What You Get Reading “Homo Deus”

Homo Deus – i.e. “Human God,” top-rated book by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, author of multiple other best-sellers – hit me like a brick when I read it.

I have covered butt-kicking, life-changing books before, so let this be another added to the list. Though, let me give you my personal spark notes – what little they are – for what to expect for what you get by reading Homo Deus:

Humans Are Dividual

We are of many minds in one body, hardly an “individual” by any reasonable expectation of what makes a human a human. Thought, action, and even memory all change based on context internal and external, and changes over time.

Another way to put it would be that people wear many masks for the parts we play in our own lives and the lives of others.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

Humans try to assume something is known, attempt to take comfort in something certain.

Yet how might that be certain? All the puzzle pieces might seem to be in the box, but until the puzzle is put together, how can one be sure?

The Truth-seeking crusade of science, the firmest field of knowledge towards what might be real, hedges virtually all of its claims with “this may be wrong” and “there is more to know here.” In that way, we humans must always account for our own ignorance in literally every claim we make or piece of knowledge we take stake in, be it ourselves, others, or the world at large.

What Comes Makes All Before Obsolete

Human history took tens- or hundreds-of-millennia to accomplish pottery, baking, and basic plant domestication. Countless generations laid bricks in foundations and fortresses and footpaths for empires. It took one man a lifetime to learn just enough to make a decent shoe if he was gifted, passing that knowledge on to at least one or two sons before his death if lucky.

The works of this species in all recorded history were reproduced and exceeded in the last 100 years. Change and creation have only escalated – what took years, now months; months, now weeks; of weeks, a single tweet can wipe away a week’s efforts.

If change takes as long as a year, we are counted lucky, for everything that comes next makes everything that has come before obsolete.

Question Yourself

Is life just a set of algorithms, our existence only justified by being better data processors for the model?

Is intelligence the greatest benefit? Or does consciousness hold more value?

What is life when algorithms know us better than us?

These questions are vague intentionally, allowing answers for yourself or for considerations about society at large. Whatever the answers end up being to those with the means and opportunity at some future time will decide great changes to come.

Handling Humans

Democracy (a system of distributed power and processing) acts slower, yet is more thorough than other decision-making forms. It works well in high states of change, when idea surpasses implementation.

Autocracy (central processing; efficient, yet emphasizes systemic bias) works when implementation is more important than ideas. ‘Get it done no matter what’ has been the mainstay of all cultures up until the last spit of two centuries, and even yet has widespread adoption.

One or the other is only “good” or “bad” in if it is being used at the most optimal times. Holding onto one method when the other would really do causes unnecessary strife. All of this proves to be yet cyclical as intentions and executions change.

Durant agrees about the cyclical nature of our species. As a renown historian, Durant points out that decision-making in economies and governments repeats over and again as the waves of policy change. (Set aside the observations that autocracy has been the #1 driver for species advancement historically and that the merit of democracy in the last 300 years has yet to be proven more than a coincidence for the astronomical growth thereabouts.)

Not a lot, yet these are the things to keep in mind for what you get reading Homo Deus.

Highly recommend the book, as it humbles oneself towards what unknowable future comes!

Need to Decide? Read This

What to eat, what to wear, whether to get out of bed, or when to fall asleep. What jobs to take, tasks to do, or relationships to foster or let falter.

Decisions make our lives.

I have needed to make a multitude of decisions in my life, yet I have encountered something you are very likely familiar with: Indecision.

Analysis paralysis emerges from many causes: anxiety, fear or fear of missing out (FOMO), and more.

Whatever the cause, when you need to decide, read this collection that has helped me so very much in making life-changing decisions:

HALT

HALT before you make any large decision or have non-trivial discussions.

H – feed your hunger. Have something to eat, a cup of water to drink.

A – calm your anger. Hot feelings deliver burning, impulsive words that can scar.

L – accommodate your loneliness. Talk with a friend, search online for similar situations… it is dangerous to go alone, so take some company!

T – rest your tiredness. You are worse than drunk when tired, so at least nap if not getting a full night’s rest!

You good? Continue:

Ask the Right Questions

Whatever decision comes up most in these questions, do that immediately. When complete, repeat:

  • What makes all else easier or unnecessary?
  • What gives me the most satisfaction?
  • What creates more time?
  • What tangentially improves my skills? Relationships?

Tied or stuck? How about:

Hypothetical Feeling

You have two choices, X and Y.

Imagine and convince yourself you have decided to do X. How do you feel? Bad? Doubtful? Anxious?

If so, do Y and know you made the best decision!

High Quality > High Quantity

Being pickier when it comes to quality removes decisions that fail higher standards. Choosiness saves time and the need to make so many decisions.

Further, spending time on a few high-quality decisions is much more valuable than a lot of trivial nothings. Chores and daily habits come far distant second to keeping up relationships, investing finances, and deciding on employment and relocations.

Yet none of that matters if not executed on – if making a decision, do it ASAP. Even if the decision is imperfect, good now is virtually always preferred over great later.

Forgiveness and What Not

You are human with a finite amount of time and will to act in that time. So is everyone else. With that in mind, forgive yourself for making a decision not to do something (so long as it is a decision, and not laziness or avoidance).

Heck, enable yourself to decide not to do. “What not to do” lists – or better, “principles and policies” – can be more important than “To Do” decisions. So decide what not to do to clear the way for more important decisions to be made!

A final note to put fears and doubts aside: So long as it is not a catastrophic decision, you will be OK, as it is OK to fail (usually). So what counts as a “catastrophic decision?”

  • Anything that addicts or permanently changes for the worse your mind’s capabilities. (Certain drugs, brain damage, dogma, etc.)
  • Anything that hobbles or cripples your body. (Lost limbs, physical weakness, etc.)
  • Anything that brands you with a society’s Scarlett Letter. (Failing family, crime, overt perversions, etc.)

Set Yourself Up for Future Decision Success

By now you hopefully have made some decisions you can live with, that will not scar you catastrophically.

You can do better still. Start living by these pieces of advice to make you future decisions even easier:

  • Simplify. You are better for having less to be concerned about.
  • Long-term Yes/No. Relationships and activities are so important for your future need to strive to be of the highest quality.
  • Act now. It is the only thing you have to do – “JUST DO IT.”
  • Sleep adequately. It is the foundation of all health.
  • No added sugars. You are and will be worse for the simple carbs fogging your brain.
  • Meditate. Appreciate and reflect in the ways best suited for you.
  • Exercise. Even if it is a walk to meditate.
  • Zoom out, slow down. Chill. Busy-ness is poverty.
  • Journal. Take note of gratitude and record patterns. “Rubber Ducking” is a therapy all its own.
  • Fats and proteins. Brain and brawn. These will keep you young and vigorous.

Read more about the above in my 10 Themes from Tribe of Mentors.

Need to decide still? Read all this again. Bookmark it. Read again and again – this is a decision that will benefit you for a very long time as it has benefited me.

Cheers to all you are going to accomplish ~

What to Do?

What do you do when you’ve done the important things?

That’s not rhetorical, nor am I asking for a friend.

I’m asking for the person whose done the needful things and has a whole life ahead of them, the person with ambitions and skills and resources, the person who may need to learn to leverage any of it.

I ask you “what to do” for me.

The rest of this post may lack for any answers, any insights, but hey, why do this blog without benefit to the writer? If you go, OK – if you stay, thank you for exploring with me 🙂

Let’s begin:

Deathwalks

I’ve mentioned “deathwalks” before (goals, full posts). These are the meditative exercises that work to reveal what’s important in life, the words and actions unsaid and undone, all that would consume the affairs of a last few months of life.

Many of the things uncovered on my first deathwalk years ago have been completed. I look at that list are secure for years to come! The skydiving, the letters written, the Last Will, the trips, the patterns explored

Yet, what does that leave a person, have they little left to prepare for when the time comes?

I can only liken it to a milestone on the horizon you walk towards for a long while. Once reached, though, the milestone is more petite than realized while the roads ahead are broad and many and long beyond sight. And nowhere seems the obvious convenience of a milestone showing “do this.”

So then, what is there left for a person to do if prepared for the final journey, the one hopefully decades or a century off? Where is the direction???

Living

Perhaps if “dying” is done, “living” is the next logical step.

Meditating on what makes a person “feel alive” is lauded in many circles as being a necessary and invaluable thing. Remembering joy and excitement and triumph, might those be milestones to strive for? Or even to build for ourselves? A live worth living?

But it might be hard to accept we might deserve “the good life.” The world delights in chaotic news, our neighbors seethe, and year-by-year even bodies betray themselves and the minds inside.

There is so much suffering, what hubris is it to seek and make pleasure?

Such judgements come awfully quick. But lest it’s forgotten, the only Good that may be said to exist is the net reduction of suffering. Does an individual’s suffering of indecision or lack of aim not qualify here?

Maybe that’s the Ego making itself heard.

“My experience makes me exceptional. I am entitled to feel this way, to be this.”

Now aren’t such regards the real acts of hubris?

That’s all that I have to say on that, all that comes to mind at this time.

I’ve a little while more to settle on September’s goals. If you’ve suggestions for a person to pivot from ends to beginnings, the comment section is below 😉

Be well, friends. Cheers ~

It Is OK to Fail

Really, it is.

But failure snowballs into complete and utter debasement! Failing is a slippery slope to irrelevance.

Certainly don’t make a habit of easy failure. If failure must happen, make it hard-fought to get the most out of the slip.

If the failures are spectacular enough, the failure will be quite relevant! Regardless, the failure should be relevant at least to you to show what to do or not, in addition to being an example to other folks.

But failure is a sign of weakness! If I fail, I won’t be wanted, I’ll be scorned, and I’ll carry a Scarlet Letter forever.

While some folks may not want you over particular failures. And some truly severe Scarlet Letters are deserved so that others can be protected.

Yet you live only with yourself. Only you know the severity of guilt and the just penance. An so long as you are acting out the penance (even if it is only to not fail the same way twice), you are doing what is owed to the failure.

But failure can be tragic! It can scar and rend and kill and all horrible things.

That’s a fine point! Failure certainly can be immense in its consequences. But what are consequences worthy of worry?

As the saying goes, “any landing you can walk away from is a good one,” so the same applies to failure. Loss of money or time or knickknacks can be made up and should come with an adequate exchange of experience. Bruises heal and hurt feelings amended.

What can’t be put back together are the three serious scars that can remove opportunities for action or attraction:

    1. Mind – Being unable to think straight, fully, or at all is a terrible, terrible thing. Brain damage, addiction, and dogma make up this scar where healing is miraculous (but we can’t depend on miracles).
    2. Body – Being maimed, crippled, or made twisted changes the whole world. (Trust me, I know.) Losing limbs, suffering catastrophic nerve injuries, and physical scarring such as tattoos of hate signs make this scar horrific to live with.
    3. Society – Being vile, abhorrent, or too dangerous to others or the culture is the quickest way to be identified with this scar. Outward physical violence, harm towards children and other helpless, and upending public expectations will slam you with a modern, contextual Scarlet Letter.

So long as these three scars are avoided, your failures won’t stop you!

But failure isn’t stopping me! It’s my fear of failing anew…

And that’s where coming to peace with failure comes it. It is OK to fail.

One of the biggest obstacles to what we intend and our lives being lived is us, you and I. Our thoughts dwell on the ‘what if.’ Prior experience and imagination can be a real bane in this regard.

That is why forgiving ourselves is the first step to making failure OK.

We are the ones that can stop habitual failure.

We are the ones who are already suffering under guilt.

We are the ones who can avoid the three disastrous scars.

We are the ones who must forgive ourselves.

Simply put, forgive yourself. It is OK to fail.

Why I Wrote This

The fear of failure lies strong on my mind and always has. I’ve developed rules for myself so as to fail less:

Failures still happen despite it all. Like this month’s goals I’ll be reporting on in a week. (It’ll be bad.)

And that’s OK.

Now this may sound like I’m giving myself a pass on a failure by using flowery words – it’s not (sans the flowery words part).

I know I’ve lived my life. What’s left is my duty to ensure my future self can live without the baggage of guilt or regret going forward. Casting off such suffering seems like a decent goal.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Really looking forward to your feedback here.

Where have your failures been? How have you recovered? What are you still carrying around all this time since?

Here to talk to hear about what’s going on – drop me a line and we’ll get the convo going!

Until next week, go out to happen to the world knowing the failures you make along the way are OK. Cheers ~

Truth: Top 10 Truisms

What is Truth? We might know it by how these top truisms are us and the universe.

1. Simplify

Less is truly more. Should you need more anyway, there is some written on this.

2. Suffering Exists

Exists and is inevitable, a persistent, constant force in the universe. I have taken a deeper dive into the topic.

3. Knowledge Is Terrible

What is known cannot be unknown along with all of its consequences. Care to know more?

4. Be Attractive

Attraction is a basic law of nature where to be attractive is the only thing to be. More material outlining attraction is available.

5. Don’t Settle, Suffice

In short, have higher standards, but keep those standards in line with what’s sufficient.

It is naïve to think things cannot be better regardless of situation. To seek to be better is one of the most noble activities to improve yourself and the world. However, an obsession without end will cause more suffering that it corrects.

Wisdom arrives when you know the world and yourself enough to understand what, subjectively, is “enough.”

Achieving this is a numbers game. Be it the theory of Pareto’s Principle, the Optimal Stopping Strategy for professionals and love-seekers, or Statistical Significance, the number of trials to find what’s sufficient correlates with both knowing and achieving that “enough.”

Truth requires continuous action until higher standards are met sufficiently. For you, that means being the harshest critic of your own monstrosity, leaving nothing for anyone else to critique.

6. Competition Is For Chumps

Competition spends immense amounts of energy. The more energy one has unspent for competition, the more likely that competition will be a success. And survivorship is Good!

But a strategy of expending too much energy against others goes by another term: War of Attrition. Attrition warfare can also cascade into a Pyrrhic (a.k.a. not-worth-it) Victory. By its very nature, competition tends towards less-than zero-sum outcomes, all competitors having spent their energies against each other, not their goals.

To come away from a singular competition with less or even no energy takes away that fund available for future competitions over food, space, and mates. Thereby, a competitor may have survived the competition, but their likelihood of surviving thereafter goes down (not Good).

Be it peacocks maintaining elaborate plumage to out-gaudy other mates, male lions killing each other for pride control, or humans laboring and becoming indebted to attain status symbols that are more form-than-function, competition takes a toll.

So what is the alternative? As renown military philosopher Sun Tzu would have it, “the best strategy is the one that delivers victory without fighting.”

In competition, little is gained. Effort is largely wasted and suffering gets accumulated by all parties in true competition (consider the benefits of play, the faux competition).

Energy spent in cooperation or subtle, low-energy, indirect competition (if competition must occur) is much more beneficial; all else is for chumps.

7. Know Better

Despite knowledge being a terrible thing, it is a requirement to know better, especially of oneself. The Good that knowledge can bring far outweighs the harm that may arise.

As put, knowledge is powerful. However, having the wrong knowledge can be worse than having pure ignorance – the road to Hell is paved with good [but ill-informed] intentions.

So figure yourself out, your duties, and the when and where you are. Be more selfish in coming to these terms. Until you have the language and patterns of understanding to ask and enact what’s required, you are no use to anyone except at best as a pawn (others may know how to use you better than you of yourself).

Better knowledge starts with asking better questions:

What does culture demand in status and contribution? How can one survive in the environment?

What do you like? What do you despise? What do you fear? How do you fail yourself and society?

Learn. Study everything. Find that gaps that need filling. Others have suffered in ways aplenty so that you do not have to. Yet some of these lessons are faulty, thus only by sheer numbers of examples can better knowledge be affirmed (like how the community process of Wikipedia allows correct information to form).

Competition is to be avoided because of the energy it spends; the same applies to gaining knowledge. Defer to the expertise and strength of those that have lived and done the things you seek to do – if they have proven Good (i.e. survived and reduced suffering), they are models to follow.

After the questions and the study, you will have the better knowledge needed to not only improve yourself, but better the world.

8. Escalate

More. Up or down depending on the context, always get to better faster.

Escalation of magnitudes is preferred – doubling, halving, or changing ten-fold is the broad stroke required to anchor what’s expected in any exchange. If the strength of X is insufficient to twist open a cap, at least 2X is required on the next attempt.

However, delicacy is sometimes required in a situation – perhaps the vessel to open is brittle or a negotiation comes to a close. In that case, less than a magnitude in change is required, but escalation plays a part here, too: to achieve less than 100% change, use 10% (.1X instead of X).

Yet, it may come to be resented if too much is asked for, or cause disgust to ask for too little. What would be acceptable between those extremes comes from better knowledge and caring for one’s own wellbeing. Trust that another will defend their own self interests as you ought to be an advocate of your own.

Therefore, escalation is a benefit to the universe: It saves time (the expense of energy), it wastes less by finding the sufficient amount to expense (magnitude of energy), and reduces mental suffering from an effort too generous or stingy (buyer’s remorse).

9. You Are Responsible

With existence comes responsibility. All incentives, all motives, all actions, and, ultimately, all outcomes are the responsibility of the perceiver. Whether through the tangible consequence or the mental perception, the individual has stake in anything that goes on.

Respect yourself and take caution. All that you do and perceive is at least a subjective reality. Merely by consciously perceiving the world, you create what’s real. In this way, you are partly-if-not-wholly responsible regardless of context.

So what will you do with that great power?

In existing and therefore creating reality, you have a part to play in the suffering in the world, both for yourself and others. A person cannot abstain from action and expect that abstention to not cause suffering.

The only way to have a say in survival and suffering is to act, which carries its own set of consequences. Despite that, failures in action are overcome faster by further action and personal change of perception. A failure to act passively discovers outcomes that – if the universe has any bias – tend towards entropy, the ultimate failure to survive (not Good!).

(This brings up that action appears to be Good, but that’s a separate discussion.)

Whatever comes, by existing, you are responsible for all action, inaction, and your perception of the outcomes. Only by taking action and curating your perceptions might you also be responsible for any Good.

10. Forgive Yourself

A stark follow-up to the “Responsibility” point above, you must also take responsibility for forgiving yourself.

The journey to be better and do Good is long, difficult, and continuous. People are similar and people fail – you are much more like them than you imagine.

Meanwhile, you have the morals you can afford, so be merciful to yourself when you fail, slip-up, or otherwise dwell on what must be temporary setbacks. Should failure prove to be a habit, be the harshest critic of your own monstrosity and be better immediately in the moment (you may always recess to being lackluster later).

There is the same self-forgiveness universally. No land dwells on the consequences of a volcano or earthquake. Instead, the land bears its scars and continues. Indistinguishable it is for wind and rain and galaxies that crash into each other, each holding no grudge but instead swirling away to continue their atomic existences changed, yet continuous from one form to the next. No mountain crumbles under its own self-doubt or loathing, but continues to push up through the clouds by its volition no matter the wear. As you must too.

That’s the reason you must own care for yourself – no one else will have your drive or context to be up to the task of forgiving your failures, nor ought they if you’ve not done so already. Thus, through forgiveness, resolve some of the greatest sources of suffering for you: your own doubt and guilt and regret. Thereby, to forgive yourself is a Good thing.

These ten truisms appear to be some of the most-true things for not only people, but all life and the universe, too. The sections above do not go into depth of any great description and proof-by-example, yet everywhere I look these things make themselves present.

As a character in a Zelda videogame once put, “it’s dangerous to go alone,” I only want you to take this so you can do Good and that Good may happen to you.

All something to live by. Cheers!

Truth: Attractiveness

Be attractive.

Truth itself is an enigma. Truth might be known through its many faces, though not all faces are equal in their value to Truth. But attractiveness? Attractiveness seems to be side-by-side with what Truth is.

Whether as a material law (magnetic/electric/gravitational), physical trait (symmetry/garb/health-signaling/etc.), or mental characteristic (charisma/stability/respect/etc.), being attractive secures the resources of survival. Attractiveness is an objective and severe determiner of the consequences a thing receives in its lifetime.

The benefits are plenty: Ability to convince a person to do another’s work; Gather mates for raising offspring or protection; Decrease the likelihood to be neglected or killed (a reason baby animals are “cute”); et al.

Being attractive gives the edge to survival – as has been proposed by others, that which is Good is that which survives.

This principle extends beyond biological evolution too. Non-organic nature seeks to persist in its states forever and ever, from thermodynamics to motion. What persists the longest are those things with strong bonds and mass; i.e., matter in the universe that is “attractive” survives.

Planets – the tiniest fraction of the mass of the stars they orbit – only exist that way if not subsumed as moons of even larger planets. Suns live only so long as there’s fuel to burn, the more fuel, the longer life a star has. Galaxies outmatch any planet or star for lifetime, attracting billions of stars, yet they cease to exist as a whole after cataclysmic interactions with something of approximately equal attractive potential (i.e. other galaxies).

Therefore, being attractive is a necessity of the universe, as plasma, rock, or mammal. Further, there are tiers of attractiveness, differentials of both magnitude of attractiveness and type.

Just discussed has been material attractiveness of the gravitational type, with examples of planets being in their own tier, suns another, and galaxies encompassing them all. The same applies to biological life.

An attractive baby is not the same type of attractiveness as that of a sexually attractive mate (ruin to any that foul-up this distinction). Two babies also cannot be deemed to be equally attractive (e.g. as soon as a child receives more ‘resource’ than another, that first child is by definition more attractive), a concept that also applies to shallow comparisons between two job candidates.

Anything that confuses the type or magnitude of attractiveness does not survive. Planets burn away in stars, social aberrant behavior is mocked and condemned, inconvenient (i.e. unattractive) infants killed once upon a time today. Diverging from attractiveness is punished, thereby adding to the net suffering in existence.

If doing what is unattractive generates suffering and ends its existence faster, the contrast that does not create suffering and survives must be called Good. Being attractive is Good.

Bringing it back, attractiveness reinforces itself as being adjacent to Truth: Attractiveness is a universal quality across matter and time, nature tends toward attractiveness, and the pursuit and state of attractiveness reduces suffering.

How to Be Attractive

First, there is great advantage for a person to be born attractive. Natural symmetry, familiarity, secondary sex characteristics, easy display of health through skin, nails, hair, and teeth, and other traits greatly increase the survivability of both the individual and their genes.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Saint Ambrose

Regardless of birth, fit into physical and social environments. Being ‘average’ and ‘consistent’ for the surrounding context breeds familiarity which is attractive, as well as showing a healthy response to the external stimuli of a particular niche. Further, fitting in with others feeds into social affirmation, an attractive trait that signals others to act on and for one’s behalf.

Success in handling changes and challenges in the social intangibles and the physical resources for survival indicate two attractive qualities: Health in the now, and advantaged genes for later reproduction. Such accomplishment is part of seeming confident. Confidence itself is a sign of health, its natural assertiveness gaining resources for survival and protecting those resources.

There are other ways to express attractiveness; these assets are many and varied. Listening to the opinions of others and one’s self will determine what works best!

Attractiveness Elsewhere

Abraham Lincoln – “I have no other [ambition] so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”

Sun Tzu – Appear as is best for your intentions with others. (Fake it to make it.)

Beauty – Attractive things exist so long as not too much is known about them at the time. (See: Knowledge is terrible.)

First Impressions – “If their initial impressions of the candidates are positive, employers show a higher tendency to ‘sell’ the job by providing information to the candidates about the job rather than gathering information from them.”

Live an attractive life as best you can. Cheers.

Truth: Suffering

Suffering is inevitable.

Truth can be debated endlessly. Look no further than the blind men and the elephant. Simply put, a singular Truth cannot be known 🤷‍♂️

What can be understood are the collection of truisms close to Truth. Things that are agnostic to time, space, culture, and context are more true than dichotomies or idioms. Something that, once known, is of terrible power for its ability to inflict or relieve suffering in one and another. Yet, not knowing can lead to a suffering through ignorance!

So what is truthful?

All life seems to agree on this: Suffering is the only guaranteed experience.

Before you go, hear me out. Suffering is a cornerstone of existence if not the foundation of what it means to be alive.

It all starts at where all things do: at the beginning. First there is the suffering caused to mothers during pregnancy and labor. Second, babes wail at the shockingly cold, shockingly bright loss of everything they have ever known. Communities then suffer the child’s cries and inadequacies while their parents sweat and toil to keep the new human alive – and often that is beyond their abilities!

The baby born, that child will become self conscious. With that knowledge, the young person begins to doubt their own value. Their body morphs through puberty in unknowable, painful ways. Their minds become aware of themselves and other people, namely the failures of themselves and their society. A child is considered ‘mature’ when they lose the shield that was naiveté. In a complete upending of the child’s reality, they come to understand they are betrayed by family, friends, society, and their own body.

That babe-turned-adult suffers once again as the incessant march of time grinds down thought and bones alike. If not outright crippled in mind and body, the ‘edge’ of peak performance experienced in late adolescence is dulled. A second revelation comes where the elder recognizes how much of their short life has been spent with little return. Existential nihilism or a living lie of denial sets in, killing the elder long before they are dead and buried. This is the elder’s only inheritance left to their next of kin, who in turn do not understand the trauma they’ve received. Thus the cycle of suffering, from birth to death, continues on into the next generation.

Matter – atoms and the like – too suffers in its creation, as understood through an empathetic anthropomorphism. All particles exploded into an inferno during the universe’s birth. All suns only formed after eons of atoms floating alone before being crushed and incinerated under their own weight. The universe itself may be convulsing in a cyclic version of Western Hell and has so done since the beginning of time.

Suffering is inherent in creation. Yet does it last?

Absolutely.

We see in the life of a person or a galaxy, suffering is the ever-constant companion throughout a singular existence. From start to finish, suffering is present and repeats its pattern infinitely.

Suffering persists. But what of the Good?

While there are absolutely may be moments of pleasure in one’s life, no two persons can agree on the specifics of such pleasures, or if the pleasure itself is a Good thing! (What is Good has been mentioned before, but a further exploration is later in this post.)

What used to be the common ground of Good was religion. But which religion? Which denomination of that religion? Can a history of stoning neighbors, burning knowledge, and the excruciation of the masses, justified in the many names of God, be considered Good? (Rhetorical questions all.)

When consuming certain mushrooms across the world, shamans and laypersons alike gain the satisfaction of meeting their own God without the need of religion. Perhaps this is a contributor as to why claims to be religious are becoming a minority. Regardless, religion seems to be unable to define a Good in the universe.

Hedonism gives many moments of pleasure. Eating, drinking, sex, and drugs all stimulate dopamine and other feel-good chemicals, these chemicals the only objective cause of pleasure in a person’s body. If pure pleasure is what Good is, the only Good activity in life is the pursuit of opiates until death arrives, the dead no longer suffering.

Sensual pleasure works as well as it does because of the erasure of self it causes. There is no person, there is only bliss. Should a person retain any amount of self-conscious ego, this pleasure is often found to be meaningless. (Not to mention that the individual hardly survives for long, which is not Good.)

The idea of ‘the nation‘ aims to give meaning with shared common purpose, that which the nation claims to be Good. Further, nations promise to carry the ideas and works and wishes of the citizen into the future, a survival-by-proxy. So which nation is Good? When? For whom? What consistently has been considered Good? Perhaps during the disenfranchisement of its women? The crucifixion of its minorities? The genocide of its enemies? The enslavement of the destitute?

The nation has many ideas of what Good is. No idea remains consistent, thereby a changing definition of what is Good. In the book The Rape of Nanking, it is come to be understood that nations will justify its actions without remorse, even glee, passing this ‘goodness’ into its citizens and collective actions. It is clear ‘the nation,’ despite giving meaning and surviving, cannot be Good.

If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.

George Orwell, 1984

In these ways, the Good is entirely subjective. What is Good for one cannot be guaranteed for another. The Confucian Golden Rule of “do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself” usurps its Western opposite of “do unto others what you would have them do to you.”

But Good may yet have something true about it. If suffering is the omnipresent woe, minimizing suffering may be a common agreed-upon Good. But remember that many things done with ‘Good’ intention (Western Golden Rule) cause suffering. Therefore, Goodness with the intent to reduce suffering seemingly is to act less on perceived suffering (the context others appear to be in) and more on actual suffering (the context a person finds themselves in, the only guarantee suffering is indeed occurring).

As Goodness with the minimal definition is an eternal endeavor since suffering persists, Good would need to accommodate failure and continue (i.e. survive). That still does not negate this narrow definition of Good as being subjective, only one in a crowd of other definitions that claim to be correct.

Simply put, a definition of Good may be “reduce net suffering to survive and survive to reduce net suffering.” This does not violate the subjectivity of Good, merely prescribes what the abstract concept is.

Good is subjective. So what is objective?

If any claim to objectivity is made, it seems to be made of suffering and surviving. A person cannot do a guaranteed Good. By the act of existing only, a person can participate in suffering.

You and I will experience suffering, will cause it. Much of it will happen and we won’t be aware of it. In our darkest times, we will seek it out.

Therein lies an objective truth: Suffering is inevitable. With that knowledge, preparing to suffer can be committed to and actions readied to reduce it. How suffering is perceived is variable, but thoughts about suffering tend to trend in two ways: Those that have the means to hypothetically bear great suffering are better; those that endure actual suffering not of their choosing are considered lesser.

Whether suffering is accepted or railed against, if a person finds that they are suffering, it may be a comfort to know suffering is natural and it too can pass. How to address suffering is another topic entirely, an important one to have when suffering is known to exist, persist, and permeate throughout the universe.

In these ways suffering conforms to a universal truth, a first-tier fact that better reveals Truth and hones other truths in their meaning and purpose.

Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.

George Orwell, 1984

Something I’ve pondered on and worth continuing to ponder. Cheers.

Truth: Knowledge

Knowledge is a terrible thing.

Truth is something we cannot know. However, Truth is a legion of many faces, each aspect of Truth being a testament to the universe. Through these aspects Truth may be known. Yet, the knowledge itself is a terrible thing.

Terrible, really?

Quite so. Once something is known, it cannot be unknown. The knowledge itself gains a consciousness in its perception. The knower gives the information their own life by spending time and calories thinking on the knowledge.

A terrible part of knowledge is when it allows the knower to become self-conscious. A belief held in ignorance contradictory to newfound information provides a stark contrast to what may have been a life in the ‘wrong’ or ‘false.’ Not many are ready to recognize their failings in this way, that their reality was a lie up to the knowledge gain. Thereby it is born a perfect situation to allow a knowledgeable person to suffer not only the pain of finding in themselves a false-self, but doubly the suffering of perpetuating the now insincere lie of their false belief.

But to live in the dark? To forego the possible suffering of exploring the unknown? Enjoying the bliss of ignorance makes sense if the benefit of knowledge could not outweigh its horrors.

Common nay-sayers to the progress of knowledge cite many of the troublesome topics of modern times:

Gunpowder, biological weapons, social stigmas, dogma, racism, factory farming, sweat shops, nuclear arms, weaponized pathogens, fuel waste, more addictive substances, inhumane architecture, spam email.

Yet, humans continue to push the boundaries of knowledge, to explore, to discover. Ill-content with the state of things, people have gained knowledge of, well, everything a mind can perceive and more.

Language, sparking fire, paper, printing, the raising of crops and livestock, penicillin, engines, mathematics, rocketry, clothing, environment control, the internet, vaccines, subatomic physics.

All-in-all, knowledge has proven terrible in its power for the Good reduction of suffering, and the contrary application of incredible suffering for meager gain. “Terribleness” cannot be said to be in-and-of itself a ‘bad’ thing. By any objective measure – poverty, life expectancy, opportunity, access to resource – knowledge has on the balance been a Good thing, making now the best time to be alive ever.

If the concept of knowledge were visual, knowing would be feeling around into the darkness of the world’s unknown. Some finds would be sweet and soft, treasures to make the journey worth the while; others sharp and deadly, tragedies there in the dark. Sometimes a truly terrible tool is found, a thing with the capacity for great reductions and increases in suffering, depending on its use.

Taking the ‘darkness’ example further, sharing knowledge might be visualized as a light cast on a place – a piece of knowledge. However, that light comes from one direction – the sharer of the knowledge. What may appear true and whole on one side may seem completely false on the other – a shadow cast. Therefore, partial light may play tricks and deceive for a time. Until further insights and investigations cast more light on the subject, knowledge and its sharing suffers from the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant.

Light too, when shown to unprepared eyes, can be blinding. In this way, the illumination and knowledge can send a person reeling from the moment’s bright suffering.

So the distribution of knowledge may cause suffering, at least for a time. To pursue knowledge is one choice; to reveal information is another. Sometimes it’s best to not reveal true knowledge, as in the case of white lies, especially to the unexpecting. Sometimes knowledge will be shared with the express intent to cause suffering, e.g. black truths.

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

William Blake

Therein lies the terrible essence of knowledge. It gives and takes suffering from the world when gained by a person.

This has always been the case. Two-and-a-half millennia ago in East Asia, renown warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu based much of his The Art of War on knowing and keeping others from knowing. Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a half-millennia ago in the heart of Europe that success in life lay in knowing what to do with the power one had. Shortly after, Sir Francis Bacon put it bluntly: “knowledge itself is power.” Or as Susan Orlean puts it for today, “Knowledge is a beautiful thing, but there are a few things I wish I didn’t know.”

So pay respect to knowledge and its lack alike. Context plays a part in guessing whether knowledge gives or takes suffering away, but across time and culture, this remains true: Knowledge is a terrible tool to have and to wield.

What lights do you live your life by?

Cheers.

Truth: Simplify

Simplify.

Truth is an enigma, but there are scatterings of Truth in universal truisms. These truisms are plentiful, none are equal. The further from Truth they go, the more truisms there are, but the less true they are in turn. There, they become a ‘noise’ while fewer and truer the truths become. In that way, the closer to Truth one goes, the simpler the space is as are the truisms found.

Truth tends towards simplicity.

A diamond cannot be uncovered while there’s rough. Gold cannot be picked unless the silt is panned out. Grain does not grow if choked by weeds. A body cannot breath if drowned. About seven things is what a human mind can hold. About 150 persons is what a single individual can keep track of.

To simplify is a cornerstone of existence. We see this exampled in everything from the composition of cellular life to the decomposing of atoms into baser parts to the simplicity of the equations that describe the fundaments of reality.

It is a challenge to think of what, when added, makes things simpler. The act of taking away brings things into focus. Take myself:

I trimmed my professional "expertise" from game design, production, illustration, programming, and mathematics into tools engineering, serving me with above-par pay and sharp skills.
From aiming to please any-and-everyone, relationships of all sorts have become straightforward - my experience knows "why what works with who," making any decision involving others near immediate versus requiring deliberation over months and years.
My time, previously split between an immense variety of activities and active interests,  boils down to creation (writing, game design, sketching), being of use to others (tools engineering, exploring problems) and myself (working out, learning), and achieving a sense of order (planning, chore completion).
Even this blog used to be many goals spread over a quarter and two posts, now regulated to four goals in a single month in a single post.

Yet, simplicity’s opposite – complexity – pervades. This, too, appears to be natural. Planets gather moons to add the complexity of tides. The simplest atom hydrogen is incredible unstable, binding itself with other atoms to form more complex molecules. Organisms evolve to add necessary features, even if that’s combining symbiotically with other creatures.

Life itself could be described as a pattern within the universe that attempts to stall its own entropy. That pattern does whatever it can to survive, which through evolution, has brought forward more complex forms.

Humans too generate a ‘gravity’ to add things to their orbit of concern. Another task makes it onto the ‘to-do’ list. Another acquaintance boosts the follower count. Another car needs payment. Another interest of the moment divides attention. Another another another.

Though how often has “another” brought suffering to life? The pain of indecision contrasts with the toil for more, a common masochism a sleepless person who takes on another responsibility shares with the pet that gorges itself into ache and vomiting.

We cannot help adding complexity to our lives. But as another card is added to the house or another plate is brought to spin, our lives become more perilous.

Our wants are simple: Comfortable environment, quality sleep, satiation in emotion and nourishment, a feeling of worth, and energy to pursue the things we intend and find interesting and survive without cars from what we don’t. Our ways and whys are many more than these.

This complexity resembles what it is: a construction. How well it is built is directly linked to the foundation of planning and intention that goes into our lives.

Complexity can serve a purpose. As mentioned, life will become more complex to survive, with a caveat: The nature of the universe abhors doing anything that is not needed at the precise place and time. When complexity arises, it must be judged, especially in ourselves, since humans are awfully good at justifying what exists, regardless of correctness.

Is this object or situation or action as simple as it can be? Does it serve a necessary outcome here and now? How can it do the easiest thing possible?

A medicine is highly complex but any more or less than necessary ruins its purpose. A wall with its many parts crumbles with any more or less than the required stones. A body – a miracle of moving parts – with any more or less than a very small range of temperature, water, or calories destroys itself.

It’s simple: The farther from the simple a thing strays, the more the thing destroys what it is. Such change is a guarantee. Whether the consequence of the change is intended is up to how simple the origin remains.

Managing change is incredibly useful. For a person, if a situation is unacceptable, that person can add to their life in some ways, subtract in others. Once a person finds a place where they are contented, no more gets added, no more gets removed. They have simplified to a level of stable complexity so they may begin to survive. And to survive, to live, that is a Good thing to do.

In that way, to simplify conforms to a universal truth, reduces suffering, better reveals Truth in its many effects, and is one of the few truths that best represents the Truth.

Simplicity Elsewhere

Occam’s Razor – No more, no less. That which is less indivisible is preferred.

Newton’s Rule 1 – It is vain and unnatural to do more than what’s required.

Tao’s Greatest Treasures – “Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being.”

GI Bill of Rights – Four pages with simple language lasts 77 years and still serves tens-of-millions.

Abrahamic Religions – There is only one cause to the universe and it requires respect for being unknowable.

Theory of Evolution – That which exists came from before and changes over time in the most efficient way possible.

Greek Creation Myth – Out of immense complexity comes a simple few things which then gather to themselves immense complexity and suffering thereby.

Prime Numbers – A value so simplified, it cannot be divided any further without ending what it fundamentally is.

Feel-Good Chemicals – The sensation of pleasure is triggered by only four hormones.

Entropy – The ultimate simplification, the universe flattens all complexity into nothingness over time.

Something to live by. Cheers.

The Importance of Putting Things in Order

(Heavy topics ahead – death, regrets, the meaning of one’s life. It’s OK if you want to come back to this later!)

Part of this month’s set of goals is an end-of-life checkup, or as I like to call it, a “deathwalk.”

Having taken my first in 2018, it changed my life. Here’s how I do mine so maybe something similar will change your life too.

Time Aside

A deathwalk shouldn’t take more than a weekend, maybe even a day. I’ve already done mine in March and the majority of my revelations came in a night and a morning – everything else was exploring the best ways to fulfill those things!

My first deathwalk was with a great friend who talked me through imagining my own intimate ceasing, but it required a lot of exposure of thoughts and admittance of stark failures and regrets. Not everyone has such friends or should put such friends through that. For me nowadays, a journal is an excellent place to dump thoughts out, draw maps of meaning, and record lists of what could make the last days of a life worth living.

The privacy in a journal is nice, too, since deathwalks can be very emotional times 😭 But please, don’t get lost on the walk – it can seem overwhelming (death, time spent so far), so keep in mind that without obligations, so much can be reclaimed! You are the ultimate decider of change for your life, so nothing has the power to overwhelm without your say-so. (And it isn’t really real – you’ll live for a long-time yet!)

Premise

The aim of a deathwalk is to explore oneself to figure out what and who is important with limited time left. It requires a fair amount of convincing yourself that you really are to die (I mean, you’ve gotten at least this far).

Some imaginative steps that help me are to think of coming home from a doctor giving the Nth-opinion that yes, your illness, though without symptoms, is incurable and will claim you in a short time.

I avoid thinking of world-ending events (e.g. asteroid) because that would affect how others act too. Here, I think of a permanence in the world, that those I care for will continue on for at least a while after my death.

Time Left

One day left alive is too short – why not just do all the vices available and give over to hedonism? A year is too long (read any statistic showing how New Years resolutions repeat), let alone the unimaginable length that is a lifetime.

Three months, a season, seems the most doable option. There’s enough time to travel, visit people and place but not everyone everywhere, prepare affairs, and settle in for what would be, well, the end.

Perspective

While airing out the bucket-list, this is a time to keep three things in mind:

    • There are only three months to do things in.
    • You won’t be 100% efficient with your time (and who wants to rush when they’re dying?).
    • You have the assets and means you do (i.e. money in the bank) – this likely means no visiting the Moon in the timespan, and serves as a cap on expectations.

I put together top-10 lists for different aspects of my life this most recent deathwalk. However, knowing how long they would take, I had to cut to top-4. Further, with a little googled estimation, I could confirm how much each thing cost to make sure I was betting on realistic assumptions vs. shooting for the Moon.

Documents

One of the biggest things overlooked is the legal aspect of death. Long story short, when arrangements are missing, it’s a mess at best, traumatic and frustrating at average.

Get a list of all your assets together and where they are. Do the same for your liabilities. Write up your passwords and usernames for different services and social medias. Let a handful (literally five or fewer, but more than one) of your most trusted confidants know where they could find this information.

Go one step further at your earliest opportunity to legally draft, sign, and witness a Last Will and Testament through a lawyer. It’ll cost a few hundred dollars, but you are making sure 1) a legally professional format and wording is used, 2) a copy is kept at a legal office, and 3) the professional can help pen Living Wills and funeral arrangements!

Keep your info up to date! Take me: I made my Will three years ago. Reading through it again, everything is in order, except my passwords were old and my list of tangible assets (the list that says “X thing goes to Y person”) was never filled out!

Shame on me. Don’t let it be a shame on you to do this necessary chore. Be the person that reduces the suffering of others after your passing.

Who

After getting the chores out of the way, a deathwalk addresses who should be included in the last months. The figures that first come to mind are usually the 90% of folks who would be the right people to at least see. Commit to seeing them now, or at least plan the steps necessary to go to them should the deathwalk come to pass in reality.

It might also come to mind people not seen or talked to in a while – these folks ought to be reached out to. If that’s a bit too much, such as if the last parting was antagonistic, write letters to them.

Whoever is thought of, write letters to them. Apologize. Get down how much they mean to living and have changed life. Then put the letters away without sending them, somewhere where they can be found and mailed should three months have been a generous estimate.

In this way, affairs with others are put in order.

What

What do you want to do?

Seems easy, right? Ask it again: What do you want to do with only what’s left to you?

Here is where some serious trimming comes in. What do you feel obliged to do (other than getting your paperwork in order)? Scratch those. What is a might be what you want to do? Nix those too. Sometimes a list of things not to do can be more valuable than picking between what to do.

What’s helped me is to look back on what has brought the most passion, the most feeling, the most blissful, forgetful joy. Those are better guarantees for enjoyment than many hypothetical experiences. (e.g. A trip to a new country is outweighed by re-watching that feel-good film from childhood.)

And of course, there’s what’s on your mind already. How would you spend your next Tuesday if there were no obligations for it? Keep those allures close.

Be prepared to cut the least important things for the most important things. Remember: There are only three months left and only so much funding.

Long-Term

After figuring out how to spend the next three months and a well-deserved breather, look ahead.

Keeping the findings of the three-month deathwalk in mind, what is to be made of the rest of life? Preferably, the themes of the deathwalk percolate forward for years.

Regardless, the exercise certainly will have shown things that are weak in life. Is the 9-to-5 worth the effort being put in? Statistics would say no-way.

Undoubtedly, some changes will be uncovered that ought to be made. Figure out how to make the transitions necessary to secure that preferable life. It may not come today or next month or possibly even this year, but walking the long-term to death will show a better way forward than what’s present.

It’s important to live a life worth living, and nothing puts living in perspective like the prospect of timely, tangible death. To prepare for that eventuality, deathwalks expose what needs to be put in order to make the most of our time for ourselves and others.

Deathwalks have served me greatly, changing the very foundation of how I live my life. Only being human, I forget at times and fall into ruts that were not dug for me, so periodic reacquisitions of perspective are a necessity. Like visiting a doctor, visiting ourselves is a huge part of wellness.

This entire post has been pretty high-level, and for that, apologies! The intimate nature of “going for a walk” demands it, but if you’d have more to add, or have done similar things in your life, please share! I super-enthusiastic to know how others go about finding themselves and putting necessary things first.

Thanks for getting through the content! Will aim for something more blissful next time. With that, cheers!