Tag Archives: Choice

Nightmare

It’s my grandma’s funeral, yet she is standing right here in front of me. Did something go wrong? Her face is as white as her hair. We’re in a hallway at the ceremonial building of her cemetery. She’s looking at the others who are at her funeral down the hallway. She knows she should be dead. She looks confused. Then she quickly turns yellow, then also purplish. As if she’s decomposing. She falls backwards. I catch her, my one hand behind her back, the other behind her head. My arms are around her fragile body and she’s facing me now. She looks at me in agony, confusion. As if she wants to ask me what she’s doing here. There’s a morbid serenity between us. She starts vomiting. She cannot stay on her feet, so I gently lay her on her back. My moms voice is mixed with my own in a command to put her on her side so that she doesn’t suffocate. I lay her sideways, then I violently start puking as well. It is not actual puke, it’s a yellow-black decomposed liquid. It spreads over the floor, creating little stretched-out  puddles. Then a bit more, as if my bile spits death. If spurts on her feet.

I wake up in the middle of the night, unsure if she’s dead or alive. I feel sick, to the extent that I’m wondering if I am. It doesn’t go away easily. It was just a dream. Was she there? The likeness of the confusion was striking. Minds deceive, go back to sleep, I tell myself. So it gets dark again.

It dawns on me the next morning that the texts I had considered finished at my new job, got returned to me by some clients. As if they resurrected, through a will beyond me. As if I had to lay them back with care, not knowing if they would stay or disappear from my life. Perhaps the dream’s sepulchral aspect was related the Game of Thrones episode I’d been watching earlier last night. Things are never what they seem. Or maybe the dream related to the talk I had with my girlfriend afterwards, in which we spoke about her insecurities at work. A confusion which then probably reflected my own. It could even be related to a diuretic intestine problem I’m experiencing, working on my mind while I’m asleep.

But was she there?

My grandma didn’t believe in ghosts or in life after death. She told me that in the months before she died. Killed herself. She called me one day to inform me about her decision, so I went to visit her more or less weekly. Cook for her. Bond with her. For the first time in my life, really. I remember that a few days before she took her fatal drink, I had a similar, nauseating dream, less morbid than last night, in which I told her no, I wasn’t fine with her choice. I never told her in real life. My daily me respected her courage and resolve.

For many years I have romanticized death. A next state, a state of freedom. Where worldly matters release their grip. An eternal, infinite deep blackness we all carry inside us but fail to perceive. For a long time I looked upon death in the way I imagined it would look from the inside, as an experience. I’ve never believed in reincarnation, but yes, I do believe that consciousness exists outside our brain and also in dead matter. More than my consciousness shutting down when I die, I believe it will dissolve.  A part of me may have projected this romantic perception of death upon my grandma’s choice to do euthanasia.

It only recently starts to dawn on me, that, free as death may seem from the inside, it leaves a penetrating print upon the living. As a biologist I could have known. We can be poisoned by a dead brother’s body. Could it be that if a body of a dead person can make you ill, so can a dead person’s emotion? Should that too be properly cleaned?

I’ve carried the disturbing memory as a heavy weight through the day. I never knew that death, in all its beauty, can be so repulsive. Not even when watching Game of Thrones. I don’t think I’ve ever had a viler dream. Death in my dreams was usually fresh or even mystical. Not rotting and definitely not in such a way that it spat from my own guts.

She told me she hoped I’d remember her in a nice way. I told her I would. I do. I’ve wondered today if I missed signals in her instants of confusion, when she was still alive. Instants remarkably similar to her anxiety in my dream. Her question if she’s dead or alive. For a while today I seriously wondered if there was a piece of her spirit remnant inside me. Yet now that I truly tune in to that time, I remember joy, laughter and a deep calm. Her choice was made. Anything I would have tried to do to stop her would have made it harder.

It’s that calm that tells me now that it was just a nightmare. The emotion should be taken care of in me, not in her. Some proper rest once in a while wouldn’t hurt.

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Vegan Challenge

For the coming fourty days, I will eat and drink solely plant-based foods and drinks. I will succeed, except perhaps for a few mistakes out of ignorance (though I just took screenshots of a list of vegan E-numbers, and intend to verify them). It’s not my intention to permanently switch to a vegan or even a vegetarian diet. I don’t consider that necessary, but I do think doing such a challenge is a good idea for everyone. Since it is a topic of discussion these days, let me briefly give my views on some of the arguments.

Eating vegan is the more natural thing to do
Some vegans claim that eating vegan is a natural thing to do. They support this statement by pointing out some of our physiological adaptations to green food, such as our molars to chew, our long intestines to digest greens and our not so acidic stomach. These are supposedly signs that evolution adapted us to a fully vegan diet. For now, all I’d like to contest against this doctrine is ‘Vitamin B12’. That vitamin is vital to our nervous system, but can be found solely in animal products, in some very exceptional algae and in food supplements. The fact that humans would get serious problems (such as blindness) if we don’t regularly ingest B12 pretty much settles the argument for me. And I find the ‘natural’ argument a bit scary in fact. As if ‘cultural’ would be wrong. Depending on your definition, we humans have moved far beyond the ‘natural’. I don’t see that as morally wrong as long as we stay respectful, and I do not support such doctrines.

Eating vegan is healthier
Here’s an argument I haven’t researched that much. So far, I have lived by the principle that my body knows perfectly well what is good for it and what is not. Now that I’m thirty, I do admit that this outlook may be a little naive, since I would supposedly not yet notice the potential long-term damage I did to it in my early years. Yet following my appetite, I noticed that my food choice becomes heavier in winter, containing more meat, and more vegetable-based in summer, when I need less energy and fat to keep my body heated. I consider that a good sign. Of course, I cannot be sure if that is a mental of physical thing. Probably a combination.

Essentially, health is a complex thing. What is healthy for your brain, may be unhealthy for your heart, and what is good for your kidneys may be less good for your eyes or your nervous system. Food scientists discover new impacts of foods every day. Hence, next to following my taste, I have always tried to adopt a balanced diet and eating a bit of everything.

To stay within the discourse on health and veganism, some people use the argument that vegans get sick as soon as they eat a bit of meat. I wouldn’t deny that they get sick, but would look for the explanation in the switch of diet, rather than blaming the actual meat or dairy. And many people have allergies, intolerances or other medical conditions which would fully legitimize certain diet choices. Problems I don’t have, luckily. In the end, I’d say that avoiding illness requires a broader outlook. We should stimulate our capacity to continuously heal ourselves, which in my view is about untightening.

Vegan consumption reduces animal suffering
I’m all for the decrease of animal suffering. Whether an animal suffers or not, depends on how it is treated. Not eating meat at all means turning your back on meat farmers. Buying organic meat of the kind that focusses on animal welfare, on the other hand, stimulates a better practice. It could indirectly stimulate change in the standards of animal treatment in general. Thus using market forces, buying organic meat could decrease animal suffering in a way that eating no meat can’t. Let’s not forget also, that many of the animals we’re talking about would never have existed without us. Provided they enjoy existence, breeding animals could be a good thing. I would say that this conversation should be more about respectful animal treatment than about eating or not eating them.

Killing animals is wrong
I’m not happy that we have to kill other beings to survive, but that’s the bitter truth. Vegans, vegetarians and many others make a sharp distinction between plants and animals. Now, I agree that there are differences between the groups, but there also are plenty of things about plants we do not yet understand. And if there’s one thing in which plants do not differ from animals, it’s in the meaning of death. We are talking about the difference between being held together by life, and falling apart. I don’t see how plants and animals differ under that light. I believe that feeling the life flow out of you is a deeply relaxing experience to all creatures alike.

Vegans’ environmental impacts are lower
I find this the strongest argument against eating animal products (or for the reduction of it). Every step up the food pyramid costs ten times the amount of food and drinks as the previous step did. In other words: it takes 10 kg of grass to create 1 kg of cow, and 100 kg of grass to create 1 kg of human that fed solely on cows, while it would take 10 kg of vegetables. Keeping our position in the food pyramid low will inevitably reduce our impact on the global environment.

There is something unfair about this calculation, however, that I do want to stress. Grass can become new fertilizer. None of the ingested substances truly disappears. All of it will be given back to the atmosphere, the water and the land. The power of the global ecosystem has always been to keep the cycle intact. But: we humans have disrupted the balance, to a point where ecosystems are incapable of dealing with all of our waste. We could, theoretically, compensate for that ourselves and create new cycles that are more adapted to our taste for meat. However, we are far from having created such new cycles at the moment, and many of the valuable nutrients for our food are disappearing into the oceans. Hence it would be better for now to decrease our meat ingestion. Yet in this discussion, we should not forget that many plant products such as coffee, chocolate and plant-based oils have similar impacts on the global nutrient cycles as meat does.

Still taking the challenge
So, if I’m not against consumption of animal products per se, why still take this challenge? Well, first of all, not being anti doesn’t make you pro. I like meat, and not being discriminatory against it is by far the easiest way to go. Reducing my consumption of it is nonetheless still a good idea. Besides, I am not fond of habits that have taken control over me. I take yearly month-long brakes from coffee and alcohol, and I decided to do that with animal-based products as well at least this year. By doing so, I force myself to explore different behavioural patterns, and I expect that my outlook on food will expand. I suppose I’ll have a bigger palette of habits and dishes at my disposal after this period, which will decrease my animal-based consumption without me noticing.

I’m by far not the first of my friends to do something like this. Many have gone before, and I suppose that seeing them do it triggered it in me as well. But this is my choice, and I’m quite sure I will face some small conflicts with myself and society. For a short while, I will look into the faces of the pro-meat camp with the eyes of an anti. That may well turn out to be an interesting experience in itself. I do think I come equipped to disarm potential opponents.

The dice

A cubic controller of fate. With slightly rounded edges, sometimes, to avoid pits in the wooden table at times when your little brother or sister controls it better than you.

Some like it better when it rolls, others when it is put, and yet others enjoy the dice most when they move it around in their hands.

It is the dice’s destiny to decide on destiny. That’s what it was designed for. It that’s the power we give it when we start to roll. To some it’s a game, to others dead serious. Yet what does it matter to the dice?

Does it look out of those eyes upon the face of his beholder? Does it see him six times or less, and know what it brought upon him? And if it does, does it watch in innocence, or does it feel its own strength? Does it cheer inside or regret the way it rolled out? Would it do it differently next time?

One moment, the dice embodies all possible options. The next, it unfolds a single one. As if you woke up from a dream. But you didn’t. You just rolled a dice.

Social media do not a prison make, nor avatars a cage

The demonization of social media is a trend on social media. Social technology causes isolation, leads to blind consumption and causes blood and explosions. People have coined terms like iDisorder and mobilegeddon, and some even blame global environmental issues on the blind indulgence in cyber illusions. We have witnessed a collective behavioural shift and are shouting that out to the world.

I was in my adolescence during the coming of mobile phone age. Some of my classmates had mobile phones, others did not. I personally was against it. Imagine. We had that option back then. Nonetheless, I remember having a conversation with one of my teachers, where I told him that I thought it would be easier to date girlfriends with a phone than without. You could just ask their number, send them a text and go out. The thought seemed to surprise him.

Of course, there aren’t many things more annoying than people checking their phone all the time when you’re having diner, or strangers who bump into you on the street because they are not looking (this happened to me). And if it’s yourself, yes, it’s exhausting to deal with having countless pages open twenty-four seven. But I believe that’s a phase. There are barriers to overcome, and yes, that needs effort. We are forced to learn to deal with this increasing pressure of information. We need to jointly establish proper codes of smartphone conduct. We need to master our new gift.

One field of this debate where I fundamentally disagree with the main stream is on the question: is digital contact less real than physical contact? Many suggest that it is. Consider this: whose face do you see when you look at someone’s face? Does the air blur your sight? Do your eyes change their shape? If you touch? What more is it, really, than a stream of electricity from brain to brain? People say social media distract us from reality, but physical appearances equally do. Don’t we like beautiful young women more than ugly old ones? Aren’t we more likely to believe deeper voices than higher ones? People wear masks in real life, which they sometimes release on the net. It might sometimes be easier to have real contact with people on the web, because distractions there have different shapes.

I perceive it almost as my duty as a writer to state that sometimes, a carefull selection of words in a text can be more physically stimulating than a kiss. What I want to say is that real contact is not dependent on physical circumstances, real contact is a joint choice. It’s about the attention you give.

The power of social media and smartphones is not that it provides us with illusions. The illusions were already there. The power of social technology is that it actually facilitates a type of getting to know each other that did not exist before. It enables us to be continuously in touch with a large number of real, existing friends. It allows us to keep building on lasting relationships all over the world. Today, that statement may not surprise you, but if you think about it, that truly is magical.

Breathshake

In the series of new names for unspoken emotions, I´d like to discuss breathshake. Breathshake is what it sounds like, a deep shaking of the breath that interferes with the actual breathing. It comes together with a pulsating fear of the loss of life, possibly that fundamental one. In fact, I´d challenge you with the thought that breathshake is a pulsating appearance of life out of a state where it is not. Appearance of emotion too. It´s probably the most terrifying fast emotion I know.

The obvious pathway to the experience of breathshake is running out of air. You can do this by not stopping with breathing out, going very deep into the water or doing sports while breathing far below your natural rhythm. The first option is probably safest. In these cases, my diaphragm starts contracting and I have the sensation of being cut off. The thought “this situation is eternal” forces itself upon me. You could call it fear of death, but I think it is a fear of never getting access to life anymore. While silence is present, a feverish tingly cloud dwells up in my upper body. I feel sweat emerge from several spots. I sense that the feeling could subdue me from the back of my neck and shut off my awareness. It never has.

Lighter forms of breathshake can occur without that I run out of air. An interesting thing that can trigger this for me is the tought of not receiving attention from a person I love. It can also happen in conversations where I feel incapable of standing up for myself the way I think I deserve. It is as if the conversation partner suppresses my self-perceived value and does not recognize my true character, or whatever it is inside me that needs to be appreciated at that moment. The parallel with being cut off from oxygen is interesting, as if human attention also is a substance we need.

The pulsating character of breathshake delivers a remarkable alteration of states of mind which reveals parts of myself to me. Fuelled with panic, short, shallow gulps of breath try to resolve the feeling of sinking away into a swamp. That experience alternates a state of tranquility and acceptance, as if the end is already there. This tranquility eventually takes over and allows my breath to deepen again. All of it happens quite quickly.

Breathshake relativizes my concerns. It can release some tensions, but it also makes me aware of my incapacity to be fully in control of myself. I am aware again that somewhere deep inside me lingers a deep desire for taking part that can become stronger than myself. The thought is humbling, but slightly discomforting too.

Loving the fear for the lie

There are people in this world who talk about fear and love as if they are each other’s opposites. Some of those people frame it as a choice between two pathways: do you take the path of fear or the path of love? You may have met them. Some people also categorize acts into ‘fearful and loving’ behaviour. This scene from Donnie Darko puts it poignantly. It makes me wonder how it has happened that these two simple words are now so deeply embedded in the human understanding of their lives.

What strikes me most about the way society understands fear and love, is that both are very tightly connected to our will. Ask a person what he or she fears, and many times that person will speak of something he or she likes to avoid, while if they talk about something they love, they’d bring up a situation they would like to attract. There’s a movement of the mind towards or away from some object. If both are indeed movements, aren’t fear and love ultimately very similar things? Or seen from a different angle: how would fear and love look if we imagined ourselves out of the equation?

Perhaps my objection here is not with this immature definition of fear and love, but rather with the omnipresent understanding of all things as having a dualistic nature. I think this whole yin yang thing is a veil over a colourful reality. The reason it is so popular, I think, is that our minds prefer to contrast themselves to the background of their own projections. And how do you better do that than in black and white? Then again, since I am perceiving the world through my mind, I am per definition not the right person to contest a well established truth as dualism. After all, it is possible I am unknowingly objecting against the nature of existence itself. My mind can not know reality without it, but then again, whose mind could? How can we be sure duality exists? Or does not? Isn’t this very question dualistic in nature?

Something you fear can turn into something you love, something you love can turn into something you fear. You can love fear, and you can fear love. You can even fear and love a single thing at once. If you dig into it, you find vast varieties in what people perceive as their fears and their loves. They can be emotional states, but they can also be lingering presences in our conscious or subconscious perceptions with, admitted, influence on our choices. A triggered fear can lead you anywhere, and a triggered event of love could lead you to exactly the same place. They can be directed towards something that actually exists, but they can also confront something imaginary, something that we have made up, yet presents itself to us as lively as anything else.

To talk about fear or love is to talk about two mountains in the own emotional landscape. We don’t usually clarify if we are talking about the peaks or the base, the tree line or the sound of the birds. Are we talking about the act of climbing these mountains, or sliding off from them? Instead, we are tempted to just place one mountain on the opposite side of the other and say: well my experience is either of the two. What is the benefit of doing that?

Perhaps downsizing the richness of the inner world makes it easier to lead your life. Or maybe it is part of an evil plot serving to control our behaviour by fragmenting our inner coherence and scatter our will. Or am I overcomplicating things and are fear and love indeed poles of our mental existence? Poles we can simply pick a direction from. Maybe I’m justifying my incapacity to do so myself. Am I guided by my fear of the lie? My love for the truth? Or maybe I’m just playing around.

A fearful loving fool would know.

Opening Pandora’s Fridge

Eating has become a political act. Food has turned into a religion. When I’m in the supermarket today, I have the feeling people’s judgmental attention creeps in on my articles. Close friends and family radically change their eating habits, talk about just that, and leave me wondering. All over the internet you can find discussions, sometimes violent ones, on what we should or should not eat. Society is dividing into food camps. Yet I wish to stay neutral.

For a while now, I have been wanting  to push the judges and preachers back. For a while, I have been wanting to remind everybody that eating is for nourishment. I did not. Why? The topic is sensitive, people will be offended. And more importantly, there are so many facades to this discussion that, knowing myself, I will diffuse the readers’ overview. Yet here I stand, surrendering to my desire, ready to enter the arena of a fight that is lost for anyone who takes part in it.

Let’s start with Foie Gras. It’s made by force feeding geese, murdering them then ripping their livers out and serving it on a plate. Seen the videos of the poor industrial fellas? Imagine a tube in the back of your throat filling up your stomach with huge quantities of food, untill you get sick and your liver swells up to enormous size. Then, try Foie Gras for yourself. It’s one of those things that graciously melts over your tongue, having you believe the angels themselves have brought it to you on a silk pillow. It’s a deeply rooted aspect of French culture, therefore unlikely to be banned in Europe for the coming decades. Should we hate the French?

Wait a minute, there are more sides to it. In some cases geese may actually get used to this type of feeding. Before the winter migration, for example, it’s quite natural for them to eat far more than usual. The force feeding, if not industrial, may happen in more respectful ways than known by activists. Then again, who came up with this information? Those who earn from it perhaps? Or are we forgetting to show true empathy for the animals we so forcefully protect? Are we projecting our discomfort on them?

But let’s shift this discussion to plants. Take broccoli. Naturally, it won’t grow as a single stem with flowers. It grows that way because we bind its branches together, giving them far less space than they would have. We suffocate them. Not sad? Asparagus is a shoot. It is put under a thick layer of soil. All it does during its lifetime, is to search for light. When, after a few weeks of growth, it finally reaches the surface, on the moment it can truly start expanding, it is taken out and eaten up. Totally ok? Do you know what you eat if you eat a strawberry? Plant babies. No problem? Every nut you ever ate could have become a tree, yet nobody advocates for nuts’ rights. Or bananas’.  We believe that vegetables don’t have feelings, thus we can do with them what we want. Yet the attitude behind it is no different from that enabling us to eat Foie Gras. We use nature in the way that benefits us.

I’m skipping the topic of the ecological impact for now (that could take a few pages), but would like to briefly discuss the other sudden western obsession: health. Fifteen years ago, if I would eat a slice of bread with cheese, that would be a healthy act. If I do that today, I practically poison myself. What started with the amount of sugar cubes in my soda, has escalated into some raw supervegamania. I personally find it hard to digest. Let’s not forget that us westerners have never in known history become older than we become now. There must be at least a little bit of influence of our feeding habits there, am I wrong?

I have always considered myself a healthy and environmentally friendly person. Nothing changed (in fact I’m probably doing more effort now than when I was younger), yet recently food evangelists frame my eating habits as criminal to myself and the environment. As long as they don’t live of light alone, I don’t take those words for granted. Humans alter things. What matters is not the fact that we do that, but the way we do that. The respect we have for the beings we interact with makes a world of difference.

As I said, I cannot win this debate, nor do I wish to. No one can. We are in the luxurious position that we can afford to enter it. Lucky that we can choose what we eat. Please, let’s keep discussing our differences, but let’s not stick to arguments that justify telling each other that what we do is wrong. No human will alter the fact that to survive, we need to eat, and eating is a deadly act. As we’re here, we may as well enjoy that.

Slit

I drive my bicycle by the Huizingalaan for my job. There’s an anxious feeling, but I can’t put my finger on it. The traffic light is red. Shall I cross the street anyway? I’m almost at my third destination of this morning, meaning I’m halfway the duty: taking pictures of the litter on the street. The rubbish in the grass doesn’t matter, that’s not in the assignment. I decide there’s no rush, so I just stop for the red light. The weekend pops into my mind. We had a nicely easy pace, far slower than the footsteps I hear behind me. They’re close, actually. I want to turn my head, when I feel a firm, warm hand on my right ear. It is attached to a left arm that is now in front of my face. It my face in a turn to the left. A sharp cold blade enters my neck on the left side of my Adam’s apple and painfully slits through. I am surprisingly aware of it cutting my aorta. My body pressure drops. I’m calmer than ever when I bend my right shoulder forward towards my steer. Whoever is behind me still holds my face back and I’m looking at the sky. I feel my legs give way and my body comes down like a scaffolding with a missing lower pole. My heart pumps out quantities of blood and I cannot stop it. My extremities start tingling. The feeling steadily creeps in. I lose perception in my skin.

He doesn’t look into my eyes, but instead goes straight for the inner pocket of my coat. I hear myself attempt to ask what the black hat expects to find there. His survival? Another pulse of life leaves my arms and legs. It’s sad. The dark black coat and the hat run off with my wallet, leaving what is left of me buried under the bike I had with me. “Now nobody will know who I am”. The thoughts sound distant but meaningful. Light flashes appear. They come with a pulsating headache. Part of my view is replaced by colour patterns. Someone I once briefly dated enters my vision. Never thought she would.

“What did you do wrong?” I hear.
“Should I have ignored the red light and crossed the street?”
There’s no answer. I feel the question press stronger upon me.
“Should I have looked behind me when I felt something was wrong? When I heard his footsteps? Should I have seen him when he wanted to attack?”
Still no answer.
“Should I have taken a shorter coffee break, so that the evil would never have met me? Perhaps I should have called in sick this morning, when I felt that little headache rise? Or should I have forgotten my camera at home and caused a delay, or overslept a little, or made some more love or…”
“What did you do wrong?”
The similarity in tone and volume with the earlier question is frightening.

“Was it my dedication? Should I have been a more effective worker? More persuasive? Should I have been more pro-active in times where I was needed? Should I have tried harder to convince others about this team building idea? Should I have put more effort in the workspace? Cleaned more? Worn more suitable clothes? Perhaps I should have reviewed my products better? And the others’? Paid more attention to their personal problems instead of my own?
It remains silent for a while.

“Should I have been more loving to my girlfriend, maybe? Thought less about sex, perhaps? More about tenderness and care? Cuddled more? Should I have avoided those other girls I felt a stronger affection to at times? Spent less time drinking with friends? Should I have mastered my feelings better, so that she would’ve had a stronger shoulder to rest on? Tried harder to listen to her when she had a hard time? Perhaps I should have practiced Yoga? Should I have asked her to marry me? Have babies? Would that have saved me from this horrible death? Should I have reached out to her more while I still had the chance? Did I date the wrong girl?

“What did you do wrong?” Again, the exact same words in the exact same, serene but powerful voice.
“Should I have saved more energy? Bought more organic food? Perhaps I shouldn’t have bought a car? Lived a more sober life, cared more about strangers? Should I have visited my grandma more often? Learn from her words and give her some news on how the younger people live? Should I have fought her lonely existence and restored the generation gap? Should I have called more with my parents? Asked them for their points of view? Listened to their warnings? Should I not have moved so far away? Chosen my dad’s profession, tried to understand him? Should I have granted them a grandchild while I had the chance? Could I have been less hard on my brothers? Fought them less, given them more space to be who they were? Should I ha…

“What did you do wrong?” am I in a loop? Will this go on an on?
“Should I have dedicated my life to the spiritual? Moved to a monastery? Helped out in the third world, perhaps? Should I have actively practiced a state of constant joyful trance? Strived for enlightenment? Compassion? Should I have passionately sought the wiser ones to support me in a path of service to the divine? Travelled through dimensions? Been more in touch with myself? Should I have established a disciplined bio rhythm? Meditated more? Should I have been an example to those who needed one? Or perhaps I should have been more humble? Taken my convictions less seriously? Or simply have been more open to others? Where the Christians right? Should I have just understood that Jesus was our one and only saviour? Should I have separated milk from meat? Prayed towards the middle east? Or maybe I ignored you when I met you, disguised up as a homeless person? Or were you dressed up as a business man? A beautiful woman in a long black dress, perhaps?

“What did you do wrong?” I’m running out of thoughts. What if I don’t find the answer? I don’t know what to say.
“Should I have slept more?”
“That’s enough, man!” says the voice. “I was just messing with you! You should have crossed the red light while you still could. Your first guess was right. But it’s too late for that now” a jolly laughter. “Anyway, dude, welcome to the afterlife.”

Five reasons why this amazing post will absolutely blow your mind

1. It has numbers
The human mind loves numbers. Indeed scientists have shown that using numbers increases your credibility by 86%. It has to do with the sense of structure they convey. In these speedy chaotic times, providing your audience with bite-sized chunks of text is an act of compassion, and if you announce it in the title, that increases the likelihood of people clicking on it. The number five in this title has a mystical connotation, which goes well with the theme of this blog. It makes a person wonder.

2. It was written in English
English is one of the most popular languages on the globe. The fact that this text is written in that language, means that you can read it. It would have been possible that I could only speak Swahili. That would have drastically impeded your capacity to do something useful with this amazing piece of text, which would have dramatically decreased its awesomeness. Or I could have written it in a language I made up, but that would not have helped either. So here you are, ready to read point 3.

3. It has a joke in it
People love jokes and laughing regularly will increase your lifetime with 16%. Here it comes.

Why don’t Insects go to church? Because they’re in sects.

Did you laugh? I hope you did.

4. It’s informative
Though not all facts in the article may be entirely accurate, the underlying flow of ideas behaves according to the laws of some kind of logic. People may learn something new when reading it. Learning new things is a good training for the human intellect.

5. It saves the internet
People often list top-down global internet regulations as the top threat to internet freedom. They may be right that it is.

What I see a lot lately, is that titles such as the one of this post a spread better than lots of others. They are smart because they speak to people in a certain way. They persuade the mind to click. And the more something is clicked, the higher up it gets in the rankings.

Such titles are a result of long studies of our minds. Companies and individuals now know how to attract peoples attention with random bullshit. Humans will soon get bored by “will blow your mind”, and it will be replaced by some other, even smarter bait sentence, which will then spread again. This way, we humans flood the internet with contentless crap, making it harder and harder for everyone to find reliable information.

This pattern of mindless clicking should to be made explicit. By becoming aware of such tricks, we can release ourselves from its grip.

Bait

If you were a fish, which bait could a fisherman use to catch you? Money? Sex? Love?

There is a program that’s able to estimate your age and sex quite accurately just by what you tweet. And have you heard of Kred? That’s a website where all data on Twitter activity are put into graphs. These data are now accessible under the motto of transparency. Paying customers can then see analyses about many types of influential words, sentences and multimedia. They could study reactions of target groups, but also those of individuals. It’s a start. I think that these techniques will get much better in the near future, up till the point where programs will be able to detect our childhood traumas from the photos that we post.

With the arrival of social media and E-identities, psychologists and cognitive scientists have access to endless data on the patterns that guide the human brain. What determines our choice? Which patterns make us into who we are? Marketers, states and many others will learn and take a leap closer to the aspects of ourselves that we thought were safely hidden. If, over the course of the coming century, we’d like to stay mentally free, I think it’d be wise to join in on that learning.

It is an option to back off from internet interaction, in order not to be deciphered. In that case, the fishermen will study your neighbours, brothers and sisters. They will still find out who you are and where your desires are hidden. Another option is that you start to fish for yourself and see what works and what not. Taste some of the bait from time to time, and see how you respond to it. In that case you will add information to the pile and give the insights you gather back to the mass. You’d contribute to the creation of better bait that makes more people snatch. Either way, the bait will get tastier, juicier and more thought through than ever.

If you were a human, which bait would lure you?