Basics

As someone who’s always carried in his heart a great dose of curiosity and a desire to hear and express new opinions, I have always felt intuitively drawn to the concept of freedom of speech. 

In fact, the political considerations and importance of it only really became clear to me at a later stage in my life. Prior to that, it was my love for ideas that was the source of my commitment to free speech.

Sadly, free speech is increasingly being threatened in the modern world. In fact, to be frank, I am really talking about the U.S. here — most other countries in the world have never quite committed themselves to the principle in the first place. European countries, let alone other non-Western ones, have multiple times shown their willingness to censor speech and shut down minority views. And so my U.S.-centrism in this article is simply the natural result of my beloved First Amendment and the freedoms it protects.

So, this is ultimately why It hurts me greatly to see the onslaught of anti-free-speech arguments circulating in the U.S. intellectual sphere these days. It’s truly a scary thing to witness — how an authoritarian anti-speech ideology is openly advocating for censorship.

The truth is, the arguments given against free speech are not in themselves too surprising. They all basically argue the same thing: free speech is not compatible with comfort, safety or dignity. And historically speaking, this is why virtually all prior and current human societies have always tried to restrict the words people can utter in public. It seems that people are finally realizing that freedom of speech is not a societal free lunch, but rather a nuanced and radical idea. The problem is, many of the radicals today are fast beginning to reject it.

So, what’s so problematic about free speech that people are beginning to question it? Continue reading In Defense of Free Speech

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These days it seems ever more trendy to find novel ways of bashing masculinity. The narrative has been so skewed by ideology that any out-in-the-wild masculine behavior is seen as wrong or misguided. Guys are told to be more caring, less aggressive and more vulnerable. They are told they are toxic and that’s the reason why the world is bad as it is.

Frankly, such patronizing talk is quite annoying. Especially so, when no one on the other side seems to consider that there are good reasons why men behave the way they do.

Incidentally, I am far from ecstatic about the term “masculinity” and its use as a prescription of certain male behaviors. Yet, there are certain patterns one cannot help but recognize among most men, the few exceptions to them notwithstanding.

I wanted to write this post because I have spent years trying to understand what it means to be a man and why certain things appeal to me and others don’t. Throughout this journey, I have seen and heard many opinions about masculinity. Sadly, very few of them rang true. At least to a young guy like me, most things said out there about what being a man means seems at best out of touch and at worst a malicious attack on what is construed as an ideologically problematic group of people.

I want to stress this last word: people. It’s a sign of the times that this needs saying, but: men are people too. In other words, we do make mistakes and our views are not always right. But the same applies for women and everyone in general. To single out the bad without acknowledging the good in a person is not only to be biased and unfair, but to demand perfection in a world which has none.

Before I begin, I want to stress out that I understand the topic naturally involves generalizing statements which I’d prefer not to make. But the term masculinity is itself a sort of generalization  which we as men supposedly all possess. And since that is the language of the accusations leveled against men, that will naturally be mine too (even if I’d much rather deal with separate individuals as opposed to abstract groups)

With that said, let’s talk about men. And what better place to start than the much discussed male sexuality. Continue reading Modern Lies about Masculinity

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Three years ago, I went through a period fraught with personal difficulties. A relationship I was deeply invested in broke apart, my wrist got fractured playing handball, and my mom lost her job amidst the natural state of depression that defined my life at the time.

Something interested emerged from the chaos, however. Forced to acknowledge that happiness was impossible (whatever the ever optimist marketers might be saying…), I had to ask myself if there was a life beyond it. At the time, I felt that If life was all about happiness, mine was pretty much over. But maybe, there was another way to live in which experiencing suffering and pain was not synonymous with failure.

As it happened, I spent Christmas and New Years Eve alone in Oxford, far away from friends and family. This period offered me much needed solitude to think about the question above. I slowly came to realize that the suffering was fine as long as I was growing as a person. If only I could just get to the end of the academic year successfully, without giving up and without adopting useless identities (such as “mentally ill”, “depressed”, etc.; fortunately I only needed to think about this just thought in order to dispel it). If only I survived and managed to thrive despite (thanks to?) the suffering, then I would be content.

Thus, I spent the evening of New Years Eve writing about the inherent contradiction I saw between seeking happiness and seeking growth. To be happy was to look into the present (or the past) and stay still in perception. It was essentially a passive yet conscious meditative state. On the other hand, to grow was to struggle against reality and either win or learn from the mistakes. It was at times painful, at times not, but always active and subject to a purpose.

The contradiction was in the opposite directions the two ideals were pulling. Action vs non-action, acceptance vs change, non-purpose vs purpose. As everybody knows intuitively, to truly grow in anything requires many sacrifices of pleasure and present joy. And conversely, to be truly happy, one cannot be too preoccupied with making progress; one must let go.

In a moment of epiphany, I consciously realized this deep truth and set go to explore the consequences. What if I embraced my pain and used it to grow instead of wallowing that happiness was being unfairly taken away from me? Both points of view were on the table, but only one really kept me truly alive. If nothing else, adopting a growth-based mindset was the most practical solution to my problems at the time.

In any case, while in Oxford I made my choice to pursue growth and live with the blues if necessary. It worked well — I matured significantly over this period and became more resilient to life’s downs. Crucially, I confirmed my doubt that happiness was overhyped. A great life wasn’t necessarily based around a pursuit of happiness (although it’d be a shame not to enjoy it from time to time). I saw that one could well be more than content with pursuing his/her ambitions and let happiness happen if it should or not if it shouldn’t. Continue reading The non-Wisdom of looking for Happiness instead of Meaning

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I don’t know if mine is a common experience, but I can remember vividly the first moment when I emotionally felt the true significance of death.

I was on the brink of puberty, lying down in bed at night. (as those things usually go). As I was thinking about life and existence, the sudden and forceful realization hit me with emotion:

I was going to perish! My consciousness would one day wither away!

It wasn’t like I hadn’t thought about death before that. And it wasn’t like I didn’t know what the word meant. But my knowledge was merely conceptual. It was far removed from the emotional reality of life. 

It would be fair to say that this experience changed my life.

Partly as a result, I subsequently became deeply interested in Christianity. Moreover, I also acquired a fascination for the various views on death that people hold or have held throughout history.

***

As I was enjoying one of my regular walks yesterday, I started thinking about the ways my sense of personal mortality has informed the way I have come to approach my life. 

And although our culture tends to avoid discussing the topic, I find articles about it important, fascinating and thought-provoking. So, this is why I sat down and started writing this…

***

Now, In the west, we don’t like talking much about death. 

And honestly, It’s difficult to judge this cultural decision good or bad:

Maybe it is nothing but a foolish denial of the most basic and certain fact about the human condition? 

Or, maybe it’s potentially the wisest thing one could do — to keep silence about a thing we don’t really understand.

I don’t truly know.

But the fact is, many cultures and religions have focused their attention on death. From the Roman “memento mori” to various religious ideas, death has played an important role in human history.

As I mentioned above, I was first drawn to Christianity as a way of coping with the feelings caused by a deep contemplation of death. 

Ironically, however, Christianity also lead me to an understanding that death might not be so scary after all.

In the end, my animal brain was equally baffled and terrified by both eternal death and eternal life. There is something incredibly mysterious and scary about the prospect of a never-ending existence. (just try to understand what it means that you’ve been born to never die; that there is nothing that will ever be beyond your life because you’ll always be; I don’t know about you, but all of this truly freaks me out!)

Thus, I gradually recognized that death might not be such a bad thing, after all. True, it sucks to die as early as we do now, after less than a hundred years. But compared to living forever, maybe it’s preferable to just leave this world at some point? Maybe  in the final analysis death is acceptable, perhaps even desirable?

***

Fast forward a few years and I was no longer a Christian. 

In the meantime, one of my grandmas had passed away. It was my first close experience with the actual way death happens. Maybe I was too young at the time for it, but I didn’t feel an impulse to cry or mourn excessively. To be frank, life just seemed to change and continue ahead pretty much the same, only grandma was missing. (a fact which was not necessarily that painful after you’ve come to see her life descend into a series of strokes leading to an inability to even stand up straight and walk)

I have often reflected why I reacted so indifferently back then. (especially since I am not sure next time would be the same!)

In recent years, one of my theories has been that I might have just been too young to  appreciate grandma fully. Maybe I just didn’t have time to grow long enough around her and so I consequently found it hard to miss her?

Of course, it all could have been because I just have a natural inclination to accept death easier than most. To be frank about it, I have never really found the dark and painful side of life expressly unnatural. After all, it is no surprise to anyone that life is not all roses. So, what’s the point in suffering needlessly when we get reminded of that fact?

Perhaps this is why my next stop along the way of exploration of death was buddhism and taoism. 

In reading Alan Watts, for example, I came to appreciate the impermanence of everything in life, including life itself. I resonated deeply with many eastern notions. I understood that death didn’t necessarily feel like a tragedy because, well, it had to happen at some point — life just wasn’t going to last forever! Moreover, there was nothing that could really be done about it. Once you were gone, you were gone. Life better move on.

To be frank, having both a Christian and a Buddhist/Taoist interpretation of death is quite the experience. Where one philosophy sees the biggest of tragedies, the other sees just another change along the way, no special and no more tragic than any other. Where one sees the beginning of an eternity for the personal soul, the other sees the end of a temporary illusion of a fake self.

In truth, Buddhist/Taoist views about death can bring great calm. Yet, they also suggest that the whole sense of anxiety is most irrational — there is no self to begin with, so why worry about it ceasing to exist?

At least to my western ears, this was a step too far from my intuitions. I wasn’t ready to believe myself an illusion quite yet.

***

Fast forward once again, and you suddenly find me an undergraduate at Oxford.

My university years were generally a continuation of my teenager fascination with the life lessons of death.

It was during this period that I discovered Stoicism. I read Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life. I learned and understood phrases like “memento mori”. Crucially, I realized that I was not alone in looking for life lessons at seemingly the unlikeliest of places — death — the only place totally devoid of any life by definition.

It wasn’t just the discovery of stoicism, however, that my university years gifted me with.

I also saw that the lessons of death do not necessarily come after, but before it as well. In other words, I discovered how wise old people can be. 

Indeed, up until that point I had been a lot more irreverent in my attitude towards the old. I just didn’t see why age should matter as to how wise an opinion is. I guess what I learned was not that age matters per se, but that life experience does. By the time I got to university, I had had time to pose myself enough big questions (should you marry? should you have kids? should you care about money or lifestyle first? etc.) that the opinion of those on the other side of life started to acquire greater and greater significance for me.

Still, perhaps the most interesting development of my university and post-university years was that for the first time I started to consciously resist the passage of time.

Of course, attempting to do so was futile, non-sensical and certainly impossible. Yet, wanting to push back the seconds and retain my youth forever was definitely a very real internal experience for me…

Granted, even now, one year later, I am still in the beginning of life. Nonetheless, I am slowly finding myself in an unknown, aged world.  Many people associate the innocence of youth with a lack of sexuality, but I have to see it in more than just that. There is also the innocence of not having to think about your eating “right”, exercising or arranging regular check-ups for various diseases. In a way, for the first time I am starting to feel that life is not just about living, but about preserving living as well. 

And all that is totally new…

Of course, none of the above considerations are ever-present in my mind. Yet, they are starting to visit me more and more frequently. 

One of my high school teachers used to say “Every second we are always dying”. I remember finding the phrase too grim years ago. Now, I believe I am starting to understand its meaning.

The fascinating thing about all of this is that I now expect the next revelation about death the future will bring me without much fear. I wonder what my 30, 40, 50, … year-old selfs would have to say on the topic of death. I wonder what revisions they would make to this article..

Until the next revelation, however, I, like many others, will keep entertaining hopes that my generation will finally be the one to beat aging and live to 150, 200, or even more. 

Frankly speaking, without the promises of religion and away from the Buddhist whispers that there is no self, it seems that the only remaining hope of saving oneself from death marches under the joint flags and harmonious sounds  of science and technology. 

Nevertheless, I find myself skeptical. Am I not just discovering late a millennia-old vain desire of immortality? Am I not back where I started — lying in bed, thinking about death and, yet again, finding it terrifying?

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Lately, I’ve been thinking of love (yet again). 

More precisely, I’ve been pondering an idea that has, frankly, confused me for quite some time: unconditional love.

Honestly, this concept can be such a mystery…

***

Now, growing up, there are many things one hears said about love.

Some of them, such as the concept of a love at first sight, quickly meet their death at the hands of the harsh reality of human interactions. People don’t just look at each other and fall in love. Certainly not if love is to mean anything more than pure lust, anyway.

However, other things one hears, such as talk of unconditional love, can be more difficult to grapple with.

That is why, personally, I have always felt a bit ambivalent touching on that particular subject. Partly it’s because love itself is hard to experience deeply, but mostly it’s because the requirement of unconditionality goes against many of my usual intuitions. Continue reading Speaking of Love, Could it ever really be Unconditional?

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At a first glance, the idea of reason as mankind’s savior seems wholly justified. After all, the Enlightenment, along with its deep belief in science and logic, has brought many improvements to our lives and knowledge of the world.

Consequently, the last few centuries have seen an explosion of ideologies — political, philosophical and other — all claiming reason as their cornerstone and ultimate starting point. 

However, a problem gradually started to emerge. Conclusions, albeit all nominally derived through the very same faculty —  reason, weren’t matching up. 

Politics is rife with this examples of left-wing and right-wing self-proclaimed followers of reason who could never sit down and agree even if their life depended on it. 

The idea of reason as applied in maths might seem a foolproof way to reach the Truth. Yet, in human affairs the results have only occasionally lived up to the original high expectations.

As a result, I have been questioning the wisdom of putting reason on such a high pedestal that reasonable has become synonymous with right. This post represents an attempt at explaining why.

***

I have been thinking about this post for quite some time, but I first wanted to collect my thoughts before writing anything down. In the past few weeks, however, I have been exposed to some interesting ideas on the topic which finally nudged me into sharing.

Let’s start at the place discussed in the last section, namely ideologies and cults of reason. 

Starting with Plato’s philosopher kings and culminating with modern technocrats, organizing society according to reason is not a new idea. And a priori, it seems promising indeed — the real world, as everything in the universe, should conform to the laws of logic and thus we can use them safely in perfecting our earthly experience.

So, how are we to reconcile the apparent conflicts of contradicting philosophies such as, to take one example among many, central planning socialists and reason-committed capitalists

Of course, one answer is the preferred one of both sides, namely: the other side are wrong and unreasonable. A priori, that could well be true. But there are times when the differences persist even after all evidence has been presented. Sometimes, it’s the starting assumptions, values and preferences that determine the final destination rather than a reasoned critique of the various possibilities.

Already, that’s a problem. If two reason-loving and logic-respecting parties can reach opposing conclusions just by virtue of difference in taste or preference, then we are forced to admit that oftentimes reason leads us to a place long ago predetermined by a-rational factors and nothing more.

Of course, one can start delving deeper into tastes and preferences, deconstructing and criticizing them. But one cannot bootstrap this whole process by reason alone. There have to be some fundamental values which serve to enable any rational criticism of all other values. 

In the end, it seems that it is not reason one meets at the beginning of reasoning. Rather, it is something like emotions, faith, will or chance — all of which carry hardly the same logical credibility.

But, going back to the initial example, there are other possibilities. Maybe both central planners and rabid capitalists are right about some things and wrong about others. Maybe each side rightly sees a part of reality and then hastily generalizes its conclusions to the whole of reality.

In some sense, pointing out the fallings on humans is not in itself an attack on reason. At least not reason in the abstract. Yet, we, humans, are not gods and we can never practice anything but our own human form of reason — the form so exalted ever since the Enlightenment began. (perfect reason, even if it works, will forever stay inaccessible to us)

Put differently, when talking of reason, we must accept our biases, shortfalls and imperfections. We must be willing to admit that we are not omniscient and our generalizations might turn out wrong. And we must recognize that nature doesn’t always promise us to be regular or easy to comprehend.

Let’s unpack this last paragraph.

Firstly, let’s take the topic of imperfect knowledge. Now, clearly each man and each woman are only ever present at one place at a time and thus only ever see a small slice of the world’s events. (and see it imperfectly) This fact does not necessarily have to be a severe limitation as long as nature is good to us and repeats itself along regular patterns. But that is not always so…

The result is therefore a mix of observation, hidden regularity hypotheses, and generalizations which then hopefully obeys the laws of logic. And it’s not like we could always and explicitly state our assumptions, let alone reasonably justify them. In fact, the best we can do is usually along the lines “well, it works”.

This line of reasoning can be extended further. Even if we started enumerating assumption after assumption, meticulously putting nature into language, we have no guarantee that we would ultimately achieve a true description of reality. 

For one, the world might well require infinite assumptions. For another, some of these assumptions might well be beyond our cognitive ability to state and comprehend. And finally, it’s unclear (at least to me) whether words are not too fuzzy and thus useless for the task of drawing any meaningful distinctions. (and conversely, whether a rigid logic would be expressive enough to describe the world as it is)

In short, the world might defy our rationalistic optimism. It might be that at high resolution, the world is full of incomprehensible complexity as opposed to the humanly preferable and graspable simplicity.

***

I recently began reading Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.

It’s an impressive book full of densely packed philosophical ideas. But for the purposes of this post, I only need to talk about the introduction. And I need to do it mostly because, coincidentally, Chesterton too makes a great case against a blind reliance on reason.

Firstly, Chesterton explains well how reason makes one susceptible to oversimplifying the world for the sake of an ideology. He gives many examples which can conveniently be described, in the language of Popper, as unfalsifiable hypotheses. In other words, ideas which cannot reasonably be escaped or disproved.

In the book, Chesterton discusses the example of solipsism, i.e. the belief that the external world is really a fragment of one’s imagination. He also talks about materialistic determinism, no doubt because of the influence Marxist thought had at the time. But one can easily think of other philosophies and worldviews too, including any good old conspiracy theory.

The unifying point of all such beliefs is that they stand compatible with everything one can do to try and disprove them. One cannot really reason him/herself out of a conspiracy theory just like one cannot prove free will to the committed determinist.

It is in this very phenomenon that Chesterton sees many of the dangers of reason. Reason can trap us in a system of thought which is impossible to reasonably escape. (and which at the same time carries high authority and propels us to act in the world)

The way out, per Chesterton, is to basically appeal to the complexity of the world. In other words, the real world is too complicated to fit nicely within the bounds of a simple idea, a conspiracy theory or an ideology.

Ultimately, we must adopt richer rather than simpler and blander explanations. One can fancy believing that their spouse and everything else is imaginary, but one is better off believing the conceptually much richer explanation of an objective world existing independently of any one’s imagination.

(note that the usual way of resolving similar disputes, a la Occam’s razor, proceeds in a similar vein by opting for the simplest of explanations to the exclusion of all others; in both cases, it is worth asking why simplicity or complexity should have anything to do with the final truth about the world)

Overall, Chesterton argues that over reliance on reason easily dooms one to the fate of the solipsist — having rational reasons for a belief while being able to explain away any possible counterargument. Perhaps that is why there is so much disagreement in politics, philosophy and even in science. (e.g. entertaining exposition of a major disagreement in economics)

***

Recently, I also discovered a great podcast called “Mixed Mental Arts”.

To my great pleasure, I found that the question of rationality is one of the central topics of discussion. 

Now, I already mentioned that human reason, and not reason in the abstract, is all we have access to; that the Enlightenment’s belief in reason was ultimately one in the  human ability to reason.

In some sense, this is the starting point for one of the most important modern discussions about rationality. Namely, do we even have it in the first place.

Now, it might seem absurd to ask such a question in the face of science. However, it is precisely science which has cast doubt on our ability to reason.

As the MMA podcast is quick to remind us, there is a good reason to believe that our thinking is mostly made up of rationalizations for various a-rational biases. In other words, we choose based on emotions and only later make up a story why (interested?). If that sounds like a strange idea, consider how often people actually change their beliefs after facing a knockdown argument to their position. Precisely…

Thanks to the podcast I was introduced to a great example in support of the above position, known for short as intuitionism. The example is the case of Elliot from Antonio Damasio’s book “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain”

So, what is so special about Elliot? Well, for one thing he has suffered brain damage to a part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. As a result, Elliot’s ability to link emotion and reason has been severely inhibited.

Perfect, right? No more stupid emotional biases to get in the way. Elliot’s life must have improved, no doubt!

Well, no.

(incidentally, this whole series of reasoning could well have passed as absolutely rational if told in a different context as long as one buys the common idea of the separation of reason and emotion!)

In reality, what happened was that Elliot’s ability to make wise decisions was severely hampered. Without access to emotional data, Elliot was forced to make even the most mundane decisions on rational grounds. Imagine choosing an ice-cream flavor to share with your date completely based on reason alone, without the slightest appeal to your tastes! 

Needless to say, Elliot’s life got worse as a result of his brain injury. It turns out that a measured hack to the head is not the secret to hyper rationality. Albeit being phrased in a religious language, Mark 10:9 seems apt:

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Phrased more directly, putting reason and emotion asunder does not improve our ability to reason. Human reason depends crucially on emotional inputs.

But if emotions play such a huge role in our rationality, a scary question arises: do we merely rationalize our emotions whenever we try to construct an argument? Is motivate reasoning all there is to human reasoning at all? Is it merely by emotion that we end up choosing one assumption over another on which to ground our belief system?

***

In conclusion, I would like to go back to Chesterton and introduce him to the MMA podcast. Not just for the sake of amusement, but also to explore a serious point on the important question of human rationality, namely:

If reason is significantly influenced and driven by emotion and if it often ends up oversimplifying the world, then are we justified in trusting it blindly when looking for the truth?

Now, reason might well be a good tool to have under our belt (for why would we have evolved it otherwise?), but it’s far from the godlike ability that it is often presented as. One shouldn’t forget that propaganda is only propaganda because one knows  and prefers the opposing facts better.

So, having a reason is not automatically a good reason to do something; and having no reason is not automatically a reason not to. Sometimes, the relevant facts about the world can be hard to put into words. This is why we can resist adopting a well-reasoned view until we finally discover somebody else articulating a good counter-argument and feeling relieved that our position has finally become “justified” at last. (when, in truth, it has always been; it was human reason, not reality, that was at fault)

In the end, this is probably the take home message. Reasons, even the best of them, are not  and probably should not be calls to actions. It might be awkward to refuse to do something without a reason, but sometimes it’s simply the wise thing to do. 

As Chesterton suggests, reason is dangerous precisely because it convinces us that the reasons we have in our head justify all sorts of actions. In the name of fitting the world into the bounds of a well-reasoned ideology, we feel emboldened and justified to act.

And that’s precisely the problem. We are rightly skeptical of emotional outbursts and impulsive decisions because we know the disasters that then follow. 

But if the reasons we use to justify our actions are little more than a word-veil for our emotions, why do we never doubt reason itself?

After all, in the hands of emotion-driven intelligent people, motivated and unchecked reason can lead the whole world astray. (and that is why many today are rightly losing faith in academia; there might not be a strong and coherent verbal reason why yet; but that matters little — humans are surprisingly wise!)

***

In brief, the conclusion is this:

It’s not like reason can do no right.

But it’s also not like it can do no wrong.

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During our lifetimes we start multiple internal conversations with ourselves. We get excited about an idea, a place or a person and we then pursue them with a great passion for a while.

However, oftentimes these conversations gradually fade away into obscurity. Even the most fundamental of questions can take a backseat to attending to pressing life events or experiences. And sometimes it just so happens that these events and experiences nudge us into dropping the old philosophies and worldview we held and adopting new ones instead.

That is why it can be quite a fun experience coming back to your old way of seeing things and comparing it to your current one. One can learn a lot by simply combining the many and varied lessons one has accumulated over the years..

Now, it should be noted here that I’m not talking about the normal ways our views evolve, i.e. the slow accumulation of knowledge and the consequent nuanced understanding that results.

Rather, I’m talking about the times when we completely shift paradigms and enter into what is practically a whole new world.

Years ago, during my teens, I was a practicing Christian for a few years. Then my faith waned (a year long process culminated in Carl Sagan’s A Demon Haunted World). Suddenly, I had to make sense of the world through a different lens and from different starting points.

Looking for a good way to prioritize my interests in the way ahead, I had to first examine which high ideals had guided me previously. And that more or less meant defining what God used to meant for me.

In this process, two main categories of things stood out to me.

One was what I named truth. It was my personal catch all term for the importance of curiosity, skepticism, a scientific mindset, an active mind. In other words, truth stood for the acquisition of knowledge, that was its ultimate goal.

The other I named love. It covered the domains of morality, relationships and every other form of interaction between me and other living beings. Love was about being good.

The more I thought about these two categories, the more it became clear to me that I had to regard them both as equally important. Prioritize truth and you risk ending up as a malevolent scientist wrecking havoc upon the earth. Prioritize love and you risk ending up powerless before evil thanks to your ignorance (or worse yet, do evil when you mistakenly believe you’re doing good!).

***

A few years passed and I went to university.  Continue reading When is Truth too Much? How to Find Meaning in a Meaningless Universe

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Being curious is a great quality to have, but it can lead to all sorts of headaches.

For one, being curious about the “wrong” ideas or people can be a fast and reliable way to get in trouble. As unfortunate as that sounds, it is a sad reality of the world today. In any case, this is not what this post is going to be about…

Instead, this post is about the other main way curiosity can hurt. The one that is internal and not imposed from the outside.

More precisely, this post is about the discomfortable feeling of cognitive dissonance and how wrestling with contradictory ideas can produce much confusion and anxiety. Continue reading How I made peace with Religion, Self-Help, Science, Ideology and other Non-sense

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Through our constant search of philosophies and ways of thinking, we have all gradually become citizens of the world of words. We read and listen, write and speak with others. Words conceptualize the world for us.

In many ways, this approach has worked out amazingly well. Words have enabled the communication through which we have come to know so much about the world. Thanks to technological and scientific progress, we can now discuss what used to  be unspeakable.

Yet, albeit a net positive, words have downsides too. Indeed, in some subtle ways, words can serve not for the construction of greater understanding, but rather for that of mental prisons. Continue reading Words Are not Always our Friends

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Among the mix of many emotions and actions that make up the lifestyle we call love, there are few uniting themes more prominent and significant to me than that of vulnerability.

Yet, vulnerability is not the first image we seem to associate with love.

Indeed, vulnerability is easier to think of as a necessary evil, a by product of the dating scene the need for which goes away once love is achieved, secured and developed.

In other words, as young teenagers all throughout the world realize early on in life, to be noticed and be loved requires an acceptance of a certain level of exposure to potential shame and hurtful rejection. It requires opening up your inner world to somebody else and allowing them to judge the whole of you just for the chance of co-living life together. Scary.

Nonetheless, many take the deal. After all, the potential benefits of long-term happiness, growth, and intimacy seem to justify the risks. The initial vulnerability might truly feel uncomfortable, but without it life becomes the dwelling place of inexpressible desire and a home to a haunting sense of loneliness.

But is vulnerability just a bitter cost we have to pay initially so we can eventually find love and never again be made to exchange comfort for appreciation?

Yes. But really, no. Continue reading It’s Vulnerability all the Way Down

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