Sunday, December 23, 2007

Free Stress Test

Wouldn't we all like one of those. And, bingo!, there I'm walking through Brisbane's busy pre-Xmas shopping mall and at the end of it I chance upon not only a Jesus-man with a loudspeaker blaring at his back, explaining why Jesus saves and everything else is meaningless, but also upon a table with two signs proclaiming

Free Stress Test

and at the table two men on chairs, explaining stuff to two other men on two other chairs.

My curiosity was aroused. Then I spotted a bunch of books and some devices with dials, and it all became clear...

For those who haven't figured it out yet, the books were by L Ron Hubbard and the devices were deliberately-retro-style 'E-meters', possibly of the Mark Super VII Quantum type; but I couldn't really tell, what with not being really up-to-date with such things. All I know is that they looked tacky. Surprise.

I fought a battle with myself and lost; or won, depending on how you look at it. The fight was between the me that told itself "who gives a crap; everybody to his own" and the other which wanted to walk up to the table, place a concerned hand on the shoulders of at least one of the wallys sitting there, listening to these Scientology [...deleted because this is a family-blog...], and say something along the line of "hey, man [for they both were men]; do you really want to spend any more of the little time remaining to you in this world [however much time that might be] in the company of this [...deleted because this is a family-blog...]?"

'Indifference Me' won and I walked on. Later, during the next day, I saw a young Asian woman listening to of of them. It seems that women, despite their overall greater social intelligence, are not immune to this kind of thing.

'Indifference Me' will probably continue to prevail, if for no other reason but that I suspect it is indeed pointless to say anything. People will make up their own minds, for whatever reasons, and that's that. And there is an argument, put forward since forever, that it really doesn't matter what people 'believe' and that what matters is whether they are good people or not; and that underneath the layer of beliefs, there lurks the 'real' human being, and that's what matters and never mind if they believe in this god or that, or no gods or God at all, or the galactic warlord or the Great Roach From Beyond the Stars. (Don't ask me where that one came from!)

But, but, but...

Is this really true? That it doesn't matter what people believe, as long as they are good folk. I think I may have touched on this before, but I'm too lazy to check it out; so I'm going to mention it again.

Thing is this. The notion that there is some underlying 'core of humanity' in people that needs to be considered before passing judgment(s) on them because of their, allegedly superficial, beliefs, undoubtedly has merit. This 'core' has been given to us, if you will, because we are who we are and because we have evolved to be who we are. It's a basic part of our makeup and that's probably so obviously true, that it's almost pointless to discuss it.

But the point is also that this 'core' and the energies residing there, the energies that make us 'human'--just like the 'Force' from Star Wars--are essentially neutral. The basic drives for the maintenance of our lives and/or those others we are connected to, plus everything that comes with it...all that just is. It doesn't make for good or bad people. Just like it doesn't make for good or bad apes, or roaches. The built-ins are what they are, and they are intrinsically neutral. I know religioids would have it otherwise, but that's their problem.

What makes us different from just being a bunch of built-ins, what makes us 'human', are precisely those things that the toleration-nazis would want to dismiss as 'superficial': that is, those elements of 'mind' which determine how we act at the level of 'choice'. These elements can almost all be called 'beliefs'; the stuff we hold, implicitly and/or explicitly, to be 'true'. And it is these things that determine our actions, choices, values, and so on. And those in turn are the things that others see and perceive and are affected by. And they are the only clues, evidence we have about the character of others. Everything else is inference. And inference in anything but mathematics and affected sciences has always been a very dicey business.

Beliefs matter. Beliefs are the results of cognitive choices and essential elements in us making yet more choices.

It would be nice to live one's life, wrapped in the comforting cocoon of the notion that 'surface' doesn't matter. But is just isn't true. Just like in, for example, beauty as perceived by the eye, 'superficiality' rules and determines what is what. That's completely opposed to us thinking of it as being something residing 'deep within'.

How can this be? I think the answer may be found in something I mentioned in a blog quite some time ago. Or maybe, just to save you the trouble, it's that we're all like ogres--onions, that is--of the Moebius kind maybe. If that's the case most philosophy of mind of just about all persuasions is just so much deluded bunk.

So, maybe those Scientology idiots are actually in good company. But that doesn't make their beliefs any less ridiculous and obnoxious, and maybe one could argue that by walking past and allowing indifferent-me to win the argument, I also neglected my social responsibility to those souls I saw sitting there, possibly being reeled in by the E-meter operators.

Just one thing: to all of those of you who maybe one day come across one of those stands where they offer you a

Free Stress Test

Nothing is 'free'. Nothing at all. And least of all this offer.

Way I see it is this:

  • Either you're not in the category of people who can be sucked into the Scientological morass. In that case you're just wasting your time; which might be better spend doing something useful, like having good sex.

  • Else you are a potential candidate for becoming a cult member. In that instance, keep walking. For your own sake. Because right now you may still be a properly functioning human being. But make the wrong choice here and that might well be the end of you. Don't get cocky.

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