Friday, December 30, 2011

Perseverance -- Takes Not Knowing!

Perseverance is difficult, for a fundamentally understandable reason: we don't know whether we'll succeed or not!

I'm more and more convinced that this is at the core of the human experience.  Our lack of knowledge about success, and our willingness to continually try to find success, even when we don't know that what we're doing will give it to us.

This is particularly acute in developing years, when options close down because of self-selection.  How I wish now that I didn't do what I spent 5 years doing!

I'm not one to gloss over this fact (REGRET) with an easy melody, one that follows the rhythmic intonation: "I had to do that to get where I am today."  Nope, don't buy it.  You, or I could have just wasted time given our goals now.

This kind of drives me nuts because it is an argument for paternalism.  At least until a certain age, people should be told what is good for them, because they simply don't know.

Then again, maybe I'm still being highly romantic in that I think there are a lot of options for most people. Maybe I'm wrong in this sense even though I want to be right.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Showing Off? How do you it do it?

If you know the classic ways that most people show off, how do you actually go about showing off?

Do you chose to abstain entirely?  I'm not sure I think it possible.

Do you show off in a way that is entirely different, or just compete with others that are showing off?

Do you find a way to show off to an elite group of distinct group?

If you don't like the idea of showing off, do you think it is a waste of time?

If you don't have the means of showing off, it is really easy to justify how superfluous showing off is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Intense Emotion - Admirable, or Scary?

What distinguishes reverence from fear, precisely?

Why follow or run?  Where's the distinction?

As a quick guess, I'd say that intense emotion is revered when the person we observe is already in some sort of authority position, especially if the position is tied in with their uniqueness, like a Professor, perhaps.   Another piece toward taking intense emotion seriously would be whether other social indicators (perception of friends we're familiar with, attentiveness of strangers) align...

Buy In -

It is the ambiguous psychological concept of mental involvement, wherein critical faculties don't reset themselves and scan the situation for something suspicious--it is, in short, when we believe the narrative presented, or a version we've created that is close to the one presented.

There are implicit presented narratives everywhere, and there are multiple stages of buy in. A lot of the narratives are associated with products, sure, but there are broader cultural beliefs all over the place that are reflected in products, status symbols, etc.

One question is this:  must we have psychological buy in to succeed at the narrative we observe.

For instance, is it best to buy into a meritocratic type system and work hard with our heads down, or is it worth it to back up and see which narratives different people believe in, and somehow use that knowledge to one's advantage?  Is it worth it to be meta-aware in this sense, or better to pick a narrative and keep digging in?

Do we reward more the person who preserves in one narrative, or the person who knows to switch narratives early on because of foresight of coming events?

I have no clue.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Global Warming - We could just stop all this living, or . . . Honesty?

I'm not sure there's a better place for the slippage between our innate fear of grand scale shit, morals, science, and group think, than Global Warming.  What I find innately frustrating is that we chose sides as if all of our related sides correspond to our explicitly stated preference.  For instance, if I'm against global warming, then I must also be for locally  produced food (whatever is in season and not more than 200 miles away?  whatever arbitrary category you desire, though, really), low emissions (i.e. carbon conscious), slightly left or progressive politically, and the list goes on.  Essentially, once I state that I'm against global warming, the slippage for other preferred items is great, and the fit gets to be less and less important, as long as there is a plausible connection.

Once you subscribe, it becomes almost sacrosanct to say something like, "well, I like the the things that cause global warming," like fancy cheese, from france, or steak dinners (especially of the rainforest depleting kind), feeling safe in my SUV, or just driving instead of walking places.  But it doesn't make sense.  Because we obviously do very much like the things that cause global warming.  

What I'm frustrated with is the ideal that behind global warming is something more important than our own future survival or stability, or simply, the capacity to continue to enjoy the material pleasures that we do enjoy--the ones that cause global warming in the first place.  I'm upset that people don't explicitly state that, yes, they are selfish, and their selfish desires contribute in some way to this big amorphous problem that we don't really have any answers for, and no, they're not going to completely stop doing the things they enjoy.  I'd much rather we were honest about our desires with other people. Who knows, maybe we are doing something that causes a lot of global warming, but we're ashamed to admit it, so we secretly enjoy it simply because it is supposedly bad, and not because we innately enjoy it?  I mean, I don't know, but I think frank talk is better than talking about how many miles my broccoli came before it landed on my plate.  I'm not an expert in greenhouse gases, but it possible that longer distance traveled doesn't always equate with higher emission of greenhouse gas.  

One other connection with global warming that needs to be made, quickly.  To buy into it, we must, simply, believe in the future of humanity, and care about those people slightly more than we otherwise would have if we solely considered our own satisfaction.   That might strike a lot of people as an obvious thing to believe in, but I'm not precisely sure it is, outside of a disney movie.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I don't want to get through today just to get to tomorrow, and live through tomorrow just to get to the next day.  And live through this week just to get to the weekend.

This strikes me as incredibly depressing, this pattern.

The crux of the matter is this: we need to figure out what it is we enjoy doing, and aim ourselves in that direction.

But, the problem, or barrier: if we delude ourselves about what we enjoy, then when we attain it, we won't actually be there, be happy, be fulfilled, however you want to say it.

Which is weird.  Because we, individually, should be able, if anyone at all is, to say what makes us happy, individaully.

Could it be that what makes us happy changes so often that once we attain that which we thought would do the trick we no longer want it?

If that's the case, then we've got some thinking to do about courtship.

And all achievements, really.

What we have to do, in short, is to figure out what we will want WHEN what we DO want doesn't give us what we expected.

AND THIS IS PROBLEMATIC.  Because now we're telling ourselves we want something we don't want, just because we know that what we do want is something we don't really want!

And that's the problem with intuition, for however many advantages it has.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Avoiding Hard Stuff.

For a long time in my life, I avoided any heavy lifting.

I used up most of my effort to make believe that I was involved in heavy lifting.

But I was, internally, at least, doing quite the opposite.

I avoided anything that confused me, or took a few steps to figure out what didn't come naturally.

I got off on indignation, and the naturally aspirated rants of my own youngish brain, which were many and diffuse.  Diffuse enough to get me into a mode of very deep self-deception.

If, for instance, I could line up a number of achievements on my mental shelf, or my actual shelf, by way of academic accolades, for example, than I could have it.  Meaning.  Pride.  The rewarding stuff that matters.

But, oh, sweet blog, life was just as empty as sin.

And I continued head first into it, even, after all of two graduate degrees, applying for a phd.  For what?  For status.  For status, and to continue the illusion that I'd accomplished something in my life.

To continue to believe that I mattered, de facto.

And this de facto importance is a problem, I think, because it enforces a culture of predestined privilege.  That I, for instance, so savvy to signal intelligence, should actually play some role in the world, as in, making decisions that impact lives.

I think it a familiar pang I felt, those days, adjusting down to zero.

And I recognize that zero isn't a healthy number to stay at forever.  No, I don't desire it.  No, not at all. But I don't get anywhere automatically, either, and I don't ultimately think anyone does.

Anyway, the point is only to say that, while I avoided stuff that didn't come naturally to me, I also avoided really trying at the things that did come naturally to me, because I didn't want to reveal to myself that I wasn't totally perfect with those things either--i.e. that my sheer natural ability was lacking in some minute way.

And I don't think I'm alone.  It seems unnatural to face challenge and embrace it, but I'm almost positive now that doing so actually opens up the world, instead of closing it, and frees us from the emotional bondage of vanity.

At least for a few moments of fresh mountain air, until we submerge down to the  muck again.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grieving Patterns

If there's no God,  and we don't "go" anywhere after we die, then I'm forced to conclude that grieving patterns (like those for recently deceased Czech leader Havel, found here) exist for other reasons.

Here are some possibilities, ranging from the personal to the political.

1. Obvious personal need to feel better after the loss of another human.

2.  Signal to other humans the association you or I had with the deceased

3.  Signal to other humans feeling of loss and pain

4.  Show that  deceased had the right amount of empathy and stature--i.e. that he/she was acted in an idyllic model fashion

Here's where it gets weird:

4.  Show respect to an idea, or collection of historical events.  This would be the arena of Havel.  This isn't so strange when the idea or collection of historical events increases the capacity for people to obtain happiness, and this is recognized through a grieving process.  I suppose death is a good opportunity to reflect.

The weird part is the collective conscious part.  Whatever it is that Havel did is enshrined in a number of different minds.  Not all of the minds that existed, that played a role in Havel and the fall of communism, even exist anymore, though.  So, the minds that pay homage are also minds that don't always have direct knowledge.

Query whether direct knowledge is necessary.

Query whether specific details are needed to back up general claims about levels of human happiness (and how to get it)?  If yes (that you can back up such claims) though, the question can be refined; you or I might need x amount of data to confirm or deny a general proposition (e.g. the fall of communism increased aggregate happiness in then post-soviet countries).

The weird part is that a different person lines up their requirements for the same general belief and comes up with a list that looks very much like our list, but is different in a few small areas, and yet, we still agree at the general level.

And weirder still is that, while we can probably boil our list down to essential elements and others can do the same, at times there can be two people who agree but have lists that don't look the same at all.

To Trust One's Instincts

The title should be, "To trust one's instincts and just live."  The question is how much we should think about, or analyze, before we take action, or conclude about descriptive facts.

The answer is: perhaps less than I've previously thought.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Clothes are Strange.

Clothes inform us about who we think we are!  They tell us to be comfortable, or stiff, or professional, or worse, sexy.  They are as much about attitude and behavior as they are about utility in the strictest sense.  This strikes me as odd.  It seems odd, for instance, that clothes would provide emotional comfort at all.  Take your favorite pair of jeans, or shirt, or type of jeans or shirt, and ask yourself why you prefer this/these items.  Lots of times the answer will be comfort, but I think it is much more along the lines of finding oneself acceptable in these clothes, that is, emotionally comfortable.

Still, I don't know why clothes would make me or you or any of us more or less emotionally comfortable, so long as they perform their basic social function.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Short and Long of it.

I'm a little bothered by the distinction between short and long term thinking, in part because I don't understand it.  There are a number of things I don't understand.

1. Causal currents: how much weight can we give to short term decisions causing long term outcomes?  I have no idea.  I also don't really know how to think specifically about how to measure any of our individual choices with outcomes.  For instance, if you chose to drive to work instead of take a train, or, worse, to cheat on your spouse, or something less, to commit money laundering, how does that impact you in the long term--or, in other words, how have some of those decisions, once made, already impacted you/me?  I know there are ways to figure some of this out in more clinical settings, with clean and comparable data, and measurable quantifiers.  It is also easier to see the "rules" on the margins.  I certainly will understand my current predicament well if I'm in jail and the reason I'm there is tied in with illegal activities.  That's not totally my concern.  My concern is more about the psychological.  What result is there, for instance, if all results are self-imposed?  Is that possible?  To what extent?

2. Another variant--assume all decisions are like markers, or paint.  And our lives are like huge, almost infinite, canvasses or paper.  Every decision point is some color, and every color comes in varying shades of weight, or intensity.  To what extent do we take into consideration the portion of the picture that's visible to us when we make future decisions?  Can we see the gash of blue or red behind us and decide to balance it off with some green or yellow?  Something light to balance something heavy? 

 3.  Dangerous justification.  It occurs to me that freedom is allowing yourself the exquisite capacity to fail.Otherwise, we fall into valleys of self-justification, that is, of always emotionally binding our past decisions with current status, and falsifying causation or lack of causation to maintain comfort, that is, to maintain success, or an image of success, whatever we see that  image as personally. I'm not sure getting around this is at all easy, because it is almost as automatic as breathing. But it is possible to detach yourself from yourself and isolate out this behavior, or I wouldn't be able to write this, right?  I'm worried it is only possible to see this in other people.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What if everyone suffers, too?

And you're not alone?

That is, what if you can't ground your suffering in the obviously banal and superficial happiness of all those other people out there.  What if they're really just trying to exist, to find out what makes them work, thrive, etc., and are not intensely unidirectional, or intentional.

To wit, what if they are honestly trying and you (me, by reference), are really making excuses not to try, because, in large part, it is much easier not to try and fail than to make an effort and realize that you/me are not that wonderful, or that intensely suffering, even, or that especially anything, but that, even a hundred years ago, and especially now, there are many more talented people out there, smarter and faster and more creative and willing to experiment and get up after being knocked down?

What if all those fancy schemes and shows and tells just come down to one thing:

What if nothing you've ever done is justified by anything other than your own narrow vanity?

I'd say that's not so surprising.  Unfortunately.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Delicate Balance of Courting

While courting is no doubt very, very fun at first, it can be horribly straining as well once we pass a few weeks or so, and become familiar enough that we are halfway comfortable.  This exists, I think, because we simultaneously want to find out as much information as possible while giving out only positive feedback and positive information about ourselves.  We don't want conflict.  We want paradise.  It is one of the worst possible scenarios, because we should in fact seek the most realistic possible engagements with the other person to simulate possible real life at some point in the future.  Both parties may placate each other for so long, and with such veracity because they want it to work, at times desperately, when the best possible solution is to leave early and save time.

So the complications are many, especially when we make compromises we ordinarily wouldn't make, and try to sound, for instance, enthusiastic about an idea when we're not, or say that something is okay with us, when, in fact, our inner voices scream that it is not okay at all.

In my experience, the most bonding possible scenarios occur when we can break through the anti-reality, the vacuum, that is courtship, and somehow sit in closer proximity to each other without rushing the actual intimacy part.  I'm not sure, outside of good well placed humor, this occurs, though.  Otherwise, I'm afraid, we're in for a lot of wasted time. 

I Want It. I Want it.

Ode to the under specified, unambiguous longing that makes our youthful selves into longing forlorn selves, into selves that despair, into selves that are broken, into selves that are cynical.  The romantic aesthetic of whatever it is true + the quick consumerism of fielding low level desires in record time = utter confusion without pinpointed complaints.  We are satisfied, we have everything we need, but we want something more!  Whatever it is, fuck it, we can go to the bar now and get a tasty IPA microbrew made, hey, right here in new york city, would ya figure?, and it IS just like it was, in my head, back in the 1890s, heavy-chord strike, industrial, factory-driven, cold-footed, self-localized romanticism, and it is like I want it to be now, isolated in my own head, walking streets via aqueducts, boutiques, and if we could just get to the corner and meet there, heaven might be had, except that we've been to that corner, been there and back again, and we're happy enough to pronounce the conclusions you'll have too, if you venture that way for too long.  Best to just pull up a stool and know that it isn't really worth it man, and the only way to know something for sure is to know that there is nothing, and when you do that, well, you get something pure, and if we can have something pure right here, then why go running out there into the multi-tiered color saturated world with uncontrolled variables and misaligned misanthropes.  Why not just, hey man, just give me another IPA and lets pass the time away here.  I've got a window.   You've got a credit card.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Emotional Logic

That emotional logic exists isn't too controversial, right?  I mean, if you've ever had a fight with, well, just about anybody, and that fight has been remotely personal--and by definition, fights are personal, right?--then you've discovered the fact that people operate under different emotional understandings/auspices, and that they interpret the data of the world around them through personalized filters.  Whether those filters are genetic or environmental is a side issue (though a real one, for they dictate to what degree we should perhaps try to re-train someone/ourselves, and whether we think that type of thing is possible, though I suppose even genetically determined traits can be flexible, right?),--- that we have real, sort of emotional structures of understanding, is beyond argument.  We might wish we didn't, but we do.  Even if the structures are couched in terms of logic, detachment, and clinical isolation, they exist, in that, we adhere to them irrationally.  That is, we adhere to them for reasons that are idiosyncratic, that cannot necessarily be explained to others through objective means.  

That is, of course, why fights occur.  We are emotional bubbles and highly interdependent, as well, so how we reveal our emotional foundations is a big deal for our associations, whether we like it or not.  And more often than not we reveal ourselves through reactions to other people's reactions, and when those other people are tied to us in more fundamental ways, well, we fight, because we can't leave.

There are two oddities here.  One, when we explain ourselves, we automatically add in more support to our side and strengthen our arguments implicitly. 

Two, a lot of fights don't exist because we simply need to explain our side fully, but because our emotional reaction to something (or someone else's emotional reaction to something), made them/us feel bad.  And often the fight is not about clarity of understanding, but the process we use to re-balance our notions of dis-balance.  Of purity, if you will.  Everyone has reasons that make sense to them, individually.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Moves You? (Self-Flagellation)

I had the odd experience the other day of riding the train home with a complete slug of a man.

He was overweight.  And obtuse.  And dense.

(And by the way if you're wondering, parenthetical aside, I'm overweight and obtuse and dense, so this was a particularly sickening ride.)

The point of the ride was nothing.  Instead, we just had to banter until we each respectively reached our destination.  Topics discussed include supermarkets, neighborhoods, various restaurants

On his side, preferences expressed verbally:

Does not want to fly more than 3 hours.

Has no interest in flying to Europe.

Likes to eat out at least three nights a week.

Likes to get to work early, about 7:15.

Doesn't eat breakfast at home.

Facts expressed:

Has two small children.

Is in mid-30s.

What is it that gets this guy going?  In all honesty?  What is it that gets him talkative?  Excited?

I'm sure there is something outside of an abiding underwater sensation of insecurity and frothy distance.  But I'm not sure what the fuck it is.  I'm not sure why the fuck I should care.  I'm not sure, in fact, why we have to pretend to be nice at all, or, if that's the case, why we would want to reveal anything ugly.  After all, if we're pretending to be nice, then we must be, under the surface, very cruel bastards, and the cruel bastard part must be propped up with something more than the seeming annoyance of appearance nice, or normal, or regular, or neutral.

Then again, there are probably distinct advantages with staying even and far, and I'm probably worse off for not utilizing those attributes myself as rules to guide my behavior when I start to get over-excited, as it were.  Still, I have to wonder, exactly, what life consists of, if we're always even and far and regular.  I value stability more, perhaps, than the next guy, but if we're conversing under the auspices of friendship (this wasn't a complete stranger), then it seems as though we should be able to knock down a few emotional layers here, and just sort of exchange information from a basic viewpoint, and let the chips land where they may.  But that's not what is going on.  Not what happened, that is.

We're neat and careful and patient far and even.  For what?  Why not put our own preferences first sometimes?  Why not act out and make other people uncomfortable so that we can be more comfortable (assuming that they won't be able to make us so uncomfortable in the near future that it wouldn't be worth it).

I guess part of the answer is that we don't want to be the asshole.  IF we're the asshole, then we'll be ostracized from information and goods and social status.  It helps if someone else is the asshole first, and everyone else (including me) can feel passionately outraged at the asshole's behavior, and then become honest as way to critique and become indignant.

Except what if the asshole is the only honest person in the room?  And only an asshole for the sake of the rest of us experiencing minutely less restricted emotional comfort?  Who does that make us exactly?

Friday, December 2, 2011


Since when did the word "Super" become the word to modify everything and anything?  Why not just use "very" in front of everything instead? 

Could my judgment about other people's word choice lead them to use the simplest words possible because the simplest words are the words most salient and accesible?

If I didn't write this, would I hear "super" less often?

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I used to feel the urge to make them.

In the elevator.

When I made eye contact.

When I found a way out of my skin into someone's space, or what I thought was their space.

And internally.  To myself, that is.  Because.  Just because.  I'd automatically stutter into them.  Even now, when there is silence, I start explaining.

And I'm so wrong.  Just achingly, foribiddingly wrong.  Not the explanations, themselves, not always, just the urge.

Because there is a much more peaceful life to be had.  In silence.  And hesitation.  And admitting discomfort.  And not producing comfort for others to produce comfort for yourself.

And I'm not a mean guy.  No.  I just am not a weak-kneed one anymore either--that is, I'm not always as weak-kneed as I used to be.  And the transition isn't comfortable.  Except when I realize it doesn't have to be.  Anything, that is.  Not comfortable, or uncomfortable, or branded or not branded. 

At least I'm trying to be that way.  I'm trying.  And I don't have an explanation for why.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lucinda Williams

Is both raw, aggressive and emotionally charged in a positive extroverted I'm going to fucking say what I need to say way, and simultaneously vulnerable, seemingly translucent in her willingness to expose herself, to allow anyone and everyone to have full indulgence in the hurt, the pain, the very sensitivity that so many of us feel, and somehow, she manages to show us a window into those two sides of the equation in full repose.

Which is to say that I'm in awe of her.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Baby, sweet baby, you're my drug 
Come on and let me taste your stuff 

Baby, sweet baby, bring me your gift 
What surprise you gonna hit me with 

I am waiting here for more 
I am waiting by your door 
I am waiting on your back steps 
I am waiting in my car 
I am waiting at this bar 
I am waiting for your essence 

Baby, sweet baby, whisper my name 
Shoot your love into my vein 

Baby, sweet baby, kiss me hard 
Make me wonder who's in charge 

(Repeat Chorus) 

Baby, sweet baby, I wanna feel your breath 
Even though you like to flirt with death 

Baby, sweet baby, can't get enough 
Please come find me and help me get f-----d up 

(Repeat Chorus) 

Your essence 
Your essence 

On Assholes

1.  How funny it is that much assholish behavior can come from the desperate desire for comfort, as in, deep seeded insecurity.  That seems odd to me, because assholish behavior should be pinpointed and deliberate, in my mind at least, not a cover for something weak.

2.  Many assholes have no idea that they are, in fact, assholes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Future Utility vs..Current Discomfort.

What life is all about.

I couldn't help but notice a woman in high heels this morning.  No, not because of the heels, necessarily, but because she avoided walking over a grate that I didn't think twice about.


Well, as women who have worn high heels will tell you, walking over grates with the shoes on is strictly prohibited.  As such, walking around a place like NYC is an adventure in avoidance of grates, to say the least.

Which leads me to this: there's gotta be some discomfort in walking around grates all the time.  For instance, if you're talking with someone while you walk, or simply walking with someone else at all, you must move, often times many feet, away from that person.  Likewise, if you're in a rush, you probably want to use the most direct line to your destination.

Which is all to say that there must be some benefit to wearing high heels that is great than the cost of being late, or acting slightly awkwardly in social situations.  And greater than the cost of foot surgery at a later date?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

At the end of the day, you still have to live.

That is, no matter what you've accomplished, or haven't accomplished.  And whether you drive a BMW, ferrari, honda, or subway to the party, drink fancy 15 year old scotch or budweiser, spend your time in front of the television, or the nytimes crossword puzzle, reading fancy french novels or romantic thrillers, find excitement in the simple or sophisticated, you, as in the collection of feelings and thoughts that constitutes your subjective experience in the world, still have to live.  As in, ultimately, all of your decisions only come down to how much weight you want to apply to them, so long as you aren't in prison (and maybe even if you're in prison?)--only that on average, you have to find a way to continue to exist.  That's the point, eventually, regardless of what other ideals come into being to stand for existence. And I'm not sure, of course, that thinking about existence is the best way to go about existing.  Perhaps it is best to think about apple pies.  Or blueberry muffins.  Or maybe I'm just hungry.  

Because we all try really hard, and we want to feel like our trying is worth something.

Or, more to the point, a lot of us find the most efficient route to the least effort and most reward, because effort is difficult, by definition, but we should be really clear with ourselves that when we're in subjective internal monologue mode, self-branding, i.e. creating the narrative that goes with all of the associated actions and thoughts we've left in drip drop pattern on the road back there, well, we're not very good at being accurate.  We're very good at justifying our own actions, and feeling outrage.  And forgetting why we did things.  Because there aren't always reasons, or at least there aren't always reasons that encapsulate all of the stuff that we have now as a result of an experience.  For example, if we just got out of a relationship, there's no way we willed all of the interactions that occurred within the relationship.  Yet it is this type of thinking that often handicaps us about, well, most things--that we somehow willed everything there is around us.

And I started out talking about how we have to come to terms, that is, to live, regardless, and I'm not sure that I can offer you, or myself, any advice on the process.  Because the bottom line is that we're, as in you and I, we're just our own worst enemies: we're simultaneously full of the most rich data that makes the evaluation possible and the most emotional attachment to skewing that data as well.  And so we're always going to be too rigid about some things. But with all of that said, it doesn't necessarily clear the way toward anything specific, is the thing, unless you think it does.  In which case, go out and do it.  You can use me as a footnote for later.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Purity = Respectability

It strikes me that what I meant to write when I wrote about purity a few posts ago, was that it stands, in a very real way, as a proxy in most people's thinking patterns, for the capacity to respect or be respected.

Without purity, there can be no respect.  With purity, there can always be respect (even veneration).  In that, we have an intuitive sense of whether someone is pure, whether their actions are valid, whether what they tell us has only one layer, whether there is something essentially clean about them, and trusting that instinct is easier than thinking about, or evaluating, their behaviors toward us, or even toward themselves, or toward their other friends.  As in, it allows us to believe that if we've been treated with a pure sense of purpose, then a person him- or herself is in fact respectable.

Discipline seems to be the number one way to acquire purity, i.e. to restrict oneself, or to purify oneself if you've become dirty.

Once someone has become dirty to us, we sincerely dislike interacting with them and brand them inauthentic.

And once we do that we find justification in all sorts of treatment, not the least of which is talking about them in a dis-respectable manner (i.e. broadcasting our conclusion about who they really are).

The most extreme example of this treatment is, naturally, straight up torture and murder.  What torturing and murdering other people--what gossiping about them--does, is to cleanse us of them.

Anyway, even if you don't agree with my last statement, you'll surely recognize your own repulsion to lewd behavior.  And I'd bet that our repulsion is in part because certain rules of purity have been crossed.

(Not that purity or the idolization of purity is necessarily bad, just that we should perhaps recognize why it is we're insanely attracted or repulsed when exposed to something).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Are You Waiting For?

What is it that you secretly desire that you do not allow yourself?

Why not?

How the hell are we supposed to judge whether the answer to that question is reasonable or not?

What if our thoughts are so tightly woven that we can't break free from them, and acting on our intuitions will fundamentally reassemble our thought process such that we act in ways discordant with who we previously were, by way of similar actions, and we don't really know it.

The fabled dual self!

Anyway, it would be scary if we do stuff we don't know we do, and even scarier to do stuff we don't know why we do.

Which isn't to say that we don't do that stuff, just that it is too scary to think about, when you sit down to think about it.

So let's have a smoke break, shall we?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Becoming Comfortable.

Let's say you have a chore to do, and the chore (like singing a song for instance) makes you nervous.  So you fuck it up, because you're nervous.  And you let down your dad, for instance, who, let's say, is bob dylan.  And it is easy to let him down, you know the best, because, well, he is who he is. And then you can't fucking sing anything at all and produce a bunch of medicore stuff becuase it is easier to do that because at least you are comfortable.  And yet.

And yet.

You're capable of more.  And one day you actually do produce the good stuff that maybe your dad saw in you from the beginning, and maybe when you do you all of a sudden come to a realization that it isn't hard at all, so much as it necessitates slowing all the way down, and feeling the world, understanding its texture, and whatnot, and then, once you can perform at that level, well, it isn't hard at all, because it is joyful in fact, and the entire reason your dad has been so disappointed in you is because you haven't allowed yourself to experience joy, and not because you can't sing like hank williams, and the entire reason you've felt like shit is because you haven't been able to relax and just exist.  And one day, it all goes together and there's a moment when we're essentially ready to die because we can understand struggle, and we can see beauty, and we can share it with someone else fully, as in both parties understand the same as the other, and there it is, the meaning, so simple, so easy, so natural, and so long coming.

Too bad it doesn't stick around.

But I will download the album.


Seems to me purity plays a large role in how we evaluate our own acts, in real time, and how we evaluate (also in real time) other people's actions toward us or intrinsically.

Did they have the appropriate purity to act as we think they acted?

Did we have the appropriate purity to partake in our own behaviors and feel good (guilt-free) about them?

Do we have a higher stake in the arena of purity on balance than others?  Do we think we're better because we're somehow more pure?  Or do we think that more pure is simply better, period.

We certainly capitulate reason to nostalgia and sentimentality frequently enough for me to feel that we have a reason for doing so, and I often reflect that our reason is our own supposed purity.

And I'm not even talking about purity as a modifier, although I suppose it would fall in line with the above, and our general ordering of things.

To wit: We don't necessarily like standards that are applied to us from someone else, but we all, and I earnestly believe this, hold ourselves to some standards, whatever they might be.  And, if that's true, if standards are out there, lurking, universal, implacable but different, some highly explicit and some so implicit that actions are taken on the backs of the rugged beasts even when the mere fact of the standard is not recognized (that it needs food, that it bucks, that it sleeps, that it breathes man, and that it has lice), it means only one thing: we're all blazing fucking idiots and it is fundamentally useless to think about how to stop conflict, in whatever incarnation we often do, and we should somehow become much more direct and much less worried about offending others (because if we're all direct, and not worried, then I have a feeling that average offense and average umbrage will actually decrease).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Notice to Women out there RE: men.

Men enjoy, perhaps more than anything else, talking about themselves. 

Memory of Events matter as much as Events

This is a weird one, but quite obvious: Our memories, whether accurate or not (most often weighted toward how we felt at the end of a particular episode), are in some ways distinct from the actual experience of an event/episode.  Such that, our memories are what we talk about, and what we consider, when we consider anything, in retrospect.  Odd, I think, because it means that if there's not a very good fit between how the process of solidifying memory works from the basis of how we experience the world, that we'll have at times fully detailed lies that masquerade as the truth of what we knew we lived through, but which, in fact, are not necessarily close.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thinking of Getting an MPP/MPA Degree?

Do yourself a favor and just get the MBA instead.  It won't preclude you from any field.  It will instead, simply add options.  Definitely worth it in the longerish run.

Female Orgasm, Visualized in the Brain

Here's the link.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One of the weeks when I don't post for a week.

Excuse my lack of posting.  I'm not sure where it started, this lack.  I have to try to hold thoughts down better, pin them in the corner as it were, or try to get my knees up in the crotch area quickly enough to draw blanched faces and moans of woe.  Keep them still for a moment, isolated from each other.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life is Limited.

Let's recognize this: for lots of reasons we can't understand, life is simultaneously more complicated and restricted than we can fully comprehend.  We don't fully control the trajectory of our own lives, much less other people's lives, and everyone generally acts out of what they think at the time is a good idea, however much we might disagree from outside.  The basic fact remains that who we chose to be vulnerable with, and who choses to be vulnerable with us (vulnerable: showing or expressing emotions that you would only look at fully alone, and/or asking for advice on key life issues, and listening, developing an ear, and offering those things) is going to play a large role in determining how we see the world and how the world appears to us.  If we're always inflated by grand ideas and unobtainable dreams, we may in fact be doing some harm to those that we're in fact closest to, and that harm might simply be the negligence of our own expansive ideals, the underbelly, if you will.  In that case, maybe it is time to roll up the sleeves and make some pot roast.

Smoking, Reasons.

1) Associative: Smokers can leave the confines of whatever restrictive social coalition has formed and break from it in a way that is justified (although decreasingly so in many parts of the country and world).

2) Happenstance: Smoking is extremely physically addictive, so having been exposed without large reprimand, or prohibitive barriers (high cost) smoking activities can continue.

3) Dominance: In a group of people (particularly young men), smoking can show dominance, in that it shows capacity to access a black market good, is a visible marker of one's ability to garner limited resources.

4) Status:  Smoking looks very cool and sexy. It can elevate one's standing in a group (though does not always do so).

5) Substitute for food: Practically speaking, smoking deters eating, at least temporarily, so quitting smoking usually results in an uptick of caloric intake.

6) Others?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Character, complex, misunderstood, faces adversity, hits bottom,

gets depressed, gets an insight, some hope, strives, suffers setback, succeeds, is modest about success even though obvious that character is the sole reason for characters success.

2. character, overly confident, suffers a loss, goes through a journey, finds hope in wrong places, discovers new found appreciation for the mundane, prosaic shit that is everyday life, eyes are opened, and character leverages previous status to open other people's eyes, even though they don't at first listen.

3. character suffers loss of child.  see 1.

4.  character, overly depressed, struggles, gives up, dies. life after death is revealed.  choices must still be made.  audience leaves whispering about insight.

5.  character kidnaps supposed rapist of daughter, changes him into a woman and falls in love with him/her.  "the skin i live in."

Optimism Bias

We consistently face decisions that are, at their core, predictions about future events.  When we are principally involved though, we suffer from an insider status (as per Kahneman in his new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, link).  In short, we attach much higher probability to our own successful read of the situation, and ultimate completion of a task, than base rates (rates across high numbers of the same situation/task completed by similar folks) would predict.  We consistently under-appreciate other people's experience of an event that we must now navigate and over-estimate our own capacity.    This works in the construction business, where add-ons are common (and I'm here to testify to their existence!), and to the absolutely horribly ability of CFOs at large companies to have any idea what the stock market will do in the future, and for psychoanalysts to help their patients with talk therapy.

Much more of what exists, i.e. how things turn out, is due to luck and chance than it is to our will.  That's not a nice story, but it is an accurate one.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prison = Redistribution of Wealth

In a very real way, committing a serious enough crime to get locked up is a desperate measure to get some kind of governmental aid.  Prison isn't cheap, especially if you're a youthful offender.   It is far more expensive--per slot, per year--than education or full-time child care.

More on this when I have time to research.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Women: You Are Better.

Women: You are often times better than the men you are with.  You don't leave because you fear rejection and isolation, because we all have a bias toward familiarity and the present--but you don't have to let this keep you down.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thinking About Death and Life and Years in Monetary Terms.

It is easy to fantasize about making a lot of money.

It is much more depressing to actually calculate how much money you or I would need to stop working, because it means that we'd need to calculate our expenses on a yearly/monthly basis until our terminal point, our deaths.  And we can do the math, with a few assumptions.

I'm 30 years old.  I'll most likely live to about 80. That's 50 years.

Current monthly expenses: approximately 2000-2500, so about $30,000 after taxes to live at current levels without any bumps in the road, or new purchases (like a car).

But let's build in an extra $10,000 a year for those interruptions.  Now I need $40,000.

And then we'd need to take into account some inflation.  Okay, let's assume an even 5%  Now I must open excel.  Perhaps though I can get an average rate of return from investments equal to about 5%.

And let's say tax is approximately 30%.

So, an income of $60,000 yields $42,000 after taxes.  That's enough given the above assumptions.   Now, 60k * 50 years = $3.0 million.

There you have it folks.  Simple, assumption loaded.  Anyone have 3 million around so I can retire early?

Edit: It is more than likely that if I actually had that money I wouldn't be capable of budgeting it appropriately, and that I'd value the present higher and spend accordingly--30k when you have 3,000,000 looks a lot different than when you have 42,000.

Seeing and Thinking Accurately

(I'm reading Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.)

I'm not sure this project will improve net utility/happiness/satisfaction,  though it could prove insightful.

All that is insightful is not welcome, all the time.  For instance, if I can see clearly that I'm at least partially a bestial primitive animal, should I want to be aware of that if (and note the if!), I won't necessarily act on those impulses?  Wouldn't it be better to be submerged in my experience and "just" live without having the meta-view of living while I'm trying to do the living?

Should we be aware of everything?  Maybe partial delusion is best.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Suffering to Produce Art?

What is it about suffering that makes good art?

Let's back up, because maybe you disagree with the premise.  Or maybe it is stated too generally to disagree or agree with. What makes folks who have seemed to suffer produce good art?  Or, alternatively, what makes previously good artists who make it commercially, bad.

Alternative scenarios:

1) The artist's work hasn't changed at all, but the viewing of the work has changed

2) The work has changed in a dramatic fashion, and superceded the public's taste for the work: the artist has, essentially, advanced, or branched out, faster than allowable to stay relevant (in the current country/culture/milieu/etc).

3) The artist never suffered at all.  But mass appeal came about and changed his/her status, so that his/her work must now be taken more seriously.  Anything taken more seriously--i.e. anything we're willing to become more familiar with--will yield some forgiveness in the dance we call perception.

I'd like to propose that artists do indeed get worse if they don't push themselves (or somehow are pushed).   I don't think it is the suffering that causes good arts, but the capacity to back away from the suffering, to get through it, to have a change of perspective, that allows a certain alignment, a certain insight, and, after a lot of work, perhaps, some art can emerge built on that insight.  In short, without becoming uncomfortable, we don't change perspectives too fast, and don't produce very good art. 

Disclaimer: There's a long continuum between dissonant art and consonsant art--i.e. art that drastically differs from what you expect (so much so that it takes serious amounts of time to begin comprehending it) and art that is slick, easy to digest and finds instant resonance.  However, it is assumed at times that consonant art is somehow inauthentic.  That's perhaps not the case as much as we (cynics) would like to think.  It is incredibly hard to produce a piece of very slick immediately available art.  It may even be easier, at times, to produce something aphasic, ineffable, or so dissonant that there can be almost no audience besides those sympathetic with the artist, and not because the art is available to them.  Having said that, naturally those folks who become specialized in viewing art have a different taste, by virtue simply of higher exposure.  I'm not exactly sure what role that plays in the fundamentals of the piece of art on display yet though.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why Delusion Persists

It isn't because people are stupid, but because we have egos that tell us that we're better than other people.

In essence, there's a delicate balancing act going on between the the need to be accurate and the need to succeed, to be viable, that is, to be attractive to others. 

For example, if we're rejected for an award, a promotion, or something similar, our egos allow us to reject the rejection and assert our "true" nature, and our cognitive rational minds swoop in to provide a host of reasons (however one sided). 

And that allows us to try to succeed again.

Without it, we might not, and if we didn't try, well, then it would be easy not to accomplish anything.

However, the bounds of our ego should come into play when we need correction.  Correction doesn't come easily, because a lot of us have learned to trust intuition more than almost anything else, particularly the messages of others who have experiences that we could learn from.  When we feel like we're exceptional, we don't want to sacrifice it for accuracy.  Hence delusional thinking.  It is easy, if you don't try, even natural.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hindsight Bias and Personal Identity Based Narrative

It is all too easy to say that certain events and circumstances caused other events to occur, once both happened already.

For instance:

I am strong willed because I suffered physical child abuse.

I'm analytical because my parents were so simple and I wanted to rebel.

Anyhow, basing current life choices on how we perceive previous events isn't necessarily wrong--there's definitely a piece of the truth in there--but it isn't necessarily right, either, and it may be useless (except that it makes for an interesting story).  Unfortunately, our brains are very good at creating stories for our current situations, so good that it happens naturally and we often don't notice that we've been telling ourselves certain things about ourselves.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Marriage Is A Contract/Relationship

We don't like to cross the social/monetary value that much.  As in, we don't like to say what our social experience is worth in quantified or financial terms.  It produces a yucky internal feeling, one that, we think, tarnishes the social purity of the situation.  That's why it is easy to hate corporations, conglomerates, or anyone who has made it enough to talk about--they've figured out somewhere along the line that what they produce must be able to be consumed, and what is consumed can be quantified, and that there are patterns to successful consumption and production.  It isn't a secret so much as it is a battle cry to talk about the slickness of corporate products, the washed out quality of something mass produced, or the authenticity of the antiques in ever growing shops within a 250 mile radius of new york city. 

Chronicling All Existence -

For the sake of argument, let's assume that everything is recorded in some form or another.  What would you participate in (assuming our technological capacity puts us at the level of viewer and not direct participant), or view?  What does this say about our experience of time?  Why are we limited or not limited in how much we can understand a particular viewing?  What about viewing another experience gives us insight into it?  Why should we be able to understand it?

Neil Young Provides Men Acceptable Sentimental Emotive Stance

I couldn't help but stop walking this morning and just listen to the downtown NYC scenes that surrounded me--I work close to Ground Zero, and as such, there's a bunch of construction going on, not surprisingly.  So typically I hear clanking and banging, but this morning I heard Neil Young singing about fading into black, and then I stopped, too, and listened, and his voice carried me off into pure nostalgia, kind of sweet, tinged bitter, you know the sort, and I suppose that's just the way it goes on a chilly November morning.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wanna Do Right, but not right now.

Gillian Welch:

Oh me oh my oh, look at Miss Ohio
She’s a-running around with her rag-top down
She says I wanna do right but not right now

Gonna drive to Atlanta and live out this fantasy
Running around with the rag-top down
Yeah I wanna do right but not right now

Had your arm around her shoulder, a regimental soldier
An’ mamma starts pushing that wedding gown
Yeah you wanna do right but not right now

Oh me oh my oh, would ya look at Miss Ohio
She’s a-runnin’ around with the rag-top down
She says I wanna do right but not right now

I know all about it, so you don’t have to shout it
I’m gonna straighten it out somehow
Yeah I wanna do right but not right now

Oh me oh my oh, look at Miss Ohio
She a-runnin’ around with her rag-top down
She says I wanna do right , but not right now
Oh I wanna do right but not right now.

Hanging Back (and Being Okay With It)

Social situations that involve more that one person are often predicated on an almost hyper-social aggressive stance, competition of talking, humor, sarcasm, and wit.  It isn't so much the wit itself, but how much weight those around the person speaking give that wit.  Hyper-competitive social surroundings are thus simultaneously stimulating (everyone's trying really hard, and this is worth something, in the vein of learning) and defining, exhaustive and relentless.  The appearance of not trying hard is important, and takes a lot of effort.  There's a fine line between apathy and pedigree, in that regard, and people almost always answer the questions they want to answer, or disagree with the opinions they want to disagree with, instead of listening to what is said.

I personally hate the sinking feeling of being left out socially, but I also realize that, over time, social groups are quite fluid, and that even exclusion has benefits.  Which isn't to say so much that I'm just okay with it, but that in social situations these days, I'm more inclined to hang back, i.e. not become too emotionally involved if I can help it, and listen to what's being said. I also try hard to start sentences with a summary of what's just been said, first. One thing I can't stand, though, in that I have very little tolerance for it, is when people speak in a completely referential way, dropping the names of thinkers, authors, et al, and don't bother clarifying, or even, generally, saying something specific enough that it matters in any case.  Drives me nuts.  Just say what you want to say without references, please, until we know that we're on the same page.  Otherwise, you might as well go to your bathroom mirror and give a speech to the masses that wait for you there.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Success and Longevity: A Paradox (and a note on Adultery)

First truth: Success is at least partially predicated on one's willingness to commit to a singular activity--and stay committed through time at the behest of choosing other options.  By sheer will power of commitment alone, other people will drop out of the competition and your chances of reaching success will increase.  Query whether the costs are worth it later.  For now, the important point is that commitment over time does yield success, or at least, increase the chances of it.

Second truth: Figuring out what you're good at by trying a lot of different things, failing, and then revamping what you're trying to focus on new things (Trial and Error) will help yield success.

Ugly Truth:  We might not want what we want.  That is, we might only want the benefits and not the costs.  For instance: education. We might love the idea(l) of becoming a highly educated person, highly revered, that is, but dislike the cost of school and the labor it takes.  Who we truly are, that is, regardless of what we tell ourselves, comes out within a constrained system like this.  Constraints matter, because they shape decisions.

Example. Men (and woman, okay) often have conversations about who they find attractive, and who they would desire to engage sexually with, if...  Many of these statements follow a line that goes like this: "If there were no consequences, then . . ."   The problem is that there are always consequences, and consciously disregarding them doesn't get rid of them.  It might work to justify certain behavior "I slept with her but it didn't mean anything" means: "I slept with her but I consciously disregarded the consequences," which also means, "I slept with her but had no intentions of committing to her in any other way."  Which also means, "I am really committed to you, even though I slept with her." Which makes you wonder what "committed to you" means.

Anyway, the distance at which we see our restraints, temporally, usually defines how seriously we'll take them.

And I'll go out on a limb and say that the distance with which we see potential benefits defines how seriously we'll take them.  That simply means that we are very bad at holding simultaneous conflicting views of cost in our heads--we seek moral clarity and that means we see linear narrative about our actions.  The lottery ticket is worth it today, because of the possible benefits (but when we analyze how much it costs per year if we bought it every day compared to the chance of winning, this perspective shifts).

So, commitment can yield success, and trial and error might yield success, too.

Which one yields more success, faster?   Damned if I know.

Hypnotized by Gillian Welch

Last Saturday I saw Gillian Welch at the Beacon (first time).  For a while afterward, I couldn't express in words what I experienced--but I'd say now that it was hypnotizing.  I cried multiple times from the sheer beauty of it, the way she mixes pleasure and pain, and how she shows hard won insight while remaining light-hearted in spirit.  If you haven't listened to her before, or don't know of her, consider checking her out.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Self Doubt--

Self-Doubt is healthy.  The problem arises only when it paralyzes.  One of the paradoxical ways out of this paralysis to realize our utter, incomprehensible lack of importance.  I think it helps to do this for two reasons.

1) The quick emotional reaction to self-doubt is often, whether internal or the result of a conversation with friend(s), assurance.  Assurances that we're already where we should be might take away the motivating factor that some self-doubt can provide.

2)If we're not important, then doing something perfectly--that is, trying, failing, learning, and trying again, isn't put on a pedestal (given an audience), and we might actually create something--be involved in some project--without first thinking about how it will be received, or whether we're doing it right.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Closure Matters

If we seek something universally besides the feeling of fairness, it is closure--that loose ends will tie up at the end of the day, and that ambiguity will be manageable. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Submerged vs. Explicit

As a running theme that things might not necessarily change when we begin to understand them, here's another issue:

Successful communication seems predicted (defined?) by the reception of a message as that message was intended.   A tautology if I've ever written one (oh, and I've written a fair amount of them, and they are almost as senseless).

But what about those moments when we have "inter-subjective" i.e. "mutual" understanding with very few words?  What about moments when we have a lot of words and not a lot of understanding?  Who is the arbiter of such moments, besides the parties present?

There are a few people in my life who I don't understand (despite adamant pleas of clarity on their part), and who also drive emotional daggers into me.  I can't help but be sucked in by what I think they are saying, and I'm almost always wrong.  Yet they impact/ed me more than a host of other people who had boring easy messages.

So partially, we don't communicate as well as we could because we want to leave open the possibility that what we're communicating encompasses what you (listener) want to hear.

Another reason is that we aren't in fact in touch with our true intentions and beliefs, and because it might take work to unearth them, don't do it (i.e. we are mentally lazy)--that's okay, in fact, average, and mostly acceptable.  It isn't always a pretty picture to see.

Another reason is that we think we're more effective communicating with less actual explicit communication because the truncated version is actually more accurate.  This to me is the most fascinating: thorough, comprehensive, and concise.  Somehow both.

Final reason why we don't communicate as effectively as we could: we don't want to rule out open possibilities in the future--i.e. we're mini-politicians, and what we say sticks to us (to a lesser extent perhaps than we think).

Marker For Today

Keeping track of one's mental state may seem circular, but perhaps provides a way to quantify it and see patterns.  Hence my brand new excel sheet.  I'll give you a graph in a month.

Note as well that breaking away from absolutist rhetoric is a must for successful living--nothing must be, at least nothing that I care about.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hardest Things: Guitar and Marriages

Two related thoughts (I assure you): it is hard to realize that you must learn to play the guitar by learning an immense amount of patterns that, if broken, sound bad.

It is also hard to realize that the ideal so often romanticized, that we have a true and singular "meant to be" significant other, is not true.  We don't.  We can't just pick up the guitar and make up the rules, just like we'd like to but can't copy a foreign language without learning it first (and by the way, once you learn it, you lose that damn cool essential foreign aspect, because you know--almost all of a sudden--what people are saying, so it goes from tremendously romantic to tremendously mundane, although still intractably special in a different sense (and I have a lot left to learn, no doubt)).  Every guitar solo follows a pattern.   And every relationship is hard work--worthy hard work, that is, to turn someone into a special someone, although less like a drug, and also hard work to open oneself to that other person.

And even though I haven't changed my guitar strings in years, I was only a little out of tune just now, when I picked the old instrument out of the case and strummed it into merriment and balanced [idiosyncratic] bliss/== my own.

Think You're Unique, or that the World is Full of Violence?

Here's an interesting read on uniqueness that says everyone else thinks they're unique too.

And here's an interesting read that shows violence at historically low levels globally.

Seeing Is Not Changing

No matter how clear we can see a personality trait, social problem, or relationship dynamic, whether in ourselves or in other people, actually changing it in some meaningful positive way is much more difficult.  Unfortunately, it is really tempting to think that comprehension is equivalent to conclusion.  It isn't.  And it is frustrating to see a problem clearly and be able to do precisely nothing to stop it. 

Simultaneously, somehow, we need to be careful that we're not deluding ourselves into the trap of clarity, and note that we only see a fraction of any reality in front of us.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Being What You Are.

I don't know myself as well as I'd like to know myself.  Fact is, I'm upset with myself for being so conservative, biting, cynical, and, more days than not, reserved in a way that does not bolster future prospects for action.

What I mean, precisely, is that, up until about a year ago, I held myself in disregard.  Instead I told myself that I possessed certain traits.  I was environmentally friendly.  I was left of center.  I was open and understood different cultures, and mostly found them more interesting than my own culture.  Most of that just isn't true, at least not at first.  The frustrating truth is that those items drive much more my consumption patterns than they matter externally for any of the issues I'd hope to impact with my beliefs.  As a matter of policy, my ideas about racial segregation don't matter.  My choice to purchase certain goods (real estate) do impact this topic, but they are mostly marginal--I only count for one extra unit.  That's damn frustrating for someone that has spent a lot of time studying racial segregation. Like me.

What's also frustrating is that, despite the mountain of repetitious thought/studying/dogma/mantra that I've been telling myself, it remains a fact that I do get uncomfortable around people--not just people of different races, whatever that might mean--but anyone, period.  And I've utilized my aggressive openness  about culture to ignore who it is I am.  That's not saying that I don't get to know people, adapt, relax and eventually learn how to have fun, though it is a process.  I feel like a kid in my life generally lately, learning all the basic steps again, or for the first time.  There's always a difference between living something and saying something--between understanding something conceptually and understanding something from experience.  Sometimes the conceptual understanding folks can talk a good game, and the experience understanding folks cannot, so policies are made from concept and not experience.  I hope that experience in concepts doesn't pass for real experience, but I also think that we've got to face some facts: the world is too complicated for us to synthesize, and we must rely on other people to navigate it.   Because someone out there has been where we are now, and faced the type of problems that we have now (or can reframe our problems for us), and we need that person.--to survive.


Being overt about our needs might not be the most direct route to getting those needs satisfied.

And yet.

I have been too flexible.  Sometimes being an asshole gets needs met better than being an accommodating doter.

Anyway, maybe my biggest fear is that the "newer" truths that replace older truths are still lies, and that I'm not getting any closer to knowing my true self (while recognizing that my true self is not totally static, or that, perhaps, chunks of narrative cannot encapsulate my entirety, and all that other fluff).  I do think that we're flexible.  (Hard work produces results.  The sheer will to adapt and get better at something impacts performance.).  Our flexibility has limits, though, and trial and error (actually performance mistakes in real time) is beneficial, even thought it stings (and makes one feel like an enormous failure, and produces a severe uptick in cortisone, etc).  One of the many pervasive narratives I have to warn myself against is the feeling that everything will be explained to me at some point, that there are pieces to a larger quilt that I cannot see, and generally that there is a strong level of determinism in the direction of my life.  Feeling that way might help my motivation in the short term, sure enough, but it doesn't actually help me, because it makes me lazy (because it allows me to ignore aspects of the world that don't fit my personal narrative).    Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself, but  I don't see a giant thermometer of self-cruelty sticking out of my ass that's about to blow, so I wouldn't know.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Culture: How to Reveal Emotion

Culture, at the root, is about how we learn to reveal our emotions, how we learn to synthesize other people's emotions, and how we find expression for the subjective world in relatively objective means (i.e. in a way that can be readily understood by another person or communicated).  It is also how we utilize the outer world to refine our inner thoughts. 

Sure, "emotions" might be a sloppy word to encapsulate the lived experience that we in fact experience.  My only point is that how we learn to reveal what it is we're comfortable with, or uncomfortable with, is contingent on the culture we're exposed to, and signifies, to a large extent, our willingness to associate with certain types of other people.   More refinement on this soon.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I'm not a numbers person.

Except that, maybe I am, and I've been deceiving myself for a very, very long time, because it was easier not to be challenged.

What are you not? 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I don't know.

I don't know how my life will end up.  Even if I can think about it, and I can, it doesn't matter. At that point, I'll be toward the end of it, after all.  Maybe it'll end tomorrow, and I can think about how my life will be toward the end of it (sitting in a room with a computer and a cat?).

Unless post-life experience is made up of pure thought, and therefore my thought alone determines my existence.  If that's the case, then I can think I'm dead and be dead, but somehow, still be alive. I can also go to my own idealized version of heaven, or hell, or nowhere. 

It is a funny thought experiment, to allow the notion that post-life exists in a way that mirrors what we think it will be, especially if we couldn't reflect on the lives we just left behind.

Either way, I don't know.  I especially don't know what a thought-contingent post-life looks like when I don't know.

Kind of scary to think that I'm deluding myself--like I could be dead and not know it, or I could be alive and not know it because I think I'm dead.

It is also scary to think about a thought-contingent world.  I don't want that.  I want something to exist, even if it is big and complex and I can't grasp it.  I want to have a large scale order and meaning.  I probably won't ever get that either.  I'm just not that talented at thinking about it.

Instead, maybe I'll go for small level order, and accomplishing what I can accomplish, even thought it kills me not to strike out for that which is gigantic. 

Yes, that sigh you hear is the rush of my ideals out of the window.

Intelligence and Emotions

Here's a shitty thing: someone is highly intelligent, but also has a hard time showing it.  Like, for instance, that he or she cannot communicate in front of more than one person effectively, or cannot find around nerves when presenting a subject to a group of people (or a boss), such that the person, however extremely talented in the substantive area of endeavor, is ineffective at becoming more specialized in that field, and perpetually unhappy or dissatisfied.

Should we require that all people conform to basic norms of behavior in order to exhibit their skill-set, however undeveloped it may be because of lack of interaction?

Is the question precisely backward?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Raw and Strategic

I long to be raw and strategic, a cut-to-the-chase kind of person.  I'm endlessly forgiving and accommodating though.  I wonder if that is a genetic trait. Even when I tell myself, even in the moment before an unexpected interaction, that I will be self-serving and raw and won't accommodate, I turn right around on my inner self and smooth everything over. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Evoke Emotion (if you're trying to make it as an artist)

Whether we like this pedestrian idea or not, evoking emotion is the primary aim of artists (whether acting, painting, writing, joke telling, etc)--the trick, of course, is twofold/

1) different people learn to reveal emotions in culturally contingent ways, so class status, and background variables will impact how and to what extent they'll be able to reveal emotions

2) your own personal struggle put into art (i.e. your own emotional development) might not resonate with large sectors of the population.  that's why artists hate "commercial" artists who pander to a broader section--primarily because those first group of artists fancy themselves to reveal to a higher level of taste, whereas commercial artists are more like politicians.

BUT, if you're a struggling artist, it would be a good idea to look outward and think about whether what  you're doing resonates with other people and not just with your own sense of accurately portraying your internal self, however interesting to you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Verbs over Adjectives and Adverbs

It is obvious to me that, at least in fiction writing, verbs matter more than adjectives and adverbs.  Instead of saying:

"He quickly walked out of the house, the cold air a tonic to his miserly fatigue."

"He slithered out of the house, the cold air a tonic . . ."

It evokes a different image without adding to the density or complexity of the sentence--it essentially builds character through action, rather than separating out the two. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

An Ignorance Problem--My Own.

Here we go.  Economics.  I have always struggled to grasp their slippery seal concepts (however cute).  There's a lot to grasp, and my brain is limited. 

However, here's one problem I've been exposed to recently: the low cost of labor.

If I'm an economist, I can think this is good, because, in short, the cost of goods will be cheaper, and our net collective savings will come in the form of our dollars going a longer way in our respective baskets.

Still, when we consider poverty, we basically come up with a set of standards that we find unacceptable. And when we chose low-cost labor (such labor that, annualized, returns less in income to participants than poverty rates dictate), we have a subset of the population living in standards that we have collectively deemed unacceptable through a poverty rate.

Now, how to solve poverty?

One way would have to be an attempt to universalize labor standards across the world.

Another idea seems to me to be to raise the price of goods to internalize all externalities.  To the extent that goods can be made cheaply because of other costs (deferred) we can chose to (i.e. regulate, I think is the only way) some of the costs of doing business.

Obviously, we can prop up those in poverty until they are in an acceptably un-impovereshed state through direct welfare type benefits as well.  However unpalatable to the political right, we actually spend more in welfare-type benefits than before welfare reform, if we include food stamp expenditures in the analysis.  The trick is that there are work incentives attached, so it doesn't seem unfair to the outside observer (forget about the daily experience of what this means).

Anyway, assuming we view jobs as a fundamental way to better our living standards, out of poverty, as a society, we would have to wrestle with the extremely low-pay, low-status jobs, jobs that exist, after all, because there is demand for them (there's just a LOT of unskilled supply too)--and somehow internationalize pay scales across currencies.  This is partially covered by the market in the form of returning cheap goods, but I don't think it is fully covered.  I don't have the numbers to back this up, though.  I don't have the time to find them right now because I have to go to work! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Easy Contempt

Perhaps it is a worn out cliche.  Still, it is easier to feel contempt, to be negative, or to find an excuse not to make an attempt, than to find reasons, be positive, or look for understanding under the surface of chaos.

Depression is Comfy

I've been thinking about the rationale behind depression--you know, the emotional rationale.   What's the reason for depression?  Why revert to it even when it exacts certain pain from its occupant?  It must provide some benefit, and that benefit, somehow, must be comfort, the ability to withdraw from the world and recharge (or not), the capacity to narrow one's mind into one's own life.  Because I think the world is increasingly overwhelming, and complicated and messy.  And depression doesn't sound good, mostly because it isn't.  But that also doesn't mean that it doesn't provide some benefits either.

Monday, September 26, 2011

You're Not The Best.

And the likelihood is that you'll never be. Ever.  So scratch that idea, that fantasy.

I'm certainly not.  I know that my limitations outweigh my strengths. It sucks to know it, but I know it still.

The stark reality is that, for a given field of endeavor, we probably don't even know what the best looks like because we can't understand it. 

That's not a pitfall, mind you.  It just means that progress is possible.   And that we're not fundamentally broken because we haven't fulfilled the false wishes of those of us who try to formulate the parameters of our behavior and thoughts with their ideals and trances.

That's not the same as thinking that nobody and nothing restricts us and choosing ignorance.  Trust me, I used to chose ignorance a lot more than I'd care to admit now.  It remains, though, that, any one of us can spend many years to get even moderately decent at something.    The catch is that being moderately decent at something is still above average.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Most people act in what they believe are justified ways.  Which is to say, even when someone does something that upsets you greatly--you see no justification for it--they most likely are acting in accordance with their normative ideas about how they should act.  Which is to say that they have a reason. It's just that, when we're pissed with other people, we don't often think about their reasons and they don't often think about our reasons.

It is very difficult, for whatever reason, to say: I understand they have their reason, even when we know objectively that they have their reason and that their reason is valued by them subjectively the same that we value our subjective reason (predominantly as a priority over other competing reasons), and then put their reason prior to our reason, i.e. to not get mad, but to acquiesce in whatever conflict has arisen.

Of course, the world would be a little better if more of us were forgiving and the other half of us who always placate decided to stand up for ourselves once in a while.  The ends would justify the means, I think, collectively.  It just might not individually.

The skill I've most admired as of late is the ability to zoom in one's focus to minutiae and then back out to macro-events/reasons, and then back into the minutiae.   This is really hard to do.  In general, because we prioritize ourselves so heavily, it is hard to back away from reasons that justify our own predominance.  But when we do, there is a greater and more wonderful knowledge: of being accurate.  Or, that is, less wrong.  We probably can't ever quite get accurate.

We might have to pay the price in ego once in a while to get a little insight, in other words.  It is worth it.  It is worth it.   And it is worth diving into all that is difficult again and again and banging your head against the wall to try to understand it.  Especially when you don't.     I only wish my current self could have talked to my previous self.

Lights: Yeah, I put them up--Learning Process

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hard Times, Welch.

The Personal

I've shied away from making this too personal lately.  Sorry about that.  It was my  intention to bring some of these thoughts "home" if possible.  The truth is that I've honestly been subsumed with work for the first time in my life--and I mean, positively for the first time in my life.  I'm engrossed in it.  Suffice it to say that work is all about figuring out the cost of social goods--a particular kind of social good, mind you, something that already has a market.  And it has helped me realize that I'm absolutely never ever going to come close to having anything near an understanding of how even ten percent of the world works around me.  I mean, it is just too freakin' complicated and sophisticated.  There's no way to do it all.  I don't mean "handle all that is already in my life" and I don't mean that I'm going to stop investing my mental energies into undertsanding the world around me.  I just mean that I'll stop telling myself the lie that I can get to a place where it all makes sense.  It won't.  It can't.   I'm not an expert on almost everything. 

At first, when that realization hits home and the bottom drops out, the wave of insecurity is baffling in size, but now, it induces accuracy that I've acclimated to, at least partially, in that I can find fascinating almost everything and, well, there's a lesson to learn almost everywhere, from making breakfast to riding the train, to sleeping positions, to writing, to interactions, to knowing what set of personality quirks I've been adorned with by birth, and to frolicking with myself on a rainy night in northeastern city and thinking, for once, that i'm sort of [whisper] at a level of agitated engaged peace [i.e. i want nothing outside of this moment].

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brand Name Recognition: The University

Brand management is an important aspect of running any organization--do it well, and your organizations becomes synonymous with the types of things that everyone is jealous of: power, prestige, and intrinsic appeal.  I can think of no better example than the name of the university.  With it comes a host of expected intrinsic values.  They attach to the name whether or not the person.  Say it with me.  Harvard.  Berkeley.  Stanford.  Princeton.  It doesn't matter if you studied creative writing or physics, if you went to Harvard, you went to Harvard, and you'll be given more latitude.  The question is whether the name attaches significant meaning to its products (graduates) in any measurable way.  

The funny thing is that it doesn't matter if these people could objectively get better jobs because of their skills, or because hiring managers prefer to see certain schools represented--in the end, those are one in the same. Brand is just that = the ability to produce a mental short cut toward qualification for inclusion, to place the name in the slot of "exhibits requisite skills."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Battered Woman Defense

There's a bit of a legal war going on right now in Kew Gardens Queens.  Barbara Sheehan has been accused of unlawfully killing her husband, who was, by trade, a NYC police investigator. 

To justify self-defense, a defendant must prove that he or she was under immediate life-threatening harm.  Most jurisdictions say that such a threat must be both objective and subjective (the defendant believed it, and a reasonable person would also believe it). 

There's a catch, commonly called the battered-woman's-defense, and it is this: a battered woman, one who suffered domestic violence/abuse for some sustained amount of time, need not prove that she was under immediate bodily harm.

Anyway, it seems to me, from reading some of the news reports about this case, that she is arguing both: a) that she was justified in using lethal self-defense because any person in her situation would have been (she met the statutory requirements) and b) that she was justified in using lethal self-defense because she was a battered woman and this was the only way out.

For the record, lots of people think that battered women should just leave their marriage/relationship, and it turns out that this is extremely difficult.  One reason is that the battered woman fears for her life.   Leaving the situation doesn't guarantee safety.  Her abuser is cunning and manipulative, and has, repeatedly, told her how he would kill her if she left or told others of the abuse.

Orders for protection are nice, in theory, but in practice are toothless.  

Lessened financial means often play a role in one's capacity to leave, as well as social support networks that are diminished or shared with the abuser.

Incredible amounts of shame also play a role.

And finally, I think there's a very confusing element of love, or committment, to one's abuser.  Imagine, if you will, that your mother or father abused you, and that you were developmentally young enough not to be independent, and not to know that they shouldn't do it.  You would likely be hugely conflicted emotionally, to say the least.   Now, a battered woman is not a child, but her emotional state is not clear cut, either--the abuser is rarely some stranger that is easy to walk away from.    Does that difficultly lead to a justified death?  In short, the argument is that the conditions are evident for self-defense to be used generally, even when physical egress is possible.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Religion? Why Not Religion?

It strikes me that one of the essential parts of being human is that we want that which we cannot or do not have.

There are times in life when we deem this proper, and appropriate.  Let's say, times like when we're parents and we see our kids, or any kids, and we think (or direct) that they shouldn't be able to have everything they want (even if we get them everything we think they should have), not if they're going to grow up and be healthy.

And there are times, mostly when it comes to our own desires, where we think we deserve that which we desire.  Like a promotion, a raise, or the right to cut off a line that is unfairly long. Or recognition, or respect.  

The things we all agree we should all have get enshrined as rights.

And enter religion.  For most of us in the western world, we're halfway secular, or we have unfavorable views of religion--as in, we would never say, at a party, what cool missionary retreat we had planned (unless of course, you would say this, and if you would, this post isn't really for you--sorry!).

I think we have those unfavorable views only because our religion, whichever one we were endowed with (born into), is one that we didn't have to work too hard to have access to, but instead, one that, perhaps, saturated the air around us as we developed.

I know I had at least 10 churches in my town of about 3000 not three hours from NYC.

And yet I didn't attend any of them.  I'm mostly too lazy to seriously consider God.  I generally feel that if there's a God, we don't need to have knowledge of it to live a good life.  In other words, we can figure out what a good life is for ourselves, and what our limitations are, on our own.  Of course, figuring out the limitations is half the battle, and definitely constricts.  That said, perhaps when we realize our own realizations fully, we've realized our own potential, too, in the sense that we have a deeper understanding of our size relative to that enigma of the world around us.

Anyway, religion is a communal structure for understanding that which we cannot have, and, in part, attaining it--or talking about attaining it.  That's my main point.  Sorry for the ramble.  In religion we have a culture that has expanded upon, in a kind of legal form of interpretation, with all the entailed jargon and specialized vocabulary you might expect, the ungraspable point of our existence: that it will end--and it promises us something more.   Even if that something more doesn't exist, religion shadows how we conceptualize and talk about that thing.  And maybe more importantly, it provides guidance for our rights in our current lives; that is, the story it tells about that which is beyond our lives impacts how we should be.  What we should have.  How we should live (associate with, feel about ourselves, about others, and about issues).  It tells us how to sublimate the want to have what we don't have.

It promises enlightenment in restriction.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Just had a conversation with my grandma. She lives in florida, is 75 years old, and is a wise ass. I love her very much, as if love could happen on different levels of intensity.  Of course, I wish that she could be closer at times, but I know, now, that I'm blessed with a good family (at least on that side).  I'll always remember when first introducing my wife to my mom, step-father, mother's parents and my uncle (mom's brother), cringing at the thought of them all pecking at her apart, and maybe on a deeper level, of her discovering how truly dysfunctional I was, in my genes so to speak.  But it turned out that my now wife thought they were all quite normal and supportive and that my family loved her back.  Funny how that works.  And how I could think they were all monsters.  Anyway, I'm lucky to have a supportive family (on one side), even if they don't know how to support everything about me (who would?), and I feel good about that, for what it is worth.  I don't need to complain about them.  They do what they can, and that, in the long run, turns out to be quite a bit.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Realization of the Moment - This is Basic,

Okay, okay, so I download music, and I don't have the digital converter, and my stereo is far from my computer, and ya know, I generally just burn cds out to listen to them.  Except.  Except that I can also burn like, ya know, 100 cds onto one dvd, and then play that, for a long, long time.  Kind of makes my five disc cd player into something that will play my entire collection of music.  I know this is basic.  I don't know why I didn't think of it before.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Everything is Evil if you want it to be.

There are gigantic conglomerates of evil, arsenic-laced people at the bus stop, at the corner store.  In your water, there's traces of evil, zinc, copper, pollutants, diluted phthalates, and in your cow, well, thousands of pieces of cow.  There's nothing that isn't unpure.  There's nothing that's pure, that's acceptable, if you don't want it be there.

Which is, in short, why tea party republicans have such energy--they reject the need to work too hard to get to the pure stuff.  They reject the complexity that exists for something simpler, something less polluted.

I'm not sure if it is a religious claim.  The left of course, has levels of purity/filtration that mark hierarchy.  Locally grown foods, et al.

There are probably issues we can come together on in theory.  In practice, whenever one person gets into the lead a little bit, he or she is willing to throw away her share of common advancement for personal gain.

Why are we all so fucking selfish like this?  Everybody wants a little kingdom.  Once they get that, they want a medium level kingdom. And then, well, onward.  If their justification is that everyone else is already that selfish, and that it is a dog-eat-dog world out there, well, they're on to something descriptively, but I'm not so sure it is a prescriptive fix for more than the short term.