A study of the most reasonable way of living life given all current information.
Actions and their Purpose
Everyone who does anything does so with some meaning or purpose. This meaning can take unlimited forms and often one meaning is backed by another and another. For example here is a logical progression of meaning where the action is directly in line with the person’s life purpose.
Every action we take has some purpose, which is why there is no action that is not selfish. Giving away every penny to you to a homeless man can of course be defined as a selfless act. However, you did the act with the purpose of making yourself feel like a damn good human. In the example shown we see that our daily actions can funnel into our main overarching goal. When we are acting optimally, our actions are in line with our purpose. Of course, as humans, we are swayed by our lower mind / monkey brain into actions that do not have direct alignment with our goal, and rather act as forms of pleasure in the short-term.
Of course we can always look at the action we wish to take, and rationalize it to be in line with our purpose. Our lower mind puts up a fog, a bypass in a sense from the higher mind who could tell you the right thing to do would be to get out of bed when you have had enough sleep.
Clearly we can see that staying in bed is a very rational thing to do. This action, of constructing a faux reasoning for the action, is called a rationalization. “Rationalizations are invented explanations that hide or deny true motivations, causes, or actions. They are the excuses people give themselves for not living up to their own ethical standards.” 3 Our monkey brain can trick our higher mind with rationalizations, entering it into a fog where it can not see that the monkey brain has control. This fog can be so thick that we are fully unaware the fog exists, only in moments of clarity are we able to see the fog for what it really is. For more about the fog and its intricacies, visit this article.
Different groups and portions of society hold different purposes and meanings with superiority over others. Christians believe in living by the Bible, and in that rational exists a huge range of interpretations of the best way to do so. On another hand, Buddhists believe in ending their own personal suffering by the act of devaluing all worldly interests.
“In Buddhism, the primary purpose of life is to end suffering. The Buddha taught that humans suffer because we continually strive after things that do not give lasting happiness. We desperately try to hold on to things – friends, health, material things – that do not last, and this causes sorrow..”1
Buddhists understand the temperance of our reality believing any meaning we construe is based on human desire, and will not last. The reason I want to touch on religion is because it acts as the end life purpose of a majority of humans.
In terms of religious choice, most humans practice the religion in which they were born into. If we ever choose to change this fact, we are not so often swayed into an entirely different religion. Instead most choose stop practicing religion at all and become unaffiliated. This makes sense given a distaste or lack of faith in your own religion, would require a directed otherworldly experience/calling to the “correct” one.
Meaning, for most of the population your religion is the same as your height, or your ethnicity. Something you were born into. As humans most of us assume that the religion our parents practiced, is correct and that the other ~4199 religions worldwide are incorrect. As I grew up I came to understand that I was only Christian because my parents had been. How could I look my Muslim friend in the eye and tell him he is wrong simply because he was born into a different family. I had the same proof that he did, my parents are, and my religion says to continue to have faith against all the doubts. A 2007 poll found if you were born into a Catholic or Protestant family there is only a 3% chance you would switch to an entire different religion. There is a 83% you would have stayed faithful within the Catholic and Protestant subgroups and a 14% chance you have would become unaffiliated in any religion at all.2 I will touch more on the unaffiliated group later in the article. For now lets look at where things are, have been, and where they are going. As we enter in the new age of extreme information sharing, society and culture will undoubtedly change at a faster pace than ever. One example we see is that from the start of 2007 Google Trends shows our search volume questioning of the nature of reality has been on a steadfast climb.
Even with the 1000% increase over the past 13 years, our interest in the nature of our reality pales in comparison to the most famous distractions of life. Is the fact that as a whole we spend far greater time and energy on mainstream media than any questioning of the true nature of our reality a surprise? Not at all. Questioning “What is life” is scary, it does not have a direct path, and it does not provide consistent dopamine releases.
Of course, a representation of interest using google search trends is not entirely accurate it provides concrete evidence of the amount of attention via google search a topic is given. On that note, traditional polling itself can often be skewed from the true results based on a variety of factors (or the landscape of whatever is being polled in general). In one instance this became obvious to me anecdotally during my identity shift from Christianity to Agnosticism. Any survey or form asking religion, I would still place my check mark on Christianity. Not that I still truly believed or practiced Christianity, but just as my race is Caucasian, my religion was Christian. I have quizzed my own non-practicing friends and found that they in fact have done the same, meaning poll results of practicing members of religion is skewed to some degree showing higher members than actuality. The thought did occur to me, thus it can be believed it has occurred in others as well, that given any chance at all this all-knowing god exists. If I just put the check mark down on Christianity, maybe just maybe I will have a better chance of getting into heaven. Whereas when you check mark other or none there is no external benefit. With this in mind, lets take a look at the current trends and movements of religious beliefs in the US.
This next graph shows the current beliefs based on year of birth. This truly highlights the rapid societal change. My main theory on the reason this is the case is the flood of information to the younger generations who formed their belief systems during the rise of the world wide web.
In the next graph we can see that 13% of people born between 1981 and 1996 changed their beliefs to unaffiliated over the past 10 years. That is a change of 1.3% a year, meaning even without accounting for the increase in speed of change. At that current rate the millennial generation would have under a tenth of their populace defining themselves as unaffiliated by 2050.
The core, the reasoning behind all reasoning for so many is on a steady decline which marks a new age for culture and society.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
- John Lennon
In life, as we gain more knowledge, we begin to discover the bigger picture and gain a better understanding of how to assess importance. Its why you probably tend to see more kids playing with blocks than adults unless of course you are living in a mental asylum. Since the dawn of civilized man religion has stood as a pinnacle of importance for most of mankind. It stands as a why for the day to day action. For one reason to treat your neighbors with respect. For a reason a good person. In all major religions, being a moral person has leads into a better afterlife whether that be in heaven or in reincarnation. To trade one human lifetime of doing good for an infinite afterlife of heaven or an infinite afterlife of hell is an easy value equation. Lets take a look at the google search trends of two of the major US religions.
48% Decrease In Searches since 2004
60% Decrease In Searches since 2004
Why has the age of the Internet and connectivity caused a decrease in peoples interest? Maybe at some point they, like I realized there is no more reason to believe in any certain religion/god than to believe in the notion that we exist in a simulation, or that aliens dropped us off here. Each has as much evidence as the last.
It seems others are starting to ponder the same question as well.
Rather than picking one belief system and taking the surrounding beliefs as overall truths I began to think of the inherent truths of our verifiable reality. Of course I believe Atheism to be just as irrational as a definitive choice in Theism. To take a stance and say there is no higher power or God is just as irrational as to claim you know that your own god exists. Therefor agnosticism is the most rational way of thinking. “Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable… human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist.”4 This is the belief of most unaffiliated/non-practicing members although it may be unknown to them that it is their belief system. I think that is an important fact. Two people who have never heard of agnosticism, who led very different lives, came to the same conclusion. Similarly I had a belief that I later found to be have a name. Anatheism, the basic principle being if there is a god, and that god is good he will judge you off of your morals, and how you lived your life. If there is a god, and that god is bad, and only cares about how much you worshiped him. He is not a god worth worshiping in the first place. I mean really, think about it, if God can not see why I would lose faith and change my beliefs being so all knowing, and he bans me to an eternal damnation in hell. Is that the guy you want to praise and worship? So now we keep our basis for morality and being a good person but at this point still lack a meaning in life. So what do we really know and what are we going to do about it?
- We know that we don’t know everything
- We know that over time we know more
In the human time-scale it truly was not that long ago that we believed if we sacrificed our favorite goat on top of the mountain, our village would get more rain. We have continued to change our view of reality as more information came. Ah, the gods do not control the weather. Ah, the earth is round not flat. Ah, religions are created by man to serve a purpose. AH, particles move as wave functions until observed. Even as we gain verifiable evidence, there are of course people who hold on to their beliefs. This is so true that some societal changes require waiting for the believers to enter their grave. The next generation grew up and formed their belief systems with the new knowledge, rather than new knowledge having to disrupt and completely change their belief system. As each new generation came to, the overall amount of people who did not believe lowered. Eventually to be a non-believer was almost non-existent. The more groundbreaking the revelation, the longer it takes society to change over to the truth. For something like the earth being spherical, it took about 2,000 years since the idea was proposed for educated society to basically completely accept the idea.
The reason for this was not just because the idea was world bending, but the rate at which information could travel from person to person was limited. There was no way for someone in Europe to show someone in North America the new found knowledge without taking a boat over and explaining it to them in person. In the age of information, the ease of displaying and collecting data, the ability to put it on the web for anyone, anywhere to be able to tap into, now allows for radical change in ideologies which we are witnessing before our eyes. While the graph I made is anywhere but accurate on the actual rate of change the relevant facts of when the idea was proposed that we know of, and when it became fully accepted are somewhat accurate and represent a certain story of slow change. Moving from 100% to 0% over 2000 years means the average change per year was 0.05%. Where if we take a look at the drop-off of religious beliefs, an arguably more ,earth-shattering revelation than the flatness or roundness of our habitat, we see that from 1970 to 2015, there has been a 17% increase in non-believers. A 0.37% increase per year. While the sphere vs flat earth argument is truly black and white, the religion argument has a million interpretations and in-betweens. Evolution became wildly accepted and thus the view that god created the universe shifted.
We used to cry when our favorite toy was taken from us that toy gave us so much joy and we valued that greatly. Whatever we value, in turn, gives power of the outcomes of the valued event, control over our emotions. That means when your favorite football wins a game, you feel excitement and feelings of victory for the work they did. As humans age, its obvious we change what we choose to give a fuck about. Go talk to your grandma and see if she cares if celebrity x broke up with celebrity y or who got chosen on The Bachelorette. This is especially true with someone on their deathbed, given a time limit left on the person’s life its seems that the fog clears and only the most important values shine through. When you are lying on your deathbed, having one last minute left to breathe, would you care if you are in a mansion or an apartment? Would you care if your stock is going up or down today? Would you care if you are getting that Lamborghini by the end of the year? Of course not. Maybe your grandpa/grandma’s dying words were in fact “I am just happy to have seen the super bowl”, and I must mention, a high level of wisdom is not a guarantee of age. This can of course also be coupled with the decrease in brain function for some elderly. Such as my Grandma wanting to speak with my father about his Exhibitionist tendencies as she neared passing. We had a great chuckle at that prospect. We see on average that time spent with family and friends, reminding those we love that we love them, and holding onto religion and faith becomes the main motivators at end of life stages.
When evaluating what to give a fuck about it’s good to try to embrace a sense of scale. A breakup with a lover can be hard, it can feel like the world is ending, and sadly for some, they are so unable to see past the fog of anguish, that they end their life. Not taking into account that time will change things and they could live a happy life once again. When we take in a sense of scale, we can see that in time we will likely be happy again, we may find someone new or as time moves on release the emotions we had from that situation. When we have this clarity we are taking in a sense of scale, we see that our future will not be the same as our present, that time only flows in one direction, and that it’s only possible to change what we do in the present.
As children we learned to embrace a sense of scale by seeing how our current actions could affect our future selves. If I do not do this homework I can spend the rest of the day having fun. Depending on your parenting style, the rate at which the consequences would hit varied. Some parents would know each assignment their children had and sit them down and watch them do it, while others did not bother. In high school my parents gave me the freedom to know I had better get it done or there would be consequences. Of course I needed to test these consequences to confirm their existence, so after not turning in math assignments for weeks my report card represented this and consequences were given.
Eventually my peers and I came to the conclusion that that the act of completing the homework first thing, given that it had to be done eventually, allowed you to have fun with no things in mind to hinder it. If you were me though, and were a grade A procrastinator, you were in math class scribbling “Yo tengo un perro” furiously before Spanish class came and the homework was due. The due date had to be in your face, and the fear of consequences with it. This took away the need for pure willpower and instead even the Iwanttohavefunallthetime part of my brain was on board, because it understood down the line if my grades dropped, Mom and Pop were going to restrict computer access and sleepovers again and that’s a big restriction on fun. However Iwanttohavefunallthetime never truly learned, because the homework assignment done the class before or the morning before never ended up costing him too much. That act still made it possible to get A’s and B’s, which was the standard set for myself by my parents. The only true negative was the intruding thoughts of “I should just do that homework now to make sure it’s in on time” as I was outside enjoying hacking bushes with a sword.
While we are on the topic of remember school lets enter into a thought experiment. Imagine your teacher sits you down and offers you a project. She says “I have a difficult assignment for you, if you complete it you will never have to do another homework again, go to class, or attend schooling of any sort again. However… if you fail to complete it, you will open a mystery box no one has ever been able to talk about opening and on the other side, you may experience an entirely different reality, a heaven, even a hell, but to the best of my knowledge you will simply cease to exist. It is likely you will never go outside again, never see mom or dad in their human form, and never have another jolly rancher” What would you say? You would probably think about it long and hard, you may even think of saying yes, but then you would think of the consequences. The chance of no more recess, no more candy, no more sleepovers. Ever. You would really rather just continue to do whats necessary to keep up the life you have. Imagine if you failed you would lose everything you know. When you think about losing the ability to go out and play, eat candy, and have sleepovers, it makes you appreciate the time you do get to do those things. You go back to her and thank her for her offer but agree to stick to the normal regime.
Ms. Smith apologizes. She gets a stern look on her face and says “I am sorry little buddy you have no choice in taking on this assignment. You now have a time limit. If you finish it before times up you can enjoy a countless number of recesses, thousands, millions, billions. You could do anything and everything you could ever imagine in the entire playground. Your other option is to blow it off, you can use that allotted amount of time that you had for the project and have one more recess. You may not be able to do the swing sets AND the teeter-totter but whichever you pick, you could really enjoy it, knowing its temporary. After that recess you will have to open the mystery box, and what lies behind there is truly a mystery, it could be an eternity of suffering and pain or the opposite. You will always be able to go there even if you take the project route, but once you decide to open it. You can never go back. Now its up to you to decide. Go play, or try to complete this project and be able to play every single day for as long as you want.
Click to Pick Your Path.
Go Play Attempt the Project