If you must suffer, Suffer Well

One of Monet’s works Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

It is curious that if ones looks hard enough threads of humanity link us together. At the core of nearly every philosophy there is a supposition, a rule, a dictate, or a truth.

One must suffer.

This is not exclusively an eastern philosophy, and it can be found in the works of Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankle, and in the works of many Existential philosophers of the western cannon. This consistent thread is one of the reasons I am currently convinced of it’s veracity.

Now many take this truth and turn it to Nihilism. They learn like the dog in the electrified cage that there is no escape from suffering and so fall into learned helplessness.

However, unlike the poor abused animal in that horrific experiment in the past, we are not bound by our physiology, instead if we allow ourselves to we can learn we are helpless to suffer, but able to choose the type of suffering.

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Why does this matter? Because not all suffering is made the same.

Suffering is not some meaningless thing thrust upon us, but our perception of change. The world changes. I often struggled with the idea that accepting everything as is without judgement would be impossible.

Would I not simply stagnate?

How could I accomplish such an insurmountable task?

To answer my own questions:

No, the world will not stop by accepting it, by accepting it you instead become able to respond better and more efficiently, change is not optional, though you can choose to grow.

To be frank, you cannot do it. I know sounds super Kooky right? Well it’s not. You can simply try and practice at it, each time moving away or from it, but moving none the less.

Suffering is the price of admission to life.

Though there are some that might scoff at it’s simplicity, it is my current belief that you could not know that something was pleasurable if you did not know what pain was.

I think this is why we have what we generally call first world problems. Suffering always measures itself in relation to the situation. If one is hungry they suffer, if one is fed they might complain about the quality of the food. If one has nothing but high quality food they might suffer the dread of boredom.

By being cogniscient that suffering will come along, we are no longer at its behest, and instead greet it as an old friend, knowing that our labors have been paid for and any boons or banes we earn are our own.

So if you must suffer, choose to suffer well, but if you can change something, then do so!

It’s a Grand and Noble game

“Let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream that you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time. Or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would, naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes.

You would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each, you would say “Well, that was pretty great.” But now let’s have a surprise. Let’s have a dream which isn’t under control.

Where something is gonna happen to me that I don’t know what it’s going to be. And you would dig that and come out of that and say “Wow, that was a close shave, wasn’t it?” And then you would get more and more adventurous, and you would make further and further out gambles as to what you would dream.

And finally, you would dream … where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today.”

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1501096-let-s-suppose-that-you-were-able-every-night-to-dream

So suppose the above quote is true. Let’s suppose this is by choice our life. That what is going on is what we chose to do.

Well then it certainly means that this is all a game!

The real worry comes from not knowing. All anxiety is the recognition of how invariably complicated this all is. Think of even a simple task, say going to the market, and begin to think of everything that will go wrong.

Even excluding subtle variations, you could list a thousand things, and still not being close to done. Thus anxiety.

But the quest to eliminate anxiety totally is also a fools errand!

Peoeple miss that the game is the interplay between anxiety and calm, between past and future, and want and satiation.

Life is not, as we so often see it in the west, a problem to be solved. That sort of thinking is both reductive and dangerous, as is all too often seen in the Utopianists of the world, be they Mao, Stalin, Hitler, or nameless Southern Slave owners.

So given this, what is a person to do?

Well, I’ve not the foggiest idea.

Actually, I have some idea, and that is the most anyone can ask for.

The idea is to play the game sincerely. Not for some outcome, as outcomes aren’t real, they are imaginary devices we invented to help produce real tangible results, but the goals aren’t actual physical things.

No, the idea is to play to play, and accept if there is a boon or bane, that is a nice treat or an unpleasant shock, but it isn’t the point.

Some people call this state flow, where the mind becomes immersed in the moment, and loses track of the grand societal narrative, they become sincerely dedicated to something they want to do.

You see when we play the game with results in mind it taints it. If we talk to an attractive person we’d like to get to know, and we really want to get their number, our sincerity is removed, and we come off as a sales pitch. Only when we go in knowing that we might fail and being ok with that, can we really fall into ourselves and away from the objective.

This all may sound a little crazy, and it is. But I’ve come to find some sort of peace in the knowing, that it’s all a grand game, and the point is to play it.

AFYM:Nihilism is a crutch

Photo by David Yu on Pexels.com

Life is a tragedy.

We are born in an arbitrary, and unjust world.

We are raised into a world, if we are lucky we are taught love, only to come finally to the realization that everything, even your body will be torn from you.

This is the first half of most existentialists’ arguments, and where many a young person stumbles. They read this and tossing aside the difficult, and often cryptic words of a philosopher decry “NOTHING MATTERS!” and so they slink into the realm of the NEET.

Ultimately this is a mistake, because it is a false wisdom predicated not on life experience but the experience told to them by a far away authority figure. (many of which are hopelessly misunderstood, and in the second half of the work that is so casually tossed away find logic to refute Nihilism.)

The truth is Nihilism is most often unearned. “Nothing matters , god is dead, there is no point to anything”, goes the Nihilist, but go to any of those saying these things, and ask, “what have you done to prove or disprove this?”

ideas you see are sticky things, and people forget that at our core we are a very advanced animal that came from a much less advanced iteration. This iteration favors laziness and ease to all things, and Nihilism fits this bill perfectly.

“If Nothing matters? Well then I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to have any responsibilities. It’s not my fault, the world is inherently meaningless so I have no motivation.” is the line of logic, and it is a terribly convenient one too.

It is much more difficult to go out and test these “truths” than it is to simple accept them, and moreover it is a vast over estimation of the cognitive power of the self.

Can anyone really know if nothing matters? Do we know without a shadow of a doubt that the heat death of the universe will happen? OR that in that strange place after it there may be some change, some dissonance that starts everything? Or that there might not be some interaction from dimensions above?

We do not. To reject Nihilism, and for that matter all dogmas is to assert one’s own humility in the face of the unknown.

To paraphrase Socrates ” all I know is that I know nothing.” And there is some beauty in that.

Cancel Culture: Well meaning, but misguided

In a the village of the blue bird the inquisitors walk in check-marked robes bustling in the winds of change. Like all inquisitions, it began with noble intent, and heretics and sinners they did find. Having burned through them, the hunger did not abate or abide.

So the inquisitors patrol, even now, as the residents scribble their thoughts, and post them to the town square. Here words are weird in the old sense.

These crusaders stepped out to stop predatory creatures from preying upon the weak, they are not to be hated, but pitied. Their problem came in their methods, not their intent.

Those self-empowered crusaders made no hard and fast rules of when to stop, and like a human algorithm, they simply began to follow their programing.

The openly monstrous hid away their darkness in the quiet distraction of the pyres ghastly shadows, and slipped into the mindless. So the inquisitors dug deeper, their personal slights becoming warrant enough to attempt to destroy those around them.

Those people, who seek only destruction, cannot see that in their scorched earth they leave behind the seeds of hate. Where education, compassion, and forgiveness might have lifted that yoke, their heavy hand locks it into place.

I understand that need. The deep existential debt they feel they owe to those around them,( for what but being born with more?) but in their hurry to abolish that guilt, rather than bear it with noble intent, what is lost?

Conspirarcism: A belief system for the ill informed

Niche is famous for saying ” god is dead…” unfortunately people miss the rest of the quote.

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

That last line is important to understand conspiracy theories.

Doubt endless doubt filled up the remains of the dead gods. So simple the world once seemed to those under the umbrella of god. God was all good, the devil all bad. The believer needed no nuance, no understanding of the grey, no comprehension of chaos theory.

But in a world where the central authorities are fractured, man is lost adrift.

The conditions of life are when seen from an objective as possible sense absurd. It is discomforting to look upon something as supernatural as say the Corona Virus, with all it’s power and hunger, all the while being invisible.

How to explain it? how to explain away the thing we cannot comprehend, or will not comprehend or know not to even being comprehending?

Enter, the conspiracy.

Come now, toss away your hard truths, complex interplay, and grey morals. Let us shut our eyes and plunge once again into Plato’s cave. Let us return back to the corpse of God, and with eyes wide shut embrace the simplicity of the dualism.

There are those who are the doer’s of bad, and then there is us, the defenders of truth.

Simplicity is the main defining factor of the conspiratorial minded. Not in the hoops they jump through, nor their methods of proof, no, these are quite obfuscated. But instead at the core of conspiracy theories lie a single thread, that life is simple, and all of it’s problems stem from an other.

That other can be anyone, but unfortunately it tends to favor the ideas that led to the Holocaust, and that is not hyperbole.

This is of course, even more complex. Because occasionally, rooting around in the muck, the conspiratorially minded finds a kernel of undigested corn. A truth, a real conspiracy by powerful people in attempt to cover things up.

Unfortunately, these well meaning muck-dwellers miss the forest for the trees, not seeing that the true conspiracies need not be hidden, but are played out right in front of our eyes. The 2008 financial crisis for example.

Rich people stole poor people’s money. Most of it, especially from minorities, and then…the government gave them more money.

The real crimes, the ones that matter happen at such a high level that whole kingdoms are traded in swaths, and we the common-folk are simply along for the ride.

What is Mankind to do?

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I am not here to disparage or discount the suffering of those people oppressed by systems put into practice long before I walked this noble earth.

I come only to ask a simple question? What is the way forward?

I see now the justifiable pain of millions swelling before us like a tide that threatens to destroy all in its path, but beyond it, I see the counter.

History is a pendulum of bloodshed perpetuated upon one another for the slights of the past.

It only stops when the debts of the past are forgiven.

Now people misunderstand that word. To forgive is not to forget. When you forgive a debt it is not struck from the ledger, and anyone who wanted to could look back and see that the debt existed and to whom it was owed.

However, to forgive the debt means that it shan’t be collected upon. That those to whom it is owed decided to let it slide, not out of compulsion, but out of a desire to stop a cycle of violence, and oppression.

I am not so naive to think people will want to forgive, and I am not so naive to think that everyone on the side of control will even be able to see that they owe a debt to those they’ve oppressed, but I hope that this generation can learn.

We’ve tried hyper capitalism, we’ve tried communism, and hate, and war. We’ve done it all. The ideologies of the past have failed and yet I do not see many who are volunteering new ones?

The way forward I think is to look at the past, and forgive it. To realize that to be Err is human and then with a heavy sigh begin the difficult work of a holistic and nuanced ideology based not on a single utopian idea, but perhaps under a realistic embrace of the idea that we are never done.

There is no stopping point for the human race, because to be complicated is to be subject to entropy. Everything falls apart, everything changes, no static system can stop that, mainly because those systems were built by ever changing humans.

So what is a mankind to do? Mankind must use our great big beautiful brains to think ourselves out of the problems of the past. Or at least die trying.

We don’t sweep a floor once and think, “there, I’ll never have to sweep it ever again.” so why would we assume something as complicated as politics would be that way?

The Loss of Legacy Part 3:

Several generations grew up faced with the prospect of total nuclear annihilation every waking moment. Many of their first memories might be the fear in their parent’s eyes, even if they grew up in the idyllic 1950s-60s. (Well the white people did, minorities in this time were facing incredible challenges alongside the idea of total nuclear annihilation.)

Children hid under desks, parent’s dug bunkers, and people whispered of communist infiltrators in the media, their governmental institutions, and neighborhoods. This all began to shape the way people saw the world and themselves.

Many people turned inwards to the world of symbols. They clung tighter than ever to the idea of salvation, damnation, and rapture. In the face of death the coming to god, in this case the Judeo-Christian one, was common, but the rise of many cults in the 1950-1990s was in my approximation no coincidence. Cult leaders simply tapped into the running vein of low level anxiety that religion soothes, and replaced the relatively benign ideas of salvation with one rooted in the capitalist system, the extraction of money from the most venerable.

Many turned towards the procurement of wealth now, at the cost of the future generations. Hyper-Capitalistic patterns emerged, and a zero- sum game mentality evolved. Salaries for those at the top ballooned, while workers at the bottom began to see their wages shrink in the face of inflation. In it’s place advertisers worked to promote debt as the healthy alternative. Sure, all of this was bad for the long term health of the economy, but if you are a wallstreet trader and have no idea if the world will blow up, who cares.

Many turned towards spiritual enlightenment and later escape using various chemical substances. Though many drugs were developed for noble goals, such as LSD, their prolonged and public use became little more than a dulling agent. The pain they dulled was the sudden abandonment of the future that the world collectively decided.

The Vietnam war stands as the nail to the proverbial coffin. To a cause that few but the hyper-capitalistic military industrial complex could support hundreds of thousands of young able bodied men only to be returned corpses or walking corpses. Broken men who saw no real sense to their sacrifice, and who were hated for simply following the rhetoric of nationalism.

To these returning victims of capitalism’s bloodiest expense report, what were they to do? Many turned to drugs, tuning out the pain of what they were made to do, while many more turned back and doubled down on the system that chewed them up.

So the system toiled under its own weight, until one day, the old adversary. The godless communists to the east simply fell apart. Leaving the massive cultural ideas, military production, and hyper-capitalistic infrastructure of the system build in the shadow of the enemy, high and dry.

Continued in Part 4:

The Loss of Legacy: Part 1

We live in a strange world. A world where no one thought we’d make it through the 1960’s-1990’s. I recall my mother having the TV on one day, it was 1991, I was 3 years old, but I still can recall her looking at the TV in shock and awe. I would later learn the reason, or I should say understand what she was responding to. My mother was born in the heart of the cold war, and she watched her immortal, ever present enemy crumble on live television.

My mother like most Americans did Nuclear bomb drills, and the whole of the world went through an existential crisis. Existentialism was nothing new, individually, culturally, or even on a national level. However, in the face of Nuclear Annihilation, all of this seemed petty.

Suddenly with but a fraction of the sun’s power we discovered the first man made global existential threat, the Nuclear weapon. And if we want to be candid that is all a nuclear bomb is, a piece of solar energy brought here to terra firma.

The nuclear bomb still looms in the world, do not get me wrong, North Korea, and Iran both seek to bolster their political might with their own pieces of the sun.

However, the bomb dominated the lives of those who lived and were born from 1955-1991. The USSR stood posed to destroy the world, and the USA went along with them piling the bomb high and hard, making more and more destructive weapons. Each side bragged about and showed of how powerful their own arsenal was in an ever present game of chicken that would result in the complete annihilation of the human race. If not from hellfire from nuclear winter that would soon follow.

Starvation is never a pretty sight, and the nuclear winter that would follow a nuclear war would starve billions. The human race suddenly faced it’s own doom, brought on not by an army or a pestilence but by a fraction of a fraction of a star’s power, and they stood, as a babe before the storm, naked and afraid.

With this in mind, we began to see the decline of legacy, and the rise of I have to get mine now, and the future is none of my concern.

And this makes sense, why plan for a future that from all the media, from all the nervous chatter, might never come?

Continued in part 2: