Dun Runnin

As I lay in bed, trying to fall asleep, a sentence popped into my head: “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” Someone with whom I shared that sentence said that it’s funny if taken literally, but of course its real meaning is metaphorical. Many people who are unhappy dream of just picking up stakes and going elsewhere and starting brand new lives–starting all over again. Some actually try to do it. Of course, it never works. Some part of unhappiness arises from a person’s own flaws, and, wherever she goes, she takes those flaws with her, causing the same sorts of problems as made her unhappy elsewhere.

I’ve spent nearly a lifetime running away and trying to start over. It never worked for me. Getting rid of my computer was yet another attempt to change my life and eke out some happiness by changing external circumstances. It was a total failure. So I’m done running. I’m going to try accepting that I just am the way I am, and I shall still be me no matter where I go or what I change about the world immediately outside me.

“Sorrow lies in the house,” said Buddha, so he left the house. But those of us who are not Buddha have to accept that the house is our own skin, and there’s no leaving it. So here I stay, dun runnin. And in staying I find a new burst of serenity that will last as long as it lasts.

The Joys of Estupididad

On Black Friday, my brother saw a 50% off deal on a refurbished desktop, so he asked me whether I wanted it. The idea was that he would pay for it, I’d start using it as soon as it arrived, and I’d give him a bit of money each month until I had paid him off. There were only a few units left for sale and they were going quickly, so I had to make a decision pretty much instantly. Without thinking about it, I said yes. The computer arrived on Tuesday and I’ll pay my first instalment out of the December check.

I’ve had some time to reflect on why my top-of-the-head decision was to have a computer again. My two-plus months without a computer had begun well, with me feeling liberated and alive, but had gradually deteriorated until I was mired in ennui. I found myself increasingly watching television as a substitute for my old computer activities, still stuck at my desk but passively staring at the display instead of interacting with what’s behind it. The absence of a computer turned out not to be a long-term improvement. I had nothing to lose from having a computer again other than the ever-keener awareness of the pointlessness of existence. While that awareness is our species’ most authentic experience, I find that I cannot sustain it for 16 straight hours a day, week after week.

So here I am. Hopefully, you’re still here too. Let me know how you’ve been doing.

Hiatus

About 10 days ago, I decided to try selling my computer. I posted online ads and, no matter how much I reduced the asking price, no one made an offer. But I needed to get away from the computer in order to stop being its slave, so, about a week ago, I erased the hard drive and left the computer and my printer on the stairs not far from the apartment door. When I checked a few hours later, it was gone. Someone now has a nearly brand new i3 4130 computer and a nearly new inkjet printer, and I hope they enjoy them.

My father has an extremely old Dell laptop that i gave him some time ago, and all he uses it for is to skype once a month with a friend overseas and to watch live score tennis updates from time to time. I borrowed it from him in order to make this post, but don’t foresee borrowing it from him again too often. It’s his computer and I don’t really miss mine. Although I now spend most of my time vegetating, I still feel liberated and much less troubled than I have been for some time.

My bank was pulling some strange crap with my prepaid MasterCard, so I told onlline banking to close all of my accounts and then destroyed my bank cards. That was also about a week ago. Yesterday, I received a phone call from a number I don’t recognize, so of course I didn’t answer it, but some checking led me to discover that it was my bank branch calling. They and their devoiusness can go straight to hell. As far as I’m concerned, I no longer have a bank account and don’t need one.

I managed to take another trip out of town, but for only one day, and the last six to eight hours were pure hell. The powers that be very obviously want to dissuade me from ever taking a similar trip again, so they put me through the torments of the damned on this one. But, even though I recognize that they were trying to manipulate me, I realize quite independently of that that they can do the same thing again any time they want to, so there is no point in resisting their manipulations on grounds of principle. No more trips out of town for me, because I can be in hell right where I am as opposed to having to go out of town in order to be in the same hell. Which means that I shall never again have a chance to feel alive and have, for all purposes, effectively died four years earlier than I was going to die anyway. Which in the end doesn’t matter.

I might borrow my father’s computer at some future point in order to come back and say hello, but it won’t be any time soon. I want to thank all of those who have been supportive in the time I was actively blogging here. Be well, and sayonara.

The Long Road that Leads to Laughing at Folly

A brief discussion with a Buddhist leads to a rumination about distress in general–not just the distress of conscious humans, but that of every tadpole and blade of grass, and even of inanimate stone being worn down by the flow of water, and the molecules of water striking blows against that stone as they are carried past by the current.

On the basis of 200,000 years of collected human thought and the experiences of our own lives, it seems clear that personal death is perfectly final. There is no afterlife, no reincarnation, no separate world where souls and spirits continue to exist after a living thing dies. People have fabricated speculations about such things in order to comfort themselves and other people, and ruthless types have exploited such speculations in order to acquire material power, influence and wealth, but even devout Christians agree that they are just speculations. Christianity is about faith rather than proof, and a poll once showed that about 63% of Christians don’t want proof of God’s existence ever to be found, so that they can continue to base their lives on faith. That’s neither here nor there and is outside the scope of this post. Those of us who choose not to bury our own minds alive in self-abasing subservience to faith are completely right in accepting that personal death is in all ways and absolutely the end.

The Buddhist (in comments here) stated that human suffering serves the purpose of helping us grow and learn, and is therefore salutary. You can read my response for yourselves. Personal death causes not only our consciousness to vanish permanently and forever, but thereby wastes all of our learning, which means that it wastes all of our suffering as well. And this extends to everything that has ever suffered, including those much-buffeted molecules of water.

One thing I must mention is the unimaginable suffering of the sun. We know now that the sun is a vast nuclear conflagration that devours itself in a frenzy of self-destruction in such physically huge proportions that we can’t even wrap our minds around it except through the most superficial and flimsy of scientific concepts. The sun also emits solar wind, which is tantamount to the sun tearing off chunks of its own flesh and flinging them out continuously in all directions. The earth and all inner planets are completely wrapped in sunmeat. Yet having our earth wrapped in this sunmeat is the precondition of the earth being even habitable by any type of life. I really don’t want to ruin your Christmas in advance by discussing on September 24th what the vomitously revolting implications of that are. If you have a mind to think about it, go ahead, but if you’re smart, pretend I never even said anything.

Yet I can’t pretend to myself that I don’t know what I happen to know. The unimaginably repulsive underpinnings of nature stick with me, and the only relief I get is laughing heartily at all the airheaded treehuggers who worship nature as if it were actually something benevolent, not realizing that nature is rooted in self-harm by the sun so extreme that it is beyond our ability even to form a concept of it. It was in fact such airheads that, through the means of their various temples and covens, that robbed me of my future and my entire life in the distant past. What is left to me in the fewer than five full years before my fatal heart attack is the laughter, and the knowledge that they were always fools.

When Someone Does Poop in the Pasta Sauce

I’ve mentioned the Check Vigil before, that period of time at the end of each month when we government handout recipients wait to receive said handout in the mail. It’s rather a silly emotional experience for a rational person to have. We get so little money that nearly the entire check is committed to expenses the second we receive it, so receiving it doesn’t make a significant difference to our lives, if we behave responsibly. Some of us don’t behave responsibly and falsely feel “rich” for a couple of days, spending wildly and then pinching farthings and millrays for the next three and a half weeks until the next check. I’m not one of those people, however, so I recognize that I’m not going to have any more money available for spending in the week after I get my check than I have in the week just before I expect to get it. So why would I get dragged into the stress of the Check Vigil at all? Surely I should do anything in my power to avoid being crippled by the small amounts of stress that cripple me.

Well, this month, there are additional stressors. Our postal service is discontinuing delivery to individual residences, and might already have discontinued it. Delivery either already is or soon will be only to group mailboxes. Our building has a group mailbox, so there are no plans to discontinue delivery here, but there have been cuts in both staff and equipment used in deliveries. Routes that used to be handled by three or four small, dedicated delivery trucks are now handled by one large truck that is also responsible for picking up outbound mail from street mailboxes, and there is strong evidence that the short-staffed letter carrier unit responsible for this building don’t have set routes any more, resulting in a different truck and different letter carrier nearly every single weekday. That, of course, has caused its own host of problems.

One problem is that the letter carriers are severely overworked. They must work faster and harder than ever before unless they want to end up staying past the ends of their shifts in order to get the job finished, and very likely their union frowns on them staying for overtime they aren’t paid for, not to mention that management would take notice and potentially discipline them for being “slow” for working at a normal pace with sufficient care and attention. So they race through their deliveries, and I have recently noticed an increase in screwups–the returned mail bin not being emptied for as long as a whole week, so that it starts to overflow; mis-sorted mail, so that I’ve gotten mail intended for the apartment next door to me in my mailbox, and even mail for a different building; as well as huge variation in the times at which the mail arrives, so that it has been here any time between noon and 8 pm depending on the letter carrier and the path s/he takes through his/her expanded route.

So I finally come to what’s causing me stress: the mis-sorts. For the past five days, there have been shredded contents of some returned mail in the returned mail bin. I’ve looked at them and the mail very obviously contained a brand new credit card. Whoever received the mail must have put it in the returned bin, and then someone else saw that the mail contained a credit card, opened someone else’s mail on the spot, and buggered off with someone else’s credit card. This will become obvious to whatever letter carrier finally checks the returned mail bin, whenever that occurs. Or perhaps they’re avoiding taking that mail in order to save themselves of having to report what is obviously stolen mail and clear indication that someone is committing fraud. It would add extra hassle to their already too-busy day.

Anyway, if my check gets mis-sorted and put in the wrong mailbox, there is reason to believe that it will be stolen by the same person who stole the credit card and fraudulently cashed. That would force me to wait until the day when I can report a non-received check to the Disability staff, but I can already guarantee their reaction: they will tell me that I cashed the check, and, if I tell them I never received it, will call me a liar. That will require me to go to the police and file a fraud report. Such investigations normally take months, so I would almost certainly spend an entire month with not a penny in my pocket, unable even to pay rent or buy food.

Just the prospect of that happening is almost enough to turn me quadriplegic. So here I sit, awaiting the check vigil that begins Thursday afternoon and possibly won’t end until next Thursday afternoon. And if it ends then only because my check never came, it’s guaranteed I’ll be catatonic from distress and in an ambulance headed straight for the psych ward. From which I might emerge only feet first after having died of old age.

Hope you’re having a better week than me.

When No One Has Peed in the Apple Juice

You’ve seen me mention brain fog before, and some of you have behaved as if you know exactly what I mean by that non-scientific term. For those who don’t know, my brain fog occurs when I lose concentration on everything external and cease to be aware of my surroundings, my mind retreating into what amounts to watching very talky movies occurring entirely inside it. I never hallucinate either sights or sounds, just disenjoy some crappy internal entertainment that I forget completely the second it’s over because it is entirely nonsense.

I haven’t had much brain fog for the past three or four days. Today, I haven’t had any I can recall. Although I have sometimes been immersed in the recall of real memories, such as perfectly sensible conversations I had with someone many years ago, they haven’t been preoccupying and have permitted me to retain awareness of the external world. This improvement in my condition is inexplicable. I have never been able to correlate my brain fog with anything. It just varies from being intense and frequent for periods of time to being nearly nonexistent for other periods.

From past experience, it’s nearly guaranteed that the brain fog will return with renewed intensity. Escaping it permanently seems impossible. So what I’m doing right now is doing my best to enjoy what amounts to a few good days. And hoping that you’re having a few good days as well, and managing to enjoy them.

Toward a True Understanding of Asexuality

Since this blog is getting lots of views from people who want to read about asexuality, I thought I’d make another post on that subject.

I’ve been on the record for a long time as believing that no one knows what asexuality really is. The AVEN definition of asexuality being “the absence of sexual attraction” is based on political considerations rather than science, and even the political considerations are those of LGBT activists rather than asexuals. With LGBT activists rapidly abandoning asexuals and even becoming hostile to us because of what they wrongly perceive as a turf war (but, then, political activists of all types are obsessed with protecting and expanding their turf), it’s time to ditch the AVEN definition and turn to science for a genuine, fact-based understanding of how we are and what makes us work.

A brief discussion of science and sexuality is in order here. For the longest time, hard science inquiries into human sexuality were suppressed by powerful LGBT activists because they were afraid science would try to “cure” them of their sexual orientations if a firm physiological basis for their orientations were discovered. The unavoidable implication was that a person is born with a certain sexual orientation and that orientation is immutable. Lately, however, the theory has spread that sexual orientation is fluid, and there is broader acceptance of the notion that, like everything else, sexual orientation arises from a combination of natural and nurtural factors. This opens the door to exploration of those factors in a rigorously scientific way that can perhaps lead to a true understanding of what asexuality is, rather than a politically motivated pseudo-understanding pulled out of some activist’s butt purely for activism purposes.

That understanding depends on recognizing the existence of the Introspection Illusion. The Introspection Illusion is a well-documented and widely accepted set of about 60 or 70 ways in which people are wrong about ourselves when we think about ourselves. We cannot arrive at an accurate self-understanding purely through introspection. Yet introspection is the foundation of the political doctrine of self-identification, which is the cornerstone of LGBT activism. The dogmatic unchallengeability of self-identification has greatly harmed scientific research into asexuality, as pretty much all research is based on who “self-identifies” as asexual and who “self-identifies” as something else. Pretty much all research into asexuality to date is therefore unreliable; the simple fact is that, when we self-identify, we deceive ourselves in about 60 or 70 well-established ways. I have no problem with LGBT activists keeping their catechistic dogma of self-identification, but, in terms of asexuality, it desperately needs to be got rid of. What needs to replace it is an objective understanding of what it means to be asexual as established through objective evidence.

Creating a brand new approach to scientific research on asexuality that does not begin with self-identification will take a lot of brutally hard conceptual work, as self-identification is an entrenched hot-button dogma that scares scientists. It is, however, work that definitely needs to be done as soon as possible if one of the communities I belong to, that of asexuals, is to gain any genuine self-understanding.

Stress and the Single Scheezer

I have a minute tolerance for stress. Even the tiniest negative experience can render me dysfunctional for a period of time. Two very minor things happened today, and it wasn’t until they were resolved that I felt like myself again.

I see the doctor every three months. Today was my appointment. Since he comes to the office at 1 pm on Fridays, my appointment was for 1:30 pm. I ended up waiting until about 2 pm, but that wasn’t the problem. Some woman sat down not far from me and struck up a totally unwanted conversation. I don’t know why I felt an instant aversion to her, and even feel a bit guilty that I did, because she was in the office for her bipolar medication injection, which means that she is a fellow major mental patient and I should have been understanding and forbearing. But her chatter was incessant and unutterably banal, and that grated on me. Then she started asking me to give her cigarettes and money. Allegedly, she had no money for food. I gave her what I could spare, which with me is never much, especially at the start of my last week before check day. And then she asked me whether I wanted to go for a coffee after my appointment. I politely declined, so she began to have the identical same conversation with a blind lady sitting nearby. Around that time I was called into my appointment and blessedly free of the whole scene, but it stressed me out.

When I see my doctor, I get prescriptions for three months. I had been using a major chain pharmacy close to where I live, but the pharmacy staff had begun behaving in ways that made me suspicious and uncomfortable, so I had decided to change pharmacies once I got the new prescription. There happens to be a pharmacy in the same building as my doctor’s office, right across the hallway. After my appointment, I took my prescription there and was told it would take about fifteen minutes to fill. I decided to step outside for some air.

What do I find outside if not the same lady from the waiting room, acting like she’d never met me before and having the same conversation, again asking for cigarettes and money and a coffee date after I’d filled my prescription. I barely endured the experience before I dashed back into the pharmacy.

Then the pharmacist told me she hadn’t been able to fill my prescription in my absence because I had never been there before and she needed to see some ID in order to process the prescription. I gave her my Ontario Non-Driver ID, which is an official government card that serves the same identification purposes as a driver’s licence for people who don’t drive, and the pharmacist didn’t know what it was. I explained, so she asked for more ID, and then spent about 25 minutes typing everything into her computer. Now, I also get a drug card from Disabiity every month that allows me to get medication that is in the formulary at no expense to me. This pharmacist told me my card was being rejected by the system. In the end I had no choice but to take back my various ID cards, my drug card and my prescription and head home.

I spent the entire next two hours being a complete wreck. It’s a wonder I didn’t walk into an intersection on a red light. So I got into the apartment and lay down and closed my eyes and tried to stop being paranoid about Disability having pulled some crap that I’d have to straighten out. Eventually, I was able to find the meagre inner strength to go to a local pharmacy different from the one I’d used in the past.

It took literally about 10 minutes for the pharmacy staff at this new pharmacy to enter my information into their computer and dispense my medication and send me on my way. There were no problems whatsoever with my drug card being rejected. They even did something that my old local pharmacy always refused to do, which was to dispense and entire three months’ worth of medication. My old local pharmacy had told me that Disability refuses to pay for more than one month at a time, but the pharmacist at this new pharmacy says they do pay up to three months. So I stopped being paranoid about my benefits being screwed up by the comatose pencil-pushers who work in the Disability office and again felt totally fine.

Oh, and that lady? When I had left the other pharmacy totally beside myself with distress, I hadn’t noticed her outside the doors. I have no idea where she had gone, and I hope I never find out.

In a Serene Moment

Experience is a funny thing. Most of our experiences relate to the external world and what we see and hear and touch. The stuff of experience is the physical objects outside our minds. Yet, even if those physical objects have an objective existence (and that depends on whom you ask), experience is not objective. It is entirely subjective and consists on how that external world happens inside us. This keyboard and this computer display that dominate my everyday life are, in my view, concrete things outside me, but their reality to me is the feeling of the keys striking my fingers, the sight of what is on the display and its peripherally-noticed fringes, the aftertaste of the coffee in my mouth, the sound of the televised soccer game and my window fans in the background, and many other things wrapped into the single thing that is my consciousness of this moment. Because what I really have is this moment; and my life within that moment, despite its physical and external roots, happens entirely in my mind. And it happens indivisibly, wrapped up with the feelings and memories and random snippets of thought that pass through my mind while I type this entry, all experienced as one thing: me.

Which brings me to an important point: we cannot avoid experience while we are conscious. No matter what we do, we are experiencing each moment, and that expeirence adds to the stockpile of our past, which continues to live within us through accumulation. Ultimately, we are constructive entities that build our own consciousness brick by brick over the course of our entire lives, changing in each moment because that moment adds yet another brick to the edifice of our experience. (I could say “self-experience” but that would be a redundancy. All experience is experience of ourselves.) That happens to us willy-nilly as we live, because we can do nothing about our experiences happening or being cumulative any more than we can arrest the passage of time.

There is a very important implication to the inevitability of experience and the accumulation of experience. The implication is that it doesn’t really matter what you do, because, no matter what you do, you can’t help doing something, and the edifice of your next subjective moment is steadily being built. Some people make a big deal of having “better” experiences, which range from jumping out of airplanes to photographing Angkor Wat to giving birth to performing on-stage as the next musical superstar to simply getting a report from their assets manager that their assets have appreciated in this quarter. But the content of experience doesn’t really matter. Anyone who lives and does anything is building himself, involuntarily and helplessly but also in a salutary way, because no amount of physical privation and hardship can deprive even an indigent man of his constructive journey through life.

The lesson? Don’t worry about what you do. Don’t make bucket lists. Don’t yearn for the unreachable opulence that informs the lives of the wealthy. Don’t feel starved of recognition and fame. Just live, and count that all living has equal value in the end, and accomplishes the same purpose. I say that to myself while in the middle of yet another fifteen hours of sitting at this computer today, and it makes me content.

What do YOU think?

NOTE: This is a repost.

Sadness for Others

Forgetting my personal situation and thinking only of others is something I rarely do, but I’m doing it for the second time in two nights. On Tuesday, around 8 pm, I was hit by a crushing wave of sadness for my late mother’s broken and wasted life, which the finality of her death robbed of all meaning; by my father’s sad and unfulfilled existence, dominated by responsible conduct and being a good provider; by my brother’s quiet disillusionment with everything and no doubt deep, concealed suffering; by the 200,000 years of our species’ existence, in which nearly everyone has mostly been miserable; and by the misery of nearly all life on earth since it first arose two billion years ago. The sadness drove me straight to bed and I slept for 13 hours. Tonight, the same sadness is hitting me again around 8 pm, but this time I’m soaking it up and feeling kinship with the general, nearly universal misery of all living things. From whales to microbes, we are a brotherhood and sisterhood of pain, and the inevitability and finality of death renders the pain of our lives meaningless and worthless. Every split-second that every living thing has ever spent in distress has been an outrage against life itself, but there is nothing we can do about any of it except endure until we return to the just bookend of nonexistence. Then we all have peace forever.

Before I Returned to Prison

I don’t know what time I got up this morning. That’s unusual, because I always happen to notice the clock display on the cable box that my brother forces me to keep in my room, but, today, I just happened not to see it.

 After going to the bathroom and cleaning up, I made my way out into the kitchen. The coffeemaker had just been turned on, but it’s even slower than the one we’d had before it had stopped working and my brother had bought a replacement. I knew I’d have to wait 15 minutes for the coffeemaker to keep making noises to itself while it finished brewing the pot. It’s a house rule imposed on me not to pour the first mug of coffee until an entire pot has finished brewing because my brother feels it “ruins the taste.” There are, in fact, times when I wait an hour and a half for coffee, because my father sometimes insists on making the coffee, and he still lollygags at everything he does like he’s getting paid by the hour the way he was from age 15 to age 65. He wasn’t a lazy worker, just ridiculously methodical. He’s also always had an unconscious sly streak, so that, if someone is waiting for him to finish doing something, he’ll unconsciously take an extra-long time about it for the unwitting purpose of aggravating them. He drove my late mother crazy a number of times that way, and it was the cause of a significant number of fights in which my mother wrongfully looked like the bad guy for raising a fuss because it wasn’t evident that my father had unconsciously, deliberately provoked her. But I’ve trained myself not to be affected by that and am just patient when my father drags things out. This morning, however, it was the coffeemaker itself dragging things out, and not much could be done about it.

 I weighed myself and was 185.4 lbs. My weight has been up and down over the course of my existence. It reached its peak in the spring of 1986, when I was 230 lbs. Over that summer, my mother assisted me in getting my weight down, so that, when I returned to Ottawa for college in September, I bottomed out at 158 lbs. Then I got in the habit of devouring multiple pizzas for dinner and went back up to about 200. I was between 190 and 205 for most of the time since then, but my mother died in November 2011, and by December 2012 I was back down to 170. Then I went back up to about 200, and since then have managed to get myself down to 185. The doctor says he wants me at 160, so that is my goal weight, but it’s a goal I don’t pursue with too much enthusiasm, as I know that the powers that be would thwart any goal I did actively pursue, simply because they are spitefully perverse toward me.

 Then there was what I call a Question Period moment. It’s named after a silly charade that occurs in the House of Commons for the benefit of the TV news cameras, when the elected politicians (who are, by training, lawyers) make silly, pretentious, and false speeches for the sake of putting on a performance. My Question Period moments occur when the powers that be are clearly falsifying the appearance of what happens in this household for the sake of deceiving other people about those things. My father materialized behind me and asked whether I had “nicely washed my face” after getting up. I told him to stop parenting me. He replied meekly that he had addressed me in a nice way. I pointed out that I am nearly 50 years old. He buried his face in his hands and went away for a bit, then came back and repeated to me that he had spoken to me nicely. I told him that it was inappropriate for him to keep parenting me. So he went away again, crestfallen, clearly obsessed with the fact that I had supposedly been rude to him after he had been polite to me, because he hadn’t heard a word I’d said. No doubt the powers that be want to make that look like elder abuse. I content myself with the fact that, even if they fool everyone else on earth, they cannot fool ME, because I’ll always know the truth, and it will have to be enough for me to know the truth even if no one else does.

 So the coffee was finally ready, and I decided to stay away from my prison of a desk for a while, and just sat on the edge of my bed with the coffee on the radiator beside it, gazing out the window at nothing in particular. Eventually, however, I had to return to the prison cell that is this desk and this computer, and decided to tell you a bit about my adventures before I returned to prison.

Stories from Amos: The Well-Travelled Woman

If you’ve been reading this blog, then you’ll understand why this particular post by another blogger really hits home.

Mother Hen Diaries

Though she had rarely travelled beyond the County line, Marjorie Weisenheimer never viewed herself as a homebody. The second youngest of ten children, Marjorie had watched her elder siblings marry and move away, and with each successive marriage over the years, she quietly plotted her own escape between the pages of the National Geographic Magazine. Marjorie was going to see Greece. She was going to visit Athens. The Parthenon. Marjorie was going to wear a blue swimsuit one day, and she was going to dip her feet into the clear waters of the Aegean. This she knew with absolute certainty.

What was less certain, however, was how long her parents had planned to live. As successful as her father proved to be in running Amos State Bank, that is how unsuccessful he was in maintaining his health.  Between obesity, cigars, asthma and eventual heart disease, Old Man Weisenheimer lived a shockingly long life in a…

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The End of Death

I went two days without posting anything, and some of you might wonder whether I went out of town again. No, I’ve been here all this time. I’ve just been true to my statement of not feeling any pressure to talk or write because there are no negative consequences if I stay silent and I know that my few regular readers not only have their own lives but will be patient with me to the extent they remember to read what I post here. But I have still been violating one of my key personal rules by thinking about the future much more than I want to. That trip out of town was so revitalizing that I want another one and am spending far too much time thinking about when a good time to take it would be.

The focus of the trip, both past and future, is something that people who are still members of society might consider pathetic: a hotel room. The hotel room I had on my last trip was basically an ordinary, if nice, hotel room, with a good view out the window, efficacious climate control, good lighting, a clean bed, and really good coffee. But it was my own space, which I controlled completely as long as I stayed within the hotel’s rules, where no one was allowed to parent or belittle me, and where I did not need to permit entry to anyone unless I so wished. And my physical and mental health in that hotel room were utterly perfect, as if I lived in a novel epoch in which I were no longer the slave of little white prescription tablets and the buttholes who prescribe them. In that hotel room I experienced autonomy, and, even though the dream of ongoing autonomy is forever lost to me, having a brief spell of autonomy still brought me back from the dead for a brief time.

Of course, the same effect could be achieved with a little 200-square-foot bachelor apartment no bigger than a hotel room. I could easily have perfect health both physically and mentally on an ongoing basis at no harm to anyone. The real key is no longer being trapped in shared accommodation with incompatible housemates, where I must endure being inappropriately parented and constantly denigrated and reminded of the fact that people think I am a worthless cripple; as well as no longer being forced to remain in a city and conurbation I have come to despise because of its people. But the perversity of the powers that be requires me to remain trapped here, and so I must find a way to escape for brief periods of time once in a while. There can only be a handful of such escapes between now and that fatal heart attack in late 2019 or early 2020 because of finances, so, of course, they will be the focus of all my thoughts while I rot here in this chair at this little plastic table my computer display sits on.

It is ultimately the perversity of my own nature as a living bag of meat that is the topic of this post. I decided rationally a long time ago that hope is destructive, that any efforts I made would be futile because they would be thwarted, and that I need to achieve resignation and serenity. But the brute animal inside me refuses to stop hoping, refuses to give me peace from futile effort, refuses to stop forcing me to engage in the stupid waste of planning for tomorrow. It is really the same contemptible bag-of-meat brute animal instinct that forces me to continue breathing and eating and defecating and sleeping against my will. And so, ultimately, I am the slave of the animal in me, which obeys its own Hollywood movie morality despite the truly human morality of peace and acceptance that I would rather choose.

I guess the only true horror would be if I turned out to be immortal, and so did my father and brother, and this hell of entrapment continued forever. But not even the evil filth that controls society can make that happen. No matter how they seek to abuse me, sooner or later I am going to naturally and effortlessly find the peace of nonexistence, and be free not only of them but of everything. It’s something to look forward to after all.

A Clash of Cultures

I spent the first ten years of my life in Serbia and the next 39 in Canada, but am completely Canadian WASP in my outlook, thought processes and behavior. My brother was born in Canada and has always been a Canadian resident and citizen, but is highly Serbian. My father, of course, came here when he was In his early 30s, having spent his whole previous life in Serbia, so he’s more Serbian than Karageorge. That leads to certain conflicts simply based on culture. Here’s the transcript of a brief conversation we had this morning:

BROTHER: Khel, would you mind translating something I’m saying to Dad, because he seems to have trouble understanding me.

ME: Sure, go ahead.

FATHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, volubly): I don’t want to drag Khel into my problems.

BROTHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, sounding enervated): Okay, Khel, never mind. Forget I said anything. [exit brother]

ME: Dad, are you prepared to tell me anything about what’s going on?

FATHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, volubly): No!

ME: Well, there is something I need to ask you. I have a doctor’s appointment a week from now, and you always drive me there, so will you be in a position to do so this time?

FATHER (sounding outraged): Have I ever not driven you there??????

ME (trying to remember): Well, there was one occasion when I wanted to take public transit, but all the other times you have. But I notice you’re having problems and was just asking about this time.

FATHER (laughing): One time out of how many time I’ve driven you, so you remember that!!!!!!!

ME; Would it be possible for you to give me a simple yes or no about this one specific time next week?

FATHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, volubly): Yes and no.

ME: Okay, I’m really sorry, but I’m not able to endure your style of communication. It just bothers me. So how about I just take public transit? [walks away while father is ranting in response]

He later came to me and apologized and said he’d been preoccupied. I apologized too for the bad timing of what I’d asked him, but added that I’d just been trying to be considerate in case he was unable to do the usual. So it works out that we’ll just decide the transportation arrangements on the day of, because it won’t be too much hassle for me to just jump on the subway on short notice. But there was still unnecessary drama that I didn’t need, and my view is that, beyond just picking a bad time to ask a simple, polite question, I did nothing to cause the drama. You be the judge.

A Word to You About Media and the Law

This morning, I had a massively old-fart moment thinking about something that was, even being completely fair to every generation, truly better in the Good Old Days than it is today. Back when snakes had legs and I was young, news media people were permitted to protect confidentiality of their sources. If someone asked a reporter not to tell anyone who he was because he was afraid of the unjustified consequences of having his identity made public, the reporter could agree to it safely, because he knew he wouldn’t be forced to violate the confidentiality. There was even a court case in the 1980s in which reporter Michael Harris was on the witness stand in court and the opposing lawyer asked him to disclose the identity of a confidential source. Harris refused, and the opposing lawyer didn’t even ask the judge to force him to disclose it, and the judge never said a damned thing. Regardless of what the law formally said, it was just accepted practice that, if a reporter agreed not to tell anyone who you were, he wouldn’t be forced to.

People probably don’t remember those long-ago events because things are totally different today. Partly thanks to the aftermath of September 11th, there were famous cases in which American judges did order American reporters to disclose the identities of confidential sources, and, when they refused, the judges sent them to prison  You probably don’t remember any of that, either, because that’s now old news too. Today, it’s generally accepted that nobody can say anything confidentially to the news media and expect to remain anonymous, with the result that every statement made to the news media must be assumed to be totally public. That leads to the news media simply never finding out anything that people don’t feel safe in disclosing to the whole world, which, frankly, turns some otherwise smart and capable reporters into clued-out idiots. This is one reason why today’s “news” is totally a combination Entertainment Tonight and Question Period in the House of Commons.

You can guess without me telling you what I think of the whole thing. But there is an additional component that applies more broadly than to the news media. Certain non-media professions, such as lawyer and priest, have always had not only the right to keep certain things confidential, but the obligation to do so. Lawyers mostly still retain those obligations and rights, and, judging from my eight and a half years working in legal support, protect confidentiality obsessively. But what if every competent adult had the right to preserve confidentiality? It would have to be carefully managed to prevent abuses and frivolities, but laws or even a constitutional amendment could be drafted that carefully described the specific conditions under which any American (or Canadian) citizen would be safe in keeping secret something another person had told him, even if a judge could potentially order them to disclose it. That would force everybody to think hard about what it was safe to tell someone else confidentially, as well as what they could agree to keep confidential. And, although most people are already pretty good at thinking, some extra practice at thinking hard never hurt anyone, plus there would be an additional element of trust and freedom in prudent private conversations, a greater amount of interprersonal responsibility, and the necessity to exercise sound judgment just a little bit more.

So how about it, legislators? Are you reading this, and what do you think about drafting a bill?

On the Fine Art of Being Helpless

There is a special skill involved in living when you are completely powerless and anyone on earth can do absolutely anything they want to you and get away with it. I’ve already talked about some elements of that skill in various other blog posts. The key, however, is to try to achieve complete detachment from everything, including breathing. You cannot live anything like a good life knowing that any random person on the street is completely free to take your breathing away with complete impunity, unless you genuinely stop caring whether you can breathe or not. And it is the minimal brute animal functions, such as eating and defecation and sleeping and breathing, that are the hardest to stop caring about, because the brute animal inside all of us makes us unavoidably attached to those things for as long as we are alive. Yet detachment from them is essential if you are going to live a 100% vulnerable and helpless life, which is the life I am forced to live.

There is also a special kind of good cheer involved in living at absolute suffrance. Any career lowlife who broke into this apartment and cut my throat would just get an attaboy from the police, so, if said lowlife refrains from doing so, regardless of his reasons, it is entirely through his choice that he refrains, and I have nothing to do with it. That leads to a constant awareness that every moment everywhere, 24 hours a day, is a mortal danger to me that I can’t do anything about. Yet it has been 39 years since anyone has laid a finger on me physically, despite absolutely everyone being completely free to do so, and there is a kind of comfort in people’s forbearance from venting their natural inborn spitefulness on me just because they can.

The theory side of things is that viability is directly proportional to being able to help yourself. The more you can help yourself, the more you are able to survive. I have literally zero ability to help myself, which makes it an amazing miracle that I survived for even one hour after I was born, let alone that I have survived for more than half a century. There is a lesson in my life story about the aspects of the nature of reality and human life that standard theories about such things don’t account for. But I leave examination of that lesson to those who have some motivation to help the rest of the world, which I don’t.

 

On an Important Decision About Writing

Someone asked me today why I have stopped writing fiction. I told them that my motivation for writing fiction had been bound up with using the fiction to escape poverty. Although I had enjoyed writing fiction for its own sake, that enjoyment had been infilitrated by the hope of living on a normal income from writing fiction instead of being trapped on a government handout that is less than half of a poverty line income, and the enjoyment had become inseparable from the hope. Then I read about the late Philip K. Dick, who had been one of the best writers of his generation, and certainly the best such writer of science fiction and fantasy, but, despite having had several novels published, had spent his whole life on welfare anyway. That made me lose hope of sufficient income from writing fiction, and, when the hope died, it dragged my enjoyment of writing fiction into its grave with it. So you could actually say that my enjoyment of writing fiction is currently buried alive in the same coffin as a corpse, so that it will eventually suffocate to death under unpleasant circumstances. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’ve accepted that I’ll probably never feel motivated to write fiction again.

But why is it that I never did get published? Same reasons as about 10 million other English-language writers have never been published, many of them better writers than me and more deserving publication. The lesser reason is that the publishing and magazine industries are fall too small to have room to publish all deserving work. The bigger reason is that publishers and magazines are businesspeople, and businesspeople are sterile, which makes them spiteful toward those who are fertile, purely out of unconscious resentment. No successful businessperson ever created anything. What they do is exploit enterpreneurs, inventors, technically creative people and artistically creative people in order to make a million times more money off those things than their creators do. But despite the great wealth and fame and opulent lives of businesspeople, at their core is a bitterness they are not aware of, the bitterness of being barren and obliged to be parasites. This bitterness is probably exacerbated by the fact that they do ruthlessly exploit creative people, which they do in order to retaliate against our fertility, and which in turn makes them retaliate even more spitefully.

I’ve come to the decision that I am going to reject all commercial opportunities I might get for my writing in the future. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever get any, so this isn’t something I spend all my time fantasizing about; mostly, I don’t even think about it at all. But I am prepared for all the weaselly, dishonest arguments that business parasites will throw at me–that I can make money if I let them exploit me to make a million times more money for not doing anything of true value, that they can deviously arrange to have my disability checks cut off in order to put pressure on me to play along, that they can frighten my unsophisticated father to tears and use him to put pressure on me to knuckle under, that they can even steal my work and lie about it and get away with it because I can’t afford a lawyer. I’m not going to disclose my strategies in event of such conduct just in case there are businesspeople reading this post, but I’m completely ready for them in peaceful and lawful ways. I’m always peaceful and lawful, and also have a peaceful and lawful plan in place in case anyone makes up stories to the authorities, counting on the authorities being bigoted enough against someone with the label of schizophrenia automatically to believe any lie they’re told about me by a scumbag fatcat who has a privileged position in society. It really is great to have all the bases covered so I can don’t worry, be happy. And it’s even better to have conquered despair about my writing and be in a position to accept it just as what it is.

Success is for Girls

One thing you learn over half a century of life is that people always have reasons for what they do. Sometimes those reasons are bad. Other times they’re incoherent. Still other times (and far too often) they’re hidden, because the flawed laws of nature make it more likely that you’ll be successful if you hide what you’re really after. At all times, however, what someone is doing makes sense to that person, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else, and the person always knows why they are doing what they are doing, even if they prevent anyone else from knowing it.

But what does this really mean? Most human communities judge people on what we actually do, regardless of why we’re doing it. If you kill some guy because he diddled your kid, the authorities might be sympathetic, but you’ll still go to prison. If you cheat on your spouse because you were abducted by space aliens and they forced you to cheat, your spouse is still likely to divorce you even if you really were abducted by space aliens (which, let’s face it, no one ever was or ever will be). If you shoplift a candy bar because you haven’t had any food to eat for ten days, and the store detective catches you, the police might not charge you with anything, but you’ll still be forever after banned from entering that store again. In the end, reasons don’t matter. It’s what you do that matters. So why even bother finding out people’s reasons for doing things?

The real reason people pay any attention to motives is the Machiavellian basis of our society. Over the millennia, the most successful people have been those who have been ruthless, which means willing to do absolutely anything, as long as they had a reason for it. Bake their mother alive in an oven, which almost no one else would do for any reason? The most successful would do even that, given enough reason, and likely some of them actually have done it. That’s why they’re the most successful. What underpins their view of the world is the staunch conviction that the end always justifies the means. Their reason is the objective they’re trying to achieve, and, as long as they believe in their objective, the way they achieve it must be okay, no matter what that way is.

This didn’t used to matter quite so much in the days of absolute monarchy and hereditary aristocracy, because what a person could achieve in life was limited. A commoner could not become empress even if she were ruthless. But the predominance of egalitarian societies has made ruthlessness the sure path to achieving absolutely anything that the laws of nature permit–and some people have even succeeded at changing the laws of _human_ nature in order to make the previously impossible, possible. This has led to a spike in ruthlessness among the general population, not only because absolutely anyone can succeed now by being ruthless, but because the ruthlessness of the successful spawns imitators among those who wish to have that kind of success for themselves.

What, however, does this say about how we should live our lives? Does the fact that ruthlessness is the only way to succeed, mean that we should be ruthless as well. I see it as a personal choice. Some, like me, choose to forbid ourselves certain actions no matter what motivations we might have for them. For us, the end does not at all justify the means, because it is the carrying out of the means that constitutes our actual lives, as it is by doing the means that we live from day to day, not by foreseeing the achievement of objectives we have not yet achieved, and which are therefore not real. It helps me personally to be about half a century old and less than five full years from that fatal heart attack at age 54 that I’ve known about for decades. After already having lived for 49 years, I don’t have the motivation to soil myself ethically and morally for the sake of having a better time in the next five, if five years were even enough to achieve any meaningful objective.

I used to know a guy who used to, jokingly, say something was “for girrrrrrls.” If I asked him why he didn’t eat pasta, he’d say “Because pasta is for girrrrrrls.” No sexism was meant by that; he was really saying that he didn’t want to be bothered telling me his real reason for not eating pasta, and he was cracking a joke to avoid conflict. But, although I’ve already given you the real reason why I don’t want success, I also say: “Because success is for girrrrrrls.”

Until next time.

 

When Ethics Are Forever Lost

On the news page there is a link to a video entitled “Bizarre Case of Russian Road Rage,” with the subtitle “It Gets Even Weirder When Spongebob Shows up.” The video was taken by someone in a vehicle driving down a wide street at night, and in the background you hear men speaking in what appears to be Russian. They are behind some kind of small bus when a pickup truck with a covered back comes speeding along in the next lane to the left and stops partly in front of the bus, blocking its way. A man emerges from the driver side door of the pickup and approaches the driver side door of the bus. Out of the bus come several people dressed like anthromorphic animals such as squirrels, although one is indeed dressed like Spongebob Squarepants. They proceed to beat the driver of the pickup and leave him lying on the pavement before getting back into the bus. Then the bus speeds off. All the while, the people in the vehicle doing the filming are laughing at what is happening. As the beaten man staggers to his feet, they drive around him and his vehicle and continue on.

So let’s see. First, the guy in the pickup unlawfully detains the bus. Then several people from the bus commit assault and battery bad enough that their victim is prone. Then absolutely everyone leaves the scene of the altercation as if nothing had happened. And the people filming this are laughing. And MSN.com uses a supposedly humorous subtitle to promote this video, with a Microsoft commercial appended to the front of it.

I try hard not to be a cliche old fart bemoaning the good old days, but, seriously, is this what passes for acceptable behavior today? If it does, then maybe I’m right just to sit in my room and not have anything to do with anyone. Except that I use the internet, and it appears that Microsoft endorses this kind of behavior by prepending its advertising to evidence of it. I can only shake my head in disbelief.

 

Link to the Video: http://video.ca.msn.com/watch/video/bizarre-case-of-russian-road-rage/2gvh0798l?from=en-ca-infopane&ocid=viddest

This Post Is Not Related to Moses

It used to be that the word “tablet” made people think of those clunky stone things that Moses hauled down from the mountain after his chitchat with God. Nowadays, however, if you say “tablet,” people think of those strange little computer devices that are all display screen and don’t have so much as a button anywhere on them..

I’ve never owned or wanted a tablet because they’re useless for the things I need. All you can really do with a tablet is watch videos and go to a few minimally interactive websites. Good luck writing a blog post on a tablet without having your thumbs cramp up to the point  of needing amputation. Rotsa ruck maintaining a spreadsheet or doing server admin on a tablet without going postal (which are all things I don’t do but other people have). Yes, there are extra-large tablets with paper-thin detachable keyboards, but they cost more than even parking and insurance do here in Toronto, so they’re outside my budget. So instead I use my mini desktop for everything, and have no issues whatsoever.

One thing I’ve noticed about tablets, as well as the latest phones, is that they involve a lot of finger-dragging. They also involve brand new terminology. My brother himself once nearly went postal when he forgot his tablet at home and phoned me to look something up on it for him. He kept telling me to start dragging my finger at the bezel without telling me what a bezel was, and I was too flustered to ask him. So I kept dragging my finger within the illuminated display area and nearly ended up touching a link to a website offering vacation property listings in Abyssinia, which I would not have been able to return from for lack of finger-dragging experience and skill. It didn’t help that I am what I often call “dick-fingered,” from the German-language adjective “dick,” which means “thick.” Thanks to genetics, my palm is large but my fingers are short and stubby, so that using a phone might prove impossible for me without a clip-on pencil. 

And I’ve noticed that there is a whole world of finger-dragging involved in using both tablets and phones. A few minutes ago, I jokingly asked my brother whether I should save up to buy a small tablet so I could wear off my fingerprints on it. He didn’t find that funny, but at least it gives me some idea that career criminals who seek to avoid leaving fingerprints probably use their tablets far more than they need to, with all ten fingers. 

Until next time.

Fictional Interlude: “Conversation Over Coffee” or “Discourse On Why the Earth Is Flat”

This story is actually submitted to a magazine contest, but the magazine doesn’t care about online publication, only print publication.

            “It’s like when someone finds a new boyfriend and falls off the edge of the earth for a while,” said Sally.

            Deb frowned. “What do you mean, the edge of the earth?”

            Sally didn’t hesitate. “It’s a simile that…” then she paused and scratched her chin. “Okay, let’s start with the inner metaphor. You presuppose that the earth is flat and of finite dimensions, and–“

            “Wait!” Deb cried, squinting. “How does finding a new boyfriend mean the earth is flat?”

            “And of finite dimensions,” mumbled Elaine over her cup.

            Deb’s face snapped over to stare at Elaine. “What???”

            Elaine swallowed her mouthful and put her cup down. “You have to be able to reach the edge, so–“

            “Fine!!!” said Deb, screwing her eyes shut. Then she opened her eyes and turned back to Sally. “Just tell me how you get that the earth is flat from someone finding a new boyfriend.”

            “You don’t,” said Sally. “You just assume it is and use it as a way to explain how people fall out of touch with their friends when they find a new boyfriend.”

            “But people do that even though the earth is round,” said Deb, “so your argument is stupid.”

            “Does anyone want more coffee?” said Ann.

Dreaming Dreams

Back when I still had the dream of autonomy, I sometimes imagined what I would do if I had my own private residence. One of the dreams I had was about having pets–which would also require me enough money to pay vet bills. Here are three pets I used to dream about having:

1) A Great Dane named Brutus. Even if the dog were female I’d name her Brutus. I love the fact that Great Danes are so gentle and low-maintenance, as they need very little exercise and very little space, and form strong bonds with their personal humans.

2) A mouse named Morsel the Second. The original Morsel happened in 1993, when I was minding a former friend’s pet snake. I bought a mouse (really a white-furred, pink-eyed rat tht looked like a mouse) to feed to the snake. But the snake was ill and refused to eat, so the poor mouse spent several hours hiding in a corner of the snake’s terrarium. I bought a cage and put the mouse in his own cage and gave him the name Morsel. He resisted all the therapy I tried to administer to him and remained a fraidy little mouse until he passed away a few months later. But Morsel the Second would never go anywhere near a snake and would get the best mousey life it could.

3) A miniature cactus named Cosimo the Second. The original Cosimo I bought at a flea market in 1995, but I think I didn’t water him often enough even for a cactus, so he died. The second Cosimo would get the best care a miniature cactus can get.

What are your dream pets?

On Being Alive and Being Dead

My trip out of town lasted far longer than I had expected. I had planned to be away for only part of one day, but it ended up being nearly three full days, with not only comfortable but nearly opulent facilities to sleep, eat and relax. Even though some negatives emerged from that little vacation, I have no regrets about any of it, because, while I was out of town, spending much of my day sitting in a hotel room drinking superb coffee and gazing out the large window, I was alive. Not felt alive, but was alive, same as I had been dead before I left on the trip and am merely comatose now.

Before I get to the negatives, let me give you the biggest positive. You already know that I experience brain fog on a daily basis and the episodes are sometimes prolonged. Well, during those three days out of town, I didn’t have even a split-second of brain fog, or even a hint of almost any mental health issues whatsoever. The only issue was a tiny bit of avolition when I thought about walking to the nearest hairdresser’s to have my hair cut before I took a shower, but the hair salon was too close to take a city bus or taxi there and just barely too far to walk, so I didn’t get my hair cut. And here’s the big one: I had forgotten to bring my medication! Yes, boyz ‘n’ gorillas, I spent three days not taking any meds whatsoever, including my psych meds, and felt perfectly healthy in every way. After 23 years as a high-functioning and accurately self-observant mental patient, I can be fairly sure when I’m not having any symptoms, and I certainly notice when other people are reacting to seeing them. Nothing whatsoever like that happened during those three days.

About two hours after I had returned to this apartment, however, I began to have brain fog again. I resumed taking all medication, even taking higher booster doses of the psych meds in order to build the serum levels back up, and the brain fog has intermittently abated since then. Something about my normal living environment is the real cause of my mental problems. Except that I am stuck in this environment because I lack the funds to escape, so I’m stuck being mentally ill when it seems that all I’d need to do in order to be mentally healthy is relocate somewhere outside the Greater Toronto Area and find a private residence I don’t have to share with anyone. The latter is the real problem, because I’ve done research on rents throughout the Province of Ontario, and a private apartment would be unaffordable for me absolutely anywhere except in the farthest reaches of Northern Ontario, where there is no public transit to speak of and you have to drive three hours to the grocery store, which I can’t do. So I’m stuck here being sick. Ever heard of a sick building? I live in what is personally for me a sick city, sharing a sick apartment with sick roommates.

My initial plan upon returning was to turn my back on my old life and just wait patiently until I could escape again for a few days. The plan was to save up money until Christmas Day by simply not spending money on anything I didn’t absolutely have to spend money on, including more than minimally expensive food. But I’m also experiencing a kind of equanimous lassitude about life in general. I have no problem just sitting at my desk, staring passively into space without even using this computer–which is the main reason I’ve toned my blogging activities down to one post a day. Although I am absolutely not “depressed” (which is in many cases an over-abused excuse to prescribe antidepressants), I also feel very little motivation to do anything. When Christmas Day rolls around, it’s doubtful that I’ll have the motivation to walk to the bus station for the bus out of town.

At its peak, my now two-week-old blog had 138 views in one day. Yesterday it had 21. That doesn’t bother me because nothing bothers me. But I am happy that those who really do have an interest in reading what I have to say, are continuing to do so, and I intend to stay in touch with you as long as I’m able. So see you tomorrow.

On Bigotry Against Mental Patients in Progressive Communities

Bigotry against mental patients is nothing new. For thousands of years, people in the western world who have been slapped with a mental illness label, have been treated as having lost our humanity and become second- and third-class citizens. But the way that works in the twenty-first century in the western world contains some surprises that even veteran mental patients might not expect. This blog post briefly touches on a few of those surprising ways.

First, the people most bigoted against mental patients, and bigoted to pretty much the same level as white supremacists are against blacks, are psychiatrists. For eight years psychiatrists receive training to disregard anything a mental patient says and just pick her words apart for symptoms. As a result of that training, psychiatrists become literally incapable of hearing what a person slapped with a mental health label says. It’s not just that psychiatrists don’t listen to their patients; it’s that they are not able to hear us because that ability has been destroyed by eight years of training. So there is no malice on the part of a psychiatrist who appears to ignore a patient’s complaints of severe side-effects to medication she’s taking; the psychiatrist is just trained to presuppose that all such complaints must be delusionary and therefore not valid.

Another interesting phenomenon is the existence of trigger phrases. Those phrases are typically overused cliches that have been leached of all meaning and are therefore meaningless. When used, they cause a person’s mind to shut down and go into a fantasy-land of deaf prejudice. One such phrase is that a patient “doesn’t trust doctors.” It’s like a Christian saying someone is “angry with God:” an empty formula used purely to discredit someone. Saying that a mental patient “doesn’t trust doctors” automatically causes the patient to be dismissed as being in the middle of a psychotic episode and therefore totally not credible. Another such phrase is actually a word: “conspiracy.” Whenever anyone says the word “conspiracy” with any reference at all to a mental patient, it renders everyone in the room braindead, and even a high-functioning, highly intelligent and highly articulate mental patient might as well be speaking a foreign language no one understands.

the third and most significant way that bigotry against mental patients works around here today is the fascinating dynamic of conflict. When a mental patient says something that someone else disagrees with or doesn’t like, the other person just has to mention the mental health label in order automatically to have everyone believe everything they say, and no one believe anything the mental patient says. I’ve had LGBT activists use that technique when they’ve disagreed with me–people who suffer discrimination themselves, deliberately causing another minority to suffer discrimination. That is how automatic that behavior is. And very often it consists of the other person, who really just disagrees with something the mental patient says, becoming genuinely concerned and saying: “Have you been taking your medication?” This genuine concern is a way for the person to hide from themselves that they are, in fact, being bigoted. It’s the rule in progressive communities such as my city of Toronto, because, here, overt hate speech is much frowned upon and might even be against the law, so people engage in covert hate speech against mental patients in socially acceptable ways.

There are many other forms of bigotry against mental patients in today’s supposedly progressive western world, but those are the ones that come to mind immediately. I hope that you’ve enjoyed, and gotten benefit from, reading about them here.

A Vegetative State

The brain fog is becoming extreme. I’m spending about 13 of my 16 waking hours each day having brain fog. As a result, I nearly continuously stare off into space motionlessly, unaware of my surroundings, with stupid movies playing in my head. I don’t even remember the movies a second after they’ve ended. And I haven’t been outside the apartment at all since returning from out of town in the early evening of August 29th, so almost three full days.

My vegetative condition has little practical impact. I have no responsibilities until my next doctor’s appointment in about two weeks, except maybe to go buy more coffee grounds for the household coffeemaker, which takes five minutes depending on the lineup at the cashier. The brain fog even makes the time pass without my noticing, so that the day goes by quickly. I am not distressed during the periods of brain fog, and the only drawback is that my father occasionally expresses concern about my lack of focus on the external world. That’s really just him being 74 years old and having spent the first 25 years of his life in East Europe and being too old to adjust to anything.

But there was a new development just now. My brother baked a large, circular cheese pie and invited us to sit down and eat. I thought it was dinnertime, so after eating I took all of my evening medication, including the perphenazine. That will mean falling asleep at the start of evening and waking up in the middle of the night, fresh and rested. Which in itself doesn’t matter, except that it’s the first time I’ve lost basic function such as being able to tell which of the three daily meals it was. Shall I continue to deteriorate until I completely lose the ability to feed myself, notice that I need to urinate or defecate, or even become aware that my father or brother are speaking to me? Am I headed for a totally vegetative state where I am never aware of the external world at all?

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know.

A Stranger in Burlington

Burlington GO station is a disaster area. It’s under construction, so half an acre of structures and lands directly outside the train tracks is fenced off and full of rubble. Entering and leaving the track platforms involves hiking long distances down the tracks to one of five different exits, none of which connect to each other in any way. One exit even leads to a construction fence with no way to go any farther. The other four exits lead in four different compass directions to parking lots and woody wilderness. There is no sign of civilization anywhere nearby.

When my GO Bus arrived at the station, I had gone one and three-quarter hours without water, and badly needed some. Luckily, there was still a good half-hour to go before I’d be due to board the train, so I went into the station in search of water. I canvassed the entire huge place without finding so much as a drop of water. All I found was one lonely vending machine that was supposed to dispense bottles of soda, but took my money and did not dispense anything. By that time I was starting to get pain in my throat and esophagus from thirst. I had no choice but to leave the station and go out into the street in search of water.

I chose the exit that led to Fairview Street…eventually. First, I had to spend more than ten minutes crossing a huge parking lot that accommodated more than 10,000 vehicles. These vehicles belonged to commuters who drove at home in Burlington but took the GO Train to downtown Toronto for work. I heard the train pull into the station behind me and pull back out again while I was still crossing the parking lot. Eventually, I made it out onto Fairview.

I didn’t know anything about Burlington, so I randomly chose to turn left and walk on Fairview in that direction. It was at least the same way my train was headed. Burlington is hostile to people who walk. The blocks are four football fields long, the sidewalks randomly disappear on one side of the street or the other, and the odysseic street crossings require you to lean on a walk-permission button for ten minutes before the don’t-walk signal turns off, and then it takes you more than a full minute just barely to get across the street before the light changes. I walked fruitlessly for more than half an hour and was developing a thirst-cough by the time I found a Wendy’s where I could gulp down some cola. That gave me an appetite, so I then got a burger and fries and another drink.

While eating, I asked myself whether I wanted to go back to the desolate Burlington GO Station to wait for the next train. They are once an hour, so I’d very likely just miss it and have to spend a full hour sitting around in that disaster zone. I’d also be walking in the opposite direction to the one in which I wanted to travel. So I decided instead to continue the opposite way toward Appleby GO. It would be a longer walk, but at least I’d be headed in the right direction and might not be forced to die of thirst.

Along the way I saw bus stop signs, but someone standing at a stop told me that the next bus was in forty-five minutes and would arrive at Appleby around the same time as I got there on foot. I weighed the option of standing there passively near the doors of a huge shoe factory, but decided to keep walking instead.

I began to overheat, as I had dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and the temperature was hitting 85 Fahrenheit. In my little Roots bag I had a souvenir T-shirt and shorts I could put on instead if I had some place to do so. I managed to find a Mr. Sub outlet where I tried to buy a coffee so I could use their washroom to change, but their cofee machine had been broken for more than a week. Instead I bought a bottle of water, changed in the washroom, and continued on.

I reached Appleby Line close to two and a half hours after I had last been at Burlington GO. A lady on a laptop in Starbucks told me exactly where it was, so I got on the train, and the rest of the trip was completely uneventful. So here I am.

The Deep Hurt of Being Affected

You know when someone sneaks up behind you and screams “BOO!” and makes you jump? That’s being affected. There are also other ways of being affected, most insiduously when someone says something that gets past your guard and changes how you think, perhaps redirecting your whole life in a direction they want your life to take, for whatever hidden reasons of their own.

I have always hated being affected. “Hated” might not even be too strong a word, because, in times past, I have experienced bitter, literal hatred for those who have affected me in unwanted ways. In my personal history, I have often been the victim of master talkers and expert sophists who have always had hidden motives and hidden agendas, using their oral skill as a prod to herd me like a cow wherever they wanted me to go, without my ever being aware that they were doing so. These were sometimes Olympic-level sophists, people with not only great inborn talent for manipulating others with words, but extensive training at turning other human beings into their marionettes just by talking to us. It sometimes took me years to realize that they had manipulated and used me and turned me into their victim; and, by the time I realized it, the damage they had done to my life was irreversible. So I am intensely suspicious of smooth talkers, and especially professional talkers. The suspicion is so strong that, any time an email customer service person asks me to phone them, I immediately suspect that they’re trying to use their gift of the gab in order to take advantage of me. And I generally despise dealing with people by phone and restrict myself to written contact if I can. In written contact there is at least a level playing field between us.

But there is a deeper truth beneath my hatred of being affected. After a mental breakdown caused by occultist manipulation back in 1996 forced me to move back into my parents’ apartment for the rest of my life (or what was my parent’s apartment until my mother’s death in 2011, when it became my father and brother’s apartment), I began to wish for autonomy. As my attempts to achieve autonomy were repeatedly blocked and thwarted by the combination of the entire population of the Greater Toronto Area and the way it does things, that wish for autonomy became a wistful pining and then a desperate wish for death of natural causes because autonomy had clearly proven unattainable for me. It suited the convenience of those who control the Greater Toronto Area to store me in my father’s apartment like some piece of furniture in a storage locker. I doubt they gave the matter any more thought than what was convenient for them. But it plunged me into despair and enduring suicidality that lasted for years. It wasn’t until I forever gave up the idea of ever having my own little 300-square-foot bachelor apartment, with its own private entrance, where I wouldn’t have to share space with anyone and could make my own decisions without constantly being parented by my father and denigrated and belittled by my brother, that I became able to seek happiness. So every time I am affected in any way, it touches that nerve at the root of my being, the one that will never stop being tender and bruised and wounded from the fact that the only thing I wanted out of life from 1996 to 2013, which was autonomy, was an impossible and unattainable dream for me. So I quite literally hate being affected in any way at all.

It is, however, impossible not to be affected by somebody, some time. Every single person who ever lived, including those Olympic-level sophists with their hidden agendas, has at some point been affected. And being affected on an ongoing basis is simply part of the life of all living things. So it’s inevitable that, from time to time, some piece of manipulation by someone, somewhere will quite unexpectedly wound me to the core by reminding me how my dream and goal was slain and now rots in its grave. Which will not at all be the intention of the person affecting me. They will be thinking only of themselves and only of getting what they want, because the people who most affect others worship their own perspectives and are incapable of forming a thought unless it directly relates to getting what they want. And it’s a bother that I can’t be continuously happy 24 hours a day, because I have nothing left, and can expect nothing any more, except happiness in the present moment; but such is life, and such are the foundations on which others have built my life for me.

One of the Mysteries of Life

I get a serious chuckle out of glossy mass-market magazines and their Orwellian Ministry of Truth crap. Just have a look at some of the shrieking headlines on their covers. “5 Fat-Burning Tips to Make You Slim and Sexy!” “10 Mascara Tricks That Will Make Every Man Propose Marriage to You!” “20 Stylish Handbags to Make Them Come in Their Pants!” You’re smart people, so I doubt I have to explain to you how tomfool it all is. The only mystery is that millions of people still buy and read the stupid things.

But that is the mystery, isn’t it? How is it that misdirection and outright lies about the way life really works are such effective sales tools? Contrary to what everyone thinks, everyone isn’t stupid. The people buying and reading those glossy magazines are every bit as smart as me, have every bit as much life experience, and have fairly rich and diverse lives. It would make no sense to look down my nose at them and engage in cliche grumbling about “the masses” or (my favorite self-mocking term) “sheeple.” Except that those smart, life-experienced people buy into a lot of crap that shouldn’t fool a five-year-old kid.

One explanation I flirted with recently, and it’s a dangerous explanation, is that our species is not really a thinking species. Rather, we are a species of instinct that fancies up its instincts and mislabels them as “thought.” So these ten mascara-using tips that will supposedly cause every man you meet to propose marriage, are an effective way to sell magazines because our instinct is to want every man we meet to want to propose marriage, and that instinct rules us like the animals we really are. But it’s dangerous to explain things to yourself that way because it leads to unwarranted condescension. I don’t experience myself as a beast of instinct who only pretends to think. And, truth to tell, the buyers and readers of those glossy magazines don’t experience themselves that way, either. It’s more likely that we really are thinking beings who just happen to be vulnerable to manipulation.

That, however, doesn’t explain why such manipulation dominates marketing and sales and the whole world of business today. Why is it that, in order to make a profit and stay in business, a company must use us like toilet paper by tricking us through the exploitation of our sublimina? Is it not possible for a glossy magazine to publish articles of real, honest value to readers, such as what to do constructively about your irritation when your husband keeps leaving his empty coffee mug on the table and creating dark stain-rings on the table’s wood? Such stories do get written…in less popular magazines with lower circulations. For some reason, being honest with people and really helping them leads to lower sales and a less successful business than misleading them through manipulative deviousness about how buying a designer handbag will make you attractive to men when you weren’t attractive to them before.

Which is where I find myself stuck. I don’t really have answers to this bedeviling question. My best guess is that something about the laws of nature themselves causes the human world to be this way. When in doubt, blame nature, because everything really is nature’s fault, anyway.

What’s YOUR explanation for the phenomenon I’ve discussed here?

A Musical Interlude

As the end of another fruitful writing day approaches, it’s time for me to climb off my theoretical high horse for a moment and make a slice-of-life post, so here goes.

Just as much as some people are packrats, I’m a purger. Every couple of years, I go on a purging binge and sell, donate or throw out old possessions. Most often these are things I haven’t thought about in years, despite some of them having been on my bookshelf in plain sight for all that time, or clothes that have hung in my closet, unworn, since I last needed them for the office in 2006. It feels good to get rid of past clutter, and it has sometimes made me feel like I’m starting fresh when I’ve been desperate to have that feeling for the sake of keeping my sanity.

The same applies to music. Back when vinyl and cassettes were the only ways to buy music, I had both. I gave my vinyl away in 1993 and got rid of the last of my cassettes when I got my first CD player (which I could afford to buy back then thanks to working). But on several occasions I have also sold my entire CD collection to someone who answered a classified ad saying they’d buy them. The last time I did that was about four years ago. I thought I’d never be able to buy a CD again, but, luckily, there is a used CD store not far from here where the kind of music I like to listen to costs about $5 to $7 per CD. I’ve gradually managed to build up a new collection of about a dozen CDs, some of it the rock I grew up with and some of it stuff I started favoring about two years ago, which is light jazz.

Since I don’t have music playing equipment other than my computer, and I don’t want to wear out my computer’s optical drive by playing CDs on it, I use a Linux program called Audacity to rip CDs to .flac files. I use the highest quality settings and the files tend to be quite large, but they sound good. I don’t rip an entire CD, just the cuts from it that I’m sure I’ll want to listen to frequently. So I ended up with a selection of 49 .flac files that I used to play on shuffle using either Banshee in Linux or Foobar in Windows.

Last year, I discovered LastFM, which back then had its own musical database and a downloadable music player that drew on the database in order to play randomly selected tunes based on a keyword, the way more familiar services such as Pandora do (although Pandora is not available here in Canada thanks to cultural protectionism). In the US, LastFM is free of charge, but in Canada you get a small number of free songs and then have to pay $2.99 a month for unlimited listening. I’ve paid that happily for a period of time, missing the three bucks a bit but getting great benefit from hearing new songs I would never have known to seek out.

Recently, LastFM dropped its own music database and began relying on a YouTube video feed using a new web-based player that’s still in beta. Its random selection isn’t as good as the old database selection used to be, but it’s still good enough. I enjoy occasionally stumbling into an unexpected gem that I enjoy listening to but was completely unaware of.

And there is a way to buy those songs affordably, even for me! The new LastFM web player has a dropdown menu of online music stores. The one I chose is 7digital. Now, 7digital has kind of a crappy selection of only recently-released and timeless music, so that I am sometimes unable to find what I’m looking for. I have yet to find them selling the cuts I want by the superlative Rocco Ventrella, the most underrated musician in all of jazz. Also, 7digital seems actively to avoid offering customer service aside from a dismissive, almost rude FAQ that essentially tells you that, if you don’t like how they do things, you can go somewhere else. But the cuts that they do have available generally cost only 99 cents in .mp3 format. My bank was kind enough to issue me a prepaid credit card that works just fine for such purchases. Since I started buying cuts on 7digital, I’ve bought 19 of them costing me a total of about $20. I keep them in my music folder and just play them in sequential order when I feel like listening to music.

I’ve already told you that I reinstall my operating system frequently, and for that reason I keep data backed up on a flash drive. But somehow disaster struck, and I managed to erase all of the music my flash drive contained. I was able to redownload my previous 7digital purchases, because they offer redownload indefinitely, but, in order to get the .flacs, I’d have to rip the CDs all over again, and that’s a time-consuming process I can’t be arsed to go through right now. Audacity is intended for audiophiles, so it’s highly manual, and it takes a world of mouseclicks to rip even one song from a CD. I’ll get around to that at some point. In the meantime, my music consists of my 19 purchased .mp3s and whatever comes up on the LastFM beta player.

I can hear the young people among you laughing and asking why I don’t just go to Piratebay to get my music for free. Simple: I am a creative person, and I’d feel terrible if someone ripped off my work, and don’t want the musicians who sweated blood over those recordings to feel just as ripped off because of me. I don’t care if you steal music, but don’t expect me to do it. I just refuse.

I’ve put a moratorium on buying more .mp3s off 7digital until I can save up a few more bucks, which should occur around the middle of September. Then I’ll likely buy a cut once in a while, if I like it enough and think I’d enjoy playing it often enough.

So that’s the story of my listenership. What’s the story of YOUR relationship with music? Don’t be afraid to talk about playing instruments and/or singing as well as listening.

The Vocation of Blogging

What does it mean to be a blogger? For many people, it is something they do occasionally for entertainment and in order to share some aspect of their lives, their convictions, or nuggets of valuable information gleaned in their daily journey through life. For some, blogging is even instrumental in the philosophical sense of the word, because they blog only in order to generate contacts and traffic they can drive to an external, commercial website where they expect to make money. Both of those are perfectly acceptable approaches to blogging, and I don’t question it when other people take them.

But blogging is neither of those things for me. My monthly handout from the disability people is secure for the next 18 years, and, although it’s a pittance that amounts to half of a poverty-line income, I’ve learned to be content with it. I have no motivation to start a small online business that would replace my stable and regular disability income with unstable, irregular and uncertain small online business income that would probably be even less than my disability check. You are free to judge me for that, but ask yourself whether I have a realistic chance of making money off a website. So many people open e-businesses every day, and the vast majority of them crash and burn. I have no head for business or marketing or sales and would be likely to end up starving on the street once my e-business failed and my disability check were permanently gone.

Also, the reason people blog part-time is because they have other demands on their day. They have jobs, spouses, children, hobbies and friends. I have none of those things–and I’m not whining about it, because I’m happy with not having them. To each their own, so to me, mine. But I have all day to do anything I want that my poverty permits, and, for the last 12 days, I have chosen to spend 15 hours a day in blog-related activities. It keeps me busy in a more constructive way than staring at a TV set, playing online games or watching YouTube videos would, because people have already started thanking me for the tiny but real contribution my blog has made to their lives, and I’ve gotten some praise for the quality of my writing and the content of my posts. Also, blogging is a community just like any other, and other people’s blogs help meet the social need I have just as everyone else does.

In the last few days, I’ve found myself moving ever-faster toward a state of true happiness because blogging not only fills my day, but is beginning to fill my life. I’m a writer and I’m writing, with the act of writing being what most writers, including me, find brings us the best life quality. But I’m also reading avidly–and reading some superbly written stuff by other bloggers that fully deserves to be commercially published, and would be if there weren’t 100 million publishable writers in the English-speaking world and only a puny commercial writing industry in existence to pay only a few of us. And I’ve made fulfilling contact with several people I’m glad to “know” online (because, let’s face it, you can’t really know someone online, but you can get to “know” them better than you “know” your own spouse on your silver wedding anniversary).

Overall, I’m delighted and proud to call myself a blogger-netizen, because it has turned out to be a legitimate vocation for a man who, after half a century of futile struggle to do what everyone else does, found his niche on a government handout that underwrites an unpaid writing career (pun intended). And I really owe it all to you, my small core of enthusiastic readers and wider, ever-growing circle of casual readers who devote as much time to my writing as their schedules and interest allow. I am declaring my loyalty to my readers, and making a promise never to betray you, because it is to you that I really owe everything that matters.

Thank you for reading.

In a Serene Moment

Experience is a funny thing. Most of our experiences relate to the external world and what we see and hear and touch. The stuff of experience is the physical objects outside our minds. Yet, even if those physical objects have an objective existence (and that depends on whom you ask), experience is not objective. It is entirely subjective and consists on how that external world happens inside us. This keyboard and this computer display that dominate my everyday life are, in my view, concrete things outside me, but their reality to me is the feeling of the keys striking my fingers, the sight of what is on the display and its peripherally-noticed fringes, the aftertaste of the coffee in my mouth, the sound of the televised soccer game and my window fans in the background, and many other things wrapped into the single thing that is my consciousness of this moment. Because what I really have is this moment; and my life within that moment, despite its physical and external roots, happens entirely in my mind. And it happens indivisibly, wrapped up with the feelings and memories and random snippets of thought that pass through my mind while I type this entry, all experienced as one thing: me.

Which brings me to an important point: we cannot avoid experience while we are conscious. No matter what we do, we are experiencing each moment, and that expeirence adds to the stockpile of our past, which continues to live within us through accumulation. Ultimately, we are constructive entities that build our own consciousness brick by brick over the course of our entire lives, changing in each moment because that moment adds yet another brick to the edifice of our experience. (I could say “self-experience” but that would be a redundancy. All experience is experience of ourselves.) That happens to us willy-nilly as we live, because we can do nothing about our experiences happening or being cumulative any more than we can arrest the passage of time.

There is a very important implication to the inevitability of experience and the accumulation of experience. The implication is that it doesn’t really matter what you do, because, no matter what you do, you can’t help doing something, and the edifice of your next subjective moment is steadily being built. Some people make a big deal of having “better” experiences, which range from jumping out of airplanes to photographing Angkor Wat to giving birth to performing on-stage as the next musical superstar to simply getting a report from their assets manager that their assets have appreciated in this quarter. But the content of experience doesn’t really matter. Anyone who lives and does anything is building himself, involuntarily and helplessly but also in a salutary way, because no amount of physical privation and hardship can deprive even an indigent man of his constructive journey through life.

The lesson? Don’t worry about what you do. Don’t make bucket lists. Don’t yearn for the unreachable opulence that informs the lives of the wealthy. Don’t feel starved of recognition and fame. Just live, and count that all living has equal value in the end, and accomplishes the same purpose. I say that to myself while in the middle of yet another fifteen hours of sitting at this computer today, and it makes me content.

What do YOU think?

NOTE: This is a repost.

The Real Philosophy of Business

if you read the course calendar of an educational institution, you might find a course listing for something called “Philosophy of Business.” That phrase has always caused me to snort with laughter. Business is fundamentally anti-philosophical, rooted in the notion that the search for answers is useless and all that matters is narrowly focusing on short-term personal gain. “Philosophy of Business” is sort of like “Cooking with Urine and Feces.” It’s pretentious and silly.

But what if there really were a philosophy of business? Of course there is. There is a philosophical side to everything that exists. There is even a philosophical side to feminism, which is more overtly and bitterly hostile to philosophy than anything else that ever existed. But the real philosophy of business would not refer to an actual area of philosophical study, since there’s no philosophical way to study the fine art of making sure you get a better deal and the other parties to the transaction get a worse deal. Rather, philosophy of business would be more like the mentality and psychology of businesspeople, those beliefs that animate them through their daily lives, usually without the businesspeople being the least bit aware of them, and often being hostile to gaining any awareness of them at all.

To understand the true philosophy of business, you have to understand the concept of advantage. The simplest definition of “advantage” is “whatever causes the laws of nature to give you a leg up on someone or something else.” It’s rooted in adjusting to the way the world really is–and, in some cases, altering the way the human world is for personal benefit. It’s also strongly bound up with competition, because the businessperson’s mentality is that everything competes with everything else in a kind of Hobbesian free-for-all. Businesspeople compete at home with their spouses, kids, parents and best friends, but above all within their professional lives. The biggest praise you can give to a businessperson, which is to call her “prudent” and “shrewd,” is just another way of saying that she has a fine nose for seeking advantage and is good at getting it. All business boils down to seeking advantage and nothing else.

Yet what is particularly human about seeking advantage? There is something. It’s true that everything, from the prokaryotes of two billions years ago to the Douglas firs and cetaceans of today, has always sough advantage. I don’t buy Nietzsche’s statement that all of reality seeks advantage, because it’s unlikely that inanimate objects such as water and stone seek advantage, and interstellar space certainly doesn’t. All life, however, from the earliest to the current, has always been underpinned by seeking of advantage. Yet business is the distillation and refinement of that advantage-seeking aspect of all life, one that isolates and crystallizes it and makes it the entire focus of a person’s life. It ain’t philosophy, but it is what people colloquially call “life philosophy”–an ethical foundation that guides thought and behavior without having any cosmological or epistemological elements.

Except that there is a cosmological element to it. The element is described in Hobbes’ _Leviathan_. Most people believe that the western world is founded on the writings of John Locke but Locke was making a derivative response to Hobbes. His aim was not to argue that Hobbes was wrong about the world being a fight to the death by everything against everything else, but to suggest a corrective to that maelstromic chaos, a way for people to lead fulfilling lives under impossible conditions. So that, ultimately, is the philosophy of business: the belief that life is a war of all against all, and that our existences are nasty, brutish, and short.

Sure makes you want to become an entrepreneur, doesn’t it?

The Road to Happiness

Either someone once told me, or I had the psychotic delusion that they had told me: “Revenge is divine.” Indeed, there are people who firmly believe that holding grudges is a virtue, and that lifelong hostility to someone who has done you wrong is a requirement for a righteous life. To such people, taking lifelong revenge is expressing yourself as someone created in the Maker’s image. Still other people believe that you should forgive all wrongs done to you because it’s God’s job to take revenge on your behalf. They, too, believe that revenge is divine, and just approach the concept from a different angle, with different ethical implications.

You already know, from having read this recent post, that I am of exactly the opposite view from those people. I am far closer to the view of pagans, who think in terms of karma. But I also disagree with pagans about the ethical implications of both karma and revenge, as well as some cosmological ones. If we really do have souls that are ruled by their need to discharge karma, then revenge is motivated by that specific spiritual concern. That would mean that revenge is something of the soul and not of the living. You’ve probably read in this very old post that I consider our souls to be something separate and different from our living selves, often with interests inimical to our living interests. The fact that souls infect us with a pre-birth greed for revenge in the guise of their own enslavement to karma would only serve to make both revenge and karma utterly repugnant to me, and make me get as far away from them as I can.

So that’s what I do. I actively avoid both taking revenge and discharging karma (if karma exists). I live the life of a purely living man, with no spiritual or religious accoutrements or limitations, seeking the only thing that all living beings truly seek of our own accord, which is happiness. My search for happiness is more limited than that of most people, because I seek happiness only in the present moment. That proves to be an incessant, ongoing exercise of detoxification. If I ingest something toxic through my eyes or ears, I rush to purge it same as if I had ingested it through my gullet. It’s not the same procedure, because no one can truly purge what has entered his mind. It stays in the deep recesses of the mind forever. So the proper procedure is to quarantine that toxic experience so it has minimal impact on the rest of the consciousness, unconsciousness and nonconsciousness around it. You know I believe one way to do that is to discontinue any experience that brings it to mind or draws upon it in any way. Another way is to reformulate it in terms of its essence, because explanation is inherently destructive of the thing being explained and robs it of all of its power (as per the critical realism described in this post),

And it works! As I find myself immersed deeper and deeper in the life I’ve always wanted to lead, in a community in which I always belonged, I find myself steadily approaching happiness, partly because I can quarantine and thereby detoxify the toxic moments of my existence. Gone are the lingering hurts that would wound me over and over again like demented revenants. For the first time in ages, I have cause for optimism.

The future looks bright.

The Anatomy of Generosity, Guts and All

There are reasons generosity gets wide praise. One of them is also the reason altruism and self-sacrifice get wide praise. Self-sacrifice involves someone giving up something of value to them, including possibly their life, for the benefit of other people. Well, we are included in those other people. Seeing self-sacrifice in others makes us like them because they are doing something to benefit us. But what if we were the ones being asked to sacrifice ourselves? Some of us would do it for various reasons, but it wouldn’t feel all that good. In a similar way, generosity is of benefit to people other than the generous person, including us, so of course we praise it. But there is where the comparison breaks down.

While self-sacrifice often feels miserable, and nobody sensible does it without a good reason, being generous actually feels good. Many people genuinely enjoy being generous for its own sake. In my past life, when I was a working man with a middle-class income, most of my associates were poor, and I did enjoy doing things for them that they couldn’t do for themselves because I had the money and they didn’t. And they enjoyed it too…at first. Over time, some came to expect generosity from me and take it for granted, while others came to resent the way I went about being generous. The former dropped all contact with me when my resources became low and I was no longer able to provide financial benefit to them. I understand their perspective; they felt betrayed, because they had come to expect things from me. The latter group is much more interesting, because they taught me something valuable about both sides of the generosity equation, and it’s a lesson I hope I’ve learned even if I never again get to put the learning to good use.

Some generosity, like my old generosity, is opporessive. The generous person becomes a tyrant. This is actually a two-way street. Recipients of generosity seek to preserve their self-respect, so they try to do something in return for what you’re giving them. In many cases all they can do is go out of their way to accommodate your desires and actively try to know what you, the generous person, want to do, and then go along with whatever you suggest. Many generous people are not aware of this. Some, such as my former self, are merely thoughtless and unreflective. We become so accustomed to other people seeming to worship our desires that we become whimsical and drag them around like beasts on a chain. And that breeds resentment just as surely as mice breed disease.

It took me many years and much thinking to sort out these subtleties of how people of different financial profiles relate to each other. I’m still figuring it out. When I hear of someone in plight, my first instinct is still to lay myself on the line for them and do what I can to help them. Luckily, I am so poor that I often cannot do much about the kinds of problems most people face. The only thing I can really do is be sympathetic and emotionally supportive and offer to brainstorm with them about the solutions to their problems. And people are often astonished when I do that. The most common thing they say is that they’re surprised another person would bother to help them. So I guess it gives them faith in our species, which gives them courage. Which, in the end, is of far more value than interest-free loans, trips out of town, fancy clothes and accessories, and twelve-ounce-steak dinners.

There is a whole world of literature written by professional donors of their time, expertise and other resources to those in need of them. I wish I’d bothered to read some of that literature before it was too late. Now, i sit at my handout-recipient’s desk all day and do what I can. Which isn’t much, but has to be enough, because there is nothing else.

On Going Around the Block, and Where It Gets You

I had a magical moment in the spring of 1988. While I was at work as night shift cleaner at McDonalds, the shift supervisor came up to me and handed me an envelope. I stared at it in confusion and asked him what it was. He told me it was my paycheck. So I said “Oh,” tucked it in my breast pocket, and didn’t think about it again for three days.

Perhaps some background is in order. I had a weekday job as walker courier, in which I hand-delivered letters and small parcels from one location to another in Toronto, mostly downtown. The job usually had me on the go from 8 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, walking nearly constantly. Then, on the weekends, I was working the cleaner job. So I had two jobs and was piling up the bucks. I had completely ceased to think about money because I always had enough of it.

Then there was the ugly moment on Christmas Day in 1999. I took a trip to the old casino in Windsor, about a five-hour drive southwest of here. At the time I had a job earning more than $35,000 a year (in 1990s dollars) and could afford casino trips. At the tables, I turned $500 into $4,000, then went back to my hotel room happy. But the money in that safe in the room kept gnawing at me. I wanted more. So I kept going back downstairs to the casino until dawn had come and I had only $300 left. I wanted to die. My observation is that people who want more and more and more without limit, do often end up wanting to die just to escape their own greed.

These two memories jostle for space in my head as that special time in my monthly cycle arrives. No, not that kind of monthly cycle. I mean the monthly cycle of all of us who subsist off handouts from the disability folks in government. The current special time is called “check time.” It’s when our monthly subsistence money arrives in the mail. If I were practical and level-headed, I wouldn’t care about check time. I have to disburse most of my check anyway, so I end up with not much more left than I have at any other time in the month. Also, it’s not really my money; it’s money our government happens to give me because it feels like it. But it’s not something I’m rational about. Around this time every month, I enter a mental state I call the check vigil, in which I try in futility to stop thinking about the mail arriving and not to go downstairs to the block of mailboxes more than once an hour. And I never know on which day the check will arrive anyway. When the mail comes on a particular day and the check isn’t in it, I feel deflated and demotivated, as if I had suffered some real and substantial disappointment rather than just being a de facto bookkeeper for the landlord and grocery store.

So that’s where my mind is right now. Where is yours?

On the Wisdom of Walking Away

The Hollywood movie trope is that a person should never give up. That, if he comes upon an impenetrable wall, he should keep beating his head against it until he has broken his skull and his brains are oozing out a hole in his head. Because, according to the trope, if you don’t give up and keep fighting you are guaranteed to succeed. All of those famous celebrities succeeded, so of course the other 350 million people in America will end up just as rich and famous as them, if they just don’t give up.

My way has always been different. I’ve always done what sensible people really do, which is to assess whether an obstacle can be overcome given the appropriate amount of effort, and, if it can’t, to walk away and go do something else. Because the fact is that those rich and famous celebrities are maybe 0.001% of the population. The rest of us don’t get the insanely high level of luck required to overcome impossible odds. And the ridiculous movies we watch in which ordinary people overcome obstacles that simply cannot be overcome are just entertainment. Anyone who thinks they represent reality probably also believes in Santa Claus.

Sometimes walking away is difficult. Often it hurts. When you walk away, you are surrendering your right to something that blind justice cries out for you to have. You are letting the bad guys win. But the alternative is to be trapped in the blind alley of futile effort, your life stalled while you remain motionless. So you swallow the pain of injustice and walk away from it in order to find another place where the injustice is distant and your memory of it can fade enough to give you peace.

Because that is the key to walking away: creating maximum separation between yourself and concrete evidence of the brokenness and wrongness of the very laws of nature, which so often, in so many people’s lives, do cause the bad guys to win and injustice to prevail. And please don’t chant the empty slogan that right always triumphs over wrong. You know that’s false. You’ve known it ever since you were four years old and punished for retaliating against that boy who pulled your pigtails, while he got away with it, because the teacher saw you retaliating and not him assaulting you. If you are truly open to the lessons of life, then you know how essential to a good life it is not only to walk away, but to sprint at top speed away from everything that causes you visceral distress because it brings what St. Augustine called the profanity of profane history too close to home.

Which is also how I’ve learned to deal with people who are toxic to me. Walk away from them. If they stalk me somewhere else I’ve gone (as one person and his co-conspirator recently did), walk away from that too. Because there will always be a realm somewhere where such people are barred entry. At the very least, they will be barred entry in my realm because I can bar it to them. And in the meantime, I can have the peace of distance in many other places in the world.

I Want to Know What YOU Think

If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, and/or you’ve had a look at my About page, you know already that I spend 15 hours a day in front of the computer and another eight hours a day sleeping. I’ve been doing that for quite a few years, and have grown comfortable with the life I lead, so that I am steadily inching toward true happiness. The parts of their lives that other people take for granted, and which aren’t part of mine, are not things I particularly feel like I miss. I am living life the way I want–unorthodox and likely to evoke judgment and condemnation from some quarters, but not from the reasonable people I surround myself with online.

Since I started this blog 10 days ago, it has gradually devoured more and more of my waking day. Last month, I got free trials to online magazine feeds such as NextIssue and Zinio, and was happily reading magazines for hours a day. I also got a free trial to Netflix and was watching various TV shows that I never would have bothered to watch on television. I got a free trial to Scribd and began reading books in their feed. I was watching the Free Ballgame of the Day on mlb.tv. For a while, I was playing World of Warcraft. And then I did all the usual things people do online–emails with various contacts, forum reading and posts, even live chat in a select few irc chatrooms (and, yes, you can find ones that aren’t overrun with perverts and lecherous teenagers if you look carefully and are selective). But I no longer do any of that. All I do from sunup to sundown is write blog posts, read other people’s blogs, exchange emails with bloggers, reply to comments–and, obsessively, tinker with my blog’s layout and options. I’ve stopped being a well-rounded netizen and become a full-time blogger.

I want to ask you what you think of that. You already know that I can’t work for reasons I’ve already described, that I have few responsibilities, that I am single and childless and uninvolved with anyone, and that my sub-poverty-line handout is secure for the next 18 years. Am I doing the right thing by devoting my life to this activity just because I want to and it passes the time pleasantly? And, of more importance, am I accomplishing anything that I wouldn’t accomplish if I were staring at a TV set and drinking dollar-store apple juice all day?

Please let me know.

#relationshipsaregay

It’s provocative, isn’t it? Using the word “gay” in the pejorative sense in which some young people use it today is bound to evoke a strong reaction from members of the politically mighty LGBT community. And how about saying that relationships are “gay,” obviously in the colloquial sense people usually mean “relationship,” referring to romantic and/or sexual involvement with another person? Isn’t it the wackiest thing you’ve ever heard?

No, it’s not. There’s a significant minority of the human population who do believe that relationships are “gay.” We’re called aromantics, which means that we have no capacity for romance. Although some aromantic people are sexual, meaning that they still need and want sexual gratification in the absence of romance, I happen to be asexual as well as aromantic. It’s a clean way to be, with no muss or fuss involved in dealings with other people.

I’ve been told by people that they feel sorry for me because I’m “missing out” on the things that are part of their nature. That’s like telling a First World War reservist who never went to the front that he “missed out” on trench warfare and mustard gas. Sure, that reservist didn’t do any fighting, which was what he had joined the military for in the first place, but he played a valuable role in the war through his support activities, and he avoided the horrible privation and misery that was the staple of frontline troops’ lives. That’s pretty much how I feel about being an aromantic asexual. I don’t abase myself in pursuit of romance or sex, I don’t have to compromise in order to satisfy animal needs (because, to me, both sex and romance are animal needs), I can treat men and women and trans people exactly the same, and I always look a woman in the face without ever checking out her boobs. That last one earned me praise from a young woman who actually had to tell me that she had large breasts, and was sick and tired of everyone staring at them, before I even noticed them.

My admittedly biased observation of how romance and sex affect people is that they make the average person both neurotic and psychotic–needy, dependent, insecure, possessive, frequently distressed, sometimes violent. Doctors recommend that people with major mental illness (and I happen to be one, just by the way) avoid having what most people call relationships because they are emotionally and intellectually destabilizing and cause great amounts of stress. Think about it: what has caused the most stress in your life? Not your job, not your blood relatives, but your marriage or your contact with your lover. That is generally what makes most people unhappy in the deepest ways.

There are indeed tradeoffs in all aspects of life. The severe distress caused by relationships brings certain benefits with it. But do those benefits really compensate you for the harm relationships cause? In which direction do the scales tip? I’m betting that, if you could think about it lucidly and clearheadedly, rather than through the distorting prism of someone who feels a need for love in her life, you’d rather be like me than like you.

#relationshipsaregay. Pass it on.

Thank you!

At the end of the day yesterday, finishing only its ninth day of existence, this blog set several new daily highs: 90 views; 52 visitors from 12 different countries; 37 views through clicks on external links; 26 clicks on the home page/archives. In its first nine days since being launched, the blog had 435 views, including 396 in the six days since August 15th, when it first began to put up any numbers. There were no fewer than 98 comments and 60 blog followers, with another 8 followers on social media.

I’m sure you’d agree that’s pretty rapid growth, and I have you to thank for it–you, my readers, without whom it wouldn’t be possible. Wishing you all the best, and hoping to provide you with more worthwhile reading in the future.

A New, Practical Approach to Helping Asexuals and the Asexuality-Accepting

NOTE: About 12 hours after this post first appeared, it seems that AVEN has risen from the dead after all, so that aspect of the post is now obsolete.

I just read this fascinating post by a young, female blogger who specializes in giving men advice about women. Why would an asexual man like me find a post fascinating if all it does is tell me how to notice that a woman is sexually and/or romantically interested in me? Read my discussion with the blogger in the comments–or, if you can’t be arsed, I’ll summarize it here. Even an asexual man doesn’t want to hurt a woman’s feelings, or evoke retribution from her for rejecting her, or damage any friendship he already has with her or any potential friendship that might develop. So I asked the blogger to write another post on how a man can discourage such interest from a woman in an appropriate and harmony-promoting way. Once it appears, there’s a good chance that I’ll reblog it here, under my brand new blog category of “Asexuality.”

I also recently found a blog by a thoughtful gay man who writes almost exclusively on gay issues, and does so in a way that I find sympathetic. I haven’t been able to dig out a link to his blog, but I’ll probably ask him to write something on how I can identify and discourage similar interest from gay men. Then I’d probably reblog that as well.

I recently heard insider info that The Death of Aven might not be as final as I thought. Apparently, the real obstacle to the resurrection of AVEN is founder David Jay himself, who could fix the problems with the old host’s hardware but is too busy being out of the country. A former AVEN moderator, whose privacy I’ll choose to protect, described AVEN to me four years ago as “a neglected child,” as Jay no longer finds AVEN to be a good investment for his marketing efforts in the great marketing project of increasing the visibility of asexuals–and has become something of a Kardashian in the asexual community thanks to the popularity of those efforts, leading him to lose interest in the AVEN website. But perhaps he’ll still be motivated to fix AVEN’s problems and resurrect it. In the meantime, the absence of AVEN from the internet creates a golden opportunity to de-politicize and de-marketingize asexuality and found an approach of helping asexuals and those sympathetic to us with our practical issues without any allegiance to any stripe of political activism. It sounds like a great thing to do.

Distress and the Conqueror of Despair

The old school of psychology back when snakes used to have legs talked about two types of stress: estress and distress. The former is positive stress caused by constructive exertion, the pressure of peak performance and being in the middle of doing something well, the expectation of success for you and yours. Distress was all the bad stuff, ranging from frustration to privation to being abused. The summary version is that estress is good for you and you need it, while distress is bad for you and you don’t.

You’ve already seen this post in which I explain that, by passing through despair and conquering it and making it my servant, I managed to achieve some semblance of serenity and begin creeping toward happiness in the complete absence of hope. The rules are different for a person with that mindset. Someone who builds their life around hope will accept distress and sometimes even seek it out in exchange for what will, hopefully, turn out to be a better future. But my future is today, because there ain’t nothin’ going to happen tomorrow that’s worth sacrificing the present for. So, to me, any distress is plain wrong, and the greatest harm that anyone can do to me is not to thwart my plans–I have none–but make me experience distress in the present moment.

I just experienced significant distress because someone managed to push my buttons. The details are not important, because I despise gossip and don’t want to be the next Perez Hilton. Quite the opposite. But, subsequently to having had my buttons pushed, I discovered that the person in question was not being genuine. Rather, they are someone who deliberately seeks to cause distress in other people because they enjoy seeing other people in distress. it brings them pleasure. Which actually reduces my distress and makes me sad for them. From a personality point of view, someone who enjoys causing distress to others is the lowest of the low, and hardly deserves to be called human. I now feel like I got upset at a donkey for braying. It’s silly to get upset at a donkey for braying, because the donkey doesn’t know any better. It’s just an animal, same as the “person” who deliberately pushed my buttons for fun.

Long story short, I have sought safety in severing all further contact with the person who is of the kind who do me the greatest harm–and it’s important, especially if you’re a Wiccan, to note that I say harm rather than hurt because, to someone living in the absence and rejection of hope, distress in the present moment is true harm in the Wiccan sense. Christians are free to tell me how they see the difference between hurt and harm and where, in their view, what I’ve described here falls.

Until next time.

The Truth Behind the Need for Weight Loss

The increasing number of overweight, and outright obese, people in the western world has been a concern of health authorities for some time. Their efforts to promote weight loss have created a whole new world of cliches and buzzwords, which fill the mass-market magazines. Looking at a magazine such as Vogue, I even see writers competing to come up with new twists on the same tired phrases in order to boost sales. But has anyone looked at the reality behind our overweight epidemic and the real reasons why so many of us carry so many excess pounds? I want to do that here.

The real problem is that biology changes slowly. Our subspecies, homo sapiens sapiens, originated about 200,000 years ago, and our bodies are still pretty much the same as the bodies of people were back then. But back then, food was difficult to get, requiring an all-day search; and, when people found food, it was low in calories and poorly nourishing. There was no reason for us to develop an instinct limiting the human desire for food simply because, even after gathering and hunting from sunup to sundown, nobody got enough to eat.

But the world changes much more quickly than our bodies do, and has changed ever more rapidly over the past few centuries and even decades. Today, food is incredibly easy for most of us to get. It’s also insanely abundant and super-nourishing. Our bodies haven’t caught up to this reality and still assume that we’re living in the forager age, so we still have no upper limit on our desire to fill our bellies. We eat as much of the easily-obtained, excessively-nourishing food we have today as we did of the hard-to-find, poorly-nourishing food of 200,000 years ago. In fact, we often eat more, because much more is available. So we get fat.

A corollary is that we no longer have to search all over hell’s half acre for the food we need. We just go to the grocery store or restaurant. But that arduous search for hard-to-find food was what got us our exercise, in a natural and organic way, back when our species was young. Today, we are sedentary because we lack natural motivation to exercise; our food is close to hand, and we can just reach out and grab it. So, in order to maintain some level of fitness close to what our bodies are evolved for, we have to waste energy in contrived exercise for its own sake. Knowing this is the main thing that has discouraged me from exercising all my life.

Next time you see a glossy magazine with a cover screaming at you about “top 5 belly-busting tips” and “tone those abs!” think about what’s really behind the marketing hype of those headlines. It’s the fact that our retrograde bodies have not caught up to the changes in our living conditions, and we must adjust to their needs instead of, as we should, making them adjust to ours.

A New Beginning

I had intended this to be a diary blog with diary-style content. Over its first eight days and 25 posts of existence, however, it has morphed into something entirely different, a wide-ranging personal blog. So I thought of going back to the blog’s roots and turning it into a true diary, but the blog in its current form had proven to be of interest to a wide variety of people. I couldn’t argue with the results: more than 330 views and 51 followers in a mere eight days, which I’m told is fairly rapid growth. So I’ve decided to recast the blog as what it already is by giving it a new title and changing certain basic things about it. If you’re already a follower, please tell me how you like the changes. If not, please tell me whether the blog appeals to you as it is now.

Readers And Writers: Your Input Needed

Given that quite a few people who read this diary blog are either avid readers or themselves writers, I thought I’d ask a few questions about people’s reading habits and your views on the art and science of reading.

In my youth I was a voracious reader. In the middle part of the life I’ve lived so far, I used to read much less. Now I again find myself reading, but not as large a volume of material as I did while young. Some of the reading I’ve done is about reading, and it leads me to want to know what other readers (and writers who are also readers) think. So here goes:

1. Is there a definite volume of reading that is required for a good life? This partly relates to my knowledge that, if you’re going to play hold’em poker seriously, you need to do one hour of study and review for every four hours you play. Do you have to do an hour of reading for every hour you write? And if you don’t write, does a minimum amount of reading alter your consciousness and nourish other aspects of what you do?

2. Does it matter what you read? You probably already know, from having read my post on The Anatomy of a Serene Moment, that I believe the raw passage of time automatically provides us all the experience we need no matter what it is we actually do. Is the same true for reading, in the sense that it doesn’t matter what we read as long as we’re reading something?

3. Is there such a thing as meat and poison for readers? This applies also to readers who don’t write, but applies especially to writers. I’ve heard it said many times that each writer has a unique reaction to certain written works, with some nourishing her own writing, others stunting it or causing blocks, and yet others having no noticeable effect. Do you believe that to be true as a writer? And if you’re not a writer, do you find that certain writing nourishes your other activities, other reading has no effect, and yet other reading has a negative impact on it?

4. What is the ratio of the reading you do because you want to read something, to the reading you do because you are obligated to read something by work, school, or other obligations? How does this ratio affect your view of reading and your reading habits?

Thanks for all responses.

Hope and Despair: The Better Choice Will Surprise You

Many people, especially religious people, put supreme value on hope. A better future is the focus of their lives, and everything they do is directed toward building such a future. Yet that approach quite often involves sacrificing the present and enduring worse conditions than a person would endure if the present were supreme in their minds. More to the point, hopes for the future often get dashed, so that a person finds herself having sacrificed her entire life for nothing.

The myth of Pandora talks about how a foolish woman opened a chest and released all of the world’s evils into the open air, leaving only hope trapped within the chest. The usual interpretation has been that hope is the only thing we have left and is what is best about human life. Yet Friedrich Nietzsche had his own interpretation of the myth. He said hope was not let loose into the world because hope is the greatest of evils, something that robs us of our lives for the sake of a nonexistent afterlife. And, in the 21st century, it’s true that there are two main proponents of hope. One such group is those who believe in eternal afterlife.

The other main proponents of hope are those who have self-interest in the perpetuation of the current social order, because it gives them pleasant and comfortable lives. Such people don’t much care about the fact that the current social order makes the vast majority of us miserable, as long as we continue providing them support for their cushy lives. So the popular culture they control promotes hope, in movies, TV shows, songs and self-serving speeches made by fatcats, including fatcat celebrities. Nothing is more tragic than the tens of millions of fans of an A-list celebrity believing her statements that each one of them can be just as famous and comfortable as her. Logic would tell them that it’s impossible, yet, if she didn’t peddle that message, she would lose her fans and therefore her cushy life. So she lies through her teeth and causes her fans to throw their lives away.

You can probably tell that I consider hope to be either a delusion of the religious or a cynical fraud of the wealthy and entitled. Yet what is the alternative to hope? There are two. One is to live strictly in the present and enjoy each moment for what it is without projecting where the moment will take us next. Living that way is a perfectly valid choice, although it does have well-documented drawbacks. But there is another valid choice: conquering despair and making it your servant rather than your master.

For three and a half decades, the only thing I wanted out of life was autonomy. I wanted to take care of myself. Some years ago, it became clear that I am simply unviable and therefore not capable of taking care of myself. So I entered a state of despair that lasted several years. I spent years wanting only to die and bemoaning the fact that I lacked the courage to end my life as rightness demanded. In the end, however, I emerged from it armed with serenity and peace. In the last year, I have been gradually approaching happiness because I conquered despair. In some ways I am still in despair, because I realize that my only goal in life, autonomy, is unattainable. I have no hope for a better future. But conquering despair has enabled me to make peace with the impossibility of my dream coming true and truly start living for the first time in my existence. In the dark past, when I still hoped, I did not live, precisely because I was hoping rather than living. Now, I live thanks to despair.

Do you find YOUR hopes always dashed because your goal is unattainable? I bet you do. Consider, then, the two better alternatives to the life-burgling fraud of hope: living strictly in the now, as some do, and making despair your servant, as I have.

The Aim of Aimless Thinking

A Skype contact recently told me he was envisioning apocalyptic scenarios. He’s an avid gamer, so I asked whether it had something to do with games. He said, “Nah, just aimless thinking.” And that led me to ponder whether thinking really can be aimless, and what the implications are that it either can or can’t.

Thinking is necessarily constructive. Every thought follows somehow from the one before it, or at most from some thought before that one. This is true even in stream-of-consciousness thinking, where the constructiveness and derivation of thoughts is convoluted and hard to puzzle out, but definitely extant. Most casual, relaxed thinking that people do when not actively pondering an issue–and we all think in every waking second–relates the next thought to the previous one by association, and the association can seem illogical, but is at bottom coherent if you know all the elements of the person doing the thinking that go into it. We can’t help our thoughts being that way. Just as our brains have a definite physical structure with a definite order, so must the thoughts that occur within them.

But does that really stop some thinking from being aimless? The thoughts of people who are just relaxing or engaged in an activity not requiring much conscious input, as well as people who have disordered minds, don’t go in any particular direction. The structure their thoughts build is haphazard and architecturally unsound. Yet, in an important way, it still has direction, because it builds upon the edifice of who they will be in the next moment, simply by having had a specific thought and remembering having had it. Ultimately, even thoughts that seem to be aimless carry us along our journey toward the completion of our lives. The order of our physical brains again requires it.

I wrote this post while still carrying on a conversation with the contact who had inspired it. Then he bowed out saying some people wanted “to do a co-op session of Magicka” and he’d be too busy to talk. So, instead of sharing with him the ruminations he inspired, I am sharing them with you. It’s up to you to decide whether you are luckier or unluckier than him.

All Hail the Great tl;dr

The acronym “tl;dr” stands for “too long; didn’t read.” Originally used by online readers who found a piece of online writing too long to read all the way through, it has been adopted by online writers to indicate that what follows is a summary giving either the gist of what the previous, longer text says or an emphasis of some important point they want the reader to take away from having read it. I write concluding tl;dr paragraphs often, even when emailing to someone who has said they aren’t necessary. Many other online writers as verbose as me also use them.

But isn’t there an existing English phrase for tl;dr, “To make a long story short?” What’s wrong with just saying that instead of using an acronym that looks like leetspeak and not everyone understands? Simple. For online purposes, “To make a long story short” is itself too long.

I haven’t read any scientific research on the comparative reactions of print and online readers to long documents, but more than a decade of anecdotal experience, not only mine but many other people’s, suggests that what is considered a perfectly acceptable length for a print document is too long for an online one. The most common explanation is that readers find long online documents tedious. This is not altogether a mystery if you look into the history of television. Yes, television.

When the first television sets were being designed way back at the start of the twentieth century, the designers had to determine how often the image on the screen should be repainted by the electron guns in the cathode ray tube behind the display screen. This is something called “the refresh rate.” Very quickly a refresh rate of 60 Hertz was standardized. There were two reasons for this decision. First, that refresh rate is most comfortable for human eyes to view. Second, that refresh rate induces a mild trance in the viewer, in a way analogous to how rapid flickering can trigger an epileptic seizure. This trance was considered desirable for marketing purposes, as a viewer in a mild trance would watch longer and be more likely to believe the truth of what he saw on the screen, as well as be more open to subtexts and subliminal messages. Such has always been the ethics-free world of marketing and sales.

Today’s computer displays are far different from the TV sets of yore, but they still have a refresh rate, and, in most cases, the refresh rate is still 60 Hertz. This has an unexpected effect on people who read text online. While a print book, magazine or newspaper doesn’t refresh, and therefore can be read indefinitely, an online document does refresh, and the refreshing at 60 Hertz impairs the reader’s concentration and makes reading more difficult. Reading is far different from watching images. Reading requires us to use parts of our brains that are actively hindered by a computer display refreshing at the rate it does.

Most people believe miniaturization of devices, such as the emergence of seven-inch tablet computers and smartphones, is what has led to the increasing brevity of text and ever-higher reliance on images. There is no doubt that non-oral communication is shifting steadily in the direction of pictures rather than written words. Yet the real reason behind this might be that the very nature of computer and phone displays militates against reading long documents. Perhaps the tablet would never have been invented if people found it comfortable to read long texts online.

Which brings me to the point of this already-too-long diary-blog entry. tl;dr is now essential for anyone who intends to be verbose. After the fifth medium-sized paragraph of text, most online readers find themselves experiencing tedium and wanting to scroll down to the end just to see how long the rest of the document is. If there is a tl;dr at the end, then it should catch their eye, and enable the writer to get the gist of her point across in a few words for those who aren’t riveted by the full text simply because their display’s refresh rate unrivets them.

tl;dr if you’re going to write long online documents, always use a tl;dr–and if you read online, make a practice of looking for the tl;dr at the end.

Schizophrenia and Critical Thinking–You’d Be Surprised!

Would you be surprised that having schizophrenia helps a person think critically? It can, provided that the major instabilities of the illness are effectively dealt with. Nearly every person with schizophrenia has some elements of paranoia, even the stable and relatively rational ones as I’d like to think I am. My mind works very much in terms of suspicion of what people are saying and attempts to figure out what they are NOT saying. I tend to presuppose that everyone I am dealing with has some sort of hidden agenda and is trying to achieve some secret goal they are not disclosing. This can hinder private dealings with people, but is an essential approach to public statements made in our century. The fact is that, today, nearly everyone making a public statement IS after something they’re not telling you about, and the content of their public speech is an attempt to achieve some goal that they don’t want the people hearing or reading that speech to know. This is in obedience to the necessities of the universe (colloquially, “the laws of nature”), which, from a critical realist point of view, always disguise the hidden truth with a false appearance. Nothing can be done about it except to be wary and stay on guard, which someone prone to paranoia naturally does.

Of course, it’s important that a person’s thoughts not be disordered. Having disorder in one’s thoughts is the death of all attempts at critical thought, because critical thought is above all ordered, which means self-consistent, even if potentially deluded. The most extreme example of self-consistency, mathematics, doesn’t necessarily correspond to anything real, but its internal consistency has been robust enough to change how we experience life, and has largely shaped our twenty-first-century perspectives. Alternatives to mathematics are possible when trying to get at the truths of our slippery reality, and many are implemented almost esoterically, as if the techniques and methods they involve were commercially sensitive. Each of us must necessarily come up with her own critical system, drawing critically on whatever sources she can, at the risk that her system is claptrap (a British word that means “self-consistent nonsense” and contrasted with “twaddle,” which is “self-inconsistent nonsense”).

The danger of a claptrap critical thinking system is better expressed as the danger of delusion, especially when talking about people with schizophrenia, who are highly prone to delusions. Yet the real question is whether any critical system can be anything other than claptrap. To the best of our knowledge, the answers to the ultimate questions of life are permanently out of reach, and we must be content with what makes sense to us and enables us to be effective. And that is the key feature of a good critical thinking system: not an impossible grasp of ultimate truth, but effectiveness. A good critical thinking system enables us to minimize the trouble and distress in our lives and take the best path to achieving our goals. In the end, we are all deluded, and what distinguishes the delusions of someone with schizophrenia from the delusions of Machiavelli and his spiritual heirs is that the latter always got everything they wanted while the former never was able to get a single thing.

I’m very happy being suspicious, because suspicion is essential to survival in today’s world. And if the internal coherence of my suspicions points to something that you find delusional, rest assured that you’re necessarily delusional too, and our delusions are simply different.

The Private-Public Divide

It’s no news to most of us that the public record is stilted, pretentious, ceremonial, sterile, and ultimately false. When we hear a public figure speak in the news media, we know that what she is saying was written by a speechwriter and then vetted by lawyers. But, although news media reports themselves are not written by speechwriters (except insofar as that’s what news writers are), they have that same taint of vacuous falseness about them. So do statements made by lawyers and judges at a public trial or other on-record legal proceeding, such as a cross-examination on an affidavit. Very often, you also find movies and TV shows promoting socially required banalities, and sometimes you catch WordPress bloggers parroting socially prescribed tropes. Meanwhile, reality happens behind the scenes, off the public record, in the back rooms and around the dinner tables of the world, where few of us ever find out about it unless we’re participating. Private speech is down-to-earth, realistic, effective, fertile and ultimately true. Most of us already know that. We know that reality happens behind the scenes, while what gets publicized is a false and misleading coverup of what’s really going on.

What’s ultimately responsible for this state of affairs is the hegemony of critical realism. This type of realism is based on one central claim: that there is a difference between superficial appearance and an underlying substratum constituting reality. This is the true foundation of science–not the scientific method, but the underlying belief that what presents itself to us is ultimately a false appearance that requires digging into in order to unearth what’s really going on. Although as old as thinking itself, this view became dominant during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and it has reshaped the human world; so that, these days, everything we lay eyes on is necessarily a false appearance, and the true reality is hidden. It’s entirely responsible for the distinction between public and private speech.

Is this the way people really want to live? I doubt it. If we had the choice, we’d live in a world in which things were exactly what they seemed to be, so that we could give our weary minds a rest from constant suspicion. But I don’t know whether anything can be done about it any more. Time is entirely linear, so that nothing ever repeats itself, and the present does always stand on the shoulders of the past. Now that we’ve let the demon of critical realism out of the bottle and allowed it to achieve world domination, it would take extreme effort and a long time to rehabilitate the very nature of our perspectives and the very nature of the human world itself.

NOTE: This is a repost.