Drugs

All thought patterns have intrinsic flaws. Every person, no matter how smart or wise, has a crucial weakness. It’s not impossible to remove it entirely, but then a new one will emerge. Consciousness means having focus and focus means that there will always be something out of focus. By its very nature our brains are set us up to fail at completely understanding the world. When you spend a large amount of time thinking in a particular way, your brain gets used to it. It becomes the default. This obscures your understanding of ‘true’ facts which don’t fit into that particular worldview

I’ve known for quite some time that my flaw is the analytic mindset; a logical, scientific way of seeing the world. It’s a flaw, but I’m happy with it; I have no urge to switch to something else. And that’s not to say that it’s the only valid option, it’s just what works for me and what I want from life. To be at peace with that flaw I must confront it. I do so with drugs, mind altering substances to be more specific.

So yes, I’m going to argue in favor of drugs. Sure, they can be fun but that’s not why I’m recommending them. This is for educational purposes (seriously, I’m not being glib). I don’t encourage or discourage recreational usage, it’s just not what’s being discussed. There’s more than one reason to use a mind altering substance; medicinal, therapeutic, recreational, or educational. I’m saying this because the anti drug prohibition movement mixes those into the same issue. Arguing in favor of one is not equivalent to arguing for the other. It’s just what the poisonous binary mindset encourages.

Marijuana, LSD, and mushrooms are all substances I’ve tried and feel they can be of real benefit. They change the way one thinks and how you process information. They alter how you interpret your physical senses. With hallucinogens (the latter two) they can fundamentally alter your internal monologue. This is crucial for confronting your intellectual weaknesses. You shift yourself and therefore you shift that weakness. When you see it from an alternate perspective you can understand it far better. Normally the glare from your worldview obscures the details; it leaves it in shadows.

In a stronger dosage you must give up on the most fundamental aspect of yourself, your consciousness. You lose the ability to navigate your own mind. This is the ultimate removal of control, of letting go. It’s scary, it feels like it won’t ever end because your narrative of events has been disrupted. Nothing has fundamentally changed about you physically though. Your body and mind are still operating roughly as they were before. A few different brain chemicals are around, nothing significant. This is the best test of one’s ego, of accepting the real nature of being a domesticated ape.

As modern people we’ve been stripping ourselves of rituals, of trial and tribulations. I don’t advocate following traditional values, they can lead to many negatives but we’ve lost something important. We need trials of life to overcome. We need them in order to learn about ourselves and how we fit into the world. School and work provide us with tests but they don’t teach us anything internal. They’re actually just tests of domestication, not challenges of life.

As an intellectual the greatest challenge is to face one’s meat brain as a chemical machine. Drugs force this on you. Acid and mushrooms last for hours and you don’t get to control your brain. You can embrace the feelings and enjoy it, or fight it and have a bad time. But no matter what you’re committed. And really it’s not that long, 12 hours maximum. Hell, most of us have slept for that long so really, what’s the problem in trying?

A number of years ago I did a low dosage of mushrooms with 4 friends. We were in the city, at Queen Elizabeth park. I had the most profound feeling of connection to the world. Sitting on the grass looking out over the mountain in North Vancouver, I knew I was a collection of cells. I felt my ego dissolve, imagining the eons passing as the earth shifted, the grass grew, the animals lived, and finally the humans colonized. I could see a rewind of the earth as the buildings disappeared and the humans went back to being less domesticated. I saw a human fundamentally the same as I, sitting on that same hill, over looking that same mountain, but thousands of years ago. I felt connected to them.

Discussing the fact that we are fundamentally animals is not the same as feeling it. Knowing that the boundaries from one organism to the next is fuzzy isn’t the same as experiencing it. Calculating the distance to the stars is not feeling that vast insignificance. You have to feel these things at some point in your life to truly understand them.

I see this as the last step in overcoming one’s ego, but I wouldn’t start with this. If you have unresolved emotional issues, this could force you to face them, and that’s not always helpful. In can be downright traumatizing, so I’d recommend it with a note of caution.

Marijuana is much less extreme than the other two I discussed. It doesn’t fully challenge the ego part of your brain, so I don’t recommend it for that. What it does is enhance your depth of thought. Now sure, being high can lead you to some very stupid thoughts, but it has definitely helped me achieve mental connections I wouldn’t have otherwise. It breaks the generic patterns you form in your head and then allows you to connect things seemingly at random. Many of them are silly connections that were clearly separated for a reason, but not all. Sometimes you can see a parallel in two facts which had previously seemed starkly unrelated. Upon sobering the connection stays and still makes sense. It’s also helpful in breaking into a different mindset, like when trying to immerse yourself in a new point of view.

As with the others, it can bring unpleasant thoughts to the surface. Anxiety can take over, which is not the goal, so you need to be in the right headspace. Additionally our brains are not identical and yours may not react well with these substances. It’s unfortunate but we all must accept our own personal limitations.

The last caveat would be that I don’t recommend it for someone still growing. I doubt it’s hugely damaging to a teenager since it seems most teenagers will try it. From a completely not health perspective (and really, I’m not a doctor you shouldn’t take my advice on actual health), but from a learning point of view, it may just hinder your mental growth. You’ve got to have figured out who you are and where you’re at before a drug can pull that false confidence out from under you. And make you see the true reality your mental flaws obscure.

Carnivorous Contemplation

This is on Vegetarianism and with all possibly preachy topics I want to preface this by saying I’m not trying to proselytize. There’s a set of moral quandaries where the current discussions have hit an impasse. Vegetarianism is one of them. Many of the people in the non-traditional side, ie. the ones arguing in favor of an ‘ethical’ decision, are arguing in a very deconstructive fashion (not all of course, but enough to be dominating the discussion). Then people who would have been moderates are forced into making a stark binary choice. It’s the same toxic bipolar situation we keep getting stuck with in politics. I’m trying to haul us out of the rut. Whether or not I have any impact is questionable.

So about eating meat. Continue reading

Three Body Problem

This is in large part an extension of my last piece, An Argument For Monogamy. I kinda failed to argue in favor of monogamy, it was more about Pairing which you can do with more than one partner (so not monogamy). Assumptions can creep into our thought patterns; one of them got into my brain, and I skipped an important step in my logic. I hope this rectifies it. 

The Three Body Problem is a difficulty in classical physics where the paths of celestial bodies can be accurately predicted when you have 1 or 2 bodies, but 3 or more and we have trouble. The differences in the variables compound over time and we are unable to pinpoint locations. We can make some predictions, but it’s through chaos theory and it only give us estimations. As done before, I’d like to draw a comparison between chaotic physics and human psychology.

We need to be able to predict the people around us. It’s not that we should know exactly what people will do, that would be incredibly boring, but complete randomness isn’t good either. When we want to bond with someone closely, we need the greatest degree of predictability. This is the person we’ll rely on to get us out of our worst states. You need to be able to depend on them. Conversely, you need to be able to predict why they act and feel the way they do. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to help them through their problems. Understanding someone goes hand in hand with being able to predict them. Again of course, the extreme of this would be bad. It’s actually a really common problem to feel your partner has become ‘boring’. But I digress.

Understanding requires predictability. In the long term, you will change and your partner will change; you need to be able to continue to predict them. This is where the three body problem comes in. Human psychology is exceedingly complicated and additional humans increase said complexity exponentially. An unadmitted fact of our society is that many of us aren’t capable of comprehending this when it’s just two people. We can’t cope with more than our own ego, will, subconsciousness, etc. So trying to handle more than two… It’s exceptionally challenging, more so than most can handle.

Am I saying you can’t have an intimate pairing with 3+ people? Absolutely not, it’s definitely possible and it has definitely happened many times. It’s harder though and time will be a greater burden. It’s exponentially more difficult to predict the behaviour of more than one other person and this compounds over time. As all involved change, the likelihood of the relationship dynamics remaining stable decreases. That sweet spot of intimate pairing is narrower and more likely to break. If you’ve experienced the exception to this then I applaud you; you’ve done far better than the rest of us.

Like celestial bodies we can meet across the vast reaches of space.
But also like celestial bodies, we will eventually drift apart.
The more bodies, the more chaotic, the faster the system is flung apart.
But no matter the numbers, that tangled dance is wonderful
Each and every time.

An argument for Monogamy

 

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I’ve talked about polyamory and monogamy before. It’s love and love is important. Usually though I’m arguing on the side of polyamory. It can sound like I’m giving monogamy a bad name. It’s not because I think it’s worse but because I feel the need to defend polyamory; monogamy is considered normal so it doesn’t need support. That’s not good enough. I’d be doing a disservice to my philosophy if I were to neglect a topic due to it’s common nature. So here’s my argument in favor of monogamy (which I’ll refer to as pairing now).

Consciousness is that Strange Loop of self reflection. One of my earliest posts, “Love is the answer to consciousness”, explained how love can help with the loneliness inherent in being self aware. This was about love in all its multifaceted nature, but now I want to narrow our focus to a simple paired bond. But first we must step back to see the flaws in being unpaired.

Take the Strange Loop metaphor in a literal visual sense, as in a point orbiting around an object: it can spiral inwards, outwards or remain in a steady loop. Clearly there’s far more opportunities for it to do anything but remain stable; inwards and outwards are the probable outcome. That inwards spiral is depression, the outwards is mania. To be clear, I’m not using these terms medically I’m doing it socially. Clinical depression and clinical mania are not things I am qualified to speak on. These are lesser but descriptively similar states arising from your own consciousness, things which you can literally think your way out of. 

The inward loop of depression is the self loathing feeling you wallow in when you feel isolated. As you descend further inwards it saps your will to escape.

The outward loop of mania is when you lose your grounding. This can be from physical isolation, but it’s more commonly from emotional isolation. When your ideas are no longer challenged they lose touch with reality. The extreme example is the artist who recently became famous and is fueled by sycophants who don’t question them. Their art loses meaning and is simply self aggrandizement. This is the most obvious example but by no means do you need to be famous to do this. Many people reach this emotional isolation because they have trouble with their ego and with empathy. They push people away that challenge them because it makes them uncomfortable. And so they lose their grounding.

Pairing is a way to fix these problems because a partner is perfectly suited to intervene. They’re close enough to jog you out of either state. They’re not stuck in your strange loop so they don’t necessarily get sucked in and blinded. When someone is close enough to you to break through any barriers we may put up, they can tear us out of that depression or send our manic spiral back to reality.

There’s another perfect visualization for this. It comes from a similar area as the Strange Loop (it’s also chaotic mathematics), called the Strange Attractor. It’s a visual metaphor though, not a “real” connection but I find imagery helpful. The top of this article has an example. The two ‘attractors’ are the different selves, the relationship is the path traced by the point. It never repeats an identical path and it never spirals towards one solitary point or away from them.

Conversely this is also an argument for remaining an individual in a pairing, of not merging into one entity. It can be tempting when madly in love to spend all one’s time with the object of your affection, of taking on their traits as your own (and hopefully these feelings are reciprocated). This is a mistake. When you’re too close to your lover, you lose the ability to ground their spiraling self. You get sucked into the depressive state or you fly away on the mania. Individuality is necessary for being a supportive partner.

Einstein’s Ceiling

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Most of us are familiar with the basics of what Einstein discovered. One of those things is that nothing can travel faster than light. This isn’t relevant to our day to day lives, because we can’t possibly conceive of how fast light is. We can get a grasp on it when we think about distances where that speed is relevant. We’ve all thought about traveling the stars, about finding a new Earth or contacting aliens. When thinking on that scale, the speed of light is a very relevant thing. It’s possible future scientists will prove Einstein wrong or come up with some clever way that we don’t really break the rule, while breaking it in a practical fashion. For now, I’m assuming that doesn’t happen. Not because I’m convinced it’s the case, but because it’s a possible option and our societal view of the future doesn’t address it very well.

Here’s some facts that are relevant:

Light Year (ly) = time it takes light to travel that distance in one year (it’s very large, bigger than the solar system)
Nearby Stars: one at 4.5 ly, one at 8.5 ly, one at 10.5 ly, and four at about 11.5 ly
Span of our galaxy: 100,000 – 180,000 ly
Nearest galaxies (not satellites): 2,560,000 ly, 2,640,000 ly, and 3,390,000 ly

So with the most amazing engines following Einstein’s speed limit, we could reach those places in a little more than that amount of time. Four to twelve years for close stars, hundreds of thousands of years to cross the galaxy and millions to leave the galaxy. Communication across those spans would take just as long and twice that for a response.

Civilization would not be possible, at least not as we’ve come to know it. A 9-24 year delay for any communication is closer medieval speeds. We could colonize that local group of stars, hoping that there’s planets we can use in some fashion, but we’ll always remain separate. We have the potential to create a united humanity on earth, forging ahead with some grand goal. With some very advanced forms of organization we could manage it across the solar system. There is no hope beyond that.

So colonization is possible and even some interaction between the colonies. They’d never unite, but trade and immigration would be possible. We can remain optimistic, but that division would put us in constant danger of falling back into our violent ways. And with the weapons our technology could create…. Maybe this is the answer to the Fermi Paradox.

The span of the milky way effectively eliminates any possibility of humans colonizing it. Our physical and mental offspring may reach the edges of the Milky Way, but we certainly wont. Homo Sapiens have only existed for roughly 200,000 years. Our population size was vastly smaller for much of that time and also far more concentrated in a specific environment. We will not remain one species in the time it takes us to colonize the galaxy. We will not remain human. Even if we sent fertilized embryos on robotic ships, the variations that would evolve from one region to another would render us different species. It would be like the spread of language and writing across Eurasia. Each group would be somewhat similar to the one next to it, but the variations from one side to the other would be massive.

Within our galaxy we may not be able to colonize, but at least we can have some idea what it could look like. Not so on the next scale up.

Inter-Galactically it’s just too much to conceive of. Millions of years is beyond the point of even speculating with any shred of reality. The human mind can’t span that gap.

So what’s the point of all this speculation? We can draw one definite fact from it: Humans will not leave our small region of the galaxy. Maybe leave our solar system and reach nearby stars, but ultimately anything beyond say 1000 ly is beyond us.

We can send our seeds out there and hope for the best, but unless we breach Einstein’s ceiling we’re stuck here.