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    Thread: dream of place in life

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      dream of place in life

      I had an interesting dream experience a few days ago I'll try to share.

      First, for context....I was never into controlling my dreams, I found it more interesting to pay attention passively, to see what I could perceive that seemed to come from outside my usual mental box. My lucid dreams were scripted by a subconscious muse of some sort, and most of them were new experiences or parables in response to questions I'd asked. About five years ago my dreams started becoming increasingly abstract, lacking metaphors that I could grasp, and they gradually drifted out of my comprehension and awareness. Now I hardly even dream. My waking life remained full of interesting metaphors though, and if anything those metaphors became clearer and more obviously relevant to where I am as a person.

      Rather than try to describe my dream from last week, I'll give my interpretation of it using a different metaphor. I'm sure my interpretation is limited, and doesn't capture anything like the whole underlying meaning, but that would be true if I tried to describe my experience also.

      The muse has something like indifference towards me, though indifference isn't the right idea. It is present in some sense, and its presence influences events in a subtle way, but maybe it does not usually turn its attention on me in an overt way. If I'm a squirrel in a park, the muse is a ranger that takes care of the park, but doesn't feed the squirrels. More overt interaction is harmful for somewhat the same reason that feeding wild animals is harmful to the animals, it forms an unhealthy dependence that interferes with their proper way of living. The ranger will however in some circumstances respond in a recognizable way to an animal if approached by one, and might intervene on its own initiative if an animal falls in a hole or something. But for an animal, life is never other than a few years of joy and struggle terminated by violence or starvation, and a wise ranger is unlikely to perceive that the same way the animal does.

      Many people think in terms of right and not-right, and appeal to providence for assistance in finding and adhering to the 'right'. I'm a fairly extreme example of one of these people, I interpret practically every experience as a moral drama. One of the confusing things about life is that we're from the beginning so far off of the 'right' path that there's no near term way to get back on it, and trying too hard is counterproductive. Every path is wrong, both in the sense of inevitably leading to some kind of suffering, and in the sense that in our more transcendent moments we may recognize the wrongness. The misfortune is inevitable, because nothing can forever run away from itself, and escape its own nature. And yet, even in all of this, it seems that everything somehow works together for the better, as well as it can. It seems the divine side of our natures can be depended on in that sense also.

      I think that my feeling and understanding of what it means for something to be 'wrong' is partially perverted by the wrongness of where I am personally. I think that this perversion inspires a desire or yearning for change or redemption, and I think that is part of what creates my experiences with the dream 'muse'. Furthermore, other people's thoughts are a factor also, there is an inherently collective or interactive aspect to the way I dream. I've mostly stopped dreaming in this way because my thinking and other people's thinking has shifted. That's probably both good and bad. Maybe I'm wiser and more in harmony with nature now in a way that tends not to produce jarring psychic corrections in the form of paranormal dreams. Or maybe I'm more blind and corrupt now, and therefore less capable of reaching that high. I think it is probably both.

      I guess that's probably too vague and subjective for most other people to make much sense out of it, but I'll leave it at that.
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      "Nature is impartial and treats all people as straw dogs"

      I think the concept of "right" and "wrong" are arbitary distinctions based on the desire to fufil some goal or narrative and as such are dependant on the person or culture that defines these terms. Nature's only involvement here is the application of cause and effect of natural laws and does not seek to guide people one way or another (although I suppose they might anthropomorphize it as a surrogate for their own observations, conscious or otherwise).

      At the heart of the problem, I think, is the uncertainty of knowing whether one's actions are right or wrong (for a given definition), and so would suggest that learning to accept the fact we may need to make choices based on incomplete information or understanding is central to achieving a sense of "following the right path". Alternatively one may seek to reach a state of mind in which they feel that everything they do is correct because they are fully convinced of their convictions... but I think that is a more dangerous suggestion.

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      Staying strictly within what is scientifically known or understood, I think there is a moral right and wrong that arises naturally from the way that things have to work. By way of analogy, given understood definitions of what 2, 3, 5, 6, +, and = mean, it is true that 2+3=5, and it is false to say that 2+3=6. This isn't imposed by an outside authority, and it doesn't depend on our whim or what we decide we want. We can't define it to be whatever we want it to be, and if we try to we make ourselves confused and ignorant, but we don't change the reality of it. Moral questions are considerably more difficult, conditional, complicated, and vaguely defined than arithmetic, but that doesn't mean that no moral objectivity is possible whatsoever. For instance, trapping and mutilating children for cruel enjoyment, absent any short or long term necessity or benefit, is morally wrong. An individual or a culture can be confused about this, but declaring such an evil to be a good doesn't make it so. Even to the extent that I'm glossing over some important complicating detail, and such violent cruelty really is defensible, it still isn't arbitrary, or at least not completely arbitrary. To whatever extent its not arbitrary, there's moral truth hiding in there, not just something we make up, even though it can never be defined with complete adequacy.

      So there is what we understand from history, and what we know of natural law by observing the world we live in. Then there's also what we might recognize by thinking outside of that. If every known society has slavery, or rape, or some other moral evil, that doesn't mean we can't aspire to reduce the evil. It is easy to go wrong with this of course, because very often there are reasons for apparent evils that may not be immediately obvious, and if we attempt to do away with them we can make things worse. But that doesn't mean that no progress is ever possible. I've always been interested in understanding what is possible, beyond what is demonstrated by how things work around me. The reason I'm interested is I've witnessed or experienced things that I'm morally unable or unwilling to accept without a better understanding of why they must be accepted.

      This driving desire for answers to questions that are outside of how things normally work can tend to create experiences outside of how things are normally recognized to work. So I've had paranormal experiences, hence my posting in this forum, trying to share with other people who have had similar experiences and make some sense out of it. One conclusion I can draw from all of it is that there's a lot more to how the world works than has been nailed down by controlled and universally repeatable experiments. Another conclusion is that every religion or other ostensibly comprehensive life philosophy is at least half made of self-serving fabrications. I don't expect everyone else to accept my conclusions though, since other people's perspectives are based on a different set of experiences.

      My main point here is that an entire category of moral questions and half-answers that I care about may be mostly meaningless from your perspective. So when you say that nature treats people as straw dogs, I halfway disagree, and I mostly disagree that distinctions of right and wrong are arbitrary. But we're probably largely not talking about the same kinds of things anyway. A good math teacher will give a student a failing grade if the student did not learn the material, but that doesn't imply the teacher has no empathy for the student. To me air and water really are blessings and gifts that I'm deeply grateful for - there's a real, conscious relationship involved that isn't just a projection. We can agree on the sentiment though, even if our interpretations are different. There are no wolves where I live, but the only time I'm really happy is while roaming freely on coyote trails, even though my gene survival seems to require that I spend most of my days staring at a computer.

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      Quote Originally Posted by shadowofwind View Post
      Staying strictly within what is scientifically known or understood, I think there is a moral right and wrong that arises naturally from the way that things have to work.
      Talking of things arising naturally puts me in mind of evolution. Would you say that birds evolved wings because they were meant to fly, or that they have the capacity for flight because they evolved wings? But then we also have to consider such cases as penguins or ostriches. Are they "unatural" because they lack this common trait of birds or do we now have to start acknowledging various cases of the concept "bird"?

      But lets assume that we difine what is "moral" as what action we must take at any given point it time. By analogy lets say we have control over the variables in a function F(x,y) and that what is moral is for F(x,y) = 0 and that further we can deduce that F(x,y)=x+y. What value of x is right? Our initial choice is arbitrary. Granted we have to select for y to be the negative of x afterwards, but still at the outset our problem has infinite solutions.

      I will apologize in my choice of the word "arbitrary" in that there might be better words to convey my meaning, but what I meant to say is that I consider it misguided to think of morality in oversimplified, strictly mandated dictums.

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      I see nothing unnatural about a bird that can run or swim but not fly. Yes, trying to say what a bird should or shouldn't do based on any definition of a bird would be stupid, and that same principle applies elsewhere also, even though people do it all the time. It is to some extent an unavoidable stupidity though, because thinking about things at all usually requires making some simplifying assumptions, conscious or otherwise. I try to remain aware of my working hypotheses, and avoid hardening them into judgments beyond what is supported by evidence.

      Yes, moral problems are both over and under-determined. One consequence of immoral action is it creates conditions in which avoiding further immoral action is impossible. And we were all born into such conditions. That's what I mean by over-determined, there are moral contradictions built in to life that we can't solve. By under-determined, I mean that we have some freedom of action that is not discernably more or less moral than other action. The fact that we have some freedom to make reality doesn't mean that we can make it into anything we want to though, because our ideas of what we want often aren't internally consistent and completely consistent with how nature must work, which we have limited understanding of. That's what I meant when I said its not arbitrary. To use your analogy, if there are other constraints on y, and there pretty much always are, then some choices of x will allow a reasonable solution and others won't, even though that might not always be obvious when the choice is made.

      I don't define morality strictly as being what a person should or should not do. I realize that puts me at odds with a lot of other people's definitions, and I should try to conform to other people's use of language to the extent possible. But if a more common definition assumes there is always a 'right' course of action, then I can't think that way, because I don'[t think that's true. Suppose a person does something that's "wrong", but they don't know it is wrong. Is it then not wrong, because they don't know better? If horrific results follow as a consequence, the action is still wrong in that sense. And they may still carry a lot of responsibility for cleaning up the aftermath of what they did, even though they can't be expected to have made a better choice.

      For me morality is only weakly a matter of ethics. Following agreed upon ethical rules has moral value, but it frequently gets trumped by more substantial moral considerations. If your argument is against the primacy of ethical rules, then we're on the same page about that. To a significant extent, my moral yardstick is empathy, tempered by objective honesty and a willingness to accept difficult truths. I realize that's a subjective and imperfect yardstick, but that doesn't make it completely arbitrary or useless. There's also an element to it this that involves an appreciation of beauty, and being able to intuitively anticipate future consequences that can't be analytically extrapolated from present actions. When I say that morality isn't strictly a matter of what a person should or should not do, what I mean is the essential thing is the sincerity. It may be possible to act in a way that avoids harm, or it may not be, and in either case we need some freedom to do what we want. But we nevertheless have some responsibility for what we do.

      In regards to evolution, I see natural selection as an important aspect of how nature works. It is a constraint that needs to be satisfied. If something isn't capable of persisting to exist beyond some point, then after that it doesn't exist. Natural selection doesn't fully determine outcomes though, there are a lot of alternative paths that are equally 'fit'. A common assumption is that to the extent that natural selection isn't causal, everything is random. There is the cause we can potentially manipulate, observe, and model well enough to describe scientifically, and everything else is arbitrary. I think that perspective is a philosophical choice, and that it is incorrect. I think that luck isn't entirely random. I have enough evidence in the form of personal experience that I think I can say I know this, though demonstrating it to another person can be problematic, and demonstrating it in general to a large category of people would be even more problematic. I think that the nature doesn't work entirely through the passive or negative constraint of natural selection, combined with the positive impetus of random perturbation, even though randomness is important also. It isn't enough. I think that to some extent a bird that can fly is able to because it was meant to fly, and because it wanted to fly. There are outcomes we're being dragged towards, we're not just drifting forward from the past. A poster in this forum a few years ago suggested this works through quantum entanglement, which operates temporally as well as spatially. I didn't find that argument very convincing, but I can't refute it either. In any case, even though the mechanism is outside my understanding, I think there are things that are likely to happen in the future that aren't likely as an extrapolation from the present in terms of physical causes. And I think that this is a part of evolution.

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      Many people think in terms of right and not-right, and appeal to providence for assistance in finding and adhering to the 'right'. I'm a fairly extreme example of one of these people, I interpret practically every experience as a moral drama.
      I don't define morality strictly as being what a person should or should not do. I realize that puts me at odds with a lot of other people's definitions, and I should try to conform to other people's use of language to the extent possible. But if a more common definition assumes there is always a 'right' course of action, then I can't think that way, because I don'[t think that's true. Suppose a person does something that's "wrong", but they don't know it is wrong. Is it then not wrong, because they don't know better? If horrific results follow as a consequence, the action is still wrong in that sense. And they may still carry a lot of responsibility for cleaning up the aftermath of what they did, even though they can't be expected to have made a better choice.
      So we are dealing with absolutes in which we have no freedom but to fail? Why be concerned with your actions at all if they have no hope of improving anything?
      I would argue that one should consider one's choices in relation to themselves and not to some external measure in such a case. Unless all options are equally wrong one should be able to choose one that does the least harm to whatever system we are considering and thus percieve it to be "right" for that moment, given that a choice must be made by us. It might require foresight into future choices or how our choices affect the choices of others but I fail to see anything healthy about a state of mind where we must blame ourselves for things outside of our control.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Emerald Wolf View Post
      So we are dealing with absolutes in which we have no freedom but to fail? Why be concerned with your actions at all if they have no hope of improving anything?
      I would argue that one should consider one's choices in relation to themselves and not to some external measure in such a case.
      The reason I said I'm not big on ethics, is everything is relative and conditional, and ethics don't capture that very well. So I don't know what you mean by "absolutes", where you're getting that, and what you're contrasting it to. I also definitely did not say that we have no freedom but to fail, or that we have no hope of improving anything. And I attempted to describe my moral measure as being essentially my own intelligence and capacity to feel, so I don't know what "external measure" you're talking about, or how yours would be any less external than that.

      What I tried to communicate, is that I don't define morality in terms of the best available outcome because sometimes the best available courses of action involve quite unsatisfactory moral tradeoffs. That doesn't mean those tradeoffs don't matter, or that those choices not a lot better than other possible choices. The reason I don't define the "moral" choice as being the least bad path, is because that way of thinking tends to diminish the significance of the moral compromise that is made, and the responsibility to deal with the undesirable consequences. If I knock somebody down by accident, or for some other reason that I have no control over, that doesn't absolve me of responsibility to apologize and try to help them up. Sometimes people act as if it does though. Defining morality in terms of available options also tends to diminish perception of freedom. It is nice to have at least some degree of freedom to do a 'wrong' thing and accept the consequences for it, even though we can't entirely undo the harm to other people. If you consider moral codes, such as those of religions, a great many of their shortcomings are because they attempt to define right and wrong in terms of possible actions, and those definitions are unavoidably poorly applicable in many real situations. My way is simpler in the sense that when I'm talking about 'right' and 'wrong' I'm describing conditions that mean something to the heart. I'm not trying to apply some kind of universal behavioral template. Killing something that wants to live is morally a problem, if you are emotionally present and honest about what you're doing. That is irrespective of whether it is necessary, which depends more on circumstances.

      As an example, suppose that I mislead several women about my intentions and plausible future actions, and have children with all of them. Henceforth, with more children than I can adequately care for, if I spend time on one I'm neglecting the others. No matter what I do, someone is harmed. This obviously does not mean that no choices from then on are any more right or wrong than any others, and that I therefore might as well just sit around getting high all day.

      Suppose that I behave unethically at work, and sabotage the efforts of my coworkers for my own advancement. Now I have more money to care for my kids better, but I'm indirectly hurting other people's kids. And suppose that my business is manufacturing weapons that are used to massacre civilians in far away places. Now I may have even more money to care for my family better, but again there is a cost. And if I buy meat from animals that were raised in cheap but inhumane conditions, again I can afford to provide better nutrition for my kids, but at a moral cost. Whatever path I take, I'm not innocent of all those bad effects, as if they're exclusively someone else's problem. Certainly the mothers and many of the children will be mad at me for being a poor parent, and they would be right, notwithstanding that I am unable to do better.

      I'm not suggesting that I should condemn myself for these failings, but I am saying that I own them in the sense that I'm responsible to work hard to do the best I can. If my attitude is that I'm not responsible for the things I did because I could not do better, then I think I'm not fully facing up to reality emotionally. I'd be more likely to just create some kind of experiential bubble for myself with one of the families and abandon the others. After all, there are billions of people in the world and I can't help all of them. Feeling the "wrongs" that one is responsible for, without shrinking away and thinking or feeling about them as if they're something less than that, can sometimes be crippling if it is too much. But eventually it is also essential for real transformation, and for finding the motivation to do the right things. Also, I prefer not to hide from myself, I am much more alive that way, and more becomes possible, such as related to subjects discussed in this 'beyond dreaming' forum.

      All of the hypothetical rights and wrongs I've just described follow from the logic of the circumstances, not from an outside code that I'm superimposing on it. They flow from the logic of the circumstances, informed by observation, reason, and empathy for the other people involved. What I'm trying to describe essentially boils down to sincerity. If you value sincerity, then I think we probably mostly agree about all this stuff already, even if there's a difference in emphasis or words. Or, to whatever extent that sincerity isn't as big of a deal to you as it is to me, then I think we're probably never going to agree anyway, and further attempt at communication may be mostly pointless.

      If I seem to suggest anything that seems really stupid on the face of it, such as that I'm concerned with my actions even though I think I have no hope of improving anything, you might consider the possibility that I was trying to communicate something else, and try to understand what that is. Also, you won't understand much of what I say if you're thinking of me as a proxy for some other religious moralist that you disagree with. It is likely that I share their views hardly at all. Or just do what you want, or nothing at all, and I may or may not bother to reply again. Apologies if I seem to have blown off anything you were trying to say. You started off by disagreeing with something I seemed to have said, which is fine, and I've tried to clarify because what you're responding to seems to be quite a bit different from what I meant.

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