I once asked a friend to guess what I scored on the Big Five personality test. Given that I frequently argue for views that appear extremely conservative, along with the fact that it’s been found that low openness correlates with high conservatism, he guessed that I’m low in openness. To be clear, openness is one of the Big Five personality traits: Individuals high in openness are more likely to break apart established structures and forge their own way, leading either to reckless departure from the deep-seated truths of traditional wisdom and a blind embrace of chaotic dissolution of disciplined routine (when done poorly), or innovative eschewing of the dangerously misguided qualities of mainstream thought and a properly thought-out re-structuring of one’s thinking and behavior (when done properly). On the other hand, those low in openness are less likely to break apart these established structures, preferring to remain set in their ways, acting out the received wisdom of society, or at least their own past conclusions, without doing any sort of deep questioning of their path. Thus the progressives (those who question the wisdom of the past and wish to usher in a new era of human organization) tend to be high in openness, while the traditionalists (those who believe that the best compass for right action is religion and other founts of past wisdom) are generally low in openness.
Among not only religious conservatives who had their views bestowed upon them by the unconscious process of cultural evolution, but also secular analysts who built their worldview from the ground up through independent thinking, it’s common to lament the modern destruction of what we could call civilization-era sexual controls. Simply put: In the ancestral environment a small minority of men mated with the great majority of the women, and most of the men were left out in the cold to live a harsh life of involuntary celibacy. However, within civilization this natural fact about the human species has been traditionally turned in its head, and a one-man-for-one-woman norm has been established: the marriage institution. Biologically polygynous, yet culturally monogamous, the human species marched forward through the agricultural revolution and then the industrial revolution. But it doesn’t end there. What most people don’t realize is that this civilization-era system is starting to fall apart, and people are once again entering a more primitive form of sexual organization where men separate into the haves and the have-nots. Pornography, anime, prostitution, and other such devices might be useful for pacifying these have-nots and making sure to prevent too many of them from following in Elliot Rodger’s footsteps. But this sudden unleashing of primal nature within the modern urban landscape isn’t without grave dangers for societal structure.
Recently I had a moment where I forgot that a certain American of Iranian and Armenian descent isn’t white. And then it struck me: Underneath the political statements of the alt right, white nationalism, and other similar movements is really just a strong stance of, ‘If you can’t fool us into thinking you’re one of us, then you’re not one of us.’
I asked someone yesterday whether she knows what changes about how she feels after she drinks caffeine, and she said: “I have no idea.” She then asked, “What has caffeine in it?” I explained that tea, coffee, and chocolate are perhaps the most common ones. I also added that these substances do things like increase concentration, though chocolate has a host of other active ingredients as well (e.g., theobromine). She seemed to know a bit of what I meant about chocolate, but showed no acknowledgement of the effects of tea or coffee. I then asked her whether she consumes tea or coffee on a regular basis, thinking maybe I could then transition to asking her whether she tends to drink tea or coffee at certain times and not others, to determine what her pattern of consumption is. She said: “Well, I don’t really drink coffee. But I do drink a lot of tea at home.” I asked her what kind of tea she usually drinks, and her answer was: “Rooibos.” I then of course pointed out that rooibos doesn’t contain any caffeine, and then the conversation ended shortly thereafter. Later on, however, she purchased a bottle of green tea, and that prompted me to ask her whether she was craving a bit of caffeine. “This has caffeine?”, she replied. “I was just thirsty!” Without translating my thoughts into words for her to hear, I just pondered the fact that we seem to have a different definition for that term. To me the word thirsty refers to how I would feel upon deciding to drink something especially hydrating, and tea isn’t so; it’s a diuretic.
When we analyze our perception of the world from the most unprejudiced point of view, we find that the notion of category melts away and we’re left with an undifferentiated and undelineated continuum of subjective experience. It’s only once we add the concept of purpose that we’re able to take the unbroken continuity of sensory experience and bundle various aspects of the perceptual landscape into categories (more precisely, indifference groupings) Two subjective experiences present as the same category when they both fulfill the same function in our mind. For example, if you take a pair of sunglasses and vary the tint of the glass on a smooth continuum, the moment they lose their claim to the category we verbalize as “sunglasses” in English is when the tint is such that you can no longer see out of them or you can still see out of them but they’re too lightly tinted that the painful sensation of bright sun is no longer tempered to a tolerable degree. To a being unaware of the experience of being human, and equipped with a non-optimal mechanism of perceiving 3D objects, fundamentally speaking there would be no way for them to look at a pile of reading glasses, sunglasses, protective glasses, and so forth, and differentiate them into proper human categories; they would merely see a heap of objects of similar physical dimensions, in a position to perceive only an unbroken continuum of changes in thickness, width, etc.
One of the traditions that underlies civilized life is the insistence that people constantly eat. If you’re sick and you don’t feel like eating, you’ll generally find yourself surrounded by well-meaning people who suggest that you eat in order to conserve your strength. Perhaps you’ll go a day or two without eating if you’re very sick, but that will be perceived as a major problem, and the objective foisted upon you by the culture will be to get back to eating as soon as possible. Unaware that extended fasting is a perfectly safe practice, they’ll see lack of appetite and consequent loss of weight within the context of sickness as a deep source of worry. If sickness makes food taste bland or even repulsive, this won’t be received as a reliable suggestion from your subconsciousness to avoid eating, but rather as an obstacle to recovery. You may not be able to tolerate certain types of food, but conveniently the culture has discovered some foods that are especially easy to consume even when sickness has stolen your appetite, such as rice porridge (お粥) or chicken soup.
The inescapable reality of human existence is such that no matter how much we’re able to prolong our lives, we will all eventually die. Whether you play hard and die young, take a very careful approach to life and pass away in peace at age 92, or even live to see the era of transhumanism and extend the existence of your consciousness far past the biologically determined lifespan of not much more than 100 years, the fact of the matter is that you will perish at some point. While many traditional religions offer the prospect of an afterlife, and the new Team-Science-compatible hope of transhumanism promises that we can defeat death, unfortunately the truth is much more bleak. You can postpone death, and you can run away from the terror; but you can’t defeat it. There will come a day that your consciousness is annihilated forevermore, or at least that your mind will be extinguished with no guarantee that it will ever come about again. For those who are not given to delusion, the only choice is to accept the facts and to convert the fear into strength.
In the modern West, there’s a widespread tendency that I call radical integration. While many cultures run on a sociological system where instilled into the average individual’s psychology is a set of interaction modes, in the West such a system is absent. When someone acts very different in one situation vs. another, Western people are apt to call them fake, phony, or inauthentic, accuse them of having a split personality (considered a disorder by mainstream psychology), or try to re-orient their behavior by admonishing them to just be themselves. However, unknown to virtually all of these well-meaning individuals is the fact that there are whole nations of people (such as the Japanese) where not having a ‘split personality’ is considered weird, unusual, or even a disorder. For instance, Japanese people tend to have one mode we could call their social self (建前) and another we may refer to as their real self (本音). Although a Westerner who understands the Japanese mentality can tell the difference, and can appreciate the social cohesion that the former mode produces while realizing that with a proper connection the latter mode will reveal itself in time, the average Western person who spends a lot of time in Japan never learns to understand, and forever considers Japanese people robotic, fake, and bewildering.