Perpetually A Kid

There are times to be serious,

even if it’s the kind of sarcastic serious that looks full of composure but, simply, is a cynical resignation. I spend much too much time wondering how everyone else is doing it. Succeeding or failing, whatever. But living. Not struggling to figure out how to feed themselves enough times a day. Or take out the recycling, and get the mail. Or pull some weeds in the backyard. There’s a 45 minute precursor for me to get out of bed. Another before I end up in the shower. It resembles OCD a bit, in that there’s a vague feeling I’m reaching for before I feel ready to (insert verb here). There’s a lot of inaction that fuels stress before erupted in a fury of doing. Often undirected doing, but sometimes hyper-focused. I’ll write ten thousand words or clean the house without really realizing I’m doing it. I know I’m writing, but the volume is ignored.

But there’s always something. How overwhelming is life? I don’t think of good old days, or long for any previous periods of time, but there is a level of complexity to being alive right now that probably wasn’t present prior to democracy. Not to mention cell phone cameras. And it’s this weird pull of hating how informed one should be. Keeping up with politics so insane rich people stop hurting less fortunate people and trying to send up back to pre-democracy. And police shootings. And killer whales. And people ignoring that pigs are smarter than their pets. And much more just at home. Then looking out at the rest of the world. Countries I can’t understand. Countries that don’t look like life compared to smart phones and virtual reality. How much easier would it be to forget all of that and have fun? Then Peter Singer shows up again with John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. I’m neck deep in Julian Baggini.

I go to bed at the same spot I woke up in.

Perpetually A Kid

Challenge: Make it through this post*

“Nevertheless, as I have repeatedly emphasized, there is no little man inside the head. In addition, weaker versions don’t take the phenomenology really serious. True, upon your awakening from deep sleep, the conscious experience of selfhood emerges. As I described in the chapter on out-of-body experiences, this may have to do with body image becoming available for self-directed attention. But there is no one doing the waking up, no one behind the scenes pushing the Reboot button, no transcendental technician of subjectivity. Today, the key phrase is “dynamical self-organization.” Strictly speaking, there is no essence within us that stays the same across time, nothing that could not in principle be divided into parts, no substantial self that could exist independently of the body. A “self” in any stronger or metaphysically interesting sense of the word just does not seem to exist. We must face this fact: We are selfless Ego Machines.”
Thomas Metzinger

The difficulty in coming to terms with not having a self is that our brain works in a way that makes the self appear. The process by which this occurs just happens to be hidden from consciousness as well. So we don’t get to view the creation of a self. The raw data is not available to our conscious considerations. What is available is a coherent picture. Parts of our brain putting together information that, itself, doesn’t make much sense. Electromagnetic radiation. Edges, movement, specifically oriented lines are all processed independently, but a complete image is all that’s available to consciousness. Same with hearing. Same with touch. Same with temporal information. You brain prevents you from realizing there’s a delay between your finger touching something and the sensational or phenomenological experience. And your brain prevents you from realizing there’s a delay between light reaching your eye and a full image put together and delivered to your consciousness. We feel we live in the Now but we literally can’t process information instantly and can’t exist in the present that we sense. And we can’t make ourselves feel that delay any more than we can make ourselves feel like we don’t have a self. The best solution to survive in the world seems to be to act as if we do live in the Now and do have a self.

How could one possibly describe what it would be like to not have a self? Our language alone makes it nearly impossible to talk about any “one” without implying a “one” we are talking about. At a core level I can say I don’t think there is an “I” that exists, but I can’t think of how to write this sentence about my understanding without repeatedly referring to myself as anything but a self.

It’s like trying to imagine what it will feel like after we die and lose our conscious selves that we so strongly feel we have. How can you describe what it’s like to not have a conscious thinking self? I can say it’s probably a lot like dreamless sleep or being under an anesthetic, but that doesn’t describe much. The problem is it will feel like nothing because we won’t be able to feel it. I can’t imagine my conscious self not existing because I’d need a conscious self to view and experience the lack of experience. In the same way, we can’t talk about not having a self without referring to a self that thinks this way.

As Metzinger says, our self-model is transparent. We cannot see it no matter how hard we try. It is not available to us. Even if we become aware of it, we may not be able to escape it.

Last note on the ivory tower and the dangers of the educated ignoring the general public.

“The current explosion of knowledge in the empirical mind sciences is completely uncontrolled, with the multilevel dynamic of its own, and it speed is increasing. It is also unfolding in the ethical vacuum, driven solely by individual career interests and uninfluenced by political considerations. In the developed countries, it is widening the gap between the academically educated and scientifically well-informed, who are open to the scientific worldview, and those who never even heard of notions such as “the neural correlates of consciousness” or “phenomenal self model.” There are many people who cling to metaphysical belief systems, fearing that their inner Lebenswelt, or life-world, will be colonized by the new mind sciences.”
Thomas Metzinger

*if you made it through this post, I applaude you. I’m not sure what I’m getting at, really. Well, I sort of do, but it’s not easy to explain. The quotes in this post are from The Ego Tunnel: The Science Of The Mind and The Myth of the Self. It was difficult for me to get through, but I thought it was great. If you did make it this far, I owe you something. Let me know how to thank you. I’ll read something you recommend or wrote or listen to your favorite band.
Oh and if you can sort out what I actually said then I owe you even more.

Challenge: Make it through this post*

Notes from 2 Days: Obscure Poetry?

If that plane isn’t careful it’ll hit that other plane and come crashing down on my apartment building. I don’t want to die typing a note on my computer. This is my legacy!

Is there obscure poetry out there that anyone reading this can recommend? I was never able to get into “classic” poetry, but I’m very interested in the format. I enjoy abstract, and there’s something about incredibly plain/straightforward poetry that I’m drawn to. Perhaps it’s my simplistic mind. We don’t like what we don’t understand, right?

Does every hat fit God or does he appear imperfect in some cases?

My dad told me he thought he would die by 30 because he kept doing borderline irresponsible things. Once he ditched school with friends and went drag racing on a mountain. They crashed into the side of the mountain, one kid went through the windshield, my dad ripped the hand grip off the door, and they all somehow walked away. Oh and the other direction was a cliff. Then once when working on a orange grove as a youth, he was riding on the side of a tractor, and it rolled. In college, he developed a semi-serious eye problem but took months to go to a doctor because he just assumed it was from all the illicit drugs he was doing. He was a good role model if you can believe it.

Why is happiness worth pursuing?

There aren’t two types of people in the world. It’s not clever anymore, if it ever was.

I need to do more research about loneliness. I hear we’re social animals but I haven’t tried to confirm this. I think it may be a ruse. Right off the bat, it’s the old naturalistic fallacy.

I think I might read to impress myself, sometimes. I suppose not every page can be fun. Improvement is a struggle. If vanity forces growth, I guess vanity can’t be all bad, right?

When you say “I don’t know why” that means something’s wrong with you’re brain. You need to figure out why you have that intuition and see if it makes sense. “I just don’t like it” is what fools say.

Oddly enough, saying “I don’t know” is good. Go learn.

Notes from 2 Days: Obscure Poetry?

Go Without

I’m conflicted on this issue because I feel more in control. I can’t tell if it’s an illusion or some limited form of growth. Am I confident that I know more about who I am? That’s assuming there is someone there to know. The only thing I may have figured out is that the question is pointless. It’s asking the wrong question. It’s searching for an impossible answer. But we need a destination, even if it’s abstract. The questions have to stop. They are just so damn frustrating and we need to start moving forward eventually. Though it opens our minds and expands our understanding, lateral motion only gets us so far. Even diagonal motion is slower unless the end point is undefined. The flow may pull us across the river but we end up downstream of our target. But we know our years are limited and we want to end up somewhere. So we put our heads down and kick. And say we figured it out to keep us from treading water indefinitely.

I can’t live the life of a painter and drummer and punk and activist and doctor without borders and lover and friend and veterinarian and physicist and geologist and neuroscientist and philosopher and psychologist and social worker and novelist and photographer and parent and millionaire philanthropist and footballer and runner and guitarist and singer and gamer and foster parent and etcetera.

Those options were available to me when I was a kid. But I had to pick at some point. Maybe not just one, but definitely not all of them. Simply making the decision to stick with one doesn’t make me any less interested in all the other options. I didn’t “figure out” what I want to do, I had to choose before I ended up permanently lost, homeless, or dead. Or worse yet, mediocre.

Go Without

Irresponsible Creatives slash Irresponsible Support

I love finding weirdos with weird interests and illogical pursuits. Though I love reason, passionate hope is the stuff of life. (It just so happens that my passionate hope is a hope for more understanding in all dimensions and less divisions.) The trouble I’ve come across is unconditional support for the dangerous.

There are certain types of celebrities who glorify the odd genius. I think it’s irresponsible to encourage with no consideration for reality. Yes, dreams should be pursued, even when unlikely, if that’s what you want. But some famous people seem to encourage behavior that would prevent someone from functioning in the world because it just so happened that she was able to capitalize on that and become famous. It’s true that there’s a chance that the other person will become famous too, but not everyone can be famous (and more importantly, rich. So¬† when there are repercussions to your behavior you don’t suffer all that much. ie you still have a place to live and can survive). There are certain celebrities who can afford to be irresponsible and sometimes flat out mean. Not for the sake of being mean, but because he or she has a vision and anyone who tries to alter that vision is essentially trying to drown his or her baby. But other people have to play by some rules. Not all of the rules. Not total conformity and submission.

Celebrity A can be the guy who doesn’t shower or go outside unless he feels like it and who wipes his ass with old tshirts because he can’t bear going out to buy toilet paper. He can live that way because he has been successful. He has tv shows. He has money. He has an assistant now. It worked out for him. He got out of that room with shit covered tshirts. And he felt it was valuable experience. He felt living how he did allowed him to create. That’s valid, but encouraging others to live in similar ways is dangerous. For every 10000 people with certain social or emotional issues, how many get famous and rich? More importantly how many are motivated by those issues? And how many more don’t recover? Being afraid to leave your apartment isn’t a trait you should encourage, it’s a potentially serious issue that should be addressed. It’s only a cute quirk when you couple it with a creative genius, but those aren’t a dime a dozen. They don’t grow on trees. In the end, what’s being encouraged is asocial and possibly self-destructive behavior. When it reality, most people with those issues should seek help.

Encourage people to pursue dreams. Mark Duplass delivered a genius speech at SXSW recently. But his advice was sensible. There’s a difference between encouraging people by giving them a peak into how the industry works so they can go about trying to create art however they decide and encouraging people by glamorizing destructive behavior. It’s cute when a famous person talks about his or her inability to function in the world, but it shouldn’t be seen as a goal to strive for. It’s generally somewhat quirky behavior, like deciding not to go outside because you feel like no piece of clothing in the world could possibly fit your body, but is also incredibly selfish if you have any relationships. You treat people like shit because you need everything to be exactly how you like it to work/write/whatever. It’s part of your process. It’s part of who you are. At least, that’s what some people say. But not wearing socks for more than 25 minutes isn’t cute and does not make you who you are.

Irresponsible Creatives slash Irresponsible Support