Posts Tagged ‘Happiness’

Good Is Absolute

October 2, 2015

Long Story short: Not everything is relative. Good, goodness are not relative, but absolute. Absolute thanks to what? Neurohormonal activity. The fact is, and it’s a truism, people are happy enough to keep on living.

The Gods are relative. Biology is absolute.

So how come much of human thinking and values became all too relative in the Twentieth Century?

In the early Twentieth Century, the genius mathematician, physicist and philosopher, Henri Poincaré, announced what he called the “Theory of Relativity” (1904). The theory achieved great fame. Especially as “Relativity” slowed down time (as observed since zillions of times). (Relativity was attributed to a German scientist, so it was viewed as very serious; never mind that Einstein had neither discovered, nor demonstrated ANY of the basic equations or ideas of said theory; it was the interesting case of a strictly non-German theory attributed to a German.)

In any case, it was thereupon decreed by the vastly mentally unprepared masses, and not quite a few intellectuals, that everything was relative, including good and evil. A relative mood set on the land. Einstein himself played it to the hilt:

Many Philosophies (Such As Buddhism), Adopt The Mood That Suffering Is More Important Than Happiness. Neurobiology Contradicts Them

Many Philosophies (Such As Buddhism), Adopt The Mood That Suffering Is More Important Than Happiness. Neurobiology Contradicts Them

Relativity of morality is not all wrong. My pet thinker, Nietzsche, contributed to exhibit moral relativity, by pointing out that aristocracy and the rabble it ruled over, had, thank to the “slave religion” of Christianism, completely different moralities. The mathematician, physicist and philosopher Pascal himself had pointed out that truth itself depended upon which side of a mountain range one considered (“Vérité en deçà des Pyrénées, erreur au delà. Ce qui est une vérité pour un peuple, une personne, peut être une erreur pour d’autres. Ce qui est valable pour l’un ne l’est pas forcément pour l’autre.”). In truth Pascal parroted Montaigne’s use of the mountains. More generally Montaigne said: is called barbaric what is not usual (“Quelle vérité que ces montagnes bornent, qui est mensonge au monde qui se tient au-delà…. Chacun appelle barbare ce qui n’est pas de son usage”.)

In truth, the “Theory of Relativity” is all about some types of space and time measurements being relative to some types of motion. It’s not about everything being relative. Modern logic admits that any logic is relative to the universe it lives in.

Does the latter mean all morality is relative? As the Nazis claimed? No. Morality, in the end, is a biological concept. But not an obvious one. Contrarily to the pathetic naivety of Nazi theories, biology can give us a ground to stand on, which is otherwise subtle than the “selection of the fittest“. We are biological systems, and much of us is inherited. Yes. However, what about good and evil? Is that inherited, and can we go beyond what’s inherited?

John Zande wrote a book “The Owner Of All Infernal Names”. I commented: Mr. Zande seems to embrace the ancient Cathar theory that the creator of the world is obviously evil. The problem with this, is that love is even more important to human beings than evil (that’s easy to demonstrate: babies would not exist, but for love). So, if one believes the occurrence of evil is absolute proof of an evil creator, the even more prominent occurrence of love is absolute proof of an even more prominent benevolent creator, by the same metalogic. (The Good Lord is good, because He makes more good than bad.)

Yet, there is no God but Evolution, and Evil is the Master’s stroke.

Mr. Zande kindly replied:

“Insightful comment, and the logic is sound. The thesis presented in TOOAIN addresses the so-named Problem of Good. To paraphrase, good is a necessity. It spurs on growth. Ultimately, though, there is no good. What appears good is in fact little more than the means to greater and more efficient suffering. Love is also encouraged. In the book I cite this poem by Naomi Shihad, Kindness:

>>Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness<<

The premise is, love-lost is stronger and more potent than the fleeting curiosity of love-found. Complicated grief is a terrible ailment and serves to exemplify this. To love is to opening oneself up to tremendous physical and emotional pain, and to the Creator, this is pure cream.

I also present a number of examples to demonstrate this point that there is no true ‘good,” including medicine in general, writing:

Consider then the truth: More bodies doing more things over a longer time can only be scored as a breathtaking augmentation of resources.

A general population dying at 35 cannot, by and large, produce the same quantity or quality of suffering generated through the extended life of a general population dying at age 80 or 90. Here man has added 30 years—an entire generation—to the duration of his potential suffering, which in the eyes of a debased being is to be applauded as not only a marvel of market optimisation, but an almost miraculous, self-inflicted diversification in the greater portfolio of potential pain.

By permitting the development and maturation of innovative methods and practices which abet bodily longevity the Omnimalevolent Creator has positioned Himself to reap 20, 30, or even 40 years more pleasure from His game; drinking in the pang of creeping irrelevance, the pain of crippling arthritis, the emotional distress of immobility, mental degradation, senility, the anguish of seeing friends and loved ones die early, the anxiety of financial and perhaps political insecurity, and the hopelessness of a life bookmarked by death and conscious annihilation. In no uncertain terms, ruinous ageing is an abhorrent stain on even the most spectacular of lives lived, often robbing an individual of their most prized possession, their dignity, and this gradual drip of irreversible decay and the misery born of it can only be seen as a boon for a being who thrives on tapping into increasingly complex veins of suffering.

Now, let me just say, the book is a parody of 19th Century natural theology works… and it was, at times, desperately hard to write the words. I couldn’t bring myself, for example, to detail all but three examples of animal cruelty.”

The first step out of the dilemma of pain is to realize that it’s evolution which created us, not some moral person up there (the so-called “God”). So there is no game. Normal life is, most of the time pleasant enough to feel better than the alternative(s). This is what evolution expects. And has selected us for. Cocktails of neurohormones in our brains and gut make sure of that we experience enough good to keep on going. So, integrated all over, weighted with time, life is, overall, pleasant. Abject pain and unfathomable terror, occasionally, do not make much of a dent on this (although, as John Zande points out, the problem of ageing has become, viewed as a sum, much more considerable, since we have made enough progress to extend ageing rather than extending health, indeed).

However, when pain and suffering get to be too much, one can take action: euthanasia, revolution, and even war, are solutions.

You want peace and happiness? Then kill pain and suffering, in a timely manner. Otherwise, your brain will do it for you. And slavery may ensue.

Patrice Ayme’

HAPPINESS A DUTY, Good & Smart

August 26, 2015

Forget Sisyphus’ Dreary Myth, Embrace The Happiness Strategy:

Far from being a sin, could happiness be not just fun, but a duty? I will propose that happiness is, indeed, a duty. Happiness is both a cerebral and social necessity. Let’s start with its social link.

When an animal suffers, or at least, when an animal is not happy, it is likely that it is either under aggression, and, or, needs to get into some significant action (taking some risk to go somewhere unusual, even if that animal is only an herbivore).

In either case, action, and, a fortiori, suffering put the animal, human or not, into an aggressive neurohormonal state, or cocktail of aggressive states (notice in passing that it is not always a bad thing: action, or even suffering, are often needed for everybody’s good!). Thus, someone’s unhappiness often ends up as somebody’s else suffering. Unhappiness is not just immoral, and asocial, unhappiness starts a chain reaction of unhappiness.

No Laugh, No Love, Nor Mind In Full

No Laugh, No Love, Nor Mind In Full

In human life, suffering is ubiquitous, unavoidable: born in pain, die in pain, with quite a bit of pain, Sturm und Angst, aging and degeneracy in between. So suffering always stands at the ready. Ready to help us not to settle too hopelessly into routine. Suffering, or the threat thereof, is always ready to enrich our minds, be it only with appendicitis, or a broken ankle, we don’t need to encourage it too much.

Happiness, though, precisely because of the ubiquitousness of suffering, is more tricky: it requires more of our enthusiastic cooperation, and encouragement. Happiness calls onto creativity to exist, and overwhelm the pain out there. Not by eschewing the world, as monks and Buddhists propose, but by engaging it enough, to bring up the neurohormones of happiness (Endo cannabinoids, Dopamine, Oxytocin, Endorphin, GABA, Serotonin, Adrenaline, Nitrogen Oxide, “laughing gas“, etc.).

Happiness cannot tolerate too much moderation (consider the Adrenaline above, a chemical known to make a dead heart jump into action, or Dopamine, which cocaine, methamphetamines, boost, to create effect).

Moderation is debilitating, especially in large quantities. Happiness instead embraces immoderately the best aspects that life has to offer, and run away with them. (Creation, in particular necessitates to run away; as our society tries to run away from the encroachment of robots and plutocrats, creation will be needed ever more. Socially good creation is entangled with happiness, while unhappiness is entangled with war hormones and neural patterns and organs.)

But what of the other cerebral consequences of happiness? Happiness is a facilitator of survival. Epidemiological statistics show this.

Wisdom is, first of all, about being as smart in one’s behavior, as one can be, given the circumstances. An example is the six passengers in the Thalys train who just fought the heavily armed terrorist. They acted wisely, and, in this case, it meant that they acted decisively, fiercely, and with maximum violence: first two Frenchmen engaged the fanatic in combat, as it came out of the toilet. A Franco-American professor in his fifties, grabbed the AK 47 automatic machine gun, and ran away with it, and got shot through his entire left side for his trouble. Then the two U.S. servicemen, helped by another American, and a Brit followed, while the terrorist’s two guns jammed. The latter four heroes already got the Legion of Honor. As the 62 year old Brit pointed out, jumping on the terrorist, and hitting his head and choking him until he got unconscious, was the wise thing to do. Sometimes, extreme physical violence is the right activity to bring survival. This is a truism. Yet, in that case, happy meant punchy.

But what does the will to survival in the individual or the society have to do with? Happiness. Who wants to defend a sad life?

Salvador Dali noticed that the Nazis’ will to start a world war had to do with the desire to lose it. I agree. It was not just hatred, cupidity, and the stampeding of the herd, which characterized Nazism. Germans had long been unhappy, and had long built a cultural anthropology of unhappiness (thanks to the fascist and racist political system which ruled them, much of it straight from Eighteenth Century hyper-militaristic dictatorial Prussia and its ingrained hatred against Jews and Poles). German unhappiness brought forth the cultivation of a war-like society (a poisonous, but delicious fruit of which is higher efficiency).

Something striking about the four Anglo-Saxon heroes of the train above, is that they all seem happy in life. This is reflected by the inner strength they exhibited after the harrowing circumstances they had been through.

Without that inner happiness, the four heroes would have valued their lives less, thus valued life in general less, hence would have been less keen to defend theirs, and other people’s, lives (remember the connection of happiness with Adrenaline).

Happiness is not just a luxury, a reward, it’s a safety, even a security. not just for the individual, but for the community at large.

Socrates said the unexamined life was not worth living. Indeed, it never was, and never will. For a human being, to live is to examine. But with what is life examined? Intelligence. And the better examination is rendered possible only by greater intelligence. And what brings maximum intelligence? Experiencing the world in full.

The Romans knew this well. Even in their baths, they had a frigidarium, an ice-cold bath. And a caldarium, a very hot bath. Life, even at the baths, was not just all about the tepidarium, the tepid bath.

Sadness, unhappiness, or the tepidarium, a tepid life, only brings the input of just part of the world. Thus they make minds which are only partial (for example, only war-like). Such half minds are legions. Hitler was typical: more or less a quasi orphan, failed artist, bum, and then a shell-shocked, gazed soldier, his experience from the world, lots of unhappiness, and war, was all what his mind was made from (Stalin, or Lenin had somewhat similar war-like, dejected, unhappy backgrounds).

Sadness brings up the war-like instincts, hence the fascist reflex (to make one out of the many). Here is the answer Estienne de La Boétie was looking for, when he wondered why people accepted to live in servitude to an oligarchy. In Discours de la servitude volontaire ou le Contr’un (Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, or the Anti-Dictator), La Boétie asserted that tyrants had power because people granted it to them. I have proposed a mechanism to explain why it is so. And lack of happiness is central to it.

Happiness brings other aspects to the interaction with the world, which sadness can never reveal. Happy aspects, unhappiness alone never brings. Happiness allows to learn more form the world, it makes the mind in full.

The happy mind is a mind in full.

In a nuclear chain reaction, each nuclear fission, which is caused by a neutron’s impact, in turn creates, in the average, more than one neutron, which strike other nuclei, etc. Nobel Laureate Irene Curie discovered the chain reaction in the particular case of Uranium 235 in 1937 (although many sexist males preferred to attribute the discovery to Otto Hahn, who got the Nobel for it, it’s clearly Irene who taught Otto, through years of heated epistolary exchanges).

Unhappiness has a much more devastating amplification potential than its equivalent with radionuclides. Indeed an unhappy human being can make many other human beings suffer. Not just a couple. This is all the more true in a representative democracy, that is, an oligarchy. After he was elected Chancellor in January 1933, the pathologically unhappy Adolf Hitler was in good position to make hundreds of millions suffer, and not just his niece (who escaped through suicide, with her uncle’s gun).

If happiness is so important socially and for the blossoming of the individual mind, should not it be viewed as more than a right, but even as a moral duty?

The preceding was inspired by the neurohormonal theory of the mind, according to which neurohormonal states do not just characterize the mind, but are determined, with immense inertia, by exterior and inner circumstances. Given the neurohormonal theory of mind, it’s rather self-obvious that happiness is a duty. Without it, it is not that obvious. It’s probably why the notion, that happiness is a moral duty, not just for kicks, seems to have been ignored by the main philosophical ideologies.

Happiness is right in all ways. It even enables to learn. How? The road to truth is paved with errors, painfully learned. Only happiness makes us willing to embrace errors with an open mind. And wish for more, more errors, as we wish to learn more, learning to happily bounce from pains and disappointments to some new, unexpected, more exciting, freshly instructive errors.

No pain, no gain, yet, no happy, no bouncy. If one wants further gains, one has to accept further pain, and that’s possible only with a sunny, happy disposition. To learn ever more, means to be able to suffer pains gladly, ready to bring some more. Happiness is not just about preferring fun to dread, or about blocking reprisals of hatred against doom and gloom. Happiness is an epistemological need.

Patrice Ayme’

 

PAIN & PASSION For Balanced Mental Diet?

April 18, 2014

Today Christians celebrate the suffering of Christ (that’s what “passion” means; the word was more or less created for this, the suffering of Christ, in 12C France). Why?

Are Christians celebrating suffering in general, or the gift the Son of God supposedly made to them by consenting to suffer too? Or both?

If suffering is celebrated, what for? Because it brings good things, or because it is, per se, a good thing? Or is suffering celebrated because it is central to the human condition? Then, refusing suffering would be to refuse the human condition itself.

Pope Gets Down To Business

Pope Gets Down To Business

A specialist of Buddhism, Philip Short, author of several best seller scholarly books, told me, in connection with explaining the holocaust in Cambodia, that, by spiting pain, Buddhism made people more indifferent to suffering… And thus more tolerant of suffering, and of those, or what, the systems of thoughts and emotions, that inflict it.

Certainly Christians make a show of regretting the suffering of Christ, while revering the fact that, supposedly, he died for us. While Islam is rather gross in comparison, by revering “Jihad” (Holy war or holy war-like effort), Christianism is more subtle: it celebrates those who die for us in horrible suffering, just to obey their “Father”. (Implicit message, same as in Islam, where it is explicit (S 4, v 56): obey Your Lord, the one in the big castle on the hill, as ordained by God.)

In any case, if more than half of the planet is of a mentality inspired by Christianism or Islamism (including yours truly), it’s no doubt because both these religions view suffering as a good thing, sometimes, in their core doctrine. That reflectsthe human condition better. Whereas Buddhism, once upon a time a state religion in much of Asia, and all of India, was wiped out nearly everywhere (even Japan, where Shintoism was the official state religion).

The problem with Buddhism? It’ s too condemning of pain and suffering. The beast has to be tough, to be the beast.

Beasts manage pain, like anything else, because biological evolution manages everything, or, at least, used to manage everything, until our forebear, Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis, decided to burn coal in France, 73,000 years ago.

Pleasure one craves for, and pain, one avoids. That’s first order. In second order, evolution found out that sometimes one had to crave for pain. Thus pain became pleasure, on a more meta level.

A good example is the totally typical scene of the wildebeest (gnou) being eaten, slowly, by the hyena, guts ballooning out. Why would evolution want that the live dinner be drenched by endorphins, and thus not to suffer too much? Why would Evolution be a good and tender god? Why would evolution care? Well, Evolution cares about the predator being around to eat another wildebeest the following week. Thus Evolution cares about the wildebeest not hurting too much the hyena. Predators are fragile, precious: violence is a delicate behavior to live from, the prey’s cooperation is essential.

If they can, predators avoid risk, and will not even risk killing their prey, if they can have their cake, and eat it.

It’s pretty obvious that efforts bring suffering, but that, often, without efforts, or danger, there would be even more suffering. So one would expect that evolution would have prepared mechanisms that make suffering, and danger, to be perceived, somehow as pleasant, when they are obviously deemed to be important.

What morality to bring out of that? Suffering is not absolute. It’s relative, relative to the causality at hand. And the causality around the corner. Suffering for the good, or a greater cause, can be excellent. That’s one indirect message contained in the Passion of Christ.

And a warning beckons: humanity has a propensity to suffering, and not just as an inclination, but as something necessary for a fully balanced mind. It’s not just that “great” leaders want to hurt others. They do this, in part because they want themselves to hurt.

Could it be that suffering brings happiness? If suffering comes from physical exercise, it certainly brings endorphins! In this case, suffering is directly alleviated by neurohormones. But more generally, a tough condition, especially when it bring despair, completely transforms common existence: instead of being perceived as dreadful, the simplest thing become delectable.

Say you are stuck on a mountain, hanging in a harness, with not even a ledge to rest on, in winter at night with insufficient clothing, no food nor drink (one of my specialties). A return to simple flat ground will be perceived as paradise.

So paradise is easy to muster: just go about, suffering big time, and then return to normality (with luck). This is the attraction of extreme sports. But also war.

Humanity has evolved over several million years. Several millions years of happiness, but also pain and suffering. Can one go without the other? So, when John Lennon screamed that “when you talk  about destruction, you can count me out” (in his anti-revolutionary song, “Revolution”), was he unwise and unbalanced?

Proper mental ecology has more important things to worry about, than destruction, pain and suffering, says Evolution.

Certainly, stupidity is something more inhuman, than suffering itself, in which one can easily have all of humanity fall into, during these oligarchic times.

Today a famous novelist also died. Gabriel Garcia Marquez observed that: “Most critics don’t realize that a novel like One Hundred Years of Solitude is a bit of a joke, full of signals to close friends; and so, with some pre-ordained right to pontificate they take on the responsibility of decoding the book and risk making terrible fools of themselves.”

Indeed, although novels are jokes, life is not a joke. Or then it’s a pretty good one. And also a pretty insufferable one. Fiction is a genre much honored. But who needs fiction, when one has reality? Is not fiction reality light?

Accept the pain, it’s the human thing to do.

Patrice Aymé

 

[Note: The preceding used in passing a Lamarckian (new semantics!) evolutionary mechanism. The evolution of pain mitigation appeared as a “smart” overall ecological system selections: herbivores too hard to eat were deselected by ecological system collapse. So Masochism is evolutionary advantageous from the point of view of entire ecology survival.]