When “whatever works” gets consistently re-interpreted into “whatever feels good”…

Then it doesn’t work, and it stops feeling good.


19 thoughts on “Musings

  1. For me, what works is what provides the best chance of feeling good over the longer term. Pleasure, in the absence of detriment to ourselves and others, is healing and aligns us with our capacity for loving generosity. Suffering sometimes has to be accepted in order to avoid a greater suffering, but it does make us turn our attention towards our self – i.e. makes us selfish. I think it is important to distinguish between pleasure and addiction. Degeneracy is what happens when we lose access to healthy pleasures and try to replace them with something which gives diminishing returns.

    I suppose there is always an open question in the “whatever works” philosophy. How do we define “works”? What is our objective? It makes a difference whether our objective is to become rich, conquer an empire, serve our fellow humans, become famous, etc. We can assess our actions by whether they have brought us closer to our objective, but “works” doesn’t, in itself, imply a particular objective.

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    • It doesn’t have to, in a non-specific context. The implication then becomes what works for the individual, which requires the individual to study themselves, to never turn away from the unpleasant truths that most will try and ignore, a key premise in modern psychology. In this way, the idea of functionality mirrors up with mystical premises; without knowing oneself, without studying one’s own tendencies through the evidence, then dissonance is guaranteed.


      • I think your stated premise is valid but unbalanced. Dissonance is ONE of the motivations to know ourselves. Harmony is another. In the absence of dissonance, one can ditch simple reactiveness to unpleasant stimuli and proactively seek harmony. This to me, is far preferable, and one of the best ways to express discipline.


      • Isn’t harmony simply the absence of dissonance, which is the same thing as saying dissonance is the absence of harmony?

        For me, one of the motives for seeking self-knowledge is to minimise the need for discipline. The more we find inner harmony and integrity the less easily we are disturbed and the more our reactions to the world around us constitute a spontaneous creative improvisation.

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      • I wouldn’t say so—to me, harmony is a state where chaos and order exist in balance, where there is enough order to facilitate safety and some level of positive cause and effect, and there is enough chaos to facilitate learning and growth. I’d say there is always a need for discipline—which is being able to set aside immediate gratification in order to bargain with the future—but not so much willpower, which is what I think your statement alludes to. Knowing oneself—and consequently, what one is willing to work for—allows the employment of discipline to be a simple, logical choice which is largely devoid of willpower, in my opinion.


  2. 1. Wrote first draft of 2nd volume of series- felt really good about it.
    2. Re-read draft- decided it needed tinkering, but still felt good.
    3. Tinkering revealed structural weakness in narrative; half of the book collapsed- felt…..unhappy (well actually other words…but let us not dwell too much on Gunnery Sergeant Hartman of ‘Full Metal Jacket’).
    4. Grumbling, muttering, set to work. More grumbling, muttering AND more work.
    5. Entire re-write is starting to ‘work.
    6. Stopped feeling ‘good’, replaced it with ‘determined’

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