Lately I’ve been reflecting on the psychological concept of ‘security’, and have found some interesting discoveries.
The past few weeks I’ve been greatly impressed by Buddhist philosophy. The more I think on it, the more I seem to believe what they teach is true.
I will requote some of the text from a previous entry of mine now (From H.G. Wells explanation of Buddhism):
“All the miseries and discontents of life he [Buddha] traces to insatiable selfishness. Suffering, he teaches, is due to the craving individuality, to the torment of greedy desire. Until a man has overcome every sort of personal craving his life is trouble and his end sorrow. There are three principal forms the craving of life takes, and all are evil. The first is the desire to gratify the senses, senusousness. The second is the desire for personal immortality. The third is the desire for prosperity, worldliness. All these must be overcome–that is to say, a man must no longer be living for himself — before life can become serene. But when they are indeed overcome and no longer rule a man’s life, when the first-personal pronoun has vanished from his private thoughts, then he has reached the higher wisdom, Nirvana, serenity of soul.”
I’d like to elaborate upon two of these points:
1. Desire for Immortality
2. Desire for Propserity
As I’ve been pondering on Buddha’s three main sources of suffering for the past weeks I’ve come to find that these two particular points are designed to cure the mind of the normal suffering brought about by unpleasant change. He gives the cure for the desire of security.
I’ve been reading Simund Freud lately, and I’ve been psychoanalyzing myself, particularly in the areas of my mind which I have issues which bring me pain. I’ll tell you all about some of these things now:
Overall, change is a difficult concept for me. Everything in this life seems very ephemeral, and I try to hold on to things longer than I probably should. I tend to reflect on my past childhood, which was very good, and miss a lot of my old friends.
New friends I make seem to go in cycles. Initially we meet and hang out. Then we get involved and do things together, in an active friendship. Then some time period elapses, and based on events in their lives (going to college, getting married, new job/career choice, etc) the relationship seems to dwindle to little to nothing. Eventually the friendship boils down to getting together infrequently to talk about the “good times”. I treasure these old friends, but oftentimes seem incapable to keep ahold of them, as life in general seems to pull them away. The friendships rarely if ever end in fighting, they mainly just fizzle out.
Another issue I think on is death. I care little about sexual attraction, good looks, or the like, so I don’t mind getting older. In fact, I actually look forward to it. But death is another issue. I hate seeing my parents and grandparents get older. I was in the emergency room, and watched my Uncle Layton flat-line. I even see myself aging. This isn’t meant to be “emo”, I’m simply acknowledging a fact of life we all deal with – our loved ones will all eventually die. We try to enjoy those we love as long as we can, but ultimately we’re powerless to keep hold on them. Death will steal them.
Over the past years, a lot of my philosophy toward life has been completely rooted in the finding of “bases”. A “basis” is the core underlying principle behind whatever is in question. For example, the laws of physics are ‘bases’ of the motion of objects.
When I psychoanalyzed myself I found that this entire philosophy was birthed in fear of change. The search for ‘bases’ is my own personal search for what I can rely upon while I’m alive. It’s a frantic attempt to find something solid, as opposed to everything else that is ephemeral and transitory. A basis is that which stays the same through change.
You may have heard one of my goals, in that after TDP begins selling next year, and I save up the final money I’m needing for my cabin, I plan to buy a huge chunk of land out in the country and build a cabin.
You may have heard me say, “I’m going to have land as far as the eye can see.” When I began to think about this, I wondered, “Why do I crave this?” Upon psychoanalyzing myself I found the answer.
A while back I walked through the woods and creek where I used to play growing up, and have found it all bulldozed down. The woods I played in have been cut down, and ugly apartment buildings have been placed there instead. The water-hole I fished in no longer exists.
Why must I get rich, buy a huge chunk of land, and have my own cabin out there? It’s so this does not happen again. I am trying to find security. I want a home where intruders cannot invade and take what I love and value. If the land is mine, they cannot come and destroy my trees, or bulldoze my creek. It’s just as Freud teaches – I have childhood angers and frustrations which have since been repressed and have created unconscious motivations for wealth and security.
I also wondered why I seem restless to keep studying things continually. Why I’m oftentimes lost in reflection and disconnected from the moment. Once again, it’s rooted in a search for security. After all, there’s no time to dilly-dally, I need to be studying or even what little I have will be stolen from me.
I’m a very neat and organized person. I found this is rooted in a search for security. I don’t want to lose anything valuable. The thought of wanting something and it not being there abhors me. I noticed with my books I’m extremely cautious as to lending them out. That book represents knowledge which I may need, and it must be there.
Why I am obsessed with studying human memory? Why do I find this interesting? Once again, security. All things I’ve learned, I want them to be readily accessible.
To desire material prosperity, and money is all rooted in a search for security. Safety. Something to rely upon, because others in the past have not been reliable enough to depend on. Trust is nice but can rarely be enacted, because most people are unreliable. But if you have money, you can get people to do all the things they would never (typically because they are simply unable), or rarely, do for free.
I had several unconscious motivations working: If I do not have money, people will come and destroy all you build. They will steal your home, and all you value. They do not care about you. Life will take what you have if you do not have money. You can do nothing without money.
Money is control over others actions because you do not intrinsically trust them. In other words, you’re not at peace with others, as you want them to change. You’re discontent with others.
Using psychoanalytical methods I was able to call up some very painful memories. I remember in high school we (Greg, Andrew, Dale, and myself) started our software business, and we were going to write a video game. Then life pulled that all away. Why? I was powerless because you need money to pay people, or they cannot live in the meantime. All my friends ending up moving off, going to college. This is a big reason why I hate college. If I would have had money, we could still be playing hockey, and writing video games as we initially intended. College during this time represented giving in to the system. Playing “the game” of being controlled and giving up on your dreams.
Most of the time college and the career are not the dream. To most people it’s an endless means to a never achieved end. Most people want a family and a happy relationship but they end up spending the majority of their time, instead, doing some job they hate. They beg for a day off, and their most valued possession is their sick leave and vacation days. They work for their children, and they work so hard that their children are instead raised in daycares. Their children, whom they hoped to infuse good times and life, are instead raised by teenagers who care little for them. Teenagers who need a part-time job to buy movie tickets and video games.
When I was working as network administrator and computer technician at the Bond Clinic, I was working on one of the computers. (I’ve probably told this story before). I saw a note written by one of the nurses to another nurse and it said, “2 more hours!” (It was a Friday afternoon). I remember seeing notes of these types everywhere. It seemed to be the generally accepted philosophy to hate work, and bear through life. In fact, they even joked about it, and this was funny to them. Curious question though: Why would admitting that you hate what you spend the majority of your life doing make someone laugh? Isn’t this something to sigh about, and frown on? That’s the rational way to take this, and is the way I viewed the matter.
The reason someone would laugh at this is because they step out of their own bodies for a moment, and look at themselves from the outside, in mental reflection. Like an outsider looking at themselves as a stranger, they see something ridiculous, and find the person that they are hilariously stupid. As I learned in a book I own called ‘Comedy Writing Secrets’, people laugh when they feel vastly superior to someone or something. In this case, they feel vastly superior to themselves. (Think about the words they say to themselves in their minds – ‘This is the story of our lives!’ – then they laugh.) Welcome to the neurotic behavior of everyday people. This kind of stuff is why I read Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung! 🙂
One time the clinic owners gave us a paid day off. They made this big poster and took pictures of all the staff, and signed their name, to express their gratitude. I was the only one to refuse to sign it. They thought I was the strange one, but really, they are the ones in desperate need of mental serenity. (I know for a fact they found me strange, as one of the girls who worked there once cornered me outside and told me that they thought I was some sort of strange genius. I think I gave a raised eyebrow, then smiled not saying anything, and went inside. Sort of a ‘strange genius huh… I like that’ kind of reaction) They are all miserable people. Just to futhur reinforce this theme, on the manager’s cubical’s wall there was a poster, with a big circle which said, “Bang head here.” This sort of thing should not be funny. I knew I had to get out of there before I became one of them: a person who had given up on my dreams and instead works some job I hate, begging for days off, and barely making ends meet. Then I look at my pathetic self in reflection, and make fun of myself.
As for me, the stranger in the building, I was under a philosophical mindset to respect people and their lives. So I didn’t laugh at everyone, I instead looked around and felt sympathy for them all. I felt like one of those humane society workers you see on Animal Planet, when they come to a home and find a mal-nourished, mange covered, sick dog, shackled on a short chain, and its water bucket is knocked over in the hot summer heat. Watch their faces when they find a sick animal, hair falling off, bleeding sores due to infection, and limping. That’s my face when I’d be working on their computer, and would overhear their conversations and see the notes they leave for one another. Then, trying not to look judgemental, I’d put on a weird sort of smile.
My father gave a sermon last Sunday on “enjoying the trip”, and being content where you are. The first thought which came to mind, as I reflected on this sermon, was my friend Len. Len was telling me about his plans, and how he wants to get a home and be with his girlfriend. I remember the words he used, talking about his current employment, “It’s a means to an end.”
I see many many cases like him. In fact, near everyone I meet is in this same state of mind. They’re always in transit, rarely where they want to be. Christians are on their way to heaven, this world means little to them. They look forward to death and being with Jesus in heaven. College students are planning for the career, typically to get their home and family. Unfortunately, typically, the career instead swallows them and their family (or whatever dream they hope for) becomes some ill-managed side project. Entrepreneurs typically fall prey to getting so caught up in making money that they forget why they went into business to begin with.
When I was over at Greg’s new condo recently, he was talking to me about marketing and direct response advertising. He started talking on a strange digression to me, which I found particularly interesting, but I didn’t say anything. He started referring to it as a “wild wild west” and saying he believed he could get children interested in this form of work. He talked about jobs such as insurance, etc, and how these jobs are so boring you could never get a child interested in them. Then he said, “But children would be interested in direct response advertising. It’s like a wild wild west, anything goes sort of deal. You could tell them, ‘You can send mail to people, and they’ll send back money in envelopes!'”
Greg and I disagree about little, but I’d have to say I disagree on this point, at least about children finding this exciting. I don’t see how this would excite a child at all. I can’t say his logic for certain, but I think that to most people money is a means to an end. Nobody seeks money as a goal in and of itself, only the buying power of what money can do, or the prestige of having more than someone else. Children have very little self-image, and that is why they’re happy. They wouldn’t desire money as a goal in and of itself. You’d have to first motivate them to want something, then show how great sums of money can be made via this particular means, and leave them free to do the other things they would rather do instead. This is probably what Greg was referring to.
The problem with that view though is this: Entrepreneurs, and most people searching for a career which pays good, get trapped in a cycle of hoping to make enough money that they can finally do what they want to do. They spend a great deal of their time in a planning stage, trying to figure out ways to make their dream happen. Oftentimes the people get so encumbered in the means, hoping to one day be in a state of perfection, that it ends up doing more harm than good.
A man starts off pursuing business to make great sums of money, so he’ll be able to provide his future family with all the things he could never afford. Then he finds himself getting older, so he marries, has the children, and is too busy at the office to even spend time with his children. It’s highly likely that he’ll end up spending the majority of his life trying to conquer the means, and spend very little time in the desired end. Unless the person is particularly mentally acute, and very bright, they probably won’t succeed, as smarter people will defeat them in business every time. It is true, as Greg said, it’s a wild wild west, and in the wild wild west, there are a few good gun-slingers who boss the rest of the people around. You can train and become a gun-slinger too, but it’ll take a lot of work, and when looking at it from a larger point of view, it is rather silly. If people would work together, instead of trying to compete with each other, things would be much better off.
The “wild wild west” is very Darwinistic, and lacking any sort of social philosophy. It leaves you to hope you become one of the few elite, which most will never become. There is no helping one another, coming together, working together. Once again it’s back to YOUR dream, YOUR life, and YOUR money. It’s an individualistic pursuit. I start hearing that YOUR this and YOUR that, and I find that misery is once again reintroduced. Lack of contentment has been brought back into the equation.
I can’t help but mention some other things which worried me about Greg when I was over at his place. He has many other business products which he plans to sell. He’s building many products, which are all about “living the dream”, but in my opinion, he’s really selling misery.
He told me about many products, all of the “live your dream” variety, and I’ll give you an example of one of them. One product was about selling educational products, but the education was not the reason you’d buy the product. It was to be marketed around the premiss, “Be the most interesting person at the dinner party.” The product would teach you about things like art and history, from a more intellectual, less dry, perspective.
I have nothing against the product, but find the marketing angle strange. I envision a dinner party filled with people all thinking this way. They all meet, and talk about things they all find uninteresting, and see who can impress the others the most by knowing art and history. I can’t even figure out how this even makes sense. How are you to impress people who are disinterested in all the content to begin with? It creates a big room full of fake miserable people.
The product seems more of a ‘means to an end’ sort of deal. Some product where you can learn about art, to butter up that rich intellectual who may be able to help you get what you want. Impress that artsy woman so you can have sex with her. Impress all your friends by looking “smarter” than them. Rather ridiculous product, and I expressed this to him. He laughed and said, “Well, the product isn’t intended for you.”
Anyways, as you can see, products like these say they’re about “living the dream”, but are really means to other ends. They’re not dreams, they’re gears in the big machine which they hope will get you to the dream.
Back to talk of the ephemeral and transitory. I have trouble valuing the ephemeral, and living in the moment, because all things that are transitory I disdain. It won’t be there later. I’ve been in a long search for things of lasting value. As I studied, searching for these things, I found near everything is built on shaky ground. I look for the rock, but there is no rock.
I searched for God because God represents perfect security. I used to give away near all my money. Why did I do this? This is because I believed that upon death God rewards those who give. I would go to heaven, and be given an immortal body. “Lay up your treasures where moth and rust do not corrupt.” If by giving I could achieve treasures in heaven, which were eternal, why would I ever want any of the things in this life, which are ephemeral and transitory? Because of this line of thinking, I would give away everything, and had no attachments to anything in this world. This was a huge source of misery for me for quite a while. “Living is giving” is only a half-truth. If you’re giving only because you’re hoping for eternal security, then you’ll lose all the beauty in the giving. You have to give with literally no thought of return in order for it to be a blissful experience.
Immortality is the ultimate search for security. If you do not find peace of soul, you’ll keep searching for it forever, and you’ll do anything to achieve it. But hope to live forever in another form of existence does not come without consequences. Belief in immortaility will neccessarily make you devalue this life and make this life miserable. As I oftentimes hear Christians say in church, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.” … “I’m in search for a home whose builder and maker is God.” You’ll never find “home” or any place you’re comfortable, because you’ll live in imagination instead of reality. The more you really believe this the more this life will become miserable.
I’ve also thought about how this ties to the concept of relationships between couples. Most couples want their relationship to be ‘immortal’ in a sense. Like it was predestined to be, and their love will always remain and be remembered for generation upon generation even after their death, ideally forever. The romantic man will build a shrine to his lover, so people in the future will come and see, and remember just how much he loved that particular woman. I remember hearing some pop song by Rihanna here recently. I think it was called ‘We Ride’, and she kept stressing, “We ride, we ride, it’s until the day we die.” We see here people clinging to a lover to fight against the painful experiences of change.
A big part of relationships is desiring security. It’s not by chance that they stress the ‘until death do us part’. There’s romance to such phrases because we all have fears of change and security. The couple getting married are promising each other that while all else may change and crumble, they’ll be there for each other. ‘For better and for worse, sickness and in health.’ All of these vows are related to security, and rooted in fear. Sure it’s “love”, but it’s also fear. That must be why the most hardcore Buddhists are celibates, as to marry would ruin their mental serenity. You can’t have true peace making vows of fear.
I’m not sure if this means they could live with a partner or not. I don’t see why they would want to, as seeking sensual pleasure is certainly out of the question. (Though I don’t understand why sensual pleasure brings about suffering, which is probably why I’m not seeing the proper connection.) It certainly wouldn’t be a relationship resembling a normal couple.
I’m timid about actually advocating Buddhism myself, as sex is pleasureful, and is required if the human race is to continue to exist. To the best of my understanding, to fully advocate this Buddhism is to advocate the eradication of the human race. This is one of those things I look on with care, and think there’s a subtle confusion somewhere, but where? I suppose we could grow children in test tubes? Ehhh….mmmm. That would solve some issues, I guess. As the genetic science progresses we could eliminate birth defects and problems people are born with (ex: poor blood circulation, poor vision, etc).
Anyways, it seems time to conclude this entry. I’ve been thinking of how to define bliss, and I have come up with a general conception I find noteworthy. You are experiencing bliss when the only way to distinguish dream from reality is that reality is much more vivid.
Making money, searching for “bases”, and dreaming it will all be ok in the next life are all bad ways of dealing with painful experiences of change, because they make a person discontent, and rob you of living in the bliss of life RIGHT NOW.
Money is always a mean to an end, and to pursue money by itself can only be rooted in fear and security related issues. How ever much fear you have will determine how much money you need to finally have peace of mind. Immortality only has appeal when there is hope for a better life in the next existence, which also means you’re discontent with this life you’re living now.
Remember to keep an eye on Buddhism though. I have my doubts as to its accuracy. Eradication of the human race is not a pleasant thought, and money doesn’t seem intrinsically bad in itself, it’s only when money has you. If you can deal with money, but disconnect yourself from the security related issues involved, and simply “experience” whatever it is you do, even if that involves money, I think you’re ok. I also think you can probably have relationships, if you rid your mind of the typical desires for security in which so many relationships pursue.
There certainly is a lot of truth to Buddhism. I haven’t figured out how the pursuit of sensual pleasure links with individuality and suffering yet. I’ll have to keep thinking.