Sunday, March 29, 2015

Passion (Kamran K): The Constant DISTRACTION of Sexuality

(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. 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." 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 it usually just can't realistically deliver the goods we imagine it can. 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

(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.

(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)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Freedom (Kamran K): CONSCIOUSNESS... first and (pretty much) only road to freedom....

"All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization...That I am nobody but myself..." Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

(1) As our unique human consciousness determines every thought we have and every behavior we pursue, we must do all we can to familiarize ourselves with it. The best we can ever do is familiarize ourselves with it because consciousness always remains a step beyond total comprehension and mastery. We will never reach a point where we can predict what consciousness will "spit out" as our next emotion, next stray thought, next daydream, next behavior to pursue, and so on. Conduct an experiment at any time where you try to predict what your next thought will be. You will almost always be wrong.This is, on balance, good because it makes human life uncertain and capable of all forms of adaptation and evolution in a way that the lives of pugs, roaches, and bacteria are not so capable.

On the other hand, having zero grasp on your particular consciousness is incompatible with the notion that you are a free human being. If you have no idea how your mind works and how it tends to evaluate and value things and generate ideas for future behavior, how could you possibly be free? To be free means to be able to understand all of these things such that you can choose whether to continue thinking and doing in the same ways in the future.

Thusly, consciousness represents either a liberating or enslaving force to each individual human being. It becomes enslaving the less we know about it and how or why it acts the way it does; it becomes liberating the more we know about it such that we can stand back from it and judge it, evaluate whether to make changes, etc.

(2) To grasp anything is obviously to stand back from it and observe it in a neutral non-judgmental fashion. There is room for judgment on consciousness and there is a proper time for it; but we must first understand and grasp a thing totally before we judge it.

(3) To step outside human consciousness is impossible for a human being. But this does not mean consciousness can't be understood and evaluated. As consciousness generates an emotion, thought, or behavior to pursue, one can slightly "stand back" from that emotion, thought, and behavior just enough to disassociate oneself from it. You can actually say to yourself something along these lines: "interesting, i'm reacting in this or that way to this or that reality. interesting, i usually tend to react in this or that way to this same type of reality. interesting, im thinking of doing this behavior because i think it will do this for me. interesting, im not going to do this behavior because ive determined it wont do this or that for me."

(4) Reflections of the sort described in paragraph 3 are possibly only in the most ideal environments for self-observation. These types of observations require little to no outside distractions, little to no other persons around, little to no activities on one's "schedule" and all the like. The environment must "almost" be similar to a hospital room with no TV and no visitors allowed. A prison cell would be another good example. In these conditions, you confront your consciousness HEAD ON. There is no room for evasion. There is nowhere to hide from it.

(5) The key to gaining familiarity with consciousness is identifying patterns of emotional reactions, thoughts and judgments, and behavioral decisions consciousness is generating.  It is these patterns that start to make some logic out of the infinite maze of human consciousness. It is these patterns that start to make a life that otherwise seemed merely the product of accident and chance to assume some underlying coherence.

(6) The project of self-betterment begins with the identification of these patterns. Once the patterns have been isolated and identified, then one begins to ask how good these patterns really are. Have they in the past generated much non-trivial meaning, happiness, or wisdom in one's life? What sorts of facts and information justify the pattern, particularly with respect to patterns of emotions and judgments consciousness generates? What changes would you like to see made to the patterns and how will you get there?





Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Silence/Stillness (Kamran K):The need to Alternate Between On and Off.


(1)  Used in moderation, music is a life-enhancing activity. It has served this function well over generations/millenia, earning praise from the Philosopher himself 2500 years ago:  "[A]nd we all agree that music is one of the most pleasing things, whether alone or accompanied with a voice; as Musseus says music's the sweetest joy of man for which reason it is justly admitted into every company and every happy life, as having the power of inspiring joy." (Aristotle, Politics)The life-enhancing activities, of which the playing and listening to music surely are, represent breaks from the monotony and routines of everyday life, some of which are imposed by the requirements of human DNA (constant drinking and eating, hygiene, sleeping) but the vast majority being imposed by the need to conform to dominant social programming and conformity (driving to work, career routines, family obligations, total politeness and optimism toward everyone all the time). The life-enhancing activities get their value from being occasional distractions and enoblements from the routines of everyday life. This is what actually makes them life-enhancing and why one looks forward to them. 

(2) To actually continue to be life-enhancing, the relevant activity cannot become yet another dull routine or monotonous aspect of existence. When it does, it no longer can be life-enhancing as it can no longer release us from anything. In fact, the activity becomes yet another bondage of everyday life that becomes virtually indistinguishable from our sense (whatever the particulars may be) of our monotonous everyday life.

(3) In this country, music (along with professional sports and the consumption of alcohol) has been transformed from a life-enhancing activity to an ALL THE TIME ON dull monotony. Unclear when exactly this happened but it's here now. Undeniably here.

It is astonishing to notice how few places are left SANS (lacking) music. The library, hospital operating room, and the university classroom may be lone exceptions. Almost all restaurants, bars and clubs, stores, gyms, passenger vehicles/taxies, elevators, commercial office lobbies and waiting rooms, and even airports have music always on, usually loud enough that it "gets in the way" of your focusing entirely on whatever it is that you should be doing there primarily. Even if they didn't have music on, many of the patrons would be listening to their own music on their smartphones and other gadgets. The music being played is usually "top 40" "feel good" comic optimistic stuff that ignores the tragedies and other miserable realities of the human condition. This is another example of optimism being forced down our collective throats (as an aside, it's not that optimism is so "bad" but that it- particularly extreme variants of it that we're experiencing- is an unbalanced viewpoint of the human condition.)

(4) Music colors experience. The experience actually assumes a different form when music is playing. The experience of a supermarket will be very different if you are listening to Eminem vs. Mozart. This transformation of the experience is true whether or not you consent to the music being played. So what is happening is that we (all of us) are never getting an experience of various realities in their "pure" form. What is it really like to experience a restaurant, bar, gym, and all the rest without music thumping- and thumping always- in the background? WE DONT KNOW. We are never permitted to gather and focus our thoughts on the person sitting across from us, the distinguishing attributes of a particular restaurant or bar, the most important differences in the products offered at various stores, the differences between cities we visit, and all the rest because the musical distraction is always "there."

(5) Music can also greatly intensify and deepen emotion. But, here too, it can't serve this function if it's always on. Emotions gain meaning and depth when matched against music one has not heard in a long time. Music generally can't be expected to intensify or generation emotion if it's always on because the deepest human emotions don't get triggered by stuff that one experiences all the time/everywhere.



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Humor (Kamran K): A limit even here...


"Now they who exceed in the ridiculous are judged to be bufoons and vulgar, catching at it in any and every way and at any cost, and aiming rather at raising laughter than at saying what is seemly and at avoiding to pain the object of their wit...Now as the ridiculous lies on the surface and the majority of men take more pleasure than they ought in jocularity and jesting...One quality which belongs to the mean state is Tact: it is characteristic of a man of Tact to say and listen to such things as are fit for a good man to say and listen to...But the Buffoon cannot resist the ridiculous, sparing neither himself nor any one else so that he can but raise a laugh..." Aristotle, Ethics
(1) Albeit humor has its place very high in the goods generated by human consciousness and albeit the subject matter of comedy should not be arbitrarily or dictatorially limited nor confined, still there is a limit as to how far even this human good should extend, how much it can improve a given situation, and how often one should turn its way. There are certain circumstances where humor simply has no place, where someone's situation is so horrific that an attempt at humorizing is just poor taste and reflects one has no fucking idea how horrible this reality is. The common cliche that humor "improves" the situation is nothing but hot air; the situation- governed by the physical reality that is not influenced by humor- remains in its horrific state. 

(2) Humor generally produces popularity and social popularity is now very much "in." So it would not be surprising to note that humor is very much in and many are attempting to make humor out of almost every situation imaginable to become increasingly popular. Let us emphasize these are attempts to be funny, and not always actual funnyness. It is difficult to be funny but- given human vanity- most regard themselves as funny when they but rarely are. 

(3) Again, the vice here reflects lack of genuine empathy for the reality of another person. You are "using" their horrific situation as an opportunity for humor; by laughing at it in these ways you show that you really don't regard their situation as that terribly bad because you can still get a jolly good laugh out of it. You may even encourage them (wrongly) not to view the situation as horrific when it is to their advantage to view it as horrific so that they can do something to lessen its effect on their life going forward.

For example, we learn that a friend has dealt with extremely unusual travel delays. Several flights of his have been cancelled; connecting flights have been missed, causing him to spend nights sleeping on disgusting chairs in the airport terminal with all the lights on, all the time; the actual flights taken were filled with turbulence; the foods he ate gave him indigestion and nausea; and the total travel time was several multiples longer than it should have been. We are not talking here of a run-of-the mill 45 minute delay; we are talking about a 6 hour trip taking almost 24 hours. You come to learn this and your first reaction is to make a bunch of jokes about this situation?? Huh? What made you think that is the appropriate response? This is sort of the problem right here; you didn't think: "Thought signifies the act of the intellect in considering the truth about something. Hence thought pertains chiefly to judgment; and consequently the lack of right judgment belongs to the vice of thoughtlessness, in so far, to wit, as one fails to judge rightly through contempt or neglect of those things on which a right judgment depends." (Aquinas, Summa)

(4) Often, the only appropriate reaction to the horrific situation of another is a deeply empathetic "I'm so very sorry this has happened to you. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help out or improve the situation." Period. This is the extent of your reaction to this person's situation. Not humor, even if the attempt was only in "half-jest."

(5) This increasing tendency to find humor in horrific realities may be just another manifestation of the all-the-time ON "optimistic" orientation we are burdened with in contemporary social reality. This raging optimism is really a burden because it purports to be the right attitude for all persons all the time. This simply cannot be so but we are expected to act as if it is so. The act is becoming a burden for many of us.

In any event, the optimist does not wish to have his surging optimism ruined by horrific realities that are totally incompatible with it. He does not wish to "sit in" the crap of certain realities. Thusly, he or she uses humor to trivialize and diminish the badness of these situations so that he can continue with his or her optimism. Music- generally lighthearted "feel good" optimistic music- is also increasingly used for this purpose; music must always be on so that no one anywhere can take a second and just experience reality raw for what it is, a mix of some good but also many bad things. More reflections on this point will be submitted shortly.

(6) It is only perhaps- and even here let us stress the word perhaps- YEARS later that one MAY return to the horrific reality and make some isolated joke or two about it. This would not work in all cases but in some where one is speaking with friends and the consequences of the horrific reality have now been totally reversed and even turned out to be a net positive for the person involved. 



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Love (Kamran K): Starting to put the pieces together...


"They look to strange goods and love the husks of grapes..." Hosea 3:1

"This might be your only warning
And you'll see
Why the rules won't slide
For seeing something bright
* * * * *
And everything hits you in the end
And spoils your thought stream
My heart got a hold of my head
And ripped it to its seams..."
King Krule, Bleak Bake

(1) The deplorable condition of love we observe today is not in the least surprising. Humanity has made a mockery of love; nowhere in life does one see such a gap between the ideal and the actual. Love can and should be a great source of emotional warmth and nourishment for persons worldwide; in actuality, it's a frozen tundra of broken and- more precisely- abandoned romantic aspirations and longings: "I know it's slow to digest/ the way you're inside stress/you're not blessed, you're definitely not blessed." (King Krule, Has This Hit?) Once abandoned as unattainable or simply unrealistic, these romantic aspirations and longings do get diverted into other areas; some become workaholics on account of emotional deprivation, others find some hobby or other that can absorb the time that would otherwise be devoted to a beloved, and many simply substitute casual sex for love. Given the recent passing of Valentine's Day, we submit various speculations in this regard.

(2) In the initial selection of a romantic partner, persons everywhere greatly and enthusiastically overemphasize the trivial (they usually "rush" to announce to everyone around that they have met someone with these trivial characteristics) while simultaneously ignoring the most salient characteristics of what makes someone a good/great romantic partner. As the relationship progresses, persons generally do gain perspective and see that the trivial is not as important as they once thought and that the salient characteristics DO matter much more. Not only does this late realization cause needless romantic disappointment but such recognition usually happens at a point where both parties simply can't correct things unless they make a superhuman effort to do so. Very few persons are apt to make superhuman efforts to do anything and thusly most relationship do then either terminate or remain in their (largely) depressed condition. All of this was preventable if both persons carefully distinguished the trivial from the salient in the initial selection of a romantic partner.

(3) The trivial characteristics (trivial meaning likely to fade quickly in importance the more one gets to know a certain thing) in another person that persons everywhere greatly overemphasize in the selection of a romantic partner include:
  • Physical attraction and beauty. Not only do these qualities fade dramatically over time (often in a very SHORT time) but they only matter in a realm- sexual attraction and desire- which simply can't deliver as much pleasure as most hope: " just as the cognitive power of a creature is finite, so is its appetitive power." (Aquinas, Summa) Physical attraction and beauty is often very fleeting; fifteen pounds of weight gain here or there can drop someone from the "hot" category to the "merely average." To be yet more brutally honest, most couples engage in the sex act much too infrequently for physical beauty to make that much of a contribution to the overall relationship; even when engaged, the act usually lasts half-an-hour, if that. Given the parameters of human DNA and the human body, there is simply not enough "there" there for the physical attractiveness of another to "carry" a relationship forward over months, let alone years or decades. But many choose partners on this very basis thinking that it can so "carry" a relationship. Quite a fantastic delusion, but a delusion made somewhat more "believable" by an unrelenting advertising/entertainment complex that makes it seem that sex can indeed deliver so very much: "Now, the fact that spiritual goods taste good to us no more, or seem to be goods of no great account, is chiefly due to our affections being infected with the love of bodily pleasures, among which, sexual pleasures hold the first place: for the love of those pleasures leads man to have a distaste for spiritual things, and not to hope for them as arduous goods." (Aquinas, Summa
  • Income, reputation, profession, property and prestige. These characteristics can be unstable and so there is the risk that they will vanish at any time. Further, these things require incredible investments of time, mental attention, and sacrifice to achieve...all of which means the person will not have much time for the development and (at times) repair of the actual relationship. What sort of fantasy allows someone to believe they can maintain a strong loving relationship with someone they barely ever see or is exhausted/has his/her mind elsewhere when seen: "It is true that virtues acquired through acts decrease and sometimes cease altogether through cessation from act...Now this is because the safe-keeping of a thing depends on its cause, and the cause of human virtue is a human act, so that when human acts cease, the virtue acquired thereby decreases and at last ceases altogether." (Aquinas, Summa) Even if power, prestige, and money are stably achieved, such things often make the person rather prideful and arrogant in ways not compatible with the equality of relationship love demands. Love demands that you take the other's perspective seriously, believe it is just as likely to be right as your own perspective, and make changes to your behavior and values based on this different perspective. This type of thing is simply impossible without a genuine belief in the equality of both partners. Finally, income, reputation, prestige, and the like are subject to habituation, such that one becomes bored with them once one stably possesses them. Your tenth visit to a five-star hotel is much less exciting than your first; your hundredth visit barely even registers on the excitement scale. It will register even less if the relationship or marriage sucks by then; having your partner shout obscenities at you is not one bit less hurtful because it happens in a Ritz-Carlton than in a Motel 6.
  • Educational status and degrees. These can be historical markers of an active mind, personality, and intelligence. But not in all- or even- most cases. An active mind, personality, and intelligence are all important and degrees may confirm this exists in the other PROVIDED the person actually demonstrates intelligence and personality and careful introspection in his or her thought and behavior TODAY. 
  • Common race or nationality. This is so obvious it deserves no comment. 
  • Common interests and hobbies. This is somewhat counter-intuitive. At first blush, it seems wonderful to find another person that enjoys the exact same things you do; isn't this the very recipe for a great relationship? Perhaps not. One's interests and hobbies also change over time and so while these may serve as a "glue" in the beginning it may not continue to do so. Further, the highest purpose of a relationship is to encourage two persons to GROW together over time and to provide them reasonable available alternatives for such growth. For growth to materialize, the persons in the relationship must not share all- or even most- of the same perspectives on things nor should they behave the same. If the persons have many of the same hobbies and interests, they will have all of the same perspectives on things and this does preclude much growth in the relationship over time. The line between fondness of and addiction to a hobby is often hard to discern; if both partners are involved in the hobby it becomes even harder to discern. Whatever your key strengths are in life you should find someone that is strong in other areas so you will both be strong in many areas together. 
  • Social popularity. Increasingly, this attribute is getting increasing attention, the theory being that a socially popular person must be "in demand," a "good catch," and possess many "positive" qualities. He or she has a vibrant social life that one can jump into and who wouldn't want that? Today, one doesn't even need an actual vibrant social life just the appearance of one online. In any event, who wouldn't prefer such a person to someone with little or no social life? This trait is usually fool's gold. Socially popular persons usually maintain superficial connections with many while never forging deep contentions with anyone. The cultivation of deep friendships or romantic pairings takes time, attention, and care that socially popular persons usually don't squander on one or a few persons. Lacking practice with this level of depth of relationship, social popularity may be a very bad reason to seek someone out for a romantic pairing. 
(4) The determinative characteristics in other persons that are initially ignored but usually come to dominate the long-term health and stability of the relationship include:
  • An active, inquiring, free-spirited mind and personality. Above everything else, this is what makes it enjoyable/exciting to keep returning to a person over years and decades. Whenever one returns, the person is intriguing in a different way because their mind is now in a different place: "some things allure us by their own force, and attract us by their own worth, such as virtue, truth, knowledge..." (Aquinas, Summa) Their mind is always searching for more truth, more personality, more freedom, more information, and more ways to achieve meaning and happiness for themselves and those they love. Without drugs, they take you to these various "mental" places and you benefit from these visits. They take you to these places anytime, on the drop of a hat, and at times when there is nothing else to do- when stuck in traffic or on a long plane ride or when stuck in a far-off location because weather has closed airports and the like. Lacking this attribute, it becomes challenging to maintain a genuine sense of excitement in anticipation of seeing someone for the 10th, 100th, 1,000th and even 10,000th time. Certainly sexual excitement, desire and appetite can't be maintained at such a high level over this many encounters. 
  • A demonstrated propensity to apologize and admit their mistakes and other shortcomings of character. Such admissions and apologies keep the peace and serenity in the relationship, preventing needless bitter angry dialogue where both parties attempt to "prove" that the other is in the wrong. You know for a fact that disputes and other contentious conversations will rear their head at some point down the road; you also know for a fact that these conversations are always kept respectful and mature by the ability of one or both parties to apologize for their mistakes. Why would you not actively seek out someone like this from the very beginning?
  • A demonstrated propensity to keep communication ongoing on a wide range of subjects and not allow it to get stuck in the same 5-10 topics one discusses as a matter of habit and routine. You and your partner are free to talk about anything at anytime. This is pretty much the only person in the world where you have such potential unlimited freedom. Why limit yourself to the same topics day after day? Why create mental fatigue from such a limitation when the alternative is curiosity, wonder, and excitement from the wanderings of minds that are free to roam where they please?
  • A demonstrated striving to reach ideals and dreams that are personal to the self and that seem meaningfully important for self-realization. Happy persons make happy relationships. But happy persons tend to be self-realized and have earned their happiness by striving for and reaching difficult goals that no one believed they could reach. Even if not fully reached, persons are made happy by going after their unique goals in such a way that they progressively reach higher levels of contentment from having done and experienced so much they personally regarded as valuable and personally meaningful. 
(5) The above considerations yield important insights. Provided the trivial characteristics don't "get in the way" and block all progress, any two persons that have many of the determinative characteristics can "fall" in love and maintain it over years and decades. Two persons of different races and nationalities, both (more or less) poor, both of average attractiveness, with some but not many shared hobbies and interests, can have a wonderful romantic relationship. How? Simple. They will draw upon the strength and power of the determinative characteristics which characteristics they will see as greatly dwarfing the importance of the trivial characteristics: "For joy is caused by love, either through the presence of the thing loved, or because the proper good of the thing loved exists and endures in it..." (Aquinas, Summa)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Freedom (Kamran K): Freedom's Actual Loss Amidst Freedom's Theoretical Infinite Gain


"Men nearly always follow the tracks made by others and proceed in their affairs by imitation..." Machiavelli

"Conformity is a negative force if the individual form that gives uniqueness and dignity to a person is subdued by the collective form. If this happens...a structure appears for which it probably would be more adequate to use the word "patternization" - the process in which persons are modeled according to a definite pattern. Patternization is what determines our period, both in learning and in life. And the questions I want to ask now are: What are the patternizing powers in our present culture, and are we able to resist them? Are we still able to say no in matters of serious concern, in spite of the tremendous strength of the patternizing forces?" Paul Tillich, Conformity

"When popularity is sufficiently important relative to intrinsic utility...many individuals conform to a single, homogeneous standard of behavior, despite heterogeneous underlying preferences. They are willing to suppress their individuality and conform to the social norm because they recognize that even small departures from the norm will seriously impair their popularity...any departure from the norm is construed as evidence of extreme preferences...Even so, agents with sufficiently extreme preferences refuse to conform. These individualists behave in ways that differ significantly from the social norm: there are no trivial nonconformists. Within the social fringe, heterogeneous preferences do result in heterogeneous behavior; these agents express their individuality." Bernheim, A Theory of Conformity

(1) Two ASTONISHING- truly astonishing- observations can be made of contemporary social reality. First, the potential or theoretical opportunity to exercise free choice and become different from everyone else has never been greater. Generated from the creativity, work, and sacrifices of millions of people over human history, there has never been so much choice in all aspects of life, from clothing to music to cars to colors of everything one purchases to sports one follows to hairstyle to hobbies to where one can live to what one reads to what one believes to whom one dates to what one eats to what one plants in one's garden to what furniture one buys and so on. Second, there has never been a time where more people are refusing to become different and abdicating most of their life choices to the dominant social programming and conformity. Potential choice is approaching infinity; but actual choice is approaching zero. Not everyone is exactly the same; but many many people are awfully similar. What differences still exist are often trivial, and by trivial it is meant here that after a few days or even hours with this person you will see that this difference makes no real difference in the person's everyday life or consciousness. You will see this anywhere you go by simply being on the sharp lookout for persons that look REALLY different, who say REALLY different things that make you pause and reflect on what they just said to see if you even "got" what they said, who behave in ways that are ACTUALLY startling to the extent that you question whether they are actually sane (they are). How often do you meet such persons? Once a year? Once a decade? In a truly free de-programmed society, how often would you expect to meet such persons? Several times a day, if not more? Why is this happening?

(2) Regardless of the religious or other values we profess to follow and admire, it is beyond dispute that the dominant value system actually governing actual human behavior today is money, success, popularity, and career worship: "This is the objective situation. Like every human situation it becomes reality through human action and reaction..." (Paul Tillich) These ideals have replaced previous ideals of either religious salvation, romantic engagement, rational enlightenment, or even mystical transcendence. Over the course of human history, these ideals were very real and meaningful for millions of persons; it guided their whole lives and gave that life meaning and dignity. Such ideals have (sadly) lost most of their power over time and humanity has largely clustered on money/success/popularity/career success as guideposts for living well.

It is believed by nearly all persons that money is good and the more of it (well) the better. The current mode of economic production behaves according to a very simple formula: WHERE THERE IS MONEY IT SHALL BE EXTRACTED! Because hardly anyone sees any real problem with having more money, it becomes the "plan" of most people to figure out how to make as much money as they can: "One can observe in many...an intense desire for security, internal and external, a will to be accepted by the group at any price, an unwillingness to show individual traits, a conscious rejection of nonconformist attitudes...an acceptance of a well circumscribed happiness without serious risks." (Paul Tillich) Strangely enough, some singers, writers, and others now bemoan the life of money making AS A WAY OF MAKING MORE MONEY! The irony of multi-million dollar singers decrying the evils of the "almighty dollar" should not be lost on anyone. The anti-money critique is now becoming perhaps one of the best ways to make money. You continue to make tons of money but you don't get stuck in the "evil rich" camp because, well, you have "issues" with making tons of money (though you obviously continue to make it and obviously wish to make more of it by flying all over the country, performing in front of thousands, giving many interviews, and the like).

(3) Whatever field one is in, there is usually (by now) a fairly "tried and tested" path to success in that field, success being defined (of course) as making as much money as one can in the field by rising to the "highest" position one can in it. In addition to hard work and the requisite skills to perform the work successfully, there is also a certain social persona one must cultivate to maintain and (over time) elevate one's position in this field. Indeed, the cultivation of this persona is becoming as important as everything else in many fields of work. If one doesn't cultivate this persona in large part (minor occasional lapses are still okay, praise be) one is labeled as "kinda weird" "kinda awkward" and that is the end of the matter right there. Get that label ("weird" or "awkward" or "strange") and you (probably) won't go very far in whatever line of work you are in.

This persona has various DOs and DO nots with respect to clothing, preferred hobbies, the preferred shape of one's body, the nature of one's friends, the types of restaurants and hotels one frequents, the online personality one cultivates, where one lives, how one speaks, whether one is optimistic or pessimistic (optimistic is the raging trend du jour), one's religious beliefs and behaviors, and so on.

(4) In short order, all persons within a given field gravitate toward the DOs and fly away from the DOnts. The potential choices of all of these persons is nearly infinite; but the value system driving their choices dictates a very narrow range of choices (the DOs). Whatever natural aversion persons may feel toward the DOs and natural attraction they may feel toward the DO nots, these are of no moment because the overwhelming motivation under a regime of money/career worship is to maximize one's monetary/reputational position in the world which motivation seems sensible because, after all, nearly everyone else is aiming for the exact same thing:

An early preponderance towards adoption or rejection causes subsequent individuals to ignore their private signals, which thus never join the public pool of knowledge. Nor does the public pool of knowledge have to be very informative to cause individuals to disregard their private signals. 
(Ivo Welch, Conformity, Fads, and Informational Cascades)

It is viewed as no "big deal," no "large sacrifice" to do the DOs because one will indeed be rewarded monetarily for doing this and monetary reward is viewed as the most "real" reward of all. All other forms of rewards- particularly the internal rewards of contentment, happiness, and joy- are viewed skeptically, as possessing only secondary value. This belief is maintained over decades despite the lack of evidence and information to support it; in fact, the belief has been strengthening in the face of contrary evidence and information. Beyond the monetary reward, one gains the social approval gained from doing what is more popular rather than less.

(5) The observations above yield an important conclusion. The path to freedom today must (usually) involve a clear and decisive break with money, career, and success worship: "Maturity, personal as well as cultural, presupposes a suffering under problems, a necessity to decide, a possibility of saying no." (Paul Tillich) This break- or the lack thereof- can be considered a form of DOMINO, causing all of the other dominos to fall either one way or the other.

Lacking such a break, one usually has no chance of actually exercising freedom and becoming meaningfully different from everyone else because one will be continually pressured to perform the behaviors and maintain the attitudes called for by the DOs. With such a break, one is indeed free to "look around" at the thousands of potential choices available to one in nearly any area of life and start making some actual choices that differ from those around you, which flow from inner personality, and which are not contained within the parameters of the dominant social programming and conformity: "and every excellence we choose indeed...for the sake of happiness, judging that through them we shall be happy." (Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics)