Sunday, 26 March 2017


by Dave Wheeler
    Before I tell you how I recently received a hard blow to the head I will warn you that if you have a limited attention span and/or no interest in philosophy you may not wish to read the rest of this essay, as some of it may bore you shitless. You may instead wish to hit the “Home” button above and read one of the other essays, which are much lighter reading. Many are humorous, some are historic and most are Canberra-based. Several of those essays have not been written by me. 
   If however, you are philosophically inclined and have an open mind you may wish to continue to read as you may benefit from what follows.
    I will also let you know that this essay meanders, and it may appear disjointed. Remember, one thing leads to another. Said another way, within the universe what occurs is a result of what has previously occurred, and everything is interconnected. Hopefully, what I have raised in this post will all seem to link together for you after you have finished the read, and if it doesn’t it’s not the end of the world.
    I will also state that some of this essay is self-centred, to the extent that it partly focuses on my own characteristics as opposed to most other essays I have written which focus primarily on what I have experienced, and the actions of others. I do not apologise for the essay partly focusing on my characteristics as it is necessary in order for me to expose the reader to the philosophy I espouse and to explain the logic behind that philosophy. 
     To begin, although I’ve always had plenty of mates and I’m very close to my family, in another respect I’ve been a virtual loner. From late primary school onwards I was aware that I was a Rationalist, even though I was not familiar with the term until my teens. And if we are to define a Rationalist as someone who consciously strives towards (but does not necessarily achieve) rational thought, as opposed to the great majority of the population (the herd) who swallow without question political or religious dogmas, or the values of their peers, parents or community, (even if the dogmas and values have no foundation in fact or reason), I am a Rationalist.
     Committed Rationalists appear insane to mainstream society even though mainstream society sees nothing insane about believing in angels, a bloke walking on water and rising from the dead, etc.
   I have actually been, from a very young age, an aggressive Rationalist, to the extent that I would not just strive to be rational and objective when presented with questions; I would actively seek-out and attempt to answer fundamental questions that were not presented to me, as well as questions of a moral nature. The fundamental questions of which I refer are of the kind that are rarely contemplated by the herd, and I doubt those fundamental questions will ever be answered.

      To elaborate, from infants school onwards I found the concept of our being created and ruled by a deity ridiculous, but as I aged I still wondered what it was all about. And when I was being taught in class subjects that were of such a shallow and mundane nature relative to the big issues I was bored shitless. To attempt to escape the boredom I would daydream about being outdoors and doing something interesting, or I would muck around with my mates or get lost in my thoughts as I tried to solve fundamental philosophical questions.
    If what many scientists tell us is correct, humans need, as well as food, water and a need to maintain a constant body temperature, stimulation. And obviously, in the same way one man’s food is another man’s poison, (ie peanuts), some people need different, or more, or less, stimulation than others. Some kids thrive in a school environment because they receive the right kind and quantity of stimulation for their particular brain’s needs. Others, like me when I was a kid, need more intense and/or different forms of stimulation. 
   In my case I found sitting in a class and being bored shitless by what I was being taught extremely painful. It was painful to the point that if I was to be punished I would take the cane before detention if given a choice. Forcing kids to suffer hour after hour of boredom can only be described as child abuse. My only relief was through daydreaming, contemplating philosophical questions, humour and mucking-up with my mates. 
     With all this being the case what I was taught in class would mostly not reach my conscious attention, and if it did it would go in one ear and out the other, unless of course I was being taught a subject that actually interested me, and that did not happen often. Had I been born thirty years later I would probably have been diagnosed with ADD and medicated with Ritalin.
    Knowing what I knew at a very young age was a lonely business, and because I considered myself intellectually superior (I refer to intelligence on a philosophical level, not scholastically. There are many different forms of intelligence.) to those who taught me, as well as most other adults, including those who controlled mainstream society, I regarded most people as “simple.” It also made me dislike authority intensely.
    I still dislike authority because I regard almost all of those in authority as simpleminded fools, but dislike is not the same as hate and one does not need to hate if one can accept reality. So, other than when I instinctively react to an immediate threat by way of the more primitive part/s of my brain, my sustained anger has disappeared entirely because of the following three factors:

1/Although I knew it in primary school, I became fully conscious over the years that contra-causal free will does not exist, and therefore I have realised that immoral and stupid people have no real “choice” in regard to whether or not they carry out immoral or stupid acts and as such in one way cannot be blamed for what they do. Knowing that fact alone can erase longterm anger. (That would not prevent me from ensuring, without anger, those who I was convinced were murderers, rapists, paedophiles, etc, were never able to return to live within mainstream society.)

2/I have become fully conscious over the last 45 or so years of the logic behind accepting the reality of what one cannot change, and instead diverting one’s attention to the here-and-now by way of mindfulness. This means accepting any pain the here-and-now delivers, and when possible, savouring the sensory pleasures of one’s here-and-now. Surprisingly, the logic of that did not fully hit home to me until I was in my early 20’s. (The concept has become more popular in the last few years. Prior to that it was only practised by weirdos like me).

3/Again, although I was aware of it from mid primary school, I became fully conscious over the years of the significance of the paradoxical “fact” that nothing can be proven, which made me aware that my philosophical reasoning may be flawed. This obviously made me uncertain of anything, which made me more tolerant of those whose actions and attempts to reason seems to me absurd. (In that respect I subscribe to a form of Solipsism that suggests that I can know nothing other than the content of my mind at the moment I become aware of it. And if that is all I can know obviously my philosophical reasoning could be flawed.)

    I will seem to be contradicting myself in regard to number 3 considering I have stated that the two points that precede it are actual facts. And I am contradicting myself in that respect unless I qualify what I have said by explaining the way I use the English language, which is a language that evolved for the use of the herd. Remember, the herd by its very nature is shallow and therefore never needed to create language to assist its members discuss deep philosophical concepts, because they did not discuss deep philosophical concepts. They were more interested in surviving and engaging in activities that led directly or indirectly to the reproduction of their genes.
   Our ancestors, who were hunter gatherers and subsistence farmers, evolved brains that functioned in a manner that maximised their chances of surviving and reproducing their genes in hunter gatherer, and to a lesser extent, subsistence farmer, environment. In such environments any tribal member who spent too much time contemplating the nature of the universe or other deep philosophical questions would not have been focussing on surviving and reproducing, and as such would have had far less chance of passing on his or her genes. His or her thoughts would best be focussed on how they, their tribe and their progeny, could survive and reproduce. It is probably for that reason most modern humans have no interest in philosophy unless it is of a shallow variety, such as that found in the literature of Alain de Botton.
   To explain how I use the language in greater detail; in order to live, all we can go on for day-to-day reasoning is our “memory”/“knowledge” and our ability to “reason”. And if my “memory”/“knowledge” and "reasoning" tells me that it is in my best overall interest to make a certain decision, that is the decision I will make. So, when expressing myself in everyday English I write as if reality is how I perceive it and that my “memory”/“knowledge” and “reasoning" is objective and accurate. If I were to say before everything I write that I use the words “believe” and “fact” loosely, and that any conclusion I come to is based on what my “memory”/“knowledge” and thought processes delivers to my conscious mind, and that I realise that my “memory”/“knowledge" and thought processes may be inaccurate, it would be far too longwinded. That however, is how I see things, and, paradoxically, I don’t even know if I am accurate in that respect.
    When I look back I think it unfortunate schools did not, and still do not, teach philosophy, and within it aggressive critical analysis of the established values and beliefs of mainstream society, with the objective of encouraging students to strive to be objective, truly rational, critical, lateral and aggressive in their reasoning. 
    I may as well wish for the tooth fairy. The system does not like to be challenged, because those who run it do not like their cherished beliefs to be challenged. Most are intellectual cowards. 
   Also, from what I have seen of most academic philosophers today, and most of the courses that are supposed to teach critical thought, very few academics would have the depth and knowledge to enable them to adequately teach real philosophy and critical thought, let alone school teachers. What is currently taught is relatively shallow and restrained. 
   I can recall on several occasions trying to discuss matters of a deep philosophical nature with some of the schoolteachers I had, and at the time I realised I may as well have been attempting to discuss the matters with infants. 
   Although my own reasoning gave me a good foundation in philosophy I did not begin to educate myself properly in philosophy and other important fields until I was about 20, and my self-education continues to this day. This has enabled me to read people like a book, collectively and individually, which means seeing the ugly side of human nature, an ugly side which almost all humans, including me, possess. But, I can now live with reality and thrive, partly because of the reasons I have already outlined and partly because I am very discriminatory in regard to who I associate with.  
   Although as a kid I did not have a mentor who could have taught me about mind-body awareness as well as using mindfulness in general in order to accept reality and to savour life’s sensory pleasures whenever possible, I nonetheless, as a kid, on occasions entered the here-and-now and got joy doing things of a physical and stimulating nature in the company of my mates. This could occur because other than my being philosophical I was still a kid. And if as a kid I had not been able to change my mode in order to make friends, and had I not been able to revert to a simple state-of-mind while in the company of my dog and mates, life would have been much more difficult than it was.
    Having said all that, had I have met a good mentor at an earlier age my earlier life would have been far more pleasurable and far less painful. But, we can’t turn the clock back.
      What are you going on about Wheeler? I thought this post was going to be about a bike trip you did as a kid and how you recently received a head injury. I can’t see you linking what you've said to those events.
   You’re an impatient bastard, 2. I was about to explain to you and the readers how it's all linked. 

    I will progress from what I have said about attempting to accept, and when possible, savour, the here-and-now by way of mindfulness. Although the concept is about facing reality and therefore not escaping from it by way of deliberately daydreaming, when real dreams occur during real sleep, should they be sufficiently lucid they can be as  painful or as pleasurable as reality. And I have acquired over the years skill that has enabled me, to a small degree, to control my dreams, although when I had a very lucid dream a few nights ago I definitely did not have the capacity to become aware of the reality of the situation or to control the dream’s outcome.
   Now, if you take into account what I have said so far, and particularly what I have said in the last paragraph, even though I’m in my 65’th year at the time this essay is being written (2017), I still intermittently experience the thrill one receives when one participates in hard contact sport. But that’s not all! I still occasionally receive the euphoria one receives after one performs extreme athletic feats; the sorts of feats that go far beyond the capacity of anyone other than those with superhuman abilities.
   Why, it was not long ago I dreamt I was playing NRL level rugby league. I played an incredible game! It surpassed the best games played by the best rugby league players in the world, past and present!
   The fact that I stopped playing competitive footy after the age of about 19, and the fact that I was by no means Kangaroo or Wallaby material in my youth, is irrelevant. Who cares about details when you’re enjoying yourself? And as I have said, if a good dream is sufficiently lucid a person can enjoy it as much as he can enjoy experiencing the real thing. 
     I’ve experienced lucid dreams all my life. Sometimes I’m conscious of the fact that I’m dreaming and I can change the dream's outcome, and on odd occasions I have experienced sleep paralysis, which involves realising one is asleep but being unable to wake or move one’s body. I could write another post about those experiences, and describe how horrifying they were for me as a kid and how I learnt to control them over the years and turn them into positive and sometimes euphoric experiences.
     The dream I have referred to which I had a few nights ago was by no means as joyful as the dream I had that involved my playing NRL. My recent dream did not have a good ending, and I’m still feeling its effect.
    It was brought on by my receiving an email from an old schoolmate named Doug Ladd, who was contacting me about a planned gathering of ex Dickson High lads and lasses from our year. I did not knock around with Doug very much as a youth, but he was a good-natured kid and his email made me recall what I got up to with him and two other mates the day before our first day of high school in early 1965. We had left North Ainslie Primary in 1964 and three of us were about to begin 1st form (now called Year 7) at Dickson High. 
    During the 64/65 school holiday period kids going into 1st form were given an extra day of holidays to enable their schools to prepare for their arrival. So, on that extra day, while the Berra kids who were not our age were at school, Doug, Dazzle (aka Dale Willis, who was also starting high school but was going from North Ainslie Primary to Yanco Agricultural College), Brownie (the late Owen Brown) and I rode our pushbikes to the Black Mountain dump. The Black Mountain dump had closed sometime in 1964, but we were not going to let that stop us. We knew we could get into it through the fence.
   The Black Mountain dump was located at the top of O’Connor at the base of Black Mountain behind the CSIRO and next to an area of land that was to become the Botanic Gardens. It was directly above where the ACTEW Civic zone substation now stands. I wrote a bit about that dump on this blog under the title, “The Search for the cave on Black Mountain.” It is on the following link.
   When we arrived at the dump and got through the fence, as planned, we enjoyed ourselves by throwing large rocks through the windscreens of dumped old cars that were either going to be buried under soil or compressed and recycled. On the way home we observed an angry bearded dragon in the grass outside the O’Connor caravan park. That caravan park no longer exists.
     Nothing of any great significance occurred during that trip. I do however, have a memory of being a part of a gang of four kids who had an enjoyable day. Little did I know at the time that 52 years after the event I would receive an email from Doug that would trigger the memory of that day and the Black Mountain dump. Nor would I have thought that when I had the memory of the Black Mountain dump triggered it would in turn trigger a dream that involved me visiting the said dump.

Above is a recent photo of the remains of part of an old car in an area of Black Mountain that was once the Black Mountain dump.
   In the dream I had on the night of Doug’s email I was visiting the Black Mountain dump with a modern ute, which I do not in my real life own. It was packed with the rubbish I currently have in my backyard that is ready to be thrown out. In that dream I was my current age, even though the dump closed in 1964. I must have, in my dream, believed it had been reopened, as opposed to dreaming that I had been transported back in time. 
    While driving into the dump, in my dream, I had to take a long and steep dirt road, and I was to find that the gradient of the road was becoming so steep it was leading to the perpendicular, even though in reality no part of Black Mountain is that steep. 
   Realising I could go no further I stopped my ute. I then got out to contemplate my next move, as I could not turn around. Somehow I found myself behind the ute, and I could see that it was sliding rapidly back towards me and that it would run over me unless I moved out of the way very quickly. Because of the speed it was moving I managed, with superhuman athleticism, to jump into the air and right out of the way of the sliding vehicle with far more power than a professional basketball player displays when he performs a slam-dunk. One is not required to obey the laws of physics when one dreams. 
     But, in the real world, I had actually leapt right out of my bed and into the air, although I did not realise it at the time. So, while I thought, in my dream, that I was going to land softly on the relatively soft earth of Black Mountain, I was brought into reality after I felt my head smash into the base of the chest of drawers that are located on the side of my bed.  
    It really hurt, and even though it woke me up it also made me feel a bit concussed and confused. I’ve had very few punches to the head that were as hard or as damaging as that blow, and I’ve received plenty of punches to the head in my time. As I write I have a bruise on my ear and far more pronounced bruising around a lump on the side of my head, just above the said ear. And it was all a  result of the head to chest-of-drawers impact. I can’t open my mouth to eat too widely as it aggravates the bruising, and I’ve put my neck out.
    Above shows where the Black Mountain dump once was. The car bodies have been buried and trees have grown over them. A part of an old car sticks out of the ground.
   Going to bed is a dangerous business! I have had to move my guitar and guitar stand away from my bed because I have twice kicked its neck with roundhouse kicks as a result of fights I have had in my dreams.
    On one occasion, while dreaming I was on the back of a surf ski ridden by a suicidal person heading straight for a wharf, I jumped off just before it was going to hit. As a result I woke up on all fours next to my bed. On that occasion I didn’t damage myself.
    My room is too small to move my chest of drawers out of harms way, so I have screwed a foam mat onto the side of it and I am going to attempt to place padding on the metal railing that runs along my bed under my mattress. Hopefully this will prevent me from damaging myself should I move rapidly to avoid danger or lash out at someone in my next lucid dream.
   Above shows a foam mat I have screwed onto my chest-of-drawers to prevent me damaging myself should I have another lucid dream in which I react instinctively to danger, and in the process throw myself off my bed.  I have also placed my guitar behind the mat to prevent it from being kicked in its neck again should my dreams incorporate my perpetrating acts of physical violence.

UPDATE 9/4/17
    If you are not into philosophy and have found what I have so far written a dry read you may find what I am adding more so. If however, you are not a member of the herd and you felt you got something from what has so far been said you may also get something from what I am adding.
   I was asked what occurs when two genuine Rationalists meet and have different points-of-view on a particular subject and consider that subject important enough for it to be discussed/debated.
     To answer that question I will first say that for the reasons I have explained in the body of this essay two genuine Rationalists should not hold strong views on anything, because they would be conscious of the “fact that their reasoning could be flawed, even if otherwise the results of their reasoning told them it was not. 
   To reiterate, I have explained in the body of this essay that the evidence suggests it is irrational for a person to be certain of anything but the content of his own mind at the moment he becomes aware of it.  However, even if we are to not go that deep and assume that what our senses tell us is real, is indeed real, we can still obviously be subject to manipulation and self-delusion as well as mechanical errors in the way we reason. And I would assume that a committed Rationalist would be conscious of all those factors and as such should also be conscious of the “ fact that his reasoning could be flawed.
     So, if two Rationalists meet, who, unlike me, were sure their perceptions of reality and reasoning were correct, should they disagree with each other on a particular subject they would usually debate like most people in mainstream society, which is usually very poorly. I have observed this on Sceptics/Skeptics forums. I consider very few of today’s mainstream Sceptics (I am referring to those who wish to expose spoon-benders and palm readers as frauds; not those who, like me, subscribe to one of the earlier Greek forms of Scepticism). committed and aggressive Rationalists.
    If however, two Rationalists who, like me, were each conscious of the possibility of their own reasoning being flawed, or the “facts” upon which they based their own reasoning being incorrect, they would be motivated to use each other to attempt to seek the truth or what the evidence suggests is probably the truth, as opposed to win an argument simply for the sake of winning the argument and possibly gratifying their egos and/or turning around the other’s viewpoint.
   To begin to explain how this could be done, I will mention that a Yank psychologist, the late Carl Rogers, put his own spin on an ancient method of debate that involved paraphrasing the argument of one’s opponent. Rogers method is now called, “Rogerian argument."
     Where it differs to the traditional form of debate by way of paraphrasing is that Rogers, who was a psychologist, wanted participants to seek common ground and empathy through mutual understanding, which resulted in him deviating from the original method/s. 
    The purpose of the far earlier forms of the paraphasing method was usually only to debate for the purpose of seeking what is true or probably trues, which should be the sole objective of the true Rationalist.
   With that in mind, should two true Rationalists meet and discover they have different viewpoints on a particular topic they would begin the debate by one of them, who I will call “Philosopher A,” stating something like:
 “I believe X for the following reasons, etc etc.” 
   His opponent, who I will call “Philosopher B,” is then required to paraphrase to the best of his ability Philosopher’s A’s argument, and he must do so to the satisfaction of Philosopher A. And if he does not do so to the satisfaction of Philosopher A he must do it again until he gets it right.
   After paraphrasing Philosopher As argument to the satisfaction of A, Philosopher B is then allowed to come back with his counter argument.
  Philosopher A must then, to the satisfaction of Philosopher B, paraphrase Philosopher B’s argument to the satisfaction of Philosopher B before he is allowed to respond with his own counter argument. And so-on, and so-on. 
    This form of debate can be sudden death to one’s cherished beliefs if one has sufficient capacity for rationality, which is why the concept scares many people shitless. It is very hard to get anyone to debate on matters that threaten upsetting their emotional apple carts by using that method, because most humans are intellectual cowards and do not want their cherished beliefs challenged. 
     Like most of the rest of society, the great majority of otherwise very brave young macho men who are prepared to lay their lives on the line for something of which they believe, and who are more than willing to partake in hard contact sport, will do everything they can to avoid such challenges.
    If given the opportunity I would love to debate brainwashed youth who have been programmed to be motivated to commit acts of terror in the name of their belief system. They would have to be forced to debate with me using the paraphrasing method, and I would make sure I kept white feathers in my back pocket so I could present one to them if it looked like they were backing down by not addressing the issue should their belief systems be challenged in a way they found impossible to adequately answer.
   As many of these victims of brainwashing consider themselves brave warriors and identify as macho young men I may have some success if I forced them to challenge their beliefs by calling them out as unmanly intellectual cowards if they refused. There would be nothing to lose by trying it. 
   Unfortunately many of those who try to deprogram brainwashed terrorists and cult members belong to established religions and hold established values and are no different in one respect to those they are attempting to deprogram. Those they are trying to deprogram can see that, which may be why the success rate at deprogramming people is not great.
    For that reason I cannot see my suggested method of countering terrorism getting off the ground, as it would involve those in power also challenging their own belief systems and values, which if applied to mainstream society would open up a real can of worms, as mainstream society is also run by intellectual cowards who do not want their cherished beliefs challenged. 

PS.There exists in Australia an organisation called "The Rationalist Society of Australia Inc.” I wish them good luck because like me they advocate science and reason over dogma, and  they want a secular Australia with a clear division between state and religion. They promote free thought and a secular and ethical system of education, although considering Rationalists can have very different ethics I do not know how they would decide what is and is not ethical.
   I was a member of the latter society at one time but I am not motivated to rejoin as I think their efforts at making significant political change are “pissing into the wind.” The other reason I would not be interested in rejoining the group is because their form of Rationalism differs markedly to the type I subscribe to, the type I have described in this post. 
    For a start, my reasoning tells me that a truly Rationalist society should not have any political agenda in regard to what they want from mainstream society, although as an organisation it should be officially openminded about everything with no set beliefs other than a “belief” that their Rationalist society should have no set beliefs or policies, other than to have ordered meetings. 
     If I were to attempt to start such a society its sole purpose would be to bring true Rationalists together so they could, by way of organised paraphrasing debate, attempt to find the truth or probable truth on whatever topic they wished to discuss. 
    If someone wants to attempt to start such a society I would be prepared to join, but to be quite frank, which I always am, I could not be bothered making the effort of initiating one myself, as I doubt it would have many members and I do not have the need to belong to any set tribe of people. 
   If however, someone wishes to establish such a society in Canberra or elsewhere they are welcome to get in touch with me if they think I can assist. 
   Maybe I would be keen to start such a society if I were a young man wanting to find likeminded people, but I am in my 65th year and I'm happy with the company of my largely non-Rationalist family and friends, my grandog, and most of all, myself.
    I was once a member of an organisation called the Canberra Skeptics. I resigned, not because I have anything against them, as they do a good job debunking the superstitious. I resigned because I could get nothing out of being a member. I found no other member who subscribed to the sort of aggressive Rationalism of which I subscribe and I could not be bothered challenging spoon-benders.

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