la petite morte is what dreams have in common with reality

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some say “life is a big dream”. I disagree with that.

“life is just a big dream” however sounds somewhat more true.
the word “just” signifies a kind of limitation. here it means that life is at most as limited as dreams are.
maybe dreams have more limitations than reality.
but obviously the author of this saying is convinced life has some important limitations in common with dreams.

I guess I have to explain in more detail why I used the notion “at most” instead of “at least”.
let’s start with set-theory: a set is a collection of elements.
however at the same time a set is also a collection of elements that fulfil certain properties.
a finite set can have each of its objects individually listed in such a description, an infinite set can not.
the reason is that for defining some properties only finite-length expressions are allowed.
so when dealing with sets of infinite size, one really is dealing with limitations of some predefined infinite set.
to define an infinite set you take another infinite set and add limitations to it, you throw out elements.

now lets say life is a set of things that could happen, particularly my life is a set of experiences I could potentially have.
dreams are part of my life too, for me it is possible to re-experience all the same things I already experienced in dreams.
those things happened in my mind while I had these dreams. wouldn’t be surprising if my mind could repeat that.
even when I am awake and perceiving my surroundings, I can still additionally experience these things.
this is called hallucinations or day-dreams. therefore the set called “life” additionally contains what otherwise isn’t part of the set called “dreams”.

life has less limitations than dreams, in terms of what one could possibly experience.
for example when awake I can experience defecating, and my creations will remain real. can’t do that in mind alone.
some things possible in reality simply are not possible in dreams. hence dreams have more limitations than life even more than waken life.
the trick here is to interpret dreams as experiences of mind, instead of taking the hallucinations at face value.
then it is natural that experiences of mind also are possible when fully awake.
leaves the question, does life have any limitations at all?
but it is for sure, the limitations we have in life also apply to dreams, they merely are irrelevant there since dream-experiences aren’t bodily experiences.

I have been told, the limitation life has in common with dreams is that both are completely pointless.
you live your life, and eventually you die, there is nothing you gain. similarly a nice dream eventually ends — in disappointment.
also the other way around: all your life long you had those fears, as death comes they all are pointless, a gigantic relief.
at least this is the current time’s interpretation of the quote I made at the beginning.
we can’t really know how the words were originally meant.

dreams are so much more than life could ever offer. a dream is like an experiment in a laboratory!
all the things that encumber us in our waken state, they all are gone in our dreams.
we even frequently lose our memory of life’s hardships, when we dream.
in these ideal conditions we can experiment with our mind’s potentialities, explore mind’s limitations.
can’t do that in the mess we call “life”. in dreams we are responsible for the order, when awake this responsibility is shared.
who ever tried to re-live experiences from a dream also in waken reality, quickly will get disappointed.
some people are capable of experiencing hallucinations, alike to the ones experienced as dreams.
but even for these people such experience is more limited than within dreams.
the biggest difference is that when sleeping we have our eyes closed.
so while waken hallucinations  must adapt to our surroundings, dreams only adapt to our 4 facial senses.
light falling on the eyelids, smells, sounds, tastes, all find their way into dreams.
but when hallucinating awake there further is the sense of touch, and actual shapes we see with our eyes.
these two make it quite impossible to hallucinate for example about sexual experience. but wet dreams we can have anytime.

So, what is the meaning of waken life then? why not just live in dreams all the time?
truth is all I said in the previous paragraph is unimportant, except maybe for a scientist who writes books about mind.
the most important characteristic of dreams and of reality in general is the continuity, the (relative) stability.
we do something, and it has an impact, we are the cause for some effects. our actions are what makes life meaningful.
of course no effect is forever. nothing will last. but relatively to our lifespan, we can actually build up something reliable.
some of our deeds will have effects for hundreds of years.
throw a plastic bag into the ocean and you made a monument for centuries.
for your whole life you then can rely on any fish caught there to contain remnants of your contribution.
dreams have something similar too, but there time-spans are much shorter since dreams are shorter than life is.
and also relatively speaking, the effects dreams have on the future is much more limited than what we do when awake.
the difference here is that dreams depend on mind only. as soon as mind forgets, also its seemingly stable creations disappear.

one just can’t live in dreams alone, our mind isn’t meant to be used that way and our society hasn’t yet automated the gathering of food.
maybe in future this will change, maybe in future nobody will ever forget anything and eating will be a relic of the conservatives.
but till then we have to face the facts. human isn’t meant to live life inside of whatever mind.
even in terms of learning and understanding, our mind isn’t really trustworthy.

this worthlessness of mind, in terms of instability and fragility, this is the only thing that equally limits waken life and dreams alike.
any student will tell you: memory is the biggest challenge in acquiring knowledge, healthy nutrition comes second and could also become part of the same problem.
of course we have great memory, we could learn thousands of books by heart. but that’s not the problem I’m talking about.
let’s look at dreams for example: you see a wall, then you turn around, and as you look again the wall is gone. why?
obviously you noticed the wall is gone, so it cannot be a problem of memory. you remember there’s supposed to be a wall.
same with the student: after many exercises, a completely analogous problem at the exam seems unsolvable. black-out.
and even when the exam is passed, later in job and wherever applicable in private life, all the training is wasted.
we learned things in school and in reality we never even get the idea to apply them. why?
in both, dreams and school, mind is only as strong as it was a moment ago.
you didn’t perform the algebraic exercises a moment ago, then you now must relearn how to do them.
in a dream you stopped looking at the wall, so it isn’t surprising when it’s gone completely.

you must keep mind occupied with some activity, otherwise that activity will need to be re-learned anew.
as a rule of thumb, after 2 weeks without training, whatever abilities you had are lost.
an exercise must be repeated once a week to keep mind alert for that kind of situations.

there is the saying “for a man with a hammer as the only tool, every problem looks like a loose nail”.
this point of view, this seeing only loose nails all around you, I claim this point of view has a time-limit.
i.e. you put your hammer aside for a week or two, and you’ll stop seeing all those loose nails.
maybe other people have a different time-limit, but for me it is at least 1 week and at most 2 weeks.
when I was pretty good at some math stuff and I didn’t do it for that time, I am not good at it anymore.
of course I still can do it, my memory of how to do it isn’t lost, I just stop being so masterful at it.

in dreams there is no such time-limit, instead some sort of attachment is required.
in order for the wall to stay where it was as I turn my back to it, I must continue to feel its presence.

maybe I hear the wall, in the sense that sounds from behind it are muffled.
or maybe I feel how the air-currents get stopped by the wall, or I see its shadow.
maybe I feel the coldness of the wall or I feel how it is looming behind my back like a giant.
luckily this kind of continuity can be trained, now I even am able to leave a room and return to it without problems.
however, that kind of training too has the derogation factor. after about a year without training also this ability is lost.

now to summarize: human is changing all the time, nothing is forever, most things wont hold even for a lifetime.
abstractly seen, if a human had only a single ability, it would be as if that human would reincarnate every week, into the same body.
once a week it would be as if that human died, and someone else is then occupying that body.
this new host still has the same physical set-up, also the same knowledge, but character and abilities differ.
it’s as if the previous host would have left behind some book, from which to re-learn the abilities.
similarly also character can be re-acquired from the remnants of the previous person in that body.

but this kind of relearning has the same limitation as any kind of communication:
the main landmarks of the knowledge can be conveyed in detail, but it’s up to the person to connect the dots.
in mathematics one could say that only a countable subset can be conveyed, the completion must be done manually.
but this isn’t accurate, our memory can only store a finite amount of information, no communication can go beyond that.
so we have some limited description, some thoughts telling us what to do, how to do it we must figure out.
keep this in mind next time you learn something new, it really matters how you store that memory.
no matter how good you are at something after learning it, it’s important to formulate what you learnt for your future selves.

I think at this point I should emphasize, when I talk of death, I mean it!
in my experience it is wrong to beautify the memory-loss into something happening concurrently.
it’s really a cut, one moment I had an ability and the next moment I don’t have it anymore.
but it’s also wrong to claim the real you is dying at some point in your body’s life.
it’s always a small loss of abilities, one ability after the other is lost, till a whole bunch is gone.
also it happens at random time, mostly at a time you relax, for example during sleep.
and most importantly the loss isn’t being noticed till you need the things lost.
it’s as if part of you died and you are facing some zombie instead, some alien person.
in such moments we then say “why did I do such a stupid thing?”
of course it isn’t an alien, we just suppress the fact that nothing is forever, even our mind dies — piece by piece.

no matter if dream or reality, in a way we all die a little from time to time, repeatedly. always keep in mind that secondary mortality.
what’s the point in learning anything at all? you wont improve your abilities after these 2 weeks of training.
whatever new tricks you learn after that time, you will forget about all the old tricks which you then neglected.
if your goal is some kind of mental achievement, never waste more than those 2 weeks.
you want enlightenment? it takes only 2 weeks! if it doesn’t then you will never reach it! give up! or at least focus your life on it!

well, that really isn’t true. as I implied while talking about dreams, the ability of not-forgetting can be trained.
in dreams I have managed to do that, why not when awake?
if abilities of mind are as important for you as they are for me, do that!
keep track of how quickly you lose abilities and make that time become longer.
the secret to this it to avoid being distracted. in the dreams mind must be continuously occupied with the objects.
similarly when awake keep your mind occupied with the abilities you want to keep.
make a list of what abilities you need and create a training-schedule.
this schedule isn’t the important thing here, what one must learn is to be more systematic in the training.
if mind wanders off into unrelated fields, a lot of time is wasted that could have been used for being occupied with some new tricks.
and most importantly, always keep track of what your mind does do, at any time.
it’s important not to be controlled by circumstances, and instead keep up control of the own mind…

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meaning of lies, the universe and everything

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Livestock (Photo credit: Martin Cathrae)

figuring out the abstract reason for which we are alive, isn’t really that difficult.

like everything that’s alive, we live in order to die and to feed other creatures.
and for the latter reason procreation might be a good idea too.
so don’t dare to die till you have children. preferably children who procreate too.
and if you’re religious, then maybe you’ll add “postponing death for as long as possible” too.

especially since religious people tend to have a different understanding of “death”.
thinking about after-life tends to have that effect on us. we feel sort of immortal.
and so we fill the abstract notion of “death” with new meaning.
what commonly is called “death” refers to a part of us that definitely is mortal.
with the real “us” being immortal, its decay plays no important role.
well, except of course that this mortal part is what other creatures eat.
but there is little difference between leaving a corpse and producing milk, for an immortal being.
so above, wherever I said “death” a religious person would have said something else.
be it going to paradise/nirvana, or be it getting devoured by the devil or vultures.
no matter how you look at it, even an endless life has a moment of irreversible change.

if you’re religious, then you might throw up the question: whom do we actually feed?
quite an obvious answer is that our mortal body feeds our immortal soul.
and that’s practically all that’s to it. one answer and many possibilities to redefine the answer’s vocabulary.
although, I personally dislike the prospect of soul being the body’s predator.
it’s as if we were an insect and there’s an invisible-to-us mantis or dragonfly preying on us…

as our lives become longer various surrounding questions come up in this context though.

Hamlet with Yorick's skull

Hamlet with Yorick’s skull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

they all boil down to asking what to do with our lives.
if you really want to get told what to do: just follow nature’s call and become the best piece of food ever.
take care of your physical health. if you believe in an immortal predator, take care of mental health/growth too.
but imho this approach is revealing how bored the person must be, who asked that question.
we might create computer-games or other media, to keep us entertained. the subliminal boredom prevails though.
if you want to fill your life with an individual meaning, pick a random area of interest and aspire goals there!

thinking abstractly about such things makes it easy to find abstract answers.
even though those answers aren’t satisfying, they show how shallow those topics are.
a much deeper question than the question about “meaning of life” is the question:
what is the reason for lies? what use do they have? what lasting effect will they leave behind?
obviously some lies are for the purpose of deception. nature knows deception.
some birds deceive their own species’ comrades by pretending an action.
but is that already a lie? it isn’t as if they were talking with each other!
I would say lies are what distinguishes us humans from other creatures.

of course animals communicate, some paths of communication more comprehensible than others.
but all this communication is filled with purpose and otherwise void of intention.
the birds don’t “pretend an action with the intention of communicating”. humans do.
we even communicate through the choice of our clothes!
when an animal selects various objects for courting, they don’t communicate but rather make a presentation.
the difference is quite subtle, heavily abstract: communication lacks Intent! presentation is pure intent.
think of that next time you fire up powerpoint. do you want to present, or do you want to represent?

compared to humans, animals are quite introverted. what we constantly do is talking about ourselves.
take a look at our internal dialogue. it is as if we were communicating in our thoughts.
what for? who’s listening? our thoughts are usually not serving much purpose.
sometimes we might think in order to memorize something, to preprogram ourselves.
but most of our lives the thoughts merely draw a picture of what surrounds us and of how we believe to fit in.
and once we open our mouthes it isn’t surprising when that’s what we’re talking about.
so regardless of how much communication is lacking Intent, lies still are unusual.
but yet they exist. most of them are sitting right there in our minds, the self-lies.
the more self-lies the more there will be lies towards other people. a matter of self-discipline.

an interesting development in our society, in the last millenium, is the disappearance of violence.
it even went so far that now beatings are banished from schools.
the idea behind that was that of beating being hereditary.
just stop beating your children, or else they’ll beat theirs.
just break the cycle through sheer self-control.
and with the lowered likelihood of getting mugged, violence isn’t that important part of growing up.
priorities did shift from pure strength to advanced education in martial arts.
and rightly so. much more likely than getting killed is death through excessive stress.
for the sake of survival, taking the meditative approach to fighting is what we should do.

however, while physical abilities and mental capacities for coping with them are important, lies aren’t.
one just can’t ban lies by law and expect anyone to actually desire getting rid of such habits.
there is no incentive bound to survival. nobody died of lies, nor of lying.
additionally nobody ever died from lack of lies, so no reason to seek a replacement-habit.
what does happen is that lies indirectly cause events that lead to someone’s death.
but rarely it’s the liar who dies. same for always telling the truth, people might die but rarely the truth-teller.
sorry, no darwin’s award for liars and gossipers…

self-lie, delusion, is the root of all our lies it would seem. what other reason could we have for lying?
well, there also is the unintentional lie. we say the truth but others get it wrong. not misunderstanding, self-lie again.
what happens quite often is that people get accused of lying, while in reality the accusing person is victim to self-lies.

I watched a doku about wikileaks and assange. there nick davies accused assange of lying about the sex-assault-incident.
but he said that assange didn’t believe to have lied. classical situation of pot called the kettle black.
it becomes obvious there that nick was deeply hurt by the “truths” revealed about assange.
i.e. he lived in a delusion on how assange was, in a self-lie.
assange lived in the delusion of having absolute memory on what he said to whom.
I’d say neither of them lied, they merely said what they believed to be truth — self-lies.

this kind of pattern I’ve seen quite often:
one person is disappointed of another person, and additionally to lost trust, new self-lies get created.
a self-lie is supposed to be self-protection, although it’s questionable from what exactly it’s supposed to protect.
in this common circumstances of lost trust the self-lies are “excuses” for why one did trust in the first place.
but why not accept the situation as it is? why invent “facts” to cover up the self-image?

I know it from my own experience too. and with all this in mind I usually just laugh at myself.
and my solution is to keep my self-lies to myself. when I’m asked, I remain silent.
this way the lies wont escalate. I just self-lie, laugh and record the lies with the tag “lies”.
I’m wondering why at least the smart people I know didn’t get that idea…

in case you didn’t notice, the previous paragraph is a lie.
of course I’m no superhuman who without error can detect self-lies.
but then, that paragraph didn’t claim I was, only the implied meaning is a lie.
that’s a strong distinction I make: grey lies I call it when only implied meaning is a lie.
interpret my words literally and they aren’t a lie anymore. what irony.
such grey lies have an important property:
there are 2 people responsible for the lie. the liar and the person believing in the implied meaning.
it’s a shared responsibility, so the weight on the liar’s shoulders isn’t that heavy.

the foundation of this article should be a definition for what a lie is, but there is none.
the next best thing is defining what we think a lie would be.
when listening to how people accuse eachother of lying, eventually everything we say would fall into that definition.
and rightly so. our whole language is based on the concept of lies.
when I say “sun” I am not really talking of the star at the center of our planetary system.
instead I actually mean the bright thing I see in the sky during daytime.
there simply is no 1-to-1 mapping of words onto meaning. context always counts.

from the point of view of the liar one could define a lie as something contradicting the person’s beliefs.
self-lies are beliefs too. therefore most of our lies are no lies at all.
problem is a lie-detector might disagree here.
self-lies create stress too, but the liar will claim there’s no lie.
this kind of lie isn’t what a lie-detector is after, though.
but it must be quite funny when especially a female is caught lying about her age this way.
still, this point of view is rather useless. why would anyone want to know if he/she lied?

basically there is no objective truth on whether a sequence of words, words with partial context, is a lie.
redefine the meaning of some word, and a lie becomes truth. that’s simple change of context, extended context.
that way, figuring out the meaning of words obtained by hear-say is quite a piece of advanced algebra.
the only meaningful definition of lie is when putting that word in the context of a whole belief-system.
so using the word “lie” on its own doesn’t make sense, one must always add for whom it’s a lie.
and most likely also the point of time where it is a lie. people learn, extend belief-system. new words can turn lies into truth.

all this implies an easy answer to the question of why we lie: we don’t do it intentionally!
wrong answer. maybe we don’t lie intent-fully, but lies still are something intentional.
also our language cannot be blamed for all the lies. language is usually full of redundancy for this purpose.
a good liar will accompany each lie with a self-lie that makes the lie a subjective truth.
generally lies are extremely short-living knowledge, eventually contradictions will clear things up.
and if they don’t, then the topic wasn’t important anyway. then the contents of the lie is easily forgotten.

one common reason why I do lie is to  tell a joke, or otherwise express humour.
I am addicted to irony. irony for me is about 2 similar things opposing each other.
so I sometimes pretend to be pro some movement, just to exaggerate their beliefs.
this way I create a perverted image of their goals, turned into the opposite of what they want.
remember, my thoughts run in an abstract way, so also my definition of irony is abstract.
a mathematical function that is its own inverse function, self-inverse, that’s irony for me.
but also more generally, I enjoy it when an inverse function only differs by one glyph, is a “dual” function.
and when I see a bird landing on a twig too thin to hold its weight, I laugh too.
I don’t laugh at the stupidity of someone. it’s just that the same action elsewhere would be opposite.
an example for irony is my chiming into the clamour for punishment of all people who behave against society.
so when I say assange should be punished for rude behaviour to females even if otherwise non-guilty, it’s a joke, a lie.
the film Demolition Man did do something similar, peaceful society full of violence. what an ironic film.
btw, I don’t do sarcasm, each word I write is meant literally. when I lie, it’s the implied meaning that is a lie, never the literal.
sarcasm is a bad idea when writing, saying the opposite of what is meant will cause a lot of damage to the discussion.
irony on the other hand wont do much, it’s the sort of lie that’s easily forgotten when unnoticed.

an important notion when talking of lies is the notion of truth. truth isn’t the opposite of lie though.
a lie is something said or written, this way it can only be opposite to a truth being communicated.
however, somewhere I read there’s a bounty on a veritably true sentence, and nobody claimed it.
the notion of truth is much too strict to be applied to human communication.
lies simply have no opposite, only scales of severity. the whole idea of words representing objects is causing them to be lies.
nothing a human ever says can fully represent an actual object. objects are infinitely deeper than the words we use.
still doesn’t change my question. why do we use the grave kind of lies? why not stay closer to communicated truth?
and the reason for my question is that lies are bad for science. bad for growth of our knowledge.
in the middle-ages scientists had to lie in order to not be prosecuted by church. in a mild form some scientists still lie for similar reasons. white lies for the purpose of not offending someone’s beliefs.
we lie for entertainment. we lie for keeping up self-image, for self-representation. we lie for deception, for our advantage. or we use white lies for someone else’s advantage or lack of disadvantage.
all these lies are somehow steal time from the search for knowledge, from science.
but what exactly is the reason we need entertainment, self-image, egoism? what’s the use of people demanding protection from offensive science?
I can understand that we sometimes lie in order to speed up things, but why all the other lies?

one kind of lie I didn’t talk about yet: the lie with a purpose of speeding up things.
for example astronomers learn that the earth is the center of the universe, sun and planets revolve around it.
this knowledge, as antiquated it might sound, makes calculating planet-position faster.
for the same reason also in physics the relativistic point of view isn’t all-dominant.
the lowered complexity justifies the means.
but in a few thousand years archeologists might find our astronomy-books, and laugh at our geocentric beliefs.
maybe we’re already doing the same, with archeologist’s opinion on the ancient cultures.
my solution to this problem you can see here: the next paragraph says the previous was a lie.
and to speed up learning, that info is indented so the reader can skip it…


communication (Photo credit: flavijus)