Posts tagged sam harris
pastime heatwave sidetracks
Stockholm in a heatwave. A muscle man of fearless gloom, bruised jarred naked skin. Battered fists and broken bones and a mind too young to hurt.


From what? Impending catastrophe? Cosmic isolation? I’m not sure. But sometimes melancholy hits me like a bag of bricks and in moments of monotony in particular. Leisure hours without a clear–cut goal to strive for. So I avoid it. And justify distraction with all I have. Perhaps some of it is good? After all you cannot live your life in a never–ending state of existential desperation. It is too serious. Too paralysing. And no damn fun.

But you are forgetting the importance of these moments. Without momentary spurs of existential angst you would never feel the sense of urgency that is actually making you head out and achieve. You need these moments in order to understand the importance of meaning. To get an insight into the depth of human nature. Beyond its neat shallow facade so preferred by the majority.

Possibly. Or it’s just an intellectualised form of masochism. And why are you talking to yourself in the third person anyway?

“People tend to think of their self as located somewhere behind their eyes”, someone said. Ever heard someone utter the phrase I can’t stand myself? That sentence alone implies two selves. Your true self and your thinking self. One internal, one external. One responds to stimulus from the inside out. The other from the outside in. You need the external one, you couldn’t survive in this world we built without it. But merely that would make you just a tool.

Perhaps life isn’t as much dualistic as it is surface and depth. Levels of interpretation. But the dualism exists too. In order to achieve depth you need the fine–tuned balance between two extremes. Call it order and chaos, the known and the unknown, whatever. And you circle and circle around your true self and at times you get closer. Then you lose your grip again.

And so it goes.

the freedom to irrationality

I spent an evening with a man I recently encountered. A notorious self–talker, but not entirely without good reason. He was born in a faraway slum to a drug–dealing father on the run from the police. He used to have brothers. He no longer does. As a youth he used to teach children. Now most of them are dead.

Thirty years later he made it to Europe, started a family and built himself a legacy. Whatever could be considered commonplace circumstances where he is from are anomalies to the core in this society. He knows. But he has never let that define his sense of self.

Look at me. Look at where I came from. If I could start out there and still be sitting here today, a million miles from the shacks and drugs and crime in that place, then anyone can do it. Anything else is sheer inexcusable nonsense.

So what does the free will debate have to say about that? Here’s the difference between practical and theoretical philosophy for you. This man has no university degree. He hasn’t read Hobbes or Hume or Harris yet perhaps he knows more than all of them combined. Intellectuals can argue all day long about the illusion that we hold authority over our decisions but in reality we all act as if we have free will. We celebrate the heroes who defy their unfortunate conditions and we shun the people who don’t pick themselves up by their broken ragged boots.

He chose self–mastery. We grant him that and we applaud him. But what of the argument that some people are born with a certain disposition towards persistence, willfulness and assertive problem solving?

Doesn’t matter. It’s all excuses. I did it. So why can’t they?

Go ahead, keep meandering off into your complex, winding thought experiments and high level abstractions. I don’t disapprove, those things are of the most interesting adventures that I know. But I cannot help but question. If a philosophy really is as far away from real experience and conviction as this one is, can it really be true? Or is that actually the very reason it must be true? If the answers to these questions were straightforward, would they really have haunted us for millennia?


So perhaps that is the most straightforward answer one can give. We have no straightforward answer. This man has literally battled his way to the life he leads today. Blood and bruises and a broken neck are no exaggerations. But it doesn’t matter. I’m not staying here, he concluded. Why?

There comes a time when what you once so desperately wanted is no longer important. I am done. I have achieved it all. I want to go home.

I want to die in Rio.