Buddhism: Advanced Right Speech requires Advanced Right Listening

The modern world has shown us that Ordinary Right Speech too often leads to no-speech, banal speech, or what used to be called PC speech.

This happens because we can never be sure how even very well-intentioned speech will be heard in Ordinary Situations.

Good intentions are not enough to ensure that Right Speech will be heard Rightly.

A second point about the modern world is it has shown us that, for the most part, more information is better than less information.

Rather than guess about something or rely on a neighbor’s experience, we can look it up on our phones and usually find exactly what we needed to know.

If we do not want to suffer the endless pain of Ordinary Speech because we almost never know how our speech will be heard, let’s learn from our cell phones and ask each other how we are hearing, what we are hearing, what we are able to hear or not able to hear.

In my experience, modern Buddhists virtually all respect the capacity for change inherent in the Buddhadharma. The Four Dharma Seals ensure that we are not being stupid when we interpret the teaching in light of our lived experiences.

My guess is virtually all people suffer a great deal due to fraught speech and fraught listening. Either not enough gets said, or we miss our one chance to say whatever it is, or we are misheard, misunderstood, misremembered. Or we do that to someone else.

So how do we make it better?

Since we were all raised in a world of Ordinary Speech where almost anything could be misunderstood, we all need a way to distinguish speech that is better. We need better rules for how to speak and how to listen.

Advanced Right Speech requires Advanced Right Listening.

You cannot just jump into Advanced Right Speech if your partner knows neither what you are doing nor how to listen to you.

If you want to do Advanced Right Speech you have to have a prior agreement with your partner so that both of you know exactly what is meant by Advanced Right Speech and Advanced Right Listening.

In Buddhism, all relative things are impermanent and empty. Therefore Advanced Right Speech and Advanced Right Listening must be based on a method or process, a technique or way of doing something and not on specific, codified formalities.

FIML practice meets all of the above requirements and if done with reasonable diligence will provide Right Conditions for Advanced Right Speech and Advanced Right Listening.

And that will change your life for the better. It will free you from the constraints of Ordinary Speech and you will never want to go back.

Words and word groups mapped in the brain

This is interesting.

From these maps we can see that word groups have idiosyncratic arrangements, associations, and emphases.

And from this we can understand how analysis of interpersonal communication details can lead to beneficial changes in word group arrangements and thus also human psychology.

It is very likely that other aspects of communication—gesture, tone of voice, accent, and so forth—will also present idiosyncratic arrangements and emphases; and can be beneficially changed through detailed analyses of their components.

More here: A map of the brain can tell what you’re reading about

Perfect communication is not possible (but greatly improved communication is)

Human beings cannot possibly expect to communicate with each other perfectly. Perfect communication would require complete transfers of information with no ambiguity.

This point is fundamental to understanding why we need a method to frequently correct or adjust interpersonal communication in real-time.

If we do not have a method to do that, mistakes will inevitably cause problems, some of which will inevitably snowball.

TBH, I don’t understand why no one before me has figured the method out. Many have seen the problem in one way or another, but none has provided a way to fix it as far as I know.

To simplify the problem a bit, let’s just stick with language.

Language is ambiguous in and of itself. And when it is used for interpersonal communication it is fraught with ongoing and very significant ambiguities.

These ambiguities are so serious, I believe I can safely maintain that they account for a major component of our personalities. They may even be the major component.

Why does this seem so obvious to me but not to many others I speak with? I really do not know. Why didn’t Plato or Buddha or Laozi or Kant or Dostoevsky deal with this? I don’t know.

It’s possible the Buddha did privately or that’s what the Pythagorean’s secret was. Buddhist monks traveled in pairs and may have had a method to deal with interpersonal ambiguity.

If they did, I doubt it would be very different from my method, which you can find fully explained, free of charge here: FIML.

Please consider the problem of ambiguity before you undertake FIML.

Give ambiguity some real thought. Contemplate how it has affected your life in many ways you already know about. Then consider how many more ways you do not know about.

How many mistakes in communication—just due to ambiguity and consequent misunderstandings alone—have affected your life?

Watch for it and you will see ambiguity happening very often. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes insignificant, sometimes it’s tragic. The more there is, the worse it is.

When just two humans clear up almost all ambiguity between them (a process that must be constant like any other maintenance chore), amazing things begin to happen to their psychologies.

For each pair, what happens will be different because FIML is only a method. It has no content itself. What could be better than that?

Information streams plus interpersonal communication are the foundations of philosophical psychology

In this context, an information stream is a stream of information that largely fills the minds of all who are in it such that they know much more about that information than any other.

They value that stream and believe it or believe in it more than any other stream. All human cognition and psychology is taken from and conditioned by primary information streams.

Information streams are essentially “religions.” They include all of the world’s religions in addition to other fundamental belief systems such as science, politics, atheism, a life of crime, and so on.

Interpersonal communication is the most intimate or subjectively honest communication an individual human engages in.

The quality of our subjective honesty defines human life on planet earth, especially conscious human life.

The following follows:

  • it is impossible for any individual human to know more than a few information streams well
  • very few, if any, humans have really good interpersonal communication; very few are deeply, effectively, and richly subjectively honest with anyone else
  • thus, virtually all humans are trapped within the confines of their information streams (“religions”) and their unrequited personal subjectivity
  • and thus as a substitute, we fight or feel sad or become narcissistic or seek reclusion or take drugs or pursue money and power or sports and so on

I would maintain that once you see the above trap we humans are in, if you are of sound mind, you will want to escape.

We can never fully escape our need for some information stream (we have to have something) but we can escape to some extent by knowing that there are many information streams and none of them (as far as we know) can claim perfect information.

And, though we can never fully escape subjective isolation, we can escape to some extent by doing FIML practice.

The best way to view information streams is learn about a good many of them and then assign probabilities to how true they seem to you.

For example, I might hold that a materialist explanation of the cosmos has a 10-15% chance of being completely correct and a 25% chance of being a valid part of a larger whole that is more correct but has not yet been determined or discovered.

Assigning percentages mainly helps the mind categorize and assign resources. This, in turn, affects what we read, talk about, and do.

In addition to the percentages provided above, I might assign another 25% to the Buddhadharma and another 25% to the Buddhadharma plus all of the other world religions. Then I might assign 15% to the invented God argument and then some to the simulation argument and so on.

You can do this in any way that suits you. Your percentages don’t have to add up to one hundred, but it is good to have at least a rough calculus to provide some order to the many streams of information available to us.

My own percentages go up and down. The largest one is I cannot honestly be sure of very much but believe it is profoundly worth trying to be more sure or better at trying.

I believe the above description plus having some dedication to an endeavor sort of like that is a good definition of philosophical psychology.

To my eye, philosophical psychology is a good information stream to be in because it stresses how we think and what we think about while also paying full attention to our humanity.

Machine learning used to successfully predict psychosis

A very interesting study shows that a computer analysis of language use has predicted early signs of future psychosis with ~90% accuracy in at-risk individuals.

,,,results revealed that conversion to psychosis is signaled by low semantic density and talk about voices and sounds. When combined, these two variables were able to predict the conversion with 93% accuracy in the training and 90% accuracy in the holdout datasets. The results point to a larger project in which automated analyses of language are used to forecast a broad range of mental disorders well in advance of their emergence.  (A machine learning approach to predicting psychosis using semantic density and latent content analysis)

An article about the study says:

The results showed that higher than normal usage of words related to sound, combined with a higher rate of using words with similar meaning, meant that psychosis was likely on the horizon. (The whisper of schizophrenia: Machine learning finds ‘sound’ words predict psychosis)

Phillip Wolff, an author of the study, says of it:

“This research is interesting not just for its potential to reveal more about mental illness, but for understanding how the mind works — how it puts ideas together. Machine learning technology is advancing so rapidly that it’s giving us tools to data mine the human mind.” (Ibid)

Ambiguity in speech as the source of most psychology

Genes aside, I believe ambiguity in speech and its consequent cascades of error are at the root of virtually all human psychology, both good and bad.

And this goes back in time as far as we can imagine because the problem of ambiguity in speech was there for your parents, your grandparents, and everyone else who came before you. And the same is true for everyone else in the world.

All cultures everywhere are both burdened and determined by this problem.

(The only exceptions are specialist “cultures” that make a point of removing error from their communication systems, such as mathematics, hard sciences, engineering, some branches of linguistics, etc. The people in these cultures only avoid the problem while working or speaking within their specialist culture. When at home or off the job, their psychologies are the same as the rest of us. In fact, smart as many of those people are, I bet few of them have ever considered how inaccurate their common speech is or how error-ridden their listening is, to say nothing of how profoundly that messes up their psychologies.)

Ambiguity in speech comes from inaccurate words and phrases, our strong tendencies to want to keep the wrong parts of speaking too short, our fear of open, truthful speech, our hyper-focus on wording and typical refusal to allow people to take back or alter their words or our inability to see the need for that, our strong tendency to believe we know what others mean, our constant need to grab meaning on the fly, or extract it from gestures or tone of voice, the brevity of most speech acts, our fear of being wrong or saying the wrong thing (legitimate fears given the foregoing), our practical incapacity to describe our own subjectivity or even know it, our inability to get other people’s subjectivity from them because they also suck at this.

I could go on, but let’s just take one item from this loose list—our typical refusal to allow people to take back or alter their words or our inability to see the need for that.

Of course other people do this to us too. And when they do, we rarely know how to deal with it. Even when we try, it often turns out badly because our attempts are stereotypically taken as excuses or apologies.  Moreover, taking something back usually only involves glaring stuff that someone might have felt was “offensive” or that we believe reflects badly on us.

Even worse, let’s say you have taken something back successfully or rephrased it and explained everything perfectly to all parties’ satisfaction. When was the last time you did it? How often do you do it?

Not much, I bet. Because if you do do it often, almost everyone will think you have a loose screw.

How often should you rephrase something you said or allow another to do that?

The right answer is at least several times per hour of conversation.

When we don’t do that, ambiguity flourishes. Meanings are imagined. Guesswork replaces knowing. In response, everyone’s psychologies become confused or rigid. We act roles rather than life.

How can we claim to know anything about human psychology without acknowledging that almost anything with psychological import that anyone ever says to anyone is sure to be riddled with error and ambiguity?

And even when it’s not, 1) it’s very hard to know when that is and 2) the event is so rare it’s like a bird that stops flapping its wings and falls to the ground.

 

Speech proscriptions

Speech proscriptions can be overt with legal ramifications.

Or they can be sort of covert, couched in ideas like good manners, respect, make no waves, maintain friendly relations, follow group norms, etc.

I believe the covert ones happen most basically because almost all people are terrible at speaking about their own subjective truths. And this leads to being terrible at hearing others’ subjective truths, even if they are well-expressed which is rare.

This problem arises from the pervasive, inherent ambiguity of language in general but especially spoken language.

Speech flies by and we are required to extract coherent meaning from bits of it. We make stories out of it and judge people, including ourselves, based on bad evidence.

Ambiguity in speech also requires us to maintain the same personas and most of the same beliefs for decades. We travel in herds of ideological banality due to it.

Staying the same is a way of projecting sort of unambiguous meaning even though we all know that deep down the whole thing is a bad game.

I used to be bothered by this, but stopped after I figured out FIML and practiced it with my partner for a few years.

After maybe five years, our speech started to become so much clearer it didn’t even feel like the same medium anymore. After ten years, it got so good it seems we may have transcended psychology as it is normally conceived.

This happened because psychology as normally conceived is massively based on speech ambiguity and the ways people react to it. Fact is, you probably should feel a bit crazy in most interpersonal situations because speech proscriptions mixed with compounding ambiguities cannot possibly allow the psychological freedom needed to be cognitively healthy.