It’s been my experience that the best measure of a person’s character is how they act under pressure or when otherwise injured. Consequently, I’ve found myself making my biggest strides in personal growth by improving my behavior in exactly that area.
It’s also been my experience that spiteful people are insecure and scared little children underneath, and are best handled the same way.
In software engineering, a pipeline consists of a chain of processing elements (processes, threads, coroutines, etc.), arranged so that the output of each element is the input of the next. Usually some amount of buffering is provided between consecutive elements. The information that flows in these pipelines is often a stream of records, bytes or bits.
It’s my understanding that the Universe is ordered according to two fundamental principles: Chaos, and Entropy.
Chaos these days is often considered to be the lack of Order, or even Order’s antagonist. Though originally, the Ancient Greeks who coined the term considered it a dark formlessness from which all life originated.
Entropy, taken to it’s logical conclusion, is also formlessness. Though the grey, bland, everything is perfectly mixed and homogenized kind of formlessness.
Life as we’re experiencing it right now exists between these two extremes of formlessness, in what I consider a paradoxical third extreme. There’s no word for it other than Life itself.
There’s no balance to be obtained here, except in how you experience it, if you even want it, sometimes it’s more fun to embrace the extremities. There’s no order to be found except what you impose upon it, and the laws of physics, but even those are questionable at the right levels, under the right circumstances. And there’s only as much entropy as what you allow to seep in.
As a living, sentient, experiencing being, you’re free, allowed, ENCOURAGED to live. That’s why there’s no meaning to life. That’s because you have to infuse Life with that Meaning yourself. Otherwise you’re not living, you’re barely surviving—you’re formless yourself.
Throughout my life I’d always been encouraged to go away. “Shut up! Go away!”
I dealt with a horrible home life by never being at home unless I needed to or was too exhausted to fight it. I’d often go for a two hour walk around the town because it’s all I could do. During one of those excursions, which I recall was clouded by a particularly dark mood, I saw my grade’s popular girl walking down the sidewalk towards me. Unlike most guys, I wasn’t interested. Even though she lived a block away from me, and we rode the same bus home, I don’t recall if we’d spoken previously to that. But as she passed me by she smiled and said “Hi.” I was struck dumb by her acknowledgement of my existence. Most guys wished they could get that girl to pay attention to them. I wanted nothing more than to shrink farther into oblivion.
I had attempted suicide on a handful of occasions but never went all the way. I didn’t have enough self esteem to do it. I became a ghost instead.
During high school I worked not to merely fit in, but to disappear entirely. Towards the end of my high school career, I once found myself hanging out in the kitchen of a guy I didn’t like with a girl I did and they both remarked that I looked like every other guy out there. Nothing noteworthy whatsoever. I was happy—that’s exactly what I was going for.
In my opinion, parts I-IV of this piece from The Last Psychiatrist are an appetizer to the main course in V, which gets to the heart of the issue.
The most important— her words— advice Sandberg has to offer women is… to choose your husband carefully.
Keep in mind, her message is not for future COOs, her message is for the rest of you organ donors who need to be transitioned from 9 to 5 to 8 to 6.
The single greatest obstacle to turning women into fully productive members of the workforce, i.e. batteries, is not men obstructing them but their persistent belief in metaphysics. If the thing that is keeping women out of the underpaid labor force is “family”, then family must go, and if what pulls them towards family is love then love has to be a fantasy.
That. FUCK THAT.
I happen to deeply love my wife and kids. I’ve collapsed in the hallway with them in my arms and cried because they mean the world to me. My family is literally why I’m alive.
To, instead, get in line with a system that wants me to believe that my job is more important than love and family would result in me having nothing better than a mental disorder.
Women aren’t the only ones who are coerced into sacrificing love and family and real meaning in life for a fucking paycheck. And if your job is where you get real meaning out of your life then the best I can do is pity you.
While I have a good job, I’m not married to it. I enjoy the type of work that I do, and I have pride in what I’ve accomplished and where I am professionally, but at the end of the day (which is 5pm) I go where I really belong.
Because there will always be more work to do, and there will not always be more life to live.
What follows is an uncensored snippet from today’s Morning Pages. I’ve been doing them off and on for around a decade now. Unfortunately, they’ve been mostly off the last few years. I’m doing what I can to change that.
I cannot control what you think of me, but I can come to grips with my fears. Unsettling as that may be, I’ve come very far, and grown lots as a person, by doing the things I’m afraid of because I’m afraid of doing them. It is my hope that by revealing this little part of me today that growth will happen again.
Here’s a curious observation though. I’ve put a lot of effort into building apps and writing code, but they’ve always been a distraction for me. I’ve used programming as a shield for writing. Yet I’ve felt insecure when I don’t produce. Are they related? Do I feel insecure because a lack of production fails to hide my true calling? The lump in my throat and my wet eyes point to YES.
Therefore, is my attempt to write code mere compensation? YES. Like a dude with a Hummer.
My real calling is writing stories. They all have an air of magic about them. A tie to a world unseen. I hide that because I am afraid. Of what? Of being ridiculed and mocked. Of being cast out. Of being different. But the more I’ve tried to hide my self, the more I’ve come to despise myself. Like a narcissist, I’ve created an illusion. Sports, code, programming, “smartness”—”It’s become the opium that used to be religion." By clinging so hard to it I’ve become fake like people I try to tell myself I’m not.
Worst of all, I’ve lied to myself. LIZARD BRAIN. I’ve lied to myself about who I am and what I can do, because I’m afraid. It’s been telling me what to do and where to go all these years because I’m afraid.
Whenever I’m not writing code, I’m writing prose and I’m damned good at it, but I’m damned afraid of letting other people read it. I’m even afraid to put this down on tumblr or whatnot because of fear. I’m scared, really, really scared, which is why I am telling myself I should do it.
“Suicide, it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”—The best advice I ever heard about suicide, spoken by a dude I stocked shelves with at an IGA, which helped to prevent me from making that choice more than once.
It’s not as simple as that though. A lot of small things led up to one horrifying incident. More and better health care, particularly mental health care, would be useful in preventing future incidents, and would be beneficial to everyone in the country regardless. It’s something that should already exist.
I don’t think more or less guns would make a big difference. But I’ve read that the leaders of the NRA are pushing laws that it’s members actually oppose. The members are in favor of stricter regulations, and that many of the guns that are used in murders are obtained from states where regulations are lax and imported to stricter states. The problem is not guns, but the NRA, which is effectively a business. The adage that a business will perpetuate the problem to which they are the solution keeps running through my mind. The problem they’re solving is the abolition of the 2nd amendment, which is in no danger of being destroyed. They prey on that fear to their base the same way a shoe store prey’s on the gullibility of a customer with their BOGO sale (“act now before it’s too late!”).
I can’t say that posting an armed officer at every school is a bad idea because there was one at Columbine and he did a damn good job from what I’ve read. But my own kids’ school doesn’t allow even a picture of a gun and I can’t say they’re wrong either. Furthermore, there were cops at a private school in my district growing up, and metal detectors at every door, and it was the worst school in the district for drugs and violence. The cops ended up being an incentive for the kids, they were a thing to fight against and an enemy to target. You force that scenario at every school and I suspect that it would result in the cops and kids turning against each other in multiple places.
In the end, sometimes life is randomly horrible. I could get killed in a car accident tomorrow, but I doubt anyone would say “get rid of the cars!” or “we need more cars” because of it. Some more or better driver training could have helped though, and I think that’s the angle that should be taken. Improve schools and education, and health care for people who need it.
Got asked the on facebook, and spent some time answering, so I figured I’d repost it here.
One time, perhaps a year or two after I met my wife, I had a dream about Death. In my dream I walked forward atop a grassy hill. Perpendicular to me walked Death herself. She was made of nothing but bones, and wore a translucent grey hooded robe. Against her blew a terrible wind that was felt only by the Reaper and a red flag tied to the top of her scythe. I didn’t stop walking, Death didn’t stop marching, and we crossed paths — I walked through Death. It was an experience that I can only describe as getting splashed with cold water on the inside. After, we stopped and looked at each other. Her skull was something like that of a horse’s, she is a Horseman, after all.
During my waking life I was deep in the throes of my own inadequacies, crazy with fear and anger and responsibility, desperately clawing my way from hell. In that dream moment, while I stared into the eyes of the Reaper, a question occurred to me. While I knew the answer before I spoke, I asked of Death the only question I had:
"Will I die a good death?"
"That’s up to you." she replied.
And with that she turned and flew up into the air towards Mount Olympus (it was a dream, after all, and I suppose that makes her name Thanatos). Knowing, somehow, that this was a dream I challenged it and deliberately looked away, expecting her and the dream to be gone when I looked back. Instead, I saw her flying still, and so to me it was more than just a regular dream.
Even so, I woke up, and since then I worked hard to right my wrongness so that when I die I can do so peacefully. Now, after many years of hard truths and hard work I can die knowing that I’m not a horrible monster, and I’m not a horrible person.
I’ve got a lot left to do though, and so my question has evolved a little since then.
Once, I cried all the way home from school to an empty house, stood in the kitchen with a carving knife pressed against my stomach. The point was hard, and hurt, but I lacked the conviction to push it all the way in. I cried for fifteen minutes until I finally put the thing back.
Many nights I laid in bed crying myself to sleep. I’d press the pillow down upon my face to keep my parents from hearing me, and then I’d hold it down as hard as I could, hoping it would suffocate me.
Later, I fantasized about taking the car keys late at night and sitting in the garage while the rumbling engines put me to sleep. I had heard of someone in my town doing that years before and the peacefulness of it attracted me.
One day, in grade seven chemistry class, my teacher unlocked a special cupboard and pulled out a dozen or so bottles of what was obviously something that kids weren’t supposed to play with. Cyanide…one of them held cyanide. The bottle was about the size of a bottle of model paint. I held it in my hand a long time and starred at it. I wondered if it was enough to kill me. It wasn’t totally full, but people took cyanide pills so it might be enough. But how stupid would I have looked if it wasn’t enough and I ended up having to come back to class and face everyone who already hated me as the dumbass who was such a failure he couldn’t even kill himself.
Then, years later, so many years that some people might have mistaken me for a well adjusted adult, I ran out of weed after being high every day for a few months. It wasn’t doing for me what it used to so I decided that it was time once again for a break. The withdrawal was torturous, and I was a week into it. My job review was coming up. A moment where I would be deliberately judged by my superiors. An affair which, for a child who’s primary authority figure, his father, was also his biggest bully, would have been anxiety inducing under relatively calm circumstances. The fear of being judged dredged up all of my failures. I was a terrible husband, a cruel father, I was the monster I hated. Surely they would see that and dispose of me like the trash I was. My awfulness weighed unbearably upon me.
I could not stop stabbing myself in the chest. I hated myself. I was worthless. I was evil. I was garbage. Over and over my right hand plunged a knife through my sternum. Over and over, the knife plunged into my chest, destroying my heart. I could not stop the vision. I wanted to, but I couldn’t stop fantasizing about it in all it’s bloody horror. And when, in a fleeting moment, I did banish the thought my mind said “fine, let’s blow a fucking hole in your head instead!” and now my right hand held a gun and my brains were painting the walls.
I cried uncontrollably, huddled in the fetal position on my bed. I could not stop, but I did feel thankful for the wonderful woman who sat by my side and held me throughout it. I was powerless to my own self hate and depression, but her love shone through.
My Dad is one of the things I don’t talk about. I’m opening up about that. He’s not all bad, but he’s not alright either. I know the root of why he acts the way he does, and why his self-esteem is so catastrophically low. While I’ll keep that to myself out of respect, I will say that it’s not a thing that I think he ought to feel ashamed of. But he does, and I understand.
The end result though is that he hated himself so much that he loved himself in a twisted way, resulting in what I suspect is a narcissistic personality disorder. In particular:
Narcissists have such an elevated sense of self-worth that they value themselves as inherently better than others. Yet, they have a fragile self-esteem and cannot handle criticism, and will often try to compensate for this inner fragility by belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth.
The belittling was the worst. Every time I stepped into the room he had something to say. Something snarky. Something mean. Something subtle. It was always just subtle enough that you could be unsure if he meant it meanly or not, and he could easily justify it and say he was teasing or that I had no sense of humor. But his comments were never funny, they always hurt. Now I have no idea whether anyone is ever actually trying to hurt me or not and I’m always expecting the pain.
It’s easy to push you away, and to isolate myself, but the stronger man gets back up.
I’ve begun meditating, and have been doing so for many weeks now. I’m no guru, but I have been able to reflect upon my life, and the lives of my children in a meaningful way. I’ve been able to uncover and revisit old scars and put them here on display.
My most difficult challenge at this point is facing my fears, which is that you, dear reader, will hurt me. I never allowed myself to be vulnerable growing up (which mainly meant getting angry, shoving people, and lying to myself), whereas this exposé is truly revealing. Any one of you could take these facts and emotions I’m revealing and use them to hurt me like any schoolyard bully.
I’m trusting that you won’t.
Whether my father had a full blown personality disorder, or was an unfortunate victim of his own delusions, the end result was his successful controlling of my mother and me, such that he pitted us against each other and divided us in hate. I even sided with him for a while because I was so manipulated by his illness that I perceived my mother as the damaged one. She was, sadly, but because of him.
The New Normal
The worst betrayal he performed was in his role of educator, and that I grew up believing this treatment was normal! It’s not, obviously, but twenty years of pathological conditioning left me very confused about how to see the world. I was angry like no other person I knew. Had I not met my wife when I did I’m certain I would have been dead within the year, either a fool dead in a ditch somewhere with a mind full of chemicals, or I would have killed myself (which is something I contemplated a lot growing up, and almost did a couple times).
Unfortunately, I lived long enough to become my father.
That is the embarrassment. That is the evil truth I hide about who I am. I keep myself locked away because I’m so ashamed of myself. Because I’m so evil, so awful, so pitiful. But the stronger man gets back up.
I’m not the only boy who’s grown up to become the man he despised, but I’m going to break that trend, in this family at least, and be the better man.
While I’ve only been meditating recently, I’ve been writing for years. I’ve exposed myself to myself through hand written words upon hundreds of pages in dozens of books. I’ve expressed my rage and hatred, my hurt and pain, my hope and love. In all of my living I’ve discovered the one ingredient that keeps me from descending into a pit of despair forever, and the one thing that has separated me from my father and will continue to do so, and that’s an open mind.
Curiousity, like many facets of a healthy mind, can be deliberately flexed. It can be integrated into a personality in the same way compassion and courage can be, two other qualities my father lacked.
It’s curiousity that leads a mind to discover itself. It’s curiousity that walks side by side with courage to inspect the deep parts inside, to find the disgusting (and wonderful) things therein, and rather than be repulsed entirely they are understood and forgiven. In the end I’ve become healthier because I am not entirely closed off. Oh, I am ashamed and guilty, but I’m learning to understand those parts too. It’s only through accepting myself completely, the good and the bad, that I can overcome the inner hostility towards myself that crippled me.
Being curious, reflective, and open minded is a positive cycle. It’s a daily choice to be open and aware of who I am. And I can honestly say, a full decade away from the abuses I bore growing up, that I am a happy man.
I enjoy writing. I enjoy admiring art. I don’t particularly become thrilled with the act of brush strokes or pencil strokes; it’s an interesting hobby. I’m a writer. All the time I’m writing. I’m thinking. I’m processing. I’m assembling words in logical orders and punctuating them for stimulating rhythms.
I write. Therefore I am.
I am have been constricted.
In my adult life I’ve faced the challenge of overcoming 20 some odd years of abuse, culminating with my father throwing me out like a piece of trash because I clearly and definitively proved I would no longer tolerate it. I won my freedom in a most painful way.
Since then I’ve been terrified of my words, thoughts, actions, and beliefs because they are what got me so damned in the first place.
But that’s a fallacy of the mind.
Choices are choices, and mine are not his. His are his.
So… my apologies folks. I’m considering the nut cracked. Sorry for taking this long.
Extinction. An ecosystem which has existed for millions of years will be gone forever. Some specimens will continue to be kept in aquaria and laboratories. But if we continue to burn all the oil and natural gas we can find, the oceans won’t be a safe habitat for reintroducing them for 10,000s of years.
According to research by the psychologist Gabriele Oettingen and her colleagues, visualizing a successful outcome, under certain conditions, can make people less likely to achieve it. She rendered her experimental participants dehydrated, then asked some of them to picture a refreshing glass of water. The water-visualizers experienced a marked decline in energy levels, compared with those participants who engaged in negative or neutral fantasies. Imagining their goal seemed to deprive the water-visualizers of their get-up-and-go, as if they’d already achieved their objective.
[T]he relentless cheer of positive thinking begins to seem less like an expression of joy and more like a stressful effort to stamp out any trace of negativity.
I think this is where “Corporate Happy Talk” comes from. I personally find it annoying, and it often damages the potential of addressing the negative aspects of work when they come up.