A false sense of insecurity
The free prisoner’s dilemma
We perceive the world, and we perceive what is in the world. We separate objects from objects, and we ascribe them value. We create salient landscapes. And then we sort. We categorise, we make lists, and we understand.
Here is an example of a taxonomy, a list which orders and sorts something:
Three parts to understanding:
1. Definition. The ability to separate stuff from other stuff and to assign them emotional value or meaning. (See Episode 2)
2. Taxonomy. The sorting of things into categories. (See e.g. this list.)
3. Intuition. To feel as if something is understood, and thus have it become an intuition, gut feeling and “common sense”. (See Episode 4).
And a feeling of understanding emerges.
Read Episode 9
The pain in the brain game
on how deeply the tossing of balls affects our brains
A fascinating and increasingly famous psychology experiment has to do with the tossing of a ball.
The psychologist Kipling Williams and his colleagues brought in test-subjects for a general survey. The test-subjects were asked in-depth questions about their psychological well being; about their sense of belonging, their sense of being in control, their self-esteem, how meaningful they find their existence, how unique they find themselves and others and so on. But unbeknownst to the test-subjects, they were participating in an experiment with a somewhat cruel twist.
Read Episode 8
(trans)formations part 2
On being human beings
At a masquerade one puts on a mask in order to demask for each other. (Credit: Aniwa Watts, Wikimedia Commons)
From: Notme 4 February
To: me 12.06 a.m.
I refuse to believe that free will is just an illusion!
I was still groggy early in the morning when I opened my email and was met by this sentence. It would appear the email discussion we had had, Notme and I, concerning whether a human being is anything beyond her “Human Nature” or just a bit of filth, was far from over. And that I had not yet won the argument. Read Episode 7
(trans)formations part 1
On being a bit of filth
From: Notme 23 January
To: me 11.34 p.m.
Hey! I’ve had a quote on my mind lately. It’s from Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren, where at one point she says “There are things you have to do, even if you don’t dare to, because otherwise you are not a human being but just a bit of filth.” Being a human being and not just a bit of filth seems essential for finding meaningness to me. But what does it mean to be a human being? Isn’t everyone a human being anyway? Any thoughts? Read Episode 6
Time, memory, and the pursuit of meaningness.
Wherein, during a conversation in the park, things melt
We were out for a walk, as so many times before, Notme and I, and a long time had passed since the last time we did. It was just the kind of a splendid summer’s day I enjoy so much, not a cloud in the sky. We were surrounded by an ever changing flock of joggers as we arrived at the meadow with the pond I had visited so often before. Somehow I did not enjoy it as much as I thought that I would, nor as much as I remember enjoying the exact same conditions in the past. Somehow it felt like a repetition.
Me: “When we age, time appears to go faster and faster as things lose their novelty. In the end we have experienced so much that we die from boredom. Dying of old age is a myth.”
Notme: “That is why people have children, to see the world anew through the eyes of the little ones.”
Me: “Sure. And then grandchildren. After a while even that is not enough to add novelty to the world. All you have left is nostalgia, nothing tastes good any more. And then you are bored and die.”
Noun: A longing for enjoying things once found enjoyable. E.g. Music.
Read Episode 5
Understanding is guessing and discarding. Understanding is forgetting and disregarding. And understanding is often faux. Understanding is a feeling. Do you understand? Not if I don’t make sense, since then I deny you the feeling that you do. Let me start again.
Read Episode 4
What’s ‘meaningness’? or The Wrath of God
In which, over hot spiced tea, a friend coins a new term and things starts to shift.
I had declared God dead, and patted myself on the shoulder. “Well done, me!” I told myself, as if it was an achievment. I thought myself a rational person, a Scientist, and that there could be no truth outside the rigors of science. I was done. I saw our place in the universe, I saw the insignificance of us and universe both, and I thought people living their lives as if it meant something were blind and naive, with their faux traditions and priorities. I knew an obvious truth and it was a lonesome burden. So I cynically distracted myself with pleasure, entertainment and people. I no longer agree with me then. Am I still patting myself on the shoulder, as if this is an achievement?
Read Episode 3
The Meaning of Stuff
Manufacturing (meaningless) meaning
Have a look at this picture:
What do you see? An iceberg? A hip? A flat surface with different shades of blue and green?
Read Episode 2
The meaning of life: Where I was
in which all is without purpose and I look the other way.
And there was light. And time and space. And there was heat. And space and time expanded, faster than light itself. And what was All cooled and light became matter, and the expansion slowed and matter attracted matter, lumped together. And matter ablaze anew, gave birth to stars and suns, elements forming within borning stars, combined in the flame by which it burned. Stars grew old, burned out and exploded, turning to dust. And dust attracted dust, became stars again, and planets, and moons, in a doomed cosmic circle of combustion.
Read Episode 1