In my recent “Oh
we of decadent faith!
” I recognized that both individuals and whole
societies can become “decadent”. Let me add now a thought how
developments in societies and in individual lifes are comparable in
general.

Think of society as something with a “feeling” (how it feels to live
in it) and with life conditions, just like an individual. With the
difference that conditions and feeling change much slower than with
individuals, and that effects are much bigger.

Within individual lifes there is something like a “conceit /
depression cycle”, coming from the fact that life conditions influence
the “feeling” (life perception) with a delay in between. This can be
depicted by two sinus graphs, phase-shifted by a quarter of the
wavelength. One graph depicts the subjective condition (feeling / life
perception) which alternates between conceit and depression. And the
other graph depicts the objective condition (quality) of ones life.

This pattern can also be found in societies: from history it appears
that all advanced civilizations eventually
became decadent and then disappeared again; so it seems that there’s an
implicit element in advanced civilization that causes decadence.
Regarding the objective conditions, there is decadence (falling edge)
and revival (rising edge). Regarding the subjective conditions, there
is conceit and depression.

We can even use the model of oscillating systems further. There is a
reason why the cycles in society are so much longer than in personal
lifes. (In the U.S. society, the cycle lenght is approx. 70 years,
which is the gap between revivals; in Germany the cycle length is
probably nearly twice that much, as half of the cycle seems to be
1945-2010.) The cycle lenght of an oscillating system is determined by
its eigen frequency, that’s the characteristic frequency of that
system. If the oscillator is “soft” (long loading time / high
capacity), the cycles get longer; and a society has a much higher
capacity than an individual … .

From this observation now follows a basic receipt how to minimize or
even eliminate decadence at all, both in individual life and societies:
one can minimize the length of the falling edge (“decadence”) by
raising the frequency, i.e. by using harder oscillators. That means
practically to create a more direct coupling between perception and
reality. Because decadence only arises in the case of conceit, i.e. if
an individual or a society does not see the need to care for itself. If
perception would be adequate at all times there would be no oscillation
at all.

Some hints how to create such an adequate perception of one’s
spiritual and material conditions:

  • removing comfort, as comfortable condition make us think
    everything is o.k.
  • removing all kinds of excess, as a store of resources makes it
    possible to live from that when the earnings have long dropped, and
    thus to miss recognizing that
  • make yourself experience the problems that are there, immediately
  • get yourself in a situation that makes you experience yourself as
    you are; a good example is living on an OM ship, as this is an extreme
    situation that triggers ones hidden “qualities”

Start date: 2008-04-08
Post date: 2008-04-15
Version date: 2008-04-15 (for last meaningful change)

With a friend, I had an interesting talk recently. It was about
intuition and what it is. I bluntly admit that she’s an intuitive
person, while I don’t have this ability or, at least, did not yet
discover it. During that talk, I discovered my own current opinion
regarding intuition. It’s summarized in this thesis:

“Intuition” is a term that is applied, as an abstraction,
to all unconscious, unknown cognitive processes with surprising and
correct results.

Here are some implications and explanations of this thesis:

  • That these cognitive processes are unconscious and unknown
    implies that they are hard to perceive. That’s because they are very
    fast, so much faster than verbalized thinking. Which makes intuition a
    precious ability that shows a high level of intelligence and is
    especially valuable for coping with time-critical situations and scarce
    time ressources in daily life. Because it is fast, intuition is
    efficient.
  • Because it is unconscious and so fast, intuition is not at all
    exhausting.
  • Because intuition is based on unconscious and unknown processes,
    it is not open to conscious optimization or error correction.
  • Because these processes are (at first) unconscious and unknown,
    the process of intuition is not open to communication. Humans can
    communicate the results: they can say what they intuitively feel about
    or would do in a situation. But they cannot reveal how they arrived at
    this result, as they don’t know. And without reasons for them, people
    cannot argue about the results or try to arrive at better solutions in
    discourse. As such, intuition in all its splendor is an impediment to
    human communication.
  • Though intuition is the result of unconscious and unknown
    processes, these processes can perhaps be made conscious and be
    explored. Then, intuitive results would be open to communicate about,
    being no longer an impediment for getting to know each other better.
    According to my experience, exploring intuition is possible by close
    self-perception of one’s own cognitive processes. A good training is to
    trace the asscociative chains while they occur in ones brain. With some
    training, one is then able to assign perceived associative chains as
    reasons to “spontaneous” thoughts. And with some further training, I
    believe, one can trace other intuitive results to their roots.

Start date: 2007-12-10
Post date: 2007-12-11
Version date: 2007-12-11 (for last meaningful change)

Smooth societal life. People striving for survival won’t understand this: living a highly civilized lifestyle deprives of life. Within this lifestyle, I don’t have any intensive experiences. That is, I can barely distinguish between my   “experiences”. That is, I have no experiences at all, just everyday life. That way, people don’t feel alive, as they cannot recognize from their experiences that they are living beings. The fact that such a culture often tries to tie up every aspect of life adds to this excessively boring, vigilant coma like state. For example, in Switzerland and Germany, everything is poured into concrete by an enormous amount of laws and regulations, until nearly every degree of freedom is missing. The upside of this state is: you don’t have to bother for survival, for the next day or anything else. The system does it.

Smooth spiritual life. It seems to me that an analogous development took place in the spiritual life of many Christians who live in such a culture: their faith got “domesticated”. The typical Christian lives a very adapted life, including a house, a car, a career, womb-to-tomb security and good social status. Filling the life with such stuff was only possible by getting rid of all risky behavior, including the expectance of miracles. Because we do not risk anything, nothing happens: our spiritual experiences got levelled down so that strong, obvious experiences are no longer possible.

Radical life. Life was not always that boring and meaningless as in this kinda society where radical lifestyle is rare and unwanted. Christianity started as a radical grassroots movement, and it was even dangerous to be part of it. But whenever domestication creeps in, visions are displaced. The smooth kinda lifestyle I criticize above are reconized from the lack of visions. Visions are always risky business: you cannot know if you’ll have success. Therefore, visions are incompatible with a security-oriented, smooth (and boring) life. One should define: revival is when new visions arise, i.e. conceptions of what should or could be.

Practical radical life. Now I’m going to awake the longing for radical, non-boring, not-everyday life in me and my readers. Radical life must be practical radical life, not just a collection of impractical radical thoughts. I have to  admit that my vision for a mobile, high-power, intentional Christian community of about 10 friends is something beyond reach at the moment … it’s impractical at the moment as there is no handle to start it immediately. Therefore, here are some other suggestions how to start living out your newly found radicality immediately.

  1. Stop theological discussions. Theological discussions (e.g. about the nature of the Trinity) are implicitly never radical, as they cannot be put into radical practice. Concentrate on living (ideally, like Jesus did, of course 😉 ) if you want to be radical!
  2. Radically change your use of time. To be radical, radical changes of personal lifestyle are needed. A good point to start is to use one’s free time for radically different things. For example, to give up one’s hobby of computer programming and start caring more about one’s friends.
  3. Make relationships risky and dynamic. Security-oriented, superficial and dissembled relationships are a result of living a smooth life without risking anything. To change something, you need to risk something. The  relationships to your friends are a good starting point: risk something for the better. This might result in hurts, misunderstandings and other difficulties, but at least something happens now! Which implies the chance that your relationships might get better.

Add your own thoughts, folks!


Start date: 2007-11-04
Post date: 2007-11-12
Version date: 2007-11-12 (for last meaningful change)

There are quite a few reasons why people may resolve to not enter partnership, temporarily or permanently, with respect to one concrete or all potential partners. One reason is that somebody might find he or she is not the type of person who finds satisfaction in partnership, marriage and family life. Another typical reason is voluntary celibacy, for a time or life-long, in the sense of “giving priority to one’s relationship to God”. Staying away from partnership however does not mean to be alone, or to be confined to same-gender friendships only. Cross-gender friendship is possible, but it’s not easy to stay away from flirting and partnership. Here are some thoughts that might help:

  1. Avoid exclusivity. Marriage adds uniqueness (of relationship character) to a friendship, i.e. marriage is friendship plus exclusivity, and that’s it. This exclusivity is rooted in the exclusive character of sexual intercourse. Therefore, in a cross-gender friendship, avoid exclusivity of social intercourse to stay friends. You do so practically by having multiple cross-gender friendships of comparable quality, i.e. by not allowing one to be your “special
    friendship”.
  2. Have common friends. So the typical setting is a group of friends coming together. This avoids the friendship to be mainly of one-to-one character, as this would shift it into proximity of partnership.
  3. Don’t set goals for the relationship. Friendship is something “superficial” in the sense that friendship can never be a goal to reach, it is in all cases a later conceptualization of a pre-existing relationship quality that developed unconsciously. A friendship is what it is and develops as it does, without designs and plans and pre-defined directions. If one however sets a goal (like: reaching absolute trust) one formalizes (or: reifies) the relationship, giving it way too much importance. One could even define: partnership is a reified friendship. For example, agreeing on a binding character implies a formalization (“reification”) of the relationship. Which is the reason why engagement and marriage transform friendships to partnerships. Even talking about the friendship and even thinking about it too much implies a reification and therefore shifts it into the direction of partnership.
    Lovers talk about their relationship, but friends are just friends. There is no such thing as “friendship” to talk about!
  4. Don’t speak about the relationship. People think that, in good friendships, one can talk about everything. And they mean everything. This is true, with one exception: in a cross-gender friendship, don’t talk about your
    friendship, if you want it to stay a friendship. The reason is: cross-gender friendships are “latently extendable” , i.e. friends might become couples. If you don’t want this, don’t talk about this or the relationship gets instantly a
    “flirty touch”. This is even more obvious when you talk about the possibility of entering partnership – regardless whether you say that you do or don’t want this, you find yourself in the middle of flirting and relaxed friendship has gone. Friends are friends, but partners agree to be partners. Agreeing to be friends is an oxymoron.
  5. Use talk for purposes, not for one another. Lovers are important to one another foremost as persons (cf. also your bible: I Cor 7:33-34), while friends are important to one another foremost as partakers to fulfill a common purpose. So lovers talk to get to know one another, and friends talk about a common purpose (and alongside, get to know each other better). To stay friends, talk like friends do.
  6. Have a common orientation that’s not your relationship. Whereever one enjoys a social relationship, concentrating on one another seems a very obvious and promising idea. Just, it shifts a relationship from friendship to flirt and partnership. So in cross-gender friendships one needs something outward to jointly concentrate on. Proper alternatives must be interesting, meaningful and promising. It can be a goal for third persons or a group of persons. It cannot be a personal problem of one of the two friends: while it’s fully o.k. to help each other in these, they cannot serve as the relationship’s focus, as it is equivalent to focus on each other as
    persons.
  7. Act thoughtlessly. Too much thinking blocks cross-gender friendships, as centering attention on thefriendship itself rather than an outward goal shifts it in proximity of partnership. So it’s better to act in such a friendship without much thoughtwork, even if this produces some added errors and hurts. But it really is better that way: errors and hurts are correctable, while otherwise the whole friendship is at stake. Acting “thoughtless” implies to talk about personal experiences and problems naturally, without thinking previously about the possible effects on the relationship.
  8. Accept the non-binding, non-exclusive character of friendship. Friendship and partnership are distinguished by the non-binding resp. binding character of relationship. Both has its upsides and downsides, and
    first of all, you need to know what you want. Then, if you want friendship, get accust omed to the thought that your cross-gender friendship might cease or practically end, e.g. by moving to another place. Preparing for the potential end of the friendship implies to use “redundancy”: you need to have multiple friendships of comparable quality (i.e. also, multiple cross-gender friendships). Then you are mentally able to let go; while you’d stick to a single cross-gender friendship way too much, making it practically a binding friendship, that is, (pseudo-)partnership.
  9. Assume that your friend can live alone. A friendship is a latently transient relationship, so do not make it a binding, undissolvable one by assuming or producing dependence, or by showing or accepting possessiveness.
  10. Train a kind of friendship that won’t be affected by one friend entering partnership. You train this by training your character: train to be not overfocused on your later spouse, but get accustomed to the thought of having friendships in parallel to your marriage. In case of cross-gender friendships, the relationship should be with the couple as a whole, of course, to prevent mistrust. Especially women have problems to continue other relationships in parallel to a partnership, in many cases ending all friendships in favour of a newly started partnership, entering a degree of dependence that’s not healthy in all cases.
  11. Utilize oppositeness of lifestyle and character. Cross-gender friendships get easier if the friends have lifestyles and characters which are incompatible in a partnership setting. That is, lifestyle and character should be so different that none of both can imagine to live together all life long 24 hours a day. While both enjoy the temporal community of friendship, of course. Such circumstances foster great relaxedness in dealing with each other: something that would be explicit flirting in other circumstances is now just kindness

 


Start date: 2007-08-09
Post date: 2007-11-04
Version date: 2007-11-04 (for last meaningful change)

The Bible talks about the marriage relationship in Gen 1-2
somewhere, saying that a couple will become “one flesh”. This inspired
me to think about what this involves … and I must admit that I’m
deeply fascinated by the idea of “merging personalities” while I am
unable to grasp it due to my all-too-natural, all-too-human, egoistic
attributes. Sad situation. So, before going to sleep today, let me
marvel at a merge of two personalities into one, impossible for humans
yet, possible only in some defect part of the whole, but marvellous
alltogether. As marriage is the best “experimenting area” for
personality merges, the following lines are written from the view of a
(totally fictitious) couple:

Loosing those wishes
that covered my face
and they fly away like in fear
joining with yours to create something complicated in a different place.

What remains is just
us
a deep desire to remove the between
and to never know what will happen to us
now.

My plans for us lost
their meaning
since there is no us any more
leaving something one
that is neither me nor you
and has its own way of life that is nor my nor thine
its own flavour that is neither mine nor yours
its own habits clothing friends food faith and whatsoever
everything new.

And I wondered where
this will bring me
when I realized that there was no “me” any more
and I stopped wondering.
The we is not wondering
but it knows not where it goes either
but it’s brave and curious
so it just moves with the flow.

Flowing with the flow
as if in gravitation from an unknown source
no need to care for our relationship
because there is none
there is just one
we am us.

Start date: 2007-09-16

Version date: 2007-09-16 (for last meaningful change)

When searching for life as in this series of articles it’d be a good idea to know what life is. A major aspect is happiness. But what is happiness? I hereby invite you to share your definitions in the comments, and will give my own:

Happiness is that flavor of emotional well-being that is triggered at least by a perceived congruence of ones current situation and ones desired situation.

When assuming this definition, it leads to the following conclusions which (in my view) hold true in practice:

  • As an emotion, happiness is susceptible to deception: when the deception is erroneous, it can arise without reason or be missing though there is reason.
  • Happiness might be triggered by other things, but to define what kind of emotion is meant one trigger is mentioned in the definition.
  • Happiness is nothing one can obtain once and for all, but must be maintained moment by moment.
  • Happiness might be produced by changing ones situation, ones desires or ones perception of a situation.
  • Sorrows kill happiness.
  • Constant unhappiness is the average case. Because the “hedonic treadmill” means that ones desires for the situation tend to change constantly so that they are in the average case “ahead” of the current situation.
  • Constant happiness is only possible where one perceives a (basic) congruence between reality and wishes in every situation, i.e. basically wish to have the situation one is in, whatever it may be.
  • Faith can produce constant happiness. Because, believing that a beneficient higher instance (“god”) planned the current situation for one’s best makes it possible to desire exactly the current situation. Whatever it may be: the higher instance knows more than humans, wherefore it can be trusted that every current situation is good. In the case of a false faith, this happiness lasts until one finds out this falsity. In the case of a true faith (assuming here that there is one), this happiness is everlasting.

Start date: 2007-08-29

Version date: 2007-08-31 (for last meaningful change)

Me thinks the following to be an interesting insight. Friendship is something that does not exist in a statical way, but consists solely of the dynamic components. Friendship is done, it consists of interaction between persons. (Which is a difference to partnership, which exists also statically as it is binding.)

So what does this mean: that there’s no value in thinking about friendship but only in doing friendship instead. In the time used for thinking one cannot do friendship. The same applies to the quality of friendships: there is no static quality one could think about but only the dynamic, moment-by-moment quality one practises.

Date: 2007-08-10
Last major change: 2007-08-10