Infrequently Asked Questions

These questions are rarely asked, which is unfortunate. I have gathered their answers here, for your edification.

Q. If I am navigating a high-dimensional space, how do I avoid getting lost?

A. Move slowly and observe as much as possible.

Q. Do I currently believe anything that is false?

A. Yes. Almost certainly. It would be very difficult to construct a functional worldview that operates in multiple social contexts without internalizing at least a few falsehoods or contradictions. Imagine how hard it would be to list everything you believe. That list would be massive. If you can’t even enumerate the list of things you believe, it seems a bit daft to believe that there’s no falsehoods on the list.

Q. If entropy guarantees the heat death of the universe, why should I bother folding my laundry?

A. If you do not fold your laundry, your clothes will not fit neatly into your dresser. Folding your clothes allows you to fit more of them in the same space. Also, your clothes will be wrinkly if you don’t fold them.

Additionally, folding your laundry means it’s in a lower entropy state. There are far more ways to have the clothes shoved randomly into the dresser than there are to have them folded neatly. By folding your laundry, you push the heat death of the universe out by some small fraction. You can reduce entropy further by using RGB ordering to sort your shirts.

Not today, entropy!

Q. How can I make any meal taste better?

A. Season all food with gratitude. Imagine the process by which the food came to you, and mentally thank every person and animal involved in feeding you. Your food will taste delicious! Also, a little bit of salt and pepper will bring out the natural flavor in most foods.

Q. Did I earn what I have in life? I worked hard to accomplish many things. I feel like I deserve the privileges I have.

A. Unless you invented language, clearly the answer is “no”. The work you have done in your life pales in comparison to the work done for you and the value provided to you free of charge. It may indeed be true that you’ve done far more work than most of your peers. It’s good to acknowledge that. Still, your labor amounts to pebbles atop a mountain of effort by our ancestors. Their world was far more brutal than ours, and they labored to build many of the good things available to us today.

Q. Do I have free will?

A. You have a limited capacity to selectively direct your attention in any given moment.

What you do in each situation is mostly up to the laws of physics; your body is part of a physical system that follows physical rules. Which situations you end up in, and which body you bring to them — that is partially up to you.

If you drive a car drunk, that decision was not made the night you got into the car. The decision was made gradually, in the years leading up to that moment. Each time you casually shirked small responsibilities here and there, you modified the physical configuration of your brain to make that action more habitual. Eventually you arrived in a risky situation with a brain configured to take the easiest path available to it. Forgive yourself and move forward, realizing that the smallest things you do have big meaning for those you love.

Folding your laundry regularly is therefore one way to avoid driving drunk. Focus on the benefits you’ll get from folded laundry, rather than the desire to just get the chore done. That momentary shift of attention is a small step in a positive direction.

Q. Are there any universal skills that make a person better at everything?

A. Being able to calm yourself reliably while you are stressed will make you better at everything you do. A close second is being good at telling stories.

Q. How do mental hospitals heal a person’s mind?

A. They don’t. The purpose of a mental hospital is to keep people who can’t function within societal norms away from the rest of society. They let you out when you can pass for normal, not when you’ve healed.

We are all suffering from psychological burdens and unprocessed trauma. Some more than others, of course. Passing for normal doesn’t mean a person is healthy. It just means they are less likely to infect others with expressed misery.

“How are you? Oh, I am fine thanks, how are you?” is not a lie. It’s a defense mechanism against the whole world giving up in the face of overwhelming suffering.

Also, they use lots of sedatives. Sedatives tend to calm a person down. Calm people move more slowly. They take smaller steps. They don’t get lost as easily.

Q. How can I be happier?

A. Habitual happiness is a skill that a person can learn. Think of it like a muscle that you can strengthen by exercising. Try to see the good in whatever you can. When you see the best aspect of an unpleasant situation, you feel better. Seeing the best in things becomes slightly easier. You will become happier as you practice framing things in a positive perspective.

As you practice this ability more frequently, it becomes easier and more automatic. I’ve been practicing this for a few years. Now, when I stub my toe or bump my head, I instinctively laugh. It’s awesome!

Try thinking of happiness like compound interest. Each time you find a positive perspective, you make a deposit in the bank. The bank (your brain) pays interest on those deposits by making that ability easier and more automatic. With more time, your default state will be happier, and it will become easier for you to return to a happy state.

Q. Are you crazy?

A. Sometimes.

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