Saturday, April 30, 2011

Emotions and the Dual Self

Emotions are hugely complicated (and the driving force of much of what we do).  In my last post, I hinted at the idea that we're not very good at deciding why we currently feel the way we do, although we concurrently always seek to know why that is the case.

Instead, we offer ourselves--are compelled even, to come up with--reasons that seem more or less palatable to our current emotional states, and hope to skate across the ice on them to the other side of a peaceful mental state.

Part of my ugly realization is just this: we're often times wrong about the reasons we tell ourselves, and, worse, at some level, there are no reasons for the emotions we feel--at least, not for the question the emotion produces.  Whether this is an uglier truth or not, I don't know, but we certainly seem to, at times, occupy a divided self--a self that consciously wants one thing and also consciously knows that the want will not lead to a good result, at least, in so much as the result creates problems later on.  Drinking a beer, after all, won't create a problem for me in the next half hour, and, taken in isolation, the beer I have after that beer won't be a problem either.

In short, our ability to see into the future beyond the next hour or so underpins part of what is so intriguing and damning about us: we can express intentions beyond our immediate power or control. 

And so it is also the case that we express and layer reasons over the past behind us that are likewise behind the purview of what is relevant to our current emotional state, and that we, likewise, have a long and short view of the past as well.  In the longer view, we see general shapes on the horizon, experiences become reduced to simple narratives, and inconvenient facts get washed over.  We have to do this.  If we remembered everything, we wouldn't have enough processing power to function moving forward.  We're an Ipod of life, and we want to condense as much music as possible. 

And yet.

Yet, when we experience a strong memory, it certainly feels full of texture, not thin.  This is particularly true regarding the sense of smell, and how it triggers memory.  There's a certain "attic" smell, for me, for example, that always triggers memories of summer with my grandparents--mostly because their upstairs rooms had the same smell. 

So, we are under a bit of an illusion that we fully record the past, at the same time that we condense what are seen as important bits for the sake of moving into the future fully aware of potential risks or opportunities, and our brain reports back, at times, highly textured, nuanced bits of memories about how things were, and, eventually, I think, we can fall into some sort of easy emotional engagement with those things, just like we can see only the highs or lows of a potential outcome in the future; but the granular experience real time engagement provides  may not be quite so pleasant (i.e. when driving 10 hours to a beach, it is common to speak about the final goal, and the benefits). 

The fact that we can literally disengage our brains from the present is fascinating, because it allows us to consider possibilities that are not current, and weigh pros and cons--it also allows us to consider what once was.  When we consider the past, we are often times under the illusion, though, that we can consider it in a fully informed way, or that we experienced it fully.  We didn't.  We never do.  We never will. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Past is Not Necessary

"I had to go through that to get where I am now."

An often repeated phrase.  The question: really?  How do you know?

To wit: huge spans of sobriety should be valued only if, compared to spans of time spent actively drinking, the drinking spans would have worse outcomes.

How do we measure outcomes that are squishy like this? 

We tell ourselves stories about the past that make it relevant.  Fabricated connections.  And we try to do it with enough precision to hold some credibility, whatever that threshold may be, while justifying how we feel now. 


The real answer is: if you are genetically prone to abusing alcohol +

you have abused alcohol in the past, =

The probability that your life's trajectory will be negatively impacted by boozin is greater than normal people, who get "tired" after three drinks, not fully lucid. 

The way to see what "negatively impacted by boozin" means is to look at other people with similar starting conditions and see where they are a few years down the road.  Then, and this is the hard part: recognize that you are not an exception to this rule.


Of course, those people have probably emotionally adjusted to where they are--i.e. told themselves (and perhaps anyone who will listen) about all of the people (and external factors) that have done them wrong. So talking to them won't do, by itself.  You've gotta come to an independent judgment about their situation, and their internal life, and what it might mean for you one day, independently. Tenuous, I know  That's why "they" say you can't stop drinking alone, but you have to come to the realization that you must stop drinking by hitting bottom--i.e. no longer able to justify current situation. 

We suffer from grand justifications, if nothing else, though.  A deluge of justification, a swarm.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


The blog people in my computer could complete the title to this post--Today is a Nothing Day--but I wouldn't let them have their way with the typical autofill options, and swiftly cut off the additional baggage.  After all, what does it matter whether they are more correct than I want them to be?  It is easy to say things, like: "we need to live a life full of meaning."  It is easy to repeat catch phrases.  It is easy to go out and get drunk.  It is much harder to face things.  Here's the catch: there may be no return for facing the harder truths?  We like to think there will be, since there's an easier way out.  We want to feel that we struggle for something, for some purpose.  We like to value our hard work because it matters.  What if it doesn't matter?  What if everything would be the same if we drank, AND, life would be a bit more bearable?  It seems that to answer such a question affirmatively would be license to drink, so I won't go out and say the answer fully, autofill myself, even if I may be more correct than I want myself to be.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Variety: Emotions, Food.

I've been thinking a lot about the way we perceive ourselves--often looking back, for instance, on our lives as if they are somehow whole, or somehow still and placid, waiting to be retrieved for a point of reference or conjecture.  When we interact with others, though, they know only our actions and our words, nothing more. Without actions or words, others will not know what you intended, what you feel, think.  That provides me some incentive to actually be explicit about what I desire, at least when I think that being explicit will help me attain the object of my fancy.

Conversely, I've tracked a large percentage of my previous outrage to the fact that I was not explicit in dealings with others when I should have been that way, leaving them to guess whether we were on the same page, or whether I understood their intentions in the first place.  Communication is so multi-varied; often times, a simple sentence can be seen in many different ways, even from similarly situated people.

Of course it is a fallacy to think there's some fundamental emotional truth to our lives.  We're good at  making up stories based on the way we feel now.  At the same time, what provides comfort in this world, if not an emotional truth about one's own life?  Looking back over the wrinkled sheets to know that you lived according to something, that you did the best you could do in tough situations--all wishy washy concepts that serve more to comfort than to face what actually was, particularly because scratching the itch of "what actually was" at least emotionally, and often times, factually, is exceedingly difficult, and can consume anyone who wants to linger there for too long.  At some point, we've got to let go.  Let go and move forward, even if the spatial-temporal link isn't really 1:1.

 There's a saying, I said to myself--I used to drink a lot because I was emotionally bound up with it, the conflict, the drama, the seething immediacy.  It is the point wherein we "really" live, that fresh clarity.  What I've been finding, lately, anyway, is that I have bouts of the same cold water fresh clarity, and they are highly related not to drama, or conflict, or anything so esoteric, but instead, to food.  Lots of times alcohol fuels people who have poor diets, myself included.  Food is really key to mental constancy.  It doesn't have to be taken to religious extremes, but it does have to be planned for, and thought through.  For us--you know who you are.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hangin' Around the Watering Hole - 10 months now

And I haven't even stuck my little toe in to take the temperature.  Yeaup, I've been on this side of sober for 10 months today.  Like every month, it feels quite long and quite short.  The world is more grounded to me now, less theoretical and airy. There are solid moves.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

We Don't Matter - A Reflection on Accepting Ourselves

It is true, that we don't matter, individually.  There are varying levels of generality that get us to the point of mattering more or less, but on a whole, I think it is hugely freeing to realize how little we matter individually.  Nobody cares what I think (or you, unless you pull some strings I don't know about) regarding the situation in Libya.  We're irrelevant in a whole host of ways.

When we're convinced that our opinions matter, we strenuously defend them.  We mostly do this when we're in the market for attracting someone.  Our opinions do matter greatly when we're showing other people that we do or do not align with how they also perceive the world.  To my deep frustration, this wasn't clear to me until just a few months ago. 

You like to masturbate republican ethos until you cream out of your ears?  Great!  That doesn't mean you're a good or bad person.  You might not even know what kind of person you are.  I guarantee that the belief system is protecting something valuable, some belief, or some principle.  We're much much more emotionally engaged with our view points about the world than we are rationally engaged with them--that's not always bad.  It just isn't always good either. 

Religion is a way mediate our divided selves.  I realized that this morning sitting in church (and don't judge me for going to church, or for not going, either!  Or, strike that, judge whatever you want.  It is probably all true anyway). Divided selves want things that don't sit well together: to have a girlfriend and casual sex and a wife, for instance.  To have a drink and not become an alcoholic, to eat a lot of fried food and to stay thin.  Of course, we all want to be thin, not be an alcoholic, and not cheat on our significant others--but, check it out: over-eating, and cheating, and boozin', at least, they're like hugely popular past times for us all!  We love a good affair and a french fry and a beer.  I don't think this is coincidence.  I think it is very predictable behavior.

There's one thing that's very true: we need meaning in our lives.  We need it like nothing else.  And our minds are very good at telling stories, even when there's no story at all!  That's how we measure intelligence, too, pattern recognition.  It can go haywire, though.  There's all sorts of people that think a lot of stuff is happening when it isn't happening. They need meaning too.  It isn't nice to face meaninglessness.  BUT, if we can face it, and accept that we don't matter that much, perhaps we don't need to feel anxious about how important our decisions are.  Perhaps we can let go a little bit and just ride it out for a while, and not try to hold on to all time in some crystal vase.

Holiday -

Wesolych Swiat Wszyscy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holding Back: What's the Reason?

I'm often right at the cusp of saying something.  I don't always say it.  I think this happens a lot, to a lot of people.  Why is it that we don't say what we think?

It must be about controlling our perception in the eyes of other people, right?  What else?

I don't think it unnatural that other people keep us quiet, or that we might feel as if we should have said or done things we didn't in fact do.  We're worried about making the right actions, choices, and statements, and the more options the more we can worry.  It is precisely because of this worry that we edit our words before we say them.  We edit them so that our perceived audience receives our message in a certain way.

 But in a society with increasing options, we should care less.

Actually, I'm not sure that's true.  It cuts both ways.  If we have less options, perhaps we should talk more to get a fuller understanding of potential consequences, whereas if there are more options--and the options stay open to us after we start to choose one of them--then we could talk less about the options because they'll have less weight.  At the same time, because they are more superficial, we shouldn't feel restrained.

And then there's the basic fact: A lot of the ability to talk comes from knowledge about a subject. I don't know a lot about a lot of things, so maybe I don't talk that much about stuff because I don't know what to say, or where to start.

Even as I write this, though, I recognize another subtle fact: as we accumulate knowledge, the goal posts of what expertise means move farther afield.  Perhaps the experts themselves are the most doubtful about what they say, and hence, the most careful.

I used to have a boss.  She was very very smart and she knew that. She protected it.  She didn't want anyone to intrude on this aspect of who she was.  This is understandable, to the extent that I can understand it.  Every time she gave a public presentation, I was flummoxed by what she said--I didn't understand it.  Later on, I started to gain knowledge to what she had knowledge of, and I realized that she actually didn't know the information that well, and was throwing up all sorts of details as a smoke screen so that she didn't have to face another basic fact: even really smart people have to spend time learning stuff when they can't get it right away.  It's an odd paradox, smart people.  Because qualifying as "smart" is almost like qualifying as "rich," in that it says something about necessary effort, or the lack thereof.  That's a cultural artifact I know, because we glamorize the rich and the smart.  There's a fine line between getting enough recognition to have self-worth and receiving too much praise so that you become spoiled and expect to understand everything right away, or not do any work.

Anyway, what's the point here?  There's lots of reasons for people to hold back.  Almost all of them are relative and related to the context of the situation.  If you've ever looked at yourself in the mirror and acted one way, only to get to a situation and act an entirely different way, you know what I mean.  If you've ever silently nodded with the raving lunatic in the subway without explicitly making it evident that you agree by talking with him, you know what I mean.  If you've ever felt insecure, nervous, worried, and frightened, you know what I mean.

Part of the solution to all of this is building up a patience to live within a changing emotional world that isn't always positive, and that isn't always peaceful, and to maintain consistency.  We must navigate potential conflicts everywhere.  I think that the more we are able to take conflicts a step at a time, to restrain all of those screaming desires to tell people what we "really" think, the more successful we can be--and I mean that in terms of accomplishing a goal, and also growing in our understanding of the world.

And that's enough for a saturday morning.  Have a nice day!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Emotional Attachment

A lot of my life, I've been emotionally attached to ideas that I don't actually believe in.  Most of my ideas, in fact.  This is a fairly new realization for me, and it is one that's hard to parse--not because I think that all emotion should be taken out of ideas, but instead because emotions provide such rich ideas and experiences but can be limited in this way: once I experience and feel something, and an idea is linked to that experience, I protect the idea from pollution, rather than giving in to fresh light and air.  That is, I don't demarcate between the idea and my previous experience, and think that, if the idea isn't true, or doesn't accurately describe the whole picture, then my experience was similarly limited.  That is just not true, though.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Whole Foods --, and Choice

I used to be really emotionally opposed to whole foods, for all sorts of reasons, many of which I then thought were fantastically radical and pleasantly self-evident.  Boy I must have been an [ironically] smug bitch!  Of course, part of my reaction was framed around my own relatively poor environment growing up, such that anything like a supermarket was most emphatically nothing to second guess, outside of the range of coupons one could cut to use on ground meat, or you know, tater tots. 

I used to have a physical reaction to the place.  I'd get itchy, and antsy, and want to leave, badly.  The people freaked me out.  The produce freaked me out.  The prices freaked me out, and here's the catch, even though they weren't astronomically high.  It never occurred to me that the prices could be good, considering what you get for the fee. And that means: high quality food. 

It is always popular to demonize institutional (large) players in the field of life where we choose to shop, eat, socialize, or fornicate.  The four fundamental freedoms being what they are, we want to maximize our individual stance in regard to them, like some boxing match.

Here's the news though (for me): what pissed me off about whole foods wasn't so much whole foods in itself; it was, instead, the people who chose to go to whole foods, and the radical idea that they could make different decisions relating to the four freedoms, and that, gasp, it was possible to even make decisions regarding those four.  See, unlike many (but not all) of my friends, when I grew up, I didn't choose where to eat, or shop, or socialize, or fornicate.  There were no choices.  You just did.  And that just doing was a bit of a norm.  And that norm mean that a slew of actions that could make me incrementally happier made me incrementally sadder when I realized I could have been incrementally happier and was not; to wit, those bastards who had decided to nourish their bodies and taste decent food (city bastards, no?; effeminate and elite and no good!) and not pay that much for it  (they're not all morgans and vanderbilts in whole foods, you'll note), well, fuck them.  Whole foods was a cancer!  The only logical conclusion, I'm sure you'll agree.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Well, here we sit

Stranded, though we all do our best to deny it, right.  Like Bob Dylan lyrics from a Japanese psychiatrist who also fancied himself a novelist--where half of the lyrics from Love and Theft came from, basically, from acting out a role, a place, a sense of self.

I've always been fascinated with the act, the get, the buy in--convincing someone, getting them to look, to be intrigued; the ability to command full attention, even for a second.  I'm not so obsessed with that anymore.  Not as insecure.  I don't need to proffer viewpoints to everyone, as if to test them.

Monday, April 18, 2011


When we're kids, we have all the potential in the world and everything is special.  It is a nice place to be if you can get it.  Part of becoming older is the slow realization that almost everything we were told when we were kids is a bit of a lie.  Like the idea that people only judge you based on your intrinsic ability and not your looks.  Or that you can do/be anything you want.  These things are just not true.  On the other hand, as time stretches out in front of us, and we age into that time, more and more time stretches out and we can start to envision our death--it is difficult to do so, because thinking about death usually only comes about in the short term (when danger arises).  Typical long term thinking sort of reverts back to the child-hood daydreams, except with adult themes.  Equality.  Values.  You know, all those totally meaningless terms that we throw around.  Strike that.  They aren't meaningless.  They are instead full of meaning; meaning that we actually are always aware of: they tell us which groups to associate with and which to avoid.  Childhood dreams come back!  Come back and show me the way.

I'm sorry, I'm unfair here.  Our emotional palate is as varied (or more so) than our intellectual capacity, and that's what makes each side so damn intriguing.  There are tremendously beautiful and touching events, people, and interactions.  They're just faster and more-short lived than we ever thought as kids.

I don't too much thinking about high school or college behavior, mostly because I am no longer in high school or college.  But I certainly remember a lot of the experience of going to high school and college.  I remember trying to rush through.  I was always focused on the big goals, and not the small ones.  Living life successfully happens when we can invert the paradigm and see the high value in some of the small everyday interactions that consistently drive us, instead of hopelessly saccharine visions of the future that will never come to pass.  How to do that exactly is less clear.   We've gotta go talk to people who are about to die, and then talk to their kids.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Booze: 12 Year Old Whiskey vs. 12 years

I suppose I should talk about booze more, but I'm not ready to think that not drinking has to always be about drinking.  You know what I mean?  It is about self-control, discipline, about understanding craving, interaction, self-inflicted bias, and a lot of other things.  Not drinking doesn't have to be about drinking all the time, though.  

I can recognize that one should always strive to be careful not to slip up and drink, i.e. to be aware of one's thoughts enough to not easily fall into habit.  At the same time, I've made a bit of an effort (and will continue) to concentrate on other facets of my life besides not drinking.   That's necessitated some changes, I won't lie.   I think I stand in a better place than I did six months ago.  I feel less confused about things generally, though in some ways, I'm more overwhelmed.   I'm concurrently learning to let go in a way that I never could before,  or, perhaps, to find a balance between the need to know and be everything verses falling apart completely. 

It occurred to me this morning that when I track back good times in my life, i.e. when I've made the most progress (recognizing that this is completely subjective) on a larger scale, I've been not drinking.  I stopped drinking for 9 months in the year 2000, and at the time, I swore that I was staying sober for good--forever.  I'll never forget the spring break that I broke that promise to myself.  It was exciting and reckless and I desperately needed a release from the world around me.  I stayed more of less sober for three years, then, still, although I'll admit that some weekends were worse than others, and then I devolved from 2004-2008, pretty much, into a lush.  I didn't want to see myself then.  I wanted to go back in time.  I don't know if it was completely synched up with drinking or not, but there's a strong correlation.  Since 2008, things have been up and down.  I stayed sober for six months in 2009.   I don't know why I decided to stop being sober, some excuse. Some release again. 

In the short term, drinking does provide a release; in the long term (successive short term intervals), it actually can create more stress (for some) and anxiety.  I'm learning that now. 

There's a beer I bought on my 29th birthday here.  It says "SAVE FOR 30" but I think I might have to wait.  Forever, perhaps.  That is, I think I have to come to terms with the fact that not drinking is on average better for me than drinking, and simply not drink again.  That means not enjoying the luscious frothy head of a belgian style ale from an infamous cooperstown brewery, or smacking my lips at the bitterness of a brooklyn IPA.  When I think about what I lose, it seems large.  But when I compare it, now, to the  patterns in my life, overall, it doesn't seem large at all.  What's 12 year old whiskey compared to 12 years?

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I'm interested in the idea that people assess whether the two people in a couple fit each other--and I don't mean that they get along.  I mean: whether one person is generally better looking.  The funny thing about noticing this is twofold

1) we're all making some judgment about it.

2) it is impolite to say that we're judging it.

The question isn't: What gives us the right to judge?  We naturally assess people based on their looks.  It just is.  It isn't unfortunate, or dramatically unfair, necessarily.  It happens.  The issue is twofold.  For people that are very good looking who are treated a certain way, and for people who are not as good looking and still have to find their self esteem and respect.  Good looking people don't necessarily have it easier, in that they have to maintain their looks, and they aren't taken as seriously for other endeavors  At the same time, people who aren't as good looking (or don't think they are), they have to maintain themselves by relying on other distinctions.

All of personal identity falls on distinctions in the west, at least, I think.  In the Bhagavad Gita, there's a lot of talk about fulfilling your mission in a particular role, not making yourself stick out, but internalizing and finding a way to have importance in your role.

Anyway, we need order, and structure, as a society, and individually. It helps us coordinate.  Religion is a coordinator.  That's why it is so fiercely debated.  Anything that controls how a number of people will act, the decisions they have available to them, will be hotly debated, and will be culturally informed.  Money is a coordinator.  That's why people want more of it (they can control more pieces).  The question isn't so  much whether we need order, but where it comes from and how it is imposed, and whether we're okay with where we stand within the current structure, whatever it is, and whether we're aware of where we stand.

There's a balance between understanding that some of our personal limitation comes about from making the group standing better, and that, by making the group standing better, we can individually benefit.  The question is sort of about parameters--which group, for instance, and how much can we lift their relative standing?  Will the lift be pushed out equally?/

Yes, these are relatively fragmented and fast ideas, I know.  But I'm damn sober here on a Saturday and determined to drink my cuppa tea and continue on being sober.  Personally, this was a bit of a hard week.  I'll have to write about it tomorrow.  If I don't post every day for the next few weeks, please excuse me.  I'll try to get back here and get up some thoughts asap when I get a chance.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Being Special And Drinking

We all think we're special, and we all think we're above average even though we can't all possibly be.  It is the law of being human.  Why?  Well, partially, because we see only ourselves from the inside, and partially because we're very good at seeing difference, and we like to mark ourselves based on difference. Difference matters more than sameness, and every piece of evidence that we are unique, as individuals, bolsters the idea that we are, likewise, special--and yes, embedded in this notion, is "better" as well.  It doesn't hurt that I know myself intimately and only know you through the actions you portray to the world.   We all make distinctions to exclude information that might tell us that we cannot do something, or are bad at something. Because, that is, we're different.  And how do we know that we're different?  We tell ourselves. 

Drinking of course can pervert this process further, because drinking allows us to indulge our "difference" fantasies to an extreme degree.  But we, as humans, are much much more similar to each other than we are different from each other even though a lot of our preferences for association, brand names, neighborhoods, and careers, really have to do with differentiating ourselves from everybody else (at the same time everybody else is differentiating themselves from everyone)--in some sense, differentiation serves to show or signal other potential associates that you are of a certain caliber and quality, and worth socializing with, sleeping with, or otherwise. The trick is that we're looking for certain qualities that we might not accept as authentic if someone exhibited those qualities to us without some filter for understanding those qualities as spectacularly different from other people's capacity, and then, of course, much rarer. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Seeing plainly

I suppose the point of it all is to see plainly, to be calm.  I think that even though  I'm much more aware of the role of anxiety in my life now, and acutely aware of how it likes to come flooding in at inopportune moments, I am overall less anxious than I was before.  I'm also too tired right now to think much more about this, except to say that now, fuck, I have to go move the car, because, of course, it is tuesday night.

Monday, April 11, 2011

RV Miscalculations

There you go again, crumbling your oreo into the milk.

That's how I like it.  I don't want to dip.  You don't have to reign over me with such authority that I have no oreo dipping freedoms.  What about you?  Probably eat your cookie dry, like some punk.

I'll have you know that I have manufactured a perfectly synchronized liquid/cookie delivery system that balances moisture content out to maximize freshness and taste, something I am not entirely sure you would understand if it came right out and inserted itself into your mouth on a bright summer day with low humidity.

Oh, you mean the opacity with which you live your life?

I'm not sure I can make out the contours of your words, through the density of layers around what I think is your mouth that is--how many cookies have you snarfed down today, anyway? 

What is it to you?

It is the black hole that I'm forced to share my life with, is what it is, why don't you drive for a while.

Yeah, you'd like that, wouldn't you.

I would like to like something, yes.  On that continuum, I would feel a modicum of relief.

Is that all?


Perhaps you need a cookie without the proper level of moisture infusion.  Perhaps that would free you from mocking me with that rod you call an ass.

I do not think anything would free me from the bondage of mocking you, dear.

Oh, how quaint.  Now drive.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


The wink wedged her eye into a crease that approached fig newton density, and although I didn't quite allow myself to peer back openly, I couldn't help but notice the depth in the fold during the act itself, and the way it propped itself back up with a startling similarity to sponge cake, though, I'd have to reassure myself, this was not a bakery, and, I shouldn't even be looking in the first place. Besides, I'd already consumed a fair bit of cake myself.  Things got weirder when she walked over and started talking, not because of her words so much as because of the fact of her stride--it was decidedly zigzaged, as if her legs were not actually attached to the top of her body.  And something was similarly disjointed about the bobbing of her skull atop her neck.  That was before I realized how drunk she was, though, and it must of been on something as hard as whiskey based on her breath. 

She wasn't talking to me, no, though I remained privy to the conversation.  Even at this level of inebriation there was a need for innuendo, for small talk, for indirect slapstick, and it struck me that, even though they were practically screaming themselves hoarse over the music, the small talk must go on.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jealousy and Mental Health

I've caught myself being jealous of people that I perceive to have a greater level of mental health than myself.

As in, anyone who professes positive sentiments about the world, and/or seems well adjusted. 

In the immediate sense, such people could be annoying in their sweetness, like some hard candies are that also have a surprising liquid center.  Concurrently, though, those people demand a response because they have cut through the murk and tangle of emotion to just communicate directly, without innuendo, too many unwanted shades of meaning, or, mostly, lost references--most of their message is "on the page" as it were, so they can be responded to directly, and sincerely as well. 

To say it overtly, then, one of my assumptions must be that healthy well adapted people correlate in their affectation with a communicative style that is overt and explicit.  I'm not sure this is always the case though--aren't there perfectly well adjusted and highly referential communication stylists out there?  I suppose so, but their snarkiness, however intelligent--and however much I like their style--probably doesn't always correlate to mental health.

Well, I'm not so sure. What I am sure of is that I often feel a mixture of admiration and jealousy for people that can be plainly spoken, explicit in their preferences, and not try to a) use a highly referential style to indicate their own status, b) increase camaraderie through degradation of others, or c) be excessively moody--pretty much, now that I write it, everything I'm not.  Perhaps I think it only because it is what I am not.  Either way, it can serve you as the five minute thought of the day, and we'll all move on to dinner now.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reading the NY times for Free

If you're pissed off at the NYtimes for limiting access, then just download a new browser, and use that one to keep reading, or clear your browsing history on your current browser, and that should do it.

Illusion and Reality and Hope

Part of recognizing that I drank too much--and the project I'm on now to stay sober--is that I had to recognize that I was too full of illusion, to the point where I was deluded.  Naturally, I've tried lately to figure out ways that I can become the opposite of deluded.  This is risky business, though, and it's occurred to me now, as I was reading a fascinating book called, Stumbling on Happiness, that any project toward completely rational actions inside of a realistically perceived world is flawed.  In short, what I mean is this: if we recognize our "true" value in this world, we're not going to have the incentive to get out of bed in the morning.  We will not be able to get excited about anything, because the essence of excitement is really the idea that something which is not currently possible or existent, can become possible, and, further, that I/you/we, can work to bring that notion into existence.

It is a basic tenet of a happy life that we believe our actions relate to control and control relates to happiness.  The tension is that we cannot control everything, even our interactions, and that our absolute value in the world is actually quite low.

Therefore, we must value our personal interactions and the facts of our individual life much greater than it is valued by others, and we must inject meaning into our possessions that is higher than others might value those possessions.  That meaning is at times called "hope," and it is necessary to live, to move forward.  The problem occurs when it blinds us to the other realities that are inconvenient, like the  probability of a certain event occurring.  Just because we like the idea of something doesn't make it happen, or more likely to happen, but the trick to living, it seems, is that we shouldn't totally listen to our hopes NOR should we totally listen to our doubts.

It is easy to say "live a balanced life," but this misses the point a bit because it is too general.  If we listen to our doubts all the time, we'll constantly undervalue ourselves as compared to how other similarly situated people value themselves and we will therefore miss out on possibilities that we could have attained if we valued ourselves higher only because those people who did value themselves higher had the inertia to strike forward and try to attain X goal, something we might presumably want--and I'm not just talking about mundane goals here, but things like: rewarding conversations, etc.  At the same time, if we listen too often to our hopes and dreams, we'll become blind to certain realities that go on around us, and that will actually keep us from attaining the kind of peace that could prove relaxing. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pornography and Faking Orgasm

Two substrates of conversation happened yesterday, both revolving pornography.  First, that most pornography users are men.  Second, that men tend to objectify women's bodies more than women tend to objectify men's bodies.

Does pornography contribute to this discrepancy?

Porn is a tremendously large business.  A lot of our technological change was driven by a the underlying demand of pornography viewers, and I've read that the porn industry is at least as big as the (mainstream) movie industry.

If we can agree that viewing a specific type of male centered pornography--mostly whereby women climax easily and effortlessly, and everything is done a few notches more aggressively than it should be--actually impacts how people have sex, then I think we're starting to get somewhere.  Yesterday I spoke with two women who said they could easily tell if the man they were sleeping with was a consistent pornography user by the way he acted [in bed].  I think that's pretty damning, and interesting, too.

Personally, I think that pornography exploits a naturally evolved mechanism, particularly for men.  To say this, another claim has to occur: men and women are inherently (i.e. naturally) different.  There's lots of ways this is true.   One essential and easy way to see how true this is regards ease of orgasm.  Ease of orgasm doesn't necessarily equate to sexual satisfaction, of course, but having an orgasm is highly related (perhaps necessary but not sufficient on its own). I used to be emotionally attached to the ideal that we are blank slates at birth, only to be socialized according to all of society's dictates as we age.  That's just not true.  There's no way we could learn the massive amount of words and signage we do without some architecture, some blueprints.  The shape of the building is up to culture--that a building will exist, not so much.  Our communication and coordination is what makes us human.  Not too much to fight in that statement, even though we don't always like communicating with one another.  It is what we do best compared to other animals.

So, what does pornography do to men regarding communication?  Well, it is like self-training the bad parts of instinct to come out and take control, I think--and the claim, to conclude that porn is a bad thing--must be that those sort of sexual instincts are heightened and predominate over other data regarding normal day-to-day interactions  in a way that wouldn't happen without porn.

So, I don't think the question is whether there are real world impacts for porn viewing. The answer is yes.  Unlike my friend, I don't think that pornography is the symptom of a highly misogynist society so much as something that has flourished because of convenience (lack of restrictions and easy incentive). A lot of men, perhaps unfortunately, model their sexual behavior after the porn they see.  I think the question really boils down to how the porn viewing does or does not alter emotional development, and if it does, how it might do so in a way that impedes what would otherwise be more healthy relationships.

So what is a healthy relationship, you ask?

Well, I don't know.  But I do know one thing.  If one partner is faking orgasm, then that's a sign that the sexual relationship isn't as healthy as it could be.  Even if it might be awkward to bring this up, the way to change the dynamic is to work on it without coming to grand conclusions about failure, lack of compatibility, or what is permanent.  Everyone needs to work on something.  What I'm saying is that the number one pernicious thing about pornography may be that it fosters the illusion that sex is all perfect bliss (and selfish), or total garbage.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Monitoring Anxiety

A lot of our behavior--I'm not sure how much precisely, but let's say a large heaping spoonful--has to do with mitigating anxiety.   We avoid things to avoid anxiety, mostly, and when we have to face anxiety we often times turn to coping mechanisms.  That's basic, I know, but consider the idea that we cope by not thinking about things, or, alternatively, that what we do think about--the subject of our thoughts--is primarily driven by anxieties, or to state it positively, by that which we find attractive. 

The trick here is twofold.  One, our understanding of a thing, person, event, place, object, changes when we "attain" it--the meaning we attach to it changes, and the way we view ourselves in relation to that thing/event/person changes as well.  Two, we like to pretend that a lot of patterned behavior makes behavior predictable, but I think that our great worry as humans is that which is unexpected.   Again, that might sound banal, but consider a world we walk around in every day that is not predictable.  What's the first place you think of?  A kind of war torn country maybe?  Well, maybe. 

Predictability in essence allows us to relax.  The more we know about what will happen, the less we worry about it. The less we know about behavior, the more animated and crazed we become.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wrote Down the Words in the Wrong Order

Tried to spell them out plain
Dragged with full leave bags and early wet snow
Over slate sidewalks that i used to
kiss in the early summer, with my cheek,

And they'd warm my face with absorbed sunlight
And they'd dance in the mist of sprinklers
Like rainbow ghosts, hovering
with eternal patience

Until wet trials under eaves tropical
Wrenched moisture from the sky
Until it filled up our measuring cups
five times over, and we smoked in the vapor

Rising up into our moon eyes, tinged
with bitter flavor, sweet where it should be rough,
Blue stone, they called it, and reveled in it,
while I picked up the leaves, the stutters, and tied together
the frey, only to run missing, missing into the carnival
of the day.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Memory and Continuity

Imagine someone who has lost his or her memory. Who do you see?  Can they move about the room or space they're sitting or standing in?  Can they answer questions?

If they can move about and function, then they haven't lost all of their memory, just the finer points about who they are precisely in the world--not the details of the world itself.  They might not be able to tell you if they prefer McDonalds or not, but they'd most likely be able to tell you what McDonalds is in the first place.

I'd imagine, though, that someone in this state would probably move about tentatively for a while, and, more often then not, have pangs of nostalgia that could be frustrating, or fascinating.

Memory is a funny phenomenon, because we need it as a reference to the patterns we see in front of us, for sorting and categorizing, and separating out a road from a tree, for instance, and at the same time, we have such an urge to literally discriminate the world, that we often times rush to judgment about the facts of a situation, or, it turns out, the prior facts of a situation. It is not only highly possible that two different people have different perceptions of one situation, but also have highly different memories of the same experience as well.  Neither need be right.  Consider that, though, for a moment: allowing your own memories and assumptions to fade out.

I've held on to a lot of different beliefs, and they've at times provided me some comfort, and at times anguish.  What I've failed to see is that it wasn't the belief as much as the need to hold on that proved harmful.  My instincts--our instincts as people with tremendously large brains--is to hold on to what our senses tell us, and what our instinct sings at us almost instantaneously, to "know" certain things.  A lot of times, though, we fail to see larger patterns because they're hard to look at, and take the conscious repression of our instincts to know what is right or wrong or obvious.  That, and a lot of concentration.  Is it worth it?  Well, what I can say is that "trying" is worth it.  Trying generally, and doing with a deep suspension of belief about conclusions, is most certainly worth it.  I think it is the most essentially rewarding characteristic--to produce effort.  That, and talking a lot about potential outcomes with other humans. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturdays Are Tough

Have I written about this before?  Saturdays are always a little tough--there's an incredible urge to take advantage of the free time, and, simultaneously, the need to feel completely relaxed.  Then, of course, there's food to get, kitchens to clean, laundry to wash, and an assortment of preparatory patterns that allow the week to flow out without more than the usual pain in the ass bosses, miscellaneous meetings, and unscheduled late nights.  Then there's the question of what memory, and all those saturdays before, which, somehow cycles back to the normative ideal of complete short term bliss--it is apparently supposed to be the time we all just "are" who we are, as unstructured as it gets. It is highly structured in this way, and this tension has produced multiple unsuccessful saturdays in my past, where I'm always less productive than planned and simultaneously less relaxed than I should be.  Today was a bit of a better day than the usual saturday.   I'm seeking less external affirmation for my internal check that I can, indeed, let go, and just relax, without the impossible feeling that time is receding out from under my feet and that no matter how fast I run, won't be able to keep up.  I haven't been keeping up for a long time after all, so what the fuck good will it do now? 

I read this line somewhere recently about a guy that decided to kill himself.  For whatever reason he came to the mental place necessary to kill himself, but didn't commit the act. 


As an aside, please, if you are considering harming yourself in anyway, contact someone about it and talk it through.  It is very very easy to get overwhelmed in this world. 


So he decided it, but then didn't have the energy to go ahead with the thing, and so, sort of saw every day after that as exponentially freer, i.e. he didn't have to keep up with anything, because he was willing to let go of everything in the first place (including, I presume, a glorified version of himself).   The point is that we can't be experts at everything, and just getting to be an expert at one thing is pretty cool, if it happens, not to mention just having one or two very good friends in one's life, instead of 748 of them.  There's lots of really valuable worthwhile endeavors out there--the point is to be involved in one of them.  The which one question doesn't really matter as much.   I'm starting to learn that, in part by letting go of the need for approval from other people--this has actually made it easier for me to speak my mind and get what I need, whereas before I might be more nervous that I'd create an awkward situation, or that there'd be some kind of conflict.  It turns out that moving through conflict with others in a controlled and predictable way is a great skill to have.  I'm not sure I have it, necessarily, but I'm learning to recognize it at least. 

2 Sobriety Tricks

Beef Stew:

Black Tea:

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Why of Conspiracy Theories

It struck me this morning that conspiracy theorists exist for one solid reason: they want their own existence to have some relevance in the world.  That's not an ignoble goal, just one that has probably taken a course that deviated from reality at some point.  A lot of things are not untrue because they're not testable and falsifiable in a scientific way, but that doesn't also simply make them true as a result.  We live in world with multiple interlocking systems that don't always interact in a way that is predictable.  At times, the sum of all parts involved is greater than the number of parts involved, like our brains!  But the issue with conspiracy theories is that we won't know the truth, and we'll likely never know the truth.  Instead, their practical implication is to elevate people with the highest level of detail and most "relevance" to a cultish status--i.e. high status within a very specific group, and to mark those people as crusaders for some form of truth.  There's always value in truth seeking, depending on how you frame it.  Of course, conspiracy theorists more often than not believe what they're talking about, or they collect fat checks for promulgating drivel, which makes them opportunists with low ethical standards--the point remains that there are indirect benefits to getting very good at believing all sorts of bullshit.