Who are you preforming to?

It’s all a game

As I continue my mindfulness practice, I’ve been able to put space between my thoughts and myself.

As I observe the thoughts my mind spontaneously generates, I have taken to gently confronting them with reality. Recently, my father told me he’s never judged me, and for the first time I believed him.

For much of my life, I found myself living in the shadow of my father, making him the villain of my life, and now looking back, I can see I was deeply wrong.

In reality I was preforming to no one. I wanted a villain because it gave me an excuse not to try. I learned to be helpless, and I learned to ignore how my father loved me because he did not love me in the particular way I wanted him to.

My perfectionist desires, so branded into my mind ensured I’d never be content with what is.

As I find myself accepting what is, I am not happier, but I am sure as hell better able to deal with the world.

The sucky things still suck, but I don’t expect them not to suck, and that makes them suck for a shorter amount of time.

As I look at how I think now, I catch myself asking, “who are you preforming to? Who are you posturing for? No one can see your thoughts but you?”

The hypercritical part of my brain automatically generates these negative thoughts. I can see where it learned these behaviors, the people who imparted this negativity, but I see now, I let them.

This is not to say that I am at fault. No the fault lies in those people who were cruel to me, but I think the part of me that is responsible is the current version of me.

The child in me had no idea of how to resist or move around the wills of other people, and allowed the strongest to be imposed. That was not his fault, he was after all a child.

However, as an adult, we can choose. We can go back to the past events and forgive everyone involved. We can see those people who visited cruelty upon us were victims in their own way, and we can forgive our younger self for not resisting them.

Most importantly, we can observe the thoughts and learned behaviors with a mindfull eye, and question them.

“Am I really a loser? or was I a child with a learning disability that limited his ability to gauge social ques?”

“Am I a failure?” Or are my standards set without limits or regards to my abilities?

Do my thoughts align with the most objective reality I can grapple with?

Nonetheless, I know I am not done, but in reality, nothing ever is.

Stand Watie: A Complex Man

Stand Watie, Cherokee Brigadeer General of the Confederacy, headed the last significant force to surrender in the American Civil war.

A native American from the Cherokee tribe, he consistently defies easy labeling. He fought on the side of the confederacy, and he owned slaves, yet he came from an arguably more oppressed group, native Americans.

An smart man, he wrote for the local paper, and involved himself in politics from a young age, fighting for the rights of his people, against state, local and federal policies.

I won’t go over all of Stand’s trials and tribulations here. He lived a complex, checkered, immoral, and human life. He faced adversity from every possible angle you could think of but ultimately he was a man of his time.

Was he a good man? Who am I to say? I just find him horribly fascinating. A man who himself was the victim of institutionalized federal racism willingly enforcing that racism on others. A man who fought to preserve his tribe yet, fought for a government that most likely would have turned on him eventually for being non-white.

To me he stands as the perfect example that history is never simple, never clean, and ultimately is the story of humans in all their flawed glory.

Attention is Power

Distraction is a powerful tool. Love him or hate him, whenever I see the president speaking in the news, I begin to sift through the news links on page 2.

Usually, congress, or some similar organization slips an unpopular piece of legislation under the noses of the United States’ people in plain sight.

It’s not so much a conspiracy as a tactic that taps into the central nerve of the current century. Our access to information is nearly infinite but our capacity to pay attention is hopelessly limited.

With the internet information’s power hollowed to a shell, the smartphone the last nail in the coffin. Few need a degree in English now that you have access to the opinions of the greatest literary minds’ on demand.

However, with this openness of information came the algorithmic dystopia. A constant nozzle of putrid bile, the worst of humanity poured daily into our minds, not our of malice, but instead out of capitalistic short sighted greed. Whatever the reason, man sits at the font of the whole of human tragedy, and sips from that poison cup, meeting it with near bottomless yet impotent rage.

Yet, it need not be this way.

The solution is simple, yet exceptionally difficult to achieve. Each wo/man must choose actively what they pay attention to.

It is not that the tragedy of the word are not worth paying attention to, but it is instead a humble detonation. “i am small. I can maybe save myself, and maybe I can make the world not a worse place to be. Saving others, that is truly an extraordinary feat.”

Many consider this defeatist, and I admire them for that, their hope and determination is admirable, but I think we do not honor the wo/man who simply does not make things worse, quite enough. The one who pays attention to what he can control, and directs his energy not at the masturbatory failures of the world but the failures of his personal world.

S/he is the one who votes in all the local elections, and volunteers where they live, donates what s/he can, and simply works to make their corner of the world a little better each day.

Some days you can only save one person, and it’s OK if that one person is you.

Knowledge is not Power

UCLA Library By Jemore at French Wikipedia.

In the time between the 1950s and the early 2000s, knowledge was power. Information hid behind books, in scholarly papers, and in the minds of scholars.

Going to college qualified you for the highest positions of employment on the basis alone that you had access to this forbidden knowledge and more importantly the proof you’d studied it.

The university education however, began to slip with the introduction of the internet, and the paradigm of power shifted as fast internet evolved.

As a child, we’d wait 10 minutes for a 5 minute video to load, lectures that were an hour long would take 1-2 hours of uninterrupted loading, and considering that the internet used to take a phone-line to connect that was a tall order.

With the advent of faster internet and the slow building of the Internet’s collective database, information long lost to the stacks of libraries became easily accessible.

Businesses no longer needed an MBA candidate to tell them how to run their marketing at top level, when they could simply look up what that candidate knew.

Without really meaning to the internet transformed the once instant success of a college degree into a hollow shell of a requirement, many businesses demanding it for tasks as simple as mail room attendant.

Moreover, it should be stated that universities were not ever constructed upon the basis of job skills training. While this was often a pleasant side effect of the educations received at these places, the true purpose of any university is the advancement of knowledge. The teaching parts were often stapled on as an unpleasant reality for many a researcher, a requirement to receive the funding they need.

The outside world, the business world, decided collectively that the job should be correlated to the education, though as of late one might argue this is simply a convenience measure for their HR departments to quickly remove a swath of candidates from the running of any one position.

Thus, as knowledge became easily available it became worthless, and little has come in its wake to replace it. Or so it seems. As a new resource once seen as trivial replaced it.

Attention.

We Earn our Leaders

It is no secret that the United States, my preferred nomenclature for the country so often regarded as America, is in limbo of sorts.

Love him or hate him, the president of the USA ‘s actions are ineffectual for the most part. At the beginning of the pandemic he denied how serious it was.

This is not a political statement, though I am sure people will make it one. I can understand from a historical and personal perspective why many of his supporters chose him.

The current US President is precisely why Plato hated democracy.

However, I do not think, as ineffectual he can be he’s the problem.

We’ve not changed in 20,000 years always demanding leadership and sacrifice but not demanding it of ourselves.

We’ve lied to one another. We’ve acted against our best interests. We’ve earned our leaders.

We allowed our merchant class to export our jobs, because we feared what unions might inspire. We allowed our politicians to take money from special interests because we’ve swallowed the lie that the government is too corrupt to distribute funds to campaigns.

Each freedom stripped away did so in the face of great fear, and like all fears each time we did nothing to challenge it, each time we ran from it, it grew stronger and demanded more.

In the years of the Obama Administration we grew complacent. We did not demand accountability for things he’d done, we assumed racism was fading, we assumed people were simply going to do the right thing, that the historical forces were now one their way to permanent utopian levels.

We gave up the good, slow, habitual work that led to the first black president, and in that void others, powered by fear, hate and poverty elected a man unfit to lead.

The current state of the united states is on all of our heads. We all have work to do. We will always have work to do. That is the nature of the universe.

Algorithmic Dystopia: Part 1

… to keep sheets of paper together.

Choose a company. Any company at large that is publicly owned will do.

Now go find a scandal. It won’t be hard.

If you look through the jargon, and the bullshit every move made is in pursuit of profit. This makes sense. As a whole organism the company is like the proverbial paperclip making machine.

The one goal of the modern corporation is not to just make money, but to make money now. If you dig a little further down you can find out why.

The word used like a crucifix to ward off criticism is, Shareholders.

We had to move the factor to China, the shareholders demanded the 5% profit increase. We had to fire 5000 people, the shareholders wanted a high dividend. We had to break the law, the shareholders would have fired the board and made the next one do it.

Not to be hyperbolic, but this level of obedience to a faceless force resounds a little to closely to the Nuremberg trial’s excuses of “I was only following orders,” for me.

The notion of stockholders conjures for me a room full of people in their 40s and 50s, with a few young guns in sharp suits smoking outside waiting for the meeting to start but according to research the truth is much grimmer. 10% of the wealthy own most of the stock that exists.

Moreover, people do not realize that most trading is done not by humans but by machines.

Algorithms designed to buy and sell stock. No human needed. Which means when a company follows the blind will of its “stock holders” they aren’t even following the will of the top 10% of wealthy people. They are following the notions of the automated machine that they built for them.

Add in holding companies, and mutual funds and you end up with a near endless loop of wealth that isn’t commanded by anyone, except the unthinking hand of machines that are built to eschew human decency in favor of making money.

This of course all makes sense. It’s a product of the Loss of Legacy.

Mindfulness as a way out

Most people misunderstand mindfulness.

In most people’s mind meditation is a check-mark on the to-do list.

the most common refrain, and the refrain i used as a shield from the terror of mindfulness, and it is terrifying, is that “i cannot concentrate.”

this is because the modern mindset is one lived in the shadow of the ego. The internet in all it’s fantastical power has done much to help us, but spiritually it drains us.

Each day it unveils another horror perpetuated by man on man. It is easy to become disheveled and depressed at the sheer number of horrors. Not only that the various social media platforms program themselves to feed a steady serving of this bad news to us, as our minds are naturally problem solvers.

The problem with that is of course that these problems are nuanced, layered and complex. They require systemic solutions that will take years, and in the mean time we are ultimately powerless.

But the actual issue, is of course the modern human rarely pulls himself out of this world of symbols.

To Paraphrase Milton ” the mind is a place unto itself, it can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.”

People fundamentally in this world of horrors, to-do lists and constant movement lose sight of the true goal of mediation.

Meditation is practice in waking up, over and over, each day knowing that it will never be the last time until we live this mortal coil. Mediation, is trying to stir yourself awake enough times so that at the end of your life you can look back at it and think yes I lived.

Mediation is a practice.

The best metaphor I heard about meditation was this ” meditation is like sweeping a floor. One does not sweep a floor once, and think there it is done, I shall never have to sweep the floor again. Meditation is the acceptance that though the floor is clean temporarily it will need to be swept again.”

Toxic Masculinity is Toxic to All Parties

It is a curious phenomena that despite being overwhelmingly privileged in many areas Men are poisoned by toxic masculinity as much as anyone else.

For instance, as a white hetro-normative male, I will rarely, if ever find myself under the boot of police discrimination. (unless of course I am poor, the western world’s new serf class).

However, I may find myself looked at strangely if I express even a passing interest in say the education or entertainment of children.

When I was a substitute teacher for k-6 children, a job I adored, Teachers and parents alike eyed me with keen suspicion. By all accounts, the culture dictated that if I chose to work with children there must be something wrong with me, as that was not a Man’s place.

Now not all saw me this way. Many teachers were absolutely thrilled about the prospect of a male teacher joining the fray, but the attitudes of the other teachers made me think twice about becoming an Elementary school teacher. (that and the atrocious work load dumped on the most passionate people.)

Men are overwhelmingly jailed, under/unemployed, and depressed. This is not to say our ancestors did not construct a world where they did these things to the less able. It is the legacy of hundreds or thousands of years of sexism.

But there comes a time I wonder if the efforts of our culture to eradicate sexism have become more about punishing past wrongs.

To show emotions is to err. To be well spoken is to be a snob. To stand up for ones self is seen as aggression. To kowtow to the mob is weakness. It seems that for many less educated men, they cannot seem to find the correct footing that will grant them access to the culture.

It is in this isolation I fear. In isolation and shame grows hate, and as the hate grows, the frustration, I see a rising tide of men who see themselves with nothing to lose. That is a scary thing, a man who thinks he has nothing to lose, and with no other outlet often will seek violence. They cannot see of course this violence will do nothing but further fragment and isolate, but in that moment of social pain they cannot do anything but double down on their own toxicity.

I am not trying to evoke pity. I am not attempting to justify the horrors that ancestors past, and some men currently perpetuate, I am simply questioning the rhetoric, and the end goal.

What is the cultural end goal for the modern man? Where are we to go? What are we to do? We are human, and many of us don’t believe in the zero-sum, rule or be ruled ideas of the past.

What is a modern man to do? I wish I knew.

And the worst part is… we are all doing the best we can.

I am a highly critical individual. My primary focus is myself. Lately, I’ve been working on becoming more accepting of the universe. More accepting of the sticky F key on my laptop, more accepting of my erratic sleep schedule, and more accepting of my penchant for emotional outbursts.

The world is on fire right now, but in it’s defense it’s been burning for a long time. The embers that started this fire are at their youngest 500 years old. I am not the right person to comment on all this, I am a Hetero white guy, living in an upper middle class suburb outside one of the richest cities in LA. All I can say is, well F#*$.

My mind jumps to be critical, but the voice of mindfulness puts a gentle hand on my shoulder, and I recall, there is no better reality where none of this happens. Everyone, including me, is doing their best, and it’s all a tragedy.

That does not mean we cannot change the future. I’ve just realized that I cant fix now because now is already too late.

It’s hard to see a path forward in this land of desolation, where 100 companies create nearly 70% of all pollution, a corrupt political system rots slowly around us, and people of color are gunned down without cause or consequence to the killer. But, what else can a man do?

This morning I sat with this overwhelming sadness, before reminding myself of my favorite metaphor of mindfulness.

One does not sweep a floor with the intent that this will be the last time the floor will ever have to be swept, one sweeps the floor because it is dirty. The floor will become dirty again, but that is a problem for the future.

The Limits of a Chromebook

I love my Chromebook. I write this on it now. It is nimble, light and flexible. I liken it to a razor, even the shape and color evokes the feel of a fine cutting instrument. That being said, I recently discovered why an actual laptop might be a necessity.

Web design is something I recently delved into and I find myself scrounging for low power alternatives to the rock-star that is the Adobe Creative Suite, (don’t get me started at the prohibitive costs of said Suite.) While many open source and low cost alternatives exist they are programmed for a windows or Linux Environment. While quite functional the Chrome OS is rather limited in it’s ability to handle many of the tasks I need it for. Moreover, lately it has gotten a tad sluggish, a problem I have resolved so far. Overall, I think the Chromebook is a good tool, I just think I have grown beyond the odd Facebook post, and Imgur viewing spree.