On “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person”

This is about this article: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person/

More specifically this statement: “The World Only Cares About What It Can Get from You”

This type of utilitarian thinking seems to be more and more prevelant. In this case the author argues that since we need things, the only reason others exist is for us to get things from them.  

It can be tempting to say that we work in a deterministic fashion like such. It would in a sense simplify human behaviour. It would make the understanding of human behaviour relatively simple, you could always look and have a clear answer to why someone did something. But let’s assume like this article does that we are in a Western society where most of the time the basic needs are met. I believe the article takes this for granted, because what he goes on to describe that what we are really looking for is happiness and for him, we will receive this from others via love or admiration via our accomplishments (mostly our career).

But I think research has shown that this isn’t true. A General theory of Love is a very good book on the subject that helped me accept that we all needed others and that we couldn’t live as independent individuals, but needed others to “love” and not just in the traditional sense of romantic love but in the friendship sense of love. This as opposed to needing others in the purely utilitarian sense, such as to fix my car.

You can find it here: http://www.amazon.ca/General-Theory-Love-Thomas-Lewis/dp/0375709223

It talks a lot about the 3 sections of the brain. Here is a primer:

The reptilian brain, the oldest of the three, controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile’s brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum. The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive. The limbic brain emerged in the first mammals. It can record memories of behaviours that produced agreeable and disagreeable experiences, so it is responsible for what are called emotions in human beings. The main structures of the limbic brain are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus. The limbic brain is the seat of the value judgments that we make, often unconsciously, that exert such a strong influence on our behaviour. The neocortex first assumed importance in primates and culminated in the human brain with its two large cerebral hemispheres that play such a dominant role. These hemispheres have been responsible for the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness. The neocortex is flexible and has almost infinite learning abilities. The neocortex is also what has enabled human cultures to develop.

And here are a few key quotes:

“Our society’s love affair with mechanical devices that respond at a button-touch ill prepares us to deal with the unruly organic mind that dwells within. Anything that does not comply must be broken or poorly designed, people now suppose, including their hearts.”

“A person cannot direct his emotional life in the way he bids his motor system to reach for a cup. He cannot will himself to want the right thing or to love the right person or to be happy after a disappointment, or even to be happy in happy times. People lack this capacity not through a deficiency of discipline but because the jurisdiction of will is limited to the latest brain and to those functions within its purview. Emotional life can be influenced, but it cannot be commanded.” 

“Even after a peak parenting experience, children never transition to a fully self-tuning physiology. Adults remain social animals: they continue to require a source of stabilization outside themselves. That open-loop design means that in some important ways, people cannot be stable on their own – not should or shouldn’t be, but can’t be. This prospect is disconcerting to many, especially in a society that prizes individuality as ours does. Total self-sufficiency turns out to be a daydream whose bubble is burst by the sharp edge of the limbic brain. Stability means finding people who regulate you well and staying near them.”

Now let’s add another thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg

In this video, people who expressed gratitude to others, who thanked them for all the wonderful things they did for them, became happier themselves.

Now at this point some readers may ask “What is the difference between using people for your own means to sell real estate to derive your happiness versus using them to limbically stabilize you or to show gratitude onto them. Are you not still in some way using them?”

I Would argue that the overall level of happiness in the world is better in one of those scenarios. I don’t think we can equate things such as Alex Baldwin’s speech about how he needs you to sell real estate to sharing a moment cuddling with a friend where you are both just relaxed and at peace with the world. Those things aren’t the same.

Some of the other points in the article are worth while especially things inside #1. But I think the article doesn’t take into account the complex symbiotic relationships we have with each other. We do not just want things, we also want to be wanted. The world doesn’t only care about what it can get from you. It also cares what it can give to you.

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