The Modern Necessity of Faith

Hi,

We live in a world revolving around the things we know, where science, measurements, and materialism have taken the highest position in the pyramid of things we believe in. Everything has to be exact, everything has to be quantifiable, everything has to be picked apart and understood so that we can integrate it within our lives without a doubt.

Especially our school system is very reluctant at allowing any kind of space for doubt, since we are “supposed” to know, from a tender age, the path we will want to walk on for our whole lives. What’s more, the holders of faiths, i.e. the current religious institutions, have made a business out of telling people how to live, claiming they found the answers to the mysteries of life, like the most ethical way to live or what happens when we die. All of this combined leads us to where we are now, gaining knowledge through empirical conviction, claiming it for truth, and dismissing anything requiring an ounce of unknown, for it is not a factor we can take into our calculations.

Even in our everyday lives we do this, constantly trying to explain why we chose this option and not the other, why we act a certain way, why we feel like this; our need for understanding is omnipresent, and so is the necessity of self-justification (which are basically the same). We need the answers, and we need them now. This is not to say that we can’t possess knowledge or an understanding of certain situations and the processes behind our action patterns, or at least possess them insofar as we take into account the perceptions we hold and have access to. The truth is, the data we use to build our understanding and our comprehensions is limited by the sensors we have to take and process those streams of data. Example:

I feel hungry and crave chocolate.

I believe I must eat something to satisfy my hunger.

I prepare myself some food, for example chocolate-cookies.

I eat those cookies.

Craving gone, and I don’t feel hungry.

 

Now, in this example, we received data-inputs, that is, hunger and a craving for chocolate. We then associated a way to deal with that data, which we acquired partly innately (eating to satisfy hunger), and partly through our experiences (I discovered chocolate). So we come up with a solution to this situation by answering the information we received and executing the pattern that we learned (hungry –> eat –> not hungry), and satisfied our craving in the mean time. Easy, simple, clear, we understand and we apply, no questions asked. 

This get interesting when we start to question why we had this craving for chocolate in the first place, and even hunger. Hunger can be easily justified by claiming that it is a biological necessity that our bodies have to nourish themselves in order to generate energy so that they can keep on keeping on. But then, what would be the biological imperative behind the chocolate craving?

One possible explanation is that, since cacao is a heart-warming psychoactive substance, we needed something to warm our hearts, possibly due to some lack of emotional nourishment, or perhaps as an add-on to the state we already feel.

So those are still reasons why we felt a certain way, and the justifications of why we acted the way we did following those feelings. If those explanations satisfy us (adding a certain mental well-being to the picture), we repeat those actions when we encounter the same data-input (hungry/craving for chocolate), and so we start building patterns that we understand and which can then become mindless, hence, no need for questioning or doubt. Just like that, the pattern imprints.

Or so we’d like to think. Expanding our understanding a bit, reasons and rationalization can take us beyond this simple execution pattern by filling it up with questions:

Should I really eat chocolate? Or cookies? What about the sugar? What about the cacao? Is it fair trade? What was the environmental cost of the packaging if I simply buy pre-made cookies? Are they filled with potentially unhealthy chemicals? Are they actually good for me? Should I fight the craving or go with it? Am I bad if I still feel cravings? Am I bad if I eat the whole box? Is it the right thing to do if I know that my craving comes from a place on emotional emptiness?

All of these are legitimate questions which can make the simple act of enjoying cookies quite the mental endeavor and so we try to answer them to calm our inner turmoils using the knowledge we possess and the understanding of the situation we can apply.

So, how does that relate to faith?

In the current example, faith comes in after the fact of us going through an entire box of cookies and feeling culpable about it, or right after receiving the sensory input that we are hungry and craving chocolate. In a nutshell, faith allows us to be okay with the actions we do, and the feelings we feel, even if we don’t understand them.

“I’ve been trying to avoid and change this certain pattern of mine which I believe to be unhealthy but have been failing miserably at it, I must be weak”. No, those associations are your brain tripping out, trying to make sense of the actions you took now. Were you really in control of your actions? Or were you reacting on an impulse triggered by an unpleasant sensation?

My aim here is not to get into a debate about free-will or to justify the satisfaction of all our cravings, but rather an invitation to cut ourselves some slack.

I have repeated this unhealthy pattern again. It is okay. I believe I can change that pattern. I have faith in my evolution despite apparent setbacks.

The truth is, there is a myriad of factors which guide our lives and choices every single instant, our will being a part of it, yes, but it is but a part of the whole. Our conditioning to associate chocolate with emotional well-being is one factor guiding the above choice, the belief that we must always satisfy our hunger is another one, I have been feeling sad lately and need a pick-me up can be part of it, I’m hungry and walking through the grocery store and see all those sugar-filled chocolate cookies which trigger a chemical craving for the high of it since society associated sugar and pleasure together and got us all hooked is another factor guiding my choices.

It doesn’t matter what we believe in, the details of how we try to explain the things we can’t understand, we all have our own way of processing the data we receive. We can find communion in faith though, as a notion that things are going the way they’re going because that’s how it is for now, and that it doesn’t necessarily always have to be the case, because I cannot know what comes next. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be paying attention to the actions we chose to execute, but rather to not lose ourselves in questioning our every choices despite conflicting beliefs and data clashing in our heads. Facing the unknown in a shared human (or any conscious being’s) experience, and trusting that things are going to be fine the way they are is faith. This is not to say that bad things won’t happen (the environment is still going to change, I’m still going to feel nauseous if I eat the whole box of cookies, and we’ll feel hurt if we break up), but rather that we can remain hopeful despite of them happening.

I feel it relevant now more than ever given the current state of the world as a whole and human society within it. There are so many dangers, so many things going wrong, so many ways we have to be, it’s quite easy to get lost in all of it and not knowing what to do or where to go, filling us with hopelessness. Faith has also gotten somewhat of a bad rep being associated with the current religious institutions and although it does strongly relate to religious sentiments (facing the unknown mysteries of our existence), it does not have to involve a specific deity in order to be applicable.

And so this is a simple invitation:

Have faith. In yourself, in others, in the world.

Everything’s going to be all right.

Warmly,

Luca

Classified…

Hello 🙂

Very often we use a certain mechanism to understand the world around us better, whether its other people, objects, animals, or even ourselves. Yet this way of doing it also has some negative connotations to it, because there are people who are arduously fighting against the idea of being put in a mould. Indeed, what I am referring to is classification, i.e. identifying a phenomenon or a person according to larger concepts than just that person. We do this kind of rearranging all the time, in order to perhaps increase our comprehension of life and everything. But does categorizing really help deepen our understanding of anything??

There are a few problems which come with classifying things according to our previous knowledge, one of which is that we might well judge without knowing. Like the saying goes “don’t judge a book by its cover”, we can never really know what something is, or who someone is only by face-value, and that because it is really easy to present oneself as someone completely different than who we really are. Actors do it for a living, but we still all do it to a certain extent in our everyday lives. Also, the categories into which we might want to fit the different people might be erroneous themselves, since they usually come from a lack of knowledge, and a quick judgement, so that we are not taken aback by something unknown. Perhaps this serves as a defence mechanism to block ourselves off from something we perceive as dangerous?? If so, then maybe it is time to open ourselves up and be ready to explore the lives of others!!

People are not the only things we classify though, because we very frequently do it with our emotions as well, so that we have more of a clear idea about how we really feel. Yet, the problem with that, is that it is extremely hard at times to properly define something, especially a feeling, by relying only on our words. As useful as they might be, using words to describe a certain vibe or feeling might become tremendously tricky, for some things cannot simply be described. Love, for example, is a very intricate one, for what does love consist off actually?? Love might be a variable feeling, for the emotion itself changes depending on the object of love, since there are countless possibilities for loving and being loved, and it could be argued that each one of them is completely different and unique, just like the individuals doing the loving itself.

Those two uses of classification show that it is something quite fragile to rely on, for we cannot know if we’re actually right, or if we managed to explain it in its entirety. So if this system is so uncertain, why do we use it so much?? Maybe it is in order to cast our judgements upon others, organizing our lives in a such a way as to make it more comfortable for ourselves by casting away the fear of the unknown, using moulds as shields to guard us. Putting anything into neat little boxes gives us the illusion that we are in control and that we understand, despite the opposite actually being true. So perhaps it is time to drop our classes, get rid of our judgements, and embrace the things we cannot fully explain, or the individuals which are completely different from ourselves. This could lead us to new incredible discoveries.

Until next time,

Luca

 

Coming of Age…

Hello 🙂

Amongst all the things over which we do not have control over, one prominently stands out when we look at ourselves as humans, and that is that we constantly get older. More specifically, our bodies are, and we might fight as hard as we ever could, but it is still inevitable. Which is why it is often advised to stay a child inside, or at least keep a childish sense of marvel and curiosity, in order to keep the possibility of being happy about the little things. This draws another line between being an adult and being a child, bringing us to the existence of a biological difference and an emotional difference between the two extremes.

It would then be reasonable to assume that another difference would be a social one, since we become adults legally at a definite age, which is defined by the law of where we live. Once that happens, we are granted more rights, for example, voting, drinking alcohol, owning firearms, and watching pornography. Yet, there is nothing within our modern society that acknowledges that, no is there even proper education on it. It just so happens one day, and pouf! we’re adults.

What does being an adult even mean?? We suddenly have all these extra accountabilities, and are allowed to do more things, but is there really nothing more to it?? Perhaps we become adults when we realize that what we decide what we do with our lives. It is also possible that we may just never become adults, because we never fit within the mould of the serious adult. This shows again that there are so many things associated with being an adult, that an arbitrary age limit seems quite unreasonable, especially since we are not even shown what it is to be an adult, at least not within society.

Furthermore, what does it say about a society that its coming of age ritual consists of being granted some rights, without actually being prepared for them?? Are we even prepared for ourselves as adults?? We have lost a ritual which could ease the transition from limited child to fully responsible adult, and this lack even may have detrimental effects on the emotional aspect of being an adult, to name only one side. Becoming an adult really is a very intricate topic, and it seems unwise to let it simply happen within a society, without the people necessarily being ready for it. It shall have to be inquired into further!!

Until next time,

Luca

 

The Danger of Memes…

Hello 🙂

We all know the famous expression “Monkey see, Monkey do”, which is used when someone imitates another person, usually doing something stupid, thus the qualification of being a monkey. Yet this goes a little deeper than only a reference to our primate relatives, because one of the most efficient ways we learn to do anything, whether it’s how to be social, or any given task, is by copying someone else. Even when it comes to emotions, we can see them in others, which then allows us to recognize them within ourselves as well.

This is where the increasingly popular social phenomenon of memes comes in, because they are used to portray certain emotions in a way that makes it easy to recognize. Those memes are nothing more than certain images referring to known movie quotes, amongst others, which are then captioned to express whichever emotion one wants to express about a certain topic. Anyone can create and post them, and more and more are there chains of such pictures one can follow, going on for hours and hours, being as hypnotizing as fire.

The problem with expressing one’s emotions like that, or even using it to see other people’s emotions is that it does not remain within the virtual world, but impinges itself upon our brains, leading us to use those captions even while have a real life conversation with someone. The danger lies especially within the younger generations, who will be even more exposed to it than we are, and may use them as the main way to express how they feel about certain things, because those will be the emotional example they imitated. This is not to say that mimetic is a bad thing, but only that one has to be careful about what is copied.

This could also potentially make it so that it becomes harder and harder to not only gage the emotions of others in real life situation, but also ones own, and this would only increase as time goes, because just like ideas, memes are contagious, they like to jump from one brain to another. All of this would not be so bad, if the quality of emotions transferred within the memes was any good, but very often, they dumb down the message they are trying to transmit, which would perhaps lead to emotional numbness, lack of emotional awareness, and a widespread inability to communicate one’s true feelings.

In a world that is already lacking of emotional education and communication facilitation, the phenomenon of memes could have disastrous consequences for the future of our children, and even for the most disconnected individuals in our world. The danger of memes is real, and we must stand up against it, offering better examples for how to deal and recognize one’s emotions, not letting our youth be swallowed into the dumbed down spiral of internet memes. “Think about the children”!!

Until next time,

Luca

Why Alcohol….

Hello 🙂

Today’s topic is probably quite familiar to most of us, despite it entailing a deeper meaning that is usually ascribed to is. The topic is indeed, alcohol. Alcohol has be around for countless millennia, has deep roots in the history of most people having lived on our planet, and is even still today extravagantly popular amongst individuals of all ages. Young people seek the thrill behind it, not having been allowed to drink until 16, 18, or even 21, the legal age changing with cultures. Middle-aged people came to enjoy it, not using it for partying, just like the elderly, making it more a matter of refined taste.

Western society glorifies alcoholic beverages in most contexts, but especially when attending social events of any kind, even if this only means going to a bar on friday. The effects of alcohol are well known, ranging from a lowered inhibition, to a lack or motor-control, heading to increased violent behaviour or drowsiness. If the quantity of alcohol ingested is too high, the individual might throw up, clearing his system from it, though some people won’t have that natural reflex, and could very well die from alcohol poisoning. Yet, despite all these seemingly negative side effects, it is still one of the only psychoactive substances which can be legally acquired.

This begs the following question: why only alcohol?? There are numerous other psychoactive substances which do not possess the same kind of effects associated with, which may even be more pleasant, and less conducive to violence, like cannabis for example. Instead of making its users aggressive, it brings about a feeling of happiness and relaxation, and one cannot die from smoking or eating too much cannabis. The answer as to why we are only legally allowed to indulge in alcohol is perhaps that it dumbs its users down, making them forget all the pain, clouding their minds, in order to disable their “unorthodox” thinking. Another reason might simply be that the lowered inhibition is meant as a relief from everyday conformity, where we must behave in a certain way, allowing us to blame alcohol for the acts of our repressed passions. Maybe it is time to rethink our way of socializing and entertaining ourselves, while still entering another way to perceive the world around us.

Cheers,

Luca