This article will help you understand yourself better — Part II [Frameworks]
Note: This is the 2nd part to this article. A continuation of the investigation of why we do what we do.
Continuing on our investigation of mechanisms that seem to drive decision making in the conscious world of humans, we get to the two other categories of drivers.
While not as prominent as the category mentioned earlier (Darwinian), these categories have influenced decision making in my own life, albeit during short stretches of time.
Having said that, they could play a much bigger role in another human’s conscious decision making & are important.
Deep-dive into realm of physical domain: Hacked activities
As the name suggests, these are activities we engage in where the perceived reality hacks into existing neuro-biological processes designed for other purposes.
I believe there to be three major forms of hacking:
- Substance related
The easiest hacked activities to get involved with. I’m referring to partaking in drugs, alcohol, downers, uppers and all kinds of substances we have managed to create perceived realities that exploit natural neuro-biological pathways to get happiness.
Whether this is a good or bad thing is a whole other topic (discussed here as well). But the fact is that substances that take advantage of neuro-chemistry are a reality in most human lives (and have been for a while).
2. Physical Action related
Certain physical activities (running, listening to music, dancing etc.) could put you in similar states of neuro-biological bliss. Achieving a certain “flow” state while practicing your craft falls under this as well.
The point is that through these activities, humans attempt to tap into neuro-biological bliss that was designed as a feedback mechanism for Darwinian Activities.
3. “Spiritual” Activities
Least rational, but I’ve personally experienced it. These are the rare moments where an undeniable connection to the whole universe is experienced.
These are activities (meditating, charity, etc.) where the boundary of your “I” starts to expand. You start seeing yourself in others & other in yourself.
While it may not seem like it at the outset, this is another form of hacking physical systems — which is why many drugs lead to a heightened spiritual experience as well.
Digression 1 — spiritual activities vs religious activities
I’m purposely making a distinction between spiritual & religious activities. I know many people are confused by this distinction. Allow me to explain.
To me, religious & power structures are intricately linked. It doesn’t matter what the origin of the religion was, it is quite clear that most religions devolve into organisations controlled by people.
Usually it is people that follow the Darwinian mechanism playbook. This could be the church, the mullahs, the brahmins & priests — you name it.
Therefore, to me, many religious activities (though carried out with much zeal) are very much in the camp of and “us vs them” mentality. The most immediate impact of this mentality is a fight for those scarce resources that Darwinian activities are fundamentally based on.
In contrast spiritual activities blur the distinction between us & them by expanding the boundary of the “I”.
Deep-dive into realm of biology+ domain: Obsessive activities
These are choices that people keep making with seemingly very little rationale.
Often there is no obvious benefit in terms of resource monopolization or improving of status. Even more surprisingly, these choices may not lead to happiness or sadness directly, but the choices will continue to be made.
While many people refer to “their calling”, I’m not necessarily talking about the same thing.
The problem with someone’s “calling” is that it is very difficult to discern whether this is (i) a genetic proclivity (or illness), (ii) a Darwinian activity that is covered in the guise of “passion”, or (iii) simply a idiosyncratic hacked activity.
Take the example of an artist. Most artists would consider their art-form their “calling” — & I could see why. It is a hard lifestyle, with no assured payout at the end and the chances of being self-sustainable are slim. Why would anyone do it if they didn’t feel compelled?
On the surface this seems like an obsession, but a few questions to the artist can show that there is an element of Darwinian and Hacked sub-currents even here.
- Would you like to be the best artist around? Would you like recognition for your efforts?
An affirmative answer to either could theoretically be construed as a very strangely constructed filter of importance.
- Are you solely motivated by the joy you receive upon doing the activity?
Humans are biologically different, so there’s no reason a very particular activity couldn’t hack someone’s neuro-biological circuitry.
The case of a painter who paints for no other reason than to paint (even if painting is often frustrating) comes closest to true obsession. Admittedly, it also comes pretty close to sounding mentally unstable.
So what does it all mean? The article above sets the foundation stones for an explanation of why humans do what they do.
If it sounds like a depressing way to look at life, it does not feel like that to me.
This is because I’ve only discussed what humans do till now. To truly draw any conclusions, we should also contextualize what humans do within the wider universe.
This is what I’ve done here. Something that has allowed me to grab meaning from the jaws of nihilistic meaninglessness.