Thursday, May 6, 2021

An autobiography of ideas

A conscious human being has to be defined at their core as thoughts, then ideas, which lead to more specifically their choices or the illusion of said choices. That's what makes up our interaction with shared material reality. Us at our roots are ideas that lead to decisions. A preference of "yes" or "no" is the most often binary decision. Now, the rest of this will play out as a short autobiographical text of my version of this mental landscape in order to help myself or any potential reader.

If I could describe my "ecstatic truth" or the prime motivator, the generator behind these ideas that lead to actions, it would be a scene in Encounters at the End of the World, a documentary about life in Antarctica. There are scenes of penguins in migration, staying safe in routine and their patterns to ensure survival. There is a stray penguin headed toward endless wilderness. Outside his tribe, he will die. It is said if he were removed by human hands and taken back, he would merely return the same way and begin the same path anew. It strikes me there is something telling about this. No one knows if the being is aware of his fate. If that question can be asked, so too, the question of his fate with the routine of the tribe. There could merit to an evolutionary truth in this anomalous behavior. Any sort of substantial change is predicated on atypical behaviors. The actions are high-risk and high reward. This is not an example of going against the grain, which ironically enough has been made cookie cutter and the flirtation with contrarianism is commonplace. It is not drawing outside the lines but perhaps punching a hole through the page. The conclusion could be something new, or end in ruin. This entails an inclination to a transgressive type of behavior. No one is qualified to do something if it's groundbreaking, by definition [Watson].

It's hard to explain the utility in this behavior. It could be a handicap that sometimes proves useful with the right environment and luck. Or it could be a series of choices based on environmental circumstances that lend itself to mentally playing the lottery, sometimes aided by magical thinking. Everyone who has experienced bad luck wants to win small. They only dream of great luck. Winning small is middle class, working as a subordinate, and investing in an index fund returning a reliable 11% a year. Bad luck wants the parity reached by good fortune to even things out with good luck. It's fantastical and mostly lacks utility. But is it magical thinking if it's so commonplace? A life without the faintest flicker of a hope or a dream I don't want to imagine, nor would I consider it life. The penguin may not consider his mortality. Most people hedge their bets, but the heights of their success by these parameters may still be lukewarm. Then, some go against the grain with some unusual trade or begin their own business. Then there are the lucky who seldom have to worry, born rich they can even buy acclaim as "entrepreneurs." And then there are some who gamble between winning and desolate poverty and dead-end social status. For them, winning is not only on financial terms, it could be a meaningful artistic contribution or a scientific discovery.

The beauty of existence is in these decisions that allow for total expression in our limited binary of choice. Science and reason may be preached but magical thinking is the status quo. Hope is an uncontrollable contagion. Even the most rationally-minded thinkers and writers delved into these areas where reason is beyond reach. Those who fail are not a net loss. They are part of the only way to innovation. They teach by informing use what not to do. The problem with scientific literacy is it works best on the initiated, and it may be impossible to lasso the rope of reason over a predisposition to irrationality. If this is the case, pinpointing how to navigate objective reality is a lot trickier than it appears. Your ideas are influenced by these psychic muddy waters, and you don't know what contaminants are in the mind of the person or collective you're communicating with. We know so little, there may be more to be gleaned in studying people's interest in astrology and wrestling than studying astronomy and Shakespeare.

No comments:

Post a Comment