Re: virus: Self-observation

Eric Boyd (
Tue, 18 Jun 1996 00:31:53 -0500

Hello everyone;

Yesterday I wrote something along the lines of: self awareness of
happiness makes the happiness "lesser", kind of a dulled happiness
becuase you are, but just thinking about the happiness, distracting
yourself from the pleasure.

Then _everyone_ responded.

Richard Brodie wrote:
> Neurotic self-observation can detract from life experience, but healthy
> Level-3 self-awareness can add to it.

Chitren Nursinghdass wrote:
> I don't agree : I've had an experience where I was
> 1. Feeling the pleasure of seeing something.
> 2. Saying to myself "I know why I like that, it's because when I was
> younger," and so on
> and the pleasure wasn't lost, it was just different, a different
> kind of pleasure : both feeling the beauty and knowing why this particular
> thign should appeal to me broung another type of experience
> which was actually highly pleasurable itself !

John ''Storm of Drones'' Williams wrote:
> I'm going to have to side with Chitren on this one. I've been trained as a
> literary critic; therefore, when I read anything, I do whole bunches of
> literary-criticism style reading. Part of my training included
> reader-response criticism and post-structuralist criticism. Both of these
> involve the observation of the reader as the reader interacts with the
> text. The text-reader duality becomes an example of how people's thoughts
> and feelings are shaped by the world, and how they in turn shape the world
> itself.
> This is the reason I'm drawn to memetics, I suppose.
> In any case, observing this does not put me off the experience. Rather,
> it's a different experience that I enjoy. It has, in fact, enabled me to
> enjoy films that others seem to think are really really bad (Last Man
> Standing, The Fifth Element, etc)
> Not that this should be true for everyone. Literary theorists are too thick
> now anyways. ;-)

Robin Faichney wrote:
> Not that I think it's quite that simple, either. I guess I can
> see both sides, here. Maybe there's two different forms
> of distancing. I know where Eric is coming from, and it's
> a Zen thing, but at the same time a certain form of self-
> awareness is quite often advocated in Buddhism and
> the like. You can just enjoy something, and you can
> bring an extra level of awareness to it, and know that
> you're enjoying it, as the simple enjoyment continues
> on another level, and I think that would be viewed
> positively within the mystical traditions. What is
> disparaged is mainly distraction: part of your attention
> is elsewhere, perhaps concerned with how you're
> looking, for instance. That is a *very* different sort of
> self-awareness. In fact, I'd say it's awareness of a
> different self!

And you know what? I think you're all right. We all agree here.
(*problem*!) While Zen is definatly onto something with it's emphasis
on "just experiencing", there is also a sort of intellectual pleasure /
higher plane that comes to those who truly understand. Fanatical self
observation, where one is concerned with your looks and you walk and ...
etc. is not good. But, after you've come to accept that "what will be
will be", there is a kind of pleasure in acknowledging that "hey yea...
this has been great fun, because (insert causal factor here)"

And while I'm on this topic, this reminds me of another meme that
infected me a while back. I'm not sure where it came from, but I don't
*think* it was my idea. (heh... It's mine now!)

Anyway, the idea is that there are three levels of understanding (not
three levels of minds, that's a different meme). The first level is the
"fuzzy" level where it feels right, and good. You know that the idea is
a good one, and it has this surface appeal that makes you tingle all
over. I would maintain that this is where a lot of people stop.[1] Then,
the intellectual will start to analyze the meme, try to figure out if it
is valid[2], try to integrate it into his meme-sphere, or reject it if
it doesn't fit. This stage, where one is questioning the nice fuzzy
feel-good meme, often feels like you are going in the wrong direction.
Why question it? It's a good meme, and by analyzing it, the meme often
looses that feel-good quality. Only when the process is done, and one
has come to a complete understand of /why/ the meme is good (sorry...
desirable), /why/ is felt right orginally, does that feeling come back
again. Only on a much deeper scale. Because you understand the meme,
not only does it feel good, but you have /trust/ in that meme; you know
it is useful and desirable. And, of course, you understand it well
enough to spread it to others in a clear and concise way.

Do you see the analogy I'm drawing here? The only reason that
self-observation eventually becomes pleasurable is becuase you learn to
trust and understand yourself. The Capital E Enlightened person finds
pleasure in self-observation because s/he understands what pleasure


[1] Specifically, I think that a lot of Christians stop here. My
friend Evelyn, in particular, has told me many times that she doesn't
like to understand/explain why things are good or bad. "They just are
that way"

[2] Valid. I've been using this as my replacement for "truth" becuase I
think that while they have the same basic meaning, "valid" has always
seemed to me to imply "inside of the system of axioms we are working
with" ... exactly what I want to say.

[3] I'm not going to try and explain pleasure. This is one of those
things one must just feel.