“The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct”
William of Ockham
So lets assume that I feel like I’ve made a huge mistake, and let’s assume that the repercussions are irreversible and that the mistake was unintentional. Let us also wrap our minds around the concept that in my heart I felt I did the right thing, but have sense learned to allow my mistake to consume me. My mind is reeling with guilt, denial, doubt of self, and most importantly, fear. The fear of making another mistake, the fear of making an even bigger mistake, the fear of letting my fear take hold of my life and prevent me from living a basic, normal life, in which I have become accustomed to.
Let me remind you, this is all in theory. I haven’t really done anything that consumes me, but in the past I have allowed myself to become consumed with guilt and loathing, usually for the most ridiculous reasons. I’d dwell on stupid things that nobody else cared about, and let it lead me by the hand into a self destructive path towards death. It was a dark spot in life, it was a scary spot in life, it was not so long ago actually. The rational mind wraps itself around a concept and restricts it like a snake, extracting every bit of information out of it so that the creative mind can whirl it around into a tornado of ridiculous concepts and scenarios that are usually absolutely bunk. Picture a thought of guilt, okay, you feel bad that you cut that person off on the way to work this morning, the rational mind says:
- I cut that guy off
- I could have crashed
- I knew there wasn’t really room but I had to get over
- I hope nobody saw me
- The driver flipped me the bird
- I needed gas really bad
- I was late to work
After snake like mind coils itself around the situation, it squeezes every last fact out of the situation, and then the creative mind kicks in and has a field day. The creative mind says:
- That guy could have been a criminal and he could have pulled a gun on me and chased me in some sort of fantastic road rage type situation where I find myself ran off the road and shot in the head, not to be found for three days when a homeless man wanders by, steals my purse, then informs the police that there is a wicked ugly corpse half way hanging out a car window with a bullet in her head.
- That lady I just cut off could have had a car full of kids and was taking them to daycare and the situation scared her so much she was afraid to drive more than a little under the speed limit, always in the right lane, just to make sure she wasn’t in the way of anyone. This slow driving then caused her to be late to drop the kiddos off, and then it caused her to be late to her job, in which she lost her job, had to collect her kids from daycare, and then move in with her parents because she was a single mother with no other income.
- Maybe that other person was taking on their cell phone (over bluetooth) and not paying attention to what they were doing in the first place and by me cutting them off it caused them to become hyper aware of the situation and consider changing their driving style was to a more road focused, distraction free driver. This mentality caused them to become proactive in the community, helping teen drivers to not drive distracted.
- That old man that just flipped me off could have been on his way to the hospital because he felt he was having some constriction in his chest. He popped a nitro, but the pain didn’t subside, he was afraid he was having a heart attack. The excitement of the almost collision caused his heart to race even more, which it wasn’t prepared to do causing an embolism which caused him to die of a stroke.
See? It’s a simple action, but the creative mind can take it to and fro and make a mountain out of a mole hill. Occam’s Razor – a philosophical view point from William of Ockham explains to us that although theories can be expressed, the simplest answer is usually the right answer. The principal of the whole “razor” is that things should not be multiplied unnecessarily, in this case, ideas or theories of what might have happened were replicated by the creative brain causing a blockage of actual perception of what reality is really like. The concept is really just “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” In the cut off example, the simple conclusion is:
- I cut somebody off this morning
And that’s it, no more static, take the fact for what it is and don’t extract the juices of ridiculousness. It’s done, nobody got hurt, somebody might have been a little peeved, but certainly it didn’t ruin his day – – and if it did, by gum, he needs to start practicing the action of not taking the action of extracting extra information out of a situation. It’s like that line in the Electric Koolaid Acid Test citing that “it’s just a table, man, it’s just there to like, receive your food. It’s got legs, man, it’s a table.” I paraphrase and those aren’t the exact words, but the concept is there, it’s simple, it’s a table. You can go on about where it came from, what wood it’s made from, how much you paid for it and then go into the fact that the deliverymen had to, and the men that built it, and the tree that was cut down for it….see where it leads, a never ending abyss of confusion.
In the end, everything is just a table, man.
“If you label it this, then it can’t be that.”
― Tom Wolfe
So, instead of labeling things as “good” and “bad”, why not just label things as, well, just things, or thoughts or actions. They are just part of who you are and the life you decide to live. Actually, the simplicity of the lifestyle in the Electric Koolaid Acid Test is very congruent with Occam’s Razor. The concept that people lived to be who they are, like the ass kicker that didn’t apologize for kicking ass, because that’s what he was, an ass kicker. Also the bullshitter, he never took back his words, because that’s who he was, full of bullshit. Those fantastic people on that fantastic bus might have been higher than kites most of the time, but they really dug into the fact that perception is actually reality and life is what you make it. Granted their lifestyle was a little, ahem, risque, but hell, don’t we all do things that we wouldn’t tell our parents or pastors about?
“I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out the window in disgust.”
Henry David Thoreau
If that isn’t simplicity at it’s finest, I don’t know what is. In our case with Occam’s Razor, the limestone and dust accumulates in our minds and we often forget that we can extract those troublesome things by letting them go. Release the boa constrictor like grasp on that idea and just like it float out to sea to trouble some other poor sap.
Besides, you’ve got a lot of living to do, so I do for that matter. Although I admit I’ve made some seriously fucked up mistakes, I no longer hold onto them and channel them into deep regions of my brain. I let them float out to sea…