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.

Accepting Chaos

I have an important question to ask you.

How many actions do you witness on a daily basis that are in anyway motivated by concerted efforts towards virtue or rationality? Include your own actions in that census of course, and be honest with yourself.

For myself, the number of such actions is so small as to be negligible, to the degree that such striving towards virtuous action usually sticks in my minds for months. I pat myself on the back for good deeds and am flabbergasted when someone interrupts their normal programming to reach out a hand to help another or refrain from a reflexive and toxic behavior.

Most of what we do is done without conscious care or consideration. The philosophical principles we study and logically understand only come into play if we make a massive moment-to-moment effort. Of course, in our pre-agricultural society, this made perfect sense. Actions needed to be quick and instinctive.

But modern life has granted us copious leisure time with which we can design our own standards of conduct. Few use their free hours in such a way. Even fewer actually apply the lessons they glean from centuries of the written word.

Therefore, in dealing with ourselves and other people, it is important to understand we are not dealing with consistent belief systems housed in logical minds. Each and every one of us is a web of conflicting drives and subpersonalities that all vie for manifestation in action.

Rationality, logic, and morality are not the default ideals or modes of being. In fact, those very words and their conceptual contexts took millennia to develop. Don’t take them for granted, and don’t expect them or feel they are owed to you by the individuals that make up our civilized society.

High standards will save you, and transform your life. But if you expect them, demand them from the external world, you will become embittered and distanced from the environment. Or else you will fall into the trap of cynicism, and adjust your standards to match the brutality and thoughtlessness that exists all around.

Progress is achieved through aiming at an ideal, whilst meeting external conditions and your own psyche exactly where they are in the present moment. 

An honest acceptance of conditions is the necessary precondition to conforming them to a virtuous ideal.

The Danger in Goals

What is the point in attaining anything, if it does not bring you joy?

A simple, cliche question but the one that is most important in considering the setting of goals and achieving of outcomes.

Human beings do not desire objects directly; we desire the states of being those objects grant us. A luxurious car is only incidental to what is actually worth a million dollars or more; the sensation of having something difficult to create, and difficult to obtain. That pleasure is, of course, the real prize. If it were not, the million would be spent on simply the fastest, most intensely practical form of transportation, rather than a meticulously engineered work of art.

Consider this fact when aligning yourself towards a particular end goal. What is the state you are after, the thing which the object or desired condition will bring you? How will you feel in that state? How long will it last? What will be the thing to break it, or strengthen it?

Most importantly, consider if your goal is truly the thing necessary to bring about that state. Most of the time, our goals do not grant us the states we hope for, and if they do, those states last only a moment.

 

How to Spread Ideas

Ideas are viral and subject to many of the same rules as any other organism existing in a selective Universe. The primary rule of this selective process being that “Success” as it can best be defined for Organic systems, belongs not to the good, moral, or even the strong.

Success belongs to those ideas which by their very internal structure demand to be replicated and spread to other minds.

“No one should ever know what I think”

Isn’t a Viral idea in the slightest, because those who actually follow its message become unable to spread it to anyone else. No wonder very few people submit to this idea, and even fewer ever discuss it.

Now, an Idea such as:

“The human race will only avoid destruction if drastic action is taken to combat climate change”

is incredibly Viral, because it implies that humans(the viral host) will cease to exist unless the idea itself is shared and spread throughout the minds of millions.

It is fascinating to observe how many great ideas sets gain almost no ground in our culture, precisely because they contain no internal compulsion to spread the idea around to as many people as possible.

The most viral ideas imply rules and behaviors in their hosts that make even the uninfected more susceptible to infection. This effect compounds the more people come into contact with the idea, and so it spreads faster and faster until the pool of hosts is completely saturated. This phenomenon is well demonstrated by the spread of Christianity in medieval Europe. The more popular it became, the less secular thought seemed viable or shareable whatsoever.

This viral principle is consciously and unconsciously used by every authority and nearly every person who wishes to transform the beliefs and behaviors of others into something more similar to themselves and their ideal.

Is it distressing to know that morality and quality have no direct relationship with the effectiveness of an idea?

Or can we use this knowledge to mold great ideas into forms more accessible and shareable amongst the individual minds that make up collective culture?

The answers to those are of course, yes, and yes. But actually designing ideas so that they spread is incredibly difficult.

When was the last time someone unknown created a piece of viral internet content on purpose?

Manufacturing virality is challenging, but understanding how these forces play upon our psyche may help us to resist what would otherwise infect us, and forever alter our thinking.

 

Pragmatic Morality

Far too often it seems that our actions done in order to please another only increase their distaste for us, whilst those done in an attempt to distance oneself from another only further increase their attraction.

Why do we pursue what runs, and shrink away from what reaches out?

Because we unconsciously assume that what needs us must be somehow lacking, and what evades us must necessarily possess something we lack.

Or perhaps it’s derived from our ancient instinct to chase whatever runs and run from whatever chases. Such is the plight of an intelligent omnivore.

Such is the plight of an intelligent omnivore.

But to fully conscious, self-aware creatures, are millions of years of evolutionary selection really any excuse for cruelty?

As usual, the real question is not in how the problem arises, but rather in how the problem is solved.

By default, we solve this problem in one of two ways:

By treating everyone like an undesirable, or by acting as though everyone has something to offer us.

The latter, though morally appealing, is not a sustainable strategy. Many people you encounter will threaten you and through various means and for countless reasons attempt to make your life worse.

The solution is in a reciprocal morality; by offering others the exact amount of respect and compassion that they offer us, we can avoid being taken advantage of whilst also helping those who are deserving of help.

But for those people who are truly evil, how do we avoid stooping to their level?

I suppose that is the most basic question in regards to a pragmatic morality.

How low are you willing to follow the people around you?

If you encounter someone who betrays, does that give you license to act in kind?

That lower limit is incredibly difficult to determine, and it becomes more difficult the eviler the enemy.

World War II essentially drove all the opposing world powers to act as though there was no lower limit, that all acts of evil were made acceptable by the actions of the opposing side.

What is your lowest limit of acceptable conduct?

Where does self-defense begin and end?

Is it better to behave as though everyone around you was evil, whilst assuming they’re inherently good, or behave as though they’re good whilst assuming they’re inherently evil?

And perhaps the most important question of all:

From whom and by what process have you determined the answers to these questions?

Few possess clear and conscious answers to these questions, but to act in the world we obviously must have some pragmatic morality.

Watch your behavior, and the unconscious system will reveal itself.

I’ve never met a person whose system wasn’t in need of some reform.

Why the Body Matters

We often operate under the false impression that we are and identity floating around in a brain, that is then housed within a body. Not only is this a rather medieval, pre-Darwinian mental model of experience, it is scientifically incorrect.

The human brain is merely the densest bundle of nerve fibers within a massive system that runs throughout the entire body. To believe that the brain is a totally dominant controller of the nervous system is equivalent to believing the largest tree in a forest controls that forest. Such a belief would lead one to a bizarre, pathological interpretation of all the phenomena within the forest. And if the forest began to operate under that model, it would become a rigid, barren place indeed.

No one part of a complex system such as a forest or our bodies can be said to have complete control or “intelligence” rather intelligence is that which arises from the simultaneous operation of millions of different systems nested within. The You being experienced now is an emergent entity, that though primarily manifested through the brain, originates in the organs, muscles, and diffuse nerve fibers throughout.

No wonder one gets a strange feeling when an otherwise brilliant person is out of shape and unhealthy. It is a strange contradiction to value the rational mind and personal expression over those components that make such abstract entities operational.

Consider yourself an anthill, not an identity floating in a meat suit.

Those many things that make up your moment to moment experience, though their function is not consciously noticeable are more important that what you can immediately identify as “me”.

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.