0323 – beware supernormal stimuli

There are lots of things that bother me, and sometimes I’m bothered by the things that bother me– i.e., I wish I weren’t bothered by some things. Sitting down to think about it, I recognise that part of the problem is simply trying too hard to get worked up about the problem. “Don’t think so much” wisdom would suggest that the problem would “solve itself” if I’d just be willing to leave it alone. [1]

What’s bothering me? Here’s what’s on my mind right now. I spent some time earlier at work, being a little sleepy and tired, between meetings, spending time on Imgur looking at funny pics. And I found myself thinking about attractive people online, and how easy it is to get swept away looking at them. There are people who make videos of themselves for a living– vloggers, CamGirls, all infuriatingly unattainable.

And it’s so easy and tempting to fall in love with these almost fictional people. Yeah, they exist, but not in your immediate life. And chances are, if you got to know these people in real life, you’d find that they don’t live up to your expectations. They look a lot better on the screen, at a distance.

What bothers me is how easy it is for me to live my life looking at girls on Instagram and YouTube and whatnot as a substitute for actually walking around in meatspace and experiencing things, meeting people. I think it’s very sad especially when you watch all the TV shows and movies and stuff, but when you live in meatspace, you’re forced to bow your head, hunch your shoulders, suck in your stomach and feel like you don’t quite fit in, like you don’t quite belong, and you’re just longing to get back to the world that you’re comfortable in. [2]

But in the meantime, I am a meatbag living in meatspace, and I owe it to myself to do everything I can– or hell, to give myself a decent shot– at improving my lot in meatspace. I don’t need to be the best in the world at anything physical, I just need to be better each than I was before. Of course, there’s a limit to this improvement– but I don’t know what that is. I’m guessing it might be in the mid-to-late 30s or 40s, and by the time I get there, maybe even later than that. And then it’s maintenance against aging, which is worth doing anyway because everyone else around you (in your age group, at least) is decaying and deteriorating.

So getting favourites and tweets and messages from attractive people on Instagram, or buying them tokens on their cam channels or vlogs– none of that is a substitute for having presence, being attractive, powerful, strong, in control. I cannot keep running away from the reality that I have to wake up to every morning, and confront throughout the day. I keep trying, for sure, but that was a coping mechanism for a life I no longer live, and if it was ever appropriate (debatable), it definitely isn’t anymore. So I gotta rip you out of my skull. [3]

I’m tired of having my life dictated for me by supernormal stimuli, I’m tired of feeling shy and weak and anxious. I’m tired of talking and thinking too fast, at a tempo that betrays my inner anxiety. I recognise that all of that shit is imagined, self-imposed. I have to decide firmly that none of that shit has any power over me anymore, and I have to step off the cliff of my mind.

I got 200 more words to go. What are my closing thoughts on supernormal stimuli? I’m aware that we shouldn’t get obsessed with trying to deny these things– I think Alan Watts spoke pretty nicely about it. Yes, reality is an illusion, everything is a dream, but that doesn’t mean we should get all snooty and obsessive about trying to deny it. That’s a sort of illusion in itself. At the end of the day, the only person I have to live with is myself. The only thing I need to worry about is how I feel. Well– that oversimplifies things a little, other people do factor into my conception of self. Doing nice things for people, helping people, serving other people, all of those things feel deeply significant and meaningful to me, even as I recognize the fundamental, illusory nature of all things. Service is a deep joy.

Even focusing on that should, theoretically (or, wishfully) keep me from getting caught up in superficial nonsense. Again, yes, “superficial nonsense” is just marginally more superficial than the superficial nonsense that is anything I think about as “deep” or “noble” or “important”. It’s all messy stuff… boils down to what sort of games I want to play. Such is life.

Breathe deep, let it go. Laugh, smile. Move on.


[1] To be more precise, solving the problem requires more intelligence than the conscious mind alone is capable of offering. “Leaving it alone” really means “allowing the broader mind to work on the problem.” Would be nice if there were a more succinct and effective way to say that. Just something to keep in mind.

[2] I suppose if one day we have a fully-realized Matrix type scenario, where you can plug in your body into a simulation of your own choosing, then that might be a tolerable choice. People who say otherwise are usually arguing from the perspective that there is some discernible difference, and that difference makes all the difference. I’m talking about situations where there is NO discernible difference. Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and sufficiently advanced simulation is indistinguishble from reality– and indeed, reality as we observe it is simulated in our heads already, anyway.

[3] Turns out that while “rip you out of my skull” sounds dramatic as a phrase, the reality of it requires slow, daily, boring, repetitive action. Day in, day out. Affirmations day in, day out. So I gotta reflect each day, and each week. I gotta do 1-1s with myself, and with my wife.

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