Introspection..

I think most of what people do is related to acquiring the 4 A’s – acceptance, approval, admiration, adoration; and respect from society. I feel this overpowering influence in my life too. Generally speaking, am I really doing what I want to do?Why am I doing whatever I’m doing?What are my motivations?Are they real ones? You could think of fairly plausible answers even as you look at these questions but if you question these further and further, you see through some of your habits and motivations.

In my case I noticed:

1. A large part of my self is defined on how others view me. I might form my self view based on the weighted average of people’s views about me. I might assign much greater weights to people I care about like family, certain friends, people whom I dated etc.

2. I get frequently lost in philosophical thoughts and totally lose touch with all the activities that a person in my context would typically do. It is some form of dissociation which keeps coming back.

3. I have a ton of other preoccupations related to very diverse interests that can suck me into a state of flow pretty easily. Even in this case I lose all awareness of the expectations I am to meet.

Like I had 11 days holidays here. I’m sure most of the students here would have done a decent amount of studying, homework or something related to bettering their chance of survival. In my case, I just got lost in my preoccupations and interests and lost all awareness of all these practical concerns.

Sometimes I feel this is some form of rebellion inside me. I am resisting all these conventions and I want to be free.

Then I question myself,
1. Why do I want a good job? – to get good money, to buy luxuries, to lead a comfortable life, to make a difference

2. Why do I want money, luxuries, security, making a difference – Because I think they can give me satisfaction and happiness

3. You would not have enough time to enjoy the money, how does it still do it? – Because society would accept, approve, admire or maybe even adore me for it. So yea by repeated questioning I once again hit upon the 4A’s.

I also hit upon these 4A’s when I look at my other activities. Like why do I flirt(besides the physicality part)?Why am I looking for romantic interests?Why am I looking for close friends?

Some of the questions to ponder about:

Why do I want society to accept, approve etc?Is it really so important?Is it conditioning?Upbringing?Why is society such a major force controlling our actions?Is this really the optimal way?What is the real truth behind it?Why do we seek these?

Aesthetic detachment

This is a very interesting concept I came across.

Here’s a part from an extract:

A special attitude with which to approach art, nature, and other objects. First, it differs from a practical attitude and has no concern with practical (sensual, intellectual, or moral) utilities. An aesthetic attitude takes nature or a work of art “for its own sake.” In this sense it is “disinterested,” as Kant emphasized in his Critique of Judgment. Secondly, it does not involve personal desires, motives, or feelings in dealing with an object. This freedom from desire or emotion is called “aesthetic distance” or “aesthetic detachment.” Thirdly, in contrast to a cognitive or scientific attitude, it is indifferent to the real existence, the content or the meaning of a thing. It does not appreciate an object through bringing it under concepts. Instead it is a pure appreciation or contemplation of the perceptual qualities of an object as an object of sensation. It is claimed that in this way we can live in the work of art as an embodiment of our feeling. Schopenhauer and Heidegger ascribe a metaphysical importance to the aesthetic attitude by saying that it can reveal the essence of reality more profoundly than conceptualization.

I think having this artistic attitude is liberating in a way. For example if you’ve just had a breakup with someone whom you invested a ton of emotions, you could write all the feelings and impressions down and thereby detach yourself from your experience. It helps you see the reality – good and bad of the relationship, all the different perspectives in a much clearer manner.

It reminds me of a story I had read about a great French impressionist painter Matisse. A visitor to his studio pointed to some unholy pictures hanging on the wall and asked Matisse: “Don’t you think these have a demoralizing effect on people?” The artist calmly replied, “My dear man, it is not a woman, it is only a picture.” An artist sees only a picture in a woman, whereas an ordinary man sees a woman in a picture–this is the difference between the two. This does not of course mean that all artists are holy sages. But in them the creative urge becomes so strong that it produces a certain degree of detachment–aesthetic detachment as it is called.

Of course this is very rare even among artists but it kind of demonstrates the concept. The artist basically creates a kind of psychical distance. The connection between the images in his mind and his impulses are supported by his will. Thus, if he detaches the will the connection can be broken in theory. It is a very challenging endeavor though.

Movies as a portal

Movies are a sort of portal for you to get into someone else’s shoes and experience the world from their eyes. Though how much you can get into the characters depends upon how much resonance the events and nature of the character create in you. Its kind of like music. If you hear a totally classical song when you’re in the mood to hear something fast and jumpy you are not going to have that level of engagement. So even while choosing movies its good to watch one that matches your mood and interest at that point of time for maximum involvement. Watching late night helps in creating the uninterrupted environment and low background light level. Another advantage is that, late in the night as we approach our sleeping time we are naturally drifting towards the alpha state. Alpha state is a great state to be in and an involving movie usually deepens this state. You can observe your reactions to the different events occurring in the movie and its a great way to analyze yourself.

The problem with movie watching though is that its too passive. And its difficult to reach a state of high concentration because of the continuous orientation responses it invokes in us – panning, zooming and constant movements of the image on screen. So its difficult for your mind to settle down and get truly involved. It tunnels your awareness onto certain aspects that are highlighted by the cinematography and that is stifling in a way.

I think future technologies might explore possibilities such as:
1. Fly around and watch the same scene from any angle you wish
2. Maybe, the whole TV could be 3D
3. A Holographic room
4. A headgear like device similar to Johnny quest
5. A device that gives you that 1.5hr dream in the correct sleep phase
6. Something that directly manipulates the electrical activity of the brain itself to recreate those experiences

Techniques to reduce sugar craving

Eating desserts after having the meal has 2 main advantages:

1. The blood sugar spike is minimized since in your meal, your consuming complex carbohydrates which only gradually increase blood sugar levels. After that the consumption of the sweet relatively does not cause such a big spike.

2. Eating desserts on an empty stomach/when fully hungry causes a much greater craving for those items. Eating them on a full stomach comparatively causes much lower craving.

Another way suggested to reduce sugar craving is to frequently keep consuming small amounts of food.

Thoughts about jobs and future

I think we are still living in the ‘Industrial Revolution’ era. Machines and technology have dramatically increased productivity and quality of products but the overall mindset is still the same.

The business domain still thinks in a similar fashion:
1. Create better products, reduce cost, more efficiently utilize existing technology, look for technology that would improve efficiency and cost etc, expand the business by:
– increasing quantity of production and expanding
– Expand by creating new products itself
2. The office/work system of having work hours and responsibilities has not changed much too.

In other words it is about constantly re-evaluating the balance between Cost, Quality, Technology utilization and expansion with the ultimate driving factor being profit. (some may include value added to society)

Why do we have the system of work in the first place?
If you truly did what you wanted to do all the time that wouldn’t be called work. Isn’t that closer to what we might want?

One might expect the daily work hours to reduce to 4-5hrs a day by now ‘2010’ but on the contrary, it is still 9-10hrs average in most countries. Why has this not decreased in spite of all the faster and superior technology available?

I think in the future there might be a fundamental shift away from this mindset. There would be a re-evaluation of what truly matters. I think in the future all the jobs that we do today will be done by machines and we could freely relive or experience anything we want either in the real or virtual form. Technology would enable us to connect far deeper with other humans and all of us could live self actualized lives. This would be some sort of paradise.

Observations in America

Capitalism is so ingrained in the American culture. Underlying it is the theory of the survival of the fittest, which sets competition as the basic driving force of life. The importance of success and winning is reinforced with an obsession with competitive sports, and their glorification of the best athletes and the richest people in the world. Even getting into the political system involves offering and selling ourselves as candidates, by publicizing how much better we are than our rivals for office. “Selling yourself” is like the mantra you would find everywhere.

It appears that most local people have embraced this culture. In general I have not observed much rebelling tendencies. People tend to be totally tame and seem to accept the system with their heart too. Almost everyone follows rules in all forms, be it traffic rules, standing in queues or waiting for people to pass by. People seem to be highly courteous. I witnessed almost a true “Dignity of Labor” concept here where people from all spheres are equally respected including blue collar workers. Maybe all this is related to the maturity level of the economy. Back in India, fat people were usually rich and thin people were mostly poor. Here, the economy seems to have already passed through that stage. Rich people here seem to have greater awareness about fitness and maintain themselves and conversely the poor people are the ones who tend to neglect the quantity and quality of food consumed and tend to become overweight.

The credit system in the US also seems to be quite convenient for consumers. The credit handling companies are in the middle of everything. The consumer, mall owners etc are all related to these companies. So the person selling the product to you does not really lose much even if you fail to pay your bill by credit because he would have a tie up with the credit companies. (The credit card companies would in such a case impact your credit history and privileges and through your SSN). The helpers in the store are paid on an hourly basis. So going to a store for window shopping is quite pleasant and the helpers are very friendly and do not appear to have any vested interest in you buying the product.

The amount of disposable income around here is crazy. This might be aided by the credit system too since people buy most things on credit. There are so many commodities and varieties, its staggering. Owning a private boat here isn’t uncommon and there’s a huge variety for that too. Everything is laid out in a platter with all the variety well sorted according to category,quality and price. The variety is especially surprising in the recreation, arts and music sections. E.g.: Huge variety in archery sets, other hobbies like building remote control toy cars etc

You tend to wonder, where did all this come from? and are there really so many people here buying all of these? The shop doesn’t seem so crowded? How do these guys make money? How do they handle the logistics part? How can such systems exist?

It almost seems like a melting point of all the best items manufactured in the world. This combined with all the variety laid out in a platter showing you everything from the lowest quality – lowest price to the highest quality – highest price creates a high motivation to be rich thus strengthening and keeping the system alive.

About Enlightenment

Most self help books and websites address all the problems at the level of the mind, but when you talk about enlightenment, you need to transcend the mind itself. I read that Buddhism does not encourage the use of the intellect at all. I thought to myself “Oh, how can that be, are all those guys dumb or live life’s that are highly under stimulated and simplified etc, Why would someone agree to that, the greatest gift we have is our thinking ability”. But then, I later realized that their idea was to transcend the mind itself. Their logic is like “the only way to win the game is to not play at all”. The fundamental nature of the mind is the “wanting state”. No matter what you do, what you accomplish etc you would always remain in that state. So you need to sort of move into a higher dimension. Their lives were kept simple, abstaining from sexual activity etc but this was not exactly a total sacrifice. The reason for that was: Sex is one of the most powerful attractive forces at the level of the mind. So in order to transcend it, you would rather not have this powerful force tightly holding you”. And about the simplicity of their life, the reason for that is, we erect our whole sense of self from memory. If this is too rich and complicated filled with varied likes/dislikes/passions/aversions it becomes difficult to transcend it. When you minimize your likes/dislikes/wants etc. your self is fairly simple and it makes the transcending part much easier. Generally if you completely overcome the fear of death, you would overcome all fears since death is the root for all fears.

Another question asked is that, does an enlightenment person ever suffer? The question of suffering/pleasure is a qualitative judgment at the level of the mind. When you go beyond that, the question almost becomes irrelevant. Enlightened people are in contact with the instrument of life force itself. They would always be like light and pass through any situation seamlessly including death. They would be aware of the mind and its conceptualization but they have the choice to turn the mind off. The consciousness force with them is like an iron ox and even death would not scare them.