Dirty 30: A Chance to Do Things Different

If you’ve been missing my daily posts (which you haven’t), then my apologies. I needed a break.

I’ve been writing a breakneck pace for a little over a year. Once when the dog days of summer hit, I had nothing left in the tank.

It’s been refreshing actually. For awhile, not a day went by where I had to worry about what I was going to write. I had to see philosophy in everything. Do you know what a pain in the ass that is?

So I’ve been letting my mind just…wonder. About anything, really. Philosophy has no longer become a burden; or a chore that required me to stretch the limits of my intellect.

Honestly, I don’t even know how I became interested in it to begin with. A year and a half ago, I couldn’t tell you shit about Kant’s Transcendental Idealism or Marxist Dialectical Materialism, or Hobbes’ state of nature….nothing. Mind you, I still know nothing, but somehow I know a lot more than I did. And no one told me to learn any of it. It just sort of happened.

And now I’m burned out.

But I spent a ridiculous amount of time just thinking about how to live rather than just LIVING. So much energy was dedicated to learning about being a human that I completely forgot that I was a human! And I’ve said more than once: “forget about the pursuit of happiness, and just be happy!”

Seems simple enough, yet I never followed that advice. I was searching for happiness within my writing…within the words of philosophers of old. I learned a lot. Yet I still came up empty.

What could have caused such a void to begin with? And why was there such an urgency with my writing?

I have avoided answering those questions. But the truth is a familiar one: I was dreading turning 30.

Now I promised myself that I wouldn’t write about my upcoming 30th birthday. It’s all horseshit and no one cares anyway. It happens to everyone that lives for thirty years or more. Yet here I am.

And it’s horseshit because it’s meaningless. In theory, at least. We give so much weight to youth that we forget that it’s all a lie. Just admit it to yourself….being 20 sucked. You were poor, you couldn’t get laid, and you were probably an asshole (at least I was). Not that this experience is universal, but for the vast majority of us, being in our teens and twenties was not a pleasant experience…that is if you’re honest with yourself.

Were there some perks? Of course. I can’t think of any because I’m much more athletic, better looking, wealthier, smarter, and I get laid regularly (because I’m married). But for one reason or another, many people feel that those were the best years of their lives.

And it’s killing them.

Even if it were true, why continue to believe that your best days are behind you? Seems like that would be a pretty shitty way to live your life. I believe that it was the great Charles Bukowski (who didn’t find success in life in his late forties) that said “I’m only getting better.” Where he said that, I don’t know. And he might not have even said that, but it doesn’t matter….it was true of him and that’s the right attitude we should adopt.

Yet, the older we get, there becomes a greater sense of loss. But loss of what? Of youth?

So what?

But our youth becomes the measuring stick for how we live the rest our lives. We live within the shadow of our former selves. Obviously this is a (mostly nonsensical) problem.

If you’ve been following this blog at all, then you’ve probably come across the term static identity. Or where we conceive ourselves as being the same person until our deaths. We don’t think of ourselves as changing beings. Therefore, the older we get, we feel ourselves moving farther away from our “prime”…where we physically deteriorate, become set in our ways, and our personalities and general outlook become unmovable. Rather than seeing the self as water within a stream, it becomes more like stale bread that grows harder with each passing year.

This is why there’s a sense of loss the older we get. We don’t feel fresh. We’re less malleable. We’re no longer easily impressed upon. We are no longer in our “prime”.

I find it a mistake to keep living our lives the same way we’ve always lived it. People live in the same towns. Have the same friends. Read the same books. Watch the same shows. And give absolutely no thought to living in any other way.

Perhaps it’s out of fear. Fear of how others might think if we suddenly changed. Or perhaps it’s just laziness. The way that we have lived works for us, and can’t envision any other way.

I don’t know.

One of my biggest fears is doing the same shit I was doing when I was 20. Or attempting to recapture the “glory days”. I remember being 20. There were no glory days. There’s nothing to “recapture”.

I don’t know how many days I have in front of me, but I know how many are behind me. And I don’t want those days to be my best. I’d rather keep searching for better.

I took a break from writing because I needed a new voice. For the time being, I feel that I have taken the typical “academic” approach to philosophy as far as I can take it. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said by better philosophers.

In other words, I can’t keep writing about the same things I have always written about. It’s time to move on.

Don’t get me wrong though….I still plan on discussing philosophy. I mean, shit, this is a philosophy blog after all.

But I can’t be confined to what OTHER philosophers and thinkers said. This isn’t fucking college. I can write about whatever I want. But I need to view the world in a different light. No one gives a shit if certain views don’t conform to my “neo-Kantian” perspective. That’s old news.

I don’t fear turning 30. I no longer see it as a “loss of being in my 20s”. Fuck that. But it’s a chance to turn into something different. 

A New Theology: Part II- God is Reborn

We see the world, and ourselves, through the same eyes. I am today what I was yesterday. Not much really changes. Perhaps there’s violent shifts of the external world from time to time, but reality appears the same. Just a sea of slowly changing concrete objects.

Of course, we can’t escape our physical selves. The body granted to us is our entire being. And with this sense of being, the world attaches to us various traits: name, social security number, sex, and a number of other qualities. And we also ACTIVELY attach material objects to our sense being. We are the things we own. If someone steals from us, they are stealing from ME.

All of these qualities turn the identity into an unmovable stone. The self lays there, occasionally playing its part, and on and on this existence continues. It fails to see itself as a speckle of water flowing through space and time, falsely believing that it is only capable of the finitude placed onto it by external pressures. This goes on until death, never realizing the potential of what it could have blossomed towards.

This lack of freedom strikes the core of our intellect. We even ascribe to God finite qualities…that this Being is limited by Its own ethics, limitations that only IT can place onto Itself. If God isn’t free, mankind isn’t free.

Unfortunately, we separate God and man. Thousands of years of ancient texts tell us that we are lower than the gods. They created us, but are in no way a part of us. Some even go so far as to tell us we PERVERTED creation. That Mankind created its disunity with God. And these texts, even with their faults, are correct in this regard. Mankind has, in fact, created its disunity with God.

But a distinction is unnecessary.

When we ponder consciousness, especially high-functioning consciousness like ours, we certainly know one thing….that we have it. We are aware of the universe in what might be uncommon ways. Yet, we are a PART of the universe. We are, as Carl Sagan infamously said, made of “star stuff”. And we are aware of this fact. Encased within us, is the consciousness of the universe.

Out of raw (supposedly unconscious) physics…arose consciousness. Out of the Earth, Mankind was born. We don’t exist independent of the universe, we ARE the universe. God is us, and We are God.

But, “God is dead”, as Nietzsche said. Man killed Him and placed himself on top. But Nietzsche was slightly mistaken. Through Man’s rising to conquer the Earth, he killed a part of himself. The construction of the concrete self, and disunity with Nature, killed the most sacred part of humanity. But returning to, for a lack of a better description, a state of nature…we may say that God is no longer dead, He is Reborn.

We don’t have to rely on ancient texts to provide revelation. Its through our consciousness, that we have direct contact with revelation. Whatever power the Prophets had, we share the same powers.  So we don’t have to consult with these texts. The words we possess have the power to convey sacred messages.

This isn’t to say that we have contact with any supernatural power. These realms are only works of fiction. It isn’t the specific events within these fictions that are important, it’s the eternal messages that they present. More often than not, these stories and myths can get in the way of true understanding. If such myths only promote fear, superstitious belief, or dogmatic allegiance, then (to quote another great philosopher, David Hume) “commit them to the flames.”

These beliefs don’t relieve us from the burdens of this world, they only serve to further our denial. They deny our place in the universe, our TRUE abilities, and the connection with our fellow beings. They only suppress our ability to engage in logic and reasoning.

The universe granted us, as we exist today, with insight into ourselves and the world. The mind isn’t, however, perfect. And there is much we need to do in order to reconnect with this stream of (or acceptance within) spacetime….

(And I need to figure out where the hell I’m going with all of this)

A New Theology: Part I

Many might be uncomfortable with my sudden venture into the supernatural. That’s understandable, this is a philosophy blog. Not a religious one.

But you know what? I don’t care.

I enjoy solving problems that I created in my own head.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve suddenly had a ‘divine revelation’. I am an empiricist after all, or at least to some degree. But I like to push the boundaries of knowledge. There is a limit to our understanding, yet we don’t know where that boundary rests. So we have to define everything through our understanding, because that’s the only method at our disposal.

But we take it for granted. We assume that there is no limit. Human capacity for knowledge is seemingly infinite.

Now of course it would be ridiculous of me to assert that God rests at the end of that understanding. How could we assert that something’s there when we have no knowledge of it? But there’s a consistent pattern with theological (and possibly even scientific) thought that asserts everything sprouts out of a singularity.

This singularity is the origin of all things. And we can know certain things about it, but we can’t know it as intimately as we know this material world. And this origin or singularity is not a part of this world, but does manage (to varying degrees) the affairs of this world.

Not all faiths support this notion. Some assert that there is no ‘beginning’ or ‘end’. That reality is actually just one continuous flowing stream. Any ideas of a continuous or static existence is false notion, created by the mind and reinforced by other external agents. Therefore we have to re-constitute ourselves…see ourselves as just a part of this stream that flows forward in time.

Honestly, I’m more inclined to this philosophy over any other divine order that oversees the universe. However, there does appear to be a set of ‘laws’ that order physical reality. Our knowledge about them changes over time, but one thing is certain….because of these laws (physics, mathematics, etc), we are able to make predictions. To what degree these ‘laws’ are a part of mental construction or a fundamental part of independent reality…we can debate this for eternity. But either way, there is order.

Now again, it would be ridiculous to assert that this order is in fact GOD that has been revealed to us through ancient scripture. I can’t assert that any particular religious doctrine holds the final word on the nature of the universe. Furthermore, it would be difficult for me to uphold any dogma that posits God as being a vain Deity. Vanity is one of the more petty human traits that we seem to project onto an all-powerful Being. After all, if a human were all-powerful, wouldn’t that individual become vain? If such an Entity exists, it wouldn’t be human and would therefore be a presumption to assert that it has human qualities.

I have a primarily religious education. One teacher described his love of mathematics as being a reflection of God. “Like God, numbers never change.” So in addition to being all-powerful, God is also the Stone that anchors the universe. This limits the power of God because God can’t violate His (again, another human projection) own power. Thus, God doesn’t have Free Will.

This is troubling.

Because we see ourselves and the world around us as being static and unchanging, God too must exhibit the same qualities. I’ve discussed this Hegelian idea of the universe coming together to slowly understand itself. Strictly under this notion, history is the story of God and Universe coming together, finally culminating in absolute knowledge itself. This too is problematic, as it would assume that the totality is already set in stone…the stream is flowing in an absolute direction. Therefore freedom is still not possible.

But perhaps freedom is the wrong question. Or maybe freedom in the external world is the wrong question. The stream moves forward no matter our objections. The only real freedom that matters is to swim with or against the current….a current that will only continue to push forward.

Most of us swim against it. Choosing to instead see ourselves as a concrete being, living in a concrete world. We live our daily lives according to a pattern set before. The same name, the same set of eyes that we’ve always seen the world….

“Political Correctness”: The Politics of Self

“Political Correctness”

Perhaps I’m a dumbass, but I really don’t know what that means.

It appears as if everyone is guilty of this. It’s not monopolized by one side of the political spectrum. As Steven Pinker pointed out, even the Right has it’s own free speech taboos.

I’ll lift an example from an episode of BoJack Horseman. BoJack buys a box of muffins that a Navy Seal (A literal seal) called “dibs” on. The seal then ratted BoJack out to the media. Of course, the media sided with the seal because he was a veteran and was therefore deemed “a hero”. This provokes BoJack into saying something to the effect of “just because you’re a veteran, that doesn’t make you a hero”. Naturally, the media spins this into him saying “veterans aren’t heroes”.

This would be an example of right-wing “political correctness” (although the Left would probably pay some lip service to that outrage as well). Not only would questioning the sanctity of veteranship be taboo on the Right, but so would joking about abortion, the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and so on. So despite mocking the Left for its “political correctness”, the Right is every bit as guilty as those they bemoan.

Pinker (in the video above) indicates that right-wing political correctness can usually be found in the media and other public spheres, LEFT-WING political correctness (and the kind that gets all the attention) usually runs rampant on college campuses.

In my prior post, I criticized universities for essentially making themselves obsolete in the age of the internet. They are a relic of a by-gone era, when only the wealthy and extraordinarily talented were allowed to be educated. But my primary concern was that colleges were just instruments of further institutionalization (not necessarily indoctrination). At a time when everyone with a college education is riddled with debt and lack necessary skills to succeed in the “real world”, going to college is simply not the smarter decision.

But Pinker seems to be addressing an even larger problem with universities: namely their aim to become ‘indoctrination’ programs (or enabling students to find and develop a “soul”). Few within academia would openly embrace an ‘indoctrination’ objective. Nevertheless, that’s what professors are doing when they label opposing views as “microaggressions” or “weaponizing of language”. Pinker doesn’t think that the objective of universities should be to ‘indoctrinate’, but to expose students to ideas and methods of discussion, so that we can DEBATE the validity of those ideas.

In my argument, universities just aren’t necessary for that end anymore. They are still important apparatuses for knowledge, but the need for a typical “brick and mortar” experience is obsolete. A typical classroom is no longer necessary to learn. I would go so far as to say that most of the learning done towards the end of obtaining a degree is NOT done in a classroom. Fraternities and sororities are a blatant holdover from a by-gone era, and only contribute to inequality and rape culture on campus. AND, it’s too damn expensive. A literal college experience is not necessary for obtaining a liberal (as distinguished from ‘leftist’) education.

But also, as Pinker pointed out, the problem with political correctness on campus (or anywhere really) is how we internalize politics. We identify OURSELVES by how we vote and therefore we see differing opinions as a direct attack on US. Therefore shutting down any conversation that can be had on the subject.

And this is something that both sides are guilty of. In 2012, I had a co-worker that got hoppin’ mad that Obama got re-elected and took it so personally that he left work. I have no doubt that there were a few Clinton supporters that took Trump’s victory personally. We project onto a candidate and politics our own identity, to the point where there can only be a narrow road for discussion. And if one deviates from that road ever so slightly, there can be no discussion. And this is likely how we got to where we are today, on a path towards national divorce.

I partly blame social media and online culture for this mess. Social media particularly has secluded us from tactile interaction, to the point where we dehumanize those that disagree with us. Additionally, it has created a “ME” environment. The Self is the center of attention and you are made to feel that ALL of your opinions matter. Anyone that disagrees is only a picture on a screen, they are neither intelligent nor an actual person. All that we come to know of others is the words that they type. We are neither aware of their humanity, nor is it of any concern to us.

Simultaneously, we also become OVERLY reliant on the opinions of others. An idea that implicitly permeates society is: if the internet doesn’t know about it, it didn’t happen. We might not explicitly believe this, but this is how we behave. So although we don’t acknowledge ‘the other’s’ identity as independent of their opinions, we still rely on their opinions to validate OUR existence. Therefore, we require other people to acknowledge our “rights” if we are to have any “rights” whatsoever. So we fail to give ourselves any value outside of the existence of other people.

Therefore we rely on the external world to provide us with “rights”.

And this is why we often complain that our “freedom of speech” is under attack. We want to believe that it is the world of government and politics (that only exists in this domain of shared imagination) that gives us our rights. But it isn’t true. Free speech is something that can’t be given to you….you have to give it to yourself.

I hope that you were able to follow all of that.

One of the things that has driven me crazy over the last few years is a lack responsibility that we take for our rights. I have written about this subject before (which I’ll post below). Because we have linked our sense of self to attributes that others identify, this has eroded away our own sense of identity. And we become forever linked to an identity we are born with, and therefore we are forever trapped within our static identity.

Forgive me, I know that this post is a mess.

Freedom of Action is not Freedom From Consequence

It’s not difficult, people.

I know in our highly politicized world, we want to believe that our freedoms are being eroded away. It makes us feel good because it enables us to win arguments.

That’s fine. It’s also idiotic.

What’s really stopping you from committing arson and ramming your car through your neighbors house? Think about it.

Keep thinking.

Is it the law? If you answered yes, then try again. The law can only offer consequence for committing an action, it can’t prevent it. That is, unless the CIA or NSA are tracking your every move. In that case, they might be able to prevent your action, but they can’t remove the intention to action. So keep thinking.

What did you find?

Yourself?

That’s absolutely correct. The only person that can stop you from a disgruntled rampage is yourself. Now, of course fear of the law and consequence might prevent you from committing an action. Yet that fear is entirely generated within you. So again, only you can stop you, unless there’s a literal physical force there to stop you. But, that physical force can only prevent the action. It can’t prevent the will to action.

“Well what about people in prison? Asshole.”

Sure, their freedoms are severely restricted. But it’s the same story. The state can’t prevent the will to escape or take over the prison. The only power at its disposal is the physical force towards prevention. What citizens fail to realize, is that they have the same power at its disposal. The state might have greater power, therefore generating fear WITHIN the heart of the citizen. Which, in turn, might deter any such physical action. But, the will to action or the fear from action is entirely in the hands of the individual.

There are all kinds of crazy scenarios where we can envision the state taking away the will of the individual. Science fiction is loaded with these stories. And what we find is the individual becoming entirely dependent on the state to provide them with ‘rights’…which are just imaginative constructs of the state that aren’t found in nature.

And by the way, I’m not demeaning the idea of ‘rights’ or the power of the state. I find these things necessary evils. However, I appreciate these things for what they’re worth…a product of our collective imagination. I don’t actually believe that there is any metaphysical or supernatural power that validates them.

But what we find in these doomsday science fiction scenarios, and indeed in our very own political environment, is that people are reliant on the state to provide them with their individuality. The state has to provide them with ‘rights’, otherwise they lack any freedoms whatsoever. They actually believe that the state provides a ‘freedom of speech’.

And it’s horseshit. The state doesn’t provide any such freedoms. That’s only a freedom that you can provide yourself. The best that the state can do is provide a set of consequences (or a lack thereof) should that freedom be engaged. Whether or not you heed to those consequences is entirely up to you. The state might outlaw freedom of speech altogether, but all it can do is promote fear of consequences. Until technology is developed that can literally prevent free speech, you do have the power to engage it regardless of consequence.

Again, the state can only promote fear. Whether or not you subscribe to it is entirely in your hands. But once you start arguing from the perspective that only the state can provide freedoms, then you don’t have any freedoms.

We all have the freedom to action. But what none of us have is the freedom of consequence. So please, stop confusing the two.

 

 

The Static Identity: The Root of all Evil

A chained man no more.

Have you ever been in this situation? Knowing that you must do a thing, but your body and mind just couldn’t let you do it?

I faced this scenario this morning. Everyone knows that I have (or had) a terrible job. But I woke up. I put on work clothes. Got in my vehicle. And drove the 20 minutes that it takes to get to my (former) place of employment. I got to the building, and everything fiber in my being wouldn’t let me pull into the parking lot.

I literally couldn’t do it.

So I drove on by and didn’t look back.

I have never done that in my professional career. Usually I’d just bite the bullet and hack out another day, and hope that I will land on my feet somewhere else. But not today. My body and intellect kicked in and took over. I was no longer in control.

My rallying against careerism is nothing new. I’ve always felt that people overly associate their identity with their career. But in doing so, their profession becomes just another stone that weighs down the true identity of a person.

In the last post, I mentioned this thing called the static identity. We’re born. Then we’re given a name, a social security number, and assigned a gender. We’re stuck in this life until the day we die. You can run all your life, but you will never escape your social security number.

This is how we see ourselves.

We are our family. Our jobs. Our community. And our relationship with others. You are not permitted to escape.

While it’s not possible in a physical sense to become something or someone else, the notion of the self (or the “I”) is not actual. It’s something that only the mind applies to itself, and so the notion of a continual self is an illusion. As in Buddhism, all of reality (to include the self) is a stream moving forward in time. The notion of continuity is an idea in the mind, and is therefore not real.

This might sound crazy, and I don’t care. I can say anything I want in this blog.

But the important thing is that these ideas in the mind are rudely enforced by the external world. We can choose to ignore them, but in doing so, we risk having the will of the outer world imposed on us….meaning the law will imprison us, we can become ostracized, or any number of other things. To avoid this confrontation, we placate these societal norms and play the part that was given to us.

We become locked-in to our identities, and it is made difficult to transform. Then we are forever trapped within the existence imposed upon us. This, I believe, is why we are undergoing a mental health crisis. Not only because we are getting better at diagnosing these problems, but because bureaucratic, technological, and economical entanglement is getting better at transposing societal norms onto individuals. And the only way forward is to find acceptance, so we have higher rates of depression, paranoia, addiction, and recidivism of crime.

Therefore, as the great Jean Jacques Rousseau said: Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.

Rousseau seemed to have differed from his fellow contemporaries in believing that human progress has not been beneficial; that mankind was better off in its state of nature. Believing that in this state, humans were peaceful, noble, and lived in harmony.

This belief in the nobility of the natural state of mankind is, of course, bullshit. HOWEVER, I don’t believe that he was completely wrong in challenging human progress. This “progress”, really hasn’t been progress at all. At best, it’s just been a matter of switching one set of problems out for another. IN FACT, this progress has contributed to a great deal of modern problems, namely class warfare, racism, sexism, slavery, poverty, and God knows what else. While this state of nature might not have been peaceful and noble, mankind was at least EXISTING in its natural state, rather than living in a manufactured and prolonged misery of being.

We might be living LONGER, we can also say that we are living in an extended existence of slavery. Slavery to jobs, to mortgage, to materialism. Instead of being seen as an integral part of a community (as in a state of nature), we are seen as being just one.  Just one of the millions that consist of a nation-state; an existence that doesn’t matter, that only plays a small role in the vastness of world population. We have to fight for meaning and purpose because we are chained to an insignificant societal identity.

To be happy is to be unaware of this predicament, or to find meaning outside of this paradigm.  This means to be stupid or in complete denial. OR to find acceptance in this stream of existence.

This is an unpopular opinion. Especially in our state “feel good” literature. Everyone wants to read or hear about how “they matter”. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. The average person today just doesn’t matter. The individual has been disconnected from a grand community; thrown into existence. We are all just a minor player in this realm of society.

Of course, the solution isn’t to return to a “state of nature”. We know too much. A state of nature is a ship that has sailed. For better or worse, we are stuck with this economic-bureaucratic-technological complex. The paste is out of the tube. How we fix this problem would require a recognition of hard truths.

What are these truths??

Chiefly, most of the nonsense we surround ourselves with is false. They are only problems that we create in our heads, and become reinforced by societal standards. Imaginative problems are the number one cause of stress in the world. Having a mortgage and career are not LITERAL necessities for survival. Realistically, to live a reality that’s genuine, we have to recognize our basic selves. One that is stripped away from from modern conveniences.

But truthfully, I have no answers on how to fix these problems. Because in order to do so, would require an understanding that’s fundamentally contrary to everything that we know. It’s not as easy as reverting back to anarchy or taking up a Marxism. The only revolutions that work are the ones that are generated from within.