Monday, May 24, 2010

Happiness Project: Transcendence Program

The term "transcendence" is not a term that I just came up with. Lots of psychologists have argued that the basic psychological needs, which I have mentioned before should be modified to include a further set of needs which they called self transcendence needs. On the other hands, most of the spiritual trends, whether ancient or recent, preach self transcendence either explicitly of implicitly. What I am trying to do through talking about what I call "the transcendence program" is to provide a clear comprehensive practical account of how self transcendence can be achieved.

The self transcendence program is a reminder of a set of activities which you must get engaged in on regular basis to achieve happiness. As I have argued in the previous post, happiness can't be achieved through the Ego program alone, and the transcendence program is far more important than the Ego program. Any way, the common feature among all those activities, belonging to the transcendence program, is that all of them revolve around a different axis other than yourself. In other words, they are not primarily done to benefit your Ego. In more precise terms, they are not done to add to your self esteem or self actualization needs. Psychologists have attempted to define those activities by appeal to the society again. They argued that those self transcendence activities involve mainly those activities which are done to serve the others, like charity work, taking care of children or pets, getting committed to a bigger cause and so on. Even though, it is true that all of those activities might belong to the transcendence program, but those examples are not conclusive and they don't help us getting in contact with the main essence of the transcendence program. I think that seeking spirituality is one other form of activities which are primarily done to achieve self transcendence. However, in addition to arguing for helping others, spiritual trends would invite you to perform other self transcendence activities like better evaluation of life and nature. I think the human need to transcend his Ego must be explained in a way that will not only consider tendencies to help others but in addition it should explain those spiritual tendencies of humans as well.

As I have argued before, the main feature shared by all self transcendence activities is that they are not primarily done to add to your self esteem or self actualization. All those activities are done because they allow you to enjoy this particular moment you are involved in. they are not done as a step of a bigger plan to achieve something related to your self actualization needs. In modern life, most of our basic psychological needs are satisfied by the social constructions we live in. In other words, we are born in societies which have drawn regular well established routes which will provide you with your basic biological needs, security and attachment to others. However, what we get totally occupied with for the rest of our life is to satisfy the two remaining psychological needs of self esteem and self actualization. I can't emphasize enough the importance of pairing those activities you do to achieve self esteem and self actualization with activities to achieve self transcendence. Happiness can never be achieved through focusing on one set of activities rather than the others.

There is a further important feature belonging to the self transcendence program. While the Ego program is based on reasonable factual thinking, the transcendence program might and should be, in most of the times, based on a different form of thinking. This form of think should still be systematic, reasonable, and positive, just like the form of thinking involved in planning for the Ego program. However this alternative form of thinking doesn't have to be factual. It can and should, as I have argued before, utilize the most amazing mental ability humans have which is imagination. You should depend on the use of systematic reasonable positive imaginative thinking when it comes to self transcendence activities.

There is another important feature about the self transcendence program which is that those activities are primarily done to allow you to experience life from a different prospective. All of those activities should allow you to get free from the pressure created by your self esteem and self actualization needs and get to enjoy the moment.

Self transcendence activates can be broadly categorized into the following; those activities done to have a deeper appreciation of life, activities which would help you embrace life together with its unsolvable problems, activities done to help you have better appreciation of people and the joy they can bring, new activities which are simply fun to do, and finally activities which are the most rewarding to your self. Each of those categories should be mentioned in details. However, I will delay this till later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Diaries of an Uncertain Man. 2...

26th May 2565 AD Earth Time

It was the strangest moment anyone can ever experience. What was strange about it was not seeing my self dead. Even if I saw myself dancing it would have still felt weird, even weirder than seeing myself dead. What was unexplainable about this moment was that I can see myself. How can any one be able to see himself as if he is seeing someone else? I am supposed to be Faried Gaweesh. How can I still be Faried Gaweesh if I did see him right in front of me? I must be someone else. No matter how everyone including my wife treated me as if I was Faried, I am not him. Faried Gaweesh is dead. That's simply it. No one can ever convince me otherwise.

But, why am I so stubborn like this? Why Can't I be Faried? I feel like Faried. I have all of his memories. I think in the exact same manner like him. What I am doing right now is the same thing he was used to do whenever he faced a problem that seems unsolvable. I miss Maryem in the same way that her husband could have missed her. I was happy with seeing my parents in the same way that their son would have been. I know Faried's secrets more than any one in the universe. I know his fears, his hopes and his dreams. I am even lost right now in the same way that Faried would have been lost if he was in my place. Yeah, I did see Faried in front of me for a moment, but what is the big deal with that? After all every one keeps telling me that I am him. Why is it so hard for me to accept what I feel inside? I feel that I am Faried Gaweesh.

What determines the identity of any one? Is it his body? Why would it be? The cells forming our bodies change regularly. The organic body of any human being keeps changing all the time. Changing would be improper description of what happens to the human body. A more appropriate term would be substitution. Most of the cells of our organic bodies get substituted by time. Our bodies keep changing structurally and morphologically as we grow. So, even if the process of resurrection involved a substitution of the organic body with a Mecha-body this would not create a challenge for the identity of the human being.

If it is not the body that determines the identity of a human being, then what is it? Is it the soul? Dose any one still use this term after all? Back in history, people conceived soul to be related to vitality. With scientific discoveries, vitality was reduced to biological reactions, which were further reduced into chemical reactions, and those chemical reactions were then reduced to the physical laws governing the universe. Vitality was shown not to be any different from what goes on in the entire universe. The boundary between vitality and non vitality was proven to be illusory. Later, people identified soul with consciousness. Consciousness was and still is the most fascinating phenomenon for humans. Even though, consciousness is so unique, science managed to provide an explanation for it. In the beginning of the 21st century scientists such as Cristof Koch attempted to locate what was called the NCC or the neuronal correlates of consciousness. By the end of the 21st century science successfully located the seat of consciousness within the human brain. Dualism about human consciousness was rejected long before and with successful location of the NCC, monism became unchallengeable. Consciousness was proven to be a mere property that arises from a particular complexity of matter. Just like electricity rises from the movement of electrons, heat arises from the movement of molecules, consciousness arise as well from the function of the unique aggregation of neurons.  

In the beginning of the 23rd century, scientist identified how neurons and the synaptic connections between them store memories, information and concepts. That was what led to the resurrection technology. A resurrection replica is formed of a mechanical body which is made identical to the individual intending to undergo resurrection. However, the only organic part of this body is the brain. They would grow an organic brain out of the genetic code of the individual with the use of the stem cell technology, motivate its growth with growth enhancers, encode its neurons in the same manner that the brain of the individual is encoded, and finally implant it into the Mecha-body. Since consciousness inevitably arises from brain functions, this replica would be necessarily conscious. I didn't believe that such replica would be conscious till I was resurrected. I am conscious as ever. Nothing changed. Then, it can't be the consciousness itself which determines the identity of a human being.  If consciousness is nothing but a product of the human body, then there is nothing left to explain soul. Accordingly, soul can't be what identifies us.

Maybe it is still the body which makes the source of our identity. Even if our bodies keep changing continuously, the temporal and spatial continuity of the unity of this body might be what identifies us. After all, what makes me so reluctant to take myself to be Faried Gawessh is that there is no physical continuity between both of us. We are two separate bodies which have never shared the same temporal and spatial existence. I think this might be the cause why it is so difficult for me to accept the idea that I am Faried Gaweesh. However, this claim is still defeatable. I can argue against this claim through the following example. Let's think of someone who committed a murder. This murder was not caught. If this man lost his memory, and lived for long years after this murder, and during those years he managed to become a good citizen, would we still punish him or consider him to be a whole new man who can be allowed a new beginning. This man continued to have the same existing body. However, it seems that we can take his identity to change independent from his body.

I am realizing now that what identifies a human being is the coagulum of his memories, his personal traits and mental abilities, his perspectives, what he experienced and what he learned. This coagulum is what is so unique in each one of us. It is what makes me myself. I am now certain that I am Faried Gaweesh. I have experienced the world from unique perspectives. I have made mistakes and I have learned from it in a unique way. I am the net result of Faried's life and I am thankful to have the chance to go on growing and experiencing this life in a way that no one else can but Faried Gaweesh.                 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happiness Project: Ego Program

Today I will write about happiness. I will not waste your times with clich├ęs about it. You know that happiness is what we all are seeking. Defining happiness, just like any other complex concept, is not an easy thing to do. Again, like all other complex concepts, the easiest way to define it might be through answering the question "how can I become happy?". Answering this question won't only help us to define happiness but it would help you define your identity, your ethical base, and the ultimate goal of your life.

Achieving happiness is done through performing activities. Those activities can be classified into two main categories. First there is that category of activities you have to do avoid pain, depression and sorrow. The second category of activities include those activities which should be done to achieve happiness in the positive way of bringing it rather than just avoiding what would prevent it.

Those activities are so numerous. They literally involve most if not all of your life activities. To discuss them, it is best to consider what I would like to call "the happiness project". I know that introducing artificial terms like "the happiness project" might feel confusing, but I think it would be greatly helpful in considering the issue at hands. I would further like to divide this happiness project into two main programs. First there is "the Ego program" and on the other hand there is "the Transcendence program".

So, what are those two programs all about? The Ego program has two main tasks; first it is supposed to help you solve problems that might hinder happiness. Secondly, it is supposed to help you satisfy your basic psychological needs. Regarding the first task; problems can be classified into the following; there are those problems related to the deteriorating nature of the universe. "The deteriorating nature of the universe" might seem like a complex notion, but it is much simpler than you think. Everything in the universe happens in a way that increases entropy. In other words, everything in the universe deteriorates. This is the most well establishes fact about our universe. Every thing gets old, decomposed or lost. In clearer terms; one day you will die, the people you love will pass away, your belongings might persist longer than you but one day they will be gone as well. It seems like a big problem, isn't it? Any way, this is not the only problem you might face. There are those problem imposed upon you by the social construction we are involved in. the clearest example of this category of problem is financial problems, career problems and legal problems. The third and the final category of problems you might encounter is that of the problems related to the limitations of your own physical and mental abilities. Clearly, you might get disappointed because of the failure of your performance to meet your expectations. Most of those problems can't be radically resolved. However, you can get your way around them. It is the task of the Ego program to determine whether you can get your way through those problems or not. Those problems which are so subtle and which exceed your intellectual capacity to deal with shouldn't be considered within the scope of the Ego program. So, what about what might be considered as solvable problems? This leads me into discussing the main feature of the Ego program. The Ego program is based on reasonable systematic factual thinking. The problem you might encounter can't be considered solvable except if it can be managed through this way of thinking. You must be able to specify the problem clearly and determine the steps you have to take to solve it. Your thinking must be clear, well organized and focused to do this adequately. If you are overwhelmed by the problem, this won't the right time to move to solve the problem. There are certain states at which you should not activate the life program. Those states are those of exhaustion and depression. When you are experiencing those states, this isn't the right time to activate the Ego program. It would be the time to activate the transcendence program as I will argue later. I will not go into the details of the ways you might solve problems. Problems we all encounter are endless and they differ from one person to the other. The general guidelines I can state are the following; problems can only be managed through clear, emotion free, articulate thinking, don't consider problems when you are depressed or exhausted, first determine whether your problem is solvable or not, if it is solvable, think about the practical steps you have to take to deal with it through on reasonable systematic factual thinking. Other specifics of solving problems are left to your intellectual abilities.

Now, I will come to the second task of the Ego program which is to satisfy your psychological needs. Psychologists argue that you have five basic categories of psychological needs; biological needs which include eating, drinking, and having sex, security needs, attachment needs, self esteem needs, and finally self actualization needs. I will not consider the first three categories of needs here. After all, our shared culture is supposed to provide you with the norms needed to guide you through satisfying those needs. I might have some remarks about such norms but I will consider that later. What I am more concerned with right now are the self esteem needs and the self actualization needs. First, I will consider self esteem needs. Psychologists have traditionally defined those needs by appeal to social factors. They have argued that you would gain self esteem if you were recognized positively by the society. However, I don't like such a collectivist definition. I would prefer to seek a more individualistic definition. You are equipped by nature with a positive feed back mechanism that would inform you about your most significant abilities. Social recognition might be a useful guide but it is not your sole guide or even the most important one in helping you to identify your most remarkable abilities. You can know your most important abilities by your own self. Once you have recognized those abilities, you would satisfy your self esteem needs. It is not just a motivational claim that you must be having an ability which would satisfy your needs of self esteem. If you are a human being, you must be having them. You might not only recognize them but they are there. To help you identify such abilities, I would like to attract your attention to the fact that such ability would be the result of your personality traits, the level and nature of your physical and mental abilities, and the environmental factors that affected your maturation. It might be a difficult task to determine such abilities, but this should be your main concern till you determine them. Try making a list of the activities you would like to do. Try doing them. Don't care about what would people say in the beginning. As I have argued before, you have what you need to determine by yourself whether this ability is what would make you like yourself or not. Again, the search for those abilities can only be done through reasonable systematic factual thinking.

What about self actualization needs? I can define this set of needs by arguing that it is achieved through following a plan which would allow you to reach the maximum potential of your remarkable abilities. Self actualization is not achieved by the strict achievement of your maximum potential. You might never reach such a maximum potential. Sky is the limit when it comes to the potentials of your performance. I think this is why some argue that man is always running after a moving goal. This is what led some thinkers to argue that man can never become happy enough. However, as I have argued what is required is not to achieve your maximum potential but what is required is to follow a well established plan to realize them. Psychologists have argued that in the late adulthood of your life, you have to achieve what they have called generitivity to be psychologically stable. In simpler words, when get old, you should be able to look at your past life and find that you have accomplished something. They have argued that one of the best ways to deal with the problem of approaching the end of your life is to be able to frame your past life as if it was a valuable portrait. However, I think that following you dream would definitely lead into great achievements in life, even if it doesn't rise up to you expectations. Even if you haven't achieved much, I think the portrait of a man trying to achieve something is still valuable enough. There is a further point which I would like to add here. Determining the maximum potential of your abilities and making a successful plan for doing so can only be established again through reasonable systematic factual thinking.

Those are the main tasks of the Ego program. I still have to mention some important practical points about the Ego program. I need to further remind you that the Ego program alone is not enough to achieve happiness. The Transcendence program might even be more important. However, that's enough for today. I will write more about this issue later.                

Monday, May 17, 2010

Diaries of an Uncertain Man

24th May 2565 AD Earth Time

I don't know who I am. It is the first time since my resurrection that I set down and write about my thoughts. I needed to do this since along time ago. Writing has always helped me to arrange my thoughts and solve my problems in my pre-resurrection organic life. I wonder if it can help me now. The first step to solve any problem is to determine the problem as precise as possible. So, what is my problem? Why do I feel that lost? It is all because of my resurrection. I have always felt weird about it even before it happened. I delayed it as much as possible. In 2435 I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Clearly, this was not a surprise. Since my birth, my genetic profile has indicated high potentiality of lung Cancer after the age of 60. Thanks to my heavy smoking habit, it was inevitable. I have always known that. Maryem, Nouran, Haytham, and all my friends told me to undergo resurrection as soon as I was diagnosed. They thought it is unnecessary to pay extra money for cancer treatment as long as resurrection will be done sooner or later. However, I thought it was better to enjoy the more familiar organic life as long as it is possible. So, I had my cancer treated. Since then I continued to manage any other health problem with the traditional organo-medical ways. I replaced my heart, my liver, my eyes, and most of my digestive system. All those replacements cost me a fortune, but I have never regretted making them as long as I continued to exist in the all old way of flesh and blood. However, by the age of 80, I had to make the decision. My genetic profile revealed the high possibility of brain deterioration by the age of 75. Maryem has always reminded of this. I resisted her wish to undergo resurrection before the age of 70. However, by the age of 80, I was not able to mask the signs of brain deterioration any more. "Do it for me, before it is too late" she has always said to me. So, I did it.

I still remember the day I went to the "Ever After" institution to download my brain data. The strangest moment in that day was when I first saw my Mecha-body. Maryem was so happy with it. I remember her saying delightfully that she can't wait to make love to this handsome guy. It was an exact replica of me in my twenties. It looked young, strong, but above all it looked eternal. However, I couldn’t resist this feeling that this body standing in front of me was not me. How could it be me when it is standing there staring challengingly right into my face. I remember telling myself that if this body could talk it would say "go ahead old man, I can't wait to replace you." Eng. Suleiman Morad, my resurrection manager, told me then that it is normal to feel strange about the whole thing, but he told me I won't feel that strange when my Mecha-Body is activated. No matter what he could say to me, I returned back home that day feeling that I have just signed my death certificate.

The other day that I can never forget was the day of the resurrection ceremony. It was seven days after seeing my replica. I sat down on what they called the eternity throne right in the middle of a wide circular hall. My throne was floating in the air, about four meters above the floor. There was another throne right in front of me. On it, he was there staring at me with the same challenging look. Almost all my relatives, friends and colleagues were sitting along the sides of the resurrection hall. Each one of them was holding a fancy gift, gifts which will be given to this man who is supposed to become me after few moments. Maryem, my son, and my daughter were sitting in the first row to my right. They were happily looking at me and my replica, anticipating the beginning of my eternal life. Beneath our thrones, a circle of about 20 meters diameter was left empty except for a cloud of white fumes. On the walls, there were holographic pictures of the most important moments in my past life. In one of those pictures I was celebrating my graduation. In another I was standing by Maryem in our wedding day. There were lots of pictures of me and Maryem with Haytham and Nouran in different stages of their life. I looked at those pictures, remembering how I felt happy in all of those moments. I couldn’t help myself wondering if I will ever get to feel this happy ever again. The ceiling was made of a massive glass dome revealing the sunny sky behind it. The sky was beautiful that day, so peaceful and more eternal than anything could ever be. Far on the wall in front of me there was a wide holographic TV screen. I was waiting for them to play the movie that I felt might be the only thing that would reassure me in this acquared situation. A recorded movie was played on this screen of my mother and father smiling on me and encouraging me to start what they called my trip to eternity. They looked young, healthy and strong. They have undergone resurrection since twenty years ago before my own resurrection. They have recorded this message just one day after their own resurrection. I haven't seen them since that day. They are supposed to be yet on their way to planet Aquarius. By the time they played that video, it was supposed to still take them about 80 years to reach there. Thanks to the international laws of resurrection, I, just like all Mecha-Humans, was legally bounded to migrate to Aquarius soon after resurrection. I guess the only thing that made me feel good about resurrection was that I was going to see them soon. My Mother looked at me right in the eyes and said with a smile on her lips "don't hesitate to take the bill; I can't wait to see you again dear". I looked on the bill lying in another floating plate beneath my right hand. That bill was supposed to end the life of my organic life painlessly while inducing a euphoric and an amnesic state as well. Once my organic body is put to rest, the vitality sensors in my throne would send an activation signal to my Mecha-body. I took the bill out of the plate. I raised it to my eyes. I stared at it, and then I stared at my Mecha-body. I looked at my wife, my son and my daughter. I thought it is not a big deal if all of this is nothing but the creation of a soul-less image of me that will soon be thrown into space. As long as this is going to make those people, whom I have cared for the most, happy, then I will do it. I viewed the pictures on the walls for one last time. I, then looked right on the smiley face of my mother on the TV Screen, and while I was staring at her loving eyes I swallowed the bill. In a minute, I felt enormously happy. I think it was the bill causing me this euphoria. This was my last memory in my organic body. The very next thing I can remember was myself staring at an old dead man sitting on a floating throne. That man was me.

To Be Continued...