January 3, 2021
Sometimes understanding the ultimate source of your suffering doesn't, by itself, help very much.
Feelings are designed to encode judgments about things in our environment.
The cost of survival of the lineage may be a lifetime of discomfort.
It is possible to argue that the primary evolutionary function of the self is to be the organ of impression management (rather than, as our folk psychology would have it, a decision-maker).
Every thought has a propellant, and that propellant is emotional.
"Reason alone," Hume argued, "can never oppose passion in the direction of the will." Nothing "can oppose or retard the impulse of passion but a contrary impulse."
There are probably very few perceptions and cognitions in everyday life that do not have a significant affective component, that aren't hot, or in the very least tepid. And perhaps all perceptions contain some affect. We do not just see 'a house': we see 'a handsome house,' 'an ugly house,' or 'a pretentious house.' We do not just read an article on attitude change, on cognitive dissonance, or on herbicides. We read an 'exciting' article on attitude change, an 'important' article on cognitive dissonance, or a 'trivial' article on herbicides. And the same goes for a sunset, a lightning flash, a flower, a dimple, a hangnail, a cockroach, the taste of quinine, Saumur, the color of earth in Umbria, the sound of traffic on 42nd Street, and equally for the sound of a 1000-Hz tone and the sight of the letter Q.Man, I have really been wondering how most people (myself included but maybe less so than most people) attachment value judgements to EVERYTHING. It's like we're incapable of categorizing anything without assigning ourselves to "I am on team for this" or "I am on team against this".
It can let you experience your feelings--anger, love, sorrow, joy--with new sensitivity, seeing their texture, even feeling their texture, as never before. And the reason this is possible is that you are, in a sense, not making judgments--that is, you are not mindlessly labeling your feelings as bad or good, not fleeing from them or rushing to embrace them. So you can stay close to them yet not be lost in them; you can pay attention to what they actually feel like. Still, you do this not in order to abandon your rational faculties but rather to engage them: you can now subject your feelings to a kind of reasoned analysis that will let you judiciously decide which ones are good guiding lights.This is the heart of the book. But despite this, I don't feel particularly drawn to try and start a meditation practice. I might be full of myself, but I think because I am CONSTANTLY applying a sense of "if I don't know the God's Eye View of This" I should withhold judgement -- really living the 'judge not lest ye be judged" I picked up as a kid.
Also I wonder if a mind wandering during meditation gets a bad rap?? Yeah, if it constantly spurs emotional reactions, that's bad, but what's wrong with intellectual play and meandering if you don't end up getting buffeted by emotions from it?
Einstein became famous by asking a similar question in the realm of physics. He acknowledged that our intuitions about the physical world--about how fast objects move, for example--work fine for the purpose of steering each of us through that world. After all, for practical purposes, what matters is how fast things are moving in *relation to us.* But, he said, if you want a deeper understanding of physics, you need to detach yourself from your particular perspective--from any particular perspective--and ask: Suppose I occupied no vantage point? Since I wouldn't be able to ask how fast things are moving relative to me, what exactly would it mean to ask how fast things are moving? Questions like this led him to the theory of relativity and the realization that E=mc2.I do wonder if Einstein's thought has a meaningful parallel to my current idea of the impossible "God's Eye View" - not a particular perspective, but every perspective, or no perspective (or is every perspective and no perspective as opposite as they sound?)
Yesterday I hung out with Cora and her Mama C in their backyard - we picked out faces etc in the clouds, which were amazingly turbulent. This video is a time lapse, so it's a bit exaggerated, but even without the speed up it was fascinating seeing the edges of the clouds curl back in on themselves... (top of my head peeks in at around :03)
Astounding audio of Trump trying to pressure Georgia Secretary of State into "finding" 11,780 votes.
To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernable but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through. What else will do except faith in such cynical, corrupt time? When the country goes temporarily to the dogs, cats must learn to be circumspect, walk on fences, sleep in trees and have faith that all this woofing is not the last word. Time to shut up and be beautiful and wait for the morning. Yahooism, when in power, is deaf, and neither satire nor the Gospel will stay its brutal hand, but hang on, another chapter follows. Our brave hopes for changing the world all sank within view of their home port, and we become the very people we used to make fun of, the old and hesitant, but never mind, that's not the whole story either. So, hang on. What keeps our faith cheerful is the extreme persistence of gentleness and humor. Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that the faith rules through ordinary things; through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music and book, raising kids- all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through. Even in time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people. Lacking any other purposes in life, it would be good enough for their sake.