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


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.