Principle 7, second week
This month’s Principle is #7 from chapter 13 of the book (The Inner Look). It is also called “The Principle of Immediate Action” it says: “If You Pursue An End You Enchain Yourself. If Everything You Do Is Realized As An End In Itself You Liberate Yourself.”
Our focus this week is how the principle applies in our present situation. Over the next weeks we’ll look at how I applied it or could have applied it in the past, how it might apply in my current situation, how I imagine it might in the future.
Here’s some personal considerations about this principle. I hope they prove useful in your own reflections. This week we turn to neurochemistry for a little inspiration.
Because what follows is based on empirical, scientific studies some words of warning are in order. Now, that might seem strange, after all, isn’t scientific evidence synonymous with truth, or at least reliability. Of course in some ways it is. But such evidence is a claim, and as such requires scrutiny. On top of that these kind of statements aren’t necessarily true or false. Can’t they sometimes be more or less true, more or less scientific, etc. That is to say, what’s being claimed as evidence or science admits degrees of rigour and accuracy. In recent years reviews of “scientific” studies find a very large percentage don’t stand up to much scrutiny. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of good science but, among other things, doing science requires funding, and funding all too often requires political maneuvering, previous publishing, new, surprising or “useful” results, etc. Even without the financial pressures of maintaining a lab, and all that, scientists like other humans can be very competitive, and will go to great lengths to gain respect from their peers, and prestige in their field. It’s no surprise that all too often, flawed studies are not the consequence of flaws in science itself, but rather flawed human beings working in flawed institutions.
I for one don’t feel we require scientific support for the principle which says, “in the pursuit of ends we enchain ourselves”. It’s a truth that can be realized in the laboratory of your heart. I have observed that in the measure I lower the noise in my head, and learn to register the activities of my consciousness clearly (e.g., try not confuse being lonely with being hungry, or being afraid with being tired, etc) I have an adequate lab for my own experiments in this field. My interest in the kind of research discussed below is largely because I hope it might inspire me to think about the principle in new ways.
While thinking about the overall structure of this principle I came across some intriguing scientific research about the neurotransmitter dopamine. That’s one of those chemicals that are key for the brain; regulating many things including pleasure and addiction. Its a substance that’s often in the news. It often comes up in articles where they say things like: eating strawberries is as addictive as cocaine. Nonetheless, it really does seem to play a key role in many internal process. So here’s the thing: as you anticipate things you desire the dopamine level increases reflecting the pleasure tied to your image of attaining your desired end — whatever it may be. That’s understandable, our pleasure is tied to the object of our desire. What’s a bit more surprising is what happens next. Just as you draw near the end you are pursuing suddenly the dopamine level drops and an all too familiar kind of sadness or disappointment sets in. Do you know that feeling? I sure do and I don’t think I’m such a rare specimen.
This dopamine rollercoaster seems to be at least one of the physiological mechanisms that makes it certain that: “If You Pursue An End You Enchain Yourself. If Everything You Do Is Realized As An End In Itself You Liberate Yourself.”
These notes have been sent to the email list of The Community of Silo’s Message Toronto Annex, and posted on Facebook, as well as on my blog at www.dzuckerbrot.com
We’d all love to hear your comments, thoughts about, considerations of, or artwork inspired by, any of this.