Monday, December 12, 2016

Religion for the nonreligious

Original article by Tim Urban. Here are my excerpt
Society at large focuses on shallow things that it doesn’t stress the need to take real growth seriously. Religions make salvation the end goal instead of self-improvement.
Hundreds of millions of years of evolution has created a zoo of small-minded emotions and motivations in our heads: fear, pettiness, jealousy, greed, instant-gratification.
Over the past 6 million years, human have taken a big step up the consciousness staircase, which we can call “Higher being” . It’s brilliant, big-thinking and rational, but he’s a very new resident in our heads.
So the human brain is a strange world: a combination of the Higher being and the low-level animals.
It was not until the higher being realized “we’re going to die“ that he can take over the control over other animals.
The collective force of the animals is what I call “the fog“. The more the animals are running the show and making us deaf and blind to the thoughts and insights of the Higher Being, the thicker fog is around our head, which make us only see a few inches in front of us.
so our problem : the battle of the Higher Being against the animals is the core internal human struggle: try to see through the fog to clarity
Typical struggles:
  • Rational Decision Maker vs. Instant Gratification Monkey
  • Authentic Voice vs. Social Survival Mammoth
The difficult thing is : when you are in the fog, you don’t know you are in the fog. The thickest fog, the less you are aware of its existence. So the key is being aware that the fog exists and learning how to recognize it.
consciousness staircase

step 1: our lives in the fog

Higher being: high-minded, love-based, advanced emotions
brain animals: small-minded, fear-based, primitive emotions
tribalism makes us hate people different than us

The power of fog

  • bend and loosen your integrity, for tiny insignificant gains which affect nothing in the long term
  • let the fear of what others might think dictate the way you live, but actually everyone is buried in their own lives without really thinking about you anyway.
  • keep them in the wrong relationship, job, city, apartment, friendship.
  • promise fake future happiness which fade away quickly due to Hedonic Treadmill. The fog itself is the source of unhappiness.

step 2: thinning the fog to reveal context

  • broaden perspectives: education, travel, life experience
  • active reflection: journal, therapy, ask questions like “what would I do if money is no problem”, “how would I advise someone else on this”, “will I regret not doing this when I’m 80? “ ask your Higher Being’s opinion on something without the animals realizing what’s going on. These tricks help the animals stay calm so the Higher Being can actually talk.
  • Activities that help quiet brain’s unconscious chatter: meditation, exercise, yoga
Most easiest way to thin out the fog is be aware of it. look at the whole context keeps you conscious, aware of reality.
The cashier is rude to me.
This dude’s in a dark place. Maybe his day has sucked.
life is so unfair.
Look at so many things I have.
Everything is amazing forever.
It’s part of a rocking curve.
Life is bad from here forward.
It’s part of a rocking curve.
Everything is scary. why did I say that? why am I so embarrassing?
Sometimes human brains great out and think these shitty things. I can feel my brain doing that right now. Oh brains
I don’t know what’s going on. I will get rid of these weird things.
I see the consequences and I will take actions.
When we’re on step 2, this broader scope and increased clarity makes us feel calmer and less fearful of things that aren’t actually scary. and the animal who gain strength form fear become ridiculous.
It’s extremely hard to stay on step 2 for long. But you can get better at noticing when it’s thick and develop effective strategies for thinning it out.

step 3 shocking reality

Our brain can’t handle the vastness of space, eternity of time, or the tininess of atoms. You can do it if you focus, but it’s a strain and you can’t hold it for very long.
A whoa moment is like being at the Grand Canyon. It’s difficult to maintain for very long, but only in a whoa moment does your brain actually wrap itself around true reality.
They make me feel ridiculously, profoundly humble. In those moments, all those words religious people use — awe, worship, miracle, eternal connection— make perfect sense. I want to get on my knees and surrender. This is when I feel spiritual.
In those fleeting moments, there’s no fog. My Higher being is in full flow and can see everything in perfect clarity. The animals become the sad little creatures with no fog to obscure things.
Each time you humiliate the animals, a little bit of their future power over you is diminished.
From Step 1 view to see an atheist, life on Earth is taken for granted.
From step 3’ view, life itself is more than enough to make me excited ,lucky and loving. How cool it is that I’m a group of atoms that can think about atoms.

Step 4, the great unknown

Carl Sagan:
science is not only compatible with spirituality, it is a profound source of spirituality.
If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.
What if a more intelligent species tried its hardest to explain something to us? We may be not able to grasp anything.
Remember the powerful humility mentioned in step 3? Multiply by 100. That’s step 4. If I’m just a molecule floating around an ocean I can’t understand, I might as well just enjoy it.

what next?

nothing clears fog like a deathbed.
There are plenty of good things in the religious world, but it’s something happening in spite of religion and not because of it.
A Truthism knows:
  • where to put my focus
  • what to be wary of
  • how to evaluate my progress, which will help me make sure I’m actually improving and lead to quicker growth
several questions:
  • what’s the goal that you want to evolve towards? why that goal?
  • what does the path look like that gets you there?
  • what’s in your way? How do you overcome those obstacles?
  • what are your practices on day-to-day level?
  • what should your progress look like year-to-year?
  • Most importantly, how do you stay strong and maintain the practice for years and years, not four days?
Articulate it helps clarify it in your head.