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I was a very promising student who gave up. I have come to the point of intentionally having left one of my papers and, while choosing the torture of fear for my future over the agony of boredom in class was very difficult, that is why I did it - because it was agony. That is a most horrible choice to have to make.

I find it very, very hard to give a damn about my teachers or what they teach except for a few programming courses which I've studied on my own and, due to my strong analytical skills, have mastered. The one thing that I have resented most is their desire, which is of course natural for a teacher, to have my mind, yet their way of acquiring it (surprise tests, smirks, sarcasm and the thinly veiled threat of failure) is revolting. Mustn't one's courses always be appropriate in the context of one's goals and one's goals appropriate in the context of one's abilities? Or must they be studied because the experts have agreed on it? Not one teacher has ever explained to me why I must study one course or another and how it fits into my scheme of things (integration) and, for my naivete in thinking that it was their job to tell me that while it was mine to study, I have been destroyed.

Very few things have ever evoked in me as strong emotions as two things have: programming and Atlas Shrugged. It is my deepest pleasure to study Objectivism, be it through Miss Rand's works or Dr. Peikoff's or the astounding logic I have seen on this site, just as it is to program the computer. Maybe more than that: it's bliss. The hours just fly by and they leave me with a terrible feeling of guilt - guilt for not working hard and fulfilling my responsibilities, not the least of which is lifting the burden that I have become off the shoulders of my parents, who, however irrational they may be, have and are supporting me to the best of their ability (not for very long, though, since they are old and shall retire soon).

What hurts me greater than anything is my failure to study programming further and the absolute absence of any desire to do so except when a problem I must solve requires that I do. Is it immoral to want a reason? I know that I am being emotionalist and destroying my career in what people call "futile protest against a system that will not change" but no, it is not of a desire to fight them that I have acted as I have but because of my complete, agonising, torturous indifference.

What is the proper choice of career for a man? Isn't that too an objective decision? It must, realistically, be based on a proper assessment of one's aptitudes and talents, must it not? What if each course does not give me what I want from it? I have been very late in making this decision for I have already spent three years in my undergraduate course and at this point, while I cannot go backwards, I surely have no desire to go forward.

Why are people so hard to bear? I agree that to allow people to affect one strongly would be to permit them control over oneself but what if you had to live with these people and could not withdraw from the relationship. I have never held a mistake to be immoral, only the desire not to correct it or to correct the premises wrongly held, and boy does no one want to do that! (As a side thought, one of my teachers once remarked when I replied incorrectly to one of his questions, "It is not wrong to not know, but it it the superlative degree of ignorance to know wrongly." The pain has still not left me. If he had only told me the correct answer...)

I no longer wish to live, and fight the mediocrity that is killing me with boredom.

I hope you do understand how personally significant this issue is for me and I am sure that none of you will theorise over my predicament. Help me please to find meaning in life.

These are the words I say to myself often:

"I shall NOT go through life bewildered."

I don't know anymore.

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I understand what you're going through - my struggle through school is just about over. The best I can do is say that yours is a career in which you can still make your own way, without a college degree...if you're good enough. Find an entry level position and work your way up. I know it can be done: I work for an IT company and have seen a number of people do just that.

Best wishes,

Don

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What hurts me greater than anything is my failure to study programming further and the absolute absence of any desire to do so except when a problem I must solve requires that I do. Is it immoral to want a reason?
I didn't start truly enjoying programming until I got a sense of what I wanted to create in the future. It was very hard for me to motivate myself before that. I dropped out of college partly because I found the work intollerable, and also so I could persue my own goals without the hinderance of academia.

I don't quite know if it is relevent to you, but I'd like to point out the article Hackers and Painters which gave me insight into why computer science takes the fun out of programming. When I code now, it feels exactly like how the article says: sketching. I no longer adhere to rigid principles, and that is liberating.

I know that I am being emotionalist and destroying my career in what people call "futile protest against a system that will not change" but no, it is not of a desire to fight them that I have acted as I have but because of my complete, agonising, torturous indifference.

I went through High school feeling like this. I had plenty of ability, but I only ever lifted a finger just to get the teachers off my back. Do you have the confidence to try and go alone? If you have the strength, you can go at it alone, you don't need the system. I'd be wary of my advice though because it isn't for everyone.

Do you have any passions? Is programming something that you could ever feel passionate about, if you were to work on your own terms in your own way as you wanted in the ideal situation? If the answer is "no" or "I don't know" then I can understand your cause for concern. Maybe you could eloborate on this; perhaps explain how long you have been feeling as you have, and if you've ever felt different.

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I think it is VERY important -- especially when feeling the way you describe, but throughout one's life in general as well -- to find pleasure in living. Find hobbies. Travel. Try new things. Heck, try a new flavor of ice cream. Go see a movie.

The world is literally filled with new joys and pleasures to explore and discover. If you are bored or frustrated, and feel like just giving up, one thing to try is finding things that give you pleasure.

Don't worry about deducing whether eating ice cream is proper or not according to Objectivist principles. Don't sweat about whether one more scoop will endanger your health and therefore is anti-life. For heaven's sake, don't let "being a good Objectivist" become more important than enjoying life. And, make an actual effort to focus on the good things in life, not the bad. There's a time and place for "fighting mediocrity" and so on, but if you feel as bad as you describe, isn't it time for a break?

All of this can help on an emotional level to renew one's sense of joie de vivre.

That said, you raise a great many issues, which would take a lot of time to go through. To look at just one paragraph:

You wrote:

"What is the proper choice of career for a man? Isn't that too an objective decision? It must, realistically, be based on a proper assessment of one's aptitudes and talents, must it not?"

It should be primarily based on one's values -- not just philosophical ones, but personal values -- those things that matter to you, your interests, those things that give you pleasure. Maybe Roark could have been a terrific sculptor or scientist, but it was architecture that he loved. For the most part, aptitudes and talents are skills that can be acquired and improved upon.

"What if each course does not give me what I want from it?"

I took several classes that were not enjoyable or profitable. Was it worthwhile? Well, I have a degree, and that led to my first "real" job, which led to my second, etc.

Realistically, any job you get will have some parts that aren't pleasant. Some things in life are really chores, but they need to get done. Perhaps you can try to make the best of it -- look for the good in it. Maybe there's some aspect that could be interesting. Or, you could turn it into a mental game of some sort.

"I have been very late in making this decision for I have already spent three years in my undergraduate course and at this point, while I cannot go backwards, I surely have no desire to go forward."

I don't know why you say "very late". Aren't people allowed to change their minds when it becomes clear a mistake was made? Plenty of people (including me) took a long time figuring out what they wanted to do. It ain't the end of the world.

My point is, it isn't too late. Re-examine your premises and adjust your focus. Keep in mind that the good is out there, but if you aren't looking for it, would you know it even if you tripped over it?

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Thank you. It's heartening to see so many "selfish" people who care enough to give and take reasons while our "unselfish" brethren don't give a damn.

oaktree:

I am an undergraduate student studying for a B. Tech in Electronics Engineering in the final year now at the Aligarh Muslim University, India, and, as its name suggests, its atmosphere is stifling. The self-righteousness just kills me. I was a Muslim until I discovered Atlas Shrugged and now I am an atheist. I intend to write down someday what exactly Islam says and how it is wrong. I have never liked doing things halfway and so I studied more of Islam and its principles (as against its rituals) than most people ever do and am thus in a good position to make such an assessment.

DPW:

In India, you do what you're told period. Not that they use physical force. They just don't listen and maybe physical force wouldn't be so psychologically damaging. When I left school I was much better than most students are in programming in C++ through their Computer Engineering and in jobs after that, atleast in India. Not to say that I don't have my shortcomings. I have an immense aptitude for programming but I've not grown with it and while what I've learnt can be a great place to start from it will not get me a job, especially since in India a "degree" or a "certificate" matters more than your actual ability. I have already lost one chance to get selected on-campus but that was just because I'm "anti-social", i.e. I do not enjoy being around people (the kind I described in my previous post) and so I flunked the company's (that it was one of the best in India was horribly hard to bear) "psychometric" test.

iouswuoibev:

Yes, I do feel that a program is a work of art and I have so far not found a single person who cares whether his program is readable or not, or whether it's properly commented. Can you imagine what an entirely unindented program looks like? Spare yourself the torture and don't ever look at one.

There was a time in school that I'd give anything for five minutes to sit on a computer and program it. That was three years ago and I didn't have my computer then. Incidentally the reason I was never bought a computer was that I wouldn't do anything else. Good reason, eh? I have always been laughed at for the times I forget myself whle programming. Can one's work ever be less than that? But what tortures me is that I rarely feel like that anymore. Programming still evokes the feelings it did but now I never feel like programming, and that's bad.

In India one needs the system. I remember how I came into this hell hole (and it's one of the best). I just couldn't bring myself to study high school chemistry. (It was the start. This is the end.) I lost my chance to get into the most prestigous engineering colleges in India. That was the first loss I suffered and I still don't see what the hell chemistry would have done for me. Did I have to mug up those hundred plus reactions and a lot more crap because I might need it someday? I couldn't care less.

Ed from OC:

I do things that give me pleasure: I watch movies, listen to music, read and enjoy humour. In addition I teach basic programming. That gives me a LOT of pleasure and it has transformed me from a shy loser to a person who knows what he feels without evasion and has the courage to say it. But, and that's a big but, I take others' evasions very seriously not because it's any of my business but because their evasions affect my life in some way or the other. And people don't want to see, they just don't want to see. That is what I meant by mediocrity.

But I guess you're right, I need a break. I think I've been setting unrealistic goals and one doesn't become Hank Rearden overnight, right? Evening watching movies seemed like a sin. Yes, maybe that's it: the unearned guilt over unrealistic unrealisable goals not attained. Thank you, but that was just one part of the problem, albeit the larger part. I might start programming again. I might also try to focus more on the good things in life.

My choice of career was wrong because I decided on the basis of what I should do rather than of what I wanted to do. That is why I am so dissatisfied and bored. I wouldn't have been so de-motivated if I had been more Aristotelian when making my choice of career, even if a few courses were not to my liking. But alas! In my society, you get no second chances. I am dependent on my parents and although they could get me into another undergraduate course they are too scared to think of it. It's always, "Why didn't you think of it sooner?", "It was your decision in the first place.", etc. I'll have to make do but with a lot more courage now, even though it is too late. :D

All:

You've all been a great help. Not only has the fact that you cared to reply given me courage but even while I wrote my replies to you I could observe the mistakes I have made and the corrections and logic I must now implement. Thank you. May the God of the theists bless you! :lol:

P.S. Would you guys please help me out with a few more problems that have been bugging me? And please don't consider my first problem as closed. You've given me a LOT to work on and I'd be glad if my replies were to suggest to you something I might still be doing wrong or even if you might have something new for me to consider.

1. Is it immoral to be attracted to physical beauty?

2. Why are sexual urges impossible to control sometimes? Is it wrong to give in?

3. What do I owe my parents? They are not rational but they work hard and they're supporting me. Have I forfeited the right to their money by not studying (and I am over 18)? I want to but you know what my problem is. In other words: Am I bound to spend their money exactly as they want it? It makes me guilty if I do not but kills me if I try to.

4. Should I change my Muslim name because it might bother me while travel or immigration since I'm not a Muslim anymore and don't care?

5. I feel very lonely. I have friends but my friendship with them is only superficial since none of them really cares about right or wrong. But they have their good qualities and I do need them around. Must a person ignore the bad points in others? Isn't it giving them your sanction? And yes, it is my business what they think when it affects my life, especially because they do it again and again.

6. Must I meet relatives because they "love" me? Is someone else's love a responsibility on me? Can I have no reason except the fact that I don't feel as they do to not meet them? Does the fact that cutting of from them will drastically affect my life change anything? In other words: I do not care to return another's affections in the way they want it simply because I do not share their feelings and that might deprive me of what they are doing for me, which I need.

7. Is an intense devotion to one particular field or subject wrong? Or must one be "practical" and study what they think is "good" or "lucrative"? Is it immoral to love one field of study exclusively even though it might not bring in the moolah and the very exclusivity of one's devotion might make it difficult to survive?

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Can you imagine what an entirely unindented program looks like? Spare yourself the torture and don't ever look at one.
It is horrid. I know because I used to program like that in my early teens. :lol:

I was never bought a computer was that I wouldn't do anything else. Good reason, eh?

I used to get a bit of flack for spending "too much time" at my computer. But generally, my parents left me to my devices, and didn't pressure me into doing anything. I think people generally want you to conform and be as they are, even if that means losing your virtues. They probably don't relate to how you feel. Not listening is a problem. I think the solution is to be very direct and clear, and make sure you are not misunderstood. If people are confronted with something they don't like, they will try to engage in evasion and twist things to their perception. You have to be resolute and not let them do that. Make sure you are understood.

I have always been laughed at for the times I forget myself whle programming. Can one's work ever be less than that?
There is no reason why work cannot also be your passion. People often accept that there is always a conflict between what you want to do and what you need to do. And because they believe it, they never get far in life. I recommend that you stick with programming and determine what your goals are, and then just do everything you can to reach those goals, not letting anything stand in your way.

Yes, maybe that's it: the unearned guilt over unrealistic unrealisable goals not attained.

What kind of goals would they be?

1. Is it immoral to be attracted to physical beauty?
I think it is a virtue to be attracted to beauty. If you were attracted to ugliness, now that would be immoral!

2. Why are sexual urges impossible to control sometimes? Is it wrong to give in?

I don't know why this is the case, or what you mean exactly by "giving in". Care to elaborate?

3. What do I owe my parents? They are not rational but they work hard and they're supporting me. Have I forfeited the right to their money by not studying (and I am over 18)? I want to but you know what my problem is. In other words: Am I bound to spend their money exactly as they want it? It makes me guilty if I do not but kills me if I try to.
I think it is very important that you are honest with your parents and make them *understand* exactly what you want to do and why. If they don't listen, keep at them until they do. It is important that you don't allow them to think you're going to go and get a career in chemistry or whatever else it is you don't want to do. If they know where your heart is set then you have no right to feel guilty and they have no right to be dissapointed when you persue your ambitions, because they can't claim to have been misled in any way and you can't claim to have been misleading them.

As to whether you owe them anything, only you can answer that. They certainly don't hold a claim on your life, but at the same time, remember the trader principle. Your parents are probably assuming things about you that aren't true, simply because it is what is 'expected'. If you don't give them a reason to think otherwise, they'll think certain things by default. If they are vesting their resources in helping you out it is important to let them know what it is they are helping you with.

4. Should I change my Muslim name because it might bother me while travel or immigration since I'm not a Muslim anymore and don't care?

Surely you can make your own decisions? I don't know how you feel about changing your name, or what the consequences of doing that are. First and foremost you need to be an independant individual, and know how to make your own decisions. Consciously weigh all the necessary factors, and then ask yourself "Should I do it?". Try to get an immediate answer from yourself without any further rationalising. The answer you come up with is the right one.

5. I feel very lonely. I have friends but my friendship with them is only superficial since none of them really cares about right or wrong. But they have their good qualities and I do need them around. Must a person ignore the bad points in others? Isn't it giving them your sanction? And yes, it is my business what they think when it affects my life, especially because they do it again and again.

I don't think you are sanctioning their actions. They are going to think how they think, regardless of whether you show your dissaproval or not. Consider what they add to your life, and what they take away, and then decide.

I remember a friend telling me that you can feel lonely in a crowded room, and feel content while being completely alone. Perhaps you will feel less lonely in just your own company? Furthermore, there is a whole internet out there. :D

6. Must I meet relatives because they "love" me? Is someone else's love a responsibility on me? Can I have no reason except the fact that I don't feel as they do to not meet them? Does the fact that cutting of from them will drastically affect my life change anything? In other words: I do not care to return another's affections in the way they want it simply because I do not share their feelings and that might deprive me of what they are doing for me, which I need.
Do they love you because of who and what you are, or because you are "family" ? You will have to be honest with yourself. Decide exactly how you feel about them. You don't have to explicitely go and tell them how you feel, but you don't have to give them a single second of unearned affection. Again, only you know the reality of the situation, and only you can know what is in your best interest. I think you need to determine where you are heading and do everything it takes to get there, and just do what you have to do to overcome obstacles, but not any more than you have to.

7. Is an intense devotion to one particular field or subject wrong? Or must one be "practical" and study what they think is "good" or "lucrative"? Is it immoral to love one field of study exclusively even though it might not bring in the moolah and the very exclusivity of one's devotion might make it difficult to survive?

That is a good question. Ultimately, it all comes down to what is in your own interest. If you think that there isn't much hope in programming, but the alternative is torture, what do you do? Well, it's a case of being conscious of all the relevent factors, of *weighing* the situation. I think you know what the answer is. I personally would not put up with the torture. Just commit yourself and do whatever it takes. Be honest with yourself and those around you.

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Would you guys please help me out with a few more problems that have been bugging me? And please don't consider my first problem as closed. You've given me a LOT to work on and I'd be glad if my replies were to suggest to you something I might still be doing wrong or even if you might have something new for me to consider.

I see you already have one response, but I don't have time to read it so I apologize if I'm repeating what someone else has already said.

1. Is it immoral to be attracted to physical beauty?
Certainly not. Now, when you discover that the beautiful person is ugly on the inside, it would be wrong to evade that fact and treat them as if they had the virtues of character that matched their physical beauty. Usually, however, that isn't a problem. Usually, once you discover that a person is bad, they no longer seem as attractive.

2. Why are sexual urges impossible to control sometimes? Is it wrong to give in?

It depends on what you mean. You can't control the emotion - the experience of the sexual urge. You can always control what action you will take with respect to that urge.

When you ask, "Is it wrong to give in?" I have to assume you mean, sleep with someone you don't respect just to get rid of the urge. In that case, it is wrong. It's wrong because it is harmful to you.

3. What do I owe my parents? They are not rational but they work hard and they're supporting me. Have I forfeited the right to their money by not studying (and I am over 18)? I want to but you know what my problem is. In other words: Am I bound to spend their money exactly as they want it? It makes me guilty if I do not but kills me if I try to.
Your parents have the right to set the terms on which they will give you money. So long as you can rationally agree to those terms (and adhere to them), there is usually nothing wrong with accepting their money.

On the other hand, if you are not willing to abide by their terms, or if their terms will require you to sacrifice your interests, you have a moral obligation to reject their money. That can be hard but, as I've stated elsewhere: it's less of a struggle to walk a difficult path one knows is right, than to take an easy path one knows is wrong.

4. Should I change my Muslim name because it might bother me while travel or immigration since I'm not a Muslim anymore and don't care?

If you want to, you should.

5. I feel very lonely. I have friends but my friendship with them is only superficial since none of them really cares about right or wrong. But they have their good qualities and I do need them around. Must a person ignore the bad points in others? Isn't it giving them your sanction? And yes, it is my business what they think when it affects my life, especially because they do it again and again.

You must never ignore the bad points of others, but that does not mean you can't be friends with them, so long as you acknowledge both their virtues and their flaws, and so long as you circumscribe your relationships with them so as to avoid the harmful consequences of their flaws.

There is nothing wrong with needing friends: independence does not mean aloneness. Seek out the best people you can find, and treat them justly.

6. Must I meet relatives because they "love" me? Is someone else's love a responsibility on me? Can I have no reason except the fact that I don't feel as they do to not meet them? Does the fact that cutting of from them will drastically affect my life change anything? In other words: I do not care to return another's affections in the way they want it simply because I do not share their feelings and that might deprive me of what they are doing for me, which I need.
You have no obligation to love anyone, certainly not just because they share your genes.

7. Is an intense devotion to one particular field or subject wrong? Or must one be "practical" and study what they think is "good" or "lucrative"? Is it immoral to love one field of study exclusively even though it might not bring in the moolah and the very exclusivity of one's devotion might make it difficult to survive?

Instense devotion to one particular field is practical, if we're clear about what that means. Money is great, and you most certainly need to be able to make a living at what you do, but I've found that so long as you love what you are doing, the money will usually come, but in any case, you won't notice. You'll be too busy pursuing your passion!

Now, I should add that there are cases where we cannot make a living pursuing the career we want and will have to work another job to pay the bills. That's unfortunate, but it's also rare.

Best wishes...

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What kind of goals would they be?
Well they are the sort of goals anyone would have, eg. to be top of my class, to be the best programmer around, etc. taken to an extreme. Nothing less than perfection will do but to even try to be perfect everytime is very taxing. My mind is relentless and unforgiving: mistakes are never flaws of knowledge, always breaches of rationality, and that places a LOT of guilt on my shoulders. I cannot bear the slightest criticism of my work, not that the desire to be perfect is bad, but that it being all-consuming is. It's like wanting to be John Galt and then cursing oneself for not living up to that ideal. It's a vicious circle: you want to be good but you're not and so you torture yourself psychologically and that makes it worse because forcing yourself to be good kills any desire to do so. So now you're even worse and it goes on like that. That's why I find Ed from OC's advice useful because he tells me to cut some slack. Not that I don't want to improve but that I'll work on myself and not kill myself in the process. This is, incidentally, what a lot of people do suffer from: the guilt brought about by an unattained ideal. As a concrete example: You have just pointed out a flaw in my character. I agree and so I will never forgive myself for having that flaw and that will destroy any desire to talk to you further and I shall either rationalise it or give up all together. (This is what I do, by the way.)

I don't know why this is the case, or what you mean exactly by "giving in". Care to elaborate?

No, I would rather not, but thank you anyway.

Surely you can make your own decisions? I don't know how you feel about changing your name, or what the consequences of doing that are. First and foremost you need to be an independant individual, and know how to make your own decisions. Consciously weigh all the necessary factors, and then ask yourself "Should I do it?". Try to get an immediate answer from yourself without any further rationalising. The answer you come up with is the right one.

You're right. That is entirely my decision to make. I will not discuss it further. I have a very low self esteem but I am working on it.

Thank you very much.

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I just finished reading “Comprachicos” in Return of the Primitive and what you have posted is exactly what is in that story—and it is exactly what I’m going through as well. While I think some of the things you mentioned are not so bad, like surprise tests (they want to make sure you’re paying attention so that, when they move to the next subject, the class understands the antecedent and necessary material).

None of my classes seem to fit together. They are all suspended vacuums, neither integrating with any other class nor with reality. In fact, I tried integrating my philosophy classes with a history class, and the teacher gave me lower grades for it. I didn’t write anything wrong, no facts were missing; the paper was flawless. When I asked the teacher about it, he said, “This is not a philosophy class, it’s a history class.” He didn’t say that there was any error in writing style or content. It was just that I had the wrong content (though he had never specified that the content could not employ philosophy). I’m certain your situation is even worse than mine because of your location and society.

My suggestion is to try to pick your classes as best you can so that they relate to your study, and independently draw abstractions from the concretes they give you. I do this when I can, but I know it can be difficult. That is simply what must be done, though. Never memorize a formula or accept a truth handed down to you that you don’t understand. It took me forever to get my math homework done like that, figuring out exactly what a “log” meant and why it was significant. But I understood the material and I could apply it to all kinds of different situations, while other math students could only answer the problems on the homework—and I got As because of it. Basically, you’ll have to do what I did: re-invent math. Luckily, I stopped math at about the trigonometry/pre-calculus level so I didn’t have to re-invent much. Now I have to re-invent philosophy and history. It’s a difficult job, and a hell of a lot more difficult than it really needs to be. But this is how life works. I have always thought that one has to kill himself with stress and work before he can justify living.

Also, you should probably study things that are not immediate needs but may be needs in the future, though. You shouldn’t wait until you encounter a problem before solving it in theory, if you can possibly do so. It will make you a more efficient and competent worker. The English built airplanes before they were at war with Germany, and farmers harvest more grain than they can eat in a single day, because it’s more productive when you think and work beyond the range of the moment. It’s better to prepare yourself for future possibilities—though that does not mean that you should prepare for everything. If you see no connection at all between what you’re studying and what you might encounter in the future, then certainly it’s a waste of time.

Anyway, I wish you well. At the end of the day, remember, whatever you might feel you’ll only have to bear it for a few years and it’s over. That’s part of what keeps me going. If I just stick it out for a little while longer, the whole rest of my life is mine.

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Well they are the sort of goals anyone would have, eg. to be top of my class, to be the best programmer around, etc. taken to an extreme. Nothing less than perfection will do but to even try to be perfect everytime is very taxing. My mind is relentless and unforgiving: mistakes are never flaws of knowledge, always breaches of rationality, and that places a LOT of guilt on my shoulders. I cannot bear the slightest criticism of my work, not that the desire to be perfect is bad, but that it being all-consuming is. It's like wanting to be John Galt and then cursing oneself for not living up to that ideal. It's a vicious circle: you want to be good but you're not and so you torture yourself psychologically and that makes it worse because forcing yourself to be good kills any desire to do so. So now you're even worse and it goes on like that.

It is wrong to base oneself on a comparative standard. One should not strive to be the top of one's class, or to be the best of anything around. The main goal you should have is: to be the best that you can be. A man in a wheelchair may learn how to eventually walk, and that would be a great accomplishment. Should he feel guilt because he has not beaten the best professional basketball player? It would be physically impossible. Achieve your personal values.

Do not strive to be John Galt, and don't curse yourself for failing to be. That only proves that you are dogmatic. It is wrong to strive to be anyone but yourself. Ms Rand's John Galt was to show that the best within ourselves is possible.

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I've just finished reading "On Smoking" by DPW on his site "Anger Management" and this is one part of the problem you, hippie, and I are facing. When I do keep the full context I feel like there's nothing that can put me down and that the whole world is there for me to conquer but it is so hard to look beyond the hurt and the boredom as I'm sure you know. I haven't said it, but what actually makes me hate a teacher is his or her lack of ability to integrate anything he or she teaches with anything else that has been, is being or shall be taught and that is a daunting task I know because I too teach, and much better than most of my teachers I admit. But, that is what a teacher's job is and difficult as it may be, the alternative for a student is to learn by himself, in which case the teacher is redundant and a parasite, or to learn by rote, which to any rational student is impossible. In either case, a teacher forfeits his right to his students' respect.

In any case, keeping the full context is what it is ultimately all about. My de-motivation stems from the fact that I let the boredom make me lose the full context, ie. the context of my life and all that its maintenance entails, and so is my responsibility. I might still hate the teachers but to let it get to me is my decision. I have also been mistaken about my dislike for the subjects I do study. I do not hate any subject, not Chemistry, not Analog Electronics, but the fact that it does not fit into my knowledge system as further knowledge because I learn it by rote. Like I've said before, it was my naivete in thinking that it was the teachers' job to do that that got me. Like you said I shall have to re-invent and boy what a task it is going to be, with three years of learning by rote behind me I have a lot to cover up both in terms of lost opportunities and lost self-esteem.

I'll try to widen the scope of my interests, which really are not as small as I might have led you to believe. I still have many more interests and (acquired) skills than most of my companions, yet it was my studies that bothered me.

I had never wanted college to be "gotten over with" because I was always the studious sort (I still am, although my college studies are not my primary interest). "What a monumental waste!", I say to myself often. But that is not what life must be. I live for the day that I might leave India and come to the land Ayn Rand chose on the basis of a rational judgement of its merits.

Thank you, hippie, for understanding and thank you DPW (may I call you Don?) for teaching me how to quit smoking, although I do not smoke.

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It is wrong to base oneself on a comparative standard. One should not strive to be the top of one's class, or to be the best of anything around. The main goal you should have is: to be the best that you can be. A man in a wheelchair may learn how to eventually walk, and that would be a great accomplishment. Should he feel guilt because he has not beaten the best professional basketball player? It would be physically impossible. Achieve your personal values.

Do not strive to be John Galt, and don't curse yourself for failing to be. That only proves that you are dogmatic. It is wrong to strive to be anyone but yourself. Ms Rand's John Galt was to show that the best within ourselves is possible.

Yes. It was a Freudian slip I guess. :o:blink: You hit the nail right on the head. This is an issue that has bothered me often and I think it does many other people too. That's taken care of.

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I've just finished reading "On Smoking" by DPW on his site "Anger Management" and this is one part of the problem you, hippie, and I are facing. When I do keep the full context I feel like there's nothing that can put me down and that the whole world is there for me to conquer but it is so hard to look beyond the hurt and the boredom as I'm sure you know.

It can be difficult - no matter how often you do it, it remains a volitional act. But the more often you force yourself to see things in their full context, the easier it will become. Eventually, it will seem almost automatic.

Thank you, hippie, for understanding and thank you DPW (may I call you Don?) for teaching me how to quit smoking, although I do not smoke.

Thank you, and you may. Moreover, what I discuss in that article is applicable to more than just smoking. In fact, I'm playing with the idea of writing a book on just how wide ranging the implications of that essay are, but it would require learning a lot more about psychology than I presently know, and I'm just not sure I have the time right now.

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When I have a negative emotion that leads me to negative thought, I employ a tactic which usually helps me conquer the emotion. I came up with this myself, and I don't know how useful it is for others, but here it is.

Lets use your example of hating your teachers. If you think about how you hate your teachers, you'll usually find yourself dwelling on that fact and before you know it you've entered an unpleasant train of thought and it brings your mood right down. No doubt you've thought these same thoughts many times before, but you feel compelled to think anyway, pawing and probing around for a solution to your problems. But you don't find a solution, and that makes you come away feeling a little worse, and makes you want to think about it even more the next time!

The solution starts with accepting the emotion. The emotion is an objective fact of reality. Accept the emotion as just that. Let yourself feel it. Feel your anger or hatred or resentment, but DON'T enter a train of thought. Just let it dwell on your mind. Tell yourself that you are angry (or however you happen to be feeling), and observe what it feels like. This helps seperate and consolidate your emotion, helping you identify it, thus allowing you to behold it.

You'll probably discover that the anger itself isn't what makes you feel rotten, but the thought process it subsequently provokes. If you can see the emotion for what it is - if you can isolate it and seperate it from your thought process, and see it as an object; then you will be able to step around it as if it were a luminous puddle, and thus avoid its negative influence on your mind and mood.

Hope that helps. :blink:

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If you can see the emotion for what it is - if you can isolate it and seperate it from your thought process, and see it as an object; then you will be able to step around it as if it were a luminous puddle, and thus avoid its negative influence on your mind and mood.

In fact, objectifying one's urges is one of the principle means of overcoming addictions. One stops saying, "I crave a cigarette" or "I crave booze," and starts saying, "There's that craving again," or even, "There's that monster acting up...I can't wait until he goes away."

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I am an undergraduate student studying for a B. Tech in Electronics Engineering in the final year now at the Aligarh Muslim University, India

...

I have an immense aptitude for programming but I've not grown with it and while what I've learnt can be a great place to start from it will not get me a job, especially since in India a "degree" or a "certificate" matters more than your actual ability. I have already lost one chance to get selected on-campus but that was just because I'm "anti-social", i.e. I do not enjoy being around people (the kind I described in my previous post) and so I flunked the company's (that it was one of the best in India was horribly hard to bear) "psychometric" test.

...

I have always been laughed at for the times I forget myself whle programming. Can one's work ever be less than that? But what tortures me is that I rarely feel like that anymore. Programming still evokes the feelings it did but now I never feel like programming, and that's bad.

Here's just another point of view on how you might get through school taking programming classes you don't enjoy much of:

I have been having a similar experience in that some of my programming classes are boring and I don't feel a great deal of motivation to actually start on the projects. In addition, going into college I had been learning a lot about programming, doing plenty in my spare time, and all around being thoroughly absorbed in it. When I got to my CS classes, though, they often were very boring. While I completely agree with others that programming a ton in your spare time can be a wonderful thing, that doesn't really work well for me--the more I program for fun, the less I want to program for class.

What I do instead is simply not program much in my spare time. When I have a CS project I still don't feel much desire to start working on it. But when I actually force myself to start, I often find myself getting excited again, lost in the problem, and emerging a few hours later, if not completed (a short project), with a strong desire to continue the next day or after a lunch break or whatever.

This is how it has worked for me, and I have truly learned a lot.

Like I said before, I agree with the others about programming in your spare time being important and beneficial. I just wanted to provide another example of how you can get through college and get a degree in CS.

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So, as I have it:

(Attn: Brian)

I would let my dislike for someone destroy my motivation and only the idea that someone above me had to be put down would drive me to work. In other words, I based myself incorrectly on a comparative standard living second-handedly because I could not fight my emotions (here, dislike), which are automatic and cannot be fought simply by willpower but which arose due to a failure to see the full context, which was then automatised also.

M(istake)1. I lost the full context and thus let myself be severely affected.

M2. Fighting my emotions by willpower and failing was the source of my guilt and frustration.

M3. Second-handedness was the escape route.

iouswuoibev has something to say about emotions:

If you can see the emotion for what it is - if you can isolate it and seperate it from your thought process, and see it as an object; then you will be able to step around it as if it were a luminous puddle, and thus avoid its negative influence on your mind and mood.

Don adds:

In fact, objectifying one's urges is one of the principle means of overcoming addictions.  One stops saying, "I crave a cigarette" or "I crave booze," and starts saying, "There's that craving again," or even, "There's that monster acting up...I can't wait until he goes away."

and there's more in his article "On Smoking". I agree with you, iouswuoibev and Don. I can already see the difference that the change in perspective, or as Stephen Covey put it, the "paradigm shift", has made.

Don:

Before I logged on, I was thinking of starting a new thread named "The First Step" or something of that sort just to re-introduce the ideas you have put forth. You're absolutely right. These ideas have far greater implications than just helping people quit smoking.

All of us grow in knowledge as we grow older and that often includes changing and upgrading existing knowledge (if it is knowledge at all) which might not always be in consonance with new knowledge or with new decisions (such as not evading, etc.) We are not born rational and the way to rationality is fraught with massive contradictions we must resolve before moving further. That is generally made difficult by the automatic nature of our emotions that arise due to previously held (ingrained) ideas. If you take me as the archetypical average man, mistakes 1 - 3 are my downfall. Your "method" of conquering emotions is very different from the typical "try harder" approach and you may throw this "technology for getting there" in Nathaniel Branden's face. This is exactly the sort of dilemma he holds people (like me) are generally in and which, according to him, Objectivism and Ayn Rand do not address. Read his essay here.

Why don't you start a new thread where we could discuss the implications of your ideas, if you're not up to writing a book just yet, Don? I'd rather not so I'll leave that decision to you. Both of you and iouswuoibev have given me my most precious pieces of advice and I'd hate to see them wasted at the bottom of my topic.

jedymastyr:

Thank you. Yes, I think that's how I'll start -- bit by bit -- until I regain my confidence and motivation.

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This is exactly the sort of dilemma he holds people (like me) are generally in and which, according to him, Objectivism and Ayn Rand do not address. Read his essay here.

I think that article gives sound advice. It doesn't apply to all Objectivists of course, but I could relate to what was said, especially about "slashing away the pieces that don't fit".

Example: I have an enjoyement of rain (like, the rainfall). Most people don't, but rain sends shivers up my spine. Now I don't know why this happens, and for most of my life I didn't care. But after reading Ayn Rand I felt like I was only supposed to have values that are objective and rational. The other day, I was wondering why and where on earth this pleasure came from. I couldn't think of a reason! Instead of enjoying the rain I was trying to think of a valid reason to enjoy it. And I knew that wasn't healthy, so I stopped.

Another temptation I have is to ostracise myself from the few friends I have, because of their "evil" ideas. All this despite the positive things they bring into my life. I don't agree with LP's assessment of evasion. I don't think I am betraying my own convictions simply by listening to someone. What Objectivism promotes is to try to argue with someone through exposure. The trouble with exposure is, it doesn't work unless the other person is at least somewhat inclined to your way of thinking already. It is not an effective form of persuasion, by itself. People don't drop their lifelong held convictions easily, and they don't take them lightly. If you want to persuade someone to your way of thinking, you first have to make them feel a certain way. If you alienate them from you, you will alienate them from your ideas as well.

For instance, if someone tried to talk about Kant, I wouldn't rattle off a list of reasons why Kant is so obviously wrong - at least not at first. I'm more likely to ask a question such as: "What is it that draws you to Kant's ideas?". If you can make them comfortable by asking them easy questions, you can gradually turn them around to your way of thinking. By contrast, many Objectivists tend to go straight for explaining why the ideas are wrong. They don't recognise, or don't care about the psychological implications of this way of dealing with a person. If you go for that approach, and they aren't of a similar mind to you already, they will evade, no matter how rational your explanation is, simply because of how you are making them feel. And once someone evades, that's it, that's as far as the Objectivist method goes. Doesn't matter why they are doing it, they just are - time to pull the plug. If you want to convince people that you are a lunatic, this is a good way of going about it. It's not because of your ideas that they regard you that way, but because of how you deal with them as a person.

So in short, I think exposure is a guarranteed way to provoke someone to evade, and branding them as evil as soon as they do so will convince them you are a lunatic. I'd rather convert them, but clearly some people don't have the patience (or "tolerance"). :blink: I'm probably going to get lynched for saying this!

Hmm, did I wander off topic?

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Why don't you start a new thread where we could discuss the implications of your ideas, if you're not up to writing a book just yet, Don? I'd rather not so I'll leave that decision to you. Both of you and iouswuoibev have given me my most precious pieces of advice and I'd hate to see them wasted at the bottom of my topic.

Thank you for the kind words. I may just do that.

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You’re right, SMS, teachers like you and I face are redundant. However, one great advantage they bring is that they actually know their subject (some of the time). For instance, the history teacher I previously mentioned did know his subject. He just didn’t know anything else, and he didn’t care to know anything else, and he actively opposed knowing anything else while in his classroom. Nonetheless, he knew European history. The advantage of that is that he can tell you tons of essential and often useful concretes that you might have more difficulty finding independently. This also holds true for the sciences. I could never have re-invented all of that math if I did not have the formulas that previous thinkers handed down to me. With that kind of educational environment, I can look at the conclusions which I know are true, and trace their reasoning back to reality. Though it would be far, FAR easier if the teacher would just explain the damn things, it is still far easier that I have the teacher there rather than try to observe the motion of the moon and derive the acceleration of gravity on my own.

This is one reason why I am still motivated to go to class. The other is that I just know that I cannot get the graduate school I want without good grades—and I cannot get the job I want without the name of a good graduate school on my resume. It’s almost as if I have two sets of eyes at all times: One focused on the immediate job that needs to be done and the other looking at the ultimate goal that I hope to achieve. I must ask, do you have some kind of ultimate goal, held clearly in your mind? I don’t mean do you already know what kind of program you want to create later in life, or what corporation you want to work for. Do you know what it is in the world that you hope to change, and improve in order to make your life better, through computer programming?

It’s sad that college is something that has to be gotten over with. To be honest, I only think that way some of the time. The other time, I actually enjoy reading whatever it is that I am reading, and it’s almost a guilty pleasure of mine to re-invent these complicated subjects. It’s like exercising muscles that should never have to be exercised (or not in this way). I don’t like that I should have to do it, but it still feels good doing it—knowing that I can do it. But then there are times when I get very angry with the fact that I am wasting my time, spending years doing what could have been done in months with the right teachers. That’s when I have to bite down hard and push through my books/lecture notes/paper assignments. In the end I just have to look at my long-range goals, like an exhausted runner looking at the finish line on the horizon.

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Another temptation I have is to ostracise myself from the few friends I have, because of their "evil" ideas. All this despite the positive things they bring into my life.

Why would you feel tempted to ostracise them, then? Objectivism certainly doesn't endorse such a thing.

I don't agree with LP's assessment of evasion. I don't think I am betraying my own convictions simply by listening to someone.
Neither do I. And neither, as far as I know, does Peikoff. Why, then, would you attribute such a view to him?

What Objectivism promotes is to try to argue with someone through exposure. The trouble with exposure is, it doesn't work unless the other person is at least somewhat inclined to your way of thinking already. It is not an effective form of persuasion, by itself. People don't drop their lifelong held convictions easily, and they don't take them lightly. If you want to persuade someone to your way of thinking, you first have to make them feel a certain way. If you alienate them from you, you will alienate them from your ideas as well.

First of all, Objectivism doesn't promote trying to argue with someone, period. Objectivism is a philosophy and takes no stance on whether and how you should go about convincing someone of your ideas.

Moreover, Objectivism would say that making others believe as you do must never be a primary aim (even if spreading Objectivism is your career).

For instance, if someone tried to talk about Kant, I wouldn't rattle off a list of reasons why Kant is so obviously wrong - at least not at first. I'm more likely to ask a question such as: "What is it that draws you to Kant's ideas?". If you can make them comfortable by asking them easy questions, you can gradually turn them around to your way of thinking. By contrast, many Objectivists tend to go straight for explaining why the ideas are wrong. They don't recognise, or don't care about the psychological implications of this way of dealing with a person. If you go for that approach, and they aren't of a similar mind to you already, they will evade, no matter how rational your explanation is, simply because of how you are making them feel.

Once again, what Objectivism endorses and what some Objectivists do are two different things. As an individualist, I don't want to be lumped in with people who act in ways I disagree with simply because we share the same ideas.

And once someone evades, that's it, that's as far as the Objectivist method goes. Doesn't matter why they are doing it, they just are - time to pull the plug. If you want to convince people that you are a lunatic, this is a good way of going about it. It's not because of your ideas that they regard you that way, but because of how you deal with them as a person.
I have no idea what you are talking about here.

So in short, I think exposure is a guarranteed way to provoke someone to evade, and branding them as evil as soon as they do so will convince them you are a lunatic. I'd rather convert them, but clearly some people don't have the patience (or "tolerance"). :) I'm probably going to get lynched for saying this!

To begin with, strictly speaking, you can't provoke someone to evade, and anyone who you could provoke would probably not be a very good candidate for Objectivism anyway. I do not believe that Objectivists should act like psychologists when trying to spread their philosophy. I do not believe the problem with spreading a philosophy is psychological.

Objectivists should make their arguments as best they can and give the person they are talking to the respect of assuming that person can evaluate the evidence on his own.

Of course I agree that one should not brand someone evil without sufficient evidence, and that evil people are more rare than some (mostly younger) Objectivists think. But I do not think a rational man should concern himself with what people think of him - he should be concerned with whether his actions are right. The problem with denouncing people in the way you are here speaking of is not that people will call you a lunatic - it's that it's irrational.

I will say this: no one hates dogmatic "Objectivists" more than I, and no one is harder on them. But it is a myth that the movement is populated by large numbers of them, and that this is a major problem which requires the "insight" of Nathaniel Branden to solve. This is a small problem limited primarily to some young people who read Atlas Shrugged and are trying to integrate it without proper philosophical guidance. Those people either grow out of it, or they leave the movement. In neither case do I believe it reflects on those of us who aren't dogmatists, and it certainly does not reflect on Ayn Rand or Leonard Peikoff, who would abhor such behavior.

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Yes it is true that Objectivism does not state that one must convince others to change their false ideas. What iouswuoibev was trying to say is that if this is one's goal to do to another, e.g., a friend, then the best way to do it is to ask questions and avoid saying outright "You are wrong beacuse...." It doesn't work, with most people, because they cling to their ideas very personally and are insulted when their ideas are criticized. Ask questions and make them think, not preach.

Branden's essay does correctly show how some people may have a dogmatic approach to Objectivism (even if other parts of the essay are wrong). And I speak from experience.

Check out this essay: http://www.dailyobjectivist.com/Spir/selfinterestenough.asp

This essay, even if it has faults or errors, does show why the "myth" that many people are dogmatic in their approach to Objectivism is plausible. It does happen - I have experienced it myself - but I don't claim to know how abundant it is.

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Branden's essay does correctly show how some people may have a dogmatic approach to Objectivism (even if other parts of the essay are wrong).  And I speak from experience.

Branden is taking a fact out of context in order to dump on Ayn Rand and the Objectivists who support her. (So what else is new? :) )

Sure there are many people who take Objectivism dogmatically. What is being ignored is that almost everyone takes morality dogmatically whether their morality is Objectivism or not.

Most Objectivists took morality dogmatically before they were Objectivists and most pick up Objectivist values long before they learn how to value rationally and non-dogmatically. Eventually, Objectivism helps many people ground ethical principles in reality -- which no other philosophy does.

In fact, fewer Objectivists are dogmatic about their morality than the adherents of almost every other morality that exists, so anecdotal reports about people applying the philosophy incorrectly are seriously misleading.

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