Skip to main content

Appreciating Intellectual Pleasure and Applying It

A person can actually learn to enjoy intellectual pleasures, although it is rare to do so. There are plenty of folks who work with their brains, but that is a different game because it is mainly about making a living, and an outlet for ambition, with a certain amount of ego-gratification. By intellectual pleasure I mean a more disinterested appreciation of something that is beautiful simply to think about, after a certain amount of time and struggle for the thinker.

For my part, the greatest intellectual pleasure comes from trying to look beneath the surface appearance of things in order to see the Cause. Even better, I like to visualize the conflict of large trends and fundamental belief systems. I always visualize this photograph of my first dog, taken in his middle-age, some years ago.

Taking in the Big Picture, after bagging another Colorado peak.

Retirement and leisure certainly help this process, as does getting out of a metropolitan ant hill. Perhaps tuning out the daily trivia of the mainstream media is the most important aid. The key is detachment from the mob.

Old age is under-rated in this process. No doubt, there are 20-year-olds who have more perspicacity than me; neverthleless an old kaBLOOnie can do a better job than a younger kaBLOOnie.

Travel is helpful. The hackneyed notion that travel broadens your perspective is certainly true.

This is probably why I go on about my frustrations with the trends in the automobile industry. It is after all one of the bigger expenses in a (non-house-owning) travel lifestyle. The motor vehicle affects where I can camp and how I will live. What causes these trends, and how ridiculous can they get?

Trend #1: Awe of and subservience to big government.

The foundation myth of the current American Imperium is the "Good War", World War II. A good story should end with a big bang, and in this case, that was literally true with the mass slaughter of Japanese civilians by Washington's nuclear bombs. The Manhattan Project that produced these weapons was certainly a spectacular case of a government program that succeeded. Why, it's like government simply willed it into existence. Gee, I guess that means that politicians are almost gods who can command the powers of nature, just by increasing federal spending.

The Apollo project was a faint echo of the Manhattan project. Apollo didn't have to do anything radical. It was a bit like starting a government boondoggle that aimed to be the first to the Poles, or the first to climb Mt. Everest. Still, getting to another heavenly body and returning resembles the god-like. It was the last hurrah of the Cold War.

Trend #2: The post-industrial economy.

Fewer and fewer workers in the USA are concerned with making anything physical. Work means sitting in a cubicle, subtracting column DG from column A in a spreadsheet, and then dividing by column ZQ, and believing that it means something. The same could be said of playing around all day on a word processor, sticking catchy graphics in it, attending meetings, yakking on the telephone, playing with the "planning software", etc.

As a result, the average worker is disconnected from physical reality.

Now let's combine Trends #1 and #2. It is completely "natural" for the modern citizen of the USA to believe that politicians and bureaucrats can develop better fuel economy and greater safety at the same time, even though more weight helps one of these, and hinders the other.

Citizens believe that the political establishment can simply write a law or regulation that creates a miracle. Trade-offs don't matter anymore. It is just a matter of having nice sentiments.

They have completely lost track of the concept of diminishing marginal utility in automobile design. As the reductio ad absurdum, consider improvements like "active shutters" over the radiator, or lowering the ground clearance of the vehicle to the point of scraping on common roads and driveways. 

Is four valves in each combustion chamber enough for you? No? How about eight? Does the average voter think that Moore's Law from the microelectronics industry will actually apply to automobile engines?

There's high pressure fuel pumps for direct injection engines -- as if replacing the low-pressure fuel pumps didn't cost enough! But the valves get dirty with direct injection engines, as GM has proved. So Toyota's new engines will have fuel injectors inside and upstream of the combustion chambers. Oh goody, more parts, more electrical connectors, higher prices!

But have you seen the fuel economy improvement of all these mandates? It's about 3 miles per gallon.

Speaking of the Apollo project, imagine if NASA had started on their way to the moon by building lighter and lighter balloons. Every new attempt would have succeeded a little bit. But each billion dollars of improvement would have yielded smaller and smaller returns on the investment.


XXXXX said…
Your first two paragraphs hold such promise but I see no evidence of you applying these broader concepts to the remainder of your post. You succumbed to sweeping generalizations, IMHO.
I surely enjoy a "disinterested appreciation of something that is beautiful simply to think about". I also enjoy searching for the underlying causes but admit I can only speculate as broad issues are usually extremely complex and involved. I also "like to visualize the conflict of large trends and fundamental belief systems." The latter is exceptionally interesting as it is this conflict and the resulting clash that usually results in a whole new paradigm.
Ego gratification is something we all tend to be guilty of, even folks who engage in the above. Also a little puffing up with righteousness.
Detachment from the mob is important, of course. How about detachment from certain tendencies within oneself, such as those in the above paragraph? Our vigilance must be as much internal as it is external.
Your high viewpoint of traveling is totally metaphorical, IMHO. The journey is important which simply means one does not stay put psychologically. To be fluid and unfixed. The excellent traits you speak of require an open-mindedness and willingness to shake up preconceived notions . This journey is a psychological one. Not a physical one.
What of the folks who are physically incapacitated? Who cannot travel? Are they doomed to small-mindedness? My goodness.
What is in the picture of your little dog that catches your eye? I see both focus and calm in his stance. Ultimately it is the proper inner state which creates this enjoyment of intellectual pleasure.
Might have made a mistake to use the word 'beautiful' because it is intellectual pleasure that I am really thinking about. And pleasure is usually preceded by pain. I use 'pain' in the general sense of the word -- don't take it literally.

Seeing the pickup-bubble develop year after year is definitely painful for me, but I become less frustrated and angry when I focus on explaining the causes of it, which brings on the 'pleasure' in my sense of the word.

Do you really think that most of these trends are complex in their essence? What is complex about a voter/citizen thinking of the government as Mummy & Daddy; and then thinking "gimme fuel economy, gimme absolute safety, but make somebody else pay for it."

I wasn't criticizing ego gratification.

I agree that the benefits of traveling can be replaced by other approaches by a sedentary person. But he must be on guard against Comfort and domestic routines swallowing his life. Personally I find that comfortable routines "kill" my "soul."

I thought the little poodle was saying, "Ahh yes, the mountains on the other side of the valley. Very fine."
Anonymous said…
It seems to me, kBk, that your repeated denunciations of the car and truck industry have evolved into a form of self-flagellation. As the ad says, why don’t you JUST DO IT, i.e., scour the market and buy something to replace your current tow vehicle. Do you really think the industry will change? I don’t think so. Your needs are special and specific. You might have to Rube Goldberg a vehicle to be satisfied. You proved you can do it by modifying your trailer.

Chris, well, maybe it is self-flagellation, but I'm enjoying it. (Oh dear...) What windmills were to Don Quixote, the modern pickup is to me.

I will not replace my current tow vehicle until the engine or transmission need to be replaced. At a mere 248,000 miles, it might be good for years.

Yes, the industry WILL change, but who knows to what or when.

My needs aren't that special: most construction workers, hunters and fisherman, ranchers and farmers have the same needs that I do: for an affordable working pickup that can go through a mud puddle without getting stuck.

The only thing special about me is that I am a old-fashioned retrogrouch sort of guy. But there are a few of those around, as well.

I don't know about the Rube Goldberg approach. I don't like doing auto mechanical work, and it is impossible to do it in the field anyway. Of course, building a plywood cap for the pickup might be an example of what you mean.

John V said…
KB will only replace the beloved tow vehicle when it pukes up its transmission or some other vital organ. Until then he will wring every last inch of usefulness out of the beast until the rear bumper is torn from his vice-like grip. Then he'll probably go out and buy a brand new pimped-out F150.
John V, you are right about the "good to the last drop" approach. As far as the new pimped out F150, gee, I dunno, should I choose Lariat or King Ranch or Super-Platinum?
John V said…
Nuthin' but the F150 Limited for a player like you!
Chris, maybe the Rube Goldberg approach IS the right label. I went into an off-road 4X4 shop in Montrose and asked about adding an aftermarket locking differential to a rear wheel drive (2WD) F150. That way I could get adequate traction for an unloved, unsexy pickup sitting in a car lot that nobody else wants.