Being pulled back in the real world

While reading Buddhism Without Belief I couldn’t help but notice how, while reading the book, I was more aware of certain things.

I’m aware of my surrounginds, I’m aware of how I want to act, how I want to change certain patterns. I have compassion for others. I notice the world around me more and appreciate it more.

But, just as it comes, it disappears. I get pulled back into the “real” world. I get pulled back into ruminating on things. On how person X is terrible and playing out conversations in my head where I let them know how shitty they are etc.

It’s interesting because they talk about it in the book. It seems you can only stay into this place of awareness, of appreciating the non-duality of ourselves and others for brief moments at a time before getting pulled back.

Hopefully I’ll be able to extend those moments slowly but steadily.

Mindfulness is Buddhism without religion

I’ve been re-reading Buddhism without Beliefs and I strongly recommend it. It’s a short book and I’ve been trying to not read more than a chapter a day to make sure I can focus on it.

It was written in 1996 and reading it, I couldn’t help but notice how what it advocates for is now basically referred to as mindfulness. A sort of religion free version of Buddhism.

Indistractable

It’s a cliché to say that we live in a world of distractions, of instant gratification. I just right now got distracted from writing this to pick at my nails….

And while it’s easy to blame our phones, technology, technology companies, advertisement as the go to way to monetize something, etc. Just like my previous example shows. While the external doesn’t help, we can always find something to distract ourselves with.

I’ve wanted to start reading indistractable for a while now. Slightly ironic I know. One thing I’m trying differently is to do the exercises that accompny the book and to try to actually adopt it as part of my day to day life.

I find that too often I read a book, an article, whatever, on some way to better myself. I agree with the article / book, or in many cases I’m like, oh ya I already “know” this. And by know I mean I have the information on this topic. I already have all the information I need on how to be in better shape. How to lose weight. How to be happier. How to be better at task X.

And yet…. They don’t usually stick.

I did a speech at toastmasters recently and I might write a version out here later, but the point of the speech was that the initial action was useless. There are no big swooping actions that change the world. It’s not a single speech from Ghandi that ended the occupation, a single decisive action I took (paying for personal training) that helped me get in shape or a single challenging instance that makes you smarter at something. It’s the constant iterative small progress.

I’m just at chapter 2. But I’m hoping it will help me be more mindful of how I spend my time. I guess we’ll see.

impermanence and lost videos

I recall this video I saw once. It was a bit cheesy, you know most of it being a voiceover of nature scenes and the like. It touched upon impermanence and mentioned Nietzsche and some other philosopher sending each other letters and one (I’m going to guess Nietzsche really) talked about how impermanence was sad. And the other on how impermanence meant that this moment, this present moment you just witnessed was special, was unique.

At some point it pivots to Buddhism and the acceptance of impermanence being part of the noble truths. Something that a main cause of suffering, is not accepting how everything is transient.

At times I feel silly for liking some of those “I’m a hippy and philosophize about life” but I often find it’s good reminder. A bit like how people shit on quotes, but I really like them.

I’ve tried to find that video. I mean, I even looked on vimeo, (and looked thru my youtube history) And I don’t know if I’m using the wrong word. Kinda like how memory will trick you. Maybe the term was transience… Anyway, if anyone finds it, post it in the comments.

How Am I Not Myself?

My second favourite movie is I heart Huckabees (First is Memento). It bills itself as an existential comedy, which you know, fits my genre. It explores some of the absurdities with life, meaning and nihilism. One great line in it is when Lily Thomas’s character asks

“What do you think would happen if you didn’t tell the stories? Are you being yourself?”

I heart Huckabees

And the answer Judd Law’s character gives helped me with a big struggle I had with my mental health.

For many years I worried greatly about how my behaviour changed when taking my meds. I wasn’t as pessimistic, I didn’t ruminate as much, I didn’t spend as much time thinking about how the world is fucked. I struggled with it because there’s an easy trope to fall into and it’s of the tortured genius. It’s easy to point to great thinkers in the past who were tormented.

There’s also a bunch of folks online who think taking meds and “fighting” their mental health struggles makes them sheep. It’s easy to think this. Just think of Brave New World, 1984, and most dystopian books. The thinking is that if you move your focus away from everything that’s broken, if you don’t stay focused on the wrongs on the world, on the flaws of humanity, you can’t solve the problem.

It’s a very appealing theory. It means that all that suffering you’re doing, is not in vain. You’re not wrong to feel this way. It justifies the pain, both the past pain and the present pain. It means all that time I suffered wasn’t my fault for not changing myself, it’s everyone else who is too weak to sit with the darkness.

I’m not even sure who, but I think it was an aunt who, when I was 17-18, gave me a quote from George Bernard Shaw.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself”.

George Bernard Shaw

When Judd law is asked “What do you think would happen if you didn’t tell the stories? Are you being yourself?” he answers

“How am I not myself?”

I Heart Huckabees

Both existential detectives then keep repeating and pondering “How am I not myself?”

And once it sinks in, once you realize the absurdity of saying or even asking if you’re not yourself you in a sense free yourself from all expectations.
You cannot be anything but yourself. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be pleased with yourself. That you can’t improve yourself. Just that there is no need to worry if you’re yourself. Because you can’t be anyone but yourself.

(And yes, this means that, even given the good intentions, I’m not a huge fan of the “not myself” mental health campaign which implies that you can or should be someone different.)

Meta Blogging Thoughts, Memory and Song Lyrics

One thing I struggle with these blog posts is that I have a tendency to ramble on. The post on memory really could of gone in multiple direction. What got me thinking on the topic is actually that I couldn’t find the song with the lyrics I had in my head which were “And I wonder if you think of me too”

I’m figured out that the beat I had in my mind was from:

I think the part I was humming was “I don’t know if you feel the same as I do”. Really there are many parts in the song that are very close and it would easily fit in with the rest of the song.

Regardless, while writing the post on memory I was like… no one gives a shit about me humming the wrong lyrics. I should write something (put on monocle) erudite (a word for smart you’d in academia).

So then I was like, I can link it to the hypocrisy post. Or wait! I can link it about how we create our past selves and we fabricate a past that will justify our actions and somehow slide in that everyone needs to watch Memento. Seriously though, if you haven’t seen it, it’s my favourite movie of all time.

I think part of the problem causing this is that I somehow feel an obligation to have good content here. But I’m not exactly sure why…. For my 30 followers? For the 12 people who read the posts? It’s not like I’m trying to become an influencer or build my mailing list or something. It’s just legit random thoughts…. And yet…

Hypocrisy is the worst sin

Hypocrisy has been on my mind recently. Both in how it impacts my perception of others and how I try to recognize it more in myself.

When I think of fall from graces (mostly in politics) it’s not actually the action that person did. It’s how that action clashes with how they’ve presented themselves. The “locker room” talk from Donald Trump is a good example. It would of sunk many candidates, but it didn’t clash with what he said. In that respect, he wasn’t a hypocrite.

I think about this often. I worry that I’m a hypocrite in many respects. For example, I worry that I’m a hypocrite on climate change. I don’t do as much as many folks. I’m not saying I’m just going out there burning oil or anything. Oh wait, yes, I literally am. We use home heating oil to heat our house. Out where we live it’s almost the only option. We have plans to change to an electric heat pump, but that’s likely to be in 2021. So until then, we’re burning oil.

I also fly to the south every year. Yes, it’s for my health, and taking the train, or bus, down to Mexico isn’t really feasible, but still, the carbon cost is high. All that to say, there are many things that would make me a green hypocrite.

Another instance I’ve been noticing is in terms of others who either share some of my flaws or share some of my past flaws (in action or in thought).

I seem to have a very hard time having compassion for people who act or think just like my 25 year old self acted or thought. Not to mention people who, like my current self, are disorganized, not always on time, get distracted by shiny things, take on too much, are too hard on themselves etc etc.

I think that last one is particularly painful because of how much it exposes my current hypocrisy. I don’t have a fix for this. Yes, I’m trying to be more aware of it, catch it sooner and faster and “redress” as quickly as possible, but I think I’m far from where I could be.

All I can do is to try to make the feedback look of action to realization to change in behaviour faster every time.

Nondualism

I’ve always liked the idea of nondualism, I do sometimes struggle with it. I forget, I “other”, I assume bad intent, I lack compassion, etc.

Lucas wrote about it here: https://lucascherkewski.com/study/franklin-other-us/ which was a good reminder.

I find the problem is when I’m in the moment I often forget it. I might get back to it a bit later. Realize I lost it and then be compassionate in the past tense. I’m hoping it’s like all exercise, the more I practice it, the better it’ll be.

Remember the Past to Appreciate the Present

I really loved the Mass Effect video game, the whole trilogy in fact is amazing. One thing I still remember clearly is finishing Mass Effect and having this song come on during the credits:

From the start of the guitar to when the lyrics kick in, the song always spoke to me. While I was perhaps slightly better than in the past in 2008, it was still a pretty big mess. The feeling of longing, nostalgia and what I’ll call hopeful despair that I took from the song really made an impact on me at the time.

I identified with the lyrics, I had always up to that point struggled with being able to be a “full” person on my own. That I shouldn’t need anyone else that I used as a crutch. My happiness, my wisdom, my actions, they shouldn’t rely on there being someone else there with me (in particular as a romantic partner).

And I need you to recover
Because I can’t make it on my own

M4 Lyrics

A few books got me to accept the impossibility of that task. That humans were not built to be that way (by this I mean, being alone, not that the traditional concept of relationship is for everyone).

Once in a while the song comes up in one of my playlists. And it reminds me, in an almost nostalgic way, of the times when I really didn’t have my shit together.

Sometimes it’s good to remember the past to appreciate the present.