Sunday, January 15, 2012

Comfort is relief from discomfort

Alright, so no one is interested in the Socratic method, apparently. Meta-discussions about ideation, opportunity cost, and process management must not be as sexy as the notion that baby-making is evil. In that case, I'm going to write up a quick summation of the current state of life on this planet -- just to provide a recap of how everything works.

First of all, comfort is not the default state of existence for sentient organisms; it is the result of terminating uncomfortable sensations. Uncomfortable sensations exist, as far as we can tell, to motivate organisms -- that is, animated, selectively open systems -- to the end of perpetuating the "selfish" genes that use said organisms as hosts. Put another way, the phenotypic genetic expressions of the hosts are almost irrelevant to the agenda of the genes themselves as they replicate from one host to another.

A couple of important things to note here:

1. This gene-driven process is only optional when the host has acquired mastery of syntax. Your dog does not love its life, because it is wholly incapable of manipulating the symbolic mind-object, or conceptual abstraction, called "life"; it cannot think to itself, "I'm glad I'm alive. What a wonderful experience this is. How lovely that the alternative did not occur instead." This is because your dog cannot temporarily leave the present moment to use syntax objects to the end of creating a mental model called "life." To your dog, there is simply ending discomfort continuously through action.

If, for example, impaling itself on a wooden spike and slowly bleeding to death were to produce an orgasmic sensation in its brain, then your dog's neurons would wind up overloaded with dopamine while anticipating suicide in this manner.

Your dog couldn't care less about the beauty or miracle of its life; it merely seeks pleasure, irrespective of whether said pleasure promotes its personal existence. Your dog does not yearn to see its lineage carried into the future; it merely seeks pleasure, with said pleasure sometimes incidentally causing its lineage to be perpetuated.

Keeping in mind that evolution was not instigated with forethought, what the above essentially signifies is that relief from discomfort is incidentally conducive to life's perpetuation. "Nature" near-randomly throws relief and pleasure at sentient organisms, and sometimes, one of the manifestations of this relief leads to a certain set of genes living to see another day. Of course, if things were structured more rationally, then all pleasure would neatly lead to all genetic lineages surviving into the future, and we would never run out of room.

If mother turtles could understand that there are alternatives to life -- because of an ability to manipulate syntax objects like "life" and "death" and arrange them at "will" within the mind -- and could also understand that pleasure is only one example of discomfort being ended, then they would not will for half of their offspring to be painfully gobbled up by crabs within the first few minutes of their lives.

2. Being okay with life's continuation requires that one be okay with the whole of life, which necessarily includes billions of years of horrific future suffering. If you are okay with your child being born, then you implicitly concede that you are okay with its eventual death, as well as all struggles subsequent to its existential inception. Further, if you are okay with life continuing and are aware that this implies that you are okay with future starvation, extinction events, wars, and genocides, then you should logically also be okay with experiencing those things yourself.

If you do not want to starve to death, then you should not be okay with projecting starvation into the future by promoting life.

3. The following are all examples of what we may deem pleasurable, yet they are obviously nothing more than a return to a "normal" state of existence:

Scratching an itch. Was it pleasurable to scratch that exact same patch of skin prior to the existence of the itch?

Snow days for children. Snow days are fun, but they're nothing more than eliminating that which is not fun. Saturdays and Sundays occur every week, yet in spite of not containing content different from a Saturday or Sunday, snow days are far more fun; they are relief from an expected experience.

Stepping into a warm room out of the cold. Was the warm room immensely pleasurable prior to your having stepped out into the cold to begin with? Why does it suddenly feel so good to be "normal" again? In an hour, in spite of the temperature not changing, will you still feel really good to be out of the cold?

How about getting rid of an intensely painful sensation? If you've ever taken pain medication for something truly horrific, then you'll know how good it feels to return to a state which was previously not especially pleasurable.

4. Everything that gives us pleasure -- especially those things which we now consume in excess -- existed in relative scarcity prior to our more recent technological advancements. It feels good to eat not because hunger is an annoyance -- and certainly not because food is a fun thing worthy of silly television shows and quirky restaurant ideas -- but because not eating leads to horrible pain and eventual death.

Next time that you watch Cupcake Wars, remember that millions of people are starving to death right now all over the world, and that animals have been starving to death for almost a billion years. What you enjoy in life should not be taken lightly, for it is precious.


  1. "Alright, so no one is interested in the Socratic method, apparently"

    Maybe you should join a forum or something. I don't think many people read your blog.

  2. Yeah, yeah, so that was a bit of hyperbole on my part. I sometimes throw somewhat snarky statements into my posts because I'm mostly just trying to get a reaction at this point -- whether good or bad. I could be more pedantic and quantify the different demographics composing my readership, then extrapolate from that quantification the probability that someone will play along, or whether there is a need to outsource, but I don't think that we're at that level yet -- or that we necessarily ever will be. The statement that you quoted was intended more as a light jab than a disappointed observation that all ten of my readers are failing to meet my intense demands!

    And I have been an active participant on several forums over the years. The goings-on are usually the same, regardless of the boxed-in "club" being promoted: Everyone gets lost in trivial side points, egos butt heads, threads get derailed, and ad hominems take the lead. I'd rather leave the drama out and sidestep the primitive drive to form tribal identities (every time an "antinatalist" starts a sentence with, "You life-lovers..." it makes me want to puke).

  3. I don't really see much point in continuing this blog, by the way. If a neat idea pops into my head, I'm going to post it if I have the time, but:

    1. All of the core ideas are here. The book has been written, more or less.

    2. Even joining forums and linking to this blog in my signature would only lead to a brief increase in back-and-forth, mostly fruitless engagements. Until any of us has the attention of an entire region of the planet, this is all just a sophisticated form of entertainment.

  4. "(every time an "antinatalist" starts a sentence with, "You life-lovers..." it makes me want to puke)."

    I admit, I smiled.