Archives for posts with tag: philosophy

Recently I made a small tweak in my approach to doing new tasks and I was able to find far more motivation, enjoyment and success in whatever I was doing.

 

The change was simply this:

 

Old Approach – ‘How am I supposed to tackle this?’

New Approach – ‘How am I going to tackle this?’

 

The difference is only slight in as much as they are both trying to find a way to work towards achieving a desired end. However, in practice I’ve found the difference between the two to be massive.

 

My old approach worked on the idea that for every task there is a correct way to do it and that way needs to be learned. I adopted this approach as it seemed quite reasonable and even humble to think that others with experience will know how to do a task better than me with little or none. After all, surely only an arrogant person would think they know the best way to complete a new task?

 

However, I had problems finding success when using this approach. It gave me the feeling of constantly not living up to expectations because it made all the answers feel so external and unobtainable. It also left the door open for one of my personal demons ‘over analysis’ because I had the strong doubt that anything I was considering doing would probably be wrong and it would be worth exploring my options further. In the end my old approach simply made me feel world weary.

 

The problem was that I was trying to comprehend someone else’s understanding of a subject rather than using my own intellect to gradually figure it out for myself. The trouble with trying to see the way experts do things is your trying to comprehend the end result before going through the necessary learning stages- I was thinking about the end when I was only at the beginning. Ultimately you’ve got to learn to do things in a way that’s right for you.

 

Eventually after growing frustration at lack of progress I revised my methods. In my new approach I feel empowered as rather than trying to think how someone else would do something, what will probably go wrong if I try it and any other garbage, I now just move on my own decisions. Any new task I do now feels like an independent challenge as it’s inherently more fun to approach a task your own way rather than following laid out steps. Its gives you a chance to ‘play’ with ideas and gets your mind involved in the task and thinking round the topic far more than if you have to monotonously spend long chunks of time absorbing information.

 

I think taking my new approach also gave me a psychological advantage because by looking at it from the angle of ‘how am I going to do this’, I’ve claimed ownership of the task, and by feeling like it’s my own task I have far more motivation to get it completed.

 

It reminds me of how when back at school I used to switch off a lot in lessons and not listen even though these days I find myself reading up on many of the same subjects of my own free will. The reason for this is simple, because I was being forced to be there it didn’t feel like it was my task, it seemed like a task I was doing for someone else and thus I lacked the motivation to learn. People learn better when it’s there own project.

 

As for the idea that it’s arrogant, it may well be arrogant to think you are going to do a task right first time, but it is not arrogant to try your best at something new and looking to learn from any failures as you go. I still do research into other people’s techniques and established practices but it is me learning it for my own purposes and understanding relevant to where I am in my learning process – not being a sponge surrendering my own thoughts.

 

Arrogance is acting because you think your going to do something right.

Confidence is acting because you wish to be right and are prepared to learn from failures.

 

Maybe your mind works differently to mine, but I certainly found it of use anyway.

Perhaps better than the title ‘the meaning of life’ which implies our existence centres around there being some kind of puzzle to be solved, it would be more fitting to call this piece ‘my understanding of where we are, and where would be a correct direction to plan our actions towards from here’.

My conclusion for what direction is right to take in life is ‘to promote and create sustainable happiness within yourself and others throughout the universe eternally’.

 

I will explain my reasoning behind this conclusion in the following stages:

1. Why it seems all matter is energy and eternal

2. Why I believe ourselves to be physical and thus eternal.

3. Why feelings are what’s important and why happiness is the one to go for.

4. Why setting up sustainable happiness systems within our finite time is important/the best thing we can do.

1.

I will begin with two points of science believed as facts by physicists (my personal knowledge of science is very limited, but I have assurance the following two points are correct).

1. One connotation of Albert Einstein’s celebrated equation E=MC2 is ‘all matter is energy running at different speeds’- effectively everything is energy (whatever that is) flowing around in different forms.

2. There is another fundamental of science which is ‘energy is never lost, it is transferred’.

From the above two point I draw the conclusion that all matter is energy, and therefore anything that is matter is eternal as energy is never lost.

2.

I believe that our personal subjective consciousness is physical in nature thus making us matter, thus making us energy and thus making us eternal.

I know many would disagree with the idea that the mind is physical. I admit my claim does not look the strongest case at first as private/subjective experience does not seem to be possessed by the physical, but my argument is that consciousness is actually a physical process which has the unique property of subjectivity- so it’s different to other physical things but is still physical.

Here’s my thought process behind how I reached my conclusion.

To begin I will admit I cannot definitively prove that our minds our physical, or that there is not some different plain we pass on into in the after life- but nor could anyone definitively prove the counter argument. (Read later post ‘Scepticism and reasonable doubt’ for problems with proof and whether we can be sure when checking our own minds logic) It is about making reasonable conclusions from what we have to work with – seeing if the theory fits together and if there are viable alternatives.

So, to begin- it would appear to my logic that there are three available options; everything is physical, everything is mental, or there is both the physical and the mental. My doubts over the other two alternatives, and why the physical explanation appears to add up, I shall outline by using the examples of brain injury, drugs and evolution.

I will begin with the ‘everything is mental’ theory. If we say that there is only the mental, this implies that the physical is not there, it is merely an illusion. It goes to the extreme of believing that if what people believe to be physical objects are not observed/perceived, then they does not exist, as if there is no physical, all there is is the mental perception of it.

What to my mind rules out the idea that there is no physical is how physical occurrences are able to effects the thought processes of the mind. There are many examples- there is a famous case of a Welsh minor getting a spike through his head and then turning from a quite church going man into an aggressive alcoholic. I also remember watching a TV show when I was younger about brain injury where a man was in only a minor car crash, but after damaging his brains frontal lobes (I think) he lost the ability to emotionally relate to people. How could the physical cause a dramatic change to the nature of the persons mind if it isn’t actually there?

More evidence of the physical affecting the mind is in the use of drugs- albeit anti-depressants, alcohol, or hallucinogens – when used these things alter our thought processes. I’ll play safe and recommend alcohol if you want to experiment with this at home- feel yourself become more chatty, less self-conscious, feel your opinions of people change, your outlook on life become more exaggerated etc- Again, how on earth could the physical effect the mental if there was no physical? Perhaps someone could say that the idea of the alcohol was enough for the mind to trick itself into being drunk (far fetched at any rate) but if this is the case, considering everyone has to get drunk for a first time, how would we know what being drunk was going to be like to imagine ourselves into being drunk? It would be like trying to think of a new colour (go on, try it), we need experience of things first before we know what they are and can play around with the idea of them in our imaginations. (So it would appear drinking can be the solution after all)

There is also the very definite need of physical things to stay alive. We need oxygen to survive- if you believe everything is truly in the mind, hold you breath and try your best to imagine air isn’t necessary. Then there’s also food to stay alive and so on- I don’t think the idea of there only being the mental really holds much tangible weight.

So, the other alternative is there being both a physical and mental world.

The mind being separate seems to say that there is a separate mind substance not of the physical world- a ‘spirit’ if you will, that inhabits the body as a vehicle, but is distinctly separate from the body.

One problem for the mental and the physical being separate argument is how would the mental and the physical interact if they’re separate entities? – How does drinking a physical alcoholic drink, taking an anti-depressant, or a hallucinogenic affect out mental processes? Why did the welsh minor’s personality change through receiving a brain injury- what would damaging the physical have to do with the mind if they were separate things? I personally can’t think of a way to explain it.

One of the core things that lead me to feel that the ‘mind is physical’ option is correct is when I started thinking about evolution.

If we accept evolution to be true then it is to say that over time life came to be starting from a single cell organism, and then gradually, small addition by small addition, the mind/consciousness was slowly formed by a trial and error physical process.

So to start some quick points to support the validity of evolution:-

1. The human appendix. It doesn’t serve a purpose and can lead to death on occasions if not removed – the explanation that it was once useful but then was no longer required and so became defective from not being needed is very plausible/adds up. If not from evolution, why is it there?

2. Provided we accept the physical to be there (I hope we do by now, but more evidence to come) there is vast amounts of archaeological evidence showing evolution of species throughout the ages.

3. A very good piece of evidence that is based in the mind is the feeling of falling you get as you go to sleep- that dates back to a protective mechanism from when we used to live in trees- why on earth would such an irrelevant thing to our current circumstances be there otherwise?

I draw the conclusion that if consciousness is formed by the gradual development of physical organisms over time, then it is part of these physical organisms, and if it is part of a physical thing then it must itself be physical. How can something be part of something physical and not be physical itself? How could cells bunching together, producing different hormones, minerals, tissues, electromagnetic impulses etc, amount to producing anything other than the physical?

If we think the mental is its own distinct thing, how exactly were our minds supposed to arrive in our bodies if not through a physical process? Zapped in by a bold of lightening when a foetus develops to around 6 months old? Just some minds floating around infinity that thought they’d nip into our dimension and inhabit a body that conveniently happened to have evolved to hold a mind? All a bit far fetched. And if the mind is an external thing to evolution why do families often have similar traits? Do similar minds bunch together and inhabit similar families just to confuse the hell out of DNA researchers? What of the evidence of how you can breed personality traits into things just like humans have done with dogs over time?

If I’m right in my conclusions and the mind is the result of a physical process (the working of the brain) – then ‘consciousness’ is actually a structure-dependant unique property of the physical – different to other physical things but still physical. Neurologists, although they will admit they don’t fully understand the brain, have seen how neurons fire in a certain way when someone thinks a certain thought. Granted when we look at a brain we see many different connective tissues and so on but we don’t see thought- however, and this is key, there is a difference between observing a brain and being the brain, (or whatever bit of the brain it is that is ourselves). If we accept there are physical things, then something actually has to ‘be’ the thing- and we can never know the nature of ‘being’ the thing from observation, to know that you have to be it (obviously).

So here I believe it is necessary to say that the physical must have at least two properties- the space that it occupies in space-time which we can observe, and the actual ‘being’ of itself that we cannot observe. To my reasoning it is the mistake of trying to find the experience of being something by observing something that has made it seem like there is an inseparable difference between the physical and the mental. However, although observation won’t tell us, for sure, whether consciousness is there, if the brain is working away firing a neuron in the same place each time the person has the exact same thought then the strong implication is that what we’re witnessing is the brain doing the thinking. And again if the brain doesn’t do the thinking why is brain injury able to affect personality/thought processes?

The mental being a different substance to the physical seems to imply that the spirit uses the body- whereas I’d stipulate that the mental is actually here for the survival of the physical (in evolutionary terms).

It adds up to me that as organisms developed and became increasingly complex, the creation of emotions/subjective experience would act as a useful tool for survival when looking at them from an evolutionary perspective. It fits together that before the brain evolved to have logic (which is a very complex process), a basic emotional system to dislike things that are harmful and like things that are useful would have come into effect. Our emotions (minus people/animals with what we call ‘disorders’, or at the very least unusual traits) carry out functions that help us survive/pass on our genes to the next generation. For example, potentially harmful things generally seem scary to people like snakes and spiders because any of our ancient ancestors that wanted to give a boa constrictor a hug wouldn’t have hung around very long. Similarly the things we’re attracted to, like what is considered sexually desirable, in general, is that which will give an evolutionarily advantaged next generation- I say with almost absolute certainty that the average man in a pub who is starring at a woman’s wide hips and large breasts isn’t in the least bit considering their functional purpose of child rearing, but none the less that is why they are attracted to it. And similarly women liking men with broad shoulders do so in evolutionary terms because they imply more strength thus better protection for themselves and their potential offspring, or indeed why many women are attracted to rich men because they feel assured they will be able to provide for their children (blunt truths don’t shoot the messenger). And so on with the rest of our emotional reactions to things- good smell; lamb stew cooking on stove, bad smell; manure – and guess which one has a higher nutritional value.

If we take the mind not to be physical and instead see the mind as a spirit, why do we have so many imperfections? To give a few examples; nerves in inappropriate circumstances (job interviews springs to mind); limited attention spans; and imperfect thought processes such as bias, jealousy and anger that often creep in without us even realising. To me us having these imperfections only really make sense from an evolutionary perspective as evolution doesn’t build the perfect design (the morally pure, the ideal body with no defects) it allows for flaws so long as things are able to get by. Evolutions golden rule is not ‘survival of the fittest’ merely ‘what survives, survives’ – but of course as a strong general rule the fittest (in terms of matching their environment) would be the ones that do tend survive/pass on their genes.

A couple of points to bear in mind here:

1. In evolution there is no necessity as such for everything to continually get better (the crocodile appears have remained the same for millions of years), if a species can survive and pass on its genes then it will remain even if all or large sections of its species are weaker than its ancestors. Generally however, circumstances have a habit of changing which results in species needing to begin to adapt/compete with themselves to survive once again. Even in times of comfy living there comes a point where there is so many of an animal/organism that food becomes scarce and so only those able to acquire food amid the scarcity will survive.

2. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with a species wishing to not survive or help the species along- its just what survives passes its genes on, and what makes something more likely to pass its genes on is something that wants to survive- so replication + time has moulded creatures into wanting to survive and wanting to do things that create a strong next generation.

I think it would be useful to note that to my mind/argument the only aspects of the physical realm that necessarily make it distinct from the idea of there being a mental realm are:-

1. The physical is actually there external to perception.

2. The interactions/consistencies within the physical world we see and are able to understand (i.e. the laws of physics; two objects can’t obtain the same space; an object travelling with greater force will change the course of the other object it comes into contact with and so on) – are accurate. That is to say that these consistencies we observe in physical things are genuinely representative of, and relevant to, affairs in reality – what they are actually in reality is most likely different to the way we perceive them, but there is a ‘truth of reality’ within our perceptions of the physical that represent goings on in the actual world.

I deem the above to be correct (on top of the evidence for the physical world I’ve outlined so far) on the logic that the relationships/consistencies we see in the world are what our sensory apparatus/brain have evolved to make sense of. As we’ve evolved to make sense of it, then by the laws of evolution it should be useful to our survival. And if its useful to our survival, it’s a reasonable assumption that it’s a decent representation of reality- at least to the extent reality is relevant to us (in our current form) – as the more we know about the actual world, the better placed we are to survive in it.

And if what we perceive through our 5 senses is not representing a ‘truth of reality’, then it does seem odd how the basic physical processes we do every day like how I am able to cook a meal by opening the packets, chopping the ingredients, switching the oven on etc and then eating it and being relieved of hunger all fit together perfectly and produce the results we’d expect that act perfectly in line with our previous experiences and scientific reasoning. The worlds consistency has never let me down on the regularly day-to-day stuff; if I walk to the park I arrive at the park; if I avoid the car I don’t get run over. It all implies how I (and I’m presuming you also) experience things that are an accurate portrayal in terms of the consequences they produce.

I’ll make a quick point about God here. As I will outline in the next section emotions are the only thing that make life worthwhile, and if there was a God that was truly all powerful (capable of even the impossible) then to my mind surely he would have made us all balanced and happy all of the time. Why make us imperfect and prone to horrible deeds- even if there is an afterlife, it’s still all a bit backward as an all powerful God would know the results of what he was about to make before he’d even made them- thus he’d make a person knowing full well they’d spend there time on earth causing suffering and then go to hell for eternity- there wouldn’t seem much point to doing that.

This argument doesn’t rule out there being a God of some kind, but the heavy implication is if there is one it is one that has to work within logical constraints/the laws of physics and thus we’re back to arguing about how the physical world works and the logical rules that govern it. There could still be a creator; it’s just a question of whether the big bang etc happened with a creator’s purpose in mind or whether it just simply happened (look out for a later article on God).

Also, I know many don’t like the idea that minds are merely physical and not of a higher plain of being as the idea of minds being something more than physical makes them feel like humanity/their mind is more special, more important- ultimately it sits better with the ego (section 4 talks about the ego in greater detail). For me this represents one of the main enemies of philosophical development, the ‘I’d like to think this, so that’s what I’ll argue’ thought process rather than the follow the evidence approach – it’s the cause of so much backward customs and beliefs within humanity that hold development back. Without an accurate understanding of things how can you make prosperous decisions? The way to become wise is to accept truths as and when you find them and to be prepared reassess your beliefs should you come across evidence that appears to cast them into doubt.

Besides why should the physical be any less amazing or mystical than the idea of their being a separate mental realm? There is still much to know and ponder on the physical because our sense data only shows to us what the physical does (to an extent) but not really what it is. The miraculous nature of something actually ‘being’ is still a wondrous contemplation.

So to re-cap, this is my overview of the three options that I see as available. (There’s a few new spins on arguments in there also, this piece is far longer than I intended so I’m going to run with it as it is even if it’s not the best in terms of structure). Again absolute proof not possible, but I’ll demonstrate how I decided the ‘all physical’ adds-up/holds together whilst the other options don’t.

Only the mind– can’t explain physical impact on mental activity- the mind seems to have created evolutionary fossils for no apparent reason and is riddled with imperfections and oddities that have no reasonable explanation in a mental realm i.e. how can the mind die from the idea of lack of oxygen, the feeling of falling as we start ‘falling’ asleep, why do we get jealous and so on. Evolutionarily speaking, it would appear our minds are built to think things in a way that’s useful to our survival in terms of getting by in the physical world- if there is no physical world why would our minds be geared to instinctively want to eat, mate, raise our young etc if all of these physical activities are not there thus inconsequential?

Mind and Physical – the mind is somehow a separate entity not of the physical world but depends on and is bound to the physical world, for this life at least, for some unknown reason. If separate and from some ‘higher plain’ why do we have oddities like anger/jealousy/sensation of falling as go to sleep that seem distinctly human/dictated by our environment/evolution? The heavy implication is that we are in a physical world, and the mind has been created by a gradually developed physical process of evolution in order to help the physical organism survive in the physical world.

If the mind is a physical process (neurons firing and whatever) then surely the mind is physical as how can something physical create anything other than the physical? Evidence for the brain being behind the thinking comes in how brain damage can effect the emotions/feelings of the mind and similarly with drug use- it seems a little odd how the physical could effect the mental if they’re separate entities. The physical can bump into and affect the physical- but how would it affect a spirit? And why does the brain have neurons firing in certain directions to act in cohesions with certain thoughts if it has nothing to do with the mental?

If the mental and physical are separate then there’s the issue of the unexplained way how the mind gets into our bodies- swooping down from somewhere else seems a little far fetched?

The mind being separate does have the advantage of how we have private experience whereas other non-alive physical things like logs do not (presumably) but that’s just a mass of energy currently in log form for a finite time- it will change around over time as the energy gets transferred. Besides we still do not know what it is to ‘be’ the log (or however many actual bits it is that makes up the log) and it’s illogical to expect to find consciousness from observation.

Physical only – the mental is a process that came about through evolution. It evolved because it made evolutionary sense to have sensations that repelled as from the harmful and attracted us to the useful (adds up logically). To have a mind and feelings allows for contemplation, and also, a motivation for staying alive. Without emotion one would not care in living or dying so why the motive to do either? This explains the instincts near all species have that help them survive and create a next generation such as wishing to live, eat, drink, find a partner, raise young and so on, all this makes evolutionary sense. Even our abnormalities are explained as evolution isn’t perfect, things just survive because they do (no intent) but in the process generally get stronger and more complex- hence limited attention spans and things such as the appendix (was once useful but no longer) plus there is much physical evidence of development of species in fossilised form.

The ‘everything is physical’ argument also accounts for how brain damage and drugs affect people’s personalities- the physical interacts with the physical causing the brain neurons to fire differently. It also explains why often people have traits of their parents- ‘if spirits in bodies’ why would these spirits so often happen to share traits with ancestry lines- what’s the connection?

The ‘everything is physical’ argument does have the difficulty of saying where exactly the mind resides in the brain (can it be divided, how can I be a collection of atoms and when my thinking/feeling cannot be divided?), but just because I don’t know this doesn’t make it impossible. I can’t explain how it works- but given millions upon millions of years/generations of trial and error and gradual improvement I’m sure miraculous things do come to be. I know it’s a hard call to say the mind can come down to being atoms (thus made up of smaller parts) but as previously mentioned the physical is still mystical and I haven’t ruled out there being properties to it unknown to us (from my light reading into quantum physics it seems partials behave very differently to what we would expect at any rate). For my theory to hold together the physical needs to be/do two things- be there external to perception, and that the consistencies we observe in it to embody truths about actual reality. Perhaps neurologists will be able to give a comprehensive explanation one day, but my guess is the difference between observing something and being that something will always leave it at an educated guess.

I deem the ‘everything is physical’ argument to be the best option with what we have to go on. Obviously you may have other opinions but I see it fitting together- the nature of ‘being’ and where exactly the consciousness resides is a blank to be filled in but it isn’t something that I feel causes the rest of the theory to fall down- although obviously it would be stronger if I could answer them but I think the distinction between ‘observing’ and ‘being’ has done a fair amount of the hard work in philosophical terms.

3.

So, why feelings and getting happiness is what’s important…

By feelings I mean simply the ability to feel good or bad albeit in general or towards something. Feelings are not just about sensing as such (although ‘feelings’ are a form of sensation), as it is feasible to be able to perceive sense data like sound and sight and to have no emotional reaction to it. Feeling is about being able to attach a worth to something, a level of like or dislike – and this, although developed as merely a feature gained through evolution, gives a point to life as it allows desires/desired destinations to be possible.

For an emotionless creature hunger would not exist for pain is a feeling, nor would fear of death as fear is a feeling, nor sexual desire as desire is a feeling, and so on. The thought process of a creature without feelings would simple be – ‘should I move? No opinion either way… Is it worth trying to eat something? No opinion either way.’ Such a creature would be as likely to walk off the edge of a cliff than to stay by the side, to stay still and never move than to bother doing anything – and it would seem highly unlikely it would do all the required functions for life like eating, drinking, mating, avoiding danger and so on enough of the time to survive. Emotions give us a steak in things – they give us a purpose. If a significant level of intelligence was ever going to develop it would need emotions to accompany it as otherwise the intelligent mind would have nothing to motivate it into apply itself towards the ends of survival and reproduction.

The logical and the emotional need to work hand in hand for life- there is no need for reason without emotion, no puzzle worth solving, no solution worth finding – planets can explode, stars can fall- none of this would matter – as for something mattering is a subjective process. Although lots of other stuff in the physical world goes on that we depend on for survival, in the end emotions are the only thing of worth as they are the only things that allow the feelings of worth to be given.

Emotions are the greatest of all gifts and the greatest of all curses- the ability to be in ecstasy, yet the ability to be in despair. Between those two extremes falls our entire spectrum of feelings, but the aim of life is simple- to be as happy as possible. How one could explain happiness without the experience is near impossible, but it makes sense to all us conscious beholders that have. The ability to enjoy- the greatest of all occurrences.

Happiness is the finest of things and the best thing that could possibly happen is for all things to be conscious and happy, without fail, forever. I hear a critic say ‘no one can be happy all the time’ – I say its possible (although debatably not for humans). ‘ah yes but you’d just get bored of being happy’ well not in this hypothetical situation you wouldn’t as boredom is a negative emotion and wouldn’t occur if you were happy- put very simply; if you were always happy by definition you wouldn’t be unhappy about it. No one ever tires of happiness, it’s just sadly the case that it always seems to naturally come and go (for me at least). Perhaps it is possible for an animal to evolve always happy, but it seems to me negative emotions are necessary (in evolutionary terms) to spur you on to change environments to spread seeds further, to protect from danger/threats, and sadly negative emotions like jealousy also have an evolutionary advantage if not a psychological/moral one, (i.e. feeling jealous of someone who’s superior in some way can spur one to poison their food thus eliminating them from competition for finding a mate) and so continue to manifest.

I’m not sure if humans can be happy all the time or not. But I do think we can improve things for ourselves vastly beyond what we have achieved so far because we have the fortune of being an intelligent enough creature to understand and order its own mind provided it finds the motivation to do so. A common mistake mankind seems to make (but is smart enough to be able to see through) is to see things that make themselves happy- like money or sex, and to see them as what is most important, overlooking that it’s the emotional reward that gives the process of obtaining what they did its worth. Although meeting our physical needs is required to keep us alive- the rest all lies in our own minds. If someone could truly master their own mind, they’d be able to control their own emotional state and make themselves happy all the time. (I personally haven’t managed this yet, I don’t know if its possible, but it is my aim to master myself as much as I can) – Anyhow, more information on this to come in the next section.

4.

So, happiness = as good as it gets, but why then sustainable happiness for all.

So to re-cap section 1-3 – all matter is energy running at different speeds, energy is never lost/eternal, and we are physical and so we are therefore eternal, and the only thing of worth having in life is happiness.

It’s worth mentioning that in the view of the physical being where consciousness resides there is the strong possibility of an afterlife because if we are energy, and everything is energy flowing through time into different forms, and our current form is one of consciousness, then it is conceivable that at some point we will flow into another form of consciousness. Considering we are here eternally it would seem highly likely to happen again, although not definite because it is also conceivable that by chance we would not take on a conscious form again.

However this form of afterlife would not be meritocratic; that is to say how good/bad you are in this life will not automatically put you in a fittingly improved/lessened position in the next. We may at this time of reading be of an individual state of mind (consciousness) but that is but for a finite time within infinity, before dropping back into a state of unconsciousness, having the energy that is us flow around whatever path the cycle of energy takes through space, until/if the next random encounter occurs with consciousness that takes you into another form. – note it is far more likely you’d come back as another animal than a human by the shear amount more of other species than compared to our own – plus who knows how long the time limit would be/what changes will have occurred to the universe before the next opportunity arises.

Many may not like this idea as they’d prefer the idea of justice being done (bad people go to hell etc) but just because it would be nice to be that way doesn’t make it the case, and besides, when you give it some thought it’s the only fair way really- no one can choose their environment or their genetics, we didn’t choose to be ourselves we’re just flung into these circumstances (see my later piece on determinism), we come from the same substance (energy), we go into different forms created by the cycles of energy and stuff works itself out from there- our next life, should we have one will be worked out by our placing as controlled by the laws of physics, not whether we helped old ladies across the street.

The only thing you can do to improve your chances of a potential future life is to leave a legacy of kindness to all creatures– it perhaps may be only a small effect, but by giving out kindness you increase the amount of kindness in the world as kindness tends to breed kindness and so it improves your chances of coming back in a happy life form. Better yet is adding to or creating political or social systems within society with the intent to improve sustainable happiness. So if not for your current form, do it for your infinite self beyond this current life form. We are here temporarily as individuals, but we are infinitely of the whole.

But we can take this further. A strange thought that once occurred to me, one that made my hairs stand on end, which was that when you look at it from the perspective of all of us being of the same thing, energy- in the end we are of the same thing (energy) going through the same process (energy flow) just at different points. If you accept ‘I am energy’ then the connotation is that any bad action you do to another is actually you doing it to yourself – its just the mask of temporary identity that blinds us from seeing it. We are the universe doing actions onto itself- all life is the universe experiencing itself subjectively.

In the end the ‘we’re all one’ philosophy against the ‘I’m clearly an individual’ is all down to perspective you choose to adopt and both are true. To my reasoning what makes your current form ‘you’ – is your relationship with your subjective experience/sensation- i.e. when you stub your toe ‘you’ feel the pain, not the next door neighbour or whoever. But at the same time your current form is something temporary that is flung upon you and will at some point be taken away yet you will always be belonging to the whole.

{As a small side note I’m not in agreement with the ‘we all belong to one consciousness’ argument as I see consciousness as a finite state that comes on an individual basis as part of a physical process. I cannot see where this claim of there being one consciousness comes from- if the universe was a wholesome thinking entity happy in itself why/how the heck did it divide up in the first place into a world where there is pain and suffering? Again, this is touching on stuff that relates back to the evidence in parts 2 and 3 of how it would appear the physical evolved consciousness, consciousness didn’t evolve the physical.}

But anyhow- yes there is our individual self, but to focus only on this is misses the bigger picture. The best practice for ourselves is to strike a balance between the whole and our individual experience. I don’t like many think it’s a case of trying to completely overcome our human ego/nature. Within our nature is the keys to our happiness in this life- as mentioned previously the logical on its own has no reason to be around, it needs to be attached to the animal/emotional part of us for there to be a reason for living- for me it seems its about using our logic to work with our minds/emotions to try to get the best for ourselves and others. Happiness for all things needs each to be individually happy- do not neglect your own feelings, you’re entitled to joy as much as others – and our joy comes from our animal nature. It’s all about striking up an intelligent balance. (I will talk about this more in a future post ‘the taming of the ego’).

Even if not looking at it from the perspective of ‘belonging to the whole’, and taking all things I’ve said to be incorrect- why not aim to help others anyway? Every action/choice we make requires a motive. When one chooses to do bad onto others (not the same as standing up for yourself), the only motivation comes from a mind being in a state of anger centred around the ego adopting the role of a child as it hits out at the world for it not looking after it as it so wished- the mental process being -‘I’m important, I’m not getting what I want, others should think about me because I’m so important, therefore everyone else deserves to be punished for not thinking of me’.

Selfishness is based on incorrect and harmful thought processes. To be selfish requires the mind to be set on gaining/keeping things- albeit money, attention or whatever. A selfish mind overlooks that it’s happiness, nothing else, that’s actually important as it is too focused on its own wants to take the time to focus on wider issues. The petty squabbles and fights for places in hierarchy that arise purely for the sake of power/status chasing are all unnecessary and counter-productive to finding happiness. A selfish person is seldom satisfied because they don’t learn to appreciate what they have, they just think about their wants.

Also, focusing on gains leads to taking yourself/life too seriously and so never being comfortable with who you are. You’re personality/body is just the hand of cards (genetics + environment) that you have been dealt in your current form, – its literally nothing personal. The truth is you need to learn to accept and work with what you’ve got or kill yourself as you’ll never be happy in your current form otherwise (with the amazing power of human intelligence to control/order itself I’d hold fire on the suicide without exploring methods of finding happiness first).

To help overcome selfishness requires a taming of our ego. The human ego is the thing that makes us think we are the most important thing there is, wishing to always be number 1 – it is embedded within us at birth as at the time we’re not aware of other minds and only have our own affairs to concentrate on. It takes us maturing to start to get over it (many do not). The ego is useful as it keeps us alive but it also limits us- it makes us take ourselves too seriously, neglect the value of others and can make us feel miserable as we yearn for more/dislike what we have even when we already live comfortably.

If you master your ego you will be able to see that we do not have to think of ourselves as the centre of anything- and that we are not cheating ourselves by not doing so. It may be our instinct to be concerned with ourselves, however, just because this is what helped us survive for however many millions of years doesn’t mean it’s the right choice to adopt in terms of what best for life. We have a choice over how we want to behave- what we want to prioritise, how we want to shape the world.

Crucially, the ego also makes us loose sight of reality by being wrapped up entirely in our own affairs. The truer reflection of how things are is that we are not the centre of anything but have our place amongst things. Our environment impacts on us, we impact on our environment in a constant two way exchange – we are bound together. To find inner harmony you need to find a harmony with your environment. Our place here on earth is not isolated, we are a thing amongst things, we are of the universe. To be happy you have to be aware of and manage your environment.

To think of yourself as more important is vanity, not to mention delusion. To think of yourself as above everything will only lead to constant falls/blows to ones ego. Thinking yourself as better only serves to make you act pathetically as you scramble around to find evidence that fuels your delusion and avoid circumstances that show you otherwise -these circumstances where we’re not on top, in control or in complete understanding are the learning opportunities that shape us for the better, avoiding them will limit you. To tame the ego and realise your place amongst things means you can understand your limitations and be prepared/able to learn – you can adopt a fluid approach and build as you go.

(read this bit if nothing else)

I’ve outlined a few advantages of getting over the ego etc, but the main point for me/logic of the whole argument is this:

We are all the same thing (energy) flowing through different forms, in and out of different states of unconsciousness and consciousness (life) within infinity. In life we have the ability to feel good (which is good) and bad (which is bad) and to feel good is what makes life worth living and is the only real thing of worth (the other stuff is only useful in so much as it helps us get more happiness in one way or another) and the best thing for all is to have everything feeling good all of the time. As humans we have a great intelligence level that makes us able to manipulate our environment and our minds, so for the good of everything we should use our abilities to mould the world into something that promotes/creates as much sustainable happiness as possible. The more we unite the more happiness we can create. And that’s it really.

‘To promote sustainable happiness within yourself and others throughout the universe, eternally’ – is a very open ended conclusion, but I deem it the right one for the reasons outlined here. I intend to release more political/philosophical writing on what I think good living should entail and steps that I think can be taken to bring it about (hopefully a lot shorter/more reader friendly than this piece, but I thought it best to go into detail- I suspect a lot of people will give up before the end so well done and I hope you found it worthwhile) – but before the basic principle of the idea gets lost in political disagreement over means rather than ends I think there are some largely concrete things we can do to promote happiness that don’t really require any political leanings to think that they are good ideas such as;- focusing on building/strengthening the mind so that we can improve the understanding of ourselves, our egos and our place amongst things; making sure people have opportunities available to them to fill their time constructively; giving opportunities of connectivity/socialising; providing the basic needs of life to those who need them; providing opportunities to flourish; and providing opportunities for expression. I’m sure there are more politically neutral things people can come up with but I feel that list is certainly a start. One idea I have to develop these ideas forward, particularly the development of the mind, I will write in my next entry ‘Reinventing the Temple’