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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


April 6th, 2019

Think different, be the black sheep, venture into the unknown, take a chance, just do it – these commonplace aphorisms, among countless others are each a call to go against the grain of society at large.


In the case of Apple and Nike, the implementation of such declarations against the grain embodies a marketing that is at once a clever hijacking of our lure to the exotic and new and a mass movement to create a new grain for the masses, one in line with the business models of such companies. 


Just about everything we do is a reflection of different parts of the society in which we find ourselves.  Even the riskiest moonshots are, in many ways modelled on the success or ideas of others.  We are inevitably tied to this relationship matrix because it is the opinions others have of our work and our creations that ultimately dictate how valuable our contributions are, and in turn grant a person the social resources of reputation and financial capital


Many of the ways in which we reflect our society at large, however, do not necessarily benefit us.  We can take something as simple as the mattress.  Normally, this is a giant cushion full of springs that requires a second giant box that further has springs.  These things are large, incredibly cumbersome units that are apparently necessary for our rest while sleeping.  They are expensive, and difficult to move and dispose of.  The mattress/boxspring combo might be described as an integral part of the protocol for sleeping in a country like the United States, or Canada.  It’s easy to imagine that an overwhelming percentage of the people who abide by this protocol have never thought much about it.  All the while, we are tempted by more expensive versions that employ innovations like memory foam and that are advocated and owned by people like Oprah.


Not sleeping well?  It’s probably your mattress, goes the obvious colloquial logic.  The answer?  Spend more money on a better mattress.


We are convinced to need things that once acquired birth the actual need.  Much like an addictive substance, however, much of this phenomenon is simply habit and routine.  The brain is somewhat stubborn and rigid in many ways, and real change often requires a rather forceful and prolonged yank out of the normal avenues of behavior.  As the saying goes “You get used to things”.  We can use this fact of human psychology to our benefit by forcibly exposing ourselves to less luxury, less comfort and eventually getting used to it in order to gestate a greater long term benefit. 


The back-pain that we believe is caused by the old mattress is more likely due to a lack of working out the back muscles effectively.  Anyone who has gone for a long and challenging hike followed by a night in a tent knows just how well one can sleep on a thin foam sheet when exhausted.


Our efforts as a species can be generally described as an effort to make ourselves safe and comfortable.  We have risen to the top of the food chain, and in so doing starvation is no longer an issue for most people and predators are no longer a concern.  Our efforts, however, go too far.  Instead of eating an optimal diet, we now battle obesity, and being free from the physical efforts of actually procuring our food in the natural world, our muscles atrophy and our system struggles with a weight it has no strength for, and then of course, we try to throw more money at the problem and buy a new mattress.


It’s important to realize that the conglomerated protocols created by the laws of government and the influence of corporations are not optimized to create the healthiest society possible by creating the healthiest individuals possible.  This likely goes without saying, though the optimist, looking at human history on a large time scale might suspect that we are trending towards this sort of utopia.  In the meantime, however, we each of us are left to our own devices – and in such circumstance, we have the opportunity to create a life that is closer to a personal utopia than what the protocols of society dictate.


Creating a better life invariably boils down to the personal protocols that we set for ourselves, and with many things, such protocols are likely to honor our cultural aphorisms that urge us to be different, while rejecting many of the actual protocols that culture dictates for modern living.


 Sleeping on the floor is quite counter to the cultural protocol and for those who live by the book of cultural protocols, this would sound like a move in a very uncomfortable direction, perhaps even a dangerous direction, like poverty.


And yet, the person whose personal protocols are purposefully designed with less comfort ultimately adapts far more efficiently when less fortunate circumstances arise.  Familiarity breeds comfort, and a familiarity with discomfort paradoxically enables a person to be comfortable where others will suffer. 


The same is true for physical exercise and again the same is true for the diets that we design and implement for nutrition and pleasure. 


One of the easiest examples in this realm is fasting.  The person who has researched and found interest in the effects of fasting finds an additional one when actually experimenting with the practice: successfully fasting for even a day or two equips a person with the knowledge that it’s possible, and then later when a circumstance arises where such a person would normally declare “I’m starving!”, the memory of fasting eases this desperation with a new thought, that of: been here, done it before.  Not really an issue.


This simple example can replicate in many ways in the different arenas that make up our daily experience.  The person who meditates daily has little issue waiting in a long line or enduring a delayed flight, or any unplanned space of time.


These personal protocols, whether it be a practice of meditation, exercise, reading, writing, diet or fasting – they shape our moment to moment experience of reality.  With each protocol, reality converts into a slightly different version, and if we tinker with these protocols, fine-tuning them, adding new ones and doing away with others, we can mold our experience and our response to reality in order to create something that leans towards a utopia of the mind.



This episode references Episode 299: The Obvious Choice, Episode 311: Fake Fortune, and Episode 325: Failures of Cooperation.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 356: Personal Protocol

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