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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


May 3rd, 2021


We are good with one - to - one correlations, especially when it comes to our actions and the effects they have.  Got to work, get a pay check.  Have a drink, feel good.  Take a pill, relieve the anxiety.  We are remarkably untalented when it comes to second and third order effects of our actions and retooling what we do initially to tweak those results.


Maturity and self awareness might be as simple as realizing that there are far more things that we can do on purpose.  No one wakes up exhausted on purpose.  No one feels anxious on purpose, and no one wastes a life doing the same menial job that they hate on purpose.  These effects are all downstream, and it requires a good deal of self-understanding, planning, and even a little bit of cleverness to take action in the name of such late-order effects.


What’s first required is simply being able to see relationships among things that expand beyond initial one - to - one correlations.  For example, thinking about the potential hangover when contemplating the idea of having a drink.  For anyone that drinks quite regularly, this is even more difficult because there’s often no longer a hangover to be worried about.  At that point its a matter of understanding from an intellectual standpoint that the entire experience of life might be dampened, and that this has gone on for so long that it’s simply not possible to imagine a higher baseline.  What feels ‘normal’ can be depressingly subversive in the face of any attempt to see connections between what we do, and how we perpetuate the problems in our lives.


Drinking coffee is another example that fits into the issue of chronic exhaustion.  While it advertises and often feels like the cure to low energy, a chronic overuse of coffee will actually exasperate the problem.  Coffee and alcohol become easily and smoothly linked up.   The hangover seems easily solved by a deluge of coffee and then later in the day, the anxiety caused by chronic coffee used seems easily solved by just having a drink or two in order to unwind.


Vicious cycles chain together and multiply in effect.  Such a habit leads to a lower baseline and an obliviousness to it.  Such exhaustion and stress leave little resource left over for thinking carefully through very large and important aspects of life, like that menial job that is anything but fulfilling.  The downstream effects of our actions become particularly tricky to see and plan for.  And then with enough vicious cycles chained together, life can become a continuous trap that is constantly rolling in a worse direction.


Shaking up one’s life, the way moving, or extended travel can, is one of the easiest ways to see things differently.  When our habitual patterns are interrupted and downstream effects change accordingly, that dissonance is easier to notice, analyze and understand.  Otherwise, in order to see such puzzle pieces connected at a distance requires a good deal of intellectual imagination.  It requires ingesting certain pieces of knowledge, imaginatively understanding how they interact, and then creatively construction a hypothesis about how things would be different if certain variables were changed.  But of course, the exhausted imagination is far less equipped to handle this task in a way that has an effect that is emotionally convincing to the point where someone might actually try and change.



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Podcast Ep. 1114: Downstream Purpose

Tinkered Thinking

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