Why I Didn’t Tell You About Jordan Peterson

First of all I’ll tell you something I’ve been hiding from you for really no reason other than the fact that I hate myself, I suppose. The videos that I watched that set me on this new path of honesty were lectures by Jordan Peterson. I have been listening to hours and hours of Jordan Peterson lectures. This is kind of embarassing because it seems like I always find some new guru and buy into everything they say. Eventually I forget about them. I don’t think I’m unique in this way, but I like to think of myself as unique, and it kills me to think that everything I say comes from somewhere else.

It’s also annoying because Peterson is very of the moment right now, especially for 30 year old white males who have wasted their lives. If you read through the comments on his lectures you’ll see them. We’re like a club. Nothing makes you feel more mass produced. It’s like Carl Jung said, “People don’t have ideas, ideas have people.” Where do you think I got that quote? One of Peterson’s podcasts.

Yeah so here I am thinking I have these ideas, but I’m just a groupie. Even the ideas I had before I watched his lectures were held by what appears to be hundreds of thousands of people.

Also, there was an article about how Peterson became a kind of hero to the new right when he took a stand against what they call “social justice warriors”, and I can’t be seen endorsing some kind of right wing asshole after the stands I’ve taken here, namely that heterosexual white males are ruining the world.

So what does it mean? I don’t know. I don’t give a fuck, apparently. I’m drinking coffee on the balcony when I should be doing things and stuff like that. Not giving a fuck is easy to do.

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Dark

This girl made me think. Why does that happen? There was a girl in Boston who made me think.
Sure I’m always thinking, but I’m usually thinking the same thing. Some variation of the same thing.

But in these two instances, all the lights in my head went on for a blinding few seconds. Then they went out with a hiss and I found myself on cold, damp, soft weird shit, just shivering there.

A neurotic mess: myself, but worse.

The first descent in darkness was interrupted with some real practical type shit. I got fired, so I had to find a job and make money fast and I’m no good at that. Working seven days a week saved me from suicide or enlightenment.

Then this most recent descent.

My inner life was cruising along at medium shitty, nice and comfy. Then I met her and the ride got bumpy. I thought, why these moments of transcendence, mixed with these hours of extreme neurosis and nausea?

I asked: why am I stuck in this marriage, why can’t I just do what I want, why don’t I ever do drugs or listen to music in the dark or jump off cliffs?

Then I found the answer to why I don’t do those things. It wasn’t because I’m married. It’s because I believe that life is stupid and pointless, and I believe that if it was designed, it was designed to fuck with me.

Ten years ago, when I found out Genesis didn’t really happen, I laughed and said, you’ll never fool me again, Culture. Society. White men in long robes. Fuck y’all. I bought a bottle of Chivas, like my new hero Hunter Thompson, and I went to fuckin town.

Ten years I believed in nothing. You don’t know! I said to everyone. You don’t know shit, none of you do because none of you can, and anyone that thinks they know anyone is deluding themselves. And more power to those assholes, because I’d love to be able to delude myself. But I couldn’t delude myself. I had seen the truth, and it was an abyss.

Ten years I worked in restaurants thinking that the reason I didn’t get out of it was that I wasn’t using my free time effectively.

Ten years and longer than that, I lied with abandon, fashioning a chameleon armor around my starving, angry soul to keep everything away, to keep alive in a world that couldn’t give a shit.

But how is it that these two girls broke in where others didn’t?

Probably something to do with sex and something else to do with my mother.

Gotta go, bitches. More later.

Spoiler alert: I still don’t believe, and I’m still married.

Click here to go to part two.

Prelude to Something Worth Reading

I went home. I got back. I forgot to post yesterday. That’s a chink in my plan to post every day until 2018. Since I failed, I would usually give up now. So instead I’ll just post twice today and keep it going. 

I’m afraid to change things here on this blog because Gordon Flanders is a nihilist and proud of it. Me I’m tired of seeming like I’m getting away with everything.

I’m thirty years old. I’ve been living ten years as a nihilist if not in action at least in thought. My life looks okay from the outside but my thoughts are fucked up. I got secrets.

And I’m finding out how much of a follower I am, philosophically. It’s okay to be unoriginal as long as you know it. I thought being nihilistic was the way that everyone should be, because it’s the truth that nothing matters. How could anything have value in a crazy world like ours.

But it turns out I bought my worldview at the same store as everyone else.

Stick around y’all. Looks like I’ve still got some interesting posts up my sleeves. 

Fuck Flaubert, Fuck Socrates and Plato

Guy fixes his car behind a tree in Brooklyn

One of the effects of moving around all the time is that you’re never doing things for as long as you think you are. Even when you feel like you’ve been doing something too long, and that you’re becoming boring and stale, you have been doing things for less time than other people.

Well, that illustrates the problem, really, with comparing yourself to other people. Is the above paragraph supposed to reassure me? Am I actually supposed to feel less bad about doing the same things every week because I have been doing the same things every week for less time than other people I know have?

Guy fixes his car behind a tree in Brooklyn

Here is a wildlife

Nah fuck it, I can’t be doing the same thing every week. At the same time, I should focus and do the same thing every single day all the fucking time forever so that I can be really great at shit. Like Flaubert said, be boring in your life so you can be wild in your work, something like that.

You know what fuck Flaubert. Fuck listening to other people and quoting them and shit. People say that we have to listen to people that were here before us or else we have to build the universe from nothing and how far are we going to get from our birth to our death? How far is a human infant going to get in this world without instruction?

I don’t know the answer to that whole thing, but fuck it. I’ll tell you the thing is that I don’t really know shit about Flaubert. I read Madame Bovary, the English translation, and I read a couple of things about his life and I read that quote about being wild and original in your work and how it requires having a boring ass life schedule.

That’s all I know about Flaubert, but that’s enough for me to be like, oh I should change my life based on the teachings of Flaubert. You know what that is? That’s what Socrates was worried about when the first writing machine came out. People can go around pretending to know shit because they read it one time in a book. You can learn shit without effort, or at least appear to have learned shit without effort.

And the best part is I never read anything that Socrates wrote, first of all because he never wrote anything and second of all because I didn’t even read the shit that Plato said that he said, and yet I can talk about how he was scared of the danger inherent in book learning with the greatest of ease and pass it off as intimate knowledge based on some shit I’ve absorbed through cultural osmosis.

Boom!

Just For Tonight, I Will Try to Be Kind

I started using the Headspace App a few months ago and have been fairly consistent in meditating for ten minutes every day. They have the option to increase the amount of time, but I haven’t tried to commit more than ten minutes. More than ten minutes and I’m likely to think I haven’t got the time for it.

I started out really well, I think, and then after a while I was less good at it, falling asleep a lot, letting my mind wander all the time. Andy, the Headspace guy, says you’ve got to train the mind even when you’re not meditating. Well, he doesn’t say it like that. He always says use a gentle touch with the mind. He says you should be noticing when you’re indulging in thoughts that take you away from the present moment and seek to gently bring yourself back to the present moment. So anyway I got to the point where I was letting my mind wander as much as I had been before I started “training my mind.”

But a few days ago I decided to “give it another go” and “get serious” again. Side note, does putting cliches in quotes absolve you of the literary crime of using them? “Fuck it.” Haven’t we been down this road before…

So anyway, I’m meditating on different kinds of “happiness,” as silly as that sounds. Yesterday, Andy said that I couldn’t feel happy if I was simultaneously being unkind towards anyone. And he said I also count as someone that I shouldn’t be unkind towards.

Today at work I tried to be kind to everyone, including myself. It worked well, even when I found it a struggle for a few moments when some customers seemed to respond with vitriol and condescension, and even when I forgot to keep “being kind” at the forefront of my mind.

One thing I tried to realize is that being kind to everyone and yourself doesn’t mean self-abnegation. It doesn’t mean you have to be subservient or obsequious. What’s the right way to balance being kind to an asshole and being kind to yourself…not sure yet.

But I’ll work on it. In the meantime, I’m on break, sitting in the sunlight and feeling good about the morning, which is not something to be taken for granted.

Paul Graham said that anyone who insults us hurts us twice, the first time when they insult us and the second time for however long we ruminate on it. By focusing constantly on kindness, you don’t have a lot of time to get hurt in the second way. Also, in regards to yesterdays’ rant about customer service and finding a way out of it, Bob Dylan says that everyone has to serve someone. And that’s really ok, because being waited on all the time makes me uncomfortable anyway. It’s good to serve other people out of our own free will and kindness, not out of avarice and not with bitterness. Is it possible to serve people at your job while feeling like you’re doing it out of the “kindness of your heart?” Maybe.

But in any case, it will be good to eliminate bitterness from my life, if possible, because Benedict Cumberbatch was right when he said, “Bitterness is a paralytic.” I think I’ve written a post about that, but I forgot about it until now. Maybe I have not made much progress in my career because I am bitter about the past, how I graduated college at the wrong time; how I took on too much debt for no reason; how I didn’t pay attention in school; how I didn’t put in enough resumes last year, or the year before that or the year before that. Translating that bitterness towards the customers gives it fresh life and keeps me from breaking free.

Now, I’ve tried to be positive about customers before, and that fails after a while. But maybe the way is not to be positive about what they’re doing, or who they are, because after all you can’t know those things, and when you think about it nearly everyone is as clever and complex as you are, but anyway to disregard all that and focus on what you can control, how kind you are to them and to yourself, that may be the way. So if someone berates you unfairly, not to stand there and take it as if you deserved it, but rather to return to them a kind response and to remind yourself that you don’t deserve that kind of treatment, and move on. Any thought you have about their hopefully impending horrible death is fine, you’re allowed to have the thought, since thoughts don’t define who you are, but at the same time you don’t want to leave the present and walk very far down into that fantasy.

And you especially don’t want to do it and rationalize it by telling yourself that it will make good material for a story, since bitterness the paralytic will keep you from writing any stories.

So for me I will not seek to understand people tonight at work, only to be kind towards them and towards myself. We’ll see how happy I am at the end of the shift.

Fate the Security Blanket

Blame the gods, the ground has given away beneath us. It’s not your fault that you put the basement in wrong. Nah, what do you know about putting basements in? Anyway, who told you to do it. The gods and the fates.

It was nice, wasn’t it, then, to have someone to blame. That wasn’t so bad. And we didn’t have to get so arrogant and live and die by our decisions and all of that. Some people are into that sort of thing.

William James decided for one year that he was going to take responsibility for everything that happened in his life, and apparently it was the year of his “rebirth.” I’ve heard it worked out well for him. I thought about doing it for myself. But maybe William James was just the exception. How many people take responsibility for everything that happens in their life and then kill themselves.

You never know, right, because all you do know about is William James and Brad Pitt. Worked for them. 

How many amazing writers will never be read? Who knows, who knows, writing well and getting people to read are two different skills and not every golden thing gets uncovered by virtue of it’s glitter.

Good at Beginning

Man they are out the window now I had to turn on Spotify. Humanity is out there. The windows are open in October, which ain’t normal around here, that shit is giving me the creeps. People are out there singing songs and driving cars and shit. People are strange!

I have been listening to Matthew DeKay and Lee Burridge’s track, Fur die Liebe. I don’t know if it is really good or it just takes me back to the two All Day I Dream parties I went to this summer. I listen and fantasize that I am there and I am high. But I always remember that moment when I realized I took too much and I felt like a praying mantis on a crosswalk sign in downtown Manhattan.

Remember when Mitch Hedberg told that joke about drinking wine. Hey man, doesn’t wine give you a headache? Yeah but I’m not going to stop doing something because the end is bad. The beginning and the middle are amazing. That’s like if someone said, Hey Mitch, want an apple? I say, no, sooner or later, it’ll be…a core.

There are a lot of things like that. Maybe most things don’t end well. I guess just stop thinking about the ending.

Humanism vs. Materialism in “Among the Disrupted: On the Bankruptcy of the Digital Utopia”

Can this life be reduced to matter and it’s movements? Do thoughts only exist as a transfer of energy across synapses? Materialism says yes. I can’t help but answer yes. However, an essay, a book, and a novel have recently converged to make me question whether that is the right answer.

I’ll leave it to more disciplined souls to get out of the way of their ideas and write in a metered style. Formality is sucking the fun out of this shit anyway.

Fuck man, are we all just atoms and empty space? Yes of course we are. But fuck it, why do we even believe that? Because, man, of history. What a bitch. Yeah well I don’t know too much about history at all, and specifically any history that’s not from 1920 to 1932 in the United States, so take all this shit with a grain of salt, but mother fuckers have been asking these stupid ass questions for centuries.

I been reading three things in the last couple of days: Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, published in 1891 or 1892 (they had a hard time keeping track of years back then), Among the Disrupted: On the Bankruptcy of the Digital Utopia by Leon Wieseltier, former editor of The New Republic and advocate of “physical reality” as opposed to digital what’s-it, published this month, and Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941 by Michael Parrish, whoever the hell he is…or was, I’m not sure which applies, published in 1992 (sorry Michael Parrish, I really like the book).

So yeah these shits have been intersecting all over the place and making my mind be like ho damn, these shits are intersecting all over the place! So I been thinking about my mind state.

First thing I want to say is that Wieseltier’s essay meanders around and when I really scrutinized it I was thinking to myself that this dude needs to focus. But then I realized that I don’t focus when I write, and if it’s okay for this dude, maybe it’s ok for me, too. Meander on, you crazy diamond.

So I went through the essay sentence by sentence trying to decipher the whole thing and really know the shit, as opposed to just having read it, you know, and having the illusion of knowing what it was that was being said, or the impression of what it was saying. I was able to quickly relate to a lot of the individual sentences, and they sent me on tangents of thought that allowed me to read quickly over other sentences I wasn’t paying any attention to while projecting those tangents onto the page so that it seemed Wieseltier and I were in perfect agreement. Upon a closer reading, I was able to get my own thoughts down on paper as well as take into account what he was really saying. It was not as glamorous as I had made it to be, but it was…still good. I don’t know, fuck, moving on.

One of the main things he’s saying is that our experience of life is being “flattened,” which is a term in broad use these days it seems, much to my chagrin. It seems everyone knows how to fit into this mind state that I’m in, and has already gone there.

What I’m going to do in this essay-ish rant is focus on Wieseltier’s essay, and then relate what the other books have to say about similar topics. Or that’s what I’m thinking right now anyway.

Both Anxious Decades and Tess of the d’Urbervilles have something to say about this. Parrish talks about Sinclair Lewis’s fictional character George Babbitt: “But even Babbitt’s brief flirtation with bohemia, Lewis suggested, imprisoned his personality in yet another set of cliches and stereotypes.” Man that’s a bitch. It’s like Brooklyn hipsters, right, you see people walking around trying to be free spirits but they are all doing the same things. And here I am using the word “flattening” which I don’t know how recently has burst into semi-common lexicon. And then old Thomas Hardy, the cagey bastard, has Tess saying this shit about learning history: “…what’s the use of learning that I am one of a long row only–finding out that there is set down in some old book somebody just like me, and to know that I shall only act her part; making me sad, that’s all.” Woo man that’s a bitch. Shit’s been going on for hundreds of years, making everyone sad about it, too.

But that’s not at all the point of what I’m talking about.

Wieseltier is all sad about the flattening of the human experience. The world is rife with quantification, he says, and quantification is taking the human experience and reducing it to ones and zeros. It’s like listening to live music, and then have that shit be recorded on vinyl, and then have that shit be even more condensed so it fits on your phone. That’s what it’s like. But quantification is like the holy grail of the materialist philosopher, right? Maybe, fuck I don’t know any materialist philosophers. But I figure, or have figured, that with enough data, maybe we could understand how to live a perfect, or ‘utopian’ life. I was trying to think yesterday of the word that would describe what I was calling ‘results-oriented’ thinking, and that word is an entire philosophical school of thought called ‘utilitarianism.’ Yeah I know, why didn’t you think of that? So easy. Well whatever, dude, leave me alone. Anyway, utilitarianism is following the practice that turns out the best result for the most amount of people, no matter what that practice is and especially without regard for how something looks.

And utilitarianism is in mad vogue with the minimalists, especially the chic ones who write blog posts on the backs of elephants. And they got utilitarian clothes and utilitarian numbers of possessions or whatever else and I always thought that was the hot shit. Fuck style man I can fit a large pizza in my pocket. We’ll all eat like kings tonight.

Yes well, Wieseltier says that the humanities, this vague term he keeps using, is decidedly anti-utilitarian. Like some people will justify a liberal arts education if it helps you to get a good job somehow, or if you open a theater in an underserved neighborhood and help to create gentrification, than that is good. But he says that misses the point of humanism. Humanism is something to do with the study of Greek and Roman and European art and aesthetics and using that to become a better person. Some tenets of the belief are that humans are central in the universe, that humans are different from animals, that natural sciences fail to explain human history, and that there are universal values not least of which is compassion.

Well it turns out that this shit is heresy to a lot of mother fuckers. And that makes me nervous because everybody wants to be a rebel and maybe, just like George Babbitt, I’ll jump on the humanism train in defiance of what is quickly becoming accepted wisdom (even though it was once controversial and a rebellion itself, but this is the way ideas work) and find that everyone else is there, too, and what’s worse, that I will then feel like I must be wrong, if everyone else thinks that it’s the right thing to do.

A utilitarian will say, “find the immediate actions necessary to achieve an aim.” In fact, someone did say that and his last name was Greif. And to me, that sounds good. I don’t need to fuck with all this thinking trash, it’s only ever brought me misery. What I need to do is actdo, fucking go man and get something done for christ sake. Fuck thinking about how to move all this dirt from the floor to the trash can, I’ma start picking that shit up, by God. That shit will get done mother fucker. Of course that’s not utilitarian, that’s just impulsive stupidity hiding behind utilitarianism, or something else, who knows. But that’s the kind of shit I do. But Wieseltier asserts that maybe before we act we should determine whether or not the action is justifiable, and maybe in order to justify an action, we’re going to need “an accurate picture of ourselves.” And this brings us back to knowledge of self, one of the original axioms of philosophy.

So maybe intentions matter as much as the action, which I am sure is bullshit, but which I would like to be true…maybe.

Another funny thing that I thought about while reading this shit was Socrates fable about the Egyptian god who created writing. Socrates said that writing itself was a flattening of the human experience of true dialogue, he said that written words could not defend themselves to an uneducated maniac who might exploit them to his own twisted ends. Words could not answer questions put to them. He also hated painting, the bastard. But again history goes around in circles. We decry the flattening of experience every chance we get, over thousands of years.

The essay made me question other dear beliefs of mine. For instance, I really like Malcolm Gladwell’s explanation of how The Beatles got to be so good. He called it the Hungarian Crucible or something, and put forth his theory of ten-thousand hours. It takes ten thousand hours to be a master of something, and now we all know that to be true. I read the damn book but I knew it was true before I read the book because I’d heard it and it makes perfect sense. Well, Wieseltier doesn’t like that, or at least he implies that he doesn’t, saying something about everyone trying to apply metrics to phenomena that can’t be measured metrically. And so I thought of Gladwell’s books and the books of the Stev(ph)ens Dubner and Levitt, of Freakonomics fame. Wieseltier is outraged that economists are telling us how to be happy and I think these economists are examples of that. I loved the book when I read it and of course believed it to be the perfect word of God. Now I have to rethink that. I don’t know why I read books so credulously when I don’t remember half of what they say. If I would have thought about it when I read it instead of after the fact, I wouldn’t have whatever misconceptions I have about it now. But I guess that’s the curse of not being classically educated and mature at the age of 28. Good God when will I have a sound moral, ethical and logical framework with which to weigh and consider seriously the ideas I pour indiscriminately into my head? I’ll aim for next Tuesday.

The essay also made me question my beliefs about Carl Sagan’s personality. I figured old Carl probably saw the world in terms of ones and zeros, a strict materialist. But he’s so damn happy, maybe he would agree with humanists who believe, according to Wieseltier, “that the glories of art and thought are not evolutionary adaptations, or that the mind is not the brain, or that love is not just biology’s bait for sex.” I also thought about today’s obsession with science and technology, and Carl Sagan’s book A Candle in the Dark, which bemoaned America’s obsession with magic crystals, astrology, and superstitions of all kind. It is an amazing book. But has it helped to form this new world, where we see everything in terms of science? And then again, is this a new world at all? By the 1930s we had “reduced life to a set of mathematical equations about the behavior of atoms, molecules, neurons and synapses.” Shit. That’s the real great depression. Hm but is it really? Maybe old Carl found a way to be happy about that. Well, if anyone could, it was him.

So, fuck, why did you read this far? Well I can’t tell you why I wrote this far. I wrote almost five thousand words today on this shit, trying to figure it the fuck out and I tell you it’s damnably murky even still. But of all things I been reading it’s Thomas Hardy and his hundred year old text that makes me feel best about the whole thing. I read a lot today. I think reading is good now, maybe it’s a good use of my time. Fuck if I know. Maybe I should try to get my own column in some upstanding news source. Ha! Maybe I should learn how to write a focused essay first. Then again, if old Wieseltiel can do it…

Goodnight, bitches!

Humanism…Could It Work? What the Hell Is It? No Answers Here.

Yesterday I thought of my work as a meaningful way to survive in the world as we know it, instead of some kind of sick, twisted way to maintain the flow of consumable trash through my little container, itself one of many containers inside of a larger container for disaffected young humans, and it worked pretty good.

This morning I woke up and read this piece in the New York Times by Leon Wieseltier, a man of whom I had never heard. By the time I got done with the article I was like, this man is a god damned genius. I printed that shit out on a piece of paper.

I haven’t had time to really think about it yet because I spent most of the day going to doctors. I haven’t been to the doctors, any of them, in years, not since I was a kid, and that was some weird shit going on in them “offices.” And then I got home and went out to the grocery store. And now I have to work on this old man’s book. But I’m going to read that shit again later.

I been thinking over that shit I wrote a couple of days ago some more and I think it’s still true. But here I am already relying on the feeling of it to decide whether it’s true. And again, some of the shit I wrote was brilliantly contradicted in this Wieseltier essay, so I will have to consider that shit.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of fiction or what, but I am feeling pretty insightful. I am off tomorrow, too, so I will have time to write a post and try to figure out what the fuck.

In case you don’t feel like clicking that link and maybe changing your life, I’ll just give you a little summary of that paper, as far as I remember, which isn’t very far. Wieseltier was basically defending humanism, which is especially interesting to me because I haven’t really heard much about humanism since I read Man Without a Country, Vonnegut’s memoir-ish essays (which also profoundly changed the way I thought for at least a week after I read it). But anyway humanism is…well I don’t know what it is but it’s something to do with believing humans can lead a meaningful life through being nice to people and improving themselves through critical thinking and education. That’s at least sort of like a part of it, or something.

And anyway he was saying that now we are pursuing information like we used to pursue profits, or rather we are doing both at the same time. Whether or not things are considered good is directly related to whether or not they are deemed useful by the marketplace, or whether or not they achieve some positive result quickly. We are kind of flattening the human experience by quantifying shit. He quips that economists are the people telling us how to be happy. This many people found this one thing that made them happy on this day, and since we’re all the same, we will do that same shit. A bunch of other stuff but I have to get to work. If none of that shit interests you, don’t read the essay. If it does, get on that shit. Here’s the link again, you lazy ass.

It was really mind blowing for me to read because I often think in terms of materialism, or rather what I call materialism, which to me means that emotions are just chemicals and humans are just another kind of machine the behavior of which we could accurately predict if we know all of the variables. I also often think in terms of results, like ok cut the bullshit let’s get down to brass tacks, you did A B C and you got D, I will do that shit, too, considering of course that D is desirable. Hm well I am having trouble expressing what I mean by results-oriented thinking and how it could be a bad thing, but I will try to figure it out tomorrow. The upshot, to use a word I’ve never used, is that I am re-thinking dehumanization, or vulcanization, which I was talking about a couple days ago.

He also accuses journalists of needing to have words and not having time to wait for thoughts. I do that shit a lot on this blog. Just write the same old shit sometimes because I like typing shit.