An Ode (?) to Sam Harris
I usually avoid reading Sam Harris.
Well, avoid might be the wrong word. A better way of saying this would be I proceed with care before absorbing his content.
Why? Because Sam Harris is one of those few writers who will literally shatter your entire belief system and there’s nothing you can do about it.
This first happened to me after reading his short book “Free Will”, where Sam argues that whatever we say or do is a product of anything (our past, our neurochemistry, our environment) BUT free will. The free will we’ve grown up to believe we possess is an illusion.
His argument was so convincing it led to a mind blown Richard staring at the floor questioning his entire existence, mission on this planet and whether or not he’s just a puppet (to those wondering, I still think about it, a lot).
So for weeks I avoided him. I didn’t want to suffer again. It’s not him, it’s me. I was done.
But somehow the universe brought him back to me (I’ve always been fascinated with the military which led me to the Navy Seals which led me to Jocko Willink’s Podcast interview with Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan… And Sam Harris).
So here I am. Listening to Sam’s interview with Jocko about violence. And of course it’s fascinating! So I hesitantly click subscribe to Sam’s podcast “Waking Up with Sam Harris”.
I scroll down.
I scroll down.
And I listen to his first three episodes (two are guided meditations).
So far so good. Until I click on the third episode “Drugs and the Meaning of life”. And I’ll be damned Mr Harris if you’re reading this I want you to know you did it again!
As a matter of fact the first SENTENCE blew my mind.
“Everything we do is for the purpose of altering consciousness”
KABOOM! Mind blown.
At that moment my mind starts racing with things we do to alter consciousness and how it’s all for that one goal.
Don’t believe me?
- When we watch our favorite show we’re altering our consciousness (maybe you want to spend the next hour in Westeros instead of your apartment).
- When we listen to music we’re altering our consciousness (I know that listening to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” transports me back to my competitive swimming days where I’d listen to the song on repeat and TO THIS DAY when that familiar piano starts playing I feel the chills down my spine right before the electric guitar jumps in making me ready to wreck havoc on whatever wall standing in my way).
- When we eat that piece of chocolate we’re trying to feel the sensation on our tongue.
- When we make new friends we’re trying to experience feelings of love and friendship.
- When we read a book we’re trying to experience other people’s thoughts.
- What do you think people are doing at this very moment in Coachella? Whatever alcohol or drug ingested is a shortcut to altering consciousness.
Yes my friend. EVERYTHING we do is to change whatever way we are feeling (you can even use Tony Robbins’ expression “change of state”).
Which means that our decisions should be made more carefully right? We should step back and decide whether we are happy or angry before we respond to whoever we are arguing with (have you regretted saying something to someone that you didn’t mean but said anyways because you were in the wrong state? Yeah so have I).
I briefly talked about this on my post about Founder Depression. I just didn’t know how easily it could be explained.
The question then becomes who are we really? If we will act differently when we are angry vs when we are happy, or sad, or emotional, or depressed, or ecstatic… Where is our real essence?
Is this where meditation comes in? Is it true that if we want to understand our mind we should just observe it?
Before making any decision should we take a step back and say “wait, I’m feeling angry, therefore what I’m about to say isn’t really ME it’s just this anger I feel”. Do we even have control over that? Or is the anger we feel us at that moment meaning there is no real “me”. There’s many different personalities within one being and what we have to do is deal with the consequences of each one of them which are somewhat out of our control.
All I can say is this; I have now been drinking a very, very tall glass of Sam Harris’ Kool-Aid and every time end up with more questions. Which makes him one of the most interesting thinkers of our time. This beverage can be highly addictive.
If you’re going to do the same, I highly suggest you do one thing.
Open with care.
Thanks for reading! 😊 If you enjoyed it, test how many times can you hit 👏 in 5 seconds. It’s great cardio for your fingers AND will help other people see the story.