Wow, it’s been a while since I posted on here. I’m looking back through my old blog posts and seriously, there’s some stuff here that belongs on /r/iamverysmart. Like, a short story about an unsung genius of the past who envisioned airplanes before they were cool but he’s too awesome so they jail him? Really younger Aamir?
I bet future Aamir is reading this and saying “I can’t believe my past self wanted to cover up the fact they that were going to write another pretentious blog post so badly that he began with joking at how cringey their past self was, IN ITALICS, to show off his self-awareness. Now he’s addressing me, future Aamir, so that he could REALLY cover his ass. I can see right through you, dude. Ugh, makes me cringe.” Well, future Aamir, cringe harder, because you’re about to read your most pretentious blog post yet.
I’m growing older and have more freedom than I ever did before. I’ve had physical freedom for a while, being in college and having my own car for over a year now. But now I’m starting to experience financial freedom. Social freedom. Mental freedom. So many choices. Too many choices. So much information. So many people telling me what to do and where to shit and how high I should jump. Those are metaphors. Here are some examples.
I always have 20 more tasks than available slots on my daily to-do list. Obviously, I cannot decide on things randomly – I must prioritize. What decides what goes first and what doesn’t make it to the list? What is my system of prioritization? Why should I follow that system of prioritization? (that last question really screws with me) Well, you might say, that should be easy. Just do all your schoolwork first, and whatever time is left, do your other less important tasks. Well, that’s what I mean. What fills up the rest of my time? Fixing issues with my car? Reddit? Calling my parents? Writing pretentious blog posts? So. Many. Great. Options.
That’s just a single day. Let’s broaden the scope. I grew up Muslim. Then I had my years of rebellion in college. Now, I’m somewhere, floating around. I’m not doing the blindly-adhere-to-religion thing again. But, neither is this vague, completely opposite “do what you want,” “just do the right thing in the situation,” or “just don’t be a bad person.”
Also, how do I orient myself to strong trains of thought from the right and the left? There are very strong reasons why less socialism could be good for the United States. There are good reasons for the opposite. There are real reasons why abortion can be viewed as murder. Also great reasons for the opposite. Unhinged illegal immigration can be bad for economies. Denying asylum to people who really need it is not good for humanity. And these are important things to figure out, because it affects important decisions. Who do I vote for? What values do I help inculcate into my younger brothers?
But really, more broadly, these constant, incessant questions extend into every part of my life. How do I spend/save/manage my money? Which friends do I invest emotional energy into keeping contact with? What should I get better at? What path do I want to chart for my personal life? Romantic life? Professional life? Like, the freedom is overwhelming. No wonder it feels safe to just be hyper-religious and consult a big book of knowledge someone else came up with whenever you don’t know what to do.
The core of all of this, I think, is that my values aren’t fleshed out enough. Beyond basic things like don’t hurt others, I have a lack of strong ideas about how the world should be and how I and others should act in it. There’s too many questions now that I have all this freedom to think and be whoever I want, and not enough goddamn answers. That’s why I’m writing this. I gotta find my own truth. (That’s right, I’m using GOTTA. I’m cool.) Here are my ideas.
Solution 1: I can figure out the answer for each of these questions by trial and error. Try one side of the spectrum the first time, the other side the second time. Try to spend all my money. Save all my money. Think only Republican. Think only Democrat. Change one variable at a time. Iterate to success using the scientific method, golden instrument of the rational mind. See what turns out/I like the best. Rinse and repeat. Here’s the problems: One, issues aren’t black and white, so vacillating to extremes doesn’t work. You have to sample a lot of positions on a spectrum to figure out where you fit, which is unfortunately too damn chaotic, too damn slow, and too damn non-generalizable. Every new decision in my life will be subject to avoidance of responsibility till I have carried out my experiments. I won’t always have several weeks to make my decisions or form my opinions on new things. This way is unfeasible.
Solution 2: Figure out “who I am” and what I “do.” Figure out what my real political, moral, societal, social, personal and everything else values are. Generalize classes of decisions by coming up with a set of “good practices.” Every time I have a new decision to make, just reference my personal store of values and say, “Yep, here is my value to try something new every day. So, yes, Clarence, I actually would like to take a hit of that meth pipe!”
This sounds good (minus the meth pipe), but how do I find my values? At a small enough scope, values become no better than experimenting for every decision. Values need to be broad, but numerous enough to cover as many decision classes as possible. So I’m going to explore the idea of having frameworks in my head to choose my finer values. Whenever I don’t know what to do, I can either remember my value, and act accordingly, or if I don’t know or have a value for that particular situation, derive one with a good framework. That’s what I’m going to be exploring moving forward. Hopefully, developing this can help me become a more directed, confident person.
P.S. To Future Aamir. If you cringed hard enough, you probably didn’t make it to the end here. So, future Aamir, you’re a poopy-face. Said it. Right to your face. You just didn’t read it. Hah. Loooooooser.