March 20, 2009

All the Fools Will Understand

I read recently that the way to stay happy is to not think about the past or the future, and I have to admit reading that did make me momentarily happy, because it made me just laugh out loud. In this author's picture of how happiness works, he seems to imagine we can all achieve a pristine and unencumbered state of pure selfness. But wouldn't that take an unwavering will, and a sky-high dose of narcissism, to only think about the present, your own present? 
I doubt this is even possible to sustain, least not for actual grown-ups. Or people who don't run bailed-out investment banks. Its not even chimpanzee-possible.
I also read recently a brief interview with philosopher Alva Noe where he describes his approach to thinking about thinking: "The classical picture of our human predicament is that we're all interiority and the world as far as we know is nothing but a source of impingement. We're bombarded with sensory stimulation, and insofar as we occupy a world with an independent existence and other people, all that is really sort of conjecture; we're trapped inside the caverns of our conscious mind. I'm offering a different picture, where the world and the others around us come first, and we are spread out and plugged in and implicated." So, in his "different" picture of how consciousness works, we are all...responsible?
Well hello, Professor Noe. Welcome to connected-to-others-land. 
Lately there have been too few representatives from that land on the national stage (or at least getting coverage in the press) and too much analysis of those who have been shoved out of their "self-matters" reverie and find themselves suddenly, shockingly implicated in the human condition. Coupled with this is the silly mantra of "specialness" that seems to be repeated about these types, particularly when defending extraordinary pay for their money skills. 
Obviously I am not in finance, and given my chosen profession, one can rightly assume that I am generally unmotivated by material gain. So, to that argument, I offer the words of a much more enlightened ambassador from connected-to-others land, Richard P. Feynman: "I don't believe that there are a few peculiar people capable of understanding math, and the rest of the world is normal. Math is a human discovery, and it's no more complicated than humans can understand. I had a calculus book once that said, 'What one fool can do, another can.'  What we've been able to work out about nature may look abstract and threatening to someone who hasn't studied it, but it was fools who did it, and in the next generation, all the fools will understand it."

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