On The Strength Of Suffering

I go back and forth as to whether or not I’m good at it, suffering.

Wes Watson and Jocko Wilink both say you should embrace it, get good at  it, love it; that the ability to suffer levels you up.

And I’ve been pro-suffering in a way when I wrote the lyric “If you’re never happy anyway you have the strength of suffering/if you’re never happy happy anyway you should have no fear of change”

But I also think I suffer pointlessly a lot. I should talk to the landlord, I should see a doctor, I should go pick up this or that to deal with that or this, but then I don’t. I don’t decide not to do it either, which I think would feel great. I stay in the indecision, being drained while gaining nothing.

Somewhere, I learned powerlessness. It’s my default to expect I can’t get what I want; that I’m not in control; that something will stop me and hurt me and I need to coast by under the threshold.

I’m prone to believe that hope is delusional and delusion is weakness. Yet I don’t feel stronger for not having any.

I’m scared of big feelings these days – even good ones – and it causes me to choose a low hum of continual suffering. The thing is sometimes I think I am being stronger than before if I can stay here and not sink. But then how does that ever take me forward; am I merely sinking slower than before; if the end is going to be the same isn’t this worse?

Wes and Jocko say they don’t try to be happy, they don’t try to have a positive mind set. But man, I’m so tired of being unhappy – I was unhappy even when I was happiest – and that internal intensity has burned out. I can’t do the life or death thing anymore. I do want to be happy, and not even in a big way, I don’t want constant pleasure or joy but a calm satisfaction.

There’s all this bullshit out there about how you gotta stay hungry because a few very driven, relentless people succeeded in their fields. The thing is we don’t know if they did so because of or despite their unhappiness; we don’t know that unhappiness was their winning strategy. And even if it was they still wound up unhappy! They never get to cash in the chips and let their unhappiness go.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, Pragmatism

Affirmative Action In The Writer’s Room

Most entertainment sucks. Sitcoms suck, super hero movies suck, everything sucks except crime procedurals and Shakespearean retellings with bikers and druglords from 10 years ago.

And I think arbitrary diversity would help. Everything being a male fantasy or a male fantasy of a female fantasy has been done. I’ve consumed it, I want else please, else might be interesting.

The meritocracy in writing is broken because of the people at the top choosing what has merit. I’ve seen a million videos lately from CinemaSins and Good Bad Flicks where the whole background of movie sounds great until we get to the but then the studio part.

People like what’s familiar and the power brokers think what they like = what is good and what everyone will like.

I’m tired of the things that are written for me. Good writing should be about trying on a new identity, not jack hammering existing ones.

The problem with current attempts at diversity  is when existing power brokers try to diversify is they pick people who look different but write the same. Rather than look for, say, a black woman with a black woman point of view they look for a black woman with a white male point of view and think she’s an objectively good writer because she writes what they subjectively enjoy. Then when they don’t find that they claim it’s a colour-blind meritocracy.

We, the consumer, get treated like a toddler who refuses to eat anything except breaded chicken so the powers cast themselves as fatigued parents serving us only chicken fingers. But the reality is we’re adults saying let’s go out, I want to try some place new.

We’ll risk not loving a meal, man. Like if we’re gonna have the same thing every time it starts to feel like a 6 out of 10 anyway.

And actually, you can keep giving us the same thing over and over if you give it us through a different lens. Think about Scream, it’s a horror movie in a world where horror movies exist; think about Legally Blonde, it doesn’t play into expectations, it doesn’t even subvert expectations – it starts from a premise of expectations being wrong.

I guess I’m tired of everything being so safely genre-fied by demographic and I know that there are shitty people out there who hate any hint that something might not be for them. Toxic male nerds and Intersectionlists respectively. And I know cheap diversity is cheap – like the idea of a black super hero story where it’s the same super hero story… but black.

Whereas with Legally Blonde (I am exalting this movie a lot and I’m way off the topic I started with) it’s vital to the story that she’s a West Coast Blonde. It’s a character-driven story not a story-driven character.

You know the one good thing from the animated Killing Joke? The early, over-shadowed, plot-pointless scene where Batgirl, losing consciousness at the end of a fight, locks herself in a vault. Barbra Gordon faces unique threat and enacts unique solution – good story telling. Then she starts questioning if she can really be Batgirl because she faces a threat worse than being just killed and/or unmasked.

And then holy fuck is that movie insulting to Barbra, to woman, to the audience, to sex and love and parents and all things. All things. Fuck that movie.

But it’s possible to get a good story out a villain becoming romantically and sexual obsessed with Batgirl and her questioning her heroism because of it. And then the problem would be if it’s written as a male fantasy or a male fantasy of a female fantasy.

(there, I brought that around to my original point)

Posted in Gender, Pop Culture

On Accomplishment

A conversation I still think about went like this:

Manager: People want to be thanked for just doing their job.

Me: Yeah, ‘cuz just doing your job sucks. We should occasionally thank people for not blowing their brains out.

We all get taken for granted doing the shittiest things we have to do, and the lucky among us get unduly celebrated for doing what comes naturally to them.

When I got into running and OCR something interesting happened – people used the word accomplishment.

And I felt like they were wrong, they were incorrect.

Before running any official races people would ask me what I ran in a day and I’d say 9k or whatever I’d recently ran and they’d say wow and I’d feel good. Cool story. But something was different when it was a timed race and they didn’t care about the time or the distance or how I felt about it – only the mere doing.

I won’t argue against a compliment because it’s rude and falsely humble and annoying for everyone involved; you should take compliments in the spirit intended and insults at face-value.

But in the public privacy of my blog I want to explain why running a race, be it Spartan or Marathon or whatever, is not an accomplishment:

The harshest example I can think of is that if you’re in 7th grade and you pass a test fit for a 7th grader – that’s not an accomplishment, that’s confirmation. A test is a diagnosis and a 7th grader passing a 7th grade test is merely a clean bill of health, a sign that nothing’s obviously wrong.

Now a test you’re not trained for is more of an experiment. Like giving 7th graders college quizzes in order to see how they do then make use of that information.

A normal human should be able to run a Spartan Sprint, it’s only humans abnormally poisoned by a few hundred years of civilization who’d struggle.

And furthermore, an obstacle course is just for fun. Being told that being playful is an accomplishment is weird. If you want to be happy for me it should be because I had the time and opportunity to do something so fun and not everyone gets to do that, but it’s not what makes me special or interesting.

In fact, in a weird twist, no one congratulates me for the things I do think make me interesting and special. People sift through my songs and blog-posts being totally selective of what they privately enjoy because it’s just the normal background of knowing me as far as they’re concerned.

But I guess we’re getting to the point where athletics is the normal background noise of knowing me too.

Posted in fitness

Anger Comes From Belittlement

That title is a quote from Thank You For Arguing by Jay Heinrichs, a book I don’t want you to read because it’s very hateable.

It takes influential and rhetorical concepts you intuitively understand and dresses them up with Latin and boring examples from his own boring family. But I bookmarked this one bit and it still stands out so here you go.

The important part of the paragraph is how anger always comes feeling like you don’t matter as much as someone else.

Now there’s a million things written about what you shouldn’t and shouldn’t do when you’re angry but I want to take this in the opposite direction.

What I want to write about it is: what’s the worst thing you can do when you’ve made someone else angry? When you are the angerer and not the angry.

Try to convince them it’s no big deal.

They already feel that you’re telling them they’re no big deal and that you’re steam roller their outlook with your own. If you try to get them un-upset by telling them not to be upset you’re still digging in that same grave.

And it’s true about any feeling someone expresses, the worst thing you can do is tell them they don’t really feel what they’re telling you they feel. Or that they merely shouldn’t.

I’m guilty of it at times for the same reason we all are – we want to help. When someone tells us they’re in despair we want to say but things are so good, you have so much to be grateful for because we want to replace how they feel with positive things like good and grateful.

The problem is when someone’s upset that comes off as you’re not seeing things right, let me correct you.

When someone expresses a feeling I consciously try to meet them where they’re at. If they’re sad I will come to their sadness.

The problem is it leaves me with nothing to say. We all want to say something helpful and we want to say it right away; we want to be good at friendship first try. It’s so hard to leave it at a wow, that sounds brutal and then hope they keep talking.

 

Posted in Pragmatism

Reframing ‘She doesn’t know she’s beautiful’ story lines as Super Hero story lines

The conversation around doesn’t-know-she’s-beautiful story lines can get pretty hectic around gender and who the fantasy is really for, and is it healthy, and who are the real villains, and so on and so forth.

They get analyzed by gender theorists who want to diagnose some evil in there somewhere.

But I was thinking about it from a writing point view (because I can’t engage with anything without becoming obsessed with what I’d do instead) and I realize you can’t write those stories any other way and it’s the same reason we get super hero origin stories over and over and over and over again.

Being hot is power.

That’s why the antagonists are all beautiful, know it, and exploit it. They have great power and no responsibility.

The hero meanwhile doesn’t know their true power and has to go on a journey. Then they become more powerful than the antagonist and defeat them. Then they are in someway magnanimous in victory or the villain is shown to cause their own downfall so the hero remains morally pure.

Like, that’s Star Wars if you replace knowing how to use the force with being hot.

And let’s be real, being hot does allow you to Jedi Mind Trick people.

If you have a main character who knows the extent of their power at the start of the story then it’s hard for the writer to structure the story. Well, hard for a bad writer or a committee of executives.

It’s all like, why doesn’t Superman just fly around the earth and reverse time and why doesn’t Reese Witherspoon just get the guy because no one is not hitting on Reese Witherspoon.

Bad writers use silly obstacles to de-power their heroes until convenience kicks in and good writers make their heroes question themselves into inaction. And that’s why Superman Vs The Elite and Legally Blonde are both great films.

Posted in Gender, Pop Culture, Pragmatism

On Not Doing Stuff While Unemployed

I feel guilty doing anything recreational when I’ve been unemployed for so long.

And irrationally it makes me angry when I get invited or even semi-invited (to coin a phrase for things like “Drinks this week” or “Let’s play squash” that aren’t an invitation to a specific thing but still a social thing that I have to decline).

Like, I wanna yell, “I haven’t worked in half a year, I’m under a sand drift of debt, and everyone knows it why would I be able to do anything?”

But that resentment comes from the fact that I’m embarrassed. Being unemployed is embarrassing and depressing and I don’t want to be around people. Depression is a sickness and people withdraw when they’re sick. We feel judged and fearful, and yes it’s irrational but it’s evolutionary psychology.

Everything is a lie when you’re depressed around friends. Even if I directly say “I wish someone would shoot me in the chest” the response is like, well that sucks… but now talk about something, fill the air, construct a personality so there are two people in this room.

Wes Watson (I know, I mention him a lot but he makes a video everyday so I’ve always just heard from him) talks about how negativity comes from a scarcity mindset and things are scarce, I can’t spend 12 dollars on a recreational thing because it could be my last 12 dollars. My mind is telling me to conserve resources, conserve energy, because this sense of doom has me convinced I’m under attack at all times.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, Pragmatism

Wes Watson’s Better Off Video

So, Wes has a video about people telling him they feel like they’d be better off in prison, or need to go to prison to get their self straight. It’s a feeling I can identify with, I think a lot that when I watch Wes videos.

It’s like wanting to go to war. I’ve heard a bunch of veterans say that they’d never wish war on anybody but they’d give anything to go back. Even on the last Behind The Bastards podcast they mention that the front lines can be addictive for some men. It’s explained by the heightened sense of meaning one experience in a warzone and the profound sense of brotherhood and connection with your fellow soldiers.

And prison can sound like that when Wes talks about it. He’s always sure to remind us “Don’t Go To Prison!” too though.

But the level of interpersonal concern Wes talks about among the gang is appealing in the face of modern loneliness. The idea that someone would care enough if you worked out, stayed out of debt, held your honour and kept your word, maintained impeccable hygiene, etc etc or they’d beat you up grants significance to all those little things. And the warzone analogy is spot on because everyone has to be explicitly prepared to kill and die for each other. Everything we think is appealing about ancient Sparta is true in modern Californian prison.

But of course Wes wants us to take everything he learned in prison and apply it outside. Thinking you need prison to get disciplined is still a lazy bitch cop-out, wanting toughness applied to you so you don’t have to apply it yourself.

We modern, lonely, atomized, people crave structure, camaraderie, and significance and stories of war, prison, extreme endurance events, tragedy survivorship, mental illness survivorship, and whatever else provide that. Especially now that stories of fame and money granting structureless freedom are all tragedies are old hat.

But we’re more than ever cursed with the feeling that anonymity is worthlessness; anonymity is non-existence. Some people find freedom from that by giving their identity over to a fandom or a cult of personality; and some people find freedom from that by wanting the world to be small.

It’s like choosing to be in a maze so you have walls to navigate and even if you don’t know where you are you don’t feel lost. As opposed to lifting the maze away and being on a blank plain, immobilized by the vastness.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, Pop Culture, Pragmatism