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Meme Update #32

In this Issue:
    Create Your Own Reality
    Mind Virus Contest Results
    Welcome Lockergnome Subscribers
    Book of the Week: The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins

Create Your Own Reality

Do you know somebody who is often “off in his own world”? It’s possible that he really is! He could be deep in thought, spinning a web of memes completely alien to everyone else on the planet—until he opens his mouth and passes those memes on. Edgar Allan Poe wrote that he had no idea where all the macabre ideas he had came from, but when he wrote them down as stories and books, the Pit and the Pendulum became part of our world too. George Lucas conceived the Star Wars universe and Gene Roddenberry Star Trek. Both of these fictional worlds are part of my real world most every day, because of all the shared context and in jokes I exchange with others.

For a Level-2 rational empiricist (see for an explanation of consciousness levels), the last straw in discussing philosophy with some New Age people is the idea that we create our own reality. “Poppycock,” they say. “Bollocks. There’s one reality out there and though you may create whatever you want, it ain’t reality.” People like that tend to think life is made up of places, people, buildings, jobs, and so on. On the surface it is. But the great thing about being human is that life is mostly made up of something else entirely.


Most of our reality is composed of memes. And we really do have the ability to create memes, simply by opening our mouths to speak. As a self-taught extrovert, I can tell you that it’s really a different world out there from when I was more introverted. People behave differently depending on how you behave and even how you expect THEM to behave! To a critical cynic, the world could easily be full of unfriendly, selfish people. To a smiling chatterbox, the world may be full of nice people who are just bad about returning phone calls.

The reason science has done so poorly in studying human nature is that our experimental model has an observer performing an experiment without having an influence on the outcome. It’s very very difficult to design an experiment with human beings in which the experimenter has no influence on the outcome. People are incredibly sensitive to the personalities and agendas of those around them.

Another way we create our own realities is through the distinction-memes we see things through. There is boundless variety possible in the human experience, but it’s just not part of the reality of someone who sees only a choice between Republican and Democrat, Management and Labor, Coke and Pepsi.

The first lesson of one Zen curriculum is to dissolve those artificial distinctions to open up the way for new possibilities. When asked if even a dog has God inside him, the teacher shouts, “No!” The “no” is so emphatic that it is understood to mean not just that the answer to the question is “no,” but that the whole Level-2 line of thought—exploring endlessly meaningless rabbit holes of finer and finer distinctions—is a trap. Better to stop that train of thought and quiet the mind.

The best way I know to reprogram your mind, and thus create a new reality, is to copy people who are living lives you like. Copy the way they think. Copy the way they see things. Try on new distinctions, new ways of being, and see what happens. Because this, my friend, is truly the final frontier.

Mind Virus Contest Results

Meme Update subscriber Jamie McCarthy passed on the following URL. invited readers to submit an irresistible mind-virus wrapper that a computer-virus terrorist might use to get unsuspecting users to open a virus-infected attachment. The results of the contests are scary and funny. I'm HOPING that the whole idea behind the contest was to inoculate people against these seductive memes.

Welcome Lockergnome Subscribers

A mention of my home page ( ) in the Internet's best ezine, Lockergnome, generated 4000 visits to my web site and a zillion new subscribers to Meme Update. Welcome! Back issues of Meme Update are available at .

For those of you not yet subscribed to Lockergnome -- it's free! Head gnome Chris Pirillo, in addition to being one of the world's sweetest guys, manages to crank out interesting and useful stuff every day. I always look forward to the next issue arriving in my inbox. Subscribe at

Book of the Week: The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins

Although best known for his bestselling The Selfish Gene, in which he introduced the word "meme," Richard Dawkins has said that he would like to be remembered for this book, The Extended Phenotype. A challenging, rigorous treatment of evolutionary biology, this book could easily rank as one of the most important science books ever written. It's difficult to imagine anyone thinking they have a complete schooling in biology without having read this masterpiece. The new edition has an afterword by philosopher Daniel Dennett.

For more information, go to

All the best memes,


This is Richard Brodie's Meme Update Newsletter. To subscribe/unsubscribe, with "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" (no quotes) in the message body. This is an automated list server, so you must send ONLY those words exactly as written. If you're having trouble, and I'll help.

Meme Central has links to lots of interesting things having to do with self-replicating ideas:

You can order books mentioned here and others through the Memetics Bookstore at

My book VIRUS OF THE MIND is now in its sixth printing! You can read the first chapter on line at

Spread the meme! Forward this copy of Meme Update to others who need to know about memes!