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.