Weirdest Faustian Bargain

The quality of your physical experience is in the hands of people who are closest to centers of violence and finance. They make the rules, and the rules are written in their interests. This is the reason that it is hard to get the change we want: every legal means of doing so was not written by people who want change.

Fortunately, there is another kind of wealth which is not subject to central control, and logically speaking, it must exist. It is mental wealth.

The basic notion is this: your experience of this world is narrow and it is mental. Light and sound are converted into electrical impulses that are fed into your brain, where they are assigned meaning. The assignment process is subject to friction: competing priorities, contradictory beliefs, fuzzy predictions, and unmanageable uncertainty. Mental wealth means having the tricks of the trade which make the processing of information not only efficient, but pleasurable.

To a neophyte, playing a musical instrument is frustrating and discordant. To a musician, it is harmonious and pleasurable. A person who knows how to play a single song is not considered a musician. A musician knows many songs, can create and learn new songs. That is musical wealth.

Similarly, no one who has never practiced mental wealth has it, and no one who believes in it has it. Mental wealth is not a belief, any more than music is a belief.

You can put all of your efforts into making yourself physically comfy so that you do not need to cultivate a mental life. You do what capitalists tell you to, they give you some stuff, and you watch cat videos. Or, you can recognize that your mental life, as your primary experience, is your primary concern. Fundamentally, your mental life is all you have, other than the electrical signals that stimulate it. Being a hunter-gatherer with a rich mental experience is better than being a dazed lapdog to capitalism.

Let’s pause to state the obvious: infinite population growth and hyper-consumerism are unsustainable. We sacrifice everything of value to get comfy lifestyles, which are temporary at best. We don’t have the same level of comfort our parents had, and our children shall inherit even less. The irony is that it seems that we don’t even like our level of comfort: We don’t watch movies about people living comfy lives; we watch movies and play video games featuring characters who face adversity. It’s sad, really, to trade away your freedom and your youth to avoid adversity, then buy a PlayStation to simulate it.

That adversity is ours to be had. It can come from resisting our demise.

Consider what it means to be middle-class economically: not very much. No one who can read this text is in danger of starving or of being eaten by a predator, or being enslaved by a foreign empire. We are equal in physical security: A person earning one hundred thousand euros is not twice as secure as someone earning fifty thousand. And certainly, is not twice as happy.

We are all equal before the task of acquiring mental wealth.

Imagine what it means to be a mental pauper: every time you have a moment to think, you instead check social media. Imagine what it means to be a mental billionaire: you can sit in a room furnished with one chair and explore the vastness of human consciousness. If that sounds fantastic, it might have something to do with capitalistic programming; remember, monastic traditions that promise exactly that have been around longer than capitalism.

No other kind of wealth has value if it is contrary to mental wealth. A yacht has negative value if you pay for it with a job that you find stressful or degrading. Mental wealth is not a replacement for capitalism, but it is a replacement for hyper-consumerism. It is a game-changer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *