Sunday, December 24, 2017

emptiness


In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone. 

True mastery can be gained 
by letting things go their own way. 
It can't be gained by interfering.
 .                             ~Tao Te Ching, Ch. 48

Maybe I took this too literally.  Maybe I misunderstood it.  Maybe Lao Tzu didn't understand the process of neurological development and it's impact on one's ability to master much of anything.  The Diamond Sutra uses some similar language in reference to bodhisattvas, though Buddhism often incorporates the metaphor of the raft required to cross a river.  Dharmas are fundamentally empty of meaning like any phenomena, predicated entirely on circumstance and conditions, yet needed to navigate circumstances from which they've arisen.

Such navigation being the product of brain function, cognitive development honed by practice.  Upaya-kaushalya.  A practice of emptiness, mindfulness of impermanence, conditions - and a practice of learning, studying, processing, utilizing, and incorporating new information, lest the mind fall to dysfunction and atrophy.  There may be such paths to advanced cognitive states, but I'm skeptical of the value therein, absent a robust adaptive understanding of the world, and our myriad experiences of it.

I've often touched on thoughts and feelings of pointlessness, on what it really represents and how much sense it makes, in my effort to understand why this question pervades my thinking.  These days, I've been feeling that I've finally answered that question in a way that satisfies me, and this answer strikes me as wholly antithetical to this concept I've been holding so close for decades.  This ideal of an empty mind, letting go, letting life happen.  Like water.  Doing nothing, stagnating.

If I read a book, the book is not the point.  When I create something, the creation is not the point.  If I get an education, the education is not the point.  In all things, the point is the same as when I meditate.  Failures and difficulties are not setbacks.  The point is the practice.  At least for the moment.

What matters is that I stop doing nothing.  Getting an education is probably the most serious way of going about it.  I'm also hoping that in the process, I get a better understanding how life is supposed to work, because I'm still confused.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

living in the world

My search for guidance has not been going so well.  The system is more of a mess than I'd realized, and seems to have even gone downhill in the past two years I've been here.  I've been striking out in my efforts at choosing a social worker that would help me navigate a transition into academia.

That is, one with an emphasis on external, practical solutions, as opposed to the countless psychotherapists who will hash out my feelings and history, week after week, month after month.  I've done enough of that in my life.  It's not what I'm looking for, but seems to be all many mental health professionals offer.

I'm thinking that I might need to take some initial steps on my own.  Not to be cryptic about it, but my impulse is often to leave the specifics out of my more personal posts. I mean that I need to look into my financial aid options and how to enroll in the community college that's just a few blocks from where I live.  It's a little school that only offers some basics, but as I understand it, this would lay the groundwork to enroll in a more interesting university later.  I'm also thinking that once I get started, I'd have access to advisers who would help me figure out if I'm even going in the right direction.

Right now though, I need to wait for the Zoloft to kick in, or at least to stop making me worse.  This should take another two weeks or so.

*update, made an appointment with someone this morning, so now I'm just nervous.  I think part of my plan here is to force myself to stick to my plan.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

no self compassion

"Subhuti, those who would now set forth on the bodhisattva path should thus give birth to this thought: 'However many beings there are in whatever realms of being might exist, whether they are born from an egg or born from a womb, born from the water or born from the air, whether they have form or no form, whether they have perception or no perception, in whatever conceivable realm of being one might conceive of beings, in the realm of complete nirvana I shall liberate them all. And though I thus liberate countless beings, not a single being is liberated.'

"And why not? Subhuti, a bodhisattva who creates the perception of a being cannot be called a 'bodhisattva'. And why not? Subhuti, no one can be called a bodhisattva who creates the perception of a self or who creates the perception of a being, a life, or a soul."
~Diamond Sutra, Ch.3

I've skimmed through a lot of this stuff before, but never made a serious effort to learn what these sutras are actually going on about.  At first glance, the wording can seem somewhat ridiculous.  I'm only halfway through this one now, but one thing that stands out to me is the way no-self and compassion are staked out as essentially the basis of the entire religion.  I've long understood that to be the case, but wasn't sure.  I wasn't aware of exactly how and where it's spelled out.

I've also enjoyed the way it goes into the contradiction therein.  If there is no self, then what is it that the bodhisattva should be concerned with liberating?  The idea is that to awaken from delusion, one must be motivated by a pure compassion for all beings, while realizing no-self; no being has a self.  There are no beings to liberate.  Not to then give up on the whole idea, but to transcend the cognitive dissonance.  Or something.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

the diamond sutra

Now that I've decided I'm capable of reading books again, I've decided to start with one on the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita.  The sutra itself is only 29 pages, but it's followed by over 400 pages of commentary.  I still have no interest in reading fiction, but I realize there's some grey area, here.  Some of it is historical, but the line between history and fiction can be a blurred, particularly when it comes to religious texts.

I've thought a lot about the problem of fundamentalism versus progress, particularly in regards to religion.  There's something appealing about deifying an esoteric history, at the center of which being Gautama himself.  To have faith in the value of Buddhism, should one assume it's founder to be the pinnacle for which all followers strive?  At best, subsequent woke beings would only attain what he'd attained, right?

In Buddhism, the risks of fundamentalism are not as concerning as in some other religions, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.  It only makes sense that despite some great teachings, this was thousands of years ago.  Even the most brilliant wisdom existing in the context of time and place, like scientists of ancient times, brilliant, but crude, ignorant, flawed.  There's no disparagement intended here, I think it's just a matter of being realistic about it.

I've often questioned how accurate any of it could really be, from oral traditions to translation and re-translation, how distorted it must become.  I've thought of this as a problem, the solution to which being an effort to cut through it all, to the best of our abilities, in the effort to ascertain what was originally intended - but this is fundamentalism, the premise that the teaching in it's original state should be held in highest regard.

Alternately, we can treat such fundamentals as invaluable, but more of a starting point upon which many have built, and upon which we can further build.  While there is no scientific method to look to for resolution, humanity has made great strides.  Modern teachings involve distortion, but also progress.  Some of these modern interpretations are likely superior to what the Buddha originally taught.

This is what humanity does in so many different realms, building upon each others' ideas.  Makes more sense to me to have some faith in that, than some vague concept of perfection lost to time.  Much as the self is but a process, so is everything else.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

executive decisions

Got off the phone with my PCP a bit ago, he's having trouble finding someone with any openings.  He informed me that the normal insurance rules don't apply to mental health services, and that I could actually just pick someone myself, as long as they accept my insurance.  I can go through local listings, make my own decision.  I've seen lots of mental health professionals in my life.  It occurred to me that not once did I choose any of them, myself.

Then I think about why I'm seeing this practitioner in the first place.  I had no idea how to choose a PCP, so I asked my cousin, and this was the place she knew of.  A clinic, which assigned someone to me.  I just went along with it all, because that's what I do.  My father does the same thing.  It's daunting, so many choices, many look so terrible.  Other people hardly know or care what I'm looking for though, and apparently there's a shortage of doctors willing to see poor people, but I'd probably make a better choice than some random person I get stuck with.

This is pretty much why I'm on disability.  Once I ended up this way, I've just gone along with it.  I've posted about the choices I've made in my life, but it's mostly been about finding ways not to make any choices.  I've never understood why I'm like this.  It really is a whole lot less fun than it sounds. I'm still having this odd feeling that I might be ready to do something about it.

I feel as though I've been making a lot of very straight forward statements lately, in admonishment of the ridiculous ways I've been living my life.  Maybe all that omega-3 I've been taking is finally paying off, right?  I'm a little nervous about the drop-off prior to Zoloft kicking in, though.  My optimism and executive decision making may start to wane for a while.

This frustration I express over which psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner I end up with is really frustration with myself.  I'm still figuring out how this looking for help business works.  Navigating society looks like it'll take some trial and error.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

traditional science

I seem to have spontaneously grown an attention span.  Either that, or the will to keep trying, in spite of its absence.  It's honestly hard to tell what's going on exactly, but I no longer feel driven to distraction.  It's easier to read a book, or meditate, or draw for hours, when I'm not in constant dire need of distraction.  It was always a difficult feeling to describe, but now it seems to be gone, in remarkable coincidence with my caffeine addiction.

"both A1 receptors and A2A play roles in the heart, regulating myocardial oxygen consumption and coronary blood flow, while the A2A receptor also has broader anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. These two receptors also have important roles in the brain, regulating the release of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and glutamate." (wiki)

These are the adinosine receptors that caffeine fucks with.  This provides well known benefits in the short term, but over time, as these excess receptors proliferate to accommodate the addiction, those benefits become deficits.  Many people are fine with this, but due to everything else going on with me, it would seem I lack the dopamine to spare.  It's been getting worse and worse for years, and suddenly.. that's all it was?  I just had to stop drinking so much coffee?

Friday, December 8, 2017

debating myself

What if I go out into the world, still unable to find what I'm looking for?  What am I looking for exactly?  Some nonsense about a soulmate, affinity, or belonging, an elusive concept creeping back into my thoughts as it always does, undermining my resolve.  This is really about loneliness.  Nothing makes me lonelier than being around people.  I'm going to have to wade right into that.  I'm going to have to get used to it.

I've realized that more important than any of that, I can focus on doing better than I have been.  I can try to better live up to my own standards.  It's not always going to be painless or rewarding, but I know it's what I should be doing.

There's this person on my friends list I met during Bernie's run last year. He's got this new Facebook page that he's trying to get going, an integration of politics and science, with a futurism slant to it.  So, no question, right up my alley.  He's asked me to contribute, so I've been trying to think of something suitable.  Stoicism doesn't seem to work as well on creative endeavors.  I can't seem to force myself to have ideas.  This gets discouraging.

I've been practicing creativity in general more.  Writing has always been easier for me than anything else, but only when I'm rambling and aimless about it.  Also considering taking my guitar more seriously, but in the meantime at least playing it a little every day.  Painting.. even thinking about that again, but I don't know.

Sketching things out with pencil should be good exercise for those neurons on the meantime.  Writing this drivel makes for good practice, should I come up with something more interesting to write about.  At some point, I plan to switch from learning Russian to Mandarin.  It doesn't matter which, as long as I keep learning.  Finding the will to meditate has become so much easier. I've been doing that for an hour or so every day.  Not that my mind doesn't wander as much as ever, but I sit every morning no matter how I feel.

For the longest time, I've thought of intelligence as an inherent trait, a matter of potential.  You can do something with it or not, but an attribute of who we are, not what we do.  There's an element of truth to that, but it's a tragic misconception of how these things primarily work.  Our patterns of behavior and lifestyle create who we are.  The more we rally our brain cells to a task, the better suited they become for that task.  Draw every day, and that will make far more difference than any latent ability.  Learn every day, and learning itself becomes easier.

This takes time though.  A lot of time.  It requires consistency and resolve, a simple truth that becomes wholly unintuitive, as weeks and months go by, to negligible benefit.  Go years without reading a single book, and even reading can take some practice to get back into.  We are always up against who we've already been, our whole lives.  In so much as the self is a thing, it's more a process than anything rigid.

I need a sense of direction in much of what I do.  Like in martial arts, I remember what a difference it made when I had a plan to execute on my opponent, instead of just reacting.  I had to know what sort of plan would be realistic, but go for something.  Otherwise you're just waiting to get owned.

In what I want to do with my life, this will be important.  I'll focus on who I want to be, in terms of what I want to learn and pursue.  I won't sit around making excuses anymore.  In creative endeavors, it's much the same.  I've been letting my brain atrophy all my life, but I'm going to try to stop doing that.  In a way, I realize that's been the plan for some time now.  It's just taken a while to start feeling like I've been getting anywhere.

I get all tangled up in how well I should do at anything and everything, when the consequences of doing nothing are substantially worse.  What will I be any good at, if I never do anything?  Why have I been doing this to myself?  I've become oddly disinterested in distractions lately.  That seems to making all sorts of rational thinking easier.

The mind wanders, keep bringing it back.  What matters is the practice.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

is this.. volition?

I know, I'm clearly insane, but maybe something good can still come of it.  Maybe I've finally hacked my way in and accomplished some rewiring.  This seems like another good sign, anyhow.  It's no masterpiece, but I've hardly picked up a pencil in twenty years.  Maybe it's a start.



It turns out I can draw while listening to music instead of just sitting here looking sad.  I.. don't know why I haven't done this until now.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

approval

It feels somewhat like realizing that the motivation for approval that I'm always crying about is really my own.  I don't approve of how I'm living, or the choices I'm making.  That's a whole lot easier to figure out how to do something about, than trying to make sense of what everyone else wants.  My kitchen is finally clean again too, because every time I look at it, I've been wondering what kind of scumbag lives here.

I know I said I'd be building some walls, but this is something else.  Crazy attachment transference shit, the wholesale collapse of my adenosine receptor blockade, or maybe just some brutally well placed criticism.  I don't know, but whatever it is, I'm going with it.

I'm skeptical though.  I know how deceptive a change in perspective can be, circumstances change, and suddenly I'm not feeling like I'm actually at the helm, anymore.  Started having some doubts when I woke up this morning.  Some coffee would have definitely helped in the short term, but I got up.  I meditated, got some exercise.. ok, then I fell back to sleep for a bit, but I think I'm still making progress here.



For now, the one downside seems to be that I'm having trouble writing about anything other than all this.  I'm hoping I can keep this going, but maybe calm down about it a bit.  Mental health intake appointment this Thursday.  I am going to need any help I can get to take this a step further, so I'll go look for help.  My brain doesn't usually work like that.

Monday, December 4, 2017

dropping anchor

I've been vegetarian on and off since I was six.  Essentially, on my own, I've always been a vegetarian, but when I have shared my life with those who are not, I've compromised and in some cases, gave it up entirely for a while.  In some part, due to values instilled in me by my uncle, whose wisdom I always held in high regard.

He taught me not to be rigid, but sensitive to circumstances and the people around, in how I conduct myself, even in matters of ethics.  He'd talk about how so much of it was cultural. Values are memes, we learn them from each other, at least when we're open to it.  That made sense to me for a long time, but I suppose I'm having doubts.  He was vegetarian-sympathetic, but not vegetarian himself.  I also better understand how that plays into a person's views now, and how they can be skewed.  Maybe don't trust a meat eater to tell you when it's ok to eat meat.

Of course, also in part due to my own weakness for the taste of it, I've eaten lots of animals over the years, which I'm not proud of.  I don't know that it's purely a matter of reason, but this feels important to me.  All the ways I've compromised, for myself, for others, how good I am at excuses. What impact this has had on my sense of self, confidence in myself.  Empathy can be volatile, it can go terribly wrong. I seem to have it in spades.  This is probably why I've always compromised so much.  I'm acutely aware that it needs work.  This isn't a matter of berating myself for it, so much as realizing that maybe I can try a better approach to life.

The universe is vast, suffering infinite, the impact of our individual actions of dubious significance amidst it all.  First and foremost, I am a consequentialist but consequences are not always so straight forward or to be found where we're looking for them.  What does it mean to compromise my values?  Values are not just about what we do in the world, but what we're doing to ourselves, in our thoughts, our words, actions and interactions.

In reference to slaughterhouses,
death camps, circa ~1989 

When I speak of doing better, this is also what I'm talking about.  I've been relatively vegan ish for almost a year now. I can do better, but should it need to be said, this isn't just about what I eat.  Maybe I can even stop drifting.

seriously, it's good that i'm documenting this, because wtf.

do better

When I moved from Pittsfield to Minneapolis, I didn't have any help for most of it.  It took me weeks to get it cleaned out, and by that, I mean I had to carry everything to dumpsters, because I couldn't bring much with me.  My father did help with the transportation itself, and I commented to him on my frustration, with how difficult it was and how much I had to lose, because I didn't have the means to do it myself.  He laughed, and I don't remember his exact words, but he thought it was funny that I'd expect anyone to be any help ever.

He has been very stoic in some ways.  I'm not sure, but I think when he's had to move, he has done it himself, unless anyone's pushed their way into helping.   I don't think he'd ever ask for it, even if it meant he'd have to throw out everything he owns.   He is the most asocial schizoid type I've ever known.  My sister and I both seem to have inherited some of that.  It's been much more problematic for me, but I think she's had her issues, too.  "I hate people" bumper stickers and the like.

It's not always obvious what matters.  I think it can be important to break it down, not just by ourselves, but in the social exchanges between each other.  Or sometimes with blood work.  We don't need to do any of this, but it seems important to me.  I've come to realize that I have been stuck in this vague unconscious state of waiting for help, attaining self sufficiency, and that these different types of self sufficiency are related.  I've been sabotaging myself my whole life, and this does not make for good company, even my own.

Under better circumstances, I'd have just gotten that sort of help when I was a kid, and this whole process would have gone more smoothly.. but I guess for me, it went sideways.  There were lots of reasons.  I had a therapist in Pittsfield who picked up on some of this, commented that it seemed I was perpetually waiting for something, but that was vague and he had no idea what to do about it.  It would have been a nice bit of help, if I'd had a better therapist.

I'm not sure what I can do, but I'll look into what sort of higher education and financial options I do have.  I'm not entirely confident in my resolve or my competence, or that of the underfunded systems I'll be looking to for assistance.   Could take weeks or even months for appointments, but I've set it in motion.  I have a sense of direction that I will try to make sure that it goes in.  I'm writing about it, so that I can remind myself, should I need to debate myself about any of this, at some point.

I think I'm being realistic here.  It's hard, it hurts, scared, distracted, but here's the full equation.  Now that I see what's going on in my head, do I really want to choose not to do this?  There are always causal factors to it all, but this is less about free will, and more about just being honest with myself.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

learned helplessness

Learning to give my own injections took way too long.  I started when I was maybe fifteen, and had a really hard time of it.  It wasn't until starting again in my forties that I understood how to grow the fuck up about it.  I look back on it though, and I see the tricks my mind played on itself.  I understand how my rationale wasn't even conscious.

If only someone could have explained it to me, in the detail that I understand it now, that would have been all I needed.  Maybe a parental type just being an authoritarian jerk does that trick too, but I'm not sure.  I only remember sitting there by myself for so many hours trying to prove that I was so incompetent that I wouldn't have to do it.  No one will blame me, if I can't do it.

This is learned, I know where I learned it, and yeah, of course it's fucking crazy.  What kind of cowardly bullshit is that?  I needed to understand how to ask myself, is not doing this a serious option?  Maybe I needed some consequences explained, but there was no reason for ambiguity.  Do I seriously want to admit that I chose not to do this?  I needed to understand that yes, I was making a choice - it just wasn't conscious.  I couldn't see it, but now I understand that it was there.

So, if yes, I'm going to do this, there's no reason not to do it right now.  As long as I can think of something to do, and yeah ok.  Of course I can.  Not after weeks of inner struggle to prove that I can't. I've been getting better, I do things eventually, but it shouldn't even be such a long drawn out battle.

It took me a long time to unlearn this nonsense.  I'm still unlearning it.  I still do this, in so many ways.  It is more difficult, with some things more than others, I definitely have some obstacles, but seriously, I know, I need to grow the fuck up.  It occurs to me that I never really try, anymore.  I can't even draw something, without sketching it out quickly, and if that's not good enough, fuck it.  It's not worth it.  What the fuck am I doing?

This is why I've been doing everything I do.  The omnitrope, the running, meditating, giving up coffee and alcohol.  I think maybe all of this has helped, and it's been so gradual in accumulating that it has been hard to tell.  Maybe it's time to admit that I'm doing better.

Either that, or I've come down with some sort of horrible brain disorder, and this is the part right before I try to eat my neighbors.

Friday, December 1, 2017

social asceticism

Just set the appointment process in motion for both counseling and psychiatry.  There's a waiting list, but hopefully I'm at the point where I'm ready to take some real steps towards self sufficiency and maybe even some ambition.  Never seemed to be much point in getting help, just so I might feel better sitting around doing nothing.

In some ways I've spent my entire life fighting not to have to depend on people, with the gigantic caveat being government assistance.  Everything from doing my own therapy, learning to cook my own curries, to cutting my own hair.  I have far more conversations with myself than anyone else.  Emotionally, I'm not accustomed to depending on anyone, but I don't believe that this is ideal.  Honestly, I don't recommend any of this.  Find someone to teach you, if at all possible.

This sort of independence is ironic, because it's forced me to be entirely dependent and trapped wherever I go.  I've always been aware of this, ashamed of it.  I've wanted to do something about it, but it's difficult to honestly look back on my life, and discern whether my excuses for not doing anything about it were any good or not.  In a sense, I've always just needed guidance, to overcome the very real problems I had. Problems no one around me understood.  I've even had to be my own parents.  

Undoubtedly, I've made awful decisions throughout the course of my life, so it's a matter of perspective, but I didn't know better.  It's taken me a long time to learn.  I'm hoping that a professional will be better versed in what my options are, how realistic it would be for me to pursue them.



I've referenced the years I have ahead of me, assuming nothing tragic befalls me in the meantime, but I haven't posted about it's relevance to this.  A major impediment to pursuit of anything ambitious has been that I'm too old.

This is why it matters, how many years I have ahead of me.  If I'll be old and feeble in fifteen years, there's not much point.  I've known people who went back to school at my age, forced to retire for age related health reasons, not all that long after graduating.  If this is going to drag out for another fifty years though, I should really get moving.

morning ramble

In the US, one interesting attribute of class striation is that people above a certain wealth level often don't associate with a single cigarette smoker.  Tobacco addiction almost entirely eradicated among liberal types with money and education.  Meanwhile, I've read that among some poor conservative communities, the inverse is true,
everyone smokes like it's still 1950.

In the blue state poverty I'm more familiar with it's more mixed, but I have known many who smoke.  I tried it myself for a few months, years ago.  I figured out that most of the enjoyment came from satiating the addiction, rather than anything I really like all that much about tobacco.  For a while, this seemed like a good deal, because when life is such crap that we don't enjoy much of anything, we take what we can get.  Addiction itself can be, not something to avoid, but even downright precious.  This is why people with no money keep buying something that's so expensive.

Once that addiction was gone, I discovered that I could no longer even enjoy it occasionally as the mere smell made me nauseous.  I was somewhat ambivalent about giving it up.  Coffee though, how could I possibly stop enjoying coffee?  I just need to drink it way less, but not give it up, blah blah blah.. well, as I made some for myself this morning, the smell of it was a bit nauseating.  Coffee.  The smell of coffee, nauseating.  That's insane.

My emotions seem to have evened out, and there's only one person in the world who knows what I'm talking about.  She's very busy, doing her own thing on an entirely different continent, yet she still knows more about what's going on with me than anyone else.  I'm trying to be happy for her, and the new relationship that she's in.  Although I'm also starting to wonder if my brain's been going through something more physiological, throwing my emotions out of wack.  Or if throwing my emotions out of wack might have done something to my brain.

I've long suspected that I'm capable of emotional attachment to people. I'm just extremely selective.  When I say "I" though, that's not to suggest I have much control over it.  My mental health issues make it very difficult, but not impossible.

In a way, even worse than that might be the anxiety I get dealing with everyone else.  All the people I find alienating, at every level of interaction. It cripples my ability to navigate society, and if I could do something about that, it would change everything.  I'd be able live, to meet far more people, I'd probably find what I'm looking for.  I've sometimes allowed myself to indulge in elaborate fantasies in which someone helps me achieve that.  I've certainly yet to figure out how to accomplish it myself, so this gives me hope, until I realize what an unrealistic stretch it really is.

So that's part of what's been going on with me, too.  This past week has been very strange, and when I said that it felt like being on LSD, I was not exaggerating, and it occurs to me that this is not a good sign.  Sometimes I wonder if my inability to process emotions properly has anything to do with why I avoid the world.  I'm really not keen on having a psychotic break, and felt that I came dangerously close.

It's very strange, knowing that I'm losing it, knowing my thoughts are grossly irrational, my emotions off the rails, and finding myself completely incapable of pulling it together, for such an extended period of time.  Some facet of my persona was still in there somewhere, telling me to write about it, helping me keep it together, helping me sort through and not completely lose my shit, but fuck, was it looking iffy for a while there.

I'm feeling much better now, but I'm not sure whether I'm making progress or just taking a break before drifting further towards oblivion.  I really need to change my life.  I'm thinking maybe it is time for me to try seeking some professional help, again.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

hopeless and helpless

I've been working hard towards self-sufficiency all my life, but it would appear that I've failed miserably.  Depending on how you look at it, maybe I've just had a much longer climb to get there, and society isn't accommodating of people progressing at different rates.  There's a trajectory we're supposed to stay on, and when we fall off, it can be hell trying to get back on track.  Some succeed, but many more never do.

The longer we take, the worse our prospects get.  They say that after some time, people basically become unemployable, which tends to mean fucked, in all sorts of ways.

I don't really know what it's like to be busy.  I've always run out of other resources well before time.  Mostly sanity.  For most of my life, I've had nothing but free time, and it's horrible.  I wish I had places to go and things to do that actually mattered to me, but that is not how it's gone.  My life has been shaped by the problems I had when I was younger, and now I have no idea how to do anything to change it.

Each time I move, there's been this hope that I might find opportunities that weren't to be found elsewhere, but it's always the same.  The sort of solutions I'd be given if I were to seek professional help would not be cognitively engaging.  Doing something tedious for minimum wage would not make my life better.

This fire that's raging inside my skull at the moment makes me realize that my neuroendocrine system might have tricks I was not aware of.  Responses to stimulus that have not always been there, maybe.  I feel like I could be doing a whole lot more with my life.  I'm even wondering if it's just that I'm finally free of caffeine addiction, in combination with everything else.

I got five hours of sleep last night, no coffee, yet I'm chomping at the bit for something to do.  This is really weird.  I've also lost all interest in Facebook and Twitter.  I don't care at all right now.  I keep checking it out of habit, but I have no comment on any of it.  I don't want to read or argue about whatever distraction might be dominating the current news cycle.  I really don't want to play video games, although that's been waning for some time.  I desperately need some kind of direction.

I've also had no appetite.  If I didn't know better, I'd think my brain might have figured out how to produce it's own Adderal.  What am I supposed to do with it though?  This is where people suggest going to the library or volunteering at a soup kitchen.  Laudable goals sure, but I'm not sure they understand the problem.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

radical transperancy

I'm not an absolutist about much, but I'm a believer in honesty.  Honesty with others, though not necessarily needing to tell everyone everything.  For one thing, most people really don't care.  More than that, I've found honesty with myself critical.  It's so easy to slip into narratives, to be so sure of things, but the mind fabricates a lot.  We forget more than we want to admit.  Without even taking the time to think about it.

As I've been following the news closely for a few years now, I've realized that people have no memories of anything, unless the news cycle's been reminding them of it.  The present is always decontextualized in this way.  Often the memories are in there somewhere, but we're not as good as we think we are, at associating a memory with current relevant information.  Honestly, I find it implausible that I'm speaking only for myself here, but go ahead, believe what you want.

It's a lie of false certainty and unchecked bias, when the brain really isn't processing the whole picture.  Disproportionate values placed in all sorts of ways.  Focusing on one thing more than another, for no reason other than self bias.  Empathizing more with those who are more like ourselves, for example.  Sapolsky says oxytocin does that, but spellcheck thinks 'oxycontin' is the real word.  Even spellcheck lies to us.

Just the other day, I'm out buying beer.  Now I'm looking in my fridge thinking, why the hell did I buy coffee stout.  When am I supposed to drink this, without screwing up my new coffee regime?  I think there had to have been a moment of self-deception involved there.

I am an idealist when it comes to honesty with others, in this respect.  I believe in the premise that checking each others' bullshit can be an important part of being less wrong about everything.  Sometimes I've needed the help, but I think it takes a balance.  No one really gets to claim that they're the one whose right about everything.  Except maybe Noam Chomsky.

The problem with this ideal is that most people are so very wrong as to be not that helpful.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

blog therapy

I've been having trouble sleeping.  I can tell, my brain chemistry is different somehow.  It's a little like LSD, not hallucinations, but that feeling of intensity.  Somewhat like a stimulant, but more cerebral.  I wonder what hormones or neurotransmitters I've been awash in, as I try to weather emotions I'm not terribly familiar with.  Isn't there some way to get the stimulant effect, without being miserable?  Laser focused day after fucking day and it's completely useless.

Sometimes the worse I feel, the more I want to keep writing.  I've been in therapy a lot, I've learned to just talk things out myself.  I'm not sure which has been more useless.  The trick though, is imagining different sorts of people reading it.  Critiques and impressions of people who may or may not actually exist.  It helps me critique myself, and works best after I've posted something and started worrying about what others might think.

I'll then edit the post accordingly. Sometimes the additional perspective helps me realize it's entirely founded in bullshit, and I just delete it.  When I'm having trouble moving on from a particular subject, it can make more sense to edit the same post over and over, rather than post after post on the same thing.  I am having trouble moving on here.   My emotions, blindsiding.  What the fuck is this.  I'm not entirely sure what's going on with me.

The catch is that I have to be honest, publicly, knowing full well that some of what I write might not be exactly flattering.   It might not be interesting.  It might be a particular cognitive loop I'm stuck in, trying to argue my way out of with all these imaginary actors.  This can get repetitive.  Some of these arguments have been going on for a very long time, but at least my writing has evolved.

When I was a kid, I kept a journal that no one else was supposed to read.  I was eleven years old, and page one was about wanting to experience love.  The first time I kissed a girl, we were only four or five years old, but if I remember correctly, there was even talk of getting married.  I didn't see her for years, during which time my pituitary imploded.  When I saw her again, we were in fifth grade, and it was awkward.  She'd grown a whole lot more than I had.  It was not meant to be, after all.

Why am I writing about this now.  Yeah, I don't know if I should be that honest, but my mind keeps going in circles.  My instincts keep telling me that this means I have more to say, and that I shouldn't say anything.  I'm not being honest enough.  My biggest fear though is that it doesn't even matter.  I'm afraid I've lost my best friend no matter what I do.  The mind fixates, and moving on is extraordinarily difficult when I can't care about anything else.  I walked my cousin's dog like I was supposed to, but then it was right back to this.  Not like I wasn't all weepy picking up dog shit too.

Maybe beer would help.  I haven't even been drinking occasionally, all concerned with my brain health and the like, but fuck if that matters to me right now.  My prefrontal cortex has just been pissing me off anyhow.

Monday, November 27, 2017

affinity loop

I try to write around this a lot, though I'm not sure I've been successful.  I've found it to be largely counter-productive.  Few understand or care and it is embarrassing.  This part of my psyche is so vulnerable, so I try to avoid discussion on the subject.  So here I am now, with my rambling lead in. Don't blink, you'll miss it.

I can talk about politics or music, but it's all distraction.  I don't really care about any of it, but it's a good distraction.  A puddle deep way of connecting that doesn't work as well if I don't compartmentalize the crushing loneliness that elicits all the wrong responses from people.. but this is what I'm really talking about when I say that I'm a failure.  This, my whole reason for dragging myself from each decade to the next, is what I've failed at.  At my age, it feels like a statement of past tense making all else pointless.

I've never cared about anything all that much, other than finding someone like me.  To share this crazy existence with a female of my species.  The most normal thing in the world, if only I were, as the humans say, neurotypical.  Everything else, I can adapt to.  I can take interest or not, whatever.  The world is all sorts of tragic, beautiful, and interesting with or without my engagement.  Sometimes I'll even say that I'm not clinically depressed or anxious, which is clearly untrue, but it feels like circumstance that would change in a heartbeat, if only I could find whatever the hell I'm looking for.

I'm inclined to say that this is itself the pathology, maybe even endocrinology.  I fixate on what would soothe my lifelong inability to connect, but I don't like to talk about it.  There isn't much point, except to say, please mind my feelings, here.  I'm not a monk.  I wish I could better explain what it means, that I can't relate.  I don't want anyone to take it personally, but it's particularly excruciating at the moment.  I'm not handing it well.

I feel this predicament gives me insight into how motivation itself actually works, so I usually try to comment on that instead.  Oxytocin, dopamine, reward pathways and how socialization plays into that.  Or how all that somehow plays into capitalism's failures.  Something distracting.  Sometimes it feels important to express what's actually going on in my head.

Sometimes compartmentalization breaks down and I'm just trying to sort through the mess.  Nurse my wounds, rebuild a few walls.  Sometimes this takes a while.  I thought this part of me had faded away years ago, but turns out I'd only buried it.  I've been confused by the force with which it reemerged, but maybe this has given me an opportunity to better work through it.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

i think i can, i think i can

Visiting my cousin last night, I was caught off guard and asked if I wanted to read to their year and a half old daughter.  Ok, I have to admit, I was happy to give it a shot.  I have noticed that just smiling at her hasn't won me a whole lot of trust or favor.  She still looks at me with apprehension.  I'm nervous about these things though.  I don't know if I can read a children's book right, and babies can be pretty judgmental.

I joke, but I was nervous about it.  In order to read in proper entertaining fashion while keeping track of what she was doing required my full attention, to such an extent that it felt like being on autopilot.  I had nothing to spare for my precious default mode network.  I realized that this itself makes me very nervous.  It wasn't really just that I was afraid of being judged, but that without the familiar hypervigilance of ego, I wasn't entirely sure what I'd do.  Hopefully, I'd just read to her like a normal human being, but with this human brain thing, you never really know.

So, it was a little shocking to discover that I pretty much just read to her like a normal human being.  She seemed content, and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do when we got to the end of the book, so I read her a second book.  At one point, I noticed that she was distracted and kept looking up, so wondering what she keeps looking at, I realize there's her whole family watching us.


 I think they were a little shocked too.


Monday, November 13, 2017

neuroplastika

All these things I do in the hopes of squeezing what I can from this grey matter, I do in realizing that I am already underwater.  I wouldn't worry about my coffee consumption, if this were actually working out for me.  Addiction is less than ideal, as I'd put it, but who in their right mind worries about everything being ideal?  Yeah, I'm not really in my right mind.  I'm just doing whatever I can think of in my latest push towards remedying that.

At the very least, my brain has was way too many adenosine receptors.  Coffee works by blocking these, so nature responds by growing more, to compensate.  An impressive trick, but it tends to ruin everything.  The more of an addict we are, the more of these extra receptors we have, desperately needing to be blocked.  I've read that it takes months for those to scale back to normal, once they're no longer swimming in all that coffee.

While it may seem a contradiction, it's in realizing just how much caffeine sometimes helps that I've realized how much it might be undermining me.  My tolerance is so high that other times, it just does nothing.  If it all comes down to these receptors, that drinking coffee can help so much, then not having them in such abundance should also be a huge help.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

novelty seeking

Had dinner with family the other night, and at one point began to explain my caffeine withdrawal.  No, I'm not giving up coffee.  I'm just giving up my addiction to it.  I find it odd that this is so difficult for others to understand and yet, maybe I wouldn't have understood myself, a few years ago.  It has a lot to do with what I've learned regarding addiction, particular as it pertains to stimulants and my own experiences.  It seems counter intuitive and yet now, it just makes perfect simple sense.

I find it disappointing when others act confused by things that make perfect simple sense to me.  I suppose that really, I'm confused by the things that make perfect simple sense to them, as well.  It's a different sort of confusion, but the net impact is the same.  It's alienating.  Differences in priorities, values, and ultimately outcomes and experiences.  A difference in worldview, a feeling of living in an entirely different world.  The way others think, feel, and behave is often unfamiliar to me, but whereas I've spent my life trying to understand them anyhow, there is little incentive for them to do the same for me.

I've started drinking coffee again.  All according to plan.  It's been over two weeks, the withdrawal has become negligible.  I have a schedule which involves drinking coffee twice a week, now.  I'll see how that goes.  There was an article I read a while back about the benefits of breaking up routines.  Doing mundane things differently, so that the brain doesn't stagnate into monotony and repetition.  Everything we do creates a baseline to which we adjust, and that baseline can be kind of lousy.

It's a bit like the studies showing that learning multiple languages results in greater mental acuity.  Which is the main reason I'm doing that, too.  Mixing things up compels the brain to be more active, more aware, more mindful.  Settling into patterns can be all but unavoidable and even necessary though.  It should help to switch things up on a neurochemical level to ensure that one day differs from the next, and plan my routines accordingly.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

unloquacious

There seems to be a clear line between the impulse to express my thoughts, and the impulse to socialize.  I often depend on being reactive, looking for other people's ideas so that I might feel compelled to respond.  Many of my blog entries, inspired by some podcast I've been listening to, or my political comments in response to some article, or some other commenter.


I often need to be stimulated by ideas, to move me from my asocial torpor, but lately I haven't felt much like responding to anyone about anything.  So here's my music playlist from YouTube.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

compensatory mechanisms

Addiction is an oft misused term.  Addiction is the body becoming accustomed to the presence of a drug.  When you remove the drug, it takes time to adjust physiologically, and this results in withdrawal symptoms. This does not occur just from taking the drug.  It occurs with regular use.  The more you do, the more regularly, the more your body will try to get used to it.

This also results in tolerance.  As the body compensates, in assuming the presence of the drug, the less of an impact it will have.  Common wisdom is that you need more to get the same effect, but the truth is, that never quite works as well.  The system absorbs some chemical reactions better than others, resulting in a different balance.  A diminished efficacy, as long as compensatory mechanisms are involved.

The drug becomes a blunter instrument, the more dosage is increased.  Less of what you want, and more of everything else.  The more desperate you are to feel it anyhow, the more you keep upping the dosage anyhow.  Sometimes it's necessary.  Sometimes it's dangerous.

Dr. Hart thinks the problem is ignorance, and I'm sure that he is right, to some degree.  If only people knew, not to combine sedatives, such as opiates and alcohol, he says.  Except, addicts do that because they know it's a way of pushing through tolerance.  I wonder how many would keep doing it anyhow.

Addiction is not something that happens just from taking a drug.  Opioids are especially addictive, but people often take them for weeks without becoming addicts.  Recreationally, people use all sorts of drugs intermittently.

We live with addictions all the time, and with a steady intake of the drug, they aren't necessarily a problem.  They're never really ideal, though.  It takes the brain months to return to normal, from caffeine addiction.  Not from drinking coffee at all, but from drinking 2-4 cups a day, every day, for decades.

In the US, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death now, in people under 50.  I appreciate the crusade against Big Pharma on their victims' behalf, but I've always felt blaming the dealers to be almost as misguided as blaming users.  Addiction occurs when people already have a problem.  The reason they're doing the drug every day.  That's not the effect of addiction, it's the cause.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

positive avolition

It's shocking how tired I am.  Either my daily coffee has been hiding this horrible ailment I have, or this is caffeine withdrawal.  I haven't even gone a whole day without it, yet. I'm also out of ibuprofen.  It would seem I am going to need more.

I've decided that drinking coffee every day makes terribly inefficient use of a really good stimulant.  I know that regular use of other stimulants builds tolerance and dependence, and worst of all, causes them to stop working.  I don't see why caffeine would be any different.  I need it, and yet barely feel like I'm breaking even, by drinking it every day.

I tried giving up coffee a few years ago.  I was successful, but after a few months I decided I was better off as an addict.  All or nothing.  Now, I'm not giving it up entirely.  I just want to break the addiction, so that I can enjoy it more, 2-3 times a week.

I wonder why this approach seems so unusual.  It makes sense to me, but it's taken me years to learn for myself how stimulants work, and to think of trying even coffee this way.  I've never seen anyone suggest this.  So, I wonder if my body works differently.  Maybe others don't build tolerance as quickly, or experience as much drop-off in efficacy because of it.  I don't put it past people though, doing everything wrong for millennia, without learning anything.

Other people do seem to be more impulsive than I am.  Maybe that's what makes this a more viable approach for me.  I feel lousy, but this isn't some monumental act of willpower.  I'm really good at not doing things.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

i like animals, except for people

In addition to seeking professional help, I used to go through all sorts of mental health literature, trying to understand what was wrong with me.  After a while, coming to disdain that entire approach, clustering symptoms with only loose hypotheticals, as far as what causes a given disorder.

I realize that it's complex and difficult, but without cause, these symptoms could be anything.  People placed into the same category, with entirely different disorders, responding to entirely different treatments.  Seems to me this defeats the purpose of categorization.  Might as well just stick to dealing with symptoms individually, until a more comprehensive understanding of the situation can be reached.

It's been a while since I've looked up any of it.  I'm only peripherally aware of recent developments.  Maybe I dismiss it too hastily in my frustration.  Found myself reading about Schizoid Personality Disorder again. I'd come back to that one many times, but it always felt fundamentally wrong.  Ok, so I'm not sure what it feels like to be happy, per se, but I take pleasure in all sorts of things.  I feel all sorts of things. Sorta.

This time though, I imagined a psychiatrist checking symptoms off of a list, upon getting to know me.  I can see how they might even check every single symptom, despite my personal feeling that half of them don't apply.  Communication can be misleading, and it is in part, a communication disorder - inappropriate tone or affect often produces misunderstanding.   On the other hand, psychologists will often dismiss personality disorder as almost irrelevant and treat all symptoms as depression and anxiety.

The reality is that these diagnosis don't mean a whole lot, in that they neither prove anything, nor have treatment implications.  It can also further threaten the sense of self, to think this explains everything, when it couldn't possibly.  We're still individuals, with all sorts of other variables mucking up our lives.  Still, it could help me understand why I struggle to relate to people.

In reading about it, I've often come across the sentiment that if you're "struggling to relate to people," you can't be schizoid, because a schizoid does not care.  Comments to that effect.  It's sometimes true.  Schizoid types are less likely to care or feel loneliness, but it's a spectrum, and there are other variables involved.

I've also discovered that the very officious psychiatric people have retired the diagnosis, to combine with schizotypal and move the remainder over to avoidant.  This is incredibly stupid.  It's almost inverse to schizotypal, and avoidant should really be a subset of social anxiety disorder.  Schizoid personality is distinct in their social disinterest, blunted affect and limited emotional range.

YouTube has lots of videos on the subject, with varying degrees of accuracy and relevance.  Most people telling you what their version of schizoid looks like, and this is heavily skewed towards the type of schizoid person who'd be inclined to make YouTube videos of themselves.


This one was particularly amusing.  I don't know anything about her, but what she describes is familiar.  Maybe a bit more extreme in my case.  Like the schizoid I seem to be, that's not to say I watched any of her other videos.  I don't care that much.  It occurs to me now though, that she poses a good explanation for why I post so much about politics and not science or philosophy, gaming or music.  It's politics, current events and the like, that make me angry.  That's one emotion I can feel motivated by.

Come to think of it, the one social activity I really got into was sparring, takedowns, grappling.  Hitting things, fighting with people.

Monday, October 2, 2017

good morning, america

I don't care that much about the gun control issue.  I woke up horrified this morning, but the whole debate is this convoluted swamp of insanity.  Of course, guns should be banned.  All of them.  Better yet, let's ban all weapons.  Anything that's designed to kill people, how about just outlawing, with any grey area litigated in court like anything else.  I don't really care enough to argue the point, or get into specifics, but that's roughly my stance.  A stance I'm too cynical to care about.

It's not just that we're nowhere near it.  They won't even talk about it. They've given so much ground to the right, that they bicker over whether or not there should be limits on magazine sizes.  In this case, sure, that could have saved a lot of lives, but this isn't the norm.  This is like terrorism, in that it's especially triggering, it speaks to us emotionally, in a way that the everyday violence does not.

Fifty eight people died to gun violence today.  Not counting all the other firearm suicides, homicides, and police shootings that happened today, as they do every day.   I think it adds up to at least that many. every single day in America.. and no, they can't even get limits on magazine sizes.

Anyhow, 3D printed guns are still a thing, and they keep getting better, the materials cheaper.  Their creators more creative.  It's a pathologically uphill pointless battle, in a world that's falling apart around us.  Have I mentioned that I've been kind of depressed, lately?

Deadliest Mass Shooting in US History
"There have been a total of 273 mass shootings in the United States since 2017 began 273 days ago, according to the Gun Violence Archive."

Saturday, September 30, 2017

worth articulating

There are many ways to define worth, but I like to start at the root of it, the evolutionary adaptation somehow wired into us, for tribalism, working together, an inherent need to be some sort of value.  I always feel like I need to reiterate, like all sorts of things, this would still show significant variation within a normal population.  An instinct likely more active in some than others, maybe having other dimensions to it as well.  Even at the biological root of it.

In life, we then learn to value different things.  What matters, because that's what makes sense, given what we know of the world.  What matters because that's what matters to those around us, family, friends, peers.  Those that matter to us.  To varying degrees, in different people.  All of it just factoring into the psychological equation.  What am I doing to contribute, from a work ethic to fighting with the tribe's opposition.  What value do I bring to the tribe, which for some might mean family, while for others, the entire human race, or anywhere in between.

This isn't to justify feelings of worthlessness, but to show the link between what we value, and feelings of isolation, alienation.  Something else Google will tell us, has been trending in the US.  This messes with one's sense of self worth.  It makes us vote for ridiculous leaders, and yell about our rights being violated.  Sometimes our rights really are being violated.  It would seem, sometimes it just turns us into xenophobic loones. I'd suggest that critically lacking sense of self worth even potentiates political and religious radicalization.  This is not something you want rampant in society.

The need to be of value, an imperative that exists for reasons, but when it doesn't succeed as a motivator, it just sucks.  It all just seems to play into an overarching scheme, a trajectory, not so easy to change.

Friday, September 29, 2017

the memes of america

I've been seeing lots of references to the myth of American meritocracy, lately.  The first of this recent spike being when I wrote it a few days ago, but most recently in Glamour Magazine, of all places.  Reading Glamour because a #BLM activist that I follow wrote an article for them and linked to it.


This suggests that it was a trend my unconscious mind picked up on, prior to consciously realizing it.  My own blog entry being evidence of that.  I suppose maybe that's why I'm a little skeptical, but it does seem to be something people are talking about more, lately.

As I wrote the above, it occurred to me, I can actually look that up.  According to Google Trends, there has been a recent uptick in usage of the term.  They even map it by state, where it lines up with left leaning regions showing the most.  I must have noticed before I really noticed.

I find this sort of group think phenomenon interesting.  It plays out all over social media, ideas and viewpoints catching on organically, repeated, reiterated, and built upon, often by people with no idea where it started.  This even includes me, impacted by social trends, without even realizing it.

Guess I'm not the only American to feel like an abject failure.  Turns out, a whole lot of us didn't really get a fair shot.  Least that seems to be a common sentiment, these days.  Maybe I've been depressed because my life sucks.  How am I supposed to just pretend everything is fine day after day, as I live a life that would make almost anyone miserable?

Maybe I'm just really sensitive to the mounting cultural depression that comes with decades of economic decline.  Sure, it's not quite as plausible, but it gives me something else to focus on.  A team to cheer for.  We try to look on the bright side.  Progressives might win the day, yet.  We've been told progressives have had all sorts of success before.. but wait, turns out we've been lied to about goddamn everything, and to be honest, the odds are not looking that good.  Or is that just the cognitive bias that comes with feeling that way about my own life?

I almost don't even want my injections anymore.  I feel like giving up.  Like most Americans, I thought I'd be living a life of more merit than this, and I'm kind of upset about it, but that's not really the worst of it.  It's aggravated by the loneliness of isolation, the angst of economic insecurity.  My mental health issues would just be personality quirks if not for this toxic dynamic that's consumed my whole life.  I'm just another worthless lonely poor person.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

all or nothing

Someone with a Cyrillic name liked one of my tweets earlier.  I noticed his little bio was in Russian - and that I could read it.  It was only two and a half words, but still.  That was kind of cool.  "Всё или ничего!"  I'm more of a "little bit's fine too" sort of person.  Some things just work so much better that way.  I don't know why people are such absolutists about everything.

I think if I were to be tested on my Russian, I would fail.  Before I gave up on school, I got lots of failing grades.  I wasn't engaged, I was miserable, I didn't give a fuck.  If I'd have been able to concentrate better, that might have helped.  In short, I don't seem to be очень хорошо студента.  Or something like that.  Duolingo constantly dings me for getting details wrong, but I just pretend it's congratulating me on being close enough.

The point is to keep doing it, right?  I can delve into that whole other quagmire of why I'm doing it, but that's not really the point, either.  I always think back on that MIT campus, visiting someone there, my backpack full of clothes, imagining that they were books.  I wish I'd had the chance to at least try.  I couldn't even get through high school. 

I can blame the system, or my parents, I can blame myself.  It doesn't really matter.  It's all the same thing.  Circumstances.  Sometimes I still just wish I'd perservered though.  I wish I'd understood how to do that and why it mattered.  Doing well isn't nearly as important as doing it anyhow.  The main reason I failed out of school had something to do with how I'd stopped going to all my classes.

Now, I don't know what the hell to do with myself.  Try learning a random language?  Yeah, that'll make a huge difference in my life, but whatever.

Monday, September 25, 2017

collateral damage

I keep reading about how hard it is to change minds, but I've changed my mind about all sorts of things over the years. Usually due to learning new facts and details that lead to a whole other conclusion. One thing I've changed my position on is collateral damage and it's relative ethics in relation to terrorism. I won't go into the weeds of defining terrorism, here I'm only concerned with the distinction of intentionally killing civilians, as opposed to collateral damage, defined as unintentionally killing civilians.

I used to think this was clear cut, and that comparing first degree murder to manslaughter made for a good metaphor. Accidentally killing people isn't anywhere near as bad as doing it on purpose. How can anyone possibly argue otherwise? This often strikes people as outrageous apologetics for terrorism, and sometimes it is. To suggest that all death is the same to the survivors is patently absurd, but where my views have changed has nothing to do with any sort of defense of terrorism - rather, ratcheting up condemnation of collateral damage.

Sam Harris will often make the point that he's well aware that collateral damage is horrible, yet he fails to see how it is precisely the issue of intention that makes it potentially comparable to the worst sorts of terrorism.   He trusts our government institutions and their official stories as to what's going on, whereas I no longer do.  Intention does matter a whole lot, but I no longer believe that collateral damage is necessarily unintentional.  It varies from one situation to the next, but all too often it's more equivalent to depraved indifference than manslaughter.  That's not better than premeditated murder, and in some cases, can be even worse.

Knowing that civilians will die, and dropping bombs anyhow, means that their deaths were actually intentional.  They know their actions will result in casualties and take those actions anyhow.  It doesn't matter that it wasn't their primary motivation.  That's where you have to look at the details, how likely civilians deaths were, whether there were efforts to avoid it, and was hitting their target really worth murdering innocent people over.  Killing ten or twenty people just trying to buy bread, in order to get some bad guy can be pretty damn depraved.  Possibly even worse than anything said bad guy has ever done or will do.

Do we trust that our military is being careful, trying not to get innocent people killed?  Do we even trust that they have good reasons for thinking people are dangerous bad guys that need to be bombed?  Or do we figure they don't care all that much, they do things like this all the time, on purpose, without a whole lot of concern?  Do we question their motives, their reasons for bombing anyone at all?  When you dispense with the conventional assumptions, and realize that they're often more motivated by corporate greed, and indifferent to the death they cause, yes, the US military's actions become just as bad as terrorism.

Harris also makes the argument that intention matters, because it's our best indication of what people will keep trying to do.  If it's an accident, they'll try not to let it happen again.  If it's intentional, they'll keep doing it.  What are the chances more innocent people will die to our bombs in the very near future?  Again, again, and again.

Most people making these arguments have no idea.  The mainstream media doesn't tell us what our military is doing.  Certainly not how many people they've been killing, almost every day.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

america's mythology of meritocracy

Obama is clearly a brilliant man.  Whatever criticisms I've had of him, none of it aims to question that, really.  He has also been extremely successful, at least by any measure which holds in high regard being elected and re-elected President of the US, but even that aside.  I'm sure his intelligence has helped.  Brilliant as he may be, I can see how he'd conclude that intelligence is more pivotal than it really is, likely believing it has been for him.

Of those who are less successful, then?  They don't know what they're talking about, right?  Leading them means trying to herd them in the right direction.  Not listen to them.  Certainly not let them get into power themselves.  It's cute when they try, that Bernie means well, but when it comes down to it, they need to be stopped.  Elites like himself would naturally believe that they're the ones that understand the situation, and so this is where they get their narrative.  From those they trust, not listening to those they don't, not even understanding their criticisms.

I can imagine that if I'd been more successful in life, I'd think my own merits were pretty damn important, too.  I'd end up spending more of my time with people in a similar situation.  It's not a big leap then, to conclude that if such merits are important for me and the people I know, they're important for everyone.  Ergo, those who don't succeed are, by definition, going to be lacking in the aggregate - this really only being a difference in perspective.  A measurement of variables, relative to other variables.

How much does being born into socio-economic advantage matter relative to how much ones own intelligence and other character attributes matter.  Both sides can acknowledge that it all matters.  The disagreement is in which matters so much as to almost entirely overshadow the rest.  It is a deepening striation between populists and centrists who believe that the status quo is in significant part, the product of meritocracy.  Good people succeed, bad people are weeded out, controlled, dealt with by soup kitchens and law enforcement.  These are implicit, when thinking about what's primarily involved in being successful in society.

The more successful people are, the more they're naturally motivated to believe it's been their own doing.  The more unsuccessful people there are in society, the more this is going to be questioned.  The more it's questioned, the more people realize that it's actually bullshit.  Sure, you can point to Obama as an example of how important intelligence is, but I can point to Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and of course Trump.  One in five would instead suggest that success sometimes happens in spite of intelligence.

Or put another way, other factors matter a whole lot more but those at the top have trouble understanding that.  That lack of perspective can even make brilliant people into incompetent assholes.

. .

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

ленивец

I've often noticed that when I go through a particularly dark mood, I go through all sorts of irrational thought processes.  As I come out of it, as I always do eventually, I look back with a sense of perspective and objectivity.  I can see how irrational I was being, interpreting things in awful ways, coming to even worse conclusions.

We often underestimate just how potent it can be, to be lost in the midst of delusion.  I've been wary of this my whole life, and yet, can only really see past it, from a safe distance.  What really gets me is that if my "safe distance" is really just another delusion, I'd be no more capable of realizing it, than I was of realizing the delusions of deep depression.  From the perspective of depression, feeling better seems pointless, hollow, but neither is really wrong, per se.  Just different.

There's a clear cognitive bias, to wanting to believe that it's more real, when I'm not so depressed.  A great relief in finding ways of thinking that aren't painful.  If my current state of mind involves a more pleasant brain chemistry, I'd sure like to think that it's what's real.  I'm just not sure there's much reason to conclude that's actually true.  Most people believe all sorts of crazy things, and often seem to think very little about the complex layers of causality that really drive everything.

As I finished my first cup of coffee this morning, my daily self-diagnostics were not looking good.  Going for my usual run felt out of the question.  Not because I was all that miserable, but critically unmotivated.  I know this feeling well, and it sounds a lot easier to get over than it is.  In the midst of that state, there was no getting over it.

Few hours later, I began to realize I felt all sweaty and unpleasant, and that a shower would probably be a good idea.  As I moved to do that, I figured it would probably make sense to run first, then shower.  Not to be reductive, and might have been coincidence, but sweating is a side effect of increasing cortisol levels.  A more primary function being how it factors into motivation.

So, out of the blue, I was all sweaty and motivated, and it got me moving.  Was I delusional before, thinking that I couldn't move?  Or did my endocrine system finally kick into gear the way it's supposed to?  If that is the real culprit, is it delusion to blame distorted thinking and bad feelings?  Is it delusion to blame delusion?

There are almost certainly elements of both, and the flawed thinking would not be believing in either one, but in disbelieving in the other.  A sort of delusion that seems quite common to me.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

middle path regime

I've noticed a pattern, in my own behavior, where at first, I realize that I might have a knack for something.  This inspires me to push myself harder, as it starts looking reasonable that I could be really good at it.  If I work at it.

So, I do, but my rate of progress doesn't really improve that much.  Not only am I still an awful long way from being really good at much of anything, but I still keep making all sorts of stupid beginner mistakes.  So, I push myself harder, but eventually I'm starting to overdo it, sabotaging my progress, not giving myself enough time to process, rest, recover.  I get frustrated.  I clearly just suck at this.  For some inexplicable reason, I don't feel like doing it much longer.

So, I theorize that it might be a good idea to cap my goals, my ideals, even my principles.  To push myself about a step beyond what seems to be a realistic baseline - and no more.  What seems to matter above all else is that I keep doing it, indefinitely.  Without focusing on what I'm trying to achieve, but on the practice itself, as a part of who I am.  Just something I do every day.  Or every other day.  Every Tuesdays and Thursdays.  As long as it's something I keep doing month after month, year after year.  This seems to be the most integral part of how anyone ever really gets good at anything.

It also just seems to be a healthy way to keep doing healthy things, when I really really don't feel like it.  Which is kind of a lot.  I sure wish there were something I could do about that.

I also theorize that things like running regularly should help.  I must have way more mitochondria by now, right?  Still, by the time I've made my morning coffee, I feel like I'm done for the day.  I need plenty of time to recover so that I'll be able to make myself another decent cup of coffee tomorrow.

Я много отдыхаю.

Friday, July 28, 2017

я хочет картошке пожалуиста

Drifting off to sleep last night, my head was swimming with foreign words and sounds that I'm only just beginning to recognize.  Please, thank you, man, woman, dog, cat, onion, potato, да, нет.  I can recognize more words in text than in hearing them, but I can recognize both much more easily than I can reproduce them.  I can speak like a very young child on a few issues, like dogs eating apples, and I can barely spell anything at all.

I've been watching my two cousins raising their brand new little people, so maybe that's why that's been on my mind.  Anja points and calls out the only words she knows.  Aliza understands everything people say to her and even some sign language, but she isn't ready to bumble through trying to vocalize any of it herself, just yet.  I've been feeling like I can relate.  Well, more to where they were a few months ago.  Catching a familiar word here or there, but for the most part, just hearing a jumble of incomprehensible sounds.

I've been wanting to learn other languages all my life.  I've attempted to learn French, Spanish, and Hebrew, yже.  My efforts have always fizzled.  It wasn't until I was in New Jersey that my attempt at Spanish felt like it was going pretty well.  I'd only stopped when I moved to Vermont.  There isn't a lot of Spanish spoken around here.  I also ran out of Omnitrope for a while.  I'm not really sure why I stopped.  I'd be all but fluent by now, if I'd kept at it until starting Russian.

Maybe I was afraid that if I filled my head with too much Spanish, I'd have no room for a third language.  Maybe a little bit, but I know that's absurd.  We can tell ourselves all sorts of stories, but some of us need more sophisticated stories than others.  Another one is that I'd just gotten my first smartphone, started using a language teaching app that held my hand the entire way.  It provides the guidance of a teacher, without needing to deal with an actual person.  Sure, it's not a great teacher, but it's a nice little intuitive interface, and honestly, I've had actual teachers who were worse.

All sorts of things I've attempted to learn in my life, I've tried to do on my own.  For various reasons, I've never had much guidance.  I know that not everyone needs a whole lot.  My sister seems to have needed much less, winging whatever she had to, when everyone around her was being less than helpful.  I know there are people that teach themselves foreign languages with nothing but a translation dictionary.  It's a spectrum, but I seem to be at the other end of it, and I wonder why that is.

Sometimes I wonder about the difference between childhood and being an adult.  By all sorts of metrics, you end up drawing an arbitrary line under which some adults won't qualify, and some children will.  There seems to be an element of confidence to it.  At some point, a human being says ok, I get how it's done, let me do it myself.  Growing increasingly fervent about it, as they make their way from the terrible twos, through adolescence.  When I was two, I went around pointing at things, and asking if they were fragile.

I come from a patriarchal line who seem oddly terrified of doing things wrong.  Each making the successive generation even worse.  I've never even arrived at feeling as though I get it.  That I'm ready to handle life on my own.  Not for lack of trying, it's a feeling that sabotages every effort, at every step of the way.  It's a feeling of needing to be shown how anything is done.  This has been extremely problematic, given that I'm not exactly a people person.

There are probably all sorts of things I'd be enthusiastic about learning how to do, if only there were someone an app to walk me through it.

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.