09-22-13 - The Standard Western Path to Enlightenment

The Standard Western Path to Enlightenment :

Spend your youth and early adulthood scrapping viciously in the capitalist battlefield. Lie, cheat, steal. Amass a fortune with little concern for morality. (if you're a woman, marry someone who does that).

Once you have a comfortable fortune, decide that money is not the path to happiness. "See the light" and prioritize happiness and kindness and so on. Talk a lot of shit about sustainability and inner peace and how money doesn't make you happy and blah blah.

But don't give back the fortune from your early years. Of course not. Don't actually live cheaply or minimize consumption. Talk a lot of shit about "simplifying" which just means instead of having 5 houses you have 3, and instead of wearing new fancy high heels out to restaurants, you wear designer yoga pants to your celebrity trainer private lessons.

As a life plan, it's a pretty good one. If you just immediately set out to "live well" in your youth, you'll wind up broke and struggling in your old age. If you instead go plunder and build a nest egg first, you can always "see the error of your ways" later.

I should note that this path is in no way confined to New Age hippie types. It's also a great way to go for more traditional religions. If you're going to vow chastity or piety or whatever, you should make sure to fuck a lot of whores and steal a lot of money first. See for example St. Augustine, The Buddha, GW Bush.

09-22-13 - Secular Variations

A lot of secular people know that there is something nourishing about the rhythm of certain religious practices. Part of it is just having something that you do every week (or every day) that you aren't allowed to skip. It gives you a way of marking time, and gives a pattern to your life.

Church : obviously the community aspect is vital to human existance. There aren't many other ways to get that group inclusiveness without the irrationality of faith. I guess there are some secular cult-like groups that provide something similar (AA for example) where just being "one of them" qualifies you for special friendly treatment.

The other valuable aspect of church is just being forced to sit and think once a week. It does give you a way of re-centering yourself for the next week. Even if you just sit there and ignore the nonsense coming from the pulpit, that has value. I suppose you could get that benefit by doing a weekly meditation group. But even hearing the plathitudes from the pulpit is a good thing; it's good to hear things like "be good to your fellow men" or "make sure you get a lot of poon before you marry" or "bros before hos"; it's all stuff you know, but it's easy to get the mind off lost in complications, and it helps to be reminded of the basics.

Sabbath : I had the idea a while ago to try "secular sabbath". (I think this is kind of a trend at the moment). Sabbath here refering to a Big Leboswki style "I don't roll on shabas" kind of thing, a day of rest with strict rules. Just having a day once a week when you aren't allowed to do the things you do on other days. To break up the monotony and deny yourself the easy pleasures.

My Secular Sabbath rules : no work, no computer at all, no TV, no errands, no chores. Only relaxing, hanging out with family. No working out either; you can do exercise for fun or play, but "working out" is just a form of doing work or chores. No doing anything that's on a todo list. You can : listen to music, read books, take walks, cook, go for a country drive, etc.

Anyway, we tried Secular Sabbath once and it was SO HARD. When you forbid those things, there are just so many hours in the day. It's quite a shock. I'd like to try again, but maybe we have to ease into it, like half-day sabbaths first.

Salat (Islamic five daily prayers (waqt?)) : recently I was watching some documentary about Islam, and around the same time I was thinking about how I really need to be more regulat about doing my physical therapy every day, or even twice a day. It's so hard for me to make myself stop working and just stretch for a minute; it's so easy to just decide "nah, I'll skip the stretching today and just keep coding". And it clicked that Salat must be a wonderful break to your day. It's like what I always am jealous of cigarette smokers for. Having something that just stops your other activity and makes you go outside and be quiet for a few minutes.

What if instead of praying to Mecca, you just closed your eyes and did some stretching? Actual the prostrations they do is a pretty good light stretch, that's all you need. Do some child's pose and down dogs. Five times a day at strict times, no matter what. I think that would be really good for me.

09-22-13 - Missing Out

Sometimes it strikes me that just before I was born, there was this glorious era when people believed in the power of love to change the world, did drugs and had sex, listened to music and danced. It was perhaps the greatest moment in the history of human civilization, and I just barely missed it. But then it occurred to me that even if I was alive, I surely would have missed out, been too shy, made some excuse about why the "dirty hippies" (typical jealousy turning to condescension) were no good.

In your lifetime, there will be various special moments, when certain things come together and something unusual happens, where people behave outside the norm, where people are better. Or just where opportunity and freedom suddenly appear, so people are optimistic and happy. In my life there's been the fall of the iron curtain, the opening of southeast asia, freedom in Spain. That's the place to be, when something big like that happens, you need to go be a part of it!

If you hear about something great happening in the world, or if you go visit someplace and you're like YES! this is it for me, this is living! and you pack up your life and you go for it - good for you, you're doing it right. If you just go "oh well" and go back to your normal humdrum life, you're a pathetic coward, you may as well just kill yourself now because you're not alive.

09-22-13 - Asceticism

Some of the happiest times in my life (ruling out major events like meeting a new lover or having a baby or things like that; considering only times when no major event was happening) have been when I've gone semi-ascetic. That is, cutting out sugar, alcohol, TV, internet browsing, porn - all those easy pleasures that are sort of destructive for the soul and just ways to get a little bump and waste time.

Certainly things like sugar & alcohol are just poisons for the body, and when you eliminate them your body feels better and you have more energy all the time, so part of the happiness is from that. And if you eliminate things like TV and interent browsing, you're forced to do more substantial activities for pleasure like meeting new people and getting out of the house and so on, so part of the happiness is from that.

But I think a major aspect of it is human happiness renormalization.

If you allow yourself to have these "bumps" of very high pleasure from sugar, alcohol, drugs, porn, lolcats, whatever, then in comparison everything else feels pretty awful. You can fall into this mindset that "life sucks, except for the bumps".

If you cut out all those highs, at first you're just miserable for a while, but then your brain renormalizes, and lots of little things become pleasurable. Reading a book, watching the sunrise, the feel of cloth on your skin, taking a walk. Suddenly those things are very high pleasures, because you're not allowing yourself anything higher.

I suspect that if you went fully ascetic like a monk and ruled out sex and ate only rice, and forced yourself to do something deeply miserable like meditate for two hours a day (there's almost nothing in life that's more painful than meditation), then in contrast just sitting and talking to someone would be an ecstatic pleasurable experience, and you would be constantly full of joy like the Dalai Fucking Lama.

The closest experience I have is backpacking, which makes returning to hot food and a comfy bed so magical and amazing. Asceticism is a bit like backpacking every day; it makes ordinary life magical and amazing.