Tag Archives: value of knowledge

The Value Of Knowledge

This essay is an excerpt from my book, “Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life.

 

KNOWLEDGE IS IMPORTANT FOR INTERNAL GROWTH

 

Look at your body in a mirror. It looks like one single object, but it can be broken down into organ systems, organs, tissue, cells, organelles, protein, DNA, atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, hadrons, quarks, fermions, leptons, gluons, etc. Your body is a complex system that can be divided into ever smaller and more fundamental parts.

Your mind is the same way. Everything that makes up your mind: personality, thoughts, ideas, opinions, dreams, fears, desires, memories, skills, vocabulary, etc. are all made from different levels of progressively smaller building blocks. The most fundamental of these building blocks is knowledge. The more knowledge you have the more articulate and complete your personality, thoughts, ideas, opinions, dreams, fears, desires, memories, skills, vocabulary, etc. will be. The more mass your body has the bigger a person you’ll be, and the more knowledge you have the bigger your mind will be. Thus, the bigger of a person you’ll be.

This means that in order to grow up you need to learn. You can’t just get old and all of a sudden claim you’re grown up. If you stop systematically learning after graduation then it doesn’t matter how many years you age, you all but stopped growing after you quit going to school. Therefore, you never grew up.

Imagine the personality of a baby. Aside from emotions and instinct, a baby doesn’t have a personality or identity. All those cute/sad faces are the product of instinct, not personality.

Now imagine a ten-year-old. The child has a personality but pretty much everything about his personality is still naïve. He has naïve thoughts, questions, beliefs, opinions, dreams, fears, etc. Honestly, you can’t possibly spend a day with a ten-year-old without rolling your eyes at least once because of something naive he said or did.

Now imagine a regular grown man. He’s a blue-collar worker, has 2.5 children, practices religion but is no theologian, and manages his money responsibly enough that he doesn’t starve. This man doesn’t suffer too much mental distress and is capable of functioning in society. However, he’s never systematically tried to achieve self-actualization, and he doesn’t go out of his way to learn new things every day.

He’s really just on par with what a human is capable of becoming. His philosophy on life is basically to keep your head down, pay your taxes, celebrate holidays, watch television, and hopefully someday retire relatively comfortably.

This man will never truly understand the world around him. He’ll believe what he was taught in school, and after he graduates, he’ll only learn what knowledge he stumbles upon, which will be mainly limited to what’s on cable television. His thoughts will be limited to mainstream thoughts. His hopes and fears will be the same as his neighbor’s. He might not buy celebrity gossip magazines, but it won’t be entirely uncommon for him to take part in conversations about it.

The life of the average man doesn’t sound too horrible, but compare it to what his life could have been like.

Imagine anyone who has earned the title of one of the greatest minds in history. These people understood life deeper, made their own perceptive observations without waiting for other people to make sense of the world for them. They were empowered. They weren’t slaves to mainstream thoughts. They had logical thoughts, rational fears, brilliant hopes, articulate opinions/beliefs and personalities you could lose yourself in. Their minds were veritable galaxies. They experienced life more deeply than the average man even has the capacity to imagine.

Whatever factors can be used to explain the differences between an infant, ten-year-old, adult, and genius there’s one common denominator that’s always present: knowledge.

Imagine if everybody’s minds could be visually represented by the house they live in. A baby would be lying on a concrete slab. A child would live in a small slapdash shack. Your average person would live in a drab suburban cookie-cutter home. A genius would live in an elaborately customized mansion.

That’s an easy enough analogy to understand, but it’s easy to miss the depth of the message in it: that there are real internal rewards to gaining knowledge, and there are real internal consequences to being ignorant. This is who you’re going to be for the rest of your life. This is how you’re going to experience the rest of your life. By not learning you’re condemning yourself to a dull and confusing mental prison. You’re missing out on experiencing the fullness of life by not experiencing the fullness of yourself.

 

KNOWLEDGE IS IMPORTANT FOR EXTERNAL ACTIONS

 

Every interaction you have with the external world: driving, raising a child, working at your job, making friends, managing your finances, cooking, voting, self-defense, teaching, putting furniture together, managing employees, finding a mate, living with your mate, etc. Everything you do is the result of thoughts in your brain, and those thoughts are made of bits of knowledge strung together. The more knowledge you possess the more articulate and complete your thoughts can be. The more complete your thoughts are the better you can do anything. The quality of everything you do, from the most insignificant to the most life-changing action, is determined by how much knowledge you have.

Here’s a real-world example of this concept in action. The more you know about cars the better you can fix them. That’s obvious enough, but there are a few things implied in that simple statement that a lot of people don’t seem to understand.

The most basic implication of that statement is that you can learn about a car. It’s possible just as it’s possible to learn about anything. Is there anything you want to do but can’t? If so, it’s not because there’s something inherently wrong with you that will always prevent you from doing that thing. You just need to learn it.

Think about this. Everyone wishes they had superpowers. Why do we want superpowers? Because we want to be capable of doing more in life, and we feel limited by our feeble bodies. But it’s not really our bodies that limit us. Compare yourself to a plant, and you’ll see why this is true. A plant truly is stuck with the same abilities forever. Most plants can’t even move except to grow towards light. From a plant’s perspective not only can we move freely, but we have the ability to choose whatever kinds of roots, stems, leaves, flowers, etc. we want. We can choose our defense mechanisms (martial arts, marksmanship), root system (investment strategy, job skills), flowers (art, music, fashion), etc. Compared to a plant you already have superpowers, but more importantly, you can choose whatever other superpowers you want. So if you feel stuck in life and wish you had superpowers then go learn something.

Think about how the car analogy applies to ignorance. If you can’t fix your car you don’t stand around wondering why. You know why. You can’t fix it because you don’t know how, but with a broken car you don’t just sit around complaining about it. You accept the fact that it’s broken and take steps to learn how to fix it or hire somebody who can.

The same concept is true with anything you do. Think about any problem you’ve ever had in your life. Think about any failure you’ve experienced, any dream unfulfilled, any mistake you regret. Think about any tear you’ve shed. Any time you’ve shaken in frustration or anger. Have you ever sat around with your hands in your head wondering, “Why is this happening to me?” The next time that happens imagine yourself sitting behind the wheel of your car with your hands on your head feeling helpless and bewildered wondering, “Why doesn’t my car work?” Because that’s ultimately what you’re doing.

Would you get upset and defensive if someone told you your car is broken or running poorly because you don’t know how to fix it? Probably not, but everyday people refuse to take responsibility for their lives. They make excuses for the bad things happening to them by saying it’s not their fault. They try to find anything to blame their problems on except their own ignorance.

On the most fundamental level, ignorance is the root of all problems, and knowledge is the solution. If there’s a problem in your life there’s knowledge you can possess that will allow you to fix it or there’s someone with the knowledge who can help you if you’d only try to find them. If you don’t have that knowledge and aren’t trying to find it then it’s your fault there are problems in your life regardless of their original source.

Ignorance is even the root of all external problems too. If you were hurt by someone else it’s because they were ignorant. Even what insurance companies call “acts of God” can be prevented with appropriate applications of knowledge. Houses can be built above floodplains. Trailer houses can be made tornado proof. We can erect tsunami barriers along coastland. Buildings can be made earthquake-proof, etc. So if you’re ever looking for someone or something to blame you would always be correct to blame ignorance. And if your life sucks then go learn something. And remember, if there’s always more you can learn about cars then there’s always more you can learn about anything. Life can always be easier.

The last thing that thing that needs to be said about fixing cars is that there are only three ways you can learn how to do it:

1: It’s forced upon you.

2: You stumble upon it.

3: You seek out.

The same is true with all knowledge. People are forced to learn in school, but after graduating nobody forces them to learn anymore. That doesn’t mean they’ll never learn anything else though. They’ll stumble on a little more information here and there through the rest of their life but it’s not going to amount to anything truly empowering. And what’s the opposite of empowerment? Enslavement.

Most people only seek out the knowledge they need in the immediate present (like how to program their new electronic device). People generally don’t say to themselves, “There’s knowledge out there that will make my life better, but I don’t know what it is. So I’m just going to go learn as much as I can about everything until I find that knowledge that will make my life better.” People don’t do that. They just sit around and watch TV and assume they’ll learn everything they need to know in life from sitcoms, cartoons, and commercials. But that’s not going to happen, and nobody’s going to cram the knowledge you need down your throat your entire life. And why should they? That’s your job.

The fact is you won’t stumble upon enough knowledge to empower you above the status quo if you don’t seek it out on your own. So this is your warning or your wake up call. Seek out knowledge. Seek out as much as you can, but ask yourself what the most important knowledge you can learn is and seek that out most of all lest you waste your life acquiring relatively useless knowledge. And never stop seeking knowledge. Everything in your life (internal and external) depends on it.

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

Why We’ve Never Raised An Entire Generation Of Adults Ever

Once people become parents or are given power over younger people in their job, most people assume they deserve that power. They assume they’re mature, grown-up adults. But consider the parents, teachers, and bosses who lived 2000 years ago. Compared to people today they weren’t mature. Relatively speaking, they were idiots. Of course, from their frame of reference, they were the best thing to date. So they thought that made them the best thing in fact. In hindsight, it’s obvious to us now that they were ignorant children masquerading in adult bodies.

Now reconsider the parents, teachers, and bosses who are alive today who don’t have the benefit of hindsight to recognize their own maturity level. Look at how our leaders squabble and pick on weaker people like 5-year-old bullies. Look at how your average parent shouts at their children like a 5-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. Look at how the talking heads on television shout illogical, inane babble like 5-year-olds. Look at the television shows that get the best ratings: they’re all about sex, violence, and fame. These themes appeal to our base desires- the primal desires of unrefined children. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of working in the customer service industry you have to deal with adults throwing tantrums and bullying you all day every day.

 

 

The evidence points to a frightening and shameful conclusion. It’s not just that a few old people never grew up. It’s not even that a handful of old people never grew up. The evidence point to the conclusion that humanity has never raised a generation of full grown, mature, self-actualized adults. Ever.

Each generation only produces between 1-100 full grown, self-actualized adults, and I fear the number is closer to 1 than 100. Abraham Maslow would agree with me on that figure. The entire world is run by delusional and/or lying children. On the rare occasion anyone even starts to grow up, they get ostracized and even killed for being different and offending the beliefs and pride of the childish masses.

The lesson to be learned from this isn’t that we should hate ourselves for being so stupid. It’s not our fault we never grew up. The world got this way because we’ve never known how to raise a full grown, mature, self-actualized adults. We’ve never been able to create a textbook for life. Seriously. Try to find one book (or set of books) that systematically explains from beginning to parents how to effectively raise a child. You might be able to piece-meal the knowledge together for a wide array of separate sources, but you won’t find one coherent, systematic, logical instruction manual to raising children or growing up. There is no textbook for life. So the call to action here isn’t to berate ourselves. The call to action is to create two textbooks for life: One for how to raise children and one for how to raise yourself.

Once we’ve created these books we need to redesign our school system so that, in addition to learning rote knowledge, every year of school curriculum includes psychology classes that teach children about the stage of mental development they’re currently going through. The classes should go on to teach children what they need to know to overcome the psychological hurdles they’ll face during that time of their lives. In addition to helping them solve their personal problems, it should also provide a coherent, unified direction (or end goal) in their psychological growth.

To augment children’s psychological development, schools should also teach children how to ask the important questions in life and how to answer those questions systematically, objectively and logically. This will help children understand their place in the universe, the meaning of their lives, the value of other people’s lives and how to develop a systematic, coherent, unified, logical, objective ethical framework.

Despite the fact that enough knowledge exists in academia to accomplish this, we aren’t implementing it. Why? One reason is that knowledge is profitable. As long as money can be made by manipulating the intellectual market and creating a false shortage of knowledge, the adults who control intellectual resources can profit from them.

Another reason is it would cost an extraordinary amount of money to redesign our education system to the point where every child not only gets a solid education in the rote knowledge a human being needs to understand to succeed in our economy but also the systematic, holistic knowledge of psychological development a human being needs to master in order to become a mature adult. The ruling aristocracy would rather see our taxes spent on subjugating third world countries to exploit their natural and human resources than to raise our children to be full grown adults.

Another reason is parents aren’t willing to allow their children to think freely. Parents assume what they believe is true and right. Unfortunately, 99.9% of parents are children themselves, and their beliefs are immature, haphazard, illogical, and subjective. Parent tends to oppose any system of thought that challenges their preconceived beliefs.

Average citizens might be able to change the system, but today’s children will have graduated before the system could be improved, and another generation will be wasted. Even if we were able to change the system it would likely be so bogged down by bureaucracy, red tape, and compromises that it would lose much of its effectiveness.

However, the option still exists to create a personal growth-oriented education system outside of the standard public school system. We could create a virtual school on the Internet. This method would be cheaper, and the cost could be spread out across millions of donations. An open source, user-generated system would spread out the labor needed to create such a system and would allow for much of the work to be done for free by volunteers. It would also make the content available for free, anywhere, anytime. So anyone in the world (the site could be multilingual like Wikipedia could benefit from the content. The site could also generate a profit via advertising, affiliate sales, and merchandising.

Once the virtual system is in place, entrepreneurs could build brick and mortar weekend/summer schools where students could receive direct guidance and assistance in their studies. These could be paid for by grants, fees, sales, and donations. Effectively they would operate like churches…except instead of tearing down people’s understanding of reality and indoctrinating them with archaic, destructive ethics while wasting countless dollars on expensive alters, decorations, statues and sound system the students would be taught how to grow up into sane, wise, functional adults, and the money would go directly to improving people’s minds, which will improve not only their lives but the lives of everyone within their sphere of influence.

I have no doubt that a system like this will be created someday. The only question is how many generations of children are robbed of their potential while the old children we call adults grow up.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

Why You Should Have High Intellectual Standards

Universal Intellectual Standers: Clarity, Accuracy, Precision, Relevance, Depth, Breadth, Logic, Significance, Fairness

 

You are your life, and your life is who you are. What you experience is who you are. What you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, say, believe, think, remember, etc. is who you are. The quality of who you are equates to the quality of your life…and visa versa.

This is why it’s important to have intellectual standards. We all make excuses for the stupid things we do, say, watch, listen to, think, believe, etc. Whatever excuses we use they all point towards the same conclusions: that it’s harmless or even good to lower our standards, even if just for a little while. But it’s not okay. There are real-world consequences for exposing yourself to and partaking in mindless, low brow anti-intellectualism.

Even without getting into macro-sociological ripples the consequences are personal and immediate. When you watch a stupid television show like the Super Bowl, you’re lowering your quality of life immediately and irrevocably. I know it may seem fun, but so does crack-cocaine. Would you be right to justify crack-cocaine use because it’s fun? No. So why would you justify watching American Idol because it’s fun? They have the same consequences.

You can’t even use the excuse that they’re different because crack-cocaine will kill you. When you binge on stupidity and mindlessness it builds up in your system. Then, before you know it you’re riding a four-wheeler around a construction site drunk shouting to your friends, “Hey man, watch this shit!” Next thing you know you’re winning a Darwin Award.

But even without getting that dramatic, think about this. You have one life to live, and it’s a short one. Life is infinitely valuable. We need to make the most of it to honor our creator or at least for our own personal sake. If you spend your whole life watching dumb ass television and reading gossip magazines what have you really done with your life? You’ve wasted it and mocked it just as surely as killing yourself as a teenager.

Wallowing in the joys of low intellectual standards may seem fun at the time, but life is better than that. Life has more to offer, and if you take it up on that offer you’ll become a better person, and immediately you’ll live a more enjoyable and more meaningful life.

So don’t waste your time justifying low intellectual standards to your self, and certainly don’t push them on others. Because what you’re really doing is justifying a life less lived.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

They’re Giving Away Free Super Powers On The Internet

Everyone has wished they had a superpower, like the ability to fly or run super fast, but superpowers don’t exist. There’s no hope of finding radioactive ooze or a magical totem that will imbue you with the ability to do anything out of the ordinary other than maybe get cancer.  We’re going to die in the same bodies we were born in, and that’s it.

However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. You don’t need magic or fantasy to get superpowers. In fact, you’ve got the one superpower that unlocks all the rest. You’re a human, right? And you wish you could fly? Humans have already made flight possible. Do you want X-ray vision? Humans have already created X-ray machines that can do that. Do you want to breathe underwater? We figured that one out too, and scuba divers have been doing it for years. We can see all the way to the moon. We can shoot bullets out of our hands. We’ve got friggin lasers.

If you want a superpower, don’t go looking for mythical beings to give it to you. Go ask a really smart person who thinks a lot. Then they’ll study the universe we live in and reverse engineer a way to give you that ability using what we’ve got. All our technological superpowers came from the same source: people studying the way things work and thinking about it.

There’s something you wish you could do, and it’s probably not as exotic as flying. You might wish you could give fantastic back massages. Or perhaps you wished you were like MacGuyver and could make anything out of anything or like Sherlock Holmes who could solve any puzzle. Maybe you just wish you had the ability to keep your car running. You probably wish you were more seductive… or at least less socially awkward. The point is, there’s something you wish you could do.

Whatever it is. You can do it… or at least the next best thing. There’s just one secret to unlocking every power-up in the universe: STUDY. If you want to be able to do something new… you can do it if you research how to do it, and you can find that information online. Now more than in any other time in history, if you want a superpower you can get it. If you want to become a karate master who looks like a turtle, you can arrange all of that in a couple of Google searches. You can even get a sidekick off of Craigslist.

Learning takes a little effort, but what else did you have to do with your life besides make it better? If there’s something you want to do, then power up with knowledge or quit whining about it. If you’re not absorbing new powers, I have no idea why, because the solution to your limitations is right in front of you. If you want to get stronger, then learn and think, and beware that the less you do, the weaker you’ll be. If you don’t believe me, go talk to an idiot and see how hard their life is. Then go talk to Bill Gates and ask him how many superpowers his house has.

 

Picture of Batman and Ironman with the caption, "MONEY: Best superpower of all."

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

Recommended Intelligent Books And Videos

I’ve had a few people ask me to recommend good, intellectual books to read and videos to watch. So I’m making an ongoing list:

Books

Documentaries

Movies

Pseudo Intellectual Junk

These will not make you smarter. They will make you feel smarter without nourishing your intellect. Avoid them or approach them with brutal skepticism.)

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Books?

These books are demonized in the Western World (some of them for good reason). As a result, they’re useful to challenge your conventional upbringing by looking at the world from the point of view of your culture’s enemies. Seeing the world from extreme perspectives will help you center your perspective and will help you understand how other people think. If nothing else, if you’re going to make enemies out of people who think differently than you then you may as well at least be informed about what it is they think.
 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Knowledge and Learning
How to Think Like a Genius
My Tweets About Philosophy 
The Importance of Public Education
Flaws in the Public Education System
Improving Public Education

 


How To Read For Truth

The quality of your person is equal to the quality of the information in your brain. This means that if you hope to grow up and make the most of your life, you need to consciously and systematically undertake a lifelong quest to gain and refine the quality of knowledge in your brain.

In a Utopian society, the path of knowledge would be well paved and streamlined. Every level of education would be free for anyone of any age, and every curriculum would be painstakingly edited for objectivity and clarity. Unfortunately, humanity has opted to devote more of its resources to killing each other than raising each other.

The good news is that you live in the information age. Technology allows the average person access to more information than kings in ancient times had. Unfortunately, freedom of information has come with a cost. When production and distribution of information was largely controlled by wealthy publishing houses, information was expensive and had limited distribution channels but did a pretty good job of filtering information for quality. Today anyone can publish anything and put it on the Internet right next to the most professionally crafted literature humanity has ever produced.

As soon as the internet was invented, journalists started warning us that equal access to information distribution would result in a fog of white noise that makes it exceedingly difficult to find the quality information, and I’m sad to say that the situation is even worse than that. The problem isn’t just that there’s too much information written by amateurs who can’t write coherently and don’t do a professional job of fact-checking their data. There are news outlets with biased agendas bending the truth and misleading their consumers for their own benefit. Even the consumers themselves are guilty of mangling the truth by littering social news sites with their insane, or at least misinformed, editorial comments.

 

 

This situation isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair, and your life is your responsibility. So it’s up to you to sift through the white noise and misinformation to arrive at truth on your own. You can point fingers all day long at writers for not doing a good job of paving the way to truth, but you’re really the biggest obstacle standing between you and enlightenment.

As a child, your brain soaked up all the knowledge available to you in your environment like a sponge, but your ability to use formal reasoning didn’t develop until after you’d already established your perception of reality. In other words, during childhood, you just assumed that what you learned was true, but a lot of it wasn’t, and all of it was filtered through your subjective culture. This means you were doomed to grow up with a warped perception of reality. We all were, and to make matters worse, there may not be one true perception of reality. So not only were we born so lost we didn’t even know we’re lost, we’re probably doomed to be lost by degrees our entire lives no matter how many of our misconceptions we slay.

This is made all the direr by the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know. So the tendency is to assume that what we know is all we need to know (or close enough). You’ll find conceited people who are totally convinced of their intellectual mastery from every walk of life, from the most inbred redneck to the most ordinary office secretary to the most tenured professor… and they’re all wrong.

 

 

Every individual in the world will be guilty of being conceited about being smart at some time/s in their lives, which is bad enough, but when everyone in a society does the same thing, that behavior becomes a part of their culture. This is why every culture in the world tends to assume it’s the best culture in the world. Xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and patriotism aren’t mistakes only the worst humans make. They’re an inevitable product of the human brain. So no matter where you were born, I can guarantee you that your culture tends to celebrate its obsolete past and demonize beliefs and behaviors outside of your ancestors’ experience. Since culture tends to blindly label anything outside of its past experiences as bad, that means popular culture tends to demonize progress because progressive thought is inherently deviant thought.

Ironically, the fact that humans are born with their minds set to auto-reject isn’t a flaw in the design of the brain. Our brains are supercomputers that receive, process, store and recall an astronomical amount of information every moment of our lives. Our brains have to manage all this information while also operating a body that grows, generates its own energy, processes waste, heals itself and reproduces. This necessitates that the brain process information as efficiently as possible, which it does partly by saddling the subconscious mind with the burden of making as many decisions as possible. It does this by assuming that whatever it has done in the past to survive will ensure its survival in the future. This means we’re all born on autopilot. We learn schemas and repeat the same patterns of thoughts and behaviors the rest of our lives while tending to automatically reject any new and unfamiliar information and then reverse engineering reasons why afterward.

 

 

You can see the human autopilot function at work on any social news sites or internet forum. Go to any social media site and click on the “Comments” button under any news article. The more comment threads you read, the more you’ll see the auto-pilot/auto-reject phenomenon. The more forward-looking or creative the article is, the more of a backlash you’ll see.

Undoubtedly you’ve seen this behavior in real life. Have you ever met a person who contradicts everything anyone says? They’re probably smug and eloquent, but they don’t really stand for anything other than standing against anything anyone says to them. That’s because their mind isn’t tuned into searching for truth. Their mind is tuned into auto-rejecting everything and confirming their biases. Sadly, they’ll win every argument they ever have, but that won’t bring them any closer to the truth. It’ll just reinforce their belief that they can never be wrong. For all the effort they put into proving they’re right, they’re really building a wall around them that keeps the truth out.

When you’re looking for it, it’s easy to browse through comment threads and see people genuinely celebrating their superior genius by finding the most pointless flaws in the text in question and tearing apart anyone who challenges their irrelevant position. It’s easy to see grammar Nazis do this. It’s harder to catch ourselves doing it, especially when we don’t type out our arguments in a comment thread to look back over and get feedback from others on. More often, we just read or hear something and quietly bury whatever nuggets of truth we could have learned under smug, short-sighted, self-serving complaints.

I’m not saying this to sound smug by putting down stupid people. I’m saying this to warn you that everyone, myself included, has an instinctive drive to do this, and no matter how vigilantly we watch ourselves for this destructive behavior, we all slip, and the consequences are twofold. First, by tearing down other people indiscriminately just so we can win an argument we actually reinforce our opponents’ incorrect perceptions since the only thing we’ll have taught our opponent is that people who think differently than them are jerks.

 

 

Not only do we stop other people from perceiving truth, we stop ourselves as well. Here’s a perfect example. I published blog about how borders are inhumane. A self-proclaimed Christian responded in a comment saying opening borders is like taking the hinges off the door to your house; you’re just inviting the scum of the earth to come in. I replied that Jesus would have taken the door off the hinges to his house and let anyone in. He rebutted that Jesus didn’t have a house. So I was wrong. That’s when I stopped responding and deleted the whole conversation; it was obvious he wasn’t interested in arriving at truth. He just wanted to win an argument.

Technically, you could say he did win, because he was right. Jesus, in fact, did not have a house of his own after he started his ministry, but by winning that pointless, irrelevant, distracting argument, my opponent missed any truth he could have gained from the conversation. Sure, I’m at fault for not articulating my point better, but that just goes back to what I said in the beginning of this essay. Life isn’t fair. The world isn’t going to gift wrap truth for you and give it to you with a spoon full of sugar. The water is murky, but your education is your responsibility. It’s up to you to read for truth.

On a societal level, it’s important for every author or speaker to present factual information in a clear and understandable manner for the benefit of the masses. On an individual level though, you’re not going to read many books twice, which means you only have one chance to learn something from them. If you waste the opportunity nit-picking grammatical errors and technical flaws, then you miss the opportunity to learn the more important lessons in the text. Sometimes you could read 100 pages of bullshit with only 10 lines of useful, enriching information. You win the reading game by finding those 10 lines that will make you a better person, not by finding 1000 reasons you’re smarter than the author.

Even if you read 90 pages of garbage, you can still learn something by figuring out what the author didn’t say or should have said. One of the most productive intellectual exercises you may ever perform is to read “The Satanic Bible” and “Mein Kampf” for the express purpose of finding one useful piece of information in each of them. Afterwards, look at everything else you read with the same stoic, purposeful objectivity as you did when you read those two books. When you read anything, always ask yourself what useful truth you can tweeze from the text for the purpose of enriching yourself, and anytime you feel compelled to argue with an author of a blog, book or even another person’s comment on a chat forum, ask yourself what you really have to gain by tearing them down, and ask yourself if you’re really doing it in the honest pursuit of mutually beneficial truth or if you’re just auto-rejecting for the purpose to subconsciously proving your intellectual superiority to yourself.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
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It’s Not Cool To Be Stupid

I was riding on a city bus yesterday when I overheard a kid in the seat behind me brag to his friend proudly, “The only book I read is Facebook.” Those words will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I’m not surprised people think it’s cool to be stupid. Since the invention of television, children have grown up watching shows that portray stupid people as heroes. If you expose children under the age of 10 to stupid role models, they’ll take their icons’ behavior for granted and mimic them. Their brains will soak it up and build neural pathways around it. So it will shape their behavior in ways they don’t understand even if they try everything consciously possible to dis-incorporate the stupidity they’ve witnessed from their perception of reality:

If you told a child they couldn’t watch stupid television programming during the most impressionable age-range of their life because it will warp their minds as surely as watching hardcore pornography and violence, that wise little kid will ask you, “Then why do adults spend so much time and money going out of their way to create stupid television programming and try to stream it onto every screen in the world?” The shortest answer is that adults are stupid and thus unreliable.

Don’t believe the hype. It’s not cool to be stupid. It’s stupid to be stupid. It’s uncool to be stupid, and there’s a very practical reason why. The world is a mind-bogglingly complicated place to live, and it’s unforgiving. You get one shot to build a successful life, and it only takes one stupid mistake to ruin everything. The quality of your life depends on how well you understand the world and how well you solve the waves of problems that wash past you every day. The only tool you have to solve those problems and make the most of your life is your brain. Being stupid is being mentally crippled. Being smart is being mentally healthy and strong. So whatever benefit there is to looking cool by being stupid are far outweighed by the fact that it will ruin the rest of your life in more ways than you could ever comprehend.

 

 

I don’t need to pull out philosophical reasons to convince you it’s uncool to be stupid. This isn’t a concept you have to take on faith or work up the strength to live by. This is a warning. Stupidity is what makes life suck. The dumber you are, the less you’ll be able to cope with life, the more you’ll fail and the harder your life will be. The smarter you are, the more effortlessly you’ll waltz through more difficult problems for bigger rewards. Living a confused, helpless life isn’t cool. Living a brilliant, fulfilling life is cool.

But it’s not all about you. The world is a small place, and everyone’s problems rub off on the people around them. Your stupidity makes everyone’s life around you harder. Even when smart people do something stupid, it makes everyone’s lives around them harder. When you’re old enough you’re going to be put in some kind of position of authority over people younger than you. Then your stupidity will have the force of God in those young people’s lives. Stupidity affects everyone, and it’s like litter. When everyone litters a little bit it all adds up to a trashy country. When everyone celebrates littering, the whole country goes to hell in a handbasket. Then we leave a trashy country for the next generation to clean up when they could have been building a better world (on top of the better world we could have created instead of creating mountains of trash.

It’s not cool to be stupid. It’s tragic to be stupid. You’re worth more than that. Your neighbors deserve more from you, and humanity needs more from you. Don’t be stupid, and don’t let your friends be stupid. Stupid hurts everyone, especially stupid people.

 

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The Meaning of Life
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Why It’s Bad To Be Stupid (The Alphabits Analogy)

Picture of a box of "Alpha-Bits" cereal. On the box is a picture of letters made from compressed whole grain flour

 

Note: If you don’t know, Alphabits are an American breakfast cereal made of processed grain that’s been shaped to look like letters of the English alphabet.

Your brain is like a cereal bowl. Gaining knowledge is like pouring a little Alphabits cereal into the bowl. The more knowledge you gain, the more Alphabits you pour in. Once you’ve got those Alphabits in your bowl, they just sit there, but if you pick through the letters and look for patterns, you can spell words by stringing letters together. The fewer letters you have, the fewer words you can spell. The less of any certain kind of letter you have, the fewer words you can spell. So it’s not so important that you have any Alphabits of the letter “X,” but if you’re missing a lot of vowels, you won’t be able to make very many words.

The more letters you have, the more complete sentences you can make. If you have enough Alphabits you could write a novel, or a how-to-guide or something profoundly wise and useful. If you’ve only got enough letters to write one page, then you’ll only be able to write relatively simple things.

 

Picture of letter-blocks from the board game "Scrabble" spelling out the sentence, "Amazing things are about to happen."

 

In this analogy, the Alphabits represent pieces of knowledge, and the quantity of Alphabits in your bowl represents how much you know. The words you spell by stringing your Alphabits together represent the complex ideas you’ve learned/figured out in your life.

The fewer Alphabits you have in your bowl, the fewer ideas you can understand. This is profoundly important because the sum total of the ideas in your head are what make up your identity and your perspective of reality. What’s in your head is your reality. The less you know the less you are… and the less you can become because you can only string X-number of Alphabits together in so many combinations.

The number of Alphabits in your bowl, or the lack thereof, limits the number of ways you can express yourself as well. If you don’t have many Alphabits, then your interaction with life, the universe, and the world will be through simple grunts and truncated messages, because that’s the extent of your total life-repertoire. The more you fill your bowl and the more you study the pieces the more beautiful and useful words you can string together and write deeper, more meaningful paragraphs. Why grunt when you can sing a ballad?

It’s not a chore to fill your bowl with Alphabits or take the time to sift through them and sort them. Stringing those Alphabits together is how you lay the road to happiness. Every idea you understand and organize into your greater worldview brings you one step closer to having a relatively complete understanding of who, what, where, when and why you are enabling you to understand how to get to where you want to be.

 

 

If you don’t pour any Alphabits in your bowl, or take the time to string the letters together into any words other than what you heard on TV, then your life is basically forfeited. You had the chance to make whatever you wanted, and you just let your Alphabits sit there while you complained about the taste all the way through breakfast.

That’s not cool. That’s not honorable or mature. That’s a pathetic tragedy. Stupidity is a pathetic tragedy. And yes, that makes stupid people a pathetic tragedy, but the call to action isn’t to sneer at stupid people. Stupidity is the consequence of stupidity. If you were born and raised with X-number of Alphabits in your bowl, and the people who served you breakfast never gave you more, and discouraged you from asking for more, and taught you it was wrong to “play with your food,” then how could you be anything other than a product of your environment?

If your parents didn’t spell it out for you as a child, someone’s spelling it out for you now. Your Alphabits are your responsibility. Fill your bowl, and study what’s in it, because when you die, what’s left on the table will be the product of your existence. I don’t know if we’ll be judged after death based on what we left on the table. I don’t know if there will be any consequences for anything we succeed or fail at in life, but I do know that while we’re here, what we do is what we experience. It’s what we have to look back on for the rest of our lives and what determines what we’re capable of doing/experiencing for the rest of the time we have left to live. So it matters here and now what you’ve done with your Alphabits. If your life sucks, and you want it to be better, I guarantee you that if there’s a solution to your problems then the way to find it much less use it is to either get more Alphabits in your bowl or study the ones you’ve got closer, and figure out what combination you missed.

So it matters here and now what you’ve done with your Alphabits. If your life sucks, and you want it to be better, I guarantee that if there’s a solution to your problem, then the way to find and use it, is to either get more Alphabits in your bowl or study the ones you’ve got closer and figure out what combination you missed.

 

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The Relationship Between Sanity, Reality, Truth, Science And Religion

REALITY = that which is true.

SANITY = thoughts and behavior based on true premises.

 

“Sanity” is defined: “having or showing reason, sound judgment, or good sense.” But how do you know when someone has or shows reason, sound judgment or good sense? The key is, “truth.” The definition of both “truth” and “reality” can be said to be, “that which is.” Once you understand what is true and real you can make accurate assessments of the world and base your decisions and perceptions accordingly.

 

 

So in order to be sane, you have to know the truth about what is real. If you hold perceptions or beliefs that aren’t real then you’re insane. This means that psychology alone can’t bring you to full mental health. Psychology can help you understand the motives, developmental factors and other critical aspects of the human psyche, but it doesn’t provide a tool to distinguish reality from fantasy. Therefore, any good psychological treatment will also include training and exercises in critical thinking and science.

Think about it. How do you determine the difference between reality and fantasy, that which truly is and that which truly isn’t? For example, how do you know you exist? How do you know your parents are really your parents? How do you know the universe didn’t begin the day you were born? How can you trust the version of history you’ve been told is real? What makes a fact, a fact?

The determining factor is supporting evidence. Our entire society is based on this principle. You can’t be tried for a crime without supporting evidence because it’s the supporting evidence that establishes fact. You can’t write an article in an academic journal unless your propositions are based on supporting evidence. You can’t make a claim about the nature of the physical universe without supporting evidence. You won’t be considered mentally healthy unless your perceptions and beliefs are based on supporting evidence.

When you start making exceptions and saying, “Oh, I don’t need supporting evidence for this one little thing.” or start cooking your answers to fit your preconceived beliefs or flat-out falsifying information you set off down the path of insanity because your perceptions and beliefs are no longer supported by independently and consistently verifiable evidence.

 

Scientific thinking = basing conclusions on evidence.

Faith-based thinking = ignoring evidence that disproves your conclusion.

 

This is the crux of the disconnect between science and religion. Science demands evidence and rejects taboos. It would be an understatement to say that science (as well as proper philosophy) accepts doubt. Science demands doubt because doubt is the wedge that divides truth from fantasy.

 

Diagram showing how scientific and faith-based thought works. Basically, scientific thought uses a rigorous method to test for truth. Faith ignores evidence to support a preconceived conclusion.

 

There’s a classic story about a scientist who built his career on a scientific theory he’d come up with. Late in life, his theory was disproven by a young scientist just out of college. When the elder scientist learned he had been proven wrong he thanked the younger scientist for showing him the truth.

To a scientist, there’s no joy in the world greater than being proven wrong because there’s no joy or reward in the world greater than truth, and that’s worth giving up your pride for. You can accuse scientists of a lot of things, but you’d be wrong to deny that the underlying principle behind science is the humble search for truth.

However, physical science doesn’t answer every question there is to ask. It doesn’t answer, “Why are we here?” “Who am I?” “What is love?” or “Why shouldn’t we hurt each other?”

This is where philosophy and the social sciences come in. They acknowledge there are theoretical questions outside the realm of physical matter, and even though these questions don’t have physical supporting evidence, you can still use systematic logic to deduce, infer and extrapolate reasonable answers to these questions. Just like hard science, social science uses doubt to separate truth from fantasy.

Religion is the opposite. Religion starts from a position that isn’t backed up by physical evidence or logical deductions. Often times religion actively contradicts the evidence such as in the case of creation stories and the effectiveness of prayer. Its theoretical answers are based on the subjective cultures that produced each religion, and it reverse engineers warped, illogical explanations to support its conclusions. Often times it will even flat-out falsify information. The study of apologetics is systematic cognitive dissonance.

Religion claims it has a monopoly on truth, but all the real evidence contradicts this claim. Religion employs every tool of deception and delusion. It teaches techniques such as faith, fear, and dogma to undermine truth for its own purposes.

Religion claims to be humble but refuses to admit or even consider if/when it’s wrong. Science, on the other hand, sets the bar for humility. Thus it sets the bar for truth, and in the end, it sets the bar for sanity.

 

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How To Become An Expert At Anything

1. State your goals.

The more specifically you identify your goal the more specifically you can focus on it. Saying your goal out loud or writing it down will help you refine your goal and stay focused. However, telling other people your goals can give your brain a false sense of achievement that will deduce your motivation to complete them.

 

 

2. Study other people’s research and mistakes, and do it efficiently.

Whatever you’re trying to do has probably already been mastered by someone else. Learn from their research and mistakes. Go read a book about it. Read every book you can find on the subject. Take a class on it. The more external help you can to get the less you have to reinvent the wheel.

 

 

3. Practice.

No matter how much you read up on a subject or listen to lectures, that’s only going to help you understand the theory. Take for example the simple skill of rolling a cigarette. I can fully explain everything there is to know about rolling a cigarette in one or two pages, but even if you memorize those instructions word for word you’re not going to be able to roll quality cigarettes quickly and consistently until you’ve rolled at least 200 cigarettes yourself.

Every time you do something the neural pathways your brain responsible for processing that action will grow stronger. The stronger those pathways become the more second-nature the thing you’re doing will become.

Not only that, but throughout your life, you’ve developed a unique and extensive list of good habits, bad habits and different predispositions to ways of thinking and acting. All of these factors influence everything you do. Nobody else knows what all of those factors are. So nobody else’s instructions will be tailor-made for you. The only way for you to understand how your predispositions affect what you’re trying to do is by doing the thing you want to do.

As you practice you’ll come to understand not only your strengths and weaknesses but also the subtle nuances of the task you’re trying to accomplish, and by giving yourself hands-on experience with the task you’ll fully understand why these nuances exist, how to fix/exploit them and eventually how to change them. But those subtleties can only be teased out through hands-on experience.

The point of practicing is to understand the logic of the system better. The more logically and systematically you understand the logic of the system the better you’ll be able to master the system. As you practice, break down the system into its component parts and write a how-to manual for how to do the thing. It doesn’t matter if anyone else will ever read it. It will force you to fully articulate how to do what you’re doing and allow you to take a step back and look at what you know and find the holes in it.

Also, practice all the time. You can’t get good at anything if you only do it once a month. In between practice sessions you’ll forget everything you learned last time and the neural pathways you’ve strengthened in your brain through practice will atrophy. It’s a common misconception that some people are born experts. Mozart and Beethoven are often cited as examples, but in reality, they only appeared to be child prodigies because they devoted their entire childhood to practicing constantly. If you want to master something then practice it every day, preferably several times a day. If you can, devote your whole day to it every day.

 

 

4. Learn from your mistakes.

It’s human nature to feel bad when you fail or make mistakes. We tend to beat ourselves up real bad for it, but you never hear about baseball or basketball players beating themselves up for missing swings or throws. That’s because, in their line of work, it’s obvious that the only way to practice is by failing. This is true in any walk of life. It’s simply impossible to master a skill without failing, because failing is practicing, and practicing is the path to success.

 

 

5. Constantly ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

If you have to force yourself to practice then you’re not doing something you’re passionate about. Oh, you may be passionate about achieving the end goal of becoming rich and famous, but you’re not passionate about the task. So performing the task makes you miserable, and your brain constantly tells you to stop. You can push yourself through that wall for a while, but you’re not going to be able to keep pushing yourself against your will for the decades it’s going to take to master a skill. If you hate practicing them do yourself the biggest favor of your life and quit whatever it is you’re doing, and find something you enjoy doing.

You should want to practice several times a day every day. You should want desperately to cut other time-consuming activities out of your life to give you more time to do what you really want to do: practice. If you’re not like a crack addict going through withdrawals when you can’t practice then you’ve set the wrong goal. Find the thing you can’t live without and practice that, because if you do something you’re not passionate about enough to master it, you’re likely going to grow to hate it and become miserable.

If nothing else, life is short. You’re running out of time to follow your real dream…the dream you would do just for the sake of doing it regardless of whether or not you’ll ever master it.

 

 

6. Make crap.

What do you think Leonardo Da Vinci’s first picture looked like? What do you think Mozart’s first song sounded like? I guarantee you it was crap. The road to perfection is paved with crap. Rolling crappy cigarettes is discouraging. Every crappy cigarette you roll is proof that you’ll never be able to roll a perfect cigarette. Even if that’s true, you should keep rolling crappy cigarettes not because your goal is to become a master cigarette roller but because you want to roll cigarettes, and you enjoy the crappy cigarettes you’ve rolled until one day they start coming out perfect, and that day will come quicker than you expected because you weren’t constantly stressing about becoming a master. You were just doing what you want to do and enjoying yourself and learning along the way without measuring success by the end product.

 

 

7. Constantly ask yourself, “Should I be doing this?”

Maybe you want to learn how to roll cigarettes perfectly. It’s great that you have a goal, but you picked the wrong goal. All cigarettes do is get you addicted to poison and then kill you slowly and painfully. Life is short (especially if you smoke). Are you making the most of your time? Are the things you’re getting better at really important? Are they worth the time and stress? Are they contributing to your demise or the demise of society at large? Are they a waste of time? If you’re not asking yourself these questions then you might be wasting your life mastering a counter-productive skill.

 

 

8. Break the rules and cheat.

Here’s a motto you can live by, “By definition, the quickest and most efficient way to do anything is to cheat.” By “cheat” I mean break the rules. What are the rules anyway? They’re just the standard way of doing things that the people before you established. They’re not written in the fabric of space/time. They’re not like the laws of physics. They’re not even moral imperatives. Rules are just words people said. In order to do something better, you have to do it differently. That means you have to change the rules, and in order to change the rules, you have to break them.

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
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