We have a useless definition of mindfulness in the west; we know what Blondie McYogapants means when she says mindfulness (as much as anybody can, at least) but what it means is “look as if your life is together on Instagram even though you are in a state of constant existential terror”.
Western culture has a great talent in taking spiritual systems, identifying the parts which are superficial, and throwing away everything else. Many of those who meditate do so only so that they can tell people they meditate. Yoga is a means by which young single mothers futilely try to regain their taut high school tummy, not a method for establishing connections between ones mind and body.
Christians will ceaselessly tell you how great Jesus is for making the sun rise and blessing their wretched, impoverished lives with a few milligrams of joy every now and then, but they never say anything meaningful. They don’t even know what the words in their apocrypha are trying to tell them. One of the reasons it’s so easy to make fun of Christianity is that its practitioners take its most vain teachings, as they are the easiest to follow, while often living far worse lives than their critics. “My child got the flu so I prayed and they recovered”. Because people who don’t pray die of the flu.
I haven’t been an atheist for some time. Atheism is even more embarrassing than pop-Christianity. For one to think that the words oldest value systems and philosophical models have nothing to offer them is to be, well, very stupid. However one can hardly blame them as the Christianity we were shown growing up was stripped of meaning and instead realigned with “the times” so that it could be explained rationally as if any religion could stand up to rational analysis. It’s okay that we don’t understand how mystical experiences work. There’s no need to feverously clack out Google queries in order to prove that God does or does not exist. Many people, even atheists, know there’s something in our lives that controls us much more than our ego does. If you don’t yet know that, it’s a good place to start. (Psychologists have known this at least since the 60’s so this is hardly a revolutionary idea; Piaget, Jung, et al).
I snapped back into reality this week after being in an SSRI induced dream state for the past several months. I’d lost all ambition to do anything and it was getting worse as time went on. I know that SSRIs and I are a bad combo but the addict in me leaps for the easy fix every time a new psychiatrist brings it up. “Well, all SSRIs interact with you in different ways so try this one, I think it’ll fix you”. I’ve heard that story so many times it’s baffling that I still fall for it, but as I said it’s the addict in me. I stopped taking that medication on Tuesday and already feel a thousand percent more intelligent and ambitious. It’ll probably lead me to write more often. It’s difficult to write when one doesn’t care about waking up in the morning.
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Kayla, my academic counselor who has inspired me on more than one occasion, called me a couple weeks ago to let me know if I changed my program focus from cyber security to software engineering I could graduate almost a full year early. This would also save me roughly $15k.
Of course I agreed because I’m going to college to get a bachelor’s degree; the program certification I receive is irrelevant to me. I’m going to be bogged down quite a bit by extra classes over the next several months but I should graduate by the end of July.
It’s bewildering… it seems like not so long ago that I was hiding beer bottles under my bed and peeing out of my bedroom window so that nobody would hear me go to the bathroom. College was certainly not on my mind! Now here I am about to graduate and, hopefully, begin a career in a field I eagerly desire to be a part of.
Writing here has taken more than a back seat in my life… one could say it’s not even in the car anymore. I still intend to update this blog when the mood suits me and it’s conceivable that I’ll find an interest in writing in the future. I’ve simply realized that writing was always a way for me to indulge in the megalomania and sociopathic narcissism that came with all of my flaws such as addiction and inaction. Now that those are dissolving before my eyes, I just don’t care about expressing myself to people who don’t know me.
Some day I’d like to publish academic articles and possibly a book or two which aren’t at all focused on me but I don’t know that I’ll ever return to the mental illness that gripped me for most of my life which compelled me to talk about how brilliant I was and how stupid everybody else was. We’re all the same.
Lately my YouTube history has been peppered with recorded police interrogations of murderers and lesser criminals. I’m creeped out by people who watch too many true crime shows because they seem to be a bit unhinged themselves, but I find interrogations to be a more genuine study of psychology.
Criminal behavior hasn’t been a subject I’ve been particularly fascinated by in my lifetime. Both the criminal acts themselves and the mainstream public’s response to them are depressing, and I try not to subject myself to information that makes me feel bitter. For example, knowing what we know about how psychopathologies develop, if you can’t fathom feeling sympathy for even the most hardened criminal in the world, you simply aren’t a very serious person.
It goes without saying that we all have agency and when we commit a heinous act we need to be held accountable by our given society, but to pretend criminals are just “bad people” is to guarantee that more and more criminals will be produced. Treating a disease is always more difficult than treating its symptoms so it’s no surprise that our solution in America is to put people in prison and talk about “monsters” and “scum” on social media, while ignoring the drug addicted thieves that we are raising in our own homes.
Emotionally, I still find it difficult to not see both pedophiles and domestic abusers as “other” but logically I know that it’s not as though they simply materialized out of a puff of smoke. That whole agapic love thing is stretched to its limit in these cases. However, only by knowing and confronting such individuals can we ever begin to rescue their victims pre-emptively and, maybe in a few dozen centuries, eliminate the psychopathologies entirely.
Previously, I wrote about how 2020 wasn’t nearly as bad a year as the zeitgeist would have us believe. Our past twelve months have been the best year of my life, unequivocally. While many have certainly suffered job losses, death, and pending homelessness, I don’t believe this is nearly as widespread a problem as is sometimes claimed on television. Certainly the poorest of us have been affected the most, but they are affected the most by literally everything that happens, so we can’t exactly claim to have pity for them while sitting warm and snug behind our desks.
Much of the last year confirmed what the most cynical among us have said for decades: America isn’t that great and it’s already crested the hill of its twilight age. What should have been a minor illness that was easily contained by the more successful people’s of the world has devastated our economy and shone a spotlight upon the depravity of our political and social landscapes. I use the phrase decidedly because shining a spotlight on something does well to illuminate one specific problem while leaving millions of others in the dark. As such, I’ve never been less convinced that we’ll actually do anything about any of these problems. In fact, there’s basically no point to list any of them.
John Vervaeke, a cognitive neuroscience professor at University of Toronto, has for the past couple years been recording and publishing a series of lectures titled Awakening from the Meaning Crisis which I strongly urge everyone reading this to check out. It illustrates everything I’ve ever talked about throughout my life in a better way than I could ever hope to.
I truly hate the phenomenon in which every year, all news and social media content has to point out how horrible the year has been. If all you can focus on is the negative aspects of the last 365 days, the events of the year aren’t the problem.
Don’t get me wrong, 2020 wasn’t the best year of my life but it was one of the better ones. I understand I’m not one of the millions of people who lost their jobs either temporarily or permanently. I didn’t lose a business or have to drop out of school (or even change my academic plan whatsoever although I did willingly). Even then… if that stuff did happen, it happened. Bitching about it is not a replacement for reflection and action. That attitude is why so many people who get hit with these situations have no savings or plan to fall back on. Sure, we can talk about how they’re victims of circumstance or society, but give me a break. You can’t complain about how horrible your life is for 20 years and expect it to get better.
When people see me reading a book, more often than not a science or technical book, they ask if it’s for “school” (which school would require the reading of 12 Rules for Life, I am unsure). I agree, consciously I thought out of ease, but it occurred to me that I’m shying away from embarrassment I feel for being “caught reading”. Why? Does one need to be in college to read anything other than a Dan Patterson novel? (I’ve never read a Dan Patterson novel. They could be quite good, I only offer them as pulp trash due to the opinions of others).
Lately I’ve been able to finally feel a sense of gratitude for the challenges I face at work and in my personal life. Less so in school because I still feel stupid and unworthy whenever I don’t get something correct on my first attempt, but I’m working on that. Still, this is a radical change in my attitude. I now see life’s problems as opportunities to practice being the kind of man I wish to become. Every time something outrageous and childish happens at work I think “this is the perfect opportunity for me to practice not engaging in gossip or drama”… and it works! I feel a lot better about myself at the end of the day.
Hospitals are all stretched thin, I’m told, but I have applied to volunteer at three different ones now and haven’t gotten a call from any of them. Perhaps the people responsible for calling applicants have COVID.