On Why Freedom Is Improbable
Worry creates its own evidence, against which freedom struggles to rationally compete. By virtue of how worry pulls phenomena “toward” itself as evidence for its justification, freedom likely cannot survive safety concerns. If you and I are sitting in a kitchen and there is a door nearby, and I ask you not to open it because there might be a murderer on the other side, the only sure way to prove that my concern is irrational is by opening the door and risking death. If you do open it and find no one there, I could be emotionally hurt because you didn’t heed my instruction, making you feel like you made the wrong choice for putting your life at risk and for so carelessly disregarding my concerns for your wellbeing. What would you have lost by not opening the door? You wouldn’t have needlessly put your life in jeopardy; furthermore, you wouldn’t have hurt my feelings and disrespected my wishes. By taking a risk, you gained nothing and lost my confidence. You kept your freedom but hurt me and risked your own life. All you accomplished was prove that there was nothing to worry about.
But did you even accomplish that? Perhaps the murderer moved before you opened the door? Maybe you just got lucky? Maybe you won’t be so lucky tomorrow? If I so choose, I can easily define the situation in such a way that your disobedience proves nothing, and furthermore see no reason to refrain from asking you again tomorrow not to open the door for the same reason. In fact, because you proved to me that you’re a reckless person, I may feel even more anxious in the future and be more moved to make the same request of you with even more earnest insistence. If I do so, again, the only way you could prove me wrong is by opening the door, which will only emotionally hurt me more and further prove that you are insensitive to my request and careless about your security. My worry has created a self-justifying cycle. Because I choose to worry, you cannot escape.
But what if you don’t open the door? From that point on, we can never know if there was or wasn’t someone on the other side. Consequently, we cannot live (with any confidence) in a world where your life wasn’t in jeopardy: it will always be possible that there was someone behind the door. So the next time we are in this situation, with the perpetual possibility that someone was there before and could be there now, I may ask you again not to open the door, because “it’s better safe than sorry.” To open the door now, since there may in fact have been someone there last time (which can never be disproven even if you open the door now and find no one there), will seem all the more risky and all the more careless. Also, since you didn’t open the door last time, why would you open it now? In not opening the door and acting “as if” my worry was valid, you prime yourself to assent to my worries, causing you to perhaps even feel them yourself. By not opening the door the first time, you’ve made it probable that you won’t open it now, as by not opening the door now, you make it even more probable that you won’t open it in the future. And if you don’t open the door now, tomorrow, it will then be possible that, in every instance, there was a murderer behind the door, and so it will be even more likely that I will again be concerned. Hence, I will probably ask you again to keep the door closed, and again, you probably will. Additionally, I may feel happy in knowing you are safe and feel respected in that you heeded my warning, and you may feel happy that I am happy (which is especially likely if you are apt to please others). Consequently, it may seem rational, rewarding, and considerate to heed my paranoia.
As described, once I choose to worry, there’s nothing you can do to stop it from growing. It’s all up to me. I can always choose to spin the evidence to justify my worry, and, in you choosing to agree with my worries, I likely always will, for I will continue to worry, and worry automatically entails this spinning of evidence (rather I realize it or not). And since the nature of worry is to make sure that those cared about are safe, to not spin the evidence and justify the worry is akin to “being unloving.” In wanting to be loving, I am ever the more likely to justify and feed my worry. And why would I ever stop loving the people I care about? Hence, when I worry, my very care for others becomes that which solidifies and preserves the worry, making the epistemological structure that justifies the worry stronger and more difficult to break. When I worry, my love can turn into a prison; when I worry, love can only make matters worse. Love is supposed to care about the best interests and safety of the beloved, but in worry love rationally transforms care into entrapping concern, a Nietzschean “transvaluation of all values.”
The phrase “better safe than sorry” has had a heavy cost on society. Whether realized or not, it often means “better safe than free.” Now, when one has a choice of getting close to a cliff or not and a person says, “better safe than sorry,” to encourage us stepping back, there is a way in which the phrase is meaningful in a positive sense. However, it would be more accurate to say, “better smart than foolish.” It is clearly unwise to walk along the edge of a cliff, and to refrain from doing so isn’t so much a sign of “being safe” as it is of “being wise.” It is of course “better to be smart than foolish,” but it’s not always better to be “safe than sorry.” When freedom is the price for safety, it isn’t necessarily good to be safe. In fact, such safety can be alienating.
What keeps one safe and what makes one sorry can be two-sides of the same coin. Consequently, the choice between safety and regret can be a false one. Sometimes, if not often, to be safe is to be sorry. There is no such thing as a state of pure safety: at every moment, every person is in danger. A person can get sick, a person can be shot, a person can get hit by a falling plane, etc. — a person is never separate from the possibility of danger. Hence, it is never possible to be “safe” rather than “sorry” entirely, only to varying degrees, which requires discernment to decipher.
If I tell you not to open the door behind you because there might be a murderer behind it, the act of keeping it shut and making us both undergo all the psychological anxieties already discussed, will put us both in a very “sorry” state. However, we will not realize this, since all the phenomena of the situation will be “toward” us in such a manner that will make us think we made the right choice. Hence, we are in a “sorry” state without knowing it (like Kierkegaard’s despair), which is perhaps worse than being poor off and knowing such is the case. Aware, at least we can change.
If a boy wants to climb to the top of a mountain and his mother tells him “no” and the boy never tries to climb the mountain, it is not possible for him to show his mother a version of reality where he climbs the mountain and comes back unscathed and braver. Consequently, it is always possible that the mother saved the boy’s life. Furthermore, once the mother asks her son to stay home, the boy can only show her a version of reality in which he returns safely by disobeying her, hurting her, and challenging her authority. If the boy doesn’t go, he will have to wrestle with the possibility that something bad could have happened to him, and this can result in a loss of confidence in himself, which may cause the boy to see the world through a lens that makes phenomena appear more threatening. This may make the boy less likely to exercise his freedom and “climb mountains,” per se.
Again, once the mother voices her concerns, the only way the boy can avoid the risk of undergoing this psychological transformation is by disobeying her. If the boy realizes this and that staying away from the mountain may also make his mother more prone to worry and undergo anxiety, the boy may decide to disobey his mother. Yet, upon returning from the mountain safely, the boy may find his mother so deeply hurt by his disobedience that she doesn’t even think about the fact that the boy has shown her that there’s nothing to worry about. Hence, his effort doesn’t serve as evidence against the validity of her decision to worry: the boy’s journey doesn’t change his mother. (Here we can begin to glimpse how “self-enclosed” and “self-justifying” fear is, a strange phenomenological conundrum).
Worse yet, even if the boy comes back safely, it is still the case that he “may” have gotten hurt; hence, the mother is still justified to have been concerned. Overlooking his safe return, his mother can simply say he was lucky: she can interpret his return as an exception to the rule. Yet, had the boy been hurt on his journey, she could have interpreted this as evidence in favor of what she has defined as “the rule.” Since she is in control of deciding what is the rule, she is in control of the standard by which she interprets the evidence. No matter what happens, it can always be the case to her that “boys who climb mountains usually get hurt.” Therefore, even if the boy comes home safe, she will still be “right” to voice her worries next time he wants to climb the mountain, hence restarting the whole process. After so long of dealing with this, if the mother never chooses to change, it is probable that the boy eventually relents to her demands, hence resulting in all the problems mentioned above. The boy’s only other option is to run away (either physically or mentally).
No triumph of freedom can necessarily prove to a worrier that his or her worry is unfounded: the worrier can always interpret occurrences in such a way that justifies it. Furthermore, freedom can never prove that it is superior to safety, because it is always possible that a free act results in injury or death. And, to this point, if the mother does let her son climb the mountain and the boy gets hurt, there is then “objective” evidence that she made a bad choice. Consequently, not only will she have “justification” to never let her boy climb mountains again, neighbors will have “proof” that she’s a bad mother, as her little boy will have reason to suppose that his mother doesn’t care about his wellbeing. The mother that lets her child be free and climb risks evidence being created against her. By keeping the boy from going, not only does the mother avoid the possibility of this criticism, but she can claim that she restricted the boy’s freedom because she loves and cares about him, and if the boy doesn’t go, there will be no evidence to show that her love and care didn’t keep the little boy safe. If the mother holds him back, it can always be interpreted as an act of love. And if the boy disobeys her and goes, when he returns, since he still “may” have gotten hurt, the mother is still in the right for voicing her concerns, having done so out of love. No matter what happens, the boy is always wrong to not listen to his worrying mother.
The mother has everything to gain by keeping the boy from going, and everything to lose by letting him go. It is hence irrational to let the boy be free. The boy could have only been saved from this situation had his mother not worried in the first place, something which the boy has no control over and which she would be irrational to avoid.
It seems the worrier wins by default. The worrier, the one concerned about our well-being, defines the situation in such a way that we’re always wrong, irrational, disobedient, etc. not to conform to their worry (“no exit”). We have no choice but to be thrust into this psychological situation: the worrier chooses to force us into it by choosing to worry. Once forced into this situation, we are no longer free not to be in it. And likewise, we are not free to escape the situation without either acting “carelessly” and hurting the feelings of the worrier or by giving into their worries, hence changing our orientation to the world and making ourselves more prone to worry and less free. Since our freedom is jeopardized when someone worries about us, we must have freedom to take away in the first place. Hence, in its violation, the existence of free will is made apparent: the freedom of a slave might be more definable than the freedom of a king (beliefs in determinism may correlate with prosperity).
Freedom is at the mercy of worry: free people cannot stop others from worrying about them (and if we took this seriously, we might be much slower to let ourselves worry). And once someone worries about another (which is extremely likely if the worrier defines “worry” as “loving”), the other cannot exercise freedom without disregarding the worrier and taking a possible risk that, by virtue of the fact that someone is worrying, appears legitimate. And, considering what has already been said, once others begin worrying, it’s probable that freedom will eventually be lost. The only way for freedom to not be threatened by a worrier is for the worrier to choose to stop worrying, for there is nothing freedom can do to show the worrier that worry is irrational, unnecessary, etc. If it doesn’t stop, worry prevails.
Worry is a self-contained, self-justifying, epistemological system: anything that freedom does or “reveals” can be interpreted in favor, not of freedom, but of worry. Once a society chooses to worry, what constitutes “rational” and “loving” to that society will be “that which annuals freedom.” The choice to worry is the choice to make freedom irrational: the only way freedom can be rational is if people choose not to worry. But why shouldn’t they? Can’t something bad happen? Isn’t it possible that my son will hurt himself if he climbs the mountain?
There will always be (practical, loving, etc.) reasons to worry, and so there will always be (good) reasons to render freedom irrational. People simply have to know how worry works and self-justifies itself, and so know why they cannot worry, even if there seems to be reason to do so. By virtue of its epistemology and how it structures thought and orientation, a society simply has to understand (despite what it feels or what seems right to it) that it cannot worry — that, once it begins worrying, it will become rational, practical, and even loving of the society to violate freedom. The worrier always makes reality and phenomena “toward” the worrier in such a way that freedom is never the right choice, and if a society worries, it will skew its discernment and blind itself from the fruits of liberty.
But sadly, it seems nations are never able to keep this kind of faith for long. It seems worry, in ironically creating worrisome situations, always wins (as it sets itself up to do in the very act of worrying). It seems ‘the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield.’¹
To oppose the worrier can be to exercise freedom at the expense of the worrier’s feelings, and if this is someone we care about, we might never want to act freely (again). Once a person begins worrying about us, there might only be punishment for being free. Who then wants to be free? If a little girl wants to play in the yard but has to know the entire time that her mother is worrying about her, what joy would the little girl find in playing? If a college kid wants to be an artist but has to know that his parents are worried about his practical well-being, what joy will he find in art? If he finds any, it might be tainted by a sense of rebellion.
The joy of freedom, if not snuffed out entirely, is curtained by worry. And since we cannot stop someone from worrying about us, we cannot prevent your joy from being so tampered. Of course, we can try to overcome the thoughts they “incept” into our mind by voicing concerns, but the very act of us doing this will easily curtain your joy (at least for a time). Once a person worries about us, we are no longer free to enjoy freedom without battling through the voices they have planted in our head. And yet the worrier is unlikely to take responsibility for causing us this hardship, for the worrier, in worrying, makes the world “toward” him or her in such a way that the worrier is justified. In fact, the worrier might find it irrational to take responsibility for such hardship, if not a downright lie: evidence “proves” them. Freedom is to blame; worry is thoughtful.
What has been said so far may shed light on why parents have become overly-protective, why bureaucracy and management have grown, and why the market has become more regulated. Freedom is a matter of faith and trust that becomes irrational the moment fear enters the minds of a people, and if a people simply do not know this, freedom will likely be lost for rational reasons. A society can only know that worry, by nature, eradicates freedom, and if, like a scientist, it allows worry and worry-based action to “find out for sure” that it’s not a good thing, the society will see plenty of proof that worry is good. Likewise, a society can only know and believe freedom is good, and if it tries to “find out for sure,” the society will find proofs that freedom should be curtailed and managed.
Seeing someone be hurt, the person who is in favor of freedom might come to believe it’s good to compromise freedom just a little bit in the direction of safety. But once this is done, the person will begin entering into the psychology of worry and its system of thought, hence making the person more likely to see proofs that more regulation, bureaucracy, control, etc., is needed. Hence the person, who perhaps compromised believing it reasonable and just, will come to see that freedom should be violated again, and on and on until freedom is gone entirely.
When it comes to freedom, people cannot be scientists: they must know what they know. Yet this seems rebellious, pig-headed, non-objective, and irrational. It seems more reasonable to give freedom a try, then give safety a shot, compare the results, and then follow the findings. But worry will always prevail by virtue of how worry makes reality “toward” the worrier. Freedom, put to the test, has no chance. Though freedom is an environment in which people can make rational and wise decisions, if freedom itself is put to the test to be judged as rational or not, freedom will likely not pass. Hence, it is understandable that the more intelligent a society becomes, the more likely it is to reduce its freedom. Is that a bad thing though? Who cares for freedom if we are not safe? Indeed, perhaps we must be nonrational.
The society that worries will likely become less free, as parents will likely become overly-protective, as effective bureaucracies will likely grow. Thanks to worry, they all win by default: they all create the system in which they are not only justified but justified to grow. The only way to stop worry from reaching its end is for those who worry to stop worrying. Problematically, worriers will see no reason to do so; in fact, all evidence will suggest they keep worrying. Reason will likely be in worry’s favor: to stop worrying will seem irrational and unloving. Yet, for freedom’s sake, it must stop.
Now, I am not saying that freedom should never be curtailed (for example), but that the logic by which freedom is curtailed and debated mustn’t be structured by worry, for the very structure of worry renders the discussion and debate almost impossible to be entertained. Instead, how freedom is limited should be from a place of discernment and wisdom, with a focus on practical outcome, probabilities, and the like. Yes, a person in worry can consider these angles, but the added dimension of worry leads to a structure that makes the discussion difficult. That is my main point: let us consider “costs and benefits” without worry. When worry is involved, the likelihood our “risk management” will be effective is far less. Worry doesn’t add value, and in fact structure thinking and speaking in such a way that makes it practically invincible. It can’t lose the debate, and when such a variable is part of the discussion, the likelihood the discussion is productive lessens. One of the individuals involved is such too powerful and self-justifying.
Again, it must be clarified that the goal of this paper isn’t to claim that there are no valid concerns — it depends (and often it comes down to asking if we are dealing with “wisdom” more than “anxiety”). A mother shouldn’t let her four-year-old climb a steep rock-faced mountain, as a father shouldn’t allow his son to drive thirty-miles over the speed limit. Furthermore, this paper doesn’t mean to claim bureaucracy, management, or central planning are never good. Rather, the hope is to establish that worry is a self-justifying system, and that, in recognizing this, people will understand why it is important to keep their worry in check. In doing so, people will be better enabled to have the objective discernment necessary in deciding whether or not to let their child do this or that, whether or not a manager should extended management authority, and so on. If a person realizes the biased and self-justifying nature of worry and tendency for it to grow, one can be more objective and make better decisions, as such decisions will not be influenced by inflated worry but wisdom.
There seems to be a distinction between “concern” and “care” (though this work hasn’t held this distinction closely), a distinction that, if not noted, will make it all the more difficult to define valid from invalid concerns. We might say it is good to care about the wellbeing of our loved ones, but not to be concerned about it. Care entails love (as defined in “On Love” by O.G. Rose), while concern entails fear. Concern is never good, while care is always good. Only a given person can know if he or she is being concerned or caring (or more so one than the other), but if that person isn’t aware of the self-justifying nature of concern, it will be all the more difficult to discern rightly, since the person will not realize that what appears as “evidence” may only appear as such because of how the person is “toward” the situation.
To care is to want a person to be smart rather than foolish, and though concern does the same, it does so out of fear, skewing discernment. To care is to think in terms of “smart versus foolish” while to be concerned is to think in terms of “safe versus sorry,” per se (as elaborated on earlier). A society that is only concerned when the concern is valid (which is to care) is a society that’s concern doesn’t infringe upon its freedom; rather, it is a society in which its concern enables freedom. A mother who prevents her four-year-old from climbing a very dangerous mountain enables that child to live, and certainly one must live in order to be free. And yet the mother who prevents her eighteen-year old from climbing a mountain out of worry restricts her son’s freedom, and one must be free in order to live. In one instance, the mother is right; in another, she is wrong. Determining which situation is which requires discernment, which is even more difficult to muster if one doesn’t recognize that worry is self-justifying.
A wise society is always care-full and discerning, but a worried society is always concerned and undiscerning. When a society is concerned about what it truly and objectively should be concerned about, then the society cares and acts wisely. Furthermore, the society is realistic: the freedom of an unrealistic society is a freedom abstracted from reality into meaninglessness or even self-destruction. Care doesn’t restrict freedom, but concern does. By recognizing that worry is a self-justifying system, a society can be more objective, and so be more apt to discern invalid concerns from valid ones (which is necessary since all concerns present themselves as valid).
Alright, but how do we tell a valid concern (or care) from an invalid concern (a care from a worry), and when should a situation be considered within the dichotomy of “smart versus foolish?” Answering that question depends on the particular circumstances, but it at least can be said that only a given person can tell when he or she is expressing care versus concern (or worry); hence, only a given person can know when he or she is enabling or restricting freedom in his or her particular time and place — which suggests a lot of responsibility, I think.
There is sometimes a gray zone that emerges when it comes to the question of freedom versus safety, of regulating business or allowing a child to do something potentially risky, but it is important to recognize that only the particular person in that gray zone is in the position to discern what is best (a point which suggests “Dialectical Ethics” by O.G. Rose). There is no general or universal “boy” who should or shouldn’t be allowed to climb a mountain: only a particular boy in a particular place with particular capabilities. While one ten-year old shouldn’t be allowed to go hiking alone, another may be capable of handling it. Only a particular mother is in a position to discern the particular capabilities of her particular son.
No universal mandate can be made, then, about whether or not “ten-year-old boys should be allowed to climb mountains,” and this hints at why (large) bureaucracy or “top-down approaches” are not the best to address “concerns.” The chance that someone not involved in a particular situation is able to accurately discern what to do is much lower than of one involved in the particular situation. This isn’t to say “top-down managing” cannot be right, only that it is unlikely the efficiency of “top-down managing” is as high as the efficiency of those particularly involved (who are more familiar with the entailing, particular complexities).
Furthermore, the more decisions a society makes confusing concern with care, the higher the probability inaccurate discernment continues and spreads. Since bureaucracy is more likely to make these mistakes than individuals, a society with lots of bureaucracy is a society that will probably confuse concern and care often (hence spreading worry and poor discernment). This being the case, it is likely better for a society to provide a more “open” environment in which particular people can freely discern what is best in their particular situations. Though what a society must do to preserve and provide this free environment for all, and to what degree that involves bureaucracy, management, intervention, etc., depends on the society in question. Regardless, the society that doesn’t realize worry is self-justifying is less likely to discern accurately what should be done to maintain a free environment without slipping into anarchy or oppression — a needle incredibly hard to thread.
To provide some hope though, the mentioned “gray zones” are often not as great or confusing in experience as they seem when we abstractly think about them. In actuality and particularity, the discernment between “concern” and “care” can be relatively easy to determine; however, when thinking in universals or generalities, they can seem impossible to reconcile. Again, there is no universal situation in which freedom or safety must be chosen: only particular situations in which the particular people involved are readily in a position to understand. However, because of how the brain operates and conceptualizes, it is easy to miss this reality, for universals appear in the mind like particularities and are easy to confuse with them, as “the idea of a thing” is easy to confuse with “the thing itself.” Hence, with our own brains working against us, we find ourselves confronted with an eternal paradox that, if brought down from the level of abstraction into particularity, isn’t as insurmountable as it first seems. If one is aware though of how the mind fashions the universal from, and confuses it with, the particular, and also how worry is self-justifying, this paradox can be unraveled.
There are real dangers in the world, but if we don’t realize that worry is self-justifying, the argument is that we will be more likely to fail at identifying real dangers from imagined threats, subjects of concern from subjects of care, and so on. Consequently, our worry will put us in danger, not only by disorienting our discernment, but also by making us like “the boy who cried wolf.” In identify fears as valid when they aren’t, we make ourselves less likely to take ourselves or others seriously when valid concerns are voiced. Furthermore, if we grasp that worry is self-justifying, we will have a healthy skepticism of what appears as “evidence” legitimizing a problem. This isn’t to say such apparent “evidence” is always invalid, but that if we are aware of “emotional judgment” and “the toward-ness of evidence” (to make two examples), we will be more able to approach and read it wisely.
Problematically, everything this paper suggests on “the self-justifying nature of worry” can be known but not readily experienced, as we cannot experience worry (in the act of it) as irrational or unloving, since worry, by definition, appears rational. In other words, we cannot experience worry as invalid, for we only truly worry when we find something genuinely worrisome. Consequently, given “the self-concealment” of worry, there will not be observable proof validating the claims of this work: they must be simply accepted or denied. A reader can only know the claims are true, and yet that sounds like brainwashing. Worry indeed stacks the deck in its favor…
The hope of this paper is that we avoid its claims ever playing out. If they do, it may already be too late (we may have already put ourselves in a place where supposed “evidence” will keep us from seeing). At that point, listening to this work might be irrational and even unloving. And yet if it is ignored, worry might not only set us up to rationally rob ourselves of freedom, but it might also “incept” ideas into the heads of those we worry about that make them prone to worry (and so rob them of freedom). Worry rationalizes itself, is very hard to stop, and is difficult to contain (worry is like a sickness that the worrier catches and spreads to heal). The only way to overcome worry is to not worry in the first place, and if we start worrying it will become increasingly difficult to stop. We simply must know and believe this is true, and yet that might feel like putting those we love at risk.
Across a large body of people, since worry is probable, it is likely that the majority will cave into worry. Hence, it is likely that worry will seep into and spread throughout a society; consequently, it is likely that freedom diminishes, and with it playtime for children, small government, entrepreneurship, creativity, and more. Since worry is probable, freedom is unlikely to last: freedom seems to only have a chance if people come to understand how worry works and wires the mind to think and see. The hope of this paper is to provide this understanding so that we can more accurately discern, but unfortunately it is improbable that worriers will see any evidence that they should listen to this work. It is probable that ‘liberty yields,’ but fortunately probability is not destiny.² Also, if upon reading this paper we “worry about worrying,” we defeat the purpose of this work. Furthermore, if we worry about how not worrying could cause a catastrophe, we prove the work’s central claim. Thus, in conclusion, this is not the time to worry; it is time to care.
¹Quote from Thomas Jefferson from a letter to Col. Edward Carrington, Mary 27, 1788.
²Allusion to Thomas Jefferson.
1. Freedom is an environment in which rational activity eventually rises to the top, but it is irrational (“nonrational,” actually) to let the environment of freedom exist in the first place or perpetuate.
2. Jesus didn’t waste words in Matthew 6.
3. Ironically, the belief that life is invaluable, in making worry likely, might cause freedom and the value of life to be diminished.
4. Worry is likely as is a fear of death, stitched into us by our biological calibration for survival.
5. To ask a person what he or she is going to do before that person does it (which worriers are likely to do) sets that person up to be unable to adapt to unforeseen circumstances without lying.
6. When one defends freedom, there seems to be something that subconsciously makes that person feel heartless, cold, and inconsiderate. A reason for this is because freedom seems to be at the expense of people’s wellbeing, and so seems to be inconsiderate. In the abstract, the idea of freedom is an apparent contradiction with the idea of safety, though such isn’t the case in particularity and actuality. Unfortunately, one cannot grasp this except to experience it, for to think about the particular is to think about it in the abstract (where they conflict and where a person never ventures in actuality). Furthermore, even if one does succeed at the hard work of thinking about a particularity, it is not possible to think about multiple particularities simultaneously without them slipping into abstractions. The human mind only thinks abstractly, and so cannot avoid making the thinker feel heartless when it comes to defending freedom.
7. For emphasis, this paper is not promoting dangerous behavior and decisions; on the contrary, it hopes to promote wise decisions and reveal the insatiable cycle worry is prone to cause.
8. To be smart entails being safe, but being safe doesn’t necessarily entail being smart. To tell someone to “be smart” is to tell that person to “think for yourself,” which entails being safe. However, to tell someone to “be safe” is to tell that person to “watch out,” which emphasizes that the world is dangerous and that the person should be worried about it. The first phrase is empowering; the second, concerning.
8.1 To try to “be safe” is to try to control what isn’t necessarily controllable, while trying to “be smart” is to be discerning about what falls within a person’s control. One is only truly “safe” if that person is locked away in a bubble-wrapped room, but to be safe in this way is to sacrifice living for safety. To “be safe” is to set as one’s standard a “bubble-wrapped” room, per se, while to “be smart” sets as one’s standard the full realization of one’s potential.
9. Thinking in “Platonic forms,” as written about by Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan, increases the likelihood that a society worries. There is no perfect system, and a society that looks for “the perfect system” versus “the best system” will never be satisfied. One who believes in perfection will find his or her self-justified to worry until perfection is achieved, for until then there is always something to rationally and lovingly worry about. For such a person, freedom will be hard to find.
10. Whether or not a command economy, management, bureaucracy, etc. depends, but it can at least be said that all worry-based activity and thinking changes the “toward-ness” of those it influences.
11. What has been said about worry can also be said about fear. Furthermore, frustration, anger, and pessimism also seem to be self-justifying systems. When a person realizes this, a person can be more discerning about when anger, realism, and concern are appropriate.
12. In line with “Self-Delusion, the Toward-ness of Evidence, and the Paradox of Judgment,” a person who is worried about being “brainwashed,” being in a cult, or anything similar, is a person who will easily see evidence confirming such to be the case (hence making it seem like it has “always” been the case). Identical is the situation if we begin worrying about someone else being brainwashed, in a cult, etc.
All learning could be called “brainwashing,” and we are most tempted to call truths we disagree with such. When people learn that which goes against what we believe, our entire worldview can be threatened, and such a threat can bring out the worst in us. It is tempting at such times to accuse the other of being “brainwashed,” but calling someone this is one of the most destructive acts a person can do to another. It turns a person’s worry on his or her self, and since worry is a self-justifying system, that person will easily begin seeing evidence that leads that person (“objectively”) toward his or her own mental collapse (which, upon reaching, will make it seem as if the person, was in fact, brainwashed). This isn’t to say a person can’t be brainwashed, but that only under the most extreme circumstances is telling another “you’re brainwashed” an act of care versus concern. To claim someone is brainwashed is to set a person up to use his or her mind for self-destruction “objectively,” and if the person making this claim isn’t right, the claimer is a destroyer.
13. If one worries about racism or being seen as racist, about being liberal or perceived as liberal, about hurting someone emotionally or being emotionally cold, about being a bad parent or being an overly-soft parent, about being fat or skinny, about being beautiful or too materialistic, about being too domesticated or too career-oriented, about being depressed or too energetic, about being too old or being too young, about being busy or being lax — that individual makes it difficult to be discerning about what matters; everything blurs.
14. A society that worries about bad parenting (for example) might see it everywhere. Evidence that a society is worried about this could be the wide prevalence of literature on good parenting, for this could be evidence that the society believes most are in need of this kind of education. Furthermore, any topic of which is written extensively on could be evidence of worry, but this cannot be said for sure.
15. Considering what has been outlined in this paper, men might be in trouble if they need suffering and toughness to become men.
16. The door example mentioned at the beginning of this paper is symbolic of the division between past, present, and future.
16.1 Furthermore, considering the door example, if we don’t open the door when I voice worries about it today, and we don’t open it tomorrow, or the next time, it will perhaps seem as if the more times a murderer isn’t found, the higher the likelihood one will eventually show up until one has to be there. For isn’t it the case that one can only get lucky for so long?
17. Do not choose to stop worrying in a way that has you thinking about stopping more so than doing it.
18. Since worry is self-justifying, it is probable that the NSA and Homeland Security will continue to grow.
19. The words “care,” “concern,” and “worry” are more slippery and prone to conflation than most words since the wellbeing of people is at stake (which makes “emotional judgment” more likely).
20. The nature of irrational fears is to “appear” rational; otherwise, they wouldn’t concern us.
21. Accurate discernment is more likely in a free environment in which particular people can freely discern what’s best in particular situations.
22. People are best equipped to pick the dichotomies by which to understand the situations in which they are involved (for they are most familiar with the subjects of such choices).
23. The nature of worry is to want to use a “top-down” approach to make sure everyone is okay before “it’s too late.” This isn’t to say such an approach should never be used, only that a person must be aware of how worry self-justifies itself and always appears as needing immediate and unprecedented action.
24. If I am on television and say, “Look at my tie,” with four words, I change the orientation and “toward-ness” of millions of people. Likewise, if I said, “You can die of cancer” on television, I make millions worry and transform the “framework” through which they see the world and themselves. If any ability is god-like, isn’t this?
25. If we consider loving someone equivalent to being concerned about them, then we cannot lovingly allow a situation in which there is nothing to worry about…
26. No really one thinks they worry too much; otherwise, they wouldn’t do it.
27. Say a child pulled on a drawer and it fell onto her, cutting her forehead. A week later, after getting her daughter some stitches, say a lawyer came up to the mother and told her that he could, through a lawsuit, make sure this never happened again. How could the mother say no? Why would she refuse? Wouldn’t she be heartless or irrational to do so? Freedom cannot be conceptualized in immediacy versus abstraction (and what good is it if people are hurt?), so evidence would show she was wrong and immoral if she turned down the offer (and so provide grounds for the lawyer to call child services). The very asking of the question makes it so that she cannot readily say “no,” as the very act of parents becoming “helicopter parents” and bureaucracy growing is the very act that “pins down” (Sartre) the people into accepting and moralizing it.
27.1 To allude to The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jesus is freedom, the free market, hands-off parenting, etc., while the Grand Inquisitor is safety, Central Planning, helicopter parenting, etc. Also, in line with “On Thinking and Perceiving,” it should be noted that thinking is structured to support the Grand Inquisitor.
28. A vital ability is the capacity to define matters of wisdom from matters of fear.
29. If technology rewires the brain, shouldn’t the government regulate how much technology people are allowed to use? On what grounds could we argue that the government shouldn’t? Isn’t it better safe than sorry? As we can see, “better safe than sorry” is a free ticket for overbearing parenting, gradual and endless government regulation and growth, and more. This isn’t to say there should be no parenting, growth, or regulation, but that a failure to realize that fear is a self-justifying system calibrates the human “toward” a certain outcome regardless if that outcome is best. Realizing how fear makes us biased will help us be more discerning, whether it be in favor or against parental or governmental involvement.
30. According to Barry Schwartz in his Ted Talk “Our Loss of Wisdom””, wise people are like jazz musicians: they know when and how to improvise. According to Mr. Schwartz, in today’s society, rules and incentives are replacing wisdom, and a reason for this is because rules save us the trouble of thinking. Where there are rules, there is no need for wisdom and discernment, and improvisation is frowned upon. Slowly rules dull moral discernment, and with discernment goes empathy and character. A reason for this death of wisdom through reliance on rules is fear: we want to assure bad things don’t happen. We no longer readily trust the judgments of people, and where there are standards there is a sense of security. Unfortunately, the price for this “safety” is assured mediocrity, and a society that fails to realize that fear is “a self-justifying system” is a society that is likely to lose wisdom in the way described by Barry Schwartz. Worse yet, such a society may destroy wisdom out of a sense of love and/or responsibility.
31. At least on an emotional level, worry transforms all arguments, statements, or points against it into rationalization.
32. To not want good things to happen to a loved one is to not be loving, and so when we worry, we basically must push the loved one to realize “the good thing” we are worrying the person won’t realize. Keep in mind that, relative to us and our experience, “the good thing” isn’t a matter of worry, but of wisdom and discernment, and so if the person tells us to “stop worrying,” not only will we “know” we’re not worrying, but also this could be evidence to us that the loved one isn’t wise and hence needs our help, precisely because the person is calling “worry” what to us is “wisdom.” The person, in the act of calling “worry” the worry we experience as “wisdom,” provides evidence that he or she can’t think for his or her self: the person proves to us that our help is needed, which, in loving the person, drives us to help the person see and live by the reality inside of our head.