Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Aphorisms on Suffering, continued

Debilitating states of physical suffering, cognitive suffering, and affective suffering may need intervention.

The aim of psychotherapy (at its best) is to address the debilitating forms of affective suffering. To pine for one's loved one is not a fit case for psychiatric intervention. It is considered normal, and healthy. When you do nothing but pine, however, intervention may be required.

Suffering can be endured more easily if there seems to be a meaning behind it. The grand theories of Karma, the big picture, divine justice, Our Father in Heaven, are all ways to make the unendurable endurable. The realization that it is all a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing, may and does lead to insanity and suicide.

However, it is a momentous error to see this sorry state of affairs (pain and its palliatives) and to want to eradicate both the pain (the passion) and the palliatives (beliefs). With the eradication of both, in toto, there is no debilitation, but there is no movement either.

Motivation is affective. Cognitive or intellectual motivation is woefully insufficient, as any manager or leader worth his name will tell you.

As Wittgenstein said in words to this effect: To solve all problems of humanity is to be standing on ice. There is no friction, but there is no possibility of moving ahead as well.

To be without the affective push is also therefore debilitating.

The lack of affective faculty is a state of dysfunction requiring psychiatric intervention, if others depend on you. While normal life is indeed pathetic, the affect-less life is apathy. This apathy may be couched in glorious terms, but it is what it is.

What can curiously happen in a state of apathy, given an ethical framework which glorifies such behavior, is a regression to sensuality and hedonism, the state of a child. "Oh look at those bright colors!" "Oh look at this shiny new gadget!" In the absence of sensual or short-term stimulation and distraction, an apathetic individual has literally nothing to live for. Hence, depression, boredom, ennui.

The lasting cure for depression is not sensuality, but meaning.

The modern man is afflicted with a lack of meaning and feeling (to varying degrees), and is stuck at stimulation. It is not his fault, of course. The whole culture of consumption and glitter is pushing this paradigm of being concerned with nothing but me, here-and-now. Narcissism and hedonism are all around us. People are dying to feel connected again, but are unable to. The others with whom one craves connection are immersed in themselves as well.

Emptiness and depression is the inevitable result of a lack of meaning. If somebody is happy, look for where he is getting his fix of meaning. He may say he has no beliefs, but look closer.

Do not be quick to snatch/destroy somebody's belief, one which gives him meaning. Let him be, you have only another belief, another meaning which you believe is truer, to offer in return. And if you don't offer anything in return, you have done him a disservice.

If a man kills while defending his belief, understand that he is killing for what gives his life meaning. You may find him barbaric, but he doesn't have your advanced beliefs which cannot be attacked except by a thesis-length tome. His beliefs are easy to attack, and therefore he attacks easily.

The strongest sense of meaning is one which cannot be attacked or threatened even in principle. Spiritual people are notoriously immune to criticism, because their sense of meaning is highly, highly subjective and you cannot attack it easily. Even the means of discourse (intellection) is decried right at the beginning. It is a good trick. It is as if you are asking a debater to cut out his tongue and then talk.

Something which goes beyond traditional spirituality (i.e a meme which is more immune) will have to consist of an even stronger belief system which is more in tune with modern science, etc.

A total lack of meaning, a deep sense of tragedy, is the inescapable state of an aware and authentic man. Anything else is dishonesty or a distraction.

And hence, someone who wishes to live authentically is bound to suffer.

37 comments:

ElDuderno said...

A total lack of meaning, a deep sense of tragedy, is the inescapable state of an aware and authentic man. Anything else is dishonesty or a distraction.

#Not convinced about this being the inevitable state of an authentic man: meaning/tragedy is connected with a self, what meaning is there for a rock or a cloud, it is all just a permutation of the universe.
If the self is weakened what need is there for meaning or tragedy?

Harmanjit Singh said...

meaning/tragedy is connected with a self

Hmm...

What I want to say is: If you have no reason to live, but are living anyway, it is tragic. Self or no self, man needs to use his cogitating, contemplative brain to live. And when that brain knows that all this effort and competition and struggle for space and survival is without any inherent worth, it can continue due to the force of momentum, but it has no stake in it. That is tragic.

If the self is weakened what need is there for meaning or tragedy?

The answer to this is another question: If the self (with its passions, drives, beliefs) is no more, what need is there to live?

ElDuderno said...

What I want to say is: If you have no reason to live, but are living anyway, it is tragic. Self or no self, man needs to use his cogitating, contemplative brain to live. And when that brain knows that all this effort and competition and struggle for space and survival is without any inherent worth, it can continue due to the force of momentum, but it has no stake in it. That is tragic.

#I think more than tragic the effort to survive is perhaps tedious, but then again without the self what need is there to feel bad for the endless cyclical struggles of life these are all meaningless permutation of the universe as indeed all things are.

The answer to this is another question: If the self (with its passions, drives, beliefs) is no more, what need is there to live?

# The answer to this is that the brain is not a unified whole and there are parts of it which would nonetheless struggle hard to live. The lack of unity is indeed expected in the absence of a self.
If the part of the mind which finds living tedious gains the upper hand death/suicide could be the outcome, but the survival instinct may overpower it.

Harmanjit Singh said...

@Elduderno: You have a point.

without the self what need is there to feel bad for the endless cyclical struggles of life

If the brain is both aware of the meaninglessness and is still driven to survive, isn't that a rather sorry state of affairs, self or no self. It castigates itself for investing in something which is essentially worthless. Can't that be called "feeling bad"?

On the other hand, I do consider that a man can, at that point, also laugh.

Modern Man said...

Harman,

Excellent follow-up post.

Here's a wonderful lyrical passage from E.M. Cioran's essay, "After History." It's pertinent to the matter at hand:

"...not for anything would we renounce our own nightmare to which we have assigned as many capital letters as we have known illusions. These illusions have been discredited, like the capital letters, but the nightmare remains, decapitated and naked, and we continue to love it precisely because it is ours and because we do not see what to replace it by. It is as if an aspirant to nirvana, weary of pursuing it in vain, were to turn away in order to wallow, to sink into samsara, accomplice of his downfall, as we are of ours."

-MM

tazmic said...

"meaning/tragedy is connected with a self"

Meaning is connected with a context. Always. In what context are you speaking of meaninglessness? And does not a declaration of meaninglessness presuppose a (complete) understanding of such context? Is there a difference betwean not finding meaning and there not being any? (Or do you mean something subtler, possibly affective, but non conceptual when you speak of meaning?)

I suppose meaninglessness could be experienced through combining a memory of meaningfulness with an acontextual intellectual trajectory...

Or indeed, and perhaps a little more relevantly, combining a meaningful human empathy with a 'culture of consumption and glitter... pushing this paradigm of ... narcissism and hedonism'. But there is nothing ontologically declarative about the latter.

"If the self is weakened what need is there for meaning or tragedy?"

When speaking of 'the self' you are either refering to the self-directed functioning of the biological organism, from cellular to cerebral, or refering to the (potentially hypnotic) notion or idea of 'self nature'.

In the former case the statements made here read rather tautologically. ('If the self (with its passions, drives, beliefs) is no more, what need is there to live?') and I don't think seeing past the latter has anything to do with minimising the former. So which is having the crisis of meaning? And is the answer consistent across the essay? ('A total lack of meaning, a deep sense of tragedy, is the inescapable state of an aware and authentic man.'/'The modern man is afflicted with a lack of meaning.')

And isn't this the failure of existentialism: reducing everything to a void of meaning for the autonomous agent (self nature belief) to be disturbed\creative about? (Dualism never died.)

"Do not be quick to snatch/destroy somebody's belief, one which gives him meaning. Let him be, you have only another belief, another meaning which you believe is truer, to offer in return. And if you don't offer anything in return, you have done him a disservice."

Okay, sorry. I take it all back ;)

Harmanjit Singh said...

@tazmic:

If you are asking me, "meaninglessness" is the absence of attachment to a belief/feeling/bond/relationship. In this vacuum, one can perhaps physically survive (esp if on welfare), but there is psychological catatonia. No reason for the mind/psyche to really exercise itself.

Harmanjit Singh said...

@tazmic

Is there a difference between not finding meaning and there not being any?

I think believing that there is a meaning (whether or not there is one in reality) is essential to a normal human life. As they say, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Even if there is no bird in the bush, if I believe that the wooden bird in my lap is a real bird, that's good enough to make me happy.

Also, the belief that there /may/ be a meaning, only that one has to discover it, is also a good enough reason for many to live (seekers, especially).

tazmic said...

"If you are asking me, "meaninglessness" is the absence of attachment to a belief/feeling/bond/relationship. In this vacuum...there is psychological catatonia. No reason for the mind/psyche to really exercise itself."

But are you describing the result of the hedonistic culture modern man is (deliberately*) afflicted with, or the 'inescapable state of an aware and authentic man'? Why would the two be the same?

In the latter case, the meaninglessness you describe is the decontextualized(**) life, but the vacuum that springs from it is only percieved rather than actual, as it is intirely personal. Surely, you are always in relationship, in all your actions in the world, and therefore your actions are always meaningfully contextualized. Your preference for non attachment doesn't change that. Is it not a mistake to assume that you understand the implications of your actions in all the relations they are inseperable from to the point of declaring your 'vacuum' to be universal? Is there anything authentic about not recognising such unavoidable relations and insisting on detachment?

(* see 'Century of Self', Adam Curtis)
(** 'The Fallacy of Decontextualization' http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED292125&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED292125)

Harmanjit Singh said...

@tazmic

Will read the link that you have given.

But are you describing the result of the hedonistic culture modern man is (deliberately*) afflicted with, or the 'inescapable state of an aware and authentic man'? Why would the two be the same?

The modern man is more aware than ever. Hence, his lack of meaning is much more stark than ever (cf my essay on modernity). However, he is not (yet) in a tragic state because of the endless distraction and cognitive overload. He is intoxicated and sedated, as it were.

The authentic man, on the other hand, who is not distracted, sedated, or consumed with sensation or identity, has nowhere to go.

Surely, you are always in relationship, in all your actions in the world, and therefore your actions are always meaningfully contextualized.

More and more, relationships are only functional and hollow, they are replaceable, un-enduring. As such, they may provide busyness, but not meaning or a sense of significance.

Is it not a mistake to assume that you understand the implications of your actions in all the relations they are inseperable from to the point of declaring your 'vacuum' to be universal?

But unless I know, I cannot assume. It is the absence of meaning in one's mind which is problematic, and hence the aim of therapy is to put a meaning back in. Whether the meaning actually exists out there is irrelevant if I don't know what it is. If there is a God, but I have no way of being certain about it, it is as bad as there being no God at all. A God that does not reveal himself, or make his existence apparent, might as well not exist.

Is there anything authentic about not recognising such unavoidable relations and insisting on detachment?

I am not insisting on it, in fact I think it is a recipe for a emotional vacuum to continue to know more and more. Not all clothes should be taken off at the first date, it destroys any hope of marriage.

Harmanjit Singh said...

@tazmic, I think I am beginning to see what you mean in terms of engagement.

Engagement need not be meaningful beyond its context. To want a grand narrative for everyday activities is perhaps questionable.

Change said...

1. //Cognitive discrimination is impossible to avoid. Death is inevitable otherwise. Those who say that they do not judge and accept everything are liars.//

2. // The feeling of missing one's loved one is a choice that one can avoid if one does not love in the first place.//

I would like to put forward my views on this posting. I feel, it deviates much from your usual sensible posting. The above two points are just two examples. Please note that these are my views and writing here to alert my fellow seeker (you), if he is going wrong. You may be completely right with respect to the content and context with which you posted this part, which I am not aware. To be frank, I learn many things from your postings. I am sure that you can place very good counter argument for the below points, as you are very good with words and playing with words. Hence this comment is not for argument! If you wish, you can look into this angle also!

Let us assume, our body is infected by some virus. As soon as the brain is aware of this infection, it sends the antibodies with in our system and arrange for a fight. If you call this as judgment and acceptance then the first point above which you have indicated is right. As far as my understanding is concerned if somebody (really) says that they do not judge, it should mean that there are no thoughts involved for that particular action. The action is not done with respect to any future projection, but just to do what is required for the moment, entirely based on our inherent intelligence which our brain is having, which may be based on our inheritance, our memory from childhood to until now… For me, it looks like the attack initiated by brain over bodily infection and the action we perform with such intelligent are exactly same. I am not sure, any judgment and choices are coming into both of these cases.

For the second point, I am not sure that what you mean by Love. My understanding is that love is unconditional giving. When I have no psychological dependence with my loved ones, why should I suffer psychologically for the loss of my loved ones, may it be my child or parent or spouse or any body else. Of course, I will be having physical suffering due to the physical dependence and when the need for that physical dependence arises. All our relationships are just for our physical dependency, over which we ourselves have built our psychological dependency.

Thanks

Harmanjit Singh said...

@Change

I know why you are reacting the way you are. You are protecting your meaning of life.

For me, it looks like the attack initiated by brain over bodily infection and the action we perform with such intelligent are exactly same. I am not sure, any judgment and choices are coming into both of these cases.

Discrimination and discernment as a conscious process is what makes us human. There are unconscious processes (antibodies, heartbeat, etc.), but our distinctive humanity lies in our consciousness, that we can be aware and control our choices.

When I have no psychological dependence with my loved ones, why should I suffer psychologically for the loss of my loved ones, may it be my child or parent or spouse or any body else.

I am talking of love as it is seen between a mother and child, between a lover and beloved. I am not talking of "ideal" love, but love as it exists. Not what "should be", but "what is". You can say that for you love is unconditional and that you don't miss your loved one, but that is not so for the rest of the 6 billion people.

Change said...

//Discrimination and discernment as a conscious process is what makes us human. There are unconscious processes (antibodies, heartbeat, etc.), but our distinctive humanity lies in our consciousness, that we can be aware and control our choices.//

Is it like, consciousness is limited? Can’t we go further into subconscious and make it conscious? Once it happens, can’t we go further into unconscious and make it conscious? Can’t we make conscious, subconscious, and unconscious into a single integrated consciousness? It may be ideals for me and you today. But, don/’t we have that possibility.

It is not just rejecting “what is”, but going further. It is not craving for “what should be”, but instead of seeing the possibility and stepping ahead. If we don’t see the possibility and reluctant to step ahead with an adamant stance of I will always stand at “What is” now, why should we seek all these things, discuss all these things, probe all these nature of human, inheritance, truth, or what ever you and me search for? Just remain at “What is” and not bother about any thing else. We can’t do that. That is why all our search, discussion etc…

And this search is not there with in all the 6 billions. May be a fraction of that 6 billion is moving ahead in this search. My idea was, you were one among the fraction of 6 billion, who are moving ahead. If, so your search and writing should addressed to those fraction only – at least at this level of knowledge. The remaining of the 6 billion is not bothered about what you and I are saying. They very well know what they want and why they are living. But those who are searching all these things may be different. They only will be having al these sorts of questions with them. I think, we are addressing to such people by providing what we know and getting from them, what they know.

Thanks!

Harmanjit Singh said...

@change

Can’t we go further into subconscious and make it conscious?

Are you talking, or is this Krishnmaurti talking?

It is already happening. Humankind is discovering the till-now-hidden reasons for its patterns of thought and behavior.

My assertion is: this increase in knowledge will inevitably increase alienation and a sense of meaninglessness, and hence, a rather abstract form of suffering while we will live in plenty.

Once you are fully aware (let's say), what will you live for?

Change said...

//Once you are fully aware (let's say), what will you live for?//

Do you think, you have any significance for your life? If so, what is that? On the contrary, do you think, there is no significance at all for your life? In that case, why are you living?

According to me the significance of life is just existence and be the part of existence. The significance of existence of human being is exactly same as the existence of any animal or any tree or any stone. We don’t have any more significance. At least, I can’t see any more significance. But the animal, tree, and stone have their own significance in this vast existence. With out them the existence is simply not there. We, human are also exactly at that same level.

//My assertion is: this increase in knowledge will inevitably increase alienation and a sense of meaninglessness, and hence, a rather abstract form of suffering while we will live in plenty.//

And what is the meaning you are searching for in your life? What happens to the existence, if your life is meaningless? You will find the meaning or meaninglessness only when you affix more importance for yourself in this vast existence. Whether you have any meaning for your life or not doesn’t affect the existence in any way. And so is the remaining 6 billion minus one human in this earth!

It is our choice. If we choose to be live in plenty and suffer it is our choice. If we choose to be live in abstract level and suffer, again it is our choice. Or if we live in plenty and live with our suffering (not referring physical suffering), it is again our choice. And my idea was you are the one, who choose to live in plenty, with out suffering. If not, sorry, what ever I have written in these comments are not relevant to you!

Thanks!

Harmanjit Singh said...

@change

According to me the significance of life is just existence and be the part of existence.

Let me try and explain in another way.

We are conscious beings.

We experience pain of various kinds (physical, cognitive, affective).

We don't want to experience pain but are willing to endure it if given a sense that it is worth it in the long term, or that it has some hidden significance.

As we become more and more aware, we realize that those meanings, beliefs, senses of worth and significance are possible to outgrow. And we do outgrow many of the easier ones (patriotism, carry the family name, etc.).

Those who honestly outgrow all beliefs and drives, and who are able to see through or resist or kill their passions, are left only with the pains of physical distress and cognitive disapproval, as well as ennui perhaps, and no motivation to endure those pains.

What do you suggest to them while they think of how to make ends meet in an increasingly competetive world? Why should they not commit suicide?

The authentic end result of awareness is psychological paralysis. End of all motivation.

Change said...

//Those who honestly outgrow all beliefs and drives, and who are able to see through or resist or kill their passions, are left only with the pains of physical distress and cognitive disapproval, as well as ennui perhaps, and no motivation to endure those pains//.

// What do you suggest to them while they think of how to make ends meet in an increasingly competetive world? Why should they not commit suicide?//
// The authentic end result of awareness is psychological paralysis. End of all motivation.//

There is something fundamentally wrong while you are deriving your conclusions. I think, the issue is seen with a “bird’s eye view” rather than a fundamental view. Of course, it is natural to have such doubts when we are seeking.

For sure, you have already gone through all these concepts, but must have rejected those concepts due to probably one or few unanswered questions in these concepts. If have probed or rejected only those unanswered questions, instead of rejecting the whole concepts itself, you might not have asked these questions. Attempting to answer in this case may be futile, still try it to the extent possible

We have to be aware that no two persons see the same thing in the same way. If there are 6 billion humans in this earth, there are at least 6 billion views about any common subject. And the life requirement of any two cannot be the same. Hence the above questions cannot be answered so that everyone can get satisfied. We can draw only approximations and then it is the individual’s part to extend to the suitability of that individual’s life.

With awareness, the brain never can become dull. It can only be more active. If the brain is becoming dull due to awareness, it is really not awareness. It must be some sort of illusion that is named as awareness.

Awareness is not just a fragmented part of certain concept or certain life events. Awareness is integrated one. If not, it is a product of thought, which one projects from one’s own mind. When one has awareness, there is no requirement for thought, and in fact there will not be any thoughts in the psychological domain. By psychological domain, it means any thought that support the ego.

If the person reaching this state is socially isolated, there is no need to make the ends to meet. We are not talking about such person. When a person is in social life, he has to do some basic activities to sustain that person’s social life. In that case, where is the question of requirement of motivation? – That activities are required, out of awareness that person sees this requirement and does whatever required for sustaining that. Only thing is, there is no psychological activity and hence there is no psychological suffering. If one needs to have psychological suffering to sustain the life or motivation to sustain the life, we are sub-animals. We must not have evolved from animals – animals must have evolved from human; for that there is no motivation required for animals to sustain their life or that motivation is in-built with in animals.

[contd)

Change said...

If a person goes for suicide out of awareness, what about that person is aware of? Does that person aware of a joyful life and hence decide to go for suicide? Or does that person aware of that this existence is shit and he is a part of that shit and hence decides for suicide?

Being aware is not psychological paralysis, but aware of the psych itself. If we are not aware of our own psych, what else we are claiming that we are aware of? Once one is aware of own psych, where is the question of dull mind which looks for suicide?

In the life process, from where does one get into the idea of competition if there is no need to sustain the ego. If one is really aware of one’s own psych, where is the question of ego?


Do we have consciousness for not being aware of ” what is” there? Or, is it for selective awareness, like - up to this level of awareness my brain will be more active and after this level of awareness, my brain will become dull? Or our consciousness is being with us to evolve to sub-animal state; for being aware of happening and suffer out of that! If not what do you mean by “We are conscious beings.” on this subject of discussion.

Even after all these fundamental questions, if one can say awareness kills motivation and hence the life process will get paralyzed, then one is not talking about awareness. It must be something else, named as awareness.

Thanks!

itsme said...

harman

i would think that if the awareness (if you call it so) helps one outgrow drives, passions and beliefs, why wont it help one outgrow the sense of pain as well?

You are right about the lack of meaning for the authentic man but then while the modern man (intoxicated/sedated) stays busy in the kind of experiences that stimulate him (consumerism), the world is all out there for the authentic man to experience the kind of things that may stimulate his mind.

Is there a compulsion on the authentic man to struggle to make ends meet? If the authentic man is not much into consumerism, he may, for example, choose to travel (travel cheap ofcourse) for the sake of enhancing the experiences of life.

I think boredom results from denial to accept that there are possibilities of new experiences out there and insisting upon detachment(i sort of agree with a comment from 'tazmic') and more than autheticity and awareness, its an incompatible lifestyle issue.

anyway just my two cents

Pankaj said...

I don't think a feeling of apathy is purely arrived at intellectually. It is also a psychological pre-inclination. Not all people who pursue reason to its conclusion end in boredom, ennui etc. Well known intellectuals also seem to have a deep sense of purpose - Chomsky, Einstein, Russell. Even though life may seem to end in ultimate meaninglessness, the very act of creation/creativity may give people a sense of purpose (wrf Oscar Wilde's Soul of Man under Socialism). A world devoid of problems may indeed be a static world, but we are surely far from there.

Harmanjit Singh said...

@change: I think we are talking at cross-purposes.

Even after all these fundamental questions, if one can say awareness kills motivation and hence the life process will get paralyzed, then one is not talking about awareness. It must be something else, named as awareness.

Alright. I can accept that. So if you have the "right" awareness, let me ask, what is /your/ motivation for living?

@pankaj: intellectual accomplishment does not automatically mean rejection of the heart-felt aims within the human condition.

@itsme: thanks for joining the discussion.

i would think that if the awareness (if you call it so) helps one outgrow drives, passions and beliefs, why wont it help one outgrow the sense of pain as well?

Because pain and pleasure (at various levels) is the only guiding principle for the psyche. If you agree with this, once you remove the guiding principle in toto, you are alive, but have no motivation left. This vacuum, "nothingness", is a special kind of pain, it remains when everything else has been taken care of.

Emptiness is the final frontier.

Beyond that, death.

ElDuderno said...

It could be that a superior state of life as compared to non-life is possible. The negative states of mind (ennui suffering) are after all just configurations, it is possible to configure the it for a positive state (even at the expense of thwarting its natural state), and then life becomes preferable to non-life (which is zero by definition).

itsme said...

What you call emptiness, could also be a state of contentment where one doesn't need to struggle to fulfil wishes and doesnt get offended by the physical stress. Instead of vacuum, if at all you want to consider the positive side of that, it could be a that one is at peace with the self and can live happily thereafter (death of misery caused by 'maya')

Change said...

//Alright. I can accept that. So if you have the "right" awareness, let me ask, what is /your/ motivation for living?//

I think, you did not understand what I have written in the earlier two comments.

If one is aware of “what is”, and there is no craving for “What should be” no more need for any psychological motivation. If you call it as motivation, it is already built into our system. As the animals, have their urge to carry on their life – there is no psychological urge for the animals to carry on the life. It is part and parcel of their chemical composition.

The next natural question will be, if every one is aware and contained with “What is”, and there is no craving for “what should be” How the technological development will be? If every body is aware in that sense, we might not be enjoying what we are enjoying due to the technical development.

There are two sides of this issue, according to me.

On one side, we spent more than 60% of the resources of earth (it is just an assumption based on various human consumptions, not statistical data) are consumed for entertainment and to support the entertainment on one side. On the other side, we cry that the earth resources are wasted, earth is heating up, sea levels are rising…………… And the pity is a major portion of the population spends working for entertainment (includes all resources required for entertainment) during at least one third of their day and spend the remaining time on entertainment and we cry for the earth resources are wasted.

On the other side of the technical development, we know that no two human think the same way. If my inbuilt motivation (not psychological) is towards just carrying on my life, for some body else may be to enquire on technical things, for some body else, it is for literature, some body else it is towards art and so on. The earth is well balanced to sustain its life, unless we destroy it. So is the case with the humans.

These questions come into us, when we consider human as the super power. You already know this, but may have reluctance to accept it. The power humans are having is insignificant compared to the power of existence. Of course, we have the consciousness – that does not mean we can comprehend any thing and every thing at our current level of micro consciousness (in the sense compared to the content of our mind – conscious, sub conscious, unconscious…)

Thanks

tazmic said...

Thanks for your responses Harman.

"@tazmic, I think I am beginning to see what you mean in terms of engagement.

Engagement need not be meaningful beyond its context. To want a grand narrative for everyday activities is perhaps questionable."

Now, if only I'd just put it that way :)

But I was not only saying that meaning is contextual, but more importantly that we are always engaged, regardless of our ability to meaningfully frame our experience. You might agree that as our awareness increases we can come to see and consequently see beyond our 'contexts' and so get closer to the recognition that we are unable to find any 'total context' that could provide such a 'grand' narrative. But this means we are living our lives against a backdrop of mystery, not meaninglessness. (But perhaps a dissociated intellect that thinks reality is made up of what it knows (rather than everything it doesn't 'understand' ;) )would settle for meaninglessness....)


"The modern man is more aware than ever. Hence, his lack of meaning is much more stark than ever (cf my essay on modernity). However, he is not (yet) in a tragic state because of the endless distraction and cognitive overload. He is intoxicated and sedated, as it were.

The authentic man, on the other hand, who is not distracted, sedated, or consumed with sensation or identity, has nowhere to go."

But the societal trajectory that is leading to increasingly superficial relationships is not down to any increase in awareness (which is not to say that awareness isn't increasing or exaserbating a tragic state). Yes, many are distracted from it, that's part of how it works, but those who aren't don't have to conclude that their activities are meaningless, they can instead recognise that the 'meanings' of the systems they are a part of are simply not their own. Their actions are immenently meaningful to the economic machine that they service. I guess I'm confused over whether this is a political or existential question...


[I've been reading Soros' The Age of Fallability. His philosophical foundations are fairly well covered here: http://www.businessweek.com/chapter/soros.htm

He comments on the risk of lack of meaning in developed (open) societies (whilst running foundations through dozens of countries trying to make them all the same: his notion of an 'open society')

"Societies derive their cohesion from shared values . . . religion, history, and tradition. When a society does not have boundaries where are the shared values to be found?"]


"Because pain and pleasure (at various levels) is the only guiding principle for the psyche. If you agree with this, once you remove the guiding principle in toto, you are alive, but have no motivation left."

You leave us only to question your premise. How else is this not tautological?

But is it possible to 'remove the guiding principle in toto'? And if it is, what is the nature of 'This vacuum, "nothingness", is a special kind of pain, it remains when everything else has been taken care of.'

Perhaps the answer is in there somewhere.

Ruchi said...

(You do seem to have a similar philosophy as Nietzsche except it's turned over. “The greater the suffering, the greater the life.”)

Another aspect would be that (in very simplified terms) the lower we fall the more our suffering. The less aware we are, the more we lack meaning in our lives, the more we fall, the more we suffer. So whether we aim to live authentically and be aware or the opposite of that, our suffering is bound to increase. Why should enduring suffering by finding meaning be preferable to hedonistic means? For an individual what difference would it make? (it would make a difference to people around him)

Harmanjit Singh said...

@ruchi

it doesn't make any difference in the end, what means you choose to build meaning in your life. even if hedonistic living makes others miserable, taken to its logical extreme, absurdity holds no brief for others' suffering as well.

as for less awareness leading to more suffering, i don't agree, and will refer you to two essays:

The Last Messiah by Peter Zapffe ( http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/The_Last_Messiah )

On the Suffering of the World by Arthur Schopenhauer ( http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_the_Sufferings_of_the_World )

I don't agree in many places with Schopenhauer in his essay, but it is worth a read.

What struck me quite well, though was his words that:

"If you want a safe compass to guide you through life, and to banish all doubt as to the right way of looking at it, you cannot do better than accustom yourself to regard this world as a penitentiary, a sort of a penal colony ... If you accustom yourself to this view of life you will regulate your expectations accordingly, and cease to look upon all its disagreeable incidents, great and small, its sufferings, its worries, its misery, as anything unusual or irregular; nay, you will find that everything is as it should be, in a world where each of us pays the penalty of existence in his own peculiar way. Amongst the evils of a penal colony is the society of those who form it; and if the reader is worthy of better company, he will need no words from me to remind him of what he has to put up with at present. If he has a soul above the common, or if he is a man of genius, he will occasionally feel like some noble prisoner of state, condemned to work in the galleys with common criminals; and he will follow his example and try to isolate himself.

In general, however, it should be said that this view of life will enable us to contemplate the so-called imperfections of the great majority of men, their moral and intellectual deficiencies and the resulting base type of countenance, without any surprise, to say nothing of indignation ... Whatever folly men commit, be their shortcomings or their vices what they may, let us exercise forbearance; remembering that when these faults appear in others, it is our follies and vices that we behold. They are the shortcomings of humanity, to which we belong; whose faults, one and all, we share; yes, even those very faults at which we now wax so indignant, merely because they have not yet appeared in ourselves. They are faults that do not lie on the surface. But they exist down there in the depths of our nature; and should anything call them forth, they will come and show themselves, just as we now see them in others. One man, it is true, may have faults that are absent in his fellow; and it is undeniable that the sum total of bad qualities is in some cases very large; for the difference of individuality between man and man passes all measure.

In fact, the conviction that the world and man is something that had better not have been, is of a kind to fill us with indulgence towards one another. Nay, from this point of view, we might well consider the proper form of address to be, not Monsieur, Sir, mein Herr, but my fellow-sufferer, SocĂ® malorum, compagnon de miseres!"

Anonymous said...

//without the self what need is there to feel bad for the endless cyclical struggles of life

If the brain is both aware of the meaninglessness and is still driven to survive, isn't that a rather sorry state of affairs, self or no self. It castigates itself for investing in something which is essentially worthless. Can't that be called "feeling bad"?//

//Emptiness is the final frontier.

Beyond that, death.//

Someone who has experienced emptiness fully will neither be "driven to survive" nor "driven to die". That is why he will not commit suicide.

//The authentic end result of awareness is psychological paralysis. End of all motivation.//

The authentic end result of awareness of meaninglessness/emptiness of everything is not psychological paralysis/end of all motivation but end of all suffering.

If you see the end result of awareness as paralysis/end of all motivation, then you haven't experienced emptiness fully yet. You are still seeing something as either good or bad when there is nothing that is either good or bad but thinking makes it so. You are still thinking and hence haven't touched base with emptiness. You don't have to go beyond emptiness to death, just stay there. Why would you go beyond emptiness? There will be no motivation to go beyond authentic emptiness.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Someone who has experienced emptiness fully will neither be "driven to survive" nor "driven to die". That is why he will not commit suicide.

You cannot survive without mental effort, either yours or of others (hint: which category do gurus fall in?). Mental effort requires a drive for it to feel good. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Harman: You cannot survive without mental effort, either yours or of others (hint: which category do gurus fall in?). Mental effort requires a drive for it to feel good. Think about it.

#Gurus leech off others to survive but in turn they provide them emotional well being.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Gurus leech off others to survive but in turn they provide them emotional well being.

Hmmm... My point is: to be here-and-now is a good teaching when your future is secure. Ironical, eh?

Anonymous said...

//Hmmm... My point is: to be here-and-now is a good teaching when your future is secure. Ironical, eh?//

Indeed, it is a good teaching either when your future is secure or when propagating that will ensure that your future is secure :) Many gurus have made a killing with that, Eckhart Tolle being one of them.

But what about someone who has suffered enough that survival holds no incentive and in that moment, he realizes that suffering is optional from that point onwards. He doesn't suffer to live and doesn't suffer to die. He just is. If he can do something about something, fine, he does that but doesn't suffer. If he can't do something about something, fine, he doesn't suffer because of not being able to do that. If he dies due to that, he dies but life didn't have any incentive in the first place.

Those who attempt suicide and fail, live much better lives afterwards.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Those who attempt suicide and fail, live much better lives afterwards.

I hope you mean, "*sincerely* attempt suicide and fail".

A rather dangerous suggestion for living a "better life", no? :-)

But I see what you mean. Once you lose the fear of not being, you can live with much less anxiety.

But once again, what do you live for?

Anonymous said...

//But once again, what do you live for?//

I once had a discussion about the meaning of life and I said that there is no ultimate meaning of life to which my friend asked me what is the point of living, why don't I die? I replied that there is no point in dying.

So the answer to your question is that I don't live because of anything and I don't die because of something. But I do engage in different way of beings from time to time. I even immerse myself in those different way of beings just to experience them.

The question itself is meaningless for me :) Sometimes you ask very dumb questions Harman ;) Don't you see the meaninglessness/emptiness of such questions?

Do you know who I am?

Harmanjit Singh said...

I even immerse myself in those different way of beings just to experience them.

Keywords: "immerse", "different", "just to experience".

Ring a bell?

Anonymous said...

//Keywords: "immerse", "different", "just to experience".

Ring a bell?//

#Not in the way you might be saying, you can say what you want to in a straightforward way.

To me it means that I have started to look for answers again.