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The Santa Claus Conundrum
Posted: 12 March 2012 02:26 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Let me lead by saying that my wife and I are both non religious Irish people.


The conundrum is whether or not to lie to your children about Santa Claus. I firmly believe that we shouldn’t because I always found that lying in any form was not a good way to build trust in a relationship. Having read Sam’s essay, “Lying"recently I am far more convinced this is the right position to take. My wife completely agrees that there is no defense that can justify lying to children but remains undecided on the subject and we remain in open and constructive conversation on the matter.


Some of the issues that have been raised by family, friends etc are as follows:


1) The “Odd Kid Out” syndrome. Most all the other children at school will believe in Santa Claus so do we really want to in a position where we are basically creating isolation for our child? Furthermore, how would this affect the development of our child? Would the benefits of not lying be outweighed by the social inclusion factor?


2) He will believe it anyway because he will listen to the majority over the minority. The majority of children and adults he comes into contact with will be asking him if Santa is coming to him. Their influences alone given many voices over two might likely result in him believing regardless. Therefore, is there any point in going against the grain?


3) Imagination. This I can categorically tear down or so I believe but people seem to put a lot of stock behind Santa actually creating a better imagination in a child. Personally I could have done without it and I feel there are innumerable things that give imagination to children without the inclusion of this one. Is there an argument for it on this basis?


Look forward to some insights if there are those of a mind to share some smile


Thank you in advance.

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Posted: 12 March 2012 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Jewish kids aren’t harmed by not believing in SC so we know it’s not so painful to believe differently that kids can’t cope.


If he says something to the other kids then it’s a good time to talk to him about respecting other people’s POV and other things; this age is not the time when he needs to be duking it out with his playmates over the ultimate nature of reality.  IT will be a great opportunity to have a life lesson on a lot of topics in a context that he will find neither boring nor abstract.


Do all the xmas stuff with the stockings and the tree and the gifts because it doesn’t have to be real to be fun as anyone who enjoys movies is well aware. It will give him a common experience with the majority of the kids and it’s just fun. Good enough. Don’t over think this.


He’s definitely not going to be scarred by “being the odd man out” or anything like that. It’s a good first lesson in being true to yourself and what is real when everyone else is believing something else. 


ON that last point, remember all religious children of other faiths do NOT believe in SC. So the chance that he’ll be alone even amongst his peers is small.

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Posted: 22 March 2012 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Sorry for the late response and thanks a million for your reply. I will add that in Ireland, especially in the countryside where we live the number of non Christians is tiny to non existent. I’m looking forward to how it all pans out smile

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Posted: 30 March 2012 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Good day to all,
I’ve been a long time lurker of this site and forum, so would firstly like to thank Sam Harris and of course all the staff and associates for your tireless efforts.

I’m so pleased to have stumbled on this post and reply, as I have for a huge part of my life struggled to find a ‘method’ of making my loved ones understand my position and views on life, the universe and everything else for that matter…

I now have children of my own, around the same age I was when I first started to question the ‘religious authority’ under which i was raised. They are obviously much more fortunate than I am in many respects…I will of course not scorn and/or punish them for questioning in the first place ;-D, our field of knowledge has grown immensely, all that knowledge is at the tips of their fingers (or mouse clicks).
Just my own personal knowledge about the way the natural world REALLY works has increased at least a hundred fold…and therein also lies my challenge…
I’m not sure who it was that said “With great power, comes great responsibility”, and I thoroughly believe that knowledge=power, so my question, I guess (sans rambling above) is not unlike the one posted by the original poster, but I want to extend it way beyond santa.

I seem to be running into a multitude of resistance and obstacles, even in my own home, as to how to do this…and honestly, it is starting to, I think, affect my emotional state tongue wink… it seems to be causing friction and disagreements between my spouse and I that were never there (and she’s not even really religious against any measure).
I could put it down to the fact that perhaps I have never been quite so open and outspoken about my position, and that is not to say that I have been dishonest with my wife and family all these years, I have simply avoided situations where it could have caused loggerheads and simply ‘nodded and smiled’ to maintain the status quo, but more and more recently, I feel (particularly after reading “Lying” by Sam), that I AM being dishonest by my omission…and I believe I am doing my kids a disservice to let them believe fairy tales about how life on earth was just “poofed” into existence by magic in six days…(to just pick on one fairy tale for example)

I was incredibly inspired by Richard Dawkins’ “Letter to Juliet”, but I have not found anywhere that says how she felt, or ‘acted’ after reading it. I realise she was very young, and would assume there was a lot she didnt ‘take in’ immediately (if she’s anything like my 12 year old ;-D) but I don’t think ‘too young’ as my better half keeps telling me when I try to ensure my own kids turn into critical thinkers, by telling them to question, even challenge, ‘truth statements’ and assertions put to them by a numerous amount of sources, ie peers, teachers, family…even me (they’re 7 & 12). I get the same old “I’m just making everything boring and scientific”, “I’m going to destroy their imagination and creativity”, “the odd kid out”  type arguments, even though I can’t personally imagine anything more awe-inspiring than nature, it’s laws, the univers and it’s laws, just the natural world and science in general ...and usually end up backing down again, as I can clearly see that it is quite literally upsetting and emotionally affecting my wife and our relationship, but I would add, that I think this stems from her ‘fear’ of some kind of exclusion amongst their and her peers (as the OP mentioned) who are mainly Christian, also possibly some kind of ‘fear’ of what others will think and possibly do if they were to call BS on the claims made by/in their schools for example.
(personally, I’m more interested that they know and continue to seek the TRUTH to be concerned with “what the neighbours” think…but then I just seemt to make her point for her ;-D)

This may be an exercise in futility, as I cannot imagine there is a “right way” to do it… but I sure am open to any-/everyone who can perhaps share their own experiences of how they have (or tried) to ‘open their childrens eyes’ to the REAL world.

Is any age “too young”? The creation stories they’ve been told seemed to have no problem convincing them since they started school at 4!, so I don’t really believe they are ever too young… I wish they were taught Darwins theory of evolution by natural selection at that age instead…then I wouldnt have to try and un-brainwash (doubt that’s a word, sorry) them now and try to show them the evidence that it is a FACT and not just something that I’ve also made up.

My older daughter is better, granted her age, but it is the young one I really worry about, and just to be clear, I don’t worry that she won’t reject the fairy tales eventually, but I worry about ‘how’ I do it, is now the right time/age, will she then go an shatter all her classmates ‘dreams’ and imaginations? (my list of worries goes on, but I’ll spare you tongue wink)

So I will end with my above plea… please, if you can share your experiences (good and bad) as to how you did this or are trying to do this, I would appreciate it immensely and sincerely.

Kind regards to all,
PS. Apologies for the eye-strain reading all that, but I can touch-type approximately 40 w/p/m, so my thoughts just kind of flowed…I hope it’s coherent enough to get some feedback.

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Posted: 03 April 2012 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Hi Still,

Apologies that I cannot be help in advising “how” to unbrainwash or to teach how things actually are as I am at the start of my child’s life (3 months old) but I have a very clear view on what I believe is the “right” way to raise them and it is completely against the normal grain that would be expected from neighbours, family and his peers as he grows up. In that regard someone else with more experience will have to answer those questions for you.


The glaring issues I see that general society seems to dictate are in asking us to be complicit in their views or be shunned if we refuse to partake. Whether those views are that some god “poofed” the world into existence or that children believe in Santa Claus because if one child doesn’t they’ll ruin it for the other kids. What right do we as individual parents have to ruin it for the other kids by using our children as pawns? That is not to say that it is a game but children talk and the issues will be raised with their parents where views disagree. This ultimately leads back to the doorstep of the parent that deviates from the prescribed norm I would imagine. Personally I will have fun with those conversations but not everyone is as strong willed as I can be about what is true.


One of the issues that you raised Still was about how easily children believe in the idea of creation from the very early age of four and how can we possibly teach the fact of evolution. One of the major hurdles in this is that the notion of creation is a far simpler concept to explain than evolution to a very young mind. The tendency is for children to think of their minds and bodies as being separate entities and therefore it seems easier for them to identify with an idea that relates to the separation of body and spirit. An equally simple concept for evolution is needed and I am sure it exists - we just need to do a bit of research I guess.

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Posted: 11 April 2012 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Thanks for the feedback Parmenion, I appreciate it, and agree, it is tricky and very individual issue.
I guess I just have trouble with the cognitive dissonance that seems to be foundationally programmed into our kids at such a young age, by distorted world views…

I also have no problem dealing with the hard conversations that may come from telling my kids the truth. Conversations with their peers and parents etc, that is.
I’m going to just have to stick to my guns and get it over with with it seems.

I can say this though, that with access to such great information from a resource like the internet at our fingertips (granted you look in the right places of course!), has certainly helped with the ‘internal battle’ the mrs and I have been having. It seems that just a better “education” (using the word loosely) for ALL of us on how the world REALLY works is starting to melt away some of the resistance.
We regularly all sit down together lately and “learn” all kinds of things. (recommend “the magic of reality” by dawkins by the way, my kids love the interactive ipad version…of course).
The Harris’, Dawkins’, Krauss’, DeGrass Tyson’s et al of this world sure are a massive benefit to mankind! :-D

Thanks again for the reply and I agree, I wish there was an “Evolution Story” that was as easy for kids to accept, and taught much, much earlier. If you ever come across one, by all means post it here, I’m positive it would benefit many more than just me.
Kind regards,

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Posted: 12 April 2012 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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I’ve been wrestling with how to handle the “Santa Claus Conundrum” as well.  My son is only 16 months, so I have some time to figure this out, but for now, I think I’ll try to use the story as a way to teach some critical thinking.  Instead of telling him that there IS a Santa Claus and encouraging him to believe it, I’ll tell him the story of Santa Claus and ask what he thinks.  If he approaches me and expresses doubt about certain elements of the story, I’ll ask why he’s skeptical instead of making stuff up.  I still need to think this all through, but that is the approach I’m considering.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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parmenion - 12 March 2012 02:26 PM

Let me lead by saying that my wife and I are both non religious Irish people.


The conundrum is whether or not to lie to your children about Santa Claus. I firmly believe that we shouldn’t because I always found that lying in any form was not a good way to build trust in a relationship. Having read Sam’s essay, “Lying"recently I am far more convinced this is the right position to take. My wife completely agrees that there is no defense that can justify lying to children but remains undecided on the subject and we remain in open and constructive conversation on the matter.


Some of the issues that have been raised by family, friends etc are as follows:


1) The “Odd Kid Out” syndrome. Most all the other children at school will believe in Santa Claus so do we really want to in a position where we are basically creating isolation for our child? Furthermore, how would this affect the development of our child? Would the benefits of not lying be outweighed by the social inclusion factor?


2) He will believe it anyway because he will listen to the majority over the minority. The majority of children and adults he comes into contact with will be asking him if Santa is coming to him. Their influences alone given many voices over two might likely result in him believing regardless. Therefore, is there any point in going against the grain?


3) Imagination. This I can categorically tear down or so I believe but people seem to put a lot of stock behind Santa actually creating a better imagination in a child. Personally I could have done without it and I feel there are innumerable things that give imagination to children without the inclusion of this one. Is there an argument for it on this basis?


Look forward to some insights if there are those of a mind to share some smile


Thank you in advance.

 


Ok…...so here’s the low-down:
You may think that you are in the process of deciding if lying to your children about the existence of Santa Clause is a good idea.
That is not really what’s happening.
Ultimately you will react in a way that is totally dictated by the wiring in the brain that you think is yours.
The imagined future is totally dictated by the synaptic-mnemonic loop swirling around the frontal cortex.
I know this is hard to swallow.
It’s comforting to think that we are in charge of this little ship.
But that’s just not the way it is.

So…....what should you do?

I would suggest that you just sit back and enjoy the mystery.

Even the surprise and joy of watching the brain making its own decisions is part of the programming.


LOL

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted: 16 April 2012 11:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Toombaru,

The problem with your post is that I am aware of how the brain works especially in relation to a-priori causes. With that knowledge and the knowledge of how my wife’s brain works - the query is designed to flesh out how I can consciously resolve the dilemma.

Let us say that I allow my brain to make its own decisions. My wife does something I do not approve of and my brain says beat her up so that she’ll know not to do it again. Or lets say my brain’s wish for control works in a different way knowing their are social ramifications for physical abuse that I decide to layer her with continuous double-binds over the course of our entire relationship so that she is always on edge and can never please me fully. If I know this about the wiring of my brain, or if I know I like to murder does that make me not responsible for those actions? Does that make choice impossible? Does it mean that I cannot try to overcome the wiring I might have had from childhood abuse to become a better person?

I think you will find that responsibility for “enjoying the ride” as Bill Hicks might have said is not just limited to the wiring but what we do with what we know.

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Posted: 16 April 2012 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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parmenion - 16 April 2012 11:21 AM

Toombaru,

The problem with your post is that I am aware of how the brain works especially in relation to a-priori causes. With that knowledge and the knowledge of how my wife’s brain works - the query is designed to flesh out how I can consciously resolve the dilemma.

Let us say that I allow my brain to make its own decisions. My wife does something I do not approve of and my brain says beat her up so that she’ll know not to do it again. Or lets say my brain’s wish for control works in a different way knowing their are social ramifications for physical abuse that I decide to layer her with continuous double-binds over the course of our entire relationship so that she is always on edge and can never please me fully. If I know this about the wiring of my brain, or if I know I like to murder does that make me not responsible for those actions? Does that make choice impossible? Does it mean that I cannot try to overcome the wiring I might have had from childhood abuse to become a better person?

I think you will find that responsibility for “enjoying the ride” as Bill Hicks might have said is not just limited to the wiring but what we do with what we know.

You cannot overcome the very wiring out of which you emerge.
You cannot let the brain “make its own decisions”.
The sense of being a separate autonomous “you” arises in the process of the brain’s “choices”.
The brain decides and the person emerges and claims responsibility.
This apperception can only be intuited by the persona.
This understanding cannot be applied one’s own experiential dilemma simply because the sense of self has no existential reality.
“You” are a collage of swirling mnemonic debris.
“You” are a phantom that exists only in the brain’s vast electro-chemical machinery.
“You” are an objectified overlay that has no access to its-self simply because it doesn’t have one.
You are a conceptual homunculus clinging to the frontal cortex of a highly evolved primate brain.
You are no more real than the people in your dream last night.
What can you do about this?”, you ask.
Nothing…...absolutely nothing.
You don’t even have the choice to sit back and enjoy the show.

Oh look…....there’s a hummingbird.

 

[ Edited: 16 April 2012 01:54 PM by toombaru]
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Posted: 22 April 2012 03:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Hi toombaru,

You did not address all of my questions. You merely stated that you cannot escape your wiring and follow this with a tonne of carte blanche statements that you obviously think are important but which do not answer the questions I put to you.

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Posted: 22 April 2012 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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toombaru - 16 April 2012 11:40 AM
parmenion - 16 April 2012 11:21 AM

Toombaru,

The problem with your post is that I am aware of how the brain works especially in relation to a-priori causes. With that knowledge and the knowledge of how my wife’s brain works - the query is designed to flesh out how I can consciously resolve the dilemma.

Let us say that I allow my brain to make its own decisions. My wife does something I do not approve of and my brain says beat her up so that she’ll know not to do it again. Or lets say my brain’s wish for control works in a different way knowing their are social ramifications for physical abuse that I decide to layer her with continuous double-binds over the course of our entire relationship so that she is always on edge and can never please me fully. If I know this about the wiring of my brain, or if I know I like to murder does that make me not responsible for those actions? Does that make choice impossible? Does it mean that I cannot try to overcome the wiring I might have had from childhood abuse to become a better person?

I think you will find that responsibility for “enjoying the ride” as Bill Hicks might have said is not just limited to the wiring but what we do with what we know.

You cannot overcome the very wiring out of which you emerge.
You cannot let the brain “make its own decisions”.
The sense of being a separate autonomous “you” arises in the process of the brain’s “choices”.
The brain decides and the person emerges and claims responsibility.
This apperception can only be intuited by the persona.
This understanding cannot be applied one’s own experiential dilemma simply because the sense of self has no existential reality.
“You” are a collage of swirling mnemonic debris.
“You” are a phantom that exists only in the brain’s vast electro-chemical machinery.
“You” are an objectified overlay that has no access to its-self simply because it doesn’t have one.
You are a conceptual homunculus clinging to the frontal cortex of a highly evolved primate brain.
You are no more real than the people in your dream last night.
What can you do about this?”, you ask.
Nothing…...absolutely nothing.
You don’t even have the choice to sit back and enjoy the show.

Oh look…....there’s a hummingbird.


Posted: 22 April 2012 06:44 AM   [ Report ]  [ Ignore ]  [ # 10 ] 
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Hi toombaru,

You did not address all of my questions. You merely stated that you cannot escape your wiring and follow this with a tonne of carte blanche statements that you obviously think are important but which do not answer the questions I put to you.

 

The “problem” is that you are trying to figure out a dilemma that actually creates your personal totality.
You ARE the dilemma.
In other words the sense of being a separate autonomous self arises within the stress of living in a conceptual overlay.
You are a living dream.
You think that you are trying to solve problems that exist in “your life” but the problem with that is you are only attempting to
manipulate things that exist entirely as conceptual constructs within the mind that is struggling.
You create the monsters you are trying to destroy.
You are wired to try to make your life more comfortable but you are merely stacking shadows.
You can plant some corn, shoot arrows at your enemies or build a shelter from the elements;
but you can’t relieve the mind from a stressor that doesn’t exist.
You want peace of mind.
But a peaceful mind is like a still wind.
Neither exist.
You want a magic pill and it is contained in the above statements.
But you won’t look there until there is nowhere else to go.

 

 

 

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Posted: 24 April 2012 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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toombaru,

What is the purpose of your communication?

Do you feel you are succeeding in your purpose?

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Posted: 24 April 2012 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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parmenion - 24 April 2012 11:51 AM

toombaru,

What is the purpose of your communication?

Do you feel you are succeeding in your purpose?


It is known that there is a way to move through this most mysterious awareness that does not depend on an illusory psychological center.
Here it appears as if the conceptual mind is playing in its own thought stream.
It doesn’t care if anyone else understands what is being spoken.
Life, without a little man at the helm is exhilarating and something wants to share that.
It is an invitation to explore the mystery just beyond the defined world and experience the vast openess of simply being.

 

[ Edited: 24 April 2012 05:14 PM by toombaru]
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Posted: 29 April 2012 06:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Toombaru,


I already explained to you that I am aware of the a-priori causes out of which we emerge. You have completely ignored this. You ramble on as if you are aware of some knowledge that I am unaware of despite my stating I am and requesting that you actually write something useful.


You haven’t tried to address any of the matters I raised and you have implied there is no point in ever asking questions given reactions, motivations, opinions etc will be pre-determined and therefore asking questions and indeed having forums to facilitate such knowledge exchange by your logic is completely pointless. You might send a message to Sam on the pointlessness of having a forum on which you have written 296 posts.


To date you have failed to answer any of my queries, even those which were specifically directed at you asking the point of your communication which is very rude. You have instead merely spouted on about what you think is happening when I ask for other people’s opinions on a situation. You specifically state that any thought, action, reaction etc is completely dictated by the wiring of my brain and hence there is not point in asking for other people’s opinions on a matter because what I intend to do is already determined and (in your words), “You cannot overcome the very wiring out of which you emerge.”


A person can overcome their wiring. The mnemonic debris that you call it from which we emerge is a culmination of genetic wiring, environmental influences etc. The more information we put into our brains the more debris that exists from which we emerge. The point of asking questions as a child or adult doesn’t negate an understanding by its nature that we might emerge from what appears to be a void but instead puts more “stuff” into the void to give a greater reservoir of reactions, thoughts opinions etc that will emerge.


Therefore when I ask for the inputs of other respectful members of this forum on a conundrum that will affect me in the future, I am looking for ideas, arguments, trains of thought, possible rebukes etc that I might be able to use in future conversations to reinforce, switch or defend a position, not even necessarily my own, but that of other people who may take a similar or different approach who made need support.


I find your dismissal of the queries being raised and ranting off topic disappointing and unhelpful. It spams what I thought was a good thread for conversation on issues that affect people and you are deliberately going out of your way to make fun of and undermine this.

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Posted: 29 April 2012 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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parmenion - 29 April 2012 06:05 AM

Toombaru,


I already explained to you that I am aware of the a-priori causes out of which we emerge. You have completely ignored this. You ramble on as if you are aware of some knowledge that I am unaware of despite my stating I am and requesting that you actually write something useful.


You haven’t tried to address any of the matters I raised and you have implied there is no point in ever asking questions given reactions, motivations, opinions etc will be pre-determined and therefore asking questions and indeed having forums to facilitate such knowledge exchange by your logic is completely pointless. You might send a message to Sam on the pointlessness of having a forum on which you have written 296 posts.


To date you have failed to answer any of my queries, even those which were specifically directed at you asking the point of your communication which is very rude. You have instead merely spouted on about what you think is happening when I ask for other people’s opinions on a situation. You specifically state that any thought, action, reaction etc is completely dictated by the wiring of my brain and hence there is not point in asking for other people’s opinions on a matter because what I intend to do is already determined and (in your words), “You cannot overcome the very wiring out of which you emerge.”


A person can overcome their wiring. The mnemonic debris that you call it from which we emerge is a culmination of genetic wiring, environmental influences etc. The more information we put into our brains the more debris that exists from which we emerge. The point of asking questions as a child or adult doesn’t negate an understanding by its nature that we might emerge from what appears to be a void but instead puts more “stuff” into the void to give a greater reservoir of reactions, thoughts opinions etc that will emerge.


Therefore when I ask for the inputs of other respectful members of this forum on a conundrum that will affect me in the future, I am looking for ideas, arguments, trains of thought, possible rebukes etc that I might be able to use in future conversations to reinforce, switch or defend a position, not even necessarily my own, but that of other people who may take a similar or different approach who made need support.


I find your dismissal of the queries being raised and ranting off topic disappointing and unhelpful. It spams what I thought was a good thread for conversation on issues that affect people and you are deliberately going out of your way to make fun of and undermine this.

Perhaps you should ignore me…...if you can.
The brain is a highly evolved mechanism whose function is to help the organism survive and reproduce.
The frontal cortex in what is imagine to be you is searching for connections that will help it survive.
It makes sense that the more connections it accumulates, the more successful it will be.
When it discovers a relationship in its physical reality that applies to its survival, it and its entire tribe benefits.
But its entire library that deals with self knowledge is a castle constructed of shadows, simply because the self does not exist.
You are searching or a new combination of your own concepts that will help you make sense out of your personal conceptual separation.
You want a teacher to soothe the tension that comes with being locked in an imaginary box.
You continue to ask questions about something that has no existential reality.
Here your inquiry is seen as equivalent to asking how many angles can fit on the head of a pin or pondering what color the angles are who live on the moon.
(Joseph Smith claimed they were purple.)
There is logical response that can be offered for such ramblings.
No amount of accumulated knowledge concerning the nature of a phantom self can help the sense of I am navigate through what amounts to a conceptual dream.
I have to warn you though…...if you continue to explore the possibility that you don’t exit….....something shocking can occur.


Hey…...have you seen any good movies lately?

grin

 

 

 

 

[ Edited: 29 April 2012 02:49 PM by toombaru]
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