Latvian – Estonian shared words

Latvia-and-Estonia[1]

The almost-extinct Livonian language is the link between Latvian and Estonian. The two have little in common, belonging to different linguistic groups. We share most of vocabulary with Lithuanian, however, there are distinct Estonian features like first syllable stress and long vowels in Latvian. Through Livonian, some words are shared between the two. I could not find any list online, so decided to make my own. The only criteria is that they’re not of Slavic or Germanic origin (there are many of those like grāmata/raamat, sīpols/sibul, or tornis/torn). So, only words which are uniquely shard by Latvian and Estonian.

tirgus / turg / market
laiva / laev / boat
kaija / kajakas / seagull
maksāt / maksma / to pay
sēne / seen / mushroom
burkāns / porgand / carrot
vai / või / or
mežs / mets / forest
māja / maja / house
puisis / poiss / boy
asaras / pisarad / tears
mēle / keel / tongue
hapu / skābs / sour

Sam Harris on The Hard Problem

To simply assert that consciousness arose at some point in the evolution of life, and that it results from a specific arrangement of neurons firing in concert within an individual brain, doesn’t give us any inkling of how it could emerge from unconscious processes, even in principle. However, this is not to say that some other thesis about consciousness must be true. Consciousness may very well be the lawful product of unconscious information processing. But I don’t know what that sentence actually means—and I don’t think anyone else does either.

The idea that consciousness is identical to (or emerged from) a certain class of unconscious physical events seems impossible to properly conceive—which is to say that we can think we are thinking it, but we are probably mistaken. We can say the right words: ”Consciousness emerges from unconscious information processing.” We can also say “Some squares are as round as circles” and “2 plus 2 equals 7.” But are we really thinking these things all the way through? I don’t think so.

The fact that the universe is illuminated where you stand—that your thoughts and moods and sensations have a qualitative character in this moment—is a mystery, exceeded only by the mystery that there should be something rather than nothing in the first place. Although science may ultimately show us how to truly maximize human well-being, it may still fail to dispel the fundamental mystery of our being itself.

The task of explaining consciousness in physical terms bears little resemblance to other successful explanations in the history of science. The analogies that scientists and philosophers marshal here are invariably misleading. The fact, for instance, that we can now describe the properties of matter, such as fluidity, in terms of microscopic events that are not themselves “fluid” does not suggest a way to understand consciousness as an emergent property of the unconscious world. It is easy to see that no single water molecule can be “fluid,” and it is easy to see that billions of such molecules, freely sliding past one another, would appear as “fluidity” on the scale of a human hand. What is not easy to see is how analogies of this kind have persuaded so many people that consciousness can be readily explained in terms of information processing.

For an explanation of a phenomenon to be satisfying, it must first be, at a minimum, intelligible. In this regard, the emergence of fluidity poses no problems: The free sliding of molecules seems exactly the sort of thing that should be true of a substance to ensure its fluidity. Why can I pass my hand through liquid water and not through rock? Because the molecules of water are not bound so tightly as to resist my motion. Notice that this explanation of fluidity is perfectly reductive: Fluidity really is “nothing but” the free motion of molecules. For this explanation to be sufficient, we must admit that molecules exist, of course, but once we do, the problem is solved. No one has described a set of unconscious events whose sufficiency as a cause of consciousness would make sense in this way. Any attempt to understand consciousness in terms of brain activity merely correlates a person’s ability to report an experience (demonstrating that he was aware of it) with specific states of his brain. While such correlations can amount to fascinating neuroscience, they bring us no closer to explaining the emergence of consciousness itself.”

Victim Pride

I think our achiever culture has a problem with what it derogatorily calls “victim mentality”. The thing is, life is unfair, and we get hurt. How are we not to feel like victims? Maybe the reality of victimhood should be admitted, and tears of mourning should be cried. No, you are not a superhero who is 100% control of their life and to blame for everything that happens to you. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m really sorry about how hard it is for you. It sucks, and you’re allowed to cry tour heart out about the injustice. And then we’ll put our heads together and think what we can change about it. VICTIM PRIDE!

The purpose of life

Tim Freke’s latest book has the word “purpose” in its title, so I wanted to talk about what it means.

The common sense answer is that purpose is why something is done. And the ultimate purpose, if such a thing exists, should be an end in itself.

And actually, such ends in themselves aren’t too far from our daily experience. Say, I bought a new pair of headphones. The purpose was to listen to my favorite music in good quality. But what’s the purpose of listening to my favorite music? There isn’t any. That is to say, I don’t do it as a means to anything else but the experience of joy that it brings. I’m not diligently listening to the album feeling a sense of accomplishment when it’s finally done.

This is in line with Aristotle who claimed that “eudomonia” or well-being / happiness is the very end of all means we can ever imagine.

And it seems to me that this eudomonia for consciousness as we know it should include

a) absence of suffering
b) free-will based relationships
c) creativity

a) I know this might be controversial, as many people claim suffering is necessary to learn or to know what is good. I’m not convinced. If suffering is necessary to learn, why don’t we make schools full of it? When you feel happy, do you ever find yourself wishing to suffer so that you would “know what is good”? I don’t believe suffering is in any way necessary for happiness.

b) I am a firm believer in libertarian free will, but that is another discussion. What seems obvious to me is that without people making genuine choices there cannot be a relationship. There can be usage – as I’m using my computer now, but in no way it is an emotionally and spiritually satisfying relationship. And that is what love is at the end of the day – a benevolent intimacy between the lover and the beloved. I don’t think anyone could deny that relationships are fundamental for happiness.

c) What relationships are for the soul, creativity is for the mind (to use this terms rather vaguely). Without creativity and art we feel bored, and boredom is actually a form if distress caused by lack of some creative activity. It is simply the nature of consciousness, so it seems, to desire to create. It’s playfulness and unpredictability that we find exciting.

When a being is able to experience blissful, loving, creative relationship with others, it has fulfilled its purpose, and can go on having fun and expanding into endless creativity.

Dzīves Jēga

Quotefancy-2783-3840x2160

Mans dzīves jēgas redzējums ir divpusējs. Viena jautājuma puse ir mana individuālā mūža jēga, otra – eksistences fundamentālā jēga. Lai arī otra, protams, ietver pirmo, tās tomēr ir atšķirīgas.

Vieglāk ir sākt ar eksistenciālo jēgu. Lai cik vienkāršoti tas neizklausītos, augstākā jēga, ko spējam iedomāties, ir laime. Jau pirms daudziem gadsimtiem Aristotelis savā “Nikomaha ētikā” paudis šo radikālo apgalvojumu: “Laime ir dzīves jēga un mērķis, visas cilvēces eksistences galamērķis”. Protams, vārds laime ir plaši interpretējams un pārprotams, un Aristoteļa lietotais termins eudaimonia ticis plaši iztirzāts un salīdzināts ar mūsdienu konceptiem, taču šeit es mēģināšu paskaidrot, kā es saprotu šo ideju.

Laime savā pamatā ir sajusta pieredze. Tai ir dažādas nokrāsas un mainīgs saturs, taču galu galā tā ir patīkama pieredze, uz kuru mēs tiecamies. Pat ja apgalvojam, ka ciešanas vai sāpes dažkārt ir nepieciešamas, tāpat apzināti vai neapzināti norādām, ka tās ir kāda augstāka mērķa vārdā, un šis augstākais mērķis neizbēgami būs saistīts ar laimi.

Ja mēs vienu dienu vaicātu sev, kāpēc darām to, ko darām, manuprāt, neizbēgami nonāktu līdz laimei kā augstākajam motivatoram. Kāpēc mēs iegūstam izglītību? Gan tāpēc, lai nopelnītu naudu (nabadzība sagādā ciešanas – laimes pretmetu), gan tāpēc, lai ar savām prasmēm kaut kā palīdzētu citiem (palīdzētu izvairīties no ciešanām un pietuvoties laimei). Kāpēc veidojam attiecības? Lai justos laimīgi nevis vientuļi. Kāpēc spēlējam spēles vai klausāmies mūziku? Jo tas sagādā prieku. Kādēļ augstu vērtējam zināšanas? Jo tās ir gan interesantas, gan palīdz turpmāk izvairīties no ciešanām un pietuvoties laimei. Ja paskatāmies uz rīcību, kas nodara ciešanas sev vai citiem, tomēr neizbēgami redzam, ka motivācija tomēr ir bijusi gūt kaut kādu baudu vai ieguvumu, kas atkal noved pie tiekšanās pēc laimes sajūtas. Vēlos izaicināt lasītāju dot kādu piemēru, kur augstākais motivators tomēr nav tiekšanās pēc laimes.

Vēl jāpiebilst, ka šāda eksistenciālā jēga un laime ir mūžīga, tāpat kā apziņa. Mūsdienās valdošais filozofiskais materiālisms, kas postulē, ka apziņa ir matērijas produkts, kas mirs līdz ar tās iziršanu, ir zinātniski un filozofiski nepareizs. Bet to pierādīt nav šīs esejas mērķis, varbūt vēlāk iztirzāšu to kādā citā.

Ja esam vienojušies, ka laime šī vārda plašākajā izpratnē ir eksistences jēga, varam turpināt noskaidrot, kāda tad ir individuālā mūža jēga. Ja laimi iztēlojamies kā galamērķi, kas atrodas centrā, tad katrs indivīds ir kaut kur perifērijā noteiktā leņķī pret to, tādēļ virzieni un metodes tās sasniegšanai atšķirsies.

Ja eksistenciālo laimi varam saprast filozofiski un ar prātu, ar individuālo ceļu uz to nav tik vienkārši. Kā lai mēs zinām, kuru soļu speršana novedīs mūs pie laimes? Mēs to nevaram zināt absolūti, jo realitāte ir neparedzama, tādēļ te neiztikt bez ticības un intuīcijas. Klišejiskais padoms šajā problēmā ir rīkoties. Ja mūsu intuīcija saka go for it, tad tikai rīkojoties mēs uzzināsim, vai šis solis bija pareizais.

“in order to truly taste and appreciate life, one must suffer”?

This was a comment on a thread in a Gnostic discussion group. What follows is such a great reply that I wanted to share it.

chickensuffer

With all due respect, I’m not sure that’s true, and at the very least, it would be speculative for me to confirm, since I know of no lives that do not experience, encounter or exist outside of this realm of suffering so as to testify otherwise.

Moreover, I can imagine a world where this wouldn’t be the case.

But then, I’m forced to imagine it, because it doesn’t exist (not that I know of).

In any case, I have to say, such a pre-requisite of suffering for appreciating life would be an awfully convenient situation for any Demiurge or would-be fan of the Demiurge, since it not only lets an apparently sadistic, lesser God off the hook for creating an inferior realm and causing all sorts of trouble in our lives, he/she actually gets congratulatory pats on the back for our suffering.

As an added side note, if suffering is necessary to truly taste and appreciate life then traditional notions of Heaven as being naught but ecstatic joy must be tossed aside, because Heaven would (per this understanding) require even greater helpings of suffering and evil (i.e., the infliction of suffering) in order to experience the requisite joy that Heaven promises. Man, wouldn’t that be something to look forward to?

Some might say, good riddance to such formerly naive notions of Heavenly paradise, and while I can understand this sentiment, I likewise can understand the desire for a posthumous break.

Mind you, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get whatever we can from the suffering we’re subject to (or the suffering we cause for ourselves), whether this begets compassion, an appreciation of non-suffering and/or any other helpful insights and experiences, and I’ll readily concede that the sour taste of suffering generally does make the good times sweeter, however, I have always wondered if those who elevate the virtues of suffering to unreasonable heights are either

1) sadistic themselves;

2) they represent cosmic cases of Stockholm Syndrome;

3) they’re simply mindlessly parroting New Age ‘feel good’ shibboleths; or

4) they simply haven’t suffered enough and/or they haven’t fully contemplated or “truly appreciated” or personally experienced/felt (thankfully, lucky for them) the stupendous depth and immensity of suffering on this planet, such is our limitation?

Actually, one of the nicest things one can say about the Demiurge is that on an individual level, this creator made it so we can only suffer so much or so long before our system shuts down and we die.

But this isn’t to say there can’t be mind-blowing suffering along the way. For example, if you’ll indulge some personal sharing here the day after Mother’s Day, my mom suffered through ALS for the last years of her life, and I’m curious as to how you see such an event fitting into the perspective you’ve described here?

I’m not trying to be a wise guy—I’m genuinely curious as to how you reconcile these things, since I can’t—certainly not in any easy way or one that at least ‘sounds’ as nice as the way you’ve put it.

Thing is, the unique nature of ALS is such that it’s nothing but take away—at least physically. That is, you progressively lose your neural connections day by day, and none of them ever come back, and there’s not even any hope of remission.

Life is pretty much identified with the ability to move, and so, with ALS, you steadily lose all motion, starting with extremities—maybe starting with your toes, maybe your fingers, and so on, until you can’t move anything externally, and then your internal organs collapses—maybe the neural connections you depend upon for your heartbeat, or maybe the neural connections you depend upon for your brain to work so that, ya’ know, you’re able to reckon how wonderful all of this suffering is, or, if not the suffering itself, then how wonderful the rest of non-suffering reality is, er, once was (since as an ALS victim, it’s game over for you)?

Oh, as for truly appreciating the “taste” of life, you depend on your neural connections for the sense of taste, so these are often lost as well, that is, before you lost everything.

Now, in fairness, I’m sure you meant “taste” metaphorically, but it is no small challenge to appreciate the metaphorical taste of anything when you’ve lost your literal taste of anything. And I might add, in the end, we all have our neural connections taken away from us.

I know these are tough questions, but this is a tough world, and for more than a few Gnostics, these are central questions—defining questions—and they leave most with a decided distaste for the nature of this reality, such as it is.

No doubt, lurking behind this distaste is a belief that there is something better, and in fact, the knowledge of the existence of this very belief is perhaps the greatest testimony that there must be something better.

In this specific sense, the typical Gnostic might concur with your assessment of the value of suffering, which is to say, about the only one good thing (in any ultimate sense) that comes of suffering is the belief, awareness and/or knowledge of the possibility of transcending suffering and evil.

In other words, in the long run, I’m pretty sure most of us want exactly what you describe—i.e., truly tasting and appreciating life. However, this doesn’t come easy for most of us in the short run of this life, which can feel pretty damned long at times, if not pretty damned insufferable.

In short, it’s a long way from there to where we hope to go. If you’ve already gotten there, good for you (sincerely), but I’m not sure everyone else is ‘feelin’ it’ or perhaps is as well positioned to ‘feel it.’

But, hey—maybe that’s our oversight. Maybe we’re not looking deeply enough into the matter so that we fail to see the light of Paradise all about us, or as the Gospel Thomas puts it, “the Kingdom of the Father is spread out over the Earth and men see it not.”

I’m entirely down with that in a sense and to a degree, BUT, lest I even let Thomas get away with a bit of superficial wisdom, I’d quickly ask him, “Gee, Tommy, I wonder why that is?”

Or maybe I’d retort, “The Kingdom of a Lesser Father is also spread out over the Earth and men see all too much of it.” But in fairness to Thomas, maybe what he meant wasn’t that everything was sunshine and light and we see it not, but simply that the hope, belief and knowledge that there might be something better is what’s spread over the Earth. I’m not sure if that’s what he meant, but that’s one possible defense.

Anyway, you only made a relatively brief comment, and I sincerely don’t mean to unfairly stack the deck against you with a long reply. I assume you have deeper thoughts on the matter and, again, I’d like to hear your further thoughts.

Is “objective morality” a coherent concept?

I was pondering the nature of good and bad and objective morality.

Often we hear this argued between theists and atheists. Atheists claim that all morality is subjective, while theists say that there is such a thing as “moral law”, and, therefore, a moral lawgiver to which we are fundamentally responsible.

But I’m wondering whether “objective morality” is a coherent concept at all. If it is truly objective, it must be so that everyone sooner or later must admit its truth and subject themselves to it. But even if there were a personal God (the ultimate being, the final authority), and he stood right in front of me, declaring his law, what would stop me from disagreeing with him? And what would make God right and me wrong? Merely his authority? That’s a well known fallacy in reasoning appropriately called “argument from authority” which God would be guilty of committing. A true position is true regardless who claims it. That’s what “objective” means, right?

So I come to conclude that a “moral lawgiver” isn’t enough to make morality objective.

But looking at our concepts of good and bad, I see they ultimately boil down to happiness/suffering (to use these terms very broadly). If we can agree that happiness=good and suffering=bad (yes, sometimes suffering can lead to greater happiness in the long run, but that in no way contradicts the argument), we can come to a shared understanding of morality: that which causes most happiness and least suffering, all conscious beings taken into account, is ultimately morally good. If someone disagrees with the aforementioned premise “happiness=good/suffering=bad”, then, of course, the argument stops right there.

That’s the closest to objective morality that I can come to.