There are exceptions, such as when I travel, where I end up unconscious on some other horizontal surface, but it’s as sure a rule as any that no matter what kinds of wild or unpredictable events happen during the day, the conclusion is quite predictable: me, horizontal and comatose.
~ David Cain
Elsewhere, I’ve written specifically about sleeping. Sleep itself is fascinating, and a critical component to—well, everything; Life, quality thereof, the ability to think, and so on.
But until I read David’s piece, I’ve never had the vertiginous perspective of millions of people laying out horizontally and slipping unconscious. A rolling wave of countless people passing into unconsciousness as the world rotates. It’s eery, a third of all people are unconscious right at this moment. Also this moment. And in a relatively few more moments, I will be unconscious again.
I’m not certain, but I think my perspective upon first awakening may have shifted a little towards the, “oh! This is interesting,” end of things.
We come out of the box tuned for self-preservation and conformity. Not self-expression, not self-actualization, not happiness. But that’s what we want. Our genes want rock-solid, redundant systems for survival, nothing more. We want to have fun and feel good about our lives. Not the same thing!
~ David Cain
I feel certain that I understand how to enjoy life. No mystery to me there.
The problem is balancing responsibilities. I’ve chosen this, I’ve taken on that, …sure, I swerve off the road—regularly—with things like stress-eating, rage, depression. But again, no mystery to me why that happens. I can tell from the center-line of the road when I’m heading for the ditch.
If I had a pithy solution to write here, I wouldn’t need to blog to sort out my thoughts, now would I?
At worst, we apply a supernatural explanation to the whole show, because otherwise we’d have to recognize intelligence as a natural extension of the things that happen on a barren, unattended planet. For some reason we often insist nature couldn’t be that interesting or potent on its own. There has to be a super nature, to keep nature in its rightful, humble place. It makes us feel special I guess, maybe that’s why we don’t give nature the credit. We’re special either way, but we don’t need special rules to explain how we’re here. For that matter, we don’t necessarily need to explain ourselves to ourselves at all. Whatever happened, we got intelligent at some point, and that’s great. It’s okay to wonder aloud exactly how it happened, but clearly it did.
~ David Cain
Monism has never made sense to me. It’s interesting and I’ve spent a significant amount of time turning over its various flavors trying to understand others’ points of view. But, “that’s interesting,” is as far as I get.
When I face reality—thinking through mental models, comparing them to my personal experiences, talking to other people and listening to their experiences—I simply don’t see any deep mystery in life. Certainly, I see mind-bogglingly-huge expanses of things which are unknown (by me or anyone,) but that simply makes me more excited and more curious!
What confuses me is that the majority of people think differently, and I spend a lot of time talking to people as I try to understand how they think. I have only one point of view. I’m deeply fascinated by the universe around me and, in particular, by the conversations that come from me saying, “What does that bit of reality over there look like from your point of view?”
Theoretically, if you know what you love, then every time you make a decision you’ll have a pretty damn clear idea if it’s taking you closer or further away from what you love. You’ll know the right thing to do. So self-love is a moral issue. It consists of doing the right thing, and nothing else.
~ David Cain
If you put it that way, that would me that all of my problems are my responsibility. There is, after all, nothing in my power beyond my reasoned choices.
I’m not sure that’s worth linking to. But it is the article that sparked the thought that became this post. So, hat-tip where hat-tip is due.
You’re probably familiar with the common definition of the word “doldrums”: A period of stagnation or slump, or a period of depression or unhappy listlessness. But the common definition comes from the actual doldrums, which is a place in the Atlantic Ocean, more generally referred to as the “Horse Latitudes.”
Here’s the thought I had: I’m in the doldrums.
I’m not in the internally-generated, mental state, that the common definition implies. I’m in a place in my life which is the doldrums.
Old-timey sailors discovered a huge area of the Atlantic Ocean where the winds and sea are unreliable. Once a few explorers got stuck there, “in the doldrums,” on sailing ships, they shared the knowledge with others. Everyone quickly learned to avoid the Horse Latitudes because that place made things difficult.
Long ago I developed the twin skills of self-awareness and self-assessment and set about a long—and ongoing!—journey of self-improvement. But these days, I seem to be stuck in my journey. Why? I’m in the doldrums. I’ve navigated myself to a place which makes things difficult.
Bonus: How did sailors of old get out of the doldrums? When faced with mass dehydration, (it doesn’t rain much in the doldrums,) they’d tie their huge sailing ships to their tiny row-boats, and take shifts towing the ship.
The power going out in my apartment was refreshing for that few moments only because I knew it was coming back. There was never any question about that. It’s incredible, the confidence I have in the power coming back on. I have more confidence in the power coming back on than I do in my promise to myself to go running three mornings a week.
~ David Cain
Wow, that truth stings.
Everything there is, everything we know, hinges on this one bizarre, transient condition — existence — which just happens to be your current reality. We regard the miracle of existence as a goldfish regards water, which means we don’t regard it at all. But if you think about it, it’s an exceedingly peculiar fact — that we exist.
~ David Cain
My energy and drive to write waxes and wanes. But my desire for perspective is constant. Here’s a big ol’ chunk of a different perspective from David Cain.
My favorite sort of perspective—this has happened to me several times—is when I am completely exhausted. Not sleepy, but physically exhausted. Sometimes this has been when I have a slight fever, when a bout with the flu is beginning. But sometimes it’s just after a long day of physical labor. I lay down, and every muscle in my body is completely relaxed. There’s no urge to fidget, and no urge to move. When I’m completely relaxed like this, exhaling is such a delightfully emptying feeling.
…and sometimes my brain gets quiet enough to think, “oh! This is quite nice.”
I find myself using the word “wish” when I’ve decided I don’t like something the way it is, yet I’m not actually doing anything about it. There’s no real reason to declare my wishes. Whenever I start a sentence with “I just wish…” feel free to ignore me, I’m only wasting your time. My whiny face has probably made you tune out anyway.
~ David Cain
Then I have to ask, what does it mean when we say, “I wish you well?”
It means exactly nothing.
If someone is sick, don’t send prayers or well wishes. Instead, tell them you will miss them when they are gone—oviously only in cases where Death is the elephant-in-the-room. In more mundane situations, why not tell someone how much you enjoyed this opportunity to spend time with them. …or how much you appreciate their simply calling to say hello. Don’t “wish” them well. Don’t “try” to keep in touch. (Those are just a few examples that spring immediately to mind.)
Avoiding “wishing” is not easy. I’ve been actively and intentionally working on it for many years. So far, I’ve managed only to become aware of it each time I “wish” or “try.”
Even from a seemingly unempowered starting point — a budget apartment in some forgettable corner of a society that has been designed to make you sick and impotent — these traits will do more for you than any “Anti” stance you can think of. Hating the system is a favorite American pastime. It feels good, is difficult to stop once you start, and gets you precisely nowhere, not unlike eating Doritos. This is not us against them, it’s us for us.
~ David Cain
I don’t know about you. But it is definitely “me against me.” Not in the sense, “I need to conquer myself,” but in the sense, “I need to stop defeating myself.” What’s that old adage? …be kind for everyone you encounter is fighting a great battle? I need to learn that lesson, and I need to remember that the person I most often encounter is me.
We forget that what we have is more than what we need. Obscenely more. I know it may sound perverse, but here in the future people often feel like they need more than they have.
~ David Cain
There’s a sense of accomplishment in being prepared to sleep on the floor when traveling. There’s a sense of freedom in being able to carry a small backpack and live comfortably. I always knew this was at least partly due to knowing that I was prepared enough for important contingencies and free enough to roll with whatever comes up during the day.
But now I see that there’s a second dimension to why I enjoy it: The self-imposed hardship. Sometimes the floor is cold and drafty, sometimes there’s a cat (I’m allergic to cats), sometimes everyone stays up very late (I usually turn in around 9:30), sometimes I miss a meal, sometimes I don’t sleep much if there’s too much light, sometimes it’s noisy, … and so on. Still, I am invariably in a better mood than usual the morning after each of these choose-your-own-adventures-gone-bad. Cold, stiff, sneezy, tired … sure. But in a good mood. Well, that’s very interesting, now isn’t it?
I’m not making a call for you to take up Parkour-flooring. I’m only pointing out that when I occassionally reset my callibration by intentionally taking on some suffering, I’m invariably happier after.