Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Numbing Out

Apparently cause and effect are an illusion, a projection of the mind. I'm not convinced, largely for lack of trying, but I kind of see what is got at. Because B follows A we supply a cause, causation is actually a conscious attempt to build predictive models. When watching a film the motion is an illusion, we are perceiving a 'moving picture' beause one static image is followed rapidly by another static image but the arc of motion is supplied by our mind. When watching an anvil fall through the sky in a cartoon gravity is not in effect, our perception is.

I do believe in a deterministic universe though where as complex and random as life seems, we are really just a witness to a very convoluted setup of falling dominoes. Deprived of a vantage point to ascertain most designs.

But we can percieve some, even, like gravity, without understanding it. as our confidence in probabilities decreases eg. it looks like it will rain, but who could say if and when it will. cause and effect starts to very much take on a superstitious nature.

I suspect it's our superstition around cause and effect, or causal relationships that bring about the society wide inclination to numbing - specifically most people have an unconscious belief that if they can eliminate the effect, then the cause ceases to exist.

This is all sounding very esoteric, even to me. Let's get specific.

You have a stressful day at work. You get home, and have a glass of wine to take the edge off. Your mind slows and stills, you feel better. Almost as if you have undone the stresses of the day. And what if tomorrow very much resembles today? It's okay because literally 'at the end of the day' you can numb out the experience of all your tomorrows with the stress relieving medication.

Which is to say, most of us have a fairly systemic lifestyle. The system that can be called our lifestyle systematically produces stress. We then append another system on top of that to cope with the stress of our day to day lives.

For me, this ordinary stress is hard to notice. It's present in a baseline way, such that until I practiced a meditation - one that was guided and directed me to notice tension and release it in my body, I was not aware how much facial muscles were tensed day to day.

I would be remiss to overlook that a routine of meditation can be a numbing system. If one sets aside twenty minutes a day to 'release' or 'undo' tension accumulated from your daily routine, you (or I) are only further along the spectrum from somebody needing a scotch to take the edge off.

Not that there aren't meaningful differences along that spectrum.

But this is distinct from addiction which I harp on about but would actually struggle to define. There's a common ground but numbing is more akin to the quality control sense of the word 'Tampering'.

Which is to say, attempting to fix a problem to the opposite effect. Tampering too I find hard to define though, wikipedia isn't much help. Think of it this way, you have an infected tooth causing you continuous pain. Tampering would be to take strong painkillers adding a new daily process to maintain prior comfort levels, treating the pain so to speak. Pulling the tooth out would address the source of pain.

Note that the painkillers though do not address the underlying causes, the infection. The problem in a fashion, goes unchecked. So while tampering in this example treats the pain it does in the long run kill you prematurely.

What of simply working 40 hours a week in a stressful job? Here I personally am not even in the middle of an experiment. I can't really draw any conclusions because my career as an artist is yet to pan out, and that's a career so variable that it's hard to look to precedent. I'm sure in 20-30 years time whatever outcome I'll be confident enough to find more regular career paths to serve as a fair comparison to what my life could have been like. In the meantime though I just have my intuition.

Really that intuition should be self evident, persisting as an artist takes conscious commitment. It is not a routine you can slip into, unlike a salaried position. If I did not believe I was gaining more than I sacrificed, I could not recommit to the artistic pursuit.

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