0190 – awakening to inner richness

I wonder if I could write a thousand words before I go to bed when I’m in a rather tired, sleepy state. I think I can. Let’s test this. It’s like a video game, really.

At several points in my life so far I found myself thinking that life wasn’t going to get very much more interesting ever again, that I had already gotten a pretty good idea of all the major schools of thought, all the major ways of interpreting and experiencing the world. I expected that things wouldn’t get very much more interesting, after that initial awakening.

I think that has been both true and false, somewhat. True in the sense that nothing quite shocks or surprises or amazes me anymore. Everything fits within the broader idea that humans are silly and crazy, that we’re all clowns in a grand cosmic circus amusing ourselves while staring into the abyss. So people will do beautiful things, ugly things. Inexplicably bad, unfair and cruel things will happen. We’ll get caught up in all sorts of nasty bullshit. That hasn’t really changed very much.

What’s interesting for me is to pay attention to the the richness inside of myself. I’m no richer than anybody else- everybody’s essentially infinitely rich and complex, you just need to develop the habit of contemplating that, making sense of that, analyzing that, listening to yourself… that sounds a little mystical, but all I’m trying to say is that there is a lot of richness in our behaviors and our motivations that we aren’t always privvy to. Most things are subconscious. So we can spend a lot of time simply evaluating our subconscious. And that seems to me to be a more compelling frontier. You have inside your body, inside your brain, this system of thinking, this system of processing reality. This system of beliefs that you might not even realize you hold until you test them rigorously. Don’t you want to know they are?

Philip Larkin has a poem- ‘This be the verse’ that goes “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. / They may not mean to, but they do. / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.” It’s written in a rather sombre, depressing tone. There’s an amount of despair in the poem. But I think if you meditate on that fact and you accept the truth encoded in it, you can learn to appreciate it. I don’t mean appreciate it like appreciating modern art in an art exhibition- that is, like a complete fucking idiot rubbing their chin thoughtfully. I mean appreciate it like you appreciate something that can kill you, and not in some beautiful elegant way but in the most unforgiving, unfair, stupid way. The original meaning of appreciate didn’t have a positive connotation to it- it meant simply to evaluate, to acknowledge or realize the value of something.

Once you appreciate the ugliness, you appreciate the flaws and the broken stuff, the horrible issues that plague your life, then you can (maybe, perhaps) start doing the incredibly difficult, challenging, HARD work of putting the pieces together. Sometimes this means closing yourself off permanently from environments that are toxic to you. Sometimes this means using prostheses. Sometimes this means developing habits and systems that you might have to stick with for years, maybe even decades. And all of that can seem really painful, really hard, really tedious. It can feel like giving in.

But I think there is truth to that cliche that only by acknowledging weakness can you truly begin to become strong. Only by acknowledging cowardice can you begin to become brave. You don’t have to tell everybody else about it, you just need to acknowledge it for yourself. You need to realize that whatever you do or say is an emission of who you are, what you believe in, and there’s a lot of reprogramming you can do (or I can do, at least, for myself) to make things better for yourself. In my case I realize I have all these issues- I’m not sure what exactly you’d call them. Neuroses might be a bit extreme. But they are basically facets of my mind that are incredibly persistent and can be rather tedious, annoying and disruptive in my life. What am I to do about them? [1]

Living with them is a worst case option of sorts- the reason I write and think about these things so much is because I don’t like the idea of dying without having at LEAST made some progress on these fronts. i’d like to witness myself getting better at these things. I’d like to witness myself discovering that I was right about how I felt about some things, and that others were wrong about me. That’s somehow important to me right now. I sense that it won’t always be, that someday this goal will feel silly. But I’m not sure if I can skip this one. We’ll see.

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Notes:

[1] This might be a good aside moment to think about the way we think about mental health. We all know people who have ‘regular’ health issues- asthma, short-sightedness, high blood pressure, diabetes, low blood sugar, arthritis, so on and so forth. It’s pretty common. People have headaches and the flu and all sorts of ailments. Back pains. Now, the brain is more complex than any other part of the body. Shouldn’t it “go wrong” at the same frequency, if not worse? Shouldn’t people have just as many mental health issues as they do physical ones, if not more? And yet we pretend like this isn’t the case. This is ridiculously harmful and I hope we address it within my lifetime. That would be nice. Nobody really had a serious conversation with me about the possibility that I might have real mental health issues or a some sort of impairment or disorder of some kind until I was 22, married, a home owner, employed. I might have been saved a lot of misery.

The Vagina Monologues lady- Eve Ensler- was the first person, I think, who introduced to me the idea that you heal yourself by giving to other people what you wish was available for you. I remember the first time I watched her TED talk, I was incredibly moved and had some sort of euphoric epiphany or something. I watched it again recently, and I felt reminded of that conviction. I do think that a substantial amount of life should be spent giving to others, if only because it seems likely that we’re wired to experience lasting pleasure from such relations.

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