Monday, October 18, 2010

A Material Life

Building on my last study summary, I've been doing more thinking about that chapter in Journals, The Mind on Strike, and think I may understand why now that I've been shifting my interest away from the spiritual (intellectual) realm and towards the material realm. In that chapter, Rand makes the identification that since people with parasitical psychological tendencies are unable to obtain any sort of spiritual satisfaction they have to switch to the material realm, and since their spiritual needs go unmet they develop exaggerated material greed. Examining the various referents I have in mind, I see that this is true: The people I've seen most dedicated to their philosophy of life are also, oddly enough, the most materialistic people I've observed. Rand further elaborates that since the material can only be of value in satisfying spiritual needs, such as using a hard-earned paycheck to buy a luxury good, any material wealth obtained will fail to satisfy the parasite. For our purposes, only the first portion of this identification needs to be concentrated on, the portion in which Rand identified that a bankrupt spiritual life leads to an overemphasis on material.

While I'm no parasite, I think this explains why I've been concerned with my material wealth lately. The Circumstance I'm dealing with right now is preventing me from satisfying a very tremendously important spiritual need right now, literally the most important, and I have no way of satisfying it except through means of my Project. Consequently, my inability to satisfy my deepest spiritual needs has made me become more concerned with what needs I can satisfy right now, my lesser, material needs. Unlike spiritual parasites, I am able to derive satisfaction from material goods since they do have a connection with my spiritual needs. Take, for instance, my cooking up a delicious new dish or eating a new chocolate bar and its connection to my culinary aspirations. In my case it's not that I'm switching to the material realm in complete neglect of the spiritual realm, but rather that I'm moving further down my hierarchy of spiritual needs because some of the most important ones are in the process of being satisfied and I am in search of what I can satisfy myself with now.

This perhaps explains how my lazy unproductivity last week provoked no guilt within me: Since I haven't developed a feasible reward system for or way to materialize my intellectual endeavors, it's been nothing more than unrewarded strain, so my mind was in need of rest from such a strain. During such procrastination and putting off work I felt actual pleasure and relaxation.

The questions now are how can I satisfy my more materialistic needs while I am in wait for progress on the deeper ones, and how can I make my studying more rewarding or at least result in something tangible? Answers to these questions should yield an ongoing source of motivation and enhancement for my life.

The first part of the question is a matter of spending money. Essentially, by what effort could I increase my available spending money for luxury goods? The Project has made me rather frugal, and with another recent setback to my Project my finances are getting tighter than ever. To deprive myself of some luxury goods, I think, would leave me extremely frustrated since the Circumstance is leaving unable to fulfill some of my other needs. My first thought is to invest more effort into this blog, since, as detailed on my disclosures page, I do participate in two programs which can result in payment for the content I create. If I play my cards right I could increase my monetary rewards. Don't worry: It's not like I plan on turning this blog into an advertisement gig. The only kind of advertisements I plan on doing are the ones I'm already doing: my chocolate reviews. My thoughts now are to simply exert more effort into making the content of my blog of more valuable to my readers and to increase my readership by advertising more often in blog carnivals. Given the aim of this blog and the type of readership I bring in such payments would be modest, but sufficient in spending money. If I write a good review of a chocolate I like and convince another person to purchase it, that's money to buy even more chocolate to review. If I do well enough, perhaps I could spur my motivation even more by limiting my spending money to my blog income, thereby encouraging me to exert myself even more at writing on the basis of the profit motive. To experiment, I'll continue my blogging pace and work to construct more valuable writing. In addition, I'll start taking my chocolate tasting and reviews much more seriously to increase the value in that realm as well, going so far as to take notes while tasting. I'll try this, I think, for a month or so and see where it takes me.

My studies, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult. The consideration there isn't necessarily about how I'll get rewarded for my efforts, but rather how such efforts can amount to tangible results. For example, if I were an engineer learning how batteries work, it would make sense to actually engage in the construction of batteries during that study, no? What I'm trying to get at is: How can I make my studies affect my mode of action? How can I walk away from my studies with something physically tangible that can manifest the results of what I've done? The three books I'm engaging in right now -- Journals of Ayn Rand, Good Calories Bad Calories, and The Logical Leap --complicate matters in that they all seem to be isolated to the intellectual realm. Not a bad thing overall, but perhaps a little bit too much for what I need right now.

TLL is probably the easiest concern to answer: Since it's a work on epistemology, the better question would be when it doesn't affect my mode of action. One's psycho-epistemology is present all the time, so any mental habits I adopt and adapt from this book will influence every part of my life. GCBC will do more to affect my thinking in nutrition, my dietary choices, and my ability to argue for my beliefs. Material-wise, this isn't much. It's not like it'll instruct me on how to engage a cooking practice differently or the like. Journals is the most difficult of all to tackle since it's a collection of a variety of different things, so I don't even know where to start for that. On all three, the only material things I can be certain of are the consequent book reviews. (Haven't forgotten about that, have you?)

In regards to my own psychology, I find questionable the practice of using as an incentive material objects I already have. For example, motivating myself to study by rewarding myself two squares of chocolate for every section completed. It's just too easy to simply walk to the fridge and break off what I want, whereas profiting on my writing depends entirely on convincing other people of the value of my content. It might be something worth trying, but I am hesitant and resistant.

Maybe for now I could just concentrate on making my writing more valuable. According to my assignments sheet it won't be long before I'll be finished with Journals, and that means I'll soon be constructing a book review and be in need of a new study subject. During that selection process I will be careful to balance out my studies by selecting a book that will have immediate material consequences, to balance out my abstract thinking. The Professional Chef sounds like it would be of such value, as it would alter my grocery shopping and cooking practices, and satisfy my need for culinary engagement all in one. That, at the very least, should serve as an incentive to stick it through with Journals.

I do admit that I'm worried that all this may be making me too materialistic -- that is, detaching my material satisfaction from the spiritual realm -- but I must recognize that my spiritual hierarchy can only be satisfied in part right now, so it is only logical that I concentrate on the materialistic portion of the hierarchy while the more spiritual aspects are temporarily in limbo. Satisfying some of my needs, however lesser, is the least I can do.

After my Project is complete I anticipate a rather significant change in my psychology, and I'm generalizing on the basis of the changes that occurred to me after I conquered other significant problems in my life. Of course, I won't tell you what those other problems were until after I complete my Project, so that is to be reserved for the big blog post I promise for after the Project. When things are all said and done, I expect to be able to become a much more spiritual person, since the truly only major obstacle in my life will have been overcome -- and I will be unhindered.

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