A Creative Approach to Being Self-Pitying

Quite a burden was lifted while I was writing the three part series. At the time, I wasn’t sure I could do it. Thus it both felt challenging and was a source of security not having to find news topics for each article.

Two methods arose for finding a new topic for today. The first and most attractive was that I could sit down and write as if I knew what I were doing. The second was to admit that I was hopeless and write about that. I chose the second method. I’m not a machine, and this blog is not about trying to create a perfect persona when I’m not perfect myself. The machine was fine for three entries, the Life Is Hard series.

I could even have extended that series with more detail and more subjects, but the three topics were developed spontaneously, unlike the artificial additions I would have to tack on in order to avoid precisely what I have faced for the last three days.

But as I said, I chose to admit I was hopeless and write about that. This approach is genuine, and that’s good, but it runs the risk of being self-pitying, whining and complaining. I’m not dogmatic about my choice. I’ll alternate with other method next time.

I’m trying to sift through what I’ve written precisely to weed out what seems like too much whining and complaining.

“Definitely a lull in my life right now. Sometimes I go through windows of time with no apparent purpose at all.

“The Veterans Administration application requires two non-relatives to fill out a one-page reference sheet. I got one of them already, and I gave the other to a close friend, but I haven’t been able to get the paper back, so the whole application process is bottlenecked as a result. It makes me hate handing over any responsibility to anybody else, for which you are entirely dependent on them. It’s a reference form, so I can’t fill it out myself unless I’m trying to be dishonest. But the stopping of this process makes me feel horrible.”

Too much? It’s personal details. I guess it’s okay to say so long as I say something philosophical along with it. In theory, I’m writing for everybody, not just for those who know me and care about me personally.

Here is my description of choosing to admit my hopelessness instead of writing like I’m a machine. It’s not really connected, but it’s actually really good writing!:

“By consciously placing yourself at the giant hole at the center of your experience, it’s possible to see what troubles you. If you spend too much time in the light, that is, acting out the motions of what you want instead of solemnly accepting what you feel, you could miss witnessing the spirits of the unconscious swimming silently like whales in the depths of the void.

“I think that I will watch the whales today.”

Warning: Whining and Complaining Ahead.

“The particular thing on my mind is how much I wish I had more help with life. Life is a riddle. It’s only natural to want help solving it. I’m not ignorant as to the fact that I’m not alone in this matter. The common American idea is that must make what you want. Of course the implication as that everyone already knows what they want. Beyond a vague wish that I were more famous than I am, I don’t really know what I want.

“My life is actually extremely simple. Not a permanent solution, nor really an altogether desirable situation, but simple nonetheless.

“Besides this blog, trying to volunteer for veterans is the only thing I’m doing. Besides eating, sleeping, searching the internet, walking — I’m not living unhealthily just in near total isolation. That’s really what’s bothering me right now. I just don’t know anybody with whom I can collaborate on anything at all significant…

“Which leads to the question of why I don’t do something myself. Why don’t I write a book or something? I don’t know why. I don’t have the energy. I decided to blog here once a week, then bumped it to twice a week. It seemed like that was all I was capable of. I still think that’s bascially what I have in me with regard to producing something myself. Perhaps greater desperation or greater insight will enhance my current capacities in this regard. Probably not.”

At least I found something to distract me finally:

“Then there’s the whole question of, well, if you are in complete isolation and have no apparent escape, what is the cosmic meaning of your condition? There’s an apparent absense of ‘lower’ purpose to this situation. So what’s the ‘higher’ purpose? The human instinct to try to find meaning even if there’s none really to be found. I’m not saying flat out that there’s no meaning to my current existence. There may well be. God may pull through, so to say, as in the end of the Book of Job, where God finally ends His long silence on the matter of why Job was suffering so much. Not to say that God actually answers the question at hand, because He doesn’t — instead He goes on a long tyrade about what an idiot Job must be for even bringing up the subject in the first place, after which Job just shuts the hell up because at that point there isn’t anything left to say. But at least you can give God credit for jumping in and saying *something*, and in this respect you could argue that at last the meaning of Job’s miserable suffering had been revealed.”

God’s tyrade begins in chapter 38, but the whole story is (mostly) worth reading:
Read The Book of Job Here!

And then back to whining and complaining:

“You know, I could easily argue that staring at the whales has proven of some value, because it got me to read the Book of Job in greater depth. And in doing so I feel better. Thus a scrap of meaning has been obtained. But I don’t necessarily assume this strategy will always work. At the same time, I got some meaning for now. What really matters is that one must get distracted by something. But finding something to distract me is hard, and the same thing rarely works twice in a row, so it’s still tough.”

This article contains my own commentary about what I might have just published outright, except that I’m too aware of the unattractiveness of being too self-pitying to have done so. Therefore I’ve done a combination of objective talk and subjective self-analysis. I’ll have to consider later how well it has worked, but at least I’ve made my deadline.

See you on Tuesday!

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Life is Hard, Part 3 : Complexity

This article is a little shorter but it gets the point across, I believe.

The third item which makes life harder for modern humans is complexity.

Imagine how simple life is for a baby. Imagine how correspondingly difficult it is for the parents. Because the baby knows nothing, it cannot appreciate the complexity of its own existence. Carl Jung is supposed to have said, that the most powerful drive of all — greater than the drives toward sex or power — is the drive toward laziness . We all carry around with us a fantasy of some paradise or another. This paradise, which we have a strong tendency to project onto the world, is actually the psychic expression of the drive toward laziness.

A very typical recipient of the projection of the archetype of paradise is “Nature”. At some point we have all imagined that if we could only rid ourselves of all this technology that we could finally be one with Nature. This view is aided by the propoganda of environmentalists and advertisers who associate their products with picturesque farms and orchards, suggesting that life where the product came from is “simple”. But we must remember that Nature is actually very unpredictable and harsh, and that much of our techonology allows us to make Nature work FOR us instead of against us. In other words, there are two different “Natures”, actual Nature, which is astonishingly harsh, and Paradise Nature, which is the projection of something which comes from within.

How did the projection attain such power? The projection is as powerful as the drive which caused it, and I claim that it is linked to the drive toward laziness. It means simply that the unconscious loves being unconscious. It would appear that consciousness is a great investment of time and energy on the part of the human organism. The unconscious insinctively resists all efforts toward consciousness, efforts which are often accompanied by a great sense of loss, as in the story of Adam and Eve, which I won’t recount here because I assume you know it. Apparently the instinct is to save energy. Bringing things to consciousness is therefore an eternal struggle.

The more complicated the world, the more consciousness will be needed to deal with it properly, and therefore the more dissatisfied unconsciousness for all the things consciousness demands of it. People are so easily seduced by the archetype of paradise. It is not anything which ever existed in nature, but rather the memory of a time earlier in your own life when the demands made upon your consciousness were minimal. Therefore the unconscious was well pleased, and said it was good, and was so happy that it took the seventh day off.

The complexity doesn’t go away just because the consciousness is exhausted. The world really is tremendously complicated. If we are to find a solution, it must be one which appreciates the human need for simplicity and our difficulty in bringing things from darkness to light — without at the same time succumbing to illusions. The oasis on the desert horizon is just a mirage. The question is, how are we to give people hope without forgetting how important consciousness really is?

It’s a question we are very far from solving.

Life is Hard, Part 2 : The Lack of an Effective Mythology

An update about myself:

I’m applying to volunteer helping military veterans. I’ve been the recipient of Social Security disability for mental illness for ten years, although I’m not so much mentally ill as alienated, I think. I’m just different. But the government has paid for much of my life regardless. Military veterans suffer a high rate of mental health problems, often including a feeling of alienation. I understand alienation and trauma pretty well. Add that to my general lack of faith in the current mental healthcare system and I maybe I have something to offer here.

Here’s a link to a radio show which helped push me over the edge into wanting to do something:

Madness Radio Interview Click Here

I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.

And now for today’s topic — the lack of an effective mythology, and how it makes life hard for people living today. Here we go.

People are incredibly good at adapting to their surroundings, which is why our species is spread all over the globe, more so than any other species. The way we do this is by telling stories about our environment which make the necessary connections from the environment to our instincts. The instincts perceive the world in ways far more powerful than mere surface descriptions. A mythology is a based on metaphors, which do the job better by implicitly making very ambiguous the barrier between the perceiver and the world percevied. A successful mythology is a grand scheme for creating harmony between life as experienced inwardly by the instincts, and the outer world. The more comprehensive the mythos, the more events in people’s lives will be woven together into a pleasing whole.

The natural mythic drive in us which seeks to harmonize the world has fallen far behind our rapidly changing technology and culture. In civilizations with less change, the natural drive toward myth will catch up comparatively quickly. When it does this it creates for the people an entire world in which they are wrapped up as in a womb or an egg. It services all the events of their lives. While it requires spiritual specialists, such as priests and shamans, to maintain the clear connection to the mythic world, their job is made infinitely easier by a relatively stable and comprehensive worldview.

The lack of mythology is certainly intertwined with the third item, complexity. The more total information you have, the harder it will be in general to form a mythic worldview which integrates everything successfully.

I’ll explain it again.

Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious can be understood from the persective of human instincts. The collective unconscious is another name for the series of instincts which are common to all people. The human species has its own set of instincts, similar in many ways to other animals but also different.

Since we are conscious beings, we are able to perceive the fact that we have instincts. It appears we are the only creatures capable of doing so. When we think about things we use concepts. Because instincts are so powerful, it really isn’t good enough to think about them in a detached and rational way. They tend to sneak up on us and dominate us against our will, or just against our knowledge if we’ve never heard of them.

The way I see it, a mythos is an instruction manual of how to interpret our instincts. A mythos is fully conscious of all the instincts both good and bad, and it must take into account all aspects of world. It does not suffer the frailty of the rational mindset which thinks that it can control an instinct merely because it is aware of it. The key point of Jungian psychology it that there is a vast difference between awareness of something and control over it. Indeed, it seems an instinct in people to overlook this inconvenience.

At any rate, a mythos is a bunch of stories which do not belittle the enormous power of the instincts. If the mythos is complete and comprehensive, it goes even further. In a complete mythos, all the things in the known universe are described in relation to each of the human instincts, including the instincts own reaction to themselves. You end up with a roadmap, without which people react and go crazy. People in their natural state are not calm and rational. They are completely insane. What allows them be calm and rational is mythology. Without mythology you get crazy behaviors, which is why we so desperately need more mythology nowadays.

Life is Hard, Part I : Overpopulation

In this article I will begin the analysis the previous article’s question, namely, that it’s hard to be human. But we’ve got to come up with more to say than that, and the most obvious distinction to be made is that of eternal human conditions versus those of specific times and places. Let’s ignore the former of the two for now, and focus on what’s specific to our modern culture. I had suggested three items: complexity, lack of mythology, overpopulation. I’ll just talk about overpopulation in this article.

Overpopulation asserts psychological pressure on an individual either consciously or unconsciously. Basically any human baby has from birth an unconscious kingdom over which it rules. The mother, while valuable in her own right, really exists to serve these imperial domains. Therefore it comes as a shock for the baby to learn that he or she is not alone. Indeed there are rivals, such as siblings and others, to its throne. Part of the child’s development involves forming relationships to the various factions who each want a piece of the pie for themselves. The child learns when to concede territory and when to fight for it.

There is nonetheless an overwhelming shock to a person’s system when in starts to sink in just how many rival kings and queens there are. Since our society doesn’t do a good job of integrating this into consciousness, the drama sinks into the unconscious, but it doesn’t go away. Being in an overpopulated world causes a general insecurity in everybody. For any problem in which cherished resources, including psychological resources such as attention, must be distributed, the difficulty of the problem increases with the number of people involved. Whether the solution you come up with is simple, or complicated, or simplistic, or ingenious, an increase in the number of individuals for whom the solution must be devised will always make the problem harder.

People don’t act like robots. They act more like monarchs unjustly deprived of their kingdoms. They will only willingly give something up because they understand the logic of the number of people and the limited resources, but they don’t really want to. They secretly want everything. But if they show their true motives they will be shunned. Therefore they spend just as much time feigning their innocence as they do nursing their resentments.

The more people there are, the harder it is to reconcile one’s natural moral feelings about what one deserves (i.e. everything) with the logic of distributing the available resources fairly. It’s just harder to argue that one deserves more than the others, without simultaneously beginning to think in terms of a natural aristocracy, of highers and lowers, in which no thinker ever willingly places him or herself among the lowers.

It’s easy to summarize what I’m saying. Life is a contest, and the fewer competitors there are, the easier it is to win. I wonder if the fact that many people ignore this issue is just burying their heads in the ground. It’s not an easy issue. Someone with a fallible moral consitution could hardly find it more convenient to ignore this issue. The question is, what is demanded of those who are determined to seek the truth?

Next article, I will talk about the next of the three items which make modern life difficult, namely, lack of mythology.

Victory in Defeat. I can’t respond to your comments.

I admit it. I’m starting to feel the pressure of the commitment I’ve made. But the psychic storm which occupied the last fifteen years of my life has quieted just enough that I’m pretty sure I can face the challenge.

My friend the Unicorn, has made comments so far-reaching in scope that they arrive here on this blog like a giant fireball:

“The more I consider things, the more often I find myself coming to the simple conclusion that it is damn, fucking hard to be a human being. It really is. Life is simply challenging and that’s the way that it was always meant to be. I believe that the problem that we’ve run into with the advent of modern Western society is that our whole goal has been a dogged pursuit of “progress” as measured by productivity.”

After some consideration, I’ve decided these comments are too hot even for Salamander! I took the bait when I responded:

“I agree that it’s hard to be a human being. I might suggest that three things make it particularly hard in today’s world — complexity, lack of mythology, and overpopulation.”

Now I’m showing myself as a very deep thinker. I had hoped to launch from these statements in this article, but I now realize that doing so contradicts my feeling that the fireball is simply too hot. It will simply take more time than I have today to discuss these things.

Sometimes a concise statement can open up like an acorn into a giant edifice. Here’s Carl Jung in the first paragraph of his magnum opus, Mysterium Coniunctionis :

“This book… was begun more than ten years ago. I first got the idea of writing it from C. Kerenyi’s essay… I felt tempted, at the time, to comment on [it] from the standpoint of alchemy and psychology, but soon discovered that the theme was far too entensive to be dealt with in a couple of pages.”

Now it’s time to post a new article. Crunchtime. Commitment. Reliability. I’m not really able to address the points raised. Perhaps I can write an article on the *experience* of not being able to address the points raised… not quite the same thing, but it’s something!

I did actually write a little about the topic. I don’t want to throw the writing away. That’s another issue you get into when you’re trying to write coherently. What to do with good material which doesn’t quite match your topic? I guess I just have to bite the bullet and throw it away. It *is* damn fucking hard to be a human being! At least, in this respect, I am talking about Unicorn’s topic.

Yes, it’s painful, but I think it’s the right thing to do. At this point in the game, I’d rather learn to admit that something’s beyond my capacity than to do a bad job on it. But I can take the issue up in my private journal where I have more leeway. But it’s hard to admit to myself that I must do it this way, because it feels like weakness and defeat, despite a certain kind of victory in knowing that it’s weakness and defeat.

I like my private journal. There’s no pretense of decorum there. The fact that this is the internet does of course lower the expectation of decorum in a broad way, but I’m trying to hold myself to high standards nonetheless. I’m not sure if admitting defeat here is even up to my own standards. But I think that we’re in a brave new world, which means that an honest person should favor openness about his uncertainties, because most of the rules of etiquette have yet to be written.

It’s Starting to Seem Like I’m Not Nobody

Okay… Tuesday, Tuesday, let me see…

It’s starting to seem like I’m somebody, writing articles twice a week like this. I’m certainly as far from making money as I have ever been, but I can now wear the badge of those who blog twice a week. It’s a badge. It’s not nothing. Some people would want to hide the fact that they know they are walking onto the stage of accomplishment. Yet I feel that whatever I can confess I should. I’m not remarking so much on my own success. Rather, that people who are consistent enough to do *anything* on a regular basis often are inwardly proud of themselves and yet show the world someone “responsible”, and in doing so, make those who don’t match such achievements either envious or angry. I don’t want to play the responsible card.

I think a regular schedule is a hard thing for anyone to keep, and I don’t think I should act like it’s not. It demonstrates precisely the kind of control over oneself most people wish they had. But many of the people I’ve met who manage to succeed in self-discipline suppress their own spontaneity unconsciously, and become very difficult to interact with.

My solution to the problem is to admit that the reason I’m on a schedule is that I got bored with myself, that my spontaneous self simply wasn’t interesting enough to allow me to continue. My spontaneous self did not seek out any of those things which people approve of, like an education or a job. I spent a lot of time reading books, and I think it would be wrong to say that it wasn’t worth it. I must say, rather, that I used to be more interesting to myself than I currently am. I wish I had adventures I could go on all the time, which would eliminate the need for a schedule while still “doing good”. But my adventure account is bankrupt, and I’m forced to turn to Father Time and his Endless Parade of Weeks for exciting deadlines to meet.

I would like to think that I’m writing here, not because I’m so awesome keeping a schedule and all, but because I want to contribute, and the only way I’ll do it is if I artificially inject passion into my life by forcing myself to write on a regular basis. Lurking under the surfarce is a bigger issue. I want to be, or at least seem to be, one of you, a regular guy, to avoid seeming like an aristocratic snob. I’m bothered by the idea that unless I give handouts to the masses, like a modern politician, you won’t want to read my blog. This is “the hope of being popular.” On the other hand, I want to benefit the world by bestowing really good ideas. But really good ideas run the risk of being too complicated for the every day person. It’s not good to put a wolf in sheep’s clothing. For example, moderns politicians often suggest that people can have all the public services they want without any need to raise their taxes.

I think it may be wrong to try to deceive the common person into thinking they understand a complex idea just so that I will have their tacit approval. I encountered this in college and it’s largely why I dropped out. The teachers seemed to have no standards at all and to be exculsively devoted to trying to get the students to like them. A complex idea may require a complex explanation which necessarily alienates the person of lesser intelligence. Yet you run the risk of accusations of elitism if you don’t joke around and make it seem like you’re not really as smart as you are.

I don’t really know how cool I am for being able to write two articles a week consistently. If it’s really an accomplishment, ought I to own the snobbery and alienate the lesser mortals who fall short of this tremendous feat? Or should I pretend it’s simpler and easier than it is in order to ingratiate myself with them?

On the other hand, I also doubt whether it’s good to disguise a sheep in wolf’s fur. Maybe the topic of this article is trite. Is it really necessary to write so much about writing so much? you may ask. No, it’s fine, I argue. One of the great flaws of modern people is to underestimate the significance of little things. It’s more important to me to leave no stone unturned when it comes to self-investigation than it is to try to fly twice as high. It’s not glamorous and it takes a while, but I’m not sure I’m capable of climbing myself any other way. (I must be either a tree or a mountain in this metaphor.)

Topic Change to the Speed of Light

Alrighty then. The time approaches. An article to write. Because that’s what I do. I write articles.

So I’m searching for a topic. Ideally I’d be in a rhythm, but for now, I awkwardly plunge through the Forest of Topics until I stumble upon a clearing. Indeed, my topic doesn’t necessarily emerge until I’m half-way done, at which point it often changes!

But I do have good stuff to say. And the world is better off if I say it. Sometimes I urge to write blindly as if in a public journal. Why do I resist? Because I associate such random acts of internet publishing with the millions of teenage girls who do the same thing and have no idea how uninteresting they are. But I shouldn’t be too harsh on them. The key principle about blogs which is hard to accept is that they are dirt cheap.

I wonder how much of what used to be “high” literary culture was derived from the fact that printed paper is expensive. Under such circumstances you can expect better quality, because whoever pays for the printing wants his or her investment to pay off. With the average blog no one is investing anything. I’m quite sure no one at WordPress has even heard of me. So I’m grouped with all those random teenage bloggers simply by the nature of the format. I could probably get some coaching on my writing even so.

My current understanding of the art of writing is that it has two important dimensions — idea and expression. Good writing is good ideas expressed well. I’m rather certain my ideas are better than my expressions. Yet what good are ideas without adequate expressions? Actually they do matter. A good idea can serve me well in my private activities. The stumbling block is when I need others to understand my actions. There’s no point in blogging unless you understand me. I find myself struggling, more often than I like, to assemble phrases which express my ideas. I often get so caught up trying to put a phrase together that I lose track of the original idea, a classic case of losing the forest for the trees.

Well, I’ll have more chances to get it right from now on. You may expect posts on Tuesday and Friday for at least the next eight weeks. I had thought I could only write for the general audience once a week, but just the waiting has been giving me headaches.

And now for the drastic change of topic previously hinted at. It just popped into my mind. Shrug.

There’s nothing more amazing and depressing than the Speed of Light. Computers and all of their predecessors rely on the Speed of Light to perform their amazing calculations. The world is connected in ways history has never seen, largely due to the Speed of Light.

However, the Speed of Light is also the speed limit of the universe and everything in it. The fastest space travel speeds we’ll ever achieve are so slow that we’ll never fly people even to the nearest known star system, let alone the next galaxy. We’re fucking stuck here. It’s so depressing, and as far as I can deduce based on my limited knowledge of physics, it’s all because of the stupid Speed of Light. Curse you, you wretched Speed! I mean, why show us all those stars out there if we can’t ever visit them?

There nothing more amazing and depressing than the Speed of Light.

Throwing Myself Upon the Gears of Time

It’s Wednesday. In order to avoid the uncertainty of when exactly on the day of Friday I should publish I decided it would be easier to write it the day before, but I have something sheduled that day, so this is the day before that.

How strange it is to throw myself upon the gears of time! It makes me glad I only committed to four articles, because I’ve hit the same horrible lull in midweek when I have nothing to do. I’m pretty sure seven days is the wrong amount of time. It’s like I must bury my thoughts on Sunday or so only to dig them up again as Friday approaches. But the most important thing is consistency.

Time has become the object of my rational mind. I divide it up like it’s a piece of spaghetti. I’m finally bored with myself. My psyche has calmed down so that the tempest which came from within is no longer so unpredictable that I can’t plan my day and run my schedule like an experimental scientist. Carl Jung would call such a tempest “an activation of the unconscious”.

But now I see time as a straight line or, at least, a line of some sort. I can try different patterns and see if I fit into them. What has stabilized in order to make this possible is the “I”, whose sense of self had been so disparate that I couldn’t reserve a segment of time because I didn’t have it to spare. One of the great losses of living in the civilized world is the personal connection to a natural way of being. So much is conditioned and modified along the lines of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and other science fiction nightmares that there’s little left in the way of being “One with nature”, for which desire many people join communes or organic farms, or even join cults for the feeling of connectedness and belonging.

In my mind, any bending of my time to a schedule had been an abandonment of my devotion to living in harmony with nature. I had needed to let go and to empty myself. In the exploration of my unconscious I got so used to surprises, which changed the nature of the game, that I simply abandoned all external structure not absolutely necessary to my physical survival.

Now that those surprises have died down I am actually negotiating with the norms of this world to see if I can find some common ground.

Okay, okay. It’s not Wednesday anymore. Only one more week of waiting.

I was talking about the Burning Man festival with someone this week.

The alchemical procedure associated with fire is called “calcinatio”. The idea is that the impurities in your substrate can be burned away. Done properly, it leaves you with “that which won’t burn.” Writing and posting on the internet is for me an equivalent process. Impurities begone!

“…the ego soon becomes a shuttlecock tossed between a multitude of ‘velleities,’ with the result that there is an ‘obfuscation of the light,’ i.e., consciousness is depotentiated and the patient is at a loss to know where his personality begins or ends. It is like passing through the valley of the shadow, and sometimes the patient has to cling to the doctor as the last remaining shred of reality. This situation is difficult and distressing for both parties; often the doctor is in much the same position as the alchemist who no longer knew whether he was melting the mysterious amalgam in the crucible or whether he was the salamander glowing in the fire.” — C.G. Jung, The Psychology of the Transference