Tuesday, November 18, 2014

2014 Break

The blog writer will use the remainder of 2014 to perfect all 2014 posts. He may occasionally post before the New Year if some idea really seizes him but such posts, if any, will likely be fewer than 5. Happy Holidays and New Year to All.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Self-Creation (Kamran K): "I Want to See More, More, More!"

(1) Our wayward vagabond adventurer, Amsynem, awoke one fine Saturday morning with the vestiges of a vivid dream fresh in his mind. Overall, the dream itself was vague and incoherent; but Amsynem could distinctly make out he, himself, was screaming deliriously "I want to see More!" and "I want to see more, more, more!" and various other permutations of the same phrase throughout the dream.

(2) Amsynem went about his day without any clue what this eccentric phrase meant. Later that night, Amsynem went to a downtown nightclub and the first clues as to the dream's meaning rained down on him. He could not help but notice that 80-90% of the woman entering the club were wearing the color black as a dominant percentage of their outfit (either top or bottom but usually both). Women at this club were wearing so much black the scene resembled pictures of women praying at mosques Amsynem had seen in documentaries.

Amsynem wondered how so many different women could each arrive at the same decision to wear black. Were there not hundreds of colors available for each to choose? Was this not a free country were one could wear any color any time? Was the nightclub atmosphere itself not an appropriate one in which to demonstrate one's individual tastes?

(3) While his head was growing ever dizzier from these and other questions, suddenly the moment came. Amsynem started muttering to himself "I want to see MORE!" "I want to see More! More!More!" Amsynem began to actively wish to see more women dressed in black. He looked around and he did in fact see More, and More, and MORE, and yet MORE women in black. He was in a state of absolute delight, delirium, and ecstacy. Just as he was about to mutter "I want to see MORE!," yet another women dressed in black would pop into view and his wish was granted!

(4) Bored to death by his job, his neighbors, all forms of small-talk, his friends, and the headlines on the news, Amsynem began to play this SELF-ENTERTAINMENT game whenever he could. Indeed, Amsynem always preferred the SELF-ENTERTAINMENT he could provide himself for free to that which others would provide him for an exorbinant cost. Wherever he was, either NYC, LA, Miami, Chicago, or almost anywhere else in between, he began to mutter I want to see MORE! examples of a certain socially programmed conformist behavior and- lo- he would see it before his very eyes within seconds!

(a) Amsynem wished to see MORE! persons obsessively checking their cell phones 2, 3, and even 400 times a day! And lo, Amsynem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(b) Amsynem wished to see MORE! persons projecting a positive public slant on their lives when their personal private experience of life was totally miserable. And lo, Amsynem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(c) Amysnem wished to see MORE! persons evaluating other human beings primarily by virtue of their profession and income. And lo, Amsynem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(d) Amsynem wished to see MORE! persons whose ONLY idea of fun involves alcohol and the casual watching of professional sports. And lo, Amsynem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(e) Amysnem wished to see MORE! persons who ALWAYS kept their public conversations within a very safe polite range of subjects (weather, upcoming holidays and vacation plans, sports, stock market, routine work issues, news headlines) for fear of offending someone and having career and financial prospects ruined. And lo, Amsynem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(f) Amsynem wished to see MORE! persons twiddle away at their hobbies without any real desire to master them. And lo, Amsynem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(g) Amsynem wished to see MORE! persons who only wished to see the good in themselves, their city, and their favorite activities and who relentlessly denied or ignored any criticism directed at themselves, their city, and their favorite activities. And lo, Amsydem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(h) Amsynem wished to see MORE! men addicted to sex and woman-chasing and willing to sacrifice everything ($, time, reputation, health, self-esteem) to get it. And lo, Amsydem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(i) Amsynem wished to see MORE! persons looking for any opportunity, any time, to make more DOLARES. And lo, Amsydem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(j) Amysnem wished to see MORE! persons that had to always be doing or saying something, who could never just sit still and do or say nothing for the briefest of periods. And lo, Amsydem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(k) Amsynem wished to see MORE! persons choose their romantic partners predominantly on the basis of income, race, nationality, and biological factors having nothing to do with anything (height and race in men, hip-to-waist ratio in women). And lo, Amsydem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(l) Amynem wished to see MORE! parents relentlessly push their kids to become doctors (or nurses or pharmacists), lawyers, scientists, businessmen, engineers, and other similarly high-paying occupations, whether or not their children were at all well-suited to these professions. And lo, Amsydem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(m) Amsynem wished to see MORE! persons communicate with others almost exclusively via button-pushing communications (email, text, social media).  And lo, Amsydem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!
(n) Amysnem wished to see MORE! persons trivialize the achievements of others which they could never reach themselves. And lo, Amsydem did see MORE! MORE! and yet MORE!

(5) What began as a game of self-entertainment gradually became tedious and wearisome to Amsynem. By the end, Amsynem really did not wish to see MORE! persons doing the exact same things in (more or less) the same ways. The joke had become tedious and the sight of the same realities so trivial UNDT baYNAHL that Amsynem wished two things: (1) that he would not be seen doing the MORE! behaviors and (2) that he would actively seek out those few persons who were similarly disinclined toward the MORE! behaviors. This life-long resolve and commitment served as Amsynem's fuel for self-creation over and over and over again.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The GOOD (Kamran K): The Wobbling Key

Song for the Winter: Guy J, Whirlpool

(1) We return, time and time again, to the life and times of our GOOD hero Amsynem (our favorite pugs, Pugsy + Amelie, and our favorite rapper, Eminem).

(2) Free-spirited to the core, Amysnem drove a beat-up unremarkable 4 door Honda sedan (170+k miles) for many years. These cars come with keys that are attached to a small plastic control system which can open and close the door from short distances. Over time, the actual metal key has a tendency to become detached from the control system. When this happens, the key will not turn on the car even when it is placed in the ignition switch.

(3) This very thing happened to Amsynem. With his "money always tight," Amsynem preferred not to spend several hundred dollars on a replacement key. Instead, he used Super-Glue to bind the key back to the control system. 

(4) This make-shift solution worked splendidly for several weeks before Amsynem noticed the key began to wobble. Over the next several months, the key wobbled more and more, causing Amsynem to worry that it would detach entirely, leaving him stranded on the side of the road.

(5) This never happened. Although the key continued to wobble, the unseen area where key and control system were bounded were attached tightly by the Super-Glue. For months, Amsynem treated the key very gingerly, believing that the wobbling was a sign that it was about to detatch. Finally, he tugged on it and learned that indeed the invisible connection was far stronger than he imagined it to be.

(6) This is our metaphor of the wobbling key. The GOOD IS that invisible mental glue that keeps the self and soul together amidst whatever challenges, wobblings, failures, misfortunes life throws our way. Even when we possess the GOOD, we will of course wobble, make mistakes, and endure the injustices of others throughout life (decreasing in number as we more steadily possess the GOOD). Friends and potential romantic partners will let us down; physical injuries and illnesses will afflict us; financial difficulties and fears will rear their ugly head; familial relations will be strained by the stupidities of one or more members; we will indulge excessively in the temptations of animality (alcohol, sex, and the desire to dominate others for no purpose); we will "give in" to anger and depression more than we ought.  But the possession of the GOOD makes even these wobblings and mistakes NON-CATASTROPHIC. Possession of the GOOD keeps everything together and moving for the self and soul while some parts of life are wobbling and under strain. Possessing the GOOD, we may bend but never break. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wealth (Kamran K): Further Reflections in this Most Critical Realm.

(1) Human DNA creates a creature (man) that must biologically exist on the level of animality. The requirements of human DNA give none of us any break here; we are all in the same boat and THIS represents a truly common human "bond." No human body can escape biology and survive for very long without food and water, air, decent shelter, warmth, sanitation, and (increasingly) medicine. These demands begin at birth and continue all the way to death. No one gets a "free pass" here; no one can take "time off" from these requirements. Within the extremely accurate world of reality, any failure to attend to the requirements of human DNA renders the body weak, diseased, and (sometimes) dead.

In an ideal world (and perhaps on other planets hosting life), creatures would (do?) exist that have banished animality from life altogether. They can exist and frolic all day, every day, without a single thought to their body and its various biological/hormonal needs. We should make no mistake about it; such creatures and such worlds are superior to Earth and the life found on it. If one had one's choice, one would of course choose to live in these worlds because the demands of animality and biology are, when considered from the perspective of reason and logic, tedious, silly, and banal. These behaviors must be endlessly repeated, without fail, and have no compelling fascination in them whatsoever. What delight can one take at one's ten thousandth shower, tooth brushing and flosing, flu therapy attendance, chicken and green bean eating, and all the rest. 

Although the demands of animality are persistent, the perfection possible from a life of animality is rather limited. Even persons that take poor care of themselves often survive well into their 60s and 70s; persons that take much better care of themselves can perhaps survive another 10 or 20 years, albeit in declining physical condition.

(2) Over time, humanity has decided that work and wealth generation is a solution to the persistent need to meet the requirements of animality imposed by human DNA. Rather than each person having to daily gather all of the stuff necessary for animality survival, men and women work, gather money, and then use that money to "get" whatever is needed to continue to exist on the level of animality. Given the contours of life authorized by human DNA, life would be very demanding and harsh if one was required to secure all of these things through one's own daily labor. In the case of badly needed medicine, it would be nearly impossible for one to succeed on one's own.

(3) Those pursuing the GOOD must of course wish to prolong their life and reach the age of (at least) 70 or 80. Wisdom and achievement of the GOOD really does grow over time, experiences are appreciated differently as one's perspective changes and (hopefully) improves, love offers the potential for an "out of this world" relationship with another human being over decades, and it's rewarding to see GOOD persons reach their GOOD goals as their lives mature.

It is STRICTLY AND ONLY because of this reason (compliance with DNA's animality requirements) that the lover of GOOD must participate in wealth and work activities. The inability to escape biology pushes/forces the lover of GOOD into work and wealth generation. The lover of GOOD will pursue work and wealth generation in order to meet the requirements of animality imposed by human DNA, which will, in turn, give one a shot at pursuing a sort of perfection achievable by escaping animality through the MIND, character fashioning, and behavior changes of all sorts. And it is STRICTLY AND ONLY GOOD to participate in wealth and work activities to gather that amount of (low to moderate) wealth to satisfy the requirements of animality to continue to survive so that one can continue to do these GOOD things.

Friends of ours may object at this point and argue that all "decent" and "hard" work is GOOD and, when such work is paid for, it represents the meeting of a consumer demand which is in itself GOOD. They argue that work in itself is an activity where one can reach the GOOD because, at the very least, no one is harmed when one does a "job well."

We disagree. In almost any field today (take your pick), there is simply too tenuous a relationship between the actual work performed and the achievement of the GOOD. The lawyer does occasionally (usually once every couple years) assist a meritorious client in a meritorious case and achieve justice under the law. This is obviously GOOD. But this kind of thing happens much too rarely. For most, work is layered over with heaps of inefficiency, traffic jostling morning and evening, bureaucracy, unmeritorious issues/concerns/complaints, boredom as a result of "nothing to do," and rule and procedure compliance (largely) for its own sake. The situation is such that for every ten hours one works in almost any field, one will perhaps be achieving the GOOD for only 30 minutes (if that). So the lover of GOOD can't remain in work and wealth generation because of the belief it reliably produces or leads one to the GOOD because this belief is flat wrong in reality. To the extent the lover of GOOD does work and wealth generation, it is strictly to meet the demands of animality imposed by DNA.

(4) Embedded as we are within such a perspective, it makes no sense whatsoever to limit oneself to the activities of work and wealth generation once one has secured the "basics" to survive and meet the requirements of human animality. This is simply a numbers game of pluses and minuses, with nothing "virtuous" about it. One gets in and gets out to the extent needed to make sure everything balances out appropriately. One simply calculates out what one needs to get to the next day, month, and year and then pursues that amount of work and wealth to gather just these things. Obviously, what one needs is persistently guided by the realization that most of the things one believes one needs are not needed at all. For persons with substantial savings and assets, no amount of work or wealth generation may be required to continue live at this level of simple animality sustenance.

(5) Period. End of story.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Friendship (Kamran K): The Survivors.

"Girl, it's easy to love me now
Would you love me if I was down and out?
Would you still have love for me?
If I fell off tomorrow would you still love me?
If I didn't smell so good would you still hug me?
If I got locked up and sentenced to a quarter century
Could I count on you to be there to support me mentally
Would you poof and disappear like some of my friends?
If I was hit and hurt would you be by my side?
How deep is our bond if that's all it takes for you to be gone?"

Nate Dogg & 50 Cent, 21 Questions

(1) Because modern notions of success demand that one be "cool," "popular," and surrounded (always) by hundreds/thousands of friends, conceptions of friendship are becoming so watered down as to be absurd and meaningless. It has somehow come about that any two persons that know each other (even if only digitally or only by virtue of employment or financial dealings) refer to each other as "friends." They are not friends in fact but refer to themselves as such. Such "friends" but rarely even sit down to converse on subjects of meaning or value (i.e. not "small talk"), and rely exclusively on computer-driven "button-pushing" communications lacking body language or human emotion (email, texting, instant chats, and all the rest).

Huddled within the perspective of the GOOD, we don't see friendship this way at all. Let us make clear: unless certain demanding tests are met, two persons that know each other remain- and will forever remain- contacts or acquaintances. The orbits of their lives- like Earth and Moon- will forever remain not "too far" yet always distinct and distant.  They know each other more than two random strangers do but still not well enough for the connection to generate human meaning and value.

Now...man surely does not need hundreds, let alone thousands, of friends; man actually needs a strong "rock solid" core of 5 friends and perhaps another 10 or so that are "up and comers" on the path to entering the core group: "the soul, when accustomed to superfluous things, acquires a strong habit of desiring things which are neither necessary for the preservation of the individual nor for that of the species. This desire is without a limit, whilst things which are necessary are few in number and restricted within certain limits; but what is superfluous is without end..." (Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed

(2) By way of analogy, let us return to the disjointed story of our good hero, Amsynem. Living in a region experiencing a severe drought, Amsynem decided one year to simply let his garden "go" and see which plants could survive "naturally" and on their own. He did not carefully water, fertilize, or mulch his garden as he had in the past. Plants that needed continuous watering (and other chemicals) simply did not make it. These plants had only survived in the past under artificial ideal conditions, artificially supplied by Amsynem, chemicals supplied by his local Home Depot, and extensive use of the city's water supply.

Surveying the scene in late fall, Amsynem found that only a few plants had survived under more "true" natural conditions. He could never have predicted the survivor plants. But the few survivors survived in a spectacular fashion, often extending their size, width, and coverage over Amsynem's garden. Amsynem considered these few survivor plants to be his "true" plants, truly worthy of being within his garden, his property, his life. Although the whole thing began as a humorous experiment, it ended with the generation of Truth: "Too oft, verily, did I follow close to the heels of truth: then did it kick me on the face. Sometimes, I meant to lie, and behold! then only did I hit- the truth." (Nietzsche, Zarathustra) Amsynem found his survivor friends.

(3) The same test can and should be applied to everyone one knows to "cull out" the survivor friends. The artificial ideal conditions must be removed for some period of time so that one can "see" who the survivors are. If one is powerful, rich, beautiful, well-connected, or in fantastic physical and mental health, then one should tone down/de-emphasize in one's presentation of one's self these characteristics long enough to determine the survivors. One should attempt to mute down any and all other characteristics that typically draw persons toward one for reasons of personal expediency and advantage unrelated to TRUE FRIENDSHIP (e.g., a bouncer at a club will surely have many "friends" who show up every Saturday night at the club to see their friend and then have him allow them into the club in front of everyone else). Persons that habitually keep a friendship alive by initiating communication after long dormant periods should desist from doing this and let the other person begin things once or twice. When this does not happen, then one can rest assured the purported friend is not a survivor friend.

After a brief period of six months to a year, one group of survivor friends will remain. After another year or two, an even smaller group will remain, given that the first group contained some persons that probably believed the change in one's condition was only temporary.

(4) Applying this test honestly and without delusion, most persons will quickly recognize that they have very few genuine friends or perhaps ZERO such friends. For these reasons, it is imperative that one never close the door to friendship to hardly anyone one meets. Because survivor friends are such a rare but great thing, it is impermissible for one to rule out persons as potential friends on account of their race, gender, height, looks, lack of power or money, and nearly any other characteristic unrelated to the merit of one's character.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Experienced Beauty (Kamran K): The Human Experience Formula= Here, Flow, Gone.

Song of the Day: Bonobo, Eyesdown (Sasha remix)

(1) The structure of all human experiences, from the most trivial UNDT Bayyyhhnall (banal) to the most sublime and GOOD, is exactly the same. Every time. Everywhere. In the past. Now. Tomorrow.

This human experience formula can be summarized very simply:
                HERE >>>>>FLOW>>>>>GONE

Human experiences take no other structure whatsoever. This is (truly) it. The entirety of human life is exactly the same; the DNA language controls the organization and binding together of the body into cells, tissues, organs, systems, etc. for some limited period of LIFE and then the DNA language succumbs to time or disease and the individual is Gone. The individual was here, flowed through life, and then Gone. Before reaching Gone, we hope the individual (all individuals) reach the supreme GOODs of LIFE in their unique way. Unlike competitive athletics, LIFE is not one huge narcissistic supply game where you try to win and hope everyone else loses and "exists" merely to look up to your greatness:

Those who are ignorant and perverse in their thought are constantly in trouble and pain, because they cannot get as much of superfluous things as a certain other person possesses. They as a rule expose themselves to great dangers...and all this for the purpose of obtaining what is superfluous and not necessary. When they thus meet with the consequences of the course which they adopt, they complain of the decrees and judgment of God; they begin to blame the time, and wonder at the want of justice in its changes; that it has not enabled them to acquire great riches, with which they could buy large quantities of wine for the purpose of making themselves drunk, and numerous concubines adorned with various kind of ornaments of gold, embroidery, and jewels, for the purpose of driving themselves to voluptuousness beyond their capacities, as if the whole Universe existed exclusively for the purpose of giving pleasure to these low people.
(Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed)

Instead, LIFE should be a process where all achieve the supreme GOODs within the context of their individual talents, circumstances, genetics, and desires.

(2) When we are trapped within trivial UNDT banal experiences, we can take comfort in the fact that we will eventually reach GONE. We try not to do anything that will prolong this experience for one second more than it need run; if we can, we try to get to GONE quicker than others similarly situated. During these moments, we certainly don't appreciate either the Here or Flow but rather endure these experiences as best we can in the hope that something/anything will come after that will be better.

(3) When we find ourselves within experiences of value, meaning, and delight, we must do what we can to prolong these experiences as much as we can. We are certainly not in a rush to exit these experiences; we delight and wait in them as much as we can. In certain situations (the running of a mile as fast as one is able) there are inherent limitations to how long one can remain in the experience. In others (triathlon training or love or philosophical contemplation of the GOOD), we can continue the experience for a very long time (years and decades). In most situations, we can continue the experience for a few hours or days but not much longer than that. During the experience, however long it runs, heightened consciousness to the entirety of what one is experiencing can prolong the depth of the experience even further. The experience is not prolonged in scientific time but in human meaning time, which matters much more than scientific time. If one is attending to everything that is happening during the experience, then one really is experiencing more of that experience which will be experienced as a richer and longer experience. In any case, something, anything at some point inevitably goes wrong, crashing us out of the experience and causing it to be GONE. Unlike a child or immature adult, we are not frustrated, shocked, or even indignant when this happens; this was merely to be expected according to our human experience formula.

(4) At this point, the lover of GOOD will execute the following three steps: (1) accept the reality of the experience being Gone. This doesn't mean one abandons the experience or forgets about it completely. One can appreciate it, store it in memory, and express gratitude that one had this experience as part of the Self's inventory of unique experiences. (2) regard it as unlikely that the experience can be duplicated on "demand" whenever one wants. Because the experience came and flowed during a unique juncture of space time and was experienced by the self at a specific moment of its emotional history, it is, all in all, rather UNLIKELY the experience can ever be duplicated on demand to one's satisfaction. (3) begin the process of seeking out new experiences that will, in turn, suddenly be here, flow, then Gone.

Freedom (Kamran K): The Freedom to Take the Third (and 4th and 5th...) Way.

(1) The path to freedom involves forging third, fourth, fifth, and so on ways to issues that have divided humanity into two trite stubborn "camps."

(2) On most issues that matter, humans have divided themselves into two camps, usually totally for or against some human behavior, value, or lifestyle. There are camps for and against literally everything, from pornography to capitalism to religion to science to alcohol to marijuana to big cities to big corporations to video games to global warming to marriage to the proliferation of smartphone use.

(3) Each camp has millions of adherents across the globe, and often can point to impressive historical figures as adherents. Increasingly, each camp has think tanks, social media websites, radio and TV stations, periodicals, university professorships, and all the rest to get out its message. In getting out its message, each camp enjoys reiterating its position and attacking in caricature the views of its opponents. Each camp refuses to debate the other in an unstructured open conversation marked by honest humility that one could be wrong, the very hallmark of a genuine search for Truth. Each camp refuses to supplement its viewpoint with the legitimate truths articulated by the other camp. 

(4) Are we, humanity, doomed to the nauseating spectacle of watching these two camps slug it out with their tired trite arguments for years, decades, centuries, millenia?  Are individual persons simply forced to choose which camp to join for life, which choice must often be made at an absurdly young age when one's mental understanding of life and reality are at their lowest?

(5) An individual embracing the freedom of the third or fourth or fifth way answers no to these questions. The third way begins with an examination of both prevailing camps. Truths expressed by either camp are incorporated into the third way. But the third way is not simply a thoughtless reiteration or combination of the two camps. The third way also brings its own determinative distinctive truths to bear on the issue. These last truths are a tie breaker that sets the third way "free" from either camp. By doing this thing, one places oneself MILES ahead of either camp. 

(6) Once the third way has been perfected, persons are free to perfect it through the articulation of the fourth and fifth way. In a similar fashion, truths expressed by the first, second, and third ways are incorporated but some new determinative distinctive truths become the "staple" of the fourth way.

(7) We briefly illustrate the above discussion with the case of science. We accept from the pro science camp contentions that science has enabled technological advancement and discoveries that have often (though not always) been largely for the good of human beings and human life. One look at the state of modern medicine today versus its state several hundred years ago makes this abundantly clear. We accept from the anti science camp contentions that science has little to say on the ULTIMATE issues of human value and meaning and happiness that (more or less) determine the ULTIMATE trajectory of a human life. We accept from the anti science camp contentions that scientific formulas and knowledge being discovered today are (more and more) divorced from any human practical function or use. Our tie-breaker truths focus heavily on the fact that human happiness does not seem to be increasing with increasingly scientific discoveries or a scientific worldview. It is also irrefutable that one can live a full, abundant, incredible life with little or no scientific knowledge whatsoever. Science (particularly human medicine) has done humanity much good, but most of this good is now "in the books" and there is need for consolidation, use, and understanding of the goods science has produced rather than yet more increasingly arcane scientific discoveries that only 5-10 people on the planet understand.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Happiness (Kamran K): On the "Problems" of Man.

(1) We begin with the simplest of questions: what are the "problems" of physical reality, low-level organisms, conscious animals excluding man, and then man himself?

(2) Physical reality has no "problems" whatsoever, neither problems created by itself nor those created by any other thing. Continuing to exist in its errorless state- without any awareness of a past or future- physical reality simply and automatically accomplishes what it's destined to do. It's totally misleading to speak of physical reality "obeying" physical laws and equations, as if this was a burden or duty that physical reality must fulfill or comply; physical reality doesn't check the equations and laws first, perform calculations, and then do what these equations and laws "require." Physical reality's mere existence is always perfectly in tune with the physical laws and equations; it never "exits" this in-tuneness whatsoever.

This being so, there are no "tragedies" in physical reality; even the ripping apart of a ginormous star into a black hole is simply the unremarkable distribution of matter from one location of physical reality to another. Huge earthquakes and storms on planets are no "big deal;" no one cries or even cares when these things happen on Jupiter or one of its moons. Not a tragedy; not even a problem. Just DEAD matter being redistributed and realigned.

(2) The problems of low-level organisms (uni-cellular bacteria, plants, fungi) are the physicality-animality based problems of survival, reproduction, nutrition, and self-defense. Lacking consciousness, these organisms don't create fictitious problems for themselves "out of thin air." A flower is not asking itself what is the best life for it or how it should dress today to impress local bees or whether it behaved badly yesterday. These "low-level" organisms have impressively solved the problems of survival, reproduction, nutrition, and self-defense for millions and even billions of years. The history of life on Earth is one huge story of how successful they've been (cockroaches have existed for some 300 million years on Earth, FAR longer than humans). Their problems- and the behavioral solutions to these problems- seem basic and elemental to us but we should not lose sight of how well they solve these problems over time spans much longer than the entirety of human existence. As just one example, mosquitos seem to solve the problem of nutrition without the corresponding problem of obesity.

(3) The problems of conscious animals excluding man are also largely limited to those of survival, reproduction, nutrition, and self-defense. A pug, for example, is also not asking itself what is the best life for it or how it should dress today to impress its owners or how can it improve its self-esteem. The pug dog knows what it must do to "get by." By providing its human owners with loving loyal attention, it will receive food, shelter, vet visits, and protection from hostile creatures that could injure or kill it "in the wild." The pug would survive "in the wild" for about one or two days on its own; it knows this and has adapted its behavior to win over the affections of human owners. The pug's behaviors are extremely limited (though very cute) but still these behaviors are well-suited solutions to the problems it "recognizes" (namely, that it needs human care to survive).

In a few highly conscious animals, certain other problems may arise that venture beyond survival, reproduction, nutrition, and self-defense. Issues of competitive dominance arise; certain emotions are experienced by a few highly conscious animals that need to be addressed; complicated group behavior "policing" may also be required. Not much is known in these areas so we will pass this area for now.

(4) The problems of man include the physicality-animality based problems of survival, reproduction, nutrition, and self-defense. These are physicality-animality based problems requiring physicality-animality based solutions. This is where the structure of life becomes a bit dark, evil, and "zero sum." For man to survive, he must literally KILL other creatures for food, chop up trees to build wooden homes, build weapons to defend himself against other men and wild creatures, and engage in a whole host of mating behaviors which are essentially physicality-animality driven once the superficial veneer is stripped off (e.g. a man working hard to make tons of money to secure attractive female mates is basically doing animality, no matter how he wishes to disguise this behavior to himself).

Man's work does not end with the solution of the physicality-animality based problems. This is not the entirety of what we must do. Our problems extend beyond the physicality-animality based problems. Most significantly, man confronts the twin problems of meaning and longing for a life somehow "better" than what he's got now. These are problems that are separate and distinct from the physicality-animality based problems. They can't be solved by more animality-physicality but require the highest and most active use of MIND to forge unique solutions for each person in their individual living circumstances. A diet is a solution to the problem of obesity and high blood pressure; it's not a solution to the twin problems of meaning and longing for a better life. 

Unlike other living species, man's actual solutions to these problems are neither identical nor equally effective; these solutions range from the most excellent and outstanding solutions to the stupidest solution imaginable. Of course, most solutions- and certainly most solutions mandated by social programming and conformity- congregate in the mediocre, trivial, largely ineffective, and banal area. One hesitates to call these solutions as a solution implies that one actually thought about the problem and "came up" with the solution; social programming and conformity is usually caused by the failure to pose these problems and forge solutions to them for oneself.

(5) Man is largely alone in creating MANY problems out of thin air that simply shouldn't exist and that aren't really problems at all. Human DNA facilitates the human MIND which is the most unbelievable complicated machine known in the universe. For all its virtues, the machine of the human MIND can get sidetracked, lose its way, make spectacular errors, embrace stupidities as "supreme truths." Most of the time, this is done by the MIND creating and then wrestling for decades with a "problem" that is not even a "problem" to begin with. Ask yourself repeatedly: is this issue that is nagging, bothering me even a problem whatsoever? What areas of my life is it harming for me to consider this a problem? How realistic is the expectation that my life would be dramatically improved without this problem?

Problem creation where there is none is one of the easiest ways for a human MIND to make itself miserably unhappy. Precious mental space, emotion, and resources of time/money are often devoted to problems that are not even problems to begin with. As but one example, many persons believe they must solve the problem of "a path to success," admiration and esteem from people you don't even know, and being somebody important and powerful in this world. Many others believe they must solve the problem of meeting someone to marry so that they can dutifully raise kids. These are not even real problems. The real problems are finding meaning and creating a better life for oneself. For certain persons, success, admiration, marriage, parenting, and all the rest may be solutions to these more fundamental problems; for most of us it isn't. But either way, these solutions should not be viewed as problems for all of us. In this way, the problems that many human beings identify as eagerly important (e.g. how can I find the right person to marry?) to be resolved are not even problems to begin with. These persons are paving their own road to unhappiness by creating problems that should not even exist.

(6) Happy persons act in exactly the opposite manner. They distinguish between real and fake problems as best as they can (even happy persons are not error-less). The happy person doesn't see death at age 80 or 90 as a problem at all; having lived well, he sees this amount of time on Earth as sufficient to pursue and achieve most of the goods of value in life. Happy persons distinguish between problems of the self and the problems of others, particularly when those problems are caused by stupidity verging on outright insanity. They are not callous or insensitive to those problems but still recognize these problems as outside the self and largely out of their control. They distinguish between problems that have a solution and those that have no known solution (violence in the Middle East). Illusory problems are discarded from MIND and don't absorb any time, attention, stress, or concern. Real problems are focused on (loneliness, lack of friends, lack of money to ensure basic survival, obesity, stupidity, violent  and other self-destructive tendencies, addictive vices) and solutions based in reality to these real problems are continually perfected by trial-and-error processes.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The GOOD (Kamran K): "NOT Our Area"

"Hold it in, dear, let's go dancing
I do believe we're only passing through
Wired again now look who's laughing, 
Me again, oh you, oh you, oh you."
(Song of the Year!! = Ben Howard, Time is Dancing)

(1) We begin with further tales of our GOOD hero, Ronnie Look. After being stung by a wasp in his head a few months back (requiring a trip to the ER), Ronnie discovered he was allergic to bee, wasp, yellow-jacket, and hornet venom. These stinging insects are collectively found within the Hymenoptera family. When provoked, Nature has given these creatures the defense of injecting poisonous venom into the blood stream of human beings. Man has his guns, knives, and pesticides; hymenoptera have their venom.

Ronnie learned from his doctor that additional Hymenoptera stings could cause additional dangerous systemic (all over the body) allergic reactions. These reactions could range anywhere from hives, itching, redness, difficulty breathing, and even death when airways swell and close up, blood pressure plummets, and the heart stops beating. Ronnie discovered that indeed some 100-300 people a year die within the US from the venom inflicted by Hymenoptera. The absolute absurdity of a tiny stinging insect killing a grown man in peak physical condition was not lost on Ronnie.

(2) Learning all of this, Ronnie came to the only sensible conclusion he could: he must avoid areas where non-trivial numbers of Hymenoptera "like" to stay and sting. Given his condition, these were obviously NOT HIS AREAS. After his reaction, Ronnie was not too keen on the idea of cycling in remote locations, summer BBQs, extensive gardening, and marathon golf rounds in the peak of summer. Ever vigilant like a hawk for any visible sign of Hymenoptera, Ronnie would immediately distance himself from all such areas known to have Hymenoptera. Knowing that one sting could cost his life, Ronnie rightly concluded that areas where Hymenoptera congregated were NOT HIS AREA. His internal mind chatter was something like this: "ohh crap, do you see that Hymenoptera over there? That thing is pretty darn close. This is NOT OUR AREA. This is THEIR AREA. We must avoid this area."

While Ronnie always carried EpiPen with him (the only known treatment for such venom stings), he STILL believed that his best strategy was to AVOID Hymenoptera areas. Ronnie reasoned and concluded the obvious: where there are no Hymenoptera, there can be no Hymenoptera sting! His best strategy was not to venture into these areas, get stung, and then hope the EpiPen would "save" him. This is the strategy of a fool.

(3) Very few of us are severely allergic to Hymenoptera venom. But the tale of Ronnie Look is instructive in a deep way. For all men and women seeking, pursuing, and hoping to actually achieve the GOOD, there are many thousands of environments that are "not their area." It is not our duty to go into these areas, fix them, and hope for the best. It is even less our duty to "sample" these areas to make sure they are as bad as we believe them to be.

Men and women everywhere have only a temporarily finite opportunity within reality to reach the GOOD: "Let's go dancing I do believe we're only passing through..." (Ben Howard, Time is Dancing) Decisions must constantly be made to ensure one is spending this brief moment in OUR areas and getting out of areas that are NOT OUR AREA.

(4) Let us pose the question starkly: for the lover of the GOOD, what makes a human environment "our area" and what makes it "not our area?" The following questions are usually dispositive for the lover of GOOD (these questions will not even make sense for the lover of $, fame, narcissistic admiration and supply, and other sensual pleasures):
  • How regularly does this area deliver the GOOD to persons like me? Has even one person achieved the GOOD in this area? Is there a visible, identifiable path to the GOOD in this area?
  • What would it even mean to reach the GOOD in this area?
  • What am I doing in this area? Am I in this area simply from some long-ago adopted habit that makes no sense to continue?
  • What areas am I neglecting by being in this area? What invisible but no less "real" emotional harm is being inflicted on me by remaining in this area?
  • Is this area dominated by social programming and conformity? ("Not that I would have a grudge against such...ones on that account; they are well enough for laughter to me!" Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
  • Is this area affected by racism and other stupid prejudices which the GOOD does not permit me to maintain?
  • Does this area permit real or total honesty or must everything be hidden and couched in vagueness so as not to offend anyone?
  • Does this area permit real or total freedom?
  • Is this area infected by money and success worship?
  • Are individual results in this area unaffected by one's merit or ethical character? ("There is no sorer misfortune in all human destiny than when the mighty of the earth are not also the first men. Then everything becometh false and distorted and monstrous.") (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
  • Does this area tend to foster friendship between persons?
  • Does this area foster appreciation of and actual growth of mind understanding as to the most important human realities?
  • Is this an area dominated by persons under the near total grip of fear, anxiety, and the endless search for narcissistic supply?
  • Is this area doomed by a maze of bureacracy, procedures, and rules that make getting anything done extremely tedious and time-consuming? ("Where doth one at present learn better to wait than at courts? And the whole virtue of kings that hath remained unto them- is it not called to-day: ABILITY to wait?" (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
(5) In the same way that Ronnie Look avoided areas known to have Hymenoptera, the lover of GOOD will avoid areas generating negative answers to 6-8 of the questions above. Areas generating negative responses to 10 or more questions will be avoided almost totally and immediately. Areas generating positive responses to most questions will be THE area for lovers of GOOD, who will return again and again to these areas over years, decades of life: "with both feet stand I secure on this ground. On an eternal ground, on hard primary rock, on this highest, hardest, primary mountain-ridge, unto which all winds come..." (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Freedom (Kamran K): Want Total Freedom? Go "Total" Herr Albin.

"Here is the list of the most common pathological shoulds:
I should be the epitome of generosity and unselfishness.
I should be the perfect lover, friend, parent, teacher, student, spouse, and so on.
I should be able to find a quick solution to every problem.
I should never feel hurt. I should always feel happy and serene.
I should be completely competent.
I should know, understand, and forsee everything.
I should never make mistakes
I should have achievements that bring me status, wealth, or power.
I should always be busy; to relax is to waste my time and my life.
I should be unfailingly kind.
I should make enough money so my family can afford....
I should not take time just for my own pleasure."

(Matthew McKay & Patrick Fanning, Self-Esteem)

(1) We will explain why we've chosen an insignificant barely three page chapter from Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain as one of four central motivational spurs for the continued writing of this blog, now some 3.5 years/1.5 MILLION+ words "old." What is it about this chapter- and specifically its star character Herr Albin- that allows us to rank it near the entirety of the corpus of great philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Nietzsche?

(2) Mann introduces Herr Albin out of nowhere near the beginning of Magic Mountain and then never mentions him again. Herr Albin is basically a nobody and Mann treats him as such, devoting only three pages of a monumental 706 page novel to this most enigmatic character. The hero of Magic Mountain is not Herr Albin; it's Hans Castrop. The hero is indeed Hans, the same Hans Castrop that Mann initially portrays as thoroughly normal, healthy, and optimistic, thoroughly conventional, thoroughly "common sensical," thoroughly average in almost every way: (a) "An ordinary young man was on his way from his hometown of Hamburg to Davos-Platz..." (b) "he had been totally caught up in his normal train of thoughts, preoccupied with what had just occurred, his exams, and with what was about to occur, his joining the firm of Tunder and Wilms..." (c) "he added that, thank God, he was perfectly healthy." (d) "trusting that the world would take care of him one way or the other..." (e) "For he had the greatest respect for work...As things stood, work had to be regarded as unconditionally the most estimable thing in the world...His respect for work was, in its way, religious and, so far as he knew, unquestioning." Hearing that his neighbors at the sanatorium are having sex, Hans reacts with conventional socially programmed disapproval, "muttering something very disparaging about them."

Importantly, Hans is not thoroughly normal, conventional, and average by nature, inherently, by DNA. Also, he has not arrived at normality by examining Nicht Normal (NOT normal) and concluding that normality is a superior mode of life. One could do this very thing and compare and rank Normal and Nicht Normal across a whole range of behaviors and determine which is better for one given one's particular talents and life circumstances; Hans doesn't do anything of the sort. 

The situation is precisely the opposite. Hans does normal because he sees everyone else doing it and he is afraid of standing out (and being abandoned) by doing Nicht Normal. Mann emphasizes that Hans has half-heartedly unthinkingly embraced normality to his detriment, even to the detriment of his physical health. His natural inclinations and longings point strongly/consistently toward Nicht Normal but he feels compelled and pressured to constantly do Normal. For Hans, one of life's greatest pleasures is enjoying a good cigar; in this condition he feels "home safe, nothing, literally nothing, literally nothing can happen to him. It's the same as when you're lying on the beach, because there you lie on the beach, you know? and you don't need anything else- no work, no other amusements." Hans also loves "music with all his heart." This man that naturally enjoys cigars, music, beaches, and idling, this same Hans Castrop decides to become an engineer in an engineering firm? Huh? Although he had the "greatest respect for work" (which respect was "unquestioning") Hans is (like most of us) not very good at working either long or hard: "the exertion of hard work was a strain on his nerves, tiring him quickly, and he quite candidly admitted that he much preferred his leisure- when time passed easily, unencumbered by the leaden weight of toil, lay open before you..."

(3) It is this particular Hans Castrop that Mann then forces to listen to the Herr Albin diatribe. To repeat, Hans' natural inclinations are toward idleness, leisure, and personal exploration of things that bring no financial "gain." Yet his chosen profession and the dominant majority of his waking hours will (soon) not permit him to satisfy any of his natural inclinations. It is this Hans that begins to listen to the wild ravings of HERRRRRR ALLLLLBIN!

(4) Toying with the idea of suicide and playing with a knife and revolver, Herr Albin is implored by two ladies surrounding him to put his knife and revolver away, forget about suicide, and turn his thoughts to "enjoying life again in a circle of friends who love you." (HOW CUTE!) Herr Albin is not moved by the protestations and notes his preference for suicide by way of a single gun shot to the brain. The women surrounding Herr Albin continue imploring him to put the revolver down and stop smoking; they urge him to do this for the sake of his "young, precious life!"

(5) Herr Albin listens to the women but is unmoved by anything they say: "But Herr Albin was implacable." Herr Albin has certainly done normal ("I have never refused a lady's request before now, but you'll see") but he will do normal no more. Having done normal for so long (at least for the three years he's been in the sanatorium) he has momentously decided to STOP doing normal: "This is my third year here- and I'm fed up with it. I'm not going to play along anymore- can you blame me?"

What does Herr Albin prefer to an existence where he continues to struggle to do normality, continues to put on appearances and abide by lady's requests, continues to believe that life consists- and consists simply- of an unrelenting positive optimistic push forward, where one is surrounded by (aww, how cute!) a circle of loving friends? Herr Albin prefers, in two words, Total Freedom: "To live as I incline, or not to live at all' so do I wish; so wisheth also the holiest." (Nietzsche, Zarathustra) In the span of just four short sentences, Herr Albin unleashes a remarkably direct, honest, and unabashed declaration of personal freedom, unmatched in all of Western literature. This torrent of words send shivers down our spine, every time:

You simply must grant me the license that results from my condition. It's much the same as in high school when you know you'll be held back- they don't bother to ask you questions, you don't bother to do any work. And now I've finally come to such a pretty pass again. I don't need to do anything anymore, I'm no longer in the running- and I can laugh at the whole thing.

Mann emphasizes that there is no response from anyone to these devastating four sentences Herr Albin has "let go": "Then it grew quiet in the lounging area- as quiet as if a nightmare or ghost had been routed. And any word spoken sounded strange in the silence." In response to Herr Albin's "Can you blame me" question, no one answers why Herr Albin is wrong to make the choice he has. Indeed, the proponents of Normal hardly ever have any persuasive response when proponents of Nicht Normal let loose freedom-based justifications for new behavior.  

(6) After doing the behavior of normal social programming and conformity for three long years, Herr Albin reaches the freedom moment. The freedom moment arrives for each person throughout life; the choice presented in those moments is whether to continue doing the approved social programming and conformity or "bust out" of it and achieve and realize one's personal freedom. Most (though not all) decline freedom under the pretense that they have no choice but to continue doing Normal. Gripped by fear, many believe they will be broke, hungry, and homeless if they venture one step beyond the rigid confines of Normal. A larger ERROR can hardly be imagined: "All the great evils which men cause to each other because of certain intentions, desires, opinions, or religious principles, are likewise due to non-existence, because they originate in ignorance, which is absence of wisdom." (Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed

For Herr Albin, the freedom moment arrives with the realization that he's "fed up" with unfreedom and that he absolutely refuses to "play along anymore" with the behaviors and attitudes of unfreedom. Herr Albin removes himself from all of the contests in the arena of Normality; competitive contests for wealth, fame, power, reputation, sex, and social popularity are all spurned by Herr Albin. He will not strive for these things ("you don't bother to do any work") and, accordingly, he will not get these things ("they don't bother to ask you questions"). There is a total justice and fairness to this that one must recognize. Herr Albin prefers freedom and "license" and compares this moment of personal freedom achieved to the high school student who is held back and no longer has to compete with everyone else for grades, attention, teacher's and coach's approval(s), girlfriends, friends, prestigious college acceptances, high salary and bonuses, and all the rest. Herr Albin will no longer sacrifice his freedom for these things. His speech is a resounding rejection of a life centered around the sacrifice of personal freedom in the service of ever greater material goods and "keeping up with the Jonses": "you desire to have your vessels of silver, but golden vessels are still better; others have even vessels of sapphire, or perhaps they can be made of emerald or rubies, or any other substance that can be suggested." (Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed)  

The freedom achieved by Herr Albin is appreciated by no one but Herr Albin himself. Herr Albin does certainly experience his freedom as good, perhaps supremely GOOD: "And now I've finally come to such a pretty pass again....I don't need to do anything anymore...and I can laugh at the whole thing." But he also recognizes that such freedom is gained at the expense of social popularity, social approval, and even simple social acceptance: "I'm no longer in the running." A decent society permits all to exercise any and all legitimate freedoms (the freedom to murder another is illegitimate) without a huge blow to one's social approval, acceptance, and popularity. Herr Albin does not live in such a society; neither do we.  

(7) Listening to Herr Albin speak, Hans Castrop is deeply moved by the evocation of freedom. He, too, had been held back in high school and remembered the "pleasantly untidy state of affairs that he enjoyed...once he had given up even trying and was able to laugh at the whole thing." For the first time, Hans recognizes that "honor had its advantages" but- in a very important insight- "so, too, did disgrace, and that indeed the advantages of the latter were almost boundless." The rewards that society offers persons doing the social programming and conformity are not nothing; but they are limited and ultimately dwarfed by the "boundless" rewards freedom enables once one accepts a certain amount of social disgrace as the penalty for violating the social programming and conformity Normal demands. Moved by the stirrings of freedom in his heart, Hans tries to place himself in Herr Albin's shoes and see what it is like to "finally be free of all the pressures honor brings and endlessly enjoy the unbounded advantages of disgrace."  The chapter ends with Hans "terrified by a sense of dissolute sweetness" that pumps his heart rate through the roof. In this brief and rare moment, Hans is excited by life's possibilities, its openness, its potential rewards. He genuinely sees a reason to live. 

(8) In Western societies ruled by money, career, fame, achievement, sex, and success worship, there are precious few Herr Albins to be found. Today's culture of pathological obsession with achievement ("they have no reverence for great misfortune, great ugliness, great failure" Nietzsche, Zarathustra), with being nice and kind all the time, with making money through hard work, with relentless optimism, with relentless sex, with confident (though fake) self-confidence and assertion, with the rejection of real, genuine, prolonged leisure because it conflicts with making money through hard work, and all related attitudes is in need of correction through an attitude not too far from the radical one embraced by Herr Albin. The obsession with these things is pathological because all achievements related to money, career, success, sex, and so on are nowhere near as good as they would need to be to justify the tremendous efforts/sacrifices required to get these things. Herr Albin is remarkable for recognizing this in a moment of extreme lucidity, captured by Thomas Mann in four sentences for eternity.

Within this environment of unfreedom, the lover of GOOD will often go total Herr Albin with the single exception that he or she will not do so when this creates the condition previously identified as malignant Nicht Normal: "With thee have I wandered about in the remotest, coldest worlds...With thee have I pushed into all the forbidden, all the worst and the furthest...With thee have I broken up whatever my heart revered: all boundary-stones and statutes have I overthrown..." (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)