My default mode most days is to wake up, realize I am alive and then start looking actively for something to worry about.
I’ve spent enough time lately in states of non-stress, states that were completely sober, that I’ve come to realize that my stressed out state isn’t mandatory.
When you spend so much time angry, upset, and depressed, you start to think that’s the normal state, and that it’s inevitable. But with a lot of mindfulness, I’ve come to realize this isn’t my natural state.
As I observe my thoughts more and more, I realize my mind actively hunts out problems to worry about and if it cannot find anything I might even invent a problem. But this like all bad habits is just a run away feedback loop that can be interrupted.
I’m getting better at interrupting that loop, but a second more important lesson I’ve learned is that life isn’t going to stay consistent. There is no state where I don’t sometimes get stressed and make mistakes, and that’s okay.
Life is not about doing the right things, it’s about doing.
(Disclaimer: I have been diagnosed by an M.D. I am not a doctor, and I will probably get some of this wrong! Feel free to tell me what I missed!)
I apologize for the relative radio silence the past few days. I suffered from an acute spike in my OCD.
OCD is an often misunderstood and misrepresented mental illness. It is debilitating at times, and I have only a moderate case of it. Some people are literally boxed in by there disease stuck in their homes for fear of triggering their OCD.
OCD is in its simplest form is a runaway feedback loop.
The same way any other organ doesn’t stop working when we are not conciously aware of it, the brain doesn’t stop either.
In the neuro-typical (average functional) brain, there is a gatekeeper of sorts that screens this constant pool of thoughts. This gatekeeper tends to only allow thoughts that disagree with the core personality of the individual to pass into consciousness.
In someone with OCD this is the first stumbling block. That gaurds man is quite drowsy and lets a number of perfectly common but disturbing thoughts into consciousness.
Now this sometimes happens in most humans. The urge to jump off a high ledge will send a shudder down someone’s spine, or the idea that maybe we are dying of HIV might send someone into an hour or two of worry.
In OCD however, the this is the second downfall. In OCD the horrifying thought is picked up by and over sensitive brain and amplified. It is used as proof that by simply having this thought is an indication to action. Despite OCD thoughts nearly always being completely opposite of the true character of the individual, and against their wishes.
This causes considerable emotional distress, and to combat that OCD people preform compulsions, or behaviors to aliviate this stress.
The nature of these compulsions depends on the individual, and they are generally disruptive such as hand washing ect, and they are not always consistent. In movies an OCD person has to have every part of their room organized, in real life their room might be a mess, but the OCD Suffer’s hands might be bleeding from being washed too many times.
By participating in these compulsions, the brain incorrectly interprets the anxiety as valid. By running away from the boogy man he becomes real, even if he’s nothing more than a bundle of sticks in the wind.
And so it goes on and on and on, until the OCD sufferer if he or she is lucky learns about Therapies that work. The most effective being ERP or Exposure response prevention.
The therapy is deceptively simple yet exceptionally difficult. It involves avoiding the alleviation of anxiety. The OCD sufferer exposes themselves to things that trigger anxiety and chooses conciously to avoid making themselves feel better. Eventually, the brain learns that since no feedback is given to relive it that the fear they are feeling is disproportionate to the situation, and so the anxiety decrease. Thus Severing the Feedback loop!
Mind you this is not a cure, and it is difficult to do without the aid of Medication, and there are still sometimes the OCD sufferer will fail at this task.
I write this post t simply explain why I haven’t posted and more importantly to tell you all that struggling with a mental illness is perfectly normal, and I understand.
These are strange times, so take care of yourself, and if you do struggle try and get some help.
“Let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream that you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time. Or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would, naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes.
You would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each, you would say “Well, that was pretty great.” But now let’s have a surprise. Let’s have a dream which isn’t under control.
Where something is gonna happen to me that I don’t know what it’s going to be. And you would dig that and come out of that and say “Wow, that was a close shave, wasn’t it?” And then you would get more and more adventurous, and you would make further and further out gambles as to what you would dream.
And finally, you would dream … where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today.”
So suppose the above quote is true. Let’s suppose this is by choice our life. That what is going on is what we chose to do.
Well then it certainly means that this is all a game!
The real worry comes from not knowing. All anxiety is the recognition of how invariably complicated this all is. Think of even a simple task, say going to the market, and begin to think of everything that will go wrong.
Even excluding subtle variations, you could list a thousand things, and still not being close to done. Thus anxiety.
But the quest to eliminate anxiety totally is also a fools errand!
Peoeple miss that the game is the interplay between anxiety and calm, between past and future, and want and satiation.
Life is not, as we so often see it in the west, a problem to be solved. That sort of thinking is both reductive and dangerous, as is all too often seen in the Utopianists of the world, be they Mao, Stalin, Hitler, or nameless Southern Slave owners.
So given this, what is a person to do?
Well, I’ve not the foggiest idea.
Actually, I have some idea, and that is the most anyone can ask for.
The idea is to play the game sincerely. Not for some outcome, as outcomes aren’t real, they are imaginary devices we invented to help produce real tangible results, but the goals aren’t actual physical things.
No, the idea is to play to play, and accept if there is a boon or bane, that is a nice treat or an unpleasant shock, but it isn’t the point.
Some people call this state flow, where the mind becomes immersed in the moment, and loses track of the grand societal narrative, they become sincerely dedicated to something they want to do.
You see when we play the game with results in mind it taints it. If we talk to an attractive person we’d like to get to know, and we really want to get their number, our sincerity is removed, and we come off as a sales pitch. Only when we go in knowing that we might fail and being ok with that, can we really fall into ourselves and away from the objective.
This all may sound a little crazy, and it is. But I’ve come to find some sort of peace in the knowing, that it’s all a grand game, and the point is to play it.
Roar as the dawn rises, in the stench of blood and rot. we dwell in cities iced in luxury but the core is soured, old milk on hot pavement, the carton looks fresh and new, but chunky truth hides in the middle.
So many rage. I see it. I feel it. Every time a shooting happens, each time a man’s neck is kneeled upon, each time a polotical scandal breaches the surface.
“Has the world ever been this bad?” Utter lips, their question rhetorical, they know in their heart it’s never been this bad.
Or has it?
I am going to say something controversial, the world is better than ever.
The world was much much worse in the past, but we didn’t know about it. If you wanted to learn about the atrocities that a black man in the south lived through you might have to actually track him down and ask him, or more likely his surviving relatives.
If you wanted to know about political corruption you had to hope the newspaper told you about it.
Now everyone is a whistle-blower, and the hot steaming truth of the horrors of the world once hidden from us is at our pocket level each day, and each night.
Moreover, we are fed this horrible info, because capitalistic systems have figured out that the best way to monetize us is to make us upset.
And so we walk around in a state of low level upsetness, each horror we consume adding to our guild and existential debts.
I ask, what value have we derived from the overflow of knowledge? What do we glean from this consistent impotent rage, checked by flare ups?
And why? Because Citizens of the United States are constantly allowing themselves to be distracted by the next outrage. They eschew dialog in favor of looking good to their peers, and they push agendas lazily from behind a keyboard.
This is not an indictment, Real, Long Lasting change, is difficult, messy, unsatisfactory, and slow.
The kind of change being demanded by various protest movements is one of systemic policy making, and requires organization and an effective organization requires a unified ideal.
Part of the reason many left leaning movements in the united states have fallen apart can be see in the disparate elements of the party.
Not that this is a particularly good thing, but the right wing of the united states was quick to back the president. While seemingly spineless this sort of rallying can be no means dismissed as ineffective.
Most protest movements fall apart simply because they have no unification. Factions within the movement draw lines, and preform social signaling to prove they are the most worthy.
Without a clear structure, clear goals, and a unified long-term strategy, people who want to enact change will either burn out their rage impotent or potentially more dangerously flock to utopian ideals.
One needs only look at the 20th century’s death camps, famines, wars, and police states to know how dangerous utopia can be.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.