Look at Me by Jennifer Egan AKA The Ribald Liaisons of Two Horny Charlatans

I wrote another review for this book as I was reading it, but I changed my mind about it.  In hindsight, this book is really a very well-written, 500-page highbrow literary version of a Harlequin novel involving all sorts of smutty, smutty extramarital and underaged sexual liaisons.  It is 50 Shades of Gray written by a talented, poetic, acclaimed novelist.  OMG, just smutty, smutty, smutty with just enough philosophical bullfuckery about the modern age, image, commercialism, feminism, industrialization, commodificationism, and ordinary celebrityism to make you think it’s not ENTIRELY a smutty, literary romance novel.  So, with a very brief overview of the ribald, bawdy tales of Rockford Illinois, I’ll get on with my own philosophical musings with just enough about the book to make you think this review is not ENTIRELY my philosophical musings.  A model gets her face messed up, desperately trying to continue commodifying her face, she agrees to be part of a website that commodifies the lives of the ordinary and extraordinary.  Along the way we get side stories about a 16-year-old who fucks her teacher, a wife who sleeps around behind her husband, some has been high school football jock who turns moribund, and a terrorist. 

 There are two parts of the human mind, one that we are directly “in control” of and the other that operates without our direct control or even awareness.  We like to call these two sides, the conscious, analytical mind versus the unconscious or subconscious instinctive mind. 

 According to most modern teachings, the conscious mind rules supreme.  It is the most powerful and important mind, and it is beleaguered and harassed by the undesirable and destructive, savage, impulsive unconscious mind.  Everything we consider good and virtuous lies in the conscious mind, our morality, our character, our compassion, and our intelligence.  Everything we consider evil and vile lies in the unconscious mind, immorality, impulsivity, character flaws, aggression, cowardice, and selfishness.  In order to be good, virtuous people then, we must be constantly alert and thoughtful at all times, ever vigilant against drifting away, spacing out and letting the evil, unconscious mind take the reins of our body and thoughts.  Civilization itself is the achievement of the conscious mind as it triumphs over the savage, unconscious mind.  Civilization is what teaches us to utilize and maximize the conscious, analytical mind.  When we fail, when we commit atrocities and violence, it is the failure of our conscious minds in controlling our unconscious minds.  It is the failure of individual willpower and constant mindfulness.  People, like artists, writers, and musicians, who indulge their unconscious minds and go into those artistic trances, are playing with Satan’s fire, the root of all our evil and savage selfish behavior.

 This paradigm of the minds is completely wrong.  All we need to do is look at animals that lack the conscious, analytical mind to realize that the unconscious, instinctive mind is not in fact selfish, unethical, violent, and destructive.  While countless animals are instinctively social like ants and fish, mammals are unique in that we have socially reinforcing behavior and physiology.  We receive strong biochemical rewards for social behavior like oxytocin and serotonin.  In fact, this may be the biochemical foundation for what we describe as love.  Far from being selfish, unethical beings, our entire system of ethics is the product of our unconscious, instinctive minds.  In fact, the conscious, analytical mind is actually asocial.  It neither releases nor experiences the biochemicals that make us feel warm when we are enjoying a social experience.  It simply evaluates the experience coolly.  “Aha, I feel good, therefore this must be a good thing to do.”  It’s like the autistic Sheldon Cooper.

 The problem is not only is the analytical, conscious mind asocial and incapable of feeling or understanding love and compassion, but it is the most self-deluding, confabulating part of our minds.  It is constantly receiving information from the other parts of our mind after the fact and then makes the mistake of believing that it in fact made those decisions.  (It also happens to be narcissistic with a god complex.)  It feels like it is control, when in fact, all it really does is try desperately to explain motive after the fact.  You may argue that the analytical, conscious mind must be the smarter and more accurate mind, because it can add two plus two and the unconscious, instinctive mind cannot.  It can create a story, learn language, write songs, calculate things out, etc.  If it was this deluded deceiver, it would constantly be telling us that 2 + 2 equals F, and the sky is green and the ocean is orange.  What you fail to understand is that the conscious, analytical mind cannot tell you a lie.  When it tells you a falsity like, you decided consciously to reach out to an apple before your hand moved toward it, it believes the lie it is telling you.  It lies not to purposefully deceive you, but rather, it lies to make sense of something it fails to understand correctly.  So why does it do this?

 The conscious, analytical mind did not evolve into itself out of nothing.  Like all our specialized organs, it evolved as an extension of something we already had and then just changed a little.  Our teeth, for instance did not suddenly appear as teeth to cut into food.  Our teeth first evolved as scales on the outside of our skin, moved inside, and then over time, became more and more useful to cut food before ingesting it.  Likewise, our conscious, analytical mind is a slight variation of our unconscious, instinctive minds.  In other words, our unconscious, instinctive minds also deceive us.  It too has the conceit that it is in control where in fact, it is merely reading the code of DNA it is given.  The environment also controls it, as it provides signals to either activate or turn off DNA instructions to our body. 

 So why the deception?  We were not designed to comprehend the true nature of nature, the world around us, the multiverse of multiverses.  We were only designed to get a sufficient idea of what is going on around us at our human scale to get through the day relatively unharmed and to pass on our DNA.  There may in fact have been intelligent animals that were more designed to understand quantum physics or astronomy, but since this did nothing to help advance their DNA or protect their hide, this type of intelligence faded.  What triumphed was an intelligence that made functional albeit technically false assumptions about the world around it.  It was a just sufficient enough misunderstanding to get through the day and pass on DNA.  For instance, we instinctively feel like the Earth is standing still, and the sun is orbiting around the Earth.  This feels right, because we cannot feel ourselves rotating around in an elliptical orbit of the sun.  Since it doesn’t hurt us to misunderstand the orbit of the Earth and sun, this feature never faded from our DNA.  In fact, the ability to sense motion is critical to understanding how to get away from predators and catch prey.  If you looked at the sun and noticed its movement in the sky, and you thought that it was actually still while the Earth was moving, you might also look at a lion in the distance, think it was still, while you were moving away from it.  What happens next?  The lion is actually moving toward you, and you are not running, so you die, and that odd feature is eliminated from the DNA pool. 

 Humans instinctively do not understand that things can be in motion without you feeling it, because they are too large to feel it, and gravity and the atmosphere coating the Earth also prevent you from feeling it move in relation to space outside Earth.  Only the conscious, analytical mind can accept this, because it uses a standardized set of symbols to represent objects and ideas and a standardized set of rules to understand logic, math, and science.  As we apply our more analytical minds to more and more things in nature, we are slowly discovering that most everything we assumed to be real or true wind up actually being illusions and false.  In addition to realizing that it is in fact the Earth that is moving around the sun and in fact, the sun is also moving around the galactic center and also the galaxy moving outward from a universal origin, we are also starting to realize that our conception of ourselves, our decisions, our freewill, our understanding of reality, reality itself, are also illusions and false.  Just like our understanding or I should saying misunderstanding of motion, we also possess a misunderstanding of our decision-making processes, our individuality, our ego, our freewill, our identities, the solidity of objects, and the fluidity of time and space.  But why?

 Just like the misunderstanding of motion, we hold these other delusions or misunderstandings, because it helps us get through the day and pass on our DNA, and it doesn’t hurt us to not know the truth.  Just like not knowing the Earth rotates around the sun, it doesn’t hurt us that we don’t know that we are not individuals, and objects are not solid mass.  But for our functional purposes, we must believe that we are individuals and objects are solid mass, because if someone is throwing a rock at us, we must know that we have the power to move ourselves to get out of the way, that the rock hitting this body will result in pain that we feel, and the rock, despite being mostly space, cannot travel through us harmlessly but rather, its configuration of vibrating energy will do harm to our configuration of vibrating energy. 

 The key to all this is our DNA.  DNA is nothing more than the organic encoding of information, information about how to adapt to our environment with certain behavior or bodily adaptations.  In an intimate orchestration with environmental cues, it control us.  We might like to think of DNA now as this little monster that drives our behavior, but once again by anthropomorphizing DNA, we create an incorrect understanding of it.  It is information.  It is information that passes itself on if and only if the behavior and bodily adaptations it creates effectively adapt to its given environment, nothing more, nothing less.  It is a long-stream of unconscious thought, the single thought about how to continue adapting to nature, and our thoughts are a simple extension of its thoughts, but for the first time, aware of thinking.  We are essentially, an unconscious, natural thought that has become aware of itself after all these billions of years.

 Now, you may think, wow, what a huge responsibility.  We’re now the foremost extension of a huge, historical thought process, and we have to figure out how to adapt to nature and proliferate.  In actuality, we have no choice.  We cannot control what has been thought before.  We are an extension of what has been thought before.  Now, just like arguing that we can veer off course and say 2 plus 2 equals F, you can argue that we can veer off course and destroy humanity and all life.  Why should we continue this long thought process of adapting to nature?  Why not do something else like jerk off into a bucket for all eternity and not procreate?  If you can figure out a way of jerking off into a bucket for all eternity without procreating, then you’re actually still perpetuating the thought of adapting to nature by precluding sexual intercourse for continuing the life of your DNA.  Many might argue that humanity is veering off course.  We are destroying each other and the planet.  This, they argue, is unnatural and destructive.

 Nature is inescapable.  We cannot be unnatural.  We can certainly argue that there are things humans did not create and things humans created, but both are products of nature.  What we are effectively doing is actually quite natural.  There are two major ways of adaptation to nature.  One way is multi-symbiotic collaboration (I made that term up).  Most of the bacteria on and inside us are multi-symbiotic collaborators.  They benefit from us, and we benefit from them.  In fact, without our gut bacteria, we would not be able to break down most food, and we would starve and die.  In fact, there is a proto-bacteria with its own DNA living inside our cells that if removed would instantly kill us.  But there is also another way of adapting.  This is called unilateral competition.  You invade an organism or ecosystem, and you are hostile to everything.  You attack everything whether you need it as food or not.  By upsetting the organism or ecosystem, you weaken the multi-symbiotic collaboration and the system breaks down.  As it breaks down, you devour it as it collapses defenseless.  The only problem with this is that once you have annihilated the organism or ecosystem, you need to figure out a way to move on to another organism or ecosystem.  This is how communicative diseases work.  There is also a dormant period that allows you time to sneeze, ejaculate, or shit your way into another victim.

The question here is obvious.  Which way should humans operate?  So far, it looks like the latter.  As such, as we annihilate the planet Earth, we need to figure out how to sneeze, ejaculate, or shit our way on to another distant, habitable planet. 

 You may argue that this is horrible.  Of course, since we have evolved mostly through multi-symbiotic collaboration, we are inherently put off by diseases that kill us and our loved ones, disfiguring them, weakening them, and ultimately killing them.  However, it’s all part of nature, and it’s all part of the exact same thought process we are all integrally an extension of.  Am I suggesting an amoral or even evil lifestyle?  No.  I can’t really suggest anything since we’ll just do whatever we were meant to do.  Trying to start to live an amoral or evil lifestyle will be like trying to convince ourselves that 2 plus 2 equals F.  It will feel fake and unnatural, and that is how we will always tend to go with what we were naturally programmed to do.

 Fact is, unilateral competition and multi-symbiotic collaboration are both necessary for life and its extension, sort of a yin and yang.  They are both parts of the same thought process.  While they may not get along, naturally, they rely on each other.  Without the unilateral’s systemic need to migrate to infect new victims, life may not have spread out as well.  Our desire to find the technology to inhabit other planets to get the fuck away from the unilaterals on Earth may in fact be a boon for spreading DNA all over the universe.  If there were no unilaterals infecting and destroying everything, and we figured out a way to live perfectly harmoniously and perpetually on Earth, why would we care about going off to other planets that may be hostile or dangerous.  Or why would we risk developing the technology that could also be turned against us as weapons?  Unilaterals create the problems and challenges that make us stronger, more creative, more risk-tolerant, and exploratory.  This is not to say that we should applaud them or even tolerate them, as it is simply not in our nature.  This would be like us finding infectious diseases completely tolerable and neutral.  As multi-symbiotic collaborators, we are simply incapable of tolerating or liking infectious diseases and other unilaterals. 

 So why do we seem to like and even sometimes glorify unilateral humans?  Fact is, ever since agriculture, the ruling class has become unilateral.  They have decided not to play nice with other humans or animals but rather to exploit them for all their worth until they became sick or died.  Of course, they would never dare admit themselves being unilaterals and maintain the scam of making you think they are one of us, and that they really do care about us and want us to thrive alongside them.  That is actually the only way they can live amongst us.  But there are many infectious diseases that do not instantly kill their hosts but continue to live off them and do harm to them.  We call them parasites. 

 The problem with the ruling class is that they are a dormant disease waiting to turn into a lethal infection.  Once we have AI robots capable of replacing most all human labor, they will no longer have any need for the masses.  The masses are a huge liability, using huge quantities of limited natural resources while a constant threat to the lives of the ruling class.  It is without doubt that once AI robot technology is sufficiently mature, the ruling class will have no qualms about the mass eradication of their host.  Just wait for it.

 While both systems work off each other, we cannot help but to view unilaterals as fundamentally different and evil, because we view them through our lens as multi-symbiotic collaborators.  However, through their lens, they view us as victims, as something just as abhorrent as evil, and that is weak, inferior, and too attached to one another.  In their mind, good is being aggressive, exploitative, and ruthless.  They have no problem attacking someone who is hurt or down, in fact, they find it abhorrent that you would not attack a weak and injured target.  This is the whole purpose of their existence, to infect others, weaken them, destroy you defenses, poison your food supply, and then devour them.  Of course, to us, this is sociopathic, but we certainly accept these types running our corporations, our government, and our economy.  The greatest weakness of multi-symbiotic collaborators is that they inherently assume everyone else is a multi-symbiotic collaborator.  It is this instinctive trust that actually makes them such great symbiotics.  So it actually takes a bit of a unilateral to identify and out another unilateral.  “Dude, WTF, you’re sleeping with a unilateral!”  “You just hired a unilateral to run this company into the ground!”  How would you know?  “I’m a bit of one!” 

 But just as symbiotics can have a little unilateral in them, unilaterals can also have a little multi-symbiotics in them, and this is how they hide amongst us, just like some bacteria or viruses can pretend to be harmless, like some spiders can actually kill and carry an ant on their backs to avoid being attacked by other ants.  But fact is, since humans share DNA, we are all capable of being either unilaterals or symbiotics.  We all have it in us and it’s more like a switch on a spectrum than a permanent part of our character.  What switches it on or off is like a videogame where you become a certain color in a grid if you are surrounded by three or more of the same colored players.  We mirror and mimic those around us, so if a sufficient number of us find either unilateral or symbiotic behavior rewarding, it spreads like an infection.  But this is also too simplistic.  Each society could also carry a certain number of symbiotics or unilaterals in reserve as needed.  For instance, unilaterals can better infiltrate a group of symbiotics if they approached them first with their symbiotics.  Likewise, a majority symbiotic group could defend itself better if its periphery were protected with unilaterals.  In a sense, our own white blood cells are mostly unilaterals that we unleash on foreign, harmful germs that get into our blood stream. 

 This is not to say that symbiotics should round up all the unilaterals and hang them, because fact is, we need them, and we’re part them.  This is to say that we know exactly who is who and make a rational, measured decision on whether we use them or not.  For instance, should we select a mostly unilateral as a CEO?  That CEO may fend off takeover attacks from other unilaterals, but he would also sell off the company’s assets for huge profits only to destroy the company. 

 It is perhaps comic how we have unwittingly already made a clear divide between unilaterals and symbiotics with the colors red and blue, the directions right and left.  The right and red, obviously, are unilaterals who feel under siege of attack and believe it is better to be strong and aggressive rather than weak and vulnerable.  They believe in arming up and closing off our borders and getting ready to fight the world.  The left and blue are the symbiotics who feel that the best course of action is living in peace and harmony with each other, accepting diversity, embracing immigrants and foreigners, and working with other nations.  It is not really a question of what you were born as but rather what you believe this country needs, a unilateral competitor or multi-symbiotic collaborator.  Of course, this is a false illusion.  The minds of the left and right are just manufacturing division and premises to get you to support their candidate.  Their candidate may not even be a unilateral or symbiotic after all.  In fact, certain Democratic candidates could be unilaterals under guise and certain Republicans could be symbiotic but in a way that allows them to be overrun and ordered around by unilateral advisors and staff.  But there is no doubt at all that the ruling class, those who are actually above contrived political divisions are all unilaterals.  It is absolutely clear that they don’t identify with any of the masses, and the world we live in is rather an extension of their belief system.  If we lived in a harmonious and peaceful world, I would argue the opposite, that the ruling class were symbiotics. 

 In reality, it is more a spectrum from high symbiotic tendencies to high unilateral tendencies.  It all sounds deterministic, and people may bring up the experiment where students read about how conscious decisions are made immediately after the fact and another group who read about freewill.  The group who read about freewill did much better on a morality test.  Does this mean we can change our behavior if we believe we can change our behavior?  No.  It means that if we are led to believe that we have freewill, we also tend to believe that we are more moral agents and behave accordingly.  If somehow everyone believed that only people with freewill acted evilly or drank milk, if someone convinced us that we had freewill, we would act evilly and drink milk, because we have successfully associated the two things.  After the fact, we would say that we drank the milk or acted evilly, because we were thirsty. 

 Another interesting feature of symbiotics is their gut bacteria which mirrors their symbiotic nature.  It’s hard to tell if the bacteria influences the host, or the host influences the bacteria, or both.  My suspicion is that it is both.  Just as DNA takes cues from the environment using our bodies, bacteria takes cues from the body and adapts accordingly.  If the body is constantly stressed and anxiety and tends to be a unilateral, the bacterial community somehow orchestrates a unilateralist takeover.  If the body is relaxed, friendly, and tends to be symbiotic, the bacterial community then orchestrates a symbiotic takeover.  There is much evidence indicating that our gut bacteria determines what we crave, so once it decides that we have become unilaterals, it engorges itself on food that is beneficial to the unilateral bacterial fauna. 

 I like to think that I’m consciously moving myself toward a symbiotic life, and consciously making wise food decisions also feed my symbiotic gut fauna.  But evidence is suggesting that my move toward symbiotic life was prewritten as I was exposed to more and more symbiotic people and other influences which kept looping around and feeding into itself like that videogame where three green neighbors turn you into a green piece.  But at the same time, the illusion of freewill is natural, and believing in the scam can be beneficial in our human scale habitat while being technically false at the universal scale.  I can’t sit here and consciously decide whether I would like to deceive myself into believing that I am an individual making a freewill decision to become more symbiotic, because I’ve already made that decision.  Yes.  My conscious mind doesn’t knows and also knows that it made that decision and it has freewill and separate existence from all the other DNA carriers.

 The fact that you read this review was prewritten, what some might say was meant to be, purposeful.  It was purposeful alright, it’s purpose was to continue down whatever road you were inclined to go.  What happens next is that, knowing the game, unveiling the small dude behind the curtain, what’s your next move?  You can choose now and throw out all the possibilities, but you’ve already made up your mind.  Your conscious mind reviews not the possibilities but the options you already turned down.  1. Go outside and run naked and go raving mad.  Can’t and won’t.  2. Believe you have no freewill, assume that this means you are more evil and anti-social, become more evil and anti-social.  3. Believe you have no freewill, but don’t assume that this means you are more evil and anti-social, become more evil and anti-social because your unconscious mind has been conditioned otherwise.  4. Believe you have freewill, knowing in the back of your mind you don’t, and assuming it means you will become happier, more kind and social, become happier, more kind and social.  You already know what you picked. 

 When the model looks in the mirror, she knows she’s not looking at herself anymore.  Her real self is dead, suffocated under layers of makeup and commercial delusions.  She wrongly assumes that this means that she is free to abuse herself, snort coke, sleep around, sell her story for a dollar, treat others like a jerk.  Thank you no.  In order to be happier, more social, and treat myself better, I’ll gladly assume that we are individuals with freewill in a material world, but I already knew that. 

 

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The Self-Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood

 Okay, so science tells us (through people who have part of their brain damaged) that the self is inextricably connected to and derived from our brains.  Change a part of our brain, and our sense of self and our behavior and personality and character and memory and everything we think of as ourselves gets changed too.  In other words, if our brain is turned off, as in, we die or we’re stuck in a coma, but one without any dreams or inner thoughts, we basically become nonexistent.  There is another twist to this.  Who are we?  If we are the illusion of an individual connected to our bodies, and this is purely a trick to get us to protect, feed, and mate with our bodies and nothing more than a trick to get the DNA passed on, then we are actually nothing more than DNA vessels, a part of a much bigger, grander system of DNA that is inextricably connected to and derived from the community of DNA which is nothing more than information on how to survive and pass on the DNA.  But in this scenario, when we die, we don’t wake up and all the sudden we’re this big, giant DNA monster being that goes, wow, what a nice dream, I thought I was a single organism with a single set of DNA, and here I am actually the DNA monster with everyone’s DNA.  We just wouldn’t wake up.  The individual organism and its sense of self (which is an illusion) just goes away forever.  In both cases, we (as in the illusion of ourselves) just disappear and we wake up to nothing.  In this case, our lives are pretty cool, an opportunity for us to enjoy the life of a single organism thinking it’s a unique individual, and then we all die, and we are no longer a single, thinking, conscious being but rather this amorphous, unconscious, DNA pool system that perpetuates itself without thought and a sense of self or individuality. 

 Personally, I think that sucks, and I can’t imagine that the improbability existence of a universe that can accommodate life and the improbable evolution of intelligent life just randomly created me for 80-or-so years and then I just disappear like a bubble in boiling water.  Perhaps for the sake of my mental well-being, my selfish needs, my desire to perpetuate my DNA and believe the world is meaningful and my life is meaningful, I want something more than that random bullshit.  And this is where I think either science can’t describe everything or we just haven’t reached the scientific capability of understanding that there is something much, much more to our lives than the random DNA bubble illusion of self that bursts after a few decades of life. 

 Our ancient cultures constantly teach us that there is something more, but science then continually comes up with simple explanation for everything.  Perhaps all our spiritual leaders had some neurological disorder that made them hear spiritual voices and see bright lights that made them think they were talking to a higher, kinder being?  That is all entirely possible, but I believe it can’t explain everything.  The key for me lies in quantum physics.  In classical physics, everything can be accounted for and conserved, and everything is mechanical and there are few surprises.  But as quantum physics proves, everything is not that way.  The world of quantum physics does not make sense to us, because our senses are limited to the human-scale world and neither the nano- or astrological scale.  If we are a part of the quantum universe, then we are nowhere near capable of truly understanding our complexity, and I have to believe that consciousness and the illusion of self, possesses a complexity that is beyond our common sense and intellect.  So we basically have to speculate wildly, and while science doesn’t look too fondly upon wild speculation, sometimes wild speculation works and creates hypotheses that turn out to be true. 

 I refuse to believe that my self and persona and character and everything I identify as being a part of me simply evaporates upon death.  To me, that is an ignorant way of looking at things, like saying, well, I have no evidence of life beyond our galaxy or universe, so I’ll just sit here and assume none exists.  I have no evidence that there is no gold or diamond mine anywhere on Earth, so I’ll just assume none exist.  I have no evidence that humans will last past 2050, so I’ll just assume we all die before then.  I have no evidence that I’ll find love or have a happy life, so I’ll just assume I’ll never find love and never be happy.  Our minds want us to believe in meaningful things and hope.  We have organized all of reality into categories that relate to things that can help us or hurt us.  Without the need to pass on our DNA, then reality can’t be organized that way, and there really is no meaning to anything, as it can neither help or hurt us.  Yes, DNA makes us manufacture meaning and the illusion of the self, but does that mean that once we die, once DNA no longer needs us, we just poof, disappear?  Or could it be that while DNA made us believe in the individual self and ego and gave us our perspective of reality as things that help or hurt us, we took this concept and somehow ran with it and surpassed our material deaths? 

 One possible explanation is that our technology allowed us to circumvent death.  At some point in the future, we were able to upload our self, our ego, our memory, our personality, character, etc. into a server that was less fallible than the brain and backed up and never died.  So then what did we do?  We became virtual beings.  We created artificial worlds to explore, to share, to entertain ourselves, to educate ourselves, to challenge ourselves, etc.  Perhaps at first, we got a little carried away and created bizarre worlds with the most incredible landscapes, animals, plants, and other people with amazing artistic or musical talents.  Perhaps we lived there for billions of years.  But at some point in time, we became a bit nostalgic, and we wanted to return to our origins.  But we didn’t want to return as old minds inside a baby or cherry pick the best moments of our lives.  We really wanted to relive our lives from birth to the present. 

 Unfortunately, in this version, it means that everyone who died or will die before we can upload our minds and become immortal, actually do evaporate and die.  Well, here’s yet another twist.  Perhaps, when we die, we enter into another dimension or universe, that this one is just some starting off point, like a butterfly starting off as a caterpillar.  In this scenario, people who die or will die before uploading themselves move on, while those who upload themselves both move on and also get stuck eternally in this universe.  So the question is, are you the one who got stuck, a copy of your real self, or are you the original and will die and move on to the next universe?

 While everyone wants clarity, security, and certainty, I like to believe that uncertainty, the unknown, and the unclear are entirely fine.  In fact, I would rather choose not to know if there is life after death than be absolutely certain there is not.  Since I can’t find any particular reason to believe in any particular theory of life after death, I cannot at this moment commit to any theory.  Instead, I think I will be hugely surprised, because in my life’s experience, I’m often hugely surprised at how things actually turn out.  For example, I was hugely surprised by quantum physics and I was hugely surprised by psychology and how most of our perceptions and thoughts are mistakes and illusions, and I was hugely surprised that our planet is run by psychopathic criminals.  I’m pretty sure when I wake up from my material death, I’ll be in for another huge surprise, and I’m fine with that.  I am not fine with the idea that I will just cease to exist.  In fact, I believe the vast majority of the world, the multiverse or multi-dimensionality or whatever, is comprised mostly of thoughts, then energy, and a very tiny minute part is matter which is actually all an illusion and assembly of energy which is then an assembly of thoughts.  So in my mind, the mind and thoughts reign supreme.  The more you think and believe in an expansive and good world, you don’t create that expansive and good world, you simply connect with it, like a long-lost friend.  At the same time, if you don’t think much and only believe in a horrible material world where you just evaporate in the end and meaning and your illusion of self, evaporates with it, you actually do evaporate, because you haven’t connected with the greater world you truly live in.  My advice to you is to believe that there is something greater and something good out there, and the more you believe, the more you connect with it and can then travel to it when you’re done here.

 If you ever wonder why you live in a world where psychotic criminals rule and make life miserable for the other 99.9%, I believe that it is for the same reason that you sweat and get tired and sore when you exercise.  In order for you to exercise the good part of your soul, you have to encounter resistance and counterforce.  That is the role of evil and selfishness.  But one of the most important lessons is not that the world is full of evil, and evil has in fact become its rulers, but rather the fact that you can identify this evil within yourself and understand how you are an intrinsic part of all the evil in this world, to understand not how others can become corrupted and evil but rather how you could become corrupted and evil. 

 The belief that life ends after material death, I believe is a diseased and dangerous way of thinking.  If this is all there is, one has the tendency to want to go all in, and one cares less about the world after one dies.  I believe this is how most of our rulers think, and it is based on modern post-religious, French so-called enlightenment thinking.  If this is all there is, we tend to want to go all in.  But why not go all in, you might argue?  The answer is that living organisms don’t go all in, and shouldn’t.  We should always be living like we are an intrinsic part of nature, and our death is not the end but rather, we contribute to the great system of nature.  While we are here, we pace ourselves, and we ensure the welfare of not only our future DNA-relations but nature itself. 

 Everything went awry when we discovered grain farming and decided to turn humans into livestock.  We then contrived spirituality and religion into a form of hierarchy, rule, and power.  Naturally, we rebelled against that, but instead of just throwing out the bathwater, we threw out the baby, the foundations of religion and spirituality.  But in actuality, we kept the bathwater and threw out the baby.  We just dyed the bathwater and called it scientism and started to worship it as if it were the Church and the Pope.  Scientism would tell us how to live our lives, and scientism taught us that life ended at death, and we should go all in and not care about future generations and nature itself, just consume and exploit the hell out of everything, because science teaches us that meaning is an illusion, we all cease to exist at death, and we’ll all be obliterated in another big bang anyway.  Not only does nature give us meaning and color our world, but it also gives us a sustainable, moral, good way of living in harmony.  If we are to surrender the notion of meaning, of categorizing things into hurtful and harmful, then we also would surrender the natural way of life, the sustainable, moral, and good life.  In reality, however, scientism is actually a more primitive form of life, one of selfishness, ego, and ambition.  Some organisms in nature survive through symbiosis and sustainable practices, while some like harmful parasites, bacteria, cancers, and viruses survive through wiping out everything they run across.  Humans did not invent a whole new scientific way of living in the modern age.  Rather, they reverted to a primitive form of cancerous, viral parasitism, and it is no wonder their guts are filled with harmful bacteria and cancers.  You cannot escape nature.  It all then makes sense that the ideology of parasites, harmful bacteria, viruses and cancers is one of nonexistence after a brief life of exploitation and destruction.  Modern humans are not unnatural, in other words, they have simply reverted to an ancient way of micro-organic life.  We have become a contagious disease.

 * * *

 In my opinion, and derived a lot from this book and the previous book, is that we are something that is an incomplete picture, pieces of a puzzle that really don’t add up to anything at all.  But we can’t live our lives like these.  We can’t just be random pieces of a puzzle!  We love to solve puzzle.  We want to believe that we can put all the pieces together, and it will uncover something incredible and whole and complete and beautiful, but this is the great deception of life.  What we have to simply accept is that we can only put the pieces together and create a complete beautiful picture in our minds.  So this fact, actually creates unimaginable room for freewill and the ability to actually create, out of random, unrelated pieces, something actually quite beautiful and complete.  And this is how we do it.  Our inception of ourselves is based on multiple sources and weights depending on how trustworthy those sources are, and we can also change the opinion of those sources through our actions, but most importantly, we change through exposure to people who we feel look more like that complete and beautiful picture we want to create.  In other words, if you want to become a complete and beautiful being (inside not just outside), you need to surround yourself with complete and beautiful people (inside not just outside) and also read their books, watch their movies, and listen to their songs.  But something interesting that I’ve discovered in life is that people are imperfect, but their imperfections compel them to excel in other areas much like a blind person learns to become an incredible listener.  So it’s not just being around wonderful people who live near perfect lives, especially if your own childhood has not been so great.  Often it’s a matter of finding imperfect people and teasing out of them their greatness, and then focusing in on that and being careful not to be drawn to their weaknesses and faults. 

 Certainly when I look at myself, I can focus on my weaknesses and flaws, but I’ve also noticed that in dreams, when you focus on things, they multiple and grow, especially scary things like insects, snakes,  alligators, or zombies.  For our unconscious minds, focus creates and strengthens reality.  Whenever I focus on my mistakes and embarrassing blunders, I feel ashamed and useless, and as a result, I behave less responsibly and maturely, and as a result, I make more social gaffes and blunders.  Certainly, I should remember and deal with embarrassing mistakes like getting in fights or yelling at strangers, but I should also focus on my strengths which embolden me and give me the confidence to be more social, kind, and sharing.  Who after all, would want to hang out with an ornery asshole who gets in fights and yells at people? 

 Now you might argue that I’m being delusional and becoming some imposter who tries to believe he’s awesome just so that he may somehow become awesome.  But there is no self.  There is no me.  There is just a few random pieces of a puzzle that compel me to manufacture me, a narrative about a philosophical city boy who grew up to love reading and thinking about mind-bending stuff.  Since there is no real, real me, it truly is all up for the imagination, and why not try to paint a beautiful picture instead of an ugly one that deserves little attention, awe, or value?  I believe in freewill, and I believe this is where our freewill can shine.  We may have started out with what appear to be murky, ugly, shitty pieces, but we can consciously pursue and find different pieces to frame those ugly pieces in such a manner that they fit into a big picture that is actually quite stunning and beautiful.  Compare this to person that starts out with beautiful tiny pieces, but they have no idea that they have control over creating all the other pieces, so just by random luck, they encounter ugly or pretty pieces, but the entire picture is randomly assembled so it all adds up to something that looks incongruent and odd.  I believe matter is energy creating the illusion of solid mass.  I also believe energy is thought creating the illusion of vibrations and motion.  While we don’t live in a world where we can make things move or change with our minds, I believe ultimately, upon death and waking up to our true selves, we do wake up to a world where we can move and change things with our minds. 

 * * *

 Like the last book I read, Neurologic, this book gets a little bit sidetracked and lost in example after example of things going wrong with people’s heads.  It only really takes one or two examples.  Hey, here’s something different about someone’s brain that led them to behave differently.  I get it.  The point is rather simple.  Our brain makeup, our neurology hugely impacts our behavior and way of thinking and our self-image.  Wow, who would have known.  But it doesn’t disprove that environment and culture also have huge impacts.  We are a product of both nature and nurture and the dance between them.  In fact, they need each other to create us.  Our DNA responds to nurture to determine how to manifest itself and we need our DNA to tell us how to interact with our environment.

 * * *

 The idea of the self and freewill may be illusions, and the real world may forever be inaccessible to us, so our version will forever be just a fable, an incomplete possibly completely incorrect version, but for our purposes here on Earth, it’s like going to the movies.  We have a dozen choices.  We can make our lives a tragedy, a comedy, an adventure, a romance, a thriller, a scary movie, etc.  We have that choice, and although, we are predestined to pick one movie and that movie may not in any way reflect reality, it’s still our choice and our movie to live.  If you believe there is no freewill and no individual self, and therefore your life is a tragic absurd comedy, that’s your choice.  Doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be for everyone else.  While some may find this book depressing and self-limiting, I rather interpret all this as quite liberating and exhilarating.  It means there are no fixed rules for how we view ourselves and our lives.  There is no school marm telling us that our self-image is fake and bullshit, and it’s useless to have, and we’re wrong, wrong, wrong, fake self, wrong.  This book does tell us that the self-image is an illusion, that it’s really like a holding place for all the data that is related to us, but it doesn’t say it’s useless.  In fact, it proves that it is critical for our survival, harmony with nature, and sense of self-worth and happiness.  It doesn’t say, hey, believe in this stupid fairy tale and you’ll be happy.  Rather, it says, we have been designed to believe in a stupid fairy tale to make us happy, so what do you do?  Science doesn’t tell you what you should do, contrary to Scientism and the French enlightenment.  Science tells you if you do A, then B will happen.  If you refuse to believe in yourself and the self-illusion, you are more likely to become confused and unhappy, and your chances of protecting and passing on your DNA will be diminished.  You may argue, but I want to live an authentic and real life!  I don’t want to live out an illusion.  I don’t think that’s the real argument here.  Color and our entire language is not real.  It’s just something we invented to communicate meaning to each other.  “Do you see that blue car coming at you?  Get out of its way!”  You’re not going to sit there and go, “Well, actually, blue is just a very broad label we place upon a band of the spectrum of electro-magnetic radiation – “ and boom, the blue car or whatever color you want to call it, hits you and kills you.  Life really is like a board game, and DNA is the key player.  If you help and protect DNA, you get rewards.  You smile, you feel comfortable, you feel strong and powerful, and you feel loved and appreciated.  If you don’t help and protect DNA, you get screwed over.  But if you want to sit there and go, I don’t like this game, it’s all bullshit, it’s not real, I quit, what do you do?  Go kill yourself?  I don’t think that’s a reasonable answer.  We’re here stuck in this game, and we can’t quit, so why not try to play by its rules and flourish?  Just because some scientist came along and told you it’s just really a game of make-believe doesn’t mean that by refusing to play by the rules you can somehow win the game and be happier than everyone else.  Scientists actually are telling you what the rules are and this in turn lets you know how to win. 

https://www.amazon.com/Self-Illusion-Social-Creates-Identity-ebook/dp/B008AJ2FCY/ref=mt_kindle?_encoding=UTF8&me=

Self-Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood

Pre-Review

 Having finished Neurologic and almost halfway through this book, it is now becoming clear to me that our minds are designed to be manipulated.  Whether you like it or not, our unconscious minds are extraordinarily designed to take limited information and manufacture a narrative, an illusion of a complete, fluid, over-simplified picture to provide us with certainty and confidence to act to protect and transfer our DNA in a world that is inherently uncertain, disorderly, and beyond both our senses and intellectual grasp.  In other words, our minds are built to deceive and be deceived.  It is therefore no surprise that humans are capable of not only unconsciously deceiving themselves but also consciously and unconsciously deceiving others, manufacturing realities that simply don’t exist based on limited information.  With that said, the entire history of civilization is one big scam, a deception, with the sole intention of benefitting the ruling class at the expense of the masses.

 I love the term “manufactured crisis” and I would take it even one step further to describe our economic system as Crisis Capitalism.  Destruction is more profitable than construction.  With construction, you profit once.  With destruction, you profit thrice, first from building, second from providing weapons that destroy, and then third from rebuilding everything the weapons destroyed.  Additionally, if the masses are led to believe that we live in a crisis situation, they are willing to go to extremes for self-preservation, and that often means surrendering liberties and autonomy.  In crisis mode, antisocial behavior is justified as a means to an end.  Strict hierarchies are created with superiors barking orders at subordinates, because this is a crisis situation and there is no time for courtesy and discussion.  Crises lend themselves to a command and control style of organization. 

 But crises are not the only way for the ruling class to organize strict hierarchies and suspend our liberties and autonomy.  The other method is what I call, “manufactured scarcity.”  The advent of agriculture created massive grain surpluses (i.e., wealth), but this surplus was not distributed equally.  Rather, a ruling class was formed to control all the surplus, and for everyone else, they manufactured scarcity.  They withheld surplus grain and wealth from the masses in exchange for obedience, subordination, and servitude.  Effectively, those at the bottom of the pyramid were simply turned into livestock either through slavery or debt servitude which still exists today.  Why do we take for granted that when you are born, you have no right to live on the land on which you were born?  From day one, your parents pay rent for you to live on land that is not yours.  Don’t you find that odd?  It would probably be odder if you had to pay rent for the air you breathe, but fortunately the masses were not stupid enough to believe that one but not smart enough to resist paying rent to live on the planet Earth.  If chimpanzees were smart enough to work in the field, one way of convincing them to do so would be to force them to pay rent for the land they are born on from day one.

 Fact is, there is enough grain and wealth to go around to make life comfortable for everyone.  In addition to withholding surplus grain and wealth from the masses, the ruling class also manufactures division.  It is natural for us to categorize nature.  You all remember Kings Play Chess on Fine Grain Sand which correspond to the classification system of living organisms, however, the division of humans is not scientific but rather a functional tool to divide and conquer.  If you think about it, the divide and conquer method is so obvious that it borders on the absurd.  We are divided left and right, red and blue, black and white, it’s almost comical.  Why we haven’t figured this all out already and resisted is beyond me, but I assure you, with the Internet, more and more people are getting wiser.

 The strength of scarcity as a tool is that it destroys your interests and abilities to collaborate and cooperate.  In nature, scarcity causes fierce competition even within species and close relatives.  In fact, under extreme conditions, animals eat one another, and this is virtually what happens to humans.  People love the saying, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” and proclaim it with pride thinking that being tough and ruthless is something to be proud of.  Humans are perhaps the most socialized animals to ever exist on this planet, and perhaps a nod to the ingenuity of the ruling class, they have successfully accomplished the amazing task of converting humans into some of the most anti-social animals on this planet.  Negativity, pessimism, cynicism, and hyper-competitiveness are all methods of coping with scarcity, and ultimately, they culminate in anti-social behavior.  This is exactly what the ruling class wants.  They are outnumbered by the masses, but if the masses are divided, atomized, and anti-social, there is no chance of them overtaking their rulers. 

 The first step to resisting manufactured scarcity and division is to simply stop believing in it.  I am not saying that we should deny that there are people of different nationalities, genders, and religions, but rather, we should not view them as competitors, and we should take the greater view that they are all humans and more alike than dissimilar.  And while the ruling class has withheld resources and made us fight over them, there are countless non-material resources that enrich our lives.  Not only should we believe that the world has a surplus of resources, but we should regard the non-material, non-commercial resources higher than the material ones.  The ruling class can withhold grain, oil, diamonds, and real estate, but they can’t withhold ideas, relationships, art, music, and knowledge especially in the Information Age.  You may argue that good art comes at a price, and I would argue that you have been successfully brainwashed into believing scarcity of non-material resources.  The idea that a panel of art experts can decree what is and what is not valuable art is simply the ruling class’s way of making art a scarce and valuable commodity to be collected and hoarded.

 Once you believe you exist in a world of surplus, you are more likely to collaborate and cooperate.  The fact that humans are the most socialized creatures on the planet indicate that for the majority of our evolution, we existed in a world of surplus.  Certainly, we had to compete against other intelligent primates and wild animals, but for the most part, we were the top of the food chain and enjoyed natural abundance.  When you live in a world of surplus, there is a much higher probability that everyone’s DNA is passed on, so the competition is to pass on more DNA than everyone else.  This requires social aptitude, the ability to rise through a social group, mate more and pass on your social advantage to your children.  This is perhaps why the ruling class came into existence in the first place.  When they accumulated and hoarded wealth, they mated more, and they passed on that wealth to their children.  Unfortunately, humans had never dealt with what was excessive wealth or surplus which led them to use that excess not only to benefit their relatives but employ underlings to secure their wealth and enslave everyone else.  This has become ever more important to know with the advent of intelligent robots which will replace the vast majority of human labor and make billions of humans redundant.  In a world of manufactured scarcity, it would then only make sense that the abundant humans who cannot find work should starve, fight, and perish, and this is where we are headed unless today, we uncover the scam.  We are quickly barreling toward the greatest mass extermination of humans.  If we are to assume that the ruling class are in fact completely in control of the world, and intelligent robots would make the vast majority of humans valueless to them, it is not a farfetched notion that they would have every incentive to rid the planet of billions of potential competitors as they have already displayed wanton disregard for human life.  The only reason they have allowed billions to live is simply to use them as cheap labor.

Neurologic: The Brain’s Hidden Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior by Eliezer Sternberg

This book does a rather roundabout, perambulating manner of explaining neurologic by using extreme cases of people whose brains have malfunctioned, not so much causing neurologic but rather causing havoc with neurologic.  It reads much like Dr. Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat.  He also brings up a number of studies I learned in Psychology 101.  The biggest thing I get out of this book is that we have two minds, or at least we can separate our single mind into two things, one that we are aware of that can use simple logic and reason, and the one we are unaware of that is faster and more powerful, and often better at helping us survive, but tends to overgeneralize and confabulate when it is missing pieces of information or input.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, because without a complete picture to work with, the brain often freezes up, and survival is more about action than waiting around for all the pieces to come together. 

 Our society seems split between these two minds.  For the longest time, we seemed to be in harmony.  We seemed to rely more on what is well known as the unconscious or subconscious mind and less on the conscious mind.  As humans, we triumphed over countless other intelligent primates and wild animals.  But when we started farming and discovered the surplus of grain, we formed hierarchies and turned each other into human livestock.  Although, we were smarter than cows and horses, the rulers were smarter, and they played with our minds to keep us subservient and submissive.  In addition to carrots and sticks which appealed to our unconscious minds, they were crafty enough to manipulate our conscious minds with stories and fables about how special the kings and queens were and how important it was to maintain and fight for their kingdoms and aspire to nobility and all that bullshit.  Instead of just being afraid of the whip and desirous of having enough food to eat, humans enslaved their minds by believing in the rewritten history of the world.  Whether you like it or not, we haven’t changed much.  Instead of believing in bullshit stories of chivalry, romance, nobility, knights in shining armor and pure damsels in distress, we now believe bullshit stories about religions or the triumph of science over religion, or gerrymandering ideologies, left versus right, race wars, gender wars, patriotism, etc. 

 While our analytical minds evolved to correct the overgeneralizations and confabulations of our unconscious survival minds, they also enabled us to deceive and manipulate each other and be deceived and manipulated.  It was a double-edged sword.  What this book teaches me is that the unconscious mind is powerful, perhaps miraculous, and capable of incredible things like creating music, art, and stories, but it is also vulnerable to neurological disorders, overgeneralization, and self-deception.  But instead of disregarding and belittling it as stupid and fallible, we should use our analytical minds to accept, acknowledge, and collaborate with our unconscious minds.  Knowing when to analyze things and when to just stop and act is perhaps one of the most important skills, more so than just really being good at analyzing everything to death.  Those who never stop analyzing actually get trapped in analysis-paralysis, and without putting plans to action, you never truly know what ideas work well in the chaos and complexity of real life. 

 A good example I have is my roller derby.  When I stop to think about it, it’s pretty absurd.  A dude practicing in a female league.  Strapping on roller skates and skating around hitting and getting hit.  It’s absurd.  I can easily talk myself out of going to practice, but I know better.  I know to just shut my analytical mind off and focus on getting all my gear together and walking out the door.  After a good, vigorous practice where I get my endorphins flowing, I never regret going to practice.  And when I’m at practice, I also know not to over-analyze everything I’m learning, because that also stops my muscles and unconscious mind from learning which is often more important, especially for basics.  For advanced tactics, the duet of both analysis and imagination work best. 

 Our inaccessible, unconscious minds use a different type of logic, one that uses error management theory.  We rightly overreact to things that may harm us and underreact to things that appear benign or neutral.  We overly rely on pattern-seeking instead of logic, because we never had access to math and science to help us survive, hence we rely heavily on nature’s clues which is pattern-seeking which is correct enough times to make it a worthwhile tool.  Of course, math and science are now informing us that pattern-seeking is often fallible, but so long as it doesn’t kill us, we’re mostly fine.  The real question is how do we reconcile the coexistence of two minds, the rational accessible one with that kind narrator voice and the irrational associative mind that relies on gut, patterns, and instinct?  The answer is actually quite simple.  In order to get through life, we need both, and we need to learn how to accept and apply each one to each situation.  For instance, let’s say you want to learn to play tennis.  You don’t just read books and watch YouTube videos.  You actually have to go out and do it.  You can fill your rational accessible mind with all the information you want, but you also need your inaccessible muscle mind to learn how to actually anticipate, hit, and return the tennis ball inbounds.  It is not nature versus nurture, and it’s not the accessible versus the inaccessible mind. 

 * * *

 One of the scariest things to emerge out of learning more and more about how we think and who we are is that you start to realize that you were initially completely delusional, and then the scariest thing is that you start to realize that you are and will always be completely delusional, that as much as you are creating a more accurate and clear picture of reality, it will forever be obscure, contrived, distorted, and fuzzy.  Dr. Phil has become more of an exploitative Jerry Springer type show (Catch Me Ousside).  One thing that you realize when watching the show is that there is often one guest who is completely delusional.  Of course, we see it, and Dr. Phil points out all these logical flaws in their stories and contradictions, but they don’t get it.  Are they mad?  No, not really.  We’re all mad.  We all use the exact same rationalizing system they do.  With the limited information they have in placing their life in what we would consider a normal, social context, all they can do is make up one excuse after another for what we perceive as anti-social, bizarre behavior.  But to them, and their fragile ego, it is impossible for them to be anti-social and bizarre.  Instead, their minds make up perfectly good answers to why they act a certain way, which is often blaming others. 

 While we like to think of ourselves as a bit more intelligent and social than the unfortunate freak show guests of Dr. Phil, if Dr. Phil was actually a super-intelligent being with millions of times the insights and knowledge about human behavior and psychology, that being could make all of us look like delusional freaks.  Even if we were a hundred times more enlightened and self-aware, this super-Dr. Phil that is a million times more enlightened and aware would still consider us absurdly delusional and misinformed.  It is often said that the more you learn, the more realize you know very little, while the stupidest people think they know everything.  Now imagine this.  The more you learn, the more realize how delusional you are, while the stupidest people think they are the most sane and clear-thinking people in the room.  In essence, the more you learn, the more you realize you are one fucking dumbass, delusional freak of a self-important, anti-social, self-contradicting being. 

 Some people argue that ignorance is bliss.  The ignorant person is confident in what little they know, but at least they have the confidence to act on it, and pure perseverance gives them the edge over the intelligent yet uncertain and inconsistent nerd.  Now add to this, an intelligent nerd who realizes he is also unbelievably delusional and should probably not trust anything he knows or thinks.  But I would argue against this.  A really smart person would accept that they are rather ignorant and delusional, but they would also realize that they are less ignorant and less delusional than the stupid person.  They would realize that if they want anything in life, i.e., that ever irrational pursuit of fulfilling their desires and overcoming obstacles, they need to invest in the game and indulge their inaccessible minds.  They need to learn to sometimes turn off their conscious minds and get in the game, learn, adapt, struggle, etc.  Even knowing that they are mostly ignorant and delusional, their advantage is that they can choose when and how much effort to put into the game, and if it becomes too much, they can step back and laugh it all off as an abstract illusion of reality.  The stupid person, meanwhile, has a mental breakdown or does something desperate thinking it’s nothing but the game and life and death. 

 The greatest cost to being stupid is that the smart folks have figured out countless ways to exploit the pattern-seeking, inaccessible, survival-oriented mind.  They know how to manipulate it into buying things it doesn’t need, coveting things it can’t afford, and working endless hours to improve their status which does very little to make them happy and in fact makes them ever more covetous of those with greater status.  So, you really can’t afford to be stupid and should not want to be stupid.  Yes, you may work harder and be an incredible entrepreneur with a multi-million-dollar business, but you also eat shit, never workout, have a sick and diseased body and brain, and you waste all your wealth on stupid things and you can never figure out why you’re always tired, frustrated, and unhappy despite apparently doing all the things you’re being told to do to achieve happiness.

 The beauty of the conscious, accessible, analytical mind is that it can fix mistakes made by the inaccessible, pattern-seeking, over-generalizing mind.  However, the conscious mind is not as much interested in survival as logical correctness, and hence the conflict.  For example, a nerd is talking to a beautiful woman, and she seems inexplicably interested in him, but when she starts talking politics, the nerd goes ballistic and wants to make all sorts of corrections to her political thoughts which are overly reliant on generalizations and survival.  What the nerd needs to do is use both minds in unison for his best interests in life, the pursuit of accurate knowledge but also the pursuit of sex or happiness and love.  Yes, our conscious, analytical mind is good at making a fool of our survival minds, but what do you truly gain by alienating your survival mind?  Losing yourself in your thoughts, you get run over by a car or you fail to find or friend or romantic partner.  After a certain point, your analytical mind invariably wonders, what’s the point of life?  If I’m not enjoying it, why keep on struggling?  There is no doubt in my mind that many nerds with big analytical minds perished throughout history.  They failed to mate.  They failed to find happiness.  They ended their lives or just quit trying.  The true power of the conscious, analytical mind is knowing when to use it and when to simply shut it off or dim it down.

 We evolved and our minds evolved in a world where someone creates a weapon, someone creates a new shield, someone creates a new weapon, someone creates a new shield.  I think that the ability to deceive was the first weapon, and the ability to perceive deception was the shield.  Either way, our analytical minds evolved and developed in order to both deceive an adversary or prey or predator and then to perceive deception from another intelligent primate with an advanced analytical mind.  I am a firm believer that our social lives had a greater impact on our evolution than predators and hunting prey.  In other words, it was more important for us to deceive and perceive deception in social situations than it was in the wilderness seeking food or trying not to be someone else’s food.  To this day and for the foreseeable future, our greatest threat or opportunity is produced from another human, and our ability to deceive and perceive deception is one of our greatest tools. 

 Reading this book makes it profoundly clear that the source of our creativity is our inaccessible, pattern-seeking mind, because all it does basically is fill in the gaps of perception with generalizations, associations, or just whatever seems to fit the gap.  In other words, it’s the greatest storyteller around.  This is why it’s so much easier for me to write novels when I’m not really thinking about it.  This is why writers get writer’s block and artists get stuck.  They think too much.  Writing and art is not about engaging the analytical mind.  It is about letting go and indulging our more creative, fictionalizing, pattern-seeking minds.  While you may think there are only two kinds of people, the overly-analytical nerds and the dull but artistic and creative doers, it is more complicated than this.  Most of the people I encounter are neither.  Maybe that’s a reflection of where I live, but I would argue that most people are overly-analytical but also rather dull.  They do think a lot, but it’s often things that are trivial, meaningless, pointless, and a great source of worry and stress.  In other words, they sort of ramble think, and many of them actually ramble talk.  They are alienated from their survival mind, so they don’t know what’s important and not, so their heads are just filled with junk that may or may not be useful or harmful, but better to keep tabs on all of it at the same time with the same amount of focus.  They are like mental hoarders.  They keep all thoughts, and they have no idea how to prioritize which thoughts are important or not. 

 Of course, you can’t think all the time, and the unconscious, survival mind wins out most all the time.  So what happens is the overly analytical person alternates between bouts of excessive worry and over-thinking with bouts of excessive impulsivity and thoughtlessness.  The most thoughtless, careless, and cruel things I’ve witnessed came out of the minds and mouths of over-analytical people.  They’re constantly blowing their mental fuses by overloading their analytical minds.  And once their analytical minds are gone, they are overreactive to threats as well as desires. 

 One of the startling passages is how images arise from the brain stem and the visual processing parts of the brain are activated to make sense of them.  Is it thus possible that the world we think we see out there is actually mostly the world already inside us, in our brain stem, somehow encoded in our DNA?  The world out there is real, but it is not the same reality as the world in our minds.  Certainly, there is a fruit hanging on a tree out there, and we go grab it and eat it.  Certainly, there is an angry human out there watching us, and it can approach us and attack us.  But the vast majority of the world we experience is in our minds, perhaps prompted by the outside world, but for the most part, our minds fill in a lot of gaps and holes, constructing a fantasy world that is more manageable for us to deal with and exploit or identify threats.  And if this is the case, it is our DNA that creates our world, and that DNA does not so much belong to us as we imagine but rather every single one of our ancestors. 

 

Near the end the book talks about our minds can even deceive us into losing our sight and how people with multiple personalities not only manifest psychologically but also neurologically because they all have different vision from decent to nearly blind!  Never, ever, ever, underestimate the power of the mind that is inaccessible to you.  When I was younger, I’d always fight with that mind, chastising myself for forgetting things, saying stupid things, overreacting, etc.  I wasn’t doing myself any favors.  In fact, I was just stressing myself out more by losing trust and confidence in a major part of me.  Imagine if you stopped trusting your legs and arms to obey you?  You would walk around awkwardly or perhaps not at all, and in this sense, I was mentally crippling myself by arguing with myself and mistrusting myself.  Some people with milder multiple personalities can actually become the leader of all their personalities and keep them all in check, and this is actually what we must do with that temperamental, impulsive, creative, powerful mind we have hidden in our heads.  And often times, we need to tell our analytical minds to shut the fuck up and let our unconscious minds run the show for a while. 

 It is without doubt that we, as humans, have very little understanding of how our minds work or what reality is.  As advanced and scientific we get, we are all still living in a world of fables, myths, damsels in distress, and knights in shining armor.  All we truly know is that we have desires and fears, and then we construct this world around the desires and fears to make better sense of them, and then I don’t think we realize that this reality we construct out of our desires and fears is actually all we have.  There is a greater truth and reality out there that is inaccessible to us at this moment, so what is the harm in just admitting that you’re living this delusional, fabled life, playing a part you know is ultimately just a part?  Perhaps the answer is distancing yourself from the gravity of desires and fears.  For those of us who can never satiate our desires or escape a tormenting fear, it helps to create some distance between this reality and perhaps move toward another reality where our desires and fears maybe are not as important as we might think.  Whatever the truth is, I just know that it will surprise me, and I’m not living the life and reality I think I am.  If all I have to predict the future is evidence from the past, and this past if full of surprising and mind-blowing plot twists and quantum physics counter-intuitive fuckery, then all I can do is project that all into the future, and what this tells me is that the reality out there, whatever it is, will make you shit yourself and go crazy, so just hope that it unravels itself gradually so you can adapt at each step of the way.

 

https://www.amazon.com/NeuroLogic-Brains-Rationale-Irrational-Behavior-ebook/dp/B00WCXFMGK

Vegas Knockout: A Novel in Stories by P Moss

Going to Vegas, I wanted to read a novel about Vegas, to hype up the experience, glamorize it, as if it didn’t need any more glamor.  I’m a Vegas old hat.  I’ve been there every time they build a new casino, and I’ve visited them all along the Strip.  Vegas is a special place, in that it takes hedonism and temptation to the extreme.  But it’s also about you.  I like to say that those people who are most qualified to do drugs maturely and responsibly are the least likely to do drugs, and those who are least qualified to do drugs maturely and responsibly are the most likely to do drugs.  Vegas is the same.  Vegas can be your personal, little hell.  You can lose everything in your bank account and all your savings.  You can get an STD from one of countless prostitutes.  You can just spend all your time at endless buffets and lie in your hotel bed with a food coma, throw up and do it all over again.  If you’re an arrogant ass like me who thinks he can beat the temptation and just have a good, clean fun time, chances are, you’ll get screwed.  But if you’re an arrogant ass like me who keeps pushing the envelope and gets screwed occasionally, you think you can beat the house and leave Vegas with good memories.  Fact is, I’ve won many more times than I’ve lost in Vegas, as far as having good, clean fun without anything too terrible happening. 

 (I’ve now returned from Vegas.  It was fun.  Each time, Freemont becomes more and more fun while the Strip, especially in the heat, becomes less and less entertaining.  The real fun was the roller derby convention and hanging out with the skaters.)

 Vegas is a challenge for me as well as a great party.  I like to live on that fine edge between blissfully drunk and dangerously blacked out.  The biggest threat to being blacked out is getting taken advantage of, and this has happened to me occasionally.  When I encounter a dude at the bar who is blacked out, my instinct is to leave him alone or try to find his friends.  It’s not fun hanging out with him.  He has goldfish attention span, and you find yourself repeating yourself over and over.  His mood can swing the wrong way any second, so you’re always walking on egg shells, smiling, trying to be disarming.  But occasionally, you’ll run into a dick who sees a blacked out drunk as a target for exploitation.  Most benign, he’s just a sucker to buy you a drink, but for some, they’ll try to empty your wallet, steal your phone, etc.  Some people might accuse Vegas of being just one big con-artist exploiting people, but fact is, many people who are more responsible and mature can handle Vegas just fine and have a good time.  In essence, Vegas, like drugs, prey on the weak.  And by weak I mean people whose parents were either negligent and failed to teach them self-control and responsibility or worse, parents who abused them and basically taught them to surrender to their impulses and do whatever damaging things you feel like, because you’re bigger and more conniving.  I’ve experienced both, but fortunately, I’ve also been blessed with loads of mature, responsible role-models and have read enough self-help books. 

 This novel is a pretty good rundown of the types of people you’ll find in Vegas, imperfect, colorful, idiosyncratic, a few shockingly disgusting.  Just like hard drugs attracts the worst type of people, Vegas also attracts them, but the difference is, you need money to go to Vegas.  There are plenty of ghettos around the world where people behave much worse.  Vegas is not the Capitol of Sin, if your notion of sin includes rape, murder, and fighting.  I guarantee you, there are countless cities with higher crime rates.  Vegas is the Capitol of Sin, if your notion of sin is losing money, prostitution, and excessive drinking.  It’s an adult Disneyland where instead of ripping families off with useless merchandising, they rip off adults with high-priced drinks and entertainment.  But nobody says you have to buy anything at Disneyland, and nobody says you have to buy a lot of drinks. 

I feel that every place could be Vegas-like where you do any drug, drink as much as you want, open a business without a license, work without paying taxes, and have sex for money.  If you’re a mature, responsible adult, you could have a fun time.  The question I pose to myself is what about people who can’t control themselves and a city like this eats them alive.  What do we do about people who have been neglected or abused and have no ability to control their impulses?  Do we just let them twist in the wind?  Do we take any responsibility for allowing them to buy the rope they hang themselves with?  The answer is twofold.  First, you can’t make different rules for different people.  You can’t say, okay, you had a miserable upbringing, we won’t let you gamble, do drugs, or drink like everyone else.  Second, I believe the main reason people are not good parents and don’t teach their kids self-control and responsibility is because they live in a society where they are led to believe that they don’t have to. 

 They live in what I call a nanny state society where they believe the state is supposed to fix everything and take initiative while companies can sell them whatever they otherwise need.  This is the dangerous mentality that leads people to be negligent or abusive parents.  If we all lived in a Vegas-like libertarian city, I believe it would make better parents, and in the long run, its citizens would become more mature and responsible.  Think about it.  We live in a world where we are told that we can’t do everything we want, because some things will hurt us like drugs, gambling, and prostitution.  Instead of protecting us from these externalities, society actually enfeebles us by simply making them unlawful.  Instead of exercising our own judgment and taking responsibility for our own judgment and choices, we just say, oh it’s illegal, I can’t do it instead of, well, it’s somewhat enjoyable, but I’d rather not indulge in it too much because of potentially negative side-effects.  If we construct a society where the state makes decisions for us, like an overly controlling parent, we grow up lacking any useful decision-making and self-control abilities.  Kids of over-controlling parents are either recklessly impulsive or intensely anal and sheltered.  Certainly, children need parents, but if we’re all adults, why do we need the state to be our eternal parents?  If we let the state become our parents, then we simply start acting like kids.  The state will always be there to rein us in if we get too close to danger or if we run out of food.  But what if we decided to grow up and let the real fear of getting too close to danger or running out of food motivate us to be responsible? 

 You think if we turned every city into a Vegas, the world would be filled with con-artists preying on society’s weakest.  But think of it like forest fires.  The government started intensely fighting all forest fires, even little ones, but this had the effect of preserving a lot of forest floor vegetation that would contribute to more massive, intense forest fires that would destroy everything.  Likewise, when government tries to step in to eliminate all our vices and sins, we have little exercise restraining and controlling ourselves.  In fact, because we have little exercise restraining and controlling ourselves, we actually make ourselves even more vulnerable to vices and sins.  However, my biggest argument is simple.  The casinos take your money, but voluntarily.  For some, it’s less than 1% of their income, for others it’s half, for others it’s all.  But government takes as much as half your income whether you like it or not.  So who’s the biggest con?  The casino or government?  The casino offers you air-conditioning and the illusion of entertainment and thrills in exchange for your money.  The government offers you cheaper food through farm subsidies and the illusion of security and safety in exchange for your money.  What’s the bigger con?  What’s worse about government versus casinos is that our government actually incarcerates and kills people.  As far as I’m concerned, if you replaced all the governments of the world with casinos, the world would be a better place.  The big lie is that we need government, a big, powerful nanny godlike being who will love us and take care of us in exchange for surrendering half of our liberties and wealth.  Without it, we would all descend into chaos and become ruthless barbaric, selfish savages and eat each other and our own babies.  Then government comes along and oppresses us, enfeebles us, incarcerates us, controls us, and as a result, we actually do turn into ruthless barbaric, selfish savages.  Most of us can keep this to ourselves unless we’re pushed, as in road rage, but many let it all out, and then government points to them and goes, look, look, if we weren’t here, who would incarcerate and control all these horrible people?  Well, government created them, thank you very much.  If government wasn’t here, there wouldn’t be so many of them around. 

 I think the big lie is coming to an end, because anthropologists and archeologists are inevitably accumulating incontrovertible evidence that before civilization, before government nannyism, humans thrived and were not barbaric, selfish and ate their own children.  In fact, a simple comparison of history with civilization should be evidence enough that it is the civilized human that is the most horrifically barbaric and vile.  What Vegas proves to me is this.  Many people are victimized by Vegas.  They eat too much, they drink too much, they gamble too much.  But do they go out and kill each other and eat babies, because now there are fewer rules and more temptations?  No.  The crime statistics, especially when you factor in all the tourists, indicate there are countless large US cities with higher violent crime rates than Vegas.  What Vegas proves is that we don’t need more laws and stricter enforcement to create better people.  In fact, we can decrease the number of laws and loosen enforcement (they let you drink on the Strip), and people do not start acting worse.  What they start to do is learn to self-regulate.  Anyone who has lived in Vegas a long time will tell you, I avoid the Strip, I avoid the scene, I don’t go out and party, gamble, and drink all the time.  I have learned to self-regulate.  And this is exactly what humans did before government and civilization, but rather, they learned to teach their children to self-regulate, and their close-knit community did the rest, criticizing or ostracizing those who misbehaved and applauding and recognizing those who contributed the most.  In modern society, we do rather the opposite.  We glamorize and popularize those who misbehave (that Catch You Ousside kid), and we applaud and recognize those who contribute the least, the billionaires with their tax havens.  Unless a child has some good-old-fashioned, involved parents, they are left to believe that success comes from contributing the least and misbehaving the most, and not from sharing and giving, and just as bad, happiness comes from taking and consuming and not sharing and giving.  And why?  Because 99% of humans are livestock for the 1%.  Just like factory cows, if they are raised in an unnatural world with unnatural behavior, they are more profitable than if they were raised naturally with natural behavior.

 https://www.amazon.com/Vegas-Knockout-Novel-Stories-Moss-ebook/dp/B00IAXL45O/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1501826376&sr=1-2&keywords=vegas+knockout

Before Hiroshima: The Confession of Murayama Kazuo and Other Stories by Josh Barkan

Before Hiroshima: The Confession of Murayama Kazuo and Other Stories by Josh Barkan

 This is a short, cheap Amazon discount bin compilation of short stories, including a Japanese officer who discovers that the Americans are not randomly bombing targets around Hiroshima but actually testing the drop for the atomic bomb.  It also includes a couple of coworkers who get Shanghai’d in Shanghai.  There’s some dude in Hawaii who loses his memory.  There’s some dude who runs into a sad woman.  Not anything to write home about, so I’ll just take this opportunity to digress.

 The book I read before, Life 101 has really got me thinking, which elevates the book for me.  If we project our own insecurities, fears, as well as desires on to others as well as things, is everything colored by our own insecurities, fears, and desires?  Most things in life, we assign a neutral pastel color, but the things and people that jump out most to us, that enter our mind and stick, are these things and people for which we assign our most intense fears and desires?  It’s like the Rorschach test.  The universe is comprised of various configurations of buzzing atoms.  Pretty much all neutral until they arrange themselves in a human-scale level in a manner that relates to our fears and desires.  So in the Rorschach test, we assign meaning to what is really a purposefully ambiguous ink blotch.  Similarly, we see faces and animals in clouds.  The reason is that faces represent a threat to us while small animals represent potential food.  We are programmed to see possible faces looking at us and potential food in any ambiguous landscape.   In a sense, all of reality, outside of the human sensory boundaries and all the harmless or non-nutritious things accessible to our senses, we mostly ignore.  Those things we find particularly threatening or desirable, we focus on and assign greater weight, value, meaning, and intensity.  So if we are particularly obsessive over someone, over how they behave, over how they have treated us, it informs us more about what it is we find particularly worrisome or desirous.  It’s no mystery now that people who are harmed in their childhood are particularly defensive and perceive threats where none may exist.  What they have learned is to color the world with fear, pain, and threats.  What happens is that they often misperceive the world as threatening and miss all the opportunities and desirable things in the world.  In other words, we can control the world we live in by controlling our focus and our exposure to certain things and people.  We may not have freewill to choose our past and current behavior, but so long as we can choose to be exposed to certain things and people, we can indirectly alter our behavior and perception of the world.

 Is there really nothing more to reality than the ambiguous, neutral background and then things we find relevant to what we fear or desire in the foreground?  Can we shape our reality (indirectly through controlling our exposure to certain things and people) in such a manner that we create a more palatable portrait?  Is the key to happiness not the everlasting gobstopper, a portrait of nothing but the things we desire and crave, but rather a balanced portrait of the things we desire contrasted with the things that make us recoil?  Is evil and fear therefore necessary for the portrait of life? 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Before-Hiroshima-Confession-Murayama-Stories-ebook/dp/B0060OK9GU

Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned about Life in School–But Didn’t by John-Roger and Peter McWilliams

I think most people are like me when they come across a book like this.  It looks like a cheesy, oddball, gimmicky self-help book that will probably throw around a lot of mumbo jumbo pop psychology.  While I’ve certainly come across these types of self-help books, the vast majority of self-help books I’ve read have actually been very insightful.  I think the bigger problem with self-help books is that like exercise machines, most people only get through the first two chapters or first two months using it, and then it just gathers dust.  Trust me on this one, this is a really good self-help book.  The chapter on mirrors is the money chapter, worth the price of the entire book, which in my case was $1 at a rummage sale.  One of the saddest things about used books is when someone has written a note to the recipient.  If the book doesn’t look like it has been read, then it’s like a gift that had never been opened, and the giver never knows. 

 Why the hell didn’t they teach this in school?  You ask yourself.  Why the hell don’t they teach important stuff like paying taxes, job interviewing, fixing a flat tire, making friends, networking, opening your own business, conflict resolution, leadership?  The answer is a bit complex.  I’m sure the first people to mandate 12-years of public education, five-days-a-week had the best of intentions.  They wanted to create a uniformly skilled work force for the factories.  They wanted to provide standard education for the poor masses, to provide them with the tools to advance in society.  Of course, the road to hell is laid with the best intentions.  What they never anticipated, I believe, is that the masses would consider public education the only form of education a kid needed.  The masses would in effect stop educating their kids in life.  Even worse, with the advent of television, the masses would find it completely convenient to stick them in front of the boob tube and let their brains fry.  In effect, the masses would only have two major influences on their lives, public education and television.  One would only teach them a rather rigid, uniform, strict, technical interpretation of the world with no soul, no spirit, no love, compassion or beauty, and worse, that they are inadequate for their inability to faithfully absorb and repeat rather trivial, banal, technical factoids.  The other would convince them that they were inadequate for their lack of money and material possessions, that with them, they might become happy, loved, and cool and that everything else in the world was scary and dangerous.  I don’t believe anyone set out to accomplish this, but rather, they let it happen, and once a few realized it had happened, they didn’t really care much, because they were actually profiting from it.

 When I propose eliminating most all public education funding (in addition to most all government funding), people reactively consider me crazy and callous.  Who would educate the masses?  Who would overbuild roads so developers can build on cheap land and make gigantic profits?  Who would put blacks and Latinos in prison for selling things pharmaceuticals sell freely resulting in just as many overdoses, deaths, and negative side effects?  Who would bomb Muslims?  My answer to them is simple.  For every dollar you give government, perhaps a few cents go back to the masses.  The rest is divided up between millions of bureaucrats and soldiers, thousands of government contractors, and a handful of people who own the banks which lend our government money.  My question is simple.  Instead of impoverishes us all with taxes, why not allow us to keep that dollar, so 100% of it goes back to the masses and I guarantee you, they will give more of their money to the poor than government and private contractors. 

 So how would the masses, freed from most of their tax burden, educate their kids?  First off, if parents were freed of most of their tax burden, they wouldn’t have to work as hard, and they would actually have more time to educate their kids.  And I’m not talking about homeschooling.  I’m talking about education co-ops.  People don’t realize that education is not as expensive as you might imagine.  A big chunk of the cost is admin, facilities, facilities maintenance, and sports programs.  At the college level, you’re basically subsidizing their sports program, thousands of sports scholarships, and their research programs.  Community college is cheap, because you are not paying for all these subsidies.  Why everyone doesn’t just get a community college education is beyond me.  I know the reason is simply prestige, but the real reason is debt. 

 One of the big flaws of public education is that it doesn’t teach students to teach.  The art of teaching is what makes us human.  No human child can survive without a teacher.  So doesn’t it make sense that in addition to teaching us, we should be taught how to teach?  One of the huge mistakes of humanity is over-specializing.  Certainly, society becomes more efficient if we make some people specialize in collecting garbage, building houses, cleaning our houses, growing food, teaching children, but there is also a downside to over-specialization and automation.  A lot of things we used to do for ourselves required energy.  It is beyond ironic that specialization and automation saves us from expending energy, but then we have to go to a gym in order to expend the energy we just saved from specialization and automation!  Just like specialization and automation makes our muscles weak and turns us into sedentary and unhealthy couch potatoes, allowing government to do all the teaching and caring for the poor and disabled makes our soul, our compassion, our self-esteem weak and turns us into entitled, spoiled, narcissists who are freed to just focus on taking and enjoying.  Giving and teaching is what makes us human.  We can save half the work of teachers by simply allowing older kids to teach younger kids.  This is how humanity worked for over two hundred thousand years and intelligent primates before that.  When an older kid teaches a younger kid, it not only reinforces the lessons they learn, but it also provides them with a self-esteem boost, as younger kids adore the attention of older kids.  It also teaches older kids patience, kindness, leadership, and also how to weld authority with fairness and assertiveness.  The big reason why we all hate our bosses is that they’ve never been taught how to teach or lead.  Out of the blue, they are expected to become supervisors and without any training, they tend to weld authority with passive-aggressiveness and alternating micro-managing and negligence. 

 In addition to this, education co-ops would take advantage of technology and the Internet.  Kids could attend virtual lectures for more advanced material.  There would be companies to provide co-ops with lab facilities.  If you wanted your kid to do sports, there would be companies that provide sports facilities.  I guarantee you, they wouldn’t cost nearly as much as public lab and sports facilities, and they would be filled with more state-of-the-art equipment.  The most important part of education co-ops would be the complete elimination of grades and exams.  Oh, so how could you ever tell if a kid was learning?  How the hell do you think we could tell if our kids were learning before schools?  Trust me, we could tell.  Because education co-ops would be a more personal and intimate experience, a child would not be a number.  You would know the students, and you could tell how much they were learning.  Grading and exams actually destroy the spirit of learning.  It makes kids believe that the point of learning is an award or letter or number that gets them fast-tracked to success.  It makes learning actually a tedious, undesirable means to an end instead of a pleasure and enjoyment.  But how would colleges be able to tell if a kid is qualified to attend their prestigious school?  Who cares.  Do you think they would stop admitting students?  That would be like a sports stadium demanding that every attendee take a written exam on the history of the sports team in order to qualify to be admitted.  Sports stadiums don’t do that, because attendees have something they want, money.  In fact, a lot of tech companies don’t even care about your GPA or what university you went to, because they’re realizing that high GPAs and prestigious universities may actually be a liability to your creativity, imagination, independence, and intellect.  How the hell can they tell if a job candidate is worthy then?  They look at the candidate’s work, they talk to them.  Grading and exams may have worked in the Industrial Age when the focus was on process and protocol, but in the Information Age when the focus is on creativity and ingenuity, grading and exams actually are hindrances. 

 Another thing a co-op would do is also teach life and social skills, but it would involve parents in this.  The main reasons we no longer respect our parents as we once did is because they have nothing to teach us, and nobody ever taught them how to teach their children.  A co-op would highly involve the parent.  One of the reason highly educated, first world people don’t want to be parents is that they don’t get the benefits of parenting we once did.  We look at our own parents and think, what a horrible, unappreciated, stressful job they had raising us.  Why the hell would I want to be a parent.  One of the greatest joys of parenting is being adored and appreciated by your child, and that comes from being a useful teacher to your child.  My parents never taught me life or social skills, but if they had, I believe I would have loved and respected them significantly more.  How could you not when your mother or dad teaches you an important lesson by using their own personal experiences?  In fact, I respected and valued my coach more, because he was full of life lessons shrouded in athletic tips and pointers like, get your head out of your ass, be dedicated, show up to practice, help out, don’t be selfish, don’t complain, etc.  They weren’t just athletic tips; he was giving me invaluable life lessons I cherish and have benefited from to this day.  Parenting would be much more enjoyable (along with being a supervisor at work) if you knew how to teach and lead, and those you taught and led valued, respected, and adored you.  I guarantee, you would want to have kids.

 This goes to the root of our modern problems.  We think we know what we want, but we wind up creating these rules, bureaucracies, specialization, and automation that are supposed to give us what we want, but they actually turn us into unhappy, unfulfilled, unhealthy, lazy, entitled, spoiled, narcissists.  Was this some grand plan of some brilliant sociopath to create a population of disenfranchised, atomized, alienated, anti-social work-slaves?  I don’t think so, although, the roots of modern bureaucratic society were eugenics and social engineering, the idea that pseudo social scientists could plan and design our lives and communities better than us.  I believe most everyone had the best of intentions and truly believed they would create a better society with happier people, but that was exactly what Hitler thought too.  I believe that many people have realized that we have taken a wrong turn, but some of them are profiting greatly from it, so there is resistance to change.  However, I believe, the vast majority of people have no fucking clue how we got here, what is going on, what went wrong, and just assume everything magically fell into place by the hand of god or randomness, and life is hard, and there’s nothing they can do about it, the idiot sheep.  I don’t believe ignorance is bliss.  I believe ignorance leads many of them into self-destructive behavior and addictions that make them miserable.  It’s certainly no joy to realize that we have all been brainwashed and live in a destructive, harmful society, but I also know what can make me happy and I try not to dwell too much on things I cannot immediately change.  Writing this blog helps me vent, but it also gives me a glimmer of hope that I’m spreading a message and with sufficient critical mass, change will happen.  I’m also smart enough to know that I’m not the first to think what I think.  If I think it, it’s been part of a greater idea that has been stirring about, and I’ve just latched on to it and perhaps stated it a bit more clearly than others.

 A word to our rulers.  All this should not threaten or scare you.  Much like North Korea, our world is ruled by a criminal elite.  But if you think for a second that Kim Jong Un can reform and democratize North Korea or simply step down and move to America, you don’t understand how criminal empires work.  Once you get to the top, you’re sort of stuck.  You’re just as much a prisoner as everyone else, except you just get the most material benefits.  Likewise, if some benevolent ruling elite of our Capitalist global economy suddenly wanted to turn into a good guy, he would become easy target of the rest of the club.  Imagine if you’re the high school stud quarterback or the prettiest, most popular girl in school, imagine if you were all like, hey, I’m going to eat lunch with the nerds today, because we shouldn’t limit our social circles and I don’t believe in this hierarchy bullshit.  That kid would be mocked and knocked right off their throne.  Another kid would be elevated in their place.  Simple as that.  Change actually doesn’t come from the top.  Change comes either from a popular revolution which is actually rare, or a sufficient number from the group at the top feel it’s safe and cool to adopt a particular view.  There was a time when the high school king and queen believed in racism and segregation, and now that’s like totally not cool.

 So what would happen if kids were educated in co-ops?  They would all have stronger life and social skills.  Certainly, they would consume less and be more conscientious and probably vote more independent and think for themselves.  This would absolutely threaten the status quo.  But what actually happens next?  Does the world end?  Certainly, corporate and big business profits suffer, wealth is distributed more evenly, but what happens next?  Those on top are loath to lose wealth and power, because that is how they have defined their self-esteem and self-valuation.  They are actually terrified to lose wealth and power, because they have a sneaking suspicion that underneath all their wealth and power is a pile of shit.  Without their wealth and power, nobody would respect, fear, admire, or care for them.  My answer is that you aren’t going to lose all your wealth and power overnight, and if your kids are raised in co-ops and learn that wealth and power does not define them, they will be more than happy living a simple life with close social connections and be perfectly fine.  In fact, they will be happier than you ever were.  You’ve been raised in a dog-eat-dog world, and you’ve triumphed by eating the most dogs, but what have you actually triumphed, because you certainly haven’t triumphed in life if all you have is wealth and power.  You’ve triumphed in a manufactured, artificial game that was designed a long time ago by a bunch of farmers who figured out how to domesticate and enslave fellow humans.  It’s like winning a video game.  You have the highest score, but now what?  People admire and fear you, but now what?  Can you take that admiration and fear and go out and buy yourself some happiness?  Or do you just construct an elaborate excuse of a life to distract you from the fact that you are fundamentally unhappy, unloved, and unloving?

 * * *

 What is the meaning or purpose of our life?  The book claims, “Life is for doing, learning, and enjoying.”  I disagree.  We are, sorry to say, slaves to our DNA, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It doesn’t eliminate choice, freewill, and chance.  Our DNA is a living document, a code that teaches us how to live and survive nature.  But once the DNA creates our eyes, brain, legs, and stomach, and once the creature we call ourselves interacts with others and nature, whole new emergent things arise which cannot be predicted or expected.  So what does our DNA tell us to do?  That is the meaning and purpose of our lives.  Certainly, it tells us to do, learn, and enjoy, but it also tells us to do many other things including procreate, grow, teach, share, give, wander, sense, explore, compete, fight, run away, etc.  As the most socialized and intelligent creature on the planet, our greatest meaning and purpose is to be intelligent, social animals, and as such, this allows us to discover the greatest meaning and purpose of all.  WE WERE CREATED TO BE RESPONSIBLE STEWARDS OF ALL NATURE or at least become extinct trying.  Fact is, and probably chances are that we are not the chosen one, but through nature’s unfathomably long history of trial and error, it created the chosen one.  The chosen one realized its ultimate meaning of being the responsible stewards of all nature, and it’s quite possible they’re still around. 

 The question remains, however, why they would create us if they were already created?  My answer is that life is a sport.  Sports are created by humans not just to entertain us and keep us in shape, but they’re a derivation of play.  Playing is used by children and to a lesser extent, adults, to simulate life and provide us with similar challenges but in a safer and more enjoyable context.  Therefore, this life we live on Earth as humans is a sport.  I hate to think that all the death and suffering on Earth is a sport, and I’m not saying it’s all an illusion, but it’s a necessary evil.  Humanity is played out naturally, and this provides us with lessons.  The problem of course is ethics.  I mean, would humans engage in a sport where animals actually suffer and are killed, just so that we can learn a powerful lesson or be entertained?  My theory is that those in charge can’t just sit idle having learned everything and just sit around enjoying life.  Those in charge want to live naturally and part of that is to be in a process of growth, learning, and changing.  To have mastered life and to sit around doing nothing but enjoy life, perhaps bored these folks, so they went about reconstructing natural life and evolution all over again, and that’s what we’re in, this endless cycle of growth, learning, and changing, starting from scratch, because that’s just what we’re naturally programmed to do for all eternity.  Life is like a puzzle, but instead of taking apart the pieces and jumbling them up and putting them back together over and over and over and over and over again, right after we jumble them up, we erase our memory of ever having put the puzzle together.  Horrible, isn’t it, but what else is there to do?  What else is there to do?

 One of the peculiar things about humans is that we function better if we believe in certain things that do not necessarily need to be true.  In other words, we believe in things like superstitions, hope, luck, fortune, and meaning and purpose, even where they do not exist.  There was probably a time where some intelligent primates were not equipped with such bias.  They lacked superstitions, hope, the belief in fortune and luck and meaning and purpose.  When times were tough, they simply gave up, and hence, their DNA was not passed on.  In other words, part of the meaning and purpose of our life, interestingly, is pursuing and believing in meaning and purpose which enhances our ability to get through life and pass on our DNA.  In other words, if we were in charge of nature, not only would we try to continue learning and growing and changing, but we would also construct meaning and purpose regardless of whether there was any.  Nature may have started out without meaning and purpose, but with the advent of intelligent, social animals, it acquired the construct of meaning and purpose which started out as a simple survival tool like an anus. 

 * * *

 One of the chapters I liked best in the book was about mirrors.  Whenever we judge or criticize others, we are often judging or criticizing something undesirable in ourselves, but it also applies to situations.  What makes you angry, resentful, and annoyed?  Personally, I hate being treated unfairly.  I grew up being treated unfairly, so it’s a pet peeve, but does this mean that I treat others unfairly?  This is a point of enlightenment, because I do.  I get irritated with people who talk too much, but it’s not because I talk too much, but rather, they talk too much because they are nervous in front of other people, and so this is something I don’t like in myself.  I was at a bar and became irate at this person smoking next to me, but it meant that I was irate about my own unhealthy addictions like drinking.  You hear stories of this all the time, but you just don’t think it applies to you or is so universal.  Some of the most homophobic people are also the most insecure about their sexuality or fitting in.  I used to have a boss who criticized everyone for poor teamwork and leadership, and probably of all people at that place, he had the worst teamwork and leadership skills.  I hate getting stuck at red lights and waiting in lines, but is that saying something about my life in general, that I’m annoyed by getting stuck in life and not getting to where I want to go.  And I often rile against our government, but is that more about me not trusting my own leadership and decisions in life and worrying whether I am crooked and give into impulses too much, whether I’m secretly desirous of wealth and power and controlling other people?

 At the same time, we can also look at the things we admire and are attracted to.  I love transcendent music and reading enlightening books.  What does that say about me?  I admire people who are committed and work hard at something to achieve a greater goal.  I admire people who give and share.  I admire people who stand up for something they believe in despite it not being popular.  I admire the underdog who fights against great odds and continual disappointment to finally triumph.  I admire people who think creatively and unconventionally.  I know, you’re probably wondering now if I’m just making shit up to brag about myself.  I have a friend who’s truly warm, kind, and gentle, and I’m not saying that means I’m like him, but it means that perhaps deep down, I am that person, but certain things in life have undermined that person I truly want to be.  I have this thing where I think being too nice and kind makes you a victim, a sucker, and that’s probably me thinking about myself as a child.  Being nice and kind doesn’t make you a victim.  Deciding that you’re better off not being nice and kind is what makes you a victim the rest of your life by being hypervigilant against abuse and exploitation to the point of becoming an unlikable asshole. 

 One of the great things about mirrors is that it teaches you not to take criticism personally, especially from people who don’t know you well.  It’s like that thing where someone goes, “I have a friend who has this medical problem…”  We all know, he’s talking about himself.  Whenever someone harshly criticizes you, don’t take it at face value.  When they say something like, “I don’t really think you care about this, and you’re not putting in your fair share of work,” what they are truly saying is, “I’m not sure I care about this, and I’m not sure I care to invest my time and effort into this.”  Sometimes, actually often, people lie to themselves.  We all do it to protect our egos, just like the old, “I have a friend who…” trick.  Next time someone questions your commitment to a project, forget about your own commitment to the project and start to ask what you can do to get the person more committed to the project.  In a sense, that person is asking for help.  He has lost motivation, vision, confidence, and instead of admitting it, he’s doing the old, “I have a friend who…” trick but instead is using the old, “You’re the one who’s…” trick.  When I think of trolls on the Internet, one of the biggest attacks they do is trying to make you look like an outcast, whether your race, sexual orientation, whatever.  What they are actually doing is crying out for help.  They feel like outcasts.  They have no friends, and all they have is the Internet and a bunch of strangers who they feel won’t like them anyway.  This is probably one of the best lessons I’ve learned recently and especially regarding how to get along with others better.  My tactic has often been to ignore people who criticize me, and just tack it up to the heat of the moment, but now, I see it even better as they’re asking for help by revealing something they don’t like about themselves. 

 * * *

 But I have to expand on this.  If in fact, the way we view others and life itself is actually just a projection of our insecurities, fears, hopes, and desires, then what if EVERYTHING and reality itself was nothing but a projection?  I mean, yes, there is an independent, external reality, but it’s truly just a bunch of atoms buzzing about in elaborate patterns.  The reality that we know and love is different.  It is deeply colored and distorted by the lens of our desires and fears.  So the reality is not out there.  It is like color.  The color does not exist in the object but rather the color is the wavelength of light that is reflected by the object.  Reality as we know it is not inherent in the objects we sense and know exist from mathematical formulas.  The reality that we know is rather the reflection from our DNA that imprints in us our desires and fears.  Our DNA has constructed its own version of nature, sort of like a map, a representation of reality, but instead of political boundaries or lines to represent elevation, this map is filled with lines and colors that indicate whether something is beneficial or harmful to us.  We don’t see reality as it really is.  What we see is this map that is projected through our eyes onto the surface of everything we see and sense and know. 

 And if everyone’s reality is strikingly different than our own, because they all have different needs and fears or levels of needs and fears based on their different DNA but also their different life experiences, and our political beliefs are based on our unique realities and personal experiences, then instead of saying things like, I can’t believe how many stupid people are fascists, left-wing, right-wing, or libertarian, we should rather be saying, their political beliefs are valid for them, and I need to understand what life experiences they had to make them so fearful of chaos so as to support fascism or authoritarianism, what made them so distrustful of authority to be libertarian, etc.  In other words, there is no objective reality constructed by humans to argue over, unless you all agree it’s just a bunch of buzzing atoms.  We’re all arguing over each other’s subjective realities being invalid, but we should now know that we’re wrong.  Every subjective reality is valid to the viewer.  If you want to change how people view the world, you don’t question their subjective reality, you try to understand it and gain their trust, so that they will allow you to change the lines and colors on their map to view things differently.

 * * *

 One of the most revealing and oddest parts of the book comes in at page 157.  “The Master Teachers need the illusion of reality to teach us their lessons as well as they do.”  “But by exposing the Master Teachers (the “villains” of the piece) as the wonderful, kindly, loving friends they are, aren’t we risking the effectiveness of future lessons?  Not likely.  You’ll forget all this.”  If I’m reading correctly, the authors are saying that our lives are some sort of virtual reality learning tool like a flight simulator.  The problem I have with this is that any suggestion that the pain and suffering of characters in this supposed simulation is an illusion is unethical.  We are given compassion, and when we see the suffering of Third World people or even black people in American prisons, I’m not about to be callous enough to say, oh, you folk are just characters in my simulation, and you’re not REALLY suffering or hurting.  I suppose the ultimate way to ensure that you believe that you are in a real world and not a simulation is this morality clause.  For you to say, hey, I get it, this is all fake, that is inconsistent with possessing any character, perhaps the reason you are in the simulation in the first place.  In a way, what I’m saying is that there is only one possible, moral way to interpret our reality and life and that is by assuming it’s all real, that we are in the very first iteration of something that will later be played out in simulations ad infinitum.  But is it possible that if you do believe that you’re in a simulation, and you do assume that everyone who is suffering is just a computer-programmed character, and then you try to enjoy your life in this simulation without feeling any guilt that you actually fail the simulation if in fact it’s a simulation to teach you morality and character?

 Another possible interpretation is that sometimes the intensity and weight of reality can be too much.  Negative feelings and traumatic events can make this reality too unbearable, but instead of ending our lives, we need a pressure release valve, and this is one tool.  One time when I took mushrooms, I received the message that my life was nothing but a play, and an audience would cheer me when it was all over.  Perhaps past spiritual leaders have captured this concept, with or without psychedelics.  Sometimes, when life gets too tough, you have to imagine that it is not real at all, sort of like dissociation where you sort of leave your body.  Of course, the danger is that you also lose contact with your compassion and feelings for others, which is also how many psychopaths start out.  The trick then is to pull yourself back to reality and reengage your emotions and feelings which may be painful for you, but ultimately ensure that you don’t lose any compassion or feelings for the suffering of others. 

 * * *

 I think one of the greatest errors of humanity came about with the Rationalist Era.  While certainly, we achieved many great things with science and the age of reason, we took it too far.  We threw out the baby with the bathwater.  Science and the age of reason taught us that we could use reason, logic, and rational thought to overcome some of our biases and distortions, but what it is now telling us is that most of those biases and distortions are what make us human, and we don’t want to get rid of them all.  One of the misperceptions is that we are mostly conscious, rational people pursuing self-interest and that it is society which gives us our morality, compassion, and humanity.  Modern research is telling us otherwise.  It is telling us that we are mostly unconscious, irrational, social animals with occasional conscious, rational reflection, often times a step behind our unconscious mind.  We are all born with morality, compassion, and humanity.  The problem with the first version is that it sets us up to fail.  If in fact we are mostly conscious, rational people, and it is society that gives us our morality and compassion, then we fail to appreciate our instincts and start to engage in constant war with them.  Obviously, they win, because we cannot maintain constant conscious vigilance.  Second of all, we resent ourselves and others for failing to live up to this lofty expectation.  For example, if all drivers were always attentive, conscious, and rational, the only explanation for them cutting us off is that they did so purposefully with the intent to harm or annoy us.  As a result, we take everything personally, not just other people’s driving.  We also fail to give ourselves any slack for giving in to impulses or doing things without thinking.  As a result, we actually become anti-social, angry, resentful assholes, and ironically, we become even more vulnerable to unconscious fits of rage and insensitive, antisocial behavior.  (If we find that 90% of the time our minds float off to space when we drive, imagine that at any given time, the minds of 90% of drivers around you are off in space.  I’d drive carefully if I were you and be more forgiving of everyone’s shitty driving including your own.)

 What this book is trying to teach us is not so much the, we have a faulty concept of true human unconscious, social nature, but rather, it is trying to give us the tools to stop expecting everyone to be rational, conscious, logical beings.  We will fail ourselves.  People will fail us.  We can’t change ourselves or others by holding a grudge against ourselves or others.  We need to accept and then move on.  When we feel someone should have done something, and they didn’t, should we punish them or should we change the initial proposition to, someone does not always do something I expect them to (probably because they are distracted by other things they are more worried about). 

 “Would you rather be right or be happy?”  “If we answer “Happy,” we are free.  If we answer “Right,” the cycle of misery begins again.  If we’re right we must punish – either ourselves or another.”  “…the irony is that when we punish another, we first punish ourselves.  Who do you think feels all that hate we have for another?  The other person?  Seldom.  Us?  Always.” 

 It’s just like an argument with someone you care about.  Do you want to be right and hurt their feelings, or do you want to save the relationship and be happy in the long run?  Perhaps the most important point here that the author missed is that it all starts with you.  When you feel that you have done something wrong in your life, and you are unwilling to forgive yourself or understand that you did it because you were distracted by more urgent concerns, you resent yourself and feel the need to punish yourself.  Using the mirror chapter before, what this means is that you turn that resentment around and project it on to everyone else.  Your failures, your mistakes, your flaws, your lapses of judgment then become everyone else’s, and that’s all you see in others, and your urge to punish and demonize them is actually an unfulfilled desire to punish yourself.  This book is so full of gems I have to stop reading just to let my mind relish it and let it soak in. 

 Fear is not a limitation, it is “a prelude to illumination.”  “Once you start doing the thing you fear, the fear is used for its true purpose: extra energy.” 

 Even worse is that not only do humans tend to inflate meaning and purpose in everything, we also inflate purpose and intention in people.  According to modern research, since we are not the ever-vigilant conscious, rational people we presume to be, then the vast majority of things that we do have no conscious purpose or intent.  Just like driving, most everything we do, including cutting off people in traffic is without foresight, intent, or malice.  Our tendency to assign purpose and intent to every action of others makes us paranoid and think everyone is out to get us when in fact they are not.  Our desire to punish them for their infractions leaves us unsettled, resentful, and antisocial.  Even worse, we often discover to our dismay that we have committed countless infractions in the heat of the moment or in a moment of distraction when our minds have floated off to space.  Instead of understanding that this is our normal mode of operation, we instead agonize over our hidden intent and malice to do harm to others.  Since we cannot accept this possibility, we become even more prone to dissociation and distancing ourselves from our conscious, rational mind.  In a vicious cycle, we then commit even more infractions.  Then we purposefully try to shut down the conscious mind with mind-altering substances and experiences.  Ironically, the path to a clear mind and a more rational, conscious mind is accepting the fact that we are mostly irrational and unaware of what we are doing or thinking. 

 I highly recommend that you read this book right after Social Animal.  What schools have failed to teach us is how to get along with each other.  As social animals, much of our happiness is rooted in social interactions.  If you want to be happy, the key is developing your social skills and relationships.  The powerful lesson this book teaches is to be more accepting and tolerant of others, but it fails to teach us what we’ve been doing wrong all along.  What we have been doing wrong is assuming that we are mostly rational, intentional, thoughtful, and asocial beings.  We assume that left to our own devices, we would be anti-social savages, so we need a society with lots of rules and regulations to keep us in line.  When people mistreat us, we assume it is intentional, because we think people are mostly conscious of everything they do and say.  In fact, most of everything we do, think, or say is unconscious and habitual including most of our driving.  There is very little we do with thoughtful intent.  The vast majority of times we hurt others is unintentional and if we were to reflect upon it, we would all feel remorse and guilt.  Because we don’t understand this about ourselves and others, we are always assuming everyone else and ourselves are assholes unworthy of trust and company.  Now, I’m not saying our rulers intentionally did this to us, as you can see, I used the term intention.  Just like us, our rulers do most everything out of habit, and I believe they maintain the status quo, not just because it’s extremely profitable to them, but because it’s just habit. 

 Once you start viewing everyone and everything they do as mostly unintentional and habitual, you get along much better with everyone, but most importantly, you get along much better with yourself.  To be happy and content with who you are and what you have done in life is essential to helping you make and keep friends, because you treat others as you feel you should be treated. 

 I would recommend skipping Parts 4 and 5 which descend into a bunch of self-help advice you’ve probably heard like a broken record.  The first three parts were good enough and revolutionary.  The rest is like following a great comedian with a bad amateur.  Although, half the book is filled with big font quotes, it’s still a pretty thick, long read. 

 https://www.amazon.com/Life-101-Everything-Learned-School-But/dp/0931580781