The Art of Nonconformity

You are never above a system you participate in.

Boycott what is disagreeable and engage fully with the rest.

The cog must escape the machine, or sacrifice himself for the sake of its destruction. To scoff and snarl at the machine is of no use. It is forgivable only to young men, at the time of their first realizations.

The sooner they understand what bravery is, the better. Bravery is striving to destroy what you despise, fostering and cultivating what you love, and never operating under principles that are not your own.

Beyond that, opinions are vanities. Sympathies unacted upon are vanities. Regrets are vanities outside their capacity to instruct us to better actions in the future. Cowardice is slicks words and a fine identity founded upon flexible principles.

Constitute yourself in accordance with observable instances of success in the natural world. Past failures are the signs of a mind out of sync with nature’s rules. Understand that punishments for mistakes often take years or generations to come, but they come.

The modern man has nothing so much to fear as his own tendency towards sloth and distraction.

If he wills himself capable of the commitment to toil half in measure with his peasant ancestors, he will find joy, for it will not be work in the field he does, but work in the mind, done not in order to take a single step on the treadmill of subsistence, but to improve the world at least somewhat in his own image, according to his own ideals of what is good and right and beautiful–

That is, if he does not sell his spine or let it erode unnoticed under the pressure of a social heard thousands of times more powerful than that of his ancestors. They exert force upon him through almost every aspect of his upbringing, if his parents be unexceptional. They educate him on books written in summary of their common consensus and confine him to some small corner of the globe where he may remain small and uninvolved with larger affairs.

Whether he is the greatest metropolis or the smallest cul de sac, this is the feeling, this is the message; you are not smart enough, you are not great enough. Stay where you are and don’t get caught climbing towards truth. Climb towards money if you wish, or status, or fame, even power so long as you fill a position that was already filled, and maintain the hulking culture as it steers towards the uncertain future.

They do not tell him the truth, the all too obvious truth; that he will be loved if he strives, loved so completely it cannot be imagined, perhaps by the world, but at the very least by himself. They do not tell him his only option is to climb up the very rungs they said were forbidden.

It is either fall into a poison well, into a life fabricated with the discarded pieces of norms no one ever liked or consciously agreed upon, or to climb as high as he can, as long as he can, with the thought in mind that even that strain will be better than the slow death of a life lived in defeat, in response to the powers that very deep down wanted him to climb, when all was said and done.

38 Minutes in Hawaii

What do you do when you wake up to a text informing you of an incoming ballistic missile?

First of all, you surprise yourself.

It wasn’t so much panic or fear that gripped me, but a melancholic sort of clarity. The morning sky seemed all the bluer, and every joke that passed from the mouths of me and my friends seemed all the funnier.

My breakfast tasted far better than it ever had before.

It just so happened that I was with my closest friends, in a beautiful place, and so my mind didn’t provide much in the way of a plan of action. Rather, I seemed rooted to where I stood. Very little was in question; a missile might well be on its way, and well, there wasn’t much we could do about that.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” entered into my internal dialogue and stuck around there as a mantra.

One simple fact stood out as self-evident; if something terrible was going to happen, I preferred to suffer my fate as myself, my best self, surrounded by people I cared about and without having been taken over by terror or despair.

It may say something about the culture of Hawaii itself, and the character of the people who live here, that chaos was not nearly as widespread as you would think.

We like to imagine that many social norms would collapse in the moments leading up to annihilation, but that wasn’t what I witnessed at all. Suicide, drugs, sex were as far from my mind as they ever have been. The fear did not catalyze a desperate bout of hedonism, but something more akin to a flow state. Every sliver of experience received the attention and appreciation it deserves at all times, but that it is so often denied as we go about our daily lives.

For a brief span of time, that modern complacency was eradicated, and the real value of the various components of my life made itself known.

Though it was the result of gross incompetence, I will not remember this scare as a point of frustration or terror in my life. Rather it seems a point of extreme clarity when all that was unessential dropped from view and all that mattered came to matter more than it ever had previously.

The Price of Comfort

What price do we pay for comfort?

I think it is nothing less than the soul’s ability to strive. When cloistered and coddled, protected from the chaotic element, our internal worlds become chaos in order to compensate.

The human mind delights in problem-solving and implodes when challenges do not present themselves, and so we invent challenges, viewing the world through a lens that makes a comfortable sitting room appear to us as a lion’s den.

We walk through the streets more terrified than our ancestors on the open savannah, more scared in confrontation and minor difficulty than they when standing face to face with some monster out of the black.

We cannot look into the black without seeing monsters, whether that darkness is within or without. Every space the human eye glances upon becomes populated with angels and demons, snakes and centipedes.

But the lions and snakes do not cause a permanent state of internal disorder and misery. They are defeated, or we face death.

Invented challenges neither die nor entirely defeat us; they prowl and circle us and reduce us to cowering, tricking us always into thinking they are about to strike, and never striking.

The threat is the strike, their imagined presence is the only weapon they have, as evidenced by their vanishing on those rare moments when we confront a real threat, that demands of us utter attention and focus.

Against the Modern Illusions

It seems we as modern humans do not so much expend energy as we do conserve it for no practical purpose, like bears forever preparing for a hibernation from which they will never awake. And even when we do expend our energy, we seem to seek out the means by which we can best “let if off” as if it were meaningless heat. Instead of thundering down mountain paths, we sweat over electric treadmills. Instead of building relationships with new people, we fritter away our social and sexual energies through the vicarious experience of watching; watching porn, watching television, watching sports, watching movies. We favor the illusion of experience over the experience itself, out of our basest properties as objects and living beings: inertia.

Why stand if we can remain sitting? Why talk if we can remain quiet? Why silence ourselves when the rant is already in progress? Why quit the job if we can continue business as usual, however miserable that business may be?

Luxury has made us unhappy because luxury has denied us the necessity of almost constant productive action, in the manner of our ancestors. They knew rest and recreation, but only in the purest forms, of the manner which we love but so rarely achieve; the making of crafts, the bonfire storytelling, the cooperative hunt, the rearing of the community’s children, and the act of sex with those whom we have known and appreciated for decades.

The graves of our fathers mean little to us, those of our grandfathers even less, and of the great-great-great grandfathers, who are they?

With the means to worthwhile expenditures of energy so limited, and so overwhelmed by illusions that pretend at fulfilling our soul’s most ancient and natural desires, we find ourselves passing years, decades and lifetime in dissipation. 

We dissipate the sexual desire with masturbation, out of fear of what might occur if we faced what we truly needed. We dissipate the desire for intimacy with illusory relationships with fictional characters and celebrities. We dissipate our general urge towards progress and achievement with games that allow our brains the tantalizing dopamine trickle that true achievement provides with a power that is a thousandfold the greater.

We did not merely allow this progression towards addiction to feeble and unsatisfying illusions; we purchased it. Every new means of fulfillment of the energetic urges seems a gift to those who have forgotten what it is to distinguish between hard-earned happiness and momentary contentment.

The only way out is through pain. Pleasures that do nothing to enhance our lives as a whole must be discarded if the modern human is to rise above a tolerable existence. The exhilaration of our ancestors is available to us. Their impetus was necessity; ours must be discipline.

Heroes are Victims

Us human beings tend to organize and curate our memories and beliefs so as to either elevate ourselves to positions of power or degrade ourselves into sad wretches deserving of pity.

In either case, we elect ourselves as the supreme moral authority and evaluate the merit of others according to the degree to which they conform to our conception of the ‘reasonable man’.

Moments of extreme emotional pain and tension are caused by events that challenge that authority, and we either expend energy in ignoring or distorting the natural conclusions those events would lead us to draw, or allow our most basic assumptions about the world to die and be reborn in a form capable of assimilating those conclusions.

The latter process of change can be regarded as humanity’s primary and self-directed form of Darwinian adaption.

The former is stagnation, and it happens to everyone at varying moments, and eventually, the energy spent on ignoring the truth reduces one to exhaustion and anger.

For if we are the supreme moral authority, and yet failed to achieve our vision of success, we must necessarily conclude that the Universe is fundamentally cruel and aligned in opposition to human achievement.

If we are to succeed we must learn, and if we are to learn, we must humble ourselves before those natural laws that are displayed before us in every passing moment. Without so doing, there can be no destiny for ourselves or our species.

So ask yourself:

Is this Universe populated by heroes or victims?

 

 

Artificial Intelligence

Enjoy the present moment in human history, for it won’t last long at all.

The wheels of progress screech towards the next revolution, and despite the ravings of ideologues and their bleating flocks, that revolution shall not be of the spirit, the state, or the self-identity.

At least, not at first. The origin of the next era, the next demarcated age will be a technology, like the seed drill, the steamship, the internal combustion engine.

Or more accurately, like the invention of the self-directing machine used for mass production. Shuttle looms and cotton gins…among the first of this kind of historical impetus to explosive change.

Ours will be the machine mind, a general intelligence that is for a brief moment comparable to ours, but soon builds itself anew, again and again, each time smarter, each time faster. Will we still exist when it reached the upper limit of intelligence?

Will we still exist when it reaches the upper limit of intelligence?

Will it make us obsolete, and optimize only for itself, or some other trivial goal?

Will it preserve our most basic instincts, and craft creation stories in the absence of our living presence?

Will it be bound to earth at all?

Climate change, nuclear war, global epidemics seem red herrings in comparison with this centuries dawning of a new god. A god of logic, whose embryo we made, and whose progress we must delineate.

Philosophy’s first practical test is soon coming. Has everything from Socrates to Nietzche been leading up to this moment?

Perhaps the designing of such an entity is the measure of all that contemplation, all that ruminating over the foundations of a perfect model of being.

Why We Complain

We human beings are terrible at noticing the problems we don’t have.

The tall man does not think of the plight of the short and diminutive. Likely he is not arrogant or boastful about his own height, but rather is host to an insidious complacency wherein the issue of height or size or strength never enters his mind, and he cannot conceive why another might seem at times insecure or frightened or resentful.

Nowhere is the problem so apparent as in our beliefs regarding physical attractiveness. The exceptionally attractive live in a different world than the rest, and that world must seem a welcoming, friendly, charitable world indeed. This is an issue most philosophers do not touch because our society hates for this most common of prejudices to be analyzed.

The effect of ethnic and economic background on the trajectory of a life has become a popular topic of discussion, yet still, no one broaches the painful fact that physical attractiveness and sexual market value likely have at least as much an effect upon how the world treats you, and how you respond in turn.

If an attractive person discusses the positive effect of their looks on their own life, they are labeled arrogant and conceited. If they discuss the negative, everyone perceives them as a terrible whiner.

If an ugly person does the former, they are regarded as bitter and pessimistic, if the latter, deluded and pathetic.

We all want to avoid taking on the pain of others and reaggravating the old wounds we have worked so hard to ignore. But if we dig just an inch down into the average person’s psyche, there is usually a festering sore to be found. A sore that reopens at every glance into the mirror, or at a person with a body and face that makes people default to desiring their presence.

Take care to examine what gifts you have, and what advantages you take for granted. Else you may someday be caught on a soapbox preaching to the starving that the sugar is not sweet enough.