Imagine doing a lot of fun things, a lot of travel, and a lot of pleasure. Imagine laying down on the beach, sipping a Margarita. The salty rim of the glass. A feeling of being refreshed and cheered. Getting up from a beach bed and laying down on a massage table, relaxing and drifting off to sleep. Later on, a tasty dinner with the partner, dancing the calories away in the night club, and having sex.
We imagine ourselves in the above situation. And we think - “ah, this is good life”. Well, it’s good, but it is not deep. We are indulging our primal senses. Our neuron receptors. Our input layer.
That’s called vacation. That’s not living. Vacation is necessary for our low-level pleasure senses to recover from the numbness that surrounds them in the everyday grind. We work hard to make money to give ourselves pleasure, and as we work, we start to forget what pleasure is. That’s why we need vacation. That’s why we need weekends. To remind us. To strengthen and realign our understanding of pleasure. To develop our input layer.
And on top of the pleasure layer, we have our reason. Reason is the next layer in the deep neural network in our brain. Reason builds on top of pleasure and pain. We rely on it in everyday tasks, such as deciding what to eat, and how warm to dress. It lets us figure out how to maximize pleasure. It helps us deduce that we can increase the thermostat when we feel cold, or eat a pizza when we are hungry. Without reason, we’ll be worse off than most animals. Especially those damn raccoons. They’ll take our pizza.
But them raccoons get smarter and smarter, and we need to keep updating our reasoning if want pizza. That’s why we develop strategies as a layer on top of reason. We get a dog and teach it recognize racoon smell, so we’re alert next time they come to steal our pizza.
On top of strategies, we have principles and values. We value pizza, and we value not being cheated. Our principle is that we don’t let raccoons steal our pizza. We’re getting into emotion territory now. Our principles and values derive from our emotions. Our emotions dictate whether we feel sympathy or annoyance at those less strong and less smart, and whether we feel admiration or fear towards the stronger and smarter.
Emotions are at the opposite end of the chain of neural layers, and every swing of our emotions results in a swing in the layers after it - strategy, reasons, and pleasure. Emotions are another input layer. From top.
As we get exposed to physical and emotional pleasures and pain, the whole neural network shakes like a battle rope. But this rope of neurons is our identity. This is how we make decisions. We take the whole rope into account when deciding to eat a pizza, get a dog, or shoot a raccoon.
The more this rope shakes, the more confused we are, and less consistent in our decisions. When we change our strategy and principles, we get dumber, and eviler. It doesn’t matter that we may think of ourselves as good. Our actions define us, not our intentions.
When we act with our emotions and senses, we become losers. Because we let them attack and disrupt our decisions and actions and make them inconsistent with the principles and strategies we have. So these principles and strategies no longer work.
We are our decisions and actions, not our thoughts. Not our intentions. Our actions.
And here finally I can deliver my thesis. To live life fully, truly, madly, deeply, like winners, we need to pin down our reasoning, strategies and principles, we need to cut them out of granite so that emotions and senses can’t sway or bend them easily, and our decisions derive from a strong fixed point.
It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s not pleasure. Pleasure is input layer, and fear is the mind killer. We need to insulate our decision making from pleasure and emotions. Not to fully separate, because then we become robots, but to at least prevent minor swings in pleasure and emotion to shake us out of our path in life.
Living deeply, it’s a struggle. Struggle to stay focused and our paths, struggle to keep eating healthy, struggle to treat others kindly even when they don’t treat us kindly. Struggle to not be lazy and procrastinate. Struggle to not act stupid. To keep refining and improving our principles and strategies in a conscious way.
Living deeply doesn’t feel easy. Because we’re making hard decisions, putting effort in when we don’t feel like it, and abstaining from bad habits when they are tempting. It’s sacrificing our time in order to help others, or ignoring others in order to focus on the top priorities. The choice might go either way depending on our principles and the situation, but it will be hard, from emotional, and from comfort viewpoint.
Living deeply doesn’t feel exciting. It requires hard work which can often get boring, repetitive, and ungrateful. It involves hours and days of preparation and planning for a handful of interesting minutes of high impact.
Living deeply is mentally stressful. It requires us to ask the hard questions, to be humble and to examine our values. It requires us to have difficult conversations, and to do a lot of uncomfortable preventive actions.
And yet, living deeply feels like living. It feels like a breath of fresh cold air. Because we know we are on our own path.