Humor While You Wait

Hello all! I hope you have enjoyed my blog to this point. With school about to begin for me however, I will be posting much less frequently. I still have plenty of topics up my sleeve and a “series” to finish but I will be taking my sweet time. The majority of the free time that I spend on here for now will be searching for other blogs to follow, I don’t follow many right now, and also spending more time commenting on the posts that interest me. I think I have plenty of material here for you guys to read and watch while I slowly write my blogs to come, so feel free to take your time catching up on all that I have to offer, I won’t be leaving you in the dust with a fury of posts. Seeing as it may be as long as a month until my next post, I thought I would leave you with a rant from a comedian I find very funny, Louis C.K. It just so happens that this rant is on topic with my most recent posts so I thought it fitting to leave it here for you all to enjoy.

So again, please feel free to read and watch my previous posts and keep an eye out for my posts to come. Now for a little humor while you wait…

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x8m5d0_everything-is-amazing-and-nobody-i_fun

Quick Thought

I find it odd that religion advertises their humility, while in the same breath claims to know the mysteries of the universe based on a voice in their head or a feeling in their heart.

Ideals of an Ethos (Part 1): Honesty

From the time we are coherent, happiness and peace of mind are typically one’s greatest aspirations. We grow and learn, we set goals, decide what kind of life we want to lead. And it’s all to satisfy this initial desire we all have to be happy.

There are obvious steps that we all take in this journey towards happiness, such as being kind to others, which surprisingly enough covers the majority of what we need for an emotionally stable lifestyle. But it is clear that the conditions within the umbrella of ‘be kind to others’ is not always enough for us to be happy in life. We begin our search from here, trying to progress in our careers, trying to save money to own a home, retire, and so on. There seems to be this to-do list that can only be explained as ‘just what we do’. If we are doing something that makes us happy, we only seem to ask ourselves what we will do next, rather than enjoying what’s right in front of us. I think that the reason we are left doing this is because these things we do to be happy aren’t the real answers to happiness. Don’t get me wrong, things like a job that pays well, a nice home, and an HD TV can be great accents to a happy life, but they are certainly not the answer; not the holy grail, if you will, to a happy life.

I am soon to be finishing college this year with my degree in mathematics, and my brother finished his degree in physics not long ago. He is now in the beginning stages of his career. Recently we were discussing some of the conversations he has had with other friends, co-workers, and so forth. In that conversation, he told me about some of the questions he was hearing from them, such as; “What are your plans to get promoted?” and “When are you going to buy a house?” Now he certainly would go for promotions when offered if he was intrigued by the offer, and he is also currently looking to buy a house. But it was the way that these questions, and other questions of the like, were being asked which intrigued us both. This implication that one couldn’t be happy with where they are in life right now. The idea that one needs to move on to the next thing on the list. This constant look ahead, anticipating the future that will bring happiness. Probably my favorite philosopher, Sam Harris, had this to say of this way of thinking;

“We manage to never really connect with the present moment and find fulfillment there because we are continually hoping to become happy in the future. And the future never arrives. Even when we think we are in the present moment, we are, in very subtle ways, always looking over its shoulder, anticipating what’s coming next.”

As I stated in my last post, I believe that one can find more joy, more love, and more peace, when  one can truly live in the present moment. That’s much easier said than done. This is a very difficult thing to do and I promise you that ten minutes of trying to do this will open your eyes to the chaos that is our mind from moment to moment. And to be able to, if for even just a moment, still our ocean of thoughts, is just a brief insight into the amount of peace there is to attain.

There are ideas, or ways of thinking, that really make this experience worth while. There are ideals which I find to be the fuel that drives this most beneficial ethos of living in the present moment. And they are the topic of this three part series. The first ideal I am going to talk about is honesty. Let me begin.

Honesty

I remember the day that honesty became so important to me. My brother had told me about Sam Harris’ book, LyingBy this time I had already read his two books The Moral Landscapeand Free Will and through these readings became quite a big fan. The book is quite short (at the time it was just an e-book), and I read it on a return flight home. Page after page was compact with points that argued that at no time was lying the right thing to do. His points were so clear, so concise, that by the time I finished the book, I was convinced. I didn’t even need to put the idea into practice to recognize that my life had just changed for the better.

Now the first step to understanding how a concept such as never lying could truly make one’s life better is to first really understand what it means to lie. To lie is to intend to deceive another. Intent plays a large role when we look at lying. Sometimes we lie by accident. For example, and this is an oversimplified example, suppose someone asks your height. You say that you are 5’10” but later find that you are in fact 5’9”. While someone may want to argue that this is a lie, it really isn’t. You were simply wrong. There was no intent to deceive anyone. You simply thought that you were 5’10” but it turns out you were wrong. This is not lying.

To move a little closer to the edge, suppose while walking to your car in a parking lot, you see a friend near by but you are in a hurry and do not have time to talk. Suppose that this friend is quite the talker, so you ignore them (Suppose they are too close to simply wave, but far enough so that you don’t bump their shoulder). This could be worded as you “pretend” not to see them. This is not a lie.  You might be asking why right about now. The reason this is not a lie is because in this scenario, your intent is not to deceive your friend. Your intention is merely to show that you are too busy to acknowledge your friend at this moment which you display by ignoring them. Therefore everything about this moment is honest. Now this does not mean that if your friend confronts you about the situation later that you lie. You could simply explain; “Yeah, I did see you, but I was in a rush and had to go.” Some of the questions that I sense may be arising lead me to my next point on the topic which is subtlety.

Many people tend to believe that the only way to be honest is to be completely blunt. But being honest does not mean that we need to say everything that comes to mind. This is because not everything that comes to mind will be congruent with your actual intentions and later actions. You may lead people to believe something about yourself that is in fact not true. So honesty and dishonesty is a little more complex than the face value price tag we place on it. The clearest and most simple way to view honesty is to speak or act without the intent to deceive another.

Now that I have defined what it means to be honest, I will try to convince you why it is so important to be honest. The idea that being honest is good is not hard to convince people of primarily because everyone that is sane would already agree. But most people do believe that there is a grey area where sometimes lying is in fact the better thing to do. From the mundane, to the very serious, scenarios can always be created which can leave us unsure as to whether honesty is the best decision. As a mundane example, I turn to an excerpt from Sam Harris’ book.

A friend of mine, Sita, was once visiting the home of another friend and wanted to take her a small gift. Unfortunately, she was traveling with her young son and hadn’t found time to go shopping. As they were getting ready to leave their hotel, however, Sita noticed that the bath products supplied in their room were unusually nice. So she put some soaps, shampoos, and body lotions into a bag, tied it with a ribbon she got at the front desk, and set off.

When Sita presented this gift, her friend was delighted.

“Where did you get them?” she asked.

Surprised by the question, and by a lurching sense of impropriety, Sita sought to regain her footing with a lie: “Oh we just bought them in the hotel gift shop.”

The next words came from her innocent son: “No, Mommy, you got them in the bathroom!”

Imagine the faces of these two women, briefly frozen in embarrassment and then yielding to smiles of apology and forgiveness. This may seem the most trivial of lies–and it was–but it surely did nothing to increase the level of trust between these two friends.

Considering a much more serious example, I will recall one of the most difficult questions I have ever heard on the topic of lying. Suppose a wife lies on her deathbed next to her husband of 50 years and asks him the question; “Did you ever cheat on me during our marriage?” The truth of the matter is that early on in the marriage he did in fact cheat on her. But for the last 45 years their love blossomed into beautiful memories. The fact that he cheated is virtually irrelevant to their wonderful life. Now this may appear to be hopeless, and it pretty much is when it is not properly analyzed by means of true honesty from all involved. To answer this question though I would like to quickly rant here. All too often these days while watching a movie, reading fiction, or listening to a problem a friend or a family member is having, I continue to recognize how honesty would have solved the problem and lead to far less sorrow (in some cases sorrow is too strong a word). People far too often are also not honest with themselves before being honest with one another. These are the ideas I will use to answer this question.

For starters, this question puts me in somewhat of a catch 22. I am trying to show that honesty is always the better solution. However I am in this case asked to defend a lie that has lasted 45 years. But I am already against lying in the first place, and if you see that him now telling the truth would be a bad thing, it is the fault of the 45 year long lie, not the truth that should not have waited until his wife was on his deathbed. Thus, if I wished to be brief I could answer saying that the very conundrum proves my point! Nonetheless, should he answer this question truthfully right now? This gets to my second point. People far too often are not honest with themselves before being honest with one another. Does the wife really want to know the truth of this question? Is she really asking if he ever cheated on her, or is she really looking for a confirmation of his true love? In such a serious scenario, I would argue that whoever presented this argument would have a difficult time truly finding someone that would ask a question so potentially detrimental to their happiness in what is perhaps their final moments. But if a person truly wants to know the truth of the exact question they asked, then the truth may actually give them some peace. The only time that I suspect it wouldn’t provide peace would be if they didn’t really want to know the answer. So should a man answer a question not asked in honesty? Could he in fact answer the real question by assuring his wife that he has loved her and only her their whole lives? I would say yes. I think we can see how even such a difficult question can hold the seeds of the benefits of honesty.

The Subjective Experience

Although there is a lot to discuss when arguing the importance of honesty. The most important reason that I encourage honesty to others is for the subjective experience of honesty. We can propose scenario after scenario that will force us to analyze whether or not telling the truth is the best thing to do, but from the point of view of subjective experience, honesty can be one of the best tools for growth.

When we try to be honest with others, we are forced to first be honest with ourselves. When we do this, we begin to learn more and more about ourselves. We can become aware of various hindrances such as fears and insecurities. We may become more aware of things that we don’t know or don’t fully understand. And perhaps the best thing honesty does for us here, is it forces us to confront these fears, confront these insecurities, confront what we don’t know or don’t understand. And when we do this, when we are truly honest with ourselves. Becoming aware and confronting these realizations is almost, if not completely, accepting these hindrances. Once we do that, we can begin to grow, learn, and overcome what previously held us back which in turn leads to greater happiness and peace of mind.

The benefits of honesty are truly limitless. One of the greatest benefits is with our various relationships. Relationships strengthen because when they are built on a foundation of honesty, the trust can be stronger than anything imagined. And when you receive praise, or give praise to another, when you give advice or receive advice, you know that it is coming from a heart of compassion and truth. There is no need to second guess it. So I encourage all who read this to work towards always being honest with others, and perhaps most importantly, be honest yourself. With honesty as a foundation, we can take the next steps towards true peace of mind and happiness.

Sam Harris: It is Always Now

I am in the process of writing a three part blog which addresses what I believe to be the most important ideals to have or work towards to find the most happiness and peace of mind in one’s life. These three ideals are beyond the obvious values we hold such as be kind to others, or treat others as you wish to be treated. They are more specific. I have found in my life that the more I work towards these ideals, the happier I have become. I am unsure if these three pieces will be posted back to back to back, but I do plan to have them close together and I will try to make it clear when the post is part of the series. As a preamble to this series to come, I invite you to watch this video of Sam Harris talking about the most important value, without a doubt in my mind, which is living in the present moment. I personally think that one cannot do this to the fullest without the attributes I will present; but above all, to put into words the most important key to happiness and peace of mind, it is to live in the present moment. Enjoy.

Lorimer Moseley: Why Things Hurt

Is pain an illusion? Keeping with the theme of illusions in reality, Lorimer asks and answers this question. Now this isn’t the same kind of illusion as I propose free will is; however, he points out that when we feel pain, on our arm for instance, the pain is not actually in our arm. It’s in our mind. I’ll let Lorimer explain.

If all government services were provided like health care …

Found this very entertaining and thought provoking.

by Guest blogger Jesse Hendrix

Bill: I’d like to report a crime! I was just carjacked at gunpoint!

Officer: Certainly sir. Do you have insurance?

Bill: Yes, I have car insurance.

Officer: No, not car insurance. Crime insurance.

Bill: Crime insurance?

Officer: Yes, crime insurance. To pay for the cost of the investigation. You should get it from your employer.

Bill: I work for Walmart.

Officer: So, no insurance then. Right. That will be one hundred dollars to start the investigation, sir.

Bill: One hundred dollars!

Officer: It would only be fifteen if you had insurance.

Bill: But there’s a dangerous maniac on the loose! In my car!

Officer: Dangerous maniacs are expensive to deal with, sir.

Bill: You’re the police! You’re supposed to help everyone!

Officer: We don’t go in for any of that socialist un-American clap-trap in here, sir.

Bill: What?!

Officer: (Stands, patriotic music swells) It’s is…

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Peace of Mind Without Free Will

Free will is not a topic I discuss often, outside of a small circle of people. Not because I am ashamed of this view or unsure of my position, but simply because the topic does not arise too often. It is also not the most appealing subject to discuss with people. Granted it is very interesting since the verdict in the discussion plays a major role in how we view our actions, other people’s actions, how we view justice, compassion, forgiveness, and so on. But the reason that this topic isn’t appealing is because many are vehemently against the idea that we may not have free will. As an atheist (I must state here that I am not a fan of the word. I prefer to say that I am an advocate for evidence and reason. People too often apply too much meaning to the term atheist. For the sake of this post, it simply means what it should, that I don’t believe in the existence of a God.), I am consistently reminded of the reaction I will get from many theists when they here of my stance on God. A mixture of offense, and anger, with a glass of confusion. But as someone that believes we do not have free will, I find the same reaction expands out to many atheists as well. I am inclined to think that this stems from fear. Many people who have contemplated free will, and do not like the idea of not having it, typically show signs of fear, despair, and/or anger. What people seem to fear most is the loss of meaning to their lives. So in many ways, it is what atheists experience when talking to theists about God. Only for me, this subject applies when talking to fellow atheists as well. Diminishing my audience that much more.

For this post however, I am not here to debate whether or not we have free will. That may happen in another post depending on the reaction I get. What my intentions are with this post are to attempt to show that there is no reason to fear a life without free will. As a theist fears a life without God, many people of all belief systems, including atheism, fear a life without free will. What I plan to show my readers here is that everything, or at least the majority, that is meaningful in your life, you have not having free will to thank.

Within the small circle that I have discussed free will with, I have experienced a wide range of reactions. I have talked with some people that, at length, I came to the belief that they could not handle the idea of not having free will if they came to believe it were true. I have seen people completely out of their element; almost so unaware of the idea that not having free will was a possibility that they weren’t affected by the idea at all, but what I saw more of was it was not clicking throughout their being that it was worth even considering. I myself took upon the idea rather smoothly. I try not to hold on to beliefs because I want something to be true. I have a desire to know what isWhatever the truth about reality happens to be, I try my best to be ready to accept that. When I was first confronted about the idea of not having free will by a close friend, I had not considered the possible ramifications of it’s truth, so I was not too affected by it, and certainly didn’t buy into it at the time. As time progressed and I researched the idea, I kind of baby stepped my way into it. By the time I was convinced that we don’t have free will, the shock was minimal.

Not to tangent too much from the discussion but there is something that I want to mention here. People when confronted by new information tend to push it away. This is okay if you are simply being a critical thinker, but if you are afraid to find out that you are wrong, that is when bad things can occur. The problem with the stance of wanting, or even needing, what you believe to be true is that we confuse ourselves of what the ramifications are if we are in fact incorrect. For instance, theists typically fear the idea of God not existing. They say things like, “I just couldn’t imagine a world without God.” What is wrong with this statement is that they seem to be implying that if you were to prove that God didn’t exist, that from that point on God doesn’t exist. Almost as though you daggered God in the heart. This is incorrect. What they don’t realize is that if they discover God doesn’t exist, then God hasn’t ever existed. The world that you thought you could never live in, you have in fact been living in your entire life. Now of course their is that feeling like God did leave the day you came to the realization. But it is in a small way the result of clinging to an idea that you want to be true, rather than simply discovering what is actually true.

I remember the conversation I had with my close friend the night that he realized free will was an illusion. I saw the fear arise. That moment that he didn’t feel in control. He was realizing the ramifications of this truth. And these thoughts, in their immediacy, were not very comforting. I later learned that this was the catalyst to a spiral downward into a very dark depression. He felt as though he had lost all meaning to life. It took quite some time before he finally recovered from the depression. For those of you wondering, he is better than ever, and still believes free will is an illusion. This is not an uncommon reaction however. Many people that are in the conversation about free will attest to this reaction. Sam Harris has even posted a couple of times on his blog on this point to try to help people coping with these emotions.

I myself being aware of this, did begin to think about whether or not meaning was lost when free will was stripped away. I didn’t search for half truths so that I could sleep at night, but I just took the time to ponder the real consequences of this reality. Like I will say many more times in my life, it’s about what is, not what I want. I am happy to say however that I am in fact very happy with what I have come to believe.

There are typically three positions that people hold on the subject of free will. There is the first stance which believes that absolutely everything about you, such as your actions and thoughts, is of your own choosing. You are the author of your thoughts and nothing that has your fingerprint on it was not of your choosing. If you hold this position, the points I will soon bring to the forefront will challenge this belief to the fullest. The second position is in the middle. You believe that we have moments such as Freudian slips which aren’t really of our control, we also have many thoughts that aren’t really of our penmanship, and some emotions can go out of control, but when it comes down to the real choices in our life, that is where our free will is most observable. If you hold this stance, I believe that what I am soon to talk about will fit into your system of belief, and I hope that it will actually bring you even more happiness. Lastly, we have the third position. This is the position that I in fact hold. The belief that one has absolutely no free will. We are merely the result of causes which influence a chain of causes, nothing of which we can claim true ownership of to the level which free will suggests. If you have this belief system, I hope that from where you emotionally are today, you will leave with more happiness, true peace of mind, and a feeling that life couldn’t have more meaning any other way. So let me finally get to my point.

I remember one day looking at my wife. I can’t remember exactly what she was doing, perhaps she was folding some laundry, but that’s not relevant. What is relevant however is the rush of emotions that I felt. Love, happiness, excitement, peace, and so on. In that moment I took the time to appreciate these feelings. I was so overwhelmed with how strong these feelings were. These feelings were so true, so real. If anyone questioned whether I had meaning in my life, the answer was not clearer than in that moment. Then a thought came to me.

Believing in the illusoriness of free will, but not closed off to the idea that I might be wrong, I considered the question; What would this mean if I had free will? It was then that I slowly began to realize how sad this moment would become. Assuming I had free will, suddenly that beautiful moment that I will always cherish began to feel so… fake. If these feelings of love and joy were just a choice, how important could they possibly be? To really bring this point home, I would ask; How important, or how real, is love when you could simply choose to stop loving that person in a moment. If your first thought is, “that’s impossible.” Then you are beginning to see why free will in fact takes away meaning in life.

This is worth repeating many times and in different ways, in my opinion. How important is someones love for you; how strong is that drive for someone to love you, if that love can be taken away in an instant? Just one simple choice, and it’s gone. This may seem far fetched, but it isn’t. Just think about it. If you actually have free will, then think about the one thing that you care about most in the world. If you have true free will, you can choose to not care about that thing immediately. If your initial response, which we know would be true in this experiment, would be to not quit caring for that thing, your are seeing something which you are not in control of. If you truly have control of everything, then your emotions can be controlled as well. You could then quit caring for the most important thing in your life, and most importantly, not care that you quit caring! This brings me to my next point.

If you are in the second and third positions that I stated above, you are hopefully coming to realize that everything in your life that gives you meaning owes a thank you to the fact that you do not have control (or free will) over it. These emotions that would fight you, possibly to the death, are emotions so real in you, that you cannot deny them no matter how hard you try. So when you feel love. When you feel joy, happiness, peace. When you feel that driving force that pushes you to be better. When you feel these things that give your life meaning, they only have meaning in a reality without free will. They only have that truth, that truth that packs a real punch, because you cannot simply choose to not feel that way. Emotions are the most real, most important things to us. And those are the things which are most clearly not in our control (and at the very least not in our complete control).

So if you believe that you don’t have free will to some degree, or to every degree, look at all of your emotions. Look at the people or the things that make you happy. Look at the ones you love. really allow yourself to feel these emotions, because thanks to no free will, it is the most real and most meaningful thing in your life.