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Canyon of the Elders by Bruce Brenneise

This essay is inspired by the brilliant work of John Vervaeke. For the full experience, I highly recommend his series, Awakening From the Meaning Crisis, here.

Thank you, John.

The Bronze Age collapse was underway, marking the greatest demise in the history of civilization. This led to the Dark Age, where alchemical seeds of future thought took root.

Small remnant societies barely clung to survival, placing huge demands on cognition. What emerged from this age were mental tools forever transforming our ability to think and communicate.

This pivotal moment in history came to be known as the Axial Age. Before this age, literacy was rare, with clunky characters lacking the versatility of the modern alphabet we now take for granted. This bluntness put a harsh limit on the range of thoughts that could be conveyed. Imagine having to express modern ideas, from physics to philosophy, with only the characters below. …


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Yellow-Red-Blue (1925) — Kandinsky

The game always starts the same way. It’s 6:00 AM. I wake up to a crisp Saturday morning in Los Angeles. The spring air feels unseasonably clean as house sparrows chirp and trill to stoke the rising sun. I set a stopwatch and unplug all lights & sounds. No phone, no TV, no speakers. Food isn’t allowed either. I’m left with water, black coffee, and salt. And time…

A monastic impression remains. I’ve got books, a notepad, a pen, and a yoga mat — an ancient psychotech playground. Time travel at last. But a question arises: “When am I?”


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I recently read a Smithsonian article about catastrophic mouse experiments in the 1960’s. One researcher’s utopian dream became a decadent nightmare. I realized the same dynamics are currently playing out online, and they’re having the same effects. While I doubt we can stop it, at least we can understand it…

After World War II, people became curious about new ways to organize society. Empires and scarcity gave way to globalized mass production. Abundance, they thought, would solve our problems.

Using mice as subjects, researchers studied the effects of abundance on behavior.


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This essay is inspired by the brilliant work of Hanzi Freinacht. Following the legacy of Piaget, Beck & Cowan, Carol Gilligan, Ken Wilber and others, Hanzi puts forth a fascinating developmental framework. In this essay, I describe his model and its implications for humanity.

I highly recommend Hanzi’s first book, The Listening Society, available here.

Thank you, Hanzi.

Metamodernism reconciles Modernism and Postmodernism while admitting its own impermanence. With deep irony and arrogant, well-earned sincerity, it obsoletes old epochs by matching the complexity of our world. It is thus able to dialogue with it and profoundly alter its course. …


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In an earlier essay, I described an inverse correlation between chronic inflammation and Brain health. I looked at studies showing how exercise, fasting, sleep, and food alter BDNF levels.

Short for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, BDNF is a protein that builds new neurons and synapses in the hippocampus, cortex, and forebrain.

Of all the factors I checked, the most profound impact was exercise. Exercise increases BDNF levels by 2–3x compared to resting. And it’s not just about growing new neurons.

BDNF is a key mediator of exercise-induced benefits on the brain. It influences learning and memory, plays a role in neuronal plasticity, and it has antidepressant effects.


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Huntington Beach in the 1960s (Wikimedia)

LA is known for movie stars, sandy beaches, and congested freeways. What about its oil wells? That’s right! As it turns out, LA is home to over 5,000 active oil and gas wells. Billed as a liberal artistic paradise, the city hides a dirty secret in plain site.


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When awake, our minds wander 50% of the time. That’s 8 hours a day. Adding intention to “wander time” is the secret to insight.

Insight is a rapid increase in fluency. Bordering the conscious and unconscious realm, these “Aha moments” can be abstract or physical: we can suddenly “get” how to scale a rock face or solve a math problem.

The liminal quality of insight means we can’t see the logical steps we took to make the connection. Insight occurs when we’re in the flow state, deeply engaged and in the zone.


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Our culture is at war. A battle over values that form our worldview. Which should be primary? Duty, achievement, and responsibility? Sensitivity to cultures, the planet, and the marginalized? In this essay, I explain why privileging certain values is a bad idea. Instead, I provide a solution to harmonize both perspectives. This essay is made possible by the brilliant work of Clare Graves, Carol Gilligan, Ken Wilber, and many others. Thanks for lighting my path.

People and cultures move along parallel waves of psychological growth. Each culture has a developmental “center of gravity” acting like a magnet, pulling people up to a conventional level, then holding them down should they attempt to climb any higher. …


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The health industry needs a North Star.

Data needs framing

To gain insight about health, longevity, and fitness, we must funnel knowledge into a framework to better optimize our lives.

Here’s my situation. I love intermittent fasting, especially Ori Hofmekler’s warrior diet, where you only have a 4-hour eating window. I don’t eat gluten because humans can’t digest it, and it’s terrible for us. I love steam rooms, cold showers, bodyweight training, walking, and cycling. I also take a few supplements: a multivitamin, L-theanine, and Fish oil.

It took ten arduous years to develop this approach. The reason it took so long is that I lacked a principled understanding of physiology. Without it, I lacked an understanding of relevance. What matters most? What’s worth ignoring? …


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What is a symbol?

Symbols are images that let us hold complex ideas in mind. In this way symbols gesture beyond themselves toward something greater. They’re imaginal bridges mediating between abstract and physical worlds.

Take the example of Lady Justice. Each detail conveys a different theme. Her scales represent the balance of support and opposition in court. The sword portrays her authority. The blindness shows impartiality. The toga reveals her Greek philosophical legacy.

This image compresses several ideas and relates them to one another, helping our brain efficiently connect information.

About

Chris Perez

Cognitive science, health, and society.

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