Who am I?

I think most people would say they have at least a general idea of who they are. If they were asked, they could boil it down to a few sentences that highlight what they feel are their most important characteristics. Their personality. The “me.” And they can confidently assess how they would respond to any number of hypotheticals.

But reading any neuroscience or psychology book would provide the reader with plenty of examples of subjects not having any idea why they did what they did or why they think how they think.

This is hard to imagine. I feel like I know me. I spend enough time with the guy, after all. But it’s easier to see in people with mental disorders.

I was watching this documentary show called Enjoy It (with comedian Brody Stevens). He had a mental break after stopping his meds. At one point he says something like, I read what I wrote before I went to the hospital, and it was crazy.

It was crazy, but it was him. In the moment, it wasn’t even remotely odd to him. He thought he was clear headed. He thought he knew what he was doing. He thought what he was saying was true.

I bring Brody up, not to criticize anyone with a mental disorder, but to show a dramatic example of what everyone goes through. “How could I have done that?” “What was I thinking?” We’ve all been there, and we all sort of forget that we sometimes can’t imagine being the person we were not all that long ago.

Most of us go through moments of self doubt or periods during which we try to find ourselves. But these are thought of as breaks from the norm. Finite periods of time, perhaps a year off from school. But really, from moment to moment we have drives and influences we aren’t remotely aware of. Those people who made the decisions we have a hard time accepting on reflection, were us.

It makes me feel like I don’t have a decent understanding of me. Or what it even means to have an understanding of me.

Any thought I have right now, might be a thought that I later think of as crazy. I have no way of knowing.

 

This isn’t even close to being ready to post, but I can’t write anymore at the moment and don’t want to end up sitting on it for months like I have with other posts.

Who am I?

Jumping off a Cliff/Unwanted thoughts

I was listening to a podcast, as I often am, and one of the hosts said something I found surprising. He said that a lot of people who are afraid of heights are afraid because when they peer over the edge the think about how easy it would be to jump. They imagine how little effort it would take, how it would feel to fall all that time with no possibility of changing your mind, and fear that you can’t stop yourself from doing it. Granted, that’s not why everyone is afraid of heights, but some people feel that way.

The urge to jump isn’t surprising to me. I think about it every time I’m up on a cliff hiking or standing on the balcony of a hotel room. Sometimes I’ll get a little lost imagining it happening and snap back when I get a sudden free falling sensation. So none of that sounded strange to me. I was surprised, however, because I had assumed everyone had similar thoughts. Maybe to different degrees, but I thought it crossed their minds. It seemed so natural to me. No one and nothing taught me to imagine jumping off a cliff. And, actually, the worrisome part isn’t the fear, it’s that it sometimes doesn’t sound all that bad. It’s almost appealing. I have no desire to sky dive or base jump or even bungee jump. They feel like cop outs to me. I want to jump, and I want to deal with the consequences of jumping. I want to know there’s nothing I can do once my legs extend and propel me off the ledge. I want to know what time feels like when I only have a few seconds left. I want to feel the panic (and maybe acceptance?).

It’s not good. I know that and it’s a little scary. Most of the time I have no trouble controlling it. It’s a fleeting thought that briefly takes hold and quickly lets go. Every so often, it’s more. It holds on for some time and I have to put distance (at least a few steps) between me and the ledge.

I know these thoughts sound suicidal, but they aren’t. I have no interest in dying at the moment. They are reminiscent of something I’ve read about called intrusive thoughts, and can be associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression (and maybe other mental disorders?).

The comedian Maria Bamford has an album called Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome. Enjoy, and forget about jumping off of things or driving into a tree.

Jumping off a Cliff/Unwanted thoughts

Jury Duty

Went to my first jury duty on Monday. I’ve been summoned a number of times before, but I had excuses (school) and the time I didn’t, the case was settled or dismissed when I called the day before. None of that yesterday. I showed up to the courthouse bright and early and waited in line. After a lazy and disinterested security guard watched me walk through a metal detector, I was lucky enough to sit in a lobby for almost 2 hours.

Everyone seems to hate jury duty and it’s easy to see why. It’s usually way too early in the morning, it stops them from doing whatever they had planned that day, even if it was just working, and the worst part is the waiting. I was there for around 5 hours total. The last 2.5 hours were actually fascinating to me. But up to the selection process, it was so completely infuriating. Why did we need to be there? The check in/roll call process took all of 15 minutes, but it was spread over 2 hours. Then we were broken up into smaller groups, which took 5 minutes, 10 if you want to take your time. But there you have it. Two and a half hours until we were stuffed into a courtroom and the judge listened to hardship claims. This must have been at least 30 minutes long. It was slightly interesting though. People went up and talked about why being a juror would be unreasonable for them. It centered around language issues or money issues. Most just didn’t want to be there and the judge asked pretty entertaining questions, obviously hearing these poor excuses countless times before. He let some people go and then it was potential juror question time.

I was second to be called to the jury box. It being my first time, I was a bit nervous. I have some reservations about how the courts work in America (and probably elsewhere if I was aware of how they worked elsewhere). And my current stance on free will and restorative justice and moral responsibility need some clarifying and I was a little worried they’d get in the way of my ability to think clearly about this, or any, case. But, I wanted to give it my best try. If you’re going to be there, then you should probably care.

Anyway, the first 18 called were quickly culled down to 10 or so (yes, they were slaughtered), and replaced. More were excused. More called up. I was able to hang in there for a long time. There were so many questions regarding our ability to be unbiased. This is interesting to me because I know that no one is unbiased, but I understood that the judge meant unbiased to the best of your ability and I stayed quiet. Then some bigger tests. “Can you be unbiased when listening to a police officer or priest testifying?” Hmmm. I’m a bit wary of authority figures. Cops aren’t my favorite people, and priests aren’t too high up there, either. But I thought I’d be able to judge the truth and honesty of their testimonies without bias. I know that there’s a good chance that unconsciously I would judge these people more critically than a regular person. Regardless, again, I kept my mouth shut. It was getting near the end of the process for us. The judge asked all his questions and the defense attorney asked hers (she asked a single question). The prosecutor was questioning us, and asking rather obtuse questions. While other questions were along the lines of, “Have you been involved with nonprofits before and would that experience prevent you from objectively assessing information regarding them?” Meanwhile, the prosecutor was talking about what it meant to find someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and the reason why we have juries in the first place. People were awkwardly answering her questions, and usually not doing very well.

Then she asked about company credit cards. And this is where I got in trouble rather suddenly and surprisingly. She asked who had one in the past. Maybe 6 or 7 people raised a hand. Then asked what they were told when they were given the credit card, they all said more or less the same thing, “Spend it on specific items relevant to the business.” So if you work in an office, you buy office supplies or use it to ship things out to other offices, whatever. That is what every single person said in regards to company cards. I was on board so far. She then asked “What would be okay to buy if you were given a company credit card without any rules?” (The wording was awkward, though I might not have remembered it word for word.) The question was stupid. She didn’t ask what I would buy if I were given a company credit card with no rules. She asked what is okay to buy. But the question is worse than that. Because any reasonable person would say something like, “Hey boss, who wordlessly handed me this company card, what can I use this on?” But her question presumes that he either said “Anything” or refused to answer. In which case, I answered as honestly as I could when she turned to me. I said you could use it to buy whatever you want. I knew this was the wrong answer. I knew she was trying to “cleverly” get us to say that there were ambiguities so that she could get rid of the potential jurors who would sympathize with the defendant. She was calling on our intuitions to say that it’s still wrong to buy something unrelated to the business even if it’s never stated. I knew I was going to get excused for my answer but I couldn’t let it pass. I felt I should point out how ridiculous the question was by giving an equally ridiculous answer. After I responded, an old lady in the row in front of me said that the question didn’t make sense. She said surely someone would mention what you could use the card for. Other people were equally baffled and said (not in these words) that it allowed for blurring the line. For instance, whether or not you can buy coffee on the way to work, or pay for your gas when driving to work. But I was the only one willing to do take it to it’s absurd, but logical, extreme.

In college, you normally aren’t allowed to cheat on tests or plagiarize material. Yet, I struggle to think of a course in which the professor didn’t hand out a syllabus with the Universities’ stance on cheating and plagiarism. On the first day of class you would often hear, “You all know this already, but we have to put it on the syllabus.” Even this isn’t a good analogy because the school has rules in place, the professors are simply required to remind us. In her scenario she didn’t say anything about there being rules in place that the person who handed you the card failed to mention. She said there were no rules. (The question contained so many assumptions. I should have just said it was a stupid question in a polite way in order to stay on.)

It terms of whether spending company money on anything you want is right or wrong is an irrelevant issue. It’s about what you can and can’t do. Would I buy a new home computer if my car service company gave me a card? No. Would I use the card to take me to Europe? No. I wouldn’t use the card on anything completely unrelated to the business that gave it to me, but what I would or wouldn’t do has nothing to do with the law or, more broadly, what is right and wrong. My personal held views of what people should and shouldn’t do only matter in regards to how I behave.

I was a little disappointed about being excused from the jury. I did feel it was inevitable, though.

Jury Duty

exercise

Trying to start this whole exercise thing I’ve been hearing so much about. Getting a little older, the fat stays fat a little longer. I’m trying to catch it before it builds up. I’m relatively active and always have been. Rode my bike to school. Walked around miles of campus (the damn thing is huge). I don’t need to do that for the time being, so I have to exercise for the sake of exercise or the pounds will pile on, probably around my midsection, leaving me with skinny arms and legs and a comically large stomach. The least fat could do is be considerate and spread out evenly. Maybe even give me a bit of an ass.

The only thing I seem to enjoy is riding my bike. Working out sounds terrible. Running is too rough on my taped together knees. Walking is boring. So is anything stationary. I have no idea what I’m doing. I just ride my bike until I feel like I’m dying, then turn around and hope I make it home. It’s about 90-100 degrees these days so it’s not especially fun. It does feel a little good though. I feel stronger. My back doesn’t hurt as much, either. Before I started frequently exercising, I would throw my back out from time to time. Real painful stuff. I could barely stand. And it’s all the more pathetic because I’m nowhere near my 40’s. My body seemed to be done with this living bullshit. Ready to start degrading already and I still have a few years left, hopefully.

exercise

A Plea

I’m not sure how many people read my little blog anymore since my output has decreased drastically. But I was hoping for some recommendations. Something I’ve asked for before, with some success.

I’m interested in anything, but preferably a book. However, if you have a kick ass record, I wouldn’t turn you away.

If you would like some sort of idea of my tastes, here’s an incomplete and slightly random list.

Popular science. Really interested in free will. Or morality/honesty/behavior. Dan Ariely is probably one of the most famous examples. (Or Bruce Hood, Robert Kurzban, Michael Gazzaniga, Dean Buonomano, or Daniel Kahneman, and so on.)

Kurt Vonnegut.

Derek Raymond is a lot of fun.

Jose Saramago (I need accents on this keyboard)

I’d be thankful for any poetry recommendations. It’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time, but never know where to start (a lot like classical music. Just give me CHOPIN!). The stuff in school never captured my attention and typing “rad poetry” in google usually comes up wanting.

I’m placing an order tomorrow and need another item to get that sweet free shipping. I have a long list of things I want to get around to reading and records I want, but nothing is demanding my attention right now. And lacking inspiration is sad.

I appreciate anyone willing to help me. Thank you.

(oh or if you know some good books about problems in the brain. Fascinating stuff.)

A Plea

Music and other

Some bullet points

I slept on Nick Cave for way too long. His album The Boatman’s Call is amazing. No More Shall We Part is beautiful. Love Letter is amazing. I don’t know why I never took the time before now.

Aimee Mann is a cool person. Her music isn’t bad, either. I’ve heard her on podcasts, namely Comedy Bang Bang, for years but never bothered to listen to her.

A band named Braid put out some rad 90’s second wave emo records before breaking up as emo morphed into both Dashboard Confessional and Bleed American Jimmy Eat World. About 16 years later, they have put out a new album and it’s wonderful. If you read anything about them, the word angular will be used, probably to describe the weaving guitars. The drummer is almost constantly impressive. Time signatures are useless. It’s a lot fun. And you don’t need to be ashamed of the fun in it. But when the novelty wears off, there will be more to discover. You can get a lot of listens out of counting along. Or use it as a jumping off point to find more of the 90’s emo scene that has recently been uncovered to an extent with Mineral, Texas is the Reason, and Sunny Day Real Estate (among others) reuniting or releasing new music.

Enough for now. There’s so much to discover in the world. Why don’t we get more time?

Music and other