On the edge of annihilation

Fair warning, it going to get pretty metaphorical and/or figurative in here tonight.

Because what is on my mind is mt relationship with oblivion and how what I think of as darkness – the absence of light – is actually a response to far too much light.

What I am talking about is possibilities. Like I have said before in this space, one of the prices I pay for having such a strong, creative mind is that in an given situation, I perceive far more possibilities than the average person.

And that, of course. can be downright amazing. It’s boffo for creative problem solving, for instance, whether that takes the form of devising a reason for a character to be where I want them to be to something as prosaic as how to get a piece of software to do what I want it to do.

It’s especially fun when I have one of my flashes of brilliance and come up with a simple, effective solution to a problem someone is facing.

Of course, then the trick is to get them to accept said solution despite the fact that I have, with the best of intentions, now made them feel stupid for not seeing this simple solution for themselves.

And it turns out that saying “Don’t feel bad! I could only see it because I’m incredibly intelligent!” really does not help.

True story. Not kidding. I did it once. Did not go well.

Back to the point. This ability to see possibilities where others see none can be truly magical,but there is a catch.

When it comes to decision making, all those possibilities crowd in on me and I get overwhelmed by the task of trying to choose the right one out of a sea of thousands.

There’s solid science behind this phenomenon. Recent studies have shown that. past a certain point, having more options actually makes people less happy with their choices.

Makes sense to me. Choosing the right color for your new, custom-made couch is easy when there’s only four or five choices.

But what are the odds of getting the choice right when there’s thousands of colors? Or even worse, you are told it can be “any color you want”?

I don’t know about others, but I never come to that kind of situation with a firm and precise idea of exactly what I want. So saying “you can have whatever you want” is not helpful. All it does is throw me directly into the hot white void of endless possibility where a demonic Monty Hall is asking me to choose between an infinite number of doors when only one of them has a prize behind it and the rest end in death by torture.

That’s what I am getting at when I talk about my darkness being a response to too much light. I think that sometimes, in order to protect itself, my mind simply blanks out all the possibilities in my mind, leaving me with the false (but useful) idea that I can’t see anyh possibilities at all.

It’s an overreaction, but it works.

I think that’s what leads to this feeling of my mind being frozen sometimes. My mind overreacts to a surging tide of possibilities by freezing everything in place, which sort of solve the problem but leave me with very little mental horsepower left over for actually coping with the problem I am facing.

It’s like a state of suspended idiocy. And I tend to panic when I can’t think clearly, and that obviously only makes things worse.

This phenomena of getting overwhelmed by possibilities explains my life long issue with decision making. I used to think that deciding was something that I had a general issue with. But when I got a little older, it become clear to me that sometimes I was extremely decisive and could make solid decisions quickly and confidently. And at other times, I got completely overwhelmed to the point of being on the verse of collapse from the challenge of trying to choose a carpet deodorant.

I eventually went with the citrus scent, and never looked back.

Eventually, I figured out that the determining variable was whether the decision was about myself or some other thing. More specifically, it was about whether the decision required an answer to the question, “what do I want?”

That question has always vexed and confounded me. Most of the time. I have no idea. I certainly can’t figure it out when asked suddenly. I honesty have no idea what I want. How can I know what I want when I don’t even know what my options are?

I can only assume that there are people with much stronger personalities than mine who always know exactly what they want because getting what they want is extremely important to them and so they keep a sort of list of what they want in their minds at all times and are thus always ready for the question.

I cannot fathom living that way. It sounds exhausting. I can only assume that these people have very straightforward, linear, action-oriented minds and personalities that demand they go, go, go without slowing down for as long as they can.

I feel feverish just thinking about it.

I also assume that while these people are by no means stupid or dull, they find themselves at a loss in situations where there is no obvious, logical answer and the solution can only come from subtle, intricate thinking that embraces a far wider scope of options than a more linear mind can perceive.

In other words, they need someone like me around. They need a more thoughtful and perceptive person to point their magnificently abundant energies in the right direction and to get them out of a jam when their steam-locomotive minds run out of track.

I would love to provide that thoughtfulness for someone like that. It might make them feel like I am “smarter” than them, but for my part, I would be in awe of their energy, decisiveness, and drive.

So we’d make a good team. Complementary opposites. Me the thought, them the action. Me the brains, them the drive. Me, the person who knows what needs to be done, them the one who knows how to do it.

In fact, I kind of wish I could be both of those people at the same time.

But I can’t see a single possible way that could be achieved.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

Functions of belief

Picking up where I left off yesterday,  today I am going to examine how belief works in the human mind and attempt to correct some of the seemingly logical assumptions we liberal intellectual types tend to make about it that nevertheless lead us unto error.

We’ll head for the heart of the issue in a moment, but first, a simple fact must be established : there are layers of belief.

Our beliefs are not merely pages in a book, with all beliefs on equal footing. They are strictly ranked in layers according to importance to the individual.

That could be an article all by itself, but the layer I am interested in today is the outermost, lowest priority layer, which is the layer that deals with things which are entirely external to our lives.

Not completely irrelevant – then there would be neither need for nor stimulus to form a belief in the first place. But beliefs about things which are not part of our daily lives in any directly connected way, and therefore the penalty for incorrect belief is small if not entirely nonexistent. If you are wrong about the name of one of the craters of the Moon, unless you’re an astronomer or an astronaut, it will have very little impact on your life.

Being wrong about whether gravity works, on the other hand, could get you killed.

Political beliefs are part of the outer layers of beliefs. Not the outermost level, because our political beliefs are connected to both our morality and our understanding of how human nature and the world in general work.

But for the most part, being wrong – as in, believing politics which are not objectively true – is highly unlikely to have direct consequences on one’s life. There might be social consequences depending on where and when unpopular opinions are expressed, but other than that, the price of error is low.

That frees political beliefs from the burden of representing a true and actionable model of the world and lets it perform strictly psychological functions.

And that’s true for everything in those outer layers of belief. In theory, someone could believe that the moon is made of owl feces and that there’s no such thing as France and it would have very little impact on their lives as long as they kept it to themselves.

But of course, nobody would really believe that because despite being freed from some of the limitations of actionable objectivity, beliefs must still be consistent with everything else the person knows. That’s one verification process that cannot be bypassed without consequences in the form of cognitive dissonance.

So in order to believe that France is a myth, someone would have to think that everything they have ever seen or heard about France was a lie or a joke and that everyone who says they have been there or that they are from there are part of some enormous conspiracy to perpetuate fraud for unguessable reasons.

It’s possible to believe this, thanks to the miracles of modern conspiracy thinking’s handy toolkit of ways to believe whatever the fuck you want, but it would take a lot of work and would therefore have to fulfill a very deep psychological need.

Either that, or the person would have to be quite stupid. One of the things that makes it hard for liberal intellectuals like myself to grasp how someone could be indifferent to the Ultimate Truth™ of things is that they do not understand that the need for internal and external consistency in beliefs scales with IQ.

Essentially, the smarter the person, the more information can be mentally encompassed at the same time and that means that more information can be checked for consistency by the mind’s internal processes at the same time as well.

So beliefs which are glaringly inconsistent and/or massively hypocritical to us are less so to people of average intelligence. This leads to the usual sort of angst and frustration on the part of us brainy types because we can’t BELIEVE that people don’t SEE it.

High IQ grants many powers but comes with many costs. We’d be better off if we could make some sort of peace with our roles as, well, shepherds  for the flock, but that is too inconsistent with the noble egalitarian ethos of modern democratic society.

Back to the subject. Basically, my thesis[1] is that people’s beliefs are a combination of what they must believe (due to things like the consistency check) and what they need to believe because it satisfies a deep emotional need.

A racist redneck Neo-Nazi, for example, might believe in their racial superiority because that belief is what they have used to counter the massive amount of societal messages about their inferiority compared to normal, decent, middle class folk.

And because they have a lower cognitive consistency demand, the fact that those smug middle class people are mostly also white people

Somehow, when these Nazi types think about “the white race”, I don’t think they are imagining wimpy gay intellectual liberals like myself.

I must admit, though, that physically, I could pass for a big fat Bubba type redneck easily. When people think “intellectual”, they are usually not imagining someone who looks like me either.

It’s very common today for us liberal intellectual types to throw up our hands at people like Trump supporting Fox News watchers and declare that these people have divorced themselves from reality entirely.

And that’s true…. for a given value of reality. Because they are incapable and/or unwilling to change their minds based on new information, their political reality has to be absurdly flexible. They have no choice but to believe what they are told to believe.

But of course, were their concept of everyday reality so slippery, they would lose all ability to function in the world.

Makes me wonder what would happen if Donald Trump said that gravity was a liberal lie concocted by the fake news media.

Would they goad each other into jumping off skyscrapers?

Or would they finally snap out of it?

Good thing it’s only a thought experiment.

I really could not be trusted with power.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. I’m as surprised to find out I have one as you are.

A thousand tragic births

I don’t feel so good.

I feel like I have been squeezed and squashed and mangled by a thousand unnatural births and rebirths because no matter how many times I pass through that misbegotten womb, I just can’t seem to get it right.

And every single time. I’m premature, born weak and malformed and nowhere near ready to breathe and function on my own. But there’s no incubator in the infant ICU waiting for me. No worried family looking through the plate glass window and commenting on how tiny and fragile I am. No highly trained medical professionals hovering over me, measuring and monitoring and maintaining in order to make sure I am one of the ones that makes it.

My only hope for survival is to go back in and hope I get it right next time.

But I don’t.

I have been having low grade panic attacks lately. They’re not set off by any identifiable trigger, and they are nowhere near the intensity of the real thing, but they still leave me feeling haunted and hunted and harried to death.

The fact that I know it’s just chemical bullshit in my brain making me feel that way helps in one way – I don’t freak out over freaking out any more.

That’s super helpful and I am extremely grateful for it. Would not trade it for anything.

But in another way, it makes things worse, because it means I come face to face with the reality of my insanity over and over again. It’s very scary to realize – in realtime, as it is happening – that your mind is broken and you are helpless to do anything to fix it.

All you can do is weather the storm and hope there isn’t another any time soon.

I think that a lot of the time, I am in a form of denial about just how sick I am. It’s a subtle form of denial because it’s not like I would deny being ill if asked and I never truly  stop feeling my damage altogether.

But I think, as a form of self-protection, I spend most of the time thinking that it’s not all that bad, and I could shake it off and be perfectly functional if I really had to.

And in a sense, that is reassuring to me, because it shows that my mind is not completely unable to generate the kind of highly functional illusions necessary for health and healing in the human mind.

Every day, my conviction grows that without the ability to lie to oneself in order to keep our fundamental assumptions unquestioned and inviolate, the human mind cannot function in a healthy and robust fashion and is doomed to constant chaos and collapse.

Its skeleton is just too damned soft.

And the truth is that reality does not meet all our emotional needs. Even if we have a life full of love, support, validation, and all the other things we associate with emotional wellbeing, there are still a lot of treacherous gaps and gaping holes waiting to swallow us whole, and the only way to stay out of them is to generate whatever beliefs are necessary to cover those gaps and then seal those beliefs behind a wall of protective denial that protects those beliefs from interference from our metaconscious minds.

That’s the vital role that religion plays in the life of most of humanity. It fills in the gaps and thus allows people to function as if truly whole. It creates the very important protected zone from which we can self-generate everything we need in order to get our most basic emotional needs met without having to worry about whether or not it is truly “real” or not.

Our mental health is too important to leave up to the vagaries of the real world.

A classic example of this self-generation effect is the phenomenon of the imaginary friend. Children create these friends in order to meet their psychological needs. To a child, this friend is real. Maybe not real like their parents or their siblings or their classmates, but real enough in all the ways that count.

Real enough to comfort them when they need it, entertain them when they are bored, play with them when they are feeling lonely, and in all other ways be whatever it is the child needs it to be at the time. [1]

Religion, in this context, serves the same function, but in a form that reflects the broader scope and depth of the adult mind.  It takes something cosmic and all powerful, composed of extremely potent emotional symbols in an equally potent supporting structure, in order to “fool” an adult’s mind in the same way.

But one thing remains true : these vitally necessary illusions must be absolutely safe from being questioned or doubted. Their role as the foundation of a person’s entire psyche demands it.

Sadly, people don’t realize this, and bring their religion into public discourse and thus open it to being questioned and brought into doubt, and then end up lashing out in anger as a response because this questioning hurts them on a very deep and intimate level. A level far too deep for a reasoned and rational response.

It exposes them to the truth that these deep beliefs do not represent rational reality. That was never their function. Their highest priority is to fulfill the emotional needs of the believer when rational, objective reality fails to do so.

Being an accurate model of external reality is strictly secondary. A highly accurate model of the world is useless if you are emotionally crippled by unmet needs.

Take it from one who knows.

Keep this truth about the function of religion in the human psyche in mind when you are tempted to attack someone’s religious beliefs as being logically absurd and completely unsupported by reason and evidence.

You will be, of course, be right. Religious beliefs do not make any sense.

But that was never their purpose in the first place.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. The fact that I never had one of these is, I think, a big clue as to how fucked up a kid I was. I was excessively reasonable and logical even as a preschooler.

This, that, and the other

That title is my way of admitting that I have no idea what to write about tonight in my signature “honest yet oddly endearing” style.

It’s a great combo if you can pull it off. But be warned – what you see in this space is the product of many many years honing a particular persona and if you choose to try to emulate it, do not expect similar results right away.

In other words, “Professional driver on closed track. Do not attempt. ”

It’s always going to bug me a little that “don’t try this at home” type warnings are viewed as necessary. I was a kid when the whole “imitatable acts” cases went through, and I never bought the whole notion that children’s TV programs should be held accountable for some dumb kid getting hurt because he was imitating He-Man’s powerup sequence and got hit by lightning.

Well, okay, that never happened, but still.

If Little Timmy (or Tammy) falls off the stoop and cracks their wrist while pretending to be their favorite cartoon hero, that has nothing to do with the cartoon. It could just as easily been a passage from the Bible they were imitating, or even something straight from their own fertile imaginations.

And it takes a very special kind of twisted, impacted, super entitled middle class mindset to even try to blame the cartoon for what the kid did. To me, it has always seemed like a combination of the hysterical NIMBY parent feeling guilty about letting the child get hurt and a completely and total inability to take responsibility for one’s actions if doing so conflicts with that great rush of righteous anger that comes with throwing the blame on an outside force, however dishonestly.

I mean, what kind of person does something like that?

Being mad is so much more fun that parenting!

Had a bit of a cock up on the job front. Apparently, I was so tired and spaced out when I did my episode last night that I totally forgot to actually send it to Prasad.

And I did not realize it until this evening, so it was very late. Technically. I doubt he would have looked at it before Monday anyway, but still.; I goofed up.

And you know what? Whatever. The only workable solution to the way I freak out over these things is to immediately relegate them to the past and move on. Exoriating mtself over them is counterproductive, to put it mildly, and so I am better off just taking it philosophically, even when that makes me seem like an irresponsible dickwad to other people in my life.

It’s not that I don’t care and it’s not that I am not sorry. It’s just that dwelling on it for any period of time leads to very bad things for me, and I have to start that particularly energetic downward spiral by nipping it in the bud the moment it begins.

I don’t like that it has come to this, but I see no other route. My only consolation is that I am confident that it will be a temporary stepping stone towards getting the sort of sold sense of self-worth that can weather dealing with my own failures without it initiating a total cascade failure of self-loathing in my fragile psyche.

It’s hard to be me. I don’t recommend it. Would not incarnate thusly again.

Actually, I don’t have it all that bad. I have loads of talent and intelligence, I have safe and stable life circumstances, I have a tiny but steady gig as a writer, and I have a Skyrim habit that brings me many hours of fun every single day.

It might not seem like much from society’s point of view, and there’s a lot of people who would call me a loser. But I don’t care. All I care about is enjoying the life I have and letting other drives work their way to the fore before making any big decisions based on an arbitrary cluster of “shoulds”.

One voice getting louder every day as how dissatisfied I am with my writing for Prasad lately, and how the work itself isn’t really doing it for me any more.

As my father would say, I really outsmarted myself on that point. I gave Prasad my ultimatum without even considering the fact that if he accepted my terms, that meant I had no choice but to keep doing the work.

D’oh! So I figure I will keep going for twenty or thirty more episodes, or maybe 35 more so that I hit 100, and then reevaluate.

I’d like to think that I will also look for other work during that period, but I have to be realistic about my energy levels. Or maybe the right term would be “wherewithal reserves”. I only have so much energy I can devote to trying to change the envelope which defines me, and I have to strike when that reserve peaks.

Until then, no pressure, whatever. Maybe I will suddenly get inspired and spend an afternoon on UpWork applying for things I’d enjoy. Maybe I will do nothing of the sort and end up just playing more Skyrim. I couldn’t really say.

But both are fine. I am currently getting through life without a lot of pain, worry, fear, strife, or chaos, and so if that continues, fab.

And if that leads to my reaching the point where I am ready to reach out and strive to make it to the next level of growth and achieve a superior equilibrium, that’s awesome too. Both are good.

What is important is that I keep fighting to learn how to lead a natural life, free of corrosive self-consciousness and n-dimensional paranoia so I can simply be myself and trust that will be enough.

I get closer every day. Now and then I remove another of my radical self-consciojusness and move cloer to living in harmony with myself in the world. Eventually, I will have ripped out all the unnecessary superconscious machinery that does nothing but sap my clock cycles and my will to live, and then I will be free to life life with the carefree attitude and easy self-confidence I had when I was a preschooler.

I can picture this new version of me so clearly in my mind.

And if I can do that, I can make it real.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

They who walk through walls

First, a quick recap of previous thinking :

Let’s talk about Plato’s Cave.

The basic idea is that what we think of as reality is actually just shadows cast by the perfect and unchanging “true” reality which lies outside the cave.

The philosopher’s job, according to Plato (he might have been biased) is to go outside the cave and observe this “true” reality, then come back in to the cave and explain to the rest of us what they have learned.

It’s hard, because most people don’t even know they are in a cave. They think what they see in the shadows is reality. So when you try to share your wisdom from beyond the cave to them, they look at you like you are crazy.

There’s a lot of problems with this metaphor, like all that essentialist “true” reality bullshit. But I like how well it describes the relationship between the philosopher and society, and how problematic it can be.

Myself, I feel like I left the cave and never truly came back. Instead, I got comfortable out there, and began to prefer it to the cramped, smoky, and dingy interior of the cave. Eventually I just plain moved out of the cave, and it became a place I visited as little as possible, much to my detriment.

I would love to say that this move was made out of disgust with the grunting farting hordes and a determination to find my own path and all that kind of rugged individualist shinola, but the truth is that it happened because I couldn’t handle actual reality. The one we all live in and in which all that is real exists.

The world of thought was much easier for me to deal with. The world of contemplation. The world of advanced reasoning. The world of the quest for truth.

The world of sitting there thinking about stuff, more or less. A perfect activity for the socially isolated intellectual.

And because of this social isolation, my reality was never truly socially constrained. I have never been one to accept limitations willingly and I had no real stake in the social world (more’s the pity), so for me, the socially constructed reality that most people live in was just a small subset of the much larger reality I perceived.

Western thought, at this point, would give me a big old pat on the back for having transcended the small minded limitations of blinkered reality to stand on my own as a fearless pursuer of the truth.

But that only makes sense if there was something to transcend. But because of how early in my development this detachment occurred, there was never anything for me to transcend. I could never be the rugged intellectual hero standing atop a pile of slain illusions and crying out my triumphant victory in a clear strong voice.

Instead, I was this person hovering in midair looking at his fellow human beings and wondering why he has such trouble relating to them.

It was because I could fly. Or, less metaphorically, it was because I could enter or leave their reality whenever I chose. To me, it was very clear that a lot of the social machinery that drives society is entirely voluntary and therefore I could easily defy it by refusing to cooperate with it.

In real terms,. this gave me something like magic powers. But not the kind that lets you be a superhero or gains you respect and helps you to meet people and make friends.

More the kind that makes people fear you because you are both powerful beyond their comprehension and so very clueless that they can’t trust that you won’t hurt them with your bizarre and disturbing powers.

Add in the fact that everything else about you is low-status due to your shy and fragile nature, and the stage is set for people dealing with their fear and emotional disturbance about you by punishing you for it and trying to drive you away.

In other words. bullying.

And there you are, the innocent wizard, wondering why you can’t get along with others, while all the time going in and out of their reality and effortlessly transcending the rules that form the basis of their entire reality.

That’s a really fucking weird thing to be able to do. Especially when you don’t even know you are doing it.

And by you, as always, I mean me.

This social detachment robbed me of a lot of very important social lessons. Like how to emit the right social signals to reassure people that you are safe to be around despite your weird powers. Signals that say “I might be strange, but rest assured, I understand enough of your world to make sure I don’t upset you or trample on your beliefs”.

Nobody want to associate with a clumsy yet powerful wizard.

It’s just not safe.

What’s more, the limitations placed on us as children become the internalized structure that acts like a skeleton, supporting the rest of your psyche as you go through life.

When someone like me does not have anyone to impose those limitations, both because nobody is paying attention and because my mental strength made limiting me very hard, they end up with a weak and unstructured adult psyche.

That’s good for creativity but bad for sanity, happiness, and not getting trampled on by life because it is hard and you are goo.

At this point in my life, I am not sure what to do about these issues. It would be very hard for me to learn how to send those reassuring signals. Possible, but difficult.

And part of me doesn’t really want to. That’s my angrily defiant id saying “fuck them if they can’t take it. I’m going to be myself and force the world to deal with it. ”

That’s not exactly a very liberal position. But I will need to move in that direction if I am to form some kind of a stable identity that can act as that long delayed skeleton for my psyche and maybe bring some kind of stability to my inner life.

It might not be the ideal solution.

But it’s what I have to work with.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

Owning my power

Yes, we’re back on that subject again. And once more, right after therapy.

I brought it up in therapy because I felt I needed some extra help processing the whole thing, and well, that’s a big part of what therapy is for, in my never all that humble opinion. Getting help with the processing.

I talked about how I feel like truly embracing my mental power would pull me even further away from others into this airlessly intellectual inner aerie where I would finally go completely insane from lack of human connection.

Perhaps I cling so hard to my delusions of minor normalcy for precisely that reason.

That, and the fact that the alternatives do not appeal to me. When I try to imagine actually thinking of myself as massively intelligent and way smarter than the average person, the best case scenario I can think of is to take a lovingly and gently paternalistic attitude towards my fellow human beings.

Look at them like a parent looks at a child, with great love coupled by the knowledge that they are weaker and more fragile than I am, and I must protect them and treat them gently or they might get hurt.

That’s the best case scenario. Other scenarios include declaring that I am going to do as giants do and the pygmies can take  care of themselves. I’d be like an intellectual Godzilla, massive in power and size, and my atomic breath would be my razor sharp wit and deadly sarcasm.

Or I could embrace misanthropy, like so many others in my situation. Declare that the continuing stupidity of humanity make them unfit for my help, and pointedly withdraw from any humanitarian efforts, and spend my time concentrating on makiing my own life as pleasant and pain free as possible.

But even the crustiest of curmudgeons needs some way to connect with their fellow human beings. It’s a basic need, like food, and being an angry fussy eater does not exempt your from your need for nutrition.

Oh, and of course, going full supervillain crazy is always an option too, with delusions of grandeur and madly manic periods where I feel like I am the smartest person there will ever be and it’s my destiny to be the one and only true saviour of humanity who will drag them kicking and screaming into a new enlightened age.

In other words, conquer the world and remake it in my image because that’s the only way to make sure things are done right.

Anyhow. I guess I am still looking for that way to integrate my knowledge of my intellectual prowess into my self-image. How to be both smart and happy, more or less.

What really scares me is the contempt. I feel like if I was to embrace the true scope and might of my intellect, I would view most of the rest of the human race with sneering contempt at what a bunch of drooling zombies they all are.

I don’t want to go there. But it flows from the big brain and ego thing. It’s very hard to look down at people from Olympian heights without… well, looking down on them.

Which touches on another issue : how to have a big brain without getting a swelled head. The ego thing. I can’t imagine having a big powerful brain that puts me way above most other people (family and friends excluded) without coming to the conclusion that I am goddamned amazing and people should be glad when I so much as pay attention to them because I have such enormous thoughts to think.

In this, I am very human. Our sense of social hierarchy is so strong that we can’t imagine being far more powerful than others without concluding that this means we are the alpha of alphas, the capo de capo, the biggest dog in the doghouse.

And that, in turn, has a tendency to turn people into assholes.

Power corrupts, after all.

All of this would not be a problem if I was better at connecting with others. Said connection would help keep me grounded in the real world so that I don’t float off into the sky to be lost forever.

I’ve had nightmares like that.

But sadly, I am not so well moored. And I don’t know how to fix that. I know what would do it – finding a milieu in which I feel totally comfortable and accepted and relaxed – but I don’t know if such a place even exists.

And if it does, I have this uncomfortable feeling that it would involve me being in charge of everything and it all revolving around my needs.

Doesn’t get much more oral retentive than that.

But no, I suppose it could be a position of harmonious equality as long as I felt values and respected and included there.

And that, of course, has a hell of a lot more to do with me and my issues than any kind of external factor.

I have so much pain, fear, mistrust, and latent rage that comes between me and others. The simplest of social situations sets off a hyperdimensional vortex of emotions and issues in my mind, leaving me numb , confused, and weak for reasons utterly opaque to those of you living outside my head.

And that’s most of you.

Under those circumstances, it is impossible for me to be emotionally open. Picking up on nonverbal social cues is also very difficult. Too much of my mind is preoccupied with managing and suppressing my inner fireworks for me to do anything but rather limply try to keep up with the conversation.

And if I am in a room full of young people, I can’t even do that.

The textbook thing for people like me in such circumstance is to declare most people to be idiots and thus unworthy of your attention.

In other words, sour grapes.

But I can’t do that. I am too honest with myself to externalize my issues onto others when I know damned well that it’s me that is different, not them.

And yet. I can’t imagine embracing my intellect without ending up there.

Guess I’m just not smart enough to figure it out.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

The perils of vision

I think that part of the natural burden that comes with high IQ, especially when it is coupled with an expansive mind like mind, is that you see further and deeper than others. And don’t get me wrong, there can be huge advantages to that.

But when you are a utilitarian humanist like myself, you often feel like Cassandra, able to see the dangers coming but not being able to convince anyone of their reality. So you feel helpless against the tide of doom.

There is also a form of paranoia unique to the farsighted. It comes from that Cassandra feeling, and manifests as a feeling that you have to be looking for danger everywhere at all times because you’re stuck being the advanced scout for your herd and it is your your job to look down all possible paths to make sure the herd doesn’t end up blundering off a cliff or running directly into the jaws of a lion.

And sometimes, in moments of sadness or frustration, we might find ourselves envying the blinkered point of view of the average human being. They don’t see what you see. They don’t worry like you worry. They can just live their lives never looking at the path ahead, just getting through the day, assuming everything will be OK.

But you know, in your heart, that your mind could never fit into such a tiny space,. and that if everything does continue to be OK for the majority, it will be because of people like you clearing the path ahead.

As patient readers know, I have always seen and understood more than was probably good for me. I could tell when people were being insincere. I could see the difference between what they said and what they meant. I understood where people were coming from. I wasn’t consciously aware of this ability until I was in grade 4 or 5, but it was always there. And that alone robbed me of a certain kind of innocence.

It also made me more humanist as well because I could see how people struggle and how even unpleasant people had their reasons for being that way and how none of us get through life without heartache and pain.

Every person you have ever been jealous of is dealing with burdens you can never understand. Every person who seems to “have it all” is acutely aware of how much more to life there is than that. Every rich and powerful person is, like ourselves, an incomplete animal looking for love and connection and validation.

It’s a well-rounded perspective that gives me a very deep level of feeling for the humanity in all of us. To understand is to forgive, not because you are a bad person if you have hostile feelings towards anyone, but because when you look beneath the masks people wear, you always see another confused monkey trying to find the door into happiness just like you.

To me, that is the heart and soul of humanism – that looking beneath the surfaces we project and recognizing how fragile and vulnerable we all are.

This perspective on life often wins plaudits from people because it sounds so good, but when people try to apply it to their own lives,. they give it up pretty fast because  they are comfortable with their hatreds, resentments, and perceptions of others and to change that would be to change how they look at everything.

It’s a struggle. I have been wrestling with it my whole life, and I find it very hard sometimes. Part of me wishes I could be that blinkered member of the herd and act from emotion and stop trying to figure everything out all the time.

But there is no way to shrink a broadened mind short of brain trauma. You have outgrown your previous point of view, and trying to return to it is like trying to fit into the clothes you wore as a child.

It just plain won’t work.

It can be seen as a conflict between my humanitarianism and my humanity. The high holy ethics of true, deep humanitarianism must coexist with my being a stumbling naked monkey just like everyone else.

As attractive as the prospect might be, there is no way to leave your earthly self behind and move in with your higher ethics.

And some of the most dangerous people in the world are those who have convinced themselves that they have done so, because that makes them stop questioning themselves and holding themselves accountable.

Yup. Just like Donald Trump.

I have completely forgotten what I set out to talk about.

Oh right, the dangers of being a visionary.

The dangers can be dealt with. Developing a solid set of limits to how much responsibility you bear helps. I am working on that myself.

I’ve never been fond of barriers between me and others, but as it turns out, you need them in order to keep yourself together.

Forgiving yourself for being human is another big part of it. That’s much harder than recognizing the humanity you share with others. From a humanist point of view, the flaws and imperfections of others can be downright endearing.

But the judgements we lay upon ourselves are much harder to forgive because they become part of our identity, and changes in identity can seem like death to people.

Remember, whenever a butterfly is born, a caterpillar dies.

So we resist self-forgiveness instinctively. It’s too big a change for a lot of people, myself included. We can sense that to forgive oneself would change everything about how we view the world and ourselves, and because we are unable to imagine what that would be like, we view it as chaos and madness and horrible, and resist it.

How much healthier would we be if we all understand that it is impossible to stop being yourself? The real you… your core identity… is unchanging and immutable. New information can no more change who you really are than it can change you into a cheetah. You always have been and will always be yourself.

All that can happen is that you learn more about yourself. And while some of that is bound to be bad news and lead to the death of who you thought you were, the real you will still be there.

In fact, it will have grown.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

I keep putting this off

Today, I am finally going to get around to talking about procrastination.

But first, a quick personal update : I got my raise! No argument, no pushback, just a message from my boss saying that I would be paid $60 for this week’s 4 scripts.

I didn’t have to write one yesterday, because it was Labour Day.

I just had to add the word “labour” to my computer’s automatic spellcheck. The quiet battle for Canadian identity continues. now and forever.

I don’t know yet about my other demand, which was to work directly with the rest of the team. We will see.

I just feel all sparkly good about myself because I stood up for myself and it worked.

Anyhow, back to putting things off.

We all know that procrastination is a bad habit. We know it only makes things worse for us in the long run. We all kick ourselves for the lazy dumbasses we are when we panic because it’s the last minute and we still haven’t done that thing yet and now we have to do a really half-assed job really fast, even though we have had tons of time to do the thing. But no, we pussied out and kept putting it off, and now we’re fucked.

And that’s a very unpleasant experience. And we know it’s easily avoidable and yet we also know it will happen again. Once the crisis is over, we’ll forget all about it, and go back to putting things off.

But why? What makes later seem better than now? Clearly, we would be better off doing our things as soon as we get them. It’s the same amount of work either way, and if we do them ASAP, we can forget all about them and relax instead of having them looming over our heads for literally the maximum amount of time.

And yet, we keep on doing it. Let’s talk about why.

The key here is avoidance, which for the purpose of this blog entry I will define as “dealing with stressful things by dodging them instead of dealing with them”.

We’re all guilty of it now and then. But for the kind of people for whom procrastination is a serious problem (like myself), avoidance is our primary defense mechanism against stressful situations. Our instinctual response to a rise in stress is to detach from the situation as soon as possible, and the easiest and fastest way to do it is to shove all thoughts of the stressful thing out of our minds, thus returning to the eerily placid state of mind that we prefer.

It’s a classic bit of short term thinking. But it’s not really thinking, is it? It’s a gut level emotional response, as simple and thoughtless as a reflex.

Every day, we face the choice of doing what we know we’re supposed to do right away to get over it and punting it downfield to the future and thus happily screwing over our future selves, who will resent us greatly for it.

We make the bad choice – procrastination – because it’s easier and it resolves the emotional issue immediately.

So how does one go from being a procrastinating full to being a take-charge go-getter who is always on top of their lives and thus masters (and mistresses) of their own fate?

Beats me. If I knew, I wouldn’t have to write about it in order to figure it out.

I know that is involves a deep and subtle but profound change of attitude towards life. And that will require building up your mental muscle, particularly your intelligent self-interest preservation muscles.

That is the muscle that you use when you actively choose the better-for-you option instead of the immediate-gratification option. Like a physical muscle, it gets stronger from use and making the right choice gets easier over time.

But that’s not a first-level solution. It only begs the question, “and how does one do that? How does one get to a mental place where one can do that?”

And therein lies the rub, because no matter how you look at it, if you are serious about improving your habits, then you have to do what you really don’t want to do, and that is dealing with things.

It’s a choice only you can make. It starts with choosing to stay in the moment of stress instead of skating away as fast as you can. It will feel very unnatural and wrong at first, but if you stick with it, it becomes easier over time.

That doesn’t mean you have to immediately jump from procrastination to hyper competence. That is never going to happen. Instead, all that is required is that when you feel this urge to push things away, pause for a moment. Do it one second later.

This gives your mind an extra moment to digest the thought and that will reduce the scariness of the thought and interrupt the process of merely slapping a huge label that says “LATER” on it and shoving it right back out the door.

It’s basically a desensitizing technique. It will gradually convince your inner emotional matrix that things are not as bad or scary as you once thought, and that these things can be dealt with sooner than usual without it being a horrible experience.

This will involve a certain degree of inner monitoring. You have to catch yourself in the act, so to speak. And you might not be the sort of person who likes doing that.

Well, too bad. Doing so is vital to any kind of cognitive therapy, and cognitive therapy is the most effective kind of therapy, so…. buck up and do it.

Of course, I am only describing a method. You will have to apply it yourself. I can’t make you do it. Nobody can. It’s entirely up to you. Not because everyone is trying to force you to learn some kind of harsh lesson. Because it is literally physically impossible for me to climb inside your head and run your life for you.

And if you think that sounds unfair and that I am just being a meanie, then you really need to grow the fuck up.

It’s all up to you. It’s always been up to you. It will always be up to you. You are the only person who can live your life and make your choices.

Childhood ends. That can’t be helped.

But refusing to face the truth of your own autonomy and thus your responsibility for your own outcomes only makes things way worse.

You can be happy.

But it’s going to take some work.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

Sucking on a lollipop stick

I’m still playing Skyrim. But I am beginning to wonder why.

Not that that game has changed at all. It’s as awesome as ever. But I have been playing it in nearly all of my copious downtime for months now, and it’s wearing thing .

When I play, part of me is having fun and getting into getting various things done and so on. That is still, as of this moment the larger part of me.

But the other part of me has been growing increasingly frustrated and disgusted and anxious as I play, and really wants to play ANYTHING else.

So why do I keep playing?

Because I have a lot of trouble letting go, basically.

Right now, I think I am mostly still playing out of a desire to not have to return to the world where I have to figure out what to do with myself all day again.

Between that and nostalgia for how much I used to enjoy playing it plus my life long compulsion to do things I have planned to do puts me in this weird bind.

Hence the title of this entry. It’s like I finished the lollipop ages ago but I am still sucking on the stick because it was a really good lollipop and I don’t want to let go of that.

But the taste in my mouth gets sourer and sourer and sooner or later, that will force me to let go whether I want to or not.

And afterwards, I will admonish myself for holding on so long to something that so clearly has stopped providing enjoyment when I would have been far better off looking for something new and fresh.

It’s a very un-pragmatist thing to do. But even I have to admit – and I can say this, you can’t – sometimes pragmatism isn’t very practical.

My inner logic demon demands that I clarify : logically speaking, it is impossible for the pragmatic to be impractical because there is no way for anything that does not “work” can be considered a pragmatic solution.

So all I am really saying is that false notions of the pragmatic thing to do can be very impractical. One of the biggest strengths of the pragmatic mindset is its laser focus on results. If it doesn’t lead to a working solution, it’s un-pragmatic, period.

I’m starting to repeat myself. Let’s move on.

So yes, I will admonish myself and firmly resolve to never do it again.

But it will happen again. Over and over. Until the root cause, fear of facing the unending fractal maze of possibility that is the real world has ceased to be.

It’s very much a Taurus thing, this inability to let go of things. I am pretty sure that the sun sign Taurus must be disproportionately represented amongst hoarders. Our primal mission is to accumulate value, and that can lead not just to hoarding and a tendency to hold on to things for far too long, but also a drastic over-sensitivity to loss.

Just the thought of losing what we have accumulated is enough to make us break out in a cold and very paranoid threat. I am sure that we are a big part of the “prepper” community as well for just that reason. It’s a case of backwards justifying a compulsion to stockpile and preserve.

Because if the world is not coming to an end, why do I have so many cans of peas?

That’s why I have always worried about what would happen if someone tried to mug me. I know that I absolutely could not hand over the money. That’s emotionally impossible for me. That means I would have to fight back, and that could get me killed, because as wily and unpredictable and tricky as I can be, I am still old and fat and slow and no match for a sufficiently determined young person.

I’m not saying I would definitely lose.

I’m just saying that I would be compelled to take a highly uncharacteristic risk.

There’s also a strong possibility that if I did win, I would beat the ever loving shit out of the young person, in a wildly disproportionate way because now my latent rage has an outlet, and I would end up being the bad guy because of it.

And hey, it’s my word against their that they even tried to mug me. And they are going to come out as far more guy-level sympathetic than I will.

Anyhow, back to the topic.

One astrologer I read said that learning to let go was every Taurus’ primary spiritual challenge in life. And that makes sense to me. Hitting the snooze button on life and ignoring the evidence of your own sense and emotions because you don’t want to return to the uncertainties of life certainly fits the bill there.

Obviously, a healthy life requires both accumulation and letting go. Sometimes you have to separate the wheat from the chaff and throw the chaff away. Sometimes trying to keep it all leads to losing it all. Sometimes getting rid of bad stuff is the best way to improve the overall quality.

Sometimes you have to cut off the leg to save the patient.

But real life is rarely so clear cut. True, it’s easy to say that this sort of clinging behaviour is unhealthy and needs to be curtailed, but that’s just the saying of it.

In and of itself, it does nothing to solve the problem, nor does it even hint at a possible solution to it.

And as long as I am so needy and insecure because I don’t feel safe on a deep psychological level, I will likely continue to cling. To avoid the harsh reality of change for as long as possible via an aggressive and muscular kind of denial, and secretly hope that the choice will be taken out of my hands by things falling apart on their own. To try to find a happy place and then just stay there, even though I know that is impossible.

Clearly, something has to change.

But that’s the whole problem, isn’t it?

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Fruvous has tentacles

Feeling rather bleh at the moment. Just woke up from some of that hyper intense REM state sleep that always leaves me  feeling all disoriented and messed up.

Right now, my head is full of cobwebs, I feel dizzy and confused, my head hurts, I am having a lot of trouble focused on what I am doing, and I feel a slight tingle all through my body that is a sure sign that I have not been getting my recommended daily allowance of oxygen due to my untreated sleep apnea.

Sleep hurts me sometimes. That’s not supposed to happen. That’s not right.

I’ll try not to go off on one of my “why can’t I take care of myself properly” ranting ruminations. Because depression, that’s why.

Depression makes self-care very difficult, especially for someone who was neglected as a child like myself. There is only so much I can do and that amount varies from day to day and moment to moment.

It all flows from that terror of leaving my tiny little hidey hole of retreat from the world inside my head. Anything that involves me leaving my tiny comfort zone activates my deep anxiety and the clock starts ticking on how long I can fight that deep anxiety before I have to yank my tentacles back and close my shell for a while.

Yeah it’s a weird image. Those happen here.

I’ve thought about the tentacle thing before. Not in the ecchi hentai schoolgirl orifice invasion sense, but as a metaphor for my approach to life. At all times I stay in my comfort zone deep inside my mind, and deal with life via extending cautious tentacles into the real world, always ready to haul them back in like fishing line on an automatic reel the second something makes my anxiety level exceed its very low trigger point.

On a good day,. I am willing to come out of my shell a little in order to get what I want or to take advantage of something good. But for the most part, anything too far away from my timid tentacles to reach is simply not possible for me.

I’m just too damned scared/

That is the source of all my “I just can’t” moments, where I can’t do something and can’t explain why .The real answer would be, I suspect, something like “because my depression won’t let me” or “because that scares me and I don’t know why” or, I supposed, “because my tentacles aren’t long enough yet”, although that answer would probably get a few strange looks.

To put it mildly.

Growth and recovery, for the likes of me, comes from pushing myself to stretch those tentacles out further than they have ever gone before, maybe even taking a few steps out of my usual anchor point.

If all goes well, what I get out of it is proof that exceeding my limits does not always lead to instant catastrophe and regret and self-excoriation over how stupid I am for having done something I “know” is a bad idea.

If it goes badly, of course, that catastrophe happens. My anxiety explodes like a fucking hand grenade and all I can think of is surrender and/or retreat.

Whatever lets me go back to my teeny tiny comfort zone and lick my wounds and wait for my anxiety level to slowly go down to the point where I can feel safe.

Well, as safe as I ever feel, anyhow. An acceptable minimal state of panic equivalent to my usual level of background panic.

Those are the stakes. I might get a littler better or I might feel a lot worse for a while. I never forget that extending my limits is good for me, but that won’t matter if my red alert condition is triggered and I am helpless to fight the raging storm inside me.

That said, I have made a lot of progress over the last couple of years, and that comfort zone is bigger and stronger than ever. And I have gotten a lot better at weathering the storms by reminding myself that it’s only weather and it will pass and after that I will be warm and dry on solid ground once more.

But it’s still a tentacle based world for me. In a sense, getting the writing gig that I did made me backtrack some because I could work for… well, not a living, but for money, anyhow – from the comfort of my computer and not have to deal with the world at all besides sending my script to Prasad every working weekday.

Oh, I pulled the trigger on that, by the way. Along with my 60th episode, I messaged him that I wanted a raise from $10/episode to $15/episode. And that I wanted to work directly with the animator(s) and Ryan, our voice actor.

I am positive that if I can work with them directly via some robust online collaboration platform, I can improve the quality of our little toons ten times over.

Here’s one of the latest ones :

Ugh. The “automatic” lip syncing is terrible, the timing my my jokes is all wrong, and the whole thing comes across as amateurish, clumsy, and laaaame.

At least, from my point of view. If you thoroughly enjoyed that, god bless you, but from my side of the screen, it is not good enough, damn it., not good enough.

 

 

I have mentally quoted that line like a thousand times when I am fed up and my controlling urge is on the rampage.

That’s why I am very reluctant to actually watch the things. It pains me to see my words go wrong like that and makes me feel acutely embarrassed about being associated with such shoddy work.

When I ignore the videos, I can be the faithful writer who just writes the thing, submits it, and collects his paycheck.

But if I watch them, when I obsess over the final product and that is not good for me.

Working directly with the team is the only solution, as far as I can tell. Well, either that, or get my own account on GoAnimate.com and make the fucking things myself.

And let me tell you, I ma very tempted to do just that.

Maybe I will.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.