This might sound like a short self-help, but do you ever find your-self to be in constant mind state: negative, impatient, chaotic, unorganized, unenergetic, or maybe happy, radiant, hopeful? I bet the answer is yes, and I bet we all spend some time in thinking how we can change our life or actions to become happier.
I want to make the argument, that when we do change our actions, thoughts, and so on, we are still faced with one force which we need to dedicate more time thinking about, our environment. How much time do you spend thinking about what sounds do you hear, what smells do you see, what colors are you surrounded by, and what can you touch or taste? compared to how much time you think about what food to eat, what groceries to buy, what school to go to, what job to apply for, etc?
Question: how much time do you spend thinking about the flow of information into your five senses?
You might say a lot, but I think you need to be careful about your intuitive response. this might be the initial reaction out of self-defense, maybe even denial. I think you need to spend the next week observing your environment, thinking about the answers. to help you, as usual, I will use examples from my life.
Every time I go to work or go to Paris, I take the train in the midst of a ‘crowd” of sad, quiet, protective, stressed, blocked people. That is all I see and feel when it comes to human’s faces and body languages. The view outside of the train is often of grey colors, jammed buildings that block distant views of the horizon, and TONS of “random” garbage. Moreover, without exaggeration, every wall from my house up to Paris (40-minute ride) is “decorated” with graffiti that is done without much thought, organization, consideration, artistic intentions, or anything that we can use to give it any merit. The stations are filled with clocks and screens giving us schedules, restraints. our life depends on knowing what is going to happen the next 5 minutes. Let’s not forget the punching and racing to find an empty seat.
I hope this paints you a picture of the kind of information that my five senses receive, let’s call this the Sensory Scape, similar to landscape but senses replacing the word lands. My question is this, what do you think the most logical rational mind state that I will be in when encountering such Senses Scape. Let’s multiply that by 5 or 6 if I had a full time job (5 or 6 days of work), then by two for both trips to work and to home, 10-12 times every week.
Now, this is just one experience, I want you to expand that to encompass your entire life experience from birth to now, what sort of mind states were you in? Are you in a rushed environment, are you faced with a lot of expectations? What colors have you grown up with and what moods can you associate with those colors?
If you think the answers are not important or not relevant, I think you are wrong simply from principles of passive assimilation and muscle memory. I think passive assimilation is hard to deny: Grow up with 100 kids all thinking that a nutmeg is cool, and you will think a nutmeg is cool. In fact, all your style of playing football would be geared towards nutmegging people. Hang out with bunch of guys that swear all the time, what do you think will happen after 4 months? I am a strong anti-smoking person, but after just 14 days with my Jordanian friends (who smoked a pack a day in front of me, sometimes more), I returned home and the first thing I did was buy a pack, took me a month to smoke it then I quit. But the point remains, we are sponges that absorb our environment more than we think. And it happens so naturally we don’t think about it. One of my students once told me his dream was to buy a house, he was age 10 from Calgary year 2011 (for Calgarians this should make sense). My friends brother (age 9) told me his dream was to marry a girl who is a believer and wears a Hijab, he was in a Muslim country post 2008 period of Arab spring, sectarianism, and civil wars popping everywhere. Examples are many, and can be applied in every single field, we just have to stop and examine them.
Muscle Memory is a bit more difficult for people to grasp the real scope of its power. I think athletes, dancers, artists, and musicians are the best people equipped to know its importance. Muscle Memory in simple terms is when your muscles acquire the memory of an action and be able to repeat it. Do it enough times and people will think you are a good musician, or even worse, talented. The fact is, you just have to do the action enough times carefully in order for your body to release enough Myelin to enforce that specific movement ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYp08Vepk_M watch the first 10 seconds, how many Right Hand moves can you count?).
Very important, Muscle Memory cannot decide what is good or bad, it simply repeats what it did.
Now let’s connect Passive Assimilation with Muscle Memory. In order to develop muscle memory, we need repetition, but what if repetition is already there, that is, our passive assimilation of our environment. Since we cannot block our environment, and since our senses are muscles and neurons continually repeating the same action by the same environment, then naturally we would develop muscle memory for our reactions to that environment. Lately, I am stressed, anxious, always checking out the time, negative, and bunch of other traits that I can relate directly to my environment.
So to sum up the first point of this blog: Muscle Memory is a natural device in our bodies to help us memorize motions and actions that are beneficial to our lives. Our five senses which we use to connect with the world are muscles and neurons, and since we are always connecting with the world, the environment is the perfect repetition for our muscles to develop muscle memory. Positive traits environment should naturally yield positive muscle memory states of mood, while negative traits should yield negative muscle memory states of mood.
Second point is determinism, this one is a bit trickier. Determinism is the belief that everything that happened before, happens now, and will happen, is happening because it is caused by something else that came before it. Formally, things that happen are results of things that caused them. The justification for determinism is easy to grasp: through physical laws we know that everything is caused by something else, nothing “happens” just because or is as just is. Except for the “first” cause, everything is a continuous chain of events.
If you truly understand this and its your first time thinking about it, then you should really stop and take a breather. Determinism effects religion, fate, ethics, morality, law, and much more.
- Quick description of the problem: (sorry for picking religion, but it is the easiest to grasp)
the three Abrahamic religions are roughly based on the assumption that god gave free will to live our lives. Moreover, he is going to judge us based on the actions we choose. Problem: how can god judge me for something that was already pre-determined?. I did not choose to be born in a Muslim country, maybe Christianity is the correct religion, I did not chose to be born to my parents who did not force me to be a Christian, all these factors were predetermined for me before I was born. Moreover, no one ever told me about Christianity, Jesus never showed him self before me both physically or metaphorically. For all intents and purposes, I am walking blindly on the face of the earth waiting for my doom and eternal damnation for not following the word of god. it seems unfair from a morally correct just god to judge me in this way, yet this is what awaits us if we believe in the Abrahamic religions. It is up to religion to find a way to square with determinism.
The structure of the example can be extended to the other fields I mentioned, ethics, fate, and law etc.
The problem is this: it seems there is no logical way (yet) to talk about free will or conscious, how can we justify our actions as being our actions and not just predetermined events resulting from events I had no control of. Do not panic, there are many theories out there helping us make sense of life, meaning of our actions, and so on. Plus, we still have to follow a law system that thankfully stirs most people from causing harm to society. However, the problem of determinism still occurs, often disguised, but its effects are growing stronger day by day.
Let’s create a quick connection between the 2 points now: my mind’s state is effected by my environment, and my muscle memory means I am only so good at doing what my muscles have always been doing. Determinism means I don’t have a choice in many things in my life, and they together effect the environment I am born in. it is clear I hope how the two separate concepts go back and forth in effecting each other. In other words, it is not that environment effects determinism, or that determinism effects environment, the two effect the two in a cycle.
Finally, we have all the tools to talk about some serious issues now: Back in Paris’s November attacks, my roommate at the time asked me: I don’t understand why some people would want to kill us? Since then, I had read many books, watched many debates and listened to many conversations regarding human nature, West VS East, immigration crisis, historic facts concerning colonialism, wars, invasions, and so on. The more I acquire knowledge, the harder it seems to find the answer. But it is here that I hope this blog might prepares us to find an answer to her question, we’ll need a lot of imagination.
Imagine you are 1) neutral for the time being, and that 2) you are a-moral being, in other words you don’t care what is good or bad, and that 3) you are observing the terrorists and their victims. Try as best as you can 4) not to be emotional in this experiment. Also, I am not trying to be apologetic for terrorism or anything, I think it goes without saying we all condemn their actions.
Now consider what kind of environment a person who committed the act grew up in, economic situations, moral codes, religious, cultural, or parental upbringing (any combinations of these), political environment etc. Now, it is not important what you think they grew up in, what matters is what they 1) actually did grew up in, and 2) what they think they grew up. The reason I mention those two points is because it seems, in France at least, there is a lot of confusion as to why terrorists who “grew up in France” would hurt French people. After all, they had access to the same social system the French people had. Again, it is not important what you think they had access to, what is important is: 1) did they actually grew up in the same French environment you think they grew up in, and 2) do they feel they grew up in the same environment.
Now I can already hear people yelling at me, in fact, this is as far as I am able to go in any conversation with a sane person. If you find your self angry, please remember this is a thought experiment, and you have to follow the 4 conditions I outlined before the experiment.
To me, the public disbelief and shock at the terrorist’s action is disappointing to say the least. If you read your history and really think like the thought experiment requires you to think, sometimes it becomes even impossible for us to avoid such actions as anger, or terrorism.
When we were in grade 10, age 15, our teacher told us: imagine you are sitting in your house, happy, working, you watch your sisters play outside, your brothers are helping your mom bring in some groceries, while your dad is reading newspaper. Suddenly, a stranger comes in, rapes your mom, your sisters, kills your brothers, beats your father in front of you, and decides to spare your life in this shocking tragedy. To add insult, the stranger occupies your house, locks you in your room, and has absolute control over your movement, Moreover, he tells everyone it is your fault and you deserve it. Now, what is the most logical reaction that you would follow? If the answer is: I would sit in a table and have a discussion with the stranger, you are seriously confused as to the magnitude of the horror, or just did not imagine this properly. In case you are confused to why I used this horrible example, it is actually a mirror of many countries in today's world, and many "terrorists" come from those countries. *
So back to the terrorists, it is not important what you think happened. What is important is what is actually happening, and what they think is happening in relation to what is actually happening.
If you truly understand my thought experiment, you will hopefully have understood 1) we can still condemn terrorist’s actions, the thought experiment does not necessitate apology for terrorists. 2) it is not as simple as waking up thinking killing white people will grant you 72 virgins (yes some people actually think that). The problem of terrorism is very complicated, I believe the answer is a collection of many subjects carefully intertwined and we are confused on how to decipher it. However, I strongly believe that if we can hold our moral judgements, believes, values, and emotions, while at the same time be humble, honest, and imaginative enough to understand that our enemy is not stupid, but rather a complicated being with complicated motives, and that there is a possibility that we have maybe at least 1% fault, then maybe we can reach a solution in the future.
Finally, in case you want to repeat the thought experiment, and/or want to imagine it in different context, here is Eminem’s song Murder. Eminem brilliantly describes his Sense Scape, and perfectly puts us in a difficult position: punish the criminal, or feel for the criminal who has to “feed his baby”. Listen to his mellow voice and soft non invasive chord progression and beat. Listen for the sounds of screams of the old lady, the sound of falling into the swimming pool. Look at the colors of the blue suits and white flags, the fear of someone seeing you and sketching you. Feel the Nintendo he is carrying, the cash register, the glass he is breaking, feel his need for desire to hold his baby in safety. Can you imagine those groceries, the old lady? Can you imagine the police man who was not wearing a vest?
Finally, is it the criminal’s fault, or is it really the gangsta rap and peppermint Schnopps? Or is it his environment? determinism?
you have an answer? Chances are you need to rethink.
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* Terrorists might not be coming from those countries, or were born in those countries. However, they can identify them selves with the struggles of those countries, their ideologies, and even their hatred or strategies for revenge. this is a point that goes missing in many casual conversations. Policy makers and debaters are more and more discussing this, but the opinion is divided between it's validity in arguments, whose fault is it, etc etc.
with comments to help non English Speakers
All I see is murder murder, my mind state Eminem is referring to what we discussed as Mind State’s Muscle Memory - [2pac’s voice]
Makes it too late for cops in tryin' to stop the crime rate – I think its because the legal system does not address the environment heads on.
All I see is murder murder, my mind state
Murder, murder, murder, and kill, kill, kill! Powerful Sense Scape.
Left the keys in the van, with a gat (gun) in each hand
Went up in Eastland and shot a policeman
Fuck a peace plan of citizen bystands
But shit is in my hands, here's your life span
For what your life's worth this money is twice than Capitalism’s worth of human soul
Grab a couple grand (thousand) and live a nice land
See I'm a nice man but money turned me to Satan
I'm thirsty for this green so bad I'm dehydratin'
Hurry up with the cash bitch, I got a ride waitin'
Shot a man twice in the back when he tried escapin'
I want the whole pie, I won't be denied Nathan (nothing)
Maybe I need my head inside straightened
Brain contemplatin', clean out the register (cash machine)
Dip before somebody catches ya
Or gets ya description an' sketches ya
The connection was the prime suspect
But I ain't set to flee the scene of the crime just yet
Cuz I got a daughter to feed
And $200 ain't enough to water the seed (feed the baby)
The best thing would be for me to leave Taco Bell an' hit up Chess King
And have the lady at the desk bring
Money from the safe in the back, stepped in wavin' the Mac (gun)
Cooperate and we can operate and save an attack
This bitch tried escapin' the jack
Grabbed her by the throat, it's murder she wrote
You barely heard a word as she choked
It wasn't nuttin' for her to be smoked
But I slammed her on her back 'til her vertebrae broke
Just then the pigs criminal’s view of police bust in yellin' "Freeze!"
But I'm already wanted for sellin' keys (selling cars)
And bunch of other felonies from A to Z like spellin' bees (spelling bee is a contest where kids spell words that are transmitted to them aurally)
So before I dropped to the ground and fell on knees
I bust shots, they bust back
Hit the square in the chest, he wasn't wearin' a vest
Left the house, pullin' out the drive backin' out
Need a backin' out this lady's Jag started blackin' out
Pulled the Mac-10 out, stuck it in her face
Shut ya yackin' mouth before I blow the brain from out the back ya scalp
Drug her by her hair, smacked her up
Thinkin' fuck it, mug her while you're there, jacked her up
Stole her car, made a profit
Grabbed the tape from out the deck and offed it out the window
Like the girl on Set It Off did
Jetted off kid, stole the whip, now I'm a criminal
Drove in thru somebody's yard, dove into they swimmin' pool
Climbed out and collapsed on the patio
I made it out alive but I'm injured badly though
Parents screamin': "Son, go in and call the police
Tell 'em there's a crazy man disturbing all of the peace!"
Tried to stall him at least long enough to let me leap up
Run in they crib and at least leave with some little cheap stuff
Actin' like they never seen nobody hit a nick before
Smashed the window, grabbed the Nintendo 64 pretty old song !
When they sell out in stores the price triples
I ran up the block jumpin' kids on tricycles
And colliding with an 80-year old lady with groceries
There goes the cheese, eggs, milk and Post Toasties
Stood up and started to see stars
Too many siren sounds, it seemed like a thousand police cars
Barely escaped, must-a been some dumb luck
Jumped up and climbed the back of a movin' dump truck
But I think somebody seen me maybe
Plus I lost the damn Nintendo and I must-a dropped the Beanie Baby
Fuck it I give up, I'm surrounded in blue suits
Came out with a white flag hollerin' "TRUCE TRUCE!" voice in the back yelling don’t shoot
Surrendered my weapon to cops
Wasn't me! It was the gangsta rap and the peppermint Schnopps
These are short comments I post as I navigate through waters.