What’s Been on my Mind

I have not been able to write a blogpost in its entirety for a while. Mostly because I seem to be unable to actually structure my thoughts to make them readable in a longer format. Instead I will share a few short notes on what I have been thinking about the last week. I might expand on these topics in the future, because I like them.

What it is like to be a bat?

This paper by Thomas Nagel on the mind-body problem and the impossibilities that consciousness brings into our understanding of the subjective experiences of other species is a great read. I re-read it this week and I realized that this paper actually has formed much of my thinking on interactions with humans. In the paper Nagel floats the idea that the human consciousness and imagination makes it impossible to understand the subjective experiences of others, since all of our thoughts arise from our subjective experiences. This has led me to understand that I will never fully understand how another person experiences the world around them. With this view in mind one can approach other people, and species, in a more understanding and open-minded way. (Link to the paper)

Happiness

If you have not yet listened to the Joe Rogan podcast with Naval Ravikant, then I urge you to do that. Naval is an interesting thinker, not only in the realm of business, wealth etc. but he also has some profound thoughts on life in itself. One of the ideas he has about happiness is that it arises in the absence of desires. Desires are interesting, they are central in human nature, and maybe even in all conscious beings, as they make us act. For us humans desires bring double value, because they implore us to plan and take actions for the future. But this is also where the curse of desire comes in. When we desire something, our brain cannot stop planning or thinking about it. And that means that as long as we have desires, we will also run our mind constantly into the future without acknowledging the present. Thus, to truly be happy, calm, and to live in the present we have to get rid of our desires. An impossible task you say, I agree, maybe desires must exist in our mind. But we can at least try to reduce them to a minimum, to get as close to happiness as possible.

The FED and Inequality

I have been working on a post about the central bank response to the economic turmoil that the coronavirus brought. It is unfinished, but I thought that I can surface the thoughts here. It seems clear to many that central banks had to act to stabilize the economies of the world when the coronavirus hit, and it became evident that damage was to be done to the real economy. But I fear, that the way in which it has been done can increase inequality and thus the resentment of the lower socio-economic classes. For it is not, primarily, the least well-off that get to reap the benefits of the asset purchasing that the FED has been doing. But as I said, more on this in a longer post, where I, hopefully, can try to explain why and how it has been done and what the potential effects are.

These are some of the things that have been on my mind lately. I would like to finish this post with a beautiful passage from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (Book Four: St. Januarius, p. 182.)

Taking Seriously. – For most people, the intellect is an awkward, gloomy, creaking machine that is hard to start: when they want to work with this machine and think well, they call it “taking the matter seriously” – oh, how taxing good thinking must be for them! The lovely human beast seems to lose its good mood when it thinks well; it becomes “serious”! And “where laughter and gaiety are found, thinking is good for nothing” – that is the prejudice of this serious beast against all “gay science”. Well then, let us prove it a prejudice!

Have fun while thinking, more importantly, have fun in general!

4 thoughts on “What’s Been on my Mind”

  1. Hello,

    You have some really interesting thoughts in here. I would like to express my thoughts on the topic of happiness, though. Would appreciate a reply if you find the time. I should disclose that I have not yet listened to the podcast, so this might not be a fully informed response.

    So it is argued that happiness stems from the absence of desires. My subjective experience says otherwise. In life, I have had many desires, but one truly stands out. It fits into the description – my life revolved around this desire, this dream. I was constantly thinking of how I would acquire this desire, achieve this dream, and almost anything I did was designed to take me one step closer to it.

    I did this for approximately 1,5 years. Those years were among the happiest of my life. I felt so content, so happy, and still felt like I lived in the present. I felt grateful and appreciative of anything that happened in the present moment, because I knew that everything took me closer to the dream I so desperately desired.

    So I think there is another dimension to this discussion. I think there is one type of healthy obsession, and another unhealthy type. I would like to explore this dimension further, but at the time of writing this, I have to do some other work.

    1. samuelsvensson

      Interesting thoughts, Renjo. Thank you for your comment!

      I somewhat agree with your point. Which is also why I added the point of reducing desires to the minimum. We might need some overarching desire as a way to create meaning in our life. For example; a person that desires to create a difference for the world may use that desire to create both meaning and action, which can, in turn, induce happiness. One of my strongest desires is to learn things, a desire which has in someway driven me to where I am today.

      I think the action of reducing desires should be focused on reducing the small desires that we experience everyday. Many such desires are centered on things that we do not have in the moment, often material things. If we call these short-term, concrete desires, negative desires, and we call overarching, long-term, and abstract desires, positive desires. Then, happiness might arise from the reducing of the negative desires and the procurement and management of the positive desires.

      Maybe this dichotomy is unwarranted, and the difference between positive and negative desires may be hard to pinpoint in a meaningful way. But, it could be a way of thinking about desires and their part in happiness.

  2. Hey, love your blog. Interesting thoughts that you brought up in your posts.

    I just want to add some of my thoughts when I think about happiness. The argument that ” happiness is that it arises in the absence of desires” is pretty much the core idea of buddhism and the meditative state of mind. If you’re interested in learning more, several books that introduce the Japanese minimalism or Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings might shed some lights on that.

    I partially agree with the idea. I in fact have tried a minimalist lifestyle for a year and after I threw away all my old documents, donated my old clothes that I had always have in the drawer while not even wearing them for years, and remove all unnecessary furniture, a minimal home setup for me was really working at first. I did feel that a big burden was lifted off my life. But then the question becomes, what do we mean by “not desiring anymore”? Are we referring to materialism or a deeper meaning such as life values and goals? Because if it’s about materials, the concept holds some truth. But if it’s the latter, I think there is a big loophole into it.

    The way I think about aiming for happiness by wanting less is a defensive pessimistic mechanisms, similar to the analogy that we shut things down because we don’t want to risk getting hurt. In fact, I feel that having to feel happy all the time is an overstatement. In my opinion, being able to fully experience all states of emotions is what makes us, human beings, human. Just as much as we want to feel good and happy, we’re entitled to feel sad and frustrated when things go south, to feeling proud of our and our loved ones’ accomplishments, to feeling sympathetic to those who suffer, or to feeling disgusted when seeing moral wrongdoings. We may have complicated mixed feelings at the same time over a certain situation. As is our right.

    At the end of the day, it’s good to see that the concept of living in the presence is widespread because I believe it helps well-beings if one practices it with a long-term persistence. One can also “want less” if that is something one believes could make her happier. However, the concept of “doing X” in order to achieve happiness is not justified; “promoting” one feeling over another is opposite from our actual experience as human beings.

    1. samuelsvensson

      Thank you!

      I mostly agree with your points, and I will definitely check out your recommendations. You are completely right, in my experience, about being able to fully experience all states of emotions. Many of my own best moments in life have involved both negative and positive states of emotion.

      I also think that the material part of desire is what one can be better off reducing, just as you mentioned. Often material things leave us unsatisfied and wanting more. When it comes to desiring life values or goals, I think you are right. Much of the meaning of life comes from striving towards and desiring some goal, whether it is about becoming more empathetic or if it is about becoming a better musician. (I really liked Agnes Callard’s book Aspiration on this topic.)

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