It isn’t often that a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve says something really profound, but Alan Greenspan did yesterday, whether he knows it or not.
Here is the exchange between him and Rep. Henry Waxman:
ALAN GREENSPAN: Well, remember that what an ideology is, is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality. Everyone has one. You have to — to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not.
And what I’m saying to you is, yes, I found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is, but I’ve been very distressed by that fact.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality…
ALAN GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?
ALAN GREENSPAN: That is — precisely. No, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.
He’s right, of course. Everyone has a model, a conceptual framework, an ideology (more or less rigid) that they use to deal with reality. But the question is not whether the framework is accurate. That part Mr. Greenspan got wrong.
The framework is NEVER accurate. And that is the kicker. Because almost everyone believes their framework is accurate, that’s why they believe in it. And if they have a hint that their way of interpreting reality is flawed, then they think they just have to tinker with the model, the framework, until it is accurate again. Most of us never realize that our mental model of the world is flawed. Most of us never even realize we have a model! And if we do know we have one, we are absolutely devoted to defending it. And if we realize it is flawed, we are absolutely devoted to improving it.
Alan Greenspan has an incredible opportunity, perhaps once in a lifetime, to recognize the truth: no matter how much energy he pours into fixing up his model of the world, he will fail. Guaranteed. It will never be accurate.
Reality will go on being what it is, regardless of what he, or you, or I think about it. Reality is so wild and free that there is no conceptual framework, no model, no ideology, no belief system that can possibly capture it.
When this is seen (usually it takes a catastrophic collapse of your mental framework for this to be seen — you have to lose something that you think is essential to your world view) then for a very brief time there is an opportunity not to go shopping for a new, improved model of the world. Before a new model, or an improvement on the old model, asserts itself, one can realize what remains when the conceptual framework is stripped away. It is a deep emptiness that remains.
Do not fear this emptiness. Stay a while in this empty place. Dwell for a time in this lost place. Stay in this place where you do not know how the world works, where you do not know what reality is, where you do not even know who you are. Stay there. Drop right into this place of not knowing. It is a deep well of silence. It is a deep well of creative force. It is a deep well of outpouring Life.
Alan, this is my message to you: drop the framework. Make no attempt yet to patch it up. It is flawed. It is inaccurate. It always will be. Allow yourself to fall into the generous, loving arms of Life being lived. Everything beautiful and giving and loving and creative comes out of this deep well of silence, where the self has no model with which to define the world, and the world lives its own wild and beautiful life. You are that life, indescribable, undefinable, untameable, and totally real.