Thursday, December 29, 2016

optimistic nihilism

One of the primary ways I've learned to survive depression has been to remind myself that all phenomena is temporary.  Sometimes most significantly, my emotions, the thoughts that arise, my outlook on life.  Different variables go into these things.  I saw an interview with a North Korean defector the other day, who talked about when half her village died of starvation, the survivors were generally happy people, who laughed and enjoyed life, when they could.  She mused that people in China and South Korea seemed less happy, because they weren't struggling to survive.  Saying that with all their comfort and spare time, they think too much, finding all sorts of things to be unhappy about.

I think, a simplification with some truth to it.  Depends on our own lives, our own experiences of struggling, spare time, and neurochemistry, not to mention the mental resources we have to sort it all out, and the inclination we have to bother doing so.  I think it varies from person to person, I think there are variables that go into whether it's true or not, that tend be overlooked.  A person who loses half their family to starvation can be happier than someone who's never had much of a family, and the vast spectrum of grey area that is the human experience gets pretty complicated.

Not to get all abstract nor morbid, when I say that it's all temporary, though.  In my own life, in my experience, moods fluctuate for no discernible reason.  All bad experiences have been resolved by waiting them out, including the things that make me miserable.  My entire outlook might be better tomorrow, through absolutely nothing intentional on my part, other than keeping my shit together long enough to experience it.

There are recreational drugs I've taken, that have made me feel much worse, before they fully kicked in and became awesome.  Just as often, I've found myself trying to wait out the bad experience, only to eventually realize that was the whole trip.  Was it just bad, or did I ruin it with the mindset of waiting it out?  Patience is supposed to be a virtue, but how much of my life fell away, because I waited and waited and never got around to living?

Or has it been remarkably successful, given that I am, not only still breathing, but in my own place, keeping my rent and bills paid, even feeding myself.  This is a miserably low bar, by some standards - and an ambitiously high one, by others.  I hate being the sort who gets a nice pat on the head for vaguely resembling a grown up at times, without drooling too much.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I hate that I can't seem to rise above caring about petty egocentric things, like the sort of person I am, whatever the hell that really means.  Maybe it would be better if I were starving and oppressed, right?  Maybe, depending on how you prioritize things.  Everything is turned on it's head, just by placing these arbitrary values differently.

It would be better to feel less self-doubt and angst, in exchange for a fifty-fifty chance of starving to death?  What's the point of living, if you're not really living, goes the common refrain.  Yeah, try not living, right?  It's all nonsense when you get down to it.

What's important and what isn't?  None of it.. but we still want to be happy.  We value what seems most likely to bring that, personal relationships, more shiny new stuff, new philosophies on life.  What works best, in the short term, or the long term, or when we're looking back on it all from our death beds.

Anything that we've learned might actually work.  None of it matters, if it isn't psychologically rewarding in this way.  Which is to say, none of it matters.  It's all just our minds, playing tricks on us.  So, as the Zen bit goes, "when you're not thinking of anything good and anything bad, at that moment, what is your original face?"

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