Aphorisms You Should Know

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  • Post last modified:November 1, 2022

If you don’t want any contextualization, jump directly to the aphorisms.

When I was a teenager, I believed everything I was told. I was taught that if my beliefs contradicted the beliefs of others, I was wrong – and others were always right. So I believed everything and everyone.

In my mid-20s, I found out that most of what I believed about the world was false.

My quest for truth helped me go from:

  • Trusting others -> to trusting myself.
  • Listening to others -> to listening to myself.
  • Doing what others told me to do -> to doing what I wanted to do.
  • Being invested in others and other things (cinema, rich people, hot girls) -> to being invested in myself (the gym, building a business, eating healthy, reading books…).

There is no easy way to get here. I changed after I got burnt multiple times listening to others.

Inspired by Nassim Taleb’s Bed of Procrustes, I want to share with you what I have learned along the way. I want to tell you about interesting, relevant, thought-provoking, and controversial aphorisms.

An aphorism is an observation holding a general truth about the world.

For example, “Karl Marx figured out that you can control a slave much better by convincing him he is an employee”, is an aphorism by Nassim Taleb.

Most aphorisms are hidden in plain sight. And for many of them, the mainstream narrative is desperate to make you believe the exact opposite.

Before we start, I’ll briefly explain why our society has derived so far from the truth.

And I’ll do so with the help of Nassim Taleb.

(If you are not interested, jump directly to the aphorisms).


Enters Nassim Taleb

Nassim Taleb is a mathematician and philosopher, author of The Black Swan.

Taleb explained in his book Skin in the Game why modern societies are having a hard time dealing with truth, especially when controversial.

To understand, we need to go back to pre-history.

Pre-historical societies had an imperative to deal with the truth. It was a matter of life or death.

A single mistake (mistaking a mammoth for a tree, not seeing the crocodile, forgetting to light a fire at night) could result in death.

Since men lived in direct relation with their environment, all members of the tribe were exposed to the risk of the environment. As a result, interpreting life as it was, instead of how they wished it to be, was the only way to survive.

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The mammoth was whether food, or danger. Mistaking it for a pet could result in death. Hunting it could result in death. Not hunting it could result in death. The hunters were exposed to real risks. They could not afford mistakes.

Modernity changed that.

Modernity, through technology (or the government), created a buffer between real-life consequences from the environment, and people.

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In the case of our mammoth and hunter, the buffer between the risk inherent to the environment and the hunter is technology: the bow.

In the beginning, the hunter had to get close to the mammoth to hunt it. With the bow, he can hunt it from afar.

-> technology decreased risk.

As technology evolves, risks decrease.

The gun enabled any hunter to hunt any animals almost risk-free.

Finally, modern farming techniques have completely reduced food production risks.

When the risks associated with an activity are reduced to zero, people stop worrying.

It frees their mind and they can start to think about other stuff, as explained in Maslow’s pyramid.

They can become creative and make art, for example. Art does not fulfill any direct needs, which is why societies that make art are always rich societies. They can afford it.

Things go awry when modernity is so advanced that people start believing ideas that are false, then using propaganda and censorship to get them to be universally accepted (or reach the illusion that they’re universally accepted).

In the realm of social sciences, these ideas are called “luxury beliefs“, a term coined by the psychologist Rob K. Henderson.

A luxury belief is an idea one can adopt because he or she has the societal, social, or financial means to do so. It enhances the believer while taking a toll on another class of people (understand: it’s costly for somebody else).

Often, it’s because modernity and technology have decreased the risk inherent to adopting these ideas; or have created such a big wedge between reality and the believer that reality is too far to prevent the believer from believing.

Since these ideas only exist because modernity allows it, they are often ridiculous, false, expensive, and fantastical.

The problem is that “luxury believers” often base their entire world on these ideas. They have therefore all the reasons to fight to protect them and won’t hesitate to cancel anyone that will try to reason – aka bringing back some of the real world in the conversation.

Let’s take a random example, not of a luxury belief, but of a “luxury practice”: veganism.

Veganism, a movement targeted at nature and animals, developed in urban settings where its proponents are neither farmers, close to nature, nor taking care of animals.

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A meme.

Sociologically, vegans belong to the same breed.

They live in big cities, far away from the farm, and make enough money to afford vegetables flown from Brazil and Egypt in winter.

Vegans can be vegan because modernity and technology gave them the financial and technological means to be so.

In fact, veganism is costly.

Vegetables only grow at a certain period of the year, in certain places with the right climate, in abundance because of modern farming techniques, and vegans must supplement with iron, magnesium, B6, calcium, and other nutrients to survive.

When I buy my meat in Estonia, it’s locally produced. My tomatoes and olives though, come from Spain.

In the real world (understand: the prehistoric world), veganism did not exist.

No one could afford it.

Modernity protects people from real-life consequences and as a result, protects them from real life in general.

The purpose here is not to discourage you from becoming vegan, but to analyze how modernity allows for the survival of ideas that in the real world, should not exist.

A rich woman, active in philanthropy, once told me “you know Aure, I just don’t have time to have a job!”

There isn’t anything like money to split you from reality aka decrease risks from reality, hence the push for wealth redistribution.

The belief in socialism is yet another luxury belief. It confers a high status to the one that enacts it while taking a toll on another class (in this case, those that produced the wealth to be redistributed).

Furthermore, it often eludes socialist proponents that socialism is possible only as long as there are enough resources to be redistributed.

It’s, therefore, no wonder that socialism developed slightly after capitalism. It was the wealth created by capitalism that enabled socialists to enact their redistribution scheme, then communist, their confiscation policies.

Ironically, Karl Marx was on point when he diagnosed the feeling of alienation of workers, and how capitalism, due to being cycled-based, threatened to destroy society.

No one ever argued against that.

His remedy to capitalism though, was too theoretical: he wrote his Manifesto before testing the idea in the real world, not after.

For the unlucky few that tried it, communism was so unsuited to reality that the party in power had to dictate to people what reality was, and how they should perceive it.

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Of course, communism is not the only political system guilty of doing so. Since modern society rests on myth as explained by Yuval Noah Harari, governments have an interest in keeping the narrative going.

As a result, many have borrowed the communist playbook of propaganda.

Every time you run into censorship in society, it means there probably is some foundation of truth in the censored message that threatens to break the illusion.

Look at societies built on lies, and you will find censorship (N*orth Korea, Ch!na, etc).

Censorship is employed to prevent the exposition of truth aka reality because lies always crumble at first contact with reality.

To preserve the status quo, the truth must be erased or silenced.

All of this to say that the more advanced and modern a society is, the less in touch with reality it becomes.

Our society has evolved so far from reality that we have reached a point where people can buy fake money (Dogecoin), fake land (Decentraland), live in fake worlds (the Metaverse), have sex with fake people (VR p*rn), eat fake food (McDonald’s), have fake children (plants and pets), and work fake jobs.

The real world comes back from time to time to remind everyone it exists, when, for example, Dave Chappelle shouts that Twitter isn’t the real world.

He’s right in theory, but practically, Twitter is more real than reality for people that mostly live in it.

This is why I have assembled the following aphorisms.

I want to help you get back in touch with reality.

Side notes: I don’t necessarily agree with all of the following aphorisms. Lots of them are controversial, and would be designated as “dangerous ideas”, but as a libertarian, I don’t believe in censorship.

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