Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

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

Post by jacob » Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:56 am


Hristo Botev
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by Hristo Botev » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:41 am

I've very much enjoyed catching up with your journal, @Suo. Given our strikingly similar life paths, I feel the urge to chime in as you seem to be at a crossroads.

First:
suomalainen wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:57 am
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).
I'm sure you know this, and @Gus already chimed in, but that "geography" demand is a big one. My dad did the long commute thing when I was growing up (week at work in other states, weekend at home), and it sucked. I barely saw him and it has affected our relationship to this day. I'm sure there are people who can make it work (and perhaps the telecommuting could work on that front). But it's got to be tough, as family mostly happens in our current culture in the mundane experiences of getting everyone ready and out the door in the morning and then fed and settled down for bed in the evenings. And if you're doing the long commute thing, you're not really part of that. I gave up a bunch of guaranteed income when I left the big firm for the boutique firm earlier this year, and a big part of the reason I did that was because even a ~35-minute commute was too much time away from family, when given the option of taking less guaranteed money to have ~5 minutes by bike between home, work, and kids' school.

Second:
suomalainen wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:30 pm
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 like this as well. Similar, sort of, from Aristotle: "Existing for pleasure alone is a vulgar state befitting animals. A man can achieve pure happiness only by reaching the height of his potential, and that means not just thinking virtuously but behaving virtuously too."

This also reminds me of the Jesuit notion of detachment, or the Stoic sense of detachment.

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Book Review: Why Buddhism is True

Post by ThisDinosaur » Fri Dec 14, 2018 4:16 pm

suomalainen wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:30 pm
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've always had trouble with this part of Buddhism. If you successfully eliminated tanha/craving/attachment, you would never do anything. You'd sit still in the lotus position until you died of dehydration. This seems like a very undesirable state for any organism. Especially in the context of all those evo-psych quotes you connected to this. If you follow them to their natural conclusions, it's obvious [to me] that our brains are just part of an elaborate contraption for carrying our gonads around.

Lack of tanha leads to extinction. Acceptance of extinction is not a natural state.

daylen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by daylen » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:36 pm

Any principal taken to its literal end is indistinguishable from fundamentalism. The alternative is to assume incompleteness and/or inconsistency for all such principles, then to act in a way that denies the priority of any one of them.

suomalainen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by suomalainen » Sat Dec 15, 2018 5:03 pm

@td A few responses - 1) any ancient system of thought is not going to hold up all that well to modern analysis when pushed to its extremes; 2) I think the author addresses that issue, but either due to his half-hearted defense or my lack of interest, I do not recall the specifics; 3) perhaps the key word there is "persistent" - if it's intermittent, is it so bad?; 4) if you want to eliminate tanha/craving/attachment, aren't you craving/attached to the idea of eliminating it? Can god create a rock so heavy he can't lift it?; 5) my takeaway is not a purist perspective - for me, it just means that as a human, my cravings are perhaps not quite as bounded as for a "pure animal" - it seems to me that human animals have a greater tendency than other animals for their natural cravings to get stuck in the "on" position. Other animals eat, have sex, etc., but they don't seem to be as "persistent" about it as we are. So, for me, it's more like bringing tanha/craving/attachment back to the "normal" position. It's okay to eat to satisfy your hunger, but not to medicate your sadness, for example. Mindfulness meditation is more about unsticking the switch so it can naturally fluctuate between off and on rather than forcing it from being persistently on to persistently off.

@hb and @aug thx for the perspectives. I have a friend here who encouraged me to apply for that job - said it was an exercise that would "sharpen the mind." As I thought about it, I agreed that long distance commuting wouldn't be worth it no matter how much it paid (ok, maybe for a million bucks I'd do it for a year). If we were starving and it were our only option, sure. But I have a good gig, so I'd only change jobs if I could do it remotely or if wife was fully onboard with a move (she's not). I may not get an offer anyway, but my friend was right - it was a good thought exercise at the very least.

@hb I like the quote from Aristotle. I don't know whether I'm so caught up in seeking "pleasure" per se. I think "pleasant feelings" is broader and more accurately captures what I've been searching for. As I think I've said a few dozen billion times in the last ten years "I just wish it could be easy for once." But life can be messy and hard along with pleasing and fun. You can't just take the pleasant parts.

@jacob I do hope that's how I grow old. The detachment from the kids is a current primary focus - trying to let them govern how close they want to be vs how independent they want to be.

@cL one of my favorite things to do is sit by a river/stream and watch/listen to it flow by while thinking about what exactly defines a river. It seems to defy definition. The enlightened river boatman in Siddhartha also does this. Maybe I'm seeking enlightenment by doing that.

@daylen I'd be interested in the physiological pathways by which "chronic stress" causes/is linked to those various diseases. If you have any recommendations for readings in evolutionary biology, please share. My science reading level would be bachelors/masters level at the highest, but nothing in the technical phD realm. Eyes glaze over.

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by ThisDinosaur » Sun Dec 16, 2018 7:26 am

So, you want 'selective' elimination of cravings, right? Some cravings are useful and desirable, but others are not? I agree. But I dont see that as consistent with buddhism.

1)all life has suffering, 2)the source of all suffering is wanting, 3)the way to end suffering is to stop wanting,4)this path is how you stop wanting.
At the end of the path is enlightenment, which involves recognizing that it is the Self that wants, but the Self is an illusion.

Where in that path is there a place to stop and say, "wanting this is acceptable," and make an exception? I'm not quibbling. I suspect this is a flaw in my understanding and the answer may be trivial. This tradition wouldn't be followed for thousands of years if this was a real stumbling block.

For contrast, stoicism offers the opportunity for selective wanting. The algorithm there is:

Dont like it? Can you change it?
If Yes/Change It.
If No/ Change Self.

We were talking about animals that digest their own brains when they dont need them anymore in the Jordan Peterson thread. There are a few in nature, and the pattern reveals what brains are for: Effecting change on the environment in response to sensory information. IOW, brains are for action. Brains exist for :
suomalainen wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:30 pm
the persistent desire for things to be different from how they are.

Jason
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by Jason » Sun Dec 16, 2018 8:20 am

Personally, I think this whole life long endeavor to deny the fact that an individual is materially/historically embedded is a complete waste of time. I mean if the self is an illusion, is excrement an illusion too? It certainly doesn't smell like it.

The problem with wants is that they lead to have to's and "I'll be happy if (fill in blank)." At that point you have given up agency. Maybe take a more creative approach and say "I want to" or "I decide to" or "I would like to". And then ask yourself "Why I want to". Investigate your desires. I mean who says you have to do anything.

daylen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by daylen » Sun Dec 16, 2018 9:26 am

ThisDinosaur wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 7:26 am
We were talking about animals that digest their own brains when they dont need them anymore in the Jordan Peterson thread. There are a few in nature, and the pattern reveals what brains are for: Effecting change on the environment in response to sensory information. IOW, brains are for action. Brains exist for :
This kind of thinking is narrow. There is no single evolutionary purpose for any part of our ecology (even brains). This comes back to my previous statement of assuming incompleteness.

Seems that ancient texts that discuss being and becoming are best used as lense through which to construct and to test out new selves. As Jason pointed out, this is best done with an understanding of how [insert tradition here] evolved with respect to the individuals that sustained it. Otherwise, false interpretation is likely.

There does seem to be something to isolating and simulating systems, but this works best when done with systems that can be observed in nearly isolated states (quarks, numbers, and rocks). Reductionism is subject to increased likelihood of false conclusions as the complexity and integration of the system in question increases.

@Suo I will do some research and get back to you.

Jason
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by Jason » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:00 am

I believe Suo is ultimately addressing the issue of despair. And there is no greater philosopher on the issue than Kierkegaard. The conundrum is that if Suo wants something, and does not receive it, he is now despairing over not just that something, but himself who didn't get that something. Kierkegaard uses the example of the man who wants to be Caesar, does not get to be Caesar, and is now despairing not that he didn't get to be Caesar, but despairing over himself who is not Caesar. Ironically, this despair validates the self. That is why he stated the highest calling is the will to be oneself which involves finding a truth and becoming that truth. I don't claim to understand it, but the acceptance of a raw, nagging, unending despair has helped me immeasurably as I have come to realize something external is not going to make it go away. The soul, by nature, aches and is lonely.

Well, enough of the navel gazing. What do you think about MMM getting divorced?

suomalainen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by suomalainen » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:26 am

The book's title Why Buddhism Is True is really click-baity. A more descriptive title would have been Why Meditating Is Good For You, but that's not gonna get any clicks. I'm not hung up on the "truth of the wholeness" of any particular ancient ideology. And this particular book was expressly about "secular Buddhism" to which "real Buddhists" would probably object on any number of levels. So it was a "what's good about Buddhism from a practical standpoint" and it didn't really touch on much of the supernatural stuff. And the author did discuss enlightenment and basically said "yeah you'll never get there, but that's not the point, the point is to be getting closer." I dunno. YMMV. But in my mind no one religion/philosophy has a monopoly on good ideas (or bad ones!). So, yeah, I pick and choose without any angst about not being a purist.

And speaking of the self as an illusion, I have actually had some neat experiences in that realm. I have done something similar on a number of occasions, but the very first time went like this: I'm out for a brief walk during work. It was late summer. The temperature was just right, the sun's position in the sky was just right, so the usually trashy looking wetlands had this golden glow about them, and I looked at the trees and the plants around me and I sort of felt them or felt at one with them. And I had the thought that I wasn't separate from the scene, observing it as an outsider, rather I was part of it. In fact, I realized in that moment that I was a part of the universe and that the universe was observing itself through me. The universe itself is conscious! Now that's not a very grand experience and the truth of it falls in the "well, duh" category, but somehow I just find it very soothing to have that perspective now and again. To realize that it's not me and the rest of the world as two different things. It's just the world. And I'm a very small part of the world. I'm a nothing. Maybe "self as illusion" is a misnomer, like the click-baity title. Maybe it's just that a conscious being's typical sense of self-importance is a delusion and it would do a being well to take itself down a notch. Perhaps this is no different than the Christian sense of humility. But since I don't believe in god, it's more a sense of humility to the natural world than a supernatural being.

suomalainen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by suomalainen » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:36 am

@jace not sure I've read any Kierkegaard, actually. Maybe something in college, but I don't remember anything specifically. I think all of the various navel-gazing exercises by the various philosophies and religions are ultimately grappling with the same "difficult emotions" or "difficult thoughts" - they're just coming at them from different angles. I don't feel the need to proclaim "this is the right answer", as long as I'm learning something from some philosopher or religious tradition, and I feel like my perspective has expanded, I can say "this was useful and/or helpful". Parts of Christianity (or Mormonism if you see a distinction) were helpful to me; parts of Buddhism were helpful; parts of stoicism; etc.

I am very curious about MMM's divorce, but ultimately I don't think it matters. Humans gonna human and just because you have a super easy, super money-making job (blogger who maybe posts once a month) doesn't mean any other part of your life is going well. In some sense, it is helpful to me to see role-models fall. Not in a gleeful way, I just mean it strips away the celebrity narrative and I see that they're a nothing too, just like me.

Jason
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by Jason » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:58 am

(@) Suo

I think you might want to take a loot at Kierkegaard because he is claimed by both Christians and existentialists which means his thought is not limited to one school.

I was joking about MMM. I just think of Johnny Carson who said (and I paraphrase) "Money solves the money problem. Not other problems."

Hristo Botev
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by Hristo Botev » Mon Dec 17, 2018 2:14 pm

I've been meaning to read Kierkagaard for myself for some time, specifically because I keep hearing from people I follow about what a unique voice he has. And on the pleasure issue, Kierkagaard talks about why it is so hard to move from the "aesthetic" phase of life to the "ethical" one: because the pleasures of the aesthetic life are so real and intense. Here's a great discussion from Bishop Barron (one of my favorite contemporary thinkers) dissecting the Kierkagaard out of Woody Allen's "Vicky, Christina, Barcelona.”

https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/ar ... g-joy/326/

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by ThisDinosaur » Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:21 am

suomalainen wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:26 am
And speaking of the self as an illusion, ...
I've had these experiences, too. Sometimes I try to summon that feeling of Oneness and Awe by thinking about the Gaia hypothesis, or how small we are in the universe or whatever. But it doesnt often work. IOW, I can intellectually understand the Illusion of Self concept without feeling the Awe. I think the feeling and the understanding are from different parts of the brain.

When people do shrooms or LSD, they often describe religious experiences associated with ideas that sound like pablum to sober people. I think that's because psychadelics stimulate the Eureka feelings parts of the brain. The ideas themselves are not as profound as they feel. Evidence for this includes the fact that the hippie generation never achieved world peace.

When we meditate, we are trying to achieve that peaceful "It all makes sense" feeling. Even if nothing has changed externally. Chop wood, carry water.

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by ThisDinosaur » Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:40 am

daylen wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 9:26 am
This kind of thinking is narrow. There is no single evolutionary purpose for any part of our ecology (even brains).
You're right. Everything we say is an oversimplification of reality. It's even an oversimplification of the speaker's understanding of it. The Tao that can be named is not the Tao. Chomsky said, you can't ever really define a word. You can only describe [its usage].

My point about what brains are "for" was that we need them for deciding how to interact with the outside world. Our philosophy is meaningless unless it governs our actions in some useful way.

Our innate motivation to seek good feelings and avoid bad feelings can be satisfied in 2 ways:

Externally, by changing the environment [eating tasty food, getting laid, climbing the social hierarchy....]

or

Internally, by changing our feelings about the environment [meditation, philosophy, drugs, rationalization....].

Stoicism neatly categorizes which approach to take to which problem. Buddhism, it seems to me, says to approach all problems with the internal approach.

suomalainen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by suomalainen » Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:54 am

ThisDinosaur wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:21 am
pablum
Great word. Learn something new every day.

daylen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by daylen » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:19 am

ThisDinosaur wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:40 am
Stoicism neatly categorizes which approach to take to which problem. Buddhism, it seems to me, says to approach all problems with the internal approach.
I get that impression as well. I wonder if this relates to the co-evolution between Buddhism and Confucianism? I imagine in the east the IxxP's focused on the Buddhist school and the ExxJ's focused on the Confucian school? Buddhism is probably attractive to many INxx's in America since ESxx's dominate the culture, it seems. All this relates to the specialized structure of modern societies. ERE and stoicism take a more generalist approach where independence and competence are highly valued.

daylen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by daylen » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:27 am

ThisDinosaur wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:40 am
Externally, by changing the environment [eating tasty food, getting laid, climbing the social hierarchy....]

or

Internally, by changing our feelings about the environment [meditation, philosophy, drugs, rationalization....].
I have also been thinking about this. It seems that habit formation and introspection are in direct opposition to each other. Habits make unconscious assumptions and introspection identifies our assumptions. I am terrible at habit formation, and I think they are overrated. Living for crisis is more anti-fragile if you can stay healthy. All the interesting activity happens at the margins.

daylen
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by daylen » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:52 am

suomalainen wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 5:03 pm
@daylen I'd be interested in the physiological pathways by which "chronic stress" causes/is linked to those various diseases. If you have any recommendations for readings in evolutionary biology, please share. My science reading level would be bachelors/masters level at the highest, but nothing in the technical phD realm. Eyes glaze over.

To start, this is from WIkipedia.
Chronic stress is the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period of time in which an individual perceives they have little or no control. It involves an endocrine system response in which corticosteroids are released. While the immediate effects of stress hormones are beneficial in a particular short-term situation, long-term exposure to stress creates a high level of these hormones. This may lead to high blood pressure (and subsequently heart disease), damage to muscle tissue, inhibition of growth, suppression of the immune system, and damage to mental health.
It is hard to specify specific physiological pathways since the condition is more systemic. The core of it is that prolonged release of corticosteroids dis-regulate the whole system; anxiety increases metabolism, and an increase in energy consumption leads to an increase in cell reproduction which shortens telomeres (our biological clocks). So, being triggered literally speeds up our perception of reality and ages us.

The best introductory book I have found that covers evolutionary theory (and much more) is "Behave" by Robert Sapolsky. I have mentioned it three times now on the forum, but it is well structured and describes the essence of various studies in an easily comprehensible way.

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Suomalaisen Päiväkirja

Post by ThisDinosaur » Tue Dec 18, 2018 12:30 pm

daylen wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:19 am
I imagine in the east the IxxP's focused on the Buddhist school and the ExxJ's focused on the Confucian school? Buddhism is probably attractive to many INxx's in America since ESxx's dominate the culture, it seems.
Agreed. Philosophy, like all advice, is context and person specific. Some people need to be told to be more introspective. Others should be told to be less so. This is why different ideas inspire different people. Buddhism helped me get through a deep depression at one point. Then it stopped "working" for me, as an antidepressant. Had to find something else. Stoicism has been effective for a few years now(*). It also helps to have goals to work towards. (For me, FIRE and fitness goals serve this function.) Persistent, intractable obstacles to these goals trigger depression. That's when philosophy needs to be recallibrated.

(*)Ask your guru if Stoicism is right for you.

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