One of the great false assumptions of many self-help ideas is the idea that it is all in your control, how you feel about things. It is simply not true. It is chance and accident that decide on much of your circumstances, and it is that which predominately determines how you feel about things.
Let me give an example: Just by virtue of not happening to hold in high esteem certain things that other people do, you put yourself in a position of people not getting on with you, and not esteeming you. But this itself has physiological effects on your mood and your levels of self-esteem when amongst other people.
You cannot control or choose what you happen to esteem in life. Far from it, for the most part, if you don’t forcibly go along with the dominant social trends of esteem you are cast aside. Much of “culture” is a form of blackmail of this kind of people scared to be cast aside.
From acting cool, going out drinking and smoking, to driving a car, working a 9 to 5 job, to looking for a partner to settle down in a house with and have children. These are the things you are expected to esteem, and its a simple form of cash blackmail to scare you in to line.
The cash may as well say on it: safely earned in a 9 to 5 job to drive a car around, smoke, drink and have children. For, the cash is no more than a token gesture symbolising these very things.
Now I don’t currently “belong” in this “culture”. And have in fact never much been interested by it. But you cannot avoid it, unless you avoid people altogether. In my own self, away from other people and this culture, I have plenty of self-esteem and am a happy individual. But put me in this culture, as I inevitably have to collide with it most days, most of the time. And, of course, I feel depressed, my self-esteem goes down, etc, etc..
I cannot relate, I am not a member of the gang, I don’t have the tokens. If I could get away from it all I would, but where am I supposed to go? So I just have to grin and bear it from day to day. Where in all this am I getting to choose how I feel about things? Choice only comes via the tokens, but I don’t have any, or any desire to acquire them, given the cultural blackmail involved in the whole thing. In a culture that would have me esteem things I simply refuse to esteem.
I can’t choose how to feel about all this, I am fated/destined to alternate anger, discontent and depression about it. I would rather be honest with myself and start to come to terms with this reality I am confronted with, rather than kid myself with self-help fantasies of controlling my feelings generically in all circumstances.
For many years I have believed myself to have a special access to certain truths about the world. Whether this belief is right or wrong, certainly I was wrong to think that knowing this truth is itself enough to give it authority. Authority comes not from what you know, but in how you use it in application within your own life.
I see a lot of debates between people sure that they have the correct view. Or maybe they are not, maybe, even worse than such a dogmatic certainty, they are merely cynically playing along at a game of arguing for the sake of it, to pass the time. Either way, the assumption seems to be that the truth will ultimately speak for itself and it will speak in our favor. It is a form of truth that is mixed up with the obsession with being “right”. To be in possession of the right answer. But, although this may be how exams work in the controlled and sheltered environment of school and college, who is to say truth works in any such way as this in the real world.
In the real world all we can do is speak our own truth, we cannot rely on any outside authority to assert our truth for us. And in order to do this, it is not enough to have access to what is true, you also need to have a passionate conviction and belief in those truths. It is only as such that you will be able to hold on to these truths and continue to assert them even when times get tough.
Obsessively arguing with others doesn’t show a passion for your truth, but an obsession with being seen to be right. This is quite the opposite of your truth in most circumstances. You end up getting lost in a labyrinth of arguments where you lose sight of the passion in your life that should really be guiding you at this time. The best thing to do here is to let the argument go. It is weakness of your own vision that continues an argument needlessly, not strength of conviction. Some people just want to be the last one in the room, getting the last word in. This, for them, is their small consolation for a complete lack of inner conviction.
Let them be, as you let yourself be, and continue on your own journey.
In a recent Lance Armstrong documentary, showing in line with the beginning of the 2014 tour de france, he made the claim that since the definition of cheating is getting an advantage over your rivals, he did not cheat during his tour de france victories as all his rivals were also using performance enhancing drugs.
It is an interesting point. But we can undermine its apparent authority when we ask for another a definition. This time of a “rival”. A rival in this situation is someone able to compete with Lance Armstrong in those races. Yet no one who was clean was in a position to compete with him at this time. So it remains the case he was cheating compared to these people. Even though they may not class as rivals.
Another sense in which he was cheating is that by making the contest dependent on taking these drugs it means that fewer and fewer people will have the resources to compete on a level playing field. A bit like the advantage at one time in swimming for those with specially designed costumes that provided better motion through the water. Your average person taking up a sport is not going to be able to access these kinds of resources, and so there is an unfair hierarchy created. Based on wealth and power, rather than based on the individual athletes abilities.
The use of drugs has become again a complicated issue in the tour de france with the use of certain drugs for medicinal purposes to combat allergies or to lessen the effects of a cold or illness. It can be difficult to know precisely where to draw the line in specific circumstances.
But through all the complications, the thing to not lose sight of is that competition of a sporting kind should be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, regardless of their background and their access to wealth and resources. It is sticking close to this that ensures the spirit of a sport remains intact. Allowing people starting from scratch and with nothing to have belief that maybe some day with hard work and dedication, they could compete at the top level.
I want to try and understand what makes something evil. There is the Christian mythology of the Fall. Adam and Eve eating an apple from the tree of knowledge. But by this standard evil is any attempt to know the world for yourself. And so that makes the whole modern era since the enlightenment evil. Including all the sexual liberation and human rights that have since come with it.
For the Buddhists all bad acts create bad karma, and so evil always gets its comeuppance according to them. Evil never persists for long or gets away with its bad deeds. But this seems a slightly naive and convenient thing to believe to me. Or at the other extreme lies the pessimistic Buddhist outlook that sees everything in this life as suffering, and the only good thing being when it comes to an end in Nirvana.
I think there is something to the Fall, in that human nature did not always contain this evil element. Evil has arisen as we have had to develop internal moral codes and dialogues, due to the absence of external ones. And part of this dialogue is a recognition of evil.
And I think there is also something to karma, in that for the most part any deeds we perceive as bad ourselves tend to play on our minds and this has consequences.
But, it only seems to be part of the story. I think evil has become a much more complex phenomena now, that infiltrates deep into our psychological make-up.
Evil is the small part of our mind that wants us to fail. The small part of our mind that wants to see others fail. Evil is a sabotaging, destructive force within our own psyche. A tendency to turn on those things we have claimed to love and care about most.
Evil seems to be unleashed completely irrationally, and yet it obeys its own rationale which it seems very sure of and passionate about. Evil emerges when our rational mind and our instinctual nature get out of sync. It is retribution from our instinctual nature for years of denial and repression by an overly constricting rational outlook. An outlook we thought was our own, but which was in fact something we internalized from moralizing forces of others around us in our formative years.
There is a link with sex here also. The sexual muscles and forces do not obey our will in the same way as our other muscles do. They do not care for an intellectual long-term outlook that sees human reproducing as unsustainable. They do not think in terms of means, ends and balances. They think in terms of all or nothing. They do not take stock of the provision of resources required for all offspring resulting from execution of these sexual forces. They think only of taking advantage of the current moment. An opportunity is perceived and taken with no thought for the long-term consequences.
How much trouble this gets us all in individually and humanity collectively is plain to see. There is an element of evilness lurking here implicated in our very existence that we cannot extricate ourselves from. We collectively choose to keep quiet about it, rather than face it head on, out of fear of our own implicateness, in it.
A forbidden tree remains in the human garden: Thou shalt not rationalize sexual love. Is it evil to pluck fruit from it. Or does the evilness spring from our very fear of plucking from it? Is it playing on our fear, and can we overcome this fear?
Alive to those who still hope
for a wider human scope.
Alive to the air we breathe,
and to those who still believe.
Alive to a passion for existence,
to a life of effort and persistence.
Alive to weaknesses’ insistence,
but to all evil, absolute resistance.
Alive to the stars that twinkle in the sky
and to the dream we can soar and fly.
Alive to unrequited calling
To its suffering and falling.
Alive to those who know no better,
to release them from their fetters.
Alive to human misery and decay,
to the paths that can lead us astray.
Alive to the vast human panorama,
with no sense of fear, nor melodrama.
dead to this place
a phony, disgrace
better times to chase
on which to firmly base.
dead to this place
it’s soulless embrace
hoping for some space
from its blank, ugly face
dead to this place
its stifling ways
picking up the pace
always me that pays
dead to this place
and all it contains
time for a new race
no time to explain
dead to the world
all its myriad of lies
to a ball tightly curled
as whizzing passed, it flies
dead to it all
decay, destruction, life
anxious to recall
a time without strife
dead to myself
the me trapped inside
long a source of wealth
no longer safe to reside
dead to other persons
source of pain and deceit
each relationship worsens
no need to repeat.
dead to my maker
if such a one there be
and the undertaker:
from death itself I flee.
dead to the birds
that sing in the trees
nothing to be heard
except adulterous pleas
dead to my body
my legs, my arms
a form quite shoddy,
not a source of calm
dead to this post
this poem of decay
dead to the host
no more left to say.
Note: I wrote this poem some time ago, but it is a truth that comes back to my life periodically. Life is too oppressive, only being dead to things can can free me from the oppressiveness of life that always builds up over time.
As much as I like a good story, it does get a bit exasperating at times when predictable themes crop up time and again. I know the human story does tend to follow certain common patterns for all of us. We all tend to see ourselves as basically good. We all have some slightly unrealistic and optimistic hopes for ourselves. We all follow the same tracks of dependency on others for love, care and attention. And we all share the same basic human needs, drives and desires.
But still, from a story it is nice to see things given a new or slightly different approach. It is nice to see something original, and not just a tendency to almost wallow in the predictable patterns of human psychology and behavior. This was the side to the writing of Ayn Rand I found quite refreshing. The unrelenting pursuit of something a bit higher than just common human nature. It is what I have liked in a few authors in the past. And when the attempt at least of this kind is not present, I find it very easy and quick to be disappointed in a story.
I will not hang around long to read about predictable human behavior following predictable patterns. To what purpose should we wallow in and glorify the mundane things in life? What kind of a story is it that only reaffirms what we already know about ourselves and the world? It is a story that is said purely for the sake of it. Purely out of a blind ritualistic urge to find comfort in repetition. I refuse to find such comfort, in fact these kinds of things only make me uncomfortable.
It is a disservice to our minds and our memories to play something out the same way time and time again, as if we don’t know any better. It is a mental laziness, a giving in to inertia. Don’t ever just accept some human theme as having authority over your own life, because others have repeated it time and again. This repetition is not a reason for acceptance, it is a reason for suspicion. It is something to be questioned by your awareness. Embrace themes in your life from this seat of awareness. Never let someone else’s story, the theme to someone else’s life, unwittingly entrap you in an unwanted fate. Here lies only resentment in the long run, and a lack of faith or hope in a better world. A complacent cynicism, worthy of an isolated individual, but not of an interconnected person who ends up infecting all their relationships with this cynicism.