I am hereby introducing a rational argument for acting morally. I am also deriving some conclusions about death which are no longer knowledge items, but rather beliefs; that being said, my “religion” does not require any “supernatural being” to do any work in order to ensure that GOOD and BAD deeds are rewarded / punished.
This means that I advocate a belief in SOMETHING [the principle that BAD breeds BAD and GOOD breeds GOOD] and not SOMEBODY [dispensing justice]; by the way, I didn’t invent this principle (a.k.a., karma), or, as we say in aikido,
Good causes [result in] good effects. Bad causes [result in] bad effects
And it all comes back to us. Always.
There is this strange concept in quantum physics that certain things are more likely to be found in certain places, at certain frequencies, set at spaced intervals. You could think of these as “lucky numbers” (or solutions to complicated equations beyond your average person’s grasp).
I would venture a hypothesis that
the human brain has been culturally conditioned in each society to accept dialogues of a certain length
- 3 minutes for a song
- 20-30 seconds for a conversational turn
- 1-2 minutes for a self-introductory speech, etc.
Dialogues undershooting or overshooting this set number by a significant margin are rejected out of hand as anomalous
(to grasp this, think how inappropriate a four-second song or a ten-minute self-introductory speech feels).
In addition to the culturally-set values, we would also have been conditioned biologically (as animals):
How long could you pay attention to a single stimulus before that would endanger your survival?
Before that would encroach on everything else you had to attend to?
Maybe you had to go procure food, right? You don’t have time to listen to this guy talking for more than… half a minute? One minute?
The acceptable length of a casual dialogue is built into us by our evolutionary history and I assume that it would be under a minute.
Imagine a Neanderthal having a conversation with another Neanderthal; how many grunts?
How about the anatomy? Would all the parts of the vocal tract (which we take for granted in homo sapiens) be there to allow speech and for how long?
Would I have been choking more because the anatomy was not as perfected as it has come to be in the meantime?
The shape of the mouth has changed; think about how much difficulty a monkey has in maintaining control of all the muscles (lips, tongue etc.) which appears so natural and easy to us?
So that’s it, 3 minutes [if you’re listening to the audio track].
That’s all the time I could keep your attention, so good-bye.
Now, if I assume that your attention span is only 3 minutes long, things become interesting.
- If it really is only 3 minutes long and you tuned out, then you’re not listening to this.
- So I’m now talking to the other guys, the guys who have a longer-than-three-minutes tolerance for one voice recording.
Mind you, a high tolerance of long-winded arguments is not necessarily a virtue; maybe I’ve sounded idiotic, or incoherent after the first minute passed and you’ve decided 3 minutes is the limit, after that you’re just going to stop listening.
When did you stop listening? Well, if you did, then you’re not listening to this anymore.
So now I’m talking to the other guys, the minority.
Who belongs to this (incredibly patient) minority? The people who listen for 15 minutes?
My own style of speaking is organized as a rant, where I just run through the fields; discourse involves “running about” (currere, let’s remember the Latin). It’s a rambling dialogue where I’m talking and you just happen to be in the minority who have nothing better to do than listen, or who are
just intrigued by this self-infatuation that is so patently demonstrated by this fellow who is posing as an English speaker, but is obviously more or less pretending to be one.
You can see through me so easily, right? As an English speaker, my friend, as an English speaker.
You can’t see through me as a Romanian.
You can’t see through me as a Japanese.
You can’t see through me, not through my head, but you can see some parts of me, those which I put into words on a track that’s (usually) 15 minutes long.
Allow me to proceed to the crux of this dialogue:
If you listen carefully to all that’s happening around you, then you realize that sometimes you need to listen more carefully.
I’m not sure if you’re catching the (sounds of the) movements of the fan blades that are turning near my room (where I am now walking around and talking).
[Obviously, you need to play the audio file to understand all references to sounds]
I’ve had this insight when I was in Tsukuba (Japan) some years ago; I was at a friend’s house, it was raining, it was night time, I was on the balcony, and I kept hearing this noise combined with the noise of the blades of the fan of the air-conditioning unit; I’ve heard this noise that sounded very strange but somehow familiar. Then it just hit me that it was
the sound of rain hitting the cars passing in front of the house:
Ssshhhh, ssshhhh, sssshhhh…
Each car would go through a certain space, would hit a certain number of drops of water falling from the sky, the impact of which would ripple the sounds (sound waves) through the air and these would eventually hit my ear drums; then my brain would spend some time struggling to assign a source to this sound
(the sound of cars passing through rain).
So we spend time in assigning cause, but we’re usually not paying that much attention because we don’t have enough time, there are too many sounds going on around us.
Then, I listened to the AC fan blades and at some point I realized that, if I meditated long enough, I could feel it slowing down,
I could hear each blade individually, I could hear it going through the air and hitting the air particles, and then these air particles would ripple and the waves would hit my ear drums.
The insight, the revelation I want to talk about is not this, of course; so far it was just interesting.
The revelation was that as we would lay dying at some point in our lives, these sounds (from the world around us) would still strike us, but
- the intervals between each wave would feel longer, and longer, and longer
- time would seem to slow down, and then slow down, and then slow down some more.
Now, my guess is that in this final dialogue
- when your body is probably paralyzed,
- when the blood stops flowing to your brain,
- when the last sound is that of the last beat of your heart:
boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom…
Let’s say that was the last one… but there wouldn’t be a last one in terms of what you (=the dying person) perceive.
It would be continuously slowing down, but the time interval perception would just continue to grow, and each interval would seem longer, and longer, and longer…
What does this tell us in terms of what we should do on this planet, while we’re here alive? It tells us that we should live our lives in the best manner possible.
- Not because of some reward in a future life
- Not because of some categorical imperative
- Not because of some utilitarian reasons (I do good, you do me good in return, and everybody’s happy)
- not because of some commands from an imaginary being.
No, simply because there would be a lot of intervals of time in that last dialogue you have to carry with yourself for longer, and longer, and longer intervals of time, as you’re slowing down, more, and more, and more.
At that moment (when you’re dying) there would be so much time that you’d probably be going back (the famous re-living of life experiences and so on).
Of course, I am not sure of this; I haven’t died and come back to tell you, but I have an almost religious conviction at this point that
the moment of dying only exists for those who remain but does not exist per se for the person dying.
Always getting slower, never completely stopping.
The complete stop would not occur, because that’s when time would stop, that’s when you’d say:
Okay, that’s the last interval.
There would never be such a time, there would be no end; when time stops, that would be it, but that would be it in terms of you while you’re still here, and while you’re still here there’s still time, there’s still an interval of a dialogue going on in which you might have to account (to yourself) for all you’ve done while you were alive.
Who were you?
How long did you talk to yourself and how long did you talk to others?
How will you look back to all that you have done?
Imagine how much more terrible this dialogue would be for a suicidal person, and you will understand why suicide is bad, intrinsically.
Imagine how much worse would this dialogue be for somebody who has killed another person, because this would be re-lived again and again, in slower and slower motion, each time unable to go back and change it.
Each time full of regret, full of the same, essentially bad, feelings that you’ve experienced originally.
Imagine how much more rewarding and how much better it would be to re-live mostly good experiences…
So this is important as a moral compass not just for me in terms of what I should do from a selfish point of view
“I want to rest in peace as I lay dying”
but also in terms of me and how I affect others and how I could possibly change their eternities spent as they lay dying, those eternity-bound dialogues in the last moments, in which they review their lives and how I have impacted them.
Would they be a series of pleasant, funny, amusing, touching moments?
Or, revolting, disgusting, hateful moments?
So choose well my friend, choose well while you’re alive, not just for yourself but also for others because
in each moment of our lives we’re deciding those last dialogues for each other and we’re setting ourselves up for an eternity of living good or bad experiences in those last moments.
So here’s my religious experience, my mystical insight. You can share yours, if you like.
Post Scriptum: The above principle does not guarantee that
if you do GOOD, you will live a GOOD (=happy) life and nothing BAD (=horrible) will happen to you
Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well:
People doing BAD stuff can have all sorts of GOOD stuff happening to them.
We all know this constitutes an insurmountable argument against the existence of a God-like figure, but some of us are comfortable going around it by (sup)posing the existence of another supernatural world where things get balanced somehow.
Nevertheless, if you share my belief and act accordingly,
you only have to worry about the GOOD and BAD stuff for which YOU are personally responsible.
If a drunk driver runs over me (=BAD stuff), this will not haunt me in my final moments (=eternities) because it is not something I lived to regret; however, the drunk driver will not have this luxury and he will have to spend many a moment (=eternity) pondering his responsibility for this BAD act and all the BAD acts that would (almost inevitably) follow.
It sounds naive, but doing GOOD is (in the very long run) the easy path as it ensures you will have peace of mind for (that illusory-but-otherwise-very-real-to-your-consciousness) eternity.
Of course, doing GOOD is (in the short run) the difficult path because you cannot take any of the (BAD) shortcuts as these would haunt you for (that illusory-but-otherwise-very-real-to-your-consciousness) eternity.