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.

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.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

sangha

What if self-immolation is a way of proving enlightenment?  Attempting to prove, rather.  Not that it actually proves anything.  I just encountered an idea in this podcast, that common to many religions and ideologies, essentially, "life is suffering."  He then proposes that this is because  "I think, therefor I am" does not go far enough.

To say that consciousness is the only thing we truly can know exists- this does not go far enough.  I liked his example, that we can question whether we're really happy, but when we're in acute agony, there is no question.  It is that precise aspect of consciousness that alone survives all skepticism.  Suffering then forms the bedrock of what we can safely say, that we can, just maybe, know (probably) exists.


Life is suffering, that is the first noble truth.  The path towards cessation of suffering, that is the fourth noble truth.  That is to say, these are very central elements of Buddhism.  It's practically the first thing Gautama said, when he became The Buddha, as I understand it.  "please stop being dicks to each other" came much later.

So, why fire?  It's extremely dramatic, but that's in part because we know it's extremely painful.  We know on deep physiological level, that burning is to be avoided.  At all costs.  Immediately.  It takes a whole other level of willpower to endure relatively minor burns, especially without even flinching. If suffering can be escaped, what better way to prove that you've done it.  You've achieved the very pinnacle of the religious experience, transcending that last step of what the rest of us mistakenly think is real.

The contradiction therein being that if you've gotten that far, why do you care what anyone else thinks?  Why are you trying to prove anything to anyone?  The social causes often involved would further suggest that social recognition plays a role.  Sure, it's still an amazing feat, but Jesus Christ.

As if there's an even deeper bedrock of what's real.  Some find it easier to meditate while burning alive, than to let go of what we think others think of what we think.

Yeah, yeah, I'm stoned again.  So what :p

Friday, January 20, 2017

daniel

Not to hide behind generalities, though.  I'm just not sure where to start.  My feelings towards my great uncle are complicated.  In a sense, I guess it doesn't matter now, but it never really mattered, anyhow.  I wince a little, at all the positive messages people are posting about him, celebrating his life.  Not because they remind me of him, which is of course painful, but rather because I don't feel like saying anything positive.  I'm a terrible person.

Sometimes it seemed that Dan thought as much, though he'd never put it that way.  Much of who I am and how I learned to think was influenced by the time I spent with him as a teenager, but much like my mangled interpretations of Buddhism, that influence doesn't exactly manifest in a way other people seem to recognize.  It didn't manifest in a way he seemed to recognize.  My mind puts a distinctly tortured spin on everything.

Way back when, it seemed he was starting to take me under his wing..  Something I desperately needed, growing up.. but that sort of fell apart.  He pulled back.  I was confused and kept trying to make amends for many years.  Nobody wants to hear me say anything negative about him, but I was really vulnerable and that was really difficult.  More recently, he'd commented on the darkness that was in me back then.  I don't like the way he characterized mental health issues.  He didn't understand, or try to understand, and that didn't seem particularly compassionate.  His laid back acceptance seemed in those circumstances more a shallow defense than a healthy approach to dealing with adversity.

Over the years, I tried to piece together what happened and came to feel rejected by him.  I was as welcome to visit as anyone else, but he wasn't going to take me traveling with him.  He didn't want my help with the museum.  I wasn't welcome to be a part of his life, after all.  Maybe he thought I couldn't handle it.  Maybe he couldn't handle it, or simply didn't want to.  I remember him saying that he'd wished he'd had the resources to be more help, but that was a cop out.  I didn't want anything material.  It wasn't anything material that I needed.  Eventually, I stopped looking up to him entirely.  I came to think of him as incredibly fortunate, rather than admirable.  To say this now, in particular, yeah.. I guess there is a darkness in me.

I think the truth can be very dark.  Within darkness, there can be light.  Within light, darkness.  He was a beautiful person.  Too bad we can't all be seen as such beautiful people, but we are who we are, unless we help each other become more than that.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

we will all miss you

People have different attitudes about death, how to cope with it, how to look at it positively, but how often do we stop short of all that, and ask, why are we inclined to mourn death in the first place?  Isn't that an important part of the discussion?  If we're only talking about how to deal with it, I can't help but think we're still not really talking about it.  Still not facing whatever it is we're supposed to be dealing with.

Death.  Does it get any more self explanatory than that?  Does anyone hear the word "death" and feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  That's, of course, not what we're generally going for, right?  We're talking about coping, but with what?  People tell each other stories, about how they'll see their loved ones when they reunite in Valhalla or wherever.  We want to believe that they're not really gone - this seems relatively undeniable.  We want to hold on to what we have, including the people we have in our lives.

When you think of loved ones lost, what is it that hurts?  There's rarely much emphasis on what the deceased has lost, but rather, that we'll never see or hear from them, ever again.  More generally, we might feel sympathy for anyone whose life gets cut short, all the potential that won't be achieved.  The more they've achieved, the less that plays into it, but does this really have anything to do with why we mourn?  It seems many mourn those with great lives even more.

It's really the saying goodbye that's the hardest part, isn't it?  That's what a lot of their rituals seem to be about.  Maybe if we embellish our goodbyes sufficiently, that will make up for the fact that they will never say goodbye back.  They appear to seek closure, a severing of attachment.  They're gone.  There's nothing to do but let go.

Monday, January 16, 2017

སྤྱན мани パドメー 吽

In Buddhist terms, as I've understood them, all things are temporary.  Tibetans paint these elaborate mandalas out of sand, only to sweep them away.  This is what I've read that it means.  If I'm co-opting or mangling anything, I apologize to the people of Mallarashtra.  I don't know what other words to use, to describe where I learned to think the way that I do.

I've been told by various people over the years that I focus on the wrong things, that I have such a depressing view of Buddhism.  Gautama was such a cheerful sort, right?  That impermanence is what makes everything beautiful, and all that, but this is not the problem Siddhartha was trying to solve.  It's not a problem, unless you focus on it too much.  It's as dualistic and reductive as anything else.  Still, it was the theme of a painting I did, when I was 15.

Impermanence is not the same as noting that all things die or eventually cease to physically exist, although that is also generally the case.  It's to say that everything is changing, always.  Every moment gone forever.  Everything that we experience, everything that we think, all the meaning we put into everything,  This is all fluid.

Humanity may exist for a very long time, but that's not to say it will be recognizable as anything meaningful to us, given the belief systems of our time.  Even should we personally exist for a very long time, "we" are just a culmination of circumstances in constant flux.   The you that existed yesterday is just as dead as you will ever be.  We just aren't wired to see it that way.  This is incredibly beautiful, and horrifying, and no more or less dull than the dust of an exoplanet that hasn't moved in millions of years.

Time, as well.  A concept, and interpretation.  Only "gone" in the sense that we won't experience it again.  The way our eyes see shapes and colors, where there's really only molecules, photons, and a whole lot of empty space.  It is nothing like we see it.  An image our mind creates, because it's representative enough of the world we've evolved for, to help us survive.  This doesn't mean I can meditate my way to seeing it any differently than I do, however.  Literally seeing, i.e., this is just how the physiology of the human eye works.  I don't understand how that aspect of Buddhism is supposed to make any sense, but to be clear.  I don't understand.  I try to keep an open mind.

I have some weird ideas about where it all might be going, but that's just because I like thinking about these things.  The Fermi paradox is probably described in a variety of ways, in different places, and it may even be yet another thing that I'm co-opting and mangling, so maybe I should explain it.  First of all, I don't take it 100% seriously.  It involves assumptions about the probability of a few things, that could turn out to just be way off.

The premise is that given how vast the universe is, how many billions of billions of stars - there must be a whole lot of life out there.  That's almost certain, but also that a fair percentage of it might technologically advance similar to the way humanity has  (As opposed to planets teeming with life, but no technology more advanced than beaver dams and bee hives.)  That's decidedly less certain, but if true, then given the age of the universe, a fair number of those technologically advancing species would be extremely advanced by now.  Humanity has only been around for the blink of an eye, and look how far we've come.  Imagine a people who have been expanding for billions of years.

This being another assumption, though a little more scientific than it might seem.  It's what life does, not just by chance, but because that's what makes life happen.  From single celled organisms to billion year old aliens, that which expands, expands more.  That which doesn't, gets left way behind and disappears, as other species fill every possible niche by expanding against all that can keep up.  The mechanics of it just drive it faster and faster, until what?

The Fermi paradox then assumes that this would mean these very old aliens, technologically advanced way beyond anything we could ever even imagine, would be extremely prolific - and in those billions of years, need an insane amount of space.  Possibly even entire galaxies.  Likely using and producing insane amounts of energy.  Basically, that it would be damn near impossible to miss them, if they were out there, anywhere within millions of light-years, given our current technology.  The paradox being that we're not seeing anything of the sort.  If there's anything out there, none of it is doing what seems reasonable to guess life would do, given enough time.

Unless technological advancement is just that rare.  Could it be an evolutionary mutation that's nearly unique, all throughout the universe?  There are lots of ideas on why Fermi is just wrong.  What it gets wrong, or fails to account for.  Maybe technology and/or evolution does plateau somehow, or maybe it inevitably ends in self-destruction.  Maybe they take what becomes the obvious and indisputable step (said, tongue in cheek - of course it's not, but it's the premise of another example I'm giving) by converting themselves into technology and descending into nanospace, where everything can be done exponentially better and they'd be immortal.  I read a whole article on that one.

It was mostly about the physics of how things would function if technology could operate at subatomic levels.  You know, because of course that will be doable, in a few hundred years.  Or maybe not.  Who the hell knows, but abandoning our physiological interpretations would be quite the paradigm shift.

Maybe they realize that there is no immortal, there is no better.  Not by mindfulness or insight, but by scientifically understanding every physiological process of the human mind, and what makes it all work, exactly as it does.  A gradual multigenerational process, utilizing countless discoveries along the way, in which people tweak their brain function more and more.  No different than how we drink coffee or take SSRIs.  Over time, more and more, until the illusions just cease to make any sense.

I don't know why this sounds sad when I say it.  Maybe it's because I'm a sad person.  That puts an unintended spin on it, but it isn't supposed to be sad.  I'm just playing with ideas.  Layer upon layer of interpretations and assumptions.  Almost certainly, getting it all ridiculously wrong.

If I were me, I would just laugh about it.