This is a rather broad category. Inclusive of any global behaviors.
We are every bit as natural as Blue Green algae or Pterodactyls but we can’t accept that. We hold unshakable convictions on what people are and how people should behave yet in the face of perpetual disappointment we are mystified. Perhaps humans are like every other animal: Living out an innate strategic script with limited degrees of freedom from it.
The title is reputedly what the intellectual swashbuckler and psychological pioneer William James found he had written down during a drug-induced revelation of ultimate truth: “Overall there is a smell of fried onions”.
In his essay “Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide” he wrote:
“only as sobriety returns, the feeling of insight fades, and one is left staring vacantly at a few disjointed words and phrases, as one stares at a cadaverous-looking snow peak from which sunset glow has just fled, or at a black cinder left by an extinguished brand.”
We descend from ecstasy to the ordinary world as if “Whatever goes up, must come down” applied equally to airplanes and inspiration. Emotionally and psychologically it is as if Newtonian physics rules our inner lives. If there is a version of gravity in there I think it’s the inevitable return to the linguistic/rational level of human reality where we conduct all our business with each other. The human mind surfaces here when submerged and re-lands here after being elevated. This is the homeostatic balance of our kind, the default neurological coordinates of return from highs and lows. Notice that highs and lows aren’t being critically evaluated, merely suppressed as not conducive to social intercourse. The default settings for humanity are designed to function as the center of a common Venn chart, an area where we all overlap despite other differences.
This realm of normal life is completely dominated by words and concepts as if they were the fundamental atomic forces and structure here. Concepts and words (within a general logic framework) are everything here from the solid ground to a breathable atmosphere. The human community is contained within this verbal\conceptual structure but only a few even recognize its existence: Water isn’t perceived by the fish. Within this domain, we don’t usually feel limited or cramped but only realities that can be sealed inside words or concepts can exist here. These can be considered, shared and exchanged, but only, like a nerd’s action figures, if still sealed in the original container. Flatland is a reality composed of things with no objective reality, it is equally Plato’s Cave and Keanu’s Matrix.
Mean exactly what they sound like: Fear of the new and Love of the new.
They aren’t cute made-up words, they are technical terms from biology. Animal ethologists (they study behavior) coined them because they needed to describe a common trait variation. Within a species, there are individuals who exhibit an openness to novelty. They try different foods, different hunting or mating techniques, for example. This is Neophilia.
The only way we could notice this is against a background of “by the book ” individuals. These are not risk-takers, these are ones who typically define “normal behavior “. Whenever an animal’s general survival strategy and behavior is described, it ‘s the story of the Neophobes. But the deeper story is that Neophiles, while they live risky and often unsuccessful lives as individuals are key to survival and evolution.
In fact, it ‘s likely that that the pattern lived out by the neophobes was initiated by neophiles. First, the neophile may simply hit upon a more successful approach, and thrive. Second, when the species experiences a crisis in food or health or predation, the neophiles are likelier to be “the resistant strain ” that survives. These are the two main reasons for subspecies variations. So if you imagine this heretical thought; that life, rather being the 100% dumb luck festival of the neo-Darwinians, has strategic algorithms for success, then these observations make perfect sense. Where or how these exist and operate is not my problem here. When patterns predictably exist in nature there are underlying causes to be found. If you follow this blog you know that my vaguely mystical point of view is not pointing to a “god did it ” conclusion and is not content with a “mere coincidence ” explanation.1 Continue reading
“I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer’s words: ‘Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,’ accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me.”
– Albert Einstein
Minor premise: An organism’s life & survival script never conflicts with its sexual strategy…even if it appears to.
A complicated cultural schematic overlays our behavior: Success hinges on remaining acceptably within cultural mores while acting with sufficient energy and persistence to attain sex. We have always found it necessary to act like better-behaved people than we are, by the standards of whatever culture surrounds us. Culture presses on us from above while the force of desire presses against it from below. It’s another dynamic tension force that sustains community homeostasis.
It also means hypocrisy is structurally essential to us. We have to put on a perfectly innocent demeanor before the world or face disapproval. Even when sex is the objective we must simultaneously try, try, try to get laid while acting like it isn’t all that important to us and we’re sort of over it. It is a required best practice to be split along this line and feign nonchalance no matter how desperate for sex we may be. Perverse as it seems this behavior makes PERFECT sense for humanity. Like so many of nature’s sex settings for us, this one is about restraint and self-control. It’s about being steady and self-possessed; delayed gratification is the only kind we have. So when a male human is very horny and female human is very horny too, they approach each other and pretend they are not much interested in sex. Ladies and Gentlemen, HUMAN COURTSHIP and why it is so awful.
People who don’t worry about being morally perfect make far better sense of this than those who do. We either know what we’re about or at the extreme, we split into a creature of a dangerous naivety whose left hand is worried because it hasn’t heard from the right hand in weeks. In the first case, we are defacto hypocrites, but big deal. Society demands it. Hypocrites are generally more trustworthy, they know what’s going on and therefore have more reliable self-control and limits. In the second case, we believe our own “sheep’s clothing” and are surprised by our behavior when sexuality appears “out of nowhere”. It doesn’t have to be full submersion denial of erotic impulses, for many people brought up in the “rule following” school of goodness, getting erotically worked up is touching the downed power line of guilt and shame. We call these people Catholics.
The even MORE deeply naive will act out sexually in kind of compulsive, semiconscious state and blame the victim or claim a misunderstanding… and believe it themselves. They will harumph with wounded pride at the very idea… Naive moralists will often develop complex and bizarre rationales to forgive themselves their “trespasses”. Apparently, some predator priests convince themselves they are doing LESS harm by having sex with children than with grown-ups…BECAUSE the kids are not sexually mature, so it’s less seriously breaking the celibacy vow than if they were with adults. Notice they are concerned about themselves alone and trying to change the whole subject to theology. After a thousand years of child rape, perhaps it’s time to stop addressing priests as “Father”.
An interesting short article at livescience.com about the Neolithic revolution, the brief period when humanity shifted from wandering small tribes to settled agricultural communities. It was a radical shift in lifestyle that undoubtedly challenged the self-control of all participants. One of these early Neolithic communities in southern Turkey lasted for over a thousand years and provides fascinating insights into the experiment in living that took place there. It was densely populated, a proto-city.
The archeological record paints a picture of people pushed beyond coping to into routine violence.
“Archaeologists recently discovered that the transition from foraging to a more communal farming lifestyle raised significant challenges for people who lived at Çatalhöyük, a 32-acre site in southern Turkey that was occupied from 7100 B.C. to 5950 B.C. Çatalhöyük was home to as many as 8,000 people at its peak, and is one of the earliest known cities.
Overcrowding and other factors created a highly stressful environment. And for Çatalhöyük’s Neolithic occupants, stress found an outlet in brutal violence, including bashes to the backs of heads with projectiles, scientists reported in a new study.”
Major premise: All sexual organisms have a sexual strategy.
In part 1 I talked about how desire has sculpted human bodies into what would have been a sexual superstimulus 200 thousand years ago but I left out an essential underlying principle. Unless you are a drab shell of a person who has entirely given up, there is a layer of your daily behavior that is about sustaining fuckability. It’s unlikely you check the mirror on your way out the door and say “Awesome, still fuckable” but I’ll bet that thought HAS surfaced, maybe using different words or no words at all, many times. The fact that you can estimate your fuckability quotient by glancing in a mirror points to the underlying principle.
Even the people who would summon up an old school “harumph, well I never…” of denial at the suggestion that they glance at everyone’s naughty bits or evaluate their own fuckability this way, absolutely do operate this way but with their naivety draped modestly over their self-awareness. Nature cares about the behavior, not the self-awareness. Nothing is more representative of our behavior than to think endlessly of sex while doing everything in our power to hide those thoughts from others.
With the origin of humanity, nature launched a new project that included radical departures from her standard rules for mammals. Having a harumph reaction to sexuality is uniquely human and a frankly weird deviation from standard earthly norms. Animals have a “stop that!” reaction, and a”get that thing away from me” reaction but they lack the harumph. Why? Why do we Harumph? Why don’t they? What exactly does “harumph” accomplish for us? That end will be tied up in part 3. Continue reading
(Note: This article needs editing. I’m leaving it published because that’s how I hold myself accountable to get that done)
Cultural tension force and the Human Operating System (HOS)
Humans naturally group together to form communities. Culture is the connecting, unifying skin that automatically grows over these communities, reflecting them, defining them, and binding them together. They are now a community organism, existing through one lens as their normal human selves but through another lens as a massive individual, autonomous self as unaware of us as we are of it.
What the Hell are you talking about, Hugh?
The Human Operating System or HOS is the innate battery of automatic and mostly unconscious behaviors that humans display by default, a handful of tiny cultures may not use these defaults but defining anything by the exception to its rule is being perversely counter-intuitive on purpose. It’s a demand that we ignore most of what we see going on in favor of something that is barely going on at all.
Tension force is societal homeostasis generated by opposing ideas. You could visualize it as the reason why both teams in a tug of war don’t simply fall on their asses.
Winners interpret good luck as merit-based, even when the rules overtly favor them and no skill is involved.
When I notice evidence-based research relating to my articles I am adding them.
“At the end of their game, people were asked if it had been fair. Regardless of the conditions, winners were more likely to say yes than losers. Even when the winners benefited from receiving either one or two strong cards from their opponent, they were twice as likely to judge it a fair game as the losers. What’s more, in most versions of the game winners were more likely than losers to attribute success in the game to talent – even though the game required very little.”
Growing disparities of income and wealth have prompted extensive survey research to measure the effects on public beliefs about the causes and fairness of economic inequality. However, observational data confound responses to unequal outcomes with highly correlated inequality of opportunity. This study uses a novel experiment to disentangle the effects of unequal outcomes and unequal opportunities on cognitive, normative, and affective responses. Participants were randomly assigned to positions with unequal opportunities for success. Results showed that both winners and losers were less likely to view the outcomes as fair or attributable to skill as the level of redistribution increased, but this effect of redistribution was stronger for winners. Moreover, winners were generally more likely to believe that the game was fair, even when the playing field was most heavily tilted in their favor. In short, it’s not just how the game is played, it’s also whether you win or lose.
The advent of life on earth was a revolutionary uptick in the complexity of the universe. It was unlike all that preceded it but it wasn’t much to look at. It remained that way, asexually replicating till time itself grew bored and wished to go do something else.
At last another revolution appeared… a revolution of making new and different things forever: Sexual reproduction.
Top priority was making new combinations of life and new combinations out of those combinations. Obviously, any organism capable of sexual reproduction has to have a reproductive system. This is the HOW. If all we had was the HOW, the revolution would fail for want of a WHY. What is the WHY of sexual reproduction?
You look beautiful tonight, that color is incredible on you. God, you smell good. In this light, you look like an angel. I never thought I could feel this way. Kiss me.
The WHY is Attraction, Desire, Approach, and Embrace. Without desire, life would have stopped evolving at blue-green algae. Let’s imagine that nature herself wants sexual reproduction to succeed in spreading innovation, diversity, and beauty in an ever-expanding wave around the world. The first thing SHE has to do is make everything want it as badly as she does.
And Nature said, “Let there be lust”. Continue reading
In the film “The Matrix”, the agents were the guardians of the status quo: The avatar embodiment of defending their hive. When aware of a crime, the ordinary humans nearby would violently morph into agents and jump into action.
Just like us.
Every one of us can be triggered into becoming Agent Smith, and probably has been multiple times. Embodying Agent Smith means sufficient pressure on your “that aint right” nerve to pop out of our usual peace preserving, deferential, social style into “Stop that immediately!” intervening authority. Unlike the agents, we don’t have a flat, universal scale of good and bad. We have one spectrum of “How much do I disapprove of this?” and a related “How much am I going to express that disapproval?” Imagine a naked person wandering through your neighborhood holding a beer. You notice and immediately go alert like a watchdog because this person has wandered out of social bounds and become unpredictable. Automatically you are scanning for story and probabilities. Are they drunk? Hurt? Crazy? Just don’t give a fuck? The spectrum of response is something like this:
Meh. | Passively watching | Yelling a joke at them: “Did you forget something?” | The scowl | The yell from the sidelines | The run up and ask if they are OK | The run up and angrily confront them | The call 911 | The Whup-ass
There are human communities where wandering naked with a beer evokes nothing more than “Hey, Hugh.” and others where you might very well be killed. A parent beating a child in public will immediately attract an angry, protective crowd…here. An immodestly dressed woman (by local standards) may get a glare here, or a beating there. Social norms are set where the response gradient settles toward a dense single color. It is the point where most people would dare to respond without fear of violating another norm, and a flash mob of strangers would likely mirror their mood. Where the gradient becomes a solid, that is the center of gravity for cultural opposing force. It is the social dew point or flash point.
It’s one of those emergent effects of scaling up a personal reaction to a community level. While some cultural powers reinforce these standards from above, like all emergence it is a bottom up phenomena.