It’s a quarter to one (AM) as I write this. I’ve been undergoing a fascinating transformation lately. While I have, of course, encountered stumbling blocks and often find myself recessing into the crevices of my old mind in the hope that I’ll find some comfort there. It’s a kind of lust after the peace that skeletons encounter - and that analysis isn’t too far off - the recesses of my mind are filled to the rafters with skeletons I thought I’d buried. Coming back to these once familiar pieces of my psyche from the new perspective I’ve got - that of an explorer in foreign lands of which he has a map, but no more - is a strange experience.
I’ve suddenly realized how pathological my habits are. It’s as if I’ve been building my self perception by viewing myself through a kaleidoscope, and I’ve now been imbued with the courage to look at the world without it. Like I am now becoming stronger, to the point where I can stomach the world without obfuscation, and experience reality as it truly is (or at least, I’ve gotten a taste).
I’m sure this will be a tricky thing to continue with. This bent fades easily - a few small steps off the path and I’ll be hurled over the cliff, only to have to restart the climb from the bottom. This observation is perhaps best summarized by the Matthew principle. I’ve taken the following line from Matthew 25:29, in the wording of the Easy-to-Read Version (ERV). I think this version offers a slight twist which is not present in other versions, which is why I’ve chosen it: “Everyone who uses what they have will get more. They will have much more than they need. But people who do not use what they have will have everything taken away from them.”.
Summarized in the words of Jordan Peterson, “‘To those who have everything, more will be given, and from those who have nothing, everything will be taken.’ A vicious statement. This happens everywhere.”
Knowing that this path is perilous, the question arises: what can be done to mitigate the risk of leaving the path? I have been thinking this over for a few days now, as I first mentioned in my previous post in this series, titled “Escaping Modern Malarkey”. From what I have tried, and what I have observed in others, I think the key ingredient to a successful life is to have a deep-rooted conviction in whatever one is aiming at. When this aim is supplemented with a set of properly architected rules (which I am calling the “path”), and the willpower to adhere to them, conviction becomes an incredibly powerful tool for self-improvement.
If the conviction that is fostered is particularly strong, sapient judgement may be needed to hone in the scope of the aim. There are many thought experiments, which have been generated most noticeably in the field of AI, revolving around the potentially terrible consequences of an aim which seems on its face to be good. As a badly-thought out example I’ve just come up with - an aim of removing all evil from the world is seemingly paradoxical. To remove all evil from the world, the atrocities that would have to be committed would be so great that the doer would themselves become evil, and in the process negate the purpose of their existence. I think this idea is a very rough approximation of the pathologies that underlay the Nazi regime of the 1940’s.
As a result, perhaps we should reframe our model in such a way that conviction becomes the fuel which powers the fire - the drive - which keeps us on the right path. We should then erect various theoretical safeguards to prevent against the fuel being dumped onto the fire, and thereby turning the drive of self-betterment into all-consuming blind inferno. However, we should also watch for the fire burning low, and pour on more fuel when needed. A model like this will allow for a kind of meaning-backed discipline, which is exactly what I’ve been trying to get at with this philosophizing: Discipline is great, but it’s very hard for me to be disciplined when I don’t feel as if that discipline is undergirded by a deeper, more transcendent meaning.
The model, in my mind, then looks as follows:
- First, conviction must be fostered by curating, preparing, and then consuming a sort of concocted elixir composed of inspiration, motivation, a meaningful aim, and optimism (which I believe to be a key ingredient, more on that in another post). Then,
- This conviction must be used to ignite and fuel the fire of discipline. Then, to ensure the longevity and safety of the disciplin(ary) fire,
- Proper safeguards must be established to prevent the fire from either burning out or becoming an inferno.
If properly constructed, the safeguarding guidelines must include allowance to break or perhaps permanently change the rules of the path when necessary.
I’m not really sure what the next step is in the development of this framework/model. I’ll have to do a bit more thinking and clarify my thoughts. What’s presented here is just a messy start.
This is a hard problem to tackle with language, but at least this is a start. To tangetialize a bit further, language is a tremendously useful tool, and is also one that can be perfected and clarified. To perfect and clarify language is an aim I think we should all have, while being cognizant of the potential consequences of believing in anything perfect. At the very least, we’ve got a funny puzzle to wrap our heads around, for sure!
On a more grounded note, I’ve been getting after it more than before. I’m still nowhere near 100% discipline, but I’m maybe 7% of the way there, as opposed to a previous 1%. Progress is better than stagnation, even if that stagnation occurs at a higher place. Point being, to keep going forward is all that matters. Nothing else matters, just the next step. This has helped a lot with the runs I’ve been taking in the cold outside weather lately.
I’ve also found myself very inspired by a compilation of anti-motivational excerpts of speech from Elon Musk.
Anti-motivation is the best motivation.
And, while I still struggle immensely with proper sleep schedules (the fact that I’m still typing away at 1:46 AM should be proof enough), I’m trying to get better. Perhaps the meme you find below is what will finally push me over the edge to get to bed at a reasonable time (and wake up early)!
And as a truly concrete example of conviction, we can take Jocko - “Donuts? POISON! Don’t eat it!”.
Best of luck to all of you in whatever you’re trying to achieve (unless it’s evil, then maybe you should work on bettering yourself first),