A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Previously, I wrote a rather lengthy explanation about a philosopher named Baruch Spinoza. Here's the practical part. You can apply Spinoza's ethics to real-life situations like cigarette smoking. Wanna know how? It's very easy. Learn as much as possible about the addiction.

This is actually how most people get out of their addictions, they become experts.

I used to smoke a pack and half to two packs a day, and so I was a heavy smoker. I was so addicted that I had to smoke just to make me feel normal. The way I overcame smoking was to examine all the reasons I held to rationalize my smoking, and all the triggers that led me to do it.

In other words, I acquired knowledge about particular things. For instance, I smoked because it made me feel calm when I was stressed out, because others around me smoked, and because I had acquired a taste for the smoke. I also had multiple triggers that I had associated with lighting up; someone calling me, getting in a car, eating, drinking, being bored, etc.

However, as I examined each reason it became clear to me that they held no water. The physical addiction to nicotine subsides in about two weeks, but the mental addiction can last forever. The mental aspect of the addiction is the biggest part of the addiction, yet it is only a figment of the imagination.

So I thought about my reasons. My first reason was that smoking makes me calmer. This reason was debunked after I imagined two people on a park bench; one is smoking and the other is reading a book. Who appears to be calmer? The person quietly reading a book of course! The person smoking is too busy trying to become normal again. Besides, nicotine is a stimulant and thus actually has the effect of making a person less calm. Reason 1 debunked.

The second reason was being around people who smoked. After watching people interact and smoke and laugh and talk, it became obvious that smoking part isn't that important. What causes people to laugh and interact with each other is simply being there. Reason 2 was debunked.

The third reason I had was that I had acquired a taste for smoke. The taste of smoke is tricky. First of all, it isn't a necessary taste but to be consciously aware in the present moment of smoke inside my mouth was enough to convince me that cigarette smoke in fact does not taste good at all. Reason 3 was debunked.

My fourth reason was the unconscious triggers. I would get into a car and light up, or if someone called me I'd light up. These were largely habits. I began to pay attention to what activities caused me to light up, and I wrote down a list. I had become aware of my triggers, something that very few smokers try to do. There was no reason to smoke.

What I'm illustrating here is that the most important thing is really to internalize your knowledge; learn about your habits and why YOU do them. Understanding WHY you do something, makes it easier to STOP doing something.

From there, you need only take action. Or actually, you only need to STOP.

Now imagine applying this to all our vices. Wouldn't it be great? Well, it's easier said then done. I've done this for a few things already, and of course there are more to do. This has been spoken of by numerous people, not just Spinoza, so there's a lot of words to back it up. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Siddhartha Gautama, William James, Bernadette Roberts ... they say the same things but they only differently. Supposedly, if enough vices are removed and replaced with knowledge and productive skills, one can reach a state of happiness, or 'excellence' as Aristotle called it.

It is a difficult state of being to achieve, and as Spinoza, a heretic who was excommunicated because he did not have the right view of God, said, "That which is excellent is as difficult as it is rare."

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