Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Where are you and where are you going?
classical_Liberal
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by classical_Liberal » Wed Nov 14, 2018 12:47 am

Glad to read things are feeling better!
suomalainen wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 3:55 pm
And most recently, instead of "trying to be happy", I've focused more on "trying to be not unhappy".
This is an ever-important distinction I have also recently stumbled upon. I think humans are pretty horrible at predicting what will make us happy, but we are pretty good at knowing what is sucking-up our life presently.

Jason
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by Jason » Wed Nov 14, 2018 5:02 am

black_son_of_gray wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:27 pm
Kurt Vonnegut on his uncle Alex:


It's hard to simultaneously feel both [insert negative emotion] and gratitude.
I personally wouldn't be caught dead saying such stupid saccharine shit out loud but thanks for the important reminder.

black_son_of_gray
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by black_son_of_gray » Wed Nov 14, 2018 12:38 pm

My apologies, I'll take my stupid saccharine shit elsewhere.

Augustus
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by Augustus » Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:03 pm

suomalainen wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 3:55 pm
But then I lift my head out of that space and I look around and I think "But nothing is sucking right this very second." And I'm able to move on. That's new.
Yeah that's really important, I made the same discovery recently as well. Have you ever read Jon Kabat-Zinn? He teaches meditation at a hospital. He said one thing he often noticed was that these people who had horrible illnesses that were very painful often suffered MORE by their own hands, i.e. the misery they fixated on, how their lives were ruined, etc than from the illness itself. That once they stopped the mental agony, and moved on to other thoughts, and it was now just a physical pain, that they felt much better.

I've noticed I have a tendency to dwell on negative things, I have an annoying client right now for example, I was spending much more time having imaginary arguments in my head, or thinking through how annoying the guy was, than the sum total of all my interactions with the guy. Since that realization I've been doing the same thing, realizing that things are nice here and now, and not ruining the 95% good time by putting the 5% of actual annoyingness on replay in my head.

Anyways, Zinn's "Wherever you go, there you are" has been a bible of sorts for me. It's a bunch of short 1-3 page thought exercises that really help gain perspective. It also has zero woo, no spiritual stuff to muddy the waters, which I appreciate a lot, since anyone can read it, regardless of belief system.

suomalainen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by suomalainen » Fri Nov 16, 2018 4:59 pm

It's funny, I think sometimes I even feared letting go of my dark thoughts. Like maybe there was some FOMO that if I let go of them, if I didn't continue trying to needle meaning out of them, that I would miss out on some great secret. I don't know if my wife ever said this to me, or perhaps if I was simply indicted by another part of my own mind, but I have some memory of someone saying to me that "I think you like being depressed and cynical; I think you WANT things to become and stay shitty; I think you NEED it." Perhaps I established it as a sort of foil against which I defined myself. "Everything sucks, and I'm such a special snowflake to be the ONLY ONE to see the truth that everything is bullshit."

Well, yes, everything IS bullshit, but that doesn't mean anything. You can still enjoy it; it can still be useful; you can still see meaning in it; you might even be able to conquer countries with it. The trick, I think, is to wink at it and enjoy it anyway.

@augustus, no I don't think I've read Jon Kabat-Zinn, but I have read about him, I think. It's been on my lazy to-read list, which gets attention only in fits and starts.

@bsog, you can keep your saccharine shit outta @jace's journal, but nothing, apparently, is out of bounds in this journal (having just re-skimmed through the flurry of marital theory posts from this summer).

Jason
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by Jason » Sat Nov 17, 2018 6:05 am

Whenever I read or hear someone say "I hit rock bottom" I think, no. There's always more bottom. The universe is nothing but bottom. The question is how far you want to go and what you think you'll find there and why you are so insistent on plummeting its depths. As deep or as meaningful as it is to you, its still just your little expedition anyways. No one gives a shit and no one knows where you are in it. There's nothing verifiable that you can bring back that says you were even there. Well, unless you are one of those unfortunate ones who stared into the eyes of a dead crackwhore. But anyway, the question is what has it gotten you up to this point? Did it ever really change your position. Asking why you think a certain way is just as important as asking why you do a certain thing.

suomalainen
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November

Post by suomalainen » Sun Dec 02, 2018 2:11 pm

Mental
November was a tough month. I'm not sure if it was trying to adjust from my vacation or just a stressful month, but there were some dark mental days in that stretch. Nevertheless, I was able to step outside of myself for a bit and notice that the cloud hanging over me was a cloud that was held in place...by me. Releasing it let me notice that all was not shit in the world. I think some of this is letting my anxiety get out of control and not doing enough to mindfully bring my blood pressure, heart rate and breathing down on a regular basis when I get amped up from work or kids or stress or whatever.

Physical
Weight has not been coming off and I think I hit my daily peak again at ~243 pounds. Trying to be more mindful about my food intake so as to stop "eating my feelings". Food is fuel, not a tutti (binkie, pacifier, whatever).

Job
Busy. Also been in the process of interviewing for another job. We'll see how it goes.

Budget
Wife was just over budget at $5221, even though I think she thought she was well under budget at around $4000. We'll have to see where that disconnect is, but it largely doesn't matter. The point is that she is excited about our new arrangement and is actually paying attention to money. Also a plus is that we don't argue over money any more. Just the other day she made a comment about how great it is that she can leave the Christmas tree lights on overnight and I don't even complain about them or unplug them after she goes to bed. She also said something along the lines of wanting to see how this $5000/month works out over a year before agreeing to a smaller number even though she thinks she can do a smaller number. I dunno. The psychological/marital benefit far outweighs the monetary benefits, so I'm not pressing for a smaller number. I "pay" my wife $5000/month to keep all 5 of us alive and I don't have to care what she spends it on. Win win. We do have more soup than we used to, so, you know, tanstaafl/tinstaafl. TTM dividend/expense ratio edged up to just over 16%.

Reading
"You must find the most important words a man can say." Those words came to me from one who claimed to have seen the future.
"How is this possible," I asked in return, "have you been touched by the void?"
The reply was laughter. "No, sweet king, the past is the future and as each man has lived, so must you."
"So I can but repeat what has been done before?"
"In some things, yes. You will love; you will hurt; you will dream; and you will die. Each man's past is your future."
"Then what is the point," I asked, "if all has been seen and done?"
"The question," she replied, "is not whether you will love, hurt, dream and die - it is what you will love, why you will hurt, when you will dream and how you will die. This is your choice. You cannot pick the destination, only the path."
This started my journey, and this begins my writings. I cannot call this book a story, for it fails at its most fundamental to be a story. It is not one narrative, but many, and though it has a beginning, here on this page, my quest can never truly end. I wasn't seeking answers - I felt that I had those already, plenty, in multitude, from a thousand different sources. I wasn't seeking myself - this is a platitude that people have ascribed to me and I find the phrase lacks meaning. In truth, by leaving, I was seeking only one thing - a journey.

lightly edited from chapter 105 of Oathbringer, third book in the Stormlight series
This is from a book I'm listening to as I'm walking the halls at work to stretch my legs. Somehow the passage struck a chord with me, as I sometimes find the repetitiveness of life to be quite disheartening. It's easier to feel inspired when you are reaching for or building something new than when you are not, such as when you are just keeping the trains running. Of course, the building towards something new is a mirage, as you are never really building anything new, but simply reinventing a wheel that someone else has already built.* But in either case, whether building something new (to you) or maintaining the previously designed or constructed, such as a day-to-day life of one's choosing, one can view the thing one is doing as having a point, a destination, a goal and one can view oneself as putting one's energy into accomplishing that goal. Call this "the executive view".

Or one can view deliberate paths and goals as mental constructs-cum-barriers. Imagine you are standing in a field wanting to go from point A to point B. God looks on you from above. To you, from field-level, you take a few deliberate steps towards B, then course correct at regular intervals and take a few more steps and so-on, eventually reaching B. To you, you have moved deliberately from point A to point B, having selected a destination and the path to get there, deliberately avoiding certain detours while inadvertently stumbling into others, forcing mid-stream course corrections. In a sense, you're building a maze as you go, with walls put up to keep you from being distracted by things-not-related-to-getting-to-point-B. But to God, from above, the maze doesn't exist! The field is the entirety of possible human experience and the singular path from A to B that you took is but one of many possible paths. Without God's knowledge of your intention to reach point B, it looks like you've just been meandering! Call this "the non-self view".

To try to describe my emotional reaction to the passage above: it's almost like I saw that I am stuck in "the executive view" but the glimpse of being in "the non-self view" was freeing**. To go from thinking of myself as (i) a conscious being (deluded into) thinking it has (more) agency and control over its decisions (than it actually has) - one that is producing the movie from concept to script-writing to casting to filming/directing to (ii) a conscious being accepting the absurdity of its delusions and allowing the movie to happen as it will, more as audience member than producer. In other words - is life really a highly polished big-budget film where I am the hero? Or am I in the audience watching improv at the local comedy club? Or is it that life is the improv while we hustle and bustle about making it appear to ourselves like a full-fledged Hollywood production?

Whether one views life as absurd or not, I think the point of my little hallway revelation is that it needn't be taken so seriously or rigidly. No one's watching anyway, so busy are they with their own productions, so I can take a break from my producer delusions of grandeur without any consequential impacts - the improv show will still march on, and who knows - I may even enjoy the "detours" once I let go of the destination.

* Even "inventing" something new isn't new. Someone already invented "inventing".
** The influence of my year-ish-long focus on mindfulness and Buddhism showing through.

suomalainen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by suomalainen » Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:57 am

I just need to type something out as a way to think through it.

In @1taskaday's journal @2B1S referenced this blog and I read this post: https://livingafi.com/2016/02/24/defini ... t-purpose/ . Combined with an interview I had yesterday, and other life ruminations (gasp!) the brain's been churning, unsurprisingly.
In your current state, as a twenty or thirty or forty something professional, you’re not always happy, but neither are you unhappy. And you’ve internalized the profound benefits that this situation has on your life; you feel safe and secure. So what if you’re bored or frustrated a great deal of the time?

You’re not alone. This is the typical progression for white collar workers. I’m not guessing here. I recently finished reading Stud’s Terkel’s Working, in which the author interviews dozens of people with all sorts of different professions. These themes are depressingly common. Very few people are called into a profession. Most of us stumble into one and find we can manage all right, and goddamn, we need the money, so we trade our time for temporary financial stability, paycheck after paycheck, despite a growing sense of malaise that’s hard to pinpoint as the years pass.
...
[college years are exciting because you are constantly learning new things in new areas and meeting new people and there's not enough permanence to become bored]
...
Now that I’ve fixed the so-called money problem in my life, though, by becoming FI, I can return to that state of flexibility and creativity, if I so choose. (This is one of the main reasons people want to achieve FI, actually — it isn’t that they hate their jobs. They just can’t see doing the same thing for the rest of their lives.)
I'm bored in my job. I'm not learning anything new. Which leads me to feel angsty. But I get paid very well to do this job. And it's not too demanding. Which leads me to not want to consider other jobs where I'd have to start all over (both in terms of skill and pay). Golden handcuffs. Which leads me to consider other similar jobs where if I take on a bit more demands (i.e., go back to a law firm with billing pressures and client handholding, but substantively the same), I'd make a bit more money. Basically same job, so why not go for more money? So long as the extra money > the extra demands.

I just interviewed at a company where I have a good shot at getting an offer - the hiring manager asked a mutual friend for leads and the mutual friend recommended me. The manager of the primary client group knows one of my current clients really well and she got a call from him recommending me as well. I didn't flub any interviews (as far as I could tell). So, a good shot at an offer. The only additional "demands" would be getting to know a new client group and dealing with geography - potential options would be 1) relocating the wife and 3 kids, 2) long-commuting (week at work, weekends at home) or 3) telecommuting with some long-commuting mixed in (ratios TBD).

Where I'm shaking out is I'm trying to realize that my angst from boredom/golden handcuffs can't be resolved by a job change - it'll just be same shit different office. So I either have to grow some balls and do something scary/new while turning off the money shower or I have to embrace the angst/boredom/golden handcuffs as the obvious costs for the obvious benefits of my current career.

edit: from the first review on Amazon of Studs Terkel's Working mentioned above, which really resonates:
Many jobs are "too small for one's spirit." People need to feel challenged in order to be fulfilled. A job which is secure and pays adequately may mean complete misery if there's no challenge or sense of meaningful contribution.

jacob
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by jacob » Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:18 am

Even if it's a lot of money, I've never found it the case that recreational doodads purchased with such money are able to create the same happiness as an exciting job. That might just be me, but that's the equation that has to hold. Is the extra money capable of purchasing the inspiration that would come with work at a lower income but which otherwise has to be purchased mostly as recreational or status products if one's higher paying job feels uninspiring?

suomalainen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by suomalainen » Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:36 am

The extra money is not so much for buying distractions, but a "I'm already doing this thing here, so why not get paid more for doing the same thing over there?" It would just go into savings, I guess.

Re: the exciting job thing...nothing really excites me so long as I know that I'll need more money than I currently have. If a job were just for the fun of it AND I could do it for a few years and then try something else when I got bored, great. But the fact is that I have to stay working for the foreseeable future, if only for "safety" reasons (3 kids, so healthcare and other exigencies). So, full circle, if I'm going to be working for money anyway...might as well maximize the $/BS ratio. I guess this goes back to what I think @cL was describing for his own situation.

Augustus
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by Augustus » Fri Dec 07, 2018 11:16 am

Business travel just ends up feeling like a really long annoying commute. Waking up ridiculously early, jumping through hoops at airport or driving, then by the time you're at work you just want to call it a day. Then when you're in a hotel you're always missing something or forgot something. Your wife will get mad you're not pulling your weight. Etc. Not recommended IMO.

Moves...ugh... expensive hassles. One huge mistake I made was moving from a large economic area to a small one, all my clients were out of state because the in state ones didn't pay well.

Remote/telecommuting is nice. You run the risk of getting let go sooner than in house employees though.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by classical_Liberal » Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:04 pm

suomalainen wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:36 am
But the fact is that I have to stay working for the foreseeable future, if only for "safety" reasons (3 kids, so healthcare and other exigencies). So, full circle, if I'm going to be working for money anyway...might as well maximize the $/BS ratio. I guess this goes back to what I think @cL was describing for his own situation.
Interestingly, I make this argument for the exact opposite reason. I tell myself to put up with the relative boredom/misery with the best $:BS ratio because it wont last for long. I tend to think it was easier to switch professions pre-ERE knowledge, simply because my tolerance for misery was lower when I thought I was stuck doing it for 30+ more years.

Not saying your reasoning is wrong, just interesting how it's different. I think we both are probably placing walls in our life maze, as you described above. That being said, I've done the career switch thing a few times. The last one had a pretty big educational investment in time and $. It only took about two years for discontent to begin to return in new careers. In my experience, It takes a bit more time than that to maximize income in a field.

So, if you are anything like me, high investment in education/training is probably not worth it. However, if you can switch it up without that initial investment, a couple of years is a decent amount of time to be more satisfied. It could hurt the income flow if you need to restart at a lower rung on the ladder in something different. Or maybe the new, very similar gig will provide enough change to keep you content, who knows? Sounds like some kind of change is in order though. I would suggest, if you do make a job change, try to expand your skill base in the new job as much as possible. It could make future moves easier, since you plan to be in this for the long hall.

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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by jacob » Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:29 pm

classical_Liberal wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:04 pm
I tend to think it was easier to switch professions pre-ERE knowledge, simply because my tolerance for misery was lower when I thought I was stuck doing it for 30+ more years.
You mean higher?

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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by classical_Liberal » Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:45 pm

@jacob,
No, tolerance for misery was lower pre-ERE than in my present state. It was much more difficult to deal with a future of endless day-to-day drudgery, than it is to deal with said drudgery with a near-term end point. IOW, a prisoner with a life sentence has very little to lose in an attempted jail break, someone serving only one year has a lot to lose (extended term of stay).

Before (ERE) I cared more about reducing the net total of the "BS" side of the ratio, expecting an endless life of it. Now I want to maximize the $:BS ratio, even if it means a net increase on the BS side.

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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by ThisDinosaur » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:11 pm

@cL
ERE/FIRE has had the exact opposite effect on my BS tolerance. I was an ambitious, careerist, workaholic before I learned that there was another option. Now I feel like a high school senior, counting down the days to graduation.

I've been trying to remind myself lately that the FI is more important than the RE.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by classical_Liberal » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:36 pm

@TD
I believe my current feelings (discussion in my journal referenced by @Suomalaisen) is directly related to my very specific situation.

One to three years ago, earlier in my ERE journey, I would completely agree with your comment. If I were very near full FI I bet I would agree as well. Presently, I'm in a situation of reaching my semi-ERE goal and can't seem to pull the trigger. I've been in the process of divorcing (or at least a legal separation :D ) my current career for awhile now, so the BS level is higher than previous anyway.

I've moved through other objections to the "I'm miserable, but at least I'm comfortably" objection in section 1.2 of the ERE book. So this comment is not to say that I'm more tolerant of misery because of ERE. Rather my current situation in OMY mindset has made me more tolerant of a temporary net increase of misery if it maximizes $:BS ration in my current career. @Suomalaisen was looking to max the same ratio, but stated he is doing so because "I have to stay working for the foreseeable future". Which seems a very different reason to come to the same conclusion.

To follow the example of the prisoner above; I'm like the prisoner about to be paroled from a previously expected life sentence. I have a great deal of apprehension of being able to "make it" on the outside. So any advantage I can give myself while I'm still stuck in jail should be maximized, even if that means making my remaining time a bit more harsh. Simultaneously, I'm willing to do just about anything while still "inside" to make sure I don't screw this chance up.

suomalainen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by suomalainen » Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:27 pm

To be fair/clear, if expected BS is the same (and fairly low) in either situation (same corporate BS, different office), the only variable to tweak in the ratio is $.* That is my assumption since I will essentially be doing the exact same job. No new skills to develop really unless I do a completely different area of law (not interested) or leave law completely. Or try to go upper management (no thank you). This really is it: "it isn’t that they hate their jobs. They just can’t see doing the same thing for the rest of their lives." It's malaise and boredom and lack of excitement I'm solving for. Or I would be solving for, if I also didn't have to solve for $. :lol:

* The reason I haven't gone back to the biglaw firm is even though it's more money, it's also a lot more BS, so the ratio wouldn't have gone up appreciably and likely would have gone down.

100% understand the high school senior analogy. It's tough to have that mindset when you're in the fourth grade. :evil:

suomalainen
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Book Review: Why Buddhism is True

Post by suomalainen » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:30 pm

First, an observation: this book has helped me "slow down" in a few important ways. First, I haven't really been reading anything for a while. I've been listening to books on tape, but that's actually quite stimulating (audially). As I tried to read this book, I found it a bit of a slog. Not because it was poorly written or anything, but because it sorta deals with the topic of slowing down, and being in an anxious state found me resisting a change toward slowness and less stimulation. Second, once I got over the humps of reading a chapter here and there, it did help me slow down - by having me read something instead of listen or watch something and secondly by having me read about slowing down. And third, having broken the back of anxiously seeking constant stimulation, I have had a few evenings after everyone's gone to bed (wife and 3 kids), where I stayed downstairs, had a beer, read my book or typed on this computer. Not being stimulated all the time, when you're constantly surrounded by stimuli (work, kids, tv/audio books), is very nice. I wonder if excessive cortisol has negative physiological effects or is linked to alzheimers or something.

Anyway, onto the book, this is long, but here are the notes I typed in my reading journal consisting of some quotes from the book (in quotations) and some occasional editorializing by me here and there (not in quotations):

Why Buddhism is True
Robert Wright

The book is really a discussion of the intersection of "secular Buddhism" (i.e., take out the mystical god-y stuff and just focus on the philosphy/psychology stuff) and evolutionary psychology. At times the pace felt a bit too slow, but all in all, it was a good read. I thoroughly enjoy the evolutionary psychology stuff that I've read here and by Dan Dennett and Sean Carroll*. I just find it fascinating to think of how a human came to be made, to think of a modern human's creation in terms of natural selection pressures, and to think of how our technology is outstripping our biology.

He referenced a prior book he wrote named The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life, and noted that the Matrix creators had that book in mind when they prepared for their movie. “Evolutionary psychology can be described in various ways, and here’s one way I had described it in my book: It is the study of how the human brain was designed - by natural selection - to mislead us, even enslave us.” Pg. 3. When I read this, I immediately thought of selection pressures on groups of people to work together as a cohesive unit which I think would force a “sheeple” type psychology. He goes on to discuss hedonic adaptation and how brief slices of pleasure seeking - to keep us coming back for more sex, food, etc - would have evolutionary benefits. “In fact, one of the take-home lessons of Buddhist philosophy is that feelings just are. If we accepted their arising and subsiding as part of life, rather than reacting to them as if they were deeply meaningful, we’d often be better off. Learning to do that is a big part of what mindfulness meditation is about.” Pg. 27. “The ancestral environment - the environment of our evolution - featured lots of social interaction, and this interaction had great consequence for our genes. If you had low social status and few friends, that cut your chances of spreading your genes, so impressing people mattered, …Similarly, if your offspring didn’t thrive socially, that boded ill for their reproductive prospects, and hence for you genes. So genes inclining us toward anxiety about our social prospects and our progeny’s social prospects seem to have become part of the human gene pool.” Pg. 38.

From chapter 7, “The Mental Modules That Run Your Life” is this idea that our feelings end up unconsciously selecting a mental module that presupposes us to certain reactions. For example, if we’re feeling scared, we are presupposed to a heightened sense of self-preservation compared to if we weren’t feeling scared. This example is intended to show that “we” are not some stable stagnant thing, but we are different things depending on what feelings we are experiencing at the moment. A further point that was only briefly touched on is that we don’t select the feelings that we have; rather, feelings are largely our reactions to current environments. It brought to my mind this comparison of humans to light-sensing blobs “merely” reacting to our environments in clear, evolutionarily beneficial patterns.

“Feelings are, among other things, your brain’s way of labeling the importance of thoughts, and importance (in natural selection’s somewhat crude sense of the term) determines which thoughts enter consciousness.” Pg. 119.

“In the eighteenth century, the Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote that human reason is ‘the slave of the passions.’…But Hume meant ‘passions’ in a different sense; he meant feelings, broadly speaking. He was saying that, though rational thought plays an important role in human motivation, it is in a certain sense never really calling the shots. When we decide to do something, we decide on the basis of feeling.” Pg. 121. “This all makes sense when you think about it in evolutionary terms. After all, feelings are the original motivators. Good and bad feelings are what natural selection used to goad animals into, respectively, approaching things or avoiding things, acquiring things or rejecting things; good feelings were assigned to things like eating and bad feelings to things like being eaten. Over time, bit by bit, animals got smarter, but the point of smarts, from natural selection’s perspective, isn’t to replace feelings but rather to make them better informed; intelligence helps animals do a more sophisticated job of figuring out what to approach or avoid, acquire or reject - that is, what to feel good about or bad about. So, over evolutionary time, though the calculations that inform our feelings get more and more elaborate, the feelings continue to be what ultimately steer us through life.” Pg. 124.

Discussing formlessness or emptiness: “as we go about our day-to-day lives, we impart a kind of narrative meaning to things. Ultimately these narratives assume large form. We decide that something we’ve done was a huge mistake, and if we had done something else instead, everything would be wonderful. Or we decide that we must have some particular possession or achievement, and if we don’t get it, everything will be horrible. Underlying these narratives, at their foundation, are elementary narrative judgments about the goodness or badness of things in themselves. So, for example, if I start spinning a long narrative about how coming to this meditation retreat was a huge mistake, and I’m always making mistakes like this, and so on, there are a number of questionable premises on which this story rests. There’s the premise that, had I not gone on this retreat, whatever I did instead would have gone swimmingly, whereas for all I know, I would have been run over by a bus. There’s the premise that having a few painful experiences this week means the retreat was on balance bad for me, whereas in fact the long-term effects are unknowable. And at the base of this narrative lie the most basic kinds of premises: simple perceptual judgments such as 'this buzz-saw sound I hear while trying to meditate is bad.' And this kind of meaning, which seems so firmly embedded in the texture of things, isn’t, in fact, an inherent feature of reality; it is something we impose on reality, a story we tell about reality. We build stories on stories on stories, and the problem with the stories begins at their foundation. Mindfulness meditation is, among other things, a tool for examining our stories, carefully, from the ground up, so that we can, if we choose, separate truth from fabrication. Pg. 151-152.

“It is through [a person’s sensory faculties] that a person’s consciousness makes contact with the material world…[upon which] feelings arise…[and] feelings give rise to tanha, to ‘craving’: we crave the pleasant feelings and crave to escape the unpleasant feelings…’It is here in this space between feeling and craving that the battle will be fought which will determine whether bondage will continue indefinitely into the future or whether it will be replaced by enlightenment and liberation. For if instead of yielding to craving, to the driving thirst for pleasure, if a person contemplates with mindfulness and awareness the nature of feelings and understands these feelings as they are, then that person can prevent craving from crystallizing and solidifying.’…it is also liberation in the here and now, liberation from the suffering tanha brings - liberation from the craving to capture pleasant feelings and escape unpleasant feelings, liberation from the persistent desire for things to be different than they are.” Pg. 218-219. Part of the theory here is really that a human is subject to all of these environmental factors that unconsciously carry with them certain feelings (which can certainly be culturally attuned), but aren’t really choices. In this way, human behavior can be on a certain amount of reactionary autopilot that can be broken if we mindfully choose to disassociate the feeling - to see that the feeling is more “the situation” than “us”. They aren’t “our” feelings so much as “the feeling caused by that external stimulus”. “This has been the point of much of this book. The human brain is a machine designed by natural selection to respond in pretty reflexive fashion to the sensory input impinging on it. It is designed, in a certain sense, to be controlled by that input. And a key cog in the machinery of control is the feelings that arise in response to the input. If you interact with those feelings via tanha - via the natural, reflexive thirst for the pleasant feelings and the natural, reflexive aversion to the unpleasant feelings - you will continue to be controlled by the world around you. But if you observe those feelings mindfully rather than just reacting to them, you can in some measure escape the control.” Pg. 219-220.

“You might say that the path of meditation progress consists largely of becoming aware of the causes impinging on you, aware of the way things manipulate you - and aware that a key link in that manipulation lies in the space where feelings can give rise to tanha, to a craving for pleasant feelings and an aversion to unpleasant feelings. This is the space where mindfulness can critically intervene….
I’m not talking about an abstract understanding - an academic awareness - of these chains of causality. I’m talking about a carefully cultivated experiential understanding, a mindful awareness that brings the power to break, or at least loosen, the chains.
That said, undergirding this experiential understanding, and often accompanying it, is the more abstract understanding that is part of Buddhist philosophy. Making real progress in mindfulness meditation almost inevitably means becoming more aware of the mechanics by which your feelings, if left to their own devices, shape your perception, thoughts, and behavior – and becoming more aware of the things in your environment that activate those feelings in the first place. You could say that enlightenment in the Buddhist sense has something in common with enlightenment in the western scientific sense: it involves becoming more aware of what causes what.
All of this flies in the face of stereotype. Mindfulness meditation is often thought of as warm and fuzzy and, in a way, anti-rational. It is said to be about ‘getting in touch with your feelings’ and ‘not making judgments.’ And, yes, it does involve those things. It can let you experience your feelings - anger, love, sorrow, joy - with new sensitivity, seeing their texture, even feeling their texture, as never before. And the reason this is possible is that you are, in a sense, not making judgments - that is, you are not mindlessly labeling your feelings as bad or good, not fleeing from them or rushing to embrace them. So you can stay close to them yet not be lost in them; you can pay attention to what they actually feel like.
Still, you do this not in order to abandon your rational faculties but rather to engage them: you can now subject your feelings to a kind of reasoned analysis that will let you judiciously decide which ones are good guiding lights. So what ‘not making judgments’ ultimately means is not letting your feelings make judgments for you. And what ‘getting in touch with your feelings’ ultimately means is not being so oblivious to them that you get pushed around by them. And all of this means informing your responses to the world with the clearest possible view of the world.
Underlying this whole endeavor is a highly mechanistic conception of how the mind works. The idea is to finely sense the workings of the machine and use that understanding to rewire it, to subvert its programming, to radically alter its response to the causes, the conditions, impinging on it.” Pg. 222-224.

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I really like that idea: liberation from the craving to capture pleasant feelings and escape unpleasant feelings, liberation from the persistent desire for things to be different than they are. I have been a slave to this idea for far too long - thinking that money/ERE would solve this problem. No matter where you go, there you are. If I'm going to be a miserable prick over here because I focus and stew on the negative, well, I'm going to be a miserable prick over there too. The solution isn't to wish that life were different; the solution is to dive headfirst into both the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of life, at all times and in all stages, knowing that life is pleasantness and unpleasantness. Wishing for a lack of unpleasantness is the same as wishing to be rid of one's life. Since I'm not dead by my own hand yet, I must want to live, so I may as well learn what it means to live and to do it.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms...
Living deliberately does not require changing one's external circumstances, such as going to the woods. Going to the woods to live a spartan, essential, sturdy existence is not required; seeing past all the bullshit to see life as it really is can be done here. It can be done now.

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* The Big Picture, Sean Carroll. Poetic naturalism. The world follows the laws of physics and everything we know about physics rules out other substances and other forces interacting with the physical stuff that makes up us and the world we interact with. The confusion often comes when we mix vocabularies - when we try to discuss emergent phenomena like consciousness or fluid mechanics with the vocabulary of quantum mechanics. "The most important thing about life is that it occurs out of equilibrium, driven by the second law. To stay alive, we have to continually move, process information, and interact with our environment." Pg 391-392. "When our lives are in good shape, and we are enjoying health and leisure, what do we do? We play. Once the basic requirements of food and shelter have been met, we immediately invent games and puzzles and competitions. That's a light-hearted and fun manifestation of a deeper impulse: we enjoy challenging ourselves, accomplishing things, having something to show for our lives. That makes sense, in light of evolution. An organism that didn't give a crap about anything that happened to it would be at a severe disadvantage in the struggle for survival when compared to one that looked out for itself, its family, and its compatriots. We are built from the start to care about the world, to make it matter. Our evolutionary heritage isn't the whole story. The emergence of consciousness means that what we care about, and how we behave in response to those impulses, can change over time as a result of our learning, our interaction with others, and our own self-reflection." Pg 392. "The mistake we make in putting emphasis on happiness is to forget that life is a process, defined by activity and motion, and to search instead for the one perfect state of being. There can be no such state, since change is the essence of life." Pg 426.

daylen
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Re: Book Review: Why Buddhism is True

Post by daylen » Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:01 pm

suomalainen wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:30 pm
I wonder if excessive cortisol has negative physiological effects or is linked to alzheimers or something.
Chronic stress is the number one killer in modern society. It is linked to heart disease, cancer, accidents, suicide, and much more.

I enjoyed your review by the way. Sounds like a lot of the same stuff I have been thinking about. I might get around to reading the book someday, but I have a lot of other stuff lined up. Been treading deep into the world of evolutionary biology.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by classical_Liberal » Fri Dec 14, 2018 6:46 am

Heavy stuff and I really enjoyed reading, thanks! I've never delved too deep into Buddhist waters, but I have always been a believer in some form of meditation. Although my practice has been erratic through the years. Recently I started listening to old Alan Watts lectures on youtube. The connections he makes between Bhuddhist practices and rational thought have impressed me... and now this.

Your last bolded portion heavily reminds me of a favorite Marcus Aurelius quote from Meditations "Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away."

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