Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

12.31.2015

Here at the End of All Things


Well, no, just the end of another year. An arbitrarily assigned point for reflection and introspection.


In 2016, I resolve to be really, really useful.


Wait, no, not that. Too much Thomas watching with my train-obsessed two-year-old.

And between him and the six-month-old, not much time for proper reflection and introspection.

So, instead, a few self-improvement type sources I consider worthy of consideration. They follow.


Up first, four simple practices that make for a happier life:

  1. Practice Gratitude
  2. Label Negative Emotions
  3. Make Decisions
  4. Touch People

They come from a Business Insider article about brain science, with very abbreviated excerpts:
A Neuroscience Researcher Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happier

Believe it or not, guilt and shame activate the brain's reward center. . . .

In the short term, worrying makes your brain feel a little better . . .

But guilt, shame, and worry are horrible, long-term solutions. So what do neuroscientists say you should do? Ask yourself this question:

What am I grateful for?

Yeah, gratitude is awesome … but does it really affect your brain at the biological level? Yup.

You know what the antidepressant Wellbutrin does? Boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine. So does gratitude. . . .

Know what Prozac does? Boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin. So does gratitude. . . .

I know, sometimes life lands a really mean punch in the gut and it feels like there's nothing to be grateful for. Guess what?

Doesn't matter. You don't have to find anything. It's the searching that counts. . . .

You feel awful. OK, give that awfulness a name. Sad? Anxious? Angry?

Boom. It's that simple. Sound stupid? Your noggin disagrees. . . .

Suppressing emotions doesn't work and can backfire on you. . . .

Here's the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion. . . . .

Ever make a decision and then your brain finally feels at rest? That's no random occurrence.

Brain science shows that making decisions reduces worry and anxiety — as well as helping you solve problems. . . .

Make a "good enough" decision. Don't sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful. And brain studies back this up. . . .

So when you make a decision, your brain feels you have control. And, as I’ve talked about before, a feeling of control reduces stress. But here’s what’s really fascinating: Deciding also boosts pleasure. . . .

We need to feel love and acceptance from others. When we don't it's painful. And I don't mean "awkward" or "disappointing." I mean actually painful. . . .

Subjects' brains responded the same way as if they experienced physical pain. Rejection doesn't just hurt like a broken heart; your brain feels it like a broken leg. . . .

Touching is incredibly powerful. We just don't give it enough credit. It makes you more persuasive, increases team performance, improves your flirting … heck, it even boosts math skills.

Touching someone you love actually reduces pain. In fact, when studies were done on married couples, the stronger the marriage, the more powerful the effect. . . .

Don't have anyone to hug right now? No? (I'm sorry to hear that. I would give you a hug right now if I could.) But there's an answer: Neuroscience says you should go get a massage. . . .
A very different path toward self-improvement--not toward happiness but toward pragmatic genius--comes from Wait But Why, a typically very long essay, so a very spotty abridgement that just barely scratches the surface of the full piece's wisdom:
The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

The dude is a steel-bending industrial giant in America in a time when there aren’t supposed to be steel-bending industrial giants in America, igniting revolutions in huge, old industries that aren’t supposed to be revolutionable. . . .

If it were just Musk’s money or intelligence or ambition or good intentions that made him so capable, there would be more Elon Musks out there. No, it’s something else—what TED curator Chris Anderson called Musk’s “secret sauce”—and for me, this series became a mission to figure it out. . . .

The thing that tantalized me is that this secret sauce is actually accessible to everyone and right there in front of us—if we can just wrap our heads around it. Mulling this all over has legitimately affected the way I think about my life, my future, and the choices I make—and I’m going to try my best in this post to explain why. . . .

Musk sees people as computers, and he sees his brain software as the most important product he owns—and since there aren’t companies out there designing brain software, he designed his own, beta tests it every day, and makes constant updates. That’s why he’s so outrageously effective, why he can disrupt multiple huge industries at once, why he can learn so quickly, strategize so cleverly, and visualize the future so clearly. . . .

The difference between the way Elon thinks and the way most people think is kind of like the difference between a cook and a chef. . . .

How to Be a Chef
Epiphany 1) You don’t know shit.
Epiphany 2) No one else knows shit either.
Epiphany 3) You’re playing Grand Theft Life.

So if we want to think like a scientist more often in life, those are the three key objectives—to be humbler about what we know, more confident about what’s possible, and less afraid of things that don’t matter. . . .
That list of epiphanies, at least the first part of it, brings to mind another "key to happiness" essay I shared recently in the post Discover Mark Manson. In a small way, it ties the two previous thoughts together.
THE SOLUTION TO ALL OF YOUR LIFE’S PROBLEMS

STEP 1: CHOOSE A SET OF BELIEFS THAT CANNOT BE EASILY PROVEN OR DISPROVEN

STEP 2: PRE-EMPTIVELY INVALIDATE ALL CRITICISM OR QUESTIONING

STEP 3: FIND YOUR PEOPLE

STEP 4: CREATE AN “US VS THEM” MENTALITY

STEP 5: PROMISE HEAVEN, DELIVER HELL

STEP 6: PROFIT

This may all make you laugh. It may make you cry. It may make you want to beat me over the head with a tire iron. But the sad thing is that nothing that I have described in this article so far is particularly extraordinary or uncommon. It happens all the time. It’s happening right now.

We’re humans. We all need to buy into belief systems on complete faith. We all need to feel some form of an “us vs them” mentality. We all want to believe that eternal happiness, salvation, utopia, enlightenment or whatever can be achieved in our lifetime. And we all have this unnerving feeling that everything we love and appreciate will one day collapse and be taken from us. . . .

Enlightenment thinkers such as Locke and Voltaire believed that, as humans, the only way to combat our inherently cultish nature was to exercise our use of reason in wide scale decision-making, and that tolerance, pluralism, and inclusion were inherently better values than the alternatives.

It’s upon these ideas that pretty much the entire modern world was founded and they have survived, despite the fact that they are consistently attacked both from within and without their own societies. . . .

The only real way out of our own self-hatred and self-destructive nature is not declaring how right we are, but rather in accepting how wrong we are. It comes in questioning those base instincts, those knee-jerk judgments. It comes in the courage to question our most closely-held beliefs and fight against the tyranny of our own certainty.

And paradoxically, it’s out of this new uncertainty that the rays of self-acceptance shine through.
And, to continue the chain of associations, that brings to mind a TED Talk about love. From the transcript:
Love - You're Doing It Wrong

On the free market of individual desires, I negotiate my value every day. Hence the anxiety of contemporary man. He is obsessed: "Am I desirable? How desirable? How many people are going to love me?" And how does he respond to this anxiety? Well, by hysterically collecting symbols of desirability. (Laughter)

I call this act of collecting, along with others, seduction capital. Indeed, our consumer society is largely based on seduction capital. It is said about this consumption that our age is materialistic. But it's not true! We only accumulate objects in order to communicate with other minds. We do it to make them love us, to seduce them. Nothing could be less materialistic, or more sentimental, than a teenager buying brand new jeans and tearing them at the knees, because he wants to please Jennifer. (Laughter) Consumerism is not materialism. It is rather what is swallowed up and sacrificed in the name of the god of love, or rather in the name of seduction capital. . . .

Another path to thinking about love may be possible. But how? How to renounce the hysterical need to be valued? Well, by becoming aware of my uselessness. (Laughter) Yes, I'm useless. But rest assured: so are you. (Laughter) (Applause)

We are all useless. This uselessness is easily demonstrated, because in order to be valued I need another to desire me, which shows that I do not have any value of my own. I don't have any inherent value. We all pretend to have an idol; we all pretend to be an idol for someone else, but actually we are all impostors, a bit like a man on the street who appears totally cool and indifferent, while he has actually anticipated and calculated so that all eyes are on him.

I think that becoming aware of this general imposture that concerns all of us would ease our love relationships. . . .

I call upon tenderness -- love as tenderness. What is tenderness? To be tender is to accept the loved one's weaknesses. . . .

If nothing else--if self-improvement is too grand an undertaking and survival is all that can be managed--there's always this:
So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You

 . . . The Keller family illustrates what may prove to be one of the most striking shifts in human existence — a change from small, relatively weak and sickly people to humans who are so big and robust that their ancestors seem almost unrecognizable.

New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone “a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth.”

The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in the human form. It shows up in several ways, from those that are well known and almost taken for granted, like greater heights and longer lives, to ones that are emerging only from comparisons of health records.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to. There is also less disability among older people today, according to a federal study that directly measures it. And that is not just because medical treatments like cataract surgery keep people functioning. Human bodies are simply not breaking down the way they did before. . . . 
So, see? Even as you don't know shit, are inherently wrong and useless, you are improving on the past simply by existing.


The only thing you really get to figure out after a lifetime of study is that there's more stuff to figure out. Frustrating and enlightening at the same time.
 ~ Jasper Fforde, The Song of the Quarkbeast


It's so lovely to be lovely to the one I love.
 ~ Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places

1 Comments:

At 12/31/2015 2:20 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

http://markmanson.net/stop-trying-to-be-happy

. . . Happiness is the process of becoming your ideal self

Completing a marathon makes us happier than eating a chocolate cake. Raising a child makes us happier than beating a video game. Starting a small business with friends and struggling to make money makes us happier than buying a new computer.

And the funny thing is that all three of the activities above are exceedingly unpleasant and require setting high expectations and potentially failing to always meet them. Yet, they are some of the most meaningful moments and activities of our lives. They involve pain, struggle, even anger and despair, yet once we’ve done them we look back and get misty-eyed about them.

Why?

Because it’s these sort of activities which allow us to become our ideal selves. It’s the perpetual pursuit of fulfilling our ideal selves which grants us happiness, regardless of superficial pleasures or pain, regardless of positive or negative emotions. This is why some people are happy in war and others are sad at weddings. It’s why some are excited to work and others hate parties. The traits they’re inhabiting don’t align with their ideal selves.

The end results don’t define our ideal selves. It’s not finishing the marathon that makes us happy, it’s achieving a difficult long-term goal that does. It’s not having an awesome kid to show off that makes us happy, but knowing that you gave yourself up to the growth of another human being that is special. It’s not the prestige and money from the new business that makes you happy, it’s the process of overcoming all odds with people you care about. . . .

 

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