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?

 

 

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.

The Magic of Principles

Without principles, life is a never-ending series of increasingly complex and exhausting decisions. If we do not recognize the categorical patterns common to our failures and successes, we necessarily lack the raw materials needed to construct a calibrated and effective strategy for future action.

If we do not recognize the categorical patterns common to our failures and successes, we necessarily lack the raw materials needed to construct a calibrated and effective strategy for future action.

In many cases, our time would be better spent in first extracting the lessons from the problems in our lives, before endeavoring to devise a solution. Before analyzing the origins and probable duration of a problem, finding a tenable solution is nearly impossible.

The mistake we make multiple times is like a thread waiting to be pulled, by which we can uncover uncomfortable but infinitely helpful defects in our own personalities. We can only hedge against our own bad habits and biases if those biases have been identified, and systems put in place to compensate for them.

It isn’t easy to study our personal histories with the critical and impersonal objectivity, but it is possible to a great degree, as evidenced by the many people who have overcome their worst tendencies and achieved incredible, almost unbelievable results.

To study your personal failures as economists analyze the Great Depression or military leaders dissect Napolean at Waterloo is at least as useful as it is difficult.

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.

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.