An Empathic Lens and a Connected Universe


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The following is my response to some thoughtful comments made by Xray on another thread. I won't try to tame my tangential thinking (I enjoy the places it takes me too much) but I do want to maintain the integrity of the original thread by starting this new one.

Paul

I don't think fear is the only basis for a belief in God. I have come to understand that the sense of spiritual connectedness, which comes from a place of seeing the universe through an empathic lens, tends to draw a lot of people towards a belief in God, even those who have discarded traditional church and religion.

While I think empathy is an absolute essential in developing a secular ethics in the world we live in, I have problems seeing through an empathic lens when it comes to nature as such. Nature is pretty insentient, with life living from killing other life. "One big restaurant" as Woody Allen said one of his films.

What I am suggesting requires a much deeper shift in our general understanding of empathy. It is the difference between empathy as a tool of understanding our world (what does the world look like from different points of view?) vs empathy as a tool of judging our world (is this or that point of view for me or against me?). At the centre of this difference is our relationship to our own insides; to our own feelings and way of seeing the world.

When we are growing up our capacity for empathy feeds us with information about how others see and feel about things, including and especially the way they see and feel about us and our value to them. Ideally, we find much of this experience supportive of the development of our healthy sense of self but, even in the best environments, much of it is very painful, damaging and overwhelming. It triggers our fight or flight response and we seek ways of reducing our anxiety. Our key mechanism for reducing anxiety from overwhelming experiences prior to 6 years old is blocking this information from reaching awareness from those experiences and disowning the parts of the self (disowning our lenses) that allow us to see and feel these things.

The ego (I'm using this term in the way NB uses it: see here) doesn't really start to grow in it's separateness and to individuate towards autonomy until 6 or 7 years old. The core of who we are is defined by choices we make before the ego really begins to develop, while existing in and trying to survive a context of dependent connectedness. The very typical outcome is to either damage our empathic development or to damage our separation and individuation process in order to resolve a conflict in our experience of the two sides of the self. Objectivism is a system of thought built around strong separation and individuation development but damaged empathic development, as is seen in the character of its founder, so I would expect what I am saying about seeing through an empathic lens to sound somewhat alien here.

What if we saw ourselves as more than any particular thought or feeling or way of seeing things in any given moment? What if we could see ourselves as highly complex beings with many different sides to us and many different and sometimes paradoxical lenses through which we see the world? What if there was no part of us that we disowned? What if there was no experience so overwhelming that we had to push it away and deny it access to our awareness? What if there was no place inside us that we were scared to go? On the one hand, we wouldn't be scared to stand open and alone, separate to those who do not share our feelings, vision and understanding of the world, without the need for defensiveness against those who disagree. On the other hand, we wouldn't be scared to let others all the way inside us so we could see the world deeply through their eyes and create a shared space, without fear of loosing ourselves.

In nature, I can appreciate and understand the spirit of the lion on a hunt just as I can appreciate and understand the spirit of a wildebeest being hunted. I know the ruthless determination and social collaboration in the pursuit of a goal that will feed myself and my family at the expense of someone else's survival; played in many soccer and hockey tournaments. I know the feeling of fight or flight as adrenalin pumps through my veins while trying to come up with possibilities, strategies and make decisions on the fly, while feeling pursued by a relentless attacker. I once had a relationship with a woman that reached a point where it felt like this almost every day...yow! That's where I learned not to be controlled by fight or flight or the anxiety beneath it. I learned to break my automatic defensive reactions, find inner calm, channel the information into a growth and learning process and to generate new action possibilities to choose from.

The point here is that if there is no place inside yourself that you cannot go, then there is no experience, personal or empathic, that you cannot embrace, grow and learn from. If we push away the dark experiences and anxious feelings, we push away half a world of information. The reality is, when we don't allow the dark side of life all the way inside, all we do is blind ourselves to it and we continue to expose ourselves to the dangers we are blind to. It is healthy to hold a commitment to our awareness and understanding of all that is real more deeply than our fear of what is real.

I illustrated this point to my son one winter when he was 8. He threw some snowballs at me. In a sense of playfulness I tossed some back at him. I noticed that he just closed his eyes and hoped I would miss. I didn't, so he started to get scared and wanted to pull away from the game. Using empathy, I could sense what was going on inside him. I held that sense inside me while automatically projecting in my imagination what I would have done in his shoes to see another possible way of responding. I would have kept my eyes open, hearing the lessons from my past to keep my eye on the ball, and I would have used what I could see to inform my understanding of the moment, my choices and my actions. I encouraged my son to keep his eye on the snowball and try moving out of the way. He went from being hit every time to never being hit.

The same goes for seeing the universe through an empathic lens: whole galaxies vanish in black holes, stars perish, etc.

I get this. One of the darkest experiences we can have as beings who have a conditional existence is the sense of non-existence. I find it interesting how easily we accept all the time prior to our coming into existence without triggering anxiety but our going out of existence, or deep empathy for someone or something else going out of existence, disturbs us. I can see how someone could be so compelled to believe in a continuation of the spirit after death, without the body. While I can empathize with this view, I don't share it. Everything I have come to understand about reality says that the organized flow of energy we call spirit can only maintain it's form within the structure created by the body.

I can relate to a feeling connectedness to the universe since I am part of it (I call this the 'cosmic feeling' which I sometimes get when gazing at the stars) but I also know the feeling of sadness in view of the inevitable suffering which existence also entails.

You get this feeling when you gaze at the stars. I think this is part of what is meant by AR's sense of a benevolent universe. It's a feeling of being connected to a universe that feeds our needs, our existence. It's a sense that the universe is something good rather than something to be feared. There is more to a sense of a benevolent universe though. Can you get this feeling while sitting in a busy food court people watching in the middle of a shopping mall? Both people and stars are part of our universe. For a truly benevolent sense of the universe we need to be able to live openly without fear in both the social and the physical realms.

Yes, there is inevitable suffering and sadness entailed in existence. I pulled my back. Right now it's killing me as I sit here writing but I know how to deal with it and make it temporary. But what if it's not temporary.

My sister has a degenerative bone disease that has her in chronic pain. She has days where she can tolerate it and function and days where she cannot move. Because of the addictive, numbing and awareness lowering effects of the pain killers she was prescribed, she does not use medication. She uses the power of her mind and meditation to coexist with the pain. Through all this she very much has a benevolent sense of life. As NB suggests in the above link, she has learned she is more than any particular thought or feeling. Her definition of self goes deeper than her feeling of pain. She is her "unifying centre of consciousness." She has developed methods of dealing with and controlling how the universe flows through her without blocking the flow. She has learned that the pain and darkness that is resisted is the pain and darkness that controls and consumes her, so she doesn't resist it. She could be bitter but that would only give her a darker universe feeding back to her. At the height of her pain she cocoons and meditates, not allowing her negative to flow into the world around her while finding a level of peace inside. When her pain lowers, she brings thoughtfulness, caring and understanding to the world and people around her, while keeping those who allow darkness to define them out. This is how she creates and maintains her sense of a benevolent universe while living with pain every day.

A key point to note here: creating a benevolent sense of the universe requires being master of one's own insides, allowing the healthy flow of our experience through us, and being the master of who we allow and how we allow others into our inner world. Maintaining a healthy connection to our empathic self requires that we recognize the difference between those who are consumed by a darkness of of spirit and those who define themselves by a benevolence of spirit and making life choices based on this knowledge. Even more so, healthy empathy requires we see the darkness of spirit and the benevolence of spirit in all the people in our lives. We need this knowledge to define the context of our relationships; to define the limits between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. We define the limits of every relationship in our lives. We can do so consciously or unconsciously. This is never more important than when we are raising children but applies to every relationship we have. Doing this consciously with understanding of how our limits shape the way the universe flows back to us is how we shape a benevolent social universe.

We can see ourselves as nodes in an intricate universe-web; both influencing and being influenced by our relationship to the web.

I too often try to look at if from this perspective: everything being connected with everything.

Maybe our descendants in future times will be able 'lift the veil' more and more, with phenomena like e. g. quantum entanglement no longer being a mystery to them.

The time is now. We are in the middle of this process. It's happening all around us if we can just tune into it. And you are quite right, it brings with it information that can provide insights into quantum entanglement. The universe behaves in ways that feel like everything is connected by strings or webs. I love playing with models of a physical universe where this can be understood as possible. It requires going beyond the epistemic limitations defined by the Copenhagen interpretation though. It requires embracing and further developing our intuitive models of causality and the physical universe. Physics in the 20th century did quite a job of invalidating this capacity within us. Einstein tried to fight the invalidation of causality while embracing the invalidation of physically intuitive modelling that died with the Michelson-Morley experiment and the invalidation of ether theory. Einsteins vision of causality was wrong and ether theory, built on the same model of causality as Einstein's model, was wrong. One answer, the Copenhagen interpretation, is that causality is an illusion and intuitive modelling cannot make sense of the quantum universe. Another possibility is that we need to develop a more complex and deeper understanding of causality that can shape a different physical model of the universe from ether theory. The political domination of the Copenhagen interpretation has stopped this from happening but, IMO, it's just a matter of time now that attempts to control the flow of information are overpowered by the free flow of info on internet media. The flow of ideas is now bypassing the stagnancy, resistance and control systems of previously entrenched establishments in many areas.

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Paul,

Egoism.

As Nathaniel said in that interview : "I am on stronger ground when I identify my ego

with my ability to think, rather than with any particular thought, feeling, physical attribute, personal relationship..." etcetc.

[alternatively, if not:]

"What happens to my sense of self?

The answer is: tragedy. My self-esteem is devastated."

Awareness.

"If I identify my ego or deepest self with the faculty of awareness - the ultimate witness within [...] then I face the challenge of life in a state of confidence and power." [NB]

What I have strongly appreciated about your expositions here on empathy, has been your

insistence that egoism is an integral partner to empathy. And, refreshingly and novelly - that empathy is actually self-interested.

Please correct me if I misstated.

I have the view that egoism is the absolute precondition for empathy, of the world, nature, and particularly other lives. Empathy brings depth and breadth of understanding - hell, of "involvement". If it is observable/identifiable, if it is possible to a man, and "efficacious" to him - then it is rational, not contradicting what I could refer to as "developed Objectivist ethics".

But also: if it could be posited that egoism without empathy is a cold, narrow place to inhabit - empathy without egoism, is flaccid, meaningless, without base, and short lived. It can then become the advocacy of any scoundrel - who commands that we feel 'empathetic' to our fellow men, purely because they need it; it's proof of our noble egolessness;

and it is our obligation, after all. Under these circumstances, this incredible tool of awareness becomes the source of guilt and resentment, and a tool for control.

We differ some, or a lot - I'm not sure - but I feel that empathy-compassion

is only honest and true when individually chosen - as a supplement to a strong ego, that "ultimate witness within."

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What I have strongly appreciated about your expositions here on empathy, has been your

insistence that egoism is an integral partner to empathy. And, refreshingly and novelly - that empathy is actually self-interested.

Please correct me if I misstated.

No misstatement and no need for correction. A healthy ego is the core to a healthy or evolved empathy and way of being in a connected world. We can see the world through a self-centric lens made of interacting but separate entities and we can see the world through an empathically connected lens where we are nodes in a web and parts of a greater whole. We don't have to choose one over the other. Both ways of seeing and being in the world can coexist inside us and we are richer, more informed and more complete when we own both parts of the self and are open to the flow of both ways of experiencing the world. No matter the lens, a healthy ego is central to a healthy existence.

I have the view that egoism is the absolute precondition for empathy, of the world, nature, and particularly other lives. Empathy brings depth and breadth of understanding - hell, of "involvement". If it is observable/identifiable, if it is possible to a man, and "efficacious" to him - then it is rational, not contradicting what I could refer to as "developed Objectivist ethics".

I'm stumbling a little on how you said this but I think I agree with the spirit of what you are saying. A healthy ego starts with the deepest respect for one's own core feelings, vision, intuition, thoughts and understanding. I see egoism as a system of ethical thought based in a self-centric lens with a healthy core ego. Enlightened egoism opens the door for information from our empathic feelings, vision, intuition, thoughts and understanding to flow in. To balance this I would say we need to be able to also centre ourselves in our own empathic connected perspective and open the door for information from our self-centric perspective to flow. I see it like a figure/ground picture where, when we focus on one, the information from the other is still there but in the background giving the figure context. This is how I see overcoming the paradoxical separation between our separateness and our connectedness. It allows for one unified perspective of one universe despite having two distinct ways of perceiving, often producing paradoxical conclusions.

But also: if it could be posited that egoism without empathy is a cold, narrow place to inhabit - empathy without egoism, is flaccid, meaningless, without base, and short lived. It can then become the advocacy of any scoundrel - who commands that we feel 'empathetic' to our fellow men, purely because they need it; it's proof of our noble egolessness;

and it is our obligation, after all. Under these circumstances, this incredible tool of awareness becomes the source of guilt and resentment, and a tool for control.

This is why I think I agree with the spirit of what you are saying. You are seeing the need to come at the issue equally from both lenses. For a sense of wholeness and integrity in ourselves we need a calm, centred and strong core connected to our world through a multiplicity of ways of being and seeing. If we are to reach healthy, it is our task to find understanding for, and balance between, the different parts of the self. This is very different from the policy of owning and disowning-- including and excluding parts of ourselves, ways of being and ways of seeing-- that is widely advocated in our culture in general and in Objectivist culture in particular.

We differ some, or a lot - I'm not sure - but I feel that empathy-compassion

is only honest and true when individually chosen - as a supplement to a strong ego, that "ultimate witness within."

I'm not sensing a great deal of disagreement here. I think we see the same reality with, perhaps, some slight differences in small details. Our capacity for empathy opens the door to the development of an unauthentic self if left without a strong ego. Without a strong sense of one's authentic self, empathy creates a deep motive for either people pleasing or subversive manipulating that can shape a false self built to manipulate and control other people's perceptions of us and actions towards us in a codependent existence. I have had a built-in disgust for this way of seeing and being since I was a kid. I have come to hate the faked self so many people project to manipulate how they are perceived. I despise image that is all spin and no substance. In my home I fight the parenting and educating culture that creates a disowning of the authentic self and the creation of ugly, selfless, codependent, manipulating monsters in our kids. This is where NB's concept of social metaphysics has always resonated in me. I have fought to hold onto my authentic, autonomous self while owning both my self centric and my empathic lenses in a world that punishes us and excludes us for doing so. Somewhere along the way I figured out the world is wrong and now find myself pushing away the unauthentically possessed and drawn to like-minded folk.

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All this egoism and self esteem flows naturally from conceptual thinking and rationality, which, if you start out with these from a very young age is the best way to go, but if you don't you'll need to train yourself to correct yourself. I'm assuming no major trauma which is another kettle of fish.

Since serious critical thinking is not generally taught in schools, we've become a culture of dependent babies doing the state's bidding. When the grid collapses and the sewer backs up, the supermarket is empty, the electricity isn't there, the water doesn't flow and gas doesn't pump and the medicine is gone, tens of millions will die while waiting for the collapsed government to rescue them. It won't take long. How long can someone live without water? Living in a primitive country can turn out to be much safer than in the United States.

The point of this digression is to point out that even high self-esteem people can be caught up in situations with inadequate life skills and in that sense their self esteem will fail them.

--Brant

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All this egoism and self esteem flows naturally from conceptual thinking and rationality...

Sorry Brant, I don't agree. I know lots of people who are strong in conceptual thinking and rationality with poor self-esteem in other areas and who have a weak core self esteem.

Since serious critical thinking is not generally taught in schools, we've become a culture of dependent babies doing the state's bidding.

I see it more as the act of teaching how and what to think that is the problem. We have a culture of taught learners. What is needed is a culture of passionate explorers who do not let go of authentic, autonomous and intuitive experiencing and understanding. This latter

orientation provides a spiritual and intellectual immune system to destructive programming that can enter via taught learning.

When the grid collapses and the sewer backs up, the supermarket is empty, the electricity isn't there, the water doesn't flow and gas doesn't pump and the medicine is gone, tens of millions will die while waiting for the collapsed government to rescue them. It won't take long. How long can someone live without water? Living in a primitive country can turn out to be much safer than in the United States.

This reminds me of what someone once told me about her experience working as a flight attendant. She said people acted like they checked their brains at the door. Very rational and intelligent people in contexts they had been programmed for behaved ridiculously and childlike when they entered the plane. It is like they are missing the ability to be open and intuitive in contexts they have no programming for. A person who is a passionate explorer of life and who does not let go of authentic, autonomous and intuitive experiencing and understanding will function far better in circumstances for which they have not been trained. They are not fearful of confronting chaos. They do not need their world to be controlled to feel a sense of competence. And they trust their ability to make sense of the new and to translate this understanding into adaptable new actions.

The point of this digression is to point out that even high self-esteem people can be caught up in situations with inadequate life skills and in that sense their self esteem will fail them.

How does a person with inadequate life skills have high (authentic) self-esteem?

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Thank you very much Paul for your detailed and very interesting comments in # 1 to a post of mine I had made on another thread.

There's a lot of food for thought in there, it reads like a philosophical essay; it and makes me want to print it out and go through it, make comments on the margin, etc., and show it to others with whom I've been discussing this subject offline.

[quoting Xray]: The same goes for seeing the universe through an empathic lens: whole galaxies vanish in black holes, stars perish, etc. [end quote Xray]

I get this. One of the darkest experiences we can have as beings who have a conditional existence is the sense of non-existence. I find it interesting how easily we accept all the time prior to our coming into existence without triggering anxiety but our going out of existence, or deep empathy for someone or something else going out of existence, disturbs us.

What could be the reason for us humans being much more disturbed by the thought of non-existence after our life ends than by the thought of non-existence before our life began?

Maybe there is some biological program at work here that so strongly directs all energy toward preserving an organism's life that the existential fear of losing life is biologically hardwired in us?

Whereas prior to an individual's coming into existence, which is a stage before any experience is possible, no 'fear of loss' can develop.

[quoting Xray]: I can relate to a feeling connectedness to the universe since I am part of it (I call this the 'cosmic feeling' which I sometimes get when gazing at the stars) but I also know the feeling of sadness in view of the inevitable suffering which existence also entails.[end quote Xray]

You get this feeling when you gaze at the stars. I think this is part of what is meant by AR's sense of a benevolent universe. It's a feeling of being connected to a universe that feeds our needs, our existence. It's a sense that the universe is something good rather than something to be feared.

Maybe this too is the result of a pro-life biological program hardwired in us?

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All this egoism and self esteem flows naturally from conceptual thinking and rationality...

Sorry Brant, I don't agree. I know lots of people who are strong in conceptual thinking and rationality with poor self-esteem in other areas and who have a weak core self esteem.

Since serious critical thinking is not generally taught in schools, we've become a culture of dependent babies doing the state's bidding.

I see it more as the act of teaching how and what to think that is the problem. We have a culture of taught learners. What is needed is a culture of passionate explorers who do not let go of authentic, autonomous and intuitive experiencing and understanding. This latter

orientation provides a spiritual and intellectual immune system to destructive programming that can enter via taught learning.

When the grid collapses and the sewer backs up, the supermarket is empty, the electricity isn't there, the water doesn't flow and gas doesn't pump and the medicine is gone, tens of millions will die while waiting for the collapsed government to rescue them. It won't take long. How long can someone live without water? Living in a primitive country can turn out to be much safer than in the United States.

This reminds me of what someone once told me about her experience working as a flight attendant. She said people acted like they checked their brains at the door. Very rational and intelligent people in contexts they had been programmed for behaved ridiculously and childlike when they entered the plane. It is like they are missing the ability to be open and intuitive in contexts they have no programming for. A person who is a passionate explorer of life and who does not let go of authentic, autonomous and intuitive experiencing and understanding will function far better in circumstances for which they have not been trained. They are not fearful of confronting chaos. They do not need their world to be controlled to feel a sense of competence. And they trust their ability to make sense of the new and to translate this understanding into adaptable new actions.

The point of this digression is to point out that even high self-esteem people can be caught up in situations with inadequate life skills and in that sense their self esteem will fail them.

How does a person with inadequate life skills have high (authentic) self-esteem?

For your last question, the answer is ignorance of the future which may present a situation that can't be dealt with. For instance, you may be the victim of home invasion and you don't know how to use the shotgun left behind by your brother last week.

That self esteem can or is likely to flow naturally from from rationality doesn't mean it will. A damaged psychology may block it. Also, we humans can compartmentalize things and be rational in one area and irrational in another and that other area may block it.

--Brant

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I don't think fear is the only basis for a belief in God. I have come to understand that the sense of spiritual connectedness, which comes from a place of seeing the universe through an empathic lens, tends to draw a lot of people towards a belief in God, even those who have discarded traditional church and religion.

I've had many discussions about this with believers in a god, and can relate to the idea of spiritual connectedness (which I have felt many times myself), but I don't necessarily connote this with belief a god.

I can understand though that the idea of a god is an attempt to satisfy the yearning for an underlying 'deeper' (and benevolent) sense to existence.

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I don't think fear is the only basis for a belief in God. I have come to understand that the sense of spiritual connectedness, which comes from a place of seeing the universe through an empathic lens, tends to draw a lot of people towards a belief in God, even those who have discarded traditional church and religion.

I've had many discussions about this with believers in a god, and can relate to the idea of spiritual connectedness (which I have felt many times myself), but I don't necessarily connote this with belief a god.

I can understand though that the idea of a god is an attempt to satisfy the yearning for an underlying 'deeper' (and benevolent) sense to existence.

Going to church is a social experience with strong tribal elements. It can also be a form of entertainment and psychotherapy.

--Brant

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The core of who we are is defined by choices we make before the ego really begins to develop, while existing in and trying to survive a context of dependent connectedness. The very typical outcome is to either damage our empathic development or to damage our separation and individuation process in order to resolve a conflict in our experience of the two sides of the self. Objectivism is a system of thought built around strong separation and individuation development but damaged empathic development, as is seen in the character of its founder, so I would expect what I am saying about seeing through an empathic lens to sound somewhat alien here.

Imo the challenge lies in productively balancing the human desire for individuality with the desire for connectedness with our fellow men.

[quoting Xray]: I can relate to a feeling connectedness to the universe since I am part of it (I call this the 'cosmic feeling' which I sometimes get when gazing at the stars) but I also know the feeling of sadness in view of the inevitable suffering which existence also entails. [end quote Xray]

You get this feeling when you gaze at the stars. I think this is part of what is meant by AR's sense of a benevolent universe. It's a feeling of being connected to a universe that feeds our needs, our existence. It's a sense that the universe is something good rather than something to be feared. There is more to a sense of a benevolent universe though. Can you get this feeling while sitting in a busy food court people watching in the middle of a shopping mall?

Both people and stars are part of our universe. For a truly benevolent sense of the universe we need to be able to live openly without fear in both the social and the physical realms.

I can get a feeling of connectedness with my fellow men when thinking of us being all 'in the same boat' on our planet earth, that we all strive for happiness, etc..

But despite the feeling of 'cosmic connectedness' I sometimes also have, I don't have this general feeling of a 'benevolent universe'.

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The core of who we are is defined by choices we make before the ego really begins to develop, while existing in and trying to survive a context of dependent connectedness. The very typical outcome is to either damage our empathic development or to damage our separation and individuation process in order to resolve a conflict in our experience of the two sides of the self. Objectivism is a system of thought built around strong separation and individuation development but damaged empathic development, as is seen in the character of its founder, so I would expect what I am saying about seeing through an empathic lens to sound somewhat alien here.

Imo the challenge lies in productively balancing the human desire for individuality with the desire for connectedness with our fellow men.

[quoting Xray]: I can relate to a feeling connectedness to the universe since I am part of it (I call this the 'cosmic feeling' which I sometimes get when gazing at the stars) but I also know the feeling of sadness in view of the inevitable suffering which existence also entails. [end quote Xray]

You get this feeling when you gaze at the stars. I think this is part of what is meant by AR's sense of a benevolent universe. It's a feeling of being connected to a universe that feeds our needs, our existence. It's a sense that the universe is something good rather than something to be feared. There is more to a sense of a benevolent universe though. Can you get this feeling while sitting in a busy food court people watching in the middle of a shopping mall?

Both people and stars are part of our universe. For a truly benevolent sense of the universe we need to be able to live openly without fear in both the social and the physical realms.

I can get a feeling of connectedness with my fellow men when thinking of us being all 'in the same boat' on our planet earth, that we all strive for happiness, etc..

But despite the feeling of 'cosmic connectedness' I sometimes also have, I don't have this general feeling of a 'benevolent universe'.

My Mother started a pre-school here in Tucson in 1948 so I'd get "socialized." It's still in this business.

I guess that's what you're talking about.

--Brant

still need Montessori

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But despite the feeling of 'cosmic connectedness' I sometimes also have, I don't have this general feeling of a 'benevolent universe'.

Benevolence is an attribute of a sentient person (not necessarily human). The physical cosmos is mostly empty, mostly un-living and therefore mostly un-sentient and therefore not benevolent. Neither is it malevolent. Animals like us survive in the local environment of this planet because evolution has behaved as though it has culled out those organism not fit to reproduce in the current environment. This behavior or process is purely physical and un-sentient. Evolution is as dumb as a bag of rocks. There is no teleology or purpose in it whatsoever.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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But despite the feeling of 'cosmic connectedness' I sometimes also have, I don't have this general feeling of a 'benevolent universe'.

Benevolence is an attribute of a sentient person (not necessarily human). The physical cosmos is mostly empty, mostly un-living and therefore mostly un-sentient and therefore not benevolent. Neither is it malevolent. Animals like us survive in the local environment of this planet because evolution has behaved as though it has culled out those organism not fit to reproduce in the current environment. This behavior or process is purely physical and un-sentient. Evolution is as dumb as a bag of rocks. There is no teleology or purpose in it whatsoever.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I think you are right. If wrong, dinosaurs would have landed on the moon a long time ago.

--Brant

"That's one small step for a dinosaur; one giant leap for dinosaurs."

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I think you are right. If wrong, dinosaurs would have landed on the moon a long time ago.

--Brant

"That's one small step for a dinosaur; one giant leap for dinosaurs."

Think of a dinosaur track on the lunar surface. That would be a sight to see!

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I think you are right. If wrong, dinosaurs would have landed on the moon a long time ago.

--Brant

"That's one small step for a dinosaur; one giant leap for dinosaurs."

Think of a dinosaur track on the lunar surface. That would be a sight to see!

Ba'al Chatzaf

Maybe they are there and we have just missed them so far.

--Brant

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But despite the feeling of 'cosmic connectedness' I sometimes also have, I don't have this general feeling of a 'benevolent universe'.

Benevolence is an attribute of a sentient person (not necessarily human). The physical cosmos is mostly empty, mostly un-living and therefore mostly un-sentient and therefore not benevolent. Neither is it malevolent. Animals like us survive in the local environment of this planet because evolution has behaved as though it has culled out those organism not fit to reproduce in the current environment. This behavior or process is purely physical and un-sentient. Evolution is as dumb as a bag of rocks. There is no teleology or purpose in it whatsoever.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I think you are right. If wrong, dinosaurs would have landed on the moon a long time ago.

--Brant

"That's one small step for a dinosaur; one giant leap for dinosaurs."

bg

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But despite the feeling of 'cosmic connectedness' I sometimes also have, I don't have this general feeling of a 'benevolent universe'.

Benevolence is an attribute of a sentient person (not necessarily human). The physical cosmos is mostly empty, mostly un-living and therefore mostly un-sentient and therefore not benevolent. Neither is it malevolent. Animals like us survive in the local environment of this planet because evolution has behaved as though it has culled out those organism not fit to reproduce in the current environment. This behavior or process is purely physical and un-sentient. Evolution is as dumb as a bag of rocks. There is no teleology or purpose in it whatsoever.

Ba'al Chatzaf

But can't one call, for example, reproduction a program in biological Evolution? We are programmed to reproduce, therefore calling Evolution "dumb as bag of rocks" doesn't quite fit it imo.

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This reminds me of what someone once told me about her experience working as a flight attendant. She said people acted like they checked their brains at the door. Very rational and intelligent people in contexts they had been programmed for behaved ridiculously and childlike when they entered the plane.

It is often the same with hospital patients.

For entering a plane (or being admitted to hospital for treatment) implies the knowledge of being extremely dependent on others, and on circumstances one can't control. This causes insecurity, fear of the unknown, and probably tends to make people 'relapse' into earlier psychological stages not that different from those of a child utterly dependent on its caregivers.

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This reminds me of what someone once told me about her experience working as a flight attendant. She said people acted like they checked their brains at the door. Very rational and intelligent people in contexts they had been programmed for behaved ridiculously and childlike when they entered the plane.

It is often the same with hospital patients.

For entering a plane (or being admitted to hospital for treatment) implies the knowledge of being extremely dependent on others, and on circumstances one can't control. This causes insecurity, fear of the unknown, and probably tends to make people 'relapse' into earlier psychological stages not that different from those of a child utterly dependent on its caregivers.

And when they act like adults they get kicked off the plane. As for hospitals, the nurses can be control freaks. The doctors are afraid to mess with them because the nurses are the backbone of any hospital. When I took care of my Father I had to keep putting these people into place. They were "shocked, shocked"! I have no doubt and either tried to escalate the situation, futilely, or bowed down before Zod--me--and stopped screwing around with the paterfamilias.

Knowing a lot about medicine helps. "Are you a doctor?" "Are you a doctor?" "No, but if you need your leg amputated, I'm your man."

--Brant

next!

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I don't think everything being connected is a useful idea, as far as living your life goes, and certainly not compatible with Objectivist ethics.

I've been thinking a lot about planning, as I think it as an interesting and important part of human existence. There are only two ways to live, as if you own your life or you are owned by something else. To think of yourself as a part of an interconnected universe is just as useful as thinking that you belong to God.

Living in a state of nature forces us to plan for ourselves (independence) and we get the feedback we need for proper mental health... We are punished when we don't think things through enough, and rewarded when we get it right.

If the purpose of life is "to live and enjoy your life," then we just have to determine the best way to do that--by planning (our own lives).

The popular belief is that purpose, as far as human beings are concerned, must come from external sources (God, society, or, now, the universe) while the pragmatic answer is that we must create our own purpose in order for us to really enjoy the struggle and the achievement.

That's as deep as I believe it is useful to get. This spiritual analysis of experiencing is not beneficial in terms of enjoying life, our imaginations are much better for that.

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I don't think everything being connected is a useful idea, as far as living your life goes, and certainly not compatible with Objectivist ethics.

I've been thinking a lot about planning, as I think it as an interesting and important part of human existence. There are only two ways to live, as if you own your life or you are owned by something else. To think of yourself as a part of an interconnected universe is just as useful as thinking that you belong to God.

Living in a state of nature forces us to plan for ourselves (independence) and we get the feedback we need for proper mental health... We are punished when we don't think things through enough, and rewarded when we get it right.

If the purpose of life is "to live and enjoy your life," then we just have to determine the best way to do that--by planning (our own lives).

The popular belief is that purpose, as far as human beings are concerned, must come from external sources (God, society, or, now, the universe) while the pragmatic answer is that we must create our own purpose in order for us to really enjoy the struggle and the achievement.

That's as deep as I believe it is useful to get. This spiritual analysis of experiencing is not beneficial in terms of enjoying life, our imaginations are much better for that.

Like Ayn Rand you come with bold inclusive statements which may be basically true but can fall down respecting some details and examination. Your first sentence here quoted is an example. In that sense both you and Rand aren't/weren't broadly and deeply educated enough. I call it liberal arts lumpy. Consider Rand's arrogance--good for her time--in creating fictional characters and ethics and society ideal for them and then trying to export those for public sale and consumption without actually studying people and their societies as such save basically for the latter and dubiously for the former. What I try to do here on OL is point out the need for special work off correct basic ethical and political principles which doesn't seem to be what you are about with what seems to me to be a comparatively lite approach with Rand's as the heavy. Simply, you are claiming knowledge that may be good for thee but not for me and maybe not for billions of others.

--Brant

you can't get here from there

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Or simply, there's much, much more to rational selfishness than meets the eye...

(doing a Brant-one-liner. Ha!)

Good!

--Brant

kimo sabe

Hamlet wins: "There is more in heaven and hell . . . ."

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I don't think everything being connected is a useful idea, as far as living your life goes, and certainly not compatible with Objectivist ethics.

But a statement that is not compatible with Objecivist ethics may still be true.

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I don't think everything being connected is a useful idea, as far as living your life goes, and certainly not compatible with Objectivist ethics.

But a statement that is not compatible with Objecivist ethics may still be true.

Its not Objectivist ethics that's in question, it is Objectivist metaphysics and

epistemology: beyond natural laws, is the Universe, and all life, connected?

To affirm this would be primacy of consciousness, to a mystical extreme.

Having said that, I think Paul has put forward a valuable tool for perceiving Existence.

It's a way of encompassing in one's mind everything and everybody which, and who, has

existed, does exist and will exist.

What he calls empathy, I conceive of as a combination of induction, imagination and empathic

insight. Along this line, Rand said "Your ideal as a thinker is to keep the universe

with you at all times". Hmm... Rand the empathist?

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