Posts Tagged ‘Calm’

NEW WISDOM, NEW TURMOIL

August 11, 2014

NEUROGENESIS IS NEVER CALM

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’

 

Calmly Thinking Up A Storm

August 9, 2014

Buddhists, Muslims and other Christians, often make the argument that human society is a terrible place, a false world, that it has to be fled at any cost.

Saint Augustine famously recommended to leave that “City of Man” (Rome), and join instead the “City of God”.

Soon all Romans joined the City of God, which happened to also be that of the Plutocrats. There was no more money for real things, like the military. By 400 CE, the Franks were put in charge of defending the North West of the empire. In 406 CE, the Rhine froze, and several German nations broke through, surprising the Franks. There were no hinterlands military reserves.

The Vandals, one of these nations, charged across Gallia, Hispania, and landed across, in Africa.

Soon the Vandals were below the walls of Saint Augustine city of Hippo (of which he was bishop). Hippo fell, a case of divine justice, no doubt. Augustine died. The Vandal occupation, overall, lasted a century, before a puny, but successful Roman counter-attack.

Within three centuries, North Africa, the world’s most Christianized place, would fall to the invading Arabs. And it fell the hard way: after a war that lasted many years, the cities were annihilated.

A characteristic of Roman North Africa is that the presence of Roman soldiery was very light. Eight centuries of peace were enjoyed, aside from episodic violence during Vandal rule. Now contemplate this:

Here is Alex Jones, a successful blogger, in “Finding calm in the storm“: “Human society encourages you to become anxious, always in a state of panic. The adrenaline constantly runs like an angry river… The news is always ugly, full of fear and worry. Human society is a constant raging hurricane of angry fear.” He then recommends to pet a cat: ”You are calm, the cat enjoys your company. The cat has pulled you out of the storm into a calm centre.”

I am myself a great apostle of Nature, and the realism it fosters. Using a human body, and a human mind, the way they were evolved to be, in nature, allows us to enjoy what we are meant to be. That’s why I hike, run, dive, climb, and work on my garden.

Yet, a purring cat, per se, comes rather short, as a full expression of nature. And why are some people so disturbed by… nothing?

The argument can be made, and ought to be made, that, in this raging storm, being calm should be the least of our worries. There is all too much calm about big things, and too much tempests in tea pots.

Alex Jones kindly replied this to me: “A calm mind is a wise mind.”

There we have the naked truth: a blatant identification between calm, and wisdom. They are related, but far from identical. It’s true that a wise mind will often be calm, when others are not. That’s because the wise has anticipated the situation, and those who are less wise, when confronted to reality, get all excited while they are trying to adapt to it. They have no choice.

Conversely, those who were never excited never learned anything.

If one believes that “a calm mind is a wise mind”, the Americans were sure wise to keep calmly supporting Hitler in 1939. The Japanese were sure wise to calmly support emperor Hiro Hito, from 1937 (Nanking) to Pearl Harbor (1941), and beyond.

And those who do not give a hoot about whether humanity is poisoning the biosphere, are certainly remarkably calm, thus very wise. Meanwhile, Nile crocodiles, who barely move for months in winter, deep in the watery depths, have got to be the wisest.

Believing that calm is wise, renders the calm acceptance in the UK and the USA of Bush’s attack on Iraq in 2003, really wise.

In truth, unveiling truth often demands not just excitation, but outright violence. Even if that’s just the violence of changing one’s own mind. Nietzsche pointed out, courageously, that he made “philosophy with a hammer“.

Conventional wisdom is always calm, because it is so sure of itself. Calm also are the deepest errors, those harder to expugnate. It’s easier to keep one’s mind at ease, and regurgitate the past, as one learned it at the age of four.

To identify wisdom with calm is, thus, a fundamental error.

Building the correct ideas and moods requires work, thus energy, thus, one could say, violence. A child has to accept a lot of force to be perpetrated on her mind to fabricate all that knowledge and wisdom, which shows up in immensely subtle neuro-geometry.

When one looks in the small, at the Quantum scale, one discovers extreme agitation. And the smaller one looks, the greater the agitation. Most of the mass of a proton is created by the kinetic energy of the quarks zooming around inside, thanks to E = mcc. (E, the kinetic energy of quarks, creates m, the mass of the proton.) Agitation itself creates mass.

Last night, I watched a tremendous thunderstorm. Nature herself is violent. Truth itself is what’s left of the imagination, once all trials and errors one could think of have been made.

Truth is not calm, nor is it arrived at calmly. Believing otherwise was all the excuse authorities often had to send many a thinker to death.

Patrice Ayme’