Hello! Here’s the latest:
American culture is obsessed with freedom. And I’m not talking about the Constitution or Bill of Rights. There is an obsession with freedom to do X, freedom to have Y.
Having more freedom to’s is great, but past a point of pretty-okay living, attaining more rights yields marginal returns on happiness because of the hedonic treadmill. However, this doesn’t mean that we won’t all go on believing that we would be happier having more.
But there is a sweeter kind of freedom.
Freedom from desires. Freedom from distractions. Freedom from X.
What if you no longer had to be nagged by your mind? What if you were no longer pestered by the froth that is expectations, desires, and impulses?
What if you no longer had to fight mental weakness? What if you no longer got in between yourself and your longer-term goals?
What if all of the compulsive emotions just washed away?
This is possible.
(Personally, Stoicism helped me.)
Through self-discipline comes freedom.
COVID is a national security issue.
In the past, it has been assumed that bioweapons are impractical because they would also infect a perpetrating country’s own people.
But what if you can quarantine a whole city—and more—at the drop of a dime, and your enemy can’t?
This pandemic has proven that the majority of the world’s current democracies are vulnerable to biorisk in a way that totalitarian regimes aren’t.
I pay attention to bioweapons because of the existential risk they pose.
Something I’ve been thinking about recently: the human trouble of conceptualizing(? taking seriously?) risks of consequences that are potentially long-lasting.
For example, in August a friend told me about the symptoms COVID sometimes inflicts on the brain— but it wasn’t until last month that I found myself taking this risk seriously. Perhaps, in this case, my behavior could be explained as there was little information about this risk until recently, but this doesn’t always seem to be the case. (But shouldn’t the unknown have been more threatening than the known?)
For more on the long-term symptoms of COVID, see this Vox article.
To pick only two highlights:
One recent study of 201 long-Covid patients in the UK found that even in a young, low-risk population, 66 percent had impairments to one or more organs four months after their initial symptoms.
If clots travel to the brain or heart, they can also cause strokes or heart attacks, as 23-year-old Riley Behrens recently suffered after a coronavirus infection. “Before this, I was a healthy young athlete with no major medical conditions,” she tweeted after a Covid-related stroke. “Now, I’m being told I will likely never return to contact sports because of lasting lung and brain damage. The risk for a second stroke will always be there.”
In the past we’ve answered “how dangerous is COVID?” by answering “how likely am I to die?” But these ‘long-haul’ symptoms seem to be not uncommon, if not very common.
Some of these people have gotten better after a few months, but some haven’t. And possibly some never will.
Feel free to reply to this email and let me know what you think of anything.