Soul Music

SoulDo we have a soul?  An internal essence that makes us who we are?  A single self that contains all of our morals, ethics and personality.  Or are we just a calculating machine that functions almost entirely on autopilot and picks from a variety of different selves to suit the requirements of the current environment?  It’s a very human thing to feel like an individual and have control over who we are and what we do but you are not as in control as you think you are.  Your brain is lazy and, given the opportunity, it will always take the path of least resistance.  Rather than looking at hard evidence and statistics on a given subject and forming sensible conclusions.  The right – and fully automated – side of your brain provides intuitive heuristics.  These are short cuts that it uses based on previous experiences you have had of a similar type (intuition is just recognition or familiarity) and, provided the left side of your brain – the bit you control – agrees that there is enough coherence between these shortcuts and the problem at hand, that’s what is offered up as the truth.  It’s a lot like complex versions of the algorithms Facebook or Spotify use to decide what you like  and what might be of interest to you.  If your brain feels cognitive ease (low work load) and the associative coherence is solid, that’s good enough.  It doesn’t matter if actual evidence says otherwise.

If your brain is this lazy it seems unlikely that it is going to carve out a fully functioning, one of a kind self or accommodate an entirely separate spirit or “soul”.  Your morals and ethics are mostly just ideas that appeal to you from various sources such as your parents, teachers, TV, books…etc and these are fluid and change all the time when you find new options that take your fancy more.   Your “self” is just the same.  An ever-changing entity that serves the purpose required at the time.  A famous Thomas Cooley quote says,

“I am not who I think I am, I am not who you think I am, I am who I think you think I am”.

When you are around other people the automated right side of your brain is constantly monitoring the situation as it happens and making adjustments.

“Do the people around me seem happy?”, “are they interested by what I am saying?”, “Do I look good in what I’m wearing?”, “Does that guy think I’m chatting his girlfriend up?”, “Do I like the people around me?”, “Those people over there look more fun”, “I’m bored with this conversation, maybe it’s time to leave”.

All of these perceptions are taking place without your control but they are also shaping the person you are at any given moment.   I am not the same person when I am talking to an attractive single girl in a bar as I am when I am talking to a potential employer in an interview or if I am being condescended to by someone who I don’t really like or if I am trying to comfort a frightened child.  You are basically a biological robot who makes constant calculations and adjustments to who you are and what you believe all the time.  This process enables us to mould ourselves to suit the environment and is one of the many reasons we are so much more successful than other animals.

This behaviour is very tribal, dates back a long way and has its roots in our attempts to work our way up the tribal hierarchy by behaving in ways deemed favourable by our tribal superiors in the hope that we might make our way up the ladder of power and gain preferable choices of partners to mate with and earn more influential and useful friends.  We still do it now except it’s usually in the pursuit of “likes” for pictures depicting us having better lives and being more attractive than our peers that we post on social media.

The feeling of having a soul is, most likely, the best explanation we have as to why we are conscious.  Consciousness make us aware of ourselves almost like we are the pilot of our own bodies and minds.  It has been defined variously in terms of sentience awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel wakefulness having a sense of selfhood or soul.  There is, as yet, no solid explanation for it.  It is both the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives.  There is certainly a large debate as to what degree other species experience consciousness and because of this we humans consider ourselves to be superior and we like that feeling.  The soul is what makes us different to them.  So much so that we often find it hard to think of ourselves as being animals at all.  Religion has a huge presence in human history and teaches us that our soul was a celestial gift that God gave to man as he created us and that eternal bliss or damnation awaits it after the physical body dies.

I would argue that what we think is our soul is actually just the narrating left side of our brain doing it’s best to make sense of the constant stream of thoughts and information churned up by the automatic right side.  The left side of our brain, as well as maths and logic, handles what is called ‘thinking in words’ where we think about things linguistically which could appear to be another internal entity talking to you.  We literally live most of our lives on autopilot and our brain does nearly everything we require itself.  Seeing colours, recognising objects, having spacial awareness, hearing sounds and identifying them, making us feel fear or joy or hunger, choosing what or who we like or dislike the look of.  It just gathers up information as it goes and pieces it together to form a bank of data that can be accessed almost instantaneously when needed.  The slower left side of the brain that we control gives us the ability to pick through that information, analyse it and form opinions thereon.   It’s limitations would explain why we feel “human” and not like an infallible computer that never makes errors.  There are, however, many new technologies and ideas emerging that allow us to tamper with the human brain doing such things as controlling which neurons are firing by delivering small electrical currents to certain parts of the brain to do such things as curing depression or giving individuals much longer and more intense attention spans to make high stress tasks more easy to do.  These will bring many moral dilemmas as technologically enhanced humans may start to look down on less efficient basic humans and then we really are facing selling our souls to the devil.  If we have one to sell…

 

 

Power

Power-Control.jpgWhat is it in a person’s make up that makes them want to be in charge of others and is it a quality that should be revered or feared?

Some people want to lead for constructive reasons like guiding their employees in a direction that will make a successful company or leading a team of volunteers to distribute help to the needy.  Some people want to be in power to take control and push their agenda onto others so they can control and manipulate them.  Some people are given positions of power so they can help to carry out the agenda of people above them whose task has become too large and needs to be sub-contracted.

There have always been leaders and followers for as far back as history goes and many would argue that this is reason enough for it to continue but I think as we continue to evolve that having people in control is starting to appear old-fashioned and the people in many of these positions are abusing them.  Even elected representatives don’t seem to represent the electorate.

Rightly or wrongly I have always tried to have a diplomatic outlook on life and I enjoy feeding off others input.  I rarely feel the need to ‘put my foot down’ and try to take control of a situation.  I think that I get a kick out of things being unpredictable and I enjoy letting life just carry me along and letting things unfold naturally.  I constantly hear from people who think that this approach doesn’t work and that you have to ‘take the bull by the horns’ and drive your life in certain directions to get what you want from it, which is admirable, I guess, but I don’t really “want” anything out of life, per se, I’m just here for the ride.  I really can’t see the point in pressuring myself or others to “achieve”.  Ultimately we’re all going to die and when we do we’re all equal again so enjoy the bit before you die in whatever way you see fit.  A friend recently said to me that I’m like a fly on the wall of life watching it all happen around me.  I like that analogy.

Goal driven people seem to have a different outlook.  They have life mapped out and have different objectives that they need to meet along the way with each one linking to the next one to ultimately achieve the end result.  In our modern society that ‘end result’ so often seems to be lots of nice shiny possessions, a stack of money, a family and a successful career, usually meaning that you have people in your command or, at least, that you are seen as being superior, in some way, to others around you.  Putting you in a position where you can enjoy ‘the finer things in life’.  As you achieve these things and climb higher up the ladder it is easy to start looking at those ‘below’ you as needing your guidance to try to get to where you are.  This is great for the people who do aspire to be like you.  They will love your input and guidance to help them along but the danger is that you start to assume that everyone aspires to be where you are.  Or worse still, that you can convince those who don’t think like you do that they should.

As we evolve I think we are starting to see now that powerful people are, often, just normal people lucky enough to fall into privileged positions.  They achieve their life goals much more easily because of their enhanced starting point and often already have positions of power waiting for them when they come of age.  Because of this, they don’t necessarily deserve their position through any kind of merit and the way that they play their position will make this strikingly clear.  You then end up with a situation of resentment from those below as they feel decisions are being made on their behalf by people who don’t really know what they are doing.  They are simply enjoying the spoils they have been given, trying their best to look the part and expecting respect without ever having earned it.  The royal family is a classic example of this phenomenon.  They still seem to just spend their days shaking people’s hands and making public appearances.  Not a massive contribution to the bettering of mankind is it?  And yet they are still driven around in luxury cars with a team of security personnel keeping them safe and have huge publicly funded residences and powerful positions in society.  We need to start looking at people in power and their motives and reasons for being there.

We have been led to believe that we need leaders but I think giving too much power to one individual is always going to be a recipe for corruption.  The temptation at that level is too strong.  We certainly need innovators, inventors, thinkers and pioneers to push things forward and better our plight but I am not convinced that we need leaders, as such.  Modern civilised society can run quite well without hierarchy.  I’m convinced of it.  There is no need for us all to answer to a single leader we need input and debate from many sources and there is no need for a single definitive solution to each problem.  Different problems in  different places require tailored solutions not just a list of rules to follow that are generated miles away by people who have ENTIRELY different lifestyles and viewpoints to the majority of those they are trying to lead and especially not from those who are trying to feather their own nests with corruption and greed at the expense those they are leading.