Simon Paynton

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    Simon Paynton

    I’ve learned (thanks to @JodyLee‘s discussion) that what spirituality means to people is very personal; or rather, the way it is expressed is very personal.  This reflects the fact that everyone lives their lives in their own way.


    Simon Paynton

    The deadly boredom of a meaningless life.

    This is a very interesting article that is related to our discussion on spirituality.


    Simon Paynton

    I wouldn’t call him evil, just competitive.  I don’t imagine that he would enjoy torturing and killing somebody, for example.  He’s not a “toxic” narcissist, just a “status” one (in the terminology of Elinor Greenberg).  Like all narcissists, he lacks conscience.


    Simon Paynton

    how do you explain … mass extinctions due to meteor strikes

    Simon Paynton wrote:
    even in the midst of unfavourable physical circumstances, it leads in the direction of making things better for living things.

    I think you raise a good point: this “Great Spirit” is amoral, except in the case of human beings, where it generates two things: 1) competition, as in the rest of nature; 2) cooperation and morality, due to our interdependence.  We are the only species with a fully-fledged morality of fairness.  This points to there being no “moral facts” in the sense that rightness and wrongness are built into the fabric of the universe.  Although, like everything, they have their distant roots in the physical universe.

    If an antelope gets a scratch on its leg, that scratch will heal up on its own, unless it gets infected.  But the antelope is designed to return to health as well as possible after injury.  That’s my conception of the “Great Spirit” at work.  Also, the antelope is a fast runner and has a chance of getting away.

    So it is the god that lets a pack of wild dogs tear a hind leg off of a still-living antelope.

    It’s amoral in nature and moral in humans, although there are plenty of amoral humans too.  More precisely, there is a tension between “me-concerns” and “you-concerns” / “we-concerns”.

    Steve Taylor believes in the pervasiveness of consciousness throughout the physical universe, a concept I have a hard time with, although I haven’t examined it.  He raises the possibility of “guided evolution” that is favourable to life, and claims to have good evidence.  I can look into it if you like.

    Like a rock, it’s not alive.

    It’s a force or pressure, guiding the existence of living things down to the molecular level and up to the level of the entire organism, and beyond, to inclusive fitness (shared genes of relatives).


    Simon Paynton

    I agree, we have a past, present and future, and we need to recognise all three.

    But, the present is 1) where we actually live, so it’s important to be in it; 2) where we prepare for the future.  Our actions now make our future.


    Simon Paynton

    You see, three different people have three different perceptions of what “spiritual” means.  We’re allowed to, because it’s a broad word.  I think they’re all linked up by

    the essence of living


    Simon Paynton

    connection to something bigger… What is this “bigger than ourselves” thing that you can connect to?

    the present moment of reality


    Simon Paynton

    Can you give an example of the descriptive value of “spiritual” in a sentence that some other word would not more precisely convey what you mean?

    “Spiritual practice” such as meditation.  This refers to at least two meanings of the word spiritual: relating to well-being, and connection to something bigger (the present moment of reality is bigger or greater than an individual’s ego-bound consciousness).


    Simon Paynton

    I can’t use the word ‘spiritual’ to describe something that doesn’t relate to a God?

    I do it all the time.


    Simon Paynton

    If there IS a God/Great Spirit, why does he let children get hit by cars or abused by cruel parents.

    You’re right.  Assuming that the God/Great Spirit exists, then IT does allow children to get hit by cars and abused by cruel parents.

    I agree with @Reg

    Whatever “IT” is, it is natural.

    In this case, then 1) cars / earthquakes / fires etc. are not a part of the living world, they are alien and external to it because they are not alive, and living things only possess limited control over physical phenomena and circumstances; 2) good and evil, or at least, pro- and anti-social behaviour, are themselves attributes of the living world.

    These two observations are consistent with IT being part of the living world.

    If it can’t prevent things like this, what’s the point of it?  Why is it so Great?  Because even in the midst of unfavourable physical circumstances, it leads in the direction of making things better for living things.

    How does that square with evil?  Because evil is when a human being makes things better for themselves at the needless expense of another.  Good can be thought of as mutual, or at least harmless to others, making things better.


    Simon Paynton

    @JodyLee, if you’re looking for some kind of spiritual practice, then the go-to one of Eastern religion is meditation.  Apparently there are two kinds: divided into “chanting” and “looking”, both of which work to distract the ego, either by chanting a mantra (I don’t do this) or by one-point concentration on some particular present-moment phenomenon (mindfulness – either concentration or analysis work).

    I think we’re just beginning to understand these, but maybe there are three main ways in which mindfulness works:

    1. “mental noting” which aims to “name” phenomena like actions and emotions, which seems inane until we consider that this passes the phenomenon to the conscious brain for slower, more deliberate and conscious processing.  The conscious brain is where words live, so it builds connections between the body or emotions and conscious mind.
    2. distraction, or not looking at things that upset us, which just adds fuel to the fire of anger or maybe anxiety too.  Instead, focus on the present moment and making that conscious by naming it with words.
    3. building mental stamina, discipline and focus.

    I am sure that mindfulness works in other ways too.

    I’m told that “religion” (Eastern spiritual practice) consists in essence of morality, which leads to stillness (a calm mind), which leads to wisdom (truth and compassion leading to long term thriving).

    Unfortunately, as it’s a skill rather than a set of ideas, meditation needs to be taught in person by an experienced practitioner like a Buddhist monk.  So, if you’re interested, find yourself one and expect to pay a good $10 a session to help cover expenses.


    Simon Paynton

    At the same time, it seems that the area of spirituality is pretty f***ing vast, and I’m not sure I can do it justice in the same way as morality, although I can scratch the surface and come up with some kind of animating framework that will work for some people, depending on their mindset (abstract and scientific works for some but not all).


    Simon Paynton

    lol, at least we can say we know what we’re talking about now.  I think it’s important, that if we use a word, we know what it means.

    I think that spirituality is equally accessible to religious (God-believing) and non-religious people, depending on the frame of reference.  It’s easier for religious people because it’s their meat and drink.  Work needs to be done on developing a non-religious version, because as @jody Lee has pointed out, at least some people need or want it.  I know I do.

    @davis – in this case, there’s no need for me to check if someone else has said something, before I say it (!?!).  That’s a ridiculous way to do philosophy.  In science, we need references, but in creating ideas, we don’t in the same way.


    Simon Paynton

    ‘The essence of living’

    communing with this Great Spirit (God)

    I think these are two versions of the same thing, if you examine the concepts.  If you want to be scientific about it, translate them into science.

    Science in this case is a very abstract and systematic way of referring to a lived experience, which is rich and immediate.


    Simon Paynton

    Why does it have to be that word?

    That’s a good point, and I don’t know the answer entirely.  I think it’s linked to the word “inspire”.


    1. the non-physical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.
    2. the prevailing or typical quality, mood, or attitude of a person, group, or period of time.
      “I hope the team will build on this spirit of confidence”
      synonyms: ethos, prevailing tendency, motivating force, animating principle, dominating characteristic, essence, quintessence.


    1. fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.  Synonyms: stimulate, motivate, cause, incline, persuade, encourage, influence, rouse, move, stir, spur (on), goad, energize, galvanize, incite, impel; animate, fire the imagination of, fire with enthusiasm; create (a feeling, especially a positive one) in a person; arouse, awaken, prompt, cause, induce, ignite, trigger, kindle, produce, generate, bring out, bring about, give rise to, sow the seeds of;
    2. breathe in (air); inhale.

    So if “spirit” is something like someone’s animating principle or motivating force (which is there because of evolution), “spirituality” is working with this principle: that’s the “well-being” sense of the word.


    • the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

    Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all.

    “Meaning” in an emotional sense is the way that something promotes or hinders our thriving / surviving / reproducing.  “Meaning” also means “signifying”.  The two definitions can go together.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 1,570 total)