Coffee

Would you like to go to Peet’s and sip a cup of coffee until the coffee is ice cold and tastes like coffee flavored spit?

and keep sipping until we start to run out of words and ramble about the same topic that started the day?

until the place fills up with the afternoon crowd while we remain hunkered down at our little table?

until it thins out again and our voices can return to their normal volume?

and keep sipping while I embarrass myself on a tangent that lost any semblance of intelligence hours ago?

while the crowd returns in the evening as everyone stops off after work?

until both our cups are empty for the third time?

and keep sipping after that little last drop that hardly constitutes a drop?

and on the drive home and on the couch until we feel too tired to keep sipping?
and still keep sipping while I put on another pot to refresh our worn out cups?

until we grow old and decide we’ve sipped enough?

then enjoy the silence and the stillness next to me?

I think I would like that. And I think I’d finally be almost ready to call it a day.

Coffee

Exceptional

When I look at a picture of our Solar System,

I think I can see me somewhere in the background

If I focus hard enough, I can make out a little figure

It looks like an ant or a dot or an atom

It looks like a pixel

(It looks like emptiness)

But if I squint, I can see I’m smiling

 

An expanse towards infinity, I am there

I should see the rest of humanity, we’re all the same size

But I only see me

And if I look closer, I notice the planets and stars

Seem to follow some pattern

They rotate and revolve around a point

Even my Sun follows

It’s that little spot where I’m sure I see me

 

I think I see me

The planets and stars all tend to agree

I am the center of everything

Exceptional

Life

I probably spend to much time thinking about meaning. Trying to define it like a philosopher has to define terms. A mathematician with words. Lay out your assumptions and prove it. I’m trying to define meaning and getting nowhere. I wonder if the lack of meaning in the exercise is ironic enough for me to keep going.

What I want to write about is a friend of mine. She’s really quite lovely in many ways and quite lost in the most profound ways. She lacks meaning – whatever its definition is – as much as anyone I’ve met or read about. When she talks about her future, it’s as if she’s planning the future of some woman she’s never met and knows nothing about. She throws out career options at random and derives little happiness, meaning, or pleasure from any of them. I don’t mean to criticize her – I think she’s great in most ways – I simply worry about her. I worry about her in 5 years. I worry about her in 15. When it starts getting too late to start anything.

It’s not like other friends. I have stupid (read: silly) friends who want to be actors and musicians. Very dangerous and uncomfortable careers. No guarantees at all, or anything even resembling guarantees. I worry about them as well. They’re my friends, I love them, I want them to succeed and be happy and comfortable and fulfilled and not worry about paying the rent and all the rest of it. But I’m happy they are trying to do what they care about doing. Something that gives them a sense of meaning. The risks are scary but they have a direction.

On the other hand, I’m not sure she has any idea which way to turn. She’s a good person, more or less. I’ve talked to her about this along with several other people, and she seems to acknowledge she doesn’t know what to do, but then buries it somewhere. She buries the lack of meaning and searches for it in the superficial.

It’s one of those situations you can’t do much to influence. You can’t deliver meaning to someone. But it’s painful to watch. It’s more painful than watching failure. There’s sometimes something heroic in failing. In starting a journey and hitting a set back. At least there’s some sense of movement. Some sense of progress. In 5 years things will be different. But standing still is terrifying to watch.

I don’t know what to do besides encourage exploration. The sort of exploration that most people do in high school and focus on in college. I think she finds it tiresome and is embarrassed by being behind so many others. To be fair to her, a great number of people are just as unsatisfied and lost as she is. I often count myself among them. If she was willing to accept it and embrace it, then I think she could start to change it.

I’m doing little more than rambling here. My professor would have failed me.

Life

Gone for a Week (or so)

I went on a bit of a vacation over the last week. Most of the details are boring, but I’ll pull a classic move and pull out the vacation slideshow.

I went to Los Angeles and met up with some old friends. Most of the time was spent doing nothing at all – hanging out, eating, talking – but perhaps the most enjoyable time was spent at Disneyland. I’ve loved Disneyland my whole life. It was my first vacation as an infant and I’ve continued going regularly ever since. Some people are probably a bit cynical about the place, and possibly rightly so, but I can’t help but love it. The ridiculous prices and unbearable heat don’t get me down. Most things can be worked around, and if you know how to work it, it’s a great place to be.

 

 

Last Friday was Dapper Day at Disneyland. It’s an unofficial event that happens twice a year. The name is self-explanatory, but in case you haven’t heard the word dapper in the last 50 years, it’s basically used as a synonym for classy as fuck, in this case. As you can see, I’m an exemplary model.

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The easiest trick to enjoy Disneyland is to show up right when the park opens and do whatever rides you most want to do. It’s likely you can knock those out right away and stock up on FastPasses to use during the rest of the day. At the busiest times, midday and early evening, you can either go hang out at your hotel or just walk around and enjoy the scenery without worrying about getting on rides.

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As I said, when it starts getting crowded, go chill somewhere and eat something awesome like this raspberry macaroon.

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At night, crowds tend to thin out, but sometimes it stays crowded late. It’s a risk sometimes, to wait.

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Waiting in line for the carousel.

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Some of the beautiful people.

 

 

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My friends don’t blog so I try to keep them out of things when possible (it’s their decision to talk about their lives or not), but this silly ass picture was too good of a summary of the day to leave off. Enjoy.
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It was fun. Things really seem to fade away at Disneyland like nowhere else, for me. I’ll get back to posting about the lack of the “self” and utilitarianism soon. That should bore you all to death.

Gone for a Week (or so)

Love

I want to kill you, you know?

Not this physical thing you call you, but what you’ve decided you are. The image of yourself that you’ve built. And I want you to kill me. We shouldn’t have anniversaries every year, we should have funerals. Both prepared to bury what doesn’t fit anymore, no matter how closely we held those thoughts up to then.

I’ve been shedding skin, but more like killing myself, continuously for two years now. I can’t be sure who I will be next month. Which parts of me will be destroyed. Maybe nothing has survived. Who is this person?

We build our lives on ideas or beliefs, but very rarely do we tear those pillars down. And too often we continue building on an unstable foundation so that the final product is ill-designed and fragile. Too many structures exist to counteract the initial unbalance, the overlooked error. Bandages. Doing nothing but hiding a mistake. Another lie to cover, which itself will need to be covered soon. Save yourself from the truth that will result in you crumbling. Because you fear you can’t rebuild. That this idea keeps you alive, even if it doesn’t hold the same weight it did when you first found it. Regardless of its truth, you think you need it to survive.

We aren’t good at predicting the future.

Love

Giant

I’ve made it my goal in life to become an intellectual giant.

Not only to crush old and feeble ideas, the ideas that shouldn’t be living still, that hold us in some past that we pretend to have moved on from, or an idealized as a golden age of living that never existed, when things were “right” (for a tiny minority of the population. Cross that out, the picture perfect nuclear family.).
But I dream of becoming a giant because I never want to be afraid of a thought. No idea should be overwhelming. But the truth is, ideas can kill. Give a bad idea to anyone, and watch her tip. It works the same with good ideas. Ideas that are strong and true, but too heavy. Too much for some people to hold. Take away identity. Take away freedom. Watch her tip. And I tipped with her. Ideas turned me into a child again. The same four year old crying because I thought I had been abandoned. This time it wasn’t my parents who I thought left me behind. It was myself. Ideas took me away from me. They’re bigger. And some are dangerously wrong. But even the right ones are stronger than we admit. I hid from them as long as I could. I was traveling from foxhole to foxhole. Carving out bunkers any time I stopped moving. Only getting a glimpse of the monster before ducking behind denial. The safety inherent in old ideas. The comfort of being pacified by your own mind. Nothing too drastic to break us out of ourselves. We hold concrete ideas of who we are. It’s hard to convince the mind that it’s wrong.

Until I become a giant and no thought scares me. I’ll be able to lose or gain any at any time. I’ll be strong.

Giant

Is It Your Choice?

I’ve been trying to write this post (on and off, obviously) for days now. I’ve been thinking a bit about personal responsibility and what exactly constitutes responsibility. I happened to be reading Out of Character by David DeSteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo and the “self” was a central theme. Near the end of the book, the authors related a particular study that I found relevant.

“The team presented more than sixty white physicians with medical information about several African American patients who were experiencing chest pains. The physicians had to recommend whether or not to treat each patient with clot-busting drugs that would reduce the likelihood of a subsequent cardiac failure.
[. . .]
physicians […] were significantly less likely to recommend potentially lifesaving treatment for black patients than for white ones. What’s more, these same physicians didn’t report any prejudiced feelings on their questionnaires; they seem to have no conscious awareness of their bias.”

There aren’t many professions as trusted as doctors. While they definitely aren’t 100% trusted by the public, they are usually absurdly high ranking (number 2 behind nurses in this gallop poll). We trust doctors to do their best to help in almost every situation. When a patient comes in from an accident, we expect them to do all they can to save the person. When someone comes in with an illness or complaint, we expect them to listen and respond to every patient only using the facts. The person on the table doesn’t matter. I think most people feel this way and trust doctors are doing their best.

And it turns out, they are doing their best. They try to treat every patient the same regardless of any extenuating or unrelated circumstances. But if this is how it worked, I probably wouldn’t be writing a post about it.

Unfortunately, we humans have some called implicit biases. The IAT (implicit association test) was designed to sort through our explicit feelings about all sorts of things, including skin color. So when researchers looked at doctors, we might expect them to score the same as most people on IATs. And there’s no concern from those results. But what they do reveal is connected to how they behave. They don’t feel any outwardly racist way towards anyone, but their treatment isn’t reflecting that, it’s reflecting their implicit biases.

 

Can we place any blame on these doctors? Are they responsible for their decisions in any way? Certainly I can’t imagine a scenario in which a doctor could be charged with malpractice. There are few people who would argue that all these doctors are purposely treating black people differently than white people, that they care less, or that they even consider skin color when treating someone. But the results of the study are clear. Different treatment does occur. If it’s not the doctors doing, who is it?

There’s something very odd about thinking of our own free will. We acknowledge these situations. Certain decision. Certain behaviors are motivated by things we aren’t aware of and likely can’t be aware of. In addition to not knowing why we do certain things, oftentimes we don’t even realize we’re doing them in the first place. We know this from countless studies but we don’t apply this information widely to our lives. I feel like I have free will. I feel as though I’m making decisions. But wouldn’t making a decision include being responsible for the consequences of that decision? If I’m not responsible then in what sense am I doing it/am I deciding? And if I grant that there are possibly some things that are being decided without my conscious awareness, how do I know how far that goes? With the complexity of life, experience, and behavior, how do I untangle any decision I make from underlying, unknown influences and biases? How do I know when it’s me? What does that even mean?

 

 

 

* As I mentioned, I had a lot of trouble writing this. Not that I think what I wrote is completely terrible, though it is terribly incomplete. And that was the problem I couldn’t shake. There are volumes of books on the subject so I shouldn’t expect to wrap it up, but I did have more to say, without a clever way to say it.

* Last note for any hard-nosed philosophers out there. I’m using me, I and the like to refer to the conscious part of the self. I know the unconscious processes are also part of me, but for the sake of making it easier on me (there it is again), I’m being relaxed with their meaning. I’m not a dualist. Should go without saying but some people (assholes like me, for instance) like extreme clarity.

Is It Your Choice?