Mike, feelings like pain and pleasure are biochemical feedback aren’t they, similar to any feedback…
Nicholas Mayhew

Do you want to live? If so, take another breath. If you would rather die, then do nothing.

Thanks for the response, Nicholas.

My mind tends to veer towards monochromatic greyscale by rewinding evolutionary neuropsychology to its biological origin points. Specifically that moment in history when one neuron (or cluster) spawned a mate, “shook hands” and set off on the path of evolutionary bilateralization.

Those first two neurons (or mirrored clusters) allowed for proper choice for the first time.

From that moment on, they have been engaging in a constant struggle to predict the best path to a pain-free existence. Can you imagine what “life” must have been like for those rudimentary organisms at the start of our evolution?

I’ve been as close to that point as anyone I know. 21 years of soldiering has honed a few reptilian instincts that become…problematic and difficult to quantify. It starts by immersing yourself into a perpetual life/death decision matrix that last as long as each “mission” — sometimes years. Then it becomes much more nebulous to describe. You begin to assign probabilities to each team member's decision making ability as measured against yours for each imaginable combat catastrophe.

Suddenly, you find yourself utterly alone in the universe. No one thinks like you.

In response, you develop training scenarios to deal with all of the cognitive biases we suffer from. Scenarios that justify your logic at each step because if you didn’t maximize the learning potential of your idle time, you couldn’t trust the person behind you to make the right choice.

If YOU didn’t cover all your bases, your death would be your fault.

It is exhausting… everyone always thinks you are overreacting — or even insane.

Until every mission becomes a complete (and easy) victory.

The closest intimate encounter with my cerebellum occurred after a particularly nasty IED. Blown up, bleeding out, unconscious- a fundamental part of my existence woke up just to ask me one question:

Do you want to live? If so, take another breath. If you would rather die, then do nothing.

It’s been 10 years since that experience and I am still here. Whole. More than whole, actually. As the perpetual philosopher and social psychologist, that nightmarish experience allowed me to capture what it really means to be human and which alternatives manifest according to which temporal cognitive biases.

Pain, pleasure. Those are biochemical excitation triggers controlled by your connectome. Your higher neurons collect all information, compare against experience and decide at 2–3 orders of magnitude out — which to allow at which times.

All with the ultimate goal of perpetual bliss.

Take another breath, my friend.

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