Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2020-04-12T12:20:37Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com April 12. http://ranprieur.com/#82440f715f06f633da4dddabadd99683e3002bfc 2020-04-12T12:20:37Z April 12. Some quick notes on Easter. I was raised Catholic, and I totally get the idea of God, and of Jesus as a spiritual leader. But the story of Jesus dying for our sins just never clicked for me. Dying and sins have nothing do to with each other. The ancient meaning of the word the Bible translates as "sin", is "missing the mark". I don't believe in original sin, but I believe that mistakes are inevitable. And the only redemption for making a mistake, is being in the same situation again and doing the right thing.

If there's a message in the death and resurrection of Jesus, it's that each one of us, by completely accepting all the pain the world gives us, can undergo a kind of spiritual renewal.

New subject, still Easter. This time of year, my town is full of rabbits. While I'm against lawns, a nice side effect is that they provide spring forage for rabbits, and the coyotes come in from the hills to eat them. We hear coyotes howling, inside city limits, several times a day now. Because of Coronavirus, there are way more people out walking around, and the coyotes must know something is up.

New subject, still Easter. We Tried 7 Ways to Hard-Boil Eggs and Found a Clear Winner. Boil a lot of water, then carefully add the eggs, then simmer for 11 minutes (more if you're at higher elevation), then a cold water bath.

April 10. http://ranprieur.com/#f252071877c3771290ea40876e095b4515b52017 2020-04-10T22:00:17Z April 10. Nothing deep today, but I have an example of how head intelligence can work against us. Compare the Pics subreddit to the No Context Pics subreddit. The latter has a strict rule, that all pics must be titled simply "PIC". The result is that the quality of images is much higher. In the regular Pics subreddit, upvotes are less about the actual images, and more about clickbait titles: symbolic expressions that are rewarded for how well they fit Reddit culture.

Last weekend I updated my about me page, mainly with full rewrites of my 100-word political and philosophical summaries. Also, on my Big Blood page, I've finally written about the new album.

More music: recorded last weekend, BonnLive: Blow Up - Sixties best of! It's a DJ in Germany playing more than two hours of great sixties music that you probably haven't heard. My three favorites are Shocking Blue - Send Me A Postcard, which would fit right in and kick ass on any mainstream classic rock playlist; Hoyt Hudson - They Took John Away, which builds to a really impressive rawness; and Factory - Path Through the Forest, a sound that Hawkwind would surpass on their 1972 album Doremi Fasol Latido, but nobody was playing this kind of heavy drone in 1968.

April 8. http://ranprieur.com/#0cd5f42ecfae65dd3aefabfde55b953c08be1f65 2020-04-08T20:40:21Z April 8. I need a break from writing about Coronavirus, and especially from writing about American politics, a toxic subject. But I have a little more to say about body intelligence.

First, on the subreddit, this post has a link to video about breathing. She says it's bad to force deep breaths, and good to pay attention to your breath while letting it go its own way. But I find it really difficult to do both of those at the same time, especially when I'm sitting still. The harder I'm exercising, the easier it is.

I was wondering: can the body be neurotic? My first thought was no, only the brain can. But when I think about it more, the body can totally have habits of constricting muscles for no good reason, and the brain needs to sort those out.

At the same time, focusing on the body is really helpful for settling down bad patterns of thinking. Yesterday I walked around testing a bottom-up hierarchy of attention: so the highest priority is the soles of my feet, then my center of gravity (thanks Eric for the idea), then my breathing, and brain last.

The word "thinking" means so many things. Most people think in a combination of language and pictures, but for some people, it's only one or the other. Then there's completely inside-the-head thinking, which can either play with stuff that's already inside the head, or create new stuff. When I'm trying to fall asleep, chasing ideas can keep me up for hours, but creating images puts me right out.

Then, when the head looks to the world, it can either look for surprise, for stuff that challenges its internal models, or it can look for recognition, for confirmation of its own models. I have a new theory of collapse: that a culture, or an individual, is in danger of psychological collapse, when inside-the-head thinking and confirmation thinking start echoing back and forth, not anchored by enough model-testing thinking.

Related: Tips From Someone With Nearly 50 Years Of Social Distancing Experience. He lives alone in a Colorado ghost town, and his first tip is to keep track of something, like snow levels or birds. So I'm thinking, most of the things that normal people keep track of, are either unreal or depressing.

April 6. Since quarantine started, I haven't played any video games at all. I tried to get away with using more cannabis so I could crank out some good writing, but that didn't work. There seems to be a hard ceiling, at 2-3 days per week, above which the costs outweigh the benefits. So now I'm working on body intelligence.

When athletes perform badly, they're said to be "in their head." I don't think I've ever been out of my head. When people say "listen to your heart" or "listen to your gut," they might as well be talking about telepathy. My head does all the work, forcing my body to do stuff all day, and also my head has all the fun: daydreaming, philosophizing, and creative work. But now my head is just about at the end of its rope. If I don't lower my center of gravity, I'm going to flip.

So yesterday, with that intention, I ate four grams of mushrooms, which is like one or two grams for a normal person. I'd probably have to eat a full ounce to get ego death, but I managed to get far enough outside my head to see how it's working against me. When I reached the plateau, I went for a walk, and tried to keep my attention down.

When people talk about their amazing psychedelic trips, it's almost all neck-up. Now I'm thinking, all that eye stuff and head stuff is mostly distracting and ephemeral.

There's a Buddhist parable, where a guy is afflicted by a demon, and he tames it by giving it a curly hair, and telling it to keep the hair straight. The demon keeps running its fingers along the hair to straighten it, and it keeps getting curly again, so the demon can't do anything else.

It's about breath meditation. The reason you focus on your breath, is not because you learn anything from the breath, but because it keeps the head in its place. As long as you're running your attention along that breath, you can't lose yourself in thoughts, and you can still notice your body.

So that's my advice, for anyone going nutty in quarantine. Also, if you have Sling TV, check out the Dog TV channel, which is free on Sling for the next two weeks. It's especially good after 11pm.

April 4. http://ranprieur.com/#9557f8793e6feabe5b9e790ffb17ab18f4e07d98 2020-04-04T16:00:36Z April 4. Yesterday's post was a bit dramatic. It's hard to not get caught up in this stuff. It's like in Star Trek, when they come to some messed up planet, and they're just supposed to observe and not intervene. Except none of us have a starship -- the reason we can't intervene is that we have no participation in power.

Linked from weird collapse, an interesting argument about comparative competence under Coronavirus, that there's a strong correlation between countries that are handling it well, and countries that have been recently destroyed: Vietnam, Korea, Germany, Japan. "The first generation builds, the second generation manages, and the third generation wastes and takes it for granted because they've never known anything else."

I'm so tired of being serious. I'm sure I'll get back to it next week, but for the rest of the weekend, here's a fun video: Doctopus - Wobbegong.

April 3. http://ranprieur.com/#aac816cded89c7daf6f5cbbe816fce520f4a7cce 2020-04-03T15:50:19Z April 3. I keep thinking about how Trump is more popular than the media. Neither one of them are doing their job. Trump's job is to manage the federal government in the interests of the American people, and when you look at his actions, he's doing everything he can to help Coronavirus kill as many of us as possible, while remaining popular enough to keep destroying America for a second term.

I'm not saying he's wrong. Maybe America needs to be destroyed.

Meanwhile, the job of the media is to give us the information to make our own decisions, and what they're doing instead, is treating us like sheep, preaching at us about what to do, with the goal of saving the most lives.

But that's not their decision to make. I wonder how many of us are secretly cheering for the virus. How many of us cheer for earthquakes and hurricanes, even when they're nearby? They make life more interesting, and maybe they kill you, and either way you don't have to go to work tomorrow.

I'm envious of the countries that have handled this well, like Taiwan and South Korea. As an American, I can't imagine what it's like to have everyone put trust in public institutions, and have them earn that trust. Matt writes:

I wonder what it will take for the people of the United States to stop seeing the British Empire in their own government. Our founding mythos is steeped in rebellion and so there's a tendency, I think, for Americans to define themselves in terms of the rebel. If you think of yourself as a rebel, then there has to be a shadow king.

April 2. http://ranprieur.com/#edc6e0a309bce1a50d9962e31e170525634ad2d2 2020-04-02T14:40:38Z April 2. I was planning to take the day off, but I just wrote some stuff over email that I think is worth posting. Yesterday, when I said Utopia doesn't have the concept of freeloading, I didn't fill in any details. But that's actually been done. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers mentions tribes where some people do no productive work their whole lives, and nobody cares. The reason they don't care is, their society is built completely out of activities that people find intrinsically enjoyable. Obviously not every tribe has done it, but even if it's just one, that tells us that it's possible. Then our challenge is to do it at a high level of technology.

This is not something Bernie Sanders can do -- it's hundreds of years in the future, or thousands. It requires a system built from the bottom up with zero coercion, so that jobs that nobody wants to do don't exist in the first place. But I think a UBI would move us in the right direction, by giving workers more leverage to make their job environments more enjoyable.

New subject. Coronavirus polling shows that most Americans approve of Trump and disapprove of the media. I see only one way to make sense of this: most Americans would rather feel confident through a million deaths, than feel scared through a thousand. Trump's supporters think empathy is something you reserve for people you know personally, and the president's job is to maintain the mystique of authority.

April 1. http://ranprieur.com/#97ac5af79e8ef8703ac353aaf27b617f28191439 2020-04-01T13:30:34Z April 1. Following up on economics, I mentioned Piketty and Graeber, two guys who are good at explaining the larger context outside of what the present economy takes for granted, to its ruin. Here's a Thomas Piketty interview with some thoughts on Coronavirus, and a review of his new magnum opus, Capital and Ideology. The key quote:

The discourse of meritocracy and entrepreneurship often seems to serve primarily as a way for the winners in today's economy to justify any level of inequality whatsoever while peremptorily blaming the losers for lacking talent, virtue, and diligence.

And a blog post about David Graeber's ideas, Bullshit Jobs in an age of Coronavirus. The author doesn't explicitly support an unconditional basic income, but it's pretty clear, if "bullshit jobs have turned into a sort of 'workfare' for the educated classes," then it would be better to just give money to every class, so we can at least do useless stuff that we enjoy.

Also, linked from the weird collapse subreddit, a piece about collapse from the bottom: "Collapse of this kind means that we are undernourishing and impoverishing the weakest things around us... But that is exactly what capitalism and neoliberalism say we should do."

A nice trick for understanding economics is to factor out money. An economy is just a bunch of people doing stuff that keeps the system going. The strength of an economy is the overlap between what's necessary to keep it going, and what people want to do anyway. By this definition, a weak economy has to threaten people with hunger and homelessness to get them to do their jobs, and at the other extreme, Utopia doesn't even have the concept of freeloading.

Then it's just a matter of distribution, getting stuff to people who aren't making stuff. Communism tried it through central management, which didn't work, and capitalism is trying it through money, which is now also failing. I think the failure of capitalism is a slip between two functions of money: 1) a mechanism of exchange, and 2) a source of the meaning of life.

The problem is, money is zero-sum. If you hang meaning on it, then meaning is zero-sum, and it gets sucked up by people at the top. The poor become NPC's in the quests of the rich.

That system is now breaking down. Human motivation is the most powerful force on the planet, and as the economy collapses, there is more and more human motivation languishing, waiting to be tapped.