Another way to decide

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
— A. Einstein (plausible, but not a real quote [QI])

“Can I really trust my desires?  In this exercise, we explore release from habits of self-rejection, self-forcing, conditional self-approval—the campaign to be a good person.”
— C. Eisenstein (also not quite a direct quote)

Civilization has bequathed me a rational ethic.
Civilization has robbed me of my animal soul.

Uprooted is my intuition. Transplanted is obsessive ratiocination.

The robin wakes without an alarm.
The squirrel finds last summer’s squirrelings without a searchable database.
The turtle does not negotiate with herself to decide if he has exercised sufficiently today.
Busy beaver completes the project on schedule without budgeting her time.
The dog licks his private parts in public.
My cat does not count calories, nor consult the clock to know if it is time to eat.
Her body is sleek perfection.

Cilization has given me inner authority,
self-control, and rebellion against control.

I can construct an argument as needed,
convincing myself that (sometimes)
playing hooky can be a virtue.

Someone inside me knows what to do.
Maybe I can devise a plan: “Daily discipline restores inner wisdom.”
Stop thinking.

— Josh Mitteldorf


What’s the opposite of waiting?

Active engagement in the moment.

Why would we choose a stance of waiting for it to be over?

Because we would rather not experience discomfort in the present.

What’s wrong with that?

What’s wrong with that?

Notice your habits, and sometimes they will be replaced by choices, even without your asserting a willful intervention.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Self-serving advice?

All paradoxes intrigue me, but the one I find most delicious is not that in seeking one’s own gratification one finds only ennui, while lasting fulfillment may be found in seeking to gratify others, but rather that in commending this lesson to you, I am inviting you to provide me gratification, for your elevation at my expense.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Gee, the world is in terrible shape…

The reasoned despair of the intellectual is a disease born of one part cowardice, one part intellectual arrogance, and eight parts depression.  Surely every deeply thinking person must realize that the world is far too full of surprises for us to form with any confidence a view of the future even a few  years hence, least of all one bereft of hope.  The remedy for despair is vigorous exercise, meditation, and reaching out to create loving connections with nature and other imperfect humans. The remedy for intellectual arrogance is to open one’s eyes and on’s mind. There is no remedy for cowardice.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Don’t let your hormones dictate your metaphysics

I’m on a tramway, dropping from the sky
When I look down, my heart jumps in my throat
It’s only right—I’m not a mountain goat
My fear response knows well I cannot fly.

And just the thought of my mortality
Evokes instinctive terror, like a fall.
I think: surely it is the end of all—
A silent, black, black void—I’ll cease to be.

But Darwin tells us why these hormones rage:
They served our forbears in another age,
When bursts of strength and speed could save our genes.
(Natural selection’s good at counting beans.)

It’s epinephrine hijacks our best smarts
But visceral fear was never meant to be
Our astrolabe to map reality—
For that, we must consult our heads and hearts.

Despite their power, hormones are no guide
To what awaits us on the other side.
We cannot know what afterlife might be,
But here and now, can savour mystery.

— Josh Mitteldorf

A conscious choice

Accept that most of your beliefs have been inculcated either by social osmosis or the propaganda of social engineers who do not have your best interest at heart.  Seek consciously to dispel or to transmute such beliefs as are not supported by direct empirical evidence, especially when they have no salutary effect on your wellbeing.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Begin by asking which of my beliefs happen to be convenient for the rich and powerful?