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Dopamine (I have a final due in a few hours)

this is just going to be word vomit, I've not been sleeping well and so not confident this thought will be coherent.

I fell asleep around 1 this morning and woke up now, it's currently almost 7 am and blizzarding outside--maybe I'll post a picture.

This weekend storm was made out to be the storm of the decade by numbers. All week my neighbors have been preparing, my exams were this week until a few monday exams were cancelled in anticipation, possibly tuesday exams as well--we'll see. So with this bustle and ferver (or maybe a 'colder' word?) in mind I pictured this storm with all of the accoutrements Stephen King has installed in my memory; Blustery wet snow, high winds, ice, no visibility, rabid dogs--a quintessential winter wonderland. But none of that, just quiet, light powder, I was ready for the apocalypse and I feel like I'm in a damn snow globe.

That in mind I should have slept like a swaddled baby, but the lord works in mysterious ways, I woke up before 7 and have watched the snow slowly drift in dry tufts past my window with no hint of things becoming any worse than this soft playground. So, the town is shutting down though the storm is yawning--a weird flex, but okay.

What was on my mind when I woke up was not the snow so much, not in that way, I almost believed the forecast was wrong because in my mind I'd wake up to a howl I'd have to consider for a moment before remembering the storm--but no, I woke up unconcerned, tired, and thinking about happiness--which we'll get to in a moment, grab your coffee.

It's amazing how little about common sense we seem to understand at all, particularly to do with happiness. The gist of my thoughts, were not complicated, I woke up with a single question. If Human biology has an imperceptibly slow evolution, and happiness has no scope beyond biology, why do we still act as though it does? Even in the days of kings and tyrants, the scope of your happiness was limited by biology. You spoke to those in your castle, you wrote letters to people far away, you were the king of the land, but I would be surprised if you spoke with more than 10 people on an average day. I don't know how happy kings were when they weren't beheading their wives, but I imagine they were doing alright. In spite of this, history is rife with the conquests of overfed egos, and so we have the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, so maybe it is human nature to misunderstand ourselves; though every step back makes more uncertain the outcome of our technological experiment, not more certain.

It's still true that we're social creatures, we need to connect but we have a problem, because something exists now that has never existed before. Our biology doesn't know how to handle the idea of fame. The difference between how much happier a pop-star is and a healthy, middle-class, average Jolene is exactly what we all know to be true--and that's the weird thing, we all know that fame does not bring more than a shred of happiness, so why do we still run full speed toward a fathomless idea of bliss?

To be crass, we're dumb as shit. We somehow accepted a hope which assumes that fame will do something for us more than what our biology can do. Ariana Grande probably has the same amount of dopamine receptors in her brain as I do but that's not how we think. We don't really understand ourselves, we are children who learn to pretend.

If you were happy 150 years ago that meant you found a spouse and a safe home to raise your kids, maybe you found fame in becoming mayor, and that satisfied your scope of happiness. Now we have a much wider gamut and that is the danger in modernity; a debilitating and ceaseless paradox of choice. You can learn anything you want, go anywhere in the world, be anyone you want, change genders, change your hair color, fake tan, become a body builder or eat yourself to 1000 pounds. But there are some limitations we put on ourselves.

I'm not sure they're valid but the ideas protecting against cultural appropriation satisfy a need to reduce the choices we have to make.

When cultures would clash a few centuries ago, the courtesy was an exchanging of gifts and a meal to learn about one anothers' cultures--you'd literally share. Now, we have an abundance of exposure, but there's no time to meet and talk and get to know what the fuck's up, so there is no courtesy. With the technological experiment we're currently living in, the momentum of ideas is not going to be stopped because of someone elses' feelings, that much is certain; as I said, we don't understand ourselves much less anyone else. So, the idea that we should respect another culture and try to stave off the impending pseudo-culture that is currently developing on the internet is completely blind to reality in more ways than one. If you enjoy something it will not vanish, in fact our psychology and the observation bias would make sure of it. The more time you spend telling yourself that you cannot have something the more neural pathways you're building thinking about it, the more you will see it, and the more you will want it. It's inevitable, and the luddites who say otherwise, masquerade as the arbiters of the sacrosanct are really just a modern puritanical regime whose tension will split us just like the Calvanists and the Lutherans.

For the most part a lot of what bonds us culturally has to do with what french sociologist Emile Durkheim called the sacred and the profane (Feel free to read his wikipedia page, but beware he did a very interesting and dark study in Paris in the early 1900's on suicide). His ideas have influenced a lot of my thinking on religion. Sacred symbols, are ideas for which we prescribe meaning, are not inherently religious and are not inherently social. So whether you belive in a god or not, there are things in your life that you will inevitably face with a religious ferver. So, the purpose in mind then, for religion, is to have a thread that binds us so if religious ferver must remain a motivation, it will act as a nozzle to focus society down a common path forward--but the problem with religion is that it's easy to poke holes, so disbelief sparks distrust, us-v-them, and all the righteousness, etc.

I'm not sure how I got so off topic, but I used to be on the mindset that religion put blinders on you, that it prevents you from viewing the world in all of its ferocity and beauty. But now I wonder whether we really want to see any of it at all, we surely don't seem to. We're always burrying our heads in the movies, music, books, always trying to escape! I think that we mistake what happiness really is. Life is not about being happy, or seeing the world, or reading books, life is about survival, and happiness is a biproduct of a system of failures to solve problems and keep you alive. Happiness is a side-effect that capatalism commercializes.

If you're stressed constantly, it's because you haven't solved your problems, if you feel great, you probably just solved a problem. The only thing that your happiness is, is a perception of yourself in relation to the series of problems you are trying to solve. If your problems are too easy, you're not happy, if your problems are too hard you're REALLY not happy, but every problem you solve creates new problems, they're unending, which we should be thankful for considering life would be miserable without them. Let's say you're miserable because you don't know what you want to do with your life, but you were always really into cars so you realise, "Oh, I want to become a mechanic", well you now have a problem because you're not a mechanic. Now, if someone handed you a mechanic's position it solves your problem but teaches you nothing, which rips away all of the value in trying and failing. It's been said adnauseum (but we're dumb and don't understand) that happiness is inextricably linked to failure. You will not feel happy in a job you didn't want, not because you didn't want it, but because you didn't fail at all trying to get it.

I think about this a lot, because I'm a computer science student in an industry where imposter syndrome comes in the starter pack. There are a lot of rationalizations that go around, but the reason for this epidemic is very much temporary and due to the current job market and what I said in the last paragraph. No matter how smart you are, you will feel like an imposter if you don't fail at whatever you're doing. It's hard to find jobs doing almost anything without a computer involved, so if you know how to use a computer you're inherently in high demand and that's disorienting for humans to feel that kind of relief, the novelty of it confuses a lot of us into neurosis, thoughts that we must feel this way because we're not smart enough, or etcetera. No, it's nothing to do with you, it's everything to do with the current job market. You're fine.

The conflation of value with monetary value is also unavoidably problematic. You make a certain ammount and your coworkers make a certain amount, the currency itself has a fluctuating value though your pay isn't linked with the health of the stock markets so it's a bit odd to value your work with money--though there has yet to be a better solution. Have you ever seen a stock-market analyst who's not sweating profusely and relentlessly anxious--not the pretty anchors who report the numbers, the actual stock brokers, they're manic as hell. That job seems more like a well-paying social experiment than a rewarding career. Anyway, happiness is not a mystery to us, it's not linked to wealtyh, we experience it commonly and miss it when it's gone as if it were some chimerical vapor. We search for it in places which promise us the miracle chemical we want in a less illusory fashion, because the put it blandly, we're still apes.

The neocortex, which contains the portion of the brain responsible for logic and reason, i.e. all the progress of modernity, is prefixed with "neo" because compared to our evolutionary great-grandparents it's new! Brilliant, someone was using it when they named it! Anyway, the largest portion of your brain is used to handle motor skills, which we take for granted--it allows you to walk without consciously processing every muscle necessary to make that process fluid, so imagine if you could use the logic centers of your brain as intutively as you can walk... well, I'd say that all our problems would be solved but I guess that'd go against my previous statements, so more likely our problems then would be imperceptably harder than what we're dealing with now, so maybe be grateful we're not so smart?


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