Getting better, getting laid and getting paid. Sometimes things just all come together.
I feel distracted & ineffectual. Listless, useless, unable to focus. “Fed up” is the phrase, and for no good reason. I’m staring through things, both physically and metaphorically. Everything is slow & muted and I can only communicate through dream. I have spent a long time in bed but not enough asleep. Caffeine has only made it worse.
What’s the best use of today? Perhaps I should stare through walls: observe the neighbours. Something that does not require my full attention. Where the rest of it has gone, I’m not sure. Perhaps off doing errands to which I am not invited.
I recently came across this post, an article criticising what the author calls “Pop-Bayesianism”, the first time I’ve really come across a critique of my one of my new interests, ideas around rationality derived mainly from the Less Wrong blog/London meetups of same.
I also saw a link to this video, a trailer for a film about certain kinds of electronic dance music. For me, the video bestrides the line between descriptions of a new version of an old thing that humans love to do relating to music and dance, which can produce ecstatic feeling and flaky claims of spiritual enlightenment.
In the first example above the Meaningness Metablog seems to be cautioning the groups who get excited about probability theory (and in particular Bayes’ theory) from teaching its message in such a simplistic fashion as to inspire religious-style adherence, rather than understanding. The Meaningness author describes it as a version of eternalism, albeit atheistic.
In the second instance, the video about dance music, I find myself enjoying the concepts that I can explain — movement and dance as ecstatic experience = altered brain chemistry = a fun thing humans love to do — whilst cautioning myself that any reference to “oneness with nature” or improvement of the universe is an anthropocentric religious mistake.
The first/major author of the Less Wrong blog Eliezer Yudkowski also addresses the tendency for any group of people who are exploring an idea to end up acting irrationally/religiously/cultishly in numerous posts. In one post he talks of the need to intellectually resist the tendency towards cultishness:
Every group of people with an unusual goal—good, bad, or silly—will trend toward the cult attractor unless they make a constant effort to resist it.
I take it therefore, that this milieu within which I exist seems to agree that avoiding religious adherence, or perhaps we should say dogmatic adherence, or resisting cultish adherence to a thing is self-evidently important.
Since such an endeavour requires great intellectual vigilance and fortitude I suppose I want to question why it is so important. The LessWrong blog is excellent for answering this question, explaining that biases, fallacies and psychological shortcuts that exist in human minds go a very long way to obscuring understanding of how things actually are, causing confusion where there need be none and hindering human progress.
I think I accept the proposition that slavish adherence to dogma should be avoided, but that leaves us with the problem that to do so the entire human population needs to be both educated and vigilant.
It seems a shame that the understandable, enjoyable, pleasurable benefits of “religious experience” such as: ecstatic pleasure, belief in something larger than ourselves, communing/community and the psychological relief this all entails can only be acceptable when employing sufficient intellectual vigilance against having false beliefs about how the universe works.
Well, a shame or not I think my point is that most humans will not be capable of this at all because having these skills basically requires a certain level of education, and that is a greater level of education globally than we can currently provide.
Given this fact, I think I’d like to know exactly for whom it is important to have accurate beliefs about the world? Can we get away with having just a few humans who think this way? If, ideally, all humans are to strive somewhat against dogmatic belief then exactly which parts of religious experience should we strive to reject and which parts should we pursue?
Dismissing spiritual experience entirely does not seem to be appropriate, or even useful, so drilling down into these questions, perhaps so that we can aquire some kind of “least harm” strategy for humans and their religious tendencies would be a very productive way for someone to spend their time.
As I read Warren Ellis was giving up writing a daily post to his blog, I was caught up with the idea of writing daily posts on my own. The glory and the challenge of writing every single day excites me. No doubt the quality of the work will drop dramatically as a result, but never fear dear readers, I’m sure the twin jaws of wage slavery and forgetfulness will snap shut on this little enterprise within days, or “in two shakes of a lambs tail” as my Nan says.
So far in Jessica’s week of fun I have built not just a roof but also a headboard on my bedroom, I’ve finished the entire series of Freakangels and am perilously close to getting lost in internet searches for fanfic of it, have finally completed week 2 of my statistics course, and am now only three weeks behind, have updated my portfolio, then twitterised the life out of myself, caught up with Lucy, seeing Some Art in the process, built a desk for partner A to get him out of my bed, fired off emails to friends asking for yoga classes and illegal drugs and partially disassembled a pallet.
And it’s only Tuesday!
Still to come: 24 hour zine challenge (you’re not supposed to decide on the theme for the zine until the day and that’s bloody good because I’ve secretly thought up and rejected about ten ideas already), take steps to realise my photo project of ‘up-side down naked boys’, hopefully do some other art too, catch up on my reasoning and arguing coursera course, practice making infographics (perhaps learning Illustrator in the process) and continue to make strides with boarding up the bedroom.
Also, pretty sharp ovulation pain today, must get laid.
It is almost a year since I quit it all and went a-roving. Reflecting on my experiences, I had cause to wonder: “Why am I so happy?”
Well I recently realised that I don’t really have preferences any more. In the course of my travels, my life could be made easier if I didn’t have strong preferences for things. I could save money if I took the bus, I could sleep if I didn’t mind what I slept on, I could eat if I accepted what was offered to me. Of course, I could do all of these things while still holding a preference, but this would result in psychic distress if I hated everything all the time.
Further, I have spent time with people whose interests do not align with mine. Due to repeated exposure I came to realise that their interests lead to some very interesting ideas, ideas I ended up devoting significant time to exploring. It took me a fair while to overcome my immediate dislike of the topics but once I did i was able to assess the utility of this new subject area and found it both useful and interesting. I subsequently experienced one of the steepest learning curves I can remember.
These ideas of utility and analysis have largely replaced preferences as a way of determining courses of action. It seems preferences will lead to experiencing more of what you’ve already had, while utility normally leads to something new, such as my learning above. Additionally, preferences can be a source of discord between people, while a lack of preference helps to harmonise. For example, deciding with friends on what film to see or what meal to eat. If the point is to enjoy each other’s company, a lack of strong preference will help you come to a decision and enjoy the experience.
I don’t want to sound as if pleasure has gone out the window, having a preference can indeed enable you to choose between two options and get satisfaction from the results, however lack of preference leads to new or different experiences, which I find very pleasurable and when something comes along that particularly aligns to my preference I appreciate it all the more. A nice hard double bed in a private room – what bliss!
I feel this thinking extending to having “opinions” or a political stance. It seems increasingly awkward to me to think I might have an opinion on something without having analysed as much information about the subject as possible. Even with very woolly topics, such as social norms or politics, it is possible to have strategies for analysis and doing this rather than blurting out random emotional bollocks seems eminently more sensible. And analysis is by necessity more dispassionate. Again, I’m not dismissing the idea of passion, in fact I’m still really rather attached to it, but I sense that my thinking until this point had been disproportionately pulled towards the emotional, irrational end of the scale.
I’m almost embarrassed to be writing this, under the sidelong glances of my current peers, but once again I feel at a point in my life when I’ve finally come through a decades-long temper tantrum to humanbeinghood on the other side. Letting my preferences drift away from me has improved my life considerably.
I felt a slight shock when I realised that 2012 is almost over. Here is my traditional post musing on the things I’ve done this year.
I gave away (almost) all my worldly possessions. I went to my third BiCon. I had group sex! I had group sex more than once! I had group sex with people I’d only known for a day! I went to Doncaster, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Bradford, Cambridge, Portugal and Madrid for the first time. I walked outside of Birmingham New Street Station. I cried infront of a painting. I went to a psytrance festival. In a foreign country. I swam in a lake sparkling with fool’s gold. I saw a lizard. I volunteered for litter picking at a festival. I saw how the world works. I learned how to get food out of bins. I was travelling/homeless for two thirds of the year. I read/watched the entire run of Promethea, My So-Called Life and Firefly. I fell in love. I added some notches to my bedpost (including three girls and a royal marine!) I blagged three nights in a caravan after a festival. I went backstage. I was a runner for stilt walking performers. I met some famous drum ‘n’ bass DJs. I did bi activism. I stayed over in a squat. I stopped being scared of London. I saw Tube mice. I hitch-hiked. I ate melon and liked it. I kissed a guy with a forked tongue. I made many new friends. I stayed on a boat in the Lake District. I met many people who will change the world. I tried mushrooms. I stopped taking sugar in my tea. I got so ill my period came a week and a half early, and I mistook it for kidney disease! I broke up and got back together with the same person! I walked on a slackline! I learned to juggle! I protested outside the deputy PM’s house! I lead a protest charge with “She’ll be coming round the mountain”! I marched with the trade unions against austerity (twice)! I saw a world title boxing match! I went to a gig with someone I didn’t know. I saw my father. I met my step grandmother, and other estranged family. I entertained revolutionary thoughts. I took my clothes off for cash. I joined libraries in four different cities. I got a tax rebate. I “looked poly” in public. I confused people. I loved it when my boyfriend kissed a guy. I stayed awake all night and worshiped the full moon. I wrote dirty stories for money. I went to OpenCon. I was captain of a starship. I lost my childhood. I quit my job. I had dinner at Harvey Nicholls. I was looked after. I busked on the street. I got pet rats and had to give them away. I felt human. I stayed alive.
This year I’ve had a So-Amazing Life.
And what have I learned? When it comes to food, you get what you’re given, be grateful for it, don’t waste any and always share. When it comes to sleep, just do it when you want to or when you can, there’s no need to worry. You can learn to change your sleep over time, including where you can tolerate doing it. A futon on slats is the best way to sleep ever. Food is only out of date when it smells bad. Food is all around you, the more humans in any given space, the more free food you will find. The humaniverse will take care of you, if you let it. Be patient. Walk everywhere. Be the change. Doing new things makes life feel full. Being somewhere comfortable with nothing to do slows time down. Follow your highest excitement. Whatever your heart sings for. Who dares, wins.
Still to come:
get dp’d, apply to a PhD, start my own business, get a tattoo, get my driving license, go to Burning Man, eat at high table.
To be part of the positive energy in the world, to seek out and amplify that energy in myself and those around me.
Parts of this positivity can be defined as creativity, pleasure, calm, peace, love, play and joy.
Maintaining a path through positivity can be described as following my highest excitement.
I must take care of my physical and mental health.
I must embrace change, continuously learn and seek growth. If these things are difficult or painful, I must moderate them to remain happy and healthy.
I am a caretaker and gardener of the world, both physical and human. I must add to the sum of human knowledge and the richness of human experience. My contribution resonates with the whole.
I must pursue freedoms for all things and live as if those freedoms already exist, because if I don’t, they never shall.
I have a duty to be an evolved human being.