Nature’s Unrelenting Bias

Nature is harsh. There is no controlling the life you are born into. We all want liberty from nature. Kurt Vonnegut in Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons said “Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?” I remember praying to be other people. I measured myself not in terms of what I could do, but by how other experiences appealed to be. I wanted to be the genius. I wanted to walk into rooms filled with people who admired me. I wanted to have power and to do great things. I desired actualization of my most valuable faculties. However, it wasn’t until the negation of that idealized state realized after I became incredibly ill and disabled that this pursuit of self-escape stopped. I realized that without suffering I can’t know what I’m demanding of life.

Humanism as a concept has always alluded me. I was always skeptical of its premise, that humans have some inherently important position in the world. That didn’t sit well with my ethics. I read Nietzsche as my introduction into serious thinking and since that point onward I have questioned power constantly. I distrust most ideas and concepts, and humanism seems like a vestige of pre-twentieth century thought, where there was no need to clarify the distinction between man and ‘beast’. Nor was there the need to clarify the importance of man. Other than offering something akin to liberation theology to people almost guaranteed to exist within a power vacuum, I thought it was a growth on a disfigured image of the world. Today I think those arguments make themselves. We are constantly learning more about evolution, and that knowledge dissuades most from preoccupied thoughts about the superiority of human agency. And those who cannot shake the need for power bear the typical marks of a person forced through affliction by order of complete and total loss of everything . Ego is not useless, and not even always wrong. And yet inspite of knowing that almost all of the ideas and concepts from which humanism was developed, I think valuing the human is beneficial and helpful.

Humanism to me isn’t a campaign towards some idealized form. It’s a celebration of the human, in all its forms and variations. It’s a celebration of the quality of diversity at least as much as it is of individual human beings. I don’t believe it proscribes anything like what it used to, or anything like what religions do. I don’t believe it bounds us to our current states. I don’t believe the celebration of our uniqueness, the greatness and the failure, requires us to submit to mediocrity, to suffering, and to less-than what we as individuals need ad infinitum. I think humanism is a way for individuals to by their own volition separate themselves from others, in-spite of the chasm nature creates between people. It’s not a slave morality. It doesn’t involve accepting fate. It represents our power to control the information nature forces on us, however wonderful, and however harsh. Whether you were born with a brilliant mind to a wonderful, supportive and loving family in a prosperous country with equal opportunity, or whether you were born to apathetic, abusive parents, with a genetic disease and guaranteed life-long suffering, isolation and pain.

Sartre said man can always make something out of what he’s been made. I think at some time to avoid the work understanding complex ideas ensures we all wish for some cheat code or simple mnemonic that cuts quickly to a simple explanation. If a quote could capture Sartre’s existentialism, it’s that one. Freedom is the recognition of necessity. Freedom is but the cost of food. We won’t ever forget that life must be better. Lingering around the necessity for change as constantly diminishing hope as you believe yourself inadequate and life unfair still entails the pressing distinction backwards against nature that you are no less than what you are, and no more for it.

My Fate In Echo Questions

I am suffering so extremely and I hate it. I’m caught between relations, pressed by the will to survive and the will to pleasure – or to escape pain. It’s so unfair. The suffering has no meaning in itself. It’s not this enemy that I can draw in sight and attack with all my energies. It’s this morphism of failed functions of duty and responsiveness, bad luck and nature. My suffering is mapped by connectives as trails marked by heavy traffic. I’ve been traveling these roads to dependent events. I just had faith that fundamentally people have an unrestricted reserve of good-nature, and that tapping that reserve just requires the right preparation, the right questions. But pulling all E’s out of a scrabble bag is a finite exercise. The other characters produced the resources for my project, distracting me from organizing my collection of letters. My father would surprise me with kindness and I would return home feeling hopeful. The next turn he would have some reliable excuse. I’m not a supporter of behaviorism, but my fathers good behaviors were never consistent, and never full (when he was kind it was always shallow, when he promised he never followed through), and his bad behaviors were always predictable and consistent. But my well-being, my survival depends on the beneficence of my family. The most difficult thing I’ve ever done is admit to myself that my fathers behaviors, (and my family and my society in general)show his state of mind. That he isn’t the beneficent person I need him to be. That they aren’t persuaded by obligation to do their duty, or motivated by compassion to act beyond self-interest. And this wasn’t until very recently that I realized I had pulled the final E.

I don’t know what to do. I’m just so alone, so lost, so broken. I am those things but I am also strong, reserved, wise. We are all broken. We can see what we need to be, but rarely can we transform into it. My doctors have failed me. My family has failed me. They are obligated to certain actions by their entitlement to certain rights. But they are blind to the causes that give them the resources they have to survive and to live well. Their garbage disposal depends on garbage men, their infrastructure, on road-workers, engineers, politicians and economists. Their health-care on philosophers, administrators, mathematicians, pharmacists, doctors and businessmen. Their market is maintained by self-interest alone. Most of those people aren’t acting according to their duty in this sense. Most of us have never engineered transactions, just utilized the structure. Like economics, an invisible hand guides duty. That hand is self-interest. When you’re unlucky, as I am, and your freedom to choose is taken from you by physical disability or illness, then all you have is the beneficence of others. And I don’t have good people in my life. They see me broken and judge me for it. As they should partly. I too have a duty. But the tragic irony is that they see me failing in my duty to provide for myself, and contribute to society, without recognizing their role in that, causa sui.

I don’t know, man. I’m just so fucking fucked.

Sarte, Grand Theft Auto Five, Summertime, and the Concept of Place

When I think of Sartre I think of three things: Grand Theft Auto Five, the summer and his concept of ‘place’.

The memory of Sartre is placed in-between the summer of 2014 and the enjoyment of playing grand theft auto. I’m synesthetic. I see numbers occupying a landscape like a track. They have moods, emotions, and colors. The number forty two is my favorite number. It’s composed of the operands six and seven. Six is brown, seven is blue. Together, forty two makes a cedar colored deck. I can tell you why.

Five is the easiest operand to work with in any expression. When learning my multiplication I often confused the sum of the relative expressions. Five multiplied seven times is thirty-five. Five multiplied six times is Thirty. Six multiplied six times is thirty Six. Six multiplied by four is twenty four. I often confused this expression with eight and three.

When I was in school we were taught multiplication by rote memorization and practice.

Eight and five is 40. Nine and five is forty-five. Nine is red. The color red often represents danger. When something needs to catch our attention it is often written in red. Matadors use red capes to draw in a charging bull. But red also designates success on a test. A ninety percent or greater grade is often written in red, in my mind – or at least, it was when I attended school.

Eight is yellow. It is caution. I spent a lot of time swinging on our families’ back-yard swing-set after dinners, just before bed. We grew up in a beautiful neighborhood, and our orientation of play at dusk was always west. Embodying the optimism of youth, always anticipating the range of activities the next day could allow, we would search between the arch of each swing for the measurable quantities we were aware of. Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red skies in the morning, sailors warning. Kids on swings never want it to rain. When the setting sun promises to rise the following day equal to our measures of its value to us, its yellow glow would slowly fade forming crimson red and pink. Painting the sky and entailing the procession of youth.

So nine has this bivalent, dangerous quality; often frightening, yet always elusive to determination. And eight, which symbolized an approximation of academic aptitude. Like an insouciant courtier operating properly beyond affectation, as if even the most extraordinary comes as naturally to her in movement as breath to sleep, to excitement.

Seven is cold. On paper it represents mediocrity or disappointment, depending on the context. If it was received after effort, the latter. If it was received after indifference, the former. And yet it is also an enticing number. It’s blue. Like the above-ground pool in our west-facing back-yard. Or like the tease of spring, when shorts don’t quite keep you warm but you wear them anyway hoping that by doing so nature will find your sacrifice worthy and concede. Spring and roller-blading street-hockey are mutually exclusive. In our nice neighborhood, the street cleaners rarely cleaned the salt off the road in time for our desire. Spring means summer, and summer means summer-break.

Six is brown. A grayish-brown. Six represents my guitar. It is the struggle of music, the guitar-lessons and the practicing. Academically, anything starting ‘six’ is unacceptable. I got my first guitar when I was in the sixth grade. Six is not my favorite number.

Five itself is black, always. Simple. Easy. Empty.

When I think of six and seven I think of the thirties. Thirty to thirty nine is a harsh area. Is Eight times four thirty-two? Is nine times four thirty six. Though six times six is thirty six, too. Six plus six is twelve. Twelve is a great number; four times three. Nine plus four is thirteen. Thirteen is a prime number. Seven plus six is thirteen.

In contrast, from forty to forty-nine, the feeling is much different. Everything is bright and spacious and light. The thirties are cramped and dark and uncertain and empty. Yet inside three moves you have a base-ten; eight, nine ten (as operands multiplied by five). And in the first quarter of that area  you have seven and six. Forty-two. This brown and this blue. Each associated with the first view of a final obstacle. In the first hand music, and in the other, spring. Intimately related and yet often opposing each-other when they function.

Available to me now are far fewer potential places because the space of available interaction due to my illness and its consequences (both direct (physical) and indirect (emotional, social, etc…) has diminished significantly. Even in such a short period of time, as summer-January is.

The diminishment of place contributes to psychological well-being tremendously. Especially when it is due to a diminished space of available interaction. That distinction is an important one because although the diminished-effect could have been prevented, it wasn’t. Diminished of place can be due to many things, but rarely is it strictly due to the diminishing space of available interaction.

That space of interaction is the space in which I can interact with the world. But more specifically, with those things which give you place (family, education, work, activities, hobbies, knowledge. Even geographic freedom), and also the quality of the interaction.

For most people, all they are likely to experience is a diminished quality of interaction without their space being limited. It may feel limited, and they may limit themselves. But not irreparably. As is the case with me (where repairability is the capacity to repair, oneself, not the quality of the object being acted on, or repaired). For me, the quality of the object has diminished beyond repair, and thus the space has diminished.

This is a significantly distinct aspect of life with a complex chronic medical condition that is overlooked. There’s always lots of talk about the ‘experience’ of chronic illness. There’s never a shortage of stories. Some of which involve very precise and very creative metrics (social networks, pain, autonomy, quality-of-life (specific government metric for determining disability status). The spoon theory is a convenient and fairly reliable explanation.

We are all in some sense synesthetic when it comes to place. We create relations between objects (ideas, people, places, memories etc…) and ourselves giving us a sense of place. When kids invite friends over they say ‘wanna’ come over to my place’. Linguistically, they mean their home. But semantically they mean their personal place within that home. The relationship they have with the property, with the home, with the objects in the home. The relationships with the people; as a son, or a daughter, a brother or a niece. And quality, not just quantity, affects their place too. Particularly in relation to social standards. If you come from an abusive home you might not feel a place. Or you might feel your place is among that group of people like you, or whom society excludes or disregards. You may experience this directly, or sense it from the absence of rewards typically received by people with better places – which often most importantly include the opportunity for more ‘place’. For more friendships, relationships and jobs. And for the quality of those as well.

When it comes to place, hierarchical ordering is wonderfully largely absent. It’s like 42, each associated with the first view of a final obstacle, within a landscape often blindingly open and inviting, or dark and unexplored. Place is somewhat always both.

Obligation And Disease

I feel an entitlement to help and with it cognitive dissonance. So many people have perished asking for the same help I need. Why should I expect my case to be any different, and why should I expect moral altruism from a system that randomly chooses victims to save? If the whole landscape changed, and there was this moral atmosphere to never leave anyone behind, then I’d readily accept and expect and fight for help. But in this world where only a few actually get help, when everyone asking (almost everyone) really truly deserves help – and morally requires that justice – how can I expect to have access to any help? I can’t, and that makes it all the worse.

We retract our desires and requests for help, our pleas, because we know it’s wrong. We know it’s wrong not because we hurt less than others, and those others don’t get help. We know its wrong because they don’t get help, and neither do we. We feel where only a limited few get help, we have to either offer that chance to them, or be cautious about overestimating our own suffering lest we shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot and become part of the problem. We retract our personal cause for a larger one that we feel might never result.

When we complain about our pain and feel guilty for complaining that guilt isn’t born of a rational evaluation of the practical disadvantages between individuals suffering – weighing some more severe than others based upon the limitations. We are, sort of, but not principally. We feel ‘guilty’, or we ‘withdraw’ our petition for pity, because we realize in some sense that the system is not set up in a way that justly helps those deserving – only those who are lucky, or immoral enough to make themselves appear ‘more’ needing, or to create their ‘own’ luck (luck they steal from other people suffering). So although the ‘poor me’ selfish inner monologue that runs through anyone’s head who is in pain seems, well, selfish and at least amoral, is in actuality at least partially (if not majorly – as I contend) moral bereavement. An acknowledgement of an unjust system of help, an inadequate moral atmosphere, and a reaction to the loss of similar people going through similar things who never saw any restitution.

Whenever you hear someone broken defiantly saying ‘help me, why can’t I get help’ to deaf ears what they’re really saying is ‘until we all get help, none of us can’.

I could resolve various sources of my individual pain. I could find the means to reconstruct relationships, I could shut off my empathy and fight for myself. And I might resolve those sources of my individual pain. But I know that I’m not really solving the pain. Just my pain. Even if I were given some magical gift, by some immesurable stroke of luck waking to find everything beginning to heal, I still would not feel satisfied. Because I would have simply solved one instance of the pain, not the cause. Nor would I have established conditions that generalize to all people sharing my affliction. When I see these ‘inspiring’ people with chronic medical conditions I see lies, I see deceit, I see ignorance, and I see foolishness. I know I will never resolve my pain until I can resolve the pain, causa sui.

Heterogenous Homo-Sapiens

Happy people. People suffering tremendously. Both existing at once.

The only thing that alleviates something of the suffering of the suffering people is the notion that there are happy people alive.

The happy people would rather forget the suffering people even exist.

If the happy people acknowledged the existence of the suffering people, in particular ways described as ‘acknowledge’, then the suffering people’s tool-kit would grow – not just because that alleviation as knowing happy people exist would be justifiable to their own ego and desire for well-being by the relationship between inevitability, powerlessness, and good people.

And yet there’s still inequality. This endeavor begins with inequality. How do happy people come to know of the needs of those suffering? How can they? Will they remain happy? Is there a way forward for the suffering people? By the happy people? I say yes. I say cooperation is the key. Distribute the burden of helping those burdened by the things so much they need the help of others to survive across a large surface area, across a large population of individuals cooperating. If everyone cooperates, in a group, in that system, that surface, then its very probable success is even more probable – almost to the point of being ensured. Part of the problem of being suffering people is not having the help of happy people. A happy person has a long fall then, helping suffering people. They know that they will maybe come to exist as a suffering person in a world of happy people not helping suffering people – and what’s the point if no one is helping. Think A Brilliant Mind and Game-theory.

The wonderful thing about the diversity of humans, is the abundance as a whole our heterogeneity can offer us if we properly cooperate. Proper cooperation begins somewhere around individuality. Think like Captain my captain. Be an individual. Be different. The world needs you to be. And wonderfully nature works with the needs of the world here. It feels so good to be an individual, to have an individual identity, with individual worth and value and space and place. And in that way rid our lives of this foolish idealized concept of competition, of molding, of an ‘idealized’ state. Eugenics is fucking stupid, foolish business.

This heterogeneity allows us to become something like the best we can all offer. Currently social interaction reduces us, I think. We’re all concerned with looking foolish, or looking dumb, or being exposed. We’re flawed and although have the best intentions in theory, in practice for no reason we often cannot follow through with being good, with helping others, with being ‘ourselves’, with being honest. We say dumb things because we don’t know what else to say. We agree with things we don’t agree with because we’re so stimulated to the point of cognitive numbness, socially. There is such an awesome brilliance to the diversity of humans that we cannot see from where we are.

When we humans have some goal (which we have so many) this heterogeneity is our greatest strength. Far from a weakness. The weakest of us serve a vital function to the whole. And the whole does not become homogenous, ever. The whole is made of its parts, necessarily. In those moments when some task no individual can solve puzzles humanity, the whole can solve it. We just don’t. Our social norms and individual fears are scarred. The heterogeneity is polluted with personality disorders and injustice and immorality. For which we are no less heterogeneous, but much less able to cooperate.

The Moral Disinclination Of Our ‘Modern’ World

We are afraid of losing consciousness, afraid of becoming completely disabled and utterly dependent on others because when we consider the consequences of those possible lives we are considering the consequences largely of our own amorality, moral ignorance. Our vulnerability in those moments stems as much from the danger of our own moral ignorance as those possible lives.

 

We are all going to die. We are all going to become disabled and dependent. We are all at stages of our lives completely dependent on others. We are, throughout our entire lives, dependent on others.

  • Government
  • Military
  • Police
  • Medicine
  • Technology and Industrial-Production
  • Farming
  • Education
  • Sewage Treatment and Civil Service
  • Labor

We now live in a world in which we are born with those things already set in order. And so we don’t really think of them too often. They’re just there. They’ve always been there. And so we don’t think of ourselves as thus dependent. But we are. Totally. We would not individually be able to survive on our own without the cooperation we have in our society. And yet we still are not very moral or very wise. Like the ignorance we have of our dependencies, we are ignorant of our moral nature. Until, that is, we depend not on commonplace things like medicine and the police and governments, as citizens requiring those services at a distance, largely, but rather on the moral character of others.

 

When we consider being stricken with severe disability, with dementia or a lack of consciousness, we fear the consequences of those things. But we don’t know the consequences of those things; at least most of us don’t. What we know we know by proxy, and by perceptually and socially salient information. And largely those consequences are of our lack of moral understanding. Or the understanding that most people really don’t know why it matters to be good. This is especially true of those who suffer for long periods of time with chronic medical conditions, or are else vulnerable in some other way – a member of some minority group.

 

WE feel this natural sense of vulnerability, this evolutionary drive for self-preservation by these mechanisms of survival – fear, worry, doubt, mistrust. We often talk of ourselves as somehow civilized by how different we are from nature, from the past, from savagery. But morally we are no different. We are in the west merely more comfortable. We have provisional goodness. But the moment something like severe disability happens, those stores dry up quickly. We all fear the same thing. And in that way, most of us create that thing which we fear – or else it exists because of our moral misunderstanding, ignorance and foolishness.

 

I often hear this said: kill me if I ever become a vegetable. Or, even worse, ‘I’d rather die than be retarded’. As stated above, the consequences of those states are social exclusion, a lack of an availability of resources such as money, comfort, housing, food, luxury, leisure. A lack of support and friendship, companionship. Those are symptoms of larger problems. Not symptoms of those diseases or disease states. The savage in us comes out when we feel vulnerable like this. But we don’t need to feel vulnerable. We’re all going to end up disabled, stupid vegetables – most of us anyway. We don’t need to feel vulnerable. Some of us know what we’re afraid of, some of us (most) don’t – misappropriating the consequences of those types of lives. Those lives have, amongst other things, the utility of teaching us moral lessons, important, essential moral lessons. Morality cures us of our suffering. How grand, how great, how awesomely special then are those lives that teach us how to be good? They’re the most precious, not the least. They’re the least because we’re ignorant, because we’re foolish and because we fear that secret that we’re all not very good, that we’re all ignorant and foolish – most of us, at least. And thus by ignoring those people, those lives, to maintain well-being (of which morality offers the most support and nurture) we create all over again the very thing we’re afraid of.

 

Not creating it is the difficulty. What if you’re the only one choosing to help? It will take the majority to make a change. Like it takes a majority to cooperate to establish military, police, governments and health-care systems, sewage treatment, civil engineering and labour forces. We can do it. And we will and must.

 

We must always remember that those lives we fear most deserve the most we can possibly offer. Because not only do they have the secrets to moral understanding, but because they are so vulnerable and dependent. And like the one person pondering in indecision his choice to step away and assume ignorance rather than help, it takes a majority effort to ensure that we’re all safe. A society in which the most vulnerable and dependent are the most properly cared for, cherished and supported, is a society in which all members can feel free, safe, loved and can grow into their own expectations and potential.

 

The Relationship of Respect

Time is valuable, if you don’t respect your time, you don’t respect your responsibilities – your job, others, etc… Respect is more than just an acknowledgement that something or someone isn’t of a negative value. Often we consider variations of that answer adequate. You’ll often hear kids say stuff like this. And while they’re wrong, it’s interesting to point out that kids, especially teenagers, don’t process empathy-related information (‘putting yourself in others’ shoes’) in the same way that adults do. Teenagers when scolded for showing up to class late, with incomplete homework, or for disrupting a lesson or lecture, accused of being disrespectful demonstrate incredulity, scoffing and saying things like ‘It’s not that I don’t respect you, but…’.

Compassion is a feeling of empathy or pity, an acknowledgement of someone’s suffering as valid and unjust. That’s true. But that’s just part of compassion. Compassion is also an action. It’s the action of taking smart, or else intentional and calculated steps to help X with their problem, with that thing that you acknowledged which made you feel the ‘feeling’ part of compassion. Respect is like compassion in this ‘respect’ (cheeky… cheeky. Jeesh! You can tell I’ve been watching a lot of QI lately). It’s both a feeling, an acknowledgement that someone isn’t of a negative value, and also the fulfillment of the purpose of the thing respected – the referent. Or that thing that doesn’t leave someone with a negative value. Respect is the proper, just, fulfillment of a job, or a responsibility, or a function. Respect isn’t just vapid veneration. It’s not just the consequence of power for the powerless. That’s foolishness.

If it’s (that job, responsibility or function) useful, wisely constructed, the best of all the options (best solution) – in conception and application (theoretically and practically), if it’s the ‘best the best of us could possibly do in theory, and the best this individual could possibly do in practice’, then there’s respect – you can’t accomplish all of that without respect; the respect X person has for that job or responsibility or function will necessarily exist, but so should the respect of the benefactor of X’s hard work. That’s where respect should exist; in this relationship. But as you can see respect of this sort requires knowledge of X’s hard work, of the nature of respect, and generally of X’s job. That’s a hard thing to do – to know all of that. Especially considering all of the different jobs out there. That’s why respect is a social norm – a standard, a pro-social form of behavior generously rewarded. The path of least resistance when you don’t know all of that stuff is simply to be ‘respectful’. Which entails being kind, being polite, being responsible and being courteous.

It is a problem that we don’t all know enough to be properly respectful – both of others and of our own jobs. That’s why I believe we all have a responsibility to learn as much as we can about all of the things we regularly interact with which required some service from someone else. (‘As much as we can’ doesn’t mean as much information as we can shove into our minds, but as much as is allowed – by our responsibilities, by the things we ‘respect’, etc… following the rule ‘make good decisions when consequences matter’ helps). So if you regularly see a doctor, which we all should, learn as much as you can of the practice of medicine as your ‘life’ allows. We should all know of the civic duties we share and of how our societies’ function; how garbage collection works, how sewage systems work, how electricity works, how taxes and the economy works, how shop owners and small-business work etc… This is a way in which our education fails us and is responsible for the very sorts of people it so regularly chastises and villainizes.

In order for a doctor to properly respect his job, his patients have to respect him and his job – and themselves (although respecting him properly, and his job, necessarily means to some extent greater than otherwise, they will respect themselves too). So in this way respect is sort of a duty. Not some rigid duty from now until the end of time. It’s only a duty in the sense that it is a very functional solution to the problem respect addresses – the problem of functioning as best we possibly can in any job, relationship, system etc…

If you were a car manufacturer and you created a car that shut down every mile, when there are plenty of cars which don’t, and in a market in which that information is public knowledge, and when you could have created a better car, you’d be a bit of a fool – at least it would be a foolish model. If the car was not the product of insouciance, indifference, and laziness, then perhaps it’s not really a problem that it doesn’t function like the other cars.

Do the best you can possibly do in anything you’re doing. Or do the best you can possibly do in those things which really matter. We have limited resources. Don’t worry too much about the way you sweep – the arch of the broom and the angle of your hand – if you don’t really need to. If you’re a student writing a paper, it then makes sense that we have this disinclination to throw all of our resources at some menial activity like sweeping or picking up trash. Sweeping, as cleaning, and picking up trash, as cleaning some environment, are important goals. But it’s important to put them in perspective. Which fortunately is not something we actively have to do very often.