We are not dead, not yet. Haven’t been writing anything in months as we’re facing a bout of depression. It feels weird to hear that from us, monists, philosophers, surely we know how to be happy? And we do, of course we do, but this world isn’t right and its starting to require some new techniques to deal with that we don’t have yet. Let’s talk about why the world feels so wrong.
No, not ours, but childhood in general. Think about it, maybe you have kids, certainly you were one at some point. What is different? The world feels like a playground, anything is possible. Then age comes and beats that feeling out of you over a lifetime. Leaving you with a burning desire to just sleep, forever.
Children have time on their side. A 10 year old child, assuming they’ll make 60, has lived only 1/6th of their life. A year at that age is worth only 1/50th of the remainder of their time. They have 50 units of this to think about and plan for. You can make a lot of mistakes in that kind of time and recover, and this blankets everything with a certain comfort.
Children haven’t seen everything already. A train is still an impressive and fun thing to see when you’ve only seen 2-3 in your entire life. After your 100th, it’s just a train, its in your way and you don’t like it. There is no joy in discovery when it feels like you’ve discovered everything, or at least all types of things.
Children haven’t built the abstractions that make adulthood possible yet. Children are still experiencing the world as it is, they haven’t reduced it down to “my house”, “my work”. “my play”. To us the time spent getting to these things is wasted, we want to play – we don’t want to drive there. Watch children biking to the park sometime, the ride to the park is part of the play for them.
Abstracting and reducing the world to make our lives simpler is unfortunately one of the only things these bags of meat in our heads are good at. Finding patterns. Once it knows a pattern, that is not interesting anymore, we need something new. Our entire dopamine delivery system is literally keyed to “is it new or not”, you really are that simple.
The world of abstractions
You thought it throughThe Joy Formidable – The Turnaround: https://www.thejoyformidable.com/
The best part is over and nothing I’m feeling is new.
Why do lyrics or thoughts like that hit us so hard as adults. Because to our evolutionary brains this is true. The “best part” of life, according to evolution, is reproduction. This is what all the reward systems we have push us towards. In our later years this goal is meaningless. We cling to it, like mayflies on a pole, but that part is over now.
If you stay in one place too long you will build abstractions of that place. You will stop looking at every shop, every street sign, after passing them hundreds of times. You start to see things in the world as obstacles to be overcome so you can reach your goals, all that really matters to you. Those things are not really obstacles, you just lost your ability to see them.
When you travel this will fade for a bit, especially if you are going somewhere you’ve never been before. Discovery, finding new things, will again flood your brain with reward chemicals and you will feel happy for a bit. Return home and the abstractions make it all go away.
it isn’t just you
The whole world is stuck in this. We have been for a long time now. We haven’t really done or seen anything new as a species, as a planet, for a very long time. Maybe the space race last century was the first thing to really capture and focus the worlds attention on something real.
This isn’t going to become a rant against technology, we are a programmer after all, that is what we build. In our view the problem with technology, things like social networks that appear to be destroying the psychology of entire generations, isn’t the false rewards. It’s not that a person is getting a dopamine hit from watching someone rescue a puppy instead of rescue’ing the puppy themselves.
That is not the problem. The problem is the technology takes the person out of the world, out of society, and puts them into their own world. They are no longer a participant in this grand game we’re all forced to play. That’s one less person you could hope to interact with, to have a new interaction with.
Yeah Yeah, Phones = bad/conversation = good – ok boomer. We understand that reaction, totally fair. Let’s try to build on that idea a little more before we dismiss it entirely.
The detached person
This person using Tiktok or whatever, they are detached from the world. Any attempt to interact would be wasted, their attention isn’t with you and it never will be. That’s not the only way to be detached though, it’s just the easiest place to start, the easiest one to see with your own eyes.
Did you walk outside today, maybe on some pavement. What is pavement? Could you make it? If you were stranded and forced to survive – could you? We couldn’t, we’d die before the first night, no shame admitting this. Few people are truly ready for this. Even extreme prepper types will panic, it’s only natural, of course they will.
Generations have grown up with all these technology and infrastructure already in place. That bridge? That bridge has been there when we were born, and it will be there when we die, just like that mountain. But it isn’t like that at all. People who are now long dead built that bridge, and nobody knows how to build bridges anymore.
This is another form of detachment. This one is far more nefarious as we don’t look at it that way. We think of this as “Humans have conquered nature”, people don’t need to know how to make concrete or bridges anymore and that’s a wonderful thing!
What if it’s not though… What if this effect, is no different from the a person using Tiktok to escape their problems, or to the adult mad a train for delaying their commute to work of all places. They don’t even want to go to work, and they still get mad at the train. It’s the same effect in all cases, abstractions lead to detachment.
The detached society
Now scale that effect up. Make 99% of your society live that way all the time, including 100% of your leader class. None of them know how to make concrete, come on, none of them even know how to turn on a tv, or change the volume. Lock them out of their car, and this is the end of the world for them, pack it up boys, they cannot recover from this.
People like that make horrible decisions, no grounding in reality. It isn’t their fault, well we aren’t going to blame them at least as the evolutionary systems are very strong. They make these decisions because they are not living in the actual real world. They live in the world of abstractions.
In the world of abstractions you can ban guns and nobody will have guns anymore. Or for the other side, you can ban abortions, and of course nobody will ever even try to have one again right? These are extreme examples but you will see this constantly once you start looking. The world of abstractions never works if you really apply to any specific situation, never.
Ever see somebody just shut down if they ask someone to move and they don’t? Then a few seconds later explode with anger? What is that all about. Why is there that brief shutdown?
This event breaks the abstraction in their mind, just like the train delaying to work. The pause happens because it really is that disruptive to them! The idea that one of these obstacles would refuse to get out of the way, of course that’s going to take a bit to think over.
the world feels wrong
All of that just adds up to some kind of explanation for why the world feels so wrong right now. Why it so easy for people to hurt other people, or make decisions that will certainly harm a large number of people. When you live in a world of abstractions, they are not people, those are filthy liberals, or lazy immigrants, not people.
This doesn’t help, when we think about it, this just makes us sadder. This problem cannot be fixed, it is generational at this point – multi-generational even. The people who still really understood the world, because they lived in it every day, these people are almost all gone. Our generation doesn’t understand this, we grew up in the world of abstractions.
Are we some kind of enlightened super being? No. No, not at all. We are just as flawed as all the others, the abstractions rule us the same way they rule you. They lead us astray, make us more depressed, make it impossible to feel good about the future. So why think about it at all, why not just sink into that world like everyone else?
we don’t want to live that way
We don’t want to live like that, that’s all there is to it. We understand this, and we understand that we are part of it, but we reject it. This only adds to our depression, but the alternative is unfathomable to us. To join into this mass delusion, to disappear into the world of abstractions and never return.
We can fix this on a small scale, for a short period of time. This is the only idea that really gives us any hope these days. When we are in airports, or stores, or anywhere with random strangers – we try to connect. We often fail, but we always try.
The other day we had to cross a long crosswalk, a busy street. A person came up behind us and asked if we’d pressed the button or not. We had, but this interaction was enough. This was enough to cure the world, this is all it takes. Turn to look at the person, say “yep, we got it” and smile, the genuine smile, not the mask.
Maybe nothing happens, and the day continues. Maybe they apologize and say something like “Sorry, thought you might be from the city, city folk don’t press the button so I always ask”. And then you say “Haha, well I’m not city person, I’m just a regular person”.
A simple joke. The abstraction is broken now in this little sphere. Other people may look at us as we continue to talk, like some odd curiosity. “You can talk to other people?” they all think, confused by the idea. In the world of abstractions people are obstacles. They are in your way, or they are somehow stopping you from doing what you want. You would never talk to an obstacle.
We’re done with this thought, it was helpful for us to write it out. Even reading it now our own reaction is “OK Boomer”. This whole article just feels that way. How can we explain these ideas otherwise…
To heal this world we have to start seeing each other as people again. The janitor sweeping your office hallway is a person. The driver who just cut you off in traffic is a person. You could talk to them, hug them, dance with them, tell jokes and laugh in the street. Why does that idea feel so impossible, why do laugh when express it?
Give other people the benefit of the doubt. They are just as tired of all this as you are. Given them a little grace, a little kindness. This is all it takes, just don’t react to the abstraction – react to the person and this is all fixed.
If we lose this, we lose everything. Everything that makes being alive worthwhile is hidden beneath the abstractions that our brains build. Nobody wants to commute to work, and yet so many get so angry when they can’t do that they way they want to. This is what abstractions do to you, it’s poison.
This is why we’re so depressed. The idea of continuing on in this world, knowing we cannot fix it other than one person at a time, and even then only for that moment. We’re watching the entire world fall deeper and deeper into this problem and cannot do anything to save them.
The struggle. The struggle must go on right?
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