Abstract: Wisdom requires turmoil. Too much calm brings neuronal, intellectual, and even moral disaster. A case in point is the devil-may-care attitude of the USA in the 1930s, lauded by those who celebrate calm and peace, yet condemned by common decency.

Wisdom is about embracing turmoil, and then, dominating it. It requires heavy construction inside the brain, and the greater the new wisdom, the greater the new effort. Prometheus did not just discover fire, but a multiverse of expanding possibilities.

This is why the biologically given philosophy of Homo crushes that of theocrats and other superstitious, ravenous plutocrats. Men are all about overcoming themselves. At least those men who think hard enough so as not to finish as the main course.

Learning > Neurogenesis > Effort, Pain, Struggle

Learning > Neurogenesis > Effort, Pain, Struggle

[Neurogenesis in the Hippocampus.]

Careful meditation is often helpful to establish new wisdom. Yet, turmoil is always necessary, to foster higher wisdom, in individuals as in societies. It’s important to know this, because promoting too much calm comes at the expense of wisdom. Let me explain.

Whenever we try to define a mental state, nowadays, we have to remember that there is more than 100 neurohormones known. Some are correlated to rage, others to anxiety, fear, love (oxytocin).

Neurohormones define chemical states, somewhere in the brain. Maybe in just one place, maybe in many places. Those correlate with emotions, often through the activity of sub-units in the brain (say the amygdala for fear). Which neurohormones are tightly connected to which emotions, and how, is yet to be ascertained in nearly all cases.

We just know that, to define which emotion a brain, or part thereof, is undergoing, it will be necessary to determine neurohormones, their presence, secretion, or suppression.

People love to project “calm”. When “calm” is faked, is it real? “Calm” is not far from stealth. Any predator, be it the average cat, or the ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, knows that stealth is of tremendous advantage for a successful aggression (Sun Tzu’s book, various treatises on war, and a casual look at history show that surprise is half the victory).

Is there a neurohormone of “calm”? That’s unlikely: the lion stealthily, crawling on his belly in the grass toward the prey projects “calm”, but for the occasional twitch. Yet its neurohormonal war systems are primed up for maximum violence. At the time of the attack, they will be unleashed with great fury, demonstrating that feline clam is just a tactic.

A sleep hormone does exist: that’s Melatonin.

Conclusion? “Calm” is rather deceit, or computation, or then relaxation and laziness (something brains need, just as they need sleep… probably because they need to establish a hierarchy-network of knowledge).

Alex Jones wrote a second post on “Wisdom comes out of calm”. He explains that calm is how to deal with dogs. Meanwhile he explicitly said in a preceding reply to me, that the Americans were wise to calmly wait for Hitler’s attack (see below).

Alex’s position is interesting, because it reflects the popular expectation about what wisdom ought to be: something calm, a form of torpor. No wonder, calm is typical of herd behavior. The herd calmly grazes and ruminates, when lions are not pouncing. Here is Alex:

“The mind that has no calm is like a drunken person, it has no wisdom, rushing from one crisis to another, lacking the anchoring of wisdom, the drunk does stupid actions and ruin is the drunks ultimate reward. When a cat comes to me inviting me to stroke it, I gain opportunity to find my inner calm in a world of war.”

Equating lack of calm with being “drunk” is alien to me. I drink water, I find that smart. A mind that is not calm, does not have to be angry: there are other moods. When the anger neurohormones are on, the mind is certainly not calm, but that does not mean that, when the mind is not calm, the mind is angry. It could, simply, be an attentive, or hard thinking mind.

Defining “calm” neurologically has not been done. Yet. The only calming hormones I know of, serotonin and melatonin, rather induce sleep.

Too much calm puts morality to sleep, if nothing else. In a preceding comment of Alex, one finds:

“Calm provides the opportunity for wisdom to emerge, metaphorically like soil waiting for the seed. The mind that is angry, in emotional turmoil, acts like the drunk, and they will never make wise choices or actions.

The Americans were wise to avoid war, and they were wise to stay out of other peoples political problems until those aggressors began to attack them.”

Here Alex is alluding to my position that American calm while Hitler raged, killed and attacked, was monstrous. Hitler had given explicit instructions not to make Americans angry. Hitler considered white, racist America to be half Nazi already, and thought of the USA as a natural ally. Hitler’s plan went awry, in great part because enough Americans had the great courage to get angry, in spite of their compatriots’ selfish calm tolerance of infamy.

The Americans refused to support France and Britain, and the Commonwealth, in 1939-1940. Calmly supported by hordes of American plutocrats and their corporations, the Nazis came very close to annihilating France and Britain in 1940.

Consequence? More than 70 million people died, including six million Jews assassinated calmly. I understand that this vicious American policy calmly established the empire of the USA, and its famed “American Century”. And that calm propaganda has made most people believe that the intervention of the USA was purely to rescue democracy, instead of the much greater plot that it truly was.

In 1945, and thereafter, the USA supported massively at some point, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Nasser, the FNL, Saddam, even bin Laden, or the Taliban. Those details have to be forgotten: the Devil dwells therein.

I refuse to call that “right”. I call it wrong. I even call it an infamy, or a whole succession of infamies.

Something the USA ought to be eternally ashamed of was the support American political and business leaders gave to the Nazis. Consider this telling detail: the USA, as a state, had to wait for Hitler to declare war to them to find something wrong with him. It was more than despicable, and unwise. It was outright criminal. That, of course, is my calm opinion, forged by decades of calm, careful considerations.

And the real truth is even worse: German generals asked for American and British help to get rid of Hitler. Would the democrats please make clear that they would join France in a war against Hitler?

Calmly, British and American authorities denounced the generals… to Hitler.

So calm is definitively not wisdom, but something that can masquerade as wisdom.

In truth, no new wisdom can be reached without turmoil. Most great creators lived in turmoil. And that’s no accident. There is an obvious neurological reason for it.

Emotions build reasons (neurohormones guide the construction of new neuro-geometry, by growing axons, dendrites and synapses just so). To have new, better ideas, one needs to wipe out the wrong brain geometry, thus new neurohormones, that is new emotions, have to invade, submerge, and grow new geometry.

Thus fresh passions and actions bring new and better reasons. To model the world better, we have to engage the world, further. Experiments do this.

Indeed exercise itself, let alone challenges, bring higher mental performance. And it’s not just performance, that they bring, but also even neurological existence. Rats with a non-stimulating environment see their neurology shrink. Neurology was evolved for turmoil. Without it, the very reason for its existence disappear.

And so it goes for entire civilizations: the more turmoil, the more wisdom. The Greeks, a notoriously bickering lot, as Nietzsche pointed out, were not just about Apollo (calm, beauty, poise, balance), but also about Dionysus (agitation, turmoil, passion, mess, craziness). This is the main idea of Nietzsche’s “Birth of Tragedy”, an analysis of the genesis of Greek greatness.

Civilizations which are too calm produce nothing, not even their own survival. This may be the problem of Europe now.

Pathological calm was certainly the problem of the civilizations that Genghis Khan and his generals overran. The Mongols said so explicitly. The fierce horsemen accused those they invaded to be sleepy plutocracies mistreating their own people.

Notice that Greek civilization, although it was conquered, greatly survived, so strong were its animals spirits. There is nothing calm about the main Greek notions. Nor is there anything calm about science. Physics has energy at its core. In physics, calm does not exist.

Truth comes out of trial, error, and the passion to engage in them, which rampant imagination. Really new ideas disturb all brains, that’s why they are new. I have had many of my comments censored, all over the Internet, because they contained what was perceived as new, thus inconvenient, ideas, or facts.

Latest example? Scientific American publishes carefully controlled articles on the climate. I dared to mention that there was coral in the Mediterranean. The six words comment was censored. (An email informed me of this.) I guess that, as long as I stay calm, I will keep on paying for “Scientific American” (which is neither scientific, nor American). But is that the wisest course? Would not anger be a better adviser?

Highly conservative types may object that they do not see why we need new wisdom, and thus the exhausting task of neurogenesis. Indians, Egyptians, Pythagoricians, Stoics, and their parrots, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, believed in Eternal Recurrence, the fact that nothing is really new under the Sun. Wisdom consisted into accepting what had been, as it sure, will be again. Related to this is the Arabic “Inch Allah” (If God wants it.)

However, an achievement of modern science, was to disprove these philosophies of Amor Fati (Love of Fate).

Starting with the discovery, and subsequent disappearance, of Sun spots in the Seventeenth Century, and then the discovery of biological, and geological evolution by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and his somber company, turmoil was found to reign all over. The universe, biology, man himself, let alone technology and civilization, are never, ever standing still, nor repeating themselves. Everything is a force that goes.

New wisdom is necessary for survival. It’s not a matter of choice, and esthetics. Those who will still stand in the future, individuals or civilizations, will have thought anew, and their brains will have mutated, from their own volition, or dismal condition. Others will have turned into the main course, literally, and figuratively.

Patrice Ayme’


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12 Responses to “NEW WISDOM, NEW TURMOIL”

  1. Alex Jones Says:

    It may surprise you Patrice that I agree with a key argument in this blog post that out of war comes wisdom. You may have read some of my previous blog posts about war. Heraclitus says “strife is justice,” which is to say all things come out of the strife of opposites.

    I argue however that whilst war is the natural state of all things, all of nature seeks to resolve war into a harmony via a route of least resistance in energy terms. For example, a lot of potential conflict between animal species is resolved through display which seeks to mitigate the potential of serious injury or death of the participants through all out battle. All living things, apart from humanity, naturally and instinctively resolve war through patterns of behavior which leads to a harmony whilst paradoxically maintaining the strife of the opposites. Humanity has lost its connection to inherent capacity to find harmony, instead making worse the situations of war it finds itself in.

    To find the harmony a state of calm must prevail in the human mind, thus they see the challenge and its solutions with unemotional rational eyes. I describe people who impulsively are driven by emotions and chaotic events as irrational, like drunks. The drunken person often gets into states of conflict, but they are too stupid in their drunkenness to find solutions to resolve their conflicts, their minds have no understanding even when they wake up with a hangover; no wisdom comes to them during or after their drunken episode. Only the calm person will find solutions, the path of least resistance to a harmonious outcome in any conflict.

    Calm is a state of mind the metaphorical general must have in the middle of an intense battle, to be able to see the fast changing situations of the battle, and answer those changes with appropriate strategies like the generals of Sun Tzu to win the fight.

    You are right that in the absence of conflict there are terrible consequences, which is why Heraclitus cursed his own people with a hope that they would easily find wealth and peace, for in that state it would cause them to become corrupt, eventually leading to their destruction.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Alex; Thank you for the comment, the appreciation, and the reflection. Yes, I had read some of your previous comments on war, and approved of them.

      As usual in a debate, one tends to focus on differences. So let me do that. I do not feel that other animals are particularly “harmonious”. Hyenas against lions, chimps and lions against themselves, conduct extermination wars. What matters is species survival, not so much the harmonicity of individuals among themselves. Many species kill their youth, or each other, bears and wolves, very clever beasts, are examples.
      Dolphin deliberately murder, or sex murder porpoises.

      It’s true that, as the movie “Avatar” spectacularly insisted, the biosphere, any biosphere, is one. There is the harmony, and that’s what humanity is presently destroying. We have the most advanced philosophy driven society, ever, thus our mayhem rates are very low. Yet, all lines converge towards several billion killed in the foreseeable future. As Richard on this site insisted, the population is too large (considering the technology we have).

      Athens, and Greece were going to fall to the Macedonian fascist plutocrats, the philosopher Demosthenes insisted, in the “Philippics”. Lest they go to war big and soon enough. They did not, so they fell. Demosthenes took poison rather than undergoing torture to death, thanks to Antipater’s goons.

      Right now we have a somewhat similar problem, with Putin. He is no Philippe, yet, but is giving every sign. Obama had to intervene because of the extreme refugee situation with the Yazedi.

      Interestingly, well after Heraclitus, the intervention of the Spartan army destroyed the Athenian dictatorship, that had succeeded Solon, and created the Athenian democracy we all celebrate. So armed intervention, of course, can work. History on the largest scale is little else.


    • Dominique Deux Says:

      “For example, a lot of potential conflict between animal species is resolved through display”

      Indeed. And most so-called wars are little more than feral display, convincing the adversary that you’re the stronger at the least possible expense for both. Wars of extermination have been exceedingly rare. War is about communication: frightening and cowing the enemy rather than destroying it. Even the symbolic nature of the so-called struggle is clear: an army which leaves the field is not dead, but it is deemed vanquished, which is not always the case.

      However, technological advance has made it possible to revert to chimpanzee wars, which did mean extermination and enslavement of the losers. OBL’s 9/11 was a classic feat of “communication” war, fully attaining its terror objective with an objectively puny death count – much less than recurrent US self-inflicted civilian casualties (guns, fast cars, junk food). GWB’s response was an example of “new” (chimp) war, killing up to 600,000 Iraqis for a deed in which Iraq had had no hand. Although highly efficient in terms of destruction, it went nowhere in terms of communication.


  2. red Says:

    thanks PA for going into more detail, certainly helps understand your points better.

    “popular expectation about what wisdom ought to be: something calm, a form of torpor”

    i thought the popular form of calm is usually cited as “calm and collected”, as in being in “control”. Similar to what alex points out above – not drunk in emotions, but with control over them (collected).

    One of my concerns with your posts on calm, was about your use of the word “violence”…perhaps “turmoil” is a good word. violence gives me a picture of uncontrolled, mindless actions. It may overlap with some aspects; And BTW It is worshipped as god in india “kali”, “shakti”, “shiva” etc.etc. I hate to put it as cliche “nothing new”. I agree with the phenomenon you explain, the need to be vigilant, careful, even aggressive (a kind of violence, can we say a good kind ?) against challenges.

    And my understanding of “nothing is really new under the Sun” is to say “it is what is possible” , in other words “not infinity” (which you advocated in some previous posts).

    human mind is not capable of prolonged “agitated mode”…people go psycho with that. Show me top 100 scientists over the last 500 years , % of them (eg: would einstein) who would rather be agitated than calm most of the time ? Its a far better state to contemplate.

    Though, I do feel its a good idea to practice agitation once a day :). You dont want to go let your mind develop too much “calm inertia”.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Red: The number of crazy, suicided, and, or, mistreated top scientists is impressively large. It’s clearly well above average. Including top philosophers makes it way worse.
      Nietzsche made the point that craziness was needed. Others made it before: look at the “Satyricon”, 2,000 years old.

      Actually craziness and drunkenness were central to the Dionysus celebrations. Those were so crazy and extensive, they were limited by law under Augustus.

      I don’t drink myself, but that’s just because I am crazy enough already, just drinking my own spirit. That there is nothing new under the sun, science itself is busy disproving every day.

      Maybe Einstein was calm, but, arguably, as I have argued, he is not the very top. Although he was good are syphoning others’ work. Like Hilbert, his reputation is higher out there, than in my mind (I do appreciate them very much, though).(None of Einstein’s big ideas came from Einstein.)

      Boltzmann, a more original thinker, committed suicide when around 60. From the perceived failure of his career. Cantor went crazy: too much infinity, I gather… 😉

      I practice extreme agitation several times a day, except when sick…


      • red Says:

        initially, every human was crazy, aggressive, full of raw animalistic tendencies/spirit. They usually got their task at hand done : kill or get-killed. It was black and white, simple, deadly efficient for what they were doing.

        Then , the construct of society/culture came along. It’s job was all about reducing the god given natural animalistic, aggressive tendency. Humans started practicing primitive PC, and now in 21st century PC is full blown, often overwhelming.

        Those scientists you cite, mostly are one (ok a few) trick ponies. They would have excelled even more if only did “let go” some of their crazies, and developed , learned to “control”.

        Aggressiveness/crazyness/passion/spirit ties you down. its narrow. Its blinding (albeit powerful).

        If you take this to its logical evolutionistic conclusion, humans figured aggressiveness/passion/spirit etc.etc is tying them down to their “ways”. Its a kind of bondage/slavery. The extreme version of this is called “ego” in some philosophic circles. The idea is to tame it(ego) and become unshackled, go beyond. Similar to what the construct of society/culture did to human evolution over 1000s years, but to do this in one’s lifetime.

        You loose animalness and become human, and if you let-go that, whats next ? Much more wisdom ? more control over one’s destiny ? lot of perks similar to current humans realize and enjoy compared to animals.

        If you are in control, you can USE anything (eg: aggressiveness) as a tool, with mastery that can rival a natural aggressor. You may loose, but then you can use other tools (eg: cunning, deceit). In other words, do you JUST want to be a lion, just a wolf, just a “mad scientist” ? Or something much more ?


  3. gmax Says:

    No coincidence that man is the wisest, and the most violent: thinking is genuinely violent, in a sense!

    That is what the movie Lucy also says. In a more primitive way.


  4. Dominique Deux Says:

    Calm is a goof way to confront predators.

    Against carrion eaters, it will get you eaten alive.


    • gmax Says:

      Goof????? Like in goofy?? I know you are no native English speaker, so please excuse my impertinence. Now in American national parks, it is recommended to FIGHT BACK AGAINST ATTACKING PREDATORS. Goofiness is not advised, nor is calm. What is advised is a display of ferocity. CALM USED to be advised.


      • Dominique Deux Says:

        Typo for good, which I kept uncorrected because I respect the right of typos to inject unexpected meanings.

        Not very enlightening in that case. Europe is playing both possum and goofy, and as a result is attracting every carrion eater AND predator in the vicinity.


        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Equal rights for typos! Ultimate PC! No, I do agree that typos can inject welcome serendipity.
          Speaking of this, seems Hollande and Obama are waking up in Iraq, and I’m injecting my grain of thought. The subtlety being “negotiation”.


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