Obsession and Success

Our minds are capable of obsession so potent that it can result in self-effacement, and even self-destruction of both the body and the mind.

Why is that the case?

Why are we not a moderate, even keeled, and emotionally mild species?

It would take contact with intelligent life to know if consciousness necessitates the existence of powerful and often self-defeating emotions. But if we take a look at the world in which we exist, the apparent utility in obsession and its accompanying emotion comes into view.

Obsession, more than any other mental state, bestows upon its object meaning and value so that all possible avenues of attaining that object can be explored. When something must be obtained, our minds strain and calculate ingenious strategies that anything less than obsession would not have brought about.

But for every scenario where obsession breeds innovation, there are more that result in destruction and pain of both the obsessed and the object.

Equally pernicious is the plight of those who have succeeded in their aims, and find an emotional and motivational void upon reaching the other side of obsession.

There is nothing so dangerous as failing to assess the worth of your aims, and the realistic outcomes of both failure and success upon achieving them.

Culture Heroes

The human mind left unattended is bound by its functional purpose to imagine, predict, and emotionally react to the worst possible outcome. But only at the scale of minutes or days.

In matters of months, years, and decades, our default prediction patterns are worse than worthless, always assuming things will continue to be good if they are good now, and seldom preparing for future days of want and scarcity.

But luckily, the human mind has a startling capability to attend to itself.

We can watch ourselves doing something wrong and even look back at the delusional thoughts that caused our past mistakes.

We are all fools, but we are not blind fools. Through system and strategy, as well as good old-fashioned moderation and discipline, our worst tendencies can be accounted for, and our greatest gifts exploited to the point of compensation for our errors.

Any look back at the plethora of modern cultural heroes shows how willing we are to forgive those who did a few great things.

Generally, we ignore the mediocre, ridicule the bad, briefly enjoy the good, and revere the great with almost religious fervor.

The good is found in the bargain bin, while images of the great are plastered on every tee shirt next to 50-year-old records still being sold as if they were new.

It would be a noble, near perfect meritocracy, if not for the questionable taste of the general public and its strange tendency to occasionally latch onto something truly bad and elevate it to a position of taste-making for popular culture.

 

 

 

Giving Up and Getting Out

How do you know when to quit?

Simple answer:

You don’t.

Every success story has years of toil, struggle, and failure before the redemptive ascendancy to the desired state of being.

Every failure has the same beginning, but with no redemptive end.

Strange to notice that failures are either those who quit too early and those who gave up far too late.

Perhaps no one factor determines our future success than our ability to select promising endeavors and abandon them before we fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy, without giving up just when a breakthrough is about to occur.

How high do you want to go?

How low are you willing to fall?

There is a point at which the pain of continuing is worse than that of giving up.

But is that at the point at which we should quit?

 

Everything is Hierarchy

Those who resent hierarchy resent the intrinsic structure of the Universe.

And to some degree, we all resent hierarchical systems. Even those who sit at the top of them, because there really is no such top. Each pyramid tip holds up the base of another structure, the pattern continuing up towards the galaxies and down towards the nucleus.

But so far as we know, atoms and galaxies are not capable of emotions like resentment. Such complexities are emergent properties arising only from biological systems.

Why this happens, we don’t know.

How this happens, we don’t know.

Philosophy is nothing more than trying to make out a pattern between the many dead ends. Our questions ping off the mysteries like radar beams, and perhaps is we send out enough of these beams, the shadows of an answer will take form.

However, we can make out one essential form; the hierarchical tree structure that is a representative abstraction of our genetic progressions, decision-making processes, as well as a real form we see in everything from the tree to the neuron to the river delta.

Such forms tell us this is not chaos that we live in. It is no more a chaos than a marching regiment of soldiers is a trail of ants in its path. The order is only meagerly intelligible. But unlike the ants, we may pass on the hints and discoveries of the present on the to the future, and in this way accumulate real knowledge.

It would be foolish for such a young species to throw its hands up in despair.

The Art of Growth

“He not busy being born is busy dying.”-Bob Dylan

All that is not growing is dying. The one unchanging fact known to us is that the Universe is in a constant state of flux and that all things materialize and perish, mere puppets and illusions in the hands of time.

What is merely maintained stagnates and dies the slowest and most painful death of all. Growth forestalls death and decay, but it cannot arrest it. Nothing can, so far as we know. The Universe’s very existence is incumbent on energetic dispersion and condensation, the very moment of reality’s creation was merely a cataclysmic dispersion so far as we know.

Why should it be any different in human affairs, seeing as we are nothing more than the collective interactions of energetic particles?

But as always, clear metaphors fail us in the ambiguous, treacherously complex realm of human affairs. How can a marriage continue growth over decades? How can a mind grow once its highest goal is achieved? Who is in a position to define what is growth, and what is decay?

The best answer is that there are many wise men and women who have lived over the millennia, all trying their best to get at this question and formulate the optimal system of values. To study their thoughts, filtering them for yourself, whilst also looking within to your own natural tendencies, and determining to what degree they are based on delusions.

To study their thoughts, filtering them for yourself, whilst also looking within to your own natural tendencies, and determining to what degree they are based on delusions.

 

Our New Feudal Lords

“Let us not satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

At many times in history, a zeitgeist founded upon identity politics and manipulative linguistics has come into vogue. Now is one such time, but the effect and depth of the vitriol and intellectual dishonesty on all sides are exacerbated by our high speed, highly sophisticated communications technologies.

Western Civilization is in the second age of the printing press, in which each individual has immediate access to a means of information scribe and dissemination. And because anyone can access a platform, just about anyone does.

Once upon a time, arguments had to be tracked down and searched for, and the emotional drama earned by way of exacting or at least energetic face to face debate.

Now arguments seek us out, in fact, we are notified as conflicts arise, and our consumption and active participation in those conflicts are mapped, studied, analyzed and monetized.

Every click is a commodity, every article an argumentative hub, and every YouTuber a small demagogue. 

We are responsible as information distributors and consumers in so far as we hold ourselves to a self-created standard or are bullied by way of blowback to the standard of the mob.

Never before has humanity so often and with such gusto clustered into various angry mobs, each self-righteous and ready for if not violent at least coercive action.

The Internet has been compared to the Wild West, or Anarchy, a series of tribes like that of our Hunter-Gatherer ancestors.

But that phase has ended. The Internet, so fast to mature, is already in its middle ages. The greater proportion of users are subjects of feudal Lords who exact clicks and erect protective walls of unquestioning and polarizing belief.

We would do well to see who our Lords are, and question them with great vigor. The walls we strive to erect are not needed, and the darkest tendencies of the past need not be repeated.

Of Effort and Magic

Great writers will often type out great works, just to feel what well-structured language feels like as it comes out onto the page.

Painters learn by copying the great works with an exactness that forces them to the same solutions and techniques that the masters used.

In school, we learn science by repeating experiments that were once groundbreaking and demonstrative of the Universe’s foundational laws.

Great athletes review film, generals study battles from the past, and musicians must learn the songs of others before they can compose their own.

In learning and perfecting any skill, there is a constant balance between the fresh energy of the beginner and the studied discipline of the master. It is the interplay between these poles that generates true excellence. Neither the undisciplined talent nor the technically skilled but stagnant veteran creates works that resonate and endure over large spans of time.

It is the serendipitous convergence of tremendous effort and spontaneous inspiration that fixates and mirrors the vicissitudes of the human spirit. Western culture tends to revere the spontaneous more than the cultivated, while in the East this value is flipped.

In spending our novice years in a long apprenticeship, prostrating ourselves before and imitating the great masters, we create the substrate in which our own coherent style and the accompanying techniques may arise.

Piccaso, both a great master in his middle and old age, as well as a prodigy in his youth, articulated this notion eloquently.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Not everyone is destined to paint like a child. But every great artist and craftsman have some novel contribution for the greater culture, and the pursuit, as well as the honing of that gift, is of great importance no matter how meager its impact may appear to be.