Remember High School?

I wish I didn’t sometimes. I found a stack of papers with my painful high school writing all over them. The first one I picked up was a free write for creative writing entitled Jerk. It just talked about how much of an asshole I am. I’m going to dig through the rest of these over the next few days and maybe post or talk about a few.

The picture isn’t intentionally blurry but I’m happy it is.

Remember High School?

Meaning

I still talk about moments but they don’t mean more than what I’ve forgotten. Sadly, what I’ve forgotten is the majority. What seems to be insignificant, simply because it’s typical. But that’s what life is built on. My friendships and the love I have for the people around me stems from the nothingness we mutually filled our lives with. The conversations and dinners I don’t remember. The coffee and arguments. The sing-alongs. The late nights sitting in circles on floors. The drives to and from each others houses. The local shows with bands we never heard of and never heard again. All the band practices in 100 degree garages. The sounds and silences. Every day life.
But I remember the road trips. Most of the beaches and hotels. New Year’s Eve. Fourth of July. The shitty parties. The midnight swims in community pools. The record release shows. Recording in bathrooms. Exploring the state. I’ll talk about all these moments and forget the moments that made them mean everything they do. The reason we laughed so hard isn’t unknown. These events didn’t happen in isolation. The fun of our experiences came from hours and hours of nothing special. Sitting in buffets all day talking about (now obviously meaningless and forgotten) life events, or making as many stupid jokes as we could. I remember a vanishingly small amount of what we’ve said to each other over the years and that’s like a little tragedy. Why I love you as much as I do today is because of all those things I can’t remember. I have highlights but that’s not the good stuff. It’s not the meaning. The weight. Remove the road trips and you’re still my best friend, but remove the innocuous and I’d barely know you.
I still tell stories, but I think we’re doing it wrong.

Meaning

Notes From Last Monday… or something

There’s nothing separating me from the person who works at the Safeway deli, except that I’d kill myself if I found myself there. I think that makes them better than me.

I am weak in most ways. Literal and metaphorical.

I equate meaning with mental. I equate love with life. I have an imbalanced equation.

I am a failed artist turned failed scientist. There’s a constant there but I’m trying to ignore it.

I think I’d feel better about myself if I could build something. Then I’d lament the wasted time.

I’m a self-hating elitist.

The hardest part about writing a best man speech is realizing that my best friend and I would make fun of every word of it under any other circumstances.

Also, I think they deserve Shakespeare up here and somehow they have to settle for a hopeful grad student and weekend drummer. They’re amazing people but I question their choice of friends.

I learned to be responsible with money because my family was poor. I Think we should be careful with limited resources. Love, for example.

I think pets exist to teach kids how to deal with death. Those fucking little tragedies. I want to feel I have some say. I hate being powerless watching her die. There’s nothing I wouldn’t give to keep her alive. And it doesn’t matter how much it hurts, it’s still going to happen.

When you start feeling cocky about being human, do some yard work and marvel at the life living under our stupid noses. Some of which can seriously injury you.

I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t be a little nicer to everyone if we reminded ourselves how much life sucks.

Notes From Last Monday… or something

Rise of the Nerds

This post is years too late. There’s no need to talk about it anymore since the nerds/geeks have risen and there’s no way to shove Iron Man back into the niche world that he escaped from. But the following is a conversation I have with my friends every time a new comic book blockbuster comes out, so here I am, wasting your time.

As someone who constantly harps on losing arbitrary divisions between people, it may be surprising that I’m not on the comic book movie bandwagon. Not only do I not care for the movies much, I don’t like how popular they are and I wish they would stop making them.

Superheroes, to me, were an idealized world. One in which, justice was all that mattered. It’s like justice porn. A nerd could become a superhero. The death of your parents could motivate you to greatness. Bullies always got their comeuppance. Good would (almost) always win (eventually). It was a private world that helped me forget high school existed. I had a similar love of movies but they were different in that those generally were grounded in reality. No one flies around and saves the day in most indie flicks. Liking Batman meant you needed to learn at least part of his 70+ years of history. How many Robin’s are there? What happened to the second one had a major impact on Bruce’s life. Who are Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter? Their relationship was fascinating and complex (including a secret son!) that couldn’t be properly explored in a movie. There was an effort required to enjoy superheroes. The work that went into being a superhero fan is gone.

Now the world of superheroes is associated with billions of dollars (which is fine, that’s how the world works) and the people who helped make my life miserable. And the latter is what bothers me. The people who made fun of me wear superhero t-shirts. It may seem like I’m rejecting a way to relate to the people who thought I was a loser, but I’m not. We don’t actually have a new way to relate, superheroes are just cool now and I’m still not cool. Today, the sort of kids who were mean to me ironically have a Captain America symbol on the front of their shirts as they douche up the place. Just last month I was eating at a lovely restaurant with a few friends. A large, strong looking, man was enjoying some drinks at the bar wearing an Avengers shirt, watching some sort of sporting event. He was a bit loud, to the point of being obnoxious, but it was forgivable until he started yelling and throwing glasses. I’m an elitist asshole, fine, but I don’t want people like that to like what I like.

 

 

I’ll add that I think it’s great that these movies might be helping the sale of comics.

 

 

 

* I wrote this a few weeks ago and never posted it because I don’t think I explained myself well enough to be as judgmental as I am. I don’t know, I guess I’m hoping you’re all much more clever than I am and understand what I mean even when I fail to say it. If someone wants to call me on it, that’s fair, I’ll try to explain myself better to you. Apologies for errors, yet again, I don’t want to read it again to try to fix it, haha.

Rise of the Nerds

Sometimes It Sucks: Take 2

I have a hard time being honest about the goals and desires of others. A lot of time I talk about the general population as if I have a decent understanding of their wants. But really, I think I’m misrepresenting them by worrying so much about philosophy and science. There isn’t a better way to go about it though. You need to formalize ideas somehow or we aren’t having conversations.

I don’t think most people care. Not because there is something fundamentally wrong with them but because it’s hard to care when other things seem more pressing. Meaning in life or figure out to pay rent? Here on wordpress, most of us probably take time to think about our problems and life in general. We think about our goals and dreams, and usually they are fairly lofty. We have a weird sample because only people who are motivated to write about their interests, relationships, feelings, jobs, etc. come here. All we see are those types of people. I think writers, in general, are aware. They analyze and think in order to write. But not everyone in the population is writing a blog. Not everyone is concerned about meaning. Many more are concerned about how to get ahead, how to get out, how to improve things, and other, more practical, stuff like that.

I’m not claiming the practical stuff isn’t important, but it’s just not the same. And it’s hard to honestly talk about the society and intuitions and morality when our underlying drives are so different. Does everyone want the good life? Probably but we aren’t going about it the same way at all. I’m a super important college graduate, more worried about getting into grad school than eating dinner tonight. I’m not rich by any means, I’m just okay not being rich by any means. I can survive and I’m okay with that. I’d rather sit around and imagine idealized worlds to argue some, probably, irrelevant point about human nature (that won’t change a thing even if it turns out to be completely true) than think about how to make money and “move up” in the world. I’m sure many people around here feel similarly about different types of things. I think people here would sacrifice money and stability for the chance to write books or sing songs.

The trouble is, that isn’t how most of the world works. Hearing the word business puts me to sleep, but we’d really need to rethink society without it. I feel the same way about fame and celebrity. But how I feel doesn’t change the number of gossip magazines in the check-out line of Safeway. A study found that many people want fame just for the sake of being famous. There isn’t an internal drive to make art. To act. To sing. To write. It’s just the recognition and money. (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/2013/09/04/why-do-you-want-to-be-famous/)

So how do we talk about people who want fame and people who want meaning under the general heading of the good life? How do we do it, philosophers?

Sometimes It Sucks: Take 2

Life Can Suck

I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t be a little nicer to each other if we reminded ourselves how much life sucks for everyone.

Not entirely, of course, life is often awesome, but there’s a whole lot of struggling going on that we seem to ignore. Out of all the people you see on the average day, how many do you think are absolutely killing it? Maybe you live somewhere full of success, but for me, the percentage isn’t high.

I feel so wrapped up in my own need for success (whatever definition I’m using). I constantly see people focused on becoming happy or changing their situation or what their next step in life is, that we forget that everyone else is just as worried about it. It’s not always greed, it’s forgetting that not everyone knows and understands what you’re trying to do in life.

I really think we focus too much on obtaining happiness. I think we care too much about ourselves. I understand the drive to be satisfied with life, and we shouldn’t lose it, but it’s almost all people think about. My goals. My dreams. My relationships. I want to make those the best I can. But so does everyone else. And chances are, they are messing up just as often as you. They are just as scared. Just as upset. Just as frustrated.

Maybe if we stopped trying to convince ourselves that we are awesome all the time to cover up the fears, we would be a little more understanding. You wouldn’t need to turn your hat backwards and run into me on the sidewalk. You wouldn’t need to run a stop sign downtown with your music blasting. You wouldn’t need to cut in line at the restaurant.

But I’m tired, and I’m sure you have enough on your minds without needing to worry about a stupid rant from some idiot online. But I hope you keep in mind how tired I am and give me a break.

Life Can Suck

Experience is the Best?

College students were asked to recall the last time they spent over 100 dollars on either an experiential purchase or a material purchase. Then they asked them about their satisfaction with the purchase to figure out which brought (more) lasting happiness. The conclusion was that the experiential purchase made people happier, but I’m not so sure.
There’s an issue I have with studies like this (ie self reporting) because they bring up the problem of “true” happiness. Let’s say you spend a lot of money on a trip to a beautiful nature reserve in Suriname. But bam, you get sick on the first day. You power through and hike so you don’t waste the opportunity, or the money, but it’s rough. The sights are lovely but you feel terrible the whole time. The next day you feel a bit better but realize you stubbed your toe pretty hard on the hike yesterday and have a pronounced limp. Again, you power through and see more sights, but every other step hurts. You wake up with a stronger toe, but after walking with a limp for a day, your other leg is almost unusable. Because of your limp you made the “good” leg work harder and used muscles you don’t normally use to make up for the change in gait. This day you take it pretty easy, but the muscles ache any time you move and your head still hurts from being sick and your toe is still a tiny bit swollen… etc.
When you return from a trip like that you have a million stories and they sound awesome. “I was coughing and sneezing and my head was pounding but it wasn’t so bad. I was able to get through it and hike up the side of a mountain and see miles and miles of beautiful forest.” It’s a similar story for working through the limp.
I was thinking we might misremember exactly how much fun we had for a number of reasons. The first might be money. Who wants to feel like the wasted all the money they spent for the experience?

The more relevant reason might be the retrospective impact bias. We overestimate the impact of past events in specific ways. I’m sure everyone has caught themselves looking at some aspect of their past with rose-tinted glasses. If we are having a particularly bad day, we might remember our vacation being quite nice. The terrible pain is pushed out of our mind and we think of how awesome it was compared to the drudgery of daily life. Remember the sights? (not the migraine). Remember the hike? (not the painful limp). That was an amazing experience (minus the throwing up)!

But here comes the twist. Does it matter? If we remember a great vacation even when it was a pain in the ass, which is real? Memory is sort of messy like that. If you really think something happened, then it did (to you). If you think you’re trip was amazing, people would have a hard time convincing you otherwise. I’ll be a horrible scientist for a second (and most of my life, really) and talk about a personal experience to argue it does matter.

Last year, a friend and I went to visit some other friends across the state. The trip was good… but not completely. There was the 14 hours in a car. LA traffic. Lack of sleep. Etc. It was almost as tiring and stressful as work or finals week. On top of that her cat was sick when we got back. Fast forward to last month and we went on another trip, with a little hesitation on my side. (It wasn’t great hindsight on my end, I was just tired already and not in the mood.) Again, the trip was okay but the same issues came up. And she went through them as if they were new. She basically didn’t remember the bad parts from last year.

Fuck it, I’m tired.

tl;dr – We don’t always know what our experiences were, but does it matter? Sort of. It’s hard to accurately plan for the future if you don’t know how you feel about the past. (Sorry for misusing some words, it’s hard to write straightforward, easy to understand sentences without simplifying.) So should you go on a similar vacation? Maybe not.

Experience is the Best?