How do you milk sweetness from life to show the Universe a good time?
Really interesting stuff in that question Laurie.
Two terms that stand out like sledgehammers to me, sweetness and good. What do they mean?
Look at sweetness.
We have this genetically determined attraction to things that are sweet.
It now seems beyond any reasonable doubt that such attraction is a function of our long genetic history of interaction with all the other life forms on this planet and the fact that fruit that are sweet generally contain a lot of calories and nutrients and have co-evolved with us and the plants that have them to have us distribute the seeds of the plant with a little pile of fertiliser at some distance from the parent tree.
So in this sense, sweet is both something attractive to awareness and useful in the ecology of our being.
And there is another sense in which sweet just happens to be one particular route that evolution has taken, when it could have taken others, and given that sugar is such a relatively simple molecule, it is one of the “low hanging fruit” (one of the simplest possible in terms of complexity, and therefore more probable for any set of entities moving from the simple to exploration of the more complex, by essentially random means).
So in this sense, sweetness has both accident and simplicity and utility in the functions that have led to it delivering the experience that it does to the sort of awareness that we are.
What about “good”?
Good seems to be the very simplest possible distinction any entity can make in realm of utility or value.
Given that it seems we each essentially start life from a very simple start, we each have to acquire the set of distinctions that are language anew. Mostly we do this in a social context, learning by doing what terms mean.
It seems that when we start to realise that there are more possibilities that just one way of being, that we need some sort of measure of value to choose between options, be they present or future options.
It seems that any instant in time has a potentially infinite set of possible options, and any given human in any given instant will be conscious of some small finite subset of that infinity, and some small subset of ongoing probable consequences of any action (or inaction) over time.
So it seems that in order to form some sort of abstract tool to help in the requirement to make real decisions in real time, we have developed this notion of good and bad. In a very real sense it is the simplest possible binary (set of 2) approach to simplifying a computational problem of infinite complexity.
It seems that the really tricky problem is, that while this idea is simple and fast, and both of those things have a certain survival utility, they also carry risk of being too simple and too fast when things really are far more complex than that.
As one develops an understanding of the sorts of complexity that seem to exist in reality, it becomes clear that such simple notions as good and bad can become a real barrier to understanding the sorts of possibilities and outcomes that can be created when one is able to look more deeply into the infinite realms of the possible and the probable.
One of the things to come clearly out of my investigations 5 years ago when I was given a terminal cancer diagnosis, was to realise how our market economy has taken the notion of sweetness (and extracted sugar), in a realm of supermarkets, to deliver processed foods high in sugar that are attractive and addictive to our monkey minds, yet do not meet the complex needs of our body for the many other things that were associated with sweetness in nature, that sweetness alone was a useful proxy for in that context.
The context has now changed.
We have manufactured sweetness (as in extracted sugars added back to all sorts of high calorie foods), and the lack of associated nutrients (most particularly Vitamin C, and a host of others – some 30,000 of them) is directly responsible for the epidemics we see of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
So sweetness has become a trap in one sense, and the bait in a trap in a much deeper sense.
In the context of our monetary system, the drive to get money by delivering food that is both satisfying to taste and creates addiction (and thence repeat business), is creating vast “health” industries (an example of “new-speak” if ever there was one) from the illness that results.
Our simplistic understandings of what is actually in our own best interests seems to me (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) to be the greatest threat to us all.
I survived my cancer by being able to delay gratification, and to choose to stop eating all the addictive sugary foods that my brain craved, and to return to a whole-foods diet. On the same day I gave up sugar, alcohol, chocolate, meat, dairy. All my treat foods gone. All the “sweetness” gone.
And over many months, my neural networks reprogrammed, and I started to enjoy some of the things I was eating. And it is difficult going out, and having all those smells of foods that my neural network still finds attractive, yet I consciously over-ride and reject.
It is even harder, when like last night I drove 120 miles each way to a meeting on climate change, and I tried to build a context where I could ask a question of the panellists, and before I was half way through building the context, the moderator cut me off insisting that I ask a question rather than make a statement.
To me it is so clear that it is the incentives of the market that are now the greatest danger to humanity.
We do things to make money, rather than doing things that will deliver abundance and choice and freedom to every human being.
Money only has any value when there is scarcity.
The very idea of money, as a measure of exchange value, implies scarcity.
When something is as abundant as oxygen in the air, it has no market value, in spite of it being the single most important thing to any human being.
The really crazy thing is, that we already have the technology to deliver an abundance of all the necessities of life to every person on the planet, but it is the very idea of money as an abstract measure of value that is preventing such abundance, as the delivery of such abundance will (by definition) destroy market value (money). Anything that is truly universally abundant has no exchange value – we all have what we need, by definition.
What I see as desirable long term, is a state where every individual has real security, and real freedom of action, within reasonable limits of energy and environmental impact (including the impact of procreating).
To me, such an outcome requires that we get past the idea of money.
Money is a measure of scarcity, not abundance.
Oxygen is abundant – it has zero market value.
We know now, today, how to deliver all the essentials of life to everyone on the planet, with no one having to work for more than about 10 hours per week.
We also know that human beings have evolved to live in social groups, of up to about 200, and are happiest doing so.
We also know that females tend to have a far stronger need for conversation than males, and there is considerable variability.
We know many thousand such things that are not given free expression in an environment dominated by money.
So there are a great may things about our existing technical and social structures that we know are far from optimal for allowing individuals to explore the infinite range of actions that are possible with the sorts of brains evolution has equipped us with.
The idea that we need to somehow restrict ourselves to that suite of actions that were of utility in our evolutionary past (both genetic and cultural), and give us the desires we have, needs to be seriously examined.
For me, the possibilities of life are far beyond that.
With sufficient awareness, one can retrain any neural network.
It seems to me that we allow ourselves to be captured by the likes and dislikes that evolution has distilled into our genetics, and an even larger set of judgements that have evolved in our cultures and are present as implicit assumptions in the words and concepts and distinctions we use.
We can be so much more than that.
Reality is so much more than that.
The simple model of reality that our minds construct for us that is our experiential reality is such a poor shadow of what seems to actually be there, such a simple approximation, and it is our experiential reality.
Being in a society of people who value life and liberty above all else, and who design systems that support that and to empower conscious evolution beyond the strictures of biology and culture and do so in an environment of maximal biological and cultural diversity, seems to me to be the nectar of life.