Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Utility of A "Stone Boat"

'A lot of comedians are very troubled people by the way...' ~ Dr Gabor Mate.

Our society has subscribed fully, impressively, recklessly to a notion of sacrifice. I don't know when or where and why, but we now celebrate the martyr and live in a cult of suffering.

It isn't Jesus. Jesus is okay, though I am persuaded by the charismatic Christopher Hitchens, that Christianity is a cult of suffering. Because it's more recent than that, more recent than capitalism as an ideology.

Capitalism, as practiced, as it exists as a lot of problems, but at it's core in it's naive conception it was underpinned by the notion 'we can all prosper together' which I'm sure has something to do with it's wide subscription. We subscribe wishfully, not empirically.

What prevails is the idea of sacrifice, that it isn't possible to progress or advance without some sacrifice. We praise Steve Jobs as a genius of our times, yet the man died of cancer. Bill Gates who does seem to have it all has been out of vogue for two decades almost. Eric Clapton overcomes his heroin addiction, wins a stack of Grammy's, is still alive to this day. Yet it is broke and abused Jimi Hendrix that died face down in a pool of his own vomit that is more celebrated.

We find something comforting about the tortured genius, we find some strange comfort in their incompleteness. The self defeating example of their lives. Hendrix is dead, did he ever find true love and acceptance? Did he have a safe place? Forget the music he never composed, he lost the opportunity to pursue happiness when he died.

Jobs had the world of nerds in his hands dancing, yet his cancer must have been incredibly painful, for him and those who loved him, a painful end.

In the modern era, we value the tortured soul as somehow worthier than that of the sage.

People who can render great benefit to others yet are unable to save themselves. We are being sold this story and we are buying it.

Japan has evolved into perhaps the most masochistic of cultures in the world, yet go back 3 centuries, and look at the decidedly un-japanese genius of that era.

Miyamoto Musashi died at the age of 60. What was his genius? Mortal combat, his very lifestyle was putting himself deliberately (and consensually) into mortal danger. He did not die in combat, he had many famous duels some of them resulting in the death(s) of his opponent(s). Yet he grew old and died, of cancer and his final work really is a sad tale of self-repression, but still compared to the life-span of his European counterparts Musashi lived 3 lifetimes, genius used to be the reverse of the 27 club. Everybody died at 27 unless you were a genius.

Then there's Yagyu Sekishusai, 'The Stone Boat' died at 78. His genius? Mortal combat again. Also regarded as invincible, I read his grandson's book. Where Musashi was invincible carrying two swords though, Yagyu was invincible fighting with no swords. He didn't need to draw against his opponent. He didn't even need to bear arms. This man had it all, by his full maturity.

He allegedly was not without crisis. He did withdraw, seeing no point in anything beyond his swordsmanship and described even that as having 'the utility of a stone boat'

I wish to rededicate my life to pursuing this kind of genius. This sage like genius. I've realised in the past week that I am still very immature. Incredibly immature. The thought excites me with possibilities.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Free Won't

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (NNT) wrote in The Bed of Procrustes: "You are rich if and only if the money you refuse tastes better than the money you accept."


When you start out on a journey, a vocation, you're highly likely to say shit in the neighbourhood of 'if only somebody would just give me a chance.' Chances and opportunities seem scarce.

But as you start to succeed, and as NNT has studied, success then compounds - opportunities become abundant and necessitate decision making - saying 'no'.

How do you know if you've succeeded? In short, it's when you say no to an opportunity. Success is heralded by opportunity cost.

Dr Gabor Mate of whom I don't know if NNT would approve or affiliate, but fuck it I'm doing it here didn't coin the phrase but employed it - drug addiction isn't a lack of 'Free Will' but 'Free Won't' an inability to say 'No'. The nature of addiction is a lack of 'Free Won't'.

I guess if I don't believe in free will, by default I don't believe in free won't. Still - a useful concept.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the trouble for couples

So I think recent (post wise) I already made this point, so if you're attentive you should blitz this test. If you know one of the 3 (or 4) basic concepts from which all my posts stem, you should blitz the test as well.

So you have 4 options:
1. good couple stay together
2. good couple split
3. bad couple split
4. bad couple stay together

Here's the quiz:

1. Which are the bad options?
2. Which are the errors?

Because this is a blog post - I'm going to put the answers in plane sight of the questions. The only truly 'bad' option is 4. Though it would be nice if 3 never happened in the first place. question twix the answer is 2 and 4.

I hope that's straight forward. If there's some 'ugh?' over the difference between 'bad' and 'error' let me put it in the flowery prose of Shakespeare for you:

"Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." you know what, that's probably paraphrased I'm too lazy to even copy and paste that shit.

So assuming no incredibly compelling extenuating circumstances, if a good couple split - it is an 'error' the wrong decision was made. But it's not 'bad' because the relationship was good. ie. you can look at it and say 'we had a good thing going on but it's over now.' It happens, a career can get prioritised, people can I believe even exit a good relationship to pursue a bad one.

That's all just preamble.

A friend of mine ended a bad relationship. I'm impressed. Because bad relationships are kind of like bad food. And food I believe is the most common substance people abuse. Like KFC, you know, you fucking know that it's bad for you. Yet, you keep eating it. You make a decision, Colonel, I'm leaving you tomorrow. Then the next day comes, there's nothing in your pantry, there's money in your wallet, you are suddenly hit by the physical withdrawel of sugar, salt, fat, caffeine. Every hit you can get in a value meal. And lo and behold, back you are at KFC.

Many relationships, particularly bad relationships are kind of functionally no different. People might be less good at realising that the relationship is bad for them, particularly if they have never had a good relationship. Which brings me to a side point:

"Tis better to have loved and lost..." If you've had a good relationship fail. You have a benchmark. It's very hard to enter or get stuck in a bad relationship after knowing what a good one consists of. Adolescence is generally where we have a string of bad relationships and bad sex until we figure out by trial and error what a good one consists of. Going from good to bad, generally only happens when somebody has never had a bad relationship to figure out what a good one consists of. My friend has a term that's probably useful called 'deferred adolescence' for people who haven't figured out 'not to date the dickheads we dated in highschool'.

Back to the main point, when you are in a relationship, any relationship you are going to get dollops of dopamine and hits of oxytocin from even your worst partner. Eddy Murphy does a bit in either Delirious or Raw about making a girl come real hard and then you get to say to her 'what have you done for me lately?'

Many of the couples around, not to be overly cynical, are actually just addictions. Not smack or crack or some shit, but your lazy garden variety fast food addiction, caffeine addiction.

It's why I kind of resent the advice 'dude you need to get laid' offered to people who are down in the dumps. Often this equates to 'just get drunk' (also often offered) or 'you know what will cheer you up? heroin' ridiculous, scandelous.

The thing is, that drugs work. Getting wasted will calm a lot of anxiety, taking heroin feels really great, and having sex will make you feel more in control of your life and less anxious about the people you are afraid of.

But to quote(ish) William Goldman 'one of the hollywood bullshit stories you can tell is "A Good Woman Fixes Everything"' and as he goes on to point out, in reality, there are plenty of men with good women that leave them still drinking and getting abusive.

I can't speak with any authority at all, but drugs are known to work, it's a chemical reaction. Exercise works, it hits the same receptors in the brain as morphine. Hugs work, sex works, all these things can do things to your brain that lift your mood. Unfortunately you can enjoy an intimate coupling with a man who you don't enjoy abusive verbal exchanges with regularly. A man can cuddle you as he whispers what a worthless piece of shit you are in your ear.

And those are just the extremes. You can get by for years on a ho-hum dose of dopamine with somebody who roles their eyes at you, or leaves you isolated at parties, or won't leave you alone at parties, or is never at fault for anything.

The thing is, you can only really know how good or bad a relationship is from the inside. Or can you? I'm currently being proven right in the Marxist hypothesis that 'if it looks like a disaster, walks like a disaster and sounds like a disaster, then it's probably a disaster.'

This poses the trouble we have with couples, a seperate topic altogether and one I know too little to write about. Maybe in 6 months time. Anyway, it's what to do. How to act with integrity when somebody is embroiled in a bad relationship.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thoughts Fed

One of those valuable days where you feel transparent and can see through yourself as easily as others do.

I read this:

" If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”
Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day… More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.
I'm guilty.

Another friend commented on a set of pictures I did about Jesus. Proving the value sometimes of ambiguous encoding of message. I'm not sure he got the joke I was trying to make, but read a different critique I hadn't constructed. But as the prolific anonymous once said 'All art is self-portraiture' so I take the critique personally. Jesus may be a dude, but that was my Jesus it came from me. The critique was that efforts to combat your demons may in fact 'amplify them by their absence' I'm not sure what it means to be honest, but there's definitely something to chew on in there.

We all project ourselves out there as an image, so it's nice when somebody points out some spots or even pubic hairs on the lens.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

the drinking coconut

I had just finished... I dunno, something. Something had me in the city buying something or some appointment, maybe teaching. I dunno. My memory is pretty sterling most the time, but certain repetitious tasks blend memories together. So I can remember the entirety of the last conversation you and I had, but I may not necessarily remember if I brushed my teeth this morning or where I parked my bike.

Anyway, none of that is relevant. I was cruising down Victoria Parade, and I don't know what the word for it is, but this guy was listening to Tool while pasting up posters with a broom. And overhearing it filled me with joy, and I thought 'man that makes my fucking day' and contemplated posting a shout out that would never reach my intended audience on facebook.

Continue coasting down Victoria Parade though and you come to the bane of all traffic - Hoddle St. It's a slow painful intersection where essentially two freeways collide at a set of lights on the doorstep of Melbourne CBD. Seriously this city would work better if they just erected an East-West Berlin Wall type thing rather than whatever Hoddle St is supposed to achieve.

So I'm sitting at the lights, waiting. As one does. And then I hear this 'hey are you thirsty?' as a cyclist, it took me a while for my subconscious to process that the voice was addressing me. And I turned around.

There I see a white commodore or falcon type car, with my friend Andrew leaning out the drivers window with a hand extended, and in that hand is a drinking coconut. 'Take it, put it in your backpack and drink it when you get home.'

I have to take it. As soon as I grasp it he continues to execute the left hand turn he is in the middle of. And like that it is gone.

How delightfully random!

Or is it?

In one sense it appears random, because this stuff doesn't happen all the time. It required a friend spotting me in traffic, and I don't consistently ride home the same way at the same times, so that lowers the odds that anyone will spot me on one particular day. I don't know if Andrew spotted me while taking a drive on a regular route, but I presume he was also not following a routine. Thus we managed to intersect and he at least managed to spot me.

He also happened to have a drinking coconut spare.

So it's improbable. But then it kind of stops being 'random'.

Firstly, take Andrew himself. He is the kind of wonderous rarity that would hand a drinking coconut out a car window. If you ever get a chance to meet him, know that he is amazing, has an amazing energy and please, please, please I implore you... shake his hand. It's a must.

And then, he didn't spot any friend riding through traffic. He spotted me. He spotted me and decided I was worth the effort to track down and give up a drinking coconut for.

I don't think it's random. Or an accident. I have to confess I love Andrew, but I actually don't know him that well. We didn't talk much in school, I saw him rarely in the 12 intervening years and as of late last year I have only run into him 3-4 times. Yet something has changed and as I recognise an amazing energy in him, he seems to see something in me.

This coconut transaction is imbued with meaning, that's what makes it so fucken great to me. Our 3-4 conversations over the past year have produced a coconut.

My life is strange, and wonderful and I don't understand it. But it is increasingly being characterised by these strange acts of generosity. I don't know what it is. But I do know what it isn't.

It's not an accident.