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Metaphorical Truths

The world we live in is extremely complex and very hard to fully comprehend. We can spend years and years just investigating a tiny part of it to try to shed some light and gain some understanding. At an individual level, I would argue that it is impossible to have a complete view of how the universe works at all times or, even, what are the most likely causes of the things we are experiencing according to the most up-to-date human knowledge (and what would be the most optimal reaction).

As individuals, not only we do not have instant access to all the human knowledge, we also do not have an unlimited amount of cognitive resources. We cannot analyze every situation to its full extension to understand what is the most reasonable explanation of what happened, and what is the best decision or action to increase the chances of a future outcome that maximizes some pre-established motivation or goal (e.g., maximizing happiness). Hence, our brain seems to have evolved to frequently rely on heuristics, mental shortcuts that helps us to make quick judgments or decisions.

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I have made many mistakes in my life so far. Mistakes that had negative consequences for myself or third parties. Mistakes that may have led others to think I am a bad person, a stupid human being, or plainly incompetent. I struggle with these mistakes, and I become obsessed at times regretting what I did or said. Sometimes I got the chance to apologize, but frequently the wound leaves a scar no matter what. Many other times I did not even get a chance to apologize, maybe I realized the mistake too late, or it is not possible to get in touch with the person again without risking making things worse. I find it difficult to let go/forgive myself, to accept we all make mistakes, and to move on while keeping the lessons learned.

Life = Risk

I used to have a dear and close friend with whom I would discuss how life is risk. While it is possible to predict the outcomes of many physics experiments with a high degree of certainty, the farther we move away from the fundamental aspects of reality, the more difficult it becomes. At a certain point, our understanding of a system can only be based on informed intuitions and educated guesses. The complexity of a system such as our human society is immense, with countless elements influencing and impacting one another in retroactive loops, irreversible changes, and non-linear responses. We cannot accurately predict the long-term effects of our decisions, including the choice of not making a decision. Uncertainty pervades our human experience at every turn, and it can at times paralyze us.

Born to be forgotten

I find that it is not always easy to accept that I will not accomplish anything in my lifetime that will merit being remembered or taught to future generations. I will not make a major scientific breakthrough, I will not come up with a revolutionary contribution to philosophy, I will not invent a new technology that will change society, I will not be the best at anything in particular.

My contribution to the world will come in tiny chunks, and they will include both small successes that might have made some people’s life slightly better, but also mistakes that may have caused pain and suffering. And there is nothing special about this, I can only imagine that this might also be true for billions of other humans. We are living regular lives that will be quickly forgotten after one, two or three generations.

Why would this be important? It does not have to be, I can see how you can definitely find happiness elsewhere, but it turns out that this is something that seems to matter to me. Not from a rational perspective, but more like a gut feeling. I cannot avoid it, at least not at the moment.

This is not meant to be a justification for inaction. Just a realistic prediction that is not always easy to swallow. It makes me think of Albert Camus and the absurdity of life, where despite recognizing that absurdity, we cannot avoid but just keep living as if it wasn’t.

The joy and pain of memories

“Pain reminds you the joy you felt was real”

– Wallace (Blade Runner 2049)

But was it or is it real? Human memory is unreliable, manipulable by ourselves and others. What we remember may not be what it was, but it is what it is now for you. It’s your current reality, your present experience. That pain is born from the value you give to those memories, from the wish to live them again as you remember them now. Once they may have been true, once you may have enjoyed as much as you believe now.