What I mean by modulo

This is an idea that I use often but don't express, because it's a little technical. However, I'm also really excited I am about it, so I'll try to explain it in this blog post.

In math, modulo—or "mod"—is an operation that gives the remainder when one integer is divided by another.  In other words, a (mod n) = b, means that when you divide a by n, the remainder is b. This can also be stated as a and b are the same—except for differences accounted for or explained by n. So for example, 5 mod 2 = 1 and  2 mod 5 = 2

The shape of this operation is taking something out and looking at what's left. The question that I am asking myself when I try to "mod" something out of my experience is "What is there other than this?," and because the answer is always "a lot," I employ several different strategies for quantifying the a lot, such as looking for the holding (i.e., "what's my relationship to this?"), practicing equanimity, and looking for the deeper cut.1

I do this move quite frequently—it helps me not get stuck in identifying with my feelings. However, I learned something about it too, over the time that it took me to draft this blog post. While I do still love this idea, both conceptually and as a practice, I identified the difficulty of truly applying it, which becomes particularly apparent when trying to mod out motivation. 

It's nice to investigate motivated cognition, and I think the process of investigating it is helpful even if we can't arrive at a scientific conclusion. For myself, it seems that it's hard to cleanly separate out the motivation, in both directions. I might think I'm more motivated that I am and overcorrect, and also I might not see my true motivations. 

I keep coming to terms with the fact that what is happening is so much more than I'm aware of. But even without this understanding, I think to not acknowledge interdependence is a delusion.

1You can kind of combine all three of these together, in what I've been referring to as "looking for the thing that's more meta but also more fundamental." I'm still looking for better language for this idea!


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