Saturday, July 15, 2017

я don't speak human

I've tried to leave my past behind, old patterns of thought and behavior.  Years of life lessons that have not worked out well for me.  I've tried to free myself from who I was, who I am, but a few old songs can bring it all back.  I'm reminded of what it's like to think I can believe in myself, whatever that might really mean.

Put it to music, an artful narrative, to which I relate.  I'm reminded of how like everything, it's so much a matter of perspective.  None of the facts change, only a difference in what's valued.  How we assess the importance of everything around us.  Who we are, what we do, where we're trying to go in life.  It's not something that can be right or wrong, per se.

Perspectives can however, be undermined by how well they achieve, at the very least, that which they might claim to value.  It's a whole lot easier to tell humanity to fuck right off, when you're doing ok, going your own way.  Practicalities, like taking care of our own needs, food, shelter.  Not being forced to ask for help.  Maybe I wouldn't need help, if America weren't so dysfunctional, but still.  Taking my disability check really takes the wind out of that whole "fuck right off" thing - as would devoting most of my waking life to some shit minimum wage job, really.



What does it really mean, not to speak human, to embrace alienation, to tell society to go fuck itself, and all that entails?  It means something very different, when it's spending your life living alone in a basement.  It makes it so much harder to remember why I've done this to myself.  To have much pride in my resolve, as I sit around feeling lonely and miserable.

Maybe early in life, I should have just engaged more in popular media, music, movies, sports, like everyone else?  It is weird to think about how.. well, yeah.  I could have done that, and honestly, it would have made life a whole lot easier.  Not that such a trivial choices would matter as much now, but I can see how at the time, it could have meant all sorts of things turning out better for me, if I'd been more socially connected.  If I'd even just attempted to join the herd.  Especially now, as I can see how often people welcome the attempt itself, as a sign of good will.  I can see how maybe it has been problematic.. tacitly telling everyone that everything they like sucks.

Not to make it too black and white, I'm not even talking abject negation of self identity, but I could have branched out more tactfully, without all the alienation.  I could have made some effort to be normal.  That does seem to be what lots of people do, balancing their individuality with wanting to be welcomed by their peers.  I've been listening to so many different interpretations of my life, it's easy to lose track of what I do know.  I was very clear in my rejection of any such notion, often even putting it into writing.

Maybe not an entirely rational choice.  I might misjudge values, of what was worth striving for, and what was worth holding onto.  There is fixation of sorts on self-identity tied into it all, in everything from aesthetic preferences to deeper ethical concerns.  In an abstract sense, I can see how I probably would have been better off, doing things differently.  In theory, if I were to get a do-over of my life, which I'd play like a video game, from a safe difference.  Without all the complications of having to feel any of it.

Some things never change though.  If I have to actually sit through sports and pop music?  Oh, hell no.  Fuck that.  Screw you, humanity.

It occurs to me that left-wing politics might be the closest I can get, to ranting about the things that bother me about people, in a way that resonates.. with people.  That gets lots of upvotes from random strangers on Facebook.  That sort of thing.  I'd really rather be hanging out in the woods doing shrooms and playing music, though.

Friday, July 7, 2017

wealthiest poverty in the world

Under a recent post calling into question the legitimacy of American exceptionalism, I commented that the US is exceptional in one particular way, generally considered positive.  We're number one in prison population, and military spending, but lots of people are against that.  The one thing we do clearly have going for us though, is that we are the wealthiest country in the world.

I was actually surprised how many people laughed at this.  We can bicker about whether it makes more sense to measure wealth per capita, or in total - but even per capita, the US ranks way up there.  It's simply a fact that this country is one of the wealthiest in the world.  I certainly didn't expect that to be so controversial that people would laugh.  

That's kind of shocking, right?  The wealthiest country in the history of the world has half its citizens thinking it's broke.  Literally, no money to do anything.  We're too poor.  I don't think people even understand what wealth means, let alone the national debt they claim to be so concerned about.

Some pointed to Dubai as an example of what wealth looks like, so this was my response.
 America doesn't spend its wealth on infrastructure or its people. It just redistributes it to the top, where the wealthiest people horde it. The way that they put it, they're allowed to keep their own profits, instead of being taxed - but where do they get those profits? From the American people, from workers to consumers.  
It's all part of the same economy, and by not paying into it enough, relative to what they're extracting, it makes America look a lot poorer than it is.  
Yeah, we could have cities like Dubai, but we don't. 

On the other hand, people take issue with the idea that anyone in America is really poor.  One posted an article about how many of these so-called poor people have cellphones and computers.  I've mentioned that I even had video games, growing up.  My parents were new to credit.  My father didn't seem to understand or care that they couldn't afford the things he bought.  Computer stuff, mostly.  At least we didn't live somewhere that throws people in prison or beats them to death for that sort of thing, right?

I think a lot of the issue isn't really just personal wealth, but how much spending there is on infrastructure, mass transit, public education, public places of all kinds.  In all of that, America has been on the decline for decades, because of the idea that wealth is personal, and those who have it should be able to keep it.  Well, turns out, they don't like spending on that sort of stuff, when they have jets and properties all over the world.  Personal wealth inequality makes the absence of public spending all the more glaring for those that don't have other means.

The inadequacy of a cellphone to substitute for luxuries like healthcare, education, or owning any land at all.  These things being much more expensive than a phone or even an old computer.  The problem is largely one of wealth inequality, where the richest Americans drive up the costs of everything.  In the US, a person can get a few hundred a month, which would be enough to live well in many places - but in the US, it's not enough to even pay the lowest of rent, let alone food, utilities, or anything else.  Simply having money is not wealth.  It's all about context, and what the wealth is worth, relative to everything else in society.

Wealth is a measure of the economy, the flow of goods and services, resources, labor, and consumers.  Wealth is nothing without the economy that gives it value.  Yet there seems to be this widespread belief that the more a person takes from the economy for themselves, the more they must inherently deserve it.  Americans think their country is poor, yet don't understand how national wealth has anything to do with those making millions of dollars from the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

counter culture

I was maybe twelve years old when I started taking an interest in music.  At first, just stuff that I heard on the radio, but rapidly evolving from there.  As my tastes refined, they moved further and further away from mainstream.  It certainly feels as if I just like what I like, but maybe there is more to it than that.

For some reason, my taste in food comes to mind next.  I know appreciation of good food isn't all that unusual, but McDonald's and Budweiser is most premier cuisine in America.   In my experience, the masses have downright horrifying taste.  Still, just to be sure, I also like my food so spicy that literally no one I know can eat it, other than me.

Don't get me started on people with their jobs and their families - my thoughts on all that are more complicated than aesthetic aversion, and yet regardless, here I am.  No job, no family.  I can't really relate to any of that.  Just another way in which I'm some kind of alien.  On the one hand, I want to say that this isn't exactly of my choosing, and yet, it sort of is.  I refused to prioritize anything like that, when I had the chance.  I had no interest in doing what everyone else was doing.

Then there's politics.  I voted for the candidate that only got 1% of the vote.  There does seem to be a pattern here.  It could be that I feel some sort of need to define myself in contrast with what I perceive to be normal.  An aversion to people that allows me to take pride in my isolation.

Or, it could be that social behaviors reinforce interests, establishing herd behavior.  Spending so much time alone, I've just sort of gone my own way.  Almost any direction is going to be away from mainstream. I seem to do this when it comes to almost everything in life, so maybe it is some of both.

In recent years though, I find my interests in all sorts of things gradually waning, wondering if it's because none of it is being socially reinforced.  It all just feels sort of hollow.  It's deflating being the only person I know who likes anything I like.. but I also know that my tastes aren't that impossibly obscure.

The problem compounded by leaving my apartment no more than absolutely necessary.  Always for as briefly as possible.. which I'm afraid might be because going places and doing things got really discouraging after a while.

Friday, June 30, 2017

the babbling of chimps

Listening to Sapolsky often gets me thinking about how distracting the narratives we tell ourselves can be.  How often there's something biological going on, that we have no clue about.  So we explain our lives this way or that, without ever suspecting that it's all just a faerie tale we've dreamed up, to compensate for our ignorance.

Often incredibly enduring, as we start learning it young, guided by the faerie tales of our elders.  Trying to understand how they live, what matters.  Onto our social interactions with others, and what matters to them.  The peer groups we learn to identify with, or against.  Everything people around us teach, intentionally, and unintentionally.

As our worldview develops, assumptions form from its foundations.  Everything learned, then built upon those foundations, never to be questioned.  Meanwhile, we've actually got neurotransmitters and hormones pulling us this way and that, through the well-trodden pathways we've forged in our years of acting in the repetitive ways that worked for us at the time.  Driven by the lessons we've learned, how life works, what we're supposed to be striving for, what we might achieve, and what we learn that we can't.

I think back on my childhood, and I can see how I was essentially railroaded by circumstances into the ostensible adult that I am.  As a kid, learning that I wasn't like other kids, that I couldn't achieve positive results by socializing with them.  I came to identify with my sense of alienation, even take pride in it.  An effort to make the most of the situation, which I carried with me, the story of my life, who I am.

The benefits of social behaviors were not for me, as far as I could tell, and I think that turns out to include growing up, learning to function in society.  This seems to be part of the natural process of learning, adapting, and nor did I have any sort of guidance or resources to make up the difference.  I can understand what went wrong medically, socially, parentally, financially,  developmentally.  How this was calcified and deeply internalized over the years of just living with the reality of it.

I understand why that's so difficult to do anything about, but I need to figure out how to do something about it anyhow.  I think what it comes down to is independence.  That's why I go back to the issue of work, all the time, but it's not just a matter of money.  People seem to have a sort of social capital, too.  The more confident they can be, about functioning socially, the less they need much money.  Whether it's knowing that wherever you go, you'll be able to work something out with the local populace, or just having friends and family, community.

People run the whole gamut, but the more alone and socially incompetent a person is, the more material poverty is compounded.  Seems lots of people end up in much worse situations than I, for roughly similar reasons.  That is, to put it in very broad terms, failing to navigate American society well enough to achieve what we're told is almost trivially easy to achieve.  It's completely insane that I actually have more money saved than most Americans do (1) To be clear though, I am in the bottom ten percent or so.  Just good at not buying much of anything.

I seem to be what Chomsky refers to as the precariat.  Such an apt term, but this is made all the more precarious by social isolation and ineptitude.  What if this is not who I have to be?  Is that possible?  Sometimes for a flickering moment here or there, I think maybe there is an solution to be found, somehow.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

really late bloomer

I often think maybe I'm just developmentally stunted.  Not emotionally, or intellectually, but something that develops a little later.  I've never heard of it framed as a developmental issue, but that's what it feels like.  I fear that wandering alone in the wilderness might not be the right way to learn how humanity works.

I feel this constant angst, because I am not independent.  I could have the rug pulled out from under me at any moment, for whatever reason, and I have no faith in my ability to survive if that happens.  I think it would be a little crazy to have such faith, knowing myself a little better than that, and just how badly I'd likely handle the stress.

I find it very difficult to allow myself to be immersed in anything, lest I wake up to find myself in such a situation.  An obsessive hyper-vigilance, and a hesitance to even fight it, as I'm not entirely sure there isn't good reason for it.  Could be stress hormones misfiring, could be frighteningly rational, I don't know.  Better to keep obsessively worrying about it, just in case.

I could figure out how to build myself a shack, plant myself some crops, fish if it came to that, but of course, I'd have to buy land first.  Pay taxes.  I feel like I was never ready to be an adult, earn a living, be a part of civilization.  I don't know that I can get a job, or work if I had one.  I feel like getting out of bed every day is just about all the responsibility I trust myself to handle, and there are some days when even that feels like pushing it.  It's the zillion interactions involved in getting anything or anywhere.

I've managed to bounce around for twenty years in spite of this, grinding through as few such interactions as possible, but I've been shaken from just accepting it, by realizing how fragile this stability can be.  I'm not comfortable being dependent on the whims of my psychotic clown government, and this is the very same issue that prevents me from just leaving.  I need to learn to how to function as an adult human among humans.

Maybe taking growth hormone has something to do with why I'm feeling this need more.  Maybe it's interacting with cortisol in some way, and I'm not used to it.  Maybe coincidence.  It's like there's been this new chemical reaction going on inside my skull somewhere, that looks a lot like, "Wait, I have to worry about my own survival?!  Are you fucking kidding me?"

Whatever the case, it doesn't seem to be enough to overcome the fact that I never learned how to do this properly.  There's doesn't seem to be anything in particular to learn, though.  This is why it seems more developmental.  Like my brain was supposed to shift into a different gear, but it never did that.  I don't even know what starting to move in that direction is supposed to look like.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

new york chomsky

"We lived, [...] about a hundred miles from New York.  When I was 11 or 12, my parents would let me go to new york by myself, on the train, I'd stay with relatives, and hang around anarchist bookstores and Union Square."



Chomsky's words could be my own, here.  I stayed with Daniel there, behind the museum, many times.  I walked a lot, but I think maybe I was supposed to attempt speaking with people, in some manner.  Not the sort of ghost that I was, drifting in and out, unnoticed, engaging with nothing and no one.  Except the food, when I could scrape together enough courage and crumpled bills.  New York has some of the best food I've had anywhere, and sometimes it was even pretty cheap.

I couldn't really afford to do much but wander.  I did hang out at lots of book stores.  Once in a while, even bought one.  Sometimes went to see live music at this one tiny punk club I liked.  Mostly just did a whole lot of walking though.  Even at places and times, I really should have been more nervous than I was.

Doesn't seem exactly like the behaviour of someone overcome with anxiety.  An over active fear center would be more generalized, and that doesn't seem to be the case with me.. maybe that's why social anxiety doesn't necessarily feel like anxiety.  Maybe biochemically, it is something a little different.

I was fine, as long as I didn't have to interact with anyone - and yet that was possibly the whole point of all that wandering.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

yeah and also but then

Sometimes responding to a comment, I get a little carried away.  Sometimes I even catch myself, and decide, eh, doesn't matter.  Post it anyhow.  Other times, maybe it does matter, so I'll just cut and paste it somewhere, instead. When comments are too long, people don't even read them.

It's usually much better to say less.  It can even discourage replies, as people don't want to respond in kind, nor in contrast.  At times, I even do this in person.  Some tell me that I'm prone to rambling.  Odd characteristic for an introvert, right?  Maybe I've just given up on being social, because people kept telling me I was rambling.  Not much point when no one's listening.

Crazy thing is, strangers seem to like it.  Facebook just informed me the other day, that I've accrued over 84,000 upvotes.  This is not from my profile, as nobody I know ever likes anything I post - but posting comments on public articles, sometimes even at rather awkward length.

I don't know what's going on, but it can be a bit addictive.  Not just the conversation and positive feedback, but just the act of venting my thoughts.  I don't know if there's any good reason for it, or if there really needs to be.  Scattered, alternating between tweets, comments, and blogging - but even then, always careful not to make it too long.

It helps having a theme.

At the very least, I'd love to see Democrats make this central to their platform.  Not just repealing Citizens United, but acknowledging that the problem goes deeper than that, and offering some sort of plan to do something about it.

From what I can tell, so much that's wrong in the world comes back to greed, the wealthy trying to get wealthier in some way.  Using their wealth to get our legislators to help them do it - and we're the wealthiest country in the world.  

Arguably doing the most damage.  Not directly, but also indirectly, including all the different ways we interfere with other countries.  It's always about American "interests," largely being defined by our industry, finance, and business, through the favor they've curried with our politicians.  Often by helping them get elected.

I could probably just ramble randomly and at great length for no reason and to no one, but I think that might be somewhat less productive.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

На вкус и цвет товарищей нет

There is a pattern here.  I can see it.  Complex, but mostly rational, and yet, never predictable.  Not something I could have orchestrated.  I can only see how it comes together after the fact.  The elusive process of motivation.  At it's peak, what some are calling "flow," movement and focus, and probably not thinking about how or why.

Think about it or not though, there are underlying mechanics.  Reasons we feel the way we do, like something, feel inspired by something.  I started learning Russian, today.  I've been watching Oliver Stone's "Putin Interviews," and almost find myself liking Putin. I've been wanting to take another stab at learning a second language, but haven't decided on which.  It occurred to me to check if Duolingo offers Russian.  It does.

My Uncle Dan comes to mind.  I remember him writing me an email once, saying something to the effect that hearing from me remorqueurs aux cordes du coeur.   That was Daniel's corner of the family.  Dan, and his sister, my grandmother, Lil.  Always felt more of an affinity to that corner of the family, for whatever reason.  Their mother was very old, when I was very young, so I didn't know her.  Yetta Slobodinskaya.  She was agoraphobic, I've been told.  Went years without leaving the house.



Still, there's something else to it.  Gears clicking into place, connecting, moving.  I've been running, meditating, I've been taking better care of myself.  I've been taking vegan Omega-3 supplements.  Whatever the case, all these stars aligned and I found myself doing something that I've been meaning to do for a year or two now.  It would be really good if I could get a handle on this, because that's ridiculous.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

peer review

I do seem to be a bit of a weirdo.  That is, unusual in my interests, my way of thinking, my entire lifestyle.  My sense of alienation could simply be that I find it difficult to find any points upon which to relate to people.  How does this happen though?  People's interests are usually shaped by their social interactions, right?  

Why did I choose to instead form my identity from abstract bits and pieces of the broader observable world?  Everyone I knew had lousy taste.  In everything.

No, that's unnecessary.  People like what they like.  Who am I to judge.  My tastes do seem to be a bit obscure though.  At times, I go the other way, questioning the sanity of it.  That is, what the hell am I always doing by myself, way out in left field?  Maybe I'm the one who doesn't know what's going on?  Sometimes I wonder if I might just be malfunctioning in some way.

This doesn't seem to be working out well for me, but, is this the result of my anxiety, or is it the cause?  Being in a world that makes me feel like some kind of crazy person does make me anxious - isn't that entirely rational?  

I'm a little skeptical of the notion that I'd have different results anywhere else, but if there's a sane country out there somewhere that will take me, who knows.

I bet North Koreans think the whole world is insane, too.  I wonder if school lunches there are as bad as mine were.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

i don't love america

Ok.  Serious question.  Can I just fucking leave?  Maybe if I lived in a country where working wasn't quite so awful, I might even be able to handle giving it a shot.  Maybe I don't know what real poverty means, but I don't know, maybe it would be a huge improvement, even living in a dirt poor village where people actually cared about each other.
Unless there's a drought or something, I'd probably even eat better.

See, I was not aware that such places actually exist.  In America we're taught that everywhere else is worse.  Most go their whole lives believing that.  Sure, universal healthcare and education, but that's just, I don't know.  America is just lagging behind in a few areas, right?  I'm starting to think the problem might go a lot deeper.  I'm afraid Americans might just be ignorant self-centered assholes.  That's hardly even a controversial thing to say.

I should find somewhere else to go.  Like the rest of the world, just hoping it's not somewhere with leaders the US wants to overthrow or bomb.  As I type this, I'm in the middle of watching Michael Moore's "Where to Invade Next."  I'm afraid I might be too damaged, though.  I don't share Moore's optimism anymore.  I have to be pretty stoned to even consider it.

When America sends its people, they're not sending their best.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ex post facto reduction

A sensible therapeutic approach might be to ask for examples.  What sort of ambitions do I imagine being successful?  At first, I panic as the self-doubt hits.  Am I making this up?  Just some nonsense rambling that I can't even substantiate?

I don't know why I do that to myself.  A second later, I remember that just yesterday, I had such thoughts.  A meme came through my feed about J.K. Rowling, and what a rough life she had.  Dysfunctional in numerous ways, before she started writing, when she was in her thirties.  Writing was one of the very first ambitions I had, often recurring because it makes sense on a number of levels.  

I'm not saying that I'd be the next J.K. Rowling, but I could probably write competently and creatively enough to make some money at it.  I start thinking of specifics, the sort of writing I'd want to do.  How I could skillfully weave politics and philosophy into it.  Fantasy or sci-fi, with some emotional depth to it.  Maybe I'd even be exceptional at it.

When I say I, that is, the I that I would be, if I were not the I that I am.  If only I could just tweak my brain a little.. because yeah, I know.  Come on, do it.  Of course you can do it.  At least just fucking TRY.

but no.  Apparently not.

What does it mean to expect to fail.. it means anticipating that there will be no reward.  It means ego or the default mode net,  or whatever we want to call it, trying to make sense of what's missing.  An ex post facto fabrication that explains it all in terms that make sense, on a more intuitive level.  We say "what's the point" or "I'm not good enough" to explain to ourselves why the machinery isn't doing what it's supposed to do.

It doesn't end there, however.  How we think and explain things to ourselves does make its way back into the depths of the machinery, and can exert influence on its workings, but how much, its hard to say, and it varies.  If we beat ourselves up over a mistake, even if it wasn't really our fault, we might be more careful next time, and despite all that, keep it from happening again.  Or, we might demoralize ourselves to the point of never trying again.

There are better and worse ways of going about that, but it varies from one individual to the next.  We exert influence, but can't measure its impact, except by experience.  We can learn that our efforts are either self-actualizing, or self-defeating, depending on which chemical reactions occur when we've done anything.  We can still get it all wrong, learn all the wrong lessons, but that's just the outcome of a whole other set of chemical reactions and experiences.

Amidst all these factors, we could theoretically know physiology well enough to understand what's optimal.  We can try to help everyone get there, as many already are, naturally.  Bones break because of all sorts of reasons, too.  Nutrient or hormone deficiencies, genetics, exercise.  If anything is clearly lacking, it's not rocket science to try to do something about that, so that our bones will be less likely to break.  If they do break, we take some basic steps to help it repair, so that we won't become permanently crippled.



The mind, like our bones, is just as physiological, but that's not to say there aren't all sorts of things involved in the health of either.  We just don't understand the mind quite as well, yet.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

mechanics of ambition

All ideological differences aside, I don't understand how the hell Democrats fucked up this badly.  Lining up behind Clinton, manipulating both primaries, and then losing.. worst strategic blunder I've ever seen in my life.

Even Republicans aren't this stupid.  They tried everything to stop Trump from winning the primary, because they knew, people hate him, and it would cripple the whole party.  People hated Clinton just as much, but lets prop her up against the worst candidate ever and roll the dice anyhow..

WTF #PiedPiper

I'm so glad those fuckers lost.  They deserved to lose ..but enough, that's what Facebook is for.  This is where I tangle things into more complicated knots.  Kyle here is concerned that Clinton might be considering another presidential run.  Thinking about whether that could be true, I tried imagining it from her perspective.  If she's anything like me -wait, scratch that.  She's not.

She's highly ambitious, highly motivated.  What was it Sapolsky said about how dopamine works?  It's all about the anticipation of the reward.  Probable, improbable, doesn't matter at all, so long as you think it's possible.  You keep thinking about that.  It becomes a self-reinforcing pattern, as ambition itself is the true source of the dopamine, not achieving what you think you're striving for.  Just trying is the real reward, as far as the neurochemistry is concerned.

What does that mean, from the perspective of the individual?  She might envision #TheResistance growing stronger and stronger, as Trump's failures accumulate.  The American people finally realizing that she was their salvation all along.  Or at least, coming to their senses, somewhat.  Certainly, there would be plenty of cheering from her supporters, as she rebounds from defeat to save America from Mein Trump!  People around her might put a stop to it this time, but if it were entirely up to her.. eh, she might be that sort of person.

Quite unlike myself.  Thinking about doing things just makes me anxious.  I envision success all the time, and how probable it would be, if it weren't for the fact that I'm not going to do any of it.  Sometimes I do little things, but that's not really the point.  It's like pushing a car without gas.  Yeah, it moves, but it doesn't get very far.

Except under particularly extreme circumstances, it's a lousy pattern that should be self-negating.  My life really wouldn't suck at all, if not for the fact that I make it suck.  The causality of it should fail immediately, in favor of something more effective at getting dopamine flowing.  Or what, some part of my brain just goes, nah, I'd rather feel like crap?  Just tell me which part.  I'll go get the screwdriver.

Life itself should be all the cognitive behavioral therapy a person needs, if their neurochemistry flows properly.  I think we can push ourselves to overcome, to some extent, and that's great and all.. but if such a pattern doesn't form on it's own, it probably needs more than just practice.  If you're not getting that dopamine out of it, you're still going to keep wondering what the fuck's the point, instead of thinking about whatever it is you want to do next.

Constantly at risk of slipping back into old patterns, because that's just the way the neurochemical math works out.  It's all I've got for now, but's not really a solution.

expertise

A lot of my familiarity with mental health issues began with my efforts at making sense of America's mental health systems.  Each state has been a little different, each therapist, each psychiatrist, but they did seem to share a variety of attributes.  Possibly systemic in nature, similarities in education practices, or the pharmaceutical industry's influence, who knows.  Conventional wisdom that had a few consistently gaping holes in it.

One of which being an aversion towards treating mental health and physical health as related, unless glaringly obvious.  Hypopituitarism was always brought up early, and yet, always left there, amidst my introduction, never to be considered relevant again.  Never was it suggested that I should get any neurological testing done, or anything of that nature.  We don't seem to be at the point scientifically, where that makes a whole lot of sense, so they don't even mention it.  Seems they don't like dealing with any of that, as if there's a solid dividing line between practices.  Psychiatrists never mention endocrinology, therapists never mention neurology, nobody ever mentions neuroendocinrology, etc.

Most of my digging in those areas being more recent, as it just wasn't the direction I'd been pointed.  Most of my life, my framing has been strictly psychiatric, psychoanalytic, or somewhere in between.  My criticism of the industry being leveled at those fields, not the research adding entirely new dimensions to the discourse.  Studies of treatments that are still in their infancy, a long ways from showing reliable efficacy, and being established as standard practice.  Instead, still largely ignored in favor of traditional methods of thoroughly well documented inadequacy.

At least in my experience.  It could be yet another example of the US being behind the curve.. I have no idea what it's like in other places.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

citation needed

I know that part of my problem is that I expect to fail.  It would be ignorant to assume that  this is irrational, and that I just need to think more positively, yet this is the direction many people go in.  The causes and complexities of what makes us who we are goes way over our heads.  I haven't exactly got it all figured out, either.

Found myself watching a new Robert Sapolsky talk, and then as often happens, taking interest in some of the related videos, and then looking up what he's going on about, or some question that comes to mind.

I thought this was interesting.

"Sapolsky on the Science of Pleasure"

I found myself digging around a little, and came up with this.

"Motivation Deficit in ADHD is Associated with Dysfunction of the Dopamine Reward Pathway"

So, what does it mean to expect to fail?  This is just a symptom, an outcome.  It doesn't say much about what's causing it.  It doesn't even shed light on what it means to fail.  What is that's expected?  What we accomplish isn't really at the heart of that, so much as what we think we've accomplished, and how we feel about it.  What sort of chemical reactions take place in the brain, that we might feel either accomplishment or failure.

This can be the result of experiences, learned behaviors, upbringing, culture, and ultimately, physiology.  The physiology trumps all of it, in that if the chemistry isn't there, nothing else will matter.  Physiology itself being the outcome of internal and external environmental factors, as well as genetics, and just random variation.

It's a difficult question to answer.  Impossible, even.  Maybe this, maybe that.  In reading all these studies that I have over the years, it hard to miss all the speculative language, the layer upon layer of hypothesis.  What does it mean that a dysfunction is "associated with" a given neurological process? Correlation, causation, what other factors might be involved, what can be done to remedy it, the remedies often being experiments of downright pitiful efficacy.. on so many levels, they're still sorting a lot of it out.

Yesterday, I was looking up the latest finding on why SSRIs don't work.  I found this article, where they discovered that if mice are incessantly tormented, they're less likely to recover from depression.  Therefore, they conclude, it's possible that medication doesn't work as well for depressed people who are too stressed out by environmental factors.  Fucking brilliant, right?

"Why don't antidepressants work"

They also claim that they do work for 50-70% of people, yet other studies would seem to contradict this, suggesting that they're barely more beneficial than placebos.

This is not the work of people who know what they're doing.  It frustrates the hell out of me, but this is not to disparage their efforts.  They're making incredible progress, and as should be apparent, I consider it important work.  I think it's admirable, but, they do have a long ways to go.

"Antidepressants No Better Than Placebo?"

Comparative efficacy and tolerability of antidepressants
meta-analysis..

That's how science goes.  If I wanted certainty, I'd look more towards religion.  The closest we're going to get to that is make-believe.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

mood disorder

Getting to the grocery store has been more difficult, lately.  I got there earlier today, after much pushing and prodding of myself, but as I was putting things into my basket, I realized that I'd forgotten my wallet.  I put everything back, I walked home, I walked back.  It was hot and noisy and bright. but I finally have food again.

Sometimes going outside is really nice.  I'm surprised by how good the warmth of the sun feels, the soothing earthiness of the air as it rains, the still calm in the hours before dawn.  Even the lively bustling of people.  Sometimes I've even enjoyed being in crowds, hard as that may be to believe.

Other times, it's all like nails on a chalkboard and being badly hungover.  I haven't had any alcohol in a while, either.  I don't really want it enough to bother.  I don't really want anything.  I'm just tired.  I'm hoping that running helps me build an army of mitochondria riding endorphins, to fight my way out of this wet paper bag with.  I try all sorts of things, but exercise seems to be my best bet.

Amidst the contrast between moods, it seems I am at the mercy of something beyond my control.  I can step back, I can relax.  Sometimes I can even exercise.  The world is just so much more unpleasant and difficult, no matter what I do.  A whole lot of the time.. but I know it's not real.

It's just a matter of perspective, and I'm stuck in an awful one.  It doesn't seem to matter a whole lot that I know this.  As if, it just is.  Physiology, like a broken arm.  I can't just think it away, and I can't necessarily even function in spite of it.

Now and then, I go outside, and it actually feels pretty nice.  I always know that it can be.

When I say that I don't want anything, this is not to say that I don't want to do anything.  Or that I don't want to be anything.  Or experience anything.  There are all sorts of things I wish I could learn how to do.

It seems pathological that this doesn't motivate me to do much of anything.  Aren't people supposed to be able to pursue their goals, or something like that?  One might say that it's just not the way that I am, but I don't like it.  It kind of sucks.  I'd like to think that there might be some way to turn it around, someday.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

treatment resistant

I don't make a clear distinction between Axis I mood disorders and normal emotions.  To me, it just seems to be a matter of degrees.  A treatment for depression should also be a treatment for loneliness, or mourning, or legitimate exhaustion.

My understanding is that a person with depression feels these same emotions, but triggered more easily, more strongly.  A treatment for anxiety should also work when you have good reason to be afraid.  How about a drug to make me feel motivated or obsessed with doing stuff, the way other people seem to be?  I think one day, maybe we'll have iCortex apps, that let us pick whatever emotions we want.

Advancements like this might be dangerous, but right now, I don't think they'd know how to do it, even if they wanted to  That neither psychiatric medication nor recreational drugs work this way makes me think all they're really doing is poking around the margins, sometimes taking the edge off.  Sometimes that's enough to help.  Sometimes not.

I get frustrated that I seem to be very firmly in the "treatment resistant" category.  Often reminding myself that in my case, this could be due to my medical condition.  It's known to cause problems of this nature, though I seem to be an extreme case.  I just never really know, and it's so frustrating.  I've known lots of other treatment resistant nutcases in my life, and tend to think in a broader sense, this frustration is not so rare.

I'm running again though, and that's a good sign.  Also seem to be doing unusually well with it, considering that I've been slacking off for six months.  I expected a longer climb to get to the same shape I was in, but almost seem to be doing better than I was, already.  I'm thinking this must be the effect of the Omnitrope, so at least it's doing something.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

response ability

To question the objectivity of our understanding of the world is not to doubt objective reality.  It's a very straight-forward concept, that what we perceive isn't necessarily accurate.  We understand that there are optical illusions, and that cavemen didn't know what the moon was.

The more we see, the more aware we become of exactly how our perceptions mislead us.  It's unintuitive to accept that this means we are still being mislead.  Has science figured everything out, yet?  Of course not.  This is not at all to knock science.  What makes it great is the way it never concludes.  Science is always an open question, looking to be proven wrong.  It's by being proven wrong that progress is made.  As Feynman put it, science is never proven right.

This isn't just about science and human knowledge in the broad all-encompassing sense.  This is also about what we think we're doing exactly, as individuals, as we stumble through our daily lives.  What we know, what we understand, and how accurate it all is can have a whole lot to do with that, but further, more accuracy isn't necessarily beneficial.  We are evolved to be effective, not accurate.

Causality is fundamental to everything, and yet, explanations are often called excuses.  Wanting to understand the how and why, a futile exercise.  Decide, judge, act.  Just do.  Don't waste time trying to make sense of it, when you can charge full throttle ahead, and hope for the best - and in many situations, that is what actually works best.  What is that but confidence?  Even inflated by ignorance and irrationality, it tends to be much more Darwinistically beneficial than reticence.

It's a trade-off though.  It's a pretty straight line to point out how this means being wrong about all sorts of things.  Science might always be an open question, never entirely right, per se.. but it gets a lot closer than those who don't even try to sort it all out.  Does it really matter?  Not necessarily.   Unless you care about being right.  Rational, accurate, honest.  Evolution just wants you to have lots of kids.

Evolution doesn't really want anything, I know - but neither do you.  What we are and what we think we want, it's all just a product of causal relations, just as evolution is.  We personalize it because that's one of the many ways our minds have evolved to mislead us.  The illusion of ego leads us to think we make things happen.  We define who we are.  We are confident or we are lazy, we exist and we need to make better choices.

Better choices will sometimes be made.  Sometimes not.  There will be reasons.  An elaborate causality to it, in which the conceptual insertion of personal responsibility is unnecessary.  "je n'ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

depressed

I've often framed my issues as being something other than depression, and in part, that's because I think the term is too vague to be useful.  I think another component to my wariness of the term might be that I've suffered clinical organic depression, my entire life.  I suspect, the result of losing my pituitary, a symptom of this being that my entire childhood and ensuing development was established through the distorting influence of mental illness.

It's unusual for little kids to be clinically depressed.  Unless they've had to endure severe trauma, or have something wrong neurologically, kids tend to be quite energetic, motivated, optimistic and cheerful.  Even healthy adults look at them, wishing they could feel that way again.  You can see the same thing in other animal species, and even plants.  Youth generally provides a huge advantage, not only in physical health, recovery, and resilience, but mental health, as well.

When things go critically wrong that young though, it can go downhill from there.  It can inhibit the ability to recover from even the normal wear and tear of life, let alone anything more serious going wrong.  I often don't even think of myself as depressed, because I've been coping for so long.  It's all I know.  It's easy to mistake coping mechanisms for the real problem, because they've actually worked.

I've learned to overcome some symptoms of depression, but not others.  It's probably the reason I'm alive.  Hiding in my apartment might not help me attain self-actualization, independence, social connectivity or well-being, but it helps stave off a lot of the internal torment I've had a lifetime to figure out how to deal with, and enjoy myself, in spite of.

Some of this, certainly less than ideal.  Coping by not doing anything, not thinking about anything, not facing anything - obviously, those coping mechanisms are a huge problem.  A person has to face the trials and tribulations of life, not hide from them..  If only I had no idea what happens when I'm not coping.  If the severity of the underlying problem is misunderstood, obscured by how well I've learned to manage it.

It is conceivable that to some degree, my coping strategies have persisted well beyond their usefulness, but they're also deeply entrenched in who I am, pervading my transition from each moment to the next.  It's become the only way I know how to live.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

ahead of my time

Many things occur to me as I watch the rainforest episode of Planet Earth II.  Some things more relevant to what I was (trying to) watch, more than others.  One in particular that seemed worth jotting down, was what it means, that so many things occur to me.

I've come to understand that this is my Default Mode Network being loud and unruly.  If it were just distracting, that would be problematic enough, but it's often something miserable, too.  I guess what I'm trying to say, is that it can be rather unpleasant.  It occurs to me that I'm drawn to activities which get it to shut the hell up for a while.  Things that demand my attention and interaction, like gaming or trolling the Facebook #BernieWouldveWon

It's a need to be constantly distracted.  Driven to distraction.  The outcome being the attention deficit that it causes.  I think it's a habit that I learned pretty young.  I wonder if it had anything to do with that Atari 400.


My father had friends who were video game pirates.  I don't know if they were hackers or deck swabs or what, but they gave my father lots of free games.  Basically, all of them.  If it were published, we had a pirate copy.  Boxes full of floppy discs with the names of video games, sometimes 3 or 4 crammed onto one disc, scribbled in black sharpie.  I even remember lamenting that maybe it wasn't good, how I'd play each one for about 12 seconds, get bored, and play the next one.

So, yeah.  I'll go back to watching an amazing documentary now.  One of the best I've seen, while my default mode network pulls my hair, and bites me in the ear, as I'm trying to pay attention.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

pathological

When I left Chicago, I left all sorts of things behind.  Relics of my past, my childhood.  I don't want to remember it anymore.  At the very least, I'm sick of dragging it around with me.  It doesn't matter, the present moment is what it is.  The inter-dependent co-arising conditions of a dumpster fire.

I grew up in Syracuse, New York because my mother was going to Syracuse University.  It took her ten years to get her four year degree, because going to college while trying to raise a family is stupid.  My father worked as an aid at a psychiatric hospital, for minimum wage.  He should have been a patient, instead.  When my mother finally graduated, she thanked him for his decade of keeping us afloat despite his mental health issues, by kicking him out of our lives and moving us to hell, because she preferred the weather.  I never really recovered from that, but it would be reductive to blame all my failures on it.  I was highly vulnerable to begin with.  Not having a pituitary gland can do that to a person, especially a little kid.

I was struggling as it was, socially, academically.  After moving though, I failed three out of four subjects in the 6th grade.  By 9th grade, I never had a social life, ever again.  My IQ was tested repeatedly, because everyone around me was astonishingly clueless.  Why the fuck was there any question that intelligence or lack thereof was even relevant?  The mental health professional who tested me remarked that I did better at recognizing shapes and reciting strings of numbers than anyone he'd ever tested.  Yay, me.  Destined for greatness, right?

My mother had trouble finding work in New Jersey, so we moved to Long Island.  Did I refer to Jersey as hell?  Yeah, I had no idea.  Long Island was on a whole other level of terrible, culturally backwards, economically depressed, lots of strip malls, and the shittiest school system I've ever seen.  I dropped out, and stopped leaving the house entirely for a few years.  I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, anyhow.  Except to see the never ending parade of therapists and psychiatrists I kept being dragged to.  One suggested hospitalization, as a way to more closely monitor me or somesuch.  Something must be going on that they were missing?  I don't know, that was as useless as everything else, except that I met Meredith there.  My first girlfriend.

A year later, we were visiting my grandparents in Massachusetts, and saw our chance to get the hell off Long Island.  Full of hope that the future would finally open up and maybe not be so miserable, we moved.  We lived there together for years, but we were both severely depressed.  I ended up just wanting to go back to being alone.  A time that still makes me sick to think about.  What an emotional trainwreck I was.  A few more years went by, in which I became very recluse again, when my sister invited me to move to Minneapolis.  She helped me get an apartment right above hers.  She helped me get involved in martial arts.  Finally, something to do, and so I went on to do a lot of it, for the next few years.  It almost seemed to make up for having no life, in any other respect.  It gave me something to focus on that I seemed to be good at.

Out of the blue one day, I got an email from someone who read something I'd posted online, years before.  A few months later, she invited me to live with her in Chicago.  I threw everything away for the chance to live in a big city, and to have a girlfriend again.  We didn't really have much of anything in common, and it didn't work out, but she introduced me to a variety of recreational drugs and that seemed to keep things going for a while.  A few years later, I had to find somewhere to live again, and realized that in my entire life, that was never something I'd had to do.  It turned out to be extraordinarily difficult, given my means.  My mother's twin sister invited me to stay with them in New Jersey, to help me get back on my feet.

Knowing that it was supposed to be an acutely temporary situation, I was desperate to figure something out.  I turned to getting treated for my deficiency again, hoping that would make the difference.  I held onto that hope for quite a while, but it doesn't seem to work like that.  I remained a basketcase, and ended up feeling more alone and incompetent than ever.  Surrounded by family that didn't know what to make of me, and didn't exactly love having me around.  They each tried, in their own ways, but I'm a weirdo.

A year and a half later, my cousin got married in Vermont and I saw my opportunity.  I had no choice but to take it.  Once again, someone found a place for me to live, something I seem to be incapable of doing for myself.  So, here I am.  With no choice but to hang on for dear life.

A life that has been awful and overwhelmingly depressing.  Somehow I manage to be in good spirits anyhow, sometimes.  I woke up feeling lousy this morning though.  No idea why.  If you have an injury that hurts sometimes, you might not wonder why it hurts, right?  That's obvious - but why does it hurt only sometimes?  Why is it especially bad, sometimes?  Somewhere therein seems to be the clue that it doesn't really need to hurt at all, but still, it shouldn't be surprising when it does.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

what's really real, really

Do we want to be comfortable, independent, gluttonous, educated, liked, or accomplished - how much of it is inherently human, how much of it is shaped by the culture we're steeped in?  How much of it is obscured by the realities of the choices we're forced to make?  What we want is largely the consequence of what we believe achievable, and what we're willing to sacrifice or risk.  What we want is really a rather complicated equation, barely touched on here.  They're both right, in a way.


Can we really blame much of our laziness on advertising and capitalist propaganda?  Or are they just capitalizing on our inherent laziness?  This is another example of an emergent process, in which the truth is the culmination of all these different factors.  It's all natural and innately human, in the sense that it's what's naturally developed.  The basic building blocks of physiology and genetics are meaningless without an environment to interact with.  There is nothing innate to biology, until it becomes a factor amidst a constantly changing world, in which life always has to adapt, even as that same life shapes the world it's adapting to.

I think a lot about what I want, and I really don't know.  It's easy to say that I want a hot fudge sundae, but not if I have to crawl across broken glass to get it.  Why the whole world feels like broken glass to me, I don't know, but it has a lot to do with why I choose not to deal with it.  I live much like the lazy slob Wallace Shawn depicts in the above clip, just trying to live as comfortably as possible.  Not because I don't want more, but because this is the culmination of all the factors in my life, some of that being the society I've had to adjust to, but there's a lot more to it, as well.

One might also forgo said hot fudge sundae, if one lives somewhere in which ice cream isn't attainable, and the fudge is terrible, or if one merely doesn't want to gorge themselves on the misery of dairy farming.  We might also want things, in theory.  Wanting some imagined version of something, realistic enough not to seem so outlandish, and yet, not realistic in our own personal experience.  The human world also seems largely both unattainable and terrible to me.  Rational or not, that's been my experience.  Am I too much of an idealist, too sensitive and discriminating, suffering the burdens of too much good taste, or not the right balance of dopamine to ever really enjoy anything real - maybe all relevant factors.

What we want can depend on what's has been rewarding to us, as opposed to what's been disappointing, frustrating, painful.  A society in which people's wants are heavily curtailed will be full of people who settle for laying around watching TV, eating ice cream, feeling angry and bad about themselves.  Caught in the vicious cycle of being barraged by media that depicts a wealthier unobtainable world, in which the advertisers' wealthier targeted demographics live.  Creating expectations about life that aren't going to be met by all the couch potatoes they're influencing, setting the populace up for disillusionment, disappointment, but plenty of ice cream to satiate themselves with.

What we want can also be discussed in terms of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, in which at the base, we have the necessities of survival.  Some might even say that we're fine, as long as we have that much.  Among those who only have that much though, you generally get a whole lot of disagreement, and extraordinarily high mortality rates for people that are supposedly surviving.  Each need is merely dependent on the level before it, but they're all important if you want a healthy civilization.

Chomsky is right, of course, that those needs are not likely to be well met, by striving only for material comfort, but "what we want" is much too simplistic a question.  We want all sorts of things, but we take what we can get.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

negentropy

My great-uncle's memorial service is going to be in May.  I'd wondered what was going on, because I hadn't heard anything, but I didn't worry about it.  I'm ambivalent, anyhow.  Or rather, I really don't want to participate in anything like that, but feel obligated to do it.  These rituals we have, where we attempt to bury our dead.  I don't want to celebrate the life of people who aren't alive.  That doesn't really do anything for closure.  It's a ritual, and rituals can help us play these mind tricks on ourselves, but I don't know that I want that kind of help.

It's also a chance for family getting together, some who haven't seen each other in many years.  I suppose it makes sense that I'd think this should be more emphasized.  Reconnecting with the people who are still alive.  Taking refuge in families and relationships.  Maybe the real mind trick is the way people do exactly that, in guise of something else.  It is strange the way people use so many different tricks to spend time with each other.  Maybe I feel too far away from everyone for it to do much good for me.

I can nod and smile, I can play along, but the here and now will be the acute angst of being corralled, amidst strange people doing strange things that make no sense to me.  Knowing that they're probably offended to even suspect that I feel that way.  Just doing my damndest to play along, until I can return to the relative sanity of solitude, again.

Everything dies.  The loss of anything and everything we think ours to lose.  It sucks, in so much as anything can truly suck, but I'm often more distracted by my failure to figure out the living part.  My inability to do that is what really scares me.

At times, it seemed Daniel came closer than anyone to helping me with that.  That seems so long ago, now.

Monday, April 3, 2017

sensitive dependence on initial conditions

I've written a few times on the subject of procedural generation, emergent process, interdependent arising of conditions.  I think I've also mentioned how upon seeing "too deeply and too much" I've noted quite a preponderance of chaos, and a great deal of it appears to begin with the myriad of nuanced variables in and around any arbitrary starting point.  That is, the seed which will eventually blossom, wither, and branch in unforeseeable ways.


In everything from physics to biology to politics and economics.  It's complicated.  More complicated than humanity has sorted out as well as we'd like to think.  We sometimes know enough to push for favorable results in our endeavors, with more success than we would if we knew nothing.  Even the notoriously chaotic processes which drive the weather, we predict with some degree of reliability.  A reliability which is more pragmatic than none at all.

I'm skeptical of the very concept of chaos.  I'm inclined to think that it's a word we use when things are unpredictable for reasons we don't understand.  In science and the human condition more broadly.  We often fail to take into account even stable variables in initial conditions that can produce dramatically different outcomes.  Comparisons between similar samples, different outcomes, the result of overlooking important but nuanced phenomenon that occur within developmentally critical time-frames.  Eventually, another study or perspective might come along to correct for it, getting a little closer, but missing something else.

This occurs in every rabbit hole I've ever attempted to delve into, ubiquitous and unresolvable, but indicative that there's always more to learn. I've often found myself trying to argue that anything and everything is more complicated than it seems.  Reductionism being more a problem of assuming we have all relevant information, when that's never going to be the case, wearing blinders in an attempt to block out the confusion of everything we don't know.

Does the reductionist honestly believe it's all noise, or do they merely treat it as noise, so as not to be impossibly bogged down in their ambitions?  I'm guessing the answer to that varies.  It's probably complicated.

Seems to me that such behaviour might have developed for being evolutionarily effective.  Maybe we jump to conclusions so that we can act on them, neurologically rewarded for doing this, it becomes habitual and self-reinforcing.  Doing so produces results, from knowing to bring an umbrella, to being able to design working technology, to not being paralyzed by indecision.  It's not understanding in any comprehensive sense, but nothing ever is.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

so many mountains to climb


Just going through some old folders, I found these pictures I took of the first meal I cooked in my new kitchen.  It wasn't all that long ago.  It all looks so nice.  I was happy.

My kitchen doesn't look like that, now.  I don't have all those ingredients to cook with.   I stopped walking all over the place, to various ethnic groceries.   Yeah, I could do that.  Or I could just sit here.  Either, or.  I'm not quite so enthusiastic about the beer, either.  It's kind of expensive, and I'm not sure it's really worth it.  Half the time, it just makes me feel groggy anyhow, and I suffer enough grogginess as it is.  


Course, my kitchen isn't that clean, anymore.  I clean it now and then, but not like that.  I do the dishes, and try to keep too much garbage from accumulating on my counters, but those cobwebs on the ceiling?  Who ever looks up there, anyhow.

I never use that little bluetooth speaker anymore.  It doesn't occur to me to put any music on.  I used to carry it from room to room, listening to music all the time.  

I don't understand why this happens.  It happens everywhere I've lived.  It's like stagnation.  It's reflected in my environment, and sometimes I think maybe if I did some serious cleaning and made everything look shiny and new again, that would help.  Maybe it would... but I doubt it would help all that much.  

There are too many different things I'm not doing anymore.  I could try doing all of them again, but the point is really that I didn't have to try, before.  I just felt like doing all that.  I don't understand why I don't anymore.  I know the feeling of exploration is gone.  I know the area, I know my options, all the good and bad that they entail.  I don't know if that's another symptom, or a fundamental piece of the explanation.

It's a bipolar sort of depression, in that sometimes I fixate on the negatives, while at other times, I can't see the point in the positives.  I don't see how going through the motions anyhow will resolve the issue.  In theory I could try it, anyhow.  Maybe I will, at some point.  Maybe it will even work for a while, but I always end up back here.  Climbing back out always seems to take a few years.

I walked over to the the martial arts school I'm thinking about trying, earlier.  That's a step in the right direction, isn't it?  A step I've often taken towards things I've wanted to try.  Doesn't usually go any further.  I always hope there's something about the storefront, or maybe a person there, even thought it's closed.  Not too many people, or I'd go when it's open.  At the very least, some bit of familiarity with what I'm hypothetically about to walk into.  Anything to help get me over that first hurdle.

I can't see them from Google maps, because they're so far off the road, on the backside of a little office complex.. and when I get there, this is what I find.  Doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it didn't really help, either.

Monday, March 27, 2017

of grave importance

When I was little, there was this story in the news, about a desperate effort to save the life of a baby girl, by transplanting her with the heart of a chimp's.  At six years old or so, I had no idea how cruel the world was, so this struck me as extraordinarily cruel.  I cried, but not for the little girl.  I cried for the chimp.  The girl was an unfortunate casualty of nature, but the chimp was murdered.

I've written about such things a lot over the years.  When I was a little older, I wrote a poem about a bird that I'd tried to save from my cat.  It died in the palm of my hand.  The last line being about the spasm that went through it's body, a single flap of its wings, before going still.  I was moved by the concept that it was in that moment, taking it's final flight.

The natural world is far more brutal than all the evil humanity will ever do, and yet, we wouldn't call a natural disaster a genocide.  Evil without agency makes no sense, and yet, I don't believe that there's any real difference there.  Agency itself being an illusion.  Evil is an illusion.  I've often tried to remove agency from the equation, but the impact it has on how I feel about these things persists.  It's the most difficult part to reconcile.  It is when we inflict suffering and death on each other, on purpose, that it upsets me the most.

Wolves do so without conceptualizing it one way or another, while people do so while fabricating all sorts of nonsense, in lieu of facing what it really means.  There is common criticism of our culture, that we don't discuss death enough.  That we don't know how to cope with it, because we're afraid to even talk about it.  I'd go a step further, and add that even of those that do, by making up stories about an afterlife or harmoniously returning to oneness with the cosmos or whatever else- this is really no better.  It's still not really death that's being discussed, when it's very existence can't be acknowledged..

I do understand not wanting to think about it.  Not wanting to be depressed by it.  From just putting it out of your mind, to philosophical rationalizations, to religious fantasies that help us cope. I can't blame anyone for not being interested in delving into the subject the way that I do.   I'm torn between justifying my approach, and thinking that for better or worse, it's really just the sort of person I am.  The sort of person I've always been.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

life will be the death of me

As I watched the chase, the narrator explained that the baby caribou had fifty-fifty odds of escaping, having become separated from the herd.  Whether this one in particular gets away is then irrelevant.  A singular cross-section frozen in time, being caught on film, but representing an overarching picture in which the caribou is both dead and alive.

My eyes teared up well before seeing how it played out.  Less moved by the suspense coming to its abrupt end, the desperate futile cry of a child, as the wolf's jaws crunched through bone.  It's what happens, whether it happened to this one in particular, or not.

We are all that caribou, just trying to make sense of the world we've been born into, until someone bigger and stronger gets hungry.  Or we get sick, or fall down the stairs, or whatever else.  If that caribou's death isn't anything to mourn nor fear, then why worry about anything?

Do whatever you want to do, hurt yourself, hurt others, live your life however you feel like living it.  If it gets you or anyone else killed, it doesn't matter.  Thus, merely squandering it certainly wouldn't matter either.  Stay in bed all day, become an alcoholic, whatever.  The reality not being that this is a bad idea or ill-advised, but rather, that it's simply not what we do.  Except when it is.

The question here is how much value we place on life.  Our own lives, intrinsic to how we feel about life itself.  Death is a part of life, in an overarching scheme of how it all comes together, though it is because of this, that I struggle with what such objectivity means.  If everything on earth dies, it will enable entirely new and different organisms to form millions of years from now.  It's an equation in which there can be no objective value placed on any of it.  No matter what happens, life is a force of nature that never goes away.

It is because I am introspective that I also understand that I'm not really so objective.  I don't want blue whales to go extinct, let alone all life on earth.  When I lose a loved one, it hurts.  When my own demise looms, I'm afraid.  I am acutely aware that I am not alone in this.  Caribou feel much the same way, my own feelings being of no more significance than theirs.  With few exceptions, we all feel this way.  Even the wolves.

For those that have no fear of death, no concern for loss, I have none for them.  No more emotion for their demise than I have for the well-being of a rock.  Empathy means feeling what they feel, to the best of my ability to interpret it.  Death itself isn't really the part that makes me cry.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hwarang

It all started with these tasteless American television shows, like The Master, movies like The Karate Kid.  When I was maybe seven.  I wanted to take Karate.  I don't remember the timeline well, these memories just fragments, scattered out there in my past, somewhere.  I can kind of make sense of them enough to guess how old I was.

Something-Ryu Karate.  Tiny little school in Syracuse.  I only took it for a few months, got to yellow and then orange belt and then fizzled.  It was expensive.  I was feeling tired a lot, anyhow.. but I've practiced it sporadically ever since.  Well, sorta.  Not like regularly or anything.  Mostly I just watched a lot of martial arts movies.  Got pretty good at Tekken.

I wish there were video of my last belt test.  I was really at my best.  The head instructor complimented me for the first time ever.  Then a few weeks later, I never said good-bye.  I couldn't find the right time, it felt awkward, so I just left.  Maybe he knows I was a bit.. odd ..and just thought, "ah fuck it, whatever."  Probably not, though.



I tried to find a new school in Chicago.  I did, for a while.  A cheap knockoff MMA school, but it was a short walk away.. it was better than nothing.  I got to grapple and spar, and that's the most important thing.  It wasn't enough to keep me interested, though.  The place had the feel of being thrown together, hiring whoever they could find.  I stopped going after about two months, despite owing them for a year.

I got a heavy bag shortly after moving to Vermont, but didn't really touch it for a while.  Lately I've been spending at least few minutes on it almost every day.  Still pathetic, but getting better.

objective psychonautics

I've been thinking about introversion lately, attempting to string together as much as I can, of what I've read an experienced, into a sort of grand unified theory of what the fuck my problem is.  Not that introversion is not a new concept to me, but I've been thinking of it in broader terms.  I've read some interesting pieces on what it means neurologically, that implicate it in a variety of issues.

As a concept, it's to be more inwardly focused.  As we process what's going on in the world around us, the introvert's mind delves more deeply into that process, fine tuning, questioning, doubting - it varies, depending on other factors, but as opposed to a process that transitions immediately into an external focus. That is, saying something, or doing something.

It's usually framed by what that means socially, but if what I've been reading is accurate, that's just one facet of a much broader issue.  People really notice when someone is more quiet or more loud, but less about how the rest of their lives play out, when they're not socializing.  If it's true that extroversion has something to do with dopamine and reward pathways, that isn't at all limited to social behaviors, and suddenly ties it into a whole lot of other sorts of behavior.

Decision making, for example.  Are introverts more indecisive?  Reward pathways are how we learn to make decisions.  When you see two object to choose between, there's a dopamine response to choosing one over another.  It feels good to know what you want, and move on to trying to attain it.  The introvert then might be less likely to want anything in particular.  Depending on the specific nature of the physiological difference.  Indecision, or less reward from deciding, or less of a response to having decided, but it's all related.  It may start one way, and become an issue of all three over time, habits, repetition.

Conversely, one who repeatedly engages their reward pathways will generally become more decisive, and less thoughtful.  That other part of the brain, where the introvert spends more of their time and energy won't be as well developed by the habits of an extrovert.  One might then conclude that the extrovert's default mode network is less active, but this could be a mere outcome along a causal chain, amidst a whole web of factors.

At another point along that chain, another difference might emerge - a more active default mode network can make it much harder to concentrate.  It can mean a whole lot more noise to contend with, while trying to focus on some external task.  A greater likelihood of procrastinating, incessantly distracted without any external stimulus at all.  For an introvert, controlling external stimulus to counter distraction would have much less benefit.  Especially in conjunction with less of a physiological motivation to take action, in general.

Are introverts more likely to have attention deficit issues?  This would seem to follow, and it's certainly true in my case, but I know some would beg to differ.  Could be a difference of degrees, or other factors involved, or it could be that people are using the same terms to describe entirely different neurological conditions.

Another way of looking at this all though, is that introversion really is specifically a social phenomenon.  Not that the rest of this isn't related, but along with introversion, these might all be symptoms of the same underlying neurological condition.  The same circumstance which makes me indecisive and inattentive might also be making me an introvert.

Friday, March 10, 2017

croly street

We were burglarized lots of times, when I was growing up.  Sometimes we had a TV, but sometimes we'd come home and it would be gone.  Sometimes they'd even come in at night, when we were sleeping.  One Halloween, trick-or-treating with my parents, we were mugged for our Halloween candy.  This is not good for a kid's sense of safety and security in the world.  My mother tried to plant vegetables in the backyard, but the soil was full of motor oil and broken glass.

I've thought a lot about what I really mean, when I comment on poverty.  How much of my problem has to do with the lifelong pattern of economic disadvantages?  How much of this country's problems are rooted in economic struggle, inequality and the unrest that causes?  I think of it more in terms of how it impacts human behaviour, psychology, socially, institutionally.  I'm more concerned with the impact it has on a citizen's capacity to contribute to their community, their motivation and self worth.

FOX News memes have been making the rounds again, about how so-called poor people actually own televisions, phones, and even refrigerators  Yet, what of those who can't afford to live anywhere near their baseline idea of what a normal life is supposed to look like?  This is more an issue of wealth inequality, capitalism run amok, and the impact this has on a civilization.  A highly consumerist society in which half of us just get to watch the other half consume, while struggling just to pay for heat and healthcare.

From our inner cities, to our trailer parks, does anyone even bother to test for mental health problems?  It doesn't get framed that way.  The American poor, the people who aren't really starving to death, many of which can even afford iPhones, do commit far more crime, indulge in more self-destructive behaviors, addiction, recklessness, interpersonal dysfunction.  We don't bother voting, we underachieve, we eat badly, get less exercise, we're slobs, we litter, and we die younger for all sorts of terrible reasons.

These are awful stereotypes, but having lived in a lot of poor neighborhoods, having known all sorts of poor people, there are truths about what it's like that aren't socially acceptable to discuss.  It's a situation that diminishes people in all sorts of ways.  I'm not much of an exception, though I do try not to litter.  The guy who lives above me though.. wtf.

So, why is that?  We sort of try to tackle all these issues, but look at the trend, here.  Maybe it's essentially a mental health epidemic, the natural product of a modern American society that treats half its citizens like crap.  We barely make it past childhood, before realizing that our dreams and ambitions are better left there.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

headspace

I've always wondered where the Buddhist emphasis on compassion fits in.  It appeals to me, and I've read all sorts of references to it, but it just never seemed to add up.  What does that have to do with pure open awareness?  So, I was just thinking, if "life is suffering," compassion is the awareness of that.  I guess that would make it kind of important.

If suffering is the bedrock of existence, as I remember some writer postulating recently, then compassion might logically be deemed the bedrock of awareness.  See what what meditating for a few minutes every morning for three days in a row can do?

In all seriousness, think it might be long past time I tried a structured approach to meditation.  I'm giving this a serious go.  I just wish it could be voiced by some old monk with a thick accent.  Which is rather dumb, I know.. but could I get some random temple noises in the background, too?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

sobriety

I don't feel like getting stoned.  Now, this might not seem noteworthy, but generally, I always feel like getting stoned.  I wake up in the morning, feeling like I just want anything that will make my day less shitty, and cannabis kind of helps.  Usually.  It's not ideal, and often I don't give in that early, but that feeling rarely goes away.  It's just a matter of wanting some relief, really.  From what, I'm not entirely sure.  It's just this ubiquitous lousiness that so often weighs on me.

Like any good painkiller, there are side-effects, and it's not ideal for that reason, too.  I'm not going to pretend it doesn't impede my functionality.  I could do my dishes, go shopping, or get some exercise.. but I probably won't.  More likely, I just forget why it matters, for a while, but I don't think it really impairs an experienced user all that much.  It's grossly overstated for a few reasons, from inexperienced people assuming that's how it is for everyone, to alcohol and pharmaceutical companies spreading nonsense, because they don't want the competition.

Still, being stoned all the time is a terrible idea, which gets progressively worse as active cannabinoids build up in the system.  Which makes it especially nice that I don't really want to be, anyhow.  Not that I'm giving it up.  Just saving it for more appropriate times, when being a little impaired is entirely rational, and not an act of desperation.

Of course, I have to wonder why.  It's been about two weeks or so.  I've just been feeling better, overall.  Is the Omnitrope finally doing whatever it's supposed to do?  Is it a change in diet?  Is it a fluke that will disappear at any moment, as inexplicably as it appeared?  Every little thing I'm doing differently, the last month or so, I'm afraid to stop doing.

I'm not feeling great, just better, and kind of hoping it keeps moving in this direction.  It would be nice if I knew, if there's anything I could do that might help ensure that's the case.  I still feel like I've got quite a ways to go.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

what is intelligence, really?

Without free will, it follows that everything is a matter of causality.  Or rather, the two ideas confirm each other.  That is to say, everything is systemic.  Everything a natural process that will play out exactly as it's coded to do, by all the variables of circumstance.



When people like Sam Harris discuss the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, it boils down to this.  Just because a system excels in some way, does not mean that it's what we'd consider good.  That is, beneficial to us, to humanity, etc.  An AI could excel at replicating itself, for example.  Superhuman in it's ability to learn and utilize information, but without the values we ascribe due to our physiology.  Any safeguards easily discarded by an entity much more intelligent than we are, in a relatively narrow sense.



A system we create that essentially evolves into patterns of expansion, much better than we ever could, given our physiological constraints.  From our frailty and fallibility to all those arbitrary values and emotions that get in the way.

Not really so unlike the systems we've been building for thousands of years.  Government and bureaucracy, culture and community, layer upon layer of cooperation and competition.  Like a hive, we build systems that far exceed our own cognitive abilities, as individuals.  We keep getting better and better at it, but these systems have to be constrained by human values.  What we're really talking about is the brutality of Darwinism, extending not only to us, physiologically, but in everything we build.

Maybe that AI that we're afraid of is already here.  A superhuman system of self-replication that exceeds our ability to constrain it.  Only we call it capitalism.