The story of music
2/22/20 - Our modern world creates the possibility to abuse the arts, where the instantaneous access to nearly all recorded music is just a touch away. In our enourmous playlists which we have curated to fit all moods and activities, we find something truly new and unique in the course of human experience, but in true reflection of our sickly society, we abuse it we take it for granted. Our use of music is in most aspects a form of distraction, whereby the sounds fill our ears to distract us from the hustle of the world around us, but we are highly selective in what we choose to listen to. We choose that which matches our current mood or the mood we wish to enter, and in doing so, become wholly engrossed in ourselves and detached from the artist.
I contend that as I write this I too am guilty as I listen to a Boccherini guitar quitent in search of inspiration. The draw towards using music for self-service is strong and does not invoke a sense of wrong doing. I often think about how our modern experiences of nearly transcendent phenomena is drastically different than from any other time in history. This evokes an important and often ignored question about how far we should allow ourselves to stray from the shared experiences in history before our modern inventions created new and unimaginable ways of experiencing old ideas. What is lost when we lose sight of the ways things were done for most of human history? Nobody thinks about this, and if questioned most would say that it doesn't matter, but I believe one of the primary aspects contributing to our sickly society is our detachment from our historical past. The driving force of that is of course technology, of which I suggest has brought more harm than good, but perhaps it's needed to examine the nooks and crannies of what technology has impacted in order to better solidify this idea. To note I don't think technology is an entierly bad thing, but left unchecked, human greed will corrupt and use technology for self-service rather than for the betterment of all.
So what is lost in the nature of how we now listen to music? The most obvious thing is the human aspect. We are detached from both the composer and performer. We may know their names, but we lose out on the emotion and personality that is transendent when performed in person. In the same vein, we lose variation. We now listen to the same thing a hundred times, performed exactly the same each time. Again we find that the talent, emotion, and personality are diminished. Because we listen to the things we like on repeat, we burn out and soon find ourselves tired of what we once were able to listen to at all hours of the day. Our unending consumption destroyed our emotional connection to the piece we once adored, of which we now find distaste in its predictibility and lack of emotional connection. We also fail to listen attentively, so the music is but pretty shapes projected onto the wall, when in truth they were trying to paint a grand and beautiful picture full of emotion and insight.
On struggling to be original
Perhaps the greatest struggle for the modern philosoper, or amature thinker as you might call me, is to think the thought that has not been thought before. It consumes the mind, the incessant need for originality. Even writing about it generates interal conflict, for what could be said about it that hasn't been said before? I wonder however, if what I seek so adamnatly is simply not possible. That is, that original thoughts cannot be generated by any individual, for every thought builds upon the collective consciousness of ideas and knowledge passed down throughout history. We know this to be true to an extent, that our ideas are based off of the ideas of other people, buidling upon foundations already laid for us. There is also the implication though, that certain theories and philosophies of today simply couldn't exist in previous periods, because they lacked foundations to generate 'new' ideas from. Take for instance Existentialism. Could if have ever had the possibily of being created in say... 1200 CE? It requires no techological advances for its imagining, but it did require people building off of the thinkings of other people. Sartre building off of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, who built off of Kant and Schopenhauer, who built off of... who built off of socrates, who built off of.... and so on and so on.
I don't mean to imply that innovation is not possible, quite the contrary as it's required for ideas to progress, but that certain ideas could not have been formed without the foundations of which they were built upon. Take any respected philosopher, throw them back a few hundred years before their time, and watch as they don't generate the innovative ideas of their time, but ideas more align with their new period. They may still possess the spark of innovation, but they couldn't even dream of thinking the things they thought in their own time.
So then what can we make of the difficulty in achieving originallity of thought? I don't think anyone truly has original thoughts, instead we reshape the ideas of others, add our own spin, and call it our own. I wouldn't be surprised if the greatest thinkers of history, who we attribute as revolutionizing the world through their original ideas, simply borrowed and built upon pre-existing foundations. Their ideas while innovative were not entirely new, for the capacity to generate the thoughts required certain foundational conditions to have been met. In here I argue that it wasn't only the famous philosophers who built these foundations, but any person with a pen to write or a mouth to speak. Many have lived and left no trail to history, but their marks were likely made in the thoughts they inspired in others. Many amature thinkers must have existed whose writings have been lost to time, but their contributions in the time in which they lived, live on. Just as a person today blogs, a person 50 years ago wrote to an op-ed, and a person 300 years ago discussed at a tavern, and so forth.
So perhaps striving for originality is a futile effort. It might be that our efforts are better spent learning many different ideas and then shaping them based off of our own conscious experiences of the world. In this we are freed from the shackles of originality and are reunited with the collective consciousness in which we exist in. To be original is no longer the goal, but to accept help from and conversly constribute towards the collective, in our attempt to explain our own experience.
I will not achieve greatness and that's okay
2/6/2020 .It seems like a hallmark of the modern psyche that we must strive for greatness. To be average or mediocre is to have failed at life, to accept this outcome is the greatest tragedy of all. We live our lives is fear of ourselves, in fear that we are incapable of achieving beyond what could ever possibly be expected by the average person. The term 'average' itself is loaded with hidden meanings, all mostly negative. Average is not good, nor is it bad, yet it evokes dissapointment and contempt. Most things and people in life will be average, that's simply how things work - the more peoples capabilites as a whole shift in one direction, so too will the bell curve follow. So why then do we seek greatness at all cost? What do we seek so to accomplish by being the best? Herein lies one of the most difficult questions most of us will face in our lives: When is enough, enough?
Enough is a quantity, and to have enough is to be content. However, we do not know how much of this quanity will satisfy us. The best we can do is to keep looking for more and hope that at some point, something clicks and we will desire no more. I would wager few reach such a point, though, and instead we adapt to the new average and seek more. The desire for greatness is rarely fueled by our own motivations, for few summit the tops of the highest mountains and tell but not a soul. Instead, we are searching for superiority over our fellow man and the validation that follows. Acceptance and admiration by others might be one of the most primitive goals that we strive for, but it leaves us wanting. Nearly all motivation is rooted here, though much of it misguided. The strive for greatness is simply one way of 'fulfilling' our primitive desires.
The modern world exacerbates the need for greatness by suggesting it as a tenent of a well-lived life. Also, when one contains the capacity to see the greatness of more accomplished people with ease, the standard shifts in accordance. Greatness is not local, but global. We are in competition with every other person in the world, in which the average appears to us extremely skewed towards great accomplishment. We are in a rat race towards nothing. That which we seek compounds further away, driving us towards misery in our comparisons of ourselves towards the world. We do not know where contendedness begins, or if we have merely achieved complacency if we stop the chase.
So shall we do nothing in our lives? Should we ever even strive to be good at something? First we must ask why we do anything at all. We do some things because of an inate need, a biological hardwiring which propels us towards certain primitive actions. To our ancestors, being good at hunting was the difference between life and death. They did most things because they had to, and they got good at things because they had to. We exist in a world where our needs are met, and we are left only with wants. In this world, I believe we should only do things to the extent that we want to do them and largely because we enjoy doing them. Our desires should not be shaped by the outside world, but in that bit of our biology which encodes for every individual certain actions which bring them joy. So long as we enjoy the thing we are doing, we should do it and not worry about the greatness to which we do it. Greatness is not build into us, though obsession is, which is why some people will achieve greatness is the pursuit of the things they enjoy. Others, like myself, should accept our abilites for what they are. We should stop doing the things we no longer enjoy, and forgo the burden of greatness. To me, enjoyment is enough. To hear my violin play notes in pitch, in rhythm, and with emotion is enough. I do not strive to be anything more, for the only reason I would pursue beyond my own capabilities is in the desire for admiration and acceptance. I will never be content so long as I seek the validation of others, for the only reason anything is worth doing, is because I enjoy it. Validation cannot be quantified as enough, but enjoyment can.
I like to have my own theories on things, so much that I find myself neglecting established ideas unless I can come to the same conclusions on my own. I assume this is my ego. Everything I've written so far would appear to just be my ego as I strive to appear more knowing and insightful than other people. At the same time I write for no one, but yet my thoughts are online rather than tucked away in some private google doc. Though no one is here to confirm or deny my superiority, it is actually those two ideas which generate my desire to write: that while no one will read this, there is the possiblity, and also that because no one will read this, my ego cannot be challenged. I do this with most things in my life actually, but I've always told myself that I did it for myself. That cannot be true. I do things and put no effort into making other people see it, but I do give them the possiblity to see it. For instance I do this with youtube, github, this, and soundcloud to an extent. There is something deep inside of me that seeks validation and signifigance, but an equally deep insecurity about my own abilites. I put things out there because I want to be seen, but I put no effort into making these things known because I don't have confidence and am scared of looking the fool.
It's interesting to finally go down this path of thought because I've built up a story about myself that I've identified with for so long, and to shake the chains is to lose a part of my identity. I liked feeling like I was secretly superior to other people, and that they were simply unaware but if they looked hard enough they would discover this almost genius of a person who was so detached from the need of validation that they would gladly hide in the shadows. That was a nice feeling, but it presents a shallow life fueled by egotiscm. However, what presents is the question of "what next?". I could do everything in the shadows, but the feeling of superiority remains. I could stop creating anything at all, but that is actually just lack of confidence and fear of judgement. I could also put more effort into things and stop doing everything on cruise control. Perhaps it's a mix of these. I'm a bit lost in understanding why I do things and if it's healthy why I do things for whatever reason I do them. /shrug. Something to reflect on.
Dec 26. A lot of people treat personality tests like MBIT as bullshit. It's true they have some serious flaws laregly due to their inconsistent nature and generalization into too few of categories, but I think they provide some incredible insight into who we are. In particular, I think the Enneagram test is illuminating. Compared to MBTI, Enneagram (EG) follows a more realistic view of personalities by allowing for negative traits. MBTI was designed to promote people's strengths so it could be sold to companies for hiring practicies, but it completely leaves out how our personalities might harm us. EG changes the way traits manifest into our personality, by suggesting that they are either used in a healhy matter or unhealthy matter. Thus, the same traits can have different manifestations depending on how they are used. I myself was an EG 9 by a fairly signifigant amount when I tested on two different sites.
The descriptions for this type seemed to suite me quite well. it described traits such as fear of conflict, lack of caring, complacency, indecisiveness, and lack of worrying. It also said that I appeared zen but was filled with a hidden rage and discontent for the world, and because of my fear of conflict this was realized as being passive-aggresive. For something that appeared to describe me quite well, I found that this statement was completely false. I don't get angry, I don't care enough about most things to even understand why people get angry. I don't get passive-aggresive because I truly do feel some form of zen most of the time. I chalked it up to the limitations of such tests, which might be true, but I then smoked some weed and had some interesting revelations.
In particular, I realized that a lot of what I read almost perfectly described my mom. She completely avoids conflict and only deals with it through her passive-aggresion. She generally appears fine, but when her anger and discontent with others begins building up, which occurs because she avoids actual discussion, she has often exploded in a childish fit by storming away. She absolutely avoids conflict and gives way to complacency. I found it interesting that I don't have a lot of my moms traits, of which traits I view quite negatively. I certainly have my own slew of negative traits, but not ones I've long identified in her. I also find it interesting that I don't think I would have identified as a 9 if I took this test 5 - 8 years earlier. Sure I was just a teenager then, but when I look back on who I was, I see that very little from EG 9 applied to me. For instance I was highly oppinionated, more confrontational, more driven, basically the opposite of myself now in many regards.
All of this led me to an idea on how personalities form from the perspective of natural selection. Basically, certain personalities will be better suited to survive and pass on their genes. Consider parents who pass on learned knowledge to their children compared to those who do not. Say they pass on the knowledge of how to bduild a fire and cook meat on it. It's quite obvious that the recipient of this knowledge will have a better chance of surviving, compared to if they had bad parents who failed to pass on critical information. Parents who don't pass on usefull skills to their children are bad parents, and they're bad parents because their personalities are bad. Their personalities might stop them from caring about the success of their child because they're narcissists, lazy, disinterested, etc. Good parents will collectively have compassion, motivation, and love for their children. For humans, but probaly many other animals as well, this really does play out as good parents - aka people with good personalities - providing an increase to the survival of their genes.
If that were the case though, wouldn't bad personalities die out? Well check this out. As children, and I believe particuraly as teenagers, we go through a process of developing and maturing our own personality. I think it does like this: as youngings, we have a personality that is a mix of our biological own as well as our parents. This occurs because children need to learn thier parents behaviors as such behaviors would lead to an evolutioanry advantage if they are good. It might occur that they are bad, however, and from here we get the rebelious teens. Teens often rebel and take on very different personalities than their parents. They explore the world basically from the perspective that is now themselves plus a new personality that is effectively the opposite of their parents. If they have good parents, this new personality will suffer as it likely conflicts with the tribe, again they basically just took on a whole bunch of negative traits. This rebelious stage would then end over time and they would likely come out similar to how they started. People with bad parents will find their new traits leading to experiences which promote such rebelious behaviors, as the person they are when they're not their parents, is likely a better, more agreeable person than who they were previously. They would likely be better recieved by the tribe now. I think of it like a line where on one end you have bad personalities and good on the other. You are equal to your parents personalities +/- a bit of your own.
The rebelious stage leads to movement in the direction away from where your parents lie (vectors yo). If this brings you to a better personality, and thus greater reception by the tribe, your resulting personality shifts towards the good traits plus some of your parents traits (here you likely pick up some of their good traits but also things you didn't realize were harmful when you rebelled), plus your own self. From here we can explain how people with bad parents can become better but also how they can become just as bad as their parents - namely by not rebelling against harmful traits. Perhaps also by existing in a poor, read bad, community who is less receptive to good traits. People with good parents reject many of their rebelious traits, but they might keep ones when they consciously identify their parents corresponding traits as negative. I like this theory because it can easily explain how we often end up like our parents and why we sometimes don't. It also makes it possible for natural selection to be present. It doesn't eliminate bad personalities, but instead allows for good personalities to develop in instances where it would otherwise lead to bad ones. Why that rather than converge over time on only the best qualities? I think it's to avoid overfitting and instead allow for conflict to occur.
Conflict is needed, otherwise we homogenize too severely and are less adaptable to necessary change. Conflict then, on the right level, has an evolutionary advantage. It's like constantly being under attack by predators, but whose severity is unleashed over time rather than instantly. A dodo bird in hawaii has no natural predators on the island, so the introduction of a speciees like the mongoose wrecked havoc on them. They suffered from lack of constant adaptation to new threats, and thusly died off when a new predator was introduced. Birds are not tribal, so they have less conflict. If they were instead under tribal / species conflict, they would have continued to evolve better protection over their many years on the island, and become better adapted to any new and harmful threat. This is from a very uneducated perspective on natural selection and tribal theories, so I accept this could all be completely wrong.
Going back to my life, I see how I am bits of my mom and dad but not in the aspects I didn't like in them. That's why I turned into a 9 - because my mom had the biggest influence on my by shear greater amount of time spent with her as my dad worked full time and she was stay at home. Also because they were ultimately good parents so I was accepting to their positive traits. I took on opposite traits in regards to most of the negative behaviors of my mom, for instance in her temper tantrums and passive-aggresion. Other things like conflict avoidance, which can manifest negativly, I was receptive towards since it can also have positive affects. Our own experiences in life will further shape these traits, particuarly as a young adult, where we might find some of our potentially harmful traits turning unhealthy. Basically most traits can be either healthy or unhealthy, and we try to obsorb the healthy ones, but because of the duality of these traits, they can be morphed by bad experiences into their unhealthy versions. In my case, depression activated the unhealthy aspect of my traits, such as in conflict avoidance, and seems to have left me avoiding everything, since anything can potentially contain conflict. This provides one possible reason for depression, which might help fill out my unfinished model for depression I've written about previously. Essentially depression could occur because a person isn't accepted by their tribe - or just other people in general as was my case - and the brain makes the assumption that our learned personality was wrong since it doesn't seem to function well in its new environment. It throws us into a downward spiral of withdrawl which forces us to reflect on our interactions with the world. It feels so awful since it needs to motivate us to make changes to ourselves to get rid of it. There is a goal, which is for us to conform to the world since it's obvious our personality failed. Basically depression could be like a band-aid fix which doesn't attempt to cure you, instead to force you into someone who you're not, but who has better evolutionary fitness. Those who reject conformity will continue to suffer. The internet and general access to new ideas makes it harder for people to accept conformity. The ideas of individualism and self-identity which have developed over the past few millenia, and brought into the worlds view with the rise of books and presently the internet, make it an increasingly hard decision to choose to be someone you're not. - will need to look into this further since it adds a new light to my depression theory.
Another thing that's intesting with this theory on personalities is that it explains things like counter-cultures. Sometimes people come from seemingly good families but their rebelious stage doesn't end. If tribal reception is what determines which traits will be selected, then acceptance from other who are receptive to those traits, such as from friends, community, and even society, will cause them to be selected. These are often cultural traits as opposed to survival. When a society leans too much in homogenity of personalities, young rebelious people find themselves sharing the same ideas on things since they are the opposite of their homogenous parents traits. Counter cultures are actually probably required in a society like ours as it provides necessary conflict when society becomes too similar - though perhaps it's just an intersting consequence of the phenomena.
A framework for the modern life
Dec 24. The unfortunate reality of our existence is the meaningless of life. I hesitate to state this as fact, but the logical conclusions we draw based on the origins of ourselves permit it. Our existence is simply the fruitions of a logical tendency called natural selection. Beyond that, purpose we derive in the world is man made, defined by either ourselves or through our connections with other people. A reasonable conclusion to draw from this is that the meaningless of life neccesitates a pessimistic nihilist outlook on life, for meaning cannot exist in the inherient meaningless of everything. This is the philosophy of doom, misery, and crisis.
Those who reach such a conclusion on life do not seek dispair, instead they seek meaning. Dispair is created upon the realization of the hopelessness of their quest - that what they seek doesn't exist. Reconciling this fact with our own existence is nearly impossible as it defeats the self. It suggests that not only is there no implicit meaning of life, but that the meaning we define for ourselves is equally meaningless. Goals, hopes, aspirations, beliefs - the qualities that constitue our sense of meaning for ourselves - are lost. The search for meaning lies with dispair, for the truths of our universe are beyond our conscious awareness.
What I present is the relativity of life, which could be defined as the inability for something to exist without a frame of reference. I consider this a universal law that applies towards eveything. What it implies is that in order for something to have meaning, there must be something - a frame of reference - which defines it. That is to say that meaning cannot be an implicit property of anything as meaning cannot exist in and of itself, it must be attributed. The universe is not conscious, but we are. Now consider that meaning is a human concept, if we did not even have the conscious awareness to concieve it, it would not exist. The doom of the nihilist is rooted in the reality that meaning is not implicit, but I would argue they are mistaken in denying the existence of any meaning. What they have failed to consider is that while the meaning they sought is not implicit, it can be attributed. More precisely, a concsious being contains the capacity for creating the concept of meaning, and acts as a frame of reference for attributing that meaning.
Of course, the two concepts are not equal. An implicit meaning of life is a grand idea, but it is simply not possible. We feel as if the meaning we attribute is lesser, likely because it's quite arbitrary. A universal meanning of life, on the other hand, implies structure in a chaotic world. It's like religion - in fact it's why we have religion. We don't doubt ourselves until someone else sowes the seed of doubt, which creates conflict between our worldview and theirs. The divergence of the meaning we attribute towards life is most easily solved in the presence of a higher unifying meaning, one that attempts to define structure to chaos, that is shared by all.
The internet has led to a decrease in religion, and it'll continue to decline and with time it would eventually disolve all major religions. Religion cannot exist with a divergence of meaning, which the internet provides access to by allowing billions of people to connect and communicate different ideas. There cannot be unification on such a scale.
TODO: what then do we do if life is meaningless?
Musings on consciousness
Dec 14. Consciousness is perhaps one of the most interesting topics to think about because no one, even those who devote their lives to studying it, have any idea on how or why it exists. Now that statement is true for many things, but it's unique in that we all experience it personally. As I try to understand depression, I always come back to consciousness as it doesn't seem that depression would even exist without it. It's hard to gain insight into such a bizarre phenomenon because we don't even know how it exists - is it materialist, panpsychist, something else entirely? I have no answers there, and in fact find myself believing many theories at the same time since none are provably any less likely than any other. However, today as I looked at the problem from the materialist view - that our physical brains derive consciousness - I found some revelations about perception that I had never consider before. I don't consider these revelations to be anything new, so they are more just personal revelations, but they have never surfaced before in all the thinking I've done on the topic before.
The idea is this - we generate sensory information with our physical interactions with the world around us, and then percieve those interactions as experiences on our body. That is, that when we touch a cold surface, we percieve the cold sensation as if it was generated from our hand. However, these sensations are just thermoreceptors which detect temperatures and deliver that information via the central nervous system to our brain. The brain does some black box processing on this information and ba-da-boom, we experience temperature. No where in the system doesp the brain send a signal back to the hand telling it to generate the sensation in that localized area. So what emerges is a perception of sensations, which were brought in via our sensory mechanisms and delivered to the brain, experienced as if they originated at the point in which they were generated.
Again, this doesn't seem that revolutionary, but it highlights a rather fascinating reality - that we percieve ourselves as a whole body but we exist only within the brain. This seems to me that the brain has created some singular frame of reference, consciousness as you may, and then maps experiences to it in the 3rd dimension. Our perception of this frame of reference is that it exists somehwere in our brain. It exists where our thoughts exist, which feels like it's somewhere behind our eyes. The brain has essentially created a world within itself, but is experienced as if it were a part of the material world. I suppose I find this all quite incredible because most people will go their entire lives without realizing that their perception of the world and of themselves, is an illusion. Indeed, the feeling that our eyes exist in the front of our head, that our nose and mouth are beneath it, and literally every other thing we percieve and experience, is simply constructed by the brain. Another interesting implication of this is that we can experience sensations outside of our body, but our brain likely limits the mapping to be bounded by it. It might be computationaly expensive to generate experiences at a distance, so there might a limit here, but it's fun to think that we could potentially experience ourselves a couple of feet infront of ourselves.
One of the interesting things about consciousness is that we experience it as both the agent and as the observer. Our thoughts feel like our own, but at the same time we experience and observe them - for you did not think the thought you were about to think, it just happened. Yet, we also feel as if we can alter our thoughts and force them into existence. It's all quite wild. It makes me think of the study which found that some decisions were made in the brain several seconds before the participant was consciously aware of the decision they were about to make. It's interesting to think that consciousness could simply be an observor who exerts no real influence itself, yet the brain makes it percieve that it does. In such a theory, you have an algorithmic brain which drives itself according to its evolutionary genes - a wholy unconsciousness being - yet generates an illusion of consciousness that percieves itself as existing and exerting control of itself. It feels as if its thoughts are its own, but in actuallity it only observes the thoughts generated via some biological algorithm. With no other frame of reference for consciousness, and because the brain constructed it as so, it interprets experiences as its own. In that sense, our consciousness self could be a helpless prisoner who is forced to go along for the ride.
If we assume consciousness is materialist, then we have to find out what evolutionary fitness it provides. That previously mentioned theory is fun, but it does nothing to show how genes with that capability would prove to exist in their world better than those which do not have them. This is where I base most of my thinking these days, but the problem is tricky. It generally goes that there can't be an evolutionary fitness to consciousness since anything that it can accomplish could just as equally be accomplished by an advanced enough algorithm. I sorta believe this, but it makes me wonder if that advanced enough algorithm is consciousness. I'm not sure yet why consciousness would be better than an unconsciousness algorithm, but it's interesting to approach the problem from the perspective that consciousness is the highest fitness algorithm possible due to some unseen reality regarding the nature of our unconscious traditional agorithms.
My tribal theory on depression
Dec 9. I think about depression a lot, possibly to a fault. I used to think about it because it was my life, an unwelcome force that shadowed my days and drowned my thoughts in sorrow. I'm glad to be past that point, though I could do without the anhedonia. Regardless, I continue to think about depression, but mostly from the perspective of evolution. When depression fades, one has to be left wondering what it was all about in the first place. Was there a purpose to it? Is is just a freak occurence that happened to enter the gene pool? I've given it a lot of thought and im left with the conclusion - depression protects the tribe.
First we must ask whether depression serves a purpose. Considering every human appears to be capable of developing depression, and because some people will be genetically predisposed to it, we know that it exists as a trait of our genes. Things do not generally appear in our genes without some type of evolutionary fitness - especially when the trait transcends species. So it seems clear that we developed depression as it provided some type of evolutionary benefit that allowed genes which encode for depression to exist in their environment better than those which did not.
So if depression is benefitial, then how? Iv'e grappled with that question for a while, and I've always come to the conclusion that it simply isn't... well sorta. Natural selection has no goals, only tendencies. These are logicl tendencies which work because creatures which are better fit for their environment, posess the ability to create new life, and have the desire to do so, will cause their genes to exist over time. Natural selection simply optimizes gene existence as a consequence of basic fundamental logic. It's important to realize that there are no goals, only tendencies, and that natural selection will not over time converge on traits which provide no evolutionary fitness. Thus, depression does not need to exist to protect an individual. It exists to protect the tribe.
We've developed many pro-social genes over the past few million years, as it turns out that survival rates tend to go up when creatures cooperate. We literally have tribal tendencies baked into our genes, in that sense we humans are still far more primitive than we would like to admit. That alone makes the idea that depression protects the tribe seem entirely plausible. While plausibilty is nice, the question is still on how depression could protect the tribe. I have two basic theories here, but they both revolve around the idea that we posess the ability to learn and that sometimes we learn the wrong things.
Before I delve into these theories, I must mention a related topic which provides further insight - that being anxiety. Both these mental condition are linked and are in fact very similar. I've even seen it suggested that they are the same thing. However, I've come to realize that while similar, they serve different purposes. Any person who has suffered from anxiety could tell you the symptoms are wholly unpleasant. At its most basic form, anxiety is learned risk adversion. It takes our predictions of the future, and decides danger lurks ahead. We activate out sympatheic nervous system, release adreniline, and in effect go into fight or flight mode. We call it a mental illness, but it serves an evolutionary purpose (though my theory is that the modern world was not designed for this, more on that later). It simply takes our learned experiences and trains our interal heuristics to avoid and/or prepare for similar situations in the future. As much dread as anxiety causes, one can't deny that it leads to risk adversion for percieved threats.
One of the reasons why I mention anxiety is because one can experience the feelings of anxiety without actually being anxious. That is to say, we can generate the physical symptoms of anxiety, and in doing so feel as if we are anxious without actually being so. For instance, taking supplements which are disagreeable with our individual biologies, in my case caffine, can generate the same sensations of anxiety, and can nearly trick us into thinking we are anxious. This is because these supplements / drugs cause some kind of reacion in our body - activating sympathetic nervous system, etc - which is the same reacion caused by anxiety. I mention this because it will be important further on to prove my point in regards to depression. In doing so, I need to be able to show that depression, though we percieve it as being able to develop for any number of reasons - such as hardship, loss, nutritional deficiences, seasonal affective disorder, and so on - is actually only generated from two different scenarios: true depression and the symptoms of depression. Later on I will try to argue that depression is either the result of some kind of learned behavior similar to anxiety, or a stimulation of the same regions which generate depressive symptoms without the actual presence of evolutionary depression.
TODO: finish the theory when I feel so inspired to.
Drugs are cool, kids.. Kinda
Nov 7. Once every few months I like to take some 4-AcO-DMT - a research chemical that some liken to space shrooms. It's similar to shrooms for me, but the biggest difference is in how little it changes my feelings on the world. Shrooms are pure happiness, they fill me with a sense of euphoria and love for the world. The thoughts I have on it are nice, but they aren't me, no matter how much I wish they were. There's simply no way I could reconcile the loving thoughts that emerge on shrooms with what I consider to be my true self. Then enters 4-AcO-DMT, shrooms except with a sober mind. It's actually quite incredible how lucid you remain on 4-AcO, sure it makes you happier, but it truly feels like remaining oneself except without any anxiety or fear.
I've used the substance numerous times and have had mixed results along the way. Setting matters so much, as does how you use it. I've found that the best results come when you don't close your eyes, and instead go out in nature and just sit - bonus points if you can still see people/buildings from your secluded spot. That last bits important because while this drug provides incredible insight into one's own internal thoughts and behaviors, it also provides a stage to think about the external world from a perspective that is beyond my ability to quantify. Now I've had bad trips on this stuff - truly awful experiences where you wish for a swift death - but those mostly came from the surreal experience that happens when you go for the closed eye visuals/thoughts and are met with the peak which is largely overwhelming when you're so stuck in your own head as a result of doing it eye closed.
Most drug talk isn't that interesting because it's just people trying to explain an unexplainable sensation, coupled with the fact that their drug induced ideas are often out of line with reality - I'm looking at you shrooms. What is of interest is when your drug induced revelations actually stick and change you as a person. The best example I can give is when I took a low dose on a quiet saturday afternoon in my dorm room. When I felt the come-up anxiety approaching, I had to get outside so I took a walk to this little undeveloped tract of land that overlooked our sports field. No one ever went there, except for myself as it was my favorite spot to play my violin in peace. The dose turned out to be quite low as I was stupidly only eye-balling my dosage those days, but it was just the right amount to still give me freedom from anxiety and fear. I sat there as the sun began to set, the field below sporting just a handfull of people at any given time, and I thought.
In particular, I thought about anxiety and fear. A mind free from such worries can only treat them as laughably stupid, their irrationality at odds with all logic. I thought to myself, "Why have I never sat out here before in the dark?" I had never gone out there when it was getting dark, voices in my head always conveyed a cascade of reasons why it might be dangerous or imagined incredible scenarios where I would regret it. But in that moment as I started to feel the drug wear off, those worries felt so illogical. This isn't an interesting story in that I had any astounding revelations, but in that these thoughts - in particular my dissection of these silly fears - stuck with me. It's almost magical how the things you think on this drug will actually remain afterwards because they emerge from a conscious mind. It's not like alcohol where the next morning you throw away everything that happened the previous night because they were drug induced thoughts and behaviors. Instead I woke up the next day as if I had slain some demons that had haunted me my entire life. I didn't wipe away all of my anxiety, but I felt as if I had gained a skill to notice those intrusive thoughts and discard them. I replaced the irrational with the rational and started looking at life with a new mindset. Rather than think, "What the worst that could happen? Oh, well maybe I'll get in trouble or someone will see me and i'll look stupid or blah blah blah", I decided to think, "The worst that could happen? Well something interesting could happen, or nothing at all. Both sound like pretty good options to me."
On social groups
Nov 2. It's intesting to think about how the nature of how we communicate changes as a function of the number of people in a conversation. I'd always thought myself to be a bit strange in my preference for one-on-ones, feeling like larger groups were overwhelming and resulted in unfavorable conversations, but psychology says otherwise. It largely comes down to the Theory of Mind, which essentially means our ability to know that other people do not always know or intend the same things that we ourselves do. In a practical sense, that means we are constantly aware that the meaning and intention we apply to our words may be misinterpreted by other people. We make predictions, use our knowledge of the other person, and signs in their body language and tone to try and interpret how our intentions were interpreted. The complexity increases drastically the more people you add to conversation - in my case it feels exponential. Now you have to worry about not just what a single person knows or how they might interpret your words, but about what the other people know about one another, what they know about you, and what you know about them. The magic, maximum number of people is commonly put at 4, but that is entirely dependant on one's mental capacity for such social interactions.
Conversations themselves change form because of this limitation. We tend to avoid controversial topics, emotions, and in-depth talk when we can't predict how other people will respond. Instead we fall back to safe topics where the worst case is not upsetting someone, but in isolating them because of their lack of interest in the topic. The best topics and flow of conversation are then achieved when everyone is interested and has the possiblity to respond, which allows for a more inclusive conversation, but lacks depth and meaning because no longer exists to meet the individuals desires, but the groups as a whole. Another facet of this is the fact that only a single person can really talk at any given time without clutter, and that their words have to be directed at someone. You can speak more generally towards a group, but the response can only ever be from a single person at at time, which in that moment of time can be seen as a conversation between two people. Anyone else who wants to speak must interject and risk disrupting the conversation so they're forced to wait for an opportune time which may never even come to pass.
So call me crazy, but i'd rather not speak at all in such situations and to instead savor and seek the meaningfull conversations that happen between just two people.
The path that was chosen for us
oct 30. An often heard quote by Harun Yahya - “I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth, then I ask myself the same question.”
I know why I stay put - my life was setup to follow a common trajectory. I go to school so that I can work so that I can retire so that I can live. It's the default and expected option for any middle class family and one we follow adamantly despite a nagging in our mind which asks if that is really the path we have chosen, or if it is simply the one given to us. It presents the ultimate conundrum because at its core, it's not a terrible life. Many will live this life happily and with fulfillment. There are certainly worse alternatives, so i'm not one to argue that it's not a privelage or that we shouldn't feel fortunate to have that life.
So why then, am I unhappy with this path I have agreed to? Or more importantly, why don't I change it? It's not like there aren't alternatives - for instance I could join a hippie commune, or travel the world in a van, or live off-grid in log cabin in Alaska. In many ways these are all tempting and i'm in position where I could realistically alter my life plans to accomodate such drastic changes. But I won't, despite my many grievances with the thought of working a meaningless job for the next 20+ years just so I can retire and finally live the life I think I want. There's almost an endless list of reasons I could use to justify such a position, but I think it ultimately comes down to one key reality: i'm content. That word has negative and positive connotations, which has caused some people, when I've described myself as such, to think that I have given up and accepted a less than desireable fate for myself. I don't look at it that way, instead I see it as someone who knows what they want, while also knowing that what they want isn't necessarily what they need. So I can be unhappy with many of the aspects of the life laid out for myself, but content with what I know to be my human truth - that what I want my life to be is not what I need it to be in order to achieve some sense of fulfillment in my life.
That sounds like some kind of meaningless abstraction which attempts to justify my inability to make drastic life changes which might prove to be benfitial for my mental, physical, and spiritual health. Maybe it is? However, I would argue that to be content is to be at peace. Peace is not full bliss, as that would be ecstacy. Peace is instead knowing yourself and your faults, the good and bad that encompasses your life. Peace is not found externally, no matter to the extent to which you change your life in seek of it. It is always found from within, by accepting ourselves and place within this world.
I don't seek happiness, which is fleeting, but peace of the mind and soul. You can be at peace at the DMV, in traffic or at your meaningless job - good luck trying to be happy in these situations though. So why don't I change my life and become a hippie with a van? Because I know myself and my limitations, that the only thing I seek from such alternate lifestyles is happiness. I know that for myself happiness is like a spark, it's there and then it's gone just as quickly. People will spend their entire lives chasing that feeling, watching it stray further away from them the more they seek it. So I don't seek it, instead I try to further my appreciateion for the life that was laid out for me. If you know yourself then you know the path you need to take. I don't disuade anyone from taking a different path, I just hope they know the difference between what they want, and what they need.
EDIT: As with most things I write, I don't know to what extent I actually believe this. For one, I describe being unhappy as a state of mind, while happiness is not. That just seems wrong. What I should have said is that pleasure is fleeting, but happiness is a state of mind. We like being happy because it allows for pleasure, while comparatively unhappy people are often anhedonic. I think the jist of this stil stands.
A New Beginning
Oct 28. I don't hate the internet, but I hate what it has become. Our communites have witherd away, replaced by impersonal and uninspiring social medias that bombard us with mindless "entertainment". How many times can you look at a picture of a cute dog on /r/Aww or a soda can that fits perfectly in a cup on /r/MildlyIntersting before you realize you simply don't care? As I sat there with Reddit open on both my monitors, dozens of tabs of Reddit on either screen, and a complete lack of enthusiasm for every post and comment I mindlessly scrolled through, I realized I've had enough of the modern internet.
I signal out Reddit because it's long been my site of choice, but this applies to all forms of mass media such as Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and even many news outlets. They bombard us with an overabundance of information, the vast majority of which is skimmed over in seconds before moving onto the next tidbit of things we don't care about. The content is as shallow as the Arctic ociean, except the Arctic ocean is actually filled with interesting species. What little value these sites provide us is dwarfed by their incessant need to oversaturate our lives with useless low-effort content.
I look back with nolstalgia on how the internet used to be, but not with rose-tinted glasses. The internet has findamentally changed, largely by massive corporations which only seek to drive further profit at our own expense. Google delivers results which insight you to consume, not to explore. You will not find many of these plain old HTML sites on Google because they don't want you to find them. They have ulterior motives and part of how they do that is to curate your experience according to their own algorithms. I reject what has become of the internet - from the erosion of forums with tight-knit communites now replaced by hivemind subreddits to the death of personal websites which were once so unique and interesting.
Things don't have to be like this.
It's time we return to our digital roots.