Sliding without thinking

There are two ways to slide easily through life: Namely, to believe everything, or to doubt everything; Both ways save us from thinking.

~ Alfred Korzybski

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Recently I’ve noticed several conversations where the topic of extremes has come up. I’m not certain this is new, only that my noticing it is new. The idea that we each fall somewhere on the spectrum of whatever-it-is we care to talk about is not new. And I’m absolutely not implying that moderation is always better; It is not necessarily true that the correct viewpoint is towards the middle.

What I am saying—what I’ve been recently noticing—is that the people towards the ends of the spectrum of whatever topic you care to consider are the louder people. There’s always a majority of people between the extremes, who aren’t as vocal. (Who don’t speak, write, nor post as much as those toward the extremes. “Fool and fanatics” as it were.

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Before the fall

Pride is generally an emotion encountered only when looking backward. But we can also experience it when looking forward to each day, each month, each year, each decade, and even to the end of our life when imagining what we were able to accomplish in that time.

~ Chris Bailey from, https://alifeofproductivity.com/what-do-you-want-to-be-proud-of/

I’m also familiar with, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” I’m not certain the meaning of haughty, although I’d bet that one who exhibits indignation, (anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment,) would qualify as “haughty.”

And I sometimes joke that “indignation” is my other superpower.

All of which, I suppose, it a good thing. There are situations where indignation is righteous. But I’m well aware that my indignation—when it flares—is not. So maybe this exercise of looking forward could be a way to refine my pride? If I imaginatively project forward I can consider something I’d be proud of. Then, if I imagine not succeeding at that something, the pride disappears… and does indignation appear?

Does that seem right? …if success or failure in something, which is never actually in my control—reminder: the dichotomy of control—determines whether I experience pride or indignation, is that something actually one worth pursuing?

Could I find instead something about which I’d feel pride regardless of success or failure?

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Language

It’s incredible—meaning not credible, not something one would think one should take as true—that we can push air through a tube, finely modulate tension of some fibrous bands attached to flaps, manipulate the shape of a bunch of things it seems were designed for eating . . . and presto! some idea appears in your mind, generally, in the way I intended. It’s incredible but so blasé, right?

And it’s not even incredible, at this point, that the whole “process” has different “languages,” with dialects, jargon and local slang. No. That’s all yawns-ville.

It’s not even interesting that I can smashcrastically make up “words” and it still works. The right idea still appears in your head. And a word can have multiple meanings. Does it have the same several meanings in another language? Meh, interesting, but not brain melting.

What explodes my noodle every time is the thought of homonyms. Words in one language that sound the same that have different meanings. To. Too. Two. Homonyms! …why aren’t those words also homonyms in another language? (‘au’ or is it ‘a’? …and ‘deux’?) Are there in fact any homonyms in one language that are also homonyms in another language? If so, or if not, does that tell us anything about language itself? …or about the origins of language? …or about the common ancestry of those particular languages, or about those particular words? …or . . .

yeah no sorry wat? Mrs. Peters just always thought I wasn’t paying attention in French class.

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Thinking

You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious. You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, “What are you thinking about?” you can respond at once (and truthfully) that you are thinking this or thinking that. And it would be obvious at once from your answer that your thoughts were straightforward and considerate ones.

~ Marcus Aurelius

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This is click bait

German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) influenced some of the more prominent minds in the world. His writings and lessons traverse time and discipline. Schopenhauer confronted similar problems with media to the ones we face.

~ Farnam Street from, https://fs.blog/2017/01/schopenhauer-dangers-clickbate/

The scale of Philosophy—just “western” Philosophy alone, even—is mind boggling. Who thought what, at which point in their career. Who influenced whom. Who’s work is now considered bunk, and which is bunk but still necessary to understand some other piece. What is in which language, and then which translation of that should one choose. If so-and-so had an influence on other-person, in what way? …did they build upon, tear down and correct, or push farther the influencer’s work?

At one point, I had deluded myself into attempting a systematic survey of Philosophy. ahahhahaahhaahahhaahahahahahhahaaa. Silly human.

But this small-ish article from Farnam Street led me to actually wonder about some of Schopenhauer’s essays. And I’ve ended up with an English translation of his On Reading and Books now sitting on my read-next table.

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Fruit of these teachings

What is the fruit of these teachings? Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated—tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom. We should not trust the masses who say that only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are free.

~ Epictetus

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Not in our power

And who can never be hindered? The man who sets his desire on nothing that is not his own. And what are those things that are not our own? Those that are not in our power, either to have or not to have, or to have them of a particular nature, or under specific conditions. Our body, therefore, is not our own, its parts are not our own, and our property is not our own. So if you become attached to any of these as your own, you will be punished, as he deserves to be who sets his desire on what is not his own.

~ Epictetus

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True freedom

And say while you are training yourself day after day, as you do here, not that you are pursuing philosophy (to claim that title would surely be pretentious), but that you are providing for your emancipation. For this is true freedom.

~ Epictetus

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When thus prepared

And when you are thus prepared and thus trained to distinguish what is not your own from your own, what is subject to hindrance from what is not, to regard the latter as your concern and the form as not, and carefully keep your desire directed toward the latter, and your aversion directed towards the former, will there any longer be anyone for you to fear?

~ Epictetus

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The source of all human evils

Why, do you not reflect, then, that the source of all human evils, and of mean-spiritedness and cowardice, is not death, but rather the fear of death? Discipline yourself, therefore, against this. To this let all your discourses, readings, exercises, tend. And then you will know that in this way alone are men made free.

~ Epictetus

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