruel place. Why isn’t earning a living easy and fun? It’s such a shame I was unable to raise the cash needed to build the Ghost Machine. The world would be a very different place right now if I had succeeded.

Use the ghost machine's finder to plan your ghost hunting all day long every day so you can earn Ghost Bucks!
The Ghost Machine App
Pokemon Go meets Bitcoin

with some ghostly edutainment

At least in the insurance business I don’t have to start from scratch. There’s already billions and even trillions of dollars in this business. Getting my personal brokerage started has taken time, more than money. I was able to survive on rideshare earnings while getting my first few sales. It didn’t take hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But you deserve a little more back story.

Dad lost his fortune. My mom, who outlived him by decades, lived a miserly life after he passed. And she was spared the difficult ending to her life that my sister and brother had. She was in great health clear up to the age of ninety. Then she had a heart attack. She never had to pay for assisted living, much less a nursing facility.

Contrast that with my sister, Corinne. She had a stroke ten years before she died. The majority of her remaining years were spent on a feeding tube in a nursing home. Her husband abandoned her. Her four remaining brothers deliberated over her care. One wanted to put her on palitative care and another thought she wouldn’t want that and the right thing to do was to bring her to a new nursing home in Tallahassee. He prevailed. And that is why we moved here – to watch over her before she died.

My wife, six years my younger, also had had a stroke the year before my sister, six years my elder. She was only thirty eight. She’d been in perfect health until it happened in 2004 but she’s been paralyzed in her left side ever since. It shows me that bad things can happen to anyone at any time. Jeanne Calment, who according to the Guiness Book of World Records is the oldest documented woman to ever live, was a smoker. Lisa never smoked, drank or took drugs and she worked out regularly. Bad things happen to good people. It doesn’t matter how rare it is. It happens. And that is why we have insurance.

We still managed to have some good times after Lisa's stroke even when we had no money. Hardship is bad. God is better.
We still had some good times after Lisa’s stroke even when we had no money. Hardship is bad. But you can work through it.

With that picture, it may make better sense why an inventive philosopher would wind up in the insurance business. It positions me to help people deal with the hard realities that exist when bad health, or death, comes at an unexpected time. We can deal with problems before they happen. I can’t prevent an occult arterio-veinous malformation, like Lisa’s, from bursting. But I can make it easier for families to deal with the financial issues that ensue if and when such a thing happens.

And it wasn’t just Lisa, or my sister Corinne. Do you know what was really eye-opening to me? It was visiting Corinne in that nursing home. Nursing homes are places filled with people suffering. I wish more people knew. Maybe they would visit them. There is so much loneliness there.

And they need care. They shouldn’t go without much needed care. Caregiving takes money.

I don’t mean family caregivers. Lord knows I’ve never been paid for family caregiving and few have. Maybe we all should have been and maybe there are even some insurance plans, ones that I can even write for, that actually cover that to some extent. If anyone would know about those plans, I would. But what I mainly mean is professional nurses, doctors, medications and treatments. It all has to be paid for.

So, I’ve decided that the best way for me to maximize my personal awesomeness, is to learn all I can about health insurance for young and old. And life insurance too. When I was young, I had my days of fun and adventure. I have no shortage of stories to tell. But I continue to ask how I can do the most good for the most people – not just myself – before I die. I continue to focus the answer on the areas I would be most capable of. I still have a few brain cells left. Let me see what I can dig up for you. You have not because you ask not.

Curriculum Vitae

I haven’t updated my resumé much because I haven’t planned on applying for work anywhere for a few decades. I’m drawing Social Security now. I don’t plan to retire until I’m a centenarian though. I’m still as much of an entrepreneur “wannabe” as ever and I come with a background that deserves some explanation. So, I’ll offer a curriculum vitae, blended in with some explanatory detail, to help you make sense of it.

Before I start, I don’t want it to look like I’m too good to work a regular day job. I actually love hard work. The last three jobs I had were for trucking companies. I took a two year hiatus from obligations at home after my sister and brother died, and saw the country for the first time – from an eighteen wheeler. I got caught up on my bills at that time and had a good cry. I’ve had many jobs throughout my lifetime.

James Carvin
James Carvin, over 25,000 five star rides.

You may know that my wife, Lisa, stayed home while I was trucking. Thirteen years into our thirty plus years of marriage, she had a stroke that left her paralyzed in her left side. As her caregiver through the years, it wasn’t easy leaving home six weeks at a time, but my business plans weren’t working out and Uber and Lyft were wearing out my vehicles. I’d been seeking funding to get some apps I’d designed built -Vois Technologies. I was unable to pay the developers without funds. I was unable to obtain funds without developers. Click here to see the many Vois projects I have in store down the road.

I’ve pivoted a lot in my life. The “Ghost Machine” is an example of one of the projects I worked to get off the ground. Those were the years from 1998 through 2013. In the case of the Ghost Machine, I had some of my own money to begin it with at the turn of the Millennium, and again by 2013 but again, the project was never funded – not by any third party. Just me. And that wasn’t enough. Click here to read about the decades I spent working on the Ghost Machine and learn what it was.

As much as I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur all my days, I’ve had a few strikes against me. My education was in the wrong field. I didn’t have money. I didn’t have a team of helpers. I learned things the hard way, mostly as an adult. I had advantages when I was very young. My father was a wealthy business man. I was white. I was a man. I had privileges. My father encouraged me to be a musician and I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a music composition degree in 1980. That was right when he started to lose his money.

If Dad had lived longer and not gone bankrupt, he would have likely invested in my music studio. I wouldn’t have had to pay for and operate it by myself. I worked in banking a few years and then took a job at the Postal Service and invested in music and recording equipment with what I could save or get on credit. Dad encouraged me to become a Catholic priest. I enrolled at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary 1982-1986. He wanted me to write some beautiful new church music. I was up for that. But I had no orchestra to play it and no venue to earn from it, nor did the thought occur to me to profit from religion. So I led worship in some churches and groups for a while and that was about it. No major recordings ever came from my little back door studio, called Wisdom Studios. I thought maybe when I finally did retire, I could put some time into music again. I set my mind on retirement at a very young age for that reason.

I was serious about religion, enough to forge my own path. My mother wanted me to be Presbyterian, like her. My dad wanted me to be Catholic, like him. A girlfriend I had wanted me to be Hindu, like her. I read a lot about each. I learned to meditate, and then I learned to pray the Catholic way. And when I met another gal I liked, she taught me to be charismatic, like her. Then when I finally did get married in 1990, my wife wanted me to be Pentecostal, like her. I just kept reading, and wherever people seemed to be right, I grew. From 1991-1995 I completed my Masters degree at St. Michael Academy of Eschatology. Their accreditation was with something like the Kentucky School of Accreditation. It was an Orthodox Seminary in a controversial jurisdiction, led by a controversial bishop. Not many people have Masters degrees in eschatology, for whatever that’s worth. Neither do they have mission letters from bishops commanding them to preach the message of Elijah to Protestants.

How did that happen? I was very open-minded about Biblical interpretation. I asked questions and rarely condemned the other side in any setting. Perhaps I seemed too Protestant for my Orthodox bishop to consider me for a mission within Orthodoxy. If I had supported one institutional view or another, I might be able to use that degree to get a regular job. I was open to Biblical criticism. I was the kind of person that might give Bart Erhman and the documentary hypothesis a chance. The only place something like that would serve is in liberal academia. I also loved and taught first through third century Christian history as an adjunct professor at the seminary.

Whatever, the right interpretation of the Bible may be, or of other Scriptures, I had developed through the years a different approach to theology, which I came to call “Pamalogy.” Pamalogy is more of a philosophical system than a religion. It is based on logic, rather than text or tradition. Pamalogy is not to be confused with “Palmology” – which is the reading of palms. It has nothing to do with that. Pamalogy is the philosophy of awesomeness, or “awesomeology.” What would it mean to maximize awesomeness?

This is not a treatise on Pamalogy. I’ll simply say here that there are two sides to that question. On the one hand, it means doing the best we can with what we know we have. For instance, it would be good to have a world full of art, free of suffering, made sustainable for abundance, enjoyable, full of love, respect and justice and so on. On the other hand, it means something beyond what we do. It is the best of all possibilities. That type of maximized awesomeness is a God-sized aweseomeness. It is divine perfection. For perfection in the divine sense to be real, no good possibility can be lacking. No bad possibility can be part of it. It requires as many Universes as that takes – a multiverse. Nothing in reality adds to maximized awesomeness that maximized awesomeness does not possess of itself already. God contains a Multiverse.

James Carvin wearing a Pamalogy top hat surrounded by lanterns and moonlight.
James Carvin wearing a Pamalogist’s Thinking Cap

An astronomy is a Universe. A “Poly Astronomy” is a Multiverse. Pamalogy is short for “Poly Astronomically Maximized Awesomeology.” For awesomeness to be maximized in divine perfection, it has to be poly astronomical. Otherwise, every good possibility will not exist within it. Note that I did not say astrological. I said astronomical. Pamalogy is not astrology. Pamalogy is not palm reading. Neither one. It is the philosophy of awesomeness. It believes that for awesomeness to be maximized, in the divine sense, it has to be poly astronomical. Pamalogy is poly astronomically maximized awesomeology.

There are a lot of people who think that perfection is possible without a Multiverse. A Pamalogist thinks a Multiverse is a necessary truth, though a multi-dimensional Universe might amount to the same thing. I won’t explain what logic brings us to that conclusion right here. Suffice it to say for now that given the fact that I had developed a philosophical system, I put some thought into what I should do about it. To be realistic, who cares about philosophy nowadays? I risk losing a reader’s attention just telling you about it.

But there was something I discovered. I found Poly Astronomically Maximized Awesomeness to be much more than a thought exercise. It was a source of encouragement to live by and dwell on. It oriented my worship. It helped me confront my challenges. It helped me cope when considering loss. It gave me a sense of what I was and why I was here. And finally, after thinking on it at great length, it gave me a vision for the Pamalogy Society.

I have to keep this brief. The two sides of what it means to maximize awesomeness I call the metaphysical and the axiological. People tend to be set in their ways when it comes to metaphysics. They have their religion. They don’t care to hear the opinions of others. Maybe a few do. That’s all. That’s why providing details about Pamalogy as theology is a low priority. For now, my focus is on the axiological side. “Axiology” is the philosophy of what is worth doing or having. “Axios” is the Greek word for “worthy.” Philosophers break axiology down into ethics (what is right or wrong) and aesthetics (what is beautiful).

To maximize awesomeness in the sphere of axiology is to seek to maximize beauty and goodness in the world. How would anyone go about that? Well, I don’t know how you would answer that question, but I can tell you a bit more about my own journey and what I want to do in founding the Pamalogy Society but before I do, I need to take a step back.

In 1981, I took a job as a Savings Counselor at a savings bank. Musicians were supposed to be good at math and I was. But it was precisely because I was good at math, and because I was a creative person, that instead of appreciating the bank, I quickly realized it epitomized a certain inefficiency we have in our present economic system. We spend a great deal of time exchanging pieces of paper and altering balances in accounts, but none of that work at counting what we have and moving our accounts from place to place or instrument to instrument produces any direct value. It creates no music. It produces no album. You can’t eat it. You can’t drive it. You can’t wear it. It doesn’t give you a massage. It doesn’t build a house you can sleep in. It doesn’t deliver your groceries. All those things, including being served a quick burger and fries, would be direct products or services. Nothing at the bank is that.

Now you may be saying that the widgets and services you can buy with your money are a good thing to have more of, and that is true. If you can increase your money, then you can buy more of that stuff. But the money itself is not a direct value. There were ten people working at the branch office of the bank I spent forty hours a week working in. Combined, that was 400 hours of human work wasted every week, not creating any direct service or product. I then took an inventory of various types of businesses, counted their employees, separated types of jobs that did produce direct products or services from those that don’t, and estimated that less than 30% of workers in America directly produce any actual goods or services.

Well, this was interesting. My father was not only Catholic, he was a Ronald Reagan supporting conservative. He and I had some differences of opinion about all of this. I estimated that if there was no such thing called money, or anything else to exchange, if we simply gave our time to producing goods and services directly, we could increase our productivity by 230%. We could give everything away to whomever had need for free. We also wouldn’t have to worry about the federal deficit, because there would be no such thing as money. And we wouldn’t need banks. We could just cancel all debts.

Dad equated my idea with Communism. Dad’s world was very different than mine. The cold war was still going strong. Soviet expansionism seemed like a real threat. Dreams of a society without any form of currency or exchange always turned into tragedy. Property owners were violently overthrown. Socialist countries never enjoyed abundance.

Dad supported Ronald Reagan in 1976 and was instrumental in raising funds from Palm Beachers in 1980.
My father supporting Ronald Reagan in 1980.

I was never a Marxist. Apparently, Marx looked forward to the end of belief in God. Apparently, Russian and Chinese Communists thought that belief in God was a form of insanity. Marx had ruined my idea with a philosophy of revolution that called on the working class to hate the owner class. I couldn’t see, at that time, how we could peacefully transition to a money-free society the way the Soviets and their proteges were doing it. Dad also made the point that people need incentives to work, or they won’t. I wondered whether that might be offset by the 230% increase in productivity that would result, but the deal-breaker for me was the violence of Communist revolution. I wanted no part in it.

Then there was the bureaucracy. How do you determine what the people need? And the paper. We didn’t have computers to manage this back then. How would we manage it? Those were the days before the Internet. But when the Internet did come around, another idea formed in my head. It solved all of these problems. I called it the Human Availability and Needs Database System (HANDS).

Flow Chart for Privilege Building
How to build privilege with the HAND System in order to obtain property, goods and services. There is an elaborate system of checks and balances assuring a flourishing system.

The HANDS community members would join a web site. Then they would vote on what types of jobs that produce direct goods and services. Their vote would determine what was the most vital and in demand. They would just tell the system what they needed and what jobs they were capable of doing. The incentive to work at jobs that were in high demand would come from the desire for privileges – comparative luxuries. The members would consider types of products and services that might be considered luxuries and vote on what level of privilege should be required to have access to them. For instance, it would be a luxury to live in a rare property on the ocean. It would be a luxury to have three cars for a family of two. It would be a luxury to go to a fine restaurant every night. Luxuries are scaled from 1-100 by voters this way. Things that were hard to produce or limited in quantity, would be obtainable only to those who did work that was vital and in high demand. Together, the HANDS community would decide upon and create a many tiered system of privileges that could be earned by choosing specific types of work that produced direct goods or services. It might be considered an equal opportunity multi-class system.

It would all remain theoretical until the day came that there were enough members in the community to support an actual resource-based economy, where they could contribute their own means of production and resources and then they would sign an agreement of commitment to launch it on a certain date. The computer network and algorithms would eliminate the bureaucracy. Rights and privileges would be earned as determined by the people. Money would no longer be an object of stress for the many in lack. Resources would be managed sustainably.

Okay. So, who cares? Why, in sketching a Curriculum Vitae, am I telling you all this? Well, I think it is important for people who might consider doing business with me to know who I am. I might hold some conservative views but I’m not a libertarian. Just as my religious perspectives are unique to me, so are my economic and political ideas. Ready for the next item on my resumé? I ran for president of the United States in 2016 as a write-in candidate.

VisionaryPartyLogo
The Restoration Party Mascot

I didn’t get on the ballot, so none of the votes for me were officially counted, but I wasn’t trying to win. I was trying to bring attention to the Manifesto I wrote for a new political party, the Restoration Party, and I achieved that objective. I was featured in the Tallahassee Democrat as the Uber driver running for POTUS. I estimate I got about 200 votes from people fed up with the Democrat and Republican parties both getting us into endless wars, not getting the budget under control, and not dealing with a very dirty bureaucracy that was serving itself, and not we, the people. Donald Trump seems to have agreed with many of my ideas about political corruption and media corruption. He took a ride on the same massive populist movement that I sensed existed, but obviously, he is no supporter of a money-free economic system, like me. He might call that socialism.

Subsequently, a lot happened. Trump was accused of having ties to Russia. He was accused of being a racist. His supporters were accused of being white supremacists. These were interesting accusations. I noticed how politically charged the news had become. It was very emotional. People weren’t being reasonable. BLM and Antifa rose up. Fact-checkers started telling us what to think on Facebook. Twitter, YouTube and Google suppressed opinion that they opposed, claiming it was for public safety. Finally, Trump supporters insisted that the 2020 election was stolen while predictable media outlets insisted there was absolutely no truth to those kinds of allegations, culminating in the events of January 6th, 2021.

I began by asking about maximizing awesomeness. In the real world, we are dealing with a sick political system, one that needs to be repaired. If we are going to suppress news because it doesn’t square with fact-checks, what have we done to fact-check the fact-checkers to be sure that the fact-check organizations are not merely serving political agendas? What is to stop the Poynter Institute from corruption and government influence? Many of the fact-checks concern elections. If a majority of the American population has lost faith in the news, in fact-checking, and in electronic voting systems, then I am likely to see the very type of violence in the 2020s that I wanted to avoid in the 1980s. Violence is not awesome. The restoration of truth and trust – that would be awesome. A restoration to better journalism – that would be awesome.

For this reason, I think the first endeavor the Pamalogy Society should support is a fair way to fact-check, fact-checks. I’ve invented a platform for this called the CounterChecker and I’m seeking funding for it at this time. But to avoid the old problem of not having funds to develop my invention, this time I’m taking a different approach. This time, I will seek grants and donations from individuals, corporations and foundations to the Pamalogy Society for the development of the CounterChecker, as an incubator. The Pamalogy Society will continue to raise funds for worthy projects and its first target is the world of journalism.

Diagram of HAND System
The CounterChecker will serve as a plugin widget for numerous News Sources

There’s some method to all of this in terms of the maximization of awesomeness. Better journalism means the creation of platforms of communication for the Pamalogy Society itself as a founding sponsor. Founder level privileges on media platforms will serve to help future projects that the Pamalogy Society supports. I believe this method of raising funds and creating platforms of communication will be a good mix. I expect the Pamalogy Society to have its 501(c)(3) status very soon.

I am doing this while finishing up yet another degree. I’ve been attending Arizona State University and should have my degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with concentrations in Organizational Leadership and Philosophy by December 2022, at the current pace. Last semester, I had my professor review the business plan I’d written for the CounterChecker for a directed study course for credit. I would love to Zoom with interested parties as I begin this endeavor, to share what I’m having the developers create. I’m looking for a diverse board of directors. I don’t want political agreement on the board.

Personally, some think I’m far to the left. Others think, because I’ve defended Donald Trump on some issues, that I’m far to the right. My personal political perspectives are as wide as the ocean, but that is irrelevant.

One of the unique features of the CounterChecker is that it will depend on disagreement to make it work. I may have had disagreements with my father growing up, but much of what he said was highly valuable to me and stays with me to this day. We need to surround ourselves with people who have very different views than our own. The CounterChecker itself works by posing ideologically different teams against one another. There’s no better critic than someone who is literally debating you. These will be deliberately oppositional teams of about ten to twelve countercheckers each – one team on the left and another on the right – fact-checking one another’s fact-checks and counter-checks. It will achieve a level of depth and comprehensiveness that fact-checking does not currently provide. It will restore trust in fact-checking as a whole through its thoroughly dialectical approach. I consider it vital to fixing a presently very broken system.

Systemic Cause

Mutual Angelification

Solutions Mentality

If you have read Eden Road, then you know that I have always been a problem solver. This is an all too rare trait. The majority complain when they see problems. I might complain a little, but I don’t feel right about complaining without offering specific solutions. Maybe there is some merit to the “somebody do something” type of complaint. But for me, I have a long list of solutions that I’m working on already, so I know my own time is best spent not complaining about yet more problems, but on working on one or more of the solutions I’ve come up with. Does that not apply to you? Maybe it should. As a rule, I would like to execute each of my solutions but have only one lifetime, so I have to carefully choose which problems I try to solve.

One problem that has increasingly challenged me, is how to repair friendships that have been damaged over emotionally charged political issues in the age of social network communication. I have grave differences of opinion with many of the people that I love, even my own children and my wife. I’ve finally figured out a way to solve this problem so I think it is worth offering up a blog post about it, and then to ask you to share it, maybe put some advertising dollars under it. This is not a political post. It is a way to get your friends back, and maybe family members too. It will be worth your time to read it and theirs.

Stage One: Mutual Angelification

I will present this solution as a process tree. The first step is the practice of de-demonization. The opposite of a bad witch is a good witch. The opposite of a demon is an angel – a holy one. Now nobody is perfect, but we can all practice something simple – looking for the good in other people. And that would be a great daily practice, but that isn’t what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about here is emotionally charged political issues that are dividing people. What I will call “Mutual Angelification” is to de-demonize any person you see specifically when you realize that they disagree with your solution to the world’s problems, or if you believe somehow that they don’t care about your cause. I am going to use the history of the Black Lives Matter experience and reactions to the murder of #GeorgeFloyd here as an example of how this works.

Let’s break up Mutual Angelification into three steps – Reflect, Mirror and Enter.

Step one in Mutual Angelification is to reflect. Picture someone in your mind that you have been very angry with because of a political issue, who disagrees with you. Now picture a world in which that same person agrees with you and works side by side with you to solve this problem the way that you think it should be solved. This is the first step in Mutual Angelification. You must be able to recapture some image in your mind in which that person is your friend again. Reflection brings hope of restoration. Picture them smiling in your mind with you. If you don’t take this step, you can’t complete this exercise. You need to give them a chance. So start with imagining them on your side of the issue. You would actually be very proud of them that way. Right? Now, truth is, that this issue is so important to you that you’ve been willing to give up your friendship with them. You’ve made a choice, maybe in a heated moment and it was a choice you regret. If only you could have kept your mouth shut, you think to yourself, but inwardly, that wouldn’t be fair. Expressing your opinion was important. You were not bad for losing your friend. You were justified because of the cause. Right? So sad, but it is part of the price you pay. It’s that important.

Step two in Mutual Angelification is to mirror. Notice I haven’t brought up any actual issues so far, other than to reference BLM. What I’ve said applies perfectly to both sides for those friends lost who either won’t support or do support BLM. So next, imagine how that friend feels about your lost relationship. You can’t imagine supporting their cause, but you know that you are not a demon any more than they are. Allow yourself to pretend for a moment, that they are actually just like you. The real demons in this world are those who create or maintain problems that divide people without any solutions. Wouldn’t you say? You imagine that they are creating or maintaining a problem, so you have demonized them, but if you care about restoring a friendship, you will have to allow yourself to picture them as just as regretful as you are about that nasty conversation you had with them before you blocked them from your feed. To mirror, is to realize that we have a lot in common as human beings. People are both bad and good inside. They are. You are. Picture their regret at the loss of your friendship. Picture them saying they are sorry. Picture yourself saying you are sorry. Look through that two-way mirror. That mirror allows you to love them again. Then when they look in that same mirror, they have allowed themselves to love you again too, and feel the same sorrow at the loss of your friendship, wishing they could have it back. To mirror is to realize that you have some seriously important traits in common. You want them to respect you. They want the same. Nobody likes losing friends or family. Don’t wait for their apology. Just imagine them being like you, caring about your friendship and having regrets. Apologies can come later. Can you believe they hurt for your lost relationship? Of course, you can!

Step Three in Mutual Angelification is to enter. Enter into a world that is different than your own. This will require active listening and it’s the hardest step because very few of us have the patience to practice it. The result of it is respectful and genuine understanding and mutual appreciation. It may not change your opinion about how to end systemic abuse but it will heal a torn relationship with a friend, child, parent, cousin, aunt, uncle, in-law, co-worker, etc., assuming this matters to you and would be worth the effort. Understand in this that I am not talking about entering into lengthy dialog with every one of these people. I am talking about seeking to better understand their perspective on the issue that divided you. I’ll explain below as breaking down active listening is the next block in this process tree. If we take something like BLM, which had the purpose of bringing attention to the need for real healing between people and the end of the systemic causes and what maintains the system needing change, then let me bring attention to this one critical part of the system – the fact that we need to change certain bad habits, particularly our failure to actively listen. The choice is clear. Let it be a shouting match, or start listening and being friends again through mutual respect. Your friends are not demons. They are angels, or they could be. You can help them become angels. This really is not impossible. I’m about to show you how.

Stage Two: Leadership Listening

It’s always easy to talk about listening. Doing it – not so much. We try the same old way and get the same old results all the time, so obviously, we need to try something different. So I came up with a new type of listening that I call “leadership listening.”

Leadership listening has several components. My analysis of great leaders, which I have learned through my courses in organizational leadership and integrative studies, helped me clarify these components. I’ll call them “components” rather than “steps” because there is a bit of a dance in this part of the process tree. And what you want to do is build up each component, like you would filling up your fuel tank.

The first component in the Leadership Listening stage is to assess. Assess first the value of your relationship itself. How much do you care about the person you’ve lost? A lot. Right? Sometimes you may feel ready to give up. Sometimes you may feel the issue is more important than the person. Assess this. What do you really want? Both your relationship and the issue are important. By assessing the value of your loved one, isolated from your assessment of the importance of the issue, you will conclude that both are equally valuable to you – not one or the other. And while there may be voices that tell you to get rid of the toxicity and negativity from your life, this person may not have to be toxic to you. In fact, they may be part of an intellectual and emotional growth spurt for you as you mature, if you learn and practice Leadership Listening. So give this a try. Assessment also involves your assessment of the nature of the problem itself. You need to enter into an information gathering stage before you can fully assess the area of disagreement you have. This second part of assessment may be the most difficult part for you because it will ask you to add some nuance to your strong position. You won’t have to change sides but you will have to gain a little wisdom. Are you up for that?

The second component in Leadership Listening is to dance. When I say “dance,” I mean pay attention to your partner. Lead and follow. Wait. Don’t step on toes. Sometimes in dancing, we have to back off and wait. Rhythm matters and it’s a two person dance. So what am I talking about? Leaders listen patiently. When your loved one fails to participate in listening, you go first. You lead. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that since they’re not listening you that you shouldn’t be expected to either. They won’t start listening until you show them how. Show them how to listen. That is what leaders do. Lead by example. It may take them months to follow, but if you value them, you need to lead for months if necessary. Lead the dance. There are two major pluses about this component. First, you don’t have to have all the answers to do it. So anybody can dance. You’re just listening and maybe learning something new. Second, it is the fastest path to restoring your relationship. Listening fosters respect. It doesn’t happen immediately. There may be grudges, resentments, unforgiveness, strong feelings on their side getting in the way. Be patient with your dance partner. Give it as much time as it takes – even years. Leadership Listening is unconditional. There is only one way it works. It’s you doing your part and not stopping. The dance does not stop. Go with it.

The third component in Leadership Listening is to repeat. You may already be familiar with this component. A person knows you are listening if you repeat back to them what they’ve said in your own words, asking if that is correct. Now if you still disagree with them after repeating back to them everything that they’ve said, clarifying their meaning along the way, what will that do to them? It will make them curious about why you still disagree. You might ask them whether there is more? In the case of BLM, a supporter might offer numerous examples of racist activity and discrimination by police and in work places, in stores and talk about arrests that were unfair and unnecessarily violent. That list of examples may be endless. Absorb it all. You are listening. Keep leading by asking more and more and repeating as much as you can so that your understanding includes everything they have to say. Can this do anything but make them feel understood, valued and respected? Won’t they appreciate that you genuinely care? You are regaining your friendship and your respect. Your genuine inquiry will disarm them – if it is genuine. Make it so. This is important. Even so, you totally do not have to agree with their position in doing this. Just listen – actively, clarifying and rewording what they’ve said, showing them you care about what they see. You are by their side. You are not in their face attempting to change their mind. It is not your goal to control. It is your goal to learn. Repeating what they say in your own words so they know you’ve listened, helps you learn, and restores faith.

The fourth component in Leadership Listening is to fragment. You want to break down the problem into small parts before working on the whole problem. They say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I”m a vegetarian and an animal lover so I hate this metaphor, but the point is that huge problems can be tackled if they are dealt with in tiny portions rather than as overwhelming wholes. I include this as a component of active listening and Leadership Listening because leaders don’t just complain about problems. They seek to solve them. And when you fragment, four things happen. First, you demonstrate your interest in the problem in minute detail. Second, you sort the problem out so that you can start to solve it. Third, your friend is likely to pick up on this fact, realize you genuinely care, and be happy to help you. And here I think you will find that because you are listening, they are likely to start listening too. Don’t hold your breath, but they may even join you in a solution that you come up with together to solve the problem. Don’t be disappointed if that doesn’t happen. Then fourth, by fragmenting, you ask even more questions. Fragmenting actually helps you as you clarify all that is being said. It is an extension of the third component. Fragmentation ultimately prepares you for stage three – problem solving.

Stage Three: Explore Solutions

You are likely to gain respect from your loved one if you seek to solve the problem rather than complain about it. In this stage, it will not be your objective to gain their respect, however. It will be to actually explore solutions to the problem. This may involve research. I’ll reduce this into three more steps – add perspectives, compare solutions and multiply wins. View these steps as part of a dance, where you will step forward and backward as needed. You will repeat them until the tune ends beautifully so long as you make the commitment to the process. Are you ready Leadership Listeners? – a one – a two – a three …

Step One in how you Explore Solutions is to add perspectives. One of the first things I learned in interdisciplinary studies was something called “perspective taking.” A problem solver would go to experts in separate fields to find out what their take was on a problem and ultimately, think of something that would take every possible perspective into consideration. The division over BLM should serve very nicely as an example here. So I’ll give examples of what I mean by “disciplines.”It isn’t just a branch of knowledge, like math or biology, though it could be. It could be anything. So for instance, there is the overall urban and ethnic education. It notes crime against citizens and has been a primary driver in the angst that has expressed itself in the form of the modern BLM movement. Urban education (street smarts) could be viewed as a discipline. It is a general framework of understanding that a large body of participants tends to embrace. A “discipline” in this broad sense excepts certain matters as axiomatic truth. It takes on a certain worldview. A person who then enters the police academy will encounter a very different world and worldview. Here, the chief concern is public safety, but there may be more to the system than that. Are superior officers rewarding their squads based on the number of arrests they make? Maybe that’s the problem. You are looking for systemic issues that might cause the inordinately high number of arrests and harassments of people of color. If the answer is “yes,” that arrests are encouraged, you might then ask why? Your exploration of the solution needs to add perspectives to these two – the street versus the police academy. How about the prison system? How about the economist? How about the politician? How about building and engineering? What are the real estate developers saying? Are there any industries that stand to lose or gain involved? Who might be impacted? You will learn by asking.

As an example, here is something that I found. We have a private prison system that has gradually replaced many public prisons. The economic model of the majority of private prisons is to build and staff facilities with private money and accept stipends for beds filled. So if the government would have paid $150 per night per prisoner in a public prison, that same money goes to the private prison, but if the private prison can trim its expenses, they can make money. They have been able to do so, and that is how they expand. The problem is that since they are a for profit system, they can scale up, increase prison space and profit more if there is more crime and more arrests. So who is profiting here? The shareholders of private prisons. You can see how this could be a key systemic problem. Therefore, if money is being given to the local sheriff or chief of police under the table to make more arrests to fill those beds, voila! We may just have found the real systemic cause. It is the corruption of city officials. And the solution would be obvious, vote out private prisons, or just bankrupt them by voting out corrupt law officers accepting their bribes, or other officials following the money trail. Sociologists might also be consulted. And what about biologists? The idea that an incentive to fill prison beds that keeps bribe money flowing still doesn’t explain why blacks are being picked on. You see? The problem goes deeper. What about the fact that blacks are easier targets than whites? A biologist would explain that a black person has one less layer of skin than a white person. They have six rather than seven layers of epidermis. As an ethnic group, they are more adept to hot weather than white people, who largely migrated to the far north and south regions of the world as they adapted through natural selection. A sociologist might have a different take. They might note that blacks tend to spend time outside out of cultural habit. They might also point out, with the help of economists, that use of single room air conditioners is more common among blacks because they can’t afford central air or heat. This makes convening on cool porches to socialize outdoors more common among blacks than whites. Sociologists might note that while drug problems are about the same among whites and blacks, that blacks are arrested more often, perhaps, not because they are hated, so much as because they are easier to discover and arrest, given that they are more often found outside. Then there is the legal side. Part of white privilege is the more likely ability to post bail and be less reliant on court appointed attorneys. Combining all of these facts might result in realizing that the source of the problem is complex, but that by taking a two-prong approach of legalizing drugs and abolishing private prisons, we might have found a solution to a systemic problem.

Step Two in how you Explore Solutions is to compare solutions. I hesitate to do this since I’ve hardly scratched the surface on perspective taking, but let’s go ahead anyway and jump into comparing the two inter-disciplinary solutions we just came up with to the existing solutions being proposed, and then we’ll bring back more disciplinary perspectives in step three. The current solution has two political groups pitted against one another. The one side assumes that the other side is racist because it won’t join. And the side that won’t join generally does not see itself as racist. It also tends not to believe that the police are really discriminating against minorities, particularly blacks, but instead just doing their job, which is a very difficult one. The non-protesters agree that black lives matter but see the Black Lives Matter movement as being politically motivated as an organization. They see it as destructive and generally causing more harm than good, actually creating race hatred rather than healing it. Those who don’t give into the pressure to kneel or join, have to live with being labeled racists, even though in reality they just don’t agree with the way of going about achieving justice and fairness for blacks, precisely because they do believe that black lives matter every bit as much as any other life. This viewpoint is only enforced when riots occur, when looting takes place and video footage exaggerates the destruction. And besides, you really can’t fix stupid. Can you? You can complain about racism, but how do you actually change people? Well, maybe one thing might be to stop provoking hatred. How can police be expected to profile less if blacks are specifically expressing their hostility towards them, while whites are not? Continually pitting these two very different mindsets against one another will result only in newer and greater cycles of violence. Many believe it will cause the problem it seeks to heal so they refuse to join. But now, because you have just discovered specific ways to actually address some of the systemic causes of the violence between the two world views with a third and very different set of solutions, you can work on those solutions together, and maybe even do so with your once lost loved one, even as you continue to disagree with each other on the net efficacy of BLM. On to step three.

Reactive politics sometimes fails to think through alternative solutions. Is a declaration of war on white neighborhoods where white privilege is likely to be found, the best solution for reducing racial division?

Step Three in how you Explore Solutions is to multiply wins. This step involves fine tuning your solutions with an eye to making each side look good, to develop a best positive net effect, and to see that each person is as happy as possible with the outcome. Compromise solutions are to be avoided. In compromise, everybody loses, they just lose less than if they’d won. Compromise is actually not a solution at all. What we are all after here is real solutions to our problems. And it’s actually in this final step that we really have to put our thinking caps on. What, for instance, are we going to do about legalizing drugs? We can see that this solution, while it addresses the systemic problem of disproportionate arrests of blacks, brings up the question of how to treat people hooked on drugs? Then there are the legal hurdles – so there is case law, constitutional law and much else that goes into the nuanced solution. There is also the matter of supply. Why is it that drugs are so expensive? What do we do about the fact that marijuana can still be obtained more affordably on the street than in the dispensary? Shall we legalize heroin? Can the black market be fully absorbed? What is the economic impact if we do that? And what about the prison system? Will the public sector be able to supply prisons without raising taxes? What is the tax base? So economists and city planners need to be consulted. Right? So my point in the search for solutions is that there is a lot of work to do. Fortunately, for you and your friend, you’ve already won just by listening. Plus, both sides on an issue like black lives mattering win when the systemic problems are actually resolved and both you and your estranged loved one are working together because you care, rather than against each other because you have a complex set of other political issues you still disagree on. It may take more than a lifetime to eat that whole elephant. You’ll multiply your wins as you keep looking though, maybe enjoying a big meal or two together. This much I can tell you. Complaining doesn’t fix things until it reaches a problem solver who cares enough to go through all of these stages, components and steps. Maybe our most fundamental systemic cause of problems is that we have the wrong ratio of complainers to problem solvers. Somebody do something could become somebody did something – that somebody could be you. Let’s do this.