What’s your story?

As I proceed with translating “The Ascent of Humanity” I almost daily stumble upon sentences reflecting deep insight into the fabric of reality. Stella Osorojos from the Santa Fe Time Bank called it “one of the most important books of the century”. She says she means it, and so do I. So please forgive me for coming back on elaborating on content from “Ascent” every now and then.

Many thinkers describe life as “living a story”, meaning that there is no such thing as an “objective universe out there” by the rules of which we have to live, and that the thing we call reality is not the actual thing of infinite properties, but merely a limited, abstract projection of, and withiin, our mind; what remains after so many filters of perception and selection. That projection is comparable to a map, a picture or a story which represents reality in the form of symbols (“The map is not the landscape”). Depending on the zoom level you prefer, the attributes you pick, the number of details you go into, the presentation format you choose, the symbols you design and the emphasis you set, the outcome will be very different from any other persons’ work. How many different maps of the world are there? How many interpretations of “Amazing Grace” or “The Count of Monte Cristo”? How many different opinions on any political matter, any piece of art, and every single person on earth? How many different definitions of God? And have you ever wondered why witnesses to a certain crime (or any other event) are talking of seemingly completely different things?
All those are stories, and so is life. For the way we look at it is arbitrary – and it shapes our actions depending on the choices we make, thereby changing also the repercussions we experience from outside.
Buddha called the way we usually look at, and live, our lives an ‘illusion’, J.Krishnamurti called it ‘image’, Adyashanti described it as ‘virtual reality’, and Villoldo actually called it ‘a story’. So does Charles Eisenstein who explains in Chapter VII-10 of his book how we are not victims, but creators of our fate; how there is no inescapable coercion, just surrender to stories; and how language, which is a story in itself, partakes in shaping the story of your life: 

Even naming these stories and observing them in operation already makes them less powerful. However, I have found it useful to deliberately undo them through the way I speak to myself and others. We can use words in ways that deny the stories that enslave us, and thus accelerate our freedom. For example, Marshall Rosenberg suggests rephrasing every “have to” sentence as “I choose to… because…”

Here is a personal example. I used to say, “Even though I hate it, I have to give grades.” When I rephrased it as “I choose to give grades because I am afraid I will lose my job if I don’t,” everything became much clearer. I realized that my job was much less important to me than my sense of integrity, which for me personally was violated by giving grades, and so I decided to leave academia. By thinking in terms of “have to” we surrender our power. The very words carry within them an assumption of powerlessness.

As I wrote in earlier essays, a gun to your head does not imply being unrejectably forced to do as you’re told. With or without that gun, you still have all the choices in the world, as long as you are willing to take the consequences. And please don’t ridicule my words there: it doesn’t mean you are to making stupid decisions in a dangerous situation. It just means you are free to do whatever fits into your value system, your story, if you are aware of that story. The less fear you have of forces threatening to overpower you, the more freedom there is for you, up to the point where there is no coercion at all.

You do not have to believe in the shamanic concept of physical-reality alteration by forces of the psyche to actually shape your personal reality the way it suits you best – although such forces might have an impact, who knows.
Unluckily most of the people I have been talking to hardly understand the concept or even reject it, and I could feel the underlying fear. People speak of freedom, individuality, and the power of love, yet don’t trust it much. And why would they, having been raised under a system where there is such a huge background fear, a survival angst about not fitting in with all the others, losing their job, losing their livelihood, sometimes even physical hurt. How would you not feel threatened and coerced into doing things you don’t like, such as working a degrading job, watching your back, and giving into all sorts of constraints.

The fact is: this is just one story to live by. If you equate an external attempt of force to a reaction of yours, then this story will shape your experience of reality, your life. The threat then, of course, feels very real. But as countless individuals have proven, other ways are possible. With the number of choices available to you, increasing by the degree you free yourself from unconsciously lived-by stories, life becomes better. By better I mean satisfying and fulfilled, as you then tend to make ever more choices by yourself, out of free will, instead of being forced to obey, subordinate, follow, give in, which equals to living someone else’s life. If you take the freedom of living a story where there is no irresistible pressure creates even more freedom. Freedom from (particularly fear), and freedom to (create your reality).
Living by the story of Western civilization, on the other hand, resembles being hunted down by all sorts of predators, getting driven from one crisis into another, until you eventually get trapped and die. You may even be lucky enough to count as one of the predators; but as long as you are unaware of survival-of-the-fittest being just a story – the story of our culture – you are a slave chained to a story like all the others. Gandhi put it best when he asked, “Don’t hate your oppressors. They need liberation, just like you.”

What do we actually need?

I seem to have a phase of disorientation lately, resulting in either not knowing what to think (and therefore write), or alternating between multiple ways of looking at the world. The dissolution of wrong and right combined with the study of various solutions to the current crises do me no good, some may say; although I guess this is the only way for me to eventually get rid of a sickening belief in the concept of control over my environment. During the past two years I have learnt to let go of the idea that, by controlling money flow, people’s view of my person and the world, and other variables, I could finally reach a stable state of security, a safe ground to plan the future on. I was taught to believe in the power of control – and believe I did.

The concept of control is an illusion. After all that has gone ‘wrong’ in my life, all failed plans and relationships, hardly anyone around here knows better than me. (I owe everyone hugs and apologies for having been mean, I guess.) Still it ain’t easy to accept and let things come my way, awashed as I am still by Western culture. To naturally let go means to have faith, trust and belief in fate, especially the ways of people. I admit to have a deficit in that field, a deficit that, thanks to Auroville, is not quite as awful as it used to be.
Back in Europe, where I am currently stuck, I am also stuck with developing ‘skills’ like those mentioned above. For how can you trust people in a competitive society, i.e. an everyone-for-themselves system of constant fighting, battling, and warfare? Can people whose whole life is based on againstness and who make a living out of destructiveness show you how to love and feel loved? Would you ask a priest to learn programming?

It sure takes a peaceful environment and a loving teacher to develop the qualities mentioned above. You cannot do it all by yourself in environments like the one I have been in all my life. Therefore my longing for a fundamental change in the ways of the world. And yes, there is an emphasis on ‘my’, as I might share this longing, this need, with other fellow creatures, but can only speak for myself. When I once adopted Jacque Fresco’s vision of a resource-based, fully-automated civilization, I had the dream of cutting off the crap, preserving only the best of nowadays’ society. But shortly after, I had to learn that, right when I got where I was intellectually going, the road was still stretching a long way in front of me.

Yes, there is the need for a very different social environment, but no matter how you put it, the way there starts with a thought, feeling or intuition, rather than with an action.

If we are able to survive the next 100 years, The Venus Project may very well become a reality. But the longer I go into the subject of improving the world and ourselves the more I doubt the necessitiy of having a civilization at all. If we ourselves did the work that sustains our lives, it would be the ultimate means to reconnect to the foundations of existence and the happiness of being one with what we separated ourselves from as “environment”. It would be the ultimate means to free ourselves from governance and 8 hours or more a day of alienating work. Instead, we’d spend just 2-4 hours on occupations we care about, and that were really satisfactory as they make us learn, grow and survive. It was civilization that made work such an uncomfortable experience. It was civilization that made us needy and greedy. It was civilization that created organizational structures bigger than a single individual can handle. You hardly find people complaining about such things in tribal, spiritual or buddhist environments for instance – which are based on contentment with what IS rather than what could come.

Under such conditions there is no need for insurances, money, global markets and all the like. There is also no need for cities, industries, robots and all the technologies that endlessly distract and amuse our minds, separating us from the real world around us, and that demand for solutions to problems that haven’t been there in the first place.

We know that people can be happy without possession. We know that we can be happy with living off the land, not wanting anything but a little bit of company. In fact, it is the wanting that makes us (and others) suffer, for it creates discontentment; in other words unhappiness; in other words conflict with our situation.

All that boils down to the question: What do we actually need? How did we ever come to the idea we could not live without all the stuff that surrounds us today, along with made-up concepts of “society”, “institution” and “civilization” that have materialized in our lives without any basis in the material world whatsoever?

Of course we are a species that doesn’t like to relinquish even the slightest bit. It would be hard to change ourselves to being content with less stuff than we own today. But isn’t that exactly the walls we are running into all the time? People refusing to give up the pieces of shit they have, despite accurate information of a better world where there is no ownership, no fight, no oppression?
Then how much does it actually take to make our existence worth living?

I’d say, it is just a change of mind on the deep spiritual level – which no technology in all the world will be able to bring about. Whether or not there will be highly developed technology in the future hence doesn’t make a difference in bringing about such a process. On the level of ideas I am not against the direction of The Venus Project in so far as we want the same: The end of the monetary madness giving path to something much more healthy.
It is only that I highly doubt we’ll be able to trigger a general paradigm shift as long as we are organizing at the millions, while using technology as a means of control. To learn how to govern yourself you would want to live with and by yourself; to learn how to heal the world you would actually have to stop treating it like disposable, dead lump. To know what is real we have to get rid of the symbol, the word, the rational logic, and “get in touch” again.
How do you do that within our culture? – You can’t! It is the culture’s aim to keep you off this path. It provides no means by which to achieve it, even destroys you if you try too hard. You cannot change it as a whole, yet need a place to stay.

And there I go, off into the wilderness, into communes, or whatever my path may be. As I leave, as we leave one by one, the culture of competition, againstness and destruction dissolves, and society falls apart in yet another way than the self-defeating rip-off of nature’s gifts.

eu angelion ex carolus

“From the egalitarian societies of the Paleolithic, humanity evolved into great agrarian civilizations in which the rich were those who owned slaves. In the Machine Age, overt slavery disappeared, only to be replaced with a system in which nearly everyone did demeaning work out of survival anxiety. “Do it or you will die!” That’s slavery, all right. The great promise of machine technology — Every man a king! Every man a god! — has borne its opposite. Every man a slave. Slaves without human owners, all laboring under the yoke of money.”

Most of the misery we witness, and go through ourselves, arises from the idea of separation and control. We cannot watch things happening “naturally”. We just don’t let go. As we try to subdue reality according to our will, our whole civilization consists of thick layers of patches to problems which previous “solutions” have created in the first place. That’s why things look so complicated; hence the need for experts. To my experience that need is an illusion. Life is much simpler than it seems. It became obvious as soon as I learned how to not divide the world into wrong and right, what should and what should not be, or to look after what I think I “deserve” as “my right”. The first two steps – seeing the illusion and letting go of it – were the most difficult, and the latter one, in my case, is still in progress. Adyashanti so aptly called that, which is keeping us, a fear of breaking the ultimate taboo of leaving humanity behind, as it actually implies the realization that the world (in every sense) cannot be saved, and does neither need nor want to be saved. In fact, civilization has to collapse – rather than slowly fade away – so that every man eventually allows the urge for a different paradigm to be felt within himself.

“With the end of the age of the Machine, we see the possibility of a return to the original egalitarianism, in which the economy is a flow of gifts within a context of abundance […] The collapse of the Newtonian World-machine will reunite us with the world, and we shall once again fall in love with it. To be in love is to dissolve boundaries, to expand oneself to include an other. Already it is happening. Have you noticed? One by one, we are rejecting our society’s priorities and falling in love again with life. That is our true nature, which we can deny only with increasing effort.”

(Quotes from Charles Eisenstein’s “The Ascent of Humanity“, Chapter VII-6. My own writing originally appeared as comment to Mark Boyle’s Freeconomy Blog)

Uncle Ben’s

In the face of a major Euro crisis we have forgotten about the Dollar. Maybe it is meant to be this way 😉
I don’t care about currency and money any more, but I liked this clip I found:

I wish I had a talent of expressing myself in such a funny way.

Leak’em all

If you are pissed with the arrogance with which governments kill people all over the world, either by their intelligence agencies, or their troops, and if you are pissed with them claiming at the same time that the publishing of the truth – written down by their own hands! – was a threat to so-called innocent individuals, let them know.

Let them know that, indeed, they, the governments of the world, are a threat to life on Earth, and that we, the people, will not look the other way. Let them know by researching relevant documents where ever you find them.

WikiLeaks is still online.
Type http://213.251.145.96/ , or http://savewikileaks.net/another-wikileaks-address/  , or http://www.wikileaks.info , or try various other addresses like .eu, .de, .ch, .at, etc.

AUTHOR: Is there any way out of this mess?

GOD: “Yes. Shall I say it again? A shift of consciousness. You cannot solve the problems which plague humankind through governmental action or political means. You have been trying that for thousands of years. The change must be made, can be made only in the hearts of man.”
(Neale Donald Walsch: Conversations With God)

In an interview with Larry King, Walsch described the inception of the books as follows: at a low period in his life, Walsch wrote an angry letter to God asking questions about why his life wasn’t working. After writing down all of his questions, he heard a voice over his right shoulder say: “Do you really want an answer to all these questions or are you just venting?” (Wikipedia on “Conversations with God”)

Both quotes kind of sum it up, what I am thinking of the situation we are in. The latter also gives a hint to sane use of thought; philosophy, if you will. Philosophy can equal verbal masturbation if you do it just for the thrill of shuffling words and dealing with puzzles. If it tells you something about the life you are living, and if you use that insight for improving on things, that’s when God is answering your questions. Sometimes, it even might work the other way round, philosophy being an expression of wisdom gained through living. Then God is you.

Determinism

I must admit that I once was a guy who couldn’t believe in anything that was out of reach of science. If you couldn’t touch it, define it, extract it, manipulate it, categorize it, prove it, it couldn’t have been real. What a miserable existence that was, denuded of all the beauty and freedom of emergence.

Well… having had a lazy day I recently stumbled into someone else’s blog who discussed the subject of determinism, and people being unwilling to rethink their beliefs. I liked the observations she made. Information per se hardly ever changes anything. People will resist new information, no matter what, unless they feel the new truth in their bones, or unless it already agrees with their world view. So I agreed with my previous responder to that blog, that using a Socratic approach can do magic (although I prefer to just present my personal view as such, rather than manipulating people into finding what I find).

As for determinism, it isn’t all that new. As a matter of fact, it has been the basis of science and technology for over 400 years. If science is right about the determinism of the universe, then people’s behavior cannot be free as well. What’s revolutionary about that idea is that we now begin to apply it on humans, although, in our subconscious, we use to think we were exempt from the laws of nature. And maybe we think so because we feel that determinism might be a wrong concept.

The Cartesian world view in public perception is very hard to kill and people trained in rational thinking and rhetorics can talk you into believing it – if you ever doubted. But since ~1900, Heisenberg, Einstein, Gödel, Turing and many others have demonstrated that we cannot be sure about anything, or even everything. Determinism is dead. We just didn’t notice.

After all it is just another concept, another ideological (or religious, if you prefer) world view. People have come up with others, like eastern religions, buddhism, animism, chaotic organisation, chaotic non-organisation and so on. Both science and religion have their use in a certain area; both determinism and free will work within a certain frame, but then they fail due to applying a rigid method to a living process. That is what the scientists I mentioned proved with their methods, and what e.g. Buddhists agree with for 2500 years now after having applied their own methods, and why I say that determinism is yesterday’s jam.
Of course that is only my view, no more valid than anyone else’s view. I see no objective reality “out there”, truth being the same for everyone when in “fact” it isn’t.

Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear here. I didn’t intend to say that Heisenberg alone declared that we cannot know anything for sure, but that he, the persons I mentioned, and others like Schrödinger *together* paint the picture of a science different from the deterministic ideology of pre-20th century science. Taken as a whole their work unintendedly shows that science as such fails with explaining reality, especially in complex systems, and therefore will never be able to make true precise longterm predictions.

Why is it that the laws which science finds don’t fit reality and have to get redefined over and over again? Besides the complicated one (represented by Gödel &co.) there’s two easy parts:

a) The nature of a law (especially a scientific law) is generalization. You have to reduce individual things with infinite properties each to categories of similar things with a finite set of properties to which the law applies. There are two problems with that:
– The set of properties is of arbitrary choice. Look at the definition of “planet”. Look at any map.
– The rest which we discard as irrelevant but which represents an infinitely higher number of properties has a significance. Think of it when you listen to the weather forecast or when you drink a vitamins shake instead of eating an apple.
The categories we make up along with the limited-properties things create a picture that may follow the laws of science within a given frame set, but only if you don’t look too close. Taking that picture for real hence trying to apply the laws universally results in chaotic, unexpected response. Always.

b) Even if we do not look for rules and do not gain our knowledge from books, we can rely on our senses and say, “I see that thing. I measured some of its properties.” Still people disagree for a vast amount of reasons, one of which is that we cannot handle infinite amounts of properties. What then, following from that, is reality if not that what we choose? Isn’t it different for each person? What can we actually know for sure if we cannot completely know at least one single thing?

You do believe in determinism, but you do not believe your life is unalterably fixed, past, present, and future, do you? For, no matter if we are able to predict what’s to come, that is what “determined” means. Otherwise I didn’t get your reason for acting as responsible individuals. If I’d ask a person in a deterministic world why s/he is doing something, the answer I’d expect would be, “Because I cannot help but to follow the laws of the universe. There is no choice”; like a planet cannot willingly resist the gravity of its star. Without choice you could not act responsibly. You were just a puppet on a string, a programmed robot.
But, as a matter of fact, you are free to choose whatever option you prefer; even in a situation of being “forced” you are free to say: “Pull the trigger!”

Personally, I have given up on determinism as soon as I found out that it doesn’t work on me when I decide so; it also doesn’t hold for natural processes, if you take a closer look.
Instead, I (in short) think of an interdependent system of self-organizing complex subsystems, in which each element has options within a given frame, but each action changes the context by causing feedback, so we evolve while, and by, adapting to the constantly changing world we created and that created us. We are both free and bound. That’s pretty much what I see around me and inside myself – which results in active participation in the world’s affairs without desperately clinging to my ideas and wishes.

Biased at the basis

Scientists claim to be subjects in a universe of objects. But call them subjective and you’ll know what’s wrong with them…

When asked why they want all that technological stuff in the first place they’ll come up with reasons which turn out to be unquestioned beliefs (and untrue the same) like, “Science and technology make people’s lives better” – or phrases like, “Man must follow his curiosity. It’s his destiny.”

Yeah, right. How could I forget that? Feeling curious is the basis of rational science. Better check your axioms, man. All of them.

Unreasonable rationality

The other day I read somewhere that you can make a rational decision, but that doesn’t mean you’re reasonable by doing so. I guessed the same would go for the opposite. I had to contemplate a while on it, wondering about the fundamental difference between the two. Are they incompatible systems of decision-making, or is there some sort of relationship among them? I came up with the following answer.

To be rational means that you roughly follow a certain value system in which material and scientific issues matter most, and emotional or spiritual least. If, by applying the scientific method, you can serve an emotional interest as well – fine. But looking after the emotional issue first would be regarded as irrational.

Let’s say you have to shift to a new place and there’s a cat with you. You cannot move to the cheapest, nicest place because they don’t allow pets. So you take the less attractive, more expensive flat where you can stay together. From a rational point of view you’d be silly to act according to your emotional relation to a “disposable thing”. It’s irrational to give up a financial advantage. Many people get rid of their pets in such a situation. But others find it more reasonable to go for the other solution: keeping the cat at any cost.

So what does reasonable mean?
The term simple states that you act according to reason. You have a reason to do something, whatever that may be. That reason could be anything, and as long as you have it and your actions reflect its logic you can always claim sanity. It might be irrational, but there is sense in what you’re doing, as opposed to nonsensical, random, insane, impulsive, or compulsive decisions and behaviours. To be reasonable means to be connected to a value system, any value system, and it can contain science and materialistic points, although it is not limited to those; it means you are likely to have a much broader perspective than a physicist or an investment banker, because you are not an expert with a narrow range of interest.

It means even more than that.
From a reasonable point of view, not only the nonsensical, but also the rational way often represents insanity. Why is it, that there is enough food on Earth for twice as many people, but more than one billion are starving? Why is it that we use drinking water for flushing off faeces? Due to rational decisions which save us time, money and effort our whole civilization, especially in its current form, is a global madhouse full of insane people making foolish decisions and acting like maniacs – absolutely unreasonable.

What makes a merely rational person an unreasonable one is that they leave out vital information, crucial reasons, fundamental values other than pure matter and instant benefits. They may act on just one thing, e.g. immediate money profit, and forget about (or dismiss) longterm or “side” effects, such as the biosphere getting damaged to the point of collapse or humans being deprived of their dignity til they claim it back with violence.

Ratio (latin: the mind) is condemned to repeat foolish acts over and over again because it is limited to science and logic which, by categorization, reduce knowledge to an abstraction of the actual thing and which are by (self-)definition just fractions of what is going on within a human life and the biosphere as a whole.
You cannot reduce reality to abstractions and expect the outcome of your acting upon those images of reality to be consistent with the real thing.
You cannot have a value system that dismisses feelings as irrational and expect the outcome to be worth living for human (and other) beings. Much worse so in a world where cybernated units, the apex of rationality, would run the show, as The Venus Project promotes it.
You cannot achieve working solutions while you “arrive at decisions” by assuming that “the real problems in the world are technical” when in fact they are not. There’s more to life than this. So much more than this.

It took me a while to realize that but finally I arrived at a point where I see no more use in pimping up our social systems or, heaven forbid, our gadgetry which failed to make life better for 10,000 years now. Rationality itself has failed, and it isn’t likely to do better within the next ten years either. To believe in that sounds Utopian to me, insane even.
It’s fine to have water desalination devices and electricity and virtual libraries which all help in patching problems of industrial civilization. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s far from constituing a solution. The real change will be a shift from rational to reasonable, and from there to spiritual which is a state beyond reason, because there is no more need to argue.
Spirituality can end world hunger, regardless of (and freed from) scientific rationality – which created the problem in the first place. You can call me irrational to say so, or even unreasonable, and you would be right. I have nothing to add.

Am I out to saving the world?

Definitely not.
What do you mean by ‘world’ anyway?
The Universe? – It doesn’t need to be saved.
The Planet? – So far we cannot destroy it.
The Biosphere? – Well, one could say that man, being the most powerful species on Earth, has some responsibility for his fellow creatures. But that derives from a human understanding of ‘morality’, ‘rights’, and ‘justice’ or, on the material level, of ‘resources’ and ‘life stock’. It has nothing to do with laws of nature – if they even exist outside our intellectual concepts of the fabric of reality.
So maybe saving the world is about saving our species, our civilization, the status quo. And I am not even trying to help that. It would mean that I’d impose my idea of what the world should look like on others. It would mean that they’d have to live under conditions that I find to be useful, regardless of their needs, and I think that is a fascist way of handling the situation we’re in.

I mean, it’s alright to find likeminded folks to join forces. But there’s a limit to how many allies you can bind. Have you ever explained your world view to another person, or have you ever tried to help them, and then noticed how many reject your view or your way of helping? Even if you had the power to force ‘their advantage’ onto them, the only thing you can achieve by that is turning an advantage into misery for them.
So what can we do at all?

As far as I’m concerned the only thing we can actually change is ourselves: our way of looking at the world, our emotional, rational and behavioural reactions, and our expectations. Altering ourselves can be learned easily and it doesn’t require the smallest piece of technology. Not even a pencil.
That sounds revolutionary but it is knowledge having stood the test of time for thousands of years.
That sounds selfish but the result of changing yourself into someone content is a human being able to relate peacefully to others.
That sounds destructive, and in fact it is. It destroys the notion of being a separate self and creates a feeling of oneness that comes from deep within. It destroys my ability to act loyal towards faceless institutions and replaces it with loyalty towards all forms of life. It destroys consumerism and progress-ism and gigant-ism in favour of sustainable living. It destroys the belief into atomistic models of reality so I am able to mentally return to where I am never able to quit physically – interdependency.

If you are content with what you have – what you ARE – then there is no need to argue with others over world views and resources and saving the world. There is no need for a common system of governance, trade, administration, farming. There is also no need for an objective language (which is physically impossible to have anyway). And most important: there is no need for waiting for the right moment, a trustworthy politician, or a ‘necessary’ invention to actually make the world a better place.

You can argue that backing down from the world’s affairs doesn’t solve anything. But the same goes for forceful intervention which we have tried over and over again, this situation being a result of it. Top-down doesn’t work. It never did.
After all, what does a group, organisation, institution, society, or even mankind consist of? It is persons, isn’t it? You and me. What each of us believes, thinks, says, decides, does, sums up to the thing we call society. It makes a difference, however small you may think it is.
So, whether I try to change society or myself, it is a systems approach because I face the situation at its very root: human behaviour, and at the root of that: human thought.
Only that, starting out small, I am not dependent on others.
When I decide not to take a gun then war stops right where I am.
When I buy less stuff then consumerism ends at my door.
When I step back for the benefit of another person then greed gets extinct before my eyes.
When I share my surplus with others then poverty ends where I live.
When I neither demand / expect nor obey the culture of dominance collapses.
When I see similarities instead of differences human unity becomes real.
Trying to change the world without having to change oneself right now is an attempt to have the cake and eat it, too.