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Sure but also, is this what we "want"? (for wildly varying definitions of the word want.)

Takeaway available with the press of a button is certainly not what my soul wants.






I found a single origin espresso that I really like.

One time I bought a bag of beans it occurred to me that requiring coffee beans from a specific farm in Rhuanda sounds like something a king might do.

Even my bog standard middle class luxury feels wildly excessive sometimes.


Our homes are not just like a king's palace, when it comes to comforts, entertainment, and petty luxuries, but like a king's palace in the middle of a once-in-a-generation, no-expense-spared festival. But multiplied by 100. And they're like that 24/7, year-round.

No wonder we have trouble falling asleep.


If I were somehow transported back in time to The Field Of The Cloth Of Gold[0], I’d probably be bored because my phone wouldn’t work, and the wine would probably suck. It’s hard to make good wine without knowing what yeast is.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_of_the_Cloth_of_Gold


No joke. We burn a bunch of lightbulbs with candle powers measured in the hundreds, have several kinds of entertainment of the highest quality that's ever existed anywhere available at the literal press of a button or with the right spoken command, have a librarian-scribe who can fetch us most any info we like nearly instantly even if it's just a passing whim, our food is abundant, cheap, outstanding, and for all but the poorest can be cooked and delivered by others on a fairly regular basis.

If anything it's surprising we're not even fatter and even less well-rested. We live in a friggin' world-class carnival. Describe some medieval monarch living in some kind of environment like that and we'd simply assume they'd be a wrecked, fat drunkard with perpetual bags under their eyes in short order, even if they had the best of intentions and pretty decent character. But we wonder why we're fat and tired and write and read books about it and try not to see the obvious cause, and the cost of fixing the problem.


> for all but the poorest can be cooked and delivered by others on a fairly regular basis.

kitchens are expensive. the historical urban poor often lived in a corner of a room and bought their food from someone who had a kitchen. it makes eating home cooked meals feel absolutely decadent!

(one thing i haven't yet understood: food was cheaper than a penny, but there were no farthings or ha'pnies till much later. indeed, a penny bought about $20 worth. so did they buy meals a week at a time, and get a pastie a day or something?)


I imagine that you could run a tab with your local grocer and settle up for full pennies later.

They used to cut coins in halfs, fourths, and maybe smaller to get lower denominations.

Comparisons between modern mundane luxury and the lives of ancient royalty rarely take into account the different stressors present in either case. Maybe the life of a medieval sovereign would still be preferable to that of a modern serf, if nonmaterial considerarions were included.

My assays at Crusader Kings II—squaring remarkably well with fictional and historical accounts of similar figures in roughy the same time period, see e.g. King Lear and Hamlet for good examples of the former—do not make being a medieval lord seem low-stress. Full of creature comforts and experiences unknown to most of the population at the time, yes. Though I think the environment of medieval Europe was a particularly rough one for the ruling class and at other times and places before and after, yes, it indeed would have been unreservedly "good to be the king".

Something I've noticed in my kids; because they do have this access to "entertainment of the highest quality", real-world experiences struggle to measure up.

For instance, going to the circus was fun, but quickly forgotten. A local stunt pilot flying overhead only gets a quick glance.

A few minutes of a YouTube compilation gives more amazing entertainment moments than my entire childhood.


You might like the book: At Home: A Short History of Private Life, it talks about just this idea.

I feel like telling the trade caravan that you want to buy from a specific place they visit is something your average merchant could do.

Agreed, perhaps it is more king-like to _not_ need to know where everything on your plate has come from. In that way, perhaps these coffee ‘blends’ that are so plebeian to the modern taste would be considered the most elevated to aristocratic.

I'm with ya. I'm pretty solidly middle - maybe upper middle class, but even the fact that I have opinions about Malbec over Pinot Noir makes me feel gross with opulence, not sure why.

I've a different take, more symmetric in time.

How prodigious is it that so many of us know so many intricacies and details about so much stuff, from the aesthetic to the mechanic. We don't know if our point in the universe is to spread life or morality or simply to make it pretty, it's probably pointless to wonder beyond our very own life, but there's no denying that we are growing. We are becoming. Only by getting there can we know what it is. But it sure is one-of-a-kind.

All the cynicism and pessimism in the world falls short in the face of our past achievements, let alone the future potential of this Earth (I like to consider all life here to be part of the journey, we didn't exactly "win" in isolation, and "we" is more like the system to me, however large that is).


> We are becoming. Only by getting there can we know what it is. But it sure is one-of-a-kind.

I have been having a bit of a rough month, one of those obdectively good on the outside view but subjectively on the inside full of self-doubt and existential angst.

This just yanked me out of that headspace, for a few moments at least.

Thank you :)


Much obliged :)

I could be getting it wrong, but I thought this was part of the wordplay of the poem. It's not necessarily what your soul wants, it's what the small sorcerer inside you wants. The one that when you get hungry says "You know you can just stay in and have someone deliver it", or when you see an interesting book mentioned in conversation goes "We can have that on our shelf in less than 2 days!".

Sure we do. These are our small-scale desires. Then you might think that on a larger scale this is not really what you want- but try to deny the right of people to desire ordering food from home, or buying online, or going where they want as fast as it's possible, or being cured from pneumonia or cancer.

Our monkey brains are not evolved to deal with the satisfaction barrage of met expectations, or the microdosed dopamine of incremental reputation tallies.

We've weaponised the apparatus of retail and communication against our own limbic systems.


Really curious why you are being downvoted. The pyramid of needs is at work here, when your basic needs are satisfied it becomes easier to work on higher level issues.

Is one a better philosopher when they are starving? I don't know. I would rather be a well fed philosopher than a starving one.


Note that eating is a bit of an occupational hazard for philosophers, as every attempt to dine comes with the mortal danger of deadlock.

Always be prepared. Have your own backup set of silverware anytime you eat.


The stoics for example have a practice where they deliberately deprive themselves of basic things like food and warmth in order to appreciate those things more when they do have them.

In Seneca's case, at least, he advocated similar things (playing at being a destitute beggar every now and then) to remove fear of bad circumstances, not exactly to increase appreciation of good circumstances.

Right, this is the point of negative visualization. But the two go hand in hand just like anything else that can be framed as "yin-yang".

Something I say constantly, especially to others trying to make a decision to act, is "What's the worst thing that could possibly happen?" The thing is, you probably can't even imagine the worst thing that can possibly happen from any given decision. But by saying it out loud, you try, at least briefly. And in doing so, you often realize that "the worst thing that could possibly happen" really isn't all that bad.

I wanna ask this person on a date. What's the worst thing that could possibly happen? They say no and I feel embarrassed. It's a lot easier to do scary things if you actually think about the consequences of failure, rather than letting animal fear control you.

This, I learned from the Stoics.


Lots of things that look like hierarchies are more like stuff distributed ~ power law. Certainly wealth, but I think actual needs are pretty distributed ~ power law.

Breathing looks hierarchically more important than self-actualization but it's just that a material portion of your entire ensemble of needs is just breathing - completely not optional.

Given that, you can futz w/ stuff and see if the levy-stable structure of this sort of thing will allow you to fold over different stuff


> Given that, you can futz w/ stuff and see if the levy-stable structure of this sort of thing will allow you to fold over different stuff

Your writing alternates between being overly complicated and being so casual that it's vague. Can you rephrase in plain language?


Discussions like this get sullied because people interpret the word "want" differently. Some interpret it as an action that is supported by a conscious will and get offended when it is supposed that they want something that is, rationally speaking, not what a person should want. Things like procrastination and gluttony. In my experience these people's thinking tends to be more libertarian. My impression is that their egos have a stronger hold on them than their material needs. Others will interpret "want" as a desire borne from basal physiology, acknowledging that we (the "person") are pilots of organic bodies (the "human") that sometimes induce certain emotions and drives that we are unable to suppress. These people tend to be more holistic thinkers.



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