The universe is a construction of my mind
So I am about to start teaching my mind to think again. To make the job easier, I’ll begin treating the whole universe as a construction of my unconscious mind. Yeah. Bear with me.
Let’s denote this assumption by the letter G (as in, my mind Generates reality).
G is largely untestable, and almost certainly false, in the rank of “there is a supreme intelligence controlling everything” or “the universe is a simulation imposed from the outside.” Any such sufficiently general position can assimilate all existing and new information; for example, a conventionally religious person can explain away any given phenomenon with “God made it so.” The resulting worldviews can therefore be fairly internally consistent, in the same way in which adopting or discarding the parallel postulate results in different but usually internally consistent geometries.
So, why is the world the way it is? My mind makes it so. Why do things happen? My mind makes them happen. And so on.
Why bother with G? At least two reasons:
Firstly, the fact that part of me is the generator of all reality, albeit an involuntary and unconscious one, puts me in an intimate relationship with the world; the world is, in a sense, mine — mine to explore, mine to tinker with, mine to protect and maintain. This should make me more observant, freer and positively predisposed, instead of taking the world, and myself in it, for granted.
Secondly, even if the construction takes place unconsciously, in the mind there is always some interplay between the conscious and the unconscious, one affecting the other in ways that can sometimes, presumably, be intentional. Changes I produce in my mind can be reflected on the world at large, maybe.
This hopefully sounds somewhat common sense. Think of it as the Matrix that isn’t imposed, but auto-generated, and isn’t artificial, but real. G is also convenient. It is low maintenance. It isn’t anti-scientific and doesn’t need to be constantly adjusted. There are no daily rituals to obey and no external authorities to follow.
Can I make myself believe something very improbable? Sure. This comes with repetition and habit. I believe in voting despite knowing that many politicians are corrupt and ineffective. I react emotionally to movies, even though I know they are fiction. I believe my dad can hear and understand me when I speak to him, even though his dementia is so advanced that he hasn’t been able to recognize me in years.
Examine yourself and you’ll find that most of your beliefs are based on very little, even if you’re the average enlightened person of our day, believing in the scientific method and comfortable accepting the ambiguity and not knowing certain things. To live is better than to die. More knowledge is better than less. There might be a certain purpose to our existence. It is in general good that the humankind develop and survive. Progress will not inevitably lead to destruction of our civilization. The list goes on.
Even the calm scientific world features phenomena that are immeasurable, logically inconsistent, or unknowable. All sorts of cognitive biases plague the best of researchers. Yet they, and we all, carry on as if everything was normal and orderly, because we are used to doing so. We wake up every day and things are similar to how they were yesterday, so we take them for granted. This is the kind of slumber that I wish this exercise to shake me out of.
Under the umbrella of G, I will employ Epicureanism in its simplest form as my day-to-day guide. It seems a fitting complement — it uses internal, subjective criteria to judge actions. It holds that pleasure is good, and pain is bad. Therefore I will try to avoid pain and seek pleasure, looking into myself for clues on what to do. For me, pleasure does not (not always, anyway) equate to freestyle debauchery. I draw it from being creative, having friendships, focusing on other people and being in general truthful. That’s where I am in my life right now; it didn’t always use to be this way, and may not be in the future. Others’ mileage will vary, rendering Epicureanism more or less useful and more or less dangerous.
Now we’re good to go.