The morality of opinion

Is having certain opinions inherently immortal? Or are all opinions morally equal and it is actions alone by which right and wrong are judged?

We certainly want to judge people’s ethics by their opinions. We want to judge the person who is a Neo-Nazi as morally inferior to someone whose heart is pure and good and filled with love and joy for everyone.

But what difference does it really make? The Neo-Nazi isn’t hurting anyone by believing as he does. And we all agree that he, like we, is free to believe whatever he wants. From the point of view of morality, it can be said, all law abiding citizens are equal. If neither you nor the fellow next door do the exact same things, give to the same charities, do the same “good works”, then what difference can it possibly make that he things Jews are demons and you do not?

Right now, you will be tempted to say “But doesn’t action follow opinion?”. And it certainly does. Some of the time. But more often than not, it doesn’t. Who among us can say we live every iota of our ideals day in and day out? For many people, their opinions and their actions are worlds apart.

Given that, can we really say that the potential for action is enough reason to judge someone’s moral worth in light of their opinions? Is a Neo-Nazi really any more likely to hurt people than a righteous liberal?

Most violent crime has absolutely nothing to do with personal belief and a lot more to do with money and sex, two notoriously nonpartisan subjects.

A Neo-Nazi junkie and a liberal junkie are equally likely to steal your car stereo system.

It’s understandable that we want to judge people as morally inferior when their opinions are odious to us. Humans are a highly empathic species and therefore we don’t hear or read opinions, we ingest them. A powerful instinct compels our minds to try to merge our map of reality with the ones we hear or read, and this leads us to having to either swallow the odious opinion (one that fills us with genuine disgust, as if it was a bodily waste product) or reject it with great force.

And this is not at all a pleasant process. In fact, it’s one we would rather had never happened. And so, on a simple emotional level, we get angry at the source of our distress, namely both the opinion and the person who has that opinion.

After all, they could have believed anything, or so we would like to think. Therefore they are morally responsible for the pain they have caused us by exposing us to their disgusting opinions. Right?

The problem is, that is not so much about morality as about who we choose to be around or be exposed to, and to treat that the way we do the ethical evaluation of actions is highly problematic.

Few people would disagree with the notion that we all have opinions that someone else would find odious, no matter how pure and saintly we consider ourselves to be. Therefore, the harm done by opinion alone can be seen as equally applying to all people, at least potentially.

We might say that some opinions are far more likely to be odious to a larger number of people, and therefore are more likely to harm others when exposed to a general population.

But that would suggest that the morality of an opinion is subject to a kind of majority vote, and how many would be willing to (even if it were possible) change their opinions if it turns out most people don’t like them and would be upset or even disgusted by them?

Then how can we ask our Neo-Nazi neighbour to do the same?

The more we examine the issue, the clearer it becomes that, quite counterintuitively, there is no ethical basis to judge that a person with even highly malevolent and erroneous opinions is any morally better or worse than anyone else if the actions remain the same.

This fits perfectly with our dominant cultural belief in freedom of thought and expression. We, as citizens of the liberal democracies of the world, believe that everybody should be free to say and think whatever they like, no matter what.

And that is an easy position to endorse when we are thinking only of ourselves and those like us. In the deep machinery of the democratic zeitgeist, we tend to imagine that difference of opinion are like differences of taste – mildly disquieting but ultimately harmless, like preferring Game of Thrones over Breaking Bad, or liking chardonnay over Merlot.

But matters of taste exist in a special protected category in our minds in which it is generally accepted that all are equal because all are about what an individual enjoys, which is a subject about which the individual themselves are considered to be the only experts that matter most of the time.

This is not true for the rest of opinion, however. The rest of opinion lies in the realm of worldview, and as I said before, we humans have a strong instinct to merge our worldviews, and thus, our need to defend our existing beliefs from being overwritten by new ones.

After all, if we believe our current beliefs to be the correct ones, then to change them to ones we thing are incorrect is to willingly believe that which we think is not true, and that is cognitively impossible.

So our desire to think opinions odious to us are morally wrong in and of themselves is perfectly understandable. But it cannot be said to be rational, or ethical.

Having said this, I do not expect anyone, myself included, to stop judging people by their opinions. Rational or not, justified or not, it is something so deeply fundamental to our psychology that I am not sure stopping is even possible.

The best we can do is to remember, when presented with odious opinions, to take half a step back and ask ourselves, “What does this person actually DO?”.

Odds are that their actions are not nearly as different from your own as you might like to think.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Always looking up

One thing keeping me from growing up is that I am still looking for adult approval.

This occurred to me while I was urinating yesterday[1]. I am still looking up for that approval from above. My mind (or soul, depending on your POV) is stuck at that stage. Even my desire to be a famous author that everyone says is brilliant is really just another way for me to seek the same praise for my intellect that I got when I was an absurdly precocious child.

In many ways, I still feel absurdly precocious, and I am 42.

Having recognized this, I now need to pick my way very carefully across the minefield of the zeitgeist. Common wisdom is that it is bad to need approval outside yourself before you can love yourself, and that you have to love yourself before you can let anyone else love you.

But for me, that’s a trap, because that line of reasoning can only lead me to having one more thing, and a fairly potent one at that, to hate myself for.

I’m such a pathetic loser, I don’t even love myself! I’m such an IDIOT!

That should be a cartoon somewhere.

Hence the minefield. It can be a very tricky thing to recognize one’s flaws enough to improve oneself without letting the demons of depression out of their cage to tear you into tiny twitching pieces.

I honestly think that is how some people become semi-narcissists with unflagging self-confidence no matter what the evidence might say. They didn’t say “I want to be a total prick!”, they just decided that they were going to believe in themselves no matter what and took it a little too far. To the point where, in the service of this phenomenon, they just plain stopped listening.

It would explain a lot, wouldn’t? About people like Donald Trump and his ilk? I assume it starts off within the realm of sanity – they start out just thinking “there’s no point listening to the naysayers, I have to follow my heart!”

A certain amount of that is actually quite healthy. Or so I’ve heard.

But then they start ignoring evidence as if it was just a negative opinion, and eventually, they fall into a sort of solipsistic black hole of ego protection.

Anyhow, back to the looking up thing.

So I am not going to beat myself up for this whole thing. I already knew that I was missing a whole lot of what I needed to grow up inside and that doing it now was going to involve some very unpleasant revelations and humiliating insights.

So it suck to realize that I am still looking for adult approval, but only by realizing this can I change it. It hurts, but it’s the worst part and now it’s over. Now I can start healing.

I don’t think there is anyone who is entirely immune to wanting validation from others. Even the holy men who wander out of the desert to teach people what they have learned about selflessness are looking for students to listen to them and validate what they are saying.

Ergo, while not needing the validation of others is a very healthy and worthy ideal, like most ideals, it is a direction, not a destination. Few people achieve it, but all should pursue it.

Right now, I need so much approval, validation, and reassurance that it humbles and frightens me to contemplate it. I have a very, very, very heft emotional tab that I have been running since I was very young, and sometimes, seeing it paid off with everything I have missed seems impossible.

But a starving man doesn’t need to eat every meal he’s ever missed in order to be healthy. He just needs enough for his body to use to repair itself.

And I have been emotionally starving for a very, very long time. I was just too lost and locked away in my very pretty ice castle to even be able to feel it. And that went on for a long, long time.

Drugs can only treat your symptoms. Paxil has helped me deal with it. But it’s only anesthetic. And anesthetic doesn’t cure a thing.

Even now, it is very hard to face the enormity of it. Something has been very very wrong in my life for a very very long time and the more I learn about myself, the bigger it gets.

Still, I have faith that there are solutions that even a hardcore materialistic rationalistic pragmatist like myself can accept. I am not exactly sure where someone like me gets the necessary permissions to override one’s internal sense of self-measurement and reset the scales like some people get from religion, but it must be possible.

Maybe instead of looking for a cosmic connection, I should be looking for the right person for me, and connecting with them. But I have a very hard time believing such a person exists. Another thing I have realized recently is that I have almost no faith in the ability of others to help me.

Not that nobody has ever helped me. Tons of people have. But they can’t help with the real problem, which lies deep inside me, and there is so much clear ice and hard snow between me and the world that I can’t feel the help I get, and so I still feel abandoned and alone inside.

And so, without the evidence that people do love and care about me being able to make it through, it feels like nobody can ever help me. Nobody can even reach me. Nothing gets through.

But I know there must be a way to crack the ice and let the sunshine in. Maybe it will be something I figure out, but probably not.

It will probably be something that just happens one day when I take a stone off my grave, a stone just like the millions I removed before, and my light can finally burst through to the surface and shine.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. You neither wanted nor needed to know that, and yet I felt compelled to tell you. Strange.

Into the Fire : Linguistics edition

Well, it finally happened. The moment I have been dreading. The point of crisis. Trial by fire.

Tonight, in Linguistics, my brain just plain shut down.

It crashed. We were learning to diagram a sentence the linguistics way, and it was all coming too fast for me, and the stack of things I didn’t get got higher and higher, and eventually, it all came crashing down.

And I still haven’t recovered. A lot of my mind is still seized up like a high performance engine with way too little lubrication. It’s a combination of emotional trauma and mental overload that is going to take some time to thaw out and give me by brain back.

At least I can type.

And the thing is, I am absolutely sure I am capable of understanding the subject given time and the ability to work at my own pace. But tonight, it was like a cold bomb went off in my head and froze everything.

I know I am using a lot of metaphors that don’t make sense together. Sorry.

And both the teacher and a very nice East Indian girl tried to explain it to me, and I wish I could say that it worked, but it didn’t. The girl went away thinking she wasn’t explaining it right, which is technically true, but I wouldn’t put it that way.

It’s like saying someone failing to beat the world record for long jump just isn’t jumping right. Well yeah, but what they are trying to do is incredibly hard, so it’s no shame to fail at it.

What I am saying is that my brain was frozen to the point of Olympic level stupidity.

Now there are a lot of bad way I could go from here. Bad ways I have gone before. I could decide that I “suck” at Linguistics and quit the course. I could blame the teacher for making the course too hard. I could even blame Linguistics for being so fucking complicated.

But I am not going to do any of those things. They are unworthy of me. I am going to do my damnedest to wrap my brain around this stuff, and if I fail, I fail. I will fail all the way to the final exam, if that is what it takes.

The one thing I will not do is quit.

No more grabbing the first excuse to GTFO of a situation just because I am not happy with it. No more assuming that if it doesn’t come to me naturally, it’s too hard for me period. No tapping out just because I want to go back to my hidey hole and lapse back into being pointless, unimportant, and devoid of worth.

The world doesn’t give a fuck about your potential, kids. It cares what you can do.

So I am going to attack the problem and keep on slugging. Right now, it all seems to be irresolvable ambiguity and grasping at shadows. But I am coming at it in an already frustrated, freaked out, fucked up, and frozen state.

Maybe when my mind and heart thaw out, it will all become clear. If not, I will enjoy the novel experience of having to learn things the way normal people do.

You know… with hard work. Weird.

The experience I had tonight was not entirely novel. It has happened to me exactly once before : when I was trying to learn computer programming.

I breezed my way through the first semester of programming. I had full expectations of doing the same in the second semester. But that rising escalator the prof had talked about that I had so smugly assumed was for other people caught up to me. Past a certain point, I was not actually absorbing the information at the speed at which I was receiving it. Or rather, I wasn’t integrating it fast enough.

And faithful readers will know that I don’t handle undigested info very well.

Eventually, all the things I don’t understand accumulate to the point where I crash. I don’t understand part C because I barely understood part A and part B is a total mystery to me.

And the problem is that my mind shuts down at that point, which means parts D, E, F, and G are entirely lost on me. I can’t just absorb the later parts and then fill in the blanks later. Nor can I deduce the missing part from the parts I have, which is something you would think I would excel at.

Nope. One indigestible blog of information, and the whole system shuts down. Which is fine in places where you are learning information at a steady rate in a logical sequence, like a history class.

But if it’s something which builds in complexity, each new level contingent on the previous ones, then I get the feeling the crash is inevitable.

Unless the process is really, really slow and I am free to stop the lesson at any point and persist in questioning until I understand it.

That’s not going to happen in a university class.

I gave up on programming. Quit the course, decided it wasn’t for me. Maybe if I had stuck it out, I would be a millionaire app developer now. Maybe not.

But there is no way I am giving up this time. This is it. This is The Battle. This is the fight for who I am and who I want to be. Am I the kind of person who quits when things aren’t super easy for him?

Or am I the sort of person who keeps on fighting no matter what, and refuses to quit no matter how bloodied and battered he is from the fight?

The universe can throw a lot at a person. Life is hard, even for the naturally gifted. And there will be many times when you will be tempted to give up on yourself and let the universe win.

But the path to glory is to refuse to do the universe’s work for it, and make it either literally force you to stop…. or let you get what you want.

And I am tired of giving up.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Another take on the problem of stupidity

I’ve been pondering this question for a while now (see previous article) and I feel the need to output the results once more.

First off, I don’t like that name any more. The problem is not stupidity and it is intellectual elitism to call it that. I can see that now.

In fact, it might be better described as “the problem of intelligence”, because it is we of the intellectual class that have the problem. People normal intelligence don’t have a problem at all.

So let me re-frame the question : How do we, the intellectuals, deal with the fact that the world is populated by and run by people of normal intelligence, who are only stupid relative to us.

It is the biggest challenge we intellectuals face. To us, it seems like the world is run by idiots, because compared to us, it is. The world is not run by intellectuals, no matter how much we might wish it to be otherwise, and to be honest, it probably can’t be.

For one, it’s unclear exactly how big a proportion of the population we represent. We may not even have the numbers to fill all the countless leadership roles the modern world needs.

And even if we did, not all of us have leadership skills. In fact, given both systemic problems handling the exception and the fact that it is possible that being an intellectual automatically makes you less likely to have the necessary social skills because those circuits are being used for abstract reasoning, means the pool of intellectuals with leadership skills is likely to be quite small.

And of course, even if we had some way of honing in on exactly those people who have the full package, there’s a little thing called democracy of which I am quite fond. It would be lovely to have some way to make sure all jobs go to the right people, but in the real world, that’s simply impossible.

Plus, of course, intelligence and leaderships skills do not necessarily make one wise. If you think intelligence is hard to define, try wisdom.

So there is no workaround for the problem of being an intellectual in a world full of people who, from our point of view, are stupid people doing obviously stupid things. [1]

We can’t arrange to be in charge, and we tend not to be comfortable with our traditional role as mere advisers. Most of us really do want to help humanity, and see it prosper, but a lot of us have given up and become misanthropes because it can seem like an impossible task. The dream to use our wizard-like mental powers to improve the lot of humanity often dies when it turns out that humanity is not listening and would rather continue to grunt along like animals.

But there is a flawed assumption in that feeling, and that is the assumption is that these people, the regular folk of the world, could understand us and be enlightened and make life better for themselves but choose not to.

Maybe they literally cannot understand. To assume they can is to assume everyone has the same kind of mind as you do. But we know that isn’t true. Everything in an intellectual’s life points to them being different from everyone else.

Perhaps the real fault is in our own theory of mind. We just plain can’t think like normal people do. Not even as a thought experiment.

Or maybe we can, but deep down, we don’t want to, because the full burden of knowing just how large the gulf between us and them would be too damned depressing.

From the point of view of us cerebral types, the mind of people of normal intelligence are a much richer blend of intellect and emotion than ours. They do not have the highly developed abstract reasoning engines that intellectuals develop naturally. They have to make their decisions based on a much high percentage of emotion than any sort of intellectual would prefer.

Once we understand and accept this simple truth, the true model of how intellectuals should interact with the rest of humanity : not tyrannical, nor advisory, but parental.

Like parents, we can do our best to keep them out of danger and protect them from threats they don’t understand yet, but ultimately, they have to (and will) make their own mistakes and learn the hard way.

And we need to have the patience and courage to shake our head, sigh, then keep on parenting.

That’s the best that we can hope for. Know that, as with any form of parenting, there will be times when they don’t understand, don’t listen, or find themselves unable to resist doing the wrong thing even when they know it’s a bad idea.

That doesn’t mean you give up on them. That would be bad parenting indeed.

And obviously, this isn’t the sort of thing that we tell the people of normal intelligence (PONI’s) about. Adults don’t like being told they are being treated like children. In fact, they often behave quite childishly in response. Which makes sense, in a way.

Nobody resents being treated like a child more than a child, and we all have a child within us who remembers the long battle with grownups to be treated like an adult.

Regardless of the necessity of us not making a big deal over it, I still feel that viewing the PONIs as a parent does a child is the best way to view our role. It captures both the compassion and the frustration of our position, and reminds us that intellectually speaking, we have the advantage over our charges and that things always have to be simplified to the point where our “children” can understand.

Despite how it may seem, we really are the ones with the most power in the relationship.

And that makes us the ones with the responsibility.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Like I have said before, we can’t have it both ways. Either they are stupid and we are average, or they are normal and we are above average. It can’t be both at the same time.

An excellent Saturday

Yesterday was rad.

The first meeting of the revived (by me) FRED went well. It feels really good to be organizing something again. Actually, it doesn’t just feel good, it feels right. Like this is something I am supposed to be doing. Right now, my life plans don’t include an organizational career, but I might want to consider it.

Being the guy who brings it all together and makes it happen is awesome. It’s an act of creation, just like writing. Creating something out of nothing.

That’s what it is all about for someone like me.

Who know, once I have FRED 2.0 up and running, I might try something more ambitious.

I got to talk with Graeme about my story. See, R. Graeme Cameron has started a new ‘zine dedicated to giving promising unpublished author (like moi) their first professional sale. He asked me to send him some of my stuff, so I sent him a sampler of four of my short stories.

The story he choose was my Five Dimensional Roommate series. Groovy. Turns out he thought it needed a lot of editing to take out stuff he thinks is not necessary. Fair enough. He can do whatever he wants with it as long as my name is on it and I get paid.

So when his next ish comes out, I will be in it, and will get paid $20 for it. Might just frame the check.

Don’t know why I am so sleepy today.

Oh, I have to write down this dream I had. I dreamed that I was taking a really hard test about language in a classroom a lot like one of the classrooms in the elementary school I went to, Parkside Elementary back home in Summerside, though I am positive both students and teacher were adults.

And almost immediately, my test… disappeared. I looked and looked through all my papers (for some reason, there was a lot of other papers on my desk) and I found other things from the same class like graded homework and other handouts, but the two pieces of paper with the test on it were gone.

So now I am freaking out, thinking I am going to fail the test because it’s really hard and it was probably going to take the entire allotted time to completely so every second that goes by mean less of the test I will get to complete. Finally, tears in my eyes, I begged the teacher to let me take the test at some point after class, by myself, so I would have enough time.

They weren’t keen on the idea, and said I should take the test now, with everyone else. I asked “Well do you have another copy?”, because at first, it looked like they didn’t and I figured I would get out of my problem that way.

But they did, and I took it back to my desk, where it, of course, disappeared. So now my freaking out shifts into overdrive. The last thing I remember from my dream is sob-whimpering “Teacher… it happened again!”.

Teacher. Not professor. Interesting.

Not hard to interpret that one. I have already told you fantastic people about how Linguistics class is stressing me out. So a “super hard test about language” is a reality of my life.

And things going missing or getting lost is a very common theme in my dreams. It’s the curse of the absentminded. Subjectively, things really do go missing and get lost to us all the time.

So I am guessing that was a classic stress dream, like the ones I used to have where I was wandering the halls of my high school because I didn’t remember what class I was supposed to be in and I couldn’t remember the combination to my locker either.

The other cool thing that happened last night, after FRED, was that Felicity and I went to a Halloween-themed birthday party for a friend of hers named Cat.

It was awesome. A smallish group of freaky cool people who really went all out in setting up the house to be a goth fun house. We were there for around four hours, and my social anxiety was largely absent.

Plus there were cats! They had to be locked away in a room for the party because some people were allergic, but Felicity and I went to visit them (of course), and later I visited on my own.

There were two cats, both toms. There was Gizmo, who was very friendly and sociable, and Kitsune, who was very shy and mostly hid.

I did manage to get Kitsune to come close enough to sniff my hand, but that was it. If I had been able to sit and use my full cat-vibe powers, I probably could have gotten him to let me pet him. I have done the same with other very shy kitties.

It’s a matter of patience and putting out the right vibe.

When I was in there on my own, I pet Gizmo a bunch. It was lovely. I miss having kitties around to pet. He got all purry and rolled over on his back a few times. Awwww!

Mostly, I am proud that I made the decision to go to this party with Felicity and socialized with a bunch of people and nothing terrible, either real or internal, happened.

I didn’t get a lot of laughs, but I realized that I really should not judge social interactions that way. It wasn’t until last night that I even realized I had been doing it. I was treating social interaction like it was standup comedy, and that meant that if people didn’t laugh at my jokes, that meant I had bombed.

And that meant failure and rejection.

This was clearly not right. Life is not a comedy club. People can fail to laugh but still like you. It doesn’t meant you have failed.

Although I think it is that core neurosis that had led me to be the hilarious (ish) dude I am today.

All artists have something fundamentally wrong with them, I guess.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

So very grr

My fancy new headphones keep cutting in and out, exactly like the old style wired headphones would do when one of my many Walkman (Walkmen?) were on their last legs because the jack was wearing out.

This has me in such an agitated state that it makes me want to hit somebody, preferably someone responsible for this situation.

I mean, what the proverbial fuck? How can this be happening to me again? All I wanted was to be able to groove to my tunes while I get from Point A to Point B. Why is that such a hard thing for me to achieve?

I have an experiment I plan to do where I connect the headphones to my other tablet to see if it’s the originating station’s fault, or the receiving.

If it’s the originating, that’s bad but I can deal with it. I was thinking of getting a new tablet anywhere, or if not, at least a dedicated MP3 player.

One with a display, though. None of that iPod Nano bullshit.

But if it’s the receiving end, in other words my fancy schmancy new $70 headphones, heads are going to roll. The literature on the things says it has a range of 30 feet.

That should handle the distance between my ears and my pocket just fine.

I wouldn’t be nearly this upset if it didn’t involve my music. My tunes, man. I get really emotional about my music. Having something happen while I am listening to my music is extremely traumatic to me. Music is inherently based on maintaining flow, and to have that shattered not just once but over and over in a random way in the span of seconds is like torture to me and my poor nervous system.

The distress is heightened by what happened over the course of last week. I had been wanting to listen to music on the way to and from school all week. But either it would be raining, or the tablet I use for mp3’s wouldn’t be charged up, or the headphones themselves would have lost their charge, or I would be all set to do it then forget to take either tablet or headphones with me.

And that’s a kind of torture too.

But I figured I had it sussed today. Everything was charged, I had both halves of the equation with me, it wasn’t raining, and I was only going one block to my pharmacy to get my meds.

But no, the goddamned thing started to cut in and out, a little at first, and then more and more, exactly like what would happen in my Walkman days. So it’s not just torture, it’s progressive torture, as if it was designed specifically to break me.

This is the sort of thing that reinforces my impression that life is hard on us sensitive artistic types in ways regular people could not possibly understand. Normal people would not be nearly as upset by this situation as I am because they don’t connect with music on a deep emotional level like I do.

It’s the most right-brained thing I am into. And I need that kind of thing. Us overly cerebral types really need something that bypasses our overweaning superegos and connects with our emotions directly, and mess with them if it is needed.

We need something to run the icy blockade and bring badly needed supplies to our besieged hearts.

Plus, of course, I am still fretful and anxious about the whole new computer thing. That already has me on a state of heightened emotional amplitude. Plus I do have some caffeine in my veins.

If I am going to keep drinking Diet Coke, I am going to want to learn to keep the extra energy from turning into anxiety. I really want it to actually lift my mood. That would be way, way better.

But right now, my mood is still too damned heavy.

I have done some other online shopping lately too. I ordered some expensive fat-guy sneakers. $160, and that was on sale. But hopefully these will at least be able to bear my weight without flattening. They might even let me walk comfortably and without pain.

It’s a dream worth paying for.

I have also ordered two pairs of fat-guy pants from the Mr. Big And Tall website. That was not at all fun. It is incredibly depressing to find out that even in a store dedicated to serving the overweight, you are too fat for most of the clothing.

Most of their jeans only went up to 48 inch waists. That’s almost a foot too short for me. I am starting to think that my realistic weight loss goal should be less “fat” to “skinny” and more “gigantic freak of nature” to “regular sized freak of nature”.

Oh well. Two more pairs of jeans are wending their way to me. That’s the important part. I will then have four, and that will be more better than have two, like I do now.

Having only two means I do laundry every other day, sometimes more, and that makes me nervous that I will wear them out with overwashing and then have none.

It is a severe liability to be without pants in these modern times if you are a dude.

The last thing I am going to order (that I know of) is a wallet. Mine is slowly and gracefully falling apart, and seeing as I have had it for around twenty years, its retirement is long overdue.

I am bracing myself for option paralysis when I go to make the purchase though. There’s a lot of types of wallet out there and my needs are strictly functional. I am tempted to get one of those “magic wallets” I see on TV that say they can hold all your cash and change and cards and get no bigger than a deck of cards. I am dying to know if they can live up to that claim.

But it’s probably bullshit. I bet you can do that with any wallet if everything in it is super organized. And I ain’t got time for that shit.

Ain’t nobody got time for that shit.

Well that’s all my aggravation for today, folks. Thanks for reading.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

What we avenge

Just finished watching Avengers : Age of Ultron. It’s pretty good.

Had some real dramatic heft to it, which is good. A lot of modern superhero movies don’t move me, and if a movie doesn’t move me, the best it can hope for is to amuse or entertain me. And that means there is no chance of the movie being anything better than “okay” in my books.

But apart from all the bang clang boom business[1], there were some very good performances and a script that made me feel for the heroes, and the villain as well.

Ah, the villain. Ultron. That’s my one and only major beef with the movie. Its version of Ultron was far, far too human. Comic Ultron is the ultimate inhuman adversary, brilliant and completely ruthless, not to mention nigh-indestructible due to being made of an adamantium/vibranium allow. All that made him absolutely terrifying. He’s like the Terminator crossed with Mister Freeze to the power of Brainiac. Like the Terminator, Ultron has no doubt, no hesitation, no pain, no weakness.

And every time you defeat him, he comes back stronger.

But movie Ultron, with the voice of James Spader, was just some guy, ya know? Some Hollywood guy who does stunts or owns a gym or is someone’s personal trainer. His motives are unclear and he is never given a real personality. He wants to slam a meteor into the world to force humanity to evolve (totally not how it works), or just to kill everybody, or maybe he just hates Tony Stark, but maybe he is Tony Stark in a sense. It’s all poorly defined.

And the Ultron of the comics is one of the top villains on planet Earth. And also, because of how perfectly scary he is, one of the coolest. The movie version didn’t frighten me at all.

He should have had a voice that sent chills up your spine because of how cold and devoid of emotion it was. It should have been the voice of a sociopathic serial killer, not some Southern Californian douche.

Ultron deserved better. He didn’t even get the Age promised him in the title.

Other than that, though, everyone was cool. Hawkeye was given a secret wife and kids, which is out of character, but his actual personality is an asshole[2] , so I will let it slide. They did a good job with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. They don’t look like they do in the comics, but they got their personalities and relationship right, and that’s more important.

The only way to get a superhero movie in which everyone looks like they do in the comic would be to make it fully animated, and while I am all for that, it’s probably not going to happen.

The CGI for the Hulk made him look a lot more like Mark Ruffalo than in the first flick. Black Widow is, well, Scarlett Johanson, a incredibly beautiful woman with enough talent that you can plausibly claim to have cast her on that basis. Captain America is done perfectly, except for maybe being a little too flippant. Robert Downey Junior continues to be a very good Tony Stark. Not exactly like the comic one, but close enough. They are both egotistical, highly driven, incredibly intelligent, inclined to take matters into their own hands, and somewhat obnoxious.

The comic version is just a little slicker and suaver about it.

My favorite, though, was The Vision. He was always a favorite of mine in the comics, and they got him right in the movie. Specifically, they got how The Vision, being an artificially intelligent robot but also a good guy, is incredibly noble and pure and good. You can totally see what the Scarlet Witch sees in him. He loves humanity in its totality and treasures our frailty and flaws as what makes us human.

How can you not love that? He’s the perfect humanist.

Still no sign of my new computer. Grr. Wannit. In order to contain my anxiety and neurosis, I sent them an email asking if there was any problem, even though they have one more day (Monday, sigh) on their projected lead time for assembling and testing my new PC.

I just had to do it. I was going nuts. The anticipation is driving me crazy. It’s like being a kid on Xmas Eve, except you don’t know when Santa will arrive.

“I guess he’s not coming tonight, Little Timmy. Maybe tomorrow night. Maybe not. ”

I’ve always been prone to over-excitement. I have mentioned before how when I was a kid, I would get so excited about something I was anticipating that I would get nauseous. I eventually learned not to let it get that bad, but I am still like that at heart.

And that would be fine if it wasn’t for the uncertainty. If I knew it would be ready on such and such a date, I would calm right down and wait. I am very good at waiting when the end point is known.

But when it isn’t, I have to constantly fight my anxieties and nervous temperament in order to maintain any semblance of emotional balance.

Maybe I should lay off the Diet Coke until it arrives.

Nah. I don’t want to end up sleepy and headachey. Damn you, caffeine addiction!

I feel stupid for having forgotten to stop and pick up my psych meds on the way home from school today. I am going to have to go get them filled at Shopper’s tomorrow.

Luckily, tomorrow night is the first meeting of the revive (by moi) FRED, so I will be out and about anyhow.

Feels weird to be unmedicated. Luckily, I usually have one day’s grace period before it starts having a noticeable effect, and I have only missed one day.

Well, that’s it from me tonight folks. Wish me luck on the computer thang.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Some of which was a lot of fun, but most of it was just too fast for my aging brain. I had no ideas WTF was going on. Man that makes me feel old.
  2. Seriously. The guy’s a dick. Take it from someone who had every issue of the West Coast Avengers. He’s a prima donna dickwad.

On cold comfort

I’ve been watching Avengers : Age of Ultron, and it’s got me thinking about reason.

Specifically, on the state of reason, and the version of it I will call transcendental reason.

I have, in my mental peregrinations, achieved levels of insight that created a mental state unlike any other. It is both alienating and comforting, insightful and ignorant, disconnected yet hyperconnected.

It is, in my belief, the result of a certain mindset receiving the emotional input of a very high level of the sensation of insight. So high, in fact, that it empties the mind of everything else, and for a brief time, the individual exists in a mental space of seemingly perfect clarity.

And it… is…. marvelous.

Not for everyone, of course. For people without that particular mindset, it would be, I assume, positively ghastly. To them, it would feel like dying as all their hot-circuit emotions are shorted out and only the cold-circuit emotions remain. To them, it would be like being disconnected from reality entirely and left in a world without warmth, comfort, or humanity.

But to a certain mindset, a not entirely healthy one, it is bliss.

Suddenly, the cacophony of thoughts, suppressed emotions, and all the other noises of the mind are silenced, and that is what creates this sensation of utter clarity.

And for that particularly cerebral mindset, clarity means calm and calm means quiet and for once, everything makes sense and all is in order.

In this state of mind, all the complexities of the world seem laughably simple, the individual feels entirely in command of themselves, and everything feels like it is in the right place.

It is, in fact, the perfect complementary opposite of the mystical epiphany. It is my opinion that when mystics, the religious, and other transcendentalists have their spiritual breakthroughs, what is actually happening is that, by whatever means, they have managed to stun their left hemisphere minds into inactivity.

And the left mind is the separator, the divider, the discrete intellect. So when it is inactive, all separations disappear and, as a result, the person feels at one with the universe. All things are one, all separations are illusions, and all is warmth and light and love. Everything in the world glows with an inner light, and a feeling of enormous harmony and peace comes over the individual.

And it doesn’t matter whether things comes from thought, prayer, drugs, or meditation. The result is the same and that’s why transcendental mystics worldwide teach nearly identical lessons of unity, harmony, humanity, transcendent reality, and a very deep sort of meaning.

Transcendental reason, on the other hand, happens when this feeling of insight (however achieved) is so profound that it causes the right side of the mind to become functionally inactive, and therefore leaves the left brain all alone to run the show.

This is why it requires a certain kind of mindset to consider this enjoyable. It takes a mind that is heavily invested in reason\thought over intuition\emotion, and therefore is in constant struggle against the “noise” of emotion, intuition, the mystical mind, and so forth.

For such a mind, the sudden cessation of “noise” is bliss, and because it is the separating and ordering side of the mind that is in control, there is a sensation of perfect detachment from the world and all its hot-circuit complications, and everything being safely and neatly in order.

For people with that kind of mindset, like myself, this is marvelous. Peace at last. It is a sensation so profoundly moving and ecstatic that it might very well the thing that drives the search for knowledge and insight within the emotional machinery of the scientific mind.

If insight was sex, transcendental reason would be the orgasm, because it is akin to the pleasure of the insights that came before it, and yet of such a quantitative difference that it creates a qualitative difference as well.

The thing about it is that it is very, very cold. Emotion still exists, but it’s only the subset that is compatible with left-brain functioning. Even the bliss created by this state of mind is as cold as space. It is the bliss of relief from overstimulation, like escaping a hot, loud party into cool night air.

It would be easy to simply dismiss this phenomenon as some accident of mind or maybe, if we are feeling generous, an occasional bonus to reward the individual for being so intelligent.

But the kind of mindset that experiences these moments of transcendent reason is not a healthy one. It is, in fact, profoundly unhealthy, in that it treats most of what is going on inside its mind as useless (or worse) noise and ignores (and therefore does not deal with) everything but the small portion of the mental iceberg which shows above the water.

That is, shall we say, no way to run a railroad.

And no matter the polarity, transcendent experiences have a tendency to have a very profound experience on the individual afterward. This can lead to negative outcomes as the normal balance of power in the mind is thrown out of whack by the experience and causes the individual’s mind to break down.

And it often begins as something seemingly positive. The transcendent mystic becomes warm, generous, and overflowing with positive sentiment. The transcendent thinker becomes calm, confident, and even swifter of mind than they were before.

But we have two hemispheres for a reason. The mystic turns into the fanatic and loses all sense of proportion, personal autonomy, and moral restraint. The thinker turns into the brutal rationalist without mercy, empathy, or tolerance.

I don’t know what it is like to have the mystical transformative experience. It sounds wondrous and potential very therapeutic, but I have a feeling a rigidly reason-bound mind like mine is not open to that sort of transcendence.

But I have experienced the other end of the spectrum, and as wonderful and strange as it was, it was also profoundly alienating, and I would not wish to experience it again.

I am disconnected enough already, thanks.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Chillin’ at KPU

Here I am, sitting on one of the cheap but very comfy couches at KPU Richmond at 2:40 in afternoon, waiting for my class to start at 4, eating 7-11 pizza and drinking a retarded expensive 500 ml of Diet Coke, and typing to you wonderful people.

The pizza is a lot better than I remember. The sauce has actual flavour.

As you know, I had therapy at 1 today, and I decided that, after the usual post-therapy trip to 7-11, I would get Joe to drop me off at school instead of home so I could hang out and chill at KPU RICHMOND for a while.

This is a deliberate exercise in low level social exposure therapy for me. Part of the deal is that I can sit wherever I like as long as it is not tucked away out of sight somewhere. No hiding!

Heck, I just upped the stakes by sprawling out on the couch. I have never been this comfortable in public before.  Take tgat, social anxiety !

(Though I now face a social paradox. : every social instinct tells me I should not be wearing my sneakers while on the couch. But they also say I should not, under any circumstances, take my shoes off in public. I am solving this problem by dangling my feet of the couch, exactly the way I used to do when I was a teenager and my mother told me to get my feet off the couch.

Teenagers are such assholes.)

I realized some during therapy today, something that I think I have said before but this time it really clicked :

Nobody is good at structuring their own time. Nobody.

That is why both the retired and the unemployed (and the children of the rich) have a much greater rate of depression and suicide than the general population.
Human beings need an external source of structure in their lives to give predicability and purpose to their lives, and without it, they wither away.

And to think, I have been beating myself up for not being able to create an entire life out of nothing when that is something nobody can do.

Well, maybe Very Organized People can do it.

Depression really does lie. It told me I sucked for being unable to do the impossible, and I believed it for a long, long time.It

One of the most important aspects of recovery is forgiving yourself for being human.

(—)

After class now, and grr, I missed my bus and have to wait for the next one.

I want to be home, eating and blogging and living the good life.

And I guess that if I was going to get my new PC today, I would have heard by now.

Truly, this life is naught but a vale of tears.

Are these really short paragraphs irritating you?

I am very tempted to get something sweet from Tim Horton’s in order to soothe my pain, but that is the sort of thing that gotcme into this mess in the first place. So I will resist.

Mental note : find a healthier way to activate the reward center of my brain. Food is easy but it can kill. And religion is out of the question. Maybe I eill just concentrate on getting really good at masturbation.

Do the really advanced stuff that requires an elaborate system of pulleys and chains and erotic statuary.

If I was rich, I would have an entire garden devoted to erotic statuary. Not because I am sexually attracted to masonry, but because I like to celebrate the wonder that it human sexuality in all its glory.

Plus, it would make a wonderful setting for my orgies.

And believe me, if I was rich, there would be orgies.

(—)

Home and fed now. Back to orgies. Always a cheerful subject.

I wouldn’t be hosting these orgies simply because I am a huge pervert. I mean, I am, but that’s not why.

It’s because I truly believe in sexual freedom and the spiritual power of satiation. Most people go around with unsatisfied desires that they can’t even recognize in themselves, let alone address. These unmet desires taint the soul and prevent people from truly being free.

My orgies would be events aimed at healing the damage. They would be safe spaces where everybody can be who they want to be and get what they want to get. I would work very hard to match people’s desires, so that the person who dreams of being stepped on by a fat lady in a maid’s uniform wearing rubber boots finds the person who wants nothing more than to be that fat lady.

However, that might not always be possible, and so I would hope to attract a dedicated group of followers who share my philosophy and who, like me, would love to make people’s dreams come true.

I would especially need highly adaptable beautiful women, because while I love all body types from petite sylph to Ruebenesque amazon, the world is full of men whose ultimate fantasy involves sex with really beautiful women, and I don’t discriminate.

There will be plenty of handsome sexy men around for the ladies too.

And it wouldn’t just be about sex. It would be about all the desire of humanity. Activities would range from rutting like stunned monkeys and stuffing your face with awesome food to attending a symposium on the role f labour unionism in international communism.

Whatever you want, you get, inasmuch as it is in my power to grant and nobody gets hurt who doesn’t like it.

I bet people would learn a lot about themselves once their hidden desires have been satisfied. They might just find out who they really are. They might just experience a great spiritual awakening. They might be able to resolve traumas that have festered unexamined for decades.

They might just have a really good time. That’s totally cool too.

The one rule would be consent. And that rule would be ironclad. No exceptions. If you do something to someone against their will, you might just lose your keys to paradise.

Also, if it’s a major infraction, I may kick the shit out of you.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

On the other side

Well I made it.

Today was a rough day, because not only did I have Creative Writing (which was rather fun… and yet… more on that later), I had to get together with my partner to complete the homework for Linguistics, there was also a test in the same class today.

However, as it turned out, reviewing the homework in class (complete with RIGHT answers) before the test was pretty much all the refresher course I needed, and I think I did fairly well on the test.

I am sure this was all part of my professor’s diabolical plan.

Even the fact I had to do group work turned out well. Jonathan, my partner, is a great guy, and we actually had fun trying to figure out the right answers to all the questions.

In other words, I actually had normal, friendly human interaction with someone I barely know.

Now THAT is a corrective emotional experience. I will talk about it with my therapist tomorrow.[1]

Eventually we were joined by a third guy, whose partner had completely bailed on him (poor guy) and so he needed someone to compare notes with, and that was Jonathan and me.

Dude radiated nervous energy. It was sort of cute, in a way. It was clear to me that he needed a friend and I can’t refuse anyone under those circumstances.

And a lot of other circumstances, really. I’m such a softy!

And it was okay when we were all working on the homework (turns out, other people can get right answers too!), but later, when we happened to meet up again after the test (we all finished early), dude talked nonstop and Jonathan and I could barely get a word in edgewise.

Clearly, he was just happy to have someone to talk to and share his thoughts with, so I let him rattle on without interrupting much. I have been in his position and done the same thing.

Oh my god, people are LISTENING TO ME. I must make the most of this!

If it happens again, though, I will give him some gentle feedback (or possibly panic and be brutally blunt and hope my charm smooths it over) so that Jonathan and I get to talk too.

And now that the homework and test are behind me, I feel a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders, and the rest of my week will seem like a cakewalk. A stroll through the park.

A really easy crossword puzzle.

Plus, some time in the next three days, I should get my NEW COMPUTER.

And obviously, the New Toy factor on a brand new PC is through the roof.

So that should keep me entertained for a while, both with the fun of checking out all the neat stuff it can do and the possibility of playing games for the PC that I have been wanted to play for years.

I have at least two Fallout games to play! War never changes.

So after tonight, things should become quite pleasant.

I have pondered whether the increase in video game possibilities is a threat to my plans to get my feces in a lower number of pieces re : school. But to be honest, there are a lot of hours in the day. I can crack the books and play video games and get other things done too.

I just have to take a more active attitude toward life.

Interesting but by no means coincidentally, ever since I swore off sugar for a week, I have felt a heck of a lot better. The fact that I have doubled by dose of Vitamin B12 is probably playing a factor too. My skin feels cleaner, I am quite clearly passing a lot of toxins out of my body when I urinate, and overall, I just feel like a more wholesome critter.

That doesn’t mean I will forswear sugar altogether. Those sort of commitments are inherently doomed. Too much pressure, too much stress.

But it does mean that I will have all this new information about how much better life is without it.

And if I really want something tasty from Tim Horton’s to spice up my meals, there’s always bagels and croissants and such!

They are still carbs, alas, but at least they aren’t full of sugar.

Come to think of it, my upswing in health might also be due to my eating trail mix instead of starchy junk food. I may have discovered my new diet.

My creative conflict with my Creative Writing professor (sorry, instructor) seems to be coming to a head no matter how hard I try to be cool about the whole thing. We got into it a little bit today.

Basically, it comes down to precision and clarity. I want her to clearly and precisely tell us what she wants us to do. But to me, her descriptions are vague and open to multiple interpretations.

So when I was clearly becoming frustrated about it, she came over, and told me that not everybody thinks like me, and she has to teach in a way that everyone understands.

This after a very unproductive attempt to figure out what exactly she wanted via conversation. Hence my increasing level of frustration, which I recognize can seem pretty scary to people who don’t know me.

All they see is a huge bearded fat guy who is getting increasingly angry.

She actually told me that “not everybody thinks like you” (well, duh, I’m not autistic for crying out loud).

And that is more or less where the conversation ended. But when this comes up again, I will go into it with a few facts :

1) I don’t have this problem with any other professor.
2) If she is trying to make her instructions understandable to everyone, that should include me, right?
3) She can ask Nicola Harwood about my communications skills.

I think what is really going on is that she has no idea what she is doing and when I ask her what exactly she means, she literally does not know. She is the sort of person who operates on vague ideas, and that’s bound to come into conflict with my high precision brain.

So I dunno. I am really hoping we can work this out. I need this course.

Oh, and one last thing about Linguistics. It occurred to me in class that this was it. This was the challenge I have been looking for. This is the course that will make me have to really push myself.

And so far, I have been a whiny bitch about it. Well no more.

It also occurred to me that this must be what normal students feel like all the time. For some people, every course is like this. For others, only some.

But it’s only rare birds like me that find it a shock to find themselves in this position.

With the matter thus framed in my mind, I can square my shoulders, draw my trusty blade (my mind), and attack the course with glory on my mind.

For once, things aren’t way too easy!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Yes, tomorrow. It’s on Wednesday this week. Doc has plans, had to move me.