American neuroendocrinologist and author Robert Sapolsky is a self-proclaimed atheist but he still believes in the health benefits of religion, with an emphasis on its benevolent and social qualities.
When you’re religious you have fewer lifestyle risk factors. The mere ability to perceive causality, reason, benevolence—“Benevolence especially for people like me if I say the right combination of words and fervently believe in it”—that’s wonderfully protective and there’s health benefits to it.
If it is a totally heartless indifferent apathetic universe out there you are far more at risk for all the logical things which is to conclude it is an utterly depressing universe out there.
Rates of depression are much higher among atheists… Go figure.
It feels good to believe
Religion is a useful tool that provides comfort against the unpredictable nature of life. If it works for you, keep practicing it.
“At the times in my life when I was feeling the most gregarious and looking for bosom friendships, I couldn’t find any takers, so that exactly when I was alone was when I felt the most like not being alone. The moment I decided I’d rather be alone and not have anyone telling me their problems, everybody I’d never even seen before in my life started running after me to tell me things I’d just decided I didn’t think it was a good idea to hear about. As soon as I became a loner in my own mind, that’s when I got what you might call a ‘following.’ As soon as you stop wanting something you get it. I’ve found that to be absolutely axiomatic.”
“A leaf does not resist the breeze. A goose does not resist the urge to fly down south. Is this not happiness? Is this not freedom? To access this incredible state, we need only one thing: Trust. Trust that, when you are not holding yourself together so tightly, you will not fall apart. Trust that it is more important to fulfill your authentic desires than listen to your fears. Trust that your intuition is leading you somewhere. Trust that the flow of life contains you, is bigger than you, and will take care of you—if you let it.”
We never know where we’re going until we get there. Sprinkles of clues pique our curiosity along the way, our mind attracted to them like a magnet.
Gathering years, we take in ideas, perspectives, and discover insights. The mind hunts for grains in the obvious, the obscure, both in the environment and in other people’s minds. Gathering string, we lace it through the freedom of trial and error.
Propelled by the unknown road ahead, we keep walking through the maze of uncertainty. Thoughts simmer in the back of our minds.
It is the contradictions that always make the journey more interesting. A hesitant radical, we dissect what’s clear and unclear in unquenchable persistence.
The forces that bind together meaning aren’t always strong, nor are they credible. Your inner-dialogue is like a bank: the more you put into it, the more it wants to synch patterns between disparate events.
We look at the world through the context of our collected experiences. We choose what sticks around to arm us for the uncertainty that the future brings. Carl Jung once said, “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” But what if our mind manufactures stories of coincidental events? Imagination tends to hyperbolize reality.
Perhaps there are no gravitational forces; everything is just a game of chance despite our aim to corroborate our beliefs with supposed facts. When we try to find meaning in everything, we often end up with an incomplete picture.
Certainty tries to assert itself as the dream of man. But when we learn to relax our beliefs, we realize that there are only a few items in life that deserve our scarce attention. Everything else should be left to chance.
There’s a still of rhythm to be found in between the cacophony of noises where we decide what we want to hear.
It doesn’t take too much convincing to bend the will of the well-intentioned.
People are fickle. Show them a better deal, and they’ll chase it, jettisoning their commitment to trusted relationships.
Care and experience are the first to go in exchange for convenience. Having your books and groceries delivered to your doorstep saves time, but it also prevents the happy accidents of bumping into a friend at the market or overhearing an interesting chat in the philosophy aisle.
The compromise for conveniency — texting over calling, shopping in your pajamas, etc. — is a loss in real human exchange. It’s easier to tweet when you’re hiding behind a mask.
“A caterpillar who seeks to know himself would never become a butterfly.”
— André Gide
You may not be a morning person now. But you might be when you have kids.
You may not think of yourself as a meditator, but after listening to Tara Brach, you may become hooked.
You may have loved drinking chocolate milk and eating fruity pebbles as a kid. But do you still consume them as an adult?
You may order an espresso each morning until someone introduces to you the Americano or flat white.
And so forth…
You’re made to change, in small and significant ways. To think who you are today is final is nonsense, an illusion that falsely imagines the end of your own history.
“We all think that who we are now is the finished product: we will be the same in five, 10, 20 years. But, as these psychologists found, this is completely delusional – our preferences and values will be very different already in the not-so-distant future.”
Perhaps instead we should ‘practice becoming,’ as Kurt Vonnegut so wisely encouraged.
“In order to think we must speculate with images.” — Aristotle
It’s impossible to remember anything without seeing the image in our head first. With a little effort, we can activate our brains to become conscious recorders.
But the banality of everyday life tends to dull the senses. Blind to routines which automate thinking, we float by the external world without acknowledging its subtleties. Mobile phones further exacerbate attention; some people admit that the addictiveness of the rectangular glow makes walking harder.
We must force ourselves to look for distinctiveness. No one ever forgets a purple cow or rainbow zebra, even if it’s a figment of our imagination.