Thursday, November 24, 2011

Divisions on Happiness

Perhaps it is the common experiences of humankind in general that we see the similarity of notions between very contradictory schools of thoughts, those of Sigmund Freud and Religion. In Abrahamic Religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam there is a common belief that Adam and Eve were living happily in Paradise (Garden of Eden) without any pain, needs and ageing and then got expelled from paradise because of disobedience (Whatever it could be either thirst for knowledge or eating some forbidden grain/fruit) and thereafter the coming generations all are suffering from this loss in the form of ageing, diseases and shortages of their needs… As the Adam and Eve are believed to be the first parent of human race so in a way we can call it as an early days or infancy of human race… Whatever, the Abrahamic religions believe that human race are suffering because of the disobedience of their first parent….On other hand, Sigmund Freud has his theory of unconscious mind in which he thinks that conscious mind is only very thin layer of memory. The thickest part of it is composed of unconscious mind and the unconscious mind influences thoughts and feelings by being a storehouse of instinctual desires and needs. The concept of unconscious mind is really interesting in the sense that the childhood experiences that are mostly raw and original experiences are also stored there. Freud links a lot of the psychic actions to the childhood experiences that always stay in unconscious mind. In other words as childhood is prized by most of people as sweetest time of their life (Perhaps because unconscious mind is empty and the senses are fresh so even very small things brings a lot of joys like having a bike or a soccer ball is all what is needed to have the most amazing day but adults while stuffed themselves with all sorts of gadgets do not get even the like experiences)… so the loss of the freshness of senses is a way taken as loss of Garden of Eden on the personal level…. Long story short, whether it is on the largest scale of human race or the smallest scale of personal experiences, the sense of loss is taken as the base line of unhappiness….. Even in the concept of reincarnation that is common in most of non-Abrahamic religions, the form that one will appear in next life depends on ones’ acts in existing life…. A miserable life is considered as the result of previous life’s undesirable acts…
The expulsion from Paradise was because of the burning desire for growth/progress/inquiry….and similarly a child loses his empty unconscious mind by filling it with memories he/she collects in the process of discovering the world they live and it is because of restless desire to learn and grow…. So in brief the unhappiness is by-product of growth…

Now, how to repair this sense of loss? Amazingly, though the basic experience is almost the same but the way to repair it are very different across the cultures and philosophies… Even between West and East there is a big chasm on what to seek…

On large scale, West took a vegetative (emotionless) approach and thought that Progress and power is cure for everything but there weren’t consensus for how to go for progress. Libertarians thought that open market and competition has the power to automatically fix everything while Marxists thought that competition between classes as a result of an open market is an obstacle on the way of progress so they thought struggle for a classless society is the ultimate cure…

Western Philosophers who did not take much of a vegetative approach still thought power is what human is destined to go for. Nietzsche one of tallest Philosophers of modern Western Philosophy thinks that “Will to power” drives men and even the will for over-power is what actually driving men. Though there are “Will to live” of Schopenhauer of which Nietzsche had taken a lot of influences, “Will to meaning” and “Will to pleasure” but “Will to power” is embraced widely in practice… The WWII was the most painful result of “Will to power” and one might expect that people must had gone more towards “Will to live”, “Will to meaning” and “Will to pleasure” as a reaction to WWII experiences but astonishingly the reaction to WWII came out as “Existentialism” which is in a sense refutes all those “Will to…” as existentialists tend to meaninglessness and suicide (Albert Camus) as genuine Philosophical issues…

On other hand East focused more on repairing the loss by adapting philosophies of “Becoming” instead of “being”… Abrahamic religions focused on life after death… Of course, for most of people the paradise was not accessible in this world except after death. Only people who would live in times of promised Messiah would see the earth turning again into Garden of Eden… Besides non-Abrahamic religions took mediations as a main tool to cure the losses and in fact some of their practices are adapted by secular health conscious people. Yoga is prized as a working practice for maintaining both physical and mental health….The concept of reincarnation is also a “Becoming” philosophy which sooths those who have not good conditions in their existing lives; if you have good deeds in your existing life, you will have a better life in the next one as a reward ….

Besides Large divide of West and East on how to seek happiness there are some small divisions that was mostly a mix of East and West… Notable one is Stoicism which was established in the ancient Greek and Roman cities and actually became a way of life. Stoics believed that a happy life is one that is lived according to natural laws. They believed that human suffer because of violations of natural laws. On other hand there was Epicureanism to challenge Stoic notion by thinking pleasure as the highest good. Avoiding pain and seeking pleasure was taken as a way of life and it is thought that this is going only stable when one sticks to simple life…

This was a brief charting of divisions of humankind in the pursuit of happiness… It looks like all of them have powerful appeals and also some overstepping as it is the nature of all human philosophies. Growth is inevitable but overgrowth is problem. Memories are inevitable but sticking with them is problem… Avoiding pains is inevitable but fearing pains is problem…Seeking pleasure is inevitable but taking it as purpose of life is problem…Seeking power is inevitable but committing injustices in the process is problem…Looking for meaning is inevitable but becoming inactive in the process is problem… To me, life is not something that we divide in boxes… Senses could be kept fresh by becoming receptive to life…

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What is before Digging and lOOking?

I think, one thing that I have slowly convinced to move towards is the shift from a deterministic approach to more “dig and look” approach. My approach to “clear thinking” was to create a big picture and then look for fitting jig-saw pieces and complete the picture. That looks convenient to begin as it helps in getting started and it also provides a big enough motivation to jump over any hurdle in your way or stand firm to the face of difficulties. I am not still discarding this method and even have not distanced myself much from it. But what I am saying that it is only good for foundational works and once you get started and moved enough, you will automatically settle down to shift towards a more exact and realist approach of dig and look. It is as one wants to establish a garden but he knows that the environment of to-be garden is not suitable for baby plants so he grows his baby plants in a green house (in the ideal conditions) so they become strong enough to survive harder environments of to-be garden.
Recently I found historical support for my approach but let me share a quotation so these historical excerpts give more sense to you. George Lucas, Film Producer says, "You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don't have that kind of feeling for what it is you are doing, you'll stop at the first giant hurdle." ….

Why I wanted to bring up this quotation before moving ahead? The main reason is to highlight the same problem that was faced by primitive societies and still continue in modern societies and that is the problem of free will. If we dig and look, it would be more of a reactionary movement rather than a well thought one. Human being is a creature the requires good reasons for their action and living as a mere reactionist to life events is thought as an insult and na├»ve way of living in which free will is denied. In societies where education is prevalent and people are learned enough to question and ponder upon ideas as a constant quest, philosophy lights up the way for actions but primitive societies as well as conservative societies have developed their own ways, to solve this problem by stories and mythologies…

One may ask why free will is important. That is because whatever human does, he does for his happiness and happiness is not just comforting the instincts but rather having a flourishing life (It is what Aristotle has concluded and called it eudemonia; which is the core of Aristotelian ethics and politics). Human unlike other creatures do not only live in natural environments but also need a cultural environment, a fanciful, imaginative and rational environment that they create for themselves…. It is the demand of the homo-sapiens’ brain….. Without this environment, the human would feel empty and stop at hurdles and brick walls….It is as one tries to use a windows 95 for an ipad. It is not going to work because the software and hardware doesn’t match. The instincts are like basic operating system and instincts alone are not compatible to evolved human brain and needs to be updated and supplied with more advanced cultural products to become compatible operating system…. And even just cultural products do not fill all the demands and requires the creation of more personal reasons to give a sense of fulfillment…

I love to watch movies like Pirates of Caribbean series, Lord of the ring series, Harry Potter series, and Treasure Island series and like movies… Though I know they are more of fantasy but they repeating to say one thing very loudly and that is, “You got to find something that you love enough to take risks, jump over hurdles and break through break walls”…so one sees that the script writers of these movies find a big task for main character of story (Like saving a civilization, fighting an evil or a lost treasure) and then create situations in which the hero has to take risks, has to jump over hurdles and has to break walls…. and this key message is usually missed by majority…They do not look for something lovable enough to do all these for…. Creating a big picture is an excellent way and proved way to get something reasonable enough or lovable enough to do all these things for…and of course once you moved enough, you will also grow in the process to afford digging and look for real and challenging ones……

For thousands of years human societies whether primitive or civilized have understood this process very well. They have understood that in order to make people live in harmony with society, they need a big picture that have enough emotional force to make people fit their behaviors in it and live within this frame so they could take risks in cases it is needed for survival others, jump over hurdles when they make them to stop moving together and break the brick walls instead of breaking their ideals….

I was quite surprised by similarity of the stories between those of Hopi people of the Native Americans and the stories told in Bible and Quran about replacing and destruction of nations that were disobedient and or indulged in immoral activities… You all are familiar with stories of Bible and Quran so here I am just present the story of Hopi people taken an excerpt from Wikipedia so to not put my opinion in it, …

“Four Worlds

Hopi legend tells that the current earth is the Fourth World to be inhabited by Tawa's creations. The story essentially states that in each previous world, the people, though originally happy, became disobedient and lived contrary to Tawa's plan; they engaged in sexual promiscuity, fought one another and would not live in harmony. Thus, the most obedient were led (usually by Spider Woman) to the next higher world, with physical changes occurring both in the people in the course of their journey, and in the environment of the next world. In some stories, these former worlds were then destroyed along with their wicked inhabitants, whereas in others the good people were simply led away from the chaos which had been created by their actions.

Entrance into the Fourth World

Two main versions exist as to the Hopi's emergence into the present Fourth World. The more prevalent is that Spider Grandmother caused a hollow reed (or bamboo) to grow into the sky, and it emerged in the Fourth World at the sipapu. The people then climbed up the reed into this world, emerging from the sipapu. The location of the sipapu is given as in the Grand Canyon.
The other version (mainly told in Oraibi) has it Tawa destroyed the Third World in a great flood. Before the destruction, Spider Grandmother sealed the more righteous people into hollow reeds which were used as boats. Upon arriving on a small piece of dry land, the people saw nothing around them but more water, even after planting a large bamboo shoot, climbing to the top, and looking about. Spider Woman then told the people to make boats out of more reeds, and using island "stepping-stones" along the way, the people sailed east until they eventually arrived on the mountainous coasts of the Fourth World. Welcome to the fourth world!”…..

You can the whole article on Wikipedia by searching “Hopi Mythology”…..

The destruction of previous world and also flooding event is quite amazingly similar with Bible stories except the characters and places are different…Whatever, our discussion is not the stories but a big picture that provides enough motivation for people to behave in a certain manner or make their actions and living more meaningful….