August 17th, 2012


One Possible Future

The sinewy, woven threads of past present & future mock those who discredit mindfulness as a roadmap to navigating the potential butterfly-effect eddies surrounding the almost imperceptible movements of the weaving process. Understanding any one dimension of time without taking into consideration the other two has proven time and again to be a precarious endeavor - time, that seemingly everpresent irreversible succession of unidirectional duration which causality calls home, cements our cognitive understanding of the entire universe.

Intent is primarily motivated though desire and belief, two very different animals insofar as the former requires prior knowledge of a thing in order to have a longing for it whereas the latter consists of load-bearing constructs which support our limited understanding of the world and our place within; reason and (epistemological/empirical) comprehension.

A rational person is one who accepts a belief because it is supported, who rejects a belief when it is not supported, who only believes to the extent that evidence and support allows, and who has doubts about a belief when the support turns out to be less reliable than previously thought.*

Will is an act with intent, fueled by our desires and beliefs. Action therefore is an outward attribute of that which motivates us manifesting itself most basically as behavior. I interpret behavior primary through attitude. Its not the frequency nor subject of our interaction, nor the duration or intensity - attitude alone will tell me everything I need to know; whether that interaction is mutual or not. I recently ran across a Reality Creation Mantra which I realized was a way to convey my almost eerie ability to peer into another's psyche; their soul, simply by reversing it:

Attitude reveals character, character reveals actions, actions reveal beliefs, beliefs reveal thoughts.

I know what you think because of your attitude.

And the problem oftentimes with attitude is the eternal struggle between pride and shame, two sides of the coin of self-worth. If you are ashamed of anything in your life, it will show in your words, your actions, and your attitude. Shame can be healthy in correcting wrong behavior, but knowledge of shame without correction or at least understanding is a marvelous way to stay broken, much as pride without reason, also known as beliefs. Beliefs give rise to values, values give rise to behavior, behavior is visible, as is attitude.

We cloak our true selves for fear of exposure, working hard to create a grand facade. But that often leaves us unfulfilled, because even if we create a convincing front, the message it sends us is clear—our true self is unacceptable. The message "I had better posit a facade lest I be found out" only perpetuates excessive shame. Be yourself without abashment—but with sensitivity and awareness of the effects of your behaviors on others. No shame in trying.*

Let's read that again, more slowly. "Be yourself without abashment" often comes back to me as a willingness or carelessness to harm others. I suppose to those who can only think in extremes that might at first be the case. Thankfully, there is a qualifier here, "but with sensitivity and awareness" which can only come through mindfulness. So why be yourself if you have to apply stipulations on it? In a word, causality. "...the effects of your behavior on others." Future events being determined by present behavior. This is how life works. Future events being determined by present behavior. To undo everything you've done based upon a belief of only one-possible future is ignorant at best.

At one extreme, a belief might be one which a subject has because she has thought about the subject matter carefully, or has done some empirical investigation, and, as a result, she can see a whole host of interconnected reasons for thinking that the proposition she believes is true. In other words, the belief is robust because it is, by the subject’s lights, evidentially extremely well supported, so well supported that it stands near the core of her web of belief. Such contrary evidence as comes in would be seen as requiring adjustments not with the belief itself, but elsewhere in the subject’s web of belief.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, a subject’s belief might be robust because she is completely irrationally disposed to cling to her belief. The belief might be the product of wishful thinking, say, so that no matter what countervailing information comes in, the subject will be disposed to reinterpret that information, or ignore it, or the information will in some other way be prevented from having its proper evidential impact.

And there will be cases in between as well. A belief might be robust not because it is the product of wishful thinking, and not because the subject has thought about it and seen so many reasons for assigning the proposition believed the degree of belief she assigns it, but rather because she isn’t very good at thinking through evidence and is vulnerable to certain systematic errors, or perhaps because she is too lazy to revise her beliefs, or for some similar reason.*

When we see that lone tendril peeking out from the surface of the tapestry of life, though we may be tempted to pick at it; pull it, comprehension of either inductive or deductive reasoning and its resulting causality would suggest an unraveling - a paradoxical self-inflicted headslap - from being unaware of the delicate relationship the three sisters of fate share with each of us, and one another.

Buddha said, "The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly." Living in the present wisely doesn't mean not preparing to paying future bills or maintain an uncluttered home, it means the opposite of that - to be aware. We can be aware of both past and future without either mourning or worry, and that seems to be a most foreign concept. Perhaps Qui-Gon Jinn said it better when he instructed Obi-Wan Kenobi to be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the moment. I understand for some that is simply too deep, and too wide a chasm.

The same point applies to fragile beliefs. Some beliefs that subjects possess are fragile because, existing as the subjects do in a constantly changing evidential situation, the changes in their beliefs simply reflect the vigilant exercise of their capacity for reasoned belief revision. At the other extreme, some subjects’ beliefs are fragile because the subjects in question simply forget what it was that they came to believe in the first place, or because the subjects are prone to make all sorts of random errors in their assessment of the incoming evidence, or because they are systematically influenced by what those who are around them think, where those who are around them vary from time to time as regards what they think.*

Causal fallacies and the assumptions which are acted upon because of only one possible future appear with frightening frequency in my world. It takes open-mindedness and "good thinking" to understand the nature of relation; cause and effect. Too often we're destroyed by that which we thought we understood, but didn't.