Friday, September 17, 2010


Versus Positions...

A friend posted a link to a blog post on Facebook today talking about how Ping, the new social networking venture from Apple and iTunes, favors big label artists and won't let the little guys post things.

( Here's a link to that post:

This is a slightly edited version of the comment I posted about this on Facebook:

My feeling is that we are all of us independent contractors in this world, regardless of whether we are currently "employed" in a "job" or not. We have to pick and choose the extent to which we will "play" in any given game, or use any given tool available. I think the wholesale 100% acceptance or rejection of anything out there is risky. For instance, I like my Mac and I like the fact that iTunes will help me sell my music ( you can also get it all free on my site: ), I don't however, plan to join "Ping" which doesn't currently look useful to me, given my mission in life. I think having all of my involvements on "dimmer switches" rather than "on/off switches" is the best way to go, even though it requires more ongoing thinking and awareness. Extreme positions, in fact positions of any kind (as opposed to opinions which are works in progress and open to adjustment), are nearly always a liability. So if you're a person who thinks all things Apple are golden, or a person who thinks all things Apple are rotten, I'd advise you to soften your position and start developing an informed and evolving opinion.

This got me thinking about opinions versus positions in general. If you know me, you know that I'm a big fan of Werner Heisenberg, who said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "What you see is not Nature, but Nature exposed to your line of questioning." He is also famous for his "Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle". I have a song more or less inspired by this idea called "You Are Wrong". ( If you're interested here's a link to a page with the lyrics and where the song will automatically start playing: ) So I start from the idea that whatever I think about anything is wrong. That is, not THE TRUTH. I am by nature flawed, biased, inaccurate, and always a part of the very thing I am observing. Error seems to me to be built into being human. Still, I haven't abandoned all attempts at coming up with some clue about what's going on in the world around me. I just try to stay open, flexible and ready to change my mind. Here's a verse from a recent song of mine:

I do believe in Truth
But not like in my youth
Now~It's more like a ghost than a grail
I know I'll never catch it
But I don't really mind
I just like to stay on its trail...

(From "Shut Up For A While" GB©2010)

I'd rather have opinions than positions. A "Position" is a military term which involves "holding" and "defending". It is useful at times, on a battlefield, to think in terms of positions, but generally, this is better in the short term than the long. Only rarely in life, does not budging an inch come in handy. Hitler had a "position" that a German soldier never takes a backwards step which was fine until he took on the Russians, where a tactical retreat would have been by far the wiser thing to do.

The people around me who take positions seem to be the most unhappy and defensive. I think this is because they identify so much with their position that giving it up is tantamount to committing suicide. If they are anti-Obama, it doesn't matter what he does, they will start from the position that he is wrong and then build their case backwards from there. And it's the same if they are anti-Palin or whoever. The position is the main thing. To me, since life is a constantly changing, never-the-same, ongoing flow of events, any position is a liability. Sooner or later, Life will rip your position to shreds. An opinion is different. Where positions are defended, opinions are expressed. Where positions are immobile, opinions are open to change. I may hold an opinion unchanged for a long time, but if it's really an opinion and not a rigid position, I will have checked to see if it still feels right to me and chances are, I will have tweaked it a bit too.

This is reflected in T'ai-Chi as well, both martially and health-wise. I am of the opinion that the best way to be, characteristically, is what I call "Neutral". In the Russian martial art, Systema, they call it "Normal". In this view, being always "yang" or "rigid" is not good. Neither is being always "yin" or "limp". T'ai-Chi is, after all, build on the principle of balance and change, and on the idea that yin and yang are inseparable. We can try to force them apart, but it's always to our detriment. This is why I don't like or train in tournament style Pushing Hands, where you are penalized for moving your feet. People who do this style will tend to adopt strategies which will help them win this game, but are not necessarily good for health, balance or everyday life. Staking out a position and being unmovable is, to me, next to useless in life. If I can keep the other guy form that would be more useful! In a fight or daily life, being able to move is a key to survival and successful adaptation to change. In the style of T'ai-Chi that I do, we try to maintain as much "Neutrality" as possible. We know we have to commit ourselves in life, it's impossible not to, but when we do, or immediately after we do, we try to return as much as possible to our "Neutral", ready state. Sensei David Harris, one of the most amazing martial arts I've ever seen, summed it up best when he said, "A man with a plan is a man on his can."!

I know it's a cliche, but notice trees in the wind. Every part of the tree, from the tiniest leaf to the base of the trunk, gives and moves in its own way. Only when the wind is truly overpowering does the tree go down. Most of the time, a graceful combination of yielding and grounding, keeps the tree alive. And beautiful too. Trees are my "gurus" of Neutral!

Over time, I've let go of all kinds of "positions" in life and replaced them with "opinions". I find I'm more flexible, my balance is better, I'm happier, kinder, more empathetic and better able to defend myself should the need arise. Defending a position all the time is tiring! Maintaining Neutral is much less so. I'm human, of course, and I uncover positions in myself all the time. When I do though, I see if I can let them go and have an opinion instead. I know it's not THE TRUTH, but at least I'm on its trail...

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