Friday, 25 March 2011

The science of non - attachment part 1

A post about attachment to material possessions, perhaps common knowledge now but it may be useful to the layman or someone who has never investigated how shallow consumerism really is, and the effects that it has. Ghost 2013

I want to discuss with you the dynamics of the concept of non - attachment.
Non - attachment is a Buddhist concept but it actually fails as a premise for the average truth seeker. This is because non - attachment cannot be realised through self. I stated this in my last entry so I will paraphrase what I wrote just to recap:

Non - attachment cannot be realised through self, its like a man made out of lego saying "I don't want to be plastic".

From this metaphor we can see that attachments are actually the construction material of the illusion of self, like plastic is the material the lego man is made from. Without attachments there cannot be a sense of self  Like our man made out of lego, each piece builds up to form a complex model except the difference is, the lego man is an object that exists in reality, what we perceive as ourself or "you", "yourself", "your personality", "your life" is not an object that exists in reality, it is simply a complex illusion of thought patterns.

So we are ready for one one of Buddha's most well known bit of scripture:

"Desire is the root of all suffering"

Ok, in order to make sense of this we need to first look at how desire works on a normal level, define the root of this desire and then take a look at suffering with many detours along the way :)

First though lets look at why non - attachment cannot be realised through self....
When you have not seen the universal truth of "there is no you", non attachment is simply a pipe dream because you are living life through an illusion of self. This illusion is primarily made up of  thoughts, memories, projections. Whether its thoughts related to an ex girlfriend, next weeks holiday your looking forward too or thoughts about the present moment. These thoughts give rise to attachments from which a false sense of self is drawn.

How can you choose what you attach to?
The answer is, you can't. Because the illusion of self is made of attachments, anything that arises is attached to by the illusion. This is why resistance to the idea of no self is so strong. It almost sounds like science fiction. Really its not so difficult to comprehend, its just that so many attachments are formed and constantly drawn from it, that it literally seems insane to say there is no self. Fortunately however this discrepancy in reality and what we percieve as our experience can easily be reconciled by looking in reality with absolute honesty.

Since we have actually already looked in reality and seen there is no "you", no "ego", no "self" or any other entity behind the thoughts, actions and experience in any way, we can look at the subjective nature of thought and see how it tries to manifest objectively as a self.

Since there is no thing in reality that can be construed as self, we can deduce that "you" is composed of external references or labels which we will call attachments. As a thought pattern trying to manifest itself in reality, the illusion of self will take every opportunity to jump on to attachments. Thats why there is no choice about this, it is automatic. Thats why you can't conciusly choose to not feel hurt when you fall out with your lover for instance. Even if you hate their guts and you have humiliated them, why do you still hurt? It is through this attachment that suffering arises.

Where do thoughts originate?

A thought arising is the product of the mind. We can say thought is requisite in a human, in order to drive it towards survival. We see that in every species, an organism is hardwired to go towards survival and reproduce. Even if lemmings do self terminate, their drive in their useful lifespan is survival and replication and we even see in certain species that once mating occurs the organism dies. Evolution is ruthless but the drive towards survival and replication is the driving force behind an organism, we cannot deny this.

So when exactly do we NOT have thoughts related to survival? The answer is NEVER. The end product of every thought is rooted in survival and replication, we can take any thought you like and trace it back. The base level of the thought is rooted in the organisms drive towards survival and replication value, lets just call this S+R value for easy reference. Conversely, if we were not driven towards survival it would be counter intuitive that an organism would have thoughts about survival. We simply wouldn't have this capacity if it had no benefit to an organism. We have already seen from direct experience that when necessary, direct thoughts about survival do occur.

So I've got a few quid saved and I have a thought about buying the "Mona Lisa".
What has buying an expensive painting got to do with survival?
Lets look at the key things in terms of survival:

1. Its a status symbol. Displaying wealth can be helpful in displaying qualities or putting out a certain message to people. Whilst this is debateable in some circles, there is clearly a perception of this or else why would people feel the need to have status symbols. By displaying your status you are showing that you have higher status than others. This goes back to our evolutionary psychology. Our ancestors status symbols could have been animal skulls or bones through the nose. Higher status in the tribe often ensures more respect for your family (survival) and better pick of the gene pool. (replication).

2. You have an asset that will increase in value. If you sell it you have more bio - survival tickets (money), if you keep it and pass it on when you die, you are ensuring that your offspring  will have a greater chance of surviving. They will be able to cash it in for more bio - survival tickets or have the status symbol also. You have just given your offspring a better chance of surviving and having higher status in the human tribe.

What other things can we get out of this purchase?
What if you are a lover of fine art and you appreciate the picture or you have a big ego as it were and you want to look good to other people or impress your artsy fartsy friends? We can lump the latter with our S+R pile but as for the appreciation of fine art, is that something that you are passionate about or are you more interested in making people have this impression of you?

Hmmmm interesting, lets not forget to use total honesty by the way. We won't answer this one but if you look with absolute honesty with this, maybe you can get a good insight, if you don't cling to the delusion of self too hard.

Maybe your still not convinced yet anyway.

 Lets take a car. Now I'm going to buy a Ferrari but I'm not too sure, maybe I could just buy a Mercedes and pocket the difference. Both are status symbols but one has more status associated with it.

Which would you choose and why. Ok first lets live within our means, can we really afford the Ferrari or in fact is it going to affect our survival prospects? We may have to go without food at the end of each month and if I loose my job or am ill, I could get in to arrears. My anxiety will increase, I will have no bio survival tickets, my children will get anxious and my partner might get angry at me for getting us in to this mess. Is this what you really think?

Or does the thought "I can't afford it" just arise. If this is the case, (well it is with me anyway), where then is it rooted? The positive benefits of this purchase do not outweigh the negative impacts and perceived threat to the bio survival equilibrium. Hence the thought patterns are triggered to actualise the S+R drive. "I can't afford it" is taking you closer to survival.

Sometimes we witness that in some people, the drive towards survival can actually make them get in to debt as the perception of status is so important to them. People call them stupid but really all they are doing is following their drives and they are more susceptible to the affects of advertisers.

With the mercedes, I can afford the monthly repayments and I get the same perceived benefits but its no Ferrari never mind. Why don't you buy a second hand Ford Focus, they are really cheap right now.

So why don't you?

The bio survival equilibrium would be tipped heavily one way, with all that money left over you could invest it in to a few diferent pies, your kids could go to university and you can go on holiday next month.

Now heres the clincher...
Which one increases our perceived S+R value? Would it be the Ford? I think not. As I mentioned before, the basic drive in a human is to move towards survival and climb a status ladder of sorts, going back to our evolutionary psychological drives. Of course the survival benefits of ensuring your kids go to university and having a holiday next month to keep the wife happy are good and all but our status is not increased from doing this. We want the good feelings from purchasing consumer goods. Saving the money and buying the Ford ain't gonna cut it.
Our purchase of the Mercedes will be perceived to increase our S+R opportunities hence we have a situation where people are literally "chasing status" over and above all else.

The advertisers know this all too well.
Yeah thats right... you are being f**ked with big time. They are f**king with your head. They know you are hard wired in this way and all they are doing is simply manipulating you. It is genius really, it is so clever how it is done. How do you sell someone a new car? Make them think there is something wrong with the one they already have. Its like the fashion industry, it chops and changes so often, why is this really?

How do we know this is true?

Simply because if given the choice, you would have the Ferrari. You could argue that  you like the fact its faster and it handles better.

So I'll do you a deal, I'll make the Fiesta as fast as the Ferrari by putting a Ferrari engine in it, I'll uprate the shocks and make it handle just as well as the Ferrari.
Now which one would you choose?

Would you still tell me you prefer the look of the Ferrari? Ok To make it fair, I'll downgrade the Ferrari engine to a Ford Focus engine and downgrade the suspension and make it handle like the Ford Focus used to.

Which one would you choose now?
Hmm... now I've f**ked with things. The image you have in your head of each of the cars has been changed. It ain't the same thing your buying anymore. Theres a little more difficulty in the decision.


Its only a car I'm offering you.

A car you can use to get from A to B.

Nothing has changed there. However we have f**ked with the perceived image or the S+R value that you think can be derived from it. If your like me, you probably think that neither are really that appealing anymore.

Who cares now? No one knows or gives a f**k that the Ford is the same speed as the Ferrari. The Ferrari wouldn't feel the same now because it would have a farty little engine in it and the image that you were buying in to is not there. All those spotty boy racers would blow you away and people would probably chuckle when they heard the farty engine of your car and you would be cursing it when the top end of 120mph is reached on the motorway.

I've taken away the value of the luxury item and increased the value of the non luxury item. The advertisers work the other way around but we are merely doing a thought experiment. If all you wanted was a fast car that handled well, you could take the Ford and if you just wanted to potter around and look good you could take the Ferrari right?

To make up for it we will sell either car for the same price. Remember I've got a shotgun pointing at your genitals, you have to buy one :)

Ok so you drive away from my forecourt.... and take your new purchase home. So your friend comes round and sees the car on your driveway. "When did you buy the new Ford?"
Would be the first question asked. Just now you would say "and guess what"!
"Look at this".
You would excitedly open the hood and show the Ferrari engine crammed in to the Focus.
"How awesome is that? I've even had the shock absorbers uprated it handles the same too!".
"Yeah its cool and all but its only a Ford Focus".

Ok so you drive away from my forecourt... and take your new purchase home. So your friend comes round and sees the car on your driveway. "Wow!!! When did you buy the new Ferrari?"
Would be the first question asked. Just now you would say "It looks the part don't it"!
"Yes, it sweet, lets have a look at the engine"
"Err... look the seats are leather, check out the interior".
You would open the door and show your fiend the smart interior of your new car.
"How awesome is that?"
"Yeah its cool lets have a look at the engine then and lets take it for a spin".
You open the hood and there is the poxy little 6 cylinder engine.
"Its only a ford focus engine dude, this car is a fake".

Please tell me how you would feel in each situation. At the end of each of these little scenarios would it be safe to say you felt a little insulted and you would have to defend yourself? Would you volunteer to show the engine of the ferrari? Would you be able to contain yourself from telling everyone about the Ferrari engine in your Ford?

Yet the car says nothing about you?
Then why would you feel the need to defend it and sell its strong points and hide its weak points? What does the car say about you?
The problem is, you have formed an attachment with your car.

Yes an attachment.
An attack on the car, is actually an attack on your false sense of self. Thats why these comments would hit. Your judgement and sense of self would be called in to question and you would feel the need to defend this. Why, its only a car that you use to get from A to B?
At what point does a car become a part of you? Of course this is when the false self latches on to external objects, to create an illusion. These attachments are the mental construct of the illusion of self. Whether you like it or not you have formed an attachment. You don't have a choice in this.

To be continued....


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