Curating Content To Support Learning About Humanity's Transition

This content was posted on  10 May 21  by   Rebel Wisdom  on  Medium
Becoming a Live Player

May 10th, 2021

A few years ago my mentor told me the following …

There are no parents upstairs.

He told me this during a great doubt in my life. Everything was so fucking complex, and this was before COVID came online. Even doing the basic stuff was difficult. Being organized with my health and finances was hard enough, so was determining what my career path should be, not to mention the pressure of getting all my relationships right.

It was not just the practical stuff though, but also dealing with all the nebulous psychological stuff, such as shame, cognitive distortions, limiting beliefs, intergenerational trauma, and whatever unprocessed shadows were lurking in my unconscious.

There were some deep spiritual confusions in the mix as well. Should I be gunning for enlightenment? Or perhaps awakening? Are they even the same thing? What spiritual path should I choose? Why are there so many to choose from?!

Oh great, I thought, the end of the world looks like it is near as well. There is no shortage of ‘existential risks’ peeking their head around the corner, such as weaponized biological agents, misaligned superintelligence, and runaway global warming. All these people who are way smarter than me are saying we need a culture enlightenment or else we are fucked.

I could not make sense of any of this, and I did not know who to go to for things to make sense.

It really did not help that a culture war was, and still is, going on as well. I was afraid to attempt to make sense on the internet, because if I said the wrong word, in the wrong way, at the wrong time, I would be cancelled by some social justice warrior or harassed by some reactionary Pepe the Frog loving troll. Everyone seemed to hate each other, and everyone was culture warring with so much certainty, way more certainty than I had.

And oh yeah, I cannot forget that I had to clean my room as well.

My mentor was right. There are no parents upstairs. There is nobody to tell me how I should live my life. There were no obvious scripts I could follow. This sucked. This was hard. This was confusing. There was an upside though …

I was not alone.

Finding the Others

I coined the term ‘Sensemaking Web’ in a tweet in June 2019 to refer to a constellation of podcasts and YouTube channels that seem to have sidestepped the culture war, and who were earnestly attempting to make sense of the complexity of our collective situation.

Emerge, Future Thinkers, and Rebel Wisdom were platforms that seemed different from the other platforms out there. They sidestepped culture war noise, and they seemed to be at the cutting edge of something, interviewing original thinkers such as Jordan Hall, Daniel Schmachtenberger, and John Vervaeke.

These thinkers were offering sensemaking frameworks, such as the ‘meaning crisis’ (which I’ll get to in a moment), and techniques such as ‘rule omega,’ which is about finding and upregulating the signal in what someone is saying, regardless of how outrageous it sounds.

A lot of the conversations were about getting conversations right, which was something that was not happening. The 2016 election cycle that propelled Donald J. Trump to become the 45th President of the United States made our collective conversational poverty incredibly obvious. The disorientating ‘culture war’ was in full swing.

These thinkers that the sensemaking web was gravitating around were thinkers that emerged after the rise of Jordan B Peterson. You may love him or hate him, mostly agree with him or mostly disagree with him, but it is hard not to acknowledge that for a few years he was the most significant figure in the culture war.

He was also my therapist, before he became culture war famous. I was actually in his office the day he released the videos that originally threw him into the cultural fray. It was trippy seeing my former therapist become weirdly famous, for the same things that we were talking about during our sessions.

I was captivated, watching him bounce from interview to interview, at a maddening pace. He had no PR agent at the time, so he accepted any podcast invitation. It was wild to watch. Some of the interviews were good, a lot were not, and one interview from a British man named David Fuller, from an organization called Rebel Wisdom, particularly stood out.

Rebel Wisdom fast became the gold-standard of the sensemaking web. Not only making the most sense of the Peterson phenomena, with their viral documentary called A Glitch in the Matrix, but also of the rise and fall of the wider ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ that Peterson was a part of.

With Rebel Wisdom and the others upregulating new voices, the sensemaking web started to become aware of itself, and with many ideas cross-pollinating, collective insights started to emerge. Things were starting to make sense.

Sensemaking the Landscape

We may not know what heaven looks like, but we know what hell can look like. You move away from hell, then you have a chance to get closer to heaven.

That is a paraphrased version of what Peterson told me during my first session with him. I was poking around to get a sense of what was at the bottom of his philosophy, and hell was at the bottom, and as he often told me: hell is a bottomless pit.

It is an elegant enough approach. If you do not know where you want to be, it is good to know where you do not want to be, then make sure you get away from that. This is what the sensemakers within the sensemaking web were doing. They were getting a sense of where we were collectively at, which is where we did not want to collectively be.

The problem landscape was beginning to become clear, and the following three terms encapsulated the predicament of our collective situation: the meaning crisis, culture war 2.0, and the meta-crisis.

The Meaning Crisis

The throughline between the work of my former therapist and the work of my friend and colleague John Veraveke is the meaning crisis. The sensemaking web became aware of John’s work after he released his groundbreaking Awakening from the Meaning Crisis series. The meaning crisis, defined by John and his colleague Christopher Mastropietro, “describes a felt sense of meaninglessness.”

Similarly, Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, used the term ‘existential vacuum’ to describe a state of meaninglessness, a sense that life had no purpose, while being alienated, disconnected, and disenchanted from the world. The meaning crisis is the experience of an existential vacuum on a societal scale, evidenced by an increase of anxiety disorders, depression, and suicide rates as John points out in his series.

John often highlights Harry Frankfurt’s philosophical notion of ‘bullshit’ as a key component of the meaning crisis. Bullshit is a different phenomenon than lying, as lying attempts to influence while being aware of what is true, bullshit on the other hand attempts to influence without any consideration about what is true, or what truth even means. As John says, “we are drowning in an ocean of bullshit.”

And this ocean of bullshit is what helped to encourage our current culture war.

Culture War 2.0

I made my appearance amongst the players in the emerging sensemaking web after releasing my co-authored viral white paper in September 2018 called The Memetic Tribes Of Culture War 2.0. We argued that the culture war should no longer be considered a left versus right affair, or what is called a ‘bipolar war’. That was Culture War 1.0.

Seeing my former therapist raised to culture war superstardom, and seeing the collective reaction to him, was well, non-binary. This informed my understanding of the new culture war, which was a war amongst many different competing worldviews of what is and what ought to be. We referred to these as ‘memetic tribes’. Some of the tribes we tracked: Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Antifa, Dirtbag Left, New Atheists, Intellectual Dark Web, QAnoners, Alt-Right, and Incels.

There were many more, and many more memetic tribes have formed since we wrote that white paper. This new culture war, or Culture War 2.0, was no longer a bipolar war, but a ‘multipolar war,’ with all the memetic tribes competing to capture the real estate that is our minds.

While memetic tribes are cocksure about objective truth, or third-person epistemics, they’ve adopted the same marketing strategies, or perhaps gaslighting strategies, as most corporations trying to sell us things we do not need.

Just like there are competing products for us to purchase, now there are competing worldviews trying to purchase us. We are not only disorientated by the many options for addressing the meaning crisis, but we also feel undue pressure to conform to them, or else we’ll be given a stigmatizing label.

We see others lose their jobs or harassed online for publicly sharing their views, and this has a chilling effect. People become afraid to speak their truth. It is easier to bullshit, but bullshitting is not going to address the collective challenges we are facing.

The Meta-Crisis

Philosopher Nick Bostrom, a leading scholar on existential risks (or x-risks) makes the case that they should be our global priority. According to Bostrom, x-risks are “threats that could cause our extinction or destroy the potential of Earth-originating intelligent life.”

There are numerous x-risks. Some that he lists in his paper Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards …

Deliberate misuse of nanotechnology,

Nuclear holocaust,

Badly programmed superintelligence,

Resource depletion or ecological destruction,

Repressive totalitarian global regime.

None of these are particularly fun prospects to deal with. The challenge with x-risks is the existential whack-a-mole happening on a global scale, so that when you attempt to knock one risk out, another one will pop up. These existential risks are deeply interrelated, and this interrelation is what the famous 1970 Club of Rome report called the problématique. This is the report that described the “generalized meta-problem (or meta-system of problems) which we have called and shall continue to call the “problematic” that inheres in our situation.”

Through the work of applied philosopher and social entrepreneur Tomas Björkman, this has become known as the meta-crisis. Thinkers like Jordan Hall and Daniel Schmachtenberger concur with the meta-crisis framing, and they put a strong emphasis on the need for a holistic approach towards addressing the meta-crisis, and not just a reductionist logical one.

As Schmachtenberger famously said: If we are gaining the power of gods, then without the love and wisdom of gods, we will self-destruct.

If the meta-crisis is true, or even partly true, then the stakes are high. Shit could collectively hit the fan within our lifetime, and as evidenced by the collective wake-up call that is COVID, the meta-crisis seems to be well on its way.

It is pretty hard to address the meta-crisis when a meaning crisis and culture war is happening. If many people are living in a way that does not engender a sense of meaning or are too busy yelling at each other via memes, how are we going to address our greatest collective challenges?

To put this in another way, now that we have made some sense of the meaning crisis, culture war, and the meta-crisis we are in — and the “hell” that can emerge because of them — what do we do from here?

Perhaps we play.

Becoming Live Players Together

While the sensemaking web does have its biases and blindspots, it has helped me and many others get a sense of the collective challenges we face. The modelling of the challenges is indeed highly abstracted, and seeing things through this ‘meta’ lens does not make it obvious about what we actually should do now.

Maybe this is why you are here now.

I have been enamored with Samo Burja’s notion of a live player for a while, which he contrasts to a dead player. From his Great Founder Theory:

A live player is a person or well-coordinated group of people that is able to do things they have not done before. A dead player is a person or group of people that is working off a script, incapable of doing new things.

He views the live player term via an amoral lens, and uses both geopolitical and entrepreneurial players such as Vladimir Putin and Steve Jobs as examples. We need not be a world leader or business magnate to be a live player though. We can start live playing with what we have, with where we are, with what we need to do.

Following a script of what we should do, or waiting for somebody to write one for us, is not going to create a new world. It may work in a more narrow success domain, but it will not help us know how to live with all the collective challenges we face.

The sensemaking web largely dispersed after COVID came online. All of them are still my friends, and it has been quite inspiring to see them attempting to live play towards a new world in their own way. For example, Daniel Thorson doubled-down on monastic living at The Monastic Academy, the Future Thinkers are attempting to launch their Smart Village project, and for myself, I have been stewarding this weird place called The Stoa for over a year now.

There are still times I show up as a dead player, but I am attempting to live play as best as I can, and when David reached out to me in December about the prospect of doing a course together, it became clear to us that becoming a live player was the thing we wanted to do. It was the thing we desired to do.

The phenomena of the ‘desire path’ is related to all of this. A desire path describes a path that is revealed from erosion by human foot traffic. They usually appear because constructed paths are not the most effective to get to one’s destination, and sometimes going “off the beaten path” becomes the best path.

This is what live players not only need to do, but this is what live players are called to do. Desire paths are needed today, on a collective scale, more than ever. The old paths, the ones the dead players are walking on, will not be the paths that will inspire a new world to emerge. The good news is that desire paths are the paths that make us come alive, so perhaps “aliveness path” is a better phrase to use here.

Overall, I am not viewing this thing as a course, and prefer to use the word ‘journey’ instead, a journey that helps us walk down a new path that makes us come alive. To be clear, David and I are not ‘epistemic authorities’ on how to be a live player, as such a thing does not exist, but both of us are experts at designing experiences, hopefully beautiful ones.

We have designed this experience as a journey for you to discover how to become a live player, and to walk down your aliveness path. The good news is that you do not have to do this alone, and moreover, we cannot do this alone.

Written by Peter Limberg. Edited by Hannah Robbins. Illustrations by Brandon Dayton.

Becoming a Live Player was originally published in Rebel Wisdom on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Scroll to Top