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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


January 8th, 2020


The theft performed by colleges and universities isn’t just financial in terms of student loans.


The bigger theft might be that such institutions convinced so many that you need a degree in order to have a good idea.


Take into account that the added debt that comes with a degree severely limits an individual’s opportunity to take chances.  Debts require regular payments, and regular payments naturally require a job.  Needless to say, there’s not much wiggle room between the acquisition of a degree and the time when a debt comes knocking.


What exactly is higher education for?


The superficial answer that has proved to be nothing but fantasy is that it’s a gateway to a better job and a better standard of living.  The reality shows that it’s generally a way of seducing one’s self into a paralyzing situation.


None of this creates an environment where new ideas flourish with the opportunity to be explored.


Many of the forces that have arisen with the development of college and university programs go directly against the sorts of things required to explore, namely time, space, and the freedom to think curiously.


The quickest way to dumb someone down below their natural level of intelligence is to give them an unnecessarily large amount of stress for an interminable period of time.  The neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky has done research to show just how detrimental such stress is on our cognitive abilities.  Debt is the perfect inducement of this kind of stress.


Creative solutions do not arise during this kind of stress.  Certainly there are outliers.  Given a large enough population there is going to be a small subset of people who manage to think well enough despite this stress to invent creative solutions to get out of such stress, and also given a large enough population there are going to be some who just get lucky, but it’s a mistake to tout these rare instances of pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps as examples that the poor masses can follow.  This misunderstands the statistics afforded by a large population.  Most people are simply incapable of pulling off this trick.  It’s akin to asking a team of people to perform at work after sleep depriving them for one hundred hours.  Everyone is going to do terribly, and maybe, given a large enough population, there is going to be a tiny portion of people with just the right physiology to pull it off.  But to expect everyone to do it no problem and criticize them as lazy when they don’t?  That’s lazy thinking that results in no real understanding on the part of the person who criticizes.


People respond well to small isolated instances of stress.  Short bouts of stress are good for the body and brain, which means that for the most part, if we want people to perform better, we need to aim for people at large to live more relaxed lives.  As neuroendocrinologists like Sapolsky have uncovered, the science is there to make a substantial health argument for something like a basic income.  Pilot studies for such programs have shown drastic reductions in emotional disorders among a host of other benefits.


On an individual level, however, the implications can be equally powerful.  Instead of solving for the external reason of stress, such as debt or poverty, it is possible to solve for the stress itself from an internal standpoint.


Things like meditation and exercise can – over time - have enormous impacts on the severity and presence of stress no matter the external pressures.  But these require the most important ingredient: time.


Which for such a person – as with all people – is the most valuable resource.  Hoarding some for such personal reasons may seem unwise from a financial standpoint when that time can be further converted into a little more money, but in the long run, such a selfish use of time can pay off enormously in ways that far outweigh the smalls sums that would have been gained had that time been spent at another part-time job.


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Podcast Ep. 633: The Requirements of an Idea

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