Hi. Thanks for stopping by.
"So, what’s this all about?" you may ask.
In a nutshell:
Like the foundation of a home, each of our lives is built on a body, mind, heart, and soul.
Our physical health, our mental clarity and emotional strength, our relationships, and our grounding (or lack thereof) in “The Big Picture” or “reality” – few issues are as profoundly important – or as intimate –as these.
But clarity on these issues can be a rare commodity, and especially hard to come by these days.
For lots of reasons, the fields of psychology, relationships, and spirituality today are often thoroughly riddled with misinformation, bad ideas, disorganized fragments of good ideas, and good old-fashioned sloppy thinking.
Few fields are as confusing, controversial, and in need of clarity. Many individuals are left to wander these treacherous terrains on their own.
LiveReal was created as an effort to help remedy this situation.
Our mission is to search the world over for nuggets of practical wisdom, gather them in one place, present them simply and clearly, and talk about them.
Our approach is practical, no-nonsense, see-for-yourself, and open-minded-yet-rigorous. We encourage thinking, reasoning, and asking questions. This stuff can be nerve-wracking. We get it. All the more reason for a relaxed, friendly, down-to-earth, commonsense approach. Or at least, that's what we aim for.
The ultimate goal we’re working for, in a nutshell, is more vitality, sanity, intimacy, and reality in the lives of all of us.
And we also make bad jokes sometimes. But we’re working on fixing that.
That’s what we’re up to, in a nutshell.
So, if that kind of thing gives you some nice warm fuzzies in your belly, then well, consider signing up for our free newsletter, buying a book, getting going on some "Existential Fitness," or even joining the site itself.
So, the above is the "nutshell" version.
But what about the longer, more in-depth version?
No problem. Here you go.
Where do you start when it comes to "life" itself?
With a topic as broad as this - life itself - the tricky part can be just knowing where to start.
We could start with some very basics. "I want to find genuine happiness," for example.
Or, we could start with the idea that “I want fulfilling relationships in my life.” And we could keep going from there. I want clarity, and emotional strength. I want a spirituality that grounds me in “really real reality.” I want to figure myself out, or for life to just make more sense, or for it just not to seem so pointless or painful.
We could start with any of these, and go from there.
(Because we eventually find that all of these are interconnected. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.)
In a nutshell, LiveReal is the ongoing adventures of a rowdy band of seekers who are on a mission to dig into all this, or die trying.
The game here is about the whole enchilada.
Let's start with this: the idea that “we’re all searching for happiness.”
But what is real “happiness”? And how do we find it?
If "money doesn't buy happiness," what does?
Or, we could phrase it another way. Oscar Wilde said it well:
“To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people exist, that is all.”
Thoreau put it differently: “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
So, how do you avoid a “life of quiet desperation”?
Or as he also said: he wanted to live…
“…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
All of this seems points us in a certain direction.
This basic “direction” seems generally away from each of us being reduced to “a mere consumer of pleasant distractions.”
(Although of course, much of modern life often seems to point us exactly in this direction.)
Most of us don’t seem to be deeply fulfilled with those sorts of things (consuming pleasant distractions) for long. Eventually, the distractions never seem quite pleasant enough. It seems like eventually, unless we want life to become increasingly narrow, we have to turn and face whatever it is that we’re distracting ourselves from.
We seem to want something more.
It might be something we aren’t able to define all that well.
We could say we want to “become ourselves.” We could say we want to push the limits of our potential. We could say that we want to do whatever we’re supposed to do here. We could say that our most urgent aim in life isn’t to enjoy a string of pleasures in The Matrix, or to be the winning rat in the rat-race, or to enjoy our cocktails on the Titanic. We want something more. We want something real, genuine, true, meaningful.
And we want to understand all this in a way that’s practical, no-nonsense, and see-for-yourself.
So we – our ragged little band of cuddly LiveReal Agents – started digging in to all this.
Pretty quickly, we realize that we’re gonna need a bigger boat.
Soon we found that the terrain got a bit steeper and rockier.
(It made us do things like mix metaphors. Because “boats” don’t really go over “terrain.”)
We could start with the axiom that we want “happiness.” Fair enough. But what do we actually get?
All too often, what we actually get is suffering.
Sometimes, in fact, not to put too fine a point on it: life is hell.
We can try to avoid suffering. We can distract ourselves from it sometimes, for a while. But this approach can often lead to other problems. (Addictions, for example.)
The real prize, then, seems to be a form of happiness that faces life head-on, as a whole, without flinching. It’s a kind of happiness that isn’t based on luck, accidental circumstances, or temporary external conditions. It’s something within: an ability to take whatever life throws at us.
In a phrase, the aim is closer to something more like “antifragile happiness.”
At this point, we realized we needed to rethink some assumptions.
"Human nature," for example.
Why? Because what we’re looking for is the potential for happiness (or overcoming suffering) for a human being. And this means we need to answer the question, “what is a human being”?
And that is no small enchilada.
To answer that, we need to back up even further and ask some even more basic questions.
This brings us to core “existential riddles.”
We finally reach some bedrock with the most very basic questions of life.
Call them “The Big Questions.”
We call these “existential riddles.”
We all have to answer these existential riddles. Life doesn’t let us not answer them. The only question, then, isn’t whether we’ll answer them, but how we’ll answer them. And how well we’ll answer.
Or, we could also phrase it like this: life is a kind of game.
Or, to be more accurate, it’s a game-of-games. The reason question, then, is to find a game worth playing. Finding a “game worth playing” means good answers to “The Big Q’s.”
These existential riddles point us in a certain direction.
The basic direction is toward this:
After all, if we look around, really, there are plenty of “answers” to “The Big Questions.”
The problem – especially these days – isn’t coming up with answers to The Big Questions.
It’s sorting through the avalanche of answers that already exist.
If we don’t “know ourselves” in a genuine, practical, street-level way, we can easily make a mess of even the best answers that philosophy, psychology and religion has to offer us. It seems to happen, over and over again.
We’re often encouraged to distract, amuse, and enjoy ourselves, but more rarely to know ourselves.
But what does it really mean to “know yourself”?
To “know ourselves” means asking where we came from, where we’re going, what we’re made of and why.
Which means it very soon brings us into areas of religion and spirituality.
After all, “happiness” and “human nature” are connected. The kind of happiness we long for has to be a potential of human nature. Our nature has to have the capacity for this sort of thing.
Pretty soon, we realize, it’s all connected. It’s an “everything problem.” To understand happiness, we need to understand human nature. And to understand human nature, we need to understand stuff that often flies under the banner of “religion and spirituality.”
And here’s where things can get tricky.
After all, the modern spiritual scene is pretty, umm, interesting.
As we see it, there’s a lot of both opportunity and danger in the scene today. Things can go very well, if we’re lucky. Or, not, if we aren’t.
The trick in these areas, as we see it, is figuring out a way to sort the sense from the nonsense.
What we need to aim for then, it seems, is an approach to spirituality that fully welcomes reason and science, that avoids “blind faith” on the one hand but isn’t closed off in a hardened, toxic skepticism on the other.
The “sweet spot” seems to be “where religion and science meet common sense.”
This approach, then, avoids “blind faith” on the one hand and a presumption of hard atheism on the other. It embraces reason and science, while understanding at the same time that there are legitimate limits to science.
We’re living in interesting times.
It might be that we’re living through “The Death of God.” Which is to say, we might be living through a disintegration of our shared cultural axioms. This leads to some strange but very tangible effects magically manifesting all over the place. One of these manifestations is a culture of ongoing and widespread misunderstanding, disagreement and friction.
This kind of environment creates fertile ground for a sense of personal meaninglessness, for the occasional existential crisis, and various kinds of angst, anxiety and depression. It’s a part of not just postmodernism, but a certain toxic, weird kind of postmodernism.
This leaves many of us are navigating existential terrains with a broken compass and no water, guiding ourselves through the best we can while using partial fragments of inaccurate maps.
The world often sends us out to battle existential monsters armed only with a plastic spork and a head full of commercial jingles.
And the results of this aren’t surprising. In fact, they can be pretty brutal.
But there’s reason for hope.
We, your cuddly LiveReal Agents – and lots of other good folks – are working to figure this out.
This often becomes a kind of “quest.”
This “quest” is for better answers to The Big Questions of life.
Call it “Existential Fitness.”
Getting “existentially fit” means consciously and deliberately working to know yourself. It means doing inner workouts to build inner strength. It means beefing up your life philosophy. It means doing an inner house-cleaning and getting rid of bad ideas (like “follow your heart!” and bad answers to the meaning of life.) It can mean seeking out an “existential crisis,” deliberately. Why? Because it’s better to learn to swim before you're in deep water. If someone is going to rethink everything, better to do it now instead of postponing it until they're ninety. (The goal, after all, is to wise up while we're still young enough to enjoy it.) It can mean psychological work, such as approaches to overcome depression, meaninglessness, or how to avoiding being manipulated. It can mean intellectual work, like upgrading your life philosophy or refining your underlying worldview. It can mean work on your relationships, where even things like game theory can help you become a better lover or get more clear on “love” itself.
And so on.
And the tricky thing is, all of these are interconnected.
And all of these orbit around “The Big Questions of life” at the center.
There’s life in the shallows, and then there’s heading out into deeper waters.
The “deeper waters” here means the search for “real spirituality.”
After all, spiritual and philosophical traditions have been working on these issues over thousands of years, with mixed results.
But ignoring or dismissing the entirety of this, with a sweep of the hand – assuming we could do better entirely on our own, starting from scratch, out of the blue – seems a bit presumptuous, even with modern self-esteem. At the very least, it could easily result in reinventing the wheel, or re-discovering truths that have been found, lost, found again and lost again over the centuries.
This means a real effort to sort the sense from the nonsense.
So this means, in a way, investigating spiritual questions scientifically, with some serious rigor and thoroughness, and with respect for the limits to what the usual scientific approach can tell us on these matters. The effort is to get down to the essence of the matter - to boil it down to what's important (but without boiling away what's important.)
It’s the opposite of the “blind faith” approach. It’s closer to questioning everything.
Some might describe it as an “apophatic” approach. Others might drop the jargon and just describe it as an approach to these matters that avoids nonsense at every possible turn. This means an approach that’s friendly and workable even to tough-minded skeptics.
Because, after all, for those who don’t want to trust someone else’s math, it’s very possible to do the math yourself.
This can mean running your own experiments, gathering data, and truly “seeing for yourself.”
This approach can eventually lead to “experiential spirituality.”
This is an approach that points to direct knowledge instead indirect knowledge, seeing-for-yourself instead of taking someone else’s word for it, and direct experience instead of just theory, beliefs, or mere opinions.
But then – since it’s all connected – this brings us back to psychology.
After all, running your own experiments can be hazardous. This means the need for genuine self-knowledge isn’t just some highbrow bull-session, but a safety requirement. (“Your knowledge of yourself must be this tall to ride.”)
Why? Because this isn’t kid stuff. Certain problems won’t be solved with a witty slogan, a cool platitude or a bumper-sticker philosophy. There’s more to it than just “think positive!” or “be here now!” or trying to give the entire universe a makeover using the power of a mind that also can’t figure out how to get along with a neighbor who has slightly different ideas about the world.
If human nature truly has some kind of spiritual component, the trick seems to be finding and exploring that spiritual component – whatever that might be – and working to bring it to the surface where it can blossom. There’s a way we could describe as “becoming ourselves.” Which might even be the point of it all.
We could describe all of this as “inner work.” Or, maybe more simply, just “working on yourself.”
It includes becoming more clear on what the problem is, what the solution is, what are motivations are for looking into all this, and how we can reach some point of genuine resolution.
It’s really a way of life that brings us right back to where we started: the good life, for real – a life worth living, or a happiness or inner joy that might be unexpectedly, mysteriously, somehow, better than we ever imagined.
That should get this snowball rolling.
LiveReal is a kind of headquarters for this stuff.
We’re the LiveReal Agents. Just a ragged, hearty, lovable little band of seekers on a quest to find answers or die trying.
We’re all explorers here.
So, if this stuff resonates with you, then well, you aren’t alone.
It means at least on some level, you’re a "Seeker."
And if you’re a Seeker, well, you’re among friends here.
Welcome to LiveReal.
If this sounds like the kind of thing you're into, sign up for our free newsletter, (or even join up, or maybe buy a certain magnificent book) - and we'll keep you posted on all our our wacky misadventures.