It is said that the human being is a creature of habit. The word “habit” is derived from a root word meaning what one wears.
So, one can imagine that as one carries out the daily practices of meditation, physical exercise and reflection, one builds a protective garb around oneself. This comes in handy when dealing with real life problems.
The stoics advocated the practice of thinking about all the ways things can go wrong. In mentally thinking of all the ways things can go wrong, one can prepare oneself mentally for worst case scenarios. One can even mentally prepare some measures to address such scenarios.
Similarly, exercising one’s body and eating healthy foods on a daily basis also prepares one to face any potential issues later in life.
In approaching a problem to be solved, it is beneficial to think of patterns which are applicable. One needs to have some experience in solving problems.
After a number of years of figuring out solutions, one becomes better at recognizing patterns which apply for the problem under consideration. It appears that one of the main strengths of human consciousness is that we can recognize patterns quite well in nature and in daily life when solving problems.
Where do ideas come from? I still do not know. However, it appears that the human mind can come up with innovations and marvels when needed.
The saying “necessity is the mother of invention” appears to be mostly true. But often, there is no direct correlation between the problem being faced and the solution which was found.
The problem can be something ‘X’. The solution which comes to mind will actually be applicable to a different problem. As long as the solution is useful and helps people solve problems, it becomes a success.
Oftentimes, the modern mind wants to shield itself from the bad things occurring in the world. Overprotection appears to have become more common. However, one needs to realize that evil exists in the world.
The Puranas explain the existence of evil using the idea that the world has entered an age of vice (Kali Yuga in sanskrit). Hence it is urged to keep this in mind and to follow the righteous path towards enlightenment.
Sacrifice has been a common motif in every religious tradition. Ancient Vedic rituals involved sacrificing real animals thousands of years ago when they began. However, as time went on, the sacrifices changed to more symbolic representatives of animals.
As humans evolve, it appears that the idea of sacrifice is a continuing one. But as civilization has progressed, the human mind has come to realize that sacrifices can be made on a more abstract and conceptual level.
One of the sure ways to know when I’m about to make mistakes is when I suddenly feel super-clever and feel like I can do anything. In most cases after such a feeling comes, I end up doing something I regret.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is the cognitive bias which makes one overestimate one’s own cognitive abilities. One needs to keep this in mind and watch for such occurrences. It could save one much embarrassment later.
Watching for one’s own ego (as it usually ends up harming oneself) should be one of the practices and routines one follows regularly as recommended by stoics such as Seneca.
When thinking of how innovations are made, one might think that this is done by some genius suddenly thinking up a miraculous idea. However, this is rarely how it happens.
For example, Penicillin was discovered “by accident” by Alexander Fleming in his lab at St. Mary’s Hospital, London after having slaved away at tinkering and experimenting for a couple of decades.
Similarly, one can imagine the marvels of the future to be invented by tinkerers and practitioners who put in the hard work which is essential for innovation.
When things go awry or something unexpected happens, one can either interpret it as good or bad depending on one’s attitude. If it is good, one usually celebrates and enjoys the moment. If the thing is interpreted as bad, one can do a few things:
- Blame the world itself
- Blame other people in the world
- Examine one’s own doings and habits. This is the most difficult one. In doing so:
- Figure out what one may have done that may have contributed to the unexpected occuring
- Figure out how one could correct oneself
- Examine one’s thinking and figure out if one could react in any other way.
Situations are not simple in many cases. Things may turn out as they are because of a combination of one’s own doings, the doings of others and other things out of one’s control.
In any case, the best attitude seems to be that no matter what happens, one should try to accept it with equanimity even though this can be very hard.
As Nietzsche put it:
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
In the millions of years of evolution that humans have been through, the moment when we realized that the future exists was quite significant. This idea cannot be emphasized enough.
Other animals do not have a concept of the future. They live day by day and only live on survival mode.
However, the human brain has developed enough that one can grasp that there is actually a tomorrow. So, one realizes that by making some sacrifice today, the future can be made better.
Thus humans work and save and build families so that they can live comfortably in the future. Humans could then move from mere survival mode to the comfort & prosperity mode. This is thanks to the millions of years of evolution of our brains and the development of consciousness to what it is today.
The idea of consciousness is not fully understood today by human beings. One of the reasons could be that we are using the very tool to study itself. Kant posited that human beings can only interpret sense data using an apriori structure. Since the 1960s, research in artificial intelligence has revealed that an embodiment is a requirement for any level of intelligence to work in, say, a robot. It appears that humans have been pondering about consciousness for a long long time.
There is an ancient Indian idea about the nature of ultimate reality In Sanskrit, it is called brahman. There is a school of thought which states that this ultimate reality is formless and without attributes. This school is called the advaita or nondual school. There is another school known as the samkhya school, who are strict dualists and posit the existence of two entities: a primordial nature (prakriti) and a consciousness (purusha) which gives life to this nature.
It is interesting to think about the idea of consciousness taking into account the modern research in combination with the above and other ancient ideas.