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Why it is not just about you

On expectations, hubris, and idolatry

A.: It is a pleasure to have a drink with you. Such a rare occasion this is. Once every two years. Two years! I guess I should count it as a privilege, given that you seldom accept such invitations. Why did you join me?

B.: You do not expect me to conform with some standard I do not value, so there is no pressure. That always makes things easier. Also because I heard you have a surplus of money and are desperate to get rid of it by footing the bill.

A.: Sure. How about a gin-n-tonic? I noticed the gentleman on that table ordering one earlier and was reminded how much I like it. A refreshing beverage for the evening. I’m just tired of ales and wines.

B.: I used to drink spirits neat. No ice, no gimmicks. As well as beers of all sorts. Long drinks were never my thing. Though I have since quit drinking alcohol. It is a bad habit that does not contribute to sociability or fun. If you absolutely need to imbibe a toxin to enjoy the night out, you sure have not considered your particular condition and the social context that enables and encourages it. But I digress. Normally I would get some water, but I’ll have a herbal tea instead.

A.: Very well! I changed my mind and will have one too. Wait! Do you know they make a concoction with ginger, cinnamon, white pepper, and a slice of lemon? I find it subtle and relaxing.

B.: A concoction does sound ominous, though I am brave enough to give it a try. So how are you? I have not seen you in four months. When was it? May? You look fabulous, as always, though now I sense that you are happier and less stressed than before.

A.: I have been taking yoga classes. I’m just a beginner so I probably am not the right person to communicate how special the experience is. It has helped me regain confidence in myself. I have managed to control my emotions and be more aware of the triggers of negative reactions. I am still learning and am happy to stick to it for the long term.

B.: No worries about not knowing the secrets of the yoga teachings from day one. It is normal. I do not know much about them either, certainly less than you do, and would thus refrain from judging them. What matters now is the noticeable benign effect it has had on you.

A.: Yes, it did. I have been able to disentangle all those false wants and aspirations that were burdening me. I was told that you have talked about those issues before, but I never paid much attention. Maybe you even told me directly, but I was too ignorant to listen. I only understood after the fact. Apologies!

B.: There is no need. It is not like my musings are mandatory reading material for us to share a moment like this. Though thinking about it, I need to refine my trolling skills. I shall compile a list of publications, preferably comprising the longest or most difficult ones, and use it as an auto-reply to anyone who invites me to their party. There must be no better repellent than asking people for their opinions as a precondition for responding to their calls!

A.: Haha! You told me already. I feel you. I am not much of a party animal either, though I clearly am people-oriented.

B.: It probably has more to do with interests than personality traits. I am fine with people. What I dislike is hypocrisy. But anyway. What else have you been up to?

[ Read: Why I never call you (2021-06-05) ]

A.: I met my partner at those classes.

B.: Those lucky yogis!

A.: And you?

B.: I have not been taking yoga classes.

A.: Ha, that witty humour of yours! You probably are the last person I know who needs them, anyway. You are always composed. Do you meditate, perchance? Or, more generally, does philosophy involve some method of achieving mindfulness?

B.: I don’t meditate and no, philosophy is not a single school of thought and does not have a defined corpus of guidelines on what to do with your life. I do not apply any particular techniques for mindfulness because I already think about what I do and experience. This might sound pretentious, but it is the case. It is part of my actuality. Just like you being tall and good looking at all times: there is not much you have to do to achieve that. I do enjoy quietude though and the best way to be in that state in this city is to go for long walks, because not even the most eager folks will join me.

A.: I can see how walking is helping you relax. It is a physically demanding task when you cover long distances at a decent pace.

B.: It can be. That is part of the joy: you get to exercise and also explore the area. I may already know every corner of this place.

[ Read: Why I won’t date you (2021-06-16) ]

A.: Does quietude help you be creative?

B.: It depends on how we want to approach this. In a practical sense, you can only ever express your creativity by being left alone. Imagine trying to write an essay while having someone over your head speak the whole time. It will hinder your efforts. Then we have the fact that the act of walking is a time of reflection rather than production of some defined output. In that regard, it contributes to creativity indirectly. It is a process of fermentation where all sorts of ideas pop up until they must go through a process of refinement or distillation.

A.: Still, you are so calm. How do you manage to do that?

B.: It was not always the case. It is a skill you must acquire which helps you come to terms with who you are and with what you can do. I remain tranquil by not setting goals that are beyond my reach. This presupposes introspection to determine what my capabilities are. It also requires assessing the prevailing conditions and envisaging the possible outcomes. I find that we are stressed whenever we sense a mismatch between what we can do and what is expected of us to do in the predicament we are in. Sometimes that feeling is unfounded because we are not aware of our potential, such as when we get anxious about an exam only to pass it with flying colours. I would attribute that to a lack of introspection or inaccurate findings derived therefrom. In general though, once we have become more aware of our condition and our surroundings in order to effectively filter out the false positives, disturbances are typically traced back to misplaced expectations.

[ Read: Why you can’t upset me (2021-07-08) ]

A.: I am aware of your thoughts on social pressure, role playing, and expectations, as well as the agent-structure divide in light of those. Let’s not retread those paths and consider other cases. What if something bad happens which is outside our control? Suppose you have no ambitious targets and do not set yourself up for failure that way. Then tragedy strikes and you lose a loved one. Do you remain calm?

B.: To be sad about it is understandable, if that is what you are asking. Though to be deeply disturbed in a seemingly irreparable way hints at a conflict with an unrealistic belief in permanence. You and your loved ones will not live forever. If you think otherwise, if you hope for things to remain constant, you are still setting yourself up for a major disappointment. Everything we experience is transient.

A.: How do you react in such a case?

B.: By being honest to yourself, which entails acceptance of your sorrow. Express it. Don’t try to act tough or indifferent or whatever is supposed to be appropriate for you, for that is a social construct that is not consistent with your underlying condition at the moment. It will harm you more. There is no point in pretending to remain undaunted by what is happening around you and, by extension, to you. The key is to refrain from clinging on to falsehoods. If, in this case, you do not accept the perishable nature of forms of being, you are simply entertaining a false belief. When the moment of truth comes, you will not be prepared for it.

A.: Is it possible to not harbour sadness?

B.: If by that you mean whether it is feasible to remain insulated from external stimuli, I think that is a misguided and presumptuous approach. Humans, just like all forms of being do not have a standalone, decontextualised presence. There is a world that frames, informs, or otherwise conditions our existence as such, as well as its modal qualities: the fact that we are and of how we are. This world is a system of systems, arranged in strata of emergence, else orders of abstraction, with rules that are local to each system in addition to stratum-wide magnitudes. A system is an interplay of factors, meaning that there are feedback loops between them within a field of application. A factor can be an atom, in the original sense of conceptual non-divisibility, not the misnomer of physicists, or it can be a subsystem whose emergent product operates as a factor in its interplay with other such factors at a higher order of emergence. In this grand interconnectedness, the unfolding and dynamic feedback loops can be understood as a code of communication, in the sense that actions and reactions lead to highly complex outcomes by triggering a variety of chains of events. When you think in those terms, you no longer consider only the micro level of elements in light of a given consideration but also the macro perspective in which those elements form discreet patterns. It is the pattern that matters, for it carries meaning, just like how an arrangement of the same letters in our alphabet can yield dissimilar concepts, as in “dog” and “god”. Same glyphs, different patterns, distinct meanings, and thus varied reactions and possibilities. The idea that the human being as such, or the subsystems that comprise what we consider the supersystem of the human organism, can withdraw from the ever-evolving spectrum of probabilities that this cosmic language which binds everything together enables, is simply mistaken.

A.: Okay, I need to unpack this. Do you think there is something we can do to stop being affected by what is happening around us?

B.: I have already answered your question, but I will do it again in plain terms: no, you cannot escape from the cosmos. You may have heard stories of people who have stabbed their own eyes so that they may stop seeing something disturbing. And, I suppose, that same belief could be applied to the other senses. What is the point? There has to be some presumption which underpins this sort of behaviour. Something that assigns value to it. Tell me, why do you want to remain unaffected by all that environs you?

A.: We are just entertaining an idea now. Because let’s say it makes me suffer. Job requirements, etiquette, social pressure… Everything. You covered that before.

B.: And as I noted before, you can free yourself from that suffering when you stop caring about it and by making a conscious effort to put an end to the role-playing games you find yourself in. That might entail difficult decisions, such as quitting a promising career where everyone calls you a genius and expects you to be the best performer. It may mean that you have to let go of the people you consider your friends: if their conduct pressures you, they are no friends of yours. Same with relatives: if they do not want to understand and continue to push you around, a “fuck off” will usually do the trick. In short, you have to break the mould you were cast in. Though beware of what you ask: what you may get will not be better by society’s standards, as you will be impoverished and marginalised. You must take the time to contemplate whether you are prepared to make a leap of faith into the unknown: do you want to stop suffering or do you want to conform with whatever conditions your milieu establishes? Don’t answer, since this is the figurative “you”. Just something to think about.

A.: I see.

B.: While you can spend as much time as you need on that point, let us reconsider your tacit proposition. That there is a means by which someone can transcend the boundaries imposed upon them by their nature. Have you had something like that in mind or did I misunderstand you?

A.: Well, I am not clear about it and was merely tagging along to listen to what you have to say. Basically you hear about people who achieve enlightenment and are liberated from this world. Perhaps you have an idea of what we can do about it.

B.: The notion of liberation from the world presupposes a proposition that treats the current condition as one of captivity of some sort. For example, some think that we fell here because of a mistake by an original human and that this world serves as an elaborate test of our capacity to return to where we belong. Others say that we are trapped in a cycle of reincarnation and that only through enlightened non-commitment to this world we will free ourselves from it. There is a pattern there of a fall and an ascendance, with what we experience in-between serving as the substitute of a putative true locus of our presence: this is claimed to be a place we should not really like. Can such propositions be objectively verified? Or are they taken for granted through the power of tradition and the centuries of cultural works built upon them? Make no mistake, we can still draw lots of useful insights even from unverifiable claims. Though my point here is that we need to be careful with normativity that acquires a universal scope.

A.: You mean that we should refrain from making value judgements about everything?

B.: Some wish to draw a distinction between ethics and morality. I won’t engage in such a pedantic exercise, because it does not matter for our case. The terms are interchangeable. Morality is a human invention. A system of rules that governs the behaviour of people, regulating the roles of situational agents and patients to actions. In its literal sense, ethics moulds the character of people, though not the biological and epigenetic but the intersubjective one. Ethos, this moral or intersubjective character, is a decisively political construct. There are no ethics without politics, for humans institute those rules together with the overall organisation of their society. There is no social organisation without concomitant value judgements. Put differently, every political system is underpinned by a certain morality and when you say that you do not like what is happening on our planet, you should be prepared to challenge the underlying values that both reproduce those states of affairs as well as make them seem appropriate and inevitable. Furthermore, politics is not just about the formal political process, as in the day-to-day workings of the state and everything that goes into its governance, but the activity of distributing power within an organisation. As such, it is common to have corporate ethics because a corporation is, within its own confines, a political structure where some people exercise control over others.

A.: So morality or ethics are clearly human artefacts which we use for practical purposes. This does not answer my last question: should we refrain from making totalising value judgements?

B.: Humans are imperfect. The rules they come up with can be no different because they do not cover all possible cases and contain hidden assumptions. If a moral system is meant to have universal application, then that will inevitably lead to absurdities. Take, for example, the claim that we should not eat animals because they are alive. Why eat plants then, for they too are alive? Why eat anything for that matter? Why clean up your room or apply sanitisers and risk killing billions of microorganisms? The moment you try to universalise a moral rule, you commit the error of misrepresenting human invention as a universal constant. Put simply, you want to play god while lacking omniscience. The issue with all codes of morality is that we cannot establish objective benchmarks with which to compare and assess them and cannot always be precise with how to go about performing such a task. How do we decide what the correct standpoint is and where the lines should be drawn? For each evaluation depends on our perspective and on what we have tacitly considered more valuable than its alternatives. Which brings us back to the point that ethics are a part of politics, as they rest on an agreement between people: they are conventional. Protagoras said that human is the measure of all chrēmata (χρήματα), which is perennially mistranslated as “things” or what would be called pragmata (πράγματα). That error makes the philosopher sound like an idiot. What Protagoras meant is that we are the ones who determine the evaluation of everything that is in use by us. The value of conventions is extrinsic, contingent on the circumstances.

[ Read: Notes on Rules (2020-07-01) ]

A.: I see. How do we deal with uncertainty then?

B.: By recognising it and operating with it in mind. Let’s take a short detour here. The ancient Greeks were polytheists. Their numerous gods captured a particular archetype or symbolised some set of values. Yet they also recognised the concept of the unknown god, which was later misconstrued as the god of another religion, when in truth it was a token of this innate doubt that is part of our life. We do not need to be polytheists or indeed theists to notice that we live in doubt, we conduct science in doubt, we theologise in doubt. There is no human design which is genuinely totalising and absolutely certain. When we no longer accept the possibility of an unknown god, else uncertainty, in our worldview, we commit the error of not recognising our limits as human beings, as the fallible and imperfect animals that we are. The word for that kind of arrogance, for that misplaced sense of exceptionalism, is hubris. To act recklessly by driving a motorcycle at full speed on a wet road while not wearing a helmet is hubris: you will die if you have an accident, even though in the moment you consider yourself a badass and immortal. To think that you are all-knowing is hubris, and you will suffer the consequences of your insolence just like in the story of Victor Frankenstein. To procrastinate all day and then search for motivational articles, life hacks, or ostensible cheat codes that open a direct conduit to wisdom is hubris, because you fail to admit that expertise is acquired only through longer-term commitment. You get the idea. This is not to say that we should not theorise about the world or have morality or conduct experiments or try new things just because we cannot have absolute certainty. Only that we need to remain grounded by understanding the all too human aspect of our schemes, the possibility of thinking of them anew, and have an escape plan for when our overly ambitious course of action leads to failure.

A.: It is all a matter of proportion then. To find the balance intuitively.

B.: Indeed. We got into this topic by questioning the claim of some schools of thought, religious or otherwise, that we can effectively escape from the world. You assumed that would be possible, presumably because you hear about it a lot and took it for granted.

A.: Well, I feel there is at least some truth to being more spiritual. If each of us turns into their self and reflects carefully, we can become more compassionate and align ourselves with nature. Love will save us all.

B.: I think being spiritual is different from what I have been referring to. Getting closer to nature is laudable, though I will explain what I mean a bit later. Keep that in mind. And love can be an effective medium for enacting reform. Though you must take a step back and think about whether you are speaking about nature or the idol of nature.

A.: I am not sure I understand. I mean that we will turn towards Gaia and become loving beings. That will solve a lot of problems.

B.: My thesis is that nature must include every facet of life, not just love. In nature we have conflict, competition, struggle for survival, love as a means of enhanced cooperation within nuclei of social species to out-perform their opponents… When the wolf kills its game, it is not operating in a binary of compassion versus hatred, good against evil. Those are human categories. Nature just is. Its facts do not have a moral value. It is meaningless to claim that it is good to sleep, because we cannot afford to do otherwise. Recall that morality is a system of rules that regulate the modes of interaction between situational agents and patients to a given action. We are in control of chrēmata, not pragmata. Morality builds an intersubjective character. For those rules to make sense, they have to be actionable and that involves agency, else the capacity to recognise those patterns in the structure and adapt to them.

[ Read: On walking (away) (2021-07-19) ]

A.: So you are arguing that equating nature with love leads us to the idolisation of what we are considering?

B.: Yes, and here I will introduce another misunderstood term: idolatry. The early Christians used that word to slander pagans on the premise that a statue of a god cannot be a god. Fair enough! Yet idolatry follows from a tendency to idealise and then to mistake the ideal with the actual while appraising it. It is not a particular historical feature of the Roman paganus. Today we have idolatry everywhere in a variety of forms. Christians have idolatry, such as by considering certain icons themselves as miraculous. Consumers are idolaters whenever a mere gadget or commodity becomes a symbol of social status, a bragging right, the basis of some elitism. Political activists are engaging in idolatry when they indignantly harass a public figure on a social media platform for not conforming with some impossible moral standard. Our role-playing games in society and how social expectations are developed also involve idolisation. In all such cases we have idols acting as substitutes for—or de facto enemies of—what they intend to symbolise. The exalted image of the underlying form assumes a life of its own through the narratives that are associated with it. Nature is another such idol where all our talk about it tends to reflect our projected views, such as Gaia being all-loving, simply because we have developed this idea of universal, i.e. totalising, love and went too far with it. Think of it this way: the difference between medicine and poison is one of degree. Put some vinegar in your salad and enjoy the health benefits. Drink a litre of vinegar and you will be sent directly to the hospital as a matter of utmost emergency. It is about the balance you mentioned earlier.

A.: Are we misrepresenting nature to feel good about ourselves or to justify what we do? Is love not the answer?

B.: To idolise is not out of the ordinary. I would speculate that it is prevalent in all human societies. In this case though, hubris consists in not recognising the possibility that we may become victims of our propensity for idolisation. The reasons why some may be depicting nature in a certain way are likely to be variegated: we cannot know what motivates each person or group. To answer that kind of question we must delve into the specifics, which we have no means of doing right now. Suffice to say that idealisation which effectively takes the stead of reality will prove problematic once it is confronted with that which it had omitted from its representation of the subject matter. This applies to the totalising preaching of unilateral love.

A.: Love is kind of the wrong goal then?

B.: Love itself is fine. Same with the example I provided earlier about not eating animals. It is the totalisation of love or every principle which is dubious, because nature includes other forces as well. Why choose to ignore or discount them? That aside, I think this theory gains force in a socio-economic milieu of privilege or relative security. It is a luxury to think that you can just turn inwardly, ignore the world around you, and through compassion alone make things happen. For you to be able to engage in that kind of activity in peace, there has to be a political system in place which tolerates it, at the very least. It cannot happen unilaterally. You are taking too many things for granted if you think that doing your own thing has no prerequisites. In concrete terms, do you think you will rely on nothing but positive vibes in the face of an omnipotent totalitarian regime bent on obliterating you? What about exercising caution and cunning to protect yourself from tyranny?

A.: Is there no point in focusing on our selves? If everyone becomes a better person, then there will be nothing to worry about. I guess that is the lesson to be drawn.

B.: It is plausible, though unlikely because it rests on a coincidence of attitudes across a heterogeneous set of people. We have had thousands of years of history to be confident in the view that converting everyone, either through peace or with fire and steel, to a religion whose banal morality is all about love has had a negligible effect on the overall justice of the order we live in. And that is because there is a distinction to be made between actual societies and clubs. The former develop organically and remain heterogeneous in terms of the availability of talents and abilities. Whereas the latter has selection bias built into it and is, therefore, more likely to pass a particular test for which it is optimised for.

A.: Care to elaborate on the club metaphor?

B.: Imagine the creation of a small community in some remote place out of a gathering of the world’s leading pacifist intellectuals. That will most likely end up being a success story of peaceful co-habitation, because the members of the community all share similar views, they all have a high intelligence and can reason about their common issues given they are intellectuals, and so on. Now what happens to such a wonderful bunch once we introduce real-world influences to it, such as migration from countries where no pacifists exist? Or when there are threats of war from regimes that are not amused by our little all-singing, all-dancing community. Do the pacifists try to fend for themselves? Are existential threats a casus belli? Do they maintain borders to impede the migratory influx of non-pacifists, as newcomers with that background would refashion the character of their social bond? My point is that when people are in a position of privilege they have the luxury to fancy their life in black-and-white terms where they choose the side of the good. When, however, you introduce friction, you start realising that the absolutes are untenable.

A.: Love is not the answer to everything then…

B.: It is only if you accept the dogma that this world is our prison cell and the only escape is through a particular morality. I have not been persuaded by those claims and, as such, cannot accept their derivatives at face value. Instead, I choose to rely on common sense. If a bully enslaves and abuses a child or a wild animal, does the hatred or repulsion you feel for that injustice motivate you to act against it? If so, then hatred or repulsion is vitalising a certain force for justice, understood as the abolition of the arbitrariness of control imposed by the abuser against the victim. Now you may want to re-frame that scenario as being about showing love towards the victim, though my focus is on the feeling of non-love towards the abuser, however we may call it. At any rate, those same sentiments cannot always have the same effect, for obvious reasons. Sometimes love is what propels us to those heights. Hence the need for common sense. Think about the exhortation to never lie and suppose you find yourself in a life threatening situation, just like Odysseus (Ulysses) who was trapped in the cave of the Cyclops. Will you speak the truth and die or act with cunning to return to your long journey back home? And remember that I doubt the presence of a global scoreboard that measures our performance to determine whether we will ascend into another domain or not. It may be fascinating to think you are too smart to apply common sense and will instead search for some intricate method reserved for a self-righteous elite. I am just the common sense type and think we must assess the particularities of the case and determine whether some means can lead to certain ends, always with the proviso that morality is a human convention.

A.: This common sense can also be explained as not having preconceived notions?

B.: What I have in mind is the disposition of remaining dubitative and inquisitive in the face of evolving events. To inquire upon the specifics of the case is to approach the issue with no bias or, at least, with no intent of being prejudiced. Your quest is to identify the truth, not uncritically conform with the guidelines of elders or whomever. Finding a balance is helpful just like with the medicine-poison comparison. Which brings me to this idea of aligning oneself with nature…

A.: Ah yes, I mentioned that earlier…

[ Read: On materiality and emergence (2020-12-20) ]

B.: We do not have a definitive understanding of nature and are thus prone to idolisations. On the one hand, to determine the specifics of the case is to describe that which is and, we hold, nature is. So the quest for approximating the truth must be, in a manner of speaking, the attempt to get closer to nature by setting aside our falsehoods to behold what truly is. On the other hand, we have established that nature contains all possible states, such as love and hatred, to the extent that it must be natural to fantasise and, consequently, idealise and idolise. We cannot rule those out as unnatural, for where do they come from? Recall that humans do not have a decontextualised presence and thus cannot generate all the negatives in the world out of their own free will, as that vaunted concept requires a standalone existence (yes, I am a free will sceptic). As such, we count them as natural. But we have to somehow be able to distinguish the actual from the imaginary, even though that which is in our fantasy is fundamentally possible just like everything else in nature. What we do, essentially, is employ heuristics with which to establish a modicum of objectivity and determine the correspondence between the thought of something and its instantiation. Science, or philosophy, or jurisprudence and morality, are works-in-progress in which we basically proceed through trial and error until we get the best results in the moment. Sometimes we stumble across patterns in the cosmos that occur regularly and we are able to define those with greater precision than others which leave a lot of room for interpretation. Whatever we do, we must consider the possibility of inadvertently making an idol out of our subject matter and committing hubris in the process by thinking we know more than we actually do.

A.: Is there some practical insight we can derive from this?

B.: Take social role-playing. You already know how your sexual orientation was at conflict with the gender that was assigned to you at birth.

A.: Yes, I do and have had a lot of trouble in my life. It still is a challenge. Though I am calm now as I have learnt to live without their validation.

B.: Good! What was at play, what always beset you from all sides, were social expectations of conforming with a given normal. The normativity of being that particular type of human and of having to behave in that specific set of ways. They told you that it is not natural to look like one but feel like the other and you got depressed because deep down you understood that you did nothing wrong as you were that way naturally. Now we know those prejudices to be predicated on an idolisation of nature, not an assessment of nature proper. They had created an effigy of nature in their mind which could, at its best, be representative of the state of the heuristics of yesteryear. We could say that they did not know any better and the simulacrum of nature they produced was the best they could achieve back then, which is not a problem in itself. The problem consists in the hubris of treating heuristics as tantamount to the eternal truth, of conflating the idol with the deity it is meant to symbolise. If those people knew that their view of nature was “their view” and that it was not nature as such, then they would be better prepared to take a deep breath and reconsider their beliefs.

A.: I see. The hubris of being prejudiced when they should have been sceptical of their own position and should have applied common sense when their theories proved inadequate to describe the phenomena in front of them. This makes me confident that I can withstand the pressure more effectively. They are basically ignorant. Thank you!

B.: You are welcome! And thanks for the drink and the quality time we spent here.

A.: Likewise. Hopefully the next time will not be in two or more years from now.

B.: Maybe it will be sooner. Or it may never happen again. Impermanence and all that.

A.: Sigh… And what about the spirit. Should we commit to it?

B.: We are fully fledged human beings. Have you ever had a drink with a spirit? There are several aspects to our existence: physical, mental, intellectual, aesthetic, and mystical. As with the world at-large, they are connected. You cannot just have one.

A.: Which is the greatest error humans commit?

B.: Hmm… To mistake chrēmata for pragmata.

A.: And the second?

B.: Oh, this is getting tricky. And I’m not even drunk! Perhaps their tendency to idealise becoming a fraction of themselves. One wishes to become just a spiritual being. The other aspires to be only physically fit. A third valorises their rationality and considers everything else to be nonsense. Again, there has to be a balance, a sense of proportionality. It is like listening to only one tune for the rest of your life. You cannot sustain it, even if it is your favourite song. Sometimes you need the therapeutic energy of Istvan Sky or the raw power of Kawir. Other times you want to explore the alien soundscapes of Atra Aeterna. And others, still, you accept an invitation to attend a live concert of The Van Jets.