There's something inherently interesting about outliers, about people who deviate from the norm in an extreme way.
I have a friend of mine who's slept with a couple hundred girls - essentially, to the level of someone having been in some kind of famous band or something like that. I don't know anyone else like that, and I'm admittedly fascinated by how completely differently he sees the world and the people in it. It helps that I try never to judge the lifestyles of others, and to understand where people are coming from (there are always causes for our behaviours).
In my experience, the vast majority of men are cognitively inclined to attach very strongly to young, beautiful women, and yet his life was an example of the utter opposite - with a handful of exceptions, for the past several years, he hasn't even slept with the same person twice. I told him I thought this was interesting. I told him this was paradoxically zen, in a sense, this level of detachment (perhaps sociopathic too, but that was not a subject of our discussion).
"It's true," he told me. "But then you get attached to not becoming attached. You get attached to having a new girl every couple days or so."
I remember, years ago, when I was still religious, the pastor used to tell the congregation that we would always be slaves. Slaves to money, to lust, to power, so we may as well become slaves to the Lord. As I get older, I increasingly appreciate the emotional sophistry behind Christianity and act of speaking to a church full of people every Friday. It's a form of persuasion, the weaponization of guilt in such a carefully designed way (the fact that it is sincerely done, or done unconsciously, does not change what it is).
Attachment is fundamental to living, it is simply the basis of desire, and our desires cut through all levels of our lives, sexual and otherwise. What is too little detachment, and what is too much? Can you have something only when you no longer desire it? Or can you only have it if you desire it on one level but not on another one?
As I've gotten older, I'd like to think that my attachments have been carefully pruned, leaving only those that matter. But perhaps I've merely traded one thing for another, one set of pathologies for another, parallel set.
Who the fuck knows.
I really enjoy not working because it gives me space to breathe. Usually, I have so many projects on the go, that my life gradually begins to accelerate, like a pinwheel, gaining more and more responsibilities until the entire structure starts to vibrate uncontrollably and collapse entirely (either the projects, or my health, whichever one comes first).
A vacation is a form of elimination - elimination of that which is excess, a clearing of the clutter from your life, and mind. Returning to what's important.
Also, sleeping in. I"m a big fan of that.
Here is the best true story on giving I know, and it was told by Jack Kornfield of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre. An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight.
The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate the blood. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put int he girl's IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister; until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, "How soon until I start to die?"
As a former religious zealot, I hate the concept of "faith" in epistemological terms: it's a shit way of acquiring knowledge. Having faith that there's a giant squid floating above Times Square doesn't make that any more likely to be true, and the same applies to the various sky gods people hold in high esteem.
I used to be super militant about this, but I've seen cooled off somewhat, since now I also understand that certain beliefs have utility as means to specific ends, not purely as signifiers of truth.
Case in point: the old adage of having faith in yourself.
In life, there are many goals that require advancing through many failures prior to success. Thus, any one failure is an imperfect signal from the world: it doesn't mean you're not going to succeed, but at the same time, emotionally, a series of failures can cripple you.
The solution is faith in yourself: understanding that, eventually, as you continue to adapt to the feedback the world is giving you, and continue moving forward, you're eventually going to succeed again.
I've been feeling really demotivated by a series of personal failures over the past couple of weeks, but today I remembered all the other times I felt exactly like this: crushed, defeated, and broken - yet I still came out successful in the end.
Just fucking keep going.
I once imagined the universe as a giant tree, originating from a single point, unfolding forward through time, branches of causality sprouting from buds into thick strands of reality: lives born and lost, the evolution of life from random assortments of molecules in the primordial oceans, a city celebrating the rise of the of the full moon, a child discovering a finch poking at insects in the grass, a man stumbling home drunk at three thirty in the morning, coming home to a find his family sleeping, a taxi cab racing across fifth street, colliding into a rolling garbage can, the collapse of the Soviet Union, a tsunami wiping out the coast of an isolated island, a young man kneeling in a restaurant, proposing to his fiance, water flowing down a mountain stream, eroding the surface of a wet stone, shearing atoms off the contours of its submerged surface - everything: inevitable, in the words of Marcus Aurelius: woven into the pattern from the beginning.
Is the universe determined, or indeterminate?
Apparently, it depends on the interpretation of theory of quantum mechanics you subscribe to. There are both deterministic and indeterministic interpretations that are equivalent in the sense that there is no experiment possible, even in theory, that would allow scientists to validate which interpret is correct.
In the Many Worlds Interpretation (where there are multiple worlds, of which ours is only one), the universe is ultimately deterministic. In the Copenhagen interpretation (the more popular theory), the universe is ultimately indeterministic.
There is something appealing about each of these theories. If the Many Worlds theory is correct, then the V for Vendetta clip above is correct: in each individual world, the sequence of events is determined, dominoes falling forward and colliding into one another, the moments of your life unfolding from the big bang: a spring of inevitability pouring forth potentialities all the way until the heat death of the universe.
And of course, there's the appeal of the Copenhagen interpretation - which posits a single world, which, at bottom, has an inextricable element of randomness to it.
Determinism, which I subscribe to, holds that everything that happened in your life was always going to happen. In layman's terms, it means fate. The ancients were convinced of the truth of fate, and took peace in it, as do I.
The past and the future. then, are equivalent: fixed, immovable objects, mirrored between the plane of the present.
You, your life, and everything in it:
... dominoes, falling in a cascade from a single point of origin...
I've been feeling listless as of late.
After close to a decade of post-graduate education I finally finished all my schooling... and concluded that I no longer want to work in my field.
You find yourself staring from the top of the mountain, and there's nothing there.
When looking at what you want to do with your life, the first step is to start from the end.
Understand that your'e going to die.
When I say "understand" - I mean understand that you are going to die. It's one thing to know this in the abstract, but it's another to appreciate it: your consciousness is going to be completely fucking annihilated one day. In the West, we've sequestered, sanitized, and medicalized death. I recommend that you spend some time in a hospice (as I have), because it'll give you a gratitude you never knew you had - a gratitude for the conscious experience that is life itself. Platitudes like this exist for a reason: they are borne of hard truths.
When you see the end approaching, you'll realize what is valuable and what is not, and you'll adjust your life accordingly. You'll spend your time doing things that are actually important to you, not just things that have a simulacrum of importance. Not just things that are vapid and hollow, things that are solid, that stay with you.
I'm not sure where I'll go, or exactly what I'll do with my life, but I can sense the general direction it should be moving, because I can see my death in the distance, guiding me toward right action, like the North Star, whispering into my ear, telling me not to waste so much fucking time on Facebook.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis