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Dune (Dune #1)
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Dune > Dune week 3

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Paul Roberson | 6 comments So we hit "The Litany of Fear". And maybe it’s because I grew up in California, so mantras and enlightenment scrips are all around me, but I have heard some form of this philosophy my entire life. And I have to be honest, I disagree with it. 

I have heard many variations of essentially “[insert emotion] is the mind-killer” and in small ways it’s true. But in much larger ways it is not. 
They say that joy is the mind-killer because it clouds your judgment, takes your edge off. If you're an artist then “The work isn't as good”. 

Love is the mind-killer for the very same reason. It swallows you up whole, blinds you to a lot of negative things. 

Fear is the mind-killer, it will freeze you into inaction. 

Anger is the mind-killer, it clouds the mind and makes you lose control. 

Sadness and grief are the mind-killer, they keep you trapped in the past, unable to move forward.

But no problem has ever been solved by ignoring it. If you keep treating your emotions as weaknesses, as these random, unknowable ailments -that's exactly what they’ll be. The people who are telling you that your emotions are a weakness are trying to exploit you, are psychopaths who truly don't see the value of them because they don’t have them, or people who want to invalidate your feelings because they don't want to deal with them. Emotional responses to negative stimuli are healthy, it’s not your job to feel the way people expect you to. 

For me I think the problem is Enlightened wisdom vs. Aspirational psychopathy. Psychopaths are unburdened by fear, or their past mistakes, or the people they have hurt. And that helps them excel in life, most CEO’s tested are revealed to be psychopaths. It allows them to be very confident and decisive in their actions, especially in a crisis. And that’s admirable, we respond to that. But they are still psychopaths, it makes them monsters, it also allows them to do things they know are wrong and not care, even justify those actions. It allows them to overthrow a South American government to control the price of bananas, entice vulnerable people into getting predatory loans that they can never pay back, or any of the other horrifically amoral things that corporations and people in power do. (that first one is real Samuel Zemurray funded a military coup, and for decades the government of Honduras was run by the Cuyamel Fruit Company.) 

And in the moment, yes, if you are in a situation where you are being overwhelmed with your emotions, your best option is to control them so you can make the best possible decisions. But long term the greater advantage it to harness your emotions so you can get the best from yourself and the people around you. That’s wisdom. That's enlightenment. All the wisest people you’ve encountered are like this, they feel everything but don’t let it control them. Fred Rogers (Host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood) said before congress “If we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service”. But this path is hard, you have to put the work in and learn from your mistakes. There is truly no shortcut, but its value is beyond describing.

I’m a person who has struggled with depression and an undiagnosed anxiety disorder for most of his life. So intimate knowledge of my emotional state and how they’re affecting me, working with them instead of against them, are skills I have actively honed every day for years. And it has turned me into a natural leader. People trust me because I lead with my heart, I don’t think there's a single person I know that doesn't know how much I care about them. They trust me to make decisions that are best for all of us. They open up because I won’t invalidate how they feel but respect it. 

Our emotions are survival mechanisms, anger helps us to stick up for and protect ourselves, love helps us connect with people, and fear focuses us on our short and long-term survival.

Anger is not the mind-killer, anger is a natural emotional response to negative stimuli. Anger is telling you that something is not right and something should be done about it and we need to do whatever it takes to establish our power and regain control. But if you are unaware of where your anger is coming from, you'll be unable to fix the problem. You’d be surprised how many times anger comes from a much deeper fear and your inability to affect change. 

Love is a wonderful emotion. But if you don’t put it in perspective, it will absolutely control you. The transcendental euphoria is so strong that if you don’t have the wisdom to see it for what it is, you’ll lose your identity, make decisions motivated purely by your need to stay in it. That’s why love addiction is an actual thing that has ruined people's lives in the same way drugs have.

Fear helps us focus on all the things that can go wrong, it puts us on alert so we can do something about it. If you’ve ever watched a nature video and seen prey avoid a predator, it’s because of the fear response. But because protecting yourself so important, the fear response is powerful, one of the strongest we have. Because the response is so strong it can -and often does- have the opposite effect. If you don’t have experience working with your fear response, you can easily become paralyzed by fear and make yourself totally vulnerable. You may also not have gained the ability to discern the difference between real and imaginary threats. 

The fear of putting yourself out there is something that a majority of people struggle with. But asking yourself seriously “what's the worst that can happen” and being ok with failure allows you to live a much richer life. Also, you’ll become more charming, because you've sold yourself, and connected to people so many times, you’ll know exactly how to do it every single time. But if you divest yourself emotionally from that endeavor you’ll enjoy it less, won’t get the rewards from it, and most importantly you won't learn anything. Failure is an amazing teacher, it helps define who you are and what you want.  

But if you work with your fear in critical situations, it will help you judge and identify threats and their solutions. Harnessed correctly, it’s not only the best way to survive, but thrive.

Bravery is not the absence of fear but the respect and harnessing of it. It’s knowing all the ways the action you are taking is dangerous, but also knowing that doing nothing is worse. A person without fear is reckless and won’t have all those emotions at their back to aid them mentally and push them to their goal.

Sadness is the only way to deal with loss. It helps you focus on the things you cherish so you can either preserve and instill them when the opportunity arises. My dad died on my birthday two years ago. He was maybe the most important person in my life. He taught me everything I need to know about being a good person. If you wanted to karmically punish me in the worst way possible, it would be to make me live the rest of my life without him. He taught me I could decide how to feel. I watched him many times talk out the things that were upsetting him, quantify them, and then feel it without invalidating himself. The goal wasn’t to erase the feeling but to work through it so he can move on. I miss being able to walk into his office and have a casual conversation about how I’m feeling and thinking, things I find interesting, the problems I’m facing, and the solutions I've come up with. The contents of this post are absolutely a conversation I would have had with my dad. And in missing him I have realized how important those things are, and while I have another person I can have those conversations with, I can't do it as much as I did with my dad. But what I can do is be all the things he was to me for other people, he taught me how. 

So I don’t want you to go down the wrong path for the right reason or misinterpret wisdom by taking it a face value.

The obvious way to start on this path is to try some form of therapy, have an outside perspective, help you see things about yourself that you are currently unable to. But that’s not something that everyone has the privilege to be able to do. 

What anyone can do is start a journal, just write down what is happening in your life and how you feel about it. Before therapy, that’s what successful people did for their mental health. In the short term it will help you get into the habit of quantifying your feelings. But long term it will allow you a level of perspective you can't get anywhere else. You can go back a year and see the patterns of your life, see the things you invested in and how they worked out, see the way you justified bad behavior without realizing it. A lot of times you’ll come up with solutions to problems and just forget. Literally journals will give you the power of the Mothers and the Kwisatz Haderach, that's the goal.

message 2: by Dom (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dom King I agree. I think that's one of the aspects of it that smack of when it was written along with it's white messiah figure being central to the plot.

Paul Roberson | 6 comments  Every time I read "Fremen" in Dune, I think of the term "Främling" from the "Ender's Game" books. It’s one classification in "The Hierarchy of Foreignness" introduced in the second novel "Speaker of The Dead" and was designed by his sister Valentine after spending time with Swedish colonists and understanding their culture. 
The whole main Ender’s Quintet is about empathy and otherness. And to be honest, while Enders game is a fun read, the rest of the series is just a bunch of raw philosophy with a plot thinly wrapped over it. They are not fun reads, but I think about the ideas they contain all the time. 
So here is the ranking system, so we are on the same page.

An utlänning was defined as a stranger recognized as human from the same place as a subject, but of a different nation or city. But really if you want to conceptualize it, it’d be like the difference between a Californian and a Texan or a Canadian and an American or Australian. There are differences, sure, but we common language and a common viewpoint. I could move to texas and the adjustment wouldn't be so hard. Utlänning means "foreigner" in Swedish.

A främling was defined as a stranger, recognized as human, but from a different world than a subject. 
So like me and a Japanese civilian. We are different, but it is possible to learn each other's language, study each other's culture, and reach common ground and understanding. Främling means "stranger" in Swedish.

Ramen were defined as strangers recognized as "human", but of another sentient species entirely. The term is only ever used to refer to the entire species as an intellectual exercise rather than an individual member. 
So this is a true alien, something non-human that we have given human status to. They are sentient beings intelligent enough to where communication is possible and so common ground and peace can be achieved. The example of them in the book are the Pequeninos (Portuguese for little ones) or “Piggies”. These are bipedal creatures native to the Lusitanian planet colony. They are highly intelligent able to speak both English and Portuguese, but technologically primitive, truly tribal. 
It could also be argued that dogs are Ramen. We can not only train them and have them understand our wants. But they have ways of communicating with their owners, and a woman trained her dog to use buttons with recorded voices to communicate his specific wants and needs Ramen means "the frame" or "the framework" in Swedish.

Varelse were defined as true aliens; they may or may not be sentient beings, but are so foreign that no meaningful communication is possible with the subject.
A wild animal is a Varelse. You can’t communicate with a bear. If you come across one in the woods, there is no way to communicate that you mean no harm. So it will probably end up killing you, not to eat you just to protect itself and have you dead. But also intelligent creatures can be verelse, so other that communication isn’t possible. That was the justification of exterminating the buggers in Ender's game “we can't start a dialogue, [they don't have mouths] they can't even speak”. And that is the true problem. Without the ability to communicate, there is no way to establish peace. We would be forced to exterminate each other because we would have no way to know what the other is thinking or feeling. 
In reality, if extraterrestrial intelligent life were to exist, it would be veralse. The odds that it would interact with reality the same way that we do, communicate with complex audible noises. Not even see in our visual spectrum.  
There is a green lantern comic written by Allen Moore that explores this concept where a member of the Green lantern core tries to recruit a member of an alien race that is completely blind. So the words "Green" and lantern are untranslatable to it. The concept doesn't exist to them because how could it. Varelse means "creature" in Swedish.

I think the way we rank otherness is important because it's the way we rank personhood. That nobody on this scale is less of a person than another, and that the ultimate point of the scale is that it's meaningless. We say "a person is a person no matter how small" but cognitively we don't fully realize that and what it means. I don't know if early humans faced a mimic enemy that looked like us and talked like us but only wanted to destroy us. But the defense against that is built into our DNA. There are so many ways our brain has defense mechanisms against that. I've always theorized that the reason we laugh is that it's a cognitive check that we both think the same way and come to the same conclusions. Making someone laugh or having the same sense of humor creates an intense bond. And when someone doesn't laugh at something everyone else thinks is funny, that's a huge red flag! But we use otherness to dehumanize people, it makes our lives easier, it makes our opposition to them easier. 
The Fremen are oppressed because they are other. They only seek to invest in their own world and improve their quality of life. But they keep being exploited by an occupying force of outsiders because they have something the outsiders want. And it’s the otherness that allows the exploitation. They are not trading with the Fremen or learning to harvest the spice themselves, it’s Freman's work. 
At the height of the Cold War, Americans truly thought of communists as a different species. Invasion of the body snatchers and the Klingons were both reactions to the Russian people and both those properties were created very shortly after we declared ourselves friends and allies during world war 2. But after the war ended all that was erased, the narrative shifted for both countries and they pretended their common ground didn't exist because we both wanted the same thing, we both wanted to be on top. The unfinished novel turned documentary "I Am Not Your Negro" James Baldwin states  "What white people have to do, is try to find out in their hearts why it was necessary for them to have a nigger in the first place. Because I am not a nigger. I'm a man. But if you think I'm a nigger, it's because you need it. and you have to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that. Whether or not it is able to ask that question." 

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