The Courage To Need Little

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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17 September 2012 07:18
 

Or, The Gluttony Of Significance. Shermer writes about this in terms of a sort of logical fallacy. Essentially, reading into things for no reason beyond distilled narcissism. I’d say it applies to nearly every superstition and religion I’m aware of. At least in the western hemisphere.

On the one hand, its fairly apparent to me that this a poor approach in terms of problem solving. Assuming that a malfunctioning automobile has a secret grudge against its owner simply won’t help in the repair.

I imagine most forum member will concur with that much. But we do need SOME significance right? Per several nihilism threads I’m fairly certain that I do.

Often its a matter of courtesy. A clarinet solo in the dark is extremely moving for me in ways I cannot fully describe to you. So, I just don’t. I let you enjoy your football game and nachos in the knowledge that you gain something comparable from that experience. We share what we can and keep to ourselves those things that simply don’t benefit from the sharing. Easy enough?

But I wonder if there is a deeper analysis available? Is quasi-spiritual/numinous/significant experience analogous to nutrition perhaps? Is there an optimum degree and orientation that maximizes the benefits of significance? I’m certain that many people overdose. Is it als possible to starve?

I find that I really respect people who are thrifty. In all things. Including the natural hunger to be connected with the universe. Folks who deliberately satisfy these common urges in simple, no invasive ways. I think one lesson to take from the variety of religions on offer is just how plastic the human capacity to find meaning is. And just how selfish it is to impose one isolated perspective upon everyone else.

 
SkepticX
 
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SkepticX
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17 September 2012 11:11
 
Brick Bungalow - 17 September 2012 05:18 AM

Or, The Gluttony Of Significance. Shermer writes about this in terms of a sort of logical fallacy. Essentially, reading into things for no reason beyond distilled narcissism. I’d say it applies to nearly every superstition and religion I’m aware of. At least in the western hemisphere.

On the one hand, its fairly apparent to me that this a poor approach in terms of problem solving. Assuming that a malfunctioning automobile has a secret grudge against its owner simply won’t help in the repair.

I imagine most forum member will concur with that much. But we do need SOME significance right? Per several nihilism threads I’m fairly certain that I do.


The simple and profound fact is that we’re significant only to each other.

I think if we could really recognize that on a large scale, and fully appreciate its significance, we’d be far better off as a species. We’d also satisfy our need for significance, and in a very concrete and tangible sense. Ironically it’s the attempt to produce an easy, amped up fix that denies it to us in but a tiny dose, which significance junkies misconstrue as the best significance hit there is.

We have to counterintuitively embrace our True Insignificance in the Grand Scheme of Things in order to access our only True Significance ... and when we make that connection it’s pretty damn powerful. It’s what believers are really accessing in their communal religious experiences. It’s really about the community, not the presumed god to which believers defer and misattribute it.

That’s what I think may be the most tragic aspect of standard issue religious belief—it robs us of our natural communal connection with each other, makes it all the more tribal and divisive, and leaves us with a significantly diminished, often self-loathing perception of ourselves and each other.

There’s nothing at all mystical or wooish about any of that—it’s just what happens when a social species’ natural cohesion is developed in big brains, really. But to put it into woo terms: Religion claims our souls, gives us the slightest taste of them, convinces us that’s the best we can possibly hope for, (How would we know any better?) and keeps us hooked on the paltry bits it parcels out in shots of spiritual vinegar (the exclusionary ugliness we attach to our self-limited sense of community—this is the result of using the faux authority of Religion to justify and validate our Dark Side). Sorry. I know that’s pretty sappy, but it’s what you should expect when you translate something so meaningful into woo.

 
 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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17 September 2012 14:19
 
SkepticX - 17 September 2012 09:11 AM
Brick Bungalow - 17 September 2012 05:18 AM

Or, The Gluttony Of Significance. Shermer writes about this in terms of a sort of logical fallacy. Essentially, reading into things for no reason beyond distilled narcissism. I’d say it applies to nearly every superstition and religion I’m aware of. At least in the western hemisphere.

On the one hand, its fairly apparent to me that this a poor approach in terms of problem solving. Assuming that a malfunctioning automobile has a secret grudge against its owner simply won’t help in the repair.

I imagine most forum member will concur with that much. But we do need SOME significance right? Per several nihilism threads I’m fairly certain that I do.


The simple and profound fact is that we’re significant only to each other.

I think if we could really recognize that on a large scale, and fully appreciate its significance, we’d be far better off as a species. We’d also satisfy our need for significance, and in a very concrete and tangible sense. Ironically it’s the attempt to produce an easy, amped up fix that denies it to us in but a tiny dose, which significance junkies misconstrue as the best significance hit there is.

We have to counterintuitively embrace our True Insignificance in the Grand Scheme of Things in order to access our only True Significance ... and when we make that connection it’s pretty damn powerful. It’s what believers are really accessing in their communal religious experiences. It’s really about the community, not the presumed god to which believers defer and misattribute it.

That’s what I think may be the most tragic aspect of standard issue religious belief—it robs us of our natural communal connection with each other, makes it all the more tribal and divisive, and leaves us with a significantly diminished, often self-loathing perception of ourselves and each other.

There’s nothing at all mystical or wooish about any of that—it’s just what happens when a social species’ natural cohesion is developed in big brains, really. But to put it into woo terms: Religion claims our souls, gives us the slightest taste of them, convinces us that’s the best we can possibly hope for, (How would we know any better?) and keeps us hooked on the paltry bits it parcels out in shots of spiritual vinegar (the exclusionary ugliness we attach to our self-limited sense of community—this is the result of using the faux authority of Religion to justify and validate our Dark Side). Sorry. I know that’s pretty sappy, but it’s what you should expect when you translate something so meaningful into woo.

IIRC (and I might not be) there has been some recent research that demonstrates how we’re inclined to created small groups (troups) of selected-kin.

We may intellectually acknowledge connection to larger groups - even so far as toward a global equality of import, but on a day-to-day basis, we seek ‘closeness’ with a relatively small group of people - whether they be actual blood-kin, selected-(friends)-kin, or selected-(social congregation)-kin, there appears to be a fairly normalized range of close-associations that most people maintain.

It is entirely possible that stretching beyond these comfort-zones can engender some emotional triggers in our brain physiology, resulting in symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to even more dramatic responses.

I wish I had a link to share….as I may be mis-remembering the article I read.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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17 September 2012 15:10
 
Jefe - 17 September 2012 12:19 PM

It is entirely possible that stretching beyond these comfort-zones can engender some emotional triggers in our brain physiology, resulting in symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to even more dramatic responses.


Or the release of endorphins and things like that, perhaps.

I think of it more in terms of an inclusive group-to-group connection at the larger scale though.

 
 
can zen
 
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can zen
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17 September 2012 16:17
 

I find your post very provocative Brick . . .  there’s a lot to think about here.

Brick Bungalow - 17 September 2012 05:18 AM

But I wonder if there is a deeper analysis available? Is quasi-spiritual/numinous/significant experience analogous to nutrition perhaps? Is there an optimum degree and orientation that maximizes the benefits of significance? I’m certain that many people overdose. Is it als possible to starve?

I’m reminded here of N/A’s reference in another thread to a ‘longing’ that is brought out in him when listening to a certain piece of music . . . and I wonder, what is the longing for?  Is it significance, is it a connectedness? Is it meaning? Is it a combination of all three? A person can even get esoteric and wonder if the condition of longing is itself the experience of significance/connectedness/meaning - in which case when you feel it, then you have somehow accomplished the task or satisfied the need?

I certainly agree that people can and do overdose on these hungers when they discover something that seems to fill their void. 

I find that I really respect people who are thrifty. In all things. Including the natural hunger to be connected with the universe. Folks who deliberately satisfy these common urges in simple, non invasive ways. I think one lesson to take from the variety of religions on offer is just how plastic the human capacity to find meaning is. And just how selfish it is to impose one isolated perspective upon everyone else.

That’s why it seems to me that those religions who actively recruit are, in a sense, admitting that the hunger is NOT satisfied through their beliefs but rather it has morphed into a different kind of hunger; a hunger that requires a total adherence of all of humanity. Christianity and Islam are both guilty of this and it is stated many times in many different ways in their scriptures.

 
 
burt
 
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burt
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17 September 2012 19:08
 
can zen - 17 September 2012 02:17 PM

I find your post very provocative Brick . . .  there’s a lot to think about here.

Brick Bungalow - 17 September 2012 05:18 AM

But I wonder if there is a deeper analysis available? Is quasi-spiritual/numinous/significant experience analogous to nutrition perhaps? Is there an optimum degree and orientation that maximizes the benefits of significance? I’m certain that many people overdose. Is it als possible to starve?

I’m reminded here of N/A’s reference in another thread to a ‘longing’ that is brought out in him when listening to a certain piece of music . . . and I wonder, what is the longing for?  Is it significance, is it a connectedness? Is it meaning? Is it a combination of all three? A person can even get esoteric and wonder if the condition of longing is itself the experience of significance/connectedness/meaning - in which case when you feel it, then you have somehow accomplished the task or satisfied the need?

I certainly agree that people can and do overdose on these hungers when they discover something that seems to fill their void. 

I find that I really respect people who are thrifty. In all things. Including the natural hunger to be connected with the universe. Folks who deliberately satisfy these common urges in simple, non invasive ways. I think one lesson to take from the variety of religions on offer is just how plastic the human capacity to find meaning is. And just how selfish it is to impose one isolated perspective upon everyone else.

That’s why it seems to me that those religions who actively recruit are, in a sense, admitting that the hunger is NOT satisfied through their beliefs but rather it has morphed into a different kind of hunger; a hunger that requires a total adherence of all of humanity. Christianity and Islam are both guilty of this and it is stated many times in many different ways in their scriptures.

 

In the Ridhwan school of spiritual development, founded by A.A. Almaas, this point of a “hunger” is strongly emphasized.  Have to admit that I’m not associated with or know much about this group in detail, but do have several acquaintances who have been involved.  As I understand from conversations, the hunger can manifest in different ways, and is at the core of the mechanical ego-processes.  It can also be responded to in a variety of ways some of which are self-destructive, some are socially destructive, and some can lead in directions of growth.  I recall reading a Sufi anecdote where a dervish complained that he continually called out to God and hungered for a response, only to be told that that hunger itself was the response.  I think this connects with Diotima’s lecture to Socrates in The Symposium as well.

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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17 September 2012 20:51
 

I’m admitting openly that spiritual experience probably differs from person to person. Certainly descriptions differ. As do extrapolations and reactions.

What sort of convergence is really possible if that’s the case?

If a person is truly, sincerely committed to the notion that their private reflections are a license to manipulate others- Or perhaps worse, that this experience necessitates acting as the passive counterpart- Quite literally ‘sheep’ in many cases. This idea of surrender seems ubiquitious to monotheisms that are otherwise at irreducible odds with one another. This suggests an epiphenomenon that is not simply the product of suggestion. Something that occurs and will occur regardless of specific indoctrination. I suspect this because of examples that extend past religion. All sorts of other institutions that stress collectivism and sacrifice to group interests. And even my own experience in such cooperatives. There seems to be something very deep and ingrained… pre-rational… about why people are validated by surrender and fealty.

How does an emerging movement that elevates evidence as primary confront such appetites?

[ Edited: 17 September 2012 20:58 by Brick Bungalow]
 
burt
 
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burt
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18 September 2012 04:48
 
Brick Bungalow - 17 September 2012 06:51 PM

I’m admitting openly that spiritual experience probably differs from person to person. Certainly descriptions differ. As do extrapolations and reactions.

What sort of convergence is really possible if that’s the case?

If a person is truly, sincerely committed to the notion that their private reflections are a license to manipulate others- Or perhaps worse, that this experience necessitates acting as the passive counterpart- Quite literally ‘sheep’ in many cases. This idea of surrender seems ubiquitious to monotheisms that are otherwise at irreducible odds with one another. This suggests an epiphenomenon that is not simply the product of suggestion. Something that occurs and will occur regardless of specific indoctrination. I suspect this because of examples that extend past religion. All sorts of other institutions that stress collectivism and sacrifice to group interests. And even my own experience in such cooperatives. There seems to be something very deep and ingrained… pre-rational… about why people are validated by surrender and fealty.

How does an emerging movement that elevates evidence as primary confront such appetites?

We’re primates and primates have dominance hierarchies.  I suspect that for us humans it also relates to our ability to imitate.  Think of teenagers imitating current movie heros or such.  About 10 years ago I came across a news story that Korean computer entrepreneurs were dressing like Bill Gates because they thought it would help them succeed.  Also, the line up for comforting lies is much longer than that for inconvenient truths….

 
SkepticX
 
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18 September 2012 10:18
 

One of the more accessible manifestations of the “connection” I’m talking about between us is group hypnosis. I’m skeptical about some of the “findings”, but whatever’s really going on there is the Dark Side of what I’m on about up there, a few posts or so up.

 
 
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18 September 2012 10:58
 

SKEP: ... the most tragic aspect of standard issue religious belief—it robs us of our natural communal connection with each other, makes it all the more tribal and divisive, and leaves us with a significantly diminished, often self-loathing perception of ourselves and each other.

Now that’s the nut of the matter! And I think your points about our insignificance, and on finding whatever significance we actually can have, are excellent. I have a family comprised of myself, my partner and our two dogs. In that little group of genetically and familiarly unrelated individuals we find deep significance. And it’s probably the only significance we’re ever really going to find. It IS enough, though, once we accept it’s value. People need to forget nonsensical everlasting significance in some fairy tale land in the sky. That is just an emotional fox hole provided by religion to which people run in horror at our overall insignificance. It’s childish and, as you say, (and as we’ve seen recently) becomes highly divisive which, in the modern world, is the last thing we need.

[ Edited: 18 September 2012 11:03 by robbrownsyd]
 
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18 September 2012 19:33
 
SkepticX - 17 September 2012 09:11 AM

The simple and profound fact is that we’re significant only to each other.

...

We have to counterintuitively embrace our True Insignificance in the Grand Scheme of Things in order to access our only True Significance ... and when we make that connection it’s pretty damn powerful.

I think that’s pretty darned profound, X, and I couldn’t have said it better. In that, I don’t perceive a measure of gluttony or thrift, but one of balance. As long as this realization is maintained in stasis, a dangerous state of overly self-inflation, or a serious depletion of self-esteem should be held in balance with both realizations constantly assessible, and no need to search for and create a supernatural that would supercede it.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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18 September 2012 20:33
 
SkepticX - 18 September 2012 08:18 AM

One of the more accessible manifestations of the “connection” I’m talking about between us is group hypnosis. I’m skeptical about some of the “findings”, but whatever’s really going on there is the Dark Side of what I’m on about up there, a few posts or so up.

My feeling and my experience (I have no argument) is that the ‘self’ itself is a hypnotic state. The idea of independence or self reliance seems to require nearly as much creative re-wiring as anything we might traditionally regard as superstition. Human beings are mammals that survive by group organization. And human minds (I argue) as we know them are the product of an analogous cooperation. Any brilliant flash of insight I might have depends on the manipulation of this inheritance. And the value of my contribution similarly depends on how constructed concepts bounce off the sense organs of my fellow primates. The Individual has some purchase an ethical concept but its entirely abstract. A useful fiction but most definitely a fiction.

I think that thrift might be analagous across a range of resources. The value a group places on reciprocal altruism in practical, material matters can be tracked onto intellectual and spiritual goods as well. We can, for the sake of the group, satisfy ourselves with a little self affirmation than we might optimally prefer.

 
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18 September 2012 23:47
 
Brick Bungalow - 17 September 2012 06:51 PM

I’m admitting openly that spiritual experience probably differs from person to person. Certainly descriptions differ. As do extrapolations and reactions.

What sort of convergence is really possible if that’s the case?

If a person is truly, sincerely committed to the notion that their private reflections are a license to manipulate others- Or perhaps worse, that this experience necessitates acting as the passive counterpart- Quite literally ‘sheep’ in many cases. This idea of surrender seems ubiquitious to monotheisms that are otherwise at irreducible odds with one another. This suggests an epiphenomenon that is not simply the product of suggestion. Something that occurs and will occur regardless of specific indoctrination. I suspect this because of examples that extend past religion. All sorts of other institutions that stress collectivism and sacrifice to group interests. And even my own experience in such cooperatives. There seems to be something very deep and ingrained… pre-rational… about why people are validated by surrender and fealty.

How does an emerging movement that elevates evidence as primary confront such appetites?


You are describing the Great Beast. it has no ability, need, or intention to change. There has always been emerging movements. Then they adapt into another movement and then another following nature’s cycles. It is the nature of the Beast. The Beast cannot change any more than the leopard can change its spots.