The Internet Vagabond

Perception And Thought

I consider myself a very philosophical person. That doesn’t mean I’m any good at philosophy, I just tend to think a lot about ethics, morality, and happiness. Recently I’ve been thinking more about my worldview, what I value as important, and how I achieve happiness in my daily life. I wanted to jot down what I feel is a brief examination of my basic tenants; the basic Philosophy of Bill.

I derive a lot of my philosophy from my Christian up-bringing and Stoicism. I’m not a very religious person, though. I never really was. My belief of what God is falls strongly under the agnostic category: I’m not sure what God is, or if I believe in a God, but I do believe in a higher power of some sort. I feel it’s logical to always assume there is something more powerful than yourself, but I also feel it’s impossible to prove this. I like to define faith as simply irrational belief. I have faith in many things, both permanent and temporary. I like faith, actually, quite a bit. I admire those who have strong faith, so long as they maintain reason and are not fanatical. I also try to maintain a very open approach to religion. I believe everyone has the right to worship however they choose, so long as it does not involve anything overly immoral, such as killing. I have a hard time tolerating people who are overly zealous about their faith, or about denouncing someone else’s faith. Nothing is more disgusting than attacking someone for their beliefs. They are called beliefs for a reason; they are not fact, they are opinion. It’s ineffective to attack opinions, because they are ephemeral to begin with. Like trying to hit a ghost with a lamp-post: it just won’t do what you think it will.

I love debate and discussion, but there is a clear difference between debate for truth and argument for winning. I try to keep in the first camp, but I’m not super-human and I have an ego so I often visit the later. However, I always learn when I make mistakes, and I cherish when I fail, because it only serves to better myself. I think that’s the most fundamental under-lying theme of my philosophy: always better myself; always learn something. That ego thing, though, that’s a tough monster to handle. I’ve found myself adopting views similar to Zen Buddism (I think) often when trying to quell my ego:

  • All will return to nothingness.
  • Ergo, what I do will be inconsequential.
  • Ergo, I am inconsequential.

I think most people hear this and grow disheartened or depressed, but I view it as very uplifting. There’s a certain freedom in knowning that, no matter how much I fail, in the end it won’t matter much. It’s sobering to remember that no matter how much I’ve achieved or won, in the end it won’t matter much. It’s important to remember that I am nothing but an improbable spec of matter floating on a rock in an unimaginably vast and empty space. Too many people get caught up on that “in the end” part, though, and they begin to question why they should act at all. Well, there’s a bit of time between now and “the end” and you need to fill the void with something. For me, that’s learning, and understanding, and appreciating.

In my studies, I’ve discovered and adopted Stoicism as a philosophy. I won’t explain too much what Stoicism is about, since there are many sources online which do that. I apply Stoicism mostly in the mental aspects of the philosophy, and less in the faith/religious aspects. From Stoicism, I have reinforced my beliefs in the importance of understanding our environment. I remind myself every day of things I cannot control, and that I can only control my perception of things. I try to act according to logic and wisdom, and not according to feelings, which can hamper reason. For example, I try not to let anger control my actions if I get trolled by my friend Nick. I understand that anger, love, stress, and all other feelings are very much out of my control, but allowing them to control me is well within my control. In other words, I very much get angry, or grow lustful, or prideful, but I try not to let those feelings dictate my actions. I believe it was Seneca the Younger who said, “Men are not angered by things, but by their perceptions of them.” One of many mantra I keep in reserve.

The most important thing in my life, though, is not control but happiness. I can seek to control my perceptions and emotions all I want, but if it does not lead to happiness, it is a fruitless endeavor. I find happiness most when I learn; when I understand a system. I’m an engineer at heart, so I view the world as a system of systems (of systems, of systems…) each of which is bare to understanding. I free myself from ego and oppression so that I can learn without fear of failure or the disapproval of my peers. I like to always remind myself that the only person who truly cares about me, is me. That’s not to say others don’t care about me, but they care about themselves first, and me afterwards. That’s how things are; it’s not wrong or depressing or hurtful it’s just the way the system works. I care for many people, but I’m always number one on the list.

While all this is well and good, philosophy is an ever changing system; a CICD environment. I am constantly integrating new ideas and concepts into my understanding of the world, and sometimes purging old or unnecessary ones. I have my fair-share of quandries, perhaps more so than others; perhaps it’s an unfair-share. That’s what makes it worth it, though, to me. I seek to learn, and in doing so, find happiness and confusion. It’s a recursive system: the confusion leads to learning, which leads to happiness and confusion. And I love recursion.

Bill Niblock 2015-05-04
[ philosophy ]