Original Thought · Uncertainty

Intentional

In the spiritual realm (however you define that) everything is intentional. In the material world (however you define that) everything should be intentional. But, I find myself walking amongst many people who expect that somehow, the change they desire will happen organically. If they wish upon a star and take no other action or make no other plan, they believe that some mystical force will move mountains to make their craving (petty or otherwise) come to fruition. My thesis is that there is a magical force; the individual and collective efforts of our world in consort with the rhythms and rules of the planet.  If I want my heart’s desire to transpire, I need to perspire.
 
I have my superstitions and my supersense catches glimpses of many things I don’t understand. I see cause in correlation and correlation in coincidence and coincidence in confirmation. Often, I comfortably comply with a practice that is based on a ‘gut’ feeling because I have never seen tragedy when following this approach. For all my thought and all my reading and writing, I am still comforted by the convenience of a convention. I am convenienced by the comfort that conformity brings. But when I reflect on instances like this I am troubled by my willingness to concede to heuristics, mumbo jumbo and magic rather than make the effort to persist in discovering and uncovering what might be.
 
In “Behave” by Robert M. Sapolsky says ” displacement aggression (prejudice, anger, fear, love .. emphasis mine) can decrease the aggressor’s stress hormones”.” this world of sensory stimuli, much-sensed unconsciously, is subject to what occurred in the prior hours, to change sensitivity?” What evolutionary pressures have played over the millennia or what stressor in the last day is calling for conditioning?
 
As I ramble through this idea, I arrive at an oasis. If everything is intentional (or should be) and my superstitions are in some way influenced by evolution and bias, why do I/we resist nonconformity? Is fear of change or the unknown a DNA flaw in today’s reality? I am not evading sabre tooth tigers or scavenging for non-poisonous mushrooms any longer so why hasn’t this function receded or disappeared? Is there an impending reversal of fortunes that we collectively foresee? Will I need to stalk, hunt, and slay my meals in the future? Maybe, but it seems counterproductive to not adapt to those circumstances as required.
 
Further rambles – Is there any way to believe that events happen organically without having some belief structure that points towards mythical, magical, supernatural cause and effect? In my world, I can’t allow that two people can meet and without effort or intention fall in love and that cupid or some other intervener has cast a spell to have them live happily ever after. A strong marriage or long-term relationship requires hard work every day and when mistakes are made, and they will be, atonement is necessary. The idea that ‘love means never having to say you are sorry’ is a dangerous myth. Diligent and sincere consideration for the other in the relationship and a willingness to recognize and acknowledge when you have been insensitive or inconsiderate is a healthy, enduring, reciprocal relationship.
 
Further rambles part 2 – If Sapolsky is correct and our behaviour is at least partly controlled by genetic and evolutionary building blocks and hormonal secretion as a result of stimulation and stress, how do I manage my own emotions?  How do I reconcile the chaos that I see in others? When Joe snaps at the slightest provocation this morning but shrugs off a slander tomorrow, what am I to make of it? Can I accurately predict how I may react to praise on a day that I have been frightened by a near-miss car accident? How will I react if my beloved, Heaven forbid, has a serious illness? Yes, I see the superstition in the above sentence. Are all behaviour expectations really just averages and generic or is there a way to know how an individual will respond to a situation or a message? Maybe it doesn’t matter unless I am marketing or selling a product or service. If I am in a relationship, some mystery and an unexpected observation or unimagined acknowledgement are healthy for the alliance. After all ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. If I feel I can forecast my partners every move, I am on a short cut to taking her for granted. The balance between sharing enough tendencies and beliefs to feel at ease in someone’s company and being able to ‘know’ what they will say next is a delicate balance. It can only be achieved by testing the scales regularly and making adjustments to keep things interesting.
Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Wicked

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

goodandevil

What makes us wicked? Apparently, according to Robert M Sapolsky from his book “Behave” the little girl with a girl is just like the rest of us. ” Sapolsky has been reflecting on the origins of human behavior, starting deep in the brain moments before we act and working his way millions of years back to the evolutionary pressures on our prehistoric ancestors’ decisions, with stops along the way to consider how hormones, brain development and social structures shape our behavior. He also has been thinking about free will and comes to the conclusion, based on the biological and psychological evidence, that we do not have it.”~ Stanford News, Nathan Collins.

We have limited control over how the regions of our brain become habituated. Evolutionary changes fixed certain paths millennia ago and hormonal response to pleasurable and painful stimuli point and prod us to act in certain ways depending on context,

He relates a story about a young man entering a room through a closed door and is surprised to discover his grandmother sitting on a chair. He crosses the floor to her and gives her a long warm hug. In a second version a young man entering a room through a closed door and is surprised to discover an alien with slime and sharp teeth. As the creature moves toward him, he picks up a weapon and kills it. In both stories, the young man’s brain receives the same dopamine hit because in both cases the action is what was right to do.

What is right to do and the motivation to do it is the meta narrative that covers all the chapters in Sapolsky’s easy to read and sometimes funny. Richard Wrangham from the New York Times describes “Behave” ; “We begin in the first second before a behavior is produced, our guide taking us confidently into the amygdala, the dopaminergic system and the frontal cortex. We continue the tour with events that occur minutes, hours, days, months and years ago, finally stretching back thousands of generations to the level where Darwinian processes explain why the systems that produce behavior evolved in their particular, haphazard way. By the time the book returns from these expanding horizons it has given readers the opportunity to feel astonishingly comfortable with a rich slew of fascinating neurobiology basics.”

So if Sapolsky has an inkling of ‘truth’ in his thesis, am I not responsible for my actions ‘cold hearted kindness’, ‘warm blooded rage’ or any other combination? Like one of the writer’s in Christian scripture says when asked “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!” Of course not. We must be held to account for our actions regardless of the supposed causes of the actions. He asserts that even when there has been a brain injury that impairs some function, we can’t accept or condone behaviour that violates our current norms.

“To illustrate, he cited the case of a Catholic nun who ministers to prisoners on death row in Louisiana. These men, he said, are “some of the most frightening, nightmarish humans who have ever walked this Earth.”

When asked how she can spend her time with such men, Sapolsky said the nun answers, “The less forgivable the act, the more it must be forgiven. The less lovable the person is, the more you must find the means to love them.”

“As a strident atheist,” he said, “this strikes me as the most irrational, magnificent thing we are capable of as a species. We are not just a ‘unique-ier’ species, we are the ‘unique-ier-est,’ simply because of this. …

“And this one does not come easily … this contradiction, to take the impossibility of something to be the very proof that it must be possible and must become a moral imperative. The harder it is to do that, the more important it is.””

As I journey from a recovering post modern fundamentalist to a burgeoning social humanist, I have needed to re evaluate where my morality resides and where it came from. At one time I believed that it was endowed by a Creator who dictated both the rules and the sanctions for violation. I now think that my morality is far more dynamic and contextual. What I hold to be good, fair and just is more a function of how the regions of my brain react to the circumstances. Similarly, my neuron activity that arises in moments of fear, disgust, or distrust are triggers for action that would be indefensible under different conclusions.

My life is a draft and as I work through it, by writing about it and living it there are edits and amendments that are required. I appreciated that you are following along.

Make Today Remarkable, whatever that means for you today,

B