Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Love (Kamran K): WHERE- exactly- is the LOVE?

"There was neither education nor progress; generations were multiplied to no purpose. Since each one always began from the same point, centuries went by with all the crudeness of the first ages; the species was already old, and man remained ever a child." 
Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality

(1) When dealing with almost any reality, we must first ask the Existence questions: does this reality even exist? Where is the evidence that it exists? If it exists, how can we isolate true from false copies?

(2) This question applies with tremendous force and importance in matters of romantic love. There is probably no other area it applies with more urgency. In otherwise "free countries," BILLIONS of persons are making huge sacrifices of freedom, time, money, youth, dreams, mental sanity and equanimity, and all the rest in order to continue totally mediocre to poor romantic relationships with other persons: "It was not till twenty-three hours, when he was home and in bed- in the darkness, where you were safe even from the telescreen so long as you kept silent- that he was able to think continuously." (Orwell, 1984) What (besides sexual intimacy and someone to be "seen with" in public) are they receiving in exchange for these tremendous sacrifices?

The matter is very simple: IF there is romantic GOOD love between these persons, this coupling behavior is intelligent and praiseworthy. IF romantic GOOD love doesn't exist between these persons, this behavior is senseless and banal (at best) and absolutely idiotic and tragic (at worst). If truly intelligent life exists on another planet, they would never engage in this type of coupling behavior. It is a sign of strength- not weakness- for a human person to remain single and alone so long as he or she has not found romantic GOOD love:

strength is as strength does. Strength and weakness can't be separated from its expressions...No one can be both strong and act in ways that are characteristic of weakness. The strong can't choose to act weakly anymore than the weak can choose to act strongly...We can't attribute a feature like strength to someone independently of them acting in the appropriate way...
(Alexander Nehamas, 2015)

(3) False copies of love abound everywhere. If two persons remain together primarily for financial reasons, fear of being alone, laziness, fear of social shaming resulting from a breakup or being perpetually "single," sexual desire, or even simply the desire to "go out" with someone on weekends and vacations, then we are dealing with the false copy of romantic GOOD love. The sacrifices made to keep this type of relationship "alive" are net NEGATIVE for the person. The person does obviously gain some benefit or other from the continuation of the relationship. But they are overall in the RED, negative in the relationship in terms of its total effect on the person's mind, body, and soul.

(4) True examples of romantic GOOD love are exceedingly rare. They are so rare that many of us could live for many decades on Earth and "see" only a handful of examples. Indeed, a recent survey found that 78% of single women regard a mate with a steady job as being "very important to them," more important than any other quality in choosing a mate. If this be the genesis of a relationship, it is beyond question that romantic GOOD love can't exist between such persons.

(5) In light of the above, any romantic couple "existing" today should begin with the presumption that it is NOT in the category of romantic GOOD love. It should assume it is the false copy and not the true genuine GOOD original. The couple should not constantly flatter themselves with empty rhetoric that they are "in love" "very happy" and "perfect for each other": "But stupidity is not enough. On the contrary, orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one's mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body." (Orwell, 1984)

(6) The couple should then carry forward this negative presumption UNTIL there has been some behavior or evidence of romantic GOOD love. What could this be? Almost all the traditional candidates- gifts, sexual favors, money, an apology, a vacation, or even spending a bit more time with the person- don't pass this demanding test.

Rather, there must be some behavior on the part of the person that is radically different and new from the person's established habits and which is specifically aimed at improving and deepening romantic GOOD love between the two persons. The behavior should usually startle the other person, being so out of character for the person engaging in it that it can only be explained by the explanation that the person loves the other so much that he or she is willing to do this for him or her. Once began, the behavior should continue and last as a continuing sign of the person's love for the other.

An alcoholic- for example- could totally quit drinking because he or she doesn't wish his partner to continue to experience the negative consequences of alcoholism. A perpetually busy overscheduled workaholic could (suddenly) take several weeks off a year and devote this time completely to the maturation of the relationship. Someone that habitually does a poor job listening to their partner could show rapid improvement in the ability to focus on what the person is saying and respond intelligently with something other than "that's awesome" or "that's cool" or "that sucks." Someone with narcissistic leanings could break out of them long enough in an attempt to genuinely understand what excites the other person, why they have the hobbies they do, what keeps them at those hobbies, and so on.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Wisdom (Kamran K): Evidence-based Demonstrations of Intelligence

(1) When we (humans) consider the consciousness of a pug or a cockroach or a chicken or even an ant, we usually conclude that its consciousness and intelligence is extremely limited. On what basis is this determination made? We can't communicate with any of these creatures nor have we obtained some other direct access to their thoughts and minds. So are we entitled to make the determination of limited intelligence on the part of these animals? YES.

(2) Essentially, we look at the behavior of these species- which behavior is available to anyone through observational evidence- and conclude their level of intelligence is extremely limited. We look at what these creatures can achieve on their own and conclude it is very minimal indeed. A pug dog, for example, would never even survive "in the wild" for a few days, let alone construct a civilization of pugs that rivaled the complexity of human civilization. Its intelligence is very very limited to the activities of begging for food and obtaining shelter from a human owner, albeit the PUG is still rather cute and adorable all in all.

(3) Precisely the same determination should be made in evaluating the intelligence of individual human persons. We simply look at the behavior of these persons- which behavior is available to anyone through observational evidence- and decide how "smart" they really are.

(4) One would thus consider the behavior of a person across many different spheres of life and evaluate just how intelligent or stupid this person was. This absolutely precludes someone from being considered "smart" or intelligent MERELY because they went to good schools, had a good job, or had some other reputation for being "smart."

(5) It is only when the behavior of the person reflects and provides OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE of their intelligence that one can have confidence that the person is actually smart. A smart person knows what is good and best for him or her and is POWERFULLY drawn toward acting in ways that are consistent with that knowledge. A "smart" person does not "know" water is good for him but then drink Coke or various alcoholic beverages most of the time. A "smart" person does not "know" money is ultimately irrelevant in how well or badly a human life goes but then spend almost all of his adult life in ceaseless preoccupation with amassing more money. A "smart" person does not "know" addiction is bad because it cripples human freedom but then ultimately wind up addicted to 3-5 things all at the same time. A "smart" person does not "know" social popularity is usually worth more trouble than any benefit it provides but then seek out such popularity and approval in numerous ways. A "smart" person does not "know" how precious both freedom and time are and then squander both in service of pedestrian goals.

(6) When we meet another person, we must immediately suspend our knee-jerk tendency to label someone "smart" simply because they have a reputation for being so, have a fancy job or degrees, have made lots of money, and all the rest. While this suspension is going on, we can then evaluate the behavior of the person and see just how smart this person is. How regularly is this person making decisions that seem to be in his wholistic best interest? How regularly is this person achieving things that are of value to the wholistic self that he/she comprises?

Happiness (Kamran K): On Analog Happiness

(1) Science teaches us that information can take one of two forms: analog or digital. Digital information is finite, has breaks, and is non-continuous. Analog is infinite, and is totally smooth and continuous.

(2) Human happiness can also be conceived as being either analog or digital. A person can have happy moments here and there (particularly with the "aid" of alcohol, sports team "fan" celebration, and "goofy" social media and cell phone text ramblings) with many- even frequent- unhappy breaks and discontinuities in between. Or a person can have a more or less happy existence that is characterized by a smooth, continuous, uninterrupted happy state with (of course) some pauses to reflect and consider the human tragedies that are a part of the human condition.

(3) As lovers of the GOOD, we would of course prefer analog happiness to its digital "poor sister." Our highest goal is to somehow structure our life to achieve analog happiness. There is almost no sacrifice one should not make to somehow achieve analog happiness. To have somehow arrived at a state of analog happiness is a VERY big deal, a very big achievement for the self. It is absurd to conceive of something we should wish to have MORE than having analog happiness, even the highest form of human philosophic or scientific wisdom or the most virtuous kindly "humanitarian" disposition toward others.

(4) The task of achieving analog happiness is gargantuan, time-intensive, and difficult even under favorable circumstances. That said, the task is separable into two main sub-projects. (1) Removing as much as one can as many of the various sources of unhappiness in one's life, what one can conceive as the DIGITAL HICCUPS of unhappiness. (2) Cultivating many (i.e. not ONE) sources of happiness such that one can continually float between these sources as circumstances demand. When one source is not generating happiness, this is no big deal as one then simply floats to the next one and continues in the state of analog happiness.

(5) Happiness can't (ultimately) be faked. Of course, one can- and almost everyone does- put on a "happy face" in public almost all of the time. But analog happiness requires genuine happiness that is not simply a "public performance." The public displays of happiness are usually digital, in that they are brief and surrounded by much private unhappiness or at least non-happiness for the person involved.

(6) Analog happiness also is not primarily an issue of gathering and spending money. If it were, then many many rich persons would currently exist in the state of analog happiness. But this is flatly contradicted by the facts and everyone's experience of the world. The rich- even the super rich- are no more happy than most of us and sometimes much unhappier. If analog happiness could simply be bought and sold the richest nations in the world would be the happiest. No information exists to support such a theory.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Passion (Kamran K): Cultivating a DISpreference for Needless Repetition

(1) Amidst the many human passions, which is most likely to serve us BEST over the course of a lifetime? Some candidates are obvious "wrong" answers here. The sexual passions. Passions of revenge, seething anger, or unjustified optimism. Passions of greed and material possession competition (merely for the sake of competition, not rooted in need) with others. And many others.

(2) One passion seems to tower above almost all the rest in its goodness and life-saving tendencies. And that passion is discomfort, dispreference, and even slight nausea toward needless repetition.

(3) Outside of those very few activities of biological life sustenance where repetition is required (the daily drinking of water), one can usually do almost any activity differently every day. One can vary one's mix of activities every day. One can alternate one's favored activities between one week and the next. One can continually introduce some totally new activity to the mix every six months or so. The variations need not be major to still serve their essential function of keeping body, mind, and soul engaged and enthused with life and new challenges to conquer and master.

(4) This passion of discomfort and dispreference with needless repetition is a literal life-saver. Just as one is about to get totally stuck in the rut of repetition and routine, the passion wakes one up and causes slight changes to occur in one's mix of activities. The opposite passion- preference and comfort in repetition and routine- is a far more dangerous and debilitating passion. This passion does far more to damage and stunt human personality development than is normally imagined.

(5) Consider the situation that will occur in millions upon millions of homes, restaurants, bars, and other places of public gathering tonight and every night of the year. Millions of person will gather to recite the EXACT same stories of what they did all day at work, how demanding their boss was, how they washed the dog and took it for a walk, how they bought a new protein drink at the grocery store, how it is supposed to rain tomorrow, and how some cute guy sent them a text message, etc. etc. etc. Is this what life is really all about? Is this not what happens in every home, bar, and restaurant every night in this country? People who talk very excitetly about totally boring stuff?

When placed in these situations, the lover of GOOD will experience the passion of dispreference and discomfort boiling up within him. He will obviously do his best to control this passion and prevent it from spilling it in some form of rage, etc. But he will draw upon this passion in making decisions in the future to disentangle himself from these "zones of repetition." This would also include his or her own choices that are repetitive (going to the same restaurant every day and eating basically the same thing, listening to the same 100 or so songs for year after year).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wealth (Kamran K): On Money Worship DISentanglement

(1) For mryiad reasons- which seem to be increasing year by year- the lover of GOOD will want to reduce as much as possible his "relationship" with money, money making activities, persons primarily interested in money making, and the values of money worship. The reasons are indeed myriad but one stands out above all: money making almost always requires/demands a reduction of one's freedom, happiness, wisdom, life balance, and depth and breadth of personality: "It was as though some huge force was pressing down upon you- something that penetrated inside your skull, battering against your brain, frightening you out of your beliefs, persuading you, almost, to deny the evidence of your senses." (Orwell, 1984)  The lover of GOOD will not tolerate such an exchange and will always be actively seeking to avoid such an exchange to the greatest extent possible. He will never wish to be money-rich but otherwise- in every other sense- totally poor: "she had without exception the most stupid, vulgar, empty mind that he had ever encountered. She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none, that she was not capable of swallowing..." (Orwell, 1984)

(2) DNA-based life imposes physicality requirements for an organism to continue to survive and thrive. Food, medical care, shelter and associated "home" appliances, and some means of transportation are physicality based requirements that money can help us "get." We have literally no choice but to get these things (this is what it means to say something is a DNA-based physical requirement), and literally no other way of getting them other than through money. Hence, these should be considered mandatory taxes or tolls we must pay in order to otherwise enjoy our money-free life. In the same way that one has no choice but to pay a road toll, one has no choice but to pay these taxes and tolls to continue living.

(3) To reduce our relationship to money as much as possible, the following categories of expenses can be "filled in" by each individual person:

  • Physicality based expenses that can't be either eliminated nor reduced.
  • Non-physicality based expenses that one has previously eliminated but must be "on guard" to ensure they never come back.
  • Non-physicality based expenses that are getting reduced but need to continue being reduced to some very low (albeit NOT zero) level.
  • Non-physicality based expenses that need to be eliminated entirely.

(4) The concept of use is important to emphasize here. The lover of GOOD will use whatever he has purchased (a car, a bike, a computer, a cellphone, a pair of running shoes) for as long as possible. Compared to the general population, the lover of GOOD will  use most items for double or triple the period of time that is customary. If the item is still operational, it will continue to be used irregardless of whether better such items have come out. When the item becomes non-operational is the first time the lover of GOOD will consider a replacement purchase.

(5) The lover of GOOD will avoid as much as possible purchasing things on "credit" or taking out expensive loans to purchase things he couldn't otherwise afford. The reason is obvious. These things deepen and strengthen one's relationship to the money-making complex when the lover of GOOD is seeking to reduce and eliminate these relationships wherever he can.

(6) The life that ultimately remains for the lover of GOOD will be one of minimal money entanglement. His or her possessions will be extremely meager and old and unlikely to impress anyone but the very poorest humans on the planet. Because of this minimalism, the lover of GOOD will be almost infinitely free to experience the goods of life in uniquely personal meaningful ways. Freedom being very high, there will be the necessary time, space, and mental tranquility to attain happiness, to attain wisdom, to achieve life balance and to grow both the depth and breadth of personality.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Happiness (Kamran K): A New Model for a New World

"You know what I don't care though, you've got to love yourself, no matter what, no matter what size, shape, whatever...the only killer is when you go to the doctors. And when they want to tell you the real truth, you know, first they tell you "Your blood work is real fine but I have to tell you this...What is it Doc? You are obese stage 2. And your like Fuuuckkkk, but I still look hot though, right?"
anonymous standup comedian @ Ice House, Pasadena, May 13, 2015

(1) Rational nature and self-identity being what they are, happiness is almost inseparable from achievement. One can, of course, have good days (mixed with an equal number of mediocre and bad ones) for totally random incoherent reasons that have nothing to do with achieving something of value: "It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another." (Orwell, 1984) But having a good day or two for some random reason or that is nothing close to the experience of remaining justifiably in the state known as human happiness. Achieve something of value that seemed out of your reach and you will be happy for some time; achieve many such things of value over many decades of life and you will be (more or less) very happy for life.

(2) An achievement is an achievement whether or not anyone else even sees or notices it, much less lavishes praises and money on you for it. Whatever the achievement is, it is, firstly, either an achievement or it is not and then, secondly, it is either achieved by you or it is not. Whether anyone else is there to see that you achieved it makes absolutely no difference in evaluating whether you reached the achievement. This would mean that something may not even be an achievement despite huge popularity, status, and money generation: "There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers, containing almost nothing except sport, crime, and astrology, sensational five-cent novelletes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator." (Orwell, 1984) The popularity and money generated by female models that are genetically gifted with physical attributes "in line" with male conventional socially programmed and conformist standards of beauty and sexual desire is one outstanding example here).

A man living in a very remote village of Alaska could run a 15:00 5k which no one else in the world sees or hears about. For this man, this is still a very impressive achievement irrespective of the lack of the achievement's popularity. Another man in a remote African village could produce philosophical works rivaling Aristotle's Ethics that no one anywhere will ever read. This would also still be an achievement irrespective of popularity and renown.

(3) Today's emerging world is coming together in such a way that all manner of highly impressive achievements will be achieved without anyone noticing it. The situation today is such that the number of people trying to make it  overwhelm the capacity of everybody else to evaluate their achievements. Even if immediately everyone was stop reading old books, listening to old music, appreciating old paintings,etc. and focus only on the work of those trying to make it today, still there would be more of this stuff being produced now than the general population can digest. How or why did this come about?

Too many people's attention spans are too short. Too many people work from morning till night, with only brief respites to eat, shower, drive to and from work, sleep, quickly surf the Internet and social media, and engage in other mundane tasks. Too many people are obsessed with their own achievements to bother considering those of anyone else. Too many people are too close-minded to consider anything an achievement that is not within their very narrow circle of interest.

At the same time, the number of persons producing achievements- whether that being by writing an article, publishing some study, composing a song or mix, reaching some athletic milestone, performing a hilarious comedy skit, skillfully conducting a meditation or yoga session- is exponentially increasing. The number of achievements is increasing exponentially, perhaps by the millions. But the number of persons available to intelligently to witness/consume these achievements and/or comment on them is decreasing for the reasons described above.

(4) Today's environment thusly produces a very toxic environment for the popularity-driven person. This is an environment that literally brews up misery and unhappiness for the unwary. The person is in fact reaching achievements of value; but no one is noticing it and they get discouraged believing that the achievement's lack of popularity somehow calls the very achievement itself into question. If the person is at all self-esteem fragile, they will quickly assume that their achievement somehow doesn't "measure up" to those of others that (somehow or other) are receiving more popularity, money, status in the process.

(5) The lover of GOOD will of course delight in his achievements totally irrespective of lack of popularity, status, or money generated from these achievements. He will remain happy and proud of his achievements and will need no "confirmation" that his achievements are "genuine" from escalating page views, prizes, and/or financial renumeration.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Freedom (Kamran K): Two Models of Achievement

"I make for my goal, I follow my course..." Nietzsche, Zarathustra

(1) Man's freedom can be harnessed to pursue and actually gather various achievements. Although achievements vary tremendously between each other, there are two broad general models of achievement. There is other-defined achievement and self-defined achievement. There is a world of difference between the two.

(2) Other-defined achievement occurs whenever some other person or persons have "defined" in advance- without your input- what the achievement will be. YOU did not define the parameters of the achievement. You happened upon the other-defined achievement and decided- what the heck- you would give it a go because-what the heck- why not? You are usually one of several thousand, even several hundred thousand, persons aiming at the other-defined achievement. Should you achieve the other-defined achievement, you will not be alone in having done so but usually have the company of several thousand other persons that reached the exact same achievement.

(3) With other-defined achievement, you have little to no freedom to vary what the parameters of the achievement will be. This is the greatest negative with other-defined achievement. You either reach the other-defined achievement as it is or you do not. There is no freedom nor ability to modify the other-defined achievement to meet your individual tastes, abilities, interests, fears, personality, physical or financial resources, age, risk tolerance, and so on.

(4) With self-defined achievements, you have infinite freedom to define exactly what the achievement will be. You can look at your individual tastes, abilities and talents, interests, physical or financial resources, age, risk tolerance, geographic location, and so on and then formulate some one or more achievements that take all of these into account. Having taken all of these individual factors into account, you will usually be totally alone in reaching your self-defined achievement. You are in a LEAGUE OF YOUR OWN in reaching the self-defined achievement.

(5) For example, a runner may decide that he wishes to run the fastest 5 mile time he can on a treadmill in a gym. He is motivated to do so strictly on account of the pleasure associated with reaching a self-defined achievement; there is nothing else to be "gained" other than such pleasure...no medal, no media coverage, etc (the runner is running on some solitary treadmill in some random gym somewhere). This runner prefers the treadmill controlled environment to road running, with the distractions of cars, insects, intense sunlight, stoplights, and all the rest. He prefers to achieve this feat on a treadmill and not in some race somewhere at 5am in the morning, surrounded by hundreds of other runners. He also prefers the 5 mile distance, and has little or no interest whatsoever in running 13 or the ungoldly-long distance of 26 miles (the half and full marathon distance).

For this runner, the self-defined achievement would be running the fastest 5 mile time he is capable of in the controlled environment of a treadmill. For this same runner, the other-defined achievement would be running either a half-marathon or a full marathon at the fastest pace possible. This would be an other-defined achievement because the runner didn't come up with the idea of these races and furthermore disprefers these races for various reasons,

(6) Although self-defined achievements have many advantages over other-defined achievements, they can also be self-limiting if the self-defined achievement is too easy or too trivial. One can define something as a self-defined achievement that really isn't even an achievement to begin with. It is simply too easy to achieve or not worth bothering achieving for one reason or the other. In this regard, a fragile self-esteem may be too eager and too quick to define something as an achievement strictly to keep self-esteem properly high.

(7) We have emphasized the the individual committed to reaching his unique individual human GOOD wishes NOT to follow the example of anyone nor have any followers that follow him (Nietzsche quote follows):

My brother, when thou hast a virtue, and it is thine own virtue, thou hast it in common with no one 

This over-riding motivation will quite obviously slant the lover of GOOD toward self-defined achievements. In a few isolated cases (best examples: cures for many terminal cancers and other fatal diseases one contracts through no fault of one's own), the benefit to society resulting from an other-defined achievement may far outweigh everything else, making the other-defined achievement worthy of achievement even to the lover of GOOD. But this is the exception and not the rule.

In a supreme exercise of his or her freedom, the lover of GOOD will consistently and powerfully favor self-defined achievements: "Could ye CONCEIVE a GOD?...Your own discernment shall ye follow out to the end!" (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Freedom (Kamran K): Reflections on Addiction.

"So what is the nature of rational motion?"
(Plato, Laws)

"But when one thing is put in motion by another, it is never thereby endowed with the power of independent self-movement. Such derived motion will therefore come second, or as far down the list as you fancy relegating it, being a mere change in matter that quite literally has no soul."
(Plato, Laws

(1) Imagine the situation of fruit flies wandering in a bedroom somewhere. They are indeed free to wander about the room as they wish, exploring every nook and cranny of it, eating what they can, communicating with other fruit flies, and otherwise experiencing whatever it is they wish to experience. They are not "bound" to do this instead of that, at this time instead of that, etc. They are as free as can be (or more precisely as a fruit fly could be).

(2) At some point, the human inhabiting the room decides he's had enough of the fruit flies and hangs fruit fly sticky strips all over the room. There are at least 8-10 such strips in the room, and each consists solely of a very sticky syrupy substance that immediately traps any fruit fly (or any other insect) that touches it. Within moments of getting stuck, the fruit fly dies.

(3) Human freedom is a potential gift humans have that can be used in an infinity of ways. The human mind ultimately decides- one way or the other, for the better or for the worse- what it will do with the freedom it has.

(4) Addiction is the LOSS of human freedom which also can happen in an infinity of ways. There are some very very common addictions (money, drug, sex, porn, alcohol, prestige gathering, self-esteem and self-approval gathering, music, beauty, fashion, shopping) but there are also some highly unusual ones that are just as "effective" in destroying freedom. Whatever the addiction, the result is the same: LOSS of human freedom for the individual human person. Others may and often do benefit from an individual's addiction (for example, bars and beer companies financially benefit from alcohol addiction; electronic department stores benefit from society's addiction to cellphones and other gadgets; women that date men that are sex addicts and who therefore buy that woman anything she wants); but the human individual is often decimated and left helpless with his addiction. It is disturbing to note that almost any business or corporation benefits from transforming non-addicted "casual" consumers to addicted "hardcore" consumers. This is yet another regrettable consequence of the globe's current dominant regime of money worship and ceaseless economic production.

(5) The addicted person resembles the fruit flies discussed above. They were at first free to experience human good in its many dimensions. They did in fact have an infinity of freedoms to exercise as they wished. They did have opportunities to bond with others and explore reality in unbiased ways:

when an object moves itself, are we to say that it is alive?
That's right.
It emphatically is alive.
Well, then, when we see that a thing has soul, the situation is exactly the same, isn't it? We have to admit it is alive.
Yes, exactly the same.
(Plato, Laws)


Once stuck in their addiction, they tended to see everything through the framework of their addiction. All activities that related to their addiction were deemed good or great or exciting; those that did not were deemed bad, dull, and (the kiss of death these days) "boring." They tended not to venture very far at all from the activities that fed their addiction, whether directly or indirectly. Others knew where they were and what they were doing at almost all times because they knew the person was keen- daily- to feed the addiction. There was literally no surprise as to what the person was up to, just as there is no surprise where a fruit fly stuck in the syrup stick will be tomorrow once you see he is stuck to the strip today.

(6) The key to avoiding addiction is to recognize when one is getting close to being addicted. This determination must always be made in a moment of total honesty by the individual self; when someone else tells you you are "addicted" or an "adikt" this criticism will usually accomplish nothing whatever: "If they are fixed in a way of life that please them, though it may not please me, I should not antagonize them by useless admonitions..." (Plato, Laws)Within reality, this is often a very murky determination as neither fondness for an activity nor a desire to excel in it should be considered an addiction: "it is not easy to lay down precisely what is consistent with the dignity of a free man and what is not..." (Plato, Laws) In any event, one has one last chance to get out of the addiction. The fruit fly similarly can approach the syrup stick but swerve out of the way at the last moment and prevent entrapment. The second one recognizes there is a potential addiction a foot one must step back, dial it down, and begin engaging in activities totally unrelated to the addiction.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Practical Wisdom (Kamran K): Reality and Fantasy...The MASSIVE Gap

"It struck him that the truly characteristic thing about modern life was not its cruelty and insecurity, but simply its bareness, its dinginess, its listlessness. Life, if you looked about you, bore no resemblance not only to the lies that streamed out of the telescreens but even to the ideals the Party was trying to achieve. Great areas of it...were neutral...a matter of slogging through dreary jobs, fighting for a place on the Tube, darning a worn-out sock, cadging a saccharine tablet, saving a cigarette end...The reality was decaying, dingy cities..." George Orwell, 1984

(1) Modernity is uniquely characterized by the following continuous juxtaposition:

  • an everyday human reality that is overwhelmingly miserable, sterile, tragic, trivial, boring, depressing, disappointing, futile, restrictive, polluted and over-populated, insensitive, mean-spirited, violent, etc. (watch the news if you have any doubt on this point)
  • the production of all manner of fantasies that are overwhelmingly liberating, exciting, happy, fulfilling, meaningful, free, isolated from all social context or realities, peaceful, kind and generous, sexy, etc.(watch or read anything BUT the news if you have any doubt on this point)
(2) The GAP between these two is WIDER than ever before. While human reality may have always been this way, the production of fantasy has accelerated and become that much better. Though still allusion, fantasy has become BOTH more real and attractive due in large part through multi-billion dollar efforts in modern advertising, beauty, and entertainment.  But, increasingly, even ordinary persons- your neighbors- perpetuate fantasy through highly selective (and deceptive) public self-presentations (i.e. Facebook & Instagram).

(3) Almost everyone now wants to do fantasy all the time. They don't like their fantasy bubble to be burst even in the slightest. All manner of deceptions, intoxications, and lies are repeated to the self to maintain these fantasies. The very foundations of many persons' self-esteem is almost completely rooted in fantasy. Since almost everyone is doing this and everyone wants to be polite to everyone else, everyone remains in fantasy for a very long time. These days, about the only thing that gets people out of fantasy (temporarily) is the death of a close family member or friend or some very serious bodily illness affecting oneself. 

(4) To be clear, what is now happening is that most persons' behavior- and quite certainly most younger (45 or younger) persons' behavior- is rooted in the values of fantasy. They make all manner of decisions and pursues all manner of lives that are completely and totally fantasy based. It is fantasy-driven expectations and worldviews that are driving their decisions. Every shred of reality that impinges on these decisions is usually cast aside, ignored, trivialized, or scorned. Why bother with troublesome reality when fantasy is so much more cool, fun, and liberating?

Examples are too numerous to list. A few will suffice. Many thousands of young students in this country still eagerly sign up for law school (assuming hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt) in the hopes of becoming "successful lawyers." This despite abundant READILY-ACCESSIBLE data (accessible within seconds) confirming that lawyer pay is dropping, lawyer unemployment is rising even for seasoned skilled attorneys, and many law school graduates can't find any legal job whatever. All of this data is irrelevant to the person more interested in fantasy; it simply doesn't deter their behavior and decisions in any observable sense.

The juxtaposition between the fantasies of porn and the actual sexual lives of married persons is another good example here. Another example is the belief permeating persons' participation in all sorts of activities- athletics are a great example- that one can achieve great things quickly and without much real effort. Another belief almost totally rooted in fantasy. An increasingly common (related) fantasy is the belief that one can make lots of money without having to "do" hard (and often boring) work over many years/decades. Pure fantasy. 

(5) Obviously, fantasy serves a vital role for humanity in generating human progress. Every human advance seemed fantastical at some point in human history. So fantasy does serve some role in our lives. Fantasies of global peace and cooperation are perhaps one of the few GOOD fantasies "alive" today. 

But, increasingly, the fantasy driven hopes and aspirations of many have no connection whatsoever to broad human social progress. Their fantasies are simply to be another rich/successful doctor/lawyer/businessman/actor/musician when the world already has many millions of such persons. The fantasies are often much too narcissistic in the sense that the benefits gained from the achieving of the fantasy flow almost exclusively to the self rather than society at large.

(6) Lovers of GOOD can and should engage in fantasy to somewhat mitigate and dull (there can be no "escape") the typically negative effects of human social reality. But they should always realize that they are doing fantasy. Such recognition will color their actions when doing fantasy and while give it a certain "lightness," humility, self-awareness, and humor which would be otherwise totally absent and thusly totally obnoxious to persons not caught within this fantasy.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Practical Wisdom (Kamran K): On the Overwhelmingly Negative Attribute

(1) In this post and many others to follow, we will follow the following mantra: "we are NEITHER optimists nor pessimists, we are realists."

By now, we've established that a human life within reality presents an infinity of choices of activities to pursue, persons to befriend and love, cities to visit and live, and so on.

(2) By now, those choices that are 100% bad are no longer available to most persons. Either laws have been passed making these activities illegal, the cities have been abandoned, or the person has been either incarcerated or mentally institutionalized.

(3) Importantly, this means that almost every CURRENT activity or person or place has one or more "positive" qualities, one or more things that, on balance and if one is being honest, one would consider "good" and desirable. These positive qualities may or may not be trivial; but (and most miss this) they often are trivial.

(4) In an age (today) where the overwhelming attitude of the time is relentless optimism, there is a very high risk and danger that one will ONLY focus on this one or more positive qualities in choosing whether to make this activity, person, or place a larger part of one's life. When the positive quality is a trivial one (free Wifi offered at some hotel), the badness of the decision only multiplies.

(5) Much better is to identify the overwhelmingly negative attribute of the activity, person, or place and determine whether it's outweighed by the positive qualities. This negative attribute is usually unappreciated initially but GROWS ever more important and UNignorable the more one develops a "relationship" with the activity, person, or place. Reality PRESSES the overwhelmingly negative attribute upon us ever more forcefully as time unfolds.

Several examples are in order:

  • Most men seek out physical beauty in choosing a female romantic partner. When they locate someone attractive, they pursue this person with full vigor. The positive quality (physical beauty) dominates their assessment of the matter, causing them to ignore or greatly de-emphasize remaining negative qualities, including overwhelmingly negative qualities (such as dishonesty in the female romantic partner selected).
  • Most persons today seek financial security and money from (pretty much) any source they can find it. When they locate an economic opportunity, they try to exploit it for all its worth. The positive quality (having financial security) dominates their assessment of the matter, causing them to ignore or greatly de-emphasize remaining negative qualities, including overwhelmingly negative qualities (such as LOSS OF FREEDOM- both mental, emotional, and physical- associated with exploiting the economic opportunity). 
  • Many persons today become rabid fans of professional sports teams. This gives them something to do, some event they look forward to watching. This positive quality also dominates their assessment of the matter, causing them to ignore or greatly de-emphasize remaining negative qualities, including overwhelmingly negative qualities such as the loss of many hours of the day every day for months while the "season" drums on. 
  • Many other persons today sign up for very demanding physical activities such as marathon running and triathlons. They begin training for months or years in the hopes of improving their health. In the meantime, they become blind to the many ways in which this activity is dominating their thought and consciousness, making them totally disconnected from the rest of the general population disinterested in these activities. They even become blind to whether they will actually enjoy competing for the many hours (5-10) involved in a marathon or triathlon event (in the case of triathlon, some become blind to whether they actually enjoy all three sports and/or whether they enjoy doing them all oTn the same day).
(6) The lover of GOOD doesn't proceed in these ways. From the very beginning, he is keen to identify the overwhelmingly negative attribute of a certain person, activity, or place. Once this is in his grasp, he then identifies the positive qualities and comes to an honest assessment of whether these outweigh the overwhelmingly negative attribute. Some such mental chatter will proceed in the mind of the lover of GOOD: "Okay, let's be real here. Obviously there are some things here that are good and I know and have experienced these things. But there is one HUGE negative involved here, it's not going to go away, and so the question is can I deal with this thing hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year?" IF there is no outweighing the lover of GOOD will immediately begin scaling back his association with the activity, person, or place. 

So, for example, the lover of GOOD will not deny that many jobs and careers do offer the benefit of financial security to those performing these labors. He will weigh this benefit against the tremendously negative quality of the almost total and complete loss of all sorts of freedoms involved in the actual performance of the work necessary to do these jobs correctly. He will then conclude the benefits don't outweigh the burdens:

The last stage of the laboring society , the society of jobholders, demands of its members a sheer automatic functioning, as though individual life had actually been submerged in the overall life-process of the species and the only active decision still required of the individual were to let go, so to speak, to abandon his individuality, the still individually sensed pain and trouble of living, and acquiesce in a dazed 'tranquilized' functional type of behavior...it is quite conceivable that the modern age...may end in the deadliest, most sterile passivity history has ever known.
(Arendt, The Human Condition)