I have been thinking a lot about selling lately: selling my skills to those who can use them to do good things, selling products I've created that represent what I consider valuable, and selling ideas and knowledge that have come from a lifetime of experience. This does not come from any desire to become rich, or to dominate others, or to have a lot of stuff. I'm not currently good at the selling that could help me do so, and it's taken a lot of years to figure out why.
The reason is because my passion is not finding and giving people what they want, but finding new ways to see the world, asking questions others don't think of asking, and in the process, as my father used to say because we were so much alike, "exploring the obvious" to unveil a universe of wonder in everyone's midst. Being able to see that universe takes work, the result is intangible, and it risks exposing flaws in what you previously believed; but it is so worth it after you've done it, and it's addictive. You can't look at anything anymore without wondering about what you're not seeing. After you've found those hidden views a few times, you start the process automatically, even when you're consciously seeking a different goal that doesn't factor in the risks or recognize the potential gains.
How can you sell something like that? My father and I, and many colleagues we taught, searched for years to find the answer, and never found a good answer. We packaged some of our insights, and some of the more easily recognized processes, in ways that the educational market might appreciate, but the really interesting parts were unavoidably lost in the translation – to the point that what we could sell was barely competitive with what others had to sell, and we didn't have the resources to go any further anyway, right before my father died of a heart attack.
I've packaged some of my own insights in the years since then, building on a mental rebuilding process that was initiated by his death and has made the process of asking and seeing virtually ongoing. The packaging was in lines of enquiry during my forays in test engineering, where potential dead-ends were merely unexplored opportunities, which I tried to turn into tangible results to justify their pursuit, not always successfully. The packaging also was in writing, which I continue to this day in blog posts and books with the similar hope that others will find enough value in them to help me continue. I discovered that I could create music as another tangible result of my explorations, an emotional presentation of stories I imagined as my mind spun through permutations of barely-hidden variables, some for fun, some for something deeper. As I wrote for others, capturing their processes, procedures, and knowledge, my insights intruded into my work unbidden, and increasingly unwelcome, as the forms and the mechanics became more automated and stripped the interesting parts as a consequence.
Like many people with my background, I initially scoffed at prognostications of ecological doom which my own investigations have now justified as worthy of serious concern and emergency action. After hard self-examination, I came to terms with the fact that I would rather be a poor person in a healthy world than a rich person in a dying one, and the near-certainty that a healthy world is inconsistent with levels of profit that will allow anyone to be very rich, to the extent that being rich translates into extreme power and physical consumption.
To switch our dying world into a healthy one, two ideas must be sold to most of us: the reality of our situation, which as a bad thing can't be sold in a market that does not distinguish the truth from lies that are easily shielded with false uncertainty; and major changes must be made to address the malady uncovered by that reality, which involve a lot of work where we're used to buying convenience. The parallel with my personal experience is too obvious to ignore, which is one big reason why I feel I have something valuable to contribute to this monumental problem, and also why I am filled with trepidation about its chances of solution.
Why would you buy a different way of looking at the world, when it requires a lot of work to learn, and has the potential for making your life harder as a result? This begs another question: How can you justify believing in a lie, and avoiding the initial work to solve the problem that the truth would reveal, so that the problem can become overwhelming later? Changing and testing your way of looking at the world enables you to detect threats and opportunities, and to take appropriate action to survive and thrive. There is also an ecstasy that comes with seeing things differently, which is comparable to the mind's experience of procreation, a natural reward for helping to ensure the survival of life that also requires work and risk, and just as worth it. We are all born with the curiosity and a basic logic that enables learning of this kind, just as we have instincts that enable procreation, but somehow many of us are trained to forget that, or to mistrust it, perhaps because it may pose a greater threat to those who profit the most from the illusions it might shatter, the people we trust to make our lives more "secure."
As a species in a sick world we have created, we can't afford to hoard any knowledge or capabilities that might help cure it, because it will take our combined effort if there is to be any reasonable chance of success. We can't rely on a "market" to identify "winners" and "losers," because lives are at stake, and too many of them, unless you're a sociopath who is okay with trading lives for an all-too-brief spike of power. To the dismay of some close to me, I've given away what I felt could contribute most to a healthier world, as a duty and an example, this post included – all to improve my chances of living in that better world – while packaging some of it, along with the rest, as both incentive for people who value money more, and as a possible means of helping me continue the work with minimal diversion.
I've been thinking a lot about selling lately, because we are relying on a market mentality for our survival, and I'm as dependent on it as anyone else. I'm trying to get better at it while hoping it will one day become more optional than necessary, one day that isn't too late.