Speedbumps

The trial and error, DIY, experience-it-yourself, go-out-and-actually-have-a-look method of doing things is a naturally occurring speedbump that has been vastly eroded in recent years by the widespread availability of both written and visual information about everything and anything imaginable.

Those annoyingly ingenious features of the urban landscape designed to consistently infuriate us by impeding our flow are actually there for the benefit of everyone.

I’ve come to view rituals and other “time-consuming” activities as both breaks and brakes, intended to force us to slow down and alert us to our over eagerness to rush through life physically and mentally.  The perceived inconvenience of any particular activity becomes its strength; an opportunity to take back what an efficiency addicted culture has robbed us of.

Nowadays even our rituals can be easily purchased, in an ironic twist of fate characteristic of a sick society (dis-ease = uneasy with itself and the rest of the world).

We no longer engage in anything of substance because it’s quicker and easier to buy and display symbols.  If I burn enough incense and place enough statues of Buddha around the house it’ll be easier to achieve enlightenment.  If I buy all the equipment and invest enough in accessories, then I won’t have to do all the hard work.  We are essentially trying to bribe our way around the speedbumps in order to get to our next destination as quickly as possible.  If we try to drive at 100mph over the speedbumps the journey becomes uncomfortable, reinforcing the idea that they’re something to be removed.  But if we slow down, it not only gives us a chance to take things in that we normally miss, but the very experience of passing smoothly over the bump provides an insightful contrast to the rest of the journey.

This is why I believe that we need to bring back and promote the creation of rituals around the ideas and events that are most important to us as human beings and as individuals.

Despite growing up in an industrialised age, in the late 80’s and 90’s at school we celebrated harvest festival every year, where everyone brought food along to donate to charity.  Our parents weren’t peasant farmers subject to the whim of the seasons, yet we had a ritual celebrating abundance which included giving to those who were less fortunate.

In a society that is ruled by the metaphor “time is money”, any activity or act that is not obviously and immediately related to productivity is considered a waste of time, and is often frowned upon.  I think this is one subtle reason people end up trying to convert what they are passionate about into a money-making endeavour, because based on the rules of the system anything that turns a profit becomes legitimised, whereas doing things for fun is seen as childish and inconsequential.  Meditation is only valid if it can be packaged and sold, and art is only worthwhile if it can be displayed in a gallery.  In this way we can begin to understand how a single metaphor can shape our experience and in turn, our actions.

In this new age there is no art, only “content” ; an amorphous, easily consumable by-product of our industrial metaphors.  There is no artist or human even, just a biological machine programmed to do its job and fulfil the needs of the hungry masses.  But just as food is consumed mindlessly and without chewing or appreciation, so too is the steady feed of content, never wholesome or nourishing enough to satiate us. (Funnily enough, Soylent, the liquid food alternative for busy people doesn’t require chewing either.)

So now we are at a crossroads, where either we put up a stop sign and some traffic lights, or we keep our foot down on the accelerator and hope that it doesn’t take its toll.

While the speedbump imposes practical limitations on how quickly something can be achieved, the benefit doesn’t come from making life increasingly inconvenient, but slowly arises from the realisation that by habitually rushing through every activity, including those that are supposed to be enjoyable, we fail to appreciate life because we are trying to make it happen sooner.  Furthermore, when we live at peace with the present moment we dissolve the idea of “wasting time”, because even if we spend effort attempting to reach a goal and we fail, by remaining present throughout the process we experience life to the fullest, which we gradually come to realise is more important than the results.  This could be summed up as:

“the journey is more important than the destination”.

If we think of the current status and trajectory of modern civilisation and its technology we could describe it as being efficiency and outcome-oriented i.e. “the results are more important than the process”, and “the ends justify the means”.

From this perspective, a mindful existence and lifestyle is not just at odds with the civilised environment, but is contrary to its guiding values and its core philosophy.

When you live by the metaphor “time is money”, the abstract concept of time is conceived in terms of the tangible object, money.  But money however, isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, but is symbolic of the power of self-sustenance, based on all of the necessities and things that help form our self-image that we could purchase with it.  This connection between the three concepts, time, money and self, helps explain the sense of deeply-felt urgency that accompanies life under the influence of such metaphors.  Wasting time i.e doing nothing to sustain your self-image is equivalent to both actual and metaphorical suicide, as if the ticking of the clock indicated our life force draining as in a computer game.

As long as we identify with our jobs, careers, hobbies and appearance and so on, we will always be uneasy with stillness, with non-striving, and with minimalist lifestyles that require less doing and more being.

Mobility, Metaphors and Cached Selves

06.11.17

The book Metaphors We Live By has been a great inspiration to me ever since I read it earlier this year.  One thing that came to light while reading was the way in which my relationship with my body was shaped by unhelpful metaphors.  The first that I noticed was the idea of mobility or flexibility as being an unobtainable object.  This idea of mobility as an object can be demonstrated by such phrases as “what will you do with your new-found mobility?” and “I’ve lost my mobility since last year” for example.  But for me, mobility wasn’t simply an object that you either have or do not have, it was impossible for me to get it no matter how hard I tried!

The second part of the metaphor describes a binary state which hides the reality that mobility is pretty much always present in varying degrees, as long as we remain alive.  When imagined as something perpetually out of reach the metaphor is successful in preventing me from exercising whatever mobility I do have, which is perhaps the most important point, especially as far as adaptation is concerned.  This isn’t just a philosophical idea; if we focus on what we lack instead of the things that we have available and perhaps take for granted, it’s quite possible that we let opportunity go to waste along with various physical and mental attributes.  Use it or lose it.

This realisation was like a fog suddenly lifting to reveal the sun that had been there all along.  I wasn’t at all as immobile and helpless as I had felt and acted, and instead of mobility being unobtainable it was an ever-present quality to be deliberately expressed.

The second metaphor that I unearthed dates back at least 10 years, and is one that more people can possibly relate to which is energy or strength as a limited resource.  While it is less obvious that this concept is a metaphor it works in similar ways to the first, which is that it limits our actions by conceptualising strength itself in a limited way.  In my own experience and no matter how absurd it may seem, what this meant was for me was that once again I failed to express what strength and energy I did have, and as my dad might say, I was “coming from a place of scarcity”.  I felt at the time, all those years ago, that I was almost “saving” my strength for some other, more important occasion that of course, never came.

As with the first metaphor, the implications are that by failing to express my strength I missed the opportunities for further growth that would have stemmed from regular, unrestricted use of what I already had.

Energy and strength are limited in a real sense, but the real-world restrictions are not well-represented by their metaphorical counterparts.

In my own case at least, it appears that metaphors were not the only things at work, and I suspect that consistency bias played a role too.  By proclaiming my inflexibility or weakness I would trap myself in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, propped up by cognitive metaphor.  Memories of myself declaring and acting in accordance with my apparent inflexibility would help form an almost unbreakable self-image over time.  Even if I attempted to change this image, it’s likely that my view of such attempts would be biased by my prior beliefs.  I.e. my beliefs would influence not only the quality and quantity of attempts to change, but my opinion of those attempts would also likely overstate the effort I put in while understating the results.  In this way, our past actions are used as a rough template of how we expect to behave in the future, which saves us the trouble of having to go out and create our self-image from scratch every morning.  The problem is we can get stuck with an undesirable self-concept and not know how to change it, or even realise we have it, as in the case of metaphor.

This is one reason I believe that much more importance should be given to psychological factors and influences when it comes to understanding one’s relationship with the body and exercise or movement.  The mind provides the foundation for a willing body to follow.

A final, more obscure example of how thoughts have influenced my behaviour also dates back at least a decade.  I recall a dream I had in which I found myself dancing in front of a large audience, where I was aware of being extremely self-conscious because I felt that everyone could see through me, as if the act of dancing rendered my thoughts and emotions visible.  Although this was a dream, at the time it made me realise that this was how I saw dance, and that I didn’t want to actually express myself in this way, or that perhaps I had just wanted to be different, to be someone and to feel something I would be proud to express.

This metaphor of dance as a display of emotion or of my “true self”, as it had felt to me in my dream, undoubtedly played a significant role in retarding my growth, just like the other metaphors seem to have done.  Feeling depressed, worthless and incapable, meant that as a reflection of these thoughts and emotions, dance itself became an act that reinforced my poor self-image, which in turn limited how I danced in public.  The circle was a vicious one.

Lately I have been dancing again, but from a new perspective, utilising more useful metaphors to promote a healthy self-image.  There is a lot of work to be done and a lot of harm to be un-done, but I am already beginning to feel physically and mentally different, in all likelihood due to a combination of my relaxation practice and a deliberate attempt to exercise and appreciate the qualities I already have.  Whatever the root causes, I am feeling more positive about the future.

Fast Food

01.10.17

I officially began a 7-day fast yesterday, although I had eaten very little the day before, and didn’t at all consume an evening meal.  I had experimented with fasting as a child, but no longer than a day at a time, and if I remember correctly my fasting periods were often during school hours.  I think it was my mother who once encouraged me to try, and I soon discovered how easy it was, and what’s more how I could save my lunch money to be able to afford a better meal the next day.  My motives were hardly spiritual or noble in any way, but it was nevertheless an unusual experience that further separated me from my peers.

I have challenged myself to do certain things over the years, most recently to live without time.  Not being tied to a routine job allowed me to remove all artificial evidence of time in the form of clocks, and to experience life according to the rhythms of nature, becoming more attuned to my own feelings and learning first-hand how much influence this powerful concept has over us.

On my first day of fasting I realised how much food and time had in common, and that much of our experience with food is tied to routine and expectation.  In the same way I had seen how time would dictate whether we ate or not, mealtimes themselves seemed to give meaning and order to the day, so that when eating (or time) is removed from the equation things fall apart and we are left feeling lost.  There are unexpected benefits to fasting that all amount to having more time on your hands, due to the fact that you no longer have to prepare food, eat, and clean up afterwards three times a day or more.  Now that’s something I could get used to.

My first day of fasting went smoothly until around 6 or 7pm when I began to feel very tired mentally.  I went to bed around 9:30 but had trouble sleeping, unable to shut off yet mentally exhausted.

When I woke up this morning I was still tired and felt physically weak as I went out to do my daily exercises.  When I came back in I lay down in bed as I didn’t feel any better and was also quite cold, which appears to be something that comes and goes throughout the day.  A little while later I drank some black tea but was sick shortly after.  At that moment, like many other people who have had one too many to drink, I told myself “never again”.  Surprisingly though, or not, if you think that one always feels better after chucking up a gut or two, I felt much livelier and more awake than I did before.

My day went from me thinking that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever put myself through, to feeling that it’s not so bad after all.  The hardest parts of the day are when my girlfriend cooks and the smell wafts in, more enticingly than ever.  I realised that I must have pretty good self-control though, as I don’t allow myself to dwell on the thought of food and have avoided making a lip-smacking mental list of all the thing I intend to feast upon once these 7 days are up.  Ok, at least not a complete list.

Today I saw how food, mealtimes and other related rituals are important for their symbolic aspects in ways that mechanical representations of time are not.  Food isn’t just a bunch of nutrients to be consumed as efficiently as possible, food is a vital symbol of self and group sustenance that not only concerns the end product in the form of a meal, but also encompasses the rituals and practices of hunting (sacrifice), harvesting (nurturing) and preparation.  This is why the metaphor of fast food extends much deeper than simply reduced cooking times, for the whole concept of food itself is reduced.

Recently I began not saying grace, but simply having a moment of often silent appreciation for the food and favourable circumstances that allow me to eat regularly.  Now into my fourth day of fasting my appreciation of food has grown even stronger, along with an awareness that every meal, every bite is an opportunity to enjoy the simple, necessary act of eating.  Bringing a consciousness to our eating habits and practices is another element missing from fast food culture, as we tend to consume our meals as rapidly as they are prepared.  There is a distinct lack of practice in savouring our nourishment and we treat carefully prepared meals just as fast food or protein shakes to be wolfed down out of necessity.  Fast food and the under appreciation of real cooking could be seen as a side effect of a time-bound culture that is both driven and sustained by convenience: we not only strive to make life more convenient for ourselves, but technology and modern infrastructures allow us to continue in this general direction by eliminating the need for effort and personal input, with an array of time-saving devices.  Convenience is all-encompassing, meaning that it is likely to affect multiple areas of your life.  It takes a lot of willpower and strong motivations to avoid becoming automatic when we live life according to the rigid routines of our jobs.  But instead of seeing a lack of time as the ultimate excuse for our failing to suck out all the marrow of life, we can instead take the opportunity and first steps towards a deeper appreciation of daily experiences as they are presented to us, and that moreover, we can liberate ourselves from a stressful sense of not having enough time.  For when you fail to enjoy the simple, humble occurrences that regularly pass you by, no amount of free time will satiate your hunger.

After being vegetarian for almost 30 years I became aware that I had slipped into a comfortable routine of eating the same things, despite enjoying cooking since I was a child when I would prepare 3-course meals for the whole family.

The closest I have come to making a new year’s resolution was saying to myself that I would pick up the recipe books and begin to experiment again, to change my diet and develop new tastes for the sort of things I’d habitually avoid due to prejudices and knee-jerk reactions.  Although I’ve yet to fulfil this non-resolution, my starved mind is eager to dive into this endeavour once I begin eating again.  My goal is to use the cookbook as a pre-defined constraint, meaning that I will follow all recipes and eat all meals, challenging my own consumption assumptions and expanding my knowledge and capacity for appreciation in the process.

I have already begun to venture outside the boundaries of my culinary norms with the discovery and joy of mushroom hunting last autumn.  I have never been a fan of cooked mushrooms due to their slimy appearance and texture, but realised that by developing a closer relationship to my food and also to nature, I became less repulsed and actually began to enjoy the smell and then taste of freshly-picked wild mushrooms.  Initially I would just help search for them, but later found it a bit of a shame to spend time collecting them without getting to savour the final product.  Now, not only have I been regularly eating mushrooms, but the proportion of my food that comes directly from nature and the garden as opposed to the supermarket has significantly risen, although remains relatively small for the time being.

I find it strange how something so important as the production of food has become so obscure and alien to the general population.  Not only are people ignorant of how to prepare their own food, they are also oblivious to the origins of their ready meals and constituents, and children fail to correctly identify vegetables, let alone know how to grow them themselves.

There appears to be a great source of untapped personal power, respect and gratitude in cultivating a more food-centric culture that re-connects humans to the earth through healthier (for body and mind) practices for eating and consuming.  Instead of merely waiting at the table with an eager knife and fork, the human must re-invest himself in all parts of the process.

Before beginning my foodless journey I had read that when fasting for a week or more the first days are the most difficult and then things het easier, but in my experience it was the opposite.  In the beginning I was able to function normally, to exercise and continue my daily routine without much difficulty and with a clear head.  As the week progressed I became much weaker and my calves felt like every step was a workout for some reason, and time itself slowed to a crawl.  Standing made me dizzy and I lost the desire to do anything, remaining seated and relatively motionless during the final days.  Strangely, throughout the fast I woke up before sunrise and didn’t feel like I needed as much sleep as before, despite being physically weaker.

I decided to end my fast early as I felt that there was nothing more to be gained from continuing in such a state, so on the morning of the 6th October, six and a half days after my improvised fast began I ate a banana.  That very instant I began to feel life return to my body, and I realised that this was the closest I had ever come to dying.

A week later and now everything seems like ancient history: distant and impersonal, yet I have created new boundaries for myself by removing one of life’s most essential comforts, and in the process altered my perspective.

Feeling Relaxed, Overreacting, and Acute Solutions

11.09.17

I thought of a benefit to my DIY relaxation method that hadn’t occurred to me until yesterday.  I was using my pulley setup for the first time, which simply comprises one strap borrowed from my gymnastics rings, and a horizontal bar not much higher than my maximal reach.  A slipknot in the end of the strap can be easily adjusted, and a weight attached to the opposite end to minimise the amount of effort that the pulling arm must make.  A bar is preferred over a beam for example, as the movement of the strap must be as smooth and friction-free as possible.

With my leg suspended at the knee to its maximum height, I realised that sucessfully being able to relax, especially quickly and in end-range positions, should really be a pre-requisite for trying to stretch in them.  While this may seem glaringly obvious, it raises the question “what do you think stretching is?”, and I now realise that I had perhaps always associated stretching with not relaxation, but end-range resistance.  The question then becomes “how far can I move (in which directions) while remaining relaxed?”, and this is something that the use of the pulley system can answer directly.

I have intentionally avoided the use of a training partner for two reasons:

  1. Working alone allows you to go at your own pace and to change the parameters to exactly match what you feel, without having to vocalise and constantly relay that information to an outside party.
  2. The ability to work alone means that this method can be used by anyone, and emphasises self-reliance.

What becomes increasingly apparent is that there are two different states:

Feeling relaxed

Being relaxed

“Feeling relaxed” can be thought of as “normal”, or our baseline.  We tend to think of ourselves as being at ease when we are immobile, which means that by living sedentary lives we become disconnected from actual relaxation.  If we return to my personal example of stress in which I had little or no conscious awareness of it, we could say that I had conflated feeling relaxed and being relaxed.

The purpose of this system therefore, is to create an acute awareness of the differences between tension (stress) and relaxation, and to re-calibrate our senses so that feeling relaxed correlates maximally with being relaxed.

When using the pulley system I worked slowly raising and lowering my arm for a maximum of two repetitions over the course of perhaps ten minutes.  When working slowly it seems that we can be fooled by change blindness which essentially means that it is difficult to be aware of a tension that builds slowly, compared to suddenly.  In this way, I would arrive at a point and then abruptly realise that I was not completely relaxed, and unable to pinpoint when exactly I began to create tension.  When this happens I simply return to a previous position and slowly begin the ascent or descent again.  With this in mind, a single “rep” is not really just a concentric and eccentric movement, but a series of back-and-forth explorations, constantly checking to see if and where there is tension.

There are different logical applications for this knowledge (sensitivity) and technique which encompass all activity and non-activity.  This is because we often form habits in the shape of physical reactions and muscular tensions which are unnecessary and can be detrimental in the long-term.  Frowning, squinting, clenching the teeth and tightening the jaw, hiking the shoulders up and even holding the breath are all seemingly small habits that amount to unnecessary tension manifested in an array of reactions and areas of the body.

If these are our responses to certain stresses and situations it seems possible that by undoing or eliminating these tension-reactions we can change our mental states and reduce stress.  This idea is a logical extension of such experiments that show by making a forced smile (by holding a pen in the mouth) participants found comedies funnier for example.  Furthermore, the experiments that found by recreating the conditions of attraction (increased heart rate for example), they could make someone appear more attractive, also seem to hint that human psychology is a two-way street that can easily be manipulated.  It is as if the brain recognises that there is a tendency for conditions to occur in tandem, for example a smile often occurs when we find something funny, without there being an awareness of causation.  Smile = Funny, and Funny = Smile as far as the brain is concerned they are linked, so we can either smile when we are amused, or exploit the fact that if we smile we will find our experiences more amusing.

In my own experiments I had already noticed this idea of “X appears in the presence of Y”, in the form of “a bent arm occurs in the presence of bicep tension” for example.  Initially, by passively bending the arm, the biceps would contract, although they were not needed.  But as I progress, instead of exploiting this two-way relationship, I am actually deliberately severing the connection.

From a psychological perspective this is exciting because if ultimately successful and transferable it could mean that we can train ourselves out of certain automatic responses that function in this way.  This is a useful tool for those interested in self-defence against the dark arts, and may provide a starting point for further self-experimentation of this kind.

As my training continues, the next step, after total relaxation through all ranges is achieved, is to gradually increase the speed of the movement.  At present there is no sudden force being exerted on my limbs that may cause them to tense up in response, but as the speed of the movement, and consequently the speed of the transition from being still to being manipulated increase, there is an increased chance of re-action to that force.  This is why it is important to begin and remain at slow speeds for the muscles (and brain) to properly adapt to these new states.  Once the limbs can be passively moved at high speed, incorporating active tension and relaxation can truly begin.

When lifting my hand with the strap I noticed that there was a split-second where the strap went from loose to taking up the slack and beginning to support the weight of my hand, and my muscles sort of “flinched” in response.  This is the same reaction I had when passively touching objects with a relaxed limb – it would tense up and try to take over the movement, to be the one in control.

If the stretch reflex is fundamentally a built in safety mechanism in order to prevent damage to the joints and soft tissues, it seems reasonable to suppose that automatic tension and therefore movement, has at least some basis in preventing damage and even death of the entire organism.  Blinking, flinching and curling up or ducking are all untrained movement responses that did enough to significantly aid our ancestors in surviving longer.

Humans are experts at re-purposing and manipulating their environments and everything in them, and martial arts are just one example of how for centuries people have been using our innate biology to adapt the body for our own specific goals, strengthening the bones and training the reflexes.  Now it seems that if we are unable to change our stressful circumstances, or vacate stressful environments, in order to survive we must change our knee-jerk reactions to the stressors themselves.

By realising that stress and the ability to experience it without long-term negative effects is relative, that there is no universal standard for what is or should be stressful or stress-free.  It allows us to set our standards high, while accepting our current levels.  Looking around at all the manner of seemingly stressful things humans are capable of doing; bungee jumping, public speaking or even just leaving the house, we should get a sense of how fluid this ability is and understand that we too can alter where the metaphorical ceiling is for our own benefit.

Overreacting

If for a moment we allow ourselves to thing metaphorically and consider muscular tension and stress to be “strong” reactions, with stress being a state of chronic tension arising from such strong reactions, we could think of hatred as being a strong reaction too.  We are all familiar with emotional over-reaction, melodrama, hyperbole and generalisation, but what if these were all just inefficient responses?

There is an emotionally different quality to hating something compared to simply disliking it, but beyond that, both are just labels.  As in the case of the manufactured smile, what if the act of labelling, verbally or otherwise, became the source of our emotional responses instead of the other way around?  We could effectively alter our reactions by consciously choosing our language.  Just as clenching our teeth can become a habit, so too the act of using certain labels to describe our common experiences becomes habitual (labelling itself is often a habit).

Another, more abstract example of overreacting is how we deal with information.  Do you immediately believe or even disbelieve what you hear?  Seen in this way, contrarianism is a specific overreaction to believe or think or do whatever is opposite to the stimulus, and gullibility is the strong reaction to instantly believe.

We could therefore draw a parallel between my psycho-physical relaxation method and the purely psychological domain of rationality.  From a rational perspective we must allow ourselves to be moved by evidence, but not more so than is justified.  Biases are tensional tendencies that are at work automatically whether we are aware of them or not.  By achieving and beginning from a relaxed, unbiased state, only then can we have appropriate reactions to all manner of stimuli.

I see this state as being akin to the selfless emptiness which certain religions use meditation to try and achieve, except that in my case the physical relaxation and rationality skills have their techniques not only well-defined and free of metaphysical connotation, but they are grounded in empirical findings and not esoteric tradition.

Taking the metaphor of strong reactions further still, we can easily begin to see how we live in a society that habitually overreacts.  We eat too much food as an overreaction to hunger in the face of abundance.  Did you hear the joke about the man who went to the all you can eat buffet and only satiated his hunger?  [Side note: it is well documented that trying to go food shopping on an empty stomach will greatly increase your chances of falling victim to hunger-related strong reactions.]

The tendency to rely on medication is an overreaction of not just the healthcare system and its providers, but of individuals everywhere who self-medicate with everything from off-the-shelf stimulants to off-the-street narcotics and surgical interventions.  We could become vegan for ethical reasons or we could do so because we heard that meat causes cancer.  Same result, different reaction.

Politics is a system of strong reactions that relies on the fact that people vote favourably for politicians who are seen to have strong reactions.  “The war on_____” is an obvious example of the type of response that wins voters, and in true form, elicits a strong contrarian reaction from others.  It’s as if politics were a system for creating answers that only allows minimal picking and choosing from two extremes and absolutely no dilution.

Careers themselves are often strong reactions to the fact that we need food and shelter to survive.  Once our basic needs are well met we begin veering into buffet territory, and our consumption habits become an inappropriate response to an abundance of financial wealth.  The modern job is the knee-jerk reaction to the various perceived threats to our security and that of our status.

We must remember that strong reactions are unnecessary, automatic, and therefore often unconscious, and harmful to long-term physical, mental and epistemic health.

Acute Solutions

It appears to me that there are two distinct methods for achieving whatever goals we may have, and I call them “acute” and “chronic”.  Having an operation to staple your stomach and remove a portion of your intestines in order to lose weight is the acute solution.  Changing your diet, exercise, and ultimately lifestyle in order to accommodate weight loss and healthy habits is the chronic solution.

In every case there is an instant or “shock” treatment that is often violent and drastic in its implementation, and a “soft” treatment that relies on small, incremental changes over time.  With this in mind we can examine the behaviour of modern civilisation in a new light.

We all would like to change at least something about ourselves, and with advancements in technology it seems to be our appearance that we are most biased towards.  While plastic surgery is the epitome of the acute solution, we are increasingly tempted by other acute methods, or at least those claimed to be, for becoming the person we want to be, or at least for looking like them.

Do you want to lose 20lbs in just 2 weeks with this one simple trick?  Do you want to have washboard abs without dieting OR exercise?  Then you have bought into acutist ideology, where anything can be obtained near-instantly, without the need for hard work, especially, god forbid, physical labour.

While false advertising abound, the sentiment is clear: people don’t want to spend their time and effort on achieving things that would normally take time and effort to achieve.  If a healthier, happier you is only 1-click away, then that’s 1-click too far.

Beyond being lazy and devaluing that which is achieved or obtained, the acutist mindset fosters overconsumption, an over-reliance on technology, and a diminished appreciation of the self and one’s own capacities.

The most common, or perhaps just the most radical, and therefore noticeable form of transhumanism is the acute branch.  Here, technology in the form of pills, implants, gene therapy and other theoretical solutions are awaited with baited breath like apple fans queuing for the latest iteration of their favourite gadget.

Acute transhumanists see the problems or lack of features on current humans, and see technology as providing the right answer, or perhaps just the quickest fix for them.

Not every problem has an adequate chronic solution though.  If we take our health for example, we wouldn’t want to wait to overcome cancer or aids even if that was an option, we’d prefer the instant, heal-me-now kind of treatment.  But this kind of scenario seems relatively rare compared to all other possible uses for acute transhumanist interventions.

I see myself as a transhumanist from the perspective that humanity has the potential to be much greater than it currently is, but where I differ is the why and how.

I see humans as collectively expressing an amazing range of ideas, capabilities and characteristics – we are as impressive physically as we are intellectually, yet on an individual level many, if not all of these facets are underdeveloped, unrealised and repressed.  I see the totality as being a marker of what the individual is capable of achieving without having to dedicate their life to being a specialist in a single domain.  We are born with an array of mundane special powers that eventually atrophy through non-use, and so we default to the external power, the internal upgrade, the technological add-on.  If we haven’t even scratched the surface of our current form it seems misguided and even condescending to think that an artificial enhancement is necessary or will help.  I think the danger is twofold: that humankind never explores or even discovers its current greatness, allowing its abilities to wither and become a historical mirage, and that we continue down the path of technological dependence, instant self-gratification, laziness, and a devaluation and de-emphasis of humanity, until the day we become self-worshipping robots.