Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2022-06-25T13:10:23Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com June 25. http://ranprieur.com/#f6156b772859512a17dc65b2c625021b35a2909f 2022-06-25T13:10:23Z June 25. Ok, I'm going to try to step into this minefield without pushing any buttons.

Religion is not a thing. "Religion" is a word that blurs together a bunch of different things. One of them is in the news right now. Some people have fetishized an old book, which if you squint your eyes can be used to justify almost anything, and they're using it to justify an aggressive move in an ongoing conflict.

This conflict is between two ways of being, and two mindsets. One of them is ancient and tested. You can see it in a forest, where trees share nutrients through their roots, and work together to catch sunlight and cycle water. The other is new and radical. It's only possible in a highly social species, and it's only been tried on a large scale for a few thousand years: a collective way of being whose fundamental relationship is one person telling another person what to do.

Social dominance orientation is the psychology term for the mindset of feeling good about a domination-based social order. It's more common in categories of people who have historically been in the dominant position; and even if they find themselves in a weaker position, it may be easier to imagine getting the strong position back, than to imagine a social order where you view every person as just as important as you, and you're sensitive to their needs.

By the way, under a certain definition, I'm against fairness. If there aren't enough cookies for everyone, I still want to give out all the cookies. But there's a kind of cookie that should never be given out: the kind where you can make someone do something they'd rather not do.

In the long term, a system built bottom-up from what people enjoy doing will outcompete a system built top-down from what people enjoy telling other people to do. But right now we live in a clunky hybrid of taken-for-granted power relations and sappy messages about equality. I believe that America is on the leading edge of a global surge in social dominance, as we cast about for better ways of living. I don't have any non-obvious advice.

June 23. http://ranprieur.com/#e07031a6b2887599088e7b918ef7c0149f97b313 2022-06-23T23:50:08Z June 23. Continuing from the last post, Eric points out that there is value in seeking understanding because "if I observe a pattern in one field, it's likely that similar patterns pop up elsewhere." That reminds me of a Charles Fort line: "One measures a circle beginning anywhere."

I got a lot of feedback from people who are moving away from negativity as they get older. I think this is because old people have less stamina, and also because they have the accumulated experience that it works better to focus on what you're for, than to focus on what you're against.

Personally, I've added the Uplifting News subreddit to my daily links, as an antidote to regular news. Aaron writes:

I keep looking for the obscure people who are coming up with real solutions to our problems. They build things quietly and then all of a sudden, when the time is right their solutions take over the world and nothing can stop it.

That reminds me of a quote I read back in the 90's, from an old Soviet dissident: "History is like a mole, burrowing unobserved."

June 21. http://ranprieur.com/#370257681a182d02a3cb99b73340763d23c07a65 2022-06-21T21:30:05Z June 21. The reason I stopped writing about social issues is I got tired of fighting. Twenty years ago, when I started writing on the internet, I wanted to slay dragons. Gradually I shifted from warrior to scout, from fighting to trying to understand stuff. But lately I'm thinking, what's even the benefit of understanding stuff? For example, if I have a good understanding of why gas prices are high, or if I have a bad understanding, what difference does that make to anyone?

Now, there is value in seeking understanding just for the intrinsic pleasure of seeking understanding. But if that's my motivation, I might as well be gaming. If I understand ship loadouts in Starsector, that benefits the world exactly as much as if I understand gas prices -- but it benefits me more, because I play the game better.

Another value of seeking understanding is that I can develop habits of thinking that are generally helpful. That's why it's good to study philosophy, not because those dweebs were right about anything, but because you're getting practice in precise thinking.

But if I'm writing for an audience, there's one big factor that affects whether people even notice how I'm thinking. If they already have a strong opinion on the subject, the only thing they're going to notice is whether I'm right or wrong.

So now I can formulate a better rule than "Don't write about social issues." If it's a subject where people already have strong opinions, don't write about it. And if it's a subject where there's no practical benefit to better understanding, don't write about it unless the process of thinking is interesting.

June 18. http://ranprieur.com/#652f31f4dd8ab284f180de13a30d5902a63fe2e3 2022-06-18T18:00:45Z June 18. I'm now fully moved to Seattle, and dog-tired. We still have a lot of unpacking and arranging to do, and also selling the car. This is a long shot, but if anyone in the Seattle area wants a 2008 Honda Fit, I'll give you a good deal.

June 15. http://ranprieur.com/#6eb567790fffb12e48e47e08d5ec49ec31569084 2022-06-15T15:30:54Z June 15. Some good news links. World's largest organism found in Australia. It's not a giant spider, but a 4500 year old patch of hybrid seagrass.

From a few weeks ago, a Hacker News thread about microbes evolving to eat plastic.

Liquid platinum at room temperature: the cool catalyst for a sustainable revolution in industrial chemistry. In terms of coming technologies, I think space travel and virtual reality are being overhyped, and we're going to see a lot more action in materials science and brain hacking.

U.S. Landfills Are Getting a Second Life as Solar Farms. They're near cities, there's already infrastructure going there, and they can't be used for buildings.

June 13. http://ranprieur.com/#ce039f2100260ef506e9191867ebdae5b1d038ea 2022-06-13T13:10:09Z June 13. Last week I heard someone on TV use the word "synchronicity" when they meant "synchronization". This is synchronicity: I was just at the post office to fill out a change of address form, to move from Pullman to Seattle. While I was there, a guy came in with something for the address 140 Windus. "140 Windus," called one postal worker to another. 140 Windus is the house I lived in when I was three years old, and right next door to the house I came back to when I was born, 55 years ago.

June 11. http://ranprieur.com/#65e4d901203879b7f944335df59c376142c6fd2d 2022-06-11T23:50:05Z June 11. Moving is terrible. Back in the nomad days it was probably lots of fun. But never in history, until now, has it been normal for people to have this much stuff, without being rich enough to make other people deal with it.

So for the last several weeks I've painfully going through stuff, looking at ten thousand things from matchbooks to grain mills, deciding whether to haul it across the state, use it up, sell it on Craigslist, take it to a thrift store, or throw it away. And then there's the cleaning.

I'm now in the terminal phase. The last time I was this busy was my final week of college, when I put a sign on my wall that said "WORK EAT SLEEP" because if I did anything other than those three things, I wouldn't finish.

But this time, something peculiar happened. I wouldn't call it a "flow" state because it's not something I would seek out. A better word is inertia: near the end of my second straight 14 hour day, I reached a state where having one more thing to do was no longer painful. I was like, wow, this must be how highly productive people feel all the time.

June 9. http://ranprieur.com/#2adfc52038776ffe7f1c9fa7ae9f2b8995e84b5a 2022-06-09T21:30:05Z June 9. The Far Side 7/30/85 by Gary Larson One of my projects, before I move, is to go through my Complete Far Side and photograph all the best ones. Yesterday I saw this one, "Life on cloud eight", which fits right in with the last post.

I've heard it said, if you can enjoy being in hell, you're in heaven. But some of us don't even have to enjoy being in hell -- we just have to appreciate second-rate heaven.

More explicitly: whether you're talking about making more money, or having more fun, or being a better person, there's always a way to reach the next level. But the higher you get, the harder it is to stay there, and the more likely you are to notice: the good feeling of achieving a higher level is less than the bad feeling of not being satisfied with the level you're at.

This helps explain a cryptic line I read years ago in a Cynthia Ozick story: "Heaven is for those who have already been there." It also seems vaguely related to a cryptic line I read the other day in this Reddit thread: "Life does not give a rat's ass who lives it."

June 6. http://ranprieur.com/#f5b42e6b163f32d1aec54afca18bb9bfb82aa81b 2022-06-06T18:00:51Z June 6. I almost didn't make last week's post about enlightenment, but I got some good feedback. Eric writes:

A friend went on a mindfulness retreat once where the exercise was to fully experience a thing that you were eating. The instructor gave everyone a segment of a tangerine to savor. My friend told me that later he tried the same practice at home, and he discovered that it was impossible to savor an Oreo.

I read a similar story about an exercise to stop overeating, where people were told to completely savor one Hershey's kiss. It's not that it was impossible to savor it, but it had never occurred to them to do so. They'd eaten hundreds of chocolates and 100% of the time they had gobbled them down.

I think we're talking about two distinct mental states, one where you're holding tension between what you're doing and something else, and one where what you're doing is self-justifying. And these two states come into clearer focus with that eating exercise.

Coming back around to "enlightenment", that concept, in western spirituality, is framed as an achievement, something you strive for. Paradoxically, the mental state people are seeking is already inside them, but they can only see it by not striving. That idea is thousands of years old, and we're no better at putting it into practice.

June 3. http://ranprieur.com/#aee425901758a6e8d3433484625cb815e2d79ca1 2022-06-03T15:30:24Z June 3. announcer's dress looks exactly like crowd background Fun stuff for the weekend. Yesterday I saw this on TV and jumped out of my seat to snap a pic. It has to be accidental, because if she tried to do it on purpose it wouldn't be this perfect. If you want to look closer, here's a larger photo. (And that's not a green screen behind her. I saw from another angle that they were at the actual event.)

A Hacker News thread about how awesome it is, if you have some extra time, to cross America by train.

Some good news, Children who play more video games show greater gains in intelligence over time

And a cool video about a strange musical instrument, Inside a Mellotron M400: How the Mellotron Works

June 2. http://ranprieur.com/#7141d6a451d861228baec605f4562ca363dcfcd3 2022-06-02T14:20:53Z June 2. The Buddha, the story goes, was a rich kid who indulged in every pleasure until he burned out and became enlightened. You'd think, with so many more pleasures now, and so many more people, there would be Buddhas popping up on every street corner.

Instead, there are more and more depressed people. And it occurs to me, depression and enlightenment have similar symptoms: not enjoying the things that ordinary people enjoy, and preferring to do nothing all day.

Maybe enlightenment was invented by ancient people as a way of framing depression, so that they could see themselves with more pride and less shame, and so that other people would see them with reverence, instead of trying to kill them for being unproductive.

What I really think is, "enlightenment" is a modern buzzword loosely based on a lost culture. The word has too much baggage and should not be used. Instead, we should talk with precision about the many techniques under the umbrella of meditation-metacognition-mindfulness, and the many specific benefits of those practices.

Personally, I have three goals in mental health: 1) An unshakeable sense of well-being. 2) More overlap between what's good for me to do and what I feel like doing. 3) Better body awareness so that I have better physical health. Over the years, I've made some progress on number three.