Equations for Living
Armchair Philosophy by Outlandish Josh
This is a pretty central piece of my personal ontolgy. You might or might not find it useful or interesting. My friend Jeremy once observed sagely, "these self help books are all saying things that are deeply profound, yet incredibly trite, like 'it's good to be nice to people' or 'you shouldn't tell lies.'" It's true. I also wrote a performance piece about this equation.
- Cogito ergo es, otherwise the rest of this is not worth doing
- Life is made up of experience
- Experience is relative
- Experience is everything we're conscious of, including the feelings of which we are conscious that are generated by things of which we're not
So! Here goes: Fantasy + Reality = Experience
Reality is the collection of things that are objectively facts, the things that we all more of less share in common. Fantasy is the layers of story and myth and history and image that we perceve this reality through. That perception is what I'm calling experience.
So this is pretty important. Experience is the stuff of life. What are you doing when alive if not experiencing something? I tend to believe that the ability to experience (be it with or without senseory input) is the distinction between life and death, both literally and figuratively. Biological death certainly results in a cessation of experience, but you might also gauge the quality of your biological life by the quality, intensity and variety of your experience.
This also tells us how we can exercise agency over our experience. Do adjust experience, one must alter either reality or fantasy. There are many things in reality we might like to change (e.g. the weather is shitty and we have a chump for president and I'm not affluent), but reality is in general difficult to transform. We don't have a lot of control over it. What we have a lot of control over is our fantasies, the fantasy that cloudy skies are boring, that Bush's presidency presents us with no positive opportunities, that having money is essential to having fun. Change these fantasies and you change the outcome of your experience equation.
On the one hand what I'm arguing is just the simple old "always look on the bright side/life is what you make it" line, but in another way, this paradigm can be much more pragmatic and powerful. If you imagine that the experience equation is a recursive one, one that's constantly being made and re-made based on the changing moment, you can then see how to effect reality by mobilizing the power of experience by tweaking fantasy. This is essentially how change happens: there's a perceptual shift (a change in fantasy) that begets a change in experience. The change in experience begins to present different actions (different realities) as possibilities. Since the equation must balance, the further you're able to push the fantasy/perception variable, the better results you'll get in the reality department.
In other words, reality (which is a shared variable) can be expressed as a function of a population's collctive experience minus the aggregation of fantasies they live with. So pick an issue you want to address. For instance, the reality that humanity is rapidly degrading the earth's ecosystem could be expressed as a function of the experience of relative natural plenty coupled with a fantasy that this experience is neverending or that some scientific advancement will come along and save us.
As I wrote in the performance text that I wrote around this concept:
Change your reality, shave your head, move, eat a new food, or find a new fantasy, believe in love, in opportunity, in your fellow human, and you change your experience. Change your experience, change a lot of experiences, reclaim he dignity of a lot of experiences, and you can change a lot of reality. Then you too can move the heavens and the earth.
Take that one to heart.