The Paradox of LifeOS: The operating system of LIFE
From the moment we are born, we start building the software that governs our thoughts, actions and feelings. We are tutored constantly, at first without words, through our experiences, through the approval or disapproval of our parents, through the instinctual understanding of the energies that flow around us. Later, we start learning through language as well, accelerating the process. We are taught, trained and instructed by our families, friends, teachers, society. Some things we learn through repetition and habit, others by intense carrot and stick situations; reward and punishment. Actually, the stick usually comes first and foremost, since we usually learn quicker through fear than through gratification.
Pretty soon, however, we start learning most by the biggest stick and carrot incentive, the most terrifying and pleasing tool available to human society; social disapproval and approval. We become paranoid about any possible disapproval and addicted to approval, so we learn quickly to struggle hungrily for it. We are amazingly easily programmable and adaptable learning machines. Our world is incredibly complex, but we usually have no problem in installing programs inside us that allow us to do the correct thing on most occasions, to easily follow social form to the minutest detail; How we eat, how we dress, how we speak and address others according to their societal position or rank; to behave differently and appropriately depending on the situation and circumstances.
We even acquire different personas to cope with diverse social conditions. Our openness, eagerness and capability to receive programming codes that automatically protect us from mistakes- mistakes that would bring upon us the bloodthirsty sword of social disapproval and rejection- is nothing less than spectacular.
We build up complicated networks of thousands of beliefs that align us with the belief systems of our parents, our social circle, our teachers and the media and protect us from the dreaded rejection and ostracism, which, our acquired belief systems absolutely confirm, is a fate worse than death.
A big part of our labyrinthine belief systems varies according to culture and era. A few centuries or decades and a different religion or culture separate parents who would be worried and talking to psychologists and sociologists because their daughter is still a virgin at twenty five from parents who would consider her a whore and would banish her in shame because she isn’t. And this applies to our beliefs about everything, not just morality. One moment things heavier than air cannot fly and the next moment they can. Just twenty years ago the notion of gay marriage would have been unthinkable and a political and social suicide to consider it publicly. Today it is an inevitability for every developed country sooner or later after the United States accepted it and implemented it. Beliefs change for many reasons, sometimes because of scientific advances, political, social or cultural changes as well as changes brought about by significant events.
The interesting commonality of human society’s belief systems, the beliefs that are almost universal throughout millennia of human evolution and around the globe by way of different cultures, religions and ways of life, happen to be the most powerful ones. So let us examine what are some of the main, almost universally accepted beliefs of humanity. A good place to begin is life itself. Let us examine what we believe (know?) about life, starting by Googling the word:
the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.
Googling “what are the characteristics of living things” gets you the answer in layman´s terms:
Living things are made of cells.*
Living things obtain and use energy.
Living things grow and develop.
Living things reproduce.
Living things respond to their environment.
Living things adapt to their environment.
*Science has determined that non cellular life also exists, such as viruses, but the quotes refer to universal knowledge and what most people learn in school*
Or, you can get the more scientific sounding list from Biology, the science that observes life, more or less expressed by any source of knowledge similarly to this article in Wikipedia, expanded to seven prerequisites for life:
Listed here are the six rules used by scientists:
- Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, electrolyte concentration or sweating to reduce temperature.
- Organization: Being structurally composed of one or more cells — the basic units of life.
- Metabolism: Transformation of energy by converting chemicals and energy into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
- Growth: Maintenance of a higher rate of anabolism than catabolism. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.
- Adaptation: The ability to change over time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism’s heredity, diet, and external factors.
- Response to stimuli: A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism to external chemicals, to complex reactions involving all the senses of multicellular organisms. A response is often expressed by motion; for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun (phototropism), and chemotaxis.
- Reproduction: The ability to produce new individual organisms, either asexually from a single parent organism, or sexually from two parent organisms.”
- These complex processes, called physiological functions, have underlying physical and chemical bases, as well as signaling and control mechanisms that are essential to maintaining life.
So, put simply, according to everything science knows and all observations and examination of living organisms and the collective knowledge of humanity, there is no doubt for anything other than religious or philosophical reasons, that the only non-debatable characteristics for life to exist, its primary and absolutely essential physiological functions (since all life ever observed conforms to them) can be grouped and reduced to four. Here is what, according to everybody, needs to be there as a minimum for living things to exist; the basic or primary Operating System of Life:
- A sense of self and an organization of building blocks of just one, or many trillions of cells sharing a collective sense of separateness from the rest of the environment (for any life form discovered so far except viruses). This is necessary for self-preservation, for trying to breathe, eat and drink in lieu of becoming something else´s fuel, in order to acquire energy by metabolizing cellular material to energy and vice versa, thus serving the processes of homeostasis, metabolism, growth, response to stimuli and evolution.
- Adaptation to external conditions, namely the environment and everything that affects us including the weather and other living beings, using homeostasis, metabolism, evolution, response to stimuli and any other method that would get the job done.
- Reproduction, either with others, by itself or within itself (an organism grows, converts energy, self organizes, adapts to the environment and evolves through the reproduction of its cells, its building blocks). Reproduction is also essential to the metabolism, to evolution and to adaptation.
- Change, also encompassing the rest, is necessary for adaptation, the metabolism of energy and cells, homeostasis and growth and necessarily death. Life for any living organism includes by definition the death of another living organism. It is also the end result of continual change, or actually of any state; growth to a new state presupposes the end or death of the previous one, death of an organism means the loss of the sense of self together with the every single one of the other essential characteristics such as response to stimuli, growth etc.
Now pay attention, wake yourself up, drink a coffee and pinch your cheeks for this.
We will now examine four more of the universally accepted, collective beliefs of humanity, also about life and as undisputed as the ones above:
The Operating System of LIFE, LifeOS
The first one is the ego, and it’s frowned upon symptoms; self-centeredness, selfishness, egotism or egoism. Asian societies and philosophies are the most fanatical in their condemnation of the ego and selfishness, but the west is catching up fast. According to all contemporary societies Ego has to be fought, exterminated, subdued, hidden, disguised, scolded or denied depending on the culture. Sacrifice, selflessness and lack of ego are universally admired and desirable characteristics with references in every family, newspaper, book, school, movie, religion or forum. Basically, EGO IS NO GOOD, SELFLESSNESS IS HOLY. And that is a universally accepted truth. But the tiny puppy or kitten coming fresh and pure from its mother’s womb crawls and pushes with determination its newly born siblings to get the best nipple- the plants in the jungle strangle every other tree or plant to reach the sun or the water. EVERYTHING HAS AN EGO AND IS SELFISH, including every human being that ever lived, including Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.
EGO is primary Instruction for Life Number ONE. It is self-preservation, the first code of the operating system of life, LifeOS. Ego, the sense of self, either as a single cell organism or a multicellular complex organization is intrinsic to life.
This hard-wired program is absolutely necessary for life to exist, to create the automatisms for taking care of one’s self first, before anything else, so that every creature is responsible for its own survival and wellbeing before anything else. This is how life persists through endless change and danger. It is the programming to ensure life and survival. Would anything be alive if beings were not preprogrammed to take care of themselves as their priority? And how could that happen without a sense of self and the priority to take care of our needs, our survival and our adaptation to the environment? If each and every being did not have a sense of self, an ego, all beings would have to be connected, instructed and control by a central brain, and where would that leave the soul, the capacity and freedom of choice? How can sin exist if one has no choice?
The second one, well, weirdly enough is happiness. Like sex, everybody wants it and everything- in theory- is done for it. Nonetheless, if you are happy, you should be discrete, and not mention it too much because it angers people. If you are happy, you are either a liar showing off and you are hiding something dark (since we cannot survive our lukewarm lives emotionally, if we considered that continuous happiness could exist), you are insensitive to all the suffering around you and the gravity of the situation, or, YES, YES YOU ARE SELFISH (crime number one)! If you are really happy all the time, you are pretending, you are selfish, self-centered and insensitive, insane or all of the above. Happiness is not normal, not natural. It is a circumstantial rarity. And this as well, is a universally accepted truth. However, everything is born with the natural capacity and inclination to adapt to its environment and the ever changing conditions, to feel that everything around them is just right, that everything is exactly as it should be.
Our inherent inclination and predisposition to be happy. Happiness is our natural, inbred tendency towards adaptation to conditions, it is an inherent instinct, a built in mechanism. The reason we are attracted by the young, the little ones of every animal, however hideous in their mature form, is because we can clearly see their natural happiness, their playfulness, their lack of angst, their absolute belief that everything is exactly as it should be. It is in part because they have little memory or experience to compare it with, and in part because this absolute TRUST that everything is as it should be is engraved in them since conception and before. Baby crocodiles, which grow to be horrendous predators full of teeth and ferocity, can be cute in our eyes instead of horrible because they transmit the natural state of happiness; the total lack of doubt that everything is exactly as it should be. They want to eat when they are hungry, they yelp when they are hurt, but everything feels right. It comes from a deep, inherent trust in what is, and it is natural for most beings besides humans, because the idea of a better alternative is too abstract and complex for most beings to perceive, even if they could find a reason to envision an alternative. Adult animals, like antelope or gazelles are grazing contentedly minutes after a brutal attack by a lion, fully adapted in their new reality, just a couple of hundred yards from the carnage. Adaptation means feeling well and safe and content where you are, in your environmental conditions. Does a camel find the desert too hot or a penguin the ice too cold?
EVERYTHING WANTS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT WHAT IS, AND NATURALLY DOES, unless convinced otherwise. And apparently we have all been convinced otherwise. Happiness is simply adaptation to the environment, a necessary ingredient of Darwinian evolution. Only the happy beings, the ones fully adapted and content in their environment can thrive. It is the reason for the existence of primary instruction for life number one, an extra built in incentive for striving to survive and a survival and adaptation mechanism at the same time.
Happiness is primary Instruction for Life Number TWO. It is adaptation, the second code of the operating system of life, LifeOS.
The third one, and it is a whopper, is sex. Everybody has sex, everybody is interested in sex, and everything is bought or sold for sex, by sex or through sex. Wars are waged for sex, people are killed for sex, and sex is included or symbolized in most acts of violence. We are born because of sex, we worry about sex, we laugh about sex but mostly we feel guilty, dirty, inadequate, victimized and ashamed by sex. Every culture, even now in the twenty first century in so called “developed countries” condemns sex in a multitude of ways The word scandal is more likely to be associated with sex than any other part of human behavior. Presidents have lost their positions or their minds because of lust, political situations have changed because of it, millions have suffered or died because of somebody´s or their own lust, sexual behavior or drive.
All spiritual or religious leaders have to choose chastity in order to be respected, and deities even have to be borne by virgins in order to be holy!! In short, we love sex, we are drawn to sex, and we even forgive people for having sex, as long it is carried out discreetly or with respect to the applicable prevailing social conditions. But if you do it, you must always feel there is something distastefully animalistic about you, and you should be feeling embarrassed, ashamed, inadequate, soiled or mischievous. It needs tight control and rules to be acceptable. Sex is dirty, dark, shameful and immoral. It is animalistic and we are enslaved by it. Also this, is a universally accepted truth.
It is nonetheless undeniable that life and its evolution exist exclusively through growth and reproduction. Every being has a sexual drive, be it a flower that opens in beautiful colors to attract a bee or a spider so that they can tickle its female parts hanging on spectacular yellow stalks, a wolf or an insect. EVERYTHING WANTS TO HAVE SEX, AND DOES, be it plant, animal, insect, fish or an amoeba. Since death is an intrinsic part of the Universe and Life, Life being the result of constant activity and change, reproduction is the Universe’s way of assuring the survival of Life in its own tornado of change; limitless change. Things die, but their seed lives on forever.
Life has made sure everything is crazy about sex; not just like it, adore it. Actually every single creature would and does risk its life for sex. That is when all animals render themselves vulnerable and defenseless. Oblivious of predators, uncaring and unprotected during copulation, division or impregnation, sex is when they are most reckless. Sex, reproduction, is the essence of life. It is our natural defense against failure of primary instruction for life number one, the ego, and self-preservation. If we fail to survive, our genes can survive anyway through our offspring. The quintessential and oh so delightful absolute life insurance!
SEX is primary Instruction for Life Number THREE. It is reproduction, the third code of the operating system of life, LifeOS. So how can we collectively believe that something is wrong with something essential for life?
The belief systems that universally condemn the ego, sex and happiness, are embroidered by thousands of intricate beliefs and woven into practically all human communities and societies existing today. They are deeply entrenched throughout human history, with minor small lapses, small exceptions that serve only to confirm the rule. These belief systems guide our lives, our behaviors, our feelings, our thinking- EVERYTHING! They are the source of almost all human drama, violence, religion, criticism, judgment, misery, emotional and psychological problems, anger, shame, inadequacy, self-hatred and rejection. Why, since we all have egos, yearn to be happy and desire sex? Why do we choose to condemn them and ourselves for our nature, for wanting them, so universally and fiercely? Why do we create religions, societies, political systems that judge and condemn what we all desire?
The fourth belief, the absolute despair at the very thought of any change and any death, is the most paradoxical one of all, since all spiritual beliefs try to convince us that death is actually better than life in such a persuasive spiritual manner, that we all try at times to convince ourselves that we are agreeing, and that there is nothing wrong with death and transition. We can never sustain this for long, since the beliefs engraved on our bodies and minds about the danger and horribleness of any kind of death are overwhelming. Our spiritual and philosophical beliefs spread the notion of an afterlife much better and more desirable than life, with concepts such as heaven and eternal nirvana, while terrifying us with hell and suffering, punishment everlasting if we do not renounce our nature and physiological functions in this, the “material life”: Ego, Selfishness, Sex, Happiness.
And since our nature is always there, always inside us to remind us what we feel, regardless of how hard we try, we will always fail to not be human, to not have an ego, sexuality and the tendency to adapt to whatever happens. We shall sin and go to hell or the terrors of the bardo fields. Thus, death becomes a weirdly paradoxical terror; we are terrified of what we are supposed to be working towards. If afterlife is more important, longer lasting and better than material life, how can we be so afraid of it? Jesus Christ for example, is portrayed as merciful and forgiving, but apparently if you break moral rules and exercise the choices God has given you, the ones that come more naturally and are most pleasing, lust, gluttony, coveting your neighbor´s wife etc. you are condemned to eternal hell with no reprieve or second chances. Is that a hell of a paradox or what?
But death is as intrinsic to life as adaptation, self-preservation and sex. Death is the capacity for change, and animals rarely mourn a dead relative for more than a minute or two unless they are very young and confused. Death of an organism, a plant, an insect, an animal or a person allows new beings to exist. In the human organism, life without death is called cancer, an illness, and a serious anomaly. Cancer happens when certain cells multiply without dying, thus gradually taking all the space and the nutrients around, killing every other type of cell. In nature, whichever organism finds itself without predators, multiplies like cancer until it kills everything around it. Unless it is stopped or starved, unless a new, effective killer predator emerges, its very immortality creates death for everything else. Death of a relationship, death of an era, death of an object, a loved one, a business, a project; they are all powerful agents of change. Why do we suffer so much at the terror of every kind of death? Why do couples keep desperately horribly unhappy and unsatisfied relationships, scared of change, scared of death of even nasty and stale, boring and uninspiring things in our lives? Death is change, renewal, life itself. Death is Life, because life cannot exist without it.
DEATH is primary Instruction for Life Number FOUR. It is change, the fourth code of the operating system of life, LifeOS.
Without these four sets of instructions no life can exist, and that is undoubted and generally unchallenged by biology or any other kind of scientific observation. Humanity holds the collective belief that this is so and is fully supported by all data. Humanity, equally universally and simultaneously, believes or acts as if it believes that everything that makes life possible, all our natural tendencies, needs and desires, is somehow wrong, sinful and undesirable. Now there is the mother of all contradictions!
And what happens when there is a paradox? Then, according to a phenomenon that is recognized by the sciences of psychiatry and psychology, Cognitive Dissonance. Distress due to internal contradiction, internal conflict! How can humans be happy if we all suffer from constant acute distress?