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 is quite conceivable that the modern age...may end in the deadliest, most sterile passivity history has ever known.
(Arendt, The Human Condition)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Practical Wisdom (Kamran K): On the Superficiality FALL-BACK

(1) Billions of human persons don't enjoy any of the activities generating the highest human goods. They don't enjoy thinking, altruism, friendship or love demanding sacrifices and painful emotional growth, pursuing athletic and physical excellence for its own sake, creating musical or artistic creations of merit, and all the rest. The evidence for these assertions can be found in almost any human community anywhere. Simply go there and try to find EVIDENCE that people there care about these highest human goods and are working to obtain them. Your search will be fruitless.

(2) Still...for human society to function and not disintegrate, these vast majority of persons must have some hobbies or interests that provide them some brief fleeting joy or diversion. Naked reality- DE LIFE- can't be endured by most persons without these things. Such persons often have very difficult (boring) jobs to perform for the majority of hours during the workweek and they do wish to enjoy a few brief hours of fun and diversion on the weekends, etc. doing the few things that they've found reliably bring them some level of happiness, excitement, and contentment.

(3) As an example, consider the case of attractive single women in their 20-40s who- like most of humanity- don't particularly enjoy thinking, altruism, artistic innovation, and any of the other activities ranking among the highest human goods. There are many hundreds of millions of such women.

As a group, these women do very much enjoy fashion, beauty products, and social gathering places where they can be seen "decked out" in their fashion and beauty products. While such women rightly despise unwanted touching, they do surely enjoy being noticed as "hot" "sexy" and "attractive" at such gathering places. In furtherance of such enjoyment, they do devote much time and money to ensuring they look as good as can be when they go out. If they were not interested in being admired in these ways, they would never spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, on fashion nor spend many hours a week getting ready to go out in public.

After a week of boring and tedious labor, the few hours on a Friday or Saturday night that such women feel "hot" and/or desired by men does give these women a badly needed "boost" of happiness, self-confidence, and self-worth. This boost does give them at least some life sustenance to get through another week or month in "one piece," without falling into severe depression, suicidal thoughts, or other psychological maladies. They do delight in superficial pleasures and do have within their possession the SUPERFICIALITY FALL-BACK. No matter what else happens in the world, no matter all of the bad things going on in their lives, the bedrock of superficiality is always there for them to access at almost anytime.

(4) Granted, this is a very poor long-term strategy that these women employ because by their early 40s (putting plastic surgery aside) most of this type of attention will be gone and never return again. Still, this doesn't matter. For a certain type of person (the vast majority of humanity), the pleasures generated by human superficiality are the only ones that are reasonably accessible to them at a certain period of their life. It is an easy fall-back they can tap into, and they do tap into it time and time again. And we should want such persons to at least access these pleasures to prevent their living a totally bleak existence with absolutely "nothing" whatsoever to look forward to, get excited about, etc.

To be clear, the pleasures generated by the highest human goods are superior to these superficiality-based pleasures AND are also available to such persons, but not immediately right there and then. One doesn't jump from being a "hot girl airhead" to a Platonic scholar in the matter of a few days. A very lengthy transition period (years, if not decades) accompanies any genuine road from the superficiality-based pleasures to those generated by the highest human goods.

(5) In summa, the ceaseless ("no-gap") infinite production of human superficiality we see surrounding us everywhere appears to be a necessary evil. An infinity of superficiality has been produced by humanity thus far, an infinity is being produced right now, and an infinity more will be produced in the future. Only the most trivial differences make the superficiality produced today different from those produced 2000 years ago and those that will be produced 2000 years from now.

This production is not GOOD in and of itself. But, still, it serves a socially useful SUSTAINING function for many persons while they are not within the zone of the GOOD. It would be the hope and expectation that human generations some 5,000 or 10,000 years from now could totally dispense with all of these superficialities and all members could live totally immersed in the GOOD at all times.  Until that day is "here" human superficiality NEEDS to also be here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Wisdom (Kamran K): Would "THEY" Care?

(1) The question must be posed: what if an intelligent species of alien life was to land on Earth and simply observe what is going on here? Would this species be intrigued by what it saw? Would it be repulsed? Would it be afraid? Would it be excited or aroused?

(2) In all likelihood, it would be terribly BORED by what it saw and leave Earth shortly afterward in search of a planet with species capable of sustaining its interest. The aliens would find almost all of the noise, emotion, egotism, and narcissism on Earth one great big "ado" about nothing.

(3) The intelligent alien species would quickly make the following observations with regard to human social reality, each of which it would find dull or pointless (at best) or preposterously idiotic (at worst):
  • Humans judge each other by things that have nothing to do with one's character, personality, or mind, including things like skin color, gender, nationality, and physical appearance. Despite numerous examples in history that such judgments are improper and foolish, MOST humans most of the time continue making these kinds of judgments even today. 
  • Humans are rapidly polluting and degrading the only planet in the universe that can sustain them and which they have ready access to. Despite abundant evidence this was happening, no one seemed to care enough to do anything about it. The dominant value system of the planet- capitalism and money-making- was directly at odds with environmental preservation.  
  • Despite not caring about the most important things (e.g environmental degradation of Earth), humans did seem to care tremendously about the most trivial things. Millions, even billions, of humans cared tremendously about which professional sport teams won which game, whether celebrity X was dating celebrity Y, what school was ranked #1 by some arbitrary magazine employing arbitrary criteria, what the price of gas was, what the size of one's biceps were, what the size of one's boobs were, how tan one's skin was, and so on. 
  • Although everyone put on "one big show" in favor of the ideals of human freedom, well-being, and happiness, humans decided what to do for the majority of their adult lives based primarily on economic considerations. Many did give up on all of their dreams, hopes, and aspirations in order to gain economic security; they did tolerate all manner of jobs that they (honestly) hated because of the check received every other week: "Well, but take the unhappy man: must not increase of time bring an increase of his unhappiness? Do not all troubles long-lasting pains, sorrows, and everything of that type yield a greater sum of misery in the longer time?" (Plotinus, Enneads) Albeit humans needed money to survive and so this concern was not entirely illegitimate, many persons cared about money well-beyond the point they had attained enough to satisfy basic survival needs.
  • Although most humans in most parts of the world lived in total physical comfort and security, most persons did fundamentally live their lives within the context of unjustified fear and social conformity rather than personal excitement and innovation. 
  • Humans had tremendous difficulty breaking free from addictions of all sorts that literally wrecked their lives. Very few humans seemed to master the art of enjoying some activity or substance without getting addicted to it. 
  • Humans were very prone to get stuck doing the same exact things, year after year, while never introducing meaningful difference into their lives. Many human lives were essentially determined as early as one's late 20s or early 30s. From then on, one simply did the same few things ad nauseam. Even worse, most humans convinced themselves that what they were doing was the most important thing anyone was doing while everyone else was doing things that were unimportant.
  • In their dealings with one another, humans were extremely dishonest, deceptive, and disingenuous. They constantly wished to project an image of themselves as successful and happy, even though very few of them were even "close" to being either. Humans also were in the habit of constantly breaking promises and commitments, which made GENUINE and justified trust a commodity rarer than gold.
  • Humans had a very difficult time bringing to a successful completion anything that they started. All manner of projects seemed to be commenced with great fanfare and enthusiasm only to wither from neglect within months or (at most) a few years time. Any small set-back or roadblock- which should have been viewed as a challenge worthy of being dispatched- usually ended the festivities in short order. 
  • In the late 1900s and early 2000s, humans made impressive technological, scientific, and medical advances. But, even here, the picture was uninspiring. These advances often caused all manner of problems and stupidities that left humans worse off than before the advance (the "advance" of text messaging caused human communication to become much less genuine, much more scripted, much more superficial, and much more confused). Medical advances were exceedingly expensive and often flowed only to the very rich. Scientific breakthroughts became increasingly divorced from the reality that most humans knew and appreciated.
(4) Having had their fill of these realities, the alien species could not be faulted for leaving Earth in hopes of more interesting terrain. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happiness (Kamran K): Consciousness..."King Cruel?"

"And with your dead-end job
that's been eating away your life
You feel a little inside
the trouble and strife
and now you spend your evenings
searching for another life
and yeah I think, mate
I think you've got them in your sights."
King Kruel, Easy Easy

"And it's a familiar scene
cause I'm pretty sure my mind ran down this line again
only last week."
King Krule, Bleak Bake

"the way your insides stress
you're not blessed
you're definently not blessed."
King Krule, Has This Hit

(1) We must offer speculations regarding the mixed blessing known as human consciousness.

(2) DNA-based life surrounds us everywhere that is NOT conscious in the way we humans are. Bacteria, fungi, all plants, and many members of the animal kingdom do everything they are supposed to do without any deep consciousness of what they are doing. Certainly, there is no evidence that any of these creatures has an elaborate emotional consciousness or understanding of a self existing in a past, present, or future.

(3) Evolution COULD have- but did not- generate a species identically similar to man but lacking human consciousness. Everything could have been the same with this potential species save that they were not conscious as we are. This species could "robotically" proceed through adolescence, college, marriage, child-rearing, retirement, and then death never conscious in the way we are. It would engage in the same activities, choices, and behaviors we do in the course of progressing through adulthood; but it would not be conscious while it was doing these things. And, thusly, it would not have a self-narrative, any emotions, or any regrets about the past, delight in the present, or hopes for the future. It would simply recognize situations in which decisions need to be made, make the optimal decision in that situation, behave accordingly, and then proceed to the next situation. Ad infinitum. No "stray thoughts" not pertinent to the situation and the decision being made would enter into this creature's mind.

(4) Evolution did actually produce man, a species possessing a very elaborate, complex, and multi-dimensional consciousness. Human consciousness produces all manner of emotions and thoughts, in all manner of intensities. All of this is done in real-time as events are being experienced. There is no delay; one does not eat a fantastic cookie and then moments later delight in that experience. Similarly, one does not hear an annoying song and then moments later dislike the experience of hearing that song. Human consciousness generates emotional reactions to realities instantaneously with the experience.

Human consciousness also produces conceptions of self and who one is, what one cares about, what one "stands for," what one is "about," and what makes one "different" from everyone else.

If this was not enough, human consciousness also constantly generates memories of the past and hopes for a future (usually one "painted" in colors better than the present).

(5) It's not at all obvious that human consciousness is a blessing. If it is a blessing it's a mixed blessing because consciousness can just as easily be cruel, lame, and stupid as sensitive, engaging, and intelligent. Consciousness can be cruel to self, cruel to others, and make one's life a miserable experience that one can only endure (not enjoy).

Because human consciousness doesn't have to limit itself to observable realities, it could do this very thing when the objective reality of one's life is actually quite "good." One could be fairly well-off financially, in decent health with no serious diseases, living in an extremely safe and secure community, with plenty to eat, access to the best doctors and medicines, access to all manner of education and entertainment, many sports and hobbies to dally in. AND FOR ALL THIS, one's consciousness can TURN CRUEL and ruin all of this for one. This is a defect of human DNA and should not be sugar-coated in the least. DNA produces a creature whose consciousness can make life miserable for it totally unnecessarily. There is no evidence plants, bacteria, or fish do anything of this sort.

(6) Although taking infinite specific "colors" in reality, the defining characteristics of a cruel consciousness repeat endlessly in human beings across centuries, nations, religions, genders, etc. A cruel consciousness has a habit of repeating mental mantras such as (a) "you are not good enough as you are," (b) "you are not as good as others," (c) "others are happier than you are and live more interesting, exciting, care-free lives" (d) "you will never get what you really want" (e) "others don't respect you or take you seriously" (f) "you aren't attractive to members of the opposite gender."

Who among us in a moment of total honesty will not confess to having thought many of these same things at many different junctures of their lives? Who among us did not see a glimpse of their own cruel consciousness in reading the immediately preceding paragraph?

It is this monstrosity that consciousness produces IRRESPECTIVE of objective realities that makes life so miserable for so many persons that should delight in life. Cruel consciousness does indeed rob so many of the happiness they objectively deserve to enjoy.

(7) 80-90% of the "work" involved in reaching stable happiness is shutting off cruel consciousness and its stupidities when it inevitably gets "louder." It requires one taking cruel consciousness by the horns and forcing it to attend to objective realities that cruel consciousness likes not to bother with.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Freedom (Kamran K): EVERYTHING I Had to Get that Freedom!

(1) While freedom should theoretically be "free," it's neither automatic nor guaranteed to anyone within the context of contemporary social reality. Rather, freedom must be earned through the skillful "wading through" of numerous obstacles in the way of freedom. To do this, one must make all manner of sacrifices to earn and then maintain one's freedom. Quite literally everything one has- any tool in one's possession- should be used to augment one's freedom to the greatest extent it can.

(2)  Freedom's relationship to the GOOD is obvious. Assuming an individual is not mentally deranged or subject to pernicious damaging addictions of one kind or another, there is hardly any path to the GOOD that does not involve a tremendous application of human freedom. The GOOD is achieved trial and error, but trial and error can only really proceed in an environment of freedom where one is actually free to try all different sorts of things over weeks, months, or years. One must err many times- and have the freedom and "space" to err- before being convinced that one has finally landed within the GOOD. One must have the freedom to make these errors, the freedom to recognize them as errors, and the freedom to make better choices better targeted to achieve intended results.

(3) As lovers of the GOOD, we want as much possible freedom as we can get. Because we are committed to the GOOD, we will use that freedom to reach all sorts of human goods. We will not squander that freedom away in service of a life devoted to the pedestrian pleasures of sex, alcohol, drugs, bar hopping, professional sport watching, or mere idleness. But first we must secure our freedom.

(4) Human freedom is diminished in many ways. The political process can and does limit freedom in many parts of the globe. The activities required to make money and gain social prestige and influence over others can and does limit freedom everywhere. The desire to "fit in" to a particular community also curtails freedom, as "peer pressure" constantly works to secure all manner of compliance and obedience to the dominant social programming and conformity operating within the community. Romantic relationships kill freedom; so does family life; so does addiction of any sort, particularly sex and the related alcohol/drug addiction.

(5) The lover of GOOD will do quite literally everything in his power to overcome these barriers to freedom. Quite literally everything he can use as a tool to expand his freedom he will GLADLY use to secure it, valuing as he does so highly the good of human freedom.

In this sense, one will use what money and property one has to secure freedom from having to work in jobs and careers one does not LOVE. One will use one's mind- and the minds of friends, family, and experts- to "see through" the false and trivial seductions of freedom-reducing pursuits such as pursuits of money, prestige, social popularity, and romantic relationships where love, trust, and honesty are no longer observably present. Once one sees through the trivial benefits of these things, one will be free of their grasp and therefore achieve yet more freedom. One will seek to be as frugal as possible (without tarnishing one's health in the process) so as to keep debt as low as possible and not diminish one's freedom in this sense either. One will even use technology where one can to increase one's freedom; all manner of time-saving, work-reducing technologies are now proliferating everywhere and these can and should be used to increase one's freedom.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Passion (Kamran K): The Constant DISTRACTION of Sexuality

"Beauty addresses itself chiefly to sight; but there is a beauty for the hearing too, as in certain combinations of words and in all kinds of music, for melodies and cadences are beautiful; and minds that lift themselves above the realm of sense to a higher order are aware of beauty in the conduct of life, in actions, in character, in the pursuits of the intellect; and there is the beauty of the virtues." Plotinus, Enneads

(1) DNA-based life, including man, has extremely powerful and persistent "natural" impulses to sexually reproduce and pass on its genetic information to the next generation. This biological impulse is a deeply-rotted biological impulse that doesn't arise out of the conscious mind's deliberations and reflections on human GOOD. Sexuality is essentially biology willing its way to get the DNA information to the next human generation. As we've stressed repeatedly, all biological impulses and processes are non-thinking. The heart is not thinking or deliberating when it decides to pump; it just pumps in response to environmental physical simulations it's "wired" into. You don't think about it and then say heart please pump in this way or that; it all happens outside of the arena of thought.

(2) In the proper setting, the human sexual impulse has a role and function in a well-lived human life. What that proper context may be differs- and has differed- across human generations spread across different centuries, nations, and socio-religious contexts. Within that proper context, human sexuality serves its function of facilitating human reproduction and creating increasing levels of trust, empathy, and connection between different persons. It also serves as an opportunity for two persons to share a pleasurable experience totally equally.

(3) Outside that context, human sexuality is usually one very large distraction that adds no positive value to an experience and- often- creates negative value. It is a constant distraction, destroying the mind's ability to focus upon and appreciate all of the non-sexual aspects of an experience which are infinite. The calculus of sexuality continues to get in the way. For no reason. With no result.

(4) Men and women everywhere- single and even those in relationships and marriages- spend vastly inordinate amounts of time obsessing over their sexual presentation to others. They spend many hours in a gym bored to death on machines they hate just to lose five pounds and appear sexier to others. They pursue all manner of bland diets for the exact same reasons, counting calories, carbs, and fat content obsessively to gain that extra sexual advantage of a toner butt, six-pack abs, and all the rest. They spend precious dollars on all sorts of fashions to do the exact same thing. Places are deemed undesirable strictly on account of the location's lack of attractive members of the opposite sex. Places are deemed desirable- irregardless of hundreds of serious defects and inconveniences- strictly on account of the location's having attractive members of the opposite sex always within the "crowd." Very importantly, many men and women refuse to go out to some public place alone for fear that this will tarnish their sexual presentation to others. They must always be surrounded by several other persons in order to appear well-connected, sociable, and, ultimately, sexy. All of these represent GLOBAL distractions from the task of locating and pursuing the GOOD.

Our critique of human sexual behavior has been consistent for some time. It is not that human sexuality is "bad" or "depraved." The problem is sexuality usually just can't realistically deliver the goods we imagine it can. As a rough estimate, humanity probably spends 5-10 times the amount of time and attention on sexuality than it deserves in light of the benefits it can offer. This is time that would be much better used in all manner of non-sexual activities (many philosophers have painted a simplistic picture of the world in which attention to sexuality precludes attention to wisdom. This is partially true. Attention to sexuality precludes attention to all manner of human goods, including, but not limited to, human wisdom). There is no credible evidence that engaging in the sexual act- alone or with others- produces anything but the briefest emotional pleasurable outburst. There is not even any reason to think that the emotions and pleasures generated by the sexual act far exceed the emotions and pleasures generated by similarly intense physical activity (such as intense working out, intense concentration on some music one loves, intense enjoyment of some particularly tasty food or drink, and so on).

(5) More specifically and locally, persons allow sexuality to constantly evade and distract them from attending to and appreciating non-sexual aspects of an experience. When one goes to a restaurant, museum, sightseeing tour, the gym, the grocery store, a concert, and all the rest, there are all manner of things to attend to and appreciate about these places. When one is meeting up with a friend, there are all manner of thoughts and behaviors one can pick up on and appreciate in the other. Quite literally every point in space-time has an infinity of information impinging upon it, all of which can be attended to, understood, and appreciated. It is the work of a mature mind to gather and appreciate as much information from an environment as it can; it is the "work" of an immature "infinite loop" mind to fixate on one piece of information (the sexual attractiveness and availability of the persons within the immediate physical environment).

(6) The distraction of human sexuality usually prevents most persons from attending to and appreciating the non-sexual aspects of an experience. It just GETS IN THE WAY TOO OFTEN, FOR TOO LONG, AND WITHOUT PRODUCING ANY POSITIVE DIVIDEND. Women and men equally engage in this behavior, although women are much more discreet about it, casting quick non-obvious glances and avoiding eye-contact as much as possible (men are generally lamer and make it abundantly obvious by staring at ANY attractive woman in the immediate environment).

Persons are in the right position to identify and appreciate these non-sexual aspects; but it just doesn't happens because the distraction of sexuality "takes them" somewhere else. They are no longer really in the present-time experience but are instead obsessing about what to say to the other person, daydreaming about potential sexual experiences with the other, and so on. Conversations between the sexes almost always proceed under the shadow of sexuality, with all potential comments being filtered to make sure they maximize one's sexual appeal. Today, the expectation of authentic honest and genuine conversation between the sexes is a chimerical dream. Dream on, baby, dream on!

Over time, this distraction renders the personality of the person flat and one-dimensional.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Moderation (Kamran K): Dialing back the onslaught of relentless positivity

"When I meet someone on your recommendation, I do so in the hope that I will enjoy the meeting but not in order to enjoy it....My goal is not to enjoy the meeting, but to get to know someone new." Nehamas, Promise of Happiness

"Much empty rhetoric is expended on what in reality is a nonevent." anon. blogger, 2015

(1) In social settings- but particularly in social settings where persons age 20 to 40 congregate (bars/clubs/restaurants/concerts/street fairs/dates)-there is an increasing (a) primary relentless pressure for all persons to put on the appearance at all times of having an absolutely "amazingly fun time," and a (b) secondary relentless pressure to appear healthy, fit, and attractive, materially well-off, mentally relaxed, and possessing a vibrant social life.

(2) This pressure is so relentless that even the briefest "break" from putting on this appearance will draw negative attention to you. Let's say you are at a nightclub and listening to the DJ perform a set of songs. Obviously, between the end of one song and the beginning of the next there is a transition period where you are not quite certain what the new song is or what it will sound like or whether you will love it, hate it, or some reaction in between. During this transition period, your senses and mind are trying to evaluate whether this is a good song or not. You are not "down" or upset; you are simply trying to listen to the song carefully enough to decide if you like it. If it's a good song, you will obviously energentically dance to it or generally express a happy facial/bodily approval of it. If it's a bad song, you may not want to dance to it and adopt a neutral facial expression, waiting and hoping that the next song will be better. Unless you have no standards whatsoever, there is simply no way you could love every song being played by a DJ at a nightclub over a several hour period. Every night you get out. For year after year. This is just impossible, a zero probability event.

(3) It's plain ABSURD that the cult of relentless positivity has been taken to such an extreme that persons are not permitted the freedom to just sit there in public social places with a neutral expression without having others approach and ask them "are you ok?," urge them to show more positive emotion, and/or make negative evaluations as to your being depression, unhappy, weird, etc.

(4) The plainly exagerrated response of loving to the max every minute of one's social life existence- regardless of what is actually happening right then and there- is a largely (recent) American phenomenon. There is so much social pressure placed upon all to not just be happy but exhilirated with every moment of being in a public social setting. The pressure is relentless and a burden for all. If you look very closely, people do take a break from this necessity of putting on appearances when they are certain no one is watching them (for example when standing in the bathroom line or when the public setting is empty of other persons). The second you make eye contact with such a person taking a break they will usually revert to putting on the appearances.

In other countries around the globe and in American societies of yesteryear, persons displaying such a consistent exaggerated positive response to everything that is going on around them would be viewed as quite literally....INSANE. People would question whether there is something wrong with this person, whether they are on some drug, whether they are seeing and experiencing the same things everybody else is, and/or what is driving this person to display such a one-sided emotional affect.

(5) The display of any positive emotion should occur only after one has allowed the senses and mind sufficient time and "space" to gather enough information about a song, another person, the entertainment being shown on TVs, the food or drinks one is consuming, and all the rest. Only after this process has reached maturation can one say that the positive evaluation is anything other than a socially programmed
automatic reflex that is of little or zero genuine value.

When enough time and space has passed, there will be many/enough occasions for one to be delighted with what one is experiencing right then and there. At these times- which to be clear represent the minority of times- it's perfectly appropriate to display all sorts of positive reactions to what one is experiencing. In fact, the positive reactions displayed through this process are- though rarer in quantity- likely to be more intense, more vibrant, longer, more energetic, and so on.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Work (Kamran K): "Something to Do"

(1) The planet is now home to 7 BILLION persons that require something to do for some 16-17 hours per day. Most persons wake up everyday with the desire to "do something" and "be productive." This is so obvious and apparent no sensible person could dispute it. Albeit they are not motivated by philosophically-derived reflections and speculations on the GOOD, still they wish to evade boredom, make enough money to pay the bills, support themselves and their families, grow some "skill set," and then retire at home at night and occupy their free time with a hobby or two or TV watching/Internet surfing. Albeit such activities rank far from being the highest human goods, still these activities are not malicious nor evil nor worthy of condemnation. Indeed, it is absurd to have the planet populated by some 7 billion philosophers all promulgating their philosophical outlooks on life. Who would ever consume any of this? What chance is there that any of this would result in some coherent reasonable logic actually useful to life within reality?

(2) Although it wishes to have something to do, 90-95% of humanity does not wish to actually "think" at all during the working hours or anytime thereafter. Humanity is now obsessed with the cell-phone; almost NOTHING that ever happens on a cell-phone could possibly be categorized as "thinking." Thinking is a very difficult activity, requiring originality in thought, meticulousness in observation, and making connections that are not easy to see between disparate events occurring at different times. Thinking requires a genuine step back and out of one's self in order to look down on the self and determine how one is behaving and according to what value system. This itself is achieved- if ever- only after a wrenching difficult intellectual and emotional process: "The autonomous person is one who is capable of standing back from her values and engaging in critical reflection about them and altering her values to align them with the results of that critical reflection." (Ian Shapiro) This is not what most people have any interest (or perhaps even ability) whatsoever in doing. Despite the efforts of all manner of educational institutions, most people for the foreseeable future (several thousand years) will remain in this condition of not "liking" to think. People "like" to eat good food and get drunk, have sex/watch porn/sleep, have their egos stroked by gathering adulation and praise from others, buy stuff, travel, make jokes (often racist or sexist ones), listen to music, watch sports, gossip with friends, and piddle away at one or two cherished hobbies. That's pretty much it. Thinking is not included in this list of universal human likes.

(3) What is the BEST result for people in this condition? The BEST result is for them to find some work to do that meets some objectively real human need. Albeit persons in this condition are not "thinking" still they are doing work that needs to be done, that meets social needs, that left undone would create a domino-like series of unpleasant consequences. They are not engaging in self-destructive behaviors nor committing crimes during these working hours.

Albeit thinking is (probably) the most valuable and worthwhile human activity, still human life has a physical dimension with physical needs, inputs, and services that MUST be attended to or death will result. Humanity therefore badly needs persons that are able to meet the demands of physicality with physicality based labor and resources.

(4) It's possible that robots will gradually take over almost all human work that doesn't require either much complex thought nor human emotion. The dream of many a philosopher was that such a day would come and all persons would be then free to read philosophy, volunteer to help feed and house the poor, discover new planets and stars in the galaxy, and all the rest. Our generally pessimistic and cynical assessment of humanity precludes our taking this possibility very seriously as a reality. If robots became the workers and freed humanity of all manner of work, humanity is just as like to use all the extra free time to consume drugs and alcohol, play mindless video games, watch cartoons and poorly played sporting events, gamble on everything, seek constant sexual attention and conquest, listen to music 24-7, and a whole host of similar activities. No human society within reality has ever come close to reaching the philosophers' paradise sketched above. It should not be assumed that the disappearance of work, jobs, and career would suddenly generate this dream of universal enlightenment overnight or even gradually over time. Too many human tendencies just seem to "run" in precisely the opposite direction.

(5) Persons (including corporations) that provide work and jobs for the vast majority of humanity are thus doing a good, not a bad thing. The attack on corporate America, "capitalism," and corporations misses this point- and does so badly. Corporations worldwide are taking billions of people and giving them something to do for years and even decades of life. Persons wake up everyday with something to do when, otherwise, they wouldn't have a clue what to do.

Again...of course most of these jobs require little to no "hard thinking" or even the use of higher-level human emotions. But so what? So what indeed? It's not the small business owners nor corporations fault that most people almost all of the time don't like thinking. They didn't create this condition nor are they preventing persons from thinking when not "on the job." Taking freedom seriously also precludes ANY attempt to force people to think any more than they wish to or need to in order to do the job.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wealth (Kamran K): Precision and Clarity and Truth on this most Vital of Issues

"What though the one be favored in body and in all else that does not help towards wisdom, still less towards virtue, towards the vision of the noblest, towards being the highest, what does all that amount to?
                                             (Plotinus, Enneads)

(1) It doesn't take much imagination to see that money well-being can be inversely correlated with wholistic or total well-being. To be very clear, it is total well-being which any person, community, society, or nation committed to the GOOD will actively pursue: (a) "and this we must accept and love and accept even if we did not love." (Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man) & (b) "To wrench the human soul from its moorings, to immerse it in terrors, ice, flames, and raptures to such an extent that it is liberated from all petty displeasures, gloom, and depression as by a flash of lightning: what paths lead to this goal? And which of them do so most surely?" (Nietzsche, Genealogy

One can imagine a society that is money rich but total well-being poor. The society could have robust GDP growth year after year while the overwhelming majority of the society's members declined on observable testable measures of intellectual, physical, emotional, empathic, artistic, environmental, interpersonal, and spiritual well-being. In this society, the exterior facade of wealth, modern architecture and design, and technological gadgetry simply masked over (usually not very well) the underlying inner spiritual emptiness and isolation, psychological defects, and general unhappiness felt by many of the society's members. The reverse also appears true: the society could reduce its level of GDP growth and gain in all of the other measures of total well-being (or at least slow or stop the decline in these other areas). 

The Indian activist Shiva summarizes things thusly: "Growth is only measured in terms of commodification. It doesn't measure the life you're living, the nutrition you're eating, the quality of your life. Being rich means living a full life, living a life of meaning. Having work for your hands and your mind and your heart. Having a wide circle of compassion to give."

(2) While human DNA and the human body have remained remarkably unchanged for thousands of years (albeit life expectancy has risen because of modern medicine), we now make more, sell more and consume more than ever before. Our homes are bigger than ever before, and have more stuff in them than ever before, more stuff than the home can even handle or we will ever use. Yet we are still working to put more into these homes, and/or purchase even larger homes (or second or third homes) to put even more stuff in them. We have reached the point that we buy things just to justify our terrible habit of working so much, the perverted logic going something like this "since I'm working so much I might as well buy something to see a 'tangible benefit' from all this work."

Que pasa? What's going on? Is any of this sane? Is much of the current growth and money making labor right now necessary to bodily survival or promotive of the other forms of well-being? In some of the poorest countries on Earth that answer is probably yes. In the US, probably not. Many in developed countries claim they need to work and make money to simply "survive." This is doubtless true at the elemental level but the most important question is how much does one need to work to survive financially while reaching the highest level of total well-being one can achieve. By not even framing the issue in this manner, so many miss the opportunity to structure their lives to maximize total well-being, rather than the one (fairly insignificant) component of it known as financial well-being. Lives are now overwhelmingly structured down to the minutest detail to maximize financial well-being, not total well-being.

(3) Definitions of what is needed to "survive" have surely been colored by "non-intelligent" (to put it kindly) advertising and narcissistic competitive status chasing for many decades now: "Never before had I been so curious about money as now that I believed I was surrounded by it." (Ellison, Insivisble Man) We have emphasized that all human social environments can be GRADED on a continuum, from the absolute very stupidest environments to the absolute smartest environments imaginable. The environment of money-chasing generated by modern advertising and "giving in" to narcissistic competitive status chasing is one of the absolute stupidest environments imaginable (we emphasize that all naturally feel the impulses of narcissistic competitive status chasing. in the perfected, this pull has been greatly diminished or entirely eliminated).

Is this our current environment? Yes. Advertising is literally everywhere in all that you do; you can't avoid it even if you tried. And psychologists are reaching nearly a consensus that we live in the most narcissistic society ever. The psychological selves that surrounded us everywhere are narcissistically disturbingly fragile, needing to feel perfect, beautiful, wealthy, and better than average all the time just to be able to function on a minimal level socially: "But individuals with NPD are not only unable to tolerate failures and losses, they typically cannot tolerate feeling flawed in any way or even that they are just average." (Aaron Pincus, 2014) Social media's popularity is essentially one huge narcissistic rat race, with a frantic attempt by so many to use their bodies, possessions, social popularity, and/or other talents to grab as much electronic attention and approval as one can (this trend proceeds while face-to-face attention and communication is plummeting at astonishing rates). And while people are not so dumb as to be lead thoughtlessly by advertising like sheep, still the cumulative effect of advertising- which usually portrays the wealthy life as the best- does have an effect on what one considers "normal" after decades of being exposed to it everywhere, all the time (our conceptions of physical and sexual beauty probably work the same way). These standards haven't been moderated "back to sanity" by healthy intelligent introspection and soul-searching of what one really needs to survive and thrive. Nor is this a likely trend in the future; the arms race of competitive consumption is so well-ingrained that it will take an incredible amount of intelligence and will-power to dial it back. 

(4) As we've argued previously, there is a connection between any form of work and total well-being. To achieve any form of well-being you must work for it. You must have a reasonably intelligent plan to achieve the desired well-being and then you must have the tenacity and will-power to actually do the behaviors that are called for. Many forms of non-paid exertion should be considered work that one should/must do to achieve higher levels of total well-being. This type of work generates no money "profit" or "ROI" but you are better off for having done it. So in this case becoming physically fit- and all the activities required to achieve that- is a form of work that leads to physical well-being. As another example, attending meditation classes and taking these classes seriously is a form of work that leads to spiritual well-being. Deepening friendships with persons of quality is a form of work that leads to empathic and emotional well-being. 

As lovers of the GOOD, we completely reject the view that paid commercial labor is the only work there is or that it's the type of work that most promotes total well-being. We neither follow the logical reasoning embraced by that argument nor have seen information and facts supportive of that view (to the contrary, we've seen many studies disputing that view). Since we reject this view, we can't see why devoting most of one's conscious hours to paid commercial labor (including commuting time, 8AM  to 7PM every weekday and some weekend time and some email checking and responding when one is not at the office) is minimally reasonable or sane, let alone a no-brainer: "Most of the time he'll be working and so much of his freedom will have to be symbolic." (Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man)

Experienced Beauty (Kamran K): The TUNDRA of DE NIGHT

(1) Reflections and speculations are necessary on the proper use of DE NIGHT for the individual pursuing human GOOD and perfection. We continue to set our sights on the GOOD as we believe that achieving it is the ultimate human achievement, imbuing the life of the person that attains it total happiness, excitement, delight, self-esteem, wisdom, and maturity:

And such a one will possess not merely the good, but the Supreme Good if...the Supreme Good can be no other than the authentically living, no other than Life in its greatest plentitude, life in which the good is present as something essential not as something brought in from without, a life needing no foreign substance called in from a foreign realm, to establish it in good.
(Plotinus, Enneads)

(2) DNA-driven mandatory requirements impose on humanity the need to rest the body systems in an activity known as sleep. Without sleep, a whole host of negative health consequences follow so we must respect the need to keep the body sleeping for approximately 8-9 hours per day.

(3) While anytime of day could theoretically work for these purposes, humanity has chosen the dark hours of the day for sleep. Given this, we could choose to sleep between 12:30 to 8:30 AM most days.

(4) At most times of the year, this would mean we have some 4-6 hours of night that we don't need to be either sleeping or working. If work (as we've broadly defined it to include ANY form of conscious exertion to improve any aspect of well-being, whether or not this exertion involves paid remuneration) is to take up most of our daylight hours, we still must find something to do between the work termination hours and the sleep commencement hours some 4-6 hours later. This is a significant amount of time to "fill up." So the question presents itself- and presents itself to us everyday in reality- how are we to occupy this time?

(5) A series of choices present themselves. First, do we wish to spend this time alone at home or outside surrounded by other persons? If we go outside, will we actually be able to communicate and enjoy the presence of others, or will we simply be in superficial physical proximity to them? Second, what activities are even available for us to engage in at night? Third, what benefits do those activities offer?

(6) As a general rule, the open and easily accessible public establishments at night are either restaurants, bars/clubs, shopping centers, groceries and liquor/drug stores, casinos, and that is pretty much it. Unless there is some highly unique feature involved (such as a casino that offers health and wellness education), each one of these establishments generally can't generate human GOOD; what is available in most of these places- for a PRICE and usually a very high one at that- is either a slight diversion/distraction from our otherwise monotonous lives, (generally unhealthy) processed food and other intoxicating beverages one is better off not consuming, music being played at levels likely to cause hearing problems, stuff being sold for way more than it would be online, women and men parading their bodies about on a mission for sexual narcissistic supply ("hey, LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!"), the most inane rote repetitive conversations imaginable being continuously replayed, risk-taking that is surely bound to cause financial and other physical detriment, the employment of various racist and other sexist assumptions to generate "humor," and various other inanities and absurdities on display everywhere, all the time. What is surprising is people are paying (lots of) good money for all this, eager and willing to part with money that could purchase far better things in order to be placed in such a deficient environment: "I went through the routine process of buying service and paying their outrageous rates." (Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man)

(7) If one stays home one of course is "alone" and not in the physical presence of other persons. But, today, one can read almost anything one wants, listen to any song, watch any documentary or movie, learn any new skill, write in one's journal, and do a million other activities all from the comfort and security of one's house. In general, staying home is likely to produce a far greater benefit to the development of consciousness than "going out." The oft-stated benefit of going out- companionship with other persons- is not even available today because most other persons that are "out" are staring at their phones, staring blankly at some TV screen playing some stupid sporting event, staring and consuming the food or drink that is placed before them, or otherwise not communicating with strangers they meet in public. What you really "get" when you go out at night is being physically "around" other people that could (essentially) care less about you or anything that you do: "I don't give a fuck about you or anything that you do Don't give a fuck about you or anything that you do...I mean for real, fuck how you feel..." (Big Sean, I Don't Fuck With You) And if they do communicate with others, the level of conversation remains so low that one would still have been better off staying home and reading Plato, watching a fascinating documentary, learning more astronomy, creating DJ mixes, cleaning one's home, and all the rest.

(8) The situation need not be so and should not be so. DE NIGHT offers a potential for limitless beauty attainment for human persons that bring to DE NIGHT their most creative, free, and curious selves. Amidst the pleasing environment of cooled temperatures and no glaring sunlight, our public establishments SHOULD be places where all can gather after a day of toil and communicate their experiences of what happened in their lives that particular day. They should be places where people can meet one another and discuss issues without music blaring so loud one can barely think or speak to anyone else. They should not be places where one is strictly evaluated for sexual appeal and attractiveness, causing a "race to the bottom" where women particularly are encouraged to show as much of their body as they can "get away with." They should be places where wealth and status matter not at all in what one can "bring to the table" in terms of the experiences one has had and can share with others.

(9) Here and there, amidst the tundra that otherwise comprises DE NIGHT, there are places that are beginning to have the characteristics outlined in 8 above. As a general rule, these places are extremely rare jewels such that a town containing more than 5 or so of them out of 100 total night establishments open would be a rarity. These are places that one should seek out and embrace as repositories of human GOOD during DE NIGHT: "they must render homage to an experience which makes ridiculous good previously pursued." (Harold H. Watts)