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Comment on not taking oneself too seriously

Below is another excerpt from my journal. It is just text. Philosophy… I understand this is getting boring, so here is an attempt to add some flair to my journaling, in lieu of poetry and drawings: 🎨🌈🤡 (it’s hard—okay?).

In Doing work or seeking attention? I presented several philosophical themes in a neat package. In short:

  • The problématique of how does one know for certain.
  • Whether intellectuality can be decoupled from basic instincts or behaviours.
  • An inquiry into whether one has a choice in the matter.
  • A practical application (and self-deprecation) of my points on being honest and the matter of non-ownership.

[ Prot edit: For more elaborate takes on these and related concepts, check the Books and standalone publications. ]

On the topic of certainty, I think we have no definitive answer. If my very makeup is designed to deceive me, then those same capacities cannot do what is beyond their scope: i.e. be used to NOT deceive me and to recognise when the deception occurs. To my mind, “doing work” (philosophy, coding, etc.) is an intellectual activity that I find interesting and would do regardless of any possible attention it brings me. I used to do it for years without ever receiving a single comment/email, after all. But I cannot be sure that there is no underlying mechanism at play which, basically, performs the function of exposing features of mine in order to capture the attention of others. I used the example of the peacock to demonstrate that while I am not relying on my appearance the way the bird does (which would result in failure, anyway), I may still be showcasing what is peculiar to me and, thus, potentially attention-grabbing. In short, I may be trying to outcompete the other peacocks, even though my conscious self simply enjoys those activities in their own right.

Ruling out this possibility and pretending that intellectuality is purely intellectual is, in my view, a dogma. We will be labouring under the pretention that the intellectual realm exists on its own without connection to “the body”. By extension, the philosopher will be, in their capacity qua philosopher, a purely intellectual being without emotions and carnal needs. Nonsense! There are philosophical and religious views which separate the body from the mind/soul, though I find this distinction untenable in practice, for there is no instance of a body or mind/soul that has a standalone presence. This distinction is analytical, meaning that we abstract patterns in a continuum and think of them as if they had a standalone presence. It is a mistake to conflate analytical constructs with the case they are derived from.

I always remark in my writings and talks, the multifacetedness of our humanity. We have a body, and emotions, and can also philosophise. We are a bit of everything. When I talk about aloofness, for example, I do not mean that we can ever be emotionless, for that is no longer a human being. It is impossible to be non-human while being human. As such, likening myself to a peacock is a reminder of my humanity—our humanity. I am not speacial as a human being. I may have an uncommon set of talents combined with a given character. Fine. That is true for a singer, a comedian, an elite athlete, and so on. Everyone has elements that make them unique. They are all good or relatively better at something. Yet their humanity is no different from that of all the other people.

At least some cultures hold the sage in special status. I understand the potential practical benefits of such an institution. Though we must not commit the error of thinking that the sage—or anyone for that matter—undergoes apotheosis by acquiring that status: they do not become a god. It is okay to have respect, but it must not be extremely reverential to the point of exalting the person to an impossible level. Humans are fallible and breakable.

By entertaining the possibility that all our higher aspirations (e.g. philosophy) may be reducible to—or consistent with—basic instincts, I am hinting at the fact that we have no choice in the matter of what our humanity renders possible. Our very nature is not a matter of our volition. I am also making an argument contra elitism in that I am not trying to elevate myself above “the masses”—such a presumptuous term. I am one with those masses. We are all fundamentally the same, even if we differ in major ways in terms of our interests and disposition.

In practice, I am reminding myself and am telling you that taking oneself too seriously is teh starting point of a new dogma. It is how we think that we are somehow special and we then rationalise it with all sorts of theories. This elitism reflects our attachment to our own narrative or projects. We want them to be true. We place all our faith in them. We defend them with all our strength because we fear that if they are proven false, we will lose our self. Is this not the same as the insecure dog that guards its food out of fear that it will die of starvation, even though there is ample food available? We cling on to what we think is ours in its scarcity—our narrative, our selfhood, etc.—because we associate it with our existence as such, even though it is not.

I might be a peacock then. You too! We are all human, i.e. animals. I am not special in any way. This is not me being modest. I speak what I think is the truth and I am doing it to the best of my ability of being honest. Being treated as special is dehumanising: you realise it when it happens and you then recognise what you are. If you think otherwise, if you truly believe that you are special as a human being, well… good luck proving as much!