The Realism of Dreamers, Delusion of the Concrete Thinker, And So On

March 20 2021

1.1. Be a hyperrealist. Understanding, accepting, and working with reality is both practical and beautiful…. Don’t get me wrong: I believe in making dreams happen…. My point is that people who create great things aren’t idle dreamers: They are totally grounded in reality.

—Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

For those of us fascinated with alternative realities and possibilities, maybe a likely weakness is to use the idea “you never know,” or “is that just a belief?”, in such a way that we obscure our groundedness in realty. To confuse mental flexibility and openness to new possibilities, with the idea that we are living in an infinitely mutable physical and social reality. Which is not true!

Well, hold on … it is probably true, ultimately. But it is not true now. We are living in any multitude of fixed conditions, which is the current state of the present reality.

Big picture dreamers do not want to be weighed down by this, so they think waaaaay out into the stratosphere—of what could be, or what they feel should be…

Meanwhile, more concrete thinkers may not even have a clue as to what they are talking about, but may get on much better in the reality we are living in currently. May tend to be much better at playing by the rules that currently exist.

To make dreams happen, it is absolutely essential to understand the playing field, the “game space” that the dream is playing on! The process of change-making is as much about understanding the starting state as it is about envisioning the end state! So, as much as you might like to have a “blue sky” vision of your end goal, you had better have a solid understanding of your starting state.

We tend to be strong in one or another—the “big picture dreamers,” or the “grounded realists”. To see both well, this seems to me, to be incredibly powerful. In fact, end-state thinkers are very realistic, in the sense that they aren’t encumbered by the “illusions” of staring state thinking.

So, the big picture dreamers are subject to illusions around how reality works now. We can live in the future so much that we lose touch with present-day reality, forget to put on matching socks, and so on and so on. (No, I don’t really do that, but now you know what I am talking about.)

From the perspective of the present state, we can lose touch with the reality of the present state. We tend to be much more higher-chakra weighted, if you like that image.

On the other hand, we are extremely aware that the present state is, in some sense, an illusion too. Since we spend a lot of time thinking about what could be, we are less encumbered than the average person with the current set of rules, as being fixed—of being, in that sense, “real”. It may be reality now, because we are all generally agreeing to it, but we see beyond that illusion. So in that sense, the big-picture dreamers are actually more in touch with reality, in another sense—the reality of the arbitrariness of the current rules, the arbitrariness of the current agreements, and in most cases, the non-deliberateness of many of the decisions that have led up to the present set of agreements, that add up to the shared reality.

Conversely, the grounded day-to-day thinkers tend to exist more in the reality as it has been formulated. They tend to be much more lower-chakra balanced, again if you like that image. But they could have a real advantage over us big-picture dreamers, because they are more comfortably existing inside the game space of the game that is currently being played. If you want the goodies that come from a particular game, you had better spend some time mastering the game that is currently being played. To exist inside the future game that we all could play can be very beautiful, but most likely, it would only tend to give us benefits within the current game almost by chance.

As someone who is very, very interested in how I can play any role in transitioning the current games we are playing, into a more broadly helpful, loving and beneficial set of opportunities, I am very, very interested in how this process happens. More and more, what I am seeing is that a clear understanding of how we can accomplish this is to appreciate the skills required for mastery of the present state, and the future state.

It is rare, but not impossible to have both. Or to incorporate both in our institutions and visions.

Various mental errors need to be corrected for the two different types of people. For the grounded realist types, the errors tend more to focus on presumptions about the seemingly fixed nature of their present reality, and a lack of imagination outside of it. For the big dreamer types, the errors tend to focus around a lack of interest in the details of how to play the current game, or the possibly boring-to-them process of seeing how you would move the people from the old understanding + reality to the new one.

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© Alexander Feller 2018