Addendum: the other element of time

Previously, I’d mentioned that it is difficult to put a project down and then pick it back up later, because the ideas are no longer fresh or understood as part of a greater whole. This holistic understanding must be recreated from memory and previous work on the project.

That’s the intellectual element of time. The emotional component is due to the changing strength of desire over time. By contrast, intelligence is more fixed over time.

Recall that I’ve defined intelligence as the ability to surmount nonmaterial obstacles in pursuit of an object of desire. That object usually takes the form of a vision of some possible future. As a pedestrian example, maybe I see a vision of myself as making a living by writing fiction and decide I want that to be reality. So I read books about writing, study the works of successful authors, and try to empathize with the desires of my intended audience. My ability to do these intermediate steps better and more quickly is the focused application of my intelligence.

The strength of desire, which compels me to pursue the envisioned possible future (where I’m a person who has sold books), is not constant. I am tempted (but not prepared) to state categorically that this desire to fulfill the vision is equivalent and interchangeable with the discomfort of failing Generally, it wanes as time elapses after the critical moment of insight. Occasionally, the strength of desire spikes as the vision reasserts itself, though these spikes are usually weaker than the original desire (but not always?). Physics types may think of this as similar to the discharge of a capacitor which loses capacitance over time from physical breakdown.

Gym-goers see this every January, when the “New Year’s resolutions crowd” swarms the place, pursuing their initial vision. But the immediacy of the vision fades as time goes on, and the resolutions crowd appear at the gym in smaller numbers each day. Eventually, only one or two of them have stuck; they have realized their dream of building a habit of working out consistently. Their motivation to continue exercising is now probably extrinsic (reward chemicals, social ties, enjoyment of progress, etc.), rather than being due to the consistent application of will (although starting most workouts requires a small amount of willpower, entrenching the habit lowers the average cost).

The most successful self-improvement programs (and creative efforts) use the initial discharge of willpower (due to the desire created by the vision) to overcome the barriers between the current lifestyle and the desired, self-sufficient lifestyle. If the new lifestyle is not self-sufficient, and continues to be willpower-expensive, then it is fragile, prone to shocks, and almost certainly unsustainable.


About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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One Response to Addendum: the other element of time

  1. Pingback: Statement of another problem (utilitarianism) | Aeoli Pera

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