Taking Aim and Staying on the Path
September 17th, 2019
Two Japanese archers take aim at a target, circa 1897.
Aims Focus Perceptions
Your hypothalamus sets your basic aims. This focuses your perceptions. If you are hungry and you walk out of your office and into the kitchen, the world is going to set it self up around your aim.
This sheds light on the relationship between ethics and perception. If you are hungry, what you tend to see are all those things relevant to you acquiring food. And you do not see anything else. You do not see anything else — you think you see it but if you are tested you do not really see it. You are way blinder than you think. When you look at the world you see way less of it than you imagine you see.
What you see are things related to your goal and things that might get in the way, and you might not see things that get in the way until they get into the way. The world constructs itself in terms of how you interact with it in relationship to your goals.
If the world reveals itself to you as an unbearable place perhaps that is because your goal structure is warped.
The world is reveals itself to you in relationship to what your goals are.
If you are thinking about a simple goal like hunger or thirst, it is not that amazing of a conclusion. But if you thinking about higher order goals, and they are integrally associated with ethics because your ethical behavior is a consequence of what you choose to pursue in your life, there’s an implication to that.
If the world is not unfolding in front of you in a manner than you find acceptable then it is certainly possible that what you are aiming at is wrong.
Sidebar Commentary: Staying on the PATH.
Get on the Path
If things are not going for you the WAY that you want them to go for you, then you have two options.
Option 1: The world is a terrible place and that turns you against the world. Bad option because you partly make the world a worse place and partly because if it is you against the world, then you are out matched. If it is you against reality then it is going to be one sad battle. If reality itself is cursed, and you are destined to be miserable then too bad for you.
Option 2: If the way you are looking at things is making you suffer unduly, what that might mean is that you can re-evaluate your ethical structure and that would transform the way the world manifests yourself.
Nietzsche knew that. He thought what might happen is that we would’ve to generate our own values — a new set of values — and that would enable us to transcend the catastrophic dissolution of our previous belief system.
The fundamental error with Nietzsche is that we cannot create our own values, because we are not our own slaves; we cannot actually tell ourselves what to do. We might be able to cooperate with ourselves to move in a certain direction but we cannot tyrannize yourself without rebelling anymore than you can tyrannize anyone else. And you have to work with your a priori value system rather than impose something top down.
This is the Nietzschian cure for Nihilism.
Nietzsche said we should generate our own values and then Carl Jung came around and said we cannot because we have a biological nature that is expressed in these archetypal structures — in these great stories we have — and in order for us to develop value systems that are functional (psychologically and practically), we have to take our own nature into account.
Initial vs. Imposed Conditions
This is a good antidote to utopian thinking. One of the problem with utopians — especially rationalist types — is they tend to think human beings can be remade in whatever image the rationalist utopians happen to have of the desireable and optimal human being. This doesn’t work.
Nature cannot be made into the image of the utopian system structure imposed by someone else.
We have a nature — despite whatever social constructionists have to say. Even though nature doesn’t determine our behavior, it sets parameters for who and what we are and you have to cooperate within it in order to build a structure you both can inhabit.
Sidebar Commentary: Nature sets the initial conditions, and humanity plays the game out within the parameters.
Dreams and Updating Ethical Systems
Carl Jung, when he was trying re-structure people's value systems, would consult their dreams.
What artists do, in some sense, is they are obsessed with beauty. Beauty is a vision for the way things could be; it is an act of artistic imagination associated with dreaming.
Part of the thing you do when you put the world together around you — whether you know it or not — you encounter the things that you do not understand first through your dreams. That’s the creative part of you generating images of what could be.
Jung attempt to analyze dreams is an attempt to take that dream-like foray into the unknown and make it explicit so that people could incorporate the most exploratory parts of their creative imagination into into their lives. He would consult with imagistic expression of their biology to update their system of ethics.
Emotion and motivation part: Instinctive level of cognition.
Sam Harris studies Cortical Function and thinks it is the advanced part of the brain, which is wrong. Is is the part of brain that the brain lets you use because if you do something stupid with it, you will not die instantly. The complex parts of your brain, they make the breathe, keep your heart going, or regular your digestion. Want to do that voluntarily? Tell your Cortex: Go ahead and plan your digestion. That will not work out as you had hoped or planned.
Spinal Reflexes. Fast movement. Then pain comes. You
Emergence of Mortality From the Structure of Games
To be a good hunter you have to take aim, see and throw. Then you have to organize the hunt (meta-aim). You’ve taking the idea of aim and transmitting it into a form of ethical behavior. How can we organize yourselves tribally so we can effectively hunt together, then split food up so we can continue to cooperate and hunt across time?
It is a kind of game.
You should play a game to win.
Most games have a point and an aim which is another indication of our fundamental hunting background.
Example: Basketball. What people are doing with the basketball is hunting down the hoop with the ball, and everyone is into that. They organize themselves into teams and compete. And it is so exciting that people will organize in the audience to watch it. Then we get excited when we see someone do something that is athletically spectacular, but we are also impressed when we see someone do something athletically spectacular when it is maximally beneficial to the rest of the team; and it maybe even transforms the whole game.
You see a great athlete who is a great sportsman, and you think "that is a great person". That is a person who has an aim, and transmuted the aim so that they modified the entire structure of the cooperative game so that it becomes a better game. And that is a better aim, which makes you a better hunter.
Why does it make you a better hunter? Well, do you want food just for today or food for your entire life? Here’s a rule, if you are going to be a good hunter, share what you kill.
What are you hunting? All of a sudden, instead of hunting animals you are hunting reputation. People will say, "you can trust him. If you go on a hunt with him you get a little more than your fair share." So everyone lines up to hunt with you. And you are set for the rest of your life. Even if you have an off day, all those who have hunted with you properly, all of them will say, "you know, we owe him something" because they are concerned with their reputation as well.
Emergence of ethics from the biological substrate.
Relationship between facts and values: Rationalists have an interesting problem to solve. They want to ground ethics in something that isn’t just arbitrary opinion. That’s why they make a case to derive values from facts.
The grounding of value and fact is very difficult. You don’t get from the array of facts to the world of value without very complex intermediary stages.
If you aim, you might as well aim at something that works in a large way across a large scale of time. The thing that you should aim at most is the Way that you should act that would solve the most problems at the same time over the longest period of time for the largest number of people. Our ethical systems — coded in our religious stories — are attempts using our dream-like intuitions to build up structures of ethics that have exactly that which provide us aims that have exactly that purpose… even though we do not understand what we are doing.
We have always used stars to orient ourselves in the world. To actually find direction. North Star = Stable point at night. Use them to orient ourselves in time and space.
Wishing upon a star: Hope that what you created becomes genuine, autonomous, and real. And that is the highest of aims.
Pinocchio's Transformation Story
Pinocchio has to fight against deceit because that is a major temptation. That is why his nose grows. Pinocchio has to fight against becoming a neurotic victim because the cat and fox convince him to shirk his duties because he is sick and needs holiday on pleasure island.
University Advertisement: Are you sick and victimized? Come to pleasure university. We will allow you to extend your adolescences for four years with no responsibility and all you have to do is sacrifice your entire financial future to our administrators.
Pinocchio has to go through these sequences of temptations and turns into a brain jackass as a consequence of his pleasure-seeking victimization.
If you’re not "there" then someone has control of your voice. Pinocchio turned into a brain jackass just before he is enslaved. It’s the risk of enslavement that’s the next thing. When he becomes a full jackass, he’s packed off to the salt mines by the dark, fascist slave-drivers that are in the background.
Sidebar Commentary: Every person that comes home from college.
In the climax scene, he has to go to the bottom of the world to rescue his father from a whale. That’s the thing that transforms him into an autonomous individual.
Why would your father be resting in a beast at the bottom of the abyss? What could that mean? We know that you you grow in strength to proportion to your willingness to voluntarily confront sequential challenges (Vidovszky, Zone of Proximal Development; that’s what you do with little kids).
If you optimally challenge yourself then you develop. What do you develop into? You develop into what you can be (i.e., becoming). What could you be? You could be the full revelation of your potential, and some of that is ancestral potential because in some sense you are 3 1/2 billion years old.
Sidebar Commentary: My ancestors
Life is continuous, there is potential locked inside of you in all sorts of different ways. And the way that you call that potential forward is by challenging yourself.
How much should you challenge yourself? That depends on what you want to call forward. The more you want to call forward the more you challenge yourself.
What is the ultimate challenge? It is to look into the abyss. What is the abyss? Maybe: Mortality, malevolence, suffering, evil.
What is in the abyss is the predator that lurks. What happens if you gaze forthrightly at the predator in the abyss that lurks, what do you discover? The ancestral father.
Why? Because if you voluntarily take on the heaviest load that you can possibly bear then you will call forth from within you that which you could be. That is the equivalent to the ancestral father. And that is the story of Pinocchio.
It is an optimistic idea, If you go down to the depths of suffering and evil, you can find out who you are. And what you can find out is you are the thing that can transcend suffering and malevolence. It is an inversion of pessimism.
If you are thinking that life has no point and no aim that is because of suffering and evil.
Life is rife with suffering and made worth with malevolence. What should you do about that? Run from that? No, it gets bigger and you get smaller. Turn to it and face it. What happens when you do that? You discover your ancestral father in the belly of the beast. And that means you can start to become who you can be. And the question is who could you be? And the answer is you can be the thing that transcends suffering and malevolence. That’s the same as wishing on the star because that’s the light which beckons in the darkness.
If you do not pull away from the darkness and you confront it… "What you want most will be found where you least want to look" (Jung from Alchemical literature). That’s the hero story in and of itself. What you can be will not reveal itself unless you challenge yourself out maximally.
What is it that can reveal itself within yourself? As terrible as malevolence and suffering is, there is something within you that’s more powerful than that.
So out of that terrible pessimism, you can transcend it. That is the proper aim.
That is what you hunt for when you take proper aim. That’s a bit of a description of how that great ethic of aim and meta-aim emerge from that underlying biological platform.
It is very difficult to listen to someone who is ideological possessed; it become very "droning".
Instead, tell fascinating stories. Fascinating stories are only ones you can tell. Bring your accrued wisdom and wit, and conjoin that with your personal experience. Say things no one else can say.
Sidebar Commentary: Listening to people talk about conspiracy theories or Trump is not interesting. Anyone can talk about it.
Talking to ideologues is not interesting. It is not interesting because you will move out of the domain of the conjunction of your personal experience and your genius and into the ideological domain. Anyone can be in that domain… you can tell this in many political discussion. You can replace one ideologue with another ideologue and they will say the same thing.
Are you a perpetrator or are you an innocent victim? Or both? How should I treat you? "Like a perpetrator until you wake up and you stop spouting the nonsense and you start coming to grips with the reality of your life and you start being an individual."
If you are actually talking to someone and you are on thin path of truth. Then it absolutely engrossing.
Do not talk to people until they are no longer ideologues.
If you're speaking and you are boring yourself, and you feel weak and stupid and ashamed, and like you’re sacrificing your good name and people’s attention is being distracted… it might mean you’re not there.
Listen to what you’re saying. If what you are saying is making you weak, stop saying it. You can feel it but you have to be aware of your self.
Sidebar Commentary: Scales fall from the eyes.
If you are having a conversation with someone that was therapeutic, treading this thin line of truth, then you’re sort of lined up physically and mentally. All of you is pointed in the same direction. Like a piece of music points in the same direction. You can feel when there is disharmony, and that is a sign that you are not being genuine. You can learn to feel that.
When you are appearing to be smart or want to win an argument, there is some ulterior motive that is driving your speech instead of just the requirement to say what appeared to be true. Practice to only say things you believe to be true. Then, see what happens.
You need to feel uncomfortable 95% of the time.
Jung: Psychotherapy is a moral, ethical endeavor.
Maintaining the Aim
Tell the truth. Start practicing it now.
Sidebar Commentary: Lao Tzu, Sun Tzu, etc. Not literally the truth (e.g., I went to this place at this time on this date), rather do not speak until you understand human nature, and can connect that to your life.
Nothing is more impressive and potent as somebody who can be articulate and tell the truth. That means you might have to take some knocks in the short-term because people are not that happy when you point out things that everybody knows to be true but no one wants to talk about.
Sidebar Commentary: Diversity and Exclusion vs. Diversity and Inclusion.
You cannot just blurt out what you think, it is not the same thing as telling the truth.
Because you have to orient yourself right in the world (i.e., you have to have had the experience to know what is right), you have to be aiming at something good. You want things to be better than they are, and you use truth in the service of that. That is like truth in the service of love (Christian Ethics). Love is the desire for things to be better than they are. That is not an easy desire because people get vengeful, and vicious, and malevolent, and cruel and want to produce harm to themselves and others. This is a universal human tendency and it’s difficult to constrain.
Sidebar Commentary: Is desire good?
There is a lot of call for adolescents to be false. To along with the crowd; it’s important to fit in but you don’t want to sacrifice your soul to fit in. You want to retain it.
Tell the truth and have reality on your side.
Jung: Relations Between the Ego and Unconscious
Topic: Danger of ego inflation.
If you are a musician, and you are playing a great piece, you do not attribute the music to you precisely. You are a part of something. Maybe you are part of how that is expressed. You are part of the process by which archetype ideas are expressed. But you area not the ideas.
Do not confuse yourself and the ideas. Do confused yourself with the ideas is to court insanity.
Every superhero has an alter ego. You do not know who the alter ego is. There is no Spiderman without Peter Parker. That’s the relationship between the ego and the self.
The Self is the superordinate.. That which you could be if you were everything you could be. There is something divine about it. It is the some total of human potential.
There’s the you that is just you, and there is the you that is part of the divinity of being human. You need both of those. You want to identify with the first one, not the second you. You are you. These other things can make themselves manifest through you in some sense, but you have to keep yourself separated.
The Earth should not fall into the Sun. The Earth rotates around the Sun. There is a relationship between you and God, but that does not make you God. That is humility. You are salty and flawed and you make mistakes.
The degree to which you will be flattened is proportionate to the game you are playing.
What We Need
What everybody needs is to reunite with the father in the abyss. Try to do that for yourself and communicate to everyone else to the best of your ability.
It is a part of a universal pattern, and that pattern is not you. Not personally. It is transpersonal.
You can cook something in the fire but you do not dance in the fire.
The past is not as fixed as you think. What happens now can change the past.
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