Thursday, October 15, 2009

Get out of my head, God. Seriously.

God totally stole my idea to tell T-Rex that some cultures have tattoos with deep significance. He also stole my idea for a religion where you have to stop complaining so much. Man, why does God gotta be stealin' my ideas like that?

Truth be told, though, most religions are about how you need to stop complaining so much. It's often about achieving happiness in this world, or just not caring about this world. It may seem like not complaining is a consequence of the religion, rather than some kind of requirement, but it can work the other way around: if you're not allowed to complain, you will become a person who is less inclined to complain.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle was one of the first philosophers to realize that we are what we repeatedly do. His idea of the virtues was that we can live good lives and be happy by developing the virtues in us, and the only way to do this is to practice them as much as possible every day of our lives:
It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good. But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do.
To be good at doing anything, you have to actually do that thing many times. What is less obvious, though, is that if you want to be a certain kind of person, such as a person who likes to give people compliments, you can become that kind of person simply by acting like that kind of person. It sounds a little backwards, and it sounds like you're just pretending to be something you're not, but it makes some sense when you think it through.

In our example, if I want to be a person who gives people compliments, I need to start by actually paying people these compliments, and before I do that I have to find something in the person to compliment. So, now I am going around every day trying to find something to compliment in everyone I meet. This can develop other qualities in me as well, such as liking people more, and being able to find something good in things such as books and movies.

And I will probably stop complaining so much, without even having to sign up for God's religion. That filthy idea stealer.

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