The year's pretty much over. When it began, I made a goal for myself to write 2 articles a month for this site, and I did; this is actually the third for December so I could totally choose not to be writing anything, which is strangely empowering. A few of these entries were absolute crap, and I wondered that if the quality dipped so low, was it worth it for me to be pushing them out? Now that I have, I can honestly admit that it was. I knew when I was struggling that I could write two a month for the remainder of the year, but I hadn't actually done it. I thought it was about proving something to myself, but now that I have, it's more about the sense of accomplishment. I fucking did it and it feels great to look back and see it finished.
I told myself to start small; it didn't matter what else I accomplished this year so long as I wrote two of these posts a month. No other deadlines, no other expectations. It was just something I wanted to keep me tethered, force me to write and add a sense of stability. If I want to be a writer so bad, it stood to reason I should be writing consistently, right? The unexpected bonus was how much I learned and risked simply because I didn't have a lot riding on the outcome. This little thing was the thing that mattered to me, and that gave me so much freedom to try new things. Some of it worked out, and some of it didn't. Others are still works in progress. Whichever direction they took, I never felt overwhelmed by it because it never mattered what direction they ended up. That's why you need to start small.
More important than having a goal in life is having a reason for it. That's why our new years resolutions tend to break; sure we want to be ten pounds lighter or fluent in Portugese, but if we don't have a real reason, chances are we'll go back to eating pizza and watching Simpsons reruns. It doesn't need to be a life changing reason, it just has to be one that's important to you. I didn't have a quantifiable reason for wanting to write, I just knew it was important to me, and that's what kept me doing it even when the passion was gone and I didn't want to.
Going back, it's insane to see how I changed as a person over a year. I don't think I would have imagined that I would be single by December, that I would have quit school or that I'd be doing pretty much anything I'm doing now. If you had told me that's how things would play out, I may have freaked out and vow to never put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard?) ever again.
What I did know, maybe not explicitly, but somewhere in myself, that I was unhappy. That's why I started writing, making that particular effort. I didn't understand anything else that went on around me or how it made me feel or what its place in my life was, but I had writing. It made me feel good and I followed it here.
I'm in a moment now that is begging for daydreaming, but I'm trying not to get ahead of myself. Fall and Winter are usually dismal times of the year for me. It almost seems like the true meaning of Christmas is to distract an entire population from how utterly bleak and depressing everything looks while the trees sleep and the snow piles up. This autumn was on the more turbulent side, reflectively, not the worst I've had but certainly not fun. I went through some intense grief, but I came out of it feeling awake and surprisingly calm.
As much as I've caught myself thinking about my next step, I've got to remember to enjoy this sense of peace. You can't take your good moods for granted; and if being depressed taught me anything it's to appreciate the shit out of a good day.
My ex is one of the most amazing people I've met in my life. I want the world for him and even though I know I don't have the emotional security to handle seeing it, I hope he meets the person who is actually right for him and makes him as happy as I wanted to. Jay was an honest, kind, genuinely good spirited person. He made me feel more loved and secure than anyone ever has in my life. He was patient while I dealt with mental and emotional issues that were far beyond his, mine, or most people's scope. He was supportive of my crazy ambitions. I leaned on him all the time.
All of this is true. I have no ill will towards him and I still think he's amazing.
But he was flawed.
And I am amazing, and I am flawed.
Moreover, we're both basically people; the drama in our lives is just a blip in anyone else's; in the end, there's no sense of greatness to it.
Memory performs these magic tricks, making the people in your past seem perfect or monstrous. We don't keep around the average parts in the long term. It took awhile for me to separate from the idea that I was practically divorcing Jesus. I hated myself for being cruel to the kindest person in the world. How could I, what did that say about me?
I am only recently able to concede that he had faults. I know how strange that sounds, but I think we all have that view of someone in our life. We can't see the darkness in people we really care about simply because we care about them. I don't know if this is something we do to create distance or to simply justify our feelings; either way we're tailoring our perception to fit our reality.
Similarly, it's been a huge effort on my part to remind myself that I wasn't always shitty. I'm not going to say I excelled at being a girlfriend, by any means, but I had my moments. It's hard to remember sometimes that there was a reason he stayed with me. I wasn't a trap, I was a person he loved, and there was a reason.
I catch myself doing this all the time; it's much easier to do when you're hurt and angry. If someone upsets me I start digging in, honing in on any bad qualities they have and amplifying them ten fold. It's easier to hate someone if you no longer see them as a person who made a decision that effected you negatively. If you believe they acted from a place of malice, making finger pyramids and contemplating how to destroy you like some sort of cartoon villain, your pain and sadness seems legitimized.
The fact of the matter is, though, it's pretty rare that people obsess so grandly over your misery or happiness. Our hearts and brains are made of meat; we don't always think things through in terms of how they effect others. What seems like a cruel ploy could just be one of those insensitive moments of bumping into another person going through their life in a way where you didn't come up in their thoughts first.
This is part of why I have such backlash to the idea of living in the moment without offering it context. Doing so can feel amazing, but aside from being impractical it's hard for the average person to do without catering explicitly to self interest; that's the nature of now, you're in it and if you have no context, you're the priority. Not only that, "now" is an eternity, there's a lot of intensity you're allowing for if you don't grant perspective. I'm not against that concept, of living in the moment and in many ways I advocate for it, but it's not fully formed for most people; it's far more complex than a single traipse through Terance McKenna lectures is going to get you.
Context is the tool we're given by manifesting in a physical world. Even if it turns out we're spiritual beings, we are inside our container that bumps around in a world that was made out of trees and turned into concrete. We have to put things into context because we aren't acting within an amorphous realm of collective consciousness and emotion. Maybe that's part of it, but we're rooted in the hyle, it seems absurd to me that we feel the need to abandon the material world given we can generally accept certain rules apply to all of us within it. Maybe this is off topic.
I realized awhile ago I tended to deify or demonize events that had happened but only just now realized I do the same with people. People are self-interested, occasionally self-absorbed, confused and often shallow creatures, but we're not all bad. We care about each other to degrees, and sometimes that's more or less than what we desire. In a way that's a side effect of being separated by matter. We live in a reality where we tend to experience linear time and physical embodiment; it's incredibly difficult to be fully connected and understood, despite perhaps that being our greatest desire. Schopenhauer referred to this as "The Porcupine Dilemma".
"A number of porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day in winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills, they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another. In the same way the need of society drives the human porcupines together, only to be mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of their nature. The moderate distance which they at last discover to be the only tolerable condition of intercourse, is the code of politeness and fine manners; and those who transgress it are roughly told—in the English phrase—to keep their distance. By this arrangement the mutual need of warmth is only very moderately satisfied; but then people do not get pricked. A man who has some heat in himself prefers to remain outside, where he will neither prick other people nor get pricked himself."
I think it's important to keep trying; to remember that your need to be close is as powerful and important as your need to distance yourself. Moreover, you need to remember that you're responsible for yourself and how you handle yourself. Other people don't have control over how they make you feel, not often anyway. If they do, that's a power that you gave them, whether or not they asked for it. You may not feel in control over your emotions, but you're in control over your response to them, and you have the opportunity to contextualize them in a way that makes them less torrential.
I don't view Schopenhauer's porcupines as imagery of necessary alienation, it's an allegory of self-awareness. You need to be conscious of how other people might not be conscious of how they effect you, or if they even should. Making people into something they're not serves to distance or draw in a person without offering the possibility of the opposite. That being said, even though I'm slowly starting to realize this tendency, I don't know shit about what to do about it. Like most things, it seems to be altered primarily through time, and context. I don't really have an answer to that, and I know for sure that I build people into things in my head, but it helps to know that's all it is: the demons are internal; the people are real.
Hey, do y'all believe in the existence of a soul, or what?
This is becoming my favorite ice breaker at parties.
I dropped out of high school at 17, but I barely attended classes in the time up to that. Granted, I read a lot while I was away from the classroom, but I don't consider myself educated. The only thing that levels the playing field for me is that a lot of people forget the things that I never learned.
My college career is laughable; it's mostly a smattering of freshmen years that I never took too seriously. If I could go back and take some nonmatriculating classes now without having to pay for them, I absolutely would. I'm a curious person, I enjoy learning new things but there's a lot that I admittedly don't have the capacity to teach myself, much as I try.
Despite my lack of formal education, I like to have "deep conversations"; maybe you can pick that up by how things are written here. Most of the ideas you'll see on this site are some amalgam of philosophers that I enjoy, conversations that have shaped my opinion and a teaspoon of my own insight, though I can honestly admit I don't have a great deal of that without the backdrop.
I used to find it very frustrating that I couldn't go into those conversational straits very often. Usually I'd be stuck in shitty small talk, the "What do you do, oh is there money in that?" palaver that all artists get accustomed to pretty quickly.
There's a need for both little and big talk though. Small talk is the "I mean you no harm" of modern civilization. There are plenty of people on the face of the earth with whom I have nothing in common, and that's okay. For them, I talk about the weather. Some people find my style of conversation pointless and frustrating; regardless of whether or not you ruminate on the existence of a soul doesn't change the fact that you still have to eat, have a job and take a shit like everyone else. We've created movies and art and music, all sorts of idyllic esapisms that help us bond with one another. We can have conversations about niche interests without ever wandering into the things that bother us the most. Neither of these kinds of conversation are life changing or memorable, but they assuage the tension created by being in the presence of someone you have no connection with.
Unfortunately, We've cheapened the goodwill gesture of small talk by living in a society that requires friendliness. It's a culture of customer service, whether or not you're in the industry; for those that are, part of our paycheck is doled out solely on pretending to be your girlfriend-mother creature for a minute out of your day, the more convincingly the better. There has to be some underlying sense that our interest isn't sincere, and this permeates the rest of our social spheres; we hate making small talk because we're being obligated to pretend to care about a stranger. When it comes time to speak generally with someone we care about but may not know very well, we feel exhausted and uninterested.
Instead of acknowledging the simple idea of being two humans occupying space together, we've added in the expectation that we all must like, if not love each other. It's a noble concept but I don't think we're equipped to love on such a large scale; that sounds exhausting. Not only that, but we're only further alienating one another by pretending to be interested in people we have nothing to say to. Add in the development of technology that removes interpersonal interaction and you're left with anomy; everyone can be an individual, but everyone is isolated. That feeling of isolation has been tough for me. I'm experiencing a kind of loneliness that's probably really common but strangely impossible to share with someone else. It's the kind of solitude that stems from an inability to connect, and the connections I make generally come from my ability to play curious.
I really mourned my lack of deep conversation until I just started pushing them into my daily life, and you'd be amazed at how intently people responded. Chances are you hang out with relatively like minded people, and therefore they're thinking about the big things too. You don't talk about it because at some point you didn't, and you continued with that.
The problem with having the big ideas conversation is there's a period of time that's just territorial pissing; I'm smarter than you, I can dismiss your ideas because this was phrased incorrectly. Establishing a hierarchy of intelligence when having a "big ideas" talk is in large part why more people don't do it. Nobody wants to feel stupid and the idea of asking the definition of a word you've never heard of before can be intimidating. I'm no stranger to that behavior, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. You need to establish where you and the other person (I'm refraining from calling them an opponent) are coming from, it lays the framework for what you can reference, how you can make your point and how familiar your are with theirs. To a degree, we do this in all forms of communication because judging people is how we learn how to deal with them, whether we're correct or not.
These conversations turn very quickly into debates where one person is right and the other person is wrong, because that's how we're taught to exchange big ideas. The teachers who become wildly popular are the ones who don't subscribe to that bullshit competitiveness that seems to be built-in to these kinds of conversations. Maybe it's because smart kids were bullied and they need to flex their superiority somewhere. Fuck knows. Either way, it fades into the mist as we get older and become more and more resistant to the idea of looking stupid. Maybe the curiosity atrophies.
Understanding the relevance of small talk, the kind of speech we reserve simply to exist around one another cooeratively is exactly the kind of linguistics that encourage deep thoughts as a form of intellectual play. Using humour and bullshit can encourage curiosity, pulling away from the pretentious shell that seems to encase the abstract as though these ideas somehow need protection.
I used to loathe small talk, but as I get older I appreciate the ability to fill moments of isolation, I can reach out to people. I don't need much, just an acknowledgement of my existence and an acknowledgement of theirs in return. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, except that we now carry that expectation, borderline entitlement in our culture that other people need to make us feel less lonely; which by nature of obligation will make us feel more alone. I let go of needing my big thoughts to "go" somewhere, nor do I feel inclined to change people's minds or attempt to assert my intelligence over them. Big thoughts can fit in small talk, it's just a matter of risking it.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.