Highs and Lows

Feeling good is good. No one really wants to be feel bad. And I’m talking in the fashion they would describe as bad, not some arbitrary universal definition. Yet I would argue you should want to feel bad, at least some of the time.

Motivation is a tricky thing. Without it you would feel lost, stagnant or bored. The point of it is to improve things somehow, so at the same time it’s a sign of a lacking in something. When someone is motivated to further their education to help them get on their career path, they’re only doing it because they are not on the path they want to be on. When you want to be more social or get in shape or go out more, all of these things are parts of yourself that you don’t like. Therefore it would be best to have no motivation because you’re exactly who you wish to be.

But we all know that’s not true.

The clichéd advice of the modern world is to enjoy the journey and not the destination. We’ve all heard it. Despite it being trite, it’s true, you do have to enjoy the present cause it’s all you’re ever going to experience. Solely seeking basic gratification of your desires will leave you enjoying the present moment, but will get stagnant and unpleasant. You’ll feel bored and directionless. You’ll lose motivation.

Highs and Lows are the only way to experience both the pleasure of the journey while maintaining the motivation to continue. Embrace the pain you feel, let it drive you towards improvement. Then feel good. You can rest on that plateau for a short time, but don’t fight the bad feelings that will come. Let them. Feel the pain and turn it into the drive to climb the next hurdle of life.

All to often we try to battle with our negative feelings, we see them as a failing, as us failing. But it’s not a failure, it’s how you succeed.

Postscript: I’m discussing someone of moderately stable psyche. Someone with Bipolar disorder is different. They have a serious condition and may find medical intervention of some kind helpful. Those highs and lows can be truly dangerous to a persons well being.

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Reality Tunnels

This is another idea that I will claim no ownership over. Robert Anton Wilson introduced me to it, but it’s not unique to him either. It’s a foundational philosophic concept; a way to understand your own perceptions. Simply put everyone views the world through their own reality tunnel. This tunnel shapes what you see and how you understand things. The tunnel in turn is shaped by your past life experiences, most prominently by what you learned in your foundational years (birth till midteens). Really it harkens back to ancient philosophy, it’s reminiscent of Plato’s cave.

The variant that I prefer is to see it not as a tunnel, but as a stone walled tower. A single room, no door, with a glass window all the way around it. The window can’t be opened, so you have to see the world through the glass. Distortions, imperfections, and tint will all obscure how you see the world. You can never be absolutely sure about what you see outside, how much of it is affected by the glass. All of our windows are marred in different ways. Some people make no attempt to clean their windows, some continue to use the ones their parents told them to use.

Using Natural Philosophy will help bring more clarity. Looking through other peoples windows will help you understand them (but you have to remember that you’re still seeing their window through your own, it’s still coloured by your own perceptions). R.A.W. recommends honestly trying to believe something you disagree with, but just temporarily. The idea being that it gives you greater knowledge as to why other people believe what they believe. It’s truly challenging to do properly, it’s not very effective if you simply go through the motions without truly believing it.

Love is the answer to consciousness

If you’re unfamiliar with Hofstadter’s definition of consciousness, refer to my blog post from last week where I summarize it.  

Consciousness is the infinite spiral of self-reflection, which is inherently an isolating experience. It’s you constantly redefining how it is that your are separate and distinct from everything else.
Ergo, you are unique.
Ergo, you are alone.
Love is finding another consciousness to share in that loneliness.

Sex is clearly linked to love (not saying all sex is an expression of love, just that the two are related frequently). This next part is very anecdotal, but so is most of of what I say anyways. Deal with it.
When sex can be more described as ‘making love’, it’s got a synchronizing quality. The bodies tune to each other and you enter a flow/Zen kind of state. Words become difficult to use effectively, but also unnecessary. There’s a different form of communication, its bodily and non-verbal; using the face and hands, and especially the eyes. Possibly in a physical sense, your brain shifts away from the analytical and linguistic portions. This is actually what allows that intense Zen feeling to happen.

Back to love being what makes consciousness bearable. It’s this interlocking between two selves that breaks the barriers that the concept of ‘I’ entails. Literature is full of love because the people who so desperately need it are the ones really trapped in that cycle of consciousness. Therefore they are more introspective but also more lonely.

Consciousness

Much of my writing revolves around consciousness so it seems prudent to establish a foundation for this topic. What follows will be my interpretation of Douglas Hofstadter’s work, specifically “Godel, Escher, Bach” and “I am a Strange Loop”. If you find this intriguing, I highly recommend you check out his work, it’s fascinating and far more in depth than this can be.

In the interests of brevity I’m going to skip the issue of an immaterial consciousness (a soul or spirit, or some such thing). Those ideas have many arguments and many counter arguments. These can be addressed elsewhere. As my post on Natural Philosophy points out, I’m interested in studying the way the world works, which must be understood physically.

The human brain is a form of evolved computer (it may be vastly different from our computers, but it’s basically a logic machine). It’s evolutionary purpose has changed over time, as all survival traits will. At one time, tool use, their creation and improvement, was paramount to human survival. A brain capable of creativity would be a major boon to a hominid. But creativity is such a seemingly abstract and non-computational property.

Well no, it’s not. Simulation is the key.

The human brain developed the ability to internally simulate parts of the world and extrapolate (modify and predict) how it will function in a variety of situations. This is how we created better tools and technology in general. We applied the same simulation software to our fellow hominids because social survival was equally necessary. It’s very helpful to predict how your fellow pack members will react given actions you may take (like getting kicked out for hoarding food).  It’s a small step to apply that human simulating part of our brain on our own mind.

Simulating and predicting/experimenting on our self creates consciousness. The core of self is the concept you have of your self. Self improvement is becoming an improved version of yourself, something you discover by simulating a variety of your ‘selves’. This simulation is a self-reflection, like a room full of mirrors or a camera turned to it’s output screen. It reflects and amplifies itself infinitely. This is what Hofstadter refers to as a Strange Loop.

It’s what we refer to as consciousness.

Postscript: This is very brief. Probably too brief to actually make the argument properly. I just didn’t want to bog this post down to heavily. I learned the concepts from a book that’s 777 pages long and another that’s 412. Of course I’m not doing it justice. Feel free to post questions in the comments and I’ll try to clarify anything I glazed over.