In this increasingly divided age, I wanted to comment a little secret. Friendship doesn’t have to be an alignment of ideas.
Friendships are meant to expand your mind, and fulfill social needs.
However, the internet has warped us into thinking conformity is needed to establish relationships. Tribalism is a programmed behavior of humans, but so is inter-connectivity, and it’s only through collaboration that we come to the font of innovation.
One of the hardest truth’s to swallow is the idea that you are not your friend’s savior. You aren’t going to convert them through rhetoric, or logic, or simply bothering them until they break.
If you see the world from their eyes for a second, you are the one with the strange ideas. If you go into a friendship with an agenda it stops being a friendship and becomes a project. It’s not longer about mutual exchange of ideas and good feelings about about one person being right and the other wrong.
In order to find common ground, embrace humility, question yourself without having to convert to the other point, and most of all simply be with that person. If they start to go into a conversation topic you aren’t comfortable with, tell them, and ask them politely to not discuss it.
Most of all, focus on your common ground, and remember, that’s a person out there.
The election is for the most part over. I don’t want to get political here, and I wont, but aside from the legal challenges of current president, the political battle for the United State’s highest office is all but decided.
But now comes the hardest part. We need to take a good hard look at ourselves and our opponents and understand them.
To quote an ancient proverb ” When you go seeking revenge, dig two graves.” I know many in the president elect’s camp seek to other, and destroy those in the current president’s camp and vice versa, but that logic is flawed.
First off, it labors under the idea of a Zero sum game, or the idea that someone must lose in order for someone else to win. This makes sense. For most of human history our psychology and biology developed in a zero sum environment. Sometimes in order for the tribe our ancestors were in to survive they had to commit atrocities to other people. However, in today’s world of nearly unlimited resources, we no longer have to destroy someone else to win. The inner-connectivity of the world might pose many problems, but it allows us in the western world to enjoy the bounties of almost always having too much.
Second, the mindset of destroying my “enemies” is largely what got us into the highly partisan and separated mindset that we are in today. Because each time we punish a group, they remember, and they pass that remembrance onto their children who then bring that grudge to bear when they are in power. And so on and so on.
The way forward is instead one of vulnerability. We must all lay our sins to bear at the table, and once it is done say, OK, we’ve all done bad things to people, but let’s bury the hatchet.
This isn’t about making it even, or balancing one bad thing against another, but instead a period of forgiveness to forge unity. Without a common coalition the current divisiveness in the US will do nothing but worsen.
Jesus, whether you believe him to be the son of God or a wise Philosopher, had it right if someone slaps you, you offer them the other cheek. Not because you are so much better than them, but because you recognize that you yourself have done things wrong, and people deserve forgiveness, and so do you.
I distinctly remember. Being in the car with my father, and feeling a sudden sense of obligation to do something about the world. We passed a homelessness, and I felt guilty, seeing his tanned gaunt face living in squalor, as not a quarter mile away million dollar homes were being built. The injustice burned, and I felt being born into a privileged life, I owed the world something, and while my intentions were noble, the scope of my pondering were dangerously broad.
This is not to say that I can’t help the world, or that I shouldn’t but the problem came when I set my intentions to help everyone. To fix the problem of __________ (insert global problem here).
32 year old me now sees the Three issues with my statement.
1. The vast overvaluing of my ability vs the scope of the problem.
2. The inconsistent judgement of what counted as enough.
3. The idea that there is a “solution” to problems at all, instead of simply a set of situations that change consistently.
As for the first, this is a common problem and it stems from a combination of many things, but primarily a lack of self knowledge, and the very human problem of overestimating our own ability, and underestimating how complex the problems of the world are.
A relatively broke college student in English might be able to volunteer on the weekends, and help quite a few people out, but alone he isn’t going to change the effects of three decades of poor public policy, the war on drugs, or human nature.
Take for example homelessness, it’s a huge problem, with many complex nuances, that stem from a variety of different factors. NGO’s and think tanks spend millions with some of the foremost thinkers in the field to come up with solutions and struggle to make a dent.
In the shadow of this revelation, it’s relatively foolish to assume that I a broke college student was going to make the final difference. (Not that I wouldn’t make any difference, but I lacked the humility to admit my own smallness.)
The problem of what counts is also an ego driven bout of perfectionism. Anything less than say the total end of homelessness would do for my hero drunk brain. This of course led me to feeling rather Impotent in the face of the problem, and feeling that my real contributions did not count. (alone they did not, but multiplied over a long time with others with similar mindset’s they would, but I couldn’t see that.)
The final issue, and the real issue, and the underlying defeat of perfectionist ideology is the realization that there is no “solution” to most problems, especially not big ones.
The idea that we can “solve” humanity is a dangerous utopian idea that often leads to the deaths of millions at it’s worst times, and dissatisfaction with life at the very least.
The problem is not that there is homelessness, the problem is that we expect it to end, and we expect ourselves to bear the burden.
To make the world better is an amazing thing, but just not making it worse is a beautiful thing as well.
I guess in all of this rambling I will say this. You cannot alone save the universe, but you can maybe save yourself, and make the world not worse. It sounds a little like a cop out, but eventually, you not making it worse, might inspire other’s to do the same.
Do not try and save the world. Save yourself first, and then if you have the energy, try and make the world suck just a little less, but you don’t have to. No one is watching. No one but you.
This isn’t a prohibition. I don’t want you to stop using dating sites, or stop watching porn, but I want you to start doing is to be mindful of how the usage of them effects your real life relationships.
One of the problems of the current century is that dating sites fill the user’s head with ideas of massive abundance. Whereas men of ages past were limited by geographic location, dating sites allow you to expand your reach further and further.
This might be seen as over all good, but there is a paradox in this choice, in his book the paradox of choice Barry Schwartz, talks about how too much choice leads to dissatisfaction.
To summarize an amazing read, the basic premise is as follows, if you have too many choices, even if you get the optimal choice, you will be dissatisfied with the results. Meaning you aren’t going to be as happy with that girl you met online as if you met her in the day to day workings of your life.
The same goes for porn, and not just hardcore pornography, I am talking about the Hundreds of amateur pornographic websites that promote themselves online. What most men, or most people do not realize is that the bodies being presented online represent only a small percentage of real people. What this means is, that unless you consciously attempt to correct for it you will always be comparing the women you date to the perfect, make up clad, photo shopped, pictures you see online.
And that my young friends is where mindful use of these tools comes in. You have to be aware of the fantasy, and the underlying currents in your mind that seek to find satisfaction. Put aside and work through your perfectionist impulse, and find someone who makes you happy, even if he or she doesn’t stack up to what you see online…because no one can.
I know…I know…easier said than done. But were working on it together.
However, in our culture we put a premium on success, and do not talk often on how to deal with rejection.
The main problem, like most social problems, is the matter of perspective.
While most people learn to take rejection as a rejection of their core self most rejection is actually a statement of that particular individual or group’s needs or wants.
Or to put it another way, you are a flavor.
Picture now your favorite flavor of ice cream, or gum. For me it’s cinnamon gum. Which I am sure to some of you will be absolutely disgusting, but to me is the essence of flavor.
If I were to go up to you and offer you a piece of gum, even if it is one of the best brands and in mint condition, and it’s a flavor you just don’t like, you are probably going to say no.
Is there anything wrong with the Gum? No. But it’s just not your flavor.
That in a nutshell is rejection. It has very little to do with you, and everything to do with the other human.
That being said, this only really works if the gum is pretty ok in the first place. No one is going to accept a half chewed piece of gum, or gum that is covered in lint, or gum that has an exceptionally low quality.
That’s why self-care is important, in order to even have a shot at whatever you are attempting you want to give yourself the best quality product to present, and hope it’s someones flavor.
So next time you get rejected, try not to take it personally, if you are caring for yourself enough , it’s probably not you, it’s just that you aren’t their flavor.
It is curious that if ones looks hard enough threads of humanity link us together. At the core of nearly every philosophy there is a supposition, a rule, a dictate, or a truth.
One must suffer.
This is not exclusively an eastern philosophy, and it can be found in the works of Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankle, and in the works of many Existential philosophers of the western cannon. This consistent thread is one of the reasons I am currently convinced of it’s veracity.
Now many take this truth and turn it to Nihilism. They learn like the dog in the electrified cage that there is no escape from suffering and so fall into learned helplessness.
However, unlike the poor abused animal in that horrific experiment in the past, we are not bound by our physiology, instead if we allow ourselves to we can learn we are helpless to suffer, but able to choose the type of suffering.
“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
Why does this matter? Because not all suffering is made the same.
Suffering is not some meaningless thing thrust upon us, but our perception of change. The world changes. I often struggled with the idea that accepting everything as is without judgement would be impossible.
Would I not simply stagnate?
How could I accomplish such an insurmountable task?
To answer my own questions:
No, the world will not stop by accepting it, by accepting it you instead become able to respond better and more efficiently, change is not optional, though you can choose to grow.
To be frank, you cannot do it. I know sounds super Kooky right? Well it’s not. You can simply try and practice at it, each time moving away or from it, but moving none the less.
Suffering is the price of admission to life.
Though there are some that might scoff at it’s simplicity, it is my current belief that you could not know that something was pleasurable if you did not know what pain was.
I think this is why we have what we generally call first world problems. Suffering always measures itself in relation to the situation. If one is hungry they suffer, if one is fed they might complain about the quality of the food. If one has nothing but high quality food they might suffer the dread of boredom.
By being cogniscient that suffering will come along, we are no longer at its behest, and instead greet it as an old friend, knowing that our labors have been paid for and any boons or banes we earn are our own.
So if you must suffer, choose to suffer well, but if you can change something, then do so!
Jungian philosophy is complex and multifaceted, but one of the primary ideas behind it is the confrontation and channeling of the shadow.
“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”
― Carl Jung
The shadow of man dives down to hell, and yet so many people walk around as if they don’t have a choice to be good.
I read about this idea and decided to try and embrace the capacity in myself to do great evil, and focus on the choice not to do evil.
I logically understood the ideas, and yet part of me resisted truely embracing it.
Then on a chance, I watched Beastars. In the story the Main character struggles with this percise Jungian problem. Most of the show he acts as if he has no capacity to do evil, and as such is weak, and not truely a good man (wolf). However, when presented with his dark side, he confronts it, and eventually is able to channel his darkness to save those he loves.
Suddenly for me the philosophy clicked, some part of my brain was able to wholly embrace the ideas.
This is my long winded way of saying that even if you logically want to change, you will struggle to unless you have a story to attach to that logic.
Humans are Firstly Emotion Based
The old adage you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, is rightfully translated, you can teach a man anything but you can’t make him belive it.
Because there is a part of our brain that attaches information to stories. The shaman, the lore master, the priest, all of them teach through stories. What is any religious text but a story that teaches lessons?
So, my advice is if you want to truly internalize things you have to find a story that teaches it, or you might struggle.
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.
So, today, and for the past week or so I’ve been drained. My OCD has been really acting up, and I’ve been having to deal with that.
I have been putting in the work but my heart isn’t it.
But that’s ok. You are allowed to, especially in stressful situations, lose motivation, and not want to do anything.
The key is to show up, and try your best, but don’t be to harsh. Focus on your responsibilities to others and yourself, but don’t worry if you lost all your motivation, it will recharge, it just needs time. You aren’t a machine.
“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.