The magic of synthesis

Hello. Let me introduce you to synthesis, a magical therapy bullet. It's responsible for a huge part of my current progress.

Synthesis is: you replace most "but"s with "and"s. Huh.

This will get clear when I give examples. But before we go further, a quote to keep in mind:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

An example about work

I deleted work chat on my phone today—and noticed I was itching to do anything work-related.

I remembered (from earlier): I feel bad when I don't do anything useful. Hmmmmm.

Then, crucial step #1: I asked myself whether I like the opposite. Do I like doing nothing? I imagined walking down a sunny street and not having to do anything. Then I though: yeah, maybe. I guess.

I also noticed that liking not doing anything felt wrong. If I like doing nothing, who knows, maybe I will stop doing things, and die—having done nothing. It's impossible to admit that I like doing nothing, as long as I am forced to arrive at this conclusion.

Crucial step #2: I tweeted: "Can I like doing useful things and like doing nothing at the same time?"

This step is synthesis. Two possibilities that seemed contradictory are both true.

This—that I can like both being useful and doing nothing—is an insight. It isn't going to go away. It will get stuck in background, and will influence my further thinking. Over the time, I will stop being afraid of doing nothing.

Synthesis lets you generate insights constantly and about everything.

An example about annoyance

I met somebody, and told everyone: "Hey, this person is fun!"

Then I spent some more time around them and noticed: "Hm, but I feel pretty annoyed."

Normally, these observations would clash. Somebody is fun and awesome, yet I'm annoyed. Hmmmmm. Perhaps for you these two aren't contradictory at all, but for me they were. If they are fun and cool, and I am willing to admit they are fun and cool, maybe it's my fault to be annoyed? Or maybe the opposite—they are actually not cool after all?

I fought with this for some time, and then applied synthesis:

With this, I don't have to deny that they are cool—they are. I also don't have to deny that I'm annoyed—I am. I can stop talking to them, if I want, and yet still treat them as a "cool friend" internally.

This also means I'm much more likely to stop being annoyed at them—since I no longer feel like I'm not allowed to be annoyed. This is indeed what happened, several days later.

An example about important things

If you take suffering seriously (farmed chickens, children in poor countries, etc), you're in a lot of trouble—because there's a lot of suffering, and suffering is very important. So you should drop whatever you're doing, and start doing something about suffering. Or at the very least, you should donate money.

Same if you take politics seriously. Same if you take many other things seriously.

The easy solution is to say: "Those aren't that important". I've been doing that for years. "Actually, I don't care about chickens, or any other animals".

With synthesis, I have arrived at a much better solution:

Things are important
and I won't work on them
and it doesn't make me a bad person

This means that I can care about chickens now—because caring about chickens, or poor children, or anything, no longer compels me to start doing something to help them. This has amazing long-term implications:

  • I am more likely to help chickens in the future, because this is easier when I care;
  • I am more likely to spend time helping whoever I want, become good at it, level up at various skills like "execution", and if I decide to help chickens in the future, I will be more efficient at that.

Now, the complaint you might have is: "Okay, so you're self-deluding because it will be helpful later. This is good but I can't do the same."

The answer is—I am not self-deluding. I didn't apply synthesis to convince myself that I'm a good person, I applied synthesis when I noticed that I have traces of both beliefs (thinking that I'm good, and caring about things I'm not working at).

It is possible to delude yourself, sure. So don't apply synthesis to create new beliefs—apply it when you notice that you already have conflicting beliefs.

An example about art

My dad pushes the paradigm that some books (as well as albums, etc) are timeless classics, others are okayish, and others are rubbish.

He always pushed for that, and we always fought—especially when I would share a song with him, and he'd go "it's okay but not a timeless classic for sure".

It's easy to fight it by thinking "how does he know?" or "everyone has different tastes, art is completely subjective", etc. But suppose he's right? Suppose you notice that some things do seem like timeless classics?

(Meaningness: can things simultaneously be subjective and objective?)

I have solved this with synthesis. Specifically, I noticed that his paradigm has implications: if something is a timeless classic, but you're ignoring it and listening to rubbish, why are you doing that? Shouldn't you stop? Aha, now the "should" has sneaked in.

Instead, synthesis:

This is not a timeless classic
and I want to listen to it anyway
and I am very grateful to people who wrote it

This means you can actually do what you want—i.e. listen to whatever shit. With time you might also figure out why specifically you want to listen to what and then the question of "good/bad" will go away. "Let's listen to some '70s German pop now. It will go with the mood well for such-and-such reasons."

This also means that now you can appreciate timeless classics more, now that appreciating them doesn't automatically mean you have to like them. And then, maybe, eventually, you'll start liking some of them. Win-win.

An example about blocking people on Twitter

Blocking people on Twitter means that they can't read your tweets.

Blocking someone for being slightly harsh, or slightly annoying you, seems like an act of petty violence. a) Shouldn't violence be only reserved for bad people? b) Aren't you bad for using petty violence?

The way people try to solve this is by denying that blocking is an act of petty violence. They say blocking is good and right. They ignore the "petty violence" bit.

Ignoring things is problematic because your brain doesn't want things ignored. It wants them acknowledged. YOUR BRAIN WANTS THINGS ACKNOWLEDGED. This is the most important thing to remember.

I solved it with synthesis: yes, blocking is an act of petty violence and no, blocking someone doesn't mean you are bad, or they are bad. I can block good people. Double synthesis.

An example about parenting

Parenting is a hell of a synthesis-heavy activity. Example:

I love my kid
and I willingly did [something] knowing that he would cry
and I'm going to do it in the future

Another example, an even trickier one:

I love my kid
and I wish he would leave me alone for a couple of weeks

Hanlon's shaving cream

Finally, my favorite example from someone who isn't me:

Okay, that's enough. Now start using synthesis.


No. More examples!