Humans aren’t good enough for humans

There are many activities where people seem to fetishize (meaning an object of obsession, whether sexual or not) robots. For example: synchronized performances of many kinds (the military, sports, marching bands and drum corps, synchronized dancing, etc.); computer-generated music that no human musician could ever play; weapons that no human could ever resist; make-up to make the body look more like plastic or porceline; people value precise manual labor and cheap prices so much as to be willing to replace human factory workers with machines; increasingly elaborate sex toys; checking human behavior with endless sensors and cameras; etc. People seem to be in a great hurry to replace humanity with machines.

Worldliness and cold-heartedness, insisting that every ridiculously small and ephemeral material detail of life be beautiful and perfectly controlled, give me OCD.

A PhD’s critique of MDs

As someone with a PhD who has a possibly genetic serious health problem, here are a few things I’ve noticed about medical doctors (MDs):

  • They often mistake beauty for health, or charisma for intelligence.
  • They often have a power fetish, such as enjoying having control over others’ lives and livelihoods, and being attracted to people in other professions where one has others’ lives in one’s hands (e.g., pilots).
  • They often assume: that the 10 minutes you were in their office accurately represent your life in general, that their behavior had no effect on yours, that what they tested about you accurately represents everything they didn’t test about you, and that anyone with “doctor” in their title must be the same kind of doctor that they are and have studied what they studied.
  • MDs spend so many years in very intensive, specialized educational and vocational programs that many of them seem to have stopped growing emotionally in their 20s, and maybe started again in their 40s.
  • If they can’t find/label the cause or your severe, chronic problem, even if you are in bad shape and unlikely to improve, they often are unwilling to help you any further, such as with obtaining disability assistance. That can be a tragic loophole in our society’s infrastructure.
  • They are often a good example that being paid what the market will bear is not the same as being paid what you’re worth.

Science as the new church

Atheism/scientism seems to me like more of a reaction against (mostly Christian) theism than a philosophy in its own right. It apparently lacks a clear system of ethics or morality, to prevent people from using it in selfish, angry, greedy, etc. ways. Most people never achieve science’s full understanding on any topic, or will ever see the inside of a real laboratory while a groundbreaking experiment is happening. Almost no one achieves science’s full understanding on multiple topics, and no one achieves science’s full understanding on every topic. One must have faith in the claimed scientific findings and knowledge of others as well as in scientific institutions run by self-interested people. And science reinforces federal government or large corporate control (e.g., that only large governments or corporations usually can afford, or are socially mobilized, to fund the largest, most groundbreaking research; that people should run out and buy the latest technology; that people should not object, or should be powerless, when new technologies put them out of a job; etc.), social hierarchies (e.g., levels of professors, administrators, and students), and gatekeeper institutions (e.g., large publishing companies). These things are very similar to how large Christian churches and monasteries have been run since ancient times. Scientists are like today’s monks — separated from the general population by their over-achievements or their mental obsessions, cloistered away in expensive controlled environments, trying to ignore most of life in order to focus intensely on something in order to find the truth of it — and normal people are often required to have faith in them.

Mental states usually have multiple opposing states

Mental states usually have multiple opposing states that can counteract them if cultivated/focused-upon. Below are examples.

Like with any medicine, one must be careful not to indulge in any mental state too extremely, or it can become a kind of poison, blindness, or delusion. For example, taking a positive attitude to everything can cause one to miss, or be taken advantage of by, the negative aspects of life (e.g., scammers, thieves, things falling apart, etc.), but taking a negative attitude to everything can lead to anxiety and depression. The Buddha once taught people to meditate on death and decay, and that led several monks to become so disgusted with their bodies that they “sought an assassin” (see Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s footnote on SN 35.88). Therefore, he switched to recommending meditation on the breath (anapanasati), which is more mentally neutral.

Siddhartha heard the musician say, “If the string is too tight, it will snap. If it is too loose, it will not play” (from the traditional Buddhist enlightenment story). A Middle Way is best.

  • For anger: thinking about (or asking) how the object of your anger might have come to be the way it is (e.g., social or natural forces, history, chance, etc.), forgiveness, generosity, patience, tolerance, etc.
  • Anxiety/fear: internal and external detachment/watchfulness/listening, letting go of attachment to outcomes, remembering that the self is just an impermanent construct, etc.
  • Arrogance/ego/narcissism: remembering your impermanence and fragile humanity, acknowledging things you’ve lost/forgotten or that you can’t know/see, having experiences where either nature or people don’t care who you are (riding the bus in plain clothes or a disguise if you are famous, doing a manual labor job, going far away from civilization with minimal supplies, etc.)
  • Depression (an umbrella term for many states): identifying and counteracting the specific state(s) involved (e.g., grief, hopelessness, fatigue, physical discomfort or weakness, etc.)
  • Greed: slowing down and doing less, generosity, remembering the impermanence of all things, remembering that one can’t ever fully own/control either oneself or external things, etc.
  • Laziness: aspiration, belief/trust/faith, effort, flexibility (see also the “eight antidotes“)
  • Lust: asking the attractive person to cover themselves, looking closely at the attractive person until you can see past their facade of makeup/jewelry/clothing, seeing people as just variations on a theme (a little bigger or smaller here or there), reducing people’s bodies to their components (skin, muscles, bones, organs, glands, etc.), disgust at the dirty or infected things inside everyone’s bodies (rotting plants/animals, feces, urine, bile, mucus, viruses/bacteria, small cancers, etc.), imagining the person as the rotting corpse they will inevitably become or looking at images/videos of rotting or burning corpses on the Internet, etc.

Many of these things involve remembering impermanence or that the self is a construct of many components. If there is no stable self, there is no one who can always feel anything. If you can change for the worse, you can change for the better.

Not me

There is so much in the world that is not oneself, not under one’s control. Even one’s body, mind, house, and legacy often/ultimately are not under one’s control. Beyond seeking/providing the basics of a healthy life (livelihood, health/survival, family/friends, liberty/privacy/security, feelings of enjoyment or contentment, self-knowledge, etc.), what is the point of spending all one’s time building and maintaining big sandcastles, possibly at others’ expense? The less you have, the less you have to worry about (paraphrasing both the Buddha and my grandfather, who was not a Buddhist).