How to Discipline the Mind

A disciplined mind is one that achieves unity and clarity by understanding productive thoughts are those that prioritize and weigh the benefits of potential actions, as well as those thoughts that are required to successfully perform a selected action.

How much time does the average person waste in repetitive cycles of thought that reach no conclusion, determine no action, but rather simply work to reaggravate past emotional pains?

Modern man’s worship of the social world, the sphere of secrets, rumors, and controversy of illusory consequence is symptom of the human mind’s natural tendencies toward addiction to repeated surges of emotion as a result of cyclical exposures to social tensions, always in the capacity either as moral authority or victim, because those two roles necessitate a polarization between involved parties and thus a greater emotional high.

People watch reality television in order to assume a position of moral authority over either one of the observed parties in any dispute, or else over the entire social order presented in the show.

People consume propagandic news and opinion pieces in order to themselves identify as a victim or ally to a victim within a larger oppressor-oppressed relationship, in order to obtain a sense of self-righteousness that gives both a momentary and renewable high, as well as a sense of meaning and purpose to an otherwise dreary life.

Those who limit or abstain from engagement with these and other dopamine treadmills open their eyes to reality itself and gain happiness from the process of determining and achieving goals that better the conditions of their lives. This leaves little room for obsessive reflection over the past and potential dramas of the future.

Instead, the tremendous power of the human mind is applied to solving difficult problems, an undertaking that provides less severe jumps between euphoria and desolation, but instead, gives a clean and truthful meaning to life.

The Art of Genius

Genius is nothing more than the carrying of idle thoughts to their farthest conclusion. How many people, before Darwin, had pondered the origin of species?

Only one person dared to see the inquiry to its absolute end.

How many wondered about the relationship between time, space, and energy?

Only Einstein spent his life running after peculiar notions and questions no one seemed to answer.

Emerson once said,

“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

Every human, being a possessor and product of the most complex object in the Universe, the brain, is capable of ingenuity and innovation. What is rarer than curiosity and invention is the force of will and passionate nonconformity that allows the seeds of genius to be grown into great works and discoveries.

How many ideas have passed through your mind, been left unnurtured, only to be presented later on as the product of someone else’s mind, perhaps to great public esteem and profit?

I hesitate to call the required impetus to action confidence because I doubt confidence in his own genius was Einstein’s or anyone else’s primary motivator. I think rather than being full of aggressive gusto or rebellion, most great thinkers simply ignore the doubting voices that might put halt to their explorations.

Leonardo Da Vinci did not resent his detractors or plot their downfall. More likely he was so busy with his own interests and endeavors that few of the doubters even appeared on his periphery.

To be a genius is to pursue with great energy that which interests you most, and arouses in you an industriousness and competency beyond that of your average capability.

It is not a magical voice in the head or the soul, guiding the hand of a select group and leading them constantly to truth and beauty.

Truth and Propaganda

In the days before the printing press, and for a long time after, information was controlled by a minuscule group of people, who because of their monopoly were able to wield almost complete control over the beliefs of the general populace. Therefore the distributed propaganda favored the large, stable, monopolistic systems, whether they be a monarchy or organized religion.

No longer. The internet has distributed the locus of information control among the general populace and thus made propagandists of us all. The very nature of this democratization means that much of the distributed propaganda instead favors the diffuse, progressive, experimental ideas that themselves form the basis of our new systems of mass communication.

True, accurate information now exists in greater abundance, but in far greater proportional scarcity than before.

Accurate information is rarely emotionally compelling when compared to lies that have been designed specifically for the triggering of emotion in a targeted group. Therefore, because in regards to information for the general public, what is most emotionally compelling is what people are most willing to pay for and consume, the profit motive drives all propagandists, whether they be independent bloggers or large media conglomerates, to craft scandalous, controversial narratives that never resolve so long as they can generate attention and escalate so long as the public is entranced.

In the western world, detailed and entertaining information is now easier to get than food or water. But truth regarding contentious issues and moral quandaries is as difficult to obtain now as it was during the dark ages.

Not because the truth is nowhere to be found, but because we all believe we’ve already found it.

The New Political Evil

What can be done when a form of mass insanity has become the new signal of virtue? When to oppose is to be evil, because that which deserves opposing has defined itself as the charitable and fair?

The depth of a society’s collective delusions can be measured by the intensity of vitriol in their response to uttered truth.

Political rhetoric and the Scientific method are not complementary or compatible. The two will oppose one another until one is destroyed, this war being decided by each side’s chosen weapon; for the former, coercive force and governmental growth. For the latter, technological innovation.

But technology only transforms our society to the degree in which it is adopted and allowed to function, whilst the state’s coercive power by definition affects even those who do not wish to be controlled.

The political evil we face today has a new face. It bears very little surface resemblance to that of the Middle Age’s feudal lords or the 20th Century’s despots. The greatest threats to Western Civilization can be seen on every street, in every University, and they believe themselves to be forward thinking, progressive, and subversive in the face of an oppressive and old fashioned value system.

But resentment and self-importance make despots of us all. No one is so capable of evil as the person who believes themselves a saint.

 

The Mind of a Master

As children, our creativity was bounded only by the duration and depth of our attention at any given moment.

As adults, our creativity is bounded not only by the quality of attention but also our specific evaluation of the worth and personal enjoyment interaction with a system might generate.

To put it simply, adults achieve consistent episodes of childlike creativity in those undertakings which they believe to be appropriate for their competencies, and most of all worthy of extended commitment of time. 

The most helpful deficiency of the immature brain is its inability to schedule and manage time. This removes a distractor and allows for profound engagement with systems that would not even be noticed by someone who had a conception of places to be and important things to accomplish.

A child can spend several hours working on chalk drawings because every child has no reason to doubt their own competence in the art, and the worth of their works. They approach the sidewalk with the same confidence and excitement as the professional adult sculptor goes to the clay.  In this way, the minds of the novice child and the adult master are the same.

In attempting to cultivate states of intense creativity, we must first believe in the value of whatever we might make. Otherwise, hours spent at the canvas will seem a waste of time, and thus those hours will not be spent, making mastery impossible.

 

Being Your Own Parent

Over the course of years, I’ve slowly determined that most of my flaws and ugliest tendencies are simply the things my parents let me get away with as a child. I say this not to shirk responsibility, but because I think we often flatter ourselves and over complicate the causes of our pathology.

Whatever flaws I see in others I fast find in myself, among them a certain brattiness that masquerades as sophisticated angst or existential frustration. I look back at the style of temper-tantrum or pouting I performed as a kid, and catch myself doing a grown up version when things don’t go my way.

My parents let me retreat into my comfortable spaces far too often. I was allowed to retreat when I should have been helped up and told to get on with it. My room was a refuge, and when I didn’t play well with others I had toys and gadgets to replace them. That privilege granted me the luxury of an early introversion that probably had even less utility then than now.  The benefit of such an early start was that eventually, introspection got boring, like mining the same stone, again and again, allowing me to be frank about what was once hidden and unknown.

They say our personality is locked in by age 4. But what you can observe you can measure, and what you can measure you can change. I’ve put myself on a steady diet of self-observance, and in many ways become the stern parent for myself.

Being willing to do this dirty work might give me a fighting chance at changing course a bit, correcting the things that should have been corrected some time far back on an elementary school play ground.

Sometimes it feels a bit like watching a nature documentary where I myself am simultaneously the subject and viewer.

I’m not saying it’s fun. But it just might work.

Myth of the Tortured Artist

Walker Edwards

The “tortured artist” is one our society’s most toxic cultural archetypes. Not only because it puts forth an unsustainable identity framework for creative achievement, but because that framework isn’t effective for making great creative work possible. 

It is true that abnormally creative individuals are more likely to suffer from dramatic swings in emotion. But to assume that those swings are what makes creativity possible takes away from an artist’s authentic merit.

The tortured artist idea is simply another offshoot of that even more prevalent conception of creativity; that great works are produced in an unconscious, unwilled flash of brilliance, rather than over large amounts of time wherein a huge amount of competency within a medium is established.

The 20th century hosted an abundance of great talent, doomed to die at a young age. These culture heroes fell victim to the modern phenomenon of extreme and quickly cultivated fame, as well…

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