the meditation on mara

mara is the omega to the alpha. Agent Smith to Neo. Mr. Nobody the busybody. The serpent seducing you to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The tail of the Ouroboros that has to be consumed to complete the circle of life.

mara is always at hand when you need him and when you don’t. He has handy easy-to-understand low negentropic answers to every question you have thought of, and to those you haven’t yet thought of.

He speaks of random walks in the dance of rationality. Of destinations the bridges to where have long been burnt.

Your refusal to commune with him is what he wants. Or maybe not. Call him in for a tete-e-tete and ask Ananda to make some tea.

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9 comments
  1. daku said:

    i love the “negentropic” and “ouroboros” – had to look them up. i guess i should not call myself jungian. great post … part philosophy, part poetry… keep on writing more!

  2. Unawoken said:

    Thanks daku!
    I am not very aware of the Jungian symbolisms of the ouroboros, except what it says on the wiki page.

  3. pseudopseudointellectual said:

    Says the joker to batman: I don’t want to kill you. What would I do without you?

  4. unawoken said:

    Private communication on email with a friend:

    Now, coming to your original cut and paste from the Oprah site:

    ” I suspect you’ve been advised to think rationally about your career
    decisions. That would be a big mistake. You might expect people with
    damage to the emotional parts of the brain, presumably free from the
    distractions of emotions, to be brilliant decision makers. Quite the
    opposite. Though they retain full use of their rational faculties,
    such patients are tragically indecisive, endlessly debating logical
    pros and cons, unable to choose any path. Their brains send out
    random, contradictory, and confusing directions, like my rogue GPS. It
    turns out that, as Jonathan Haidt writes in The Happiness Hypothesis,
    “it is only because our emotional brains work so well that our
    reasoning can work at all.”

    — Damasio is the researcher being alluded to. As Damasio has shown, if there is damage to the prefrontal cortex, people become extremely utilitarian, and take forever to decide on little inconsequential things (see buridan’s ass: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buridan's_ass) like where to have lunch. This is a sufficiently strong indicator that almost all our decisions are inherently emotional. The core drive to do any activity is emotional. If I didn’t care about critical thinking, or in logical analysis, I wouldn’t be doing it pro-actively, for instance.

    A “perfectly rational agent” needs goals. With no goals, there isn’t anything to be rational about. Now we should step down from this level, for there aren’t any perfectly rational agents. We are what psychologists and economists call “boundedly rational.” In other words, we are rational within little bubbles of circumscribed decision making.

    Within each decision-making circumstance, the question is, should we be more or less rational? Notice, in a Wittgensteinian manner, that the framing of this question is _rational_. In other words we want to offer a rational answer to this question, and therein lies a hint as to the utility of rationality.

    May be another way to break it down, would be consider long-term vs. short term benefits. Or to consider what it is that we want in life (utility).

    Rationality is a tool to get more of utility from life.

    Notice that “utility” itself is a non-rational good. This illustrates the strange yin-yang dance of rationality + emotion.

    The reason you want to be “more rational” at times, is to get more utility over the longer span of your life. Philip Zimbardo calls this “time orientation.” Research shows just one fact about kids i.e. whether or not they will forego one marshmallow now for getting two marshmallows later, strongly indicates their social+material success in the longer duration of their lives. Rationality is about making tradeoffs before writing down your final answer.

    Utility goes by many sub-categories. One of them is happiness. If being happy is a very big +, which it is for a lot of people, then consider this scenario:

    A is interested in music, however, you need to be 3+ sigma in order to make a very good living from music. A is not interested in programming, but you need to be > -1 sigma in order to make a decent living from programming. If A gets huge utility from music to compensate for the lower utility from a constrained lifestyle, then picking music is the rational thing to do. If A gets above average utility from music, but likes the comforts of life, then A is better off picking programming as a career choice, and this is a rational decision as well.

    The problem of course, is that future life is uncertain. Also, it is not easy to say you will like what you are going to have for dinner tonight, let alone if you will rapturously enjoy music for 60 years. Hence, the utilitarian calculations that go into these forward looking considerations tend not to be useful.

    Hence, self help gurus like Oprah advise you to go with “your gut.” Now, what that means is that you do not second-guess yourself, and you will probably have a good time, at least in the short run. Also, you give yourself a bit more chance to land in the 3+ sigma range. In a society like the US where failure is still not too terrible (lower middle class life in the US is not terrible, compared to say, India), it is actually not too risky (irrational) to bet on a music-career.

    The conscious system that overtly evaluates pros and cons is slow, mistake prone and doesn’t have the “real data” about how you “really feel”, and this is highlighted in “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt. This is because the brain is not like a CPU, it is more like a network, with limited connectivity among its parts. It is *by design* unaware of its own functions. Your “real motivations” can rarely “stand up” to get noticed by your conscious, evaluative, rational system. It must only rely on wild guesses on what you really want out of life or in your job or in the current decision making scenario.

    Hence, people who rely solely on their overt pro-con consideration, may end up being unhappier in the long term, since they did not account for the fact that their conscious mind was blind to major important considerations that matter to them.

  5. unawoken said:

    “The emotions, then, matter for rationality. In the dance of feeling and thought the emotional faculty guides our moment-to-moment decisions, working hand-in-hand with the rational mind, enabling — or disabling — thought itself. Likewise, the thinking brain plays an executive role in our emotions — except in those moments when emotions surge out of control and the emotional brain runs rampant.” — Daniel Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence”

  6. unawoken said:

    “Complex problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers.”
    — Henry Louis Mencken

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