Hi. Thanks for stopping by.
So, what’s this all about?
If we only had two words, we'd say this:
To "know yourself" isn't just a bumper-sticker or slogan.
It can also be a heck of an adventure.
Meaning, it means not being afraid of The Big Questions of life, or the "existential riddles" life throws at each of us.
So in a way, this site is simply about doing just that: trying to know yourself, which means exploring The Big Questions - in a practical, no-nonsense, see-for-yourself way.
But if we could also say this is a headquarters for folks who are interested in certain things.
- "the higher life," or living instead of just existing
- no-nonsense spirituality, or a decent grasp of The Big Picture
- mental clarity and emotional strength
- relationships that aren't train wrecks
- living in a way that won't lead to regrets
- surviving and thriving in the crazy modern world
- genuine, legitimate, and perhaps even occasionally profound insight into ourselves, what really makes us tick, The Big Questions, and the whole enchilada
If we had two different words, we could say: "inner work."
But maybe a better answer is to lay out a problem.
It's one of the key problems we're working on, in a nutshell.
By some measures, if we're alive today, we're some of the luckiest folks who have ever lived, and “there has never been a better time to be a human being.”1 We're the trust-fund babies of history.
Why doesn’t it feel that way to so many of us?
Well, a lot depends on how you measure it.
For example, we could look at a few different yardsticks:
Addictions are up.2 Suicides are up.3 Anxiety is up.4 Depression is up.5 Rates of happiness are down.6 Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications are up.7 Pills that claim to help you do things like sleep8 and have sex9 and pay attention10 are up. Deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide are now at highest level since record-keeping began.11 There appears to be an epidemic of loneliness12, a sexual recession13, a breakdown of trust14. We could go on.
So, what the heck is going on here?
Here’s our read on the situation.
We’ve done incredibly well according to external, material, technological measures.
But we haven’t kept pace when it comes to what’s happening on the inside.
Which is to say, psychology, relationships, spirituality, philosophy, religion, ethics – our minds, hearts, and yes, souls. Despite millions of self-help books and centuries of hype about the latest, greatest whatever, it looks in some ways like we've made almost no progress whatsoever in those realms. Or maybe we’ve even gone backwards.
It seems paradoxical. In some ways, we might be like like Dorian Gray – brilliant, beautiful and glamorous on the outside, but wasting away on the inside. If we keep this up, we’ll eventually be using the latest, coolest, flashiest gadgets mainly to kill each other.
So, what the heck are we doing about it?
Here at LiveReal, we’re working to help our insides catch up with our outsides.
This brings us to a few key topics: psychology, relationships, and spirituality.
We've done a pretty decent job inventing things like hands-free paper towel dispensers and squeezable ketchup bottles. Which is nice. But in many ways, in those other critical areas - well, we don't have to get all preachy about it. But let's just say we could probably be doing better.
Our mission here is to try to make some sense of all this.
We're exploring these difficult, hazardous, treacherous realms, trying to figure out what the heck is really going on, trying to get a sense of what needs to be done, and then, well, we’re working to help actually do it.
That might sound a bit vague.
But hey, it was a nutshell, for Pete's sake.
The rest of the site should help make it more clear.
If you want more specifics, pick a topic you're interested in, and dive in. Like, as a small sample, psychology (the fight for sanity), or spirituality (the quest for reality), or relationships (the search for intimacy), or physical stuff (the pursuit of vitality). Or start with a few specific topics we explore, like happiness, meaning, meaninglessness, what "love" really is or isn't, why nihilism is so popular these days, improving your life philosophy, surviving postmodernism, becoming a better lover, or a big key to all of this, how to know yourself.
That should be enough to get started.
If this sounds like the kind of stuff you're into, sign up for our free newsletter (either here or at the top of this page) and we'll keep you posted on all our misadventures, mishaps, exploits and shenanigans.
But if for some reason you're really a glutton for punishment, and you want us to explain more about exactly what we're doing here, or how we're approaching it all, there's even more below.
This site is about the quest for non-bogus answers to The Big Questions.
- What’s it all about?
- What’s the point?
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
- What should I do?
- Where did I come from, and where am I going?
- What the heck is going on?
"The important thing is not to stop questioning."
- Albert Einstein
The way we see it, each of these questions are pretty doggone important.
We all face these and other existential riddles in life. And our answers to these riddles matter. They matter even more than celebrity gossip. (Yes. they're that important, and more.)
Finding genuinely good - and better - answers to these becomes a "quest."
It's a quest each of us is already on.
The only question is how much conscious effort we put into it.
Some folks have put more thought into which cell phone to buy than their life philosophy. And that's understandable: after all, cell phones are fun and addictive (they've been purposely engineered that way), and questioning our core beliefs about life is hard.
So then, why bother asking “Big Questions”?
Another great question. It's worth bothering if you're interested in a few things. Like:
- the "happiness" thing
- the "meaning" thing
- the "relationships that aren’t train wrecks" thing
- yourself (sometimes also known as "your worst enemy")
- no-nonsense spirituality (even for skeptics)
- psychology, or overcoming things like depression, anxiety, stress, angst, addictions, etc
- “becoming who you are”
All of these, and more, are directly and intimately connected to those Big Questions.
If life is a meal, this stuff is the main course. Everything else is a side dish, or appetizer. That said, a great deal of modern life seems determined to stick us with existential refrigerators full of condiments.
"I want to know God's thoughts.
The rest are details."
- Albert Einstein
So, what if we don't want to miss the main course in life?
Let's assume for now that life is short, and you want to “live it well.”
If life is serving up a gourmet, deluxe seven-course meal, let's assume you'd rather get in on that instead of being perched on a stool in an entirely different room, mindlessly stuffing yourself with stale, germy bar nuts.
Let's say you don't merely want to just survive from one day to the next, paying bills, waiting in traffic, standing in line quietly until the clock runs out.
Let's say you don't want to just survive, but live.
"All men die,
but not all men really live."
- William Wallace
Like Thoreau said, let's say you want to make sure, when you come to the end of your life, you won’t discover that you haven’t lived.
The question is, “how?”
If “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” how do you avoid a life of quiet desperation?
If money doesn’t buy happiness, what does?
After all, it’s rough out there.
The problem these days isn’t lack of answers to all these Questions. It’s too many answers. A confused jumble of self-help books, clickbait, overpromising and underdelivering blog posts, overhyped gurus and celebrities and folks who think they’ve Figured It All Out, all selling answers, toothless philosophies, and so on.
Of course, there's a lot of great stuff out there.
And there’s a lot of nonsense out there. And there's a lot of great stuff mixed in with total nonsense. Gems hidden in big piles of fertilizer.
Sorting through it all is no small task.
Part of our job here is to try to sort through it all.
We sort through the avalanche, find practical nuggets of wisdom, gather them here, and present them to you, as clearly as possible.
Our goal here is to help arm you with tools, maps, and know-how to help you successfully navigate this treacherous terrain.
These realms are often like a rugged landscape full of quicksand, cliffs, booby traps, and hungry gaters. Navigating this terrain with no map, or compass, or matches (or even worse: bad maps, soggy matches, and a compass that never points north) makes it even tougher.
Life is hard. And if you want a solid life philosophy, or things like “antifragile happiness” or “inner strength” and “no-nonsense spirituality” and so on, well, you can’t just find them on the shelf, nicely shrink-wrapped and on sale at Target.
You have to seek.
In other words, it’s an adventure. Or, to say it in a slightly different way:
Your life is a quest.
It started when you were born. It ends when you die.
Between those two moments, you’re on a quest for priceless treasure.
So what is that “priceless treasure”?
Call it “happiness,” fulfillment, meaning, human flourishing, the good life, enlightenment, “the life worth living,” self-actualization, Eudaimonia, “living so you won’t have regrets,” heaven, becoming fully human, awakening, salvation, realizing your potential, and so on.
Or from the other side: it’s a search for some kind of legitimate answer for suffering in life, or finding a way to endure and even thrive throughout the trials and challenges life throws at us.
This can seem overwhelming at times, to all of us.
So we organize all this into 4 basic categories.
Spirituality | soul | the Quest for Reality
Relationships | heart | the Search for Intimacy
Psychology | mind | the Fight for Sanity
Physical | body | the Pursuit of Vitality
Spiritual | The quest for no-nonsense, non-bogus, authentic spirituality. It’s exploring “The Big Questions” life asks each of us and digging to get better answers than we have now.
Relationships | Why do so many relationships start as fairy tales and end as train wrecks? We explore the "how" for relationships that are whatever the opposite of “dysfunctional” is.
Psychology | The fight for sanity in a crazy world. What makes people tick? How do I figure myself out? Mental clarity. Emotional strength. Self-mastery. Becoming an Inner Jedi. Stuff like that.
Physical | The pursuit of real, deep-down-in-your-bones bodily health. Call it strength, spunk, verve, vigor – whatever you want. We call it “the pursuit of vitality.”
Modern life often pretends to offer all these things. But all too often, it actually delivers substitutes, imitations, counterfeits.
- Instead of genuine happiness, it often offers us empty pleasures.
- Instead of solid truths, it offers us toothless, bumper-sticker slogans.
- Instead of relationships, acquaintances and single-serving friends. (Fight Club, anyone?)
- Instead of health, symptom-hiding.
- Instead of virtue, virtue-signaling.
- Instead of knowledge, information.
- Instead of purpose, distractions.
And so on. A key trick seems to be finding the real thing, not booby prizes. Real answers, not phony ones.
It’s not easy.
But no good adventure ever is.
OK, so how do we do this?
Our approach here is practical, no-nonsense, see-for-yourself, common sense, take-what-you-like-and-leave-the-rest.
The idea is that we gather evidence for you to test, examine, and mull over. Then you decide to either adopt or toss.
Skeptics, tough-minded thinkers, and folks just tired of hyped-up nonsense are welcome here.
Our job is to dig through the avalanche of information, find the nuggets of practical wisdom, and serve them up in a way that’s clear, practical, and ready to hit the streets. We aren’t looking for slogans, platitudes or hokey theories. We’re after direct, firsthand, see-for-yourself experiences of clarity. Trusty, self-evident, “that makes sense” truths that can help you navigate the unforgiving jungle of modern life. "Aha" experiences that pop bubbles and create clarity.
We search through modern science, ancient wisdom, and everything in between to uncover the best, juiciest, most useful insights we can.
Whether those insights are mainstream or fringe, highly accredited or from the mouths of babes, world-famous or completely unknown…we don’t care. If it works, we’ll take it from anywhere.
And who are we?
We’re the LiveReal Agents. Just a merry, hearty, lovable little band of seekers on a quest to find answers or die trying.
We're exploring all this stuff right alongside you. We’re all explorers here.
But our job (us LiveReal Agents) is to serve as your personal guinea pigs, space monkeys, and crash-test dummies. We investigate stuff, experiment with it, and figure out what works and doesn’t for the purpose of hopefully saving you some time and trouble in the process.
So again, how does this work?
We'd recommend first poking around a little to see if you dig the cut of our jib.
Here are a few suggestions to start with.
Let's say you want something pretty basic: a life you won't regret when it's all said and done. If life is a kind of game, you want to play it well. You want real happiness, and love, and real success in life - not just idle pleasures and mildly enjoyable distractions, but something closer to antifragile happiness.
But then you might get the feeling that the pursuit of happiness is sometimes doomed, and well, that's not exactly the kind of warm fuzzy we're after. You don't just want the pursuit of happiness, perennially just out of reach. You want the acquisition of happiness. The direct experience of it.
Well, a good place to start could be with several basic existential riddles that life confronts each of us with. Of course, a lot of folks would rather just duck these riddles and watch kitten videos on YouTube, which is one reason why soft nihilism is so popular these days, and why certain kinds of ongoing existential crisis and other problems are becoming more common.
Maybe we're living through "The Death of God," right now, which might help us understand modern life a little better. (And it also might not mean what you think.) But then this would bring up all kinds of other questions. What is "God," really, anyway? Is there really any kind of spiritual component to human nature? Is there something in all this that works for skeptics, or folks who are hungry for something no-nonsense? And since we're just putting it all out there, why are we here, anyway? Why do we suffer? Who am I? What's the point? What the heck is going on?
Of course, there's no shortage of answers and advice out there. Sometimes platitudes and slogans (like "follow your heart!") do more harm than good. Sometimes even psychology, which is supposed to be a trustworthy, scientific approach to all this, does more harm than good. (And sometimes, of course, it's great, for example, in helping with things like depression.)
Through all this, if we want mental clarity and emotional strength, and relationships that are whatever the opposite of dysfunctional is, and even "love" (and what is "love"?) - finding clarity and sanity in all this can sometimes be quite a challenge.
Especially when all of these topics are completely interrelated.
Those are some decent entry points to our ongoing investigations here.
If you're wondering where all this is leading, well, we could sum it up in two words: "Know Yourself." And as we delve into in the "games of life" article, this isn't some theoretical navel-gazing. It's aiming directly at the heart of things. You could call it "experiential spirituality," although a critical piece of all this is keeping it practical and no-nonsense. And actually putting this stuff into practice in the day-to-day grind, where rubber meets road and face meets pavement, is what we call "Inner Work."
The idea is that this all eventually results in some kind of direct experience of clarity, illuminating insight, and deep relief on a personal but profound level. Something that answers those Big Questions in a way that, for you, is utterly beyond satisfying.
And not some one-time experience that's here and gone; but something that lasts. It sticks with you through the heat, knocks and spells life throws at you.
That's the aim, anyway.
That's pretty much it for now.
We could ramble on about all this until the cows come home. But we've got to cut ourselves off somewhere. And this seems to be the spot.
If you want, sign up for our Free Newsletter, we'll keep you posted on the latest.
So, just to say it: if this stuff resonates with you, 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.
1 Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now, (New York, Penguin Books, 2019)
Also: “My argument is that the U.S. is suffering an epidemic of addiction, and that these addictions are leaving a rising portion of American society unhappy and a rising number clinically depressed.”
3 The suicide rate has increased more than 30 percent in half of U.S. states since 1999.
6 Rates of happiness are down:
7 Antianxiety and antidepressant medications are up: U.S. Antidepressant Use Jumps 65% in 15 Years, from 7.7% in 199-2002 to 12/7% in 2011-2015.
Antidepressants are the most prescribed drugs in the U.S.
10 One study found that ADHD diagnois rates increased 30 percent in eight years. The percent of very young children (ages two to five) who were diagnose with ADHD increased by over 50 percent between 2007/2008 and 2011/2012.
This is happening even among teenagers:
14 Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000)
15 Irvin Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy, New York, HarperCollins, 1980), 419.
18 Walter Truett Anderson, Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be, (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1990), xii.