The Utility of Gratitude

Anger and fear, in their many manifestations, are the greatest source of error and bias in the human mind.

In so far as we can free ourselves from the tyranny of these emotions, we can improve our processing of stimuli. Fear and anger must be faced head on, and they can not be compromised with. They cannot be appeased or reasoned with. And though they may be channeled into productivity, what they produce seldom leads to fulfillment or happiness. In the same sense, a farmer may use chemicals to produce a single year of excellent growth, but in the process destroy the field for future generations.

There is one emotion that fear and anger can not survive in the presence of.

If you can conjure up this emotion at will, you will no longer be ruled by anger or fear. This emotional panacea is gratitude. It is perhaps the least experienced emotion of all. Rarely do we feel grateful when we receive something. Instead, we move from bliss to boredom, quickly establishing any improvement in our lives as the new standard, and not taking any time to experience the joy of receiving. 

In this department, organized religion has tremendous value. It personifies the chaotic behavior of the Universe, providing us with the concept of an actual entity that we can thank, or blame, for everything that happens to us.

The concept of God gives us someone to be grateful towards, which is necessary if we are to feel gratitude. Thus it is necessary to believe in a “God” is we are to have an optimal relationship with the Universe. This does not require literally believing in an omnipotent entity that behaves outside the laws of the universe.

The scientific definition of God as the collective behavior of the laws of the Universe is adequate, as long as emotionally we view the Universe a benevolent entity, that acts in a way that if beneficial to itself as a whole.

We must view the Universe as something worth thanking, talking to, and feeling emotions toward. If you are not comfortable praying, your belief system must be adjusted. If you believe on an emotional level, that the Universe is random, and not benevolent, you will not be able to feel truly grateful.

Is Sex a Metric?

What are the simplest forms of the foundational philosophical questions?

Perhaps as basic as this:

Why Existence?

Why Life?

How should we act?

But in our daily lives as living, breathing, thinking, shitting individuals, perhaps it’s best to start at the level of past actions and work backward.

“How much of what you do is to get laid?” Often renders fruitful answers, because it is through the primal drives that we act out our most fundamental beliefs and in so far as those actions succeed or fail, we can measure the practical utility of our beliefs, or else the metrics by which we measure success and failure.

It’s incredible the optimism the average nihilist displays when on the prowl for sex.

I think we hate to acknowledge our own sexuality even in the same sentence as our philosophic beliefs.

Or rather, we hate to acknowledge our failures in that realm. So long as we are fruitful and attractive manifestations of our cultural ideals, sex can be discussed as a fine and worthy topic.

Why is that?

Likely it is because our rate of success in achieving the lifestyle we want, whether sexual or otherwise, is one of the few objective measures of our own ability to function in the Universe we are presented with.

What an embarrassment for a man or women who can understand Quantum Mechanics or Neurobiology to fail at the most basic level of communication with others.

No one in a lecture hall, or even in a spirited online discussion wants to reconcile with the fact that, scholar or saint, genius or prodigy, most people might as well be 13-year-olds at the middle school dance when it comes to complex interpersonal problems.

The very fact of our embarrassment reveals the stem of the problem. Our ancestors were too embarrassed to set down detailed guidelines for behavior, just as our parents were too embarrassed to teach us the first thing about sexuality, just as we will likely do the same to our children.

The only direction seems to come from the raised hammer of organized religion that loathes the freely sexual, perhaps above all else. Or, from strange websites on the internet.

4,000 years of civilization, and that is the best we have?

Embarrassing.

 

Truth is Order

Truth is the only stable organizational principle.

It is the equivalent of “nature” in the realm of ideas, in so far as “nature” can be defined as what selects for survival and reproduction of biological entities.

The truth is what can be arrived at by differed peoples across time and space, and that does not change according to the beliefs of the preceptor.

“But matter itself is directly affected by measurement at the quantum level!”

Indeed, but isn’t that statement itself an expression of conclusions based on repeatable, measurable phenomena? Isn’t our understanding of quantum mechanics still contingent on Truth, even if only as a measure of contrast?

We are disinclined to place importance on objective truth to the exact degree that such a value system would erode our current mode of existence.

The Truth is destructive of all that does not adhere to it. Perhaps a healthy fear of tyranny is what averts our eyes from those facts and phenomena that would cause us pain and direct us to change.

So often, our relationship to the world is rendered toxic by a pathological definition of truth:

That Truth is whatever our individual mind possesses.

Such a definition is so flimsy that it either makes our behavior disorganized and chaotic or else our identities so rigid that we stagnate because any change would imply our previous presumption of the Truth was completely false, and thus contradict the very principle our definition of Truth is founded upon.

The Truth is not something you inflict on other people. If it must be inflicted, enforced, propagandized, it is likely not the truth.

Because if it were true, why would force be required to make it manifest in the world?

Productivity vs. Chaos

Productive use of one’s time is perhaps the primary goal of adult life in our society, yet we find it more difficult than ever to define what productivity actually is. 

Often we act under the assumption that productivity is simply whatever makes us feel productive, though that sort of circular logic fails in that its efficacy is not measured by way of an external result.

It seems to me the simplest, most helpful definition is:

Activities can be regarded as productive in so far that they bring about the desired result.

So is productivity than our true North, the thing by which our lives should be organized?

The answer to that question is contingent on your own trust of the human mind’s ability to determine what is actually worth pursuing.

If the desired results are destructive, can the activities that led to them be considered productive?

Alas, it seems we’ve fallen into a semantic game. The truth of the matter is, your own awareness is all that you can know to exist, and the only thing by which all else is measured. If you cannot trust your rational mind, you trust nothing at all.

Results are generated by right behaviors, and right behaviors are determined by analysis of previous results, which in turn are the data by which we can design systems to achieve desired results.

Easier said than done, though we may still take comfort that paths to success can be defined so simply.

Systems thinking may be our best defense against the chaotic world around us, and the disordered states of mind that arise as our ego scrambles to protect itself.

 

 

The Victim Mentality

What utility is there in identifying as a victim?

Perhaps it could help you be rid of guilt at having suffered at the hands of something truly beyond your control.

Or it could help you cultivate resentment at the thing which victimized you, in order to better focus your efforts on resistance.

But at what cost?

To be a victim is to be defeated and without agency, and occasionally, that truly is the state you’re in.

If someone threatens you with violence and demands your money, for the duration of that interaction, you are a victim.

But two weeks later, when the gun and the criminal are nowhere near you, are you still a victim?

You are if you choose to be.

All your problems can be blamed on the attacker, every financial woe, every insecurity, it can all be that guy’s fault. If not for the mugger, you would have had the money to do so and so, and then something great would have happened, and then you wouldn’t be in such a sorry state.

Is that narrative true?

If you believe it.

But perhaps you were walking somewhere when you obviously shouldn’t have been, and the entire situation could have been avoided if you had possessed better situational awareness.

That’s a difficult narrative to digest. Condemning. Unsympathetic.

But if that is the story, the power lies in your hands. Not the attackers.

Because the truth is, we identify as victims because it allows us to narrow our own influence in an attempt to shirk responsibility for the chaotic world around us.

Victims exchange power and responsibility for the illusion of safety and innocence in the wake of their missteps.

Is that an appealing trade?

Life on Autopilot

Every organism aims at achieving maximum results with minimum energy expenditure.

Humans alone are presented with a conscious choice regarding how much energy they use in a day. Any individual can decide to spend many hours a day in vigorous exercise of the mind or body, or else in sloth and complacency with external forces. Few choose the former, but the ones who do often spend several years in a state of discomfort before achieving an exponential growth in available resources.

Many have marveled at the achievements of such “non-conformists” and attributed their success to a cultivated defiance of what is often called “autopilot” as if the high achieving outliers in our society live in a state of constant resistance to the overwhelming social pressures all around them.

What an exhausting existence that would be.

Rather, our capacity for “autopilot” is as useful to the art of living as it is to landing an aircraft. Every commercial airliner today still uses highly trained human pilots because rigid, structured systems of control are best used in tangent with a highly responsive, creative element. Such it is with our unconscious patterns of behavior, which we in large part control through the decisions of our conscious minds.

The key is not in discarding unconscious patterns altogether, but rather in selecting those patterns after conscious, disciplined consideration of your own goals and predilections.

 

 

The Persistence of Memory

Memories are weak materials in the process by which we construct our personalities.

If you wanted to construct a castle to withstand seige, would you use bricks of ice?

Would you build on shifting ground?

Better to let the ice melt and use the water for idle entertainent.

Memory would be a fine material indeed if we could trust ourselves to derive reasonable, self affirming meaning from the past. Unfortunatley, the process of evolution has rendered us excellent recollectors of the terrible, and it is usually by fear and pain that the past holds precenence in our minds.

We must be careful not to become hoarders of the past.

And just like those who hoard physical objects, the process of accumulation begins innocently enough. We keep happy memories as if they were trophies and diplomas hung up on the wall, there for us to glance at when the chaos becomes unbearable and say “Yes. Thats me!” Other memories we keep because we believe they might be useful. That there might be meaning and experience left to gain from them.  Like old newspapers, they sit inside us unread, outdated, and collecting dust.

I read a story once about a hoarder who became trapped in her house, the stacks of newspaper having grown so high and so plentiful.

Theres a reason newspapers are sold for profit one day, and used to pack meat the next.

Their utility is in relevancy and timeliness.

But we cherish the old memories anyway, either addicted to our own victimhood and in need of reaffirmation of that identity, or else hoping for the sad, strange high that nostalgia gives.

In strange contradiction to our tendency to best remember particularly sharp instances of pain or fear, in remembering periods that make up a category of many consecutive memories, we look back fondly on what in the moment was misery.

High School is a common nostalgia trap. Our minds somehow trick us into believing the structure and order enforced by the institution were somehow the bedrock of a kind of constrained freedom more rewarding than anything we experience in adulthood.

All of this stands in perverse contrast to the rather self evident principle by which all good lives are organized:

That the future be an improvement on the present through our actions in the now.

Of course, to create a better future, you will say we must reflect upon our mistakes in the past.

Yes.

But once you’ve read the newspaper, for gods sake throw it away.