So, What's This All About?
So, in a nutshell: this is a place where folks who are interested in certain things hang out.
"What kinds of things?" you ask?
Well, glad you asked.
It's these kinds of things:
- "Figuring yourself out"
- The scientific study of happiness
- The effort to wise up about life while we’re still young enough to enjoy it.
- Inner strength
- Relationships that aren’t total disasters.
- Applied contemplative spirituality as practiced in real life in the midst of the insanity of the modern world: where rubber meets road, face meets pavement, lofty ideas meet brutal reality.
- The Big Questions: Why are we here? Who am I? Why do we suffer? Who or what is "God"? What the heck is going on? (Questions like that.)
- Awakening, “enlightenment,” “realization” or whatever you might call it.
- Mental clarity and emotional strength – aka, psychology that’s actually useful and helpful.
- "Improving yourself." "Personal evolution." "Life upgrades," etc.
- “Becoming who you are” (unless that sounds too cheesy)
- Working to help our inner evolution keep pace with (er, start trying to catch up to?) our technological evolution
- The “life well-lived.” No regrets on your deathbed (or whatever existential locker room we might land in after The Big Game.)
- ...and etc.
So, if you're interested in any of this stuff...
Welcome to LiveReal.
Come have a seat, & grab a drink. You're among friendlies here.
If you want, you can sign up for our free newsletter, to get updates and stuff.
(It's free! Act now while supplies last! Although...actually, you don't really need to act now. Umm, and the idea of "supplies" of free email newsletters makes no sense whatsoever. Sorry about that. This is the kind of hype we don't like.)
Anyway...feel free to do that, or explore the site a little more, or, if you want to read a little more about what we're up to and why, there's more below.
(And by the way, we won’t spam you, and unsubscribe anytime if you want, hassle-free, etc etc.)
OK, now let’s back up and start at the beginning.
Once upon a time…
We (the merry little band of misfits behind this site) suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a difficult, confusing, and mysterious situation called “life.”
We took a long, hard look at this situation and came to a few very simple, very basic conclusions.
We want to “live a good life.”
(OK…a bit obvious, but it’s a starting point.)
So whatever it means to live a “good life…” well, that seemed to be worth shooting for.
We wanted to “live life to the fullest.” To carpe some serious diem. (However that works.)
Since life is full of struggle, we wanted to find something that made the struggle worth it.
We wanted to do whatever was necessary to make sure that when we’re laying on our deathbeds, we won’t be filled with regrets.
We wanted to make sure we don’t lead a life of “quiet desperation,” ala Thoreau. (But how?)
“Every man dies. Not every man really lives,” as William Wallace (ala Braveheart) said well. So we wanted to “really live.” It’s not the quantity of our days that matter, but the quality – that kind of thing. (But again…how? Do they sell jumbo-sized boxes of “quality” at Costco?)
It’s pretty simple, really. These basic ideas have been around for thousands of years. Socrates, Aristotle and others used words like “Eudaimonia” (the good life), “arête” (excellence of life and character), and “phronesis” (practical wisdom) to describe it. Nothing too crazy. (Just something that much of modern life tends to crowd out and ignore.)
And so on.
So this was our initial premise. (Again, basic stuff here, but it’s a starting point.)
But we had a mission.
We wanted to find the truth about this.
Not hyped-up nonsense. Not easy-yet-overly-simplistic formulas. No toothless speculations, dry-and-dusty old platitudes, insane ideologies, or bumper sticker slogans posing as philosophies.
After all, these are our lives we’re talking about here.
We didn’t just want a bunch of slogans or bumper-sticker platitudes. We weren’t looking for a quick hit of inspiration here and there. We saw it as a serious mystery to be solved.
We wanted the real thing. (Whatever that might be.)
We didn’t want to leave it up to chance, accident, or luck. We didn’t want to just sit around and hope we’d land a winning cosmic lottery ticket. We wanted to take the bull by the horn – take our happiness, sanity, health, lives – into our own hands, and throw everything we could at it.
So we embarked on a quest to explore all this, and get to the bottom of it.
This site is an ongoing chronicle of our adventures and discoveries.
That’s it in a nutshell.
That’s a really basic description of what we’ve been up to.
If that sounds interesting, you can start exploring some of what we’ve found now. We’d say go ahead and sign up for our newsletter so we can keep you up on our progress.
Or if you want to go ahead and dive in, you can start here and just follow what seems interesting.
But if you want to keep going and dig deeper, below is a slightly deeper dive that relays some of our progress on the matter.
The pursuit of “happiness.”
We can’t talk about the good life without talking about “happiness.”
In a lot of ways, it’s pretty basic. Folks (Aristotle, Plato, Buddha, Upanishads, etc) folks have seen happiness as central to “the good life” for thousands of years.
It’s like the north star. We use the idea (and our intuition) of happiness as something to navigate by. We sense it – even if we aren’t fully experiencing it, or as much as we want of it, right now.
But that also opens a can of worms. What is happiness, really? Isn’t it different for different people? What kind is realistic? And most importantly, how do you find it? Does the pursuit of it, paradoxically, make you unhappy? If so, what’s next?
We’ll it’s a can of worms, but it’s not unsolvable. Defining it is one thing. And ultimately, you realize, having a short, snappy, verbal definition isn’t the key. Defining happiness might be like defining love or art: we sense it, but it doesn’t fit into a tidy, logical, verbal box. And, exceptions aside, it doesn’t really need to. (Not that we shouldn’t try.)
It’s enough to be a north star, an ideal. But one we want to realize, to make real. And sure, it’s different for different people, but we also all breathe oxygen. We also have some things in common.
The “how” is the big one. So…how?
Well, we ran into a few core issues. Three, to be exact.
First of all, we often lookin' for happiness in all the wrong places.
We realized that we often tend to search for happiness in places where it’s been proven, time and time again, not to exist.
Finding happiness at the bottom of a whiskey glass, for example. Nothing against wetting your gullet every so often. But you can run that “experiment” as many times as you want. You might find plenty of other things there, but based on all available evidence, the secret to real happiness isn’t one of them.
Same with fame, wealth, power, status, good looks, corner offices, Instagram followers, etc.
These all might be wonderful in some ways. But we all probably know of folks who have had these, but hadn’t completely solved the “happiness” thing. The evidence, as they say, is overwhelming.
These things might be great side-dishes, but they aren’t the main course. They aren’t the keys to happiness. They aren’t “IT”.
Secondly, there’s this thing about…well, you know, life being brutal and all.
Life can be brutal. For all of us. Everyone. No exceptions.
When we’re young, we’re naïve. And much of our happiness is often based on that naiveté.
Life can rudely, savagely pummel our naïve ideas about happiness until they’re less than the dust of a puffball. Life tends to dis-illusion us, and usually isn’t all that gentle about it.
And often, by the time we figure this out, we’re too old to really do much about it.
So the idea is to build “happiness” that isn’t based on the dust of a puffball. The idea is to build on something solid. Something that won’t crumble under what life throws at us.
The idea we’re going for here could be described as “antifragile happiness.” A happiness that’s strong enough to stand up to experience instead of wilting. A happiness that even gets stronger with experience instead of weaker.
This is one topic we’re exploring.
Thirdly, it's a matter of meaningful happiness.
That’s another can of gummy worms we just opened.
Mere happiness as defined by an ongoing series of ice cream cones…isn’t enough.
Endless Netflix couch-surfing doesn’t seem to do the trick. Meaningless pleasures quickly becomes boring, and stokes a hunger for something else, or something more, or something different. For whatever reason (we have our ideas)…real happiness doesn’t seem to consist of a series of pleasures or creature comforts or distractions.
Sure, some folks are easily amused. Good for them.
For the rest of us, it has to mean something.
This, of course, lands us in deep doo-doo.
So now we’re on a quest for “meaning.”
What’s the meaning of life?
(Just kidding. We wouldn't give you a quiz like that without warning, or without giving you time to study, or without even clearly letting you know what you should study. In other words, we think we're a bit nicer than life is.)
Of course, there are lots of ways to approach this problem and billions of answers to it. (Some are better than others.) We aren’t going to settle this right here, but we’ll just make one basic observation.
We can divide most answers, roughly, into two broad, basic camps:
- The “Get a Hobby!” answer.
(This approach says that life itself is objectively meaningless and/or unknowable, so your best bet is to just pass the hours as pleasantly as possible, entertaining or amusing yourself however you can, until the clock runs out.)
- The “Discover Priceless Treasure!” answer.
(This approach says that there’s is something deeper going on, some deeper drama going on that we need to discover and get in on.)
Whichever basic approach you find yourself partial to…you wind up in essentially the same basic situation. Which is to say, in deep waters. (And deep doo-doo.)
We now find ourselves locked in a confrontation with The Big Questions.
The Big Questions
We all have to face the Sphinx.
As the story goes, the Sphinx was a creature who would pose riddles to folks. If they answered the riddle correctly, then well, they’d be fine. If they couldn’t answer the riddle, well, the Sphinx would eat them.
OK, maybe we don’t all bump into a huge creature with the head of a human, the body of a lion, and the wings of a bird.
But life does pose riddles to us. Or rather, basic questions. Questions we all confront, one way or another, consciously or not.
We call them The Big Questions:
What’s it all about?
Who am I?
What am I?
Why am I here?
Where did I come from? (What’s my origin?)
Where am I going? (What’s my destiny?)
What am I doing with my life?
How should I live?
Why should I live in a certain way?
What the heck is going on?
In the stories of the Sphinx, folks would live or die based on their answers.
Of course, that might seem a bit dramatic. (Then again, isn’t that what stories are supposed to do?) Either way, the way we see it…our answers to these questions might not be a literal matter of life and death, right now…but they do have a huge, critical impact on our lives, our happiness, our relationships, our day-to-day experience.
We’ve probably already had some encounter with the Sphinx already.
Meaning…in some ways, we’ve already answered these questions, one way or another, consciously or not. Our answers show up in how we live our lives.
But sometimes our answers suck.
Our answers to these questions – the ones you already have – might be creating a lot of unnecessary misery that we’re currently living the effects of. Or it might be an underlying reason for whatever happiness you’re experiencing right now.
Either way, here’s the thing: you can upgrade your answers to The Big Questions.
They form the foundation for much of your life. So upgrading, refining, evolving our answers is, the way we see it, something worth doing. Confronting the Sphinx doesn't have to be a one-time thing. We can try as many times as we want, as long as the clock's still running. We just have to do it. We could describe it as upgrading your core life narrative, or to use a simpler word, “doing (real) philosophy.”
This is another area we’re still exploring.
And of course, this brings us to another hot topic.
All this also brings up issues of spirituality.
Spirituality is, of course, a controversial topic to some folks.
But of course, it’s also a realm of magic and insanity, genius and ignorance, love and violence, confusion and clarity, ecstatic bliss and miserable anguish, and everything in between.
Sounds right up our alley.
Our priority here is to explore this stuff, but while doing our best to be bound and tied to a mast of real, solid, practical, hard-lived truth. Our goal is to live where religion and science meet common sense. Our goal is to gather the best of modern science, ancient wisdom, and everything in between to help us on our quest.
The key here, we think, is having a solid approach.
Our approach here is no-nonsense, practical, see-for-yourself, take what you like and leave the rest. It aims to be truly open-minded, yet (as the saying goes) not so open that your brain falls out.
We don’t want you to take much of anything on faith or believe us. We want to gather evidence for you to examine, so you can run experiments for yourself. The way we see it, we should test, think, doubt, verify, explore, test some more, think some more, and gradually, hopefully, find a nice, good, juicy helping of truth. As much as you can handle.
The idea here is to avoid the crazy. But not be so scared of the crazy that we miss the good stuff.
That’s our approach here.
Not easy. And yes, we’re exploring some dangerous realms.
But luckily, there’s one common thread that runs through all this.
If we had to put our entire effort into two words, well…those would be the two.
After all, if you don’t know yourself, can you really know anything else?
If you don’t know yourself, all the other stuff here can go south, fast. But if you do know yourself, at least to some degree, all the other stuff we’re exploring here…well, it almost takes care of itself.
Like we said before, life is like a pop quiz we haven’t studied for. The way we see it, figuring ourselves out – and the many different levels we can do that on – is the catchup reading we can do before the final exam.
So, the point is…we have several open, active, and ongoing investigations.
We’ve only mentioned a few:
- The pursuit of “the good life”
- Practical questions about good relationships, psychological health, physical health, etc.
- Basics of happiness
- “Antifragile happiness”
- The question of “meaning.”
- The Big Questions
- Spiritual stuff
There are plenty more leads we’re following up on that we haven’t mentioned. To name just a few:
- Postmodern Life (and how to survive it)
- Relationships: How to avoid the typical cycle
- Our take on the atheist-vs-believers debates
- The meaning of life, and meaninglessness in life
- Inner strength and how to get it
- Information overload and the need for knowledge-brokers
- The demythologizing of modern life
- How to protect & defend your mind (while the world is trying to infiltrate it)
- Why everybody seems so angry at each other these days
- Progress in psychology, relationships, philosophy, spirituality: “where we’re at now”
- …and etc.
All of these investigations have turned out to be interdependent and interconnected.
We’ve made a lot of progress on all these fronts – much more than what’s available on the site now. (This is due to a shortage of time, energy, caffeine, and money. Except for caffeine.)
But we’re working on it.
Which bring us to one last thing.
“Inner Work” is, basically, working on yourself.
In some ways, it’s the core of what this site is about. It’s taking “Know Yourself” and working to put it into practice, to make it real.
We can maybe explain it best with a question: if money doesn’t buy happiness…what does?
Money, fame, power, status, wealth, whiskey, hoards of Twitter followers and Facebook friends?
Nope. (We touched on this earlier.)
The way we see it, all of these things are totally fine and have their place, so long as they’re – to borrow a line from Fight Club – condiments, and not the main course. They’re great as add-ons, but well, at least for most of us, a bowl of mustard doesn’t make a great meal.
OK, then. So, what is the “main course”?
Well, the best answer we’ve found so far is that it’s something roughly along the lines of “Inner Work.”
We'll go more into all this soon.
So, that’s a brief snapshot of what we’re up to here.
Sorry for the rambling.
Oh yeah – and sorry, we never properly introduced ourselves.
We’re the LiveReal Agents.
The story goes like this: we’re a crackpot team of trusty specialists on a mission to explore this stuff with style, class, and incredible good looks.
(Except maybe for the “good looks” part. And maybe the “class” part. Although, if we did have incredible good looks, it would be of the moderately-dashing-yet-approachable variety. (Except when we eat In&Out burgers. That gets pretty disgusting.) And also, by the way, we’d be super-super-humble.)
Anyway, I’m Jonathan. I push buttons around here. And click on stuff sometimes.
And spin yarns. Like the ongoing saga of a merry band of misfits determined to find the meaning of life or die trying.
So, if any of this sounds interesting to you…
Then it probably means that, at least on some level, you’re a Seeker.
LiveReal is a headquarters for Seekers.
So at this point, you can sign up for our Free Newsletter, or just explore stuff and see what strikes you as interesting.
Either way, we wish you the best in all your own seeking. As a wise man once said, not all who wander are lost.
Peace to the Wanderer.