August 25th, 2003


Other Plans

I'm now back at work. I didn't get through more than a small fraction of what I wanted to get done, although I did get various other bits and pieces sorted (including birthdays, weddings and house-moving). The phrase "Life is what happens when you're making other plans." has sprung repeatedly to mind, the problem being that I rather fancid the things I'd made plans for. So the question arises, should I avoid making any plans, so that when life happens I don't have any expectations for it to thwart? Or is life something that only happens when you have other plans - would the simple fact that I was sitting there waiting for life just mean that life lurked around the corner, unwilling to rope me into things until I was looking the other way?

Expectations are generally a real pain, having them can boost your enjoyment of an event, but also lead to attachments that are then painful to break. The buddhist answer would be to let go of my attachments - to treat them as a trap that will leave me tied to the world of illusions. My rationalist side, however, views this world as (almost certainly) the only one and rather enjoys being attached to it.

I suppose the only reasonable answer is to realise that expectations do lead to pain, but that they are worthwhile because of the pleasure they also provide. Now, if only I had more control over the things I felt attached to...

Chemical Feelings

I don't know how many of you have ever been under the influence of narcotics, but I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of you would be willing to admit that what we eat affects our mood. Aside from the medical phenomena associated with various anti-psychotic drugs, the positively psychedelic effects of LSD, a simple experiment can be carried out utilising any random small child and 40-odd grams of sugar (I suggest using someone else's child for this, otherwise you'll be responsible for the screaming agent of satan for the rest of the day).

An old friend of mine could tell how recently his girlfriend had eaten by her mood within 20 seconds of picking up the phone. An ex-flatmate was a nightmare to live with for 3 months after they changed her contraceptive pill (and then they changed it out for a different one and she returned to her usual semi-sane behaviour).

I've seen thousands of instances of simple chemical changes causing seemingly complex changes in people's personality. The complex changes generally turn out to have a single underlying change behind them all, but the complexities of human behaviour can easily take a single underlying cause and express it in a million different ways depending on everything from the various other chemicals floating around the brain to the genetic sensitivity to those chemicals to the vast amounts of upbringing and culturalisation that tell you how you can express yourself.

It's amazing to me how much people's minds can be changed by such simple things as sugar molecules, and how a simple temperament change can express itself in so many complex ways because of our upbringings.

It's also amazing to me how much being tired affects my whole outlook on life. So, due to the lack of sleep I've had in the last 48 hours, I think I'm off to bed!