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I guess it started with my mother… oh, what a beginning of a story, isn’t it? 🙂

Well, it did! She’s the one who always caught me if I was lying. It’s a mother thing, apparently, and it doesn’t seem to have stopped others, but with me, well, I just got it that it’s soooo not worth it so I stopped lying. So far so odd.

Lying is regarded as a sin even when doing so can have good results, because the intent is to deceive. And from St Augustine to current propaganda we have made lists of different ways of lying. We have also made quite a science of how far we can go before what we say is considered a lie. But wait, there’s more 🙂

You see, you don’t just stop lying with impunity, as anyone who has ever watched Liar Liar or heard of True Thomas realizes. Much of what our world prizes (society to begin with!), relies on not telling all the truth all the time to all people in all situations.

Of course, we can only speak as truth what we know or believe, so deception is possible even when the intent is not there. Truly, it does not take many words to speak the truth, it’s just that the path there is full of potholes!

But a person who will not lie must find other ways to live with people. Because when a child says something true but tactless people laugh. An adult doing the same is actively isolated and is sometimes at risk.

First port of call is, of course, silence. Praised as gold to speech’s silver, silence can go a long way towards allowing you not to lie but also to retain some place in your society. But it is ultimately boring and difficult to maintain and it’s not foolproof, either, you can by your silence allow a deception to continue that may have tragic consequences later on.

Avoiding, evading and ommitting the truth all require juggling skills, a terribly good memory (kind of like lying!) and have a middlish efficacy, even when you’re good at them.

Deflecting the conversation can work, especially combined with minimization and omission of truth. That’s the telling some of the truth to some of the people some of the time, while being mind-bendingly cautious of your words, your audience, the possible consequences and a myriad other things.

I did all of the above at one time or another, and only after years of practice. Having been born with no tact at all, but with a human centred belief system and profession, it wasn’t always easy. I feel the best when I can tell the truth and actively try to put myself in situations where I don’t need to use the above mentioned stratagems. As Heinlein would say, between being kind and being truthful, he would choose kindness. I have tried to learn how to tell the truth kindly, that’s as close as I can get.

It seems that getting around lying requires a good workout for your moral compass and judgement, careful selection and occasionally, skills to sneak past your own conscience – never an easy feat!

Exhausting!

Force

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I’ve been banging about things like actions and consequences for a while. It’s about time I was talking of the force going through that whole continuum. I am talking of motives, of course. I guess you may have thoughts without a motive, but it’s difficult to have voluntary action without motive. The root of the word comes from Latin and it implies movement in a causative way. It is sometimes confused with intent, probably because it is the force that moves the intent into action. Indeed, it seems to bypass planning and choice but once the decision is made (based on said intent) it is in its element with actions as its tools.

So if the intent is to stay alive and a lion is charging, once you have sifted through the available choices (fight, flight, freeze etc.) and you have made your decision, your motive will implement that action to obtain the consequence intended. I would probably choose fighting after an initial freeze, but that’s just me 🙂

Motivation seems to be linked to survival as that is usually linked to action. And survival expectations do go down severely if motivation is missing. This is not so obvious nowadays, when we have several safety nets to catch us should our motivation falter, but it hasn’t always been like this. And out of all the frustrating traits people exhibit lack of motivation is probably very high on the ladder because we see their survival being in danger.

We admire dilligence, ambition, activity because neither of those is possible without motivation. We dislike laziness, procrastination and apathy because we catch that whiff of danger. We also find it very difficult to slow down, meditate, pray, consider and even sleep. Because we equate moving with being alive (originally it mostly was, our predators were faster, stronger and had senses significantly more acute than us; freezing wasn’t really an option).

Once survival is assured motivation doesn’t just disappear into thin air. It’s a force, so once you have it (barring illness, certain drugs etc.) you can use it. It’s not really blind force, either, although it can be bent in many directions. It exerts a pull towards what interests you once survival is not an issue. This pull is what makes life sweet when you do whatever it is that floats your boat.

Say you have a really nice job working for the man. It pays good money. It is something you are good and skilled at. You may have a company car, flexible hours, nice perks. Come Friday you leave it all behind and, if you’re smart, you get a life. The motivation provided by all those nice things does not normally extend to the weekend. Motivation is an economically efficient force, it won’t expend that energy when there is no need for it.

But say you are a scientist and you have a theory. No funding, obviously, until you have something to go on. Tell me, do you notice weekends as anything else other than time to get the experiments set up and running? Or researching what has already been done. Or pulling your hair out because it doesn’t work your way? Or resenting the day job because it takes you away from whatever it is you are trying to do?

Hm… sounds like motivation doesn’t really care about money and perks and holidays etc. Nice to have, don’t get me wrong… just wondering if societal rules don’t get too restrictive at one point, you know?

Choice

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You cannot talk about action (or consequences for that matter) without mentioning choice. That goes even if free will is not the be all and end all in your universe, because you still don’t know the full plan so you have to rely on an imperfect feel of what you ought to do, including commands, principles, requirements.

It could be that we need the above commands etc. as there is really nothing that is absolutely required if you are a free agent in the world. It is a matter of choice, all of it. Look at a baby refusing to sleep, despite being exhausted. Look at a protester refusing to eat or drink. Look at monks and nuns with vows of celibacy. Look at those who commit suicide. And yet living, eating, drinking, sleeping are supposed to be natural requirements, and I haven’t even begun to mention the human ones!

If the above are teaching us anything at all I suppose it is the fact that choice is not easy. So much so that I lose patience with questions like “if the boat is overloaded and you have to through someone overboard in order to save the majority, who would you condemn?”… and here follows usually a list of people that addresses everything that is prejudice in us.

I ignore this type of question because I believe that every day choices are difficult enough sometimes that we really don’t have time for making our lives even more complicated.

Choice is also the subject of… hm… choice (non-intended pun… which I will adopt and intend from now on 😛 ) for the regulators of our society. How often have we heard judges prompting people in court to make “better choices”? Food and drink with or without some much publicized ingredients are also “better choices”. Elections are full of people who are “better choices” than others. We are expected to compare and act…based, of course, on the intention – be healthy, be safe, be better off.

Several of the choices are automated (breathing, heart beat etc.), others are behind very strong walls (living, not hurting ourselves intentionally), yet others are regularly reinforced (eating, drinking, sleeping). Most of the other choices we make are small and easy – what to wear, what to eat, what time to put our alarm at. This, of course, brings us to the big choices, the ones that influence a big portion of our lives, and the most difficult. They are not many, and they are also the ones most heavily influenced by society. Those choices are sometimes at odd times: haven’t you ever marveled that we know teens’ brains are under construction but we still expect them to decide the direction for most of their lives? Others are made for strange (to me) reasons – marriage being decided by other people than the ones getting married, really? Still others are annoying – deciding to study the inside of an atom as a priority as opposed to finding a contraceptive that doesn’t wreck bodies, desire or fertility.

The big picture/perspective is probably the most important factor in the choices we make. But big picture hasn’t been a favourite subject for a long time, with individuality, specialization and win-lose mentality being preferred. Sure, we fit into our respective niches, but these niches are rarely communicating with many other niches.

And what is the point of a fragmented society?

Future

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If you do this then that will happen. Linked, of course with action and consequence. And I am also advised that “if only” is a terrible expression and we should therefore strive to not only grasp opportunities as they arrive but also to make good choices. As if any of us would make bad choices if we knew the future.

However, as people, we try very hard to predict the future, and I know no psychic who ever died of hunger… except maybe the ones who were actually right. Cassandra springs to mind. I have always had a soft spot for Cassandra. The Greek myth says that she was a prophetess and as such under the protection of Apollo, a later Sun persona. As a prophetess, her word was not doubted, the only mistake could come from interpreting the notoriously mysterious messages given. But then Apollo fell in lust with Cassandra and she refused him, so he cursed her to always be true and never believed. Needless to say she went mad (was mad?) and her life went downhill from there. Greek tragedies make thrillers seem comical and horror movies seem non-sensical.

But predicting the future has another downside, as if knowing in advance what will happen is not bad enough. Even Cassandra, always true, could not do anything to prevent the future from happening. And I think that is what actually drove her mad. Assuming responsibility way beyond what human shoulders can carry. I reckon that the Greeks (and most every traditional society that had prophets… hm, that would make all of them!) put the prophets under the protection of a God/dess for the express purpose of stopping the madness from taking hold. If you are just the mouth of a God/dess then you couldn’t possibly be responsible for what you predict, in fact, it is presumptuous to do so. In some cultures you prophesy only in a trance, or under the influence of special plants, mostly hallucinogenics. The setting is carefully chosen, the people carefully prepared, sacrifices are made.

Compare this then with the current way of “predicting”. Using logic (action and consequence) only, assuming responsibility for both right and wrong prediction, blamed for the choices people make based on those predictions… does that sound to you as a recipe for disaster? And let’s not think of the ones who make religious/financial/eschatological prophecies. Take people in every-day life, trying to predict whether to marry, buy a car, have a baby, change jobs, invest, buy a house. All sort of choices. Go to university, it’s the only way to get a good job. Start your own business, it’s the only way to be free. Save for retirement, you never know when the super will become unmanageable. Send your child to private school, so he can have a good future.

And if you don’t? You should have done this, if you’d have done this none of this would have happened, silly! There is no shortage of people who will point out “if only”’s. And, without a God/dess, without salvia and mushrooms, with no sacrifices made and no questions properly asked, what do we get?

Blame and guilt, of course, what else.

To what purpose? It doesn’t seem to teach us anything. Not even when we are lucky.

I’ll ponder this while I ask my question of the Tarot.